21st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. &.. Iff. McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Has any opportunity been extended to the government of the United .Kingdom to take part in the huge St. Mary’s munitions factory project? Does this Government appreciate the fact that the British people have had considerable experience not only in building ordinary munitions factories during time of war and in time of peace, but also in building underground factories designed to evade enemy attack, to which Britain was greatly subjected during World War VI. ? In view of the mutual interest that exists between Australia and the United Kingdom, has any approach been made to the British Government for advice about construction and operation of modern munitions filling factories in order to ensure that the proposed £23,000,000 factory to be built at St. Mary’s will not only be constructed efficiently, but will also be capable of being operated efficiently? In view of. the expenditure of the huge sum involved, has consideration been given to making provision in the design of the factory to enable it to be adapted to peace-time use by private enterprise ?
– I am not aware of the details mentioned by the honorable senator, and even if I were I would not be in a position to disclose the nature of the negotiations that are continually going on between the Australian Government and the government of the United Kingdom. I can assure Senator Ashley there is the closest co-operation with the United Kingdom Government and the widest consultations are continually taking place between the experts on both sides. The best expert advice is being continually obtained from Great Britain, and the fullest and frankest discussions are continually proceeding between the two governments and their advisers.
– On the 25th May, Senator Laught asked the following question : -
When will the contemplated national broad casting stations at Penola and Mount Gambier in South Australia be open for duty? Are there any major factors preventing the early opening of these stations? If so, what art they ?
The following answer has now been received from the Postmaster-General: -
The building for the national broadcasting station at Mount Gambier should be completed within one month. The radiating system has been provided and the equipment is ready for installation. The station should be available for service by the end of August next.
Tenders for the building of the Penola station will be called shortly, and it is hoped that it will be completed in about June, 1956. The radiating system is under construction and the equipment is available. It is expected that the station will be ready for service by September, 19S6.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration say how many Japanese’ pearling operatives were brought to Australia thu year to work in the pearling industry’! Will the Minister advise the Senate of th< names of persons, firms and compania’ which were allotted these Japanese operatives, and of the principles on which the allotments were made?
– I shall have tha: matter examined, and report to the honorable senator.
– I understand that the Minister for National Development called tenders some time ago for the drilling of four holes in the Kimberleys area, so that officers of the Bureau of Mineral Resources could obtain scientific information regarding possible oil reserves in thai area. Can the Minister advise the Senate of the cause of the delay, as I understand that the drilling operations were tr. begin in April of this year?
– There is a pro gramme for drilling work to be undertaken in the Kimberleys - not drilling for oil but drilling for geological information. Tenders were called recently for the wort to be carried out, but on the recommendation of my department, I authorized the calling of further tenders, in the hope that more favorable prices would be quoted for the work.
– I wish to reply to a question asked by Senator Guy yesterday. I desire to advise honorable senators that, with the concurrence of the Senate, I shall be pleased to direct the Clerk to signify on the Senate notice-paper the date on which questions were asked. I suggest to honorable senators that it would be convenient to begin this work at the commencement of the next period of sitting.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the acting Attorney-General been drawn to a series of articles now appearing in the Sydney Sun and the Daily Telegraph, one purporting to be compiled or dictated by that notorious Pole with the unpronounceable name, who was one of the chief witnesses before the Petrov commission, and the other by his wife, exposing him ? I would like to know whether permission has been given to those people to write the articles, and to the newspapers to print them ? Does the Government consider that it is in the interests of this country that they should be published at this time, having in mind the fact that the commission has not yet made its report, or does the Government realize that the commission has been such a farce that any comment made now can make no difference?
Question not answered.
– Do I take it, Mr. President, that the Minister representing the Attorney-General refuses to reply to my question?
– It is entirely a matter for Ministers themselves to decide whether they reply to questions or not. If a question is framed in what they consider to be an undesirable fashion, they can use their discretion whether they reply to it or not.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– My colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, has supplied the following answer : - 1 and 2. The number of witnesses examined by the committee of inquiry into the stevedoring industry, up to the 27th May, was eight. As the committee is still proceeding with ite inquiry, it would not be in accordance with normal practice to furnish at this stage the other particulars sought by the honorable senator.
REPORT of Public Accounts Committee.
– On behalf of th*
Public Accounts Committee, I present the following report : -
Twenty-first Report - Australian Aluminium Production Commission - Part 1.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan agreed to - ‘ i hat so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) making, at or after 8 p.m. on Thursday, 2nd June, a statement relating to tarilta and trade, and the moving of » motion in connexion therewith.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’sullivan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to increase the salaries of those of Her Majesty’3 judges who are judges of the High Court of Australia and other federal courts created by this Parliament under the Constitution. On earlier occasions - for example, in the Salaries (Statutory Offices) Adjustment Act 1950- salaries of the judges were included in the same measure with the salaries of certain officers of the executive government. On this occasion the bill is a separate one, for the good reason that, in Australia, judges are not public servants. The High Court of Australia was created by the Constitution itself and its authority has the same origin as has this Parliament, [t is true that the Executive nominates appointees to the High Court, but the fact remains that the High Court is the creature of the Constitution, just as much as is this Parliament and the Executive. Therefore, this matter should always be considered quite apart from the consideration of those public servants whose offices come into existence under the executive powers of the Commonwealth.
Adjustments of the judges’ salaries which this bill effects have nothing whatever to do with some of the other arguments that have been going on in Australia about the basic wage or margins, [n considering the salaries of the judges, the only question to be asked is whether the judges are receiving salaries which will enable them to discharge their singular responsibilities with independence and without financial embarrassment.
The High Court of Australia was created by the Constitution, but, in fact, was not organized until the Judiciary Act in 1903, which fixed the salary of the Chief Justice of the High Court at £3,500 a year and that of the puisne justices at £3,000 a year. The best proof that nobody ever thought of these salaries as an Arbitration Court problem is that they remained unaltered until 1947, that is to say, for 44 years. In that year, the salary of the Chief Justice of the High Court was increased from £3,500 to £4,500 a year, and the salaries of the other judges of the High Court from £3,000 to £4,000 a year. Nobody would suggest that those adjustments of salary had any relation to what had been going on in the industrial world. To-day, as a result of further changes made in 1950, the salaries are: £5,000 for the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, the holder of one of the greatest and most responsible offices in this1 country, and for the other judges, £4,500.
In the light of these figures, the Government feels that this matter has been seriously overlooked. In the State of New South Wales the present position of the judiciary of the Supreme Court, whose responsibilities are not comparable with those of the High Court, is that the Chief Justice is paid £4,750, plus a tax-free allowance of £350. If tax is deducted from each salary, the net remuneration of the Chief Justice of the High Court is £2,912 a year, and that of the Chief Justice of the ‘Supreme Court of New South Wales, £3,171. Last month it was announced that the 3alary of the Chief Justice of New South Wales was to be increased to £5,575, with an allowance of £350, and that the increase was to be made retrospective to the 4th February, 1955.
If we take the salaries of the judges of the Supreme Court and compare them with those of the judges of the High Court, the position still obtains that, after taxation, and even without the increases recently announced, the payments made to the judges of the High Court are lower than those made to the judges of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. The position of the High Court must be such that we, or any other government, will be able to go to the most eminent men at the bar and ask them to take a seat on that bench. That is why this bill provides that the salary of the Chief Justice shall be £8,000 a year, and that the salary of the other justices of the High Court shall be £6,500 a year. It provides also that the salaries of other federal judges on the schedule that honorable senators will see attached to the bill, should be correspondingly adjusted down the line.
The question of pensions is an important aspect of judicial salaries. The present position in the High Court of Australia is that a judge draws a pension based upon the number of years of his service on the bench, and the maximum is forty per cent, of his salary, which gives a High Court judge a maximum pension of £1,800 a year. Again I draw a comparison with the position in the Supreme Court of New South Wales where a judge’s pension is £2,400 a year. I cannot think that honorable senators will find such a comparison satisfactory. The High Court is the supreme judicial tribunal of the country. I am sure that honorable senators will agree that it would be an absurdity to have, in regard to both salaries and pensions, a position such as I have described in respect to High Court judges in comparison with the position of the judges of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
The bill authorizes the payment of salary from the 1st January, 1955. Though an announcement was made earlier, I want to make it clear that no increases have yet been paid, and will not be paid until this act has been passed. The salaries of the judges are fixed not by the Executive, but by the Parliament alone. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
– by leave - I wish to announce to the Senate that during the absence of the AttorneyGeneral (Senator .Spicer), the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) will act as Attorney-General and, in that capacity, will be represented by me in this chamber. I shall also represent the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) will represent the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), and the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (M”. Casey). The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) will represent the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt).
Debate resumed from the 1st June (vide page 545), on motion by Senator o’sullivan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The bill before the Senate is designed to achieve one main purpose but, rather surprisingly, it expands by reason of consequential alterations and changes into a very comprehensive measure. The main purpose of the bill is merely to enable members of the armed forces to take out higher pension units because of increases of their salaries, and one is astonished to find the extensive nature of the amendments involved in giving effect to that very simple proposition. The need for the bill has arisen from what one might call marginal increases granted to all members of the armed forces as from December last. Without further legislation, those increases would not entitle thepayees to take out additional superannuation units. Relevant rises in salary given to the public servants of Australia carry with them automatic entitlement to take up additional pension units, and to have the advantage of the additional benefits that flow therefrom. That does not happen under the existing law in relation to members of the armed forces. Therefore, it is obviously necessary to have a measure of this kind to apply to the armed forces. I agree with the Minister that it is only equitable that members of the permanent defence forces should be permitted to increase their unit entitlement to meet the increased margins which became payable as from December, 1954. It is an improvement that the number of units to which the beneficiaries may now be entitled is set out in a schedule to the act, and not, as heretofore, in a schedule to regulations issued under the act. The bill will apply only to those members of the forces who retired after the 9th December, 1954. The reason for that provision is that, prior to that date, members of the forces were not entitled to increased pay. and so would have no entitlement to increased superannuation benefits. There we bound to be cases of hardship under that provision. An officer who retired a day or two before that date must have a sense of unhappiness about the fact that, by so short a period, he is deprived of very substantial additional benefits. However, I recognize that there must be a cut-off at some date. Wherever the line is drawn, there will be borderline cases.
Another provision in the bill is broad and generous. Now that the basis of superannuation has been amplified for the armed forces, men who previously elected either to contribute, or not to contribute, are to be given a fresh opportunity to make a choice. As the Minister said in his second-reading speech, provision is made in the hill to permit a member who previously, under section SO of the act, elected not to become a contributor, to withdraw the election and to contribute as from the date of entering the permanent defence forces, or, alternatively, the date on which he completedsix years of service. As that is a liberalizing provision, giving officers of the armed forces an opportunity to reconsider their position in relation to superannuation, the Opposition approves it.
A relatively minor provision is that, in relation to superannuation both by way of pension and by way of gratuity, periods of absence without leave, or without pay, are in future to count against prospective beneficiaries in determining the period of their service. It is reasonable that dead periods of that nature, which do not amount to effective service, should not count in determining pension or gratuity rights. The Opposition, therefore, has no objection to that provision.
As the Minister pointed out, a number of anomalies are being rectified by various provisions of the bill. They are relatively minor matters, and the Opposition sees no reason to take objection to them. Without entering into the reasons which justified increases of salaries, and so led to the need for this measure, comments on which I shall reserve for a later bill. I 3ay, at this stage, that the Opposition supports the measure.
– I heartily support the bill. At present, the regular forces are under establishment and, perhaps, one of the reasons for this is the low scale of pensions that has applied to members of the forces. It is well known that any one who takes up the army as a profession gives up all hope of becoming rich. The services have always been underpaid and the granting to members of the services of an opportunity to increase their pensions will have the effect of encouraging recruiting. Under this bill a man will know that if he has a certain degree of success in his profession he will receive after a given time a pension on which he can live in retirement with some amount of comfort. Not much inducement is offered to any man to enter the service of his country if he is faced with discomfort in his old age. As I have said, he has. no hope of making money, and if he were unable to live in comfort on his pension he would probably abandon the idea of service in the first place. My only objection to the bill is that I should have liked to see members of the services given permission to take out even more units.
– I rise to make one or two brief observations in support of this measure. I should begin by saying that probably the greatest worry of the ex-serviceman is founded on fear of the future for himself and for his wife and children, and fear of financial problems.
– Like many politicians.
-Unlike a politician. The honorable senator would noi understand what I am talking about. 3 should say that the constant worry in the mind of the ex-serviceman about the future of his wife and children and of himself in his old age is responsible for a degree of inefficiency in the service itself. I think that Senator Wordsworth would bear me out in this. Quite a lot of petty offences committed by servicemen have an indirect relationship to this constant, nagging fear in the serviceman’s mind about what will happen to him on his discharge and what will happen to -his wife and children if he becomes too ill to continue his service,, or if he dies. The effect of this bill will he to overcome much of that worry and it is, therefore, a most important measure in relation to the armed services. The second reason why the bill is commendable to me is that any measure which increases the relative financial conditions of our servicemen as compared with corresponding civil avocations is definitely a move in the right direction. In the economic condition of over-full employment that now obtains the services are constantly competing with the civil avocations for personnel. It must always be thus when the country is prosperous. The nation must be realistic about these conditions and make its services attractive, not only for the sake of getting men, but also for the sake of getting the best types of men. I have always found that the best type of man is not attracted by low rates of pay and poor conditions of service.
Now, I desire briefly to refer to clause 16 of the bill. There we may find a definition of the period of non-effective service. The Minister in charge of the measure said that the bill provides that such absences as absence without leave and absence on leave without pay will not count as part of a member’s service for the purpose of assessing his pension entitlement. I agree heartily with that provision as a broad general principle, but I suggest that it is far too rigid. The bill as it stands will not give a serviceman any chance of having any discretion exercised by his commanding officer, any official of the Treasury or even the Minister himself. I am rather astonished that some discretion has not been given to somebody to deal with the absences referred to in that clause. Anybody who has served in the forces, especially as an officer, knows that there are cases where men have been absent without leave but where it has been shownthat there are most extenuating circumstances connected with the absence. Surely such circumstances should sometimes be a good reason for the exercise of the discretion.
Therefore, I suggest that a discretion should be allowed to higher authority in regard to the assessment of pension entitlement. The rather rigid application of this provision could be relaxed in certain cases, but no discretion has been given to anybody at all to permit such a relaxation. I commend my remarks to the Minister. I do not suggest that the bill should be amended in any way at present, but I do believe, and I think that every service officer will agree with me, that there are times when men who have been away without leave are worthy of some further consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 2 - (2.) Paragraph (b) of section three of this Act shall be deemed to have come into operation on the date of commencement of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948.
– I move -
That sub-clause (2.) be left out. and also -
That after clause 4, the following new clause be inserted: - “ 4a. Section twenty-three of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words “ (in this Act referred to as the appointed date’) “.
Both the amendment of clause 2 of the bill, and the new clause to be inserted after clause 4, are formal amendments of a drafting nature only, and will have no effect on the substance of the measure. By virtue of the definition of “ the appointed date “ proposed to be inserted in section 4 of the act by clause 3 (b) of the bill, the words “ in this Act referred to as ‘ the appointed date ‘ “, which appear in section 23 (1.) of the act are no longer necessary. The new clause proposed to be inserted in the bill provides for the omission of the words.
Clause 2 (2.) of the bill gives retrospective effect to the commencement of the 1948 act for the definition of “ the appointed date “ referred to above. It has now been decided that there is no necessity for the retrospectivity, and clause 2 (2.) is therefore being omitted from the bill.
Amendments agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 1st June (vide page 546), on motion by Senator O’Sullivan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The measure before the Senate is a bill for an act to provide for increases in certain salaries and for purposes connected therewith. When one peruses the measure one finds that it falls into two sections. The first part of the bill deals with the salaries of certain statutory officers, and the amendments are set out in the first schedule to the bill. Referring to that, we find that very substantial variations will be made in the emoluments of nine very important public officers. They are the Auditor-General, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, the Chief Conciliation Commissioner, Conciliation Commissioners, the Chairman of the Public Service Board, members of the Public Service Board, the Public Service Arbitrator, the Commissioner of Taxation and the Second Commissioner of Taxation. The increases are of a very substantial order, ranging from £950 per annum to £1,500 per annum. By any standard it must be acknowledged that those sums are substantial additions to the salaries attached to the positions set forth in the first schedule.
The second aspect of this part of the measure is that those increases are to be made retrospective to the 1st January of this year so that after the bill has been passed, big payments will be made to these officers in respect of the increases for a period of about five months. The third schedule to the bill indicates a somewhat different category of officers. The officers in the first part of the measure have received no payments in respect of the increases of salary, but the position is different in regard to the officers whose salaries are dealt with in the third schedule.
Those officers fall into three categories. The first comprises all the officers in the several departments of State of the Commonwealth - in other words, all public servants who come under the control of the Public Service Board. Then there are five separate matters dealt with, all relating to officers of the Parliament. In the third category are the employees of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia), the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Therefore, honorable senators will note that many thousands of employees will receive increases of salary under this measure. Those increases were granted not by the Public Service Arbitrator, but by the Public Service Board and the various statutory authorities which are detailed in the third schedule. Of course all this has been done with the full concurrence of the Government, which now seeks to validate retrospectively the increases granted to these officers last December, which, in the interim, have been paid. That is the contrast between what has been done by the bill in relation to the officers in the third schedule and those who are detailed in the first schedule. The increases provided for the officers in the third schedule have already been paid. We recognized, as a matter of ordinary justice, that something should be done in relation to salaries in the Public Service similar to what was done in the industrial field in relation to margins. I think honorable senators will recall that in the Labour policy speech in May last attention was directed very pointedly to the need for justice by increasing the margins for skilled workers, and to the need to do something for the Commonwealth public servants and for employees of Commonwealth statutory authorities, because of the substantial increases in the cost of living, the raising of the basic wage, and the shrinking of margins for skill. The Opposition of the day pressed for some justice to be done in that regard.
The fact that something has been done meets with our approval, but we proffer this criticism : This Parliament was in recess for nearly six months until it met at the opening of the present sessional period. During the whole of that time, payments were being made without any proper legislative authority. That is not desirable. The Government’s lackof concern regarding that aspect is evidenced by the fact that it has brought in this validating measure not at the beginning of this session, but right at the end. The Opposition is perturbed to find the Government so complacent in seeking statutory authority for extensive payments applying to many thousands of persons. A government with a proper parliamentary sense would have brought down this measure immediately the Parliament met, so that at the earliest possible moment, instead of at the latest, the Parliament could have had an opportunity to consider the matter.
When increases of the nature contemplated in this bill have to be made, it is a most abject confession of failure by this Government in the economic field. [ am tired of reminding the Senate of a promise made in 1949 that value would be put back into the £1. That promise has been most grievously dishonoured, and the very reverse has occurred. The failure to implement that promise is the cause of most of the economic ills of Australia to-day, which include the poor state of our overseas balance of payments, the difficulties of marketing our own products and the need for tariff protection, and all our troubles with other countries in connexion with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and such provisions. Those difficulties do not. stem from ignorance on the part of the Government, because it recognized, when it was in Opposition and was wooing the electors as long ago as 1P49, the need for stabilizing costs in the interests of every phase of life in Australia. The cause of our present troubles is not ignorance on the part of the Government. The Opposition charges the Government with rank incompetence. Our present problems flow from the utter ineptitude of the Government, particularly in the early years of its period of office, when it was plain to Opposition members that the Government had dropped the reins and did not know how to control the situation.
– The electors did not quite agree with that.
– Let us keep to the point. The Government recognized the need for putting value into the £1, and it made a specific promise to that effect. Who will deny that under tuc generalship of the Government, or perhaps it would be better to say under ite incompetence and inactivity, the very reverse has taken place? That cannot be denied, and grievo.us harm has been caused to every phase of life in this country as a result. It would have been a wonderful thing for Australia if, when world prices were booming, we had been able to maintain a low level of costs. What wealth and prosperity would have come to this country!
What is the use of increased salaries of the order contemplated by this bill, other than to give a measure of justice? The increases are designed merely to provide justice for people who -find the cost of living getting ahead of them, and who find the unskilled labourer’s wage encroaching upon margins for skill. These increases are a measure of the merest justice; and, after all, they are not full justice, but only a contribution towards it. As the Minister has frankly admitted in his second-reading speech, the public service organizations are not at all happy with, the increases. At present, those organizations have an application before the Public Service Arbitrator.- The arbitrator gave a general ruling on the matter, from which there was an appeal at the instance of the Government, and il was held that no proper award had been made. The Government very properly felt that something should be done, but ] am merely indicating that what has been done has not received the approval of the public service organizations. The Government has given a very strong hint, as shown by the Minister’s second-reading speech, that when the arbitrator does make a final pronouncement in thu matter the Government will again lodge an appeal, if amounts larger than those provided for in this bill are granted in an award.
I leave that phase of the matter with the comment that the Government has not, on its own admission, satisfied the public services organizations with the.se increases. The Opposition agrees that something should be done, and we do not oppose the bill. We also think that the occupants of the statutory offices detailed in the first schedule deserve substantial increases because of the excellent work that they perform and the great responsibilities that they carry. I am interested to note the increases granted to conciliation commissioners. I happened to be a member of the federal Cabinet in 1947 when the system was instituted, which resulted in the appointment of the conciliation commissioners, and when their salaries were fixed. 1 recall that the conciliation commissioners, apart from the Chief Conciliation Commissioner, were then granted a salary of £1,500, which was equal to that paid to members of the Parliament. The commissioners will now be granted an increase of £950 per annum under the provisions of this bill, bringing their salaries to £2,750. That, of course, is far in excess of the salaries paid to members of this Parliament. The conciliation commistioners have done far better at the hands of this Government than have members of the Parliament. I am not saying for one moment that they are being paid more than they should be, but I leave with the Government the thought that at least they began on terms of equality with members of the Parliament, and they have now gone far ahead of those members. I ask the Government to give some thought to that matter, and if it thinks that justice is required, then it should look at other classes of persons. But the class with which the Opposition is primarily concerned is not that which includes members of Parliament, who, after all, are relatively few in number, and in any event are at least able to survive. “We of the Opposition are really concerned and disturbed that, at a time when the Government sees fit to give very substantial increases to a vast number of public servants and holders of important statutory offices - and another measure has been introduced in the Senate to-day dealing with the salaries of judges - nothing is contemplated during this sessional period, so far as the Opposition knows, to improve the lot of the most needy sections of the community. Some 300,000 people exist on pensions of £3 10s. a week, and no more. I do not wish to labour this theme, but on behalf of the Opposition, I strongly protest at increases of this kind being made at a time when nothing is being done throughout the whole pension field, and nothing is being done about child endowment.
Surely the Government, after only a moment’s contemplation, must appreciate the grave hardship and social injustice that is being inflicted. The various bills that are before us now are for no other purpose, according to the Government, than to do social justice. I suggest that the Government weigh the needs of the various classes. It should place, on the one side, the holders of high statutory offices, the holders of Public Service offices, and the holders of offices under statutory authority, who all receive substantial emoluments, apart from the provisions of this bill, and place on the other side the invalid and age pensioners. What does real justice demand? I am not, for one moment, suggesting that, if injustice has been done in respect of the classes I have indicated, nothing should be done about it, but I do suggest that if justice is in the mind of the Government, surely its first thought, and not its last, should be for those in the pensions field. It is no- answer to say that the Government will consider the plight of pensioners during the preparation of the budget. We say that the Government was wrong, and that it adopted a myopic outlook, in not first attending to the needs of the pensioners, or in not attending simultaneously to the needs of the various classes in the community, all of which demand, with complete propriety, that something should be done for them. Surely the Government must feel guilty in presenting bills of this nature whilst it makes no proposal in respect of people who are expected to live on £3 10s. a week. Under the measure now before the Senate, the Government proposes to make grants of £1,000 a year, £1,250 a year, and £1,500 a year to the holders of statutory offices. None of the increases is to be less than £950 per annum.
I have put, with some brevity, the views of the Opposition in this matter. We are not opposing the bill, because we think that it is proper and just that something should be done. We have advocated such, action ourselves. At the same time, I express the disappointment of the Opposition at the failure of the Government to have validated sooner payments that have been already made. I have left until last - but because I have done so, I do not want the subject to be regarded as of least concern to the Opposition - the plight of the pensioners and all those who are dependent on social service benefits. I should be very happy if, when the Minister replies to this debate, he would give to the country an assurance that these people have not been overlooked. I should also like him to as.sure the country that the same generosity, the same tenderness, regarding retrospectivity that has been extended to the holders of statutory offices and public servants, and which is to be extended to the judges also, will not be denied to the far more needy classes of the community. I hope that the Government will now give at least some hope, if not some immediate payment, to the very needy persons in the pensions field by announcing that substantial increases of pensions will be made, and secondly, that those increases will be retrospective at least to the 1st January last.
– I support the measure, although I believe that its presentation is belated. It is the outcome of considerable industrial dispute in this country. As the Minister stated in his second-reading speech, the bill proposes to give effect to increases of salary agreed to by the Public Service Board in December, 1954. The date of operation of the increases flows from a judgment in the Metal Trades case, and the date of operation of the increases granted in that case has been adopted in respect of sections, of the Public Service. As honorable members are aware, previously in this Senate - for instance when the Estimates were being debated last year - I have pressed for . recognition of the inflationary position. On one occasion’ the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) furnished me with a long list of industrial arbitration cases which had been held up or adjourned. At that time there was considerable industrial unrest, and the Government criticized the workers and the unions for disturbing the economic stability of the country, and disrupting industry. The measure now before the Senate represents belated recognition by the Government that inflation does exist. Inflation has been the cause of many people agitating politically in industrial unions. They had a real case, and the unions were trying genuinely to press that case. Unfortunately, it was used by persons who were not really interested in maintaining industrial peace or in improving the lot of the worker.
I contend that this thoroughly justified, though tardy, recognition of the need for adjustment of salaries should be extended into a wider field. I wish to make a plea for those who have to live on the basic wage. Whilst it is true that the basic wage has increased considerably in recent years, it cannot be denied that the. margins have become thoroughly disproportionate. This legislation will, to some degree, correct that position, but it is no answer at all to say that the basic wage, in the Commonwealth- and the States, for some time has been virtually pegged. The people who receive the basic wage have only a frugal income. Indeed, the basic wage is not supposed to be one whit more than is necessary to enable people to live. I think that the Government should quickly reverse its policy, if it wishes to do justice to the basie wage earners.
It will be argued, of course, that economic conditions are so good to-day that no man need work for as little as the basic wage. That is not correct. If the number of people who receive the basic wage at this time is relatively low. compared with the usual position in industry, that, of course, would mean that the introduction of a just basic wage would be less expensive than it ordinarily would be. Adjustment of the basic wage is vital and is one of the first things that the Government should do. Although ] commend the Government for having introduced this measure, I hope that it will see the justice in increasing the wages of other members of the community who have just claims to increases. I hope, too. that the Government will increase pensions, which have suffered greatly as a result of inflation. Adjustment of the basic wage, in accordance with statistical figures concerning industrial and real living costs, should receive the earliest possible consideration of the Government.
– I join with my leader (Senator McKenna) and Senator Cooke in supporting the bill but I regret that teachings such as we were given in our early life have not been observed by the Government. It is a humanitarian principle that those in greatest need should be given first consideration. Some years ago the Commonwealth Arbitration Court pegged wages and as a result those receiving fixed incomes have suffered considerable hardship. But perhaps the most deserving section of the community are the pensioners. Not for a moment do [ suggest that the judges and other persons to whom this measure applies should not be given well deserved increases, but [ am making a plea on behalf of other sections whose need is even greater. As a result of the Government’s policy of economic reconstruction the Commonwealth Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) this year will be able to report a surplus of some millions of pounds. I hope the Government will not lose sight of the fact that that position has been brought about because of conditions imposed on the masses of industrial workers by the Arbitration Court.
When discussing another subject recently, I said that I had yet to find any place either in Australia or anywhere else in the world where the rich and the poor pay different prices for a pound of butter or a loaf of bread. It is no hardship for the highly paid individual to buy those commodities, but the pensioner, who has to exist on £3 10s. a week, is unable to provide himself adequately with the necessities of life, and but for the kindly assistance of friends, he would be in a sorry plight. I support my leader’s statement that the Government should have given some consideration to the need of the pensioners, and I join with him in hoping that, in the near future, the Government will announce some measure of relief for the pensioners and also for the great mass of workers who are subject to considerable hardship because of the pegging of wages. They deserve consideration, because although they have had to put up with the result of the decisions of the Arbitration Court they have continued loyally at their work.
The Government should also give some consideration to increasing the emoluments paid to members of Parliament and I hope that that will be done before long. Whatever the public may say about members of Parliament, the fact remains that they pay the same proportion of taxes as any other section of the community, and they have to meet many more individual calls for financial assistance than does the ordinary citizen. I support the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
SUPPLY BILL (No. 1) 1955-56. First Reading.
Debate resumed from the 1st June (vide page 590), on motion by Senator Spooner - ‘
That the bill be now read a first time.
– Yesterday, I clearly pointed out that the proposed increase of shipping freights will have a most disastrous affect on every section of the Australian community. Those who have followed the history and development of Australian industry are not unfamiliar with the pattern which the shipping companies have followed. The ingredients that were evident in our economy in the year preceding the last serious depression in this country are present once more. The Commonwealth Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) says that the outlook for Australia is bleak. He says that the wheatposition is unstable, and that is confirmed by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), who has warned the Government that continued stable prices in overseas markets are doubtful. The Government alleges that there is still prosperity in Australia, but it continues to make huge borrowings in every possible market for the purpose of financing its policy. Australia has the doubtful honour to be the third largest borrower of dollars from the International Bank. This is a small nation, and those dollars have to be repaid. A similar situation in Australia existed prior to 1930. The “tragic Treasurer” of those days, now the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page): indulged in a policy of “borrow and bust “ and the inevitable consequence was that Sir Otto Neimeyer came to Australia and took full control of its economic set-up, its conditions of living, and its export, import and development policies. Generous prices have been received for wool. On the 27th May last, clean, super-average wool of 70’s quality was bringing 155d. per lb. compared with 200d. on the preceding 11th June, a fall of 45d. Other declines, in the same period, in the prices paid for wool are worthy of attention, and I cite a few of them -
Those decreases in the prices paid for wool have been made more serious because of the increases in costs of production. Even the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) admits that we are entering upon another bout of mild inflation. Since costs of production of wool are rising and prices are lower, the upward trend in shipping freight rates is serious. In this connexion I shall quote, not from a. party journal, but from a record in Canberra Comments of a meeting of the Council of the Australian Oversea Transport Association, which met last month to discuss the proposal of overseas shipping lines to increase freight rates to and from Australia by 10 per cent. The meeting adjourned without reaching a decision, but we are informed that the higher freight rates are operating now. Opposition by the shippers to the proposal was general, and in the light of the views expressed, the shipowners’ representatives undertook to examine the matter further, but apparently they have not altered their decision. The report to which I have referred states -
The basis of the shipowners’ case was discussed in the last issue of this Journal. It was u case that was founded on a series of general propositions .and left much to bo desired. This became immediately apparent as discussion in the meeting .proceeded and its unsatisfactory aspects were brought to light.
Apparently, even the exporters and the representatives of Australian industry are dissatisfied with the case put up by the shipowners. Senator Paltridge hae stated that honorable senators on this side of the chamber make no contribution to assist the Government, but the matter of shipping freights has been closely pressed by honorable senators on the Opposition side for almost three years. Honorable senators on the Opposition side direct questions to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) in relation to freights, shipping services and costs. The Minister informs us that they are matters of Government policy and that he has no statement to make, but he attributes all shipping difficulties to the slow turn-round of ships, poor work on the waterfront and loafing on the job. He takes every opportunity of disparaging the Australian workers. “Wrongly based attacks on the workers, made under parliamentary privilege by the Minister, should not be tolerated. The Associated Chambers of Commerce, which represent shippers and exporters as well as other commercial interests, have declared that overseas shipping services have no complaint about the services that are provided in Australian ports. I direct the attention of the Senate to several statements in connexion with this matter by the Associated Chambers of Commerce, which were published in Canberra Comments -
Turn-round time has improved considerably. Based on an average pre-war cargo, ships now turn round in five to six days compared with six to eight days in 1949 and seven days in 1951.
The Government cannot complain about that improvement which indicates how wrongly the Minister for Shipping and Transport has slandered the Australian waterside workers. Government supporters stated that berths were not cleared because the wharf labourers were not shifting cargo quickly enough. Those workers have been charged with loafing on Australia. The statement of the Associated Chambers of Commerce on that point was -
Delays for berths have been practically eliminated; the cargo handling rate has risen from 202 tons in 1951 to 311 tons per day in 1953 : bunker fuel costs have fallen by up to £2 10s. per ton; but port charges, towage, repair and provisioning charges have risen, but no information has been provided by the owners as to the precise effects of those rises in handling costs.
Those statements must be accepted as definite evidence that the ship-owners are getting a fair deal in our ports, and that the men in the stevedoring industry are shifting the cargo. The report from which I have been reading adds -
On the subject of increased capital costs, the Associated Chambers had some very pertinent questions to ask. Some of the more important of these were:
New tonnage costs have risen but if the case for freight rates is based, even in part, on those costs, why is the proposed increase confined to Australia?
The Government stands condemned. If it has studied the position, and has a policy on this matter, can it answer that question? The Government has failed to protect the nation by preventing the increases of shipping freights. No such increases have been applied to countries where the Government is more stable. The Opposition wants to know the answers to the questions posed by the Associated Chambers of Commerce, and so also do the exporters and the primary producers. Other pertinent questions advanced by the Associated Chambers of Commerce at the meeting of the Council of the Australian Overseas Transport Association were -
b ) Since, as appears to have been the fact, profitable operations were conducted on the Australian run in 1952, should not the capital position of the companies be even more improved by the following provisions of the 1953 United Kingdom budget: -
Apparently, they are getting sick of their own practices. This is a serious business, and the Government has a lot to answer for. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited benefited by nearly £4,000,000 because the Government wrote off charges legitimately raised against this company while similar charges had to be paid by other air lines. The Government granted various concessions and privileges to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited which is closely allied with shipping companies which are tied in with the big cartels and combines which were given similar treatment in Great Britain. Although this great combine is getting unjustified privilege in Australia and Great Britain and has earned excessive profit yet they have increased rates by 110 per cent. since 1939. These big companies have become so strong that they are more powerful than the Government itself. The Minister is asleep while this measure is being debated.
– It is a wonder we are not all unconscious.
– Some of the Minister’s answers to questions reveal that he is at most times unconscious. Senator Paltridge said that the Opposition had no policy, but I remind him that it is not our job to provide the Government with a policy.
Senator Tangney and Senator Willesee fromWestern Australia, and Senator Benn from Queensland, have referred to the development of the northern and north-western portions of Australia. Senator Paltridge put up a proposition which he thought was something new. Apparently, he does not know that we on this side have made similar proposals on numerous occasions. I hold in my hand some papers showing that this matter was raised eighteen months ago. As reported in the West Australian of the 19th May, 1954, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said -
The right honorable gentleman said that he had a policy, but he was so afraid of the effect that the discovery of oil would have, that he would not commit himself. He had no policy. He went on to say -
Before I commit the Government on any new policy about the north-west, I think I am bound to see what developments occur and therefore what new circumstances should affect Government policy.
On previous occasions, I have asked for concessional tax rates for people living north of the 26th parallel. In reply to a question which I asked, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) said -
In the ordinary scheme of things, I am not aware of the details of many representations made to the Prime Minister or to other Ministers. I can assure the honorable senator that any submissions, such as that he has mentioned, receive full, careful and courteous consideration.
asked what we thought of the Government’s policy. I have shown that the Government had no policy in 1954. It has no policy to-day. The position in the north-west of Australia is desperate. In an area more than onethird of the whole of Australia, 16,000 people exist, but the Government has no policy for that area.
– How many people did the honorable senator say were there ?
– Is the Minister still unconscious, or has he awakened ? In the north-western portion of Western Australia, north of the 26th parallel, there is a population of 9,000. In the Northern Territory above the same parallel, there are 16,000 people. In the Queensland area from Haddon Corner to Cape Melville there are 18,000 people north of the 26th parallel, the total population in the area under discussion being 43,000. In the whole of this area, there is much development still to be done, but it cannot be done by wishful thinking that oil will be found, or that uranium deposits or other minerals will be discovered. One trouble with our mining industry in this northern undeveloped area is that all too frequently only the more profitable parts of the mine are worked out and the project abandoned because of block area development making it too expensive to operate. The Government has not met its responsibilities in that area.
Referring to the transport of beef by air, Senator Paltridge said that the Government of Western Australia had not met its responsibility. I take it that Senator Paltridge would be prepared to accept excerpts from the GovernorGeneral’s Speech as being a true statement of the policy of the Government. In the Governor-General’s Speech which I hold in my hand the Government promised to take into consideration the representations of those who were operating the air beef industry and to give them some relief. In order to gain a political advantage for the Government, Senator Paltridge criticized the Premier of Western Australia, over the air, while the facts are that the Prime Minister, through the Governor-General, promised that the Government would deal with the situation that existed in the air beef industry. One would expect that Senator Paltridge, even in his enthusiasm as a supporter of the Government, would at least avoid personalities. In putting his case to the people, the Prime Minister condemned the State Government, and said that the Commonwealth Government would protect the industry of conveying beef carcass meat by air in Western Australia. If the Commonwealth Government has not done this, he should take it up with his leader, the Prime Minister.
– It did plenty.
– It certainly did s lot of talking, and tried to convince the people that the Western Australian Government had failed to do its duty. People engaged in the air beef trade believed the Prime Minister when, in the Governor-General’s Speech, the Government promised to help the industry. Senator Paltridge says that the industry has failed because it did not get proper treatment. He should try to reconcile his statements. Despite all the propaganda contained in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, the Western Australian Government did its job well. The responsibility lies with the Commonwealth Government. It is quite misleading for spokesmen for the Government, especially when their speeches are being broadcast, to say that the Western Australian Government, despite the loan money advanced to it, has fallen down on the job. The Western Australian Government has a highly commendable record. I say the same for the previous Government in that State. It is true that the Government neglected many things, among them being the comprehensive water scheme to which Senator Paltridge has referred. That the air beef industry, the development of the north of Australia and the other things that Senator Paltridge talked about were neglected was not the fault of the Government of Western Australia, but is the direct result of the Menzies Government’s policy in relation to the financing of essential developmental works and services. If Commonwealth grants were not fully expended, it was because the Commonwealth would not approve of the State raising sufficient loan money to enable the State to pay £l-for-£l with the Commonwealth, which was the condition of the Commonwealth grant for the comprehensive water supply. The Commonwealth kept the State Government in a state of poverty. As Senator Paltridge claims that the Opposition never makes a constructive proposal to help the Government, I shall now give the Government a lead in another matter.
On the 14th May last, in a speech on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, I dealt with the shortage of nurses in this country, especially for service as district nurses and staff for hospitals in the sparsely populated areas in which Senator Paltridge should be interested. Those areas include the northwest of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, as well as portions of eastern and western Australia, and the people who live in these areas should be given every possible amenity and service in their hard life. Adequate nursing services are vital to their welfare. Another important aspect of nursing services is their role in civil defence. Unfortunately the numbers of nurses are not sufficient, and there is urgent need for advanced additional training for qualified nurses “to meet the conditions that would arise if this country were engaged in hostilities, and even the nurses who : a re available have not been fully trained in this branch of their work. If the nursing community were called upon now to supply the services that it gave in World War II., this nation would be beggared of nurses for its normal civil facilities. Indeed, even if the ravages of war were not suffered, the shortage of nurses would not be any less grave. I pray to God that another war will not come, but if it does, Australia will be deeply involved.
The Government, by its own admissions, is actively engaged in developing modern weapons of offence. It has announced the development of long-range atomic weapons and all the other horrors that will be capable of being used in the next war. Australia will not escape unscathed. This continent will suffer all the rigours of any war that might come but this Government has not uttered one word of policy on civil defence and the protection of the people. In this respect, I fall in heartily with the views of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) in the House of Representatives. Some consideration must be given to civil defence, and this is where the suggestion I have made about the extension of the training of nurses becomes relevant. Women of distinction in the nursing profession are struggling to do something worth while for the benefit of the nation, and I have put their case in this Senate, but I have not had the courtesy of a reply from the Government. I have asked questions about assisting them and, in the adjournment debate, I have spoken about their efforts. I take this opportunity in the debate on the Supply Bill to speak of them again.
– The honorable senator had an answer to his question.
– I had an answer in relation to the Silver Chain District and Bush Nursing Association (Incorporated) but I have had no answer to my representations on behalf of the Australian College of Nursing. Senator Annabelle Rankin has told me that she is very interested in this subject, though at the moment she seems more interested in the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay). After I had made some submissions in the interests of the Australian College of Nursing, the honorable senator told me that she wished to speak on the same subject and should be glad if the papers could be made available to her.
- Senator Annabelle Rankin is on the side of Senator Cooke, and she is convincing the Minister.
– I should like her to listen to me. George McLeay is a Scot and she will never convince him unless he agrees with her in the first place. When he agrees with a proposition, he is a good ally.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood).- Order ! In speaking of honorable senators, Senator Cooke must describe them as honorable senators.
– It would seem that, when I made my submissions previously on this subject, some honorable senators were, like the Minister, unconscious, but Senator Wright, from Tasmania, one of the brightest “ boys “ on the Government side of this chamber and therefore a trouble to the Government, had this to say on the 4th May after I had spoken about the training of nurses -
Without any anticipation on my part, Senator Cooke has brought before the Senate a matter which is engaging my attention. However, I do not ‘think that the occasion is favorable for its consideration at present, bocause of the constitution of the Senate and the absence of certain senators.
I suppose Ministers were overseas, and they were the men that Senator Wright wished to reach. He continued -
I rise to support the remarks that the honorable senator has made in order to press the claims of this institution for greater consideration by the Government. At a later date, on a more advantageous occasion, I hope, with the support of many other senators, to bring the matter forward in a considered way.
The Minister is unconscious about what is happening. Some honorable senators on the Government side, including the Government Whip, are on the ball and eager for something to be done, but unfortunately nothing has been done. The people who established the Australian College of Nursing are honoured. They include nurses who were wounded because they shielded with their own bodies the men in their care whom they were bringing to Australia on hospital ships. They were shot in the fulfilment of their duties.
When the war ended, the Government promised them everything but all they have got is words, words, and more words* It was proposed eventually that the Government might build them a home in which they could live in comfort when they became unable to follow their civil occupations, but these brave women did not want that. Instead they interested themselves to see that a college be established in which nurses could be trained for the work that they had been doing and would be likely to be called on to do as a result of developments in modern warfare and medicine. The training of a nurse in a civil hospital does not necessarily fit her completely for the work that she would be called upon to do in a war or in remote districts where personal supervision by doctors is not possible. Nurses under those conditions have to undertake tasks that would not be expected of them, under ordinary conditions of service in a large hospital. For this reason, the highly respected persons in the nursing profession of. Australia to whom I have referred established a college for post-graduate training.
The purpose of this college is to train nurses to run hospitals, to treat illnesses and injuries when there are no medical officers to direct them, to render clinical services, and to use serums and administer treatments of their own choosing. These are things that a nurse has to do in the interests of her patient when a doctor is not available. The nurses who established the college knew from their wide experience in war and in peace that it is often necessary to have nurses trained to a degree even higher than that required for qualification for the various nursing certificates. Nurses carry grave responsibilities in war and in unusual circumstances of civil emergency and it is necessary that skilled nursing treatment of the types that I have mentioned should be available to the civil population in sparsely settled districts and to the defence forces. The training can be provided by the Australian College of Nursing. Supporters of the Government have said that honorable senators on this side of the chamber do not make constructive suggestions. In fact we do, but nothing is done to put them into effect. Here is it constructive proposal that I have brought forward on several occasions. Let me quote for the second time in this Senate the words of people who are public-spirited enough to interest themselves in the adequate training of nurses and who have given their time, money and services to the establishment of the college. This is what they say - lt is to the discredit of the Commonwealth Government that it has, despite our many and varied approaches to it on the matter, not assisted us in any -way whatsoever in this most vital and urgent undertaking - an undertaking that must inevitably have a tremendous bearing on the betterment of our hospitals and the health of the nation generally.
– Who wrote that?
– Does the honorable senator wish to question and perhaps embarrass the writer ?
– No. Was the writer an official of the Australian College of Nursing?
– If the honorable senator wants all of the submission, he will have it.
– No. I asked whether the writer was an official of the Australian College of Nursing.
– Yes. This information was supplied to the Commonwealth Government in September, 1954. Quite recently, a conference was held in Melbourne and this matter was again debated, but still there has been no relief. The college has had assistance from charities and from State governments to a certain extent, but its job is Commonwealth and national and, indeed, international in character. It has trained people in defence nursing and in hospital administration. Some of the nurses who have enjoyed the benefit of training by this institution are among the most valuable people in every State of Australia. Also, the college has co-operated wholeheartedly in the Colombo plan. I can give the Senate figures on the number of persons who have come to it from overseas - from India, Thailand and Korea.
Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.30 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was putting certain submissions to the Senate on this Supply Bill. I have very little more to say, except that it is the duty of the Government seriously to consider any suggestions that are put forward by the Opposition in respect of bills or other matters that come before this chamber. Instead of doing that, Ministers seem to adopt the attitude that honorable senators on this side of the chamber are merely seeking to criticize the Government. Consequently, we have often found it completely fruitless to make submissions or suggestions to this Government, however valuable or necessary those suggestions may have been. Matters such as shipping freights, internal freights, uniform railway gauges, invalid, age and widows’ pensions, service pensions and civil defence, have all been carefully dealt with by the Opposition, but the Government has paid scant attention to our ideas. If this Government is to function properly, it must take notice of constructive criticism. The Opposition will put forward such criticism if Ministers will take notice of it.
Debate (on motion by Senator Pearson) adjourned.
Redistribution or Queensland Divisions
Debate resumed from the 1st June (vide page 543), on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the State of Queensland into electoral divisions, as proposed by Messrs. E. S. Olsen, J. P. Harvey and C. Faragher, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before the Senate on the 24th day of May, 1955; and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the maps referred to therein, be adopted.
.- In the early part of this year a commission was appointed under the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act to review the divisions which at that time existed in Queensland. The members of the commission were above reproach. They were all honorable gentlemen and were fully qualified to carry out the task allotted to them. There are eighteen electoral divisions in Queensland, and because the commission was required to take into account certain provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act when reviewing the divisions,- it is necessary tomention that of the eighteen divisions, five are represented in. this Parliament by members of the Australian Labour party,- and thirteen by members of the Liberal or Count) y parties.
Three of the divisions’ that are represented by Labour members are in the extreme north of Queensland. For example, the Leichhardt division embraces the area known- as Cape York, and the area extending from there to the eastern coast almost as far as Tully. Immediately south of the Leichhardt division on the east coast is the division of Herbert, which extends to a point on the coast below Home Hill. West of that division is the division known as Kennedy, which- has a largo area. I think it is even greater in area than the whole State of Victoria. Those three divisions that I have, mentioned are represented by members of the Australian Labour party. In the heart of Brisbane there are two more divisions which are represented by members of the Australian Labour party. It may be said that approximately one-third of the divisions are represented by Labour members, and the remainder are represented by members of either the Literal party or the Australian Country party.
The commission’ made a review of the. whole of the State. I have examined’ the work of the commission very closely, and I think it had some difficulty in preparing its recommenddations, because it was limited- to a certain num’ber of electors and’ there were eighteen divisions to’ consider. In the first review the commission did’ not suggest any major- changes-. Certainly some of the divisions- were altered here and there so as to make, u-p. the number of electors required bv statute in respect of each division. However, two notable changes were, made in reject of the divisions of Dawson and’ Petrie. It appeared’ to me, and- it still does, that the commission commenced work at the northern end of Queensland and made adjustments as it moved south. I have arrived’ at that conclusion because there was not a pool of electors upon which the commission could readily draw so a? to make good the deficiencies in some of the divisions. The commission brought the division, of Dawson, down the, coast, and put the southern boundary where it included almost the whole of the City of Rockhampton. That forced the commission to take the division of Capricornia much further south than it had probably ever been taken before, and it included the City of Bundaberg in that division. At the same time, from one portion of the electorate it took- away some of the rural area.
Another division in which there was a major alteration is the division of Petrie. Before the review, Petrie could be classed as a metropolitan division. It included a portion of the City of Brisbane, and extended north to take in a town called Redcliffe, and a rural section of the coastal area as far north as the town of Caboolture. In the process of making good’ the deficiencies in the various divisions, the commission took from Petrie the portion which included Redcliffe, a rural area and the town of Caboolture, leaving Petrie almost a metropolitan division.
After the commission furnished its report,, on about the 3rd March, discussions followed in certain circles. I do know that there was a meeting of some’ members of the1 Liberal and. Australian Country parties, and the matter was discussed at- that meeting. After- the discussion., protests were organized’ in Rockhampton. We1 all know that” if it desired to organize a protest, about such matters, it is. not necessary for the parties concerned to have their representatives stand in the main road and protest. It is quite easy to find some one to organize a protest. The; best type of. person for the task, perhaps is one who is inclined to wring his- hands and shed crocodile tears, and say that he is not interested in party polities. It is- therefore an ea.?y matter to arrange for a protest to be lodged with the commission regarding the boundary of any division. That is what actually happened, in respect of the division’ of Capricornia. That division, embraced Rockhampton, and it seems that the main ground of the protest was thatRockhampton would then be shared by the two divisions, by far the greater part of the city being in the division of Dawson, and the small remainder in Capricornia. Whether that is accepted as a proper ground for protest I cannot say but, speaking as a member of this Senate, I say that it is an absurd ground, especially when it is considered that in Brisbane there are five divisions, and in Sydney, I think, there are 25 divisions.
Alter receiving: the protest regarding Dawson and Capricornia, and also the objection in respect of the boundaries of Petrie, the commission further investigated the matter, as it was really required to do. Under the provisions of the statute governing the actions of the commission, there are certain matters which the commission is required to consider. As I said previously, the members of the commission were fully qualified to carry out the work. They were experienced men. I think one or two of the members performed a similar task on the last occasion when the State divisions were redistributed. The commission was required to consider these matters -
Those were the matters that the commission had. to consider, in addition to the allocation of the required number of electors. As I have said, there were protests in respect of two or three divisions, and the commission reviewed its previous work. We now find that, as a result of those protests, the division of Petrie has been given back a great portion of that area which the commission excluded from it in the first instance. Then when we study the division of Capricornia, the northern boundary of which was the southern boundary of the Dawson division, we find that the northernportion of Capricornia. has been completely changed. That division now includes the City of Rockhampton, plus a comparatively small area of the State down to a point south of Gladstone. In the division of Dawson a remarkable change has been made. The division of
Dawson extended from a little north of Proserpine to the northern part of Rockhampton, a distance of approximately 280 miles. Under the proposed redistribution, the distance between the northern and southern tips of the division will be approximately 360 miles. The division is to be extended down the coast, in a very narrow strip at one place, and will suddenly branch out to include a large dairy-farming area. Everybody knows, especially honorable senators on this side of the chamber, that if it is desired to make a division safe for the Liberal party or the Australian Country party, the best way to do it is to include in the division as much dairy-farming territory as possible. That is, perhaps, due to the fact that dairy-farmers are backward people politically.
The division of Dawson is to extend from north of Proserpine almost down to Bundaberg. On its western boundary, it will take in a huge dairying area, and also a cotton-growing area. Towns such as Monto, Biloela, Banana and Theodore are well known as centres of dairyfarming activity, and they are all to be included in Dawson.
Community or diversity of interests was a matter that the commission had to take into consideration. How it could be thought that there is community of interest between the sugar-growers in the northern part of the electorate and the dairy-farmers and cotton-growers in the southern part, is beyond my comprehension. All Australians are grateful that they live under a democratic form of government. Does it not appear that the very basis of that form of government is the nature of our electoral divisions? Does not our democratic government commence at that point? How easy it would be to circumvent our parliamentary form of democracy by manipulating the boundaries of electoral divisions in such a manner that a particular kind of government could retain office indefinitely! It is well known that Hitler, Mussolini. Lenin and the leaders of other totalitarian countries established themselves in those countries, and enabled expression to be given to their ideologies, by suppressing the will of the people. They appreciated that that had to be done. and they did it very effectively once they attained office. They destroyed the means by which the people could express their political opinions. When they had done that, they were safe and were able to design their legislation and have it administered according to their wishes. We want to avoid a similar state of affairs, and that is why the subject which we are discussing now is a very important one, indeed.
I ask honorable senators to picture in their minds the situation of the Queensland divisions represented by Labour members of Parliament. Three of them are in the extreme north of Queensland, and two of them are in the heart of Brisbane. That leaves the remainder of the State to be divided according to the wishes of the thirteen Queensland members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. I appreciate that most of the Queensland divisions are not to be changed materially, but I have pointed out that two of the divisions were changed after the commission furnished its first cause of my complaint. It is our duty to preserve at least a semblance of democracy. It is not for a sitting member of Parliament to indicate to the Commission how he thinks the divisions should be arranged, and in endeavouring to point out how the position could be corrected, I find it somewhat difficult to make suggestions to the Government. However, the commission made its review and furnished its report containing conclusions which, in my opinion, were quite satisfactory. It did a fairly good job. In connexion with the second review, however, it appears to me that the commission was influenced unduly by the members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. It proposes to give those parties seats, at least in two instances in Queensland, in which there is unlikely to be any change unless considerable industrial development takes place in the divisions concerned. If that state of affairs is to be remedied, another tribunal, tohear appeals from the findings of the commission, will have to be appointed. It may be possible to have a tribunal presided over by a judge of the High Court.
I voice this protest particularly in respect of the action that is to be taken to change the boundaries of the division of Dawson. I contend that the commission has not observed the requirements of the act and that, in not doing so. it hap failed in its duty.
.- As a Queensland senator, I listened very intently to the remarks of Senator Benn. The Honorable senator stated that thecommissioners, in reconsidering the boundaries of Queensland divisions, were influenced by members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. I take umbrage at that statement. Honorable senators will recollect that, at the commencement of his speech, Senator Beni said that the men who had been selected for this task were above reproach. If that is so- and I believe that it isI have no reason to think that they were not equally honest when making then second review as they were originally.
– I do not think I suggested otherwise. My objection was to the conclusions.
– The honorable senator suggested that the commission was influenced by our representations.
– By the protests, naturally. I do not say, however, that the members of the commission were spoken to by members of the Government parties.
– I am glad to hear the honorable senator say that. I do not think that the members of the commission were influenced by parliamentarians at all. It is not the place of a member of Parliament to object to redistribution of electoral boundaries, because members of Parliament, naturally, want to hold their seats. Nevertheless, I did see something of representations which had been made, in respect of a certain division, by a member of Parliament, and in my opinion those representations were sickening. I believe that opposition to redistribution should come from the people.
I live in the division of Dawson, to which Senator Benn referred. As he pointed out, the City of Rockhampton is, m the main, to be included in the Dawson division. At the moment, Mackay and district are the backbone of that electorate. The main industry is sugargrowing, although the electorate also includes dairy-farming areas. There is a butter factory at Mackay. To my way of thinking, Rockhampton has nothing in common, industrially, with Mackay, and when it was proposed to include that city in the division of Dawson, it was the people of Rockhampton who rose up wrathfully and objected. Many thousands of them subscribed their names to a petition against the proposed redistribution. 1. know that the commissioners gave the matter very sincere consideration, but every one can make mistakes. Rockhampton is one of the major cities of Queensland, and because the people of that city did not want to be included in the Dawson electorate, being of the opinion that they belonged to Capricornia, the commissioners recognized the strong representations that they made. T. agree with Senator Benn that the redistribution of electorates should be made on a democratic basis. In this case the people, who are the basis of democracy, are objecting to the redistribution which the commissioners first made. By taking the City of Rockhampton back into Capricornia, it was then in order to move the boundary of the Dawson electorate further south and west of Rockhampton and bring in part of the Bundaberg area. Although that would make the electorate difficult to administer by a member with his office at Mackay, it can be said that because Bundaberg also is mainly a sugar-producing district, the electorate now has a greater community of interest than it probably had under the boundaries which are about to be altered.
The commissioners were faced with a very difficult task in Queensland. “We might ask why did they not start at the north and give the Kennedy electorate a larger number of voters and others a. smaller quota. The electorate of Kennedy will have the smallest number of voters in the State - many thousands fewer than the average number in other electorates - but it would have been detrimental to the Labour party generally to have made it otherwise. Senator Benn objects to the treatment given on this occasion to federal electorates in Queens land. Let me say that, in Queensland, a Labour government was responsible for the’ greatest piece of gerrymandering of electorates that Australia has ever known.
– I rise to order. When I was dealing with the subject now under discussion I confined myself strictly to the motion. If the scope of the debate is to be widened to include State electoral boundaries-
– Order! What is the honorable senator’s point of order?
– I am asking whether it is in order, in this debate, for Senator Wood to discuss the redistribution of State electorates.
- Senator Wood is using the redistribution of State boundaries as a comparison with the redistribution of federal boundaries, and he is in order in doing so.
– I rise to order. A redistribution of boundaries in a State would be made under a statute of that State, and by way of resolution of the State Parliament. In criticizing what happened in Queensland, Senator Wood is criticizing a decision of a State Parliament and in so doing is contravening Senate Standing Order 418, which lays down -
No senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament . . .
Senator Wood’s remark was definitely offensive against a House of a State Parliament, and I ask that the honorable senator be asked to withdraw it.
– What was the remark?
– That the redistribution of electorates in Queensland was an example of gerrymandering. That is a distinct reflection on the decision of the Queensland State Parliament according to Standing Order 418.
– Order ! Honorable senators should clearly understand the situation. Standing Order 418, to which Senator Byrne has referred, reads -
No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament … or a State Parliament.
Senator Wood has been discussing the federal electoral redistribution and he has made a passing reference to a State redistribution in Queensland. He used the word “ gerrymandering “, but as far as I know, that word is not offensive, and I will not rule that it is offensive.
– I rise to order. The statement of Senator Wood is a reflection upon the Parliament of Queensland.
– .Senator Fraser is now reflecting on the President’s ruling.
– I was on my feet before the President gave his ruling.
– Order ! I have ruled that Senator Wood is in order. If Senator Fraser does not agree with my ruling he can move dissent from it.
– I would not do that. I wanted to say that the word “gerrymandering” is, in my opinion-
– Order ! Senator Fraser is now canvassing my ruling, and is out of order. I ask Senator Wood to confine his remarks to a passing reference to the Queensland redistribution.
– On your ruling, Mr. President, that Senator Wood’s reference to the Queensland State Parliament is not offensive, will honorable senators be in order in adopting a similar line of criticism when dealing with a redistribution in any other State?
– I was referring to Senator Benn’s remark concerning a democratic redistribution on a fair and equitable basis and mentioned the gerrymandering of electorates in the State of Queensland; but I am aware that other States have acted similarly. I have no doubt that South Australia would be cited as an example. As one who believes in democracy, I contend that electoral boundaries should be fixed in the fairest possible manner so that at each election the people of the Commonwealth or of a State will be able to give a true indication of the wishes of the majority. That is true democracy. I resent any suggestion that this Government or members of the party to which I belong influenced the commissioners, who are described as men of high principles and standing. They did their work in the best possible way. Although honorable senators may doubt the wisdom of the way in which the electorates have been redistributed, generally speaking the commissioners have done a good job. Let me say, without casting any reflection, that if each of the States, and in particular Queensland and South Australia, had as fair a redistribution as has been made of federal electorates in those States, the result would be a much truer indication of the wishes of the electors.
.- I wish to comment on the remarks of Senator Wood concerning the proposed redistribution of federal electorates in Queensland, and to point to the principle which obviously has been adopted by th,commissioners in relation to the electorate of Kennedy. The quota of electors whch has been allotted to Kennedy is the lowest possible - certainly the lowest in Queensland. There is a recognition of the tremendous area of the electorate. If that electorate had been allotted a quota of electors equivalent to that of smaller electorates, the member would have had an impossible physical task to represent it democratically and equitably. Obviously, the principle adopted by the commissioners there has been that they must take into consideration the area in question, and not simply the number of electors who reside there and will be on the roll. That was the exact principle that determined the attitude of the Queensland Government in its approach to State redistribution.
– Take it easy!
– I remind Senator Wood that in the country electorates of Queensland, there is a lower quota than in the city electorates. The vast electorates in the north-west and west of Queensland, such as Carpentaria that runs to the Gulf of Carpentaria, have an area bigger than ten or twelve metropolitan electorates, but there is only a comparatively small number of people on the roll. In other words, the State Government, in its approach to redistribution, has recognized the very principle upon which Senator Wood has congratulated the commissioners in connexion with the matter that is before the Senate. At the same time, and in the same speech, Senator Wood condemns the Queensland Government for following the same principle in State redistribution.
I direct my attention now to the division of Capricornia. I do not cast any reflection upon the membership of the commission or the integrity of the commissioners who were entrusted with this important task, but one of the determinants that, according to the statute, should guide them in their approach to redistribution is community of interest. If anything is needed to show how the commissioners fell down ia observing that principle in relation to Capricornia, it is to be found in the action that was subsequently taken. The people of Rockhampton are conscious of a community of interest. Senator Wood, and other honorable senators on the Government side, have accepted the redistribution affecting Capricornia, but apparently the people of Rockhampton realized that there had been a complete disregard of the determinant of community of interest. That, in itself, shows that the commission, while not lacking in impartiality or integrity, was subject to severe criticism in that electorate for its approach to the task committed to its care. If a close scrutiny were made of the proposed redistribution in other electorates where, similarly.’ the commissioners hove changed their original recommendation, I presume that possibly the same charge should be laid and could be sustained.
I have wondered whether redistribution is a matter particularly pertaining to the jurisdiction of the Senate, and whether this is a proper place in which to discuss it, but on further reflection I have come to the conclusion that, whilst honorable senators represent their States as an undivided unit, there must be harmony in that unity. If there were some sort of geographical distribution of electorates of the House of Representatives within the unit of Queensland, it could be as unreal and purely mathematical as was the division of Europe by the Treaty of Versailles. Inevitably, as a result, there would be great discontent, community of interest would be destroyed and the whole State would feel the impact of the faulty redistribution. Therefore, although the Senate is a States house, and honorable senators represent their States as a whole, I believe, on reflection, that this chamber is a proper place to discuss this matter, but it should be discussed without the heat and partisanship of those who may represent particular areas and have some political reason for justifying- or rejecting a redistribution.
It is our task to see that the determinants which are set down by statute have been observed. I believe that the Senate should put on record that, in the criticism by the people of Rockhampton themselves of the proposed redistribution, there is also a criticism of the commissioners for not having had a due and significant regard for community of interest. ] regard the equitable and democratic distribution of electorates so that political strengths as they exist in the electorate will be fairly and adequately represented in the Commonwealth and State parliaments, and in municipal government, a? something of vital importance to the future of democracy and of parliamentary representative government.
For years, we have heard comments, upon the so-called unfair distribution of the seats in Queensland. There has been criticism to the effect that, at times, the governments of Queensland have been returned with a minority of the people supporting them. We did not hear the same criticism after the last State election in Queensland, when the Government was returned with increased strength by a tremendous numerical majority in the electorate.
– For the first time for many years.
– It might be the first time, if we take into consideration uncontested seats and so on, but we are still waiting for the first time to be registered in South Australia, and we. are looking forward to that event. Whilst it is politically and mathematically possible for a change of government to take place in Queensland, it is impossible in South Australia, and that situation is a complete negation of the principles of democracy and representative government. I mention these matters because they were raised by Senator Wood and, in terms of your ruling, Mr. President, I mention them incidentally and in passing. I conclude by saying that it is my hope that the wishes of the people, as expressed at the ballot-box, shall be represented in the number of members of one political party or another who are returned to the National Parliament, to the State parliaments, and to the municipal governing bodies. In Queensland, we have not been completely satisfied with this redistribution for the reasons which were stated by Senator Benn, and to which I have referred.
Suggestions have been made that there should be a court of appeal from a tribunal such as that which decided upon the form of redistribution. Before such a proposal was adopted there would need to be considerable study of the functions and constitution of the body to which an appeal should be made. I am not a great believer in an indefinite system of tribunals of appeal, because I think, in a matter of such fundamental importance, speed should be a factor upon which accent should be placed, provided there is a fair and just measure of equity. Nevertheless, when we hear criticism such as that which has been voiced in this Parliament on redistribution, we must pause to think, and perhaps in future, there will be constituted some court of appeal to which interested citizens, members of Parliament or communities of citizens might present their case by petition for a review of the determination in the first instance. That is a matter which, in time, will probably receive the consideration of the Parliament, but at this stage the Opposition registers its protest against the inequity that we feel has arisen out of the redistribution now under consideration. We commend the matter seriously to honorable senators for close and anxious study in view of the importance of justice and equity in the functioning of the parliamentary system.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Redistribution of New South Wales Divisions
Debate resumed from the 1st June (vide page 543), on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the State of New South Wales into electoral divisions, as proposed by Messrs. V. IT. Turner, H. J. Martin and G. W. Vincent, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before the Senate on the 4th day of May, 1955, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the maps referred to therein, be adopted, except that the name “ Grayndler ‘” be substituted for “ Cook “, the name “ Hughes “ for “ Werriwa “ and the name “Werriwa” for “Hughes”.
– The Opposition will support the motion, but the motion does give honorable senators an opportunity to discuss the proposed subdivision of New South Wales. That brings me to a point mentioned by Senator Wood. It is an outstanding illustration, close to home, of the gerrymandering that he mentioned. I shall deal with some New South Wales seats which, the more one looks at them, the more difficult it is to believe thai strenuous efforts have not been made to turn swinging seats into safe Government seats. I have in mind particularly the divisions of Mitchell and Robertson.
I shall deal with the Mitchell subdivision first. It was won by the Government candidate, who had an overall majority of about 30 votes over two opponents, without the distribution of the Communist vote. The industrial development of that area made more certain that the seat would go to Labour. It is situated in the St. Mary’s industrial, area and extends to Windsor, back to Blacktown and towards Parramatta. What has happened is that the commissioners - with great facility, it seems to me - have gone down to Turramurra. Those who know Sydney will realize that the commissioners are taking a long step to reach Turramurra in order to tie it to an electorate which includes places as far away as Windsor and St. Mary’s. The commissioners have taken the cream of that conservative area, and have added to the old Mitchell division. Turramurra, Epping, Pennant Hills, Thornleigh and i part of Hornsby, all of which are pre dominately conservative. They have taken from the electorate Blacktown, St. Mary’s and Merrylands West. In Blacktown the Government candidate was down 1,500 votes; in St. Mary’s the Government candidate was down 400 votes, and in Merrylands West the Government candidate was about 700 votes down. By eliminating those three areas, and adding the conservative districts I have mentioned, Mitchell has been made a strong Government seat. One of the terms that could be applied here, although I do not like applying it, is the term introduced into the debate by a Queensland senator, Senator Wood. I suppose I could use it now.
We see the same thing in connexion with the division of Robertson. That division was won by the Liberal candidate on the distribution of Communist preferences. We find that the district of Boolaroo has been taken out. That subdivision gave the Labour candidate a majority of 1,300 votes. Swansea, an area which gave the Labour candidate a majority of 1,300 votes over his opponent, also has been taken out. The commission has included parts of Turramurra, which is one of the most conservative parts of New South Wales in order to save the seat for the Liberal party’s candidate.
– Does the honorable senator doubt the integrity of the commissioners ?
– I am saying what has happened. The honorable senator can place on my remarks any construction he likes.
– But does the honorable senator question the integrity of the commissioners?
– I repeat that the honorable senator may place his own construction on my remarks. If my meaning is so obvious that he can understand it, my meaning must be clear to every one. Whether the commissioners’ action is the result of incompetence, or of pressure, or is due to other reasons, the facts that I have placed before the Senate give an indication that two seats that Labour might have been expected to win cannot now be won by Labour. The honorable senator who interjected can place whatever construction he likes on that statement. I mention these things because, when Senator Wood mentioned gerrymandering, my thought was that the subdivision of New South Wales provides an illustration to show that the commission has gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that doubtful seats would be made safe for Government candidates. However, the Opposition doe? not oppose the motion.
– Reference has been made to the alleged gerrymandering of seats. When an attack is made on & redistribution, it amounts to an attach on either the integrity or the competence of the commissioners. The word “ gerrymander “ means a deliberate division of electorates by government manipulation. It arises from the name of a Governor of Massachusetts, in the United States of America. An electoral division was cut up in such a way that, according to Webster, it was a dragon-like contour. A celebrated artist, Gilbert Stuart, put a couple of claws and a beak on it and called it a salamander. Some one then said, “ Call it Gerry Mander after the Governor “. The position in New South Wales is simple. One seat has been lost to that State. The alteration of boundaries was consequential to that loss. On present appearances, Robertson and Mitchell do appear to be safer seats for the Government. However, in criticizing the subdivision, it is not sufficient to speak in general terms. The critic should bring forward a map and show where the line should be drawn. Take the division of Mitchell. A part of it is becoming greatly industrialized. I think we are all agreed that St. Mary’s may become a big industrial centre. What community of interest has an industrialized district with a rural area such as Windsor, where many of the electors are engaged in poultry-farming? In both Mitchell and Robertson the commissioners have taken into account community of interest, and have fixed the boundaries accordingly.
Question resolved in! the affirmative.
Redistribution OF Victorian Divisions.
Debate resumed from the 1st June (vide page 543), on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the State of Victoria into electoral divisions, as proposed by Messrs. E. C. Nance, fi”. W. Arter and F. Cahill, the commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before the Senate on the 11th day of May, 1.055, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the maps referred to therein, be adopted, except that the name “La Trobe” be substituted for ‘ Bruce “ and the name “ Bruce “ substituted for “La Trobe”.
– I desire to say a few words about the proposed redistribution of Victoria. There was a redistribution of seats in 1948. When we realize how the commissioners on that occasion kept as close as possible to the Electoral Act, we can 3ee more easily how on this occasion the commissioners, either knowingly or unknowingly have strayed away from it. Seats which could formerly have been regarded as safe Labour seats have been made safer for Labour, and swinging seats have been made sure for Government candidates. That would not matter so much if the distribution had been made in accordance with the spirit of the act, but that is not so. All kinds of lines have been drawn. The highways and byways have been searched to bring in areas where the people are disposed to favour the Liberal party, so as to make those seats safe for Government candidates. On the other hand, Kooyong, which at present is held by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and Chisholm, now held by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), have not had their boundaries altered.
– There has beer no change of population in those districts.
– The same argument that applies to Kooyong and Chisholm should also apply to Yarra and Hoddle. Two seats have been made into one, which makes it stronger for the Liberal party than was the case previously.
– There has been a change in population.
– Yes. there has been.
– A decrease.
– That is quite true, and there has been a decreasein Kooyong, too, but these seats, along: with Murray, the constituency of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture(Mr. McEwen), have not been touched. The idea of redistribution is to see that,, as nearly as possible, areas are tied* together in relation to their community of interest, industries, and according to municipalities. The electorate of” Bendigo was altered in 1948. ABBendigo is a mining town the boundariesof the electorate were made to include Castlemaine, also a mining town, and Maldon, another mining town.
– They had1 been mining towns in the past.
– They were rightly placed in the Bendigo electorate, and the top portion of theRochester area, which is a primary producing district, was put into another seat. Maryborough, also a mining area, was placed in the Bendigo electorate a* well.
– They ari* not mining areas.
- Senator George Rankin should mind his own business and allow me to continue my speech without interruption.
– It was my business.
– The honorable senator might be a little distressed because he lost the seat, but he did not do so badly after all.
– I am not worrying my head about that.
– If supporters of the Government believe in our democratic way of life, they should believe in a system that fixes the boundary of electorates in a fashion that will result in the polling of a democratic vote for the election of members to the lower House. For the past fifteen years the Australian Labour party has gained a substantial majority in the Senate vote in Victoria yet it is able to win only thirteen seats out of the 33 Victorian seats in the House of Representatives. If the voting results in elections for the House of Representatives were somewhere near even, I should not mind, but the result of voting in seats like Yarra is about 2,000 on one side to 22,000 on the other, which is not democracy. The Yarra seat, for example, could have been extended over the river in the same way as the Melbourne seat was, and part of the industrial area of Hawthorn could have been included in it. The electorate of Hoddle also could have been extended into Hawthorn. Most of the people who live in Hawthorn work in industry. Instead of these commonflense revisions being made, the seats of Hoddle and Burke are abolished as separate units, and made into one seat to be known as Scullin. That seat will -provide for the Labour candidate a majority of probably 20,000 to 30,000 votes. That is not democracy. This situation is an example of the grounds on which I protest against the -present distribution of boundaries in Victoria.
There has been some mention of gerrymandering, but I do not accuse any one of these commissioners of having any alliance with any political party. Nevertheless, the commissioners, in their wisdom have determined boundaries that are wrong and far from what was intended to be achieved by the Electoral Act. Do not place the onus on the commission. We should place the onus where it belongs - on this Government. If the Government were to examine the position fairly, it would not accept the boundaries that are proposed for electorates in Victoria but would insist that the proposals *be returned and redrafted on lines that would give the people of Victoria a reasonable opportunity to express their political views effectively and to have “them carried into effect at Canberra. As I said, for the last fifteen years Labour has had a substantial majority in Senate voting figures in Victoria, yet it will not be able to win more than thirteen seats out of the 33 in that State under the proposed redistribution of boundaries. I realize that there has been some shifting of population because industry has expanded in different places, but it cannot be said that thirteen seats out of 33 represents Labour voting in Victoria because in Senate elections, that State has recorded a substantial majority of votes for Labour. This has occurred al each election since 1940. Therefore, ] say, without any reflection on the officers who dealt with the redistribution of electoral boundaries, that the proposals should be reconsidered. The Government must see that even if the vote were to be the same as it was in 1954, it would be difficult for the Labour party to gain more than eleven of the 33 seats for Victoria in the House of Representatives. That result must be undemocratic. If the Government does the right thing, it will resubmit the proposals to the commissioners and acquaint them with the details of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. If this is done I feel sure that the proposals will be amended in a manner that will provide a more equitable scheme for th, State of Victoria.
.-] wish to comment briefly on the remarks of Senator Hendrickson, beginning with something that he said towards the end of his speech. He declared that the onus for this redistribution should be laid, not on the commission, but on this Government. It is perfectly clear thai this commission is a completely independent body appointed to do a particular job. Perhaps Senator Hendrickson would agree with that statement. The commission is, in effect, acting in the role of an umpire on this matter of redistribution to see that boundaries are determined fairly, clearly, and without heed to political pressure of any kind.
– Yes, but the honorable senator’s side appointed the umpire.
– Is Senator Hendrickson reflecting on the commissioners ?
– Certainly not. but they are not conversant with the act.
– In that case, Senator Hendrickson agrees that the commissioners are free and unbiased. The commissioners, being umpires, are free of influence of any kind at all, and they Lave by their own deliberations brought in a plan of redistribution. This Government accepts the decision of the umpire, which seems to me to be perfectly fair.
Another misconception which I should correct is the repeated statement by Senator Hendrickson that, in the State of Victoria, Labour has had a majority in Senate elections for the last fifteen years, [n 1949, the non-Labour forces in Victoria polled a majority of the votes and as a result, they had in this Senate a majority of the senators elected. If Senator Hendrickson cares to work out the quotas, it will become clear to him that when there is an odd number to be elected a majority of senators can be elected only by polling a majority of votes. That disposes of the honorable senator’s statement about voting majorities. It is necessary when electorate boundaries are being determined to take cognizance of the number of electors within those boundaries. Some electorates were not changed. For example, the electorates of Kooyong, Chisholm and Murray have not been altered because the population within their boundaries since the last redistribution has remained static. The last redistribution was made when a Labour government held office. Those boundaries were considered then to include homogeneous areas and if the population within those boundaries has not changed since that redistribution, clearly there is no case whatever for changing them. That is the situation which obtains in Kooyong, Chisholm and Murray.
In the other seats that Senator Hendrickson mentioned, the reverse position obtains. As a result of the prosperity that has visited this country through the actions of the present Government, there has been a movement from the inner industrial suburbs, which had formerly been very crowded places, to the outskirts of Melbourne, and therefore, to better housing and better living conditions. A.s a result, in the two Labour seats that the honorable senator mentioned the population was reduced by about half, and it was therefore inevitable that one of those two seats would have to disappear.
The evidence before us is quite clear, “and on that evidence I can find no shadow of any improper or unfair distribution by the Victorian electoral commission. If I were disposed to see any such shadow at all, I should see it in the redistribution as it applies to the electorate of Corio where, if anywhere, particular areas having homogeneity of interest are to be divided. However, I see no such shadow anywhere, and I believe thai the proposed redistribution should be accepted as a proper one.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Redistribution of South AUSTRALIAN Divisions.
Debate resumed from the 1st June (vide page 544), on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the State of South Australia into electoral divisions, as proposed by Messrs. F. B. Phillips H. L. Fisk, and A. W. Bowden, the Commit sinners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before the Senate on the 11th da; of May, 1055, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the maps referred to therein, be adopted
– I have listened very carefully to the debates that have ensued about the proposed redistribution of federal electorates. Three commissioners carefully considered the electoral divisions of South Australia, .and perhaps it may be said that they did draw up one of the salamanders that have been mentioned. However, the redistribution appears to have given general satisfaction to the members and senators of this Parliament. The gentlemen who have taken exception to it appear to be those who may have something to lose because of the alteration of the electoral boundaries. Such matters are generally not of much interest to senators, but they are of great interest to the members of the House of Representatives who are directly involved.
I believe that in the case of South Australia, an influential delegation approached the commissioners with a view to having the federal divisions altered in conformity with the State gerrymandered electorates. That delegation put its case very powerfully to the Commissioners, and maintained that there should be three country divisions to each metropolitan division. The commissioners showed their sincerity, integrity and ability by pointing out to that delegation that the federal electoral divisions had to be fixed under the Commonwealth Electoral Act, and had nothing, to do with State electorates. That having been done by the commissioners, I consider that their redistribution is most satisfactory except in one respect. There is a possibility that a member of the Australian Labour party will gain another seat in South Australia at the next general elections, and that has exercised the mind of one gentleman who, besides worrying about such matters, has been slipping away to England and having a good time. Eis mind is now exercised about the possible loss of his seat.
– Who is this gentleman ?
– Senator Hannaford knows who he is as well as [ do. He has often maintained that the Australian Government should pay rates on Commonwealth property, and I believe that he is a relation of a Minister. I fail to understand why the name of Bonython is now being applied to an area which contains most of the electors of the present division of Sturt. I consider that the name Bonython should have been applied to the area of the Sturt electorate which may be called conservative, and the name of Sturt should have been retained to cover most of the area now to be called Bonython. [ do not desire to move an amendment in relation to that matter, but I believe that the Government should consider my comments about it. Of course, there is nothing in a name, unless the name happens to be 0’Flaherty
– We accept the recommendation of the electoral commission which has inquired into and reported upon the boundaries of the electoral divisions in South Australia. We accept the commission’s decisions after having lodged our objections according to the law. Those objections were rejected by the commission, but it should be placed on record that the objections were lodged because anybody has the right to lodge such objections. It should also be placed on record that our objections were based on what we considered to be a matter of sound principle.
The average enrolment for the metropolitan divisions, after the proposed redistribution, will be 41,851, and for the extra-metropolitan divisions 41,357. The difference between those figures is approximately 1 per cent. In our objections we pointed out that that proposed redistribution is at variance with the method of distribution which has always obtained in South Australia, because of the special conditions that exist in that State. Later I shall have more to say about the relationship of those conditions and the electoral commission. In both State and federal spheres, we adhere to the same principle, namely, that there are special conditions in the country districts which warrant smaller electoral quotas than for metropolitan districts. May I point out to Senator Benn that we are at least consistent, whereas in his State his party advanced an entirely different argument.
– The honorable senator knows nothing about the State of Queens land.
– I know quite * lot about it.
– The honorable senator knows only what he has been told.
– I remind Sena tor Benn that I have taken the opportunity of addressing the State Parliamen in South Australia on this matter on al least two occasions, and on those occasions I cited the figures supplied to me by the electoral officer for Queensland. Therefore, I have every right to say thai at that time I did know something of th,subject. But the party to which Senator Benn owes allegiance advanced one principle for Queensland to apply to federal boundaries, and an entirely different principle when dealing with State boundaries. We are at least consistent in both spheres. It is surely apparent to honorable senators that a person who represents s scattered population in a large country district, whether he be of the Labour of the Liberal party, has many difficulties, as compared with a person who represents a metropolitan district. I have had some experience of this in the State Parliament over a number of years.
– Does Senator Wood agree with the honorable senator ?
– I remind Senator Courtice that we carry this principle into the federal sphere. There are special conditions which, we contend, obtain in South Australia. We directed the attention of the commission to the findings of previous commissions in South Australia which have investigated Commonwealth electoral boundaries. We reminded the present commission that the commissions of 3934 and 1938 upheld the principle which I have just enunciated as being a desirable one for South Australia. In 1934, the commissioners adopted a guiding principle, and I will quote from the report of that commission. In clause 8 the commission said -
It was further agreed that the conditions in this State, applying to country districts generally, in respect to sparsely-populated areas of great extent with difficulties in communications, were such that an allotment to the extra-metropolitan divisions of numbers below the quota of electors, but within the margins allowed by law, was not only a reasonable course to pursue, but also a compliance with both the letter and spirit of the Act, as interpreted by previous practice and by Parliamentary expressions. f.n clause 9 the commission said -
The inevitable corollary to the above course is the allotment to metropolitan divisions of a corresponding proportion of electors above the quota, yet well within the prescribed limits. t am sure that honorable senators “will appreciate the purport of those two paraseraphs.
In 1948, the commissioners of that day treated the principle to which I have just referred as being established beyond any argument, and, as my colleague Senator Mattner has just reminded me, the Labour government of that day upheld that principle. I quote from th: report of the 1948 commission -
As nearly as can be ascertained, 262,031 electors reside in the metropolitan area, and in the country electorates the total is 160.788. ft is generally conceded that the metropolitan urea and the rest of the State should be treated as two distinct areas for the purpose of distribution. It is therefore obviously fitting that there should be six metropolitan divisions with an average electoral population of 43,672, and four extra-metropolitan divisions averaging 40,194 electors.
The extra-metropolitan divisions referred to are so styled because they are beyond the metropolitan area, and there is an implication that certain factors operate in relation to those districts which do not operate in relation to the metropolitan divisions.
I want it placed on record - and that, is my only reason for speaking to-day1 - that those were the objections which welaid before the commission after the commission’s report was first put forward. We have adhered to a principle which wasfirmly established in 1934, upheld by the commission in 1948, and accepted by every member of the Labour party in. this chamber and by the Labour party of the day in this Parliament. Have we done anything improper? Is there anything that can be cavilled at in our action on this occasion? Our objection is based on a matter of principle which we havesubmitted to the commission. All I have to say in conclusion is that the commission, having considered the objection and, in its wisdom, rejected it, has gone backon a principle established by two previous, commissions. Nevertheless, we are prepared to accept the recommendations.
– I wish to make some comment* regarding the division of Bonython, in. South Australia. I agree entirely with Senator O’Flaherty that the majority of electors in the division of Sturt will now be located in the new division of Bonython, and that it would be much moreappropriate if the name of Sturt wasretained for that new division. I shaft go further, and say that the name chosen for the extra division in South Australiadoes not meet with the approval of thepeople of that State. When electoral divisions are named, a name is usually chosen which commemorates a person whohas served this country or the particular State in some notable way. Although T am not in any way reflecting upon theperson whose name has been bestowed upon the new division, I suggest that many more appropriate names could have been found, and I hope that even at this late stage the Government willi give consideration to choosing anothername for the division. I could makemany suggestions in that regard. For instance, the name of Chifley has not yet been given to an electoral division* although the names of all other Prime Ministers of the past have already been honoured in that way. I think that the people of South Australia would be pleased to have a more suitable name chosen for the new division.
– Mr. Makin likes it.
– I do not know whether he likes the name, although hemay be pleased with the way the electorate is made up. I should imagine that he would find the electorate itself suitable, but I do not think he likes the name any more than other people do.
I now want to touch on another matter, and in dealing with this matter I am sustained by your ruling, Mr. President. Mention has been made of State electoral divisions in South Australia. I listened attentively to Senator Pearson when he spoke at length about principle. It must have been difficult for him to speak of principles in relation to electoral boundaries in the State of South Australia. [ do not know how Senator Pearson can apeak about high principles in connexion with federal electoral divisions and, at the same time, remain a willing member of a political party which perpetrated the greatest gerrymander in Australian political history. This afternoon, in this chamber, Senator McCallum gave us a very good summary of the circumstances in which the word “ gerrymander “ got into the dictionaries. I think that summary was also a very accurate one. In my opinion, the person who found out that unique way of keeping a government in office would be considered a rank amateur alongside the people in South Australia who have perfected a series of political manipulations. I believe that those manipulations have been not only at variance with all the best concepts of democracy, but also have resulted in the farcical position that a political party that gains a majority of the votes holds only one-third of the seats in the Parliament.
– I should like the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the federal redistribution. The matter to which he is referring was raised only by way of a passing reference. The honorable senator must not turn the debate into a discussion of activities in a particular State. If he comes back to the subject of the federal redistribution, he will be in order.
– I am- comparatively new in this chamber, Mr. President, and perhaps I do not understand the Standing Orders as well as other honorable senators do. However, I recollect hearing you say, earlier in this debate, when a question arose concerning the offensiveness or otherwise of a certain remark in relation to the distribution of State boundaries, that it was quite in order for the honorable senator concerned to make a passing reference to that matter. I am making only a passing reference to the situation that exists in South Australia.
– A passing reference which has lasted for about twenty minutes ! “Senator TOOHEY. - That is an exaggeration. I have not been on my feet for more than six minutes.
– Order! If Senator Toohey discusses the motion before the Senate, it will be much better.
– I bow to your request, Mr. President, but I do not want to be prevented from referring to matters about which other honorable senators have had an opportunity to speak. “Will you permit me to advert to some of the statements made by Senator Pearson, and to relate them to the situation that exists in South Australia?
– The honorable senator may proceed. I shall let him know if he goes too far.
– Senator Pearson referred to representations which, he said, he made in the South Australian Parliament. I should like to know what those representations were. I point out to the honorable senator that, year after year, the Australian Labour party raised the question of the gerrymander which had occurred in that State, and which permitted one-third of the population to be represented by two-thirds of the members of the Parliament, and two-thirds of the . population to be represented by only one-third of the members. I take it that Senator Pearson agreed wholeheartedly with that unique political set-up. Therefore, I contend that it is quite legitimate for me to take Senator Pearson to task for his inconsistency.
Having said that, and having placed the position of my State fairly and squarely before the Senate, I do not intend to trespass on your generosity any longer, Mr. President. I appreciate the fact that you have allowed me to proceed after having stopped me. All I hope is that the Government will give further consideration to the naming of the new South Australian division, and that it will select the name of some one who was more intimately connected with the pioneering and development of the State.
– in reply - The Government is not prepared to change the name of the division. We were very disappointed when a previous commission recommended that that name be used and that, because of spite or bigotry, the recommendation was not accepted. Let me say that the name of this division will stand as a monument to the late Sir Langdon Bonython, for his gifts to the Adelaide University, for his charitable works, and for his services to the State of South Australia. The Government is honoured to use the- name, and it does not propose to change it. We appreciate the fact that the commissioners, in the early days, considered that in a sparsely populated State such as South Australia, real consideration should be given to the rural areas. If the rural people predominate in the politics of South Australia, I suggest that that is a lot better for the State than for the socialists to predominate.
– Am I to take it that the remarks of the Minister have closed the debate?-
– Yes. The Minister has closed the debate.
– Then, may I register a protest?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Redistribution of Western Australian Divisions
Debate resumed from the 1st June (vide page 544), on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the State of Western Australia into electoral divisions, as proposed by Messrs J. M. W. Anderson, W. V. Fyfe and C. Q. Friend, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before the Senate on the 4th day of May, 1955, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the maps referred to therein be adopted.
– The Opposition has no objection to the proposed redistribution of Western Australia. We feel that the very difficult task which the persons who have to carry out the redistribution have to perform has been done as faithfully as the act permits. I do not believe that it will be a satisfactory distribution from a national point of view. Western Australia comprises more than one-third’ of the territory of the Commonwealth. It has vast areas of potential but undeveloped wealth. An area which represents more than a third of the total area of the State and which is represented by 22 members in the State Parliament, is to be increased under the proposed redistribution. That is no fault of the commission but is due to a lack of national outlook on the part of the Australian Government which enacted the legislation under which the commission had to work. The area to which 1 have referred is to be increased because, it is sparsely populated. The reason fo? that is that there has been an absolute lack of interest in developing it and iri encouraging people to go there. Indeed, the prospects of the area have faded because of the policy of this Government. I referred to this matter in the Senate recently when the Supply Bill was being debated, and I then mentioned the promises that had been made and that nothing had been done to honour them. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was taxed with this matter he said, in effect, “ They have struck oil. and the,-? have nothing more to worry about “.
– Order ! I think the honorable senator is getting completely away from the motion.
– If the area to which I refer had been given proper encouragement and proper representation
– Order! The honorable senator is not dealing with the motion before the Senate.
– Well, Mr. President, I shall not gerrymander your remarks.
– And the honorable senator will not reflect on my remarks, either.
– No, sir, I do not wish to do that at all. I shall comply with your ruling and content myself with laying that whilst we of the Opposition agree with the proposed distribution, nevertheless we submit that the Government would be doing a service to Australia, and particularly to Western Australia, if it considered amending the statute under which the commission appointed by the Government was required to work. Had that been done previously, the commission might have done a more satisfactory job for the people of Western Australia.
The division of Kalgoorlie, which already covers a vast . area, is to be increased, and that will place a very heavy imposition on the federal member who represents that division. I point out that the Western Australian Parliament considers that that area is worthy of representation by 22 members.
– I firmly believe that no matter what the commissioners had done Senator Cooke would blame the Australian Government. I wish to pay tribute to the commissioners who were responsible for the Western Australian redistribution, because I think they did a very successful job. It does not matter what commissioners are appointed or what subdivisions are made; some people inevitably will be displeased. That is inescapable, because some electorates will have areas taken away and others will have areas added to them. I think that the redistribution in Western Australia has been done as satisfactorily as it could be done. I notice that the principle of community of interest has been adhered to strictly. The commissioners have rearranged some rural divisions because their interests are bound together, so to speak. Previously, one part of an electorate may have been separated from another part by a forestry area. Thai has been done away with, and although it may not exactly delight one particular member, I am convinced that he will hold that electorate, and the new boundaries will be much better. I am pleased to notice that Western Australia has an additional member. That is indicative of the fact that the population of that State is increasing. It will continue to increase and I hope that, by the time the next redistribution is due, yet another member will be required to represent Western Australia. Eventually, Senator Cooke’s objection to the paucity of Western Australia’s representation will be overcome. The commissioners are deserving of the hearty congratulations of the Senate upon having performed, satisfactorily, a very difficult task.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Redistribution of Tasmanian Divisions
Debate resumed from the 1st June (vide page 544), on motion by Senator McLEAY -
That the Senate approves of the redistributton of the State of Tasmania into electoral divisions, as proposed by Messrs. E. W. Dwyer. F. Miles and E. C. Botten, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before the Senate on the 4th day of May, 1055, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report, and indicated on the map referred to therein, be adopted, except that the name “ Braddon “ be substituted fo? “ Darwin “.
– The Tasmanian members of the Opposition feel that, in relation to this motion, they are in the position of the Irishman - when we’ have all we want, we are as quiet as we can be. The position is that Tasmania is guaranteed a minimum of five members. But for that guarantee under the Constitution, the State would not enjoy five divisions. We have no objection to the partition of the State as proposed by the commissioners. That being so, I can usefully add nothing to the debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed (vide page 607).
– Yesterday Senator Benn referred to the attitude of the Government towards certain social services, particularly child endowment. The honorable senator said that it would be most interesting to examine the Government’s record, because he doubted its interest in social services. I welcome the invitation of the honorable senator to take a few moments of the Senate’s time to examine the Government’s record of social services and also its attitude towards them. I remind Senator Benn and all honorable senators that no fewer than eight major social services in Australia have been introduced by a government of the political complexion of the Administration which I have the honour to support in this chamber. It is worth while briefly to recite them and to remind honorable senators of the various reforms that have been introduced in Australia by non-socialist governments.
– Some under pressure.
– As far as I know, no undue pressure has been brought to bear on the Government to introduce these reforms. I am sure that Senator Ashley would be delighted to be able to stand in my place and claim credit for having brought down the various measures. I ask honorable senators opposite what government placed child endowment on the statute-book? It was the first Menzies Government.
– That was done to avoid an increase of wages.
– That is sheer nonsense. When this Government granted child endowment for the first child, was that done to avoid an increase of wages? What was the attitude of the Labour party in this place to that proposal? If I remember correctly, the Labour party in this Senate, to a man, opposed it, but when they discovered that it was not for their political good to do so, they moved an amendment to increase the endowment from 5s. to 10s.
– The honorable senator would not support that amendment.
– It is utter humbug for honorable senators opposite to oppose a Government proposal in principle, and when they find that their opposition is politically unpopular, to move to double the proposed payment. When will the Labour party cease practising political opportunism in connexion with social services? Another major social service introduced by the Menzies Government is the supply of free milk to school children. Was that done to avoid an increase of wages ?
– That was a “ cow “ of a job.
- Senator Ashley is not above milking the “ old cow “ when he gets the opportunity. As a result of that major reform, brought in by the Menzies Government, the school children of the Commonwealth now enjoy supplies of free milk. The Menzies Government has also liberalized the means test on various pensioners more than any other government has done. It has provided free doctors and free medicine for age and invalid pensioners, and the more it liberalizes the means test, the more people will qualify for this inestimable blessing. The value of that service to the age and invalid pensioners cannot be measured in terms of money. The Menzies Government introduced the first medical and hospital benefits system in Australia which worked. I do not deny that a Labour government tried to do so, but its scheme was a dismal failure. A scheme that will not work is of no use, but the present system is working and is daily being taken advantage of by increasing numbers of people. Senator Henty has previously referred in this chamber to the growing popularity of the Government’s scheme.
This Government has introduced also a generous scheme which provides most liberal allowances for tuberculosis sufferers. That is something the Labour party never thought of. Another valuable social service provided by the Menzies Government is the education allowance.
– Is the honorable senator referring to university grants?
– No. I am speaking of the scheme under which parents can claim a taxation deduction to the extent of £75 for each school child. Does Senator Cooke object to that?
– No, but it would be far better to give a direct subsidy.
– I expected Senator Cooke to say that it is not enough because that would be a natural remark for him. However, the Government can take credit for the principle which it has established. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is the first occupant of the office to embark on a programme of subsidizing, on a £1 for £1 basis, homes for aged people. That scheme deserves the highest commendation. In every State, cheques are being handed out to approved organizations which have undertaken the task of providing accommodation for aged persons and are claiming the assistance afforded by the Government. I do not know how much money has been expended in that way, but it will continue to grow, and the Government deserves credit for introducing that fine legislation. The Prime Minister is the first leader of an Australian Government to introduce such a provision, let alone think about it. I remind the Opposition that it is about time that it stopped criticizing this Government’s social services activities.
– -It is about time the honorable senator stopped praising the Government.
– Supporters of the Government take credit only for the Government’s achievements. Senator Ashley wishes that he could claim the credit for having introduced some of these social services. I am sure we would never hear the last of it if he had. Those who look after the needy people of Australia are the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, which form the
Government. That is not an overstatement. The people who are benefiting from the humane legislation of this administration are supporting this Government in increasing numbers at the polls. That has been proved over and over again in various electorates. ‘ In terms of money, the social services provided and maintained by the Government cost the taxpayers in .1953-54 no less than £147,165,309.
– Of course. The Government’s money is valueless.
– It is easy for Senator Grant to come into this chamber and say that the Government should spend more and more on social services, but such expenditure is not so popular with the taxpayers.
– I said that the Government’s money was not worth anything.
– I suggest to Senator Grant that he would not vote for some of these provisions to be removed from the statute-book. They are still worth having. The expenditure on social services last year was nearly one-sixth of the total budget of the present Government. Perhaps Senator Benn will hesitate before he makes more statements such as those that he has already made in this debate.
– I can handle Senator Pearson’s nonsense.
– The honorable senator is a good judge of nonsense. I wish to refer to a statement that was made in the Senate not long ago by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) when he presented a survey of manufacturing activity in Australia. The Senate was indebted to the Minister for his statement. In the course of it, the Minister said -
The survey again emphasizes the importance of the manufacturing industry to the whole of Australia, lt employs over 1,0(10,000 people out of a total of 0,000,000, and it is using f 101,000,000 or 10 per cent, of the total advances made by the banking system, lt is, therefore, important and re-assuring to see that the manufacturing industry continues to expand and that, indeed, in the half year covered by the survey, there was a record volume of production.
The period under survey was the six months ended the 30th April last. As one who is greatly interested in primary production, I wish to say that the primary industries of Australia appreciate the developments in the manufacturing sphere. I have always believed that the best market for our primary products is the home market. In the present world situation, an ever increasing- proportion of our production, particularly meat, is purchased and consumed in Australia. If we are to build up a large consuming population, we have to build up our manufacturing capacity, and that is being done. In the course of his statement, and referring to the supply of materials, the Minister for National Development said that the supply had been generally adequate. He added -
Steel, which is in short supply from local production, is now proving more difficult to obtain overseas.
The Minister also expressed regret that L ton in every 5 tons of steel required for our use in Australia had to be imported.
The Minister also had this to say about hire purchase -
The prosperity of an important part of the manufacturing industry is due to the boom in hire purchase business. During 1954, there was an increase of one-third in the total value of new hire purchase agreements.
I regret that the tendency to buy articles on hire purchase is growing in Australia. [ know that many persons are able to buy articles only by paying a deposit and regular instalments, but it is regrettable that that is happening at present, because every honorable senator will agree that the working man in Australia has never been better off. The working people have, never been more able to pay a reasonable deposit on goods, and during the current period of prosperity, hire purchase business is growing. The person who buys articles under that system often does not realize how much he will ultimately pay for the article.
– They should not be encouraged to buy under hire purchase. This Government is encouraging them.
– I do not believe that the Government is doing that. I regret that our financial institutions are financing that kind of business. My own opinion is that it should not be encouraged unduly. Some people have to engage in that type of business, but I regret the phenomenal increase in hire purchase by one-third during the six months under review. It is unfortunate, not only for the persons who buy in that way, but alsofor the economy of the country upon which it will ultimately be reflected.
The United States of America was the first to engage in hire purchase, and the first to introduce hire purchase without a deposit, which is worse still. We should profit by the experience of the United States. The effect of the hire purchase system there was to promote a mild recession several years ago. I read some articles on the subject, and it was pointed out that, under that system, a demand was suddenly created for consumer goods. People could take home the articles without having to pay cash. When there is a demand, industry gears itself to meet the demand and, virtually, it does to-day what would normally be to-morrow’s business. When to-morrow comes, industry finds that there is no demand to keep pace with the industrial potential to supply the goods. Obviously, when an industry suddenly gears itself to make more refrigerators and the demand falls because the people have bought all that they require, the industry finds itself in difficulty.
– What are you going to do about it?
– The Commonwealth Government can do very little about it. However, I register my protest. If I could discourage this system, 1 would do so. I place on record my regret that big financial institutions are engaging in this kind of business.
I shall now refer to a subject which has been before the Senate on a number of occasions, namely, uniform taxation. I have had experience of the present system of collecting taxes as it affects my home State, South Australia. I regard it as highly desirable that the sovereignty of the States should be maintained. I believe in federation, as federation was interpreted by the framers of the Constitution. It was their earnest desire to maintain, the integrity and sovereignty of the States, not to weaken the States. Indeed, that is the reason for the Senate being constituted as it is. All States, regardless of their size or population, have equal representation in this chamber. This afternoon the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), when dealing with another subject, referred to the fact that Tasmania had ten representatives in the Senate - the same number as every other State had.
– Does the honorable senator think that there should be more States ?
– I do not wish to be side-tracked. I am expressing my opinion that we must have strong and independent States. Any honorable senator who wishes to do so has the right to stand up and advocate that policy.
Unfortunately, we are getting used to the system of uniform taxation, and it looks like becoming a permanent feature of Australian life. But it is a system which, surely, is calculated to destroy the sovereignty of the States, if ever anything was calculated to do that. Every year the Premiers and Treasurers of the six States meet in Canberra like a pack of wolves. They come here to get the wherewithal to continue to govern. I do not say that they overstate their case. [ merely say that they come here, and that they are forced to do so, because the Commonwealth collects the taxes from the people. The money is parcelled out according to a formula. The Commonwealth Government must be commended for going far beyond the formula. However, as I have said, the States are forced to come here to get money for their needs, because the money is in the Commonwealth Treasury, having been collected by the Commonwealth under the uniform taxation system. The States ask for money, which they propose to spend, but they have no responsibility for the collection of that money. That is a bad principle.
– Is the honorable senator in favour of abolishing uniform taxation ?
– I certainly am, and, according to what the Labour Premiers say when they come to Canberra, they are also in favour of its abolition. The present state of affairs cannot be reconciled with the attitude of the Premiers of the States. I repeat that it is a bad system that allows authorities to spend money when they are not responsible for raising it. The system encourages irresponsibility. A Premier or Treasurer can ask for money beyond the needs of his State, and then, if he does not get it, he can blame the Commonwealth for certain works not being undertaken.
– The trouble is thai too much money is collected.
– If the money is not collected, how can age and invalid pensions and social services, which every member of the Labour party wishes to increase, be paid for? It is my earnest hope that the Commonwealth Government will hand back to the States their right to impose taxes. I express that hope for the reasons that I think I have already made clear, namely, that the States should have the responsibility of collecting their own taxes, and that the sovereignty of the States should be preserved. I know that there will be difficulties.
– What about duplication of staffs?
– I do not propose to answer all the questions that may be asked. Up to date, the difficulties associated with handing back this power to the States have been insurmountable, but if it is the earnest desire of the Commonwealth and the States to find a solution of the difficulty, a solution can be found. I hope that the day is not far distant when the iniquitous system of uniform taxation will no longer be with us. I remind the Senate that South Australia has never been happy about the present system. In 1942, that State protested against the system of uniform taxation, and went so far as to test the validity of the legislation in the High Court. However, South Australia was overruled in the High Court by a majority decision, and since then, that State has accepted the system under protest. South Australia is serious in its advocacy of a return to the old system.
There is another important aspect of the sovereignty of the States. The present, system makes for uniformity and unification. Such a system is regarded as highly desirable by some people, but not by honorable senators on this side. Among those who favour the system are. the Communists, because they know that, if they are ever to control Australia, it can be done most easily under a system of unification when there is only one effective government in office.
– What has communism to do with this matter?
– Does Senator » Grant disagree with my statement that if the Communists are to have a chance to control this country, they can do so most easily under a system of unification?
– It is stupid.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood). - I ask honorable senators to hear Senator Pearson in silence.
– I have referred to communism and I am not going to let my reference end at what I have said already. I wish to refer to what I regard as a most unfortunate trend on the part of the’ Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Dr. Evatt). I have said before, and I repeat for the sake of emphasis, that I do not associate any honorable senator with communism. Let me make that perfectly clear. Whatever I say, I want it to be distinctly understood that I am not associating any honorable senator of this chamber with communism in any shape or form, but I do regret the attitude of the federal leader of the Labour party at the present time.
– I rise to order. I understand that under the Standing Orders it is not permissible for any honorable senator in this chamber to criticize a member of the other chamber.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! Up to the moment Senator Pearson has not said anything critical.
– He referred to the leader of the Labour party.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! Senator Pearson has not yet said anything about a member of Parliament. He has said that he regrets the attitude of the leader of the Labour party.
– I hasten to assure the Senate that I am not going to refer to anything that the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) has said in Parliament. .He is a public man and his activities are not confined to the Parliament. Unfortunately, he is a man at large, and I shall refer to some of the things that have happened right outside this Parliament in relation to him. I noticed in the week-end press that the right honorable gentleman has announced that he regards the result of the Victorian elections which were held last Saturday as some sort of a victory.
Opposition Senators. - Hear, hear!
– Mich t I be permitted to ask what sort of a victory this is, and for whom? Who were the people who joined in the “ Halleluiah Chorus “ as a result of this curious victory ?
– May I ask who Senator Pearson’s party was backing? Its stooges did not win.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order !
– I am sorry that, honorable senators on the Opposition benches in this chamber are apparently willing to join in the “Halleluiah Chorus “ that the right honorable member f«r Barton opened, but who was the victor in Victoria? Who achieved thi? victory that the Leader of the Opposition speaks about?
– The Australian La-hour party - not the other twelve.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. Order! I ask honorable senators to hear Senator Pearson in silence.
– The honorable senator is asking us questions all the time.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! Again I ask honorable senators to listen to Senator Pearson in silence.
– The people who have been vanquished in Victoria apparently are the people who, whatever else they may be, represent the section of the Australian Labour party that has fought communism-. Whatever else they may be, it can be said of them that they have fought communism inside the Labour party and outside it. They supported the industrial groups in this country, and though I am not wedded to industrial groups as such, I give credit to them for having fought communism, aided by the legislation of this Government, which put into their hands the secret ballot.
– There are no groups in South Australia.
– I am speaking here as an Australian. South Australia is the only State that has not been torn asunder by the attitude of the Leader of the Australian Labour party at the present time. Why has all this spleen been vented on the industrial groups in Victoria and elsewhere? What was said by Dr. Evatt and others some time ago when the anti-Communist legislation was being discussed throughout this continent! Were not Labour spokesmen going from one end of the country to the other, saying, “ We will right communism through the industrial groups “. Is that true or false?
– Is- it true that the honorable senator’s party said that it would ‘put value into the £1?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. Order!
– If those earlier statements were correct, what is wrong with the Labour party to-day? Why is there this sudden turn and this viciousness which have resulted in the defeat of Labour men in Victoria - a defeat that Dr. Evatt and others claim to be a victory? These are the same men doing the same job for which they were lauded not so long ago. Any member of the Labour party who believes in his own heart in what lam saying would stand with those men to-day. I am not wedded to industrial groups, as I have said, but I admire the courage of some erstwhile members of the Australian Labour party who took their political life in both hands and made a. stand in this matter. As I have threatened to do, I shall refer now to Dr. Evatt’s record in this country over a period of years, and I remind honorable senators that frequently the statements made and the attitudes adopted by that learned gentleman have been supported and endorsed by the Communist party.
– I rise to order. I want to draw your attention, Mr. Acting Deputy President, to Standing Order 418. It reads-
No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any Statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives-
And the honorable senator is imputing improper motives to the Leader of the Opposition in another place - and’ all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly- disorderly.
I ask for your ruling, Mr. Acting Deputy President.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I should like to point out toSenator Ashley that in my interpretation of Standing Order 418, offensive words’ must be offensive in the true meaning of that word. When a man is in political life it is not offensive that things are said about him politically. Offensive means offensive in some personal way. The same view applies to the meaning of “ improper motives “ and “ personal reflections “ as used in the standing order. Here again, when a man is in public life and a member of this Parliament, he takes upon himself the risk of being criticized in a political way. Therefore I do not hold that Senator Pearson has said anything to infringe Standing Order 418. The point of order is not upheld.
– I do not wish to refer to Dr. Evatt in a personal way at all, but I hope that the day will never come when honorable senators cannot question what a member of a responsible political party in this country does or says. That is all I seek to do. I am simply referring to public statements that have been made by Dr. Evatt and the attitude of certain people in this country towards those statements. I am sure there is nothing wrong in my action. I refer first to the decisions of the recent Hobart conference, and I wish to point out that on the 11th May there appeared in the Tribune a report of a speech made by Mr. L. L. Sharkey, the general secretary of the Communist party in Australia. That gentleman is reported to have said -
The decisions of the Hobart (A.L.P.) Conference were of a progressive character. No troops for Malaya, the banning of atomic weapons, recognition of People’s China and the re-affirmation of the Socialist objective were policies in the real interests of the Australian people. Therefore, they can be supported by Communists and open up tremendous possibilities for united front work with the Labour Party members.
I remind honorable senators again that that is what Sharkey is reported to have said. The concept of a united front is nothing new in the Communist party. Indeed, it is the basis of all the relationships of that party with the Australian Labour party. The united front appears to have received special emphasis in 1952, because in that year a Communist central committee secretariat member named Aarons made a report to the New South Wales conference of the Communist party. In that report Aarons stressed the co-operation between left-wing elements of the Australian Labour party and the Communist party, and stated -
It is the task of the Communists to assist and lead the left-wing in the A.L.P. This is a most important task, as our leader, Comrade Sharkey, has pointed out. In his far-seeing mind, he sees the long range aim of political unity of the working class - that is, one party of the working class, based on the defeat and exclusion of the right-wing from the A.L.P., and amalgamation of the two parties.
All that I desire to say now is that what Aarons said on that occasion, and what Sharkey has pointed out about the desire of the Communist party for affiliation with the Labour party, have come true. The left-wing element of the Labour party is undoubtedly doing the job of communism in Australia to-day, and that element is led by the gentleman whom I have already named, Dr. Evatt.
– I rise to order. The statement made by Senator Pearson that the left-wing element of the Australian Labour party is affiliated with com- munism and is led by Dr. Evatt if offensive to me, and I ask that the offensive words be withdrawn.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin). - Order! I consider that the remarks made by Senator Pearson are not offensive.
– I shall now remind the Senate of some of the actions of Dr. Evatt during the last few years.
– I rise to order, Mr. President. I refer you to Standing Order 418, which reads -
No Senator shall use offensive words agains either House of Parliament or any Member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any Statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
I consider that the remarks passed b Senator Pearson about the Leader of the Opposition in another place are highly disorderly.
– Order ! Senator Pearson has not yet infringed Standing Order 418.
– I feel that then is an obligation upon me to refer to the record of Dr. Evatt and, if honorable senators will listen, I am sure that the, will regret as much as I do the actions of this gentleman. In the early days of World War II., Dr. Evatt was a prominent member of the Communistinfiltrated Council of Civil Liberties, which concerned itself with the protection of such subversive agents as the notorious Ratliff and Thomas, who were locked up because of their war-time activities. As Attorney-General in the Curtin Government, he lifted the ban on the Communist party that had been imposed by the previous Menzies Government.
When the 1944 powers referendum waI brought forward, Dr. Evatt formed a campaign committee in collaboration with members of the Communist party. Hi* fellow-committeemen included H. V Chandler, the organizing secretary of the Communist party of Australia, N. Jeffrey, the secretary of the Sydney branch of the party, and T. Wright, a member of the central committee of the party. I do not believe that the Mr.
Wright, whom I have just mentioned, has any connexion with Senator Wright, who graces this chamber. Dr. Evatt’s appearance before the High Court and before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in defence of his Communist associates, drew one of many tributes paid to him by the Tribune. On the 21st March, 1951, the Tribune reported -
What is Dr. Evatt’s position? In the deep split that has developed in the A.L.P., Dr. Evatt is an outstanding representative of the trend which is taking a progressive stand on many questions. … On these and other mutters where Dr. Evatt takes a progressive stand, the Communists will support him.
The progressive stand involved Dr. Evatt’s appearance in the High Court as counsel for Communist-led unions which had contested the Communist Party Dissolution Act, and his appearance as advocate for Communist leaders when contempt proceedings against them had been instituted by the Menzies Government in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. A more recent action of Dr. Evatt was his appearance before the Royal Commission on Espionage, and his adoption of an attitude that was regretted by many members of his own party.
– The Tribune is a dirty propaganda sheet; yet Senator Pearson is using it in his argument.
– I am quoting from it, and it reports that what Dr. Evatt has done has the full approval of the Communist party. The Petrov case-
– Order! The honorable senator cannot discuss the Petrov inquiry.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. President, and I acknowledge it as correct. However, I suggest that it is most unfortunate that the leader of a responsible party which forms the Opposition in this Parliament, is a man who has a record of which not even his own supporters can be proud. Indeed, I suggest that nobody can be proud of his record; and nobody is in a position to refute what I have said about it. I have introduced Dr. Evatt’s record to ask a question, the answer to which the Australian people are anxious to know. Having destroyed the industrial groups in the unions, or having done what he could to destroy them, what will he put in their place in the fight against communism? What is the learned gentleman going to do to build up an organization within the ranks of his own supporters to fight communism? I am most disturbed about that question. I am sorry if I have incurred the displeasure of honorable senators, but I do feel very strongly that the trend that has been evident in recent days is most unfortunate. We have destroyed, or are in the process of destroying, some people who, whatever else might be said of them, have fought against communism in season and out. If they are destroyed, I ask the simple question - who is going to be put in their place to do the same job? The Australian electors will want an answer to that question, and from the record of Dr. Evatt nobody will be convinced that he is the person to do the job. I regret, more than I can say, the trend of events in Australian politics to-day, especially as it concerns the leader of what should be a great party. I am quite confident that the judgment of the Australian people will be that he can never be placed in the position of Prime Minister of this country.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable senator has made charges against Dr. Evatt, the Leader of the Opposition, and has vilified him to the greatest possible extent. Tinder Standing Order 364, I ask that the documents from which the honorable senator has quoted be laid on the table. That standing order says -
A Document quoted from by a Senator not a Minister of the Crown-
I do not think the honorable senator will ever occupy that position - may be ordered by the Senate to be laid upon the Table; such Order may be made without Notice immediately upon the conclusion of the speech of the Senator who has quoted therefrom.
- Senator Pearson, have you completed your speech?
– I have.
– The question is whether the documents quoted by the honorable senator shall be laid on the table of the Senate.
– You have to make the order, Mr. President.
– The honorable senator must submit a motion.
– No motion is required.
– The question is whether the document quoted by the honorable senator shall be laid on the table of the Senate. Do you. wish to speak on that matter, Senator Pearson?
– Yes. All I have done this afternoon is what has been done by honorable senators in this place time and time again. I have merely quoted from a document that has come into my possession. I do not see any necessity to lay the document on the table. What I have said will be printed in Hansard, and if I have said anything incorrect any honorable senator will have an opportunity to refute it.
– The . honorable senator is not game to lay it on the table.
– I do not see the necessity.
– In speaking on the matter before the Chair, I wish to say that there .have been occasions when I have quoted from documents in this chamber, and the same question has been raised, but no motion has been put to decide whether the paper should be laid on the table. It is simply a question of the interpretation of the Standing Orders on this occasion. The President may say that the request has been made, and that the papers should be laid on the table. Another point I want to make is this : I do not think* that any honorable senator who quotes from a document should be dilatory in laying the. document on the table.
– It is not a question of your advice on this matter, Senator (^Flaherty. The question at issue at the moment is the interpretation of Standing Order 364, which says definitely that a document quoted from by an honorable senator not a Minister of the Crown may be ordered by the Senate to be laid upon the table. If such a motion is moved by Senator Ashley, it is my intention to put it.
– I have not moved any motion at all. I have asked for your decision on the matter. I have in mind the incident when I quoted from documents myself, and it was the President who determined whether they should be laid on the table. I am not trying to give you any advice in regard to this matter. I merely want the honorable senator to be subjected to the same conditions as I have been subjected to here under the rules of debate or the Standing Orders. The rules of debate, I understand, are governed by the Standing Orders, which may be interpreted in any way that you think fit, although 1 think they are definite.
– If you. want the papers laid on the table of the Senate you will have to move a motion to that effect. I have no authority for ordering them to be laid on the table. I refer honorable senators to an incident that occurred on Thursday, the 26th March. 1931. On that occasion, Senator Greene moved that the document quoted by Senator George Pearce during his speech be laid on the table. Senator Daly requested the ruling of the President on the point as to whether the document quoted by Senator George Pearce was a document within the meaning of Standing Order 364. The President ruled that the document came within the meaning of that standing order. The question that the document he laid on the table was put, and the Senate divided.
– I am not trying to mislead you or this chamber, Mr. President, but you could mention the occasion when I was compelled to table a document on the order of the President.
– When ?
– I ask you, Mr. President, to turn up the record of that occasion, when I was directed by the President to table a document.
– The position is, Senator Ashley, as I see it - and I think it is supported by the case I have cited - that the way to have the Senate order a document to be laid upon the table is for an honorable senator to submit a motion to that effect.
.- Then, I move-
That the document which has been used by the honorable senator to cast reflections on the
Leader of the Opposition-
– The honorable senator will confine himself to moving the motion. Does he move that the papers quoted from by the Senator be tabled ?
Motion (by Senator Asw car) negatived -
That the document quoted by Senator Pearson during his speech be laid upon the table.
.- I’, appreciate the opportunity of following Senator Pearson in this debate, particularly as he made a number of erroneous statements, and quoted from a document which he has not had the courage to lay on the table. This is the first time in my seventeen years in the Senate when an honorable senator has had the audacity to quote from a document and has failed to table the document when requested to do so by an honorable senator on the opposite side of the chamber. It is an indication of the inaccuracy of the statements made by the honorable senator. They were just as erroneous as the statements he made during my absence from the Senate. At that time, the honorable senator spoke about statements which I had made after returning from my recent visit to Africa. Before I finish my remarks to-day, I propose to deal in detail with, some’ of the statements made by Senator Pearson. First. let me refer to his remarks concerning hospital benefits. The honorable senator said that the Australian Labour party scheme- of hospital and medical benefits was a complete failure and that, in fact, no effective scheme, existed until the present Government introduced one. What are the facts ? I suggest that the previous Labour Government made provision for completely free hospital and medical treatment, and that the- scheme was destroyed by supporters of the present Government. In its place, we have a scheme under which people who cannot afford to pay for hos pital and medical treatment are compelled to pay, by means of a scheme of insurance. If a person goes into a hospital-
– He can get in now, at least !
– Of course he can, and I shall tell the honorable senator why it is possible to gain admission to hospitals now. It is because there are tens of thousands of people who should be in hospital, but who are not there because they cannot afford to pay for hospital treatment, and because they know that if they do go to hospital and subsequently are unable to pay their bills, their assets will be seized. I speak from experience of this matter. These days, people have to. pay for hospital and medical benefits not once, but three times. They pay by way of taxes which have been imposed by this Government to meet the costs of the scheme, they pay to join an approved society, and they have to pay their hospital and doctors’ bills. It cost me £14 14s. for medical treatment recently, and I have been waiting nearly four months for the organization with which I am insured to make the reimbursement to which I am entitled. It was for that reason that I asked a question in the Senate recently. I wanted to know whether it would be possible for the Government to promulgate a regulation, under which these societies would be given a limited time in which to. meet claims; If I, sitting in an office, with a- telephone at my elbow, experience such, difficulty, honorable senators can guess the trouble which people who work on the wharfs, for instance, have to face . in this connexion. What is their position if they have no ready cash with which to pay the bill when it is handed to them, and if they cannot claim on the approved society until they have the receipt? That is the iniquitous scheme which has replaced the Labour Government’s scheme.
Senator Pearson also stated that it was a Liberal government which introduced allowances for sufferers from tuberculosis. I suggest that he is completely out of touch with political events. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that he has gone among his electors and told them tall stories concerning the achievements of this Government. He has had the audacity to come into this chamber and tell those stories to the supporters of a political party which introduced that very legislation years before he saw Canberra. I remind the honorable senator that allowances for tuberculosis sufferers were introduced by a Labour government.
When the present Government came to office, it was its avowed intention to restore value to the £1, but I suggest that the increases of social benefits, to which Senator Pearson referred, were necessary because the value of the £1 declined. If those benefits had not beer increased, the recipients would have been in a state of poverty similar to that in which they found themselves in 1912. The honorable senator also referred to increases of child endowment by this Government. Of course the Government had to increase child endowment. That was necessary because the payment of 5s. a week would not purchase as much as 2s. 6d. a week purchased when endowment was introduced originally.
Senator Pearson claimed that this Government was the first to introduce a scheme to provide homes for aged people. I point out that the Government is providing finance under this scheme on a £l-f or-£l basis, and that unless charitable organizations are prepared to collect money for the purpose of building homes for the aged, they will not receive one penny from the Government. Apparently, Senator Pearson thinks that the aged people who have no homes can freeze to death unless some organization or other can provide money to build them homes. If the Government were prepared to grant money outright to the States for the building of homes for the aged, the honorable senator might have reason to be proud.
Senator Pearson stated that he regretted that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) had seen fit to make certain remarks about the victory of the Australian Labour party at the recent election in Victoria. I say that that was a victory for the Labour party, because the Liberal party sponsored a bunch of Santamaria fascists, and I make no apology for saying that. They were known fascists, but nevertheless the supporters of the Liberal party sponsored them. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), at public meetings in Victoria, said that those fascists were right, and he advised the electors to give them their preferences.
– He did not!
– The right honorable gentleman has never corrected the statements that were attributed to him in the newspapers. Perhaps he was misreported, but the fact remains that he hat not corrected those statements. We have seen sufficient of this matter in another place here in Canberra to demonstrate that, beyond all reasonable doubt, the Prime Minister is wholly with the fascist group. Judging from the remarks of Senator Pearson, he also is 100 per cent, with that group which was almost annihilated by the official Labour party.
In my opinion, the Labour party has great cause to be proud of the fact that it practically annihilated this fascist group which was trying to seize power throughout Australia. It has been said that the function of the industrial groups was to oust the Communists from the unions. I contend that no member of a group has done as much as honorable senators on this side of the chamber have done to oust the Communists. My colleagues and I take second place to no one in that respect. Senator Pearson knows that to be perfectly true, but he claims, nevertheless, that anybody who is not with the groupers is a Communist.
– I did not say that.
– Then, let me come to another matter to which the honorable senator referred. He said that he wanted to know what the Labour party proposed to do to replace the groupers. I say to him that the Labour party will not stand either fascists or Communists. If the supporters of the Government want to assemble a bunch of fascists in the guise of groupers, they may do so, but the Labour party has no intention of associating with fascists or Communists. If the Government wants to take the fascists under its wing, that is its responsibility, not that of the Labour party. We of the Opposition will continue to fight the
Communists, as we have always fought them. We do not propose to interfere with an industrial union which wishes to have a certain group within its ranks. What unions do is their own affair. If they have one group, or twenty groups, within their ranks, and whether those groups are fascist or Communist groups, that is no concern of the Labour party, provided that those groups keep within the law. We will not bring those groups into the Australian Labour party. Some may have got in by intrigue, -but they will not capture control of the party. A bunch of fascist, .Santamaria, groupers got into the Australian Labour party and tried to seize control of it, but there were enough sensible, moderate, members of the party, who hate fascists as much as they hate Communists, to put them out. The Liberals have done their best to tie the Labour party with the Communists, but they have utterly failed. Now they are regretful because they cannot tie the Australian Labour party with the Santamaria fascists. If Senator Pearson wishes to have the fascists for company he is welcome to them. We do not want them. We are out to destroy them as we are out to destroy Communists. The honorable senator alleges that the Australian Labour party does not want to destroy communism, but his Government has done nothing to destroy it.
– The Menzies Government placed the secret ballot legislation on the statute-book.
– The secret ballot legislation has always been on the statutebook. A Labour government provided that if a ballot was found to be “ crook “ the union was able to appeal to the Arbitration Court to have it conduct a fresh ballot. That was provided for long before Senator Pearson came to Canberra. His interjection is in keeping with his erroneous statement about Communists. The Menzies Government has never lifted a finger to suppress communism in Australia. The Labour Government put many Communists in gaol and kept them there. The Labour party has fought the Communists, but the policy of this Government on communism is null and void. Its supporters have no right to wallow in the sewer as Senator Pearson did.
– Order ! Senator Aylett is not allowed to use the word “ sewer “ and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw the word. Senator Pearson attempted to vilify one of the greatest and most able leaders Australia has ever seen. He is the only Australian who has made the world take notice and restore Australia to its right place in world affairs. After the 1914-18 war, Australia virtually disappeared from the map, but when Dr. Evatt as Australian Minister for External Affairs was appointed President of the General Assembly of the United Nations he brought this country into world focus after it had been almost forgotten for 25 years. The right honorable gentleman achieved far more for Australia overseas than did his successor, Sir Percy Spender, who is now Australian Ambassador to the United States of America. That gentleman left Australia without any effective representation in America in our hour of dire need. Dr. Evatt established Australia’s reputation overseas and did not run away from his job. He was a man of courage and he showed it. The fact that every tory newspaper in Australia is seeking to discredit Dr. Evatt is proof that supporters of the Liberal party would give their left arms to get rid of him from politics.
Senator Pearson quoted from the Tribune. I invite the honorable senator to show the Senate his copy of that paper if he has it. The Labour party is not interested in the Tribune and we are not responsible for what Sharkey writes in it any more than we are responsible for a statement by the Prime Minister. Why should the honorable senator try to make out that the Labour party is in league with the Communists?
– I did not imply that.
– Why did Senator Aylett not deny Senator Pearson’s statement ?
– Why do I not deny it? Is Senator Gorton deaf as well as dumb? What am I doing now?
– Did the Labour Government allow Communists to be released from gaol?
– They were released after they had served their sentences.
– Were they released before they had completed their sentences ?
– If a man has served the sentence imposed on him he cannot be kept in goal for ever. These Communists came out of gaol after they had served their sentences. The Labour party did not issue them with vises to visit iron-curtain countries as the Menzies Government has done. We did not tell them to go behind the iron curtain and see how much damage they could do there.
– Did the Labour Government issue an order for their release from gaol before they had completed their sentences ?
- Senator Pearson referred to a statement I made on what I had seen in Africa. The daily Hansard is a very handy publication and I should like to quote from it, but because the Standing Orders prohibit me from quoting from current Hansard I shall have to rely on my memory.
– The honorable senator may quote from the daily Hansard. That is one purpose of having it.
– With your permission, Mr. President, I shall refer to Senator Pearson’s speech on foreign affairs and defence in which he made a statement concerning myself. I was absent when he made it. He said, referring to my visit to Africa -
All that Senator Aylett could do was to say that he saw there certain people, such as retired British army colonels and others, who kicked the natives about and exploited them. I could tell him of people in Kenya - indeed, some of them retired British colonels - who have employed natives for twenty years continuously.
I repeat what I said that the natives had been exploited by British colonels and I shall elaborate my statement although I have no desire to do so. In Kenya, huge profits are being made at the expense of the natives. They are employed to do all kinds of work. They have built houses, factories, and four-storied buildings. They have built and maintained the railways. They are members of the police force, and they are taxi and bus drivers. Senator Pearson was driven from one end of Africa to the other by a native driver.
– They are splendid workers, and capable.
– That is so, and these are the men who I said had been exploited. They are made to work on farms for 7s. 6d. a week and sometimes they are given a handful of maize. If that is not exploiting the natives and reducing them to the level of slaves, 1 should like to know what it is. The basicwage for native workers in factories is 15s. and they have to keep themselves. Senator Pearson and I visited some of thi mines and we found the natives working for about 3s. a day. One mine made a profit of £14.000,000 sterling last year.
– Where was that?
– In Rhodesia. 1 talked to a European mine official and asked him about the working condition? of the natives. He said that they were good. He said that the native miners were provided with showers and beautiful drying sheds and that when they finished their day’s work they had a shower and changed into clean clothes before they went home. When I asked an official of the miners’ union to show me the showers, he said that no such amenities had ever existed. The farmers claim that the labour is not cheap. I was discussing this matter casually, and as I was a guest, I had to be diplomatic; but a bank manager who was listening saw my difficulty and said, “ The senator has something there “. He added that three or four years previously, an Englishman had arrived in Kenya and needed £20,000 to start farming. The bank manager said he had given the Englishman an advance of £20,000 and, within three years, he had paid back the loan and had a credit of £20,000. He had only native labour to work on the farm because all manual work in Africa is done by natives.
Senator Pearson referred to a railway 300 miles long and said that the Englishman built it to stop the slave traffic. Is it not a fact that tens of thousands of Indians were imported to build the railway? They worked for a rupee a day or less, just as the Africans do to-day. Senator Pearson should know that that is how hundreds of thousands of Indians were taken into Africa. Those responsible are sorry for it now, because the Africans are more frightened of the Indians than they are of the Europeans. The British imported the Indians to build the railway.
– For what reason was it built?
– To open up the country. A similar policy was followed in Australia. There are compounds in Australia where the convicts were hired out to the Englishmen just as natives are hired out from compounds to-day by the Rhodesian and other governments. I could show Senator Pearson some of the compounds that are still to be seen in Australia. Probably Senator Pearson did not see the things I saw in Africa because he was too busy at the luxurious hotel at Victoria Falls. I stayed there and the falls were a magnificent sight; but 100 yards away I saw a compound where the natives who worked on the railways and in the hotel lived with their families. The compound is larger in area than the Senate chamber but is the same shape. There is plenty of open country around it, but the natives are not allowed to build a hut outside the compound. There is deep sand in the compound and if rain falls, it becomes a quagmire. The Africans cook and live in the sand. They eat in it. Honorable senators could not imagine that such deplorable conditions could exist. Those natives are the employees of the Rhodesian Government. The only difference between Senator Pearson and myself is that I saw things that I was not supposed to see, and he saw only what he was shown. That is all I have to say in reply to the scurrilous attacks made by Senator Pearson.
I direct my attention now to the Commonwealth Public Service. Under certain conditions of employment in the Public Service, unmarried women who have served for a certain time and leave to get married are granted a marriage bonus in the form of leave. If they have served for - five years and not less than eight years, they get one month’s additional leave as a marriage bonus. If they have served more than eight years and not more than twelve years, they get two months’ leave. If they have served more than twelve years and not more than twenty years, they get three months’ additional leave, but they must be permanent members of the Commonwealth Public Service. If they serve for three or four years as temporary officers, that service would not count for the purposes of additional leave. I know of the case of a woman who was a temporary member of the Public Service for three years before she went on to the permanent staff. If she had been on the permanent staff for six years and on the temporary staff for three years, she would have had nine years’ service to her credit, but she received no credit for her three years’ service as a temporary public servant. I suggest that the Government should introduce a regulation to provide that if a woman serves as a temporary public servant before becoming a permanent officer, her temporary service should count for the purpose of additional leave when she leaves to marry. That is a fair and reasonable request on behalf of the women who do good work for the Public Service.
I direct attention now to a case similar to one to which one of my colleagues in the Senate has referred. A young man was called up for military training and was rejected by the Army doctors. He could not ascertain the reason why he was rejected, and no reason has been given to his parents, but the national service officers have informed me that he might be called upon for further examination later. The case is very worrying to the young man’s mother. Honorable senators might not see any cause for alarm because they are tough, but women worry about matters of this sort. In this case the examining Army doctor might have detected something which would not show when the man visited a private practitioner. If the man knew the nature of his complaint, he could seek the advice of a private practitioner and could give the doctor a clue. If a man is suffering from some disability, is it a great military secret? If the man went to a private practitioner, the doctor would diagnose the case if he could. If he could not do so, he would advise the patient to see a specialist. I can see no reason why the armed forces should not have a regulation to provide that if a man is rejected for military service, the medical officers who examine him should he able to tell him the nature of his complaint and whether he needed treatment. I do not see any harm in that. It is a reasonable request.
Senator Paltridge challenged the Opposition to attack the Government’s policy, and I shall accept the challenge. [ know that Senator Henty will be interested in what I have to say. For many years the Department of Civil Aviation has transported its employees to and from the aerodromes where they work. In some instances, that service represented from 12s. to 17s. a week. Obviously, if the practice of carrying employees free is discontinued, it means that they lose from 12s. to 17s. a week out of their pay. In other words, the purchasing power of their wages is reduced by that amount. Towards the end of last year, the Government decided to discontinue the system of transporting its employees to and from work, or of paying them travelling allowance if they used other means of transport. That has happened at the “Western Junction Aerodrome, where a fairly large number of employees are affected. When I heard of the decision I wrote to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Townley) on the 29th December last. My letter was not a long one, and I shall read it to the Senate -
I think you will acknowledge the fact that for many many years it has been recognized custom for Civil Aviation Department to provide free transport for their employees or to allow extra travelling allowance on top of their wages when using their own cars when working various shifts. This change of policy is an attack on the standard of living of all employees affected by the change which brings about a reduction of from 12s. to 17s. per week in their purchasing power, as same would have to be paid in fares according to your new policy. Therefore I strongly protest against such a change, even if it was general throughout Australia, which I understand it is not up to the present, and Western Junction has been one airport singled out for attack bv your Department.
Trusting that you may give sympathetic consideration towards reconsidering this retrograde step now being implemented by your Department.
I did not receive any immediate reply to that letter, but on the 22nd February the then Acting Minister for Civil Aviation, Mr. Holt, ‘ acknowledged its receipt. Later, I received from the Minister for Civil Aviation a letter, dated the 10th March, 1955, in which he set out details of the new arrangements. The Minister informed me that an officer of the department had been sent to Tasmania, and that he had contacted all the responsible organizations, which had agreed on the policy to be adopted. I consulted with officers of the Trades Hall Council, who made inquiries, from which they learned that the man sent from Melbourne had met only the head of the department in Tasmania. He had not got in touch with any union official, or any of the employees who had suffered under the decision of the Government. That letter, which was written nearly three months after the date of my original letter, included the following paragraphs relating to the new arrangements : -
Honorable senators will see that employees who used Mr. Green’s bus service would get 6s. a week allowance, and pay the balance of the cost of transport themselves; but if they did not use Mr. Green’s bus service, they would not get anything at all. That is to say, employees who used their own cars, and took a few of their mates with them, would not get anything. It is clear that, this arrangement was made by the department in order to help Mr. Green’s ‘bus service, because those who did not travel in his’buses would not get the allowance. Only after a deputation from the Trades Hall Council, of which I am a member, had approached the authorities was a partial measure of relief granted. Instead of being paid the whole 12s. or 17s. a week which theirtransport cost them, employees, whether they travel to and from work by bicycle or car, or by bus, received the allowance. That arrangement followed the visit of a second officer, Mr. Anderson, to Tasmania. The granting of an allowance of 6s. a week does not alter the fact that the Government has deprived these employees of the difference between 6s. a week and either 12s. or 17s. a week. That is a retrograde step, especially when we have in mind the reduced purchasing power of money and the fact that the basic wage has been pegged. These workers have been severely hit. It would not hurt the Department of Civil Aviation to revert to the previous standard. Besides being a retrograde step, the action of the Government is a bad example to set to other employers.
I now come to another matter to which I should not have referred had it not been for the remarks of Senator Paltridge, who predicted that in the near future the loan market would not provide funds sufficient to carry out urgent public works. The honorable senator said so much money was now being expended to purchase goods under the hire-purchase system, or was invested at higher rates of interest, that government loans would suffer. The Government knows that while other investments which give better returns are available to investors, government loans will not be supported. It must do something to meet this situation. It can get money by using the facilities provided by the Commonwealth Bank, by pegging the rates of interest, and by controlling the channels through which money may pass. So long as surplus money can be invested privately, the financial policy of the country will be dictated by the Sydney Chamber of Commerce. That body issues an ultimatum to the Government, and the Government acts promptly. The latest ultimatum issued to the Government is that it must gooverseas and borrow £1,000,000,000 for the development of Australia. In the light of that ultimatum, we can expect that if money is not forthcoming for investment in government loans the policy dictated by the Chamber of Commerce will be followed by the Government. During the 1914-18 war Australia had an issue of this. The government of that day, which was of the same political colour as this Government, put Australia “ in the red “ overseas to the extent of £350,000,000, all of which we still owe.
During World War II., Australia had the right type of Government - a Labour government - and went right through the years from 1941 to 1945 without borrowing a penny piece overseas. Now that the world has returned to peace and harmony this Government’s spokesmen announce a policy for borrowing £1,000,000,000 overseas. What will be done with that money in Australia ? Why does it have to be borrowed from overseas creditors? Is the Government going to say to people overseas, “ Be good boys and lend us £1,000,000,000, secured against the assets of Australia and the assets that that money will build ? “ Does this Government not have the common sense to realize that it could obtain that £1,000,000,000 of credit through Australia’s own banks, secured against the assets of Australia and the assets that the money will build, just as credit was obtained locally during the war years? Or must the Government heed the ultimatum delivered by its masters, the Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Manufactures, and go overseas to get this £1,000,000,000?
Sitting suspended from 5.48 to 8 p.m.
– I lay on the table of the Senate a white paper on the review of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which the Government has had prepared for the information of the Parliament. Copies of the paper are available to honorable senators. I move -
That the Senate approves the Government’s decision to accept the revised General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the proposed Agreement for the Organization for Trade Co-operation subject in either case to prior acceptance by the Governments of the United Kingdom and of the United States of America.
The review was held in Geneva during the period from the 8th November, 1954, to the 7th March last. Australia played si major part in securing the review which was the first since the agreement was drafted in 1947. The White Paper compares the text of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, as it emerged from the review, with the old text. Footnotes to each article summarize the changes proposed and there is also an introduction which deals briefly with the review and the new text as a whole. Honorable senators will probably regard the agreement as an extremely complicated document. I readily agree that it is complicated. At the same time, it is hard to see how it could be otherwise. International trade is a many-sided affair. The problems to which it gives rise are very involved and far-reaching, not only in their economic and political aspects, but also in their social implications. Any document which attempts to reconcile the conflicting views held in respect of these problems and which, at the same time, seeks to do so at the practical level could hardly fail to be somewhat cumbersome.
Honorable senators will recall that the present Government inherited the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade from its predecessors and that we have been critical of its terms both in Opposition and since assuming office. The burden of our criticism has been that it did not give adequate recognition to the position of countries with Australia’s particular problems. The Government is of the opinion that the changes now proposed go a long way towards remedying its deficiencies in this regard. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade is essentially an instrument of two parts - a tariff agreement and a set of rules covering a wide range of matters affecting international trade and economic development. These two parts are interdependent, but it must be remembered that the second part was inserted in the agreement only as a temporary measure. As originally conceived, the tariff agreement was to be backed by a more comprehensive set of commitments on trade and economic development which were incorporated in a draft charter for an international trade organization. Not all of these were included in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and those which were included were to be superseded by the charter when it entered into force.
It is now a matter of history that the International Trade Organization charter was still-born. This is part - but only part - of the cause of the lack of balance which the Government sees in the present General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Certain of the provisions written into the charter but not repeated in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade would have been of benefit to Australia. Their absence from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade tended to upset the balance of advantage and disadvantage in the basis of the agreement which was negotiated at Geneva in 1947. After assuming office in 1949, the present Government was able to examine the operation of the Geneva Agreement on Tariffs and Trade at first hand. Its experience in the following four years convinced it that its original criticisms were well founded. At the same time it recognized that the agreement contained provisions which were to Australia’s advantage, even though these were hardly sufficient to compensate for its more onerous provisions. In view of the fact that most important trading nations subscribed to the agreement, the Government decided that the appropriate course was to seek to revise it in such a way as to redress the balance of advantage and disadvantage from Australia’s point of view. Accordingly, at the eighth session of the contracting parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, in 1953, the Australian delegation pressed for a comprehensive review. There was sufficient support for this proposition to secure its adoption.
It has been the Government’s opinion that the present text favoured the highly developed countries to the detriment of those such as Australia which are in the early stages of industrial development. In particular, its provisions gave protection to exporters of manufactured products but failed to provide a comparable measure of protection and stability for exports of primary products. For countries such as Australia which depend for their earnings of international currencies on the export of a comparatively small number of primary products, and which are at the same time endeavouring to build up secondary industries, this has been a serious position. A measure of the importance which the Government attached to securing a more balanced agreement may be gained from its decision to include two Ministers in the Australian delegation to the review session. The Government was fortunate in* being able to secure the services of representatives of industry, commerce and agriculture as consultants to the delegation. These gentlemen, Messrs. John Tivey, Sydney Powell and Cecil “Williams, gave very valuable advice to the delegation and I would like to take this opportunity of bavins; this placed on record and to convey to them the very sincere thanks of the Government.
Needless to say, the Government gave full consideration to the unsatisfactory features of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade before the Australian delegation left Canberra. As it was insufficient to dislike particular provisions, the delegation was given very firm instructions as to the specific changes which it should seek and, hardly less important, the provisions which it should seek to retain. At Geneva, the delegation pressed its proposals vigorously and had a large measure of success. It was unable to secure acceptance of all its proposals, but this was only to be expected. In the nature of things, each country represented at the conference had proposals of its own to put forward and these often conflicted. To reach any general measure of agreement in such a conference it is inevitable that compromise must play a large part. But let me say now that Australia’s proposals secured the highest measure of success possible in an area of vastly conflicting claims. This success can be attributed partly to the obvious justification for our claims and partly to the vigour with which they were presented.
Before giving details of the important changes resulting from the review, I wish to inform honorable senators that, as will be apparent from the motion which I have moved, the Government is satisfied that those changes have so altered the balance of the agreement as to make it an instrument to which Australia can reasonably subscribe.
I shall give a background to the review. Let me introduce this record of the review by referring very briefly to those elements in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade with which the Government is dissatisfied. It has been Australia’s experience that, whilst the agreement has not prevented certain countries from imposing restrictions in the way of sections of our export trade, it has adequately safeguarded exports of manufactured products, which are our principal imports. This operated to the advantage of the highly developed countries, but offered far fewer advantages to countries which depended for the bulk of their export income on a small number of primary products. In some ways the rules were too rigid; in others they permitted other countries to act to the detriment of Australia’s best interests. The Government, therefore, approached the review session with the objective of correcting this unbalance. More specificcally, it wanted greater freedom in its tariff policy so that it could safeguard the development of our efficient and economic secondary industries. There is nothing unreasonable in this objective. The great industrial might of the United States of America was nurtured in its early life under the protection of high tariff walls. On the other hand we wanted a tightening of the rules relating to exports. As Australia depends for some 80 per cent, of its export earning* on a small number of primary products we are very vulnerable to any action that affects the prices of and the availability of markets for such products. It was essential therefore that we seek measures to protect our exports in world markets.
At the same time, the Government recognized that, notwithstanding the lack of balance to which I have referred, the agreement has fulfilled a useful purpose in some directions. It will be readily agreed that there is a need for some instrument which will be effective in preventing a return to the unbridled economic nationalism which was a common and unfortunate feature of international trade in the 1930’s. In some respects it has achieved notable success in this direction. It has brought about a high measure of stability in tariffs and has resulted in significant tariff reductions. Its trade rules have prevented any increase in trade discrimination between contracting parties. Annual sessions of the members have provided a forum for the ventilation of complaints and the resolution of other trade problems. Such consultations have considerable value even though their results do not lend themselves to precise evaluation.
I shall now deal with particular proposals made to the review session. First, I shall deal with our tariff commitments. One of Australia’s chief problems under the agreement was the loss of its freedom to operate the customs tariff to give full effect to the recommendations of the Tariff Board. In the original tariff negotiations under the agreement, Australia, in return for concessions received from other countries, bound a number of tariff items against any increase of the rates of duty. As a result, if the Tariff Board should recommend an increase in the rate of duty on a bound item, the Government was not at liberty to implement the recommendation unless the item should be unbound by negotiation. In the past, the assured life of the bindings of tariff rates has been for fixed periods, usually three years. The last period, however, was for eighteen month - the 1st January, 1954, to the 30th June, 1955 - and Australia agreed to this extension only after lengthy consideration by the Government, and then largely because of the anticipated review of the agreement.
It must be understood that we faced quite a. difficult problem here. On the one hand, we wanted to overcome the difficulties and delays in implementing the recommendations of the Tariff Board which have been caused by tariff binding under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and, on the other hand, we did not want to undermine the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade concession in the form of bindings of rates in the tariffs of other countries which are important to Australian exports. The matter proved one of the most difficult problems of the review session. From the outset there was strong opposition from the highly industrialized countries to any move directed towards increased freedom in relation to tariff changes. Many of those countries were opposed to any form of unilateral withdrawal of tariff concessions. Despite these difficulties, a solution was evolved which, the Government feels, will meet Australia’s particular problems in this matter. This solution is set out in the new Article XXVIII. of the agreement.
The new Article XXVIII. illustrates the point I made at the beginning of my statement that it is not always possible to find a solution to these complicated problems that can be expressed briefly. The stability of tariffs is one of the primary objectives of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. It is secured through the binding of tariff rates. Yet the agreement would defeat its own purposes of economic development and rising standards of living if those bindings were unduly rigid. At the same time, customs tariffs are a matter of practical application and day-to-day administration. It was necessary to find a solution which would protect the reasonable interests of producers, traders and governments and yet take account of changes in the pattern of international trade. That involved rather detailed provisions. The new article is therefore somewhat lengthy. At the same time, it does, I think, strike a balance between the twin objectives of stability and flexibility. Its main provisions are -
The text recognizes the unique position of countries like Australia which, while supporting relatively high standards of living, depend -
It gives to those countries a right to automatic approval of requests for permission to enter into negotiations with a view to withdrawal of concessions in the type of cases Australia is likely to put forward. Industrial countries, on the other hand, are required to prove the existence of “ special circumstances “ before they are permitted to enter into negotiations during any period of three years. The main features of the new procedures for negotiations in “ special circumstances “ are -
As will be seen, the amended text does not allow immediate increases in bound rates but the time lag of 120 days which the new text envisages is not necessarily in addition to, but may be concurrent with, the time which is required by our domestic procedures, such as consideration by Cabinet and the preparation of the necessary tariff proposals.
The second commitment on tariffs in the old agreement which the Government considered unduly rigid was that which banned new or increased preferences. This ban stems from what is possibly the basic principle of the agreement, namely, the principle of non-discrimination. It operates, however, to prevent any adjustment of preferences to compensate for falling money values. As most preferences received by Australia are fixed in money terms - that is. so much per lb. or per cwt. - this ban has serious implications.Unlike the commitments on bound tariffrates which have been negotiated individually, the ban on new or increased preferences is all comprehensive. This problem also was not straight forward. Many of the important tariff concessions received by Australia in negotiations consisted of the binding of specific rates of duty on our export products. It was necessary, therefore, to avoid stimulating a move which would also allow such bound rates to be adjusted to compensate for falling money values.
With these difficulties in mind, the Government instructed the delegation to seek an amendment to the “no new preference “ rule such as would “ permit adjustment of preferences on particular items to meet changed circumstances since their inception or new preferences where warranted “. More specifically, Australia sought approval to adjust margins of preference provided they were the result of negotiation and consultation with the contracting parties concerned and were approved by the contracting parties.
At the review session the Australian delegation pressed the view that preferences had in the past operated to assist in furthering the stated aims of the general agreement, such as raising standards of living, ensuring full employment, and promoting the progressive development of the economies of the countries concerned, and that there was good reason to believe that preferences, properly controlled, could continue to play an important role in this field. However, most countries regarded the rule as sacrosanct, and the Australian proposal was overwhelmingly defeated. The delegation did, however, secure recognition that there is nothing in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade which prevents negotiations directed towards adjustment of individual preferences, and undertaken with a view to an approach to the contracting parties for a waiver. It must be admitted that this was no great step forward.
As I have reiterated from time to time in this chamber, it is the intention of the Government to remove all import restrictions as soon as our balance of payments position allows this to be done. This has not been possible, and indeed it was with some regret that I announced an intensification of such restrictions to apply as from the 1st April last. Although the Government’s policy is to aim at complete abolition of restrictions, it regards it as vital that it retain the right to determine the nature and extent of the restrictions which it shall apply at any time to protect Australia’s overseas reserves. It is realized that the restrictions may operate to circumvent some obligations under the agreement but they are necessary to safeguard Australia’s international solvency.
At the recent discussions in Geneva there was a strong move to strengthen the rules of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade organization to provide for either “ prior approval ‘” or “ prompt post facto approval “ of import restrictions imposed for balance of payments purposes. This was coupled with a proposed provision which would have required the removal of the restrictions within a fixed period. If accepted, these proposals would have required Australia to seel approval of the contracting parties on each occasion on which it decided to modify its import restrictions. The proposals were based on the contention that restrictions are often imposed more stringently than is necessary on purely balance of payments grounds.
Such obligations would have been intolerable to Australia. Our balance of payments position is subject to violent fluctuations, largely because it is so dependent on a small number of primary commodities which are noteworthy for the instability of their prices. In addition, the demand for imports is likely to remain at a high level while Australia pursues policies of full employment, large-scale development, and a high intake of immigrants. The vulnerability of Australia’s balance of payments position makes it essential that the Government should retain a free hand in determining whether, and to what extent, import restrictions should be maintained.
The move to require approval of import restrictions was unsuccessful. However, there has been some tightening of the rules. Under the revised agreement each country will have to submit annually to a comprehensive examination of the import restrictions imposed by it to see if they conform with the rules laid down, and to examine the effects of the restrictions on other contracting parties. Australia has nothing to fear from any such examination. As we have stressed repeatedly, the import restrictions main.tained by the Australian Government are imposed solely for balance of payments reasons, and, whenever possible, they are relaxed to the fullest extent consistent with our need to maintain our overseas reserves at an adequate level.
The circumstances in which import restrictions may be imposed for balance of payments reasons have been somewhat Clarified, and this could ensure that other countries are following a policy in regard to import licensing as fair as that followed by Australia. The requirement of annual examination of import controls in force will give Australia an opportunity to query restrictions imposed by other countries, whenever it appears that such restrictions are unjustifiably hindering Australian export trade.
As I have already mentioned, the operation of the agreement has favoured the countries exporting manufactured goods, but has notprovided adequate safeguards to the countries depending on primary products for the bulk of their export income. The Australian delegation sought to achieve a better balance by strengthening the rules applying to the export of primary products.
The two most pressing problems for Australia related to the disposal of agricultural surpluses and export subsidies on primary products. The Australian delegation proposed that a new article be inserted in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, requiring countries proposing to dispose of surplus agricultural products to have effective prior consultations with other countries interested in the product concerned. “We recognize that surpluses must be disposed of, but wished to ensure that such disposals would be effected with a minimum of disruption to normal international trade in the products concerned. The United States, with large and increasing surpluses of agricultural products, could present a real danger to the normal trade patterns in those products. The Australian proposal was designed to remove this threat. However, the United States delegation indicated that, while they were willing to agree to prior consultations in principle, and as far as possible in practice, they could not agree to undertake such a commitment as part of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. As the United States is the chief country with agricultural surpluses it was clearly of little value to insert in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade an article on which the United States would have a reservation.
As an alternative the United States and other contracting parties agreed to a resolution to the effect that a contracting party proposing to dispose of agricultural surpluses should consult with the principal suppliers and other interested contracting parties with a view to orderly liquidation of surpluses, and to the avoidance of prejudice to the interests of other contracting parties. Although short of our original objective this resolution recognizes the principles advocated by Australia. In future, we can claim rights to consultation on disposal, of surpluses. Another resolution, in similar terms, dealt with the liquidation of stockpiles acquired for strategic purposes. The terms of these resolutions will be found in appendix B of the White Paper.
Some important new provisions have been added to the agreement to control export subsidies which,, it is recognized, may have harmful effects on exports by other countries. The revised text of the agreement places a complete ban on new export subsidies on any product other than a primary product, and as from the 1st January, 1958, or as soon thereafter as possible, all such existing subsidies are to be discontinued.
With respect to primary products, export subsidies are not to be applied in a manner which results in a contracting party gaining’ more than an equitable share of world export trade in the commodity concerned having regard to trade in a previous representative period and . taking into account any special factors that may be relevant. Aust7’alian twoprice schemes are adequately safeguarded in the provisions dealing with export subsidies.
In addition, agreement was reached on new provisions relating to counter-‘ vailing duties. I will give an illustration of how these new provisions could assist Australia. Previously, the United
Kingdom would have had to obtain permission from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade organization to impose countervailing duties on subsidized goods exported to it from, say, the United States, in order to protect Australia’s export trade. The new rules enable such duties to be imposed without such sanction in cases where delay would cause injury which would be difficult to repair. The United Kingdom has not hitherto imposed countervailing duties. However, the United Kingdom Government has already announced that it proposes to introduce legislation which will enable ‘ such duties to be imposed to protect the industries of third countries, such as Australia.
All these new provisions regarding the export of primary products represent a distinct improvement in the agreement from Australia’s standpoint. They should significantly assist in maintaining fair trading conditions for Australian exports. In a report of this nature, it is not possible to cover in any detail more than a few items of the review session. It is necessary to be selective, and I have given some emphasis to the matters which I believe have the more important consequences for Australia. I shall now deal briefly with other matters that will also be of interest to Australians.
The Australian delegation felt that there was a danger that certain European countries would increase their state trading activities when they remove quantitative restrictions, and that the State trading provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade should, therefore, be strengthened. The new General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade recognizes that serious obstacles to trade can be created by State trading operations, i.e., of importations or exportations being conducted in such a way as to amount to the Government being the sole importer or exporter, as the case may bp. The new provisions require that full information be supplied on such activities. This could be of some interest to us, as some European countries follow State trading policies in products of direct concern to Australia. In future, we shall have the right to examine such policies, as both the discriminatory ‘and protective aspects of State trading may now be scrutinized in forum of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade organization.
Under the provisions of the United States Agricultural Adjustment Act, the United States has imposed import restrictions which have prevented our dairy products from entering that country. It is quite impracticable to secure any change in the act by Congress, as the whole structure of American price support schemes for agriculture depends upon it. Moreover, the Americans argue that there would be little or no imports of the commodities affected in the absence of .price support. The United States, therefore, sought a waiver allowing them to impose surcharges on imports, the duties of which are bound, or import restrictions within the limits of the provisions of section 22 of their Agricultural Act. The waiver recognizes the facts of the situation. In the judgment of most contracting parties, a refusal to grant the waiver would have made it certain that the United States would not subscribe to the revised General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Under the waiver, the United States is obliged to review the necessity for continuing any given measure at the request of a contracting party whose interests are seriously prejudiced. Another condition is that an annual review of action taken under the waiver must take place in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade organization where it is open to have the waiver withdrawn if members are not satisfied.
In 1953, at the eighth session of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade organization, decisions were taken which would make it possible for Japan to hecome a member of the organization, subject to its negotiating satisfactory tariff bargains with other General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade members. Tariff negotiations are at present proceeding at Geneva between Japan and fifteen other contracting parties. Australia is not participating in them. There has been no change in the agreement relative to the question of Japanese accession. Any government which has refrained from negotiating, under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, with Japan is under no obligation to apply the provisions of the agreement as between it and Japan.
I have already referred to the provisional basis of the agreement, provisional in the sense that it was only intended as an interim agreement. It has, however, assumed a status and a permanence which contracting parties have come to feel should be continued. There was general support for placing the administration of the agreement on a permanent basis. A separate organizational agreement has been drawn up and issued as a separate protocol for acceptance by the contracting parties. When it is established, the organization will administer the general agreement and will supersede the present informal operational structure. The text of the protocol, which would set up the organization, is to be found in the White Paper which I have tabled.
Until now, the Government has been on the horns of a dilemma, so far as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade is concerned. We did not like it, but to withdraw meant introducing unknown and unpredictable factors into our relations with the nations with which we conduct most of our trade. Those countries would still have been bound by rules which prevented them taking discriminatory action to assist our exports. Additionally, withdrawal would have entailed the risk of losing any benefits which might have accrued to Australia from continued membership.
The revised text of the agreement is much more to our liking, despite our failure to secure all our points, particularly that in respect of preferences. We can now expect that more tangible benefits will accrue to Australia from continued membership and, at the same time, a fair measure of relief will be secured from the more onerous of the General Agreement o.n Tariffs and Trade provisions. In particular, the agreement will not now present severe obstacles to the continued use of the customs tariff as a means of encouraging the development of worthwhile Australian industries. This has been achieved without sacrificing those less measurable benefits which flow from the existence of the General Agree ment on Tariffs and Trade to which 1 referred earlier - the fostering of the ideas of fair play in international trade and of consideration for the vital interests of other countries and, not least, a forum where points of disagreement over trade policies can be discussed across the table without giving rise to misunderstanding and bitterness.
For these reasons the Government if satisfied that, if there is to be a General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, Australia should subscribe to it. Whether there will be a General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade depends largely on the United Kingdom and the United States accepting it and, of these, the United States has already signed the amending protocols and the United Kingdom has announced its intention of doing so. Subject to Parliament’s approval, therefore, the Government proposes to sign these protocols after their acceptance by the United Kingdom.
The draft agreement setting up the organization for trade co-operation is in a slightly different category. Again subject to Parliament’s approval the Government is prepared to accept this also. However, whilst the United Kingdom’s intention is clearly to accept this agreement, the United States administration will not follow suit until specifically authorized to do so by Congress. We would therefore delay any acceptance of this agreement until the necessary steps are taken by the United States.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 31st May (vide page 521), 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.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
REPORT of Public Works Committee.
. -I move -
That the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, relating to the extension of the water supply storage system for Canberra, presented to the Senate on the 20th April, 1955, be adopted. [ direct the attention of the Senate to the fact that the two motions standing in my name are interrelated. Consequently they could be debated together, and, with the concurrence of the Senate, I shall do so.
Many aspects of the development of Canberra came before the committee when considering these two important matters. They are closely connected with the work of the committee that was set up by the Senate to investigate the whole of the Burley Griffin plan both for the present and future. Rather than encroach too deeply on the work that has been done by that committee, I shall confine my remarks to aspects of the recommendations of the Public Works Committee.
The first matter is that of future water storage for Canberra. The recommendations of the committee include the selection of a site on the Cotter River which will give a magnificent supply of goodquality water to the City of Canberra for generations to come. The disadvantage is that the cost of this work will be much higher than that of an alternative scheme at Googong, on the Queanbeyan River, which was submitted to the committee. However, the comparative costs of the two schemes were closely considered, and the committee eventually chose the Cotter River site. I am confident that its advantages will be seen from a study of the evidence presented to the committee. It has a natural advantage as a catchment area, and medical reports favour it as a source of water supply. I believe that the committee has presented the recommendation which is in the best interests of the city and of its residents.
Other aspects of water supply are considered which the committee felt could be related, not only to the construction of a new bridge over the Molonglo River but also to the lakes scheme which wasoriginally designed by Walter Burley Griffin, and which has been accepted as a basis for the development of Canberra. I hardly need remind the Senate thateach member of this Australian Parliament bears a distinct personal responsibility to recognize that Canberra is ,anoutstanding national project which requires his continual attention. Perhapsa habit has developed in the past, which I hope will be broken to some extent, of honorable senators paying such attention to their respective States as to neglect’ their responsibility towards the national capital. It is the duty of members of the Public Works Committee and of theSenate Select Committee on the Design and Development of Canberra to try tomake other members of the Parliament aware that they have this important trusteeship and responsibility, so that those who follow us will reap the benefits of the careful supervision that is necessary if a great capital city is to develop along proper lines.
The whole concept of the development of Canberra as originally planned by Walter Burley Griffin, makes its appeal as a splendid vision of how the natura) contours of this beautiful valley can be used to provide a proper setting for a truly national capital which will be a source of pride to the people of Australia who visit it, and also will impress overseas visitors who always tend to judge a country by its national capital. Honorable senators may be interested to know that within recent years 250,000 tourists have visited Canberra. Perhaps too little attention has been given to that aspect, but the Australian people are becoming increasingly aware that they have a beautiful national capital. We should realize that proper provision has not yet been made to cope with that regular, steady flow of tourists to this important and lovely place. In Tasmania, the State that I have the honour to represent, the tourist department has a big organization to attract visitors to the island. Services and facilities are available to make a holiday in Tasmania enjoyable. Much more could be done in that regard to encourage Australians to visit Canberra, to listen to the proceedings of Parliament and see the beautiful scenery around the city. Australians will find much to interest them in the magnificent Australian National War Memorial, the Institute of Anatomy and the general concept of the only planned city in Australia. This city is only in the embryo stage, and visitors must realize that this is not a temporary arrangement, but one that is designed to last. I hope that Canberra will expand and develop for centuries to come.
During the investigations by the Public Works Committee into proposals to expand the water scheme for Canberra and to build new bridges over the Molonglo River, the members of the committee were able to get an insight into many aspects of Canberra that have not been given full consideration, and the Attention of members of the Parliament should be drawn to some of the matters that have been overlooked. The facilities available in Canberra for tourists are rather limited. When members of the Parliament are in Canberra, the accommodation at the principal hotel is heavily taxed, and there is a strict limit to the number of people who can stay in the city. Cafe facilities are inadequate, and after 6 p.m.. it is difficult to get a cup of tea in Canberra. Provision should be made to cater for visitors and to give them the same facilities that are available in other cities of Australia.
Those who have read about Washington, or who have visited the national capital of the United States of America, know that the pattern and standard set in Washington could easily be equalled and, perhaps, bettered in Canberra. Mistakes made, in the early days of Washington resulted in the expenditure of enormous sums nf money for the resumption of land and buildings, and the alteration of the plans for the city. It is now a beautifully planned city, and a credit to the people of the United States. I hope that I can impress upon all honorable senators how important it is that we should fill keep in mind our personal responsibility to consider the standard and pattern that has been set in Washington when we think of the development of Canberra.
Work of such great importance cannot be done cheaply. We must realize that our standards and values will be judged on the quality and style of the monuments, the formal buildings and other structures that are erected in Canberra while we occupy responsible positions in the National Parliament. I hope that a high standard will be maintained, and that the people will be properly informed on the objectives sought in this national capital. A proportion of revenue has to be applied to the construction of buildings in Canberra, and whether the money is expended on administrative buildings, the National University, the Institute of Anatomy or such beautiful monuments as the National War Memorial, I hope that the people will realize that the money is being well spent. I hope also that we shall never try to take the cheap way out in building this national capital. The formation of the select committee of the Senate to inquire into the development of Canberra was a notable step, and perhaps it could be even more active.
Among specific matters that were referred to the Public Works Committee was the traffic problem in Canberra. The population of Australia is expanding, and Canberra is growing proportionately. The need for a bridge across the Molonglo River to replace the present Commonwealthavenue bridge is urgent. Expenditure on such a project is fully justified, as figures prepared by the traffic branch of the Canberra police indicate. The police officers were put to great pains to show the growth of traffic across the Molonglo River. The present Commonwealth Bridge is a wooden structure with a life of perhaps ten years, but there is always the possibility that a serious flood will occur in the Molonglo River, and if the bridge were seriously damaged, normal activities in Canberra could be interrupted. The project we have in mind allows for the construction of a substantial new bridge across the Molonglo parallel to the present Commonwealthavenue bridge. It would be built of concrete or steel, and would incorporate the most modern features of bridge building. It would cope with t big volume of traffic.
An important feature to be watched in the construction of bridges is the government triangle. That was a concept of the designer of Canberra, and bridges should be built in such a way that that concept will be preserved. I hope that the recommendations of the Public Works Committee will be followed by the National Capital Planning and Development Committee and the Department of the Interior when the time comes for the construction of the proposed new bridges, so that the beautiful vista from the front of Parliament House to the war memorial across the proposed lake will be preserved. Evidence submitted to the Public Works Committee contained some points in favour of the construction of a bridge directly in front of Parliament House towards the war memorial, but the committee found that that would be opposed to the whole concept of a planned city on this site, and for that reason the committee recommended against a bridge being built in that position.
Evidence produced before the committee revealed that the population of Canberra now is approximately 30,000, and it is expected to reach 44,000 by 1960. The population is expected to grow to 57,000 by 1970 and to 62,000 twenty years hence in 1975. Therefore, there is an urgent need for a generous approach to many matters connected with the development of Canberra, including provision for traffic, an increased water supply and general services.
Another interesting point about the growth of population’ and traffic in Canberra is that 3,000 vehicles cross over cbe Molonglo River on Commonwealthavenue Bridge and other crossings every hour. It is estimated that within the next ten years, 7,000 vehicles an hour will cross the river. Those figures emphasize the urgency of the construction of a new bridge, or bridges, to cope with the traffic problem. The committee, in presenting its recommendations, envisaged the immediate commencement of a twolane bridge at King’s-avenue, which is approximately in line with the present crossing leading to the Fairbairn airport. The reason for that recommendation is that in time of flood, when the low-level crossings are under water, there must be some relief from the con- gestion on Commonwealth-avenue bridge. If there were an alternative bridge when the time came to replace the present Commonwealth bridge with a larger structure, there would not be the same disruption or dislocation of traffic in time* of flood.
The Griffin plan provided for a lakes scheme for Canberra, but whether or not the original plan should be carried out has been a bone of contention for many years. The committee was surprised to find, from evidence placed before it, that the West Lake, an important part of the Burley Griffin plan, and on which much of the design was based, had been eliminated by a regulation introduced into th, Parliament without proper consideration. The committee felt that a matter of such importance, which altered the basic concept of the plan for the development of the national capital, should have been brought before the Parliament in a form which would allow of a debate on the issues involved. The committee found that there had been an inadequate study of the whole matter before the decision to eliminate West Lake was arrived at. 1 hope that in future, when matters of such importance to the development of Canberra are being considered, the Parliament will be made aware of the nature of any proposed alterations, and that ful1 reports from the National Capital Planning and Development Committee will be available. In my opinion, the original plan as envisaged by Walter Burley Griffin should be retained, because the lakes scheme formed its central theme. Other areas of Canberra have been developed in relation to that central idea, and any alteration, such as the elimination of the lakes scheme, will alter the whole concept of Canberra as a planned city.
The committee also found that another aspect of the elimination of the lake* scheme was the tendency for people who had leases over certain areas of land, such as the race-course and the golfcourse, to take advantage of the fact that the West Lake had been eliminated to urge an extension of the period for which they could use those areas. Fortunately, there are alternative sites available, in close proximity to the city area, for both a golf-course and a race-course. Indeed. an excellent golf-course is in course of preparation at Westbourne Woods. When developed, that area will provide an excellent golf links, equal to the present course, which will be largely covered with water when the lakes scheme is completed. The university authorities were somewhat worried by the fact thatthe race-course was in close proximity to university buildings. They feared that, as the city developed, there would be a tendency to hold trotting and dog races, and other activities close to the place where students and others were engaged in study and research at the university, and that they might be disturbed. For that reason, the university authoritiesjustifiably complained to the committee. Here again, a fine alternative site, suitable for the conduct of racing, has been found. It is situated along the main road to Goulburn. within 2 or 3 miles of the centre of the city. As Canberra grows, it will be a suburban race track.
The recommendations of the committee, if given effect, will mean that the people of Canberra will be treated fairly. In my opinion, the committee has come to grips with a very contentious problem -the future of the lakes scheme. It has also dealt with other important matters, such as traffic problems, water supply, and other aspects of community life in the national capital. It is my sincere wish that the recommendations of the committee will not be pigeon-holed, or that there will be delay in giving effect to them. It is the responsibility of this Parliament to see that Canberra is developed in a way worthy of the people of Australia. Those who are responsible for the planning of this city should be sure that they pass on to coming generations worthy monuments of this period, so that those who come after us will be proud of the work that we of this generation have done. I have pleasure in taking advantage of this opportunity to refer to some of the matters contained in the committee’s report. I impress on every honorable senator that he must accept some measure of responsibility for the development of the national capital. Canberra has no direct representation in the Senate, and therefore, it behoves us to take a keen interest in the future of this city.
Debate (on motion by Senator Hannaford) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator O’Byrne) proposed -
That the report of the Parliamentan Standing Committee on Public Works, relating to the proposed construction at Canberra of a new bridge over the Molonglo River to replace the existing Commonwealth-avenue bridge, presented to the Senate on the 20th April, 1955, be adopted.
Debate (on motion by SenatorCooper) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 647).
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooper) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 639).
– Variety is the spice of life! Honorable senators are back to the debate on the Supply Bill (No. 1) 1955-56. Just before the dinner adjournment we were in the middle of South Africa and in Rhodesia with Senator Aylett. WhenI realized that the debate was not being broadcast I perceived that the natives in far-off Africa would not know how he was speaking about them. The honorable senators heard a most important statement from the Government in regard to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Next came an interesting speech from Senator O’Byrne about this Australian Capital, this very expensive luxury, which is particularly famous for its situation in that the mountains around it make the approach of modern aircraft in bad weather difficult. Much has been said during the debate on the Supply Bill, and one would be unwise to try to go back over all the old ground; but to my way of thinking, and according to ray approach to this important debate, there are two aspects of it that cannot pass without a reply. I regret that honorable senators on the Opposition side who were responsible for the unfortunate misstatements to which I wish to refer are not among the two or three who are present over there at the moment. I refer particularly to Senator Benn’s scathing, inimitable, and most suitable for him, attack on ministerial visits overseas. I am pleased that Senator Benn’s leader in this house set an example on this matter, though Senator Benn did not follow it. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) declared in an earlier debate that he would not be critical of Ministers of State who visited countries overseas on public duties.
The most lowly individual in this Commonwealth must know that if Australia is to progress, and to improve its international relationships, its trade and its economic future, Minister must know Minister as between the various governments of the British Commonwealth, and, indeed of the Western World. There is not a sensible, fair-dinkum Australian who would not admit that this country gains a lot in stature and in reputation through visits overseas by the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the right honorable the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). No sum of money within reason that is expended on such trips would be a bad investment for Australia, both for the present and for the years that lie ahead. Who is small enough in mind really to mean it when he says that in these days of complex trade and customs matters, the Ministers administering these important aspects of our national life should not go abroad? Who would say that shipping and freights - I expected an interjection from Senator Ashley, but it did not come - are not matters important enough to require that the Minister in charge of them should go overseas and see comparable Ministers and heads of organizations concerned in these activities in other countries of the free world? These visits are important to our economic life. It ill becomes the Labour party or any section of it in this chamber to criticize ministerial visits overseas.
Why do honorable senators opposite not use a little bit of strategy for once and leave this job to the press? The press will do all the kicking of the Government that is needed to be done in an endeavourto belittle Parliament. It is just saucefor the newspapers to imply that it iswrong for Ministers of State to go abroad. We do not know whether or not the heads; of the press go overseas, and we do not. care, but when Ministers who are theheads of the biggest show in this countrygo abroad, they are slung-off at and cynically treated in order to lower the1 prestige of both the Government and’ of the Parliament in the eyes of, perhaps,, an. unthinking public. Why does the Labour party not leave the criticism to these experts at the game, because it is doing: itself no good. Criticism by honorable senators opposite brings me to my feet,, and I say to them, “ You were in government not many years ago. Had I been a senator then, I would have said that you should send your Ministers overseas - if they can behave themselves ! “ 1 do not wish to say any more on that subject, but honorable senators opposite will recall that some Labour Ministers - not all of them - did not do the Australian Labour party or Australia great credit when they went overseas. I will give- honorable senators opposite a tip - leave overseas trips alone.
Senator Cooke made a long, interesting speech, two aspects of which I did not; like. He criticized the Government for not going ahead with plans for a uniform railway gauge in Australia. It is a matter for debate whether the Government has been wise or not. I consider that the advances in road and air transport and the terriffic expenditure involved in the uniform rail gauge project would not warrant it being undertaken at this stage of our progress. I do not criticize Senator Cooke for expressing a different opinion, but he concluded hisremarks on this subject by saying that the idea of a uniform rail gauge is supported by all parties, and that the only reason why the Government has not pur the scheme in hand is pressure from other transport mediums. He would not saythat the Government was doing somethinghonestly and sincerely - even if wrongly - for the good of Australia. He spoke of the pressure of big business groups on the Liberal party. I find in the excellent daily Hansard publication that, in the same column the honorable senator dealt with another most important subject, shipping freights, and criticized the Australian Government for the increases of freights made by shipping companies. He said -
The present Government does not act because the shipping companies are too powerful for it to deal with.
The honorable senator’s argument is that the Liberal party is frightened of big, private enterprise. It grieves me to hear this sort of thing so often in the National Parliament. Some members of the Opposition readily adopt the habit of implying that the Liberal party Government, led by the right honorable the Prime Minister, administered by his ministerial colleagues, and supported by backbenchers here and in the other chamber, has been guilty of being bought by private enterprise. I do not believe that there is on the Opposition side one honorable senator who either likes saying that or believes that there is one jot of truth in it, because if ever a government has performed its task without political expediency, with honesty and with sincerity it is the. Government that is in office in Australia in this year of grace. I hope that we shall never become accustomed to hearing these foul insinuations of dishonesty. I can throw the charge back in the teeth of honorable senators opposite and say this : There have been no rumours of scandal in high places in Australian Government spheres since this Government has been in office, but I invite honorable senators on the Opposition side to cast their thoughts back to the years between 1946 and 1949, and remember what hit the headlines in those days in relation to New Guinea. Therefore, it ill becomes the pot to call the kettle black. Reverting now to the matter of the railway, the only reason why it is not opportune to go on with that project is that we are at present living during a period of full employment, when there are shortages of houses and shortages of industrial products that are of vital importance to our economy. “We must overcome those shortages, a.nd we must also develop our uranium deposits and, if oil is ultimately found in Aus tralia in payable quantities, we must also develop those oil resources.
One has complete freedom in a debate on Supply, and our remarks can be directed to all sorts of subjects. Nevertheless, 1 do not intend to deal with parish pump politics in this, the National Parliament. I intend to deal with the measure before us in such a way that it will be a vote of confidence in the Government so that, it can carry on until it calls the Parliament together again about next August. As we are about to provide a very large sum of money for governmental purposes, let us consider the general position in Australia to-day. At present, our defences are not all that could be desired if we should be engaged in a war, particularly an atomic war; but those defences are being developed sincerely and honestly. Ships, aircraft and weapons are being provided for the fighting services, and men are being trained in increasing numbers. National development is proceeding steadily. The Snowy Mountains scheme is now producing electric power ; and the works of the Australian Aluminium Commission will be in production shortly. In fact, throughout Australia our resources are being rapidly developed.
Our standard of living to-day is as high as, if not higher than, it has ever been. That is not due solely to the activities of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) but also to the fact that we have a good Government which in good times is doing the right thing for Australia. However, we must not fall into the error of merely praising people and sailing along regardless of events. That would be the most dangerous thing that we could do. At present, there are dangers abroad in this country. For example, there is the danger of communism. I am not one who, merely because somebody has views to the left of my own views, calls that person a Communist. I do not believe in that sort of thing at all.
It is my opinion that there are two types of Communists. One is the disgruntled, misled fellow who thinks of nothing but causing strife and trouble. He cannot make a success for himself in any avenue of life, and, so, he wants to cause trouble in the industry in which lie works, in the district in which he lives and, indeed, anywhere that he can do so. The other type of Communist is probably far more learned and better read than I am or many other honorable senators are, and he believes in Soviet communism. He wants to encourage the march of Russian communism just as Joes the rabble-rousing discontented person who is a misfit in the Australian community. Those two types are not even political brothers; but we call both of them Communists because they are doing what the Russian Communists did in the early days of the Russian revolution in order to obtain power.
In a country like Australia, it may be said that there are two or three reasons for the spread of communism. The malcontents among us increase in number through conditions of poverty, but it is well known that there is very little poverty in Australia to-day. Therefore, that fertile breeding ground of communism is not of much importance. The second breeding ground is the preaching of class hatred by those whose example the people are expected to follow. One of the greatest disservices that a public man can do to-day is to preach class hatred, because if that sort of talk falls upon the ears of a man who, perhaps, is not fully informed, or who is perhaps unhappy, that man immediately gets a feeling of dislike for his boss and any one in authority, and gradually becomes a Communist.
– Does the honorable senator remember the Sermon on the Mount and the story of the rich man being unable to pass through the eye of a needle?
– It is unnecessary to reply to Senator O’Byrne’s interjection. Rabble-rousers also breed communism. These people are job-seekers in some sphere of union activity. They are well aware that if they lose their union positions they will be unable to obtain employment elsewhere, and will end up on the unemployment benefit. Consequently, they work hard to cause strife and misunderstanding and to make themselves big fellows with those whom they mislead. We must do all that we can to overcome the effects of the action? of that type of person. Communism of any type is no good to us, or to those with whom we associate or for whom we work.
The introduction of secret ballots into trade union affairs was one of the most important weapons ever given to unionist? to help them fight communism within their ranks. The secret ballot gave the honest unionist who had a rabble-rousing Communist as secretary of his union, an opportunity to vote him out of office in secret. It is no use saying that the unionists could have voted out the Communists merely by raising their hands at union meetings, because it was not safe for them to do so. But the secret ballot has given the good and honest unionist a weapon which he has used well. It if sincerely to be hoped that the condition* which have developed in Australia to-day will not nullify the good that has been do.ne by the use of the secret ballot.
Full employment, which overcomes poverty, is also most helpful in the fight against communism. I believe that the lessening of Communist influence in Australia has had important effects. Ou economic life always improves when Communists do not continually disrupt our main industries such as the waterfront industry, the shipping industry and the transport industries. The more that we can weaken the influence of communism in Australia the more able we shall be to defend ourselves against international communism if it should adopt an aggressive attitude towards this fair land. The Australian people know exactly where the Liberal party and Australian Country party stand in respect of Communists. Soberly and sincerely, we hope to see it die out in Australia, and hope to see its international influence wane aud perish. It is time that those who are in Opposition in this Parliament re-organized their forces and showed the people that they, too, believe in the libera] ideal of fighting communism. If the Opposition should do that, then we shall be able to face communism on ar Australia-wide front.
The people should know exactly when public men stand in regard to communism. It is our parliamentary duty to be upstanding and to indicate plainly what our attitude is in this matter. When we are dealing with Supply, the members of this Parliament. particularly the back benchers, may be considered to be shareholders who, when they are sitting in the Parliament, are having a meeting with the directors of Australia. I know that the public are shareholders too, but we -represent them, and we appear before the board of directors. I think the Government realizes how popular it is at present, but it is unfortunate in not having a strong Opposition. The greatest handicap that a government can have, after being five years in office, is a bedraggled Opposition, torn asunder by its own internal strife. Unfortunately, that strife is. increasing in intensity. Even in my own State of Tasmania, where there has been political peace since the last election, coal is being heaped on the fire of discontent. I hope that the Government will heed the dangers that lie before it. I hope that Ministers will see the dangers, because I want the Liberal party and the Australian Country party to remain in office for the good of Australia. I am most sincere when I make that statement. I believe that the present Government is the right one for Australia, and I will do all I can to help it remain in office. But I remind honorable senators on both sides of this chamber that no Opposition has ever won an election. A government wins or loses an election, and if it loses it is replaced by the Opposition; but an Opposition does not win an election. I ask honorable senators to cast their minds back to the last two or three elections, and they will realize the truth of those remarks.
In the months that lie ahead, when the Parliament will be in recess, a grave responsibility will rest upon the Government. There is a lot of work still to be done in many fields. The first is the field of defence, of course, but we have had an opportunity to deal with that matter earlier in this session. Social services and taxation are other matters which must receive the closest attention in these pre-budget days. There is a splendid opportunity for Australia to forge ahead in the economic field, with thi? Government steering it. I trust that the Government will not think that, because of the Labour party’s dilemma, it will be safe without doing all that necessary work. I do not believe that the Government will think that.
One matter that has caused me concern in this debate is the mention of party funds. Every one of us knows that funds are needed to keep a political organization going. The party represented by honorable senators on this side of the chamber supports private enterprise as opposed to socialism, but why should thai party and its leaders, for that reason, be accused of being dishonest? Why should the insinuation be made, “ You do these things for the thousands of pounds that they have put into your party funds “ ? If the Liberal party did receive money from some of those private organizations, 1 should say that it would be more honest than the Labour party is with some of the people that it pretends to represent in this Parliament or in other parliaments of this country. There are many thousands of trade unionists who support the Libera] party at election time. They may call honorable senators opposite Jack, Bill, or Justin, but they do noi vote for them. What hurts those trade unionists, and what is morally wrong, if that they have to pay their union dues, knowing that some portion of those dues goes into Labour party funds. They earn their wages, they are compelled to join & union, and a shilling or more is taken out of their union fees to swell the funds of a political party whose cause they do not support. If the Labour party if going to be critical of other political organizations, and impugn their honest* in relation to party funds, then let the Labour party say to the unionists of Australia, “ If you do not want to give this donation to our party funds we do not want it, because we do not want to get into power in Canberra knowing that you, who do not support us, have been forcer! to pay to help spread our propaganda “. It is morally dishonest ; that is the kindest thing I can say of that practice. I repeat that it ill becomes Labour senators in this chamber to suggest dishonesty or malpractice in relation to party funds. If honorable senators opposite can prove that the Liberal party or any of its members have been bribed, I hope they will be upstanding and say so; but I ask them not to continue with these petty insinuations.
There is one final point that I want to make. I have referred to this matter in Tasmania, but I feel that I should refer to it again on the floor of this chamber. I feel that there should be more straightout and honest support of the Commonwealth Public Service if we feel that it is worthy of support. I may not be out of order in referring to the fact that we have passed legislation to-day to increase the salaries of public servants. That being so, we would be hypocrites if we were not prepared to support the public servants. After all, we are to some extent their masters. There is too widespread an attitude of distrust among the Australian people of the efficiency of the Public Service as a body. That feeling of distrust is encouraged by the press, I realize, but if the Government has faith in the Public Service, then it should take steps to inaugurate a public relations campaign so that the people of Australia can be told of the great responsibilities and the high efficiency of public servants. In Tasmania, in recent months, there has been what I may call a publicity campaign on behalf of the Postmaster-General’s Department. Every two or three days we read in Tasmania that a certain telephone exchange is being developed, or a rural automatic has been put into service, or a mail service is being increased. Solely because of that publicity, the public now realizes that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is developing the communications and mail facilities in Tasmania. The same kind of publicity could be given to the whole of the Public Service of Australia. After all, we employ enough journalists in the Commonwealth Public Service to conduct such a campaign. The people should be told the facts regarding the Commonwealth Public Service. I know that private enterprise would be very happy to be able to employ some of our public servants, and if they did the country would be so much worse off.
I conclude with those remarks. I have tried to be as constructive as I hope I usually am. I ask the Government to stand behind its Public Service. The taxpayers pay the salaries of public servants, and should be told what they do and what responsible jobs they carry out in Australia to-day.
– Senator Marriott has just concluded one of his usual tirades of abuse against, his political opponents. We have become accustomed to such outbursts. Very few of the points made by the honorable senator are worthy of comment. I have in mind, at the moment, the subject of civil defence, which is perhaps the most critical problem that faces the peoples of the world, including those of Australia. This Government has treated that matter in a very cavalier fashion. It should take the people into its confidence and let them know, through the various avenues of publicity, such as the press and the radio, what is happening in connexion with civil defence. If it is not prepared to do that, I suggest that it should make provision to bury the dead should this country be subjected to atomic attack, because it cannot be denied that, at the present time, civil defence measures are practically non-existent. Most of the population of Australia is congregated in the six capital cities. Six hydrogen bombs - one each on Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart - could wipe out those cities.
– Leave out Adelaide !
– I mention that matter because this is a States house, and we must speak up for the States that we represent. We must do what we can to protect the lives of the people of the States of the Commonwealth. Each one of those capital cities to which I have referred is vulnerable. Perhaps too few of the members of the Cabinet, and perhaps too few of the members of the Parliament generally, have seen a bombed city, much less experienced bombs falling on a city. Too few of them have seen the dead piled high in a bombed city. Perhaps it is a pity that they have not seen that dreadful spectacle, because I am sure that, if they had, the lesson of it would be indelibly imprinted on their minds, and they would recognise only too clearly the need for appropriate civil defence measures. I myself have experienced dozens of air raids, in London, Liverpool and Hull. I know the terror that exists amongst the civil population during an air raid.
One hydrogen bomb is equal to one hundred times the explosive force of the total weight of bombs dropped on all the cities of England during the six years of war between 1939 and 1945. To appreciate that fact is also to appreciate the devastation that could be in store for the capital cities of Australia in the future. The bombing of the main cities of Germany, including Berlin, Cologne, Bremen, and Essen, which were the targets of our bombing attacks, provided a graphic picture of what could be done. Perhaps it is necessary for us to have that picture in the back of our minds when we contemplate hydrogen bomb warfare. Professor C. F. Powell, who is a fellow of the Royal Society, and who was awarded the Nobel peace prize for physics in 1952, has said -
It appears almost certain that a welldirected bomb could cause the almost complete destruction of the fabric and the population of any city on earth, be it New York, Moscow or London.
Two bursts of a total explosive power of 40,000 tons killed 100,000 people and destroyed most of the buildings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the point that T. am making is that the hydrogen bomb of to-day is one thousand times more powerful than were the bombs which destroyed those Japanese cities.
Speaking of England, Professor Powell said -
It is a reasonable conjecture that 20 hydrogen bombs of the greatest power, equivalent to 500,000,000 tons of T.N.T., dropped on England in the time of a general war, would lead to the destruction of most of the population.
It is estimated by North Atlantic Treaty Organization experts that, in the event of a hydrogen bomb war, England would be knocked out, as an effective fighting force, in 36 hours. According to information based on reports of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, one bomb dropped on each of the six capital cities of Australia would affect an area 220 miles downwind and 40 miles wide. All of that area would be affected by contamination and radiation. The blast and the heat from a hydrogen bomb would destroy everything within a radius of ten miles from the detonation point, whilst all persons living within 140 miles of the point of detonation would be seriously threatened, unless protective measures were taken.
There is no evidence that any attempt is being made to educate the people of this country concerning the destruction that would flow from the dropping of a hydrogen bomb. During the last couple of weeks, we have had a visit by four United States aircraft that came nonstop from Japan. They covered the distance of approximately 5,000 miles without touching land, i pay a tribute to the magnificent skill of the United States aircraft designers and construction engineers, and the pilots and crews of the aircraft that made this epic and historic flight. That flight to Australia was an historic event as well as being a great achievement by the American airmen. It proved that Australia is in direct and close contact with the continent of Asia. Honorable senators should consider what would happen if the circumstances were changed, and instead of American aircraft, hostile planes from some part of the Asian continent arrived. Last January, President Eisenhower said that it was possible that parts of Asia would be selected as targets for the dropping of hydrogen bombs, if that were strategically necessary. If a hydrogen bomb war starts in Asia, that visit of the United States aircraft to Australia illustrates vividly how directly Australia will be in the firing line. It will be no longer a soldiers’ war. it will be a people’s war, women and children being brought into the front line because the whole country is within such close range of a possible hostile power.
The Government has been deservedly criticized for its lack of defence precautions, because it has been treating this matter almost with contempt. The Government must realize that when Australia becomes committed in a cold war, the nation is in for a penny and also in for a pound. Although I disagree on practically all points with the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. “Wentworth) and deplore the fact that before he raised this issue he was engaged on a publicity stunt equivalent to McCarthyism in America, which was a most negative and damaging line to follow, the fact that that honorable member has devoted his energy and his measure of ability to this important subject deserves commendation. It is regrettable that he has been treated as he has by the Government in relation to this matter, which has serious implications for every man, woman and child in the country.
Does the Government think that the small garrison, which the Government has decided within the last few weeks to send to Malaya, will be sufficient to stop enemy planes from coming here? The experimental flight of the American aircraft over the 5,000 miles of sea between Asia and Australia has demonstrated the futility of such an idea. Hostile aircraft carrying hydrogen bombs could easily by-pass such a small defence force. According to Dennis Warner, the correspondent of the Melbourne Herald, the Singapore Government has been able to exert enough influence on the Australian Government to prevent Australian troops from being sent to Singapore, and accord- ing to his report, they are to be stationed at Penang. But a token force at Penang will not be sufficient to withstand hostile aircraft. It is of no use our saying that we have such an advantage over the enemy that we can prevent his forces from coming; the visit of the American planes shows how easily it can be done.
The late Honorable A. G. Ogilvie, a former Tasmanian Premier and a man of tremendous vision, said before the last war that Australia should blacken its skies with defence aircraft and pursuit aircraft as its main method of defence. Unfortunately, his words were not heeded, but they have double significance in view of the possible threat to this country. 1 ask leave to continue my remarks at s later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate in this bill.
Senate adjourned at 9.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 June 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1955/19550602_senate_21_s5/>.