21st Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 11.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– On the 25th May, Senator Tangney asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General a question concerning children’s session broadcasts in Western Australia-. Has the Minister a reply to that question!
– I have received the following reply from the PostmasterGeneral : -
The Western Austraiian Australian Broadcasting Commission Kindergarten Advisory Committee, on which the Kindergarten Union of Western Australia is represented, was eonjilted when the local “ Kindergarten of the Air “ was replaced by the national session On tWo days ©f the week, but the union was not asked to find 4 replacement for the broadcaster who had given the local session from Perth. The local kindergarten programme had been ‘continued only after technical improvements had made it possible for Western Australia to share the national session, because of the Very high “regard in ‘which this local broadcaster was held.
It is the policy of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to Select, for its kindergarten programmes the best broadcasters to be found in Australia, arid person’s so s’elected must be not only trained kindergarteners but also in possession df the special qualities that go to make a radio personality-.. These ‘qualities ure rarely found in ‘good balance.
For the present national “ Kindergarten of the Air” two broadcasters “were selected arid appointed after exhaustive tests. The Western Australian Kindergarten Advisory Conimitt.ee was given the choice of one of these two national broadcasters-.
– I ask the. Minister for Snipping and Transport whether representations have been made to the Queensland Government urging improvements in berthing facilities at main ports along the Queensland, coast. What amount has been expended by the Gladstone Harbour Board to improve its facilities; and what has been the result?
– Oh occasions when I have visited Queensland I have taken the opportunity to direct the atten tion of the Premier of that State to the inadequacy of the berthing facilities provided at a number of Queensland ports. About two years ago, I placed my views before him in writing and suggested where improvements should be made. So far, very little has been done except at Gladstone. I am pleased to inform Senator Annabelle Rankin that the Gladstone Harbour Trust committed itself to an expenditure of £!250j000 to provide a conveyor-belt loading system to handle coal. That plant has been operating for three months, and it has meant a considerable saving in time. The conveyor belt system loads* in one and a half days, a shipment that previously took six days to load. With a modern ship, the found trip from Gladstone to Melbourne can be Completed in a fortnight. Previously it took three weeks; This has resulted in a substantial reduction in the freight “rates for coal from Gladstone to Melbourne. The Victorian company has placed an. order with the Callide colliery for 300,000 tons of coal, with the right to take 300,000 tons more over a period of two years-. Under the old contract, the Government was paying a subsidy which ranged from £1 5s. to £1 IDs. a ton-, but the colliery was successful in getting that tender without a subsidy. I hope that Australian port authorities will appreciate the fact that it Ls essential to have uptodate berthing facilities and equipment on the wharfs to give the best service to those who transport their goods by ship;
– I am sorry that I am not in a position to give the Leader of the Opposition any information at present, but I shall have inquiries made and acquaint him of the position as soon as possible.
– On the 25th May, Senator Seward asked me a question concerning telephone services at Albany. I have now received the following reply from the Postmaster-General: -
The Postmaster-General’s Department appreciates the importance of Albany and proposes to install a modern central battery exchange with all operating aids essential to ensure a first class service on both local and trunkline calls. As automatic equipment is not available in sufficient quantities to provide for ill country towns, it must necessarily be allocated at present to meet development in existing automatic areas, and for installation where other types of equipment are unsuitable.
– Yesterday, Senator Henty asked me a question about a statement made by the Minister for Health in Tasmania, Dr. Turnbull, that the Australian Government proposed to build a tuberculosis ward at the Repatriation General Hospital, Hobart. I replied then that I was not aware of any such proposal. In the meantime, I have had the report fully investigated, and as a result I am at a loss to understand Dr. Turnbull’s criticism, because there has never been any proposal to build a tuberculosis ward at that hospital, and no plans for such a building have been prepared, [t is true that plans have been prepared for necessary extensions to wards in the hospital, and I hope that that work will be proceeded with as quickly as possible. The report that a new tuberculosis ward is to be built is entirely without foundation.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General say w-hat authority approves the design of new postage stamps in Australia? Will he indicate to such authority that there is a body of opinion in South Australia that deplores the fact that many recent stamp designs are without the engraving of the head of Her Majesty the Queen thereon ?
– I am not able to “ give to the honorable senator the information he seeks, but I shall ask the PostmasterGeneral to provide a detailed answer to the honorable senator’s que? tion.
– On the 25th May.. Senator Vincent asked a question relating to the broadcasting of the children’s session in Western Australia. I have now received from the Postmaster-General th following reply to the honorable senator’^ question : -
The Australian Broadcasting Commission has received some protests from children in Western Australia about the change to the national children’s session. Some of these protests criticized the national session before it had been broadcast in Perth.
On the other hand, an independent organiza tion has just made available the results of a listener research survey undertaken in Perth in March and April, 1955, before the national session was broadcast there, and although these researches are bought by the Australian Broadcasting Commission on the understanding that figures shall not be disclosed it is possible to say that the percentage of audience for the local children’s session was not only small but had in fact decreased, in some cases considerably since the previous survey was made some time ago. At certain times on certain nights the audience was stated to be halved.
The national children’s session has for some time been showing a rapid increase in popularity in the other States and there is every reason to feel that when Western Australian children have had an opportunity to share in this programme they will find it as enjoyable as do other Australian children.
– On the 31st May, Senator Paltridge asked a question concerning broadcasting facilities in Western Australia and the possibility of improving reception in north-western areas. I have now received the following reply from the Postmaster-General : -
The objective in the provision of service from the national broadcasting stations is to provide, as far as possible, satisfactory day and night reception of at least one medium-frequency station for listeners throughout the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, this objective cannot be met for the north-western portion of Western Australia because the provision of the requisite number of stations to serve such a sparsely populated area would be quite impracticable on economic and technical grounds.
With the aim of improving service to the urea, I have approved plans, prepared by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which provide, inter alia, for the power of stations !iWA Wagin and 6WF Perth to be increased in power to 50,000 watts. Although this increase will not improve the daytime reception to the distant areas, greatly improved reception during the night listening hours will he effected when the power increase takes place. An order has now been placed for the first of the two transmitters concerned and this will he installed at 6WA Wagin.
The only practicable way to provide day and night time broadcasting service to the areas remote from the populated centres is by the use of the high frequencies (short waves), and for the specific purpose of providing service for the north-western portion of Western Australia, two high-frequency stations are provided in Perth, namely VLX and VLW. These two stations operate on different frequency channels, with the aim of providing coverage over the largest possible area, but because of the characteristics of such short waves in covering large distances they arc subject to interference from stations operating in other countries.
The problem of interference in short-wave services by overseas stations is of an international character and presents serious technical problems. On the one hand, and particularly in Asia, the number of stations using short wave is increasing rapidly, but, on the other hand, the number of frequency channels available is fixed. Asian stations can be received in Australia on short waves, and as more stations come into service, interference becomes more pronounced. The planning of shortwave services, with a view to reduction of such interference, is at present being attempted by an international body in Geneva, namely, die International Frequency Registration Board, and it is hoped that when that work is completed a more orderly use of the limited number of frequency channels will be achieved, with reduction of interference to local services.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– My colleague,’ the Minister for External Affairs, has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The following answers are supplied to the honorable senator: -
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McLEAY) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of the bill is to authorize the Australian Meat Board to mate payments to exporters against meat delivered into cold store and subsequently exported to the United Kingdom. The board will be authorized to anticipate the receipt of moneys which are expected to become due to Australia from the United Kingdom Government in respect of the minimum price guarantees in the fifteenyear meat agreement. For the information of honorable senators, I will briefly traverse the facts relating to the meat agreement.
The fifteen-year meat agreement was signed by representatives of the United Kingdom and Australian Governments on the 11th October, 1951. However, the history of the negotiation of the agreement, goes back a long time before that. An understanding wa.s reached with the United Kingdom Government, during the period in office of the Chifley Govern ment, that there should be a fifteen-year agreement for the sale of meat by Australia to the United Kingdom, but no substantial progress or commitment in the development of an agreement had been made when the present Government came into office.
During the period of approximately two years between the time this Government came into office and the signing of the agreement, Australian live-stock and meat interests, through their representatives on the Australian Meat Board, were brought into consultation at all stages of the negotiations. On two occasions delegations from the board visited London and took a direct part in these negotiations. During this period the members of the board, who in all cases represented interested parties, either producers or exporting processors, were free to, and were in fact expected to consult their organizations on the principles involved. Finally, the Australian Meat Board, by a substantial majority, approved the provisions of the agreement before it was signed.
The fifteen-year meat agreement provided that when the parties to the agreement decided to revert to normal tradertotrader selling - which occurred last year - then, if the average prices obtained over each year for beef, lamb or mutton separately were higher than the schedules of minimum prices provided under the agreement, Australian producers were to get the benefit of such higher prices. However, if average market prices over the year were lower than the scheduled minimum prices, then the deficiency was to be made up by way of a lump-sum payment by the United Kingdom Government. Beef, lamb and mutton are each treated separately, so that if, for example, average lamb prices for a year are above the minimum schedule whilst average beef prices are below the minimum schedule, the beef deficiency payment will not be offset by the higher lamb prices.
The United Kingdom and Australian Governments decided in March, 1954, after consultations in which the chairman and the producers’ and processors’ representatives on the Australian Meat
Board took a direct part, to cease governmenttogovernment trading in mutton And lamb as from the 30th June, 1954, and in beef as from the 30th September, 1954. At the same time a schedule of minimum prices for the year 1954-55 was negotiated by the board’s representatives with the United Kingdom Ministry of Food. These minimum prices were considered by the board’s representatives to include a reasonable but not excessive margin of profit for producers.
Since reverting to a trader-to-trader basis the price of frozen beef on the United Kingdom market has fallen considerably, and it is now below the minimum price for beef set in the schedule. This fall has been due to a variety of factors, the major one apparently being the greatly increased quantities of meat available in the United Kingdom in the form of accumulated Ministry of Food stocks, high United Kingdom production of beef and pork, and increased quantities of imported chilled beef. The declared intention of both parties to the agreement in such circumstances was that special provisions would be made to ensure that a satisfactory part of the combination of sale price and deficiency payment reaches the producers of the live-stock. It will be appreciated that the precise calculation of a deficiency payment likely to be due from the United Kingdom Government cannot be made until after the end of each year, because of the averaging provisions over the full year.
The most difficult, and possibly controversial, aspect flowing from thi3 deficiency payment provision is the question of how the payments can be got back to the producers, in the circumstances that the precise entitlement is not going to be known with certainty until months after much of the meat has been shipped. This bill is primarily to establish the basis for this disbursement. In case any one should feel that “by authorizing these deficiency payments the Government is unjustifiably or artificially raising the price of meat to the local consumer, let me remind honorable senators that the payments are made only in circumstances “in which the value for export would otherwise be at levels judged to be unprofitable.
No payments will be made to exporters while export values are at profitable levels, and therefore, in those circumstances local consumption prices will find their floor, as- they always do at export parity. The arrangement embodied in this legislation provides an equitable method of getting back to primary producers the actual money received from the United Kingdom as deficiency payment, and also multiplies the advantage of this to the producers by the sympathetic stabilizing effect on fat stock for local consumption and the whole store stock market.
The finance provided to cover the payments authorized by the bill will not be a charge against the taxpayer. In the first instance, it will be provided by the Commonwealth Bank by means of a Commonwealth Government guaranteed overdraft to the Australian Meat Board. This guaranteed overdraft will later be discharged by the deficiency payments made to Australia by the United Kingdom Government. In the event of the board recommending a rate of deficiency payment which, in total amount at the end of the year, exceeds the amount of money received from the United Kingdom Government, a levy on exports will be imposed to balance the ledger. Any such levy may be spread over a period of about one year, unless special circumstance; dictate a longer period.
Authority to impose such a levy will be sought in a complementary bill, and the operation of this bill, if approved by the Parliament, is conditional upon Parliament’s approval also of the complementary bill. This system of balancing the ledger, if that should prove necessary, has been recommended to the Government by the Australian Meat Board, on the clear understanding that the Government would not itself assume liability if payments by the board should exceed the amount ultimately received from the United Kingdom Government. The board suggested that the Government might assume liability for any failure of United Kingdom deficiency payments to us liquidating the board’s overdraft on this account. The Government has, however, made it clear at all relevant times that it would not involve the taxpayer in any liability in this connexion.
The provisions of the bill would permit the board in its discretion to draw upon accumulated funds held by the board from profits made for the purpose of adjusting any over - expenditure on deficiency payments to exporters. This could be alternative to, or supplementary to, the levy to which I have referred.
The bill also provides that, consequent upon the Government guaranteeing the board’s overdraft for the deficiency payment purposes, the accumulated profits of the board shall be available against the Governments guarantee. This is considered to be a proper protection to be taken, in all the circumstances, of the general public interest. It is the opinion of the Australian Meat Board that competition between meatworks and meat operators at public utilities will ensure that they will pass on the benefit of the deficiency payment in the prices they pay for live-stock, whether purchased at auction or by private treaty.
A safeguard has been incorporated in clause 8 of the bill, providing for the suspension of deficiency payments where the Minister, after examining all evidence available, is not satisfied that the prices being paid by meat exporters to producers are. such as to pass on, in an equitable manner, the full benefit of the deficiency payments. For the present, no deficiency payments will be made on exports of lamb and mutton, because prices received in the United Kingdom for these two classes of meat do not warrant payments. I say this, notwithstanding that the end of the year could show that we are entitled to some small deficiency payment on account of mutton. In the case of beef, it is the intention of the Government to accept a recommendation from the board that a payment of 1-Jd. per lb. he paid on appropriate grades of beef delivered into cold store for export to the United Kingdom between the 1st May and the 31st July, 1955. The board will review the rate of payment for August and September in June and July, respectively.
In the event of circumstances arising similar to those now in existence in the beef industry, this bill provides the necessary machinery for action to be taken bv the Australian Meat Board to make deficiency payments on the export of mutton or lamb to the United Kingdom. It is valuable to find that the provisions of the long-term meat agreement enable arrangements to be made which provide a stabilizing factor to support the Australian live-stock industries.
If the legislation is approved by the Parliament, the beef industry will benefit directly by approximately £700,000 in the first three months of the operation of the plan. Assuming that a deficiency payment is made, and that there is no alteration in the rate during the balance of this “ meat “ year - that is up to the end of September - a further £350,000, making a total of over £1,000,000 up to the end of the current year, will be disbursed. I commend this bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McLeay) read a first -time.
Senator McLEAY (South Australia -
Minister for Shipping and Transport) [12.7].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the imposition of a levy on the export of meat to the United Kingdom in the event of deficiency payments made by the Australian Meat Board under the Meat Agreement (Deficiency Payments) Bill exceeding the moneys received from the United Kingdom Government under the fifteen-year meat agreement. The relationship of the levy to the deficiency payments plan was covered in my secondreading speech on the other bill.
The bill limits the rate of levy to a level sufficient to cover the amount which will be required to liquidate the overexpenditure within one year of the end of the meat year in respect of which the overexpenditure occurred, unless some set of special circumstances arises. If this should happen, discretionary power is given in the bill to the Minister to extend the period over which the repayment may be spread. I recommend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House ofRepresentatives.
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.
This bill, which amends the Judiciary Act, will, by leave of the Senate, be debated in conjunction with the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Bill because the amendments apply partly to that act also. For the information of honorable senators I point out that there are three ways by which a case reaches the High Court of Australia in its appellate jurisdiction. One is an appeal as of right where no leave or special leave is required. The second is the case where there is an appeal to the High Court by leave, and the third is the case in which there may be an appeal to the High Court by special leave. Special leave is reserved for those cases in which some point of law of novelty, or of extraordinary importance, falls to be determined. The appeal by leave, not special leave, is frequently asked for in a case where a Full Court, for example, of the Supreme Court of a State, may have directed a new trial of a matter and, that falling within what is known as an “ interlocutory order “ in its effect, no appeal may be taken to the High Court except by leave. There is a great difference between leave and special leave, because in special leave matters of genuine legal importance must emerge.
For many years the position in relation to appeals as of right, that is the first of those three classes of appeals under the Judiciary Act to which I have already referred, has been that there may be an appeal as of right from every final judgment of a Supreme Court which is in respect of any sum or matter amounting to £300; involves any claim to any property or civil right amounting to £300; or affects the status of any person under the laws relating to aliens, marriage, divorce, bankruptcy or insolvency.
The attention of honorable senators is directed to the fact that the amount of £300 has not been altered since 1903 and. consequently, an appeal as of right in respect of an amount thought proper in 1903 is now a little outdated. The tendency in these days is to clutter up the High Court lists with a number of cases that, in reality, ought not to go there. The High Court is the highest court of the realm and ought to direct its attention to matters of the greatest importance. Therefore, the effect of this bill is to propose that, having regard to modern circumstances, the amount shall be increased from £300 to £1,500. I might mention that it has been suggested in some quarters that it ought to be £2,000, but it is considered that the amount of £1,500 is not an unreasonable one. I hasten to point out that this does not mean that, if the amount involved is less than £1,500, there can be no appeal to the High Court. All that it means is that there will be no appeal as of right. It is still open to the High Court to grant leave, or special leave, in appropriate cases. I should not imagine that there would be much argument about that amendment, which also has a bearing on the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act.
The third class of case in which there might be an appeal as of right relates, as I have mentioned, to judgments affecting the status of any person under the laws relating to aliens, marriage, divorce, bankruptcy or insolvency. An appeal of right in the case of aliens is a dead letter. So far as bankruptcy and insolvency are concerned, the present position is that the bankruptcy law now provides a means of appeal to the High Court thai is rather more satisfactory than the provision in the Judiciary Act. That leaves only the case of marriage and divorce. A fair number of divorce suits reach the High Court from the Supreme Courts of the States. They often present no legal novelty, but a considerable amount of time is taken up by the High Court in reading evidence and hearing argument on matters on which there is no real problem of law. The bill as drafted eliminates an appeal as of right in this third class of matters, but, owing to questions that have been raised by honorable senators who are members of the legal profession and also by members of the legal profession in another place, the Government has decided to give further consideration to the elimination of this third class of appeals as of right.
An amendment to the bill will, therefore, be moved at a later stage, the effect of which will be that the only alteration to the Judiciary Act to be madeby the bill will be to increase the amount of £300 referred to in section 35 of the act to £1, 500. I commend this bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Billreceived from the House of Representatives.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan) read a first time.
. -I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
A sI indicated in my speech on a previous measure, I ask honorable senators toregard my remarks then as applicable to this bill. As Leader of the Senate, I ask that thetwo measures be debated together.
Debate(onmotion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received fromthe House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (onmotion by Senator O’SULLIVAN) reada first time.
– -I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide for the acceptance of the Cocos or Keeling: Islands in the Indian Ocean as a Territory under the authority of the Commonwealth, and to provide for the government of that Territory.
The first legislative step in connexion with the transfer of these islands to Australia was taken in November, 1954, when the Parliament passed the Cocos (Keeling) Islands (Request and Consent) Act 1954. By that act, Parliament requested, and consented to, the enactment by the United Kingdom Parliament of an act enabling the Queen to place the Cocos or Keeling Islands under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia and making provision for matters incidental to the placing of those islands under that authority.
When the bill for that act was before the Senate on the 10th November, 1954, the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) informed honorable senators of the discussions which had taken place with the United Kingdom Government and the Singapore Government with aview to the transfer of the islands to Australia. The Attorney-General also gave the reasons why the Australian Government thought that Australia, as the Government controlling the airstrip, should also administer the islands. The Senate was informed that when the bill had been approvedby the Parliament, the United Kingdom Government would introduce a bill into the United Kingdom Parliament for the purpose of transferring authority over Cocos Islands to the Commonwealth of Australia, and that when that action had been completed, another bill would be brought before theAustralian Parliament to provide for the acceptance of the transfer, and for the future administration of the islands.
That bill having been passed bythe Parliament,there isno need to go over thesameground again or toenter on any of the matters on which adecision has already been made. Since November, the United Kingdom Parliament has passed tin act entitled the Cocos Islands Act 1955, which provides that Her Majesty may, by order in council, direct that the Cocos or Keeling Islands shall, on such date as may be specified in the order, cease to form part of the Colony of -Singapore and be placed under the authority of the Commonwealth. The next -legislative step is with this Parliament, and is being taken in the bill now before the Senate. The passing of this bill will leave the way clear for the United Kingdom Government to seek Her Majesty’s approval to an order in council in terms of the Cocos Islands Act 1955 of the United Kingdom. After the making of the order in council, the Australian Government will take over the administration of the islands.
I propose now to outline briefly the main provisions of the bill. Part I. provides that the act shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation. This date will be the date to be specified in the order in council to be made in terms pf the United Kingdom Act as the date on which the Cocos Islands will cease to be a United Kingdom possession and will be placed under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Part II. provides for the Cocos or Heeling Islands to be accepted by Australia as a territory under the authority of the Commonwealth, and to be known as the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Provision is also made in this part for the transfer to Australia, subject to certain specified exceptions, of the property, rights and liabilities of the United Kingdom and the Colony of Singapore, in and in respect of the islands, and for the exercise by the GovernorGeneral, on behalf of the Queen, of rights and powers vested in the Queen under the Indenture of 1886 granted by Queen Victoria, through the Governor of the Straits Settlements to George Clunies Ross. Subject to conditions allowing Her Majesty to resume land in the public interest, providing for the establishment -of a telegraph station, and preventing alienation of land to other persons without the assent of the Crown, that indenture granted the land of the islands to ^George Clunies Ross and his heirs to hold in perpetuity. In this regard, the United Kingdom Government has been assured that the legitimate interests of the Clunies Ross family will not be prejudiced in the transfer of sovereignty to Australia. The rights of the Clunies Ross family will remain unaltered. The solicitors to the family have been kept in touch with the position, and they will continue to be informed of developments.
Part III. deals with legislation for the Territory. It is proposed to continue in force, subject to the act and to any other Commonwealth act3 which will extend to the Territory of their own force, or which may be extended, the existing body of Singapore laws in force in the islands at the time of transfer. Specific provision is made in clause 18 for the continuation of the Malay institutions, customs and usages which govern the daily life of the islanders. These provisions will avoid any disruption which might arise if there had been an application of a completely new body of laws and customs. Powers and functions conferred by any of the laws continued in force on the Governor of the Colony of Singapore, will, in future, be exercised by the Australian Minister of State administering the act: those conferred on the Governor in Council will be exercised by the GovernorGeneral; those conferred on any other person or authority will be exercised by such person or authority as the Minister may direct. The Minister may delegate his powers and functions to a specified person or authority. Provision is made for the Governor-General to make ordinances for the peace, order and good government of the Territory; and any law continued in force may be amended or repealed by an ordinance so made. Experience will show the extent to which this may be necessary. Ordinances made by the Governor-General will be subject to disallowance, in whole or in part, by Parliament.
Provision is made in this part also for the application of the Post and Telegraph Acts to the Territory, and for the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) to be responsible for necessary overseas telecommunication services.
Part IV. of the bill provides for the application of Australian citizenship to residents of the islands, just as residents of Papua are Australian citizens. Under this provision, a person (not being an Australian citizen) who, immediately before the date of commencement of the act, was a British subject ordinarily resident in the islands, may make a declaration, in the prescribed manner and within the prescribed time, that he wishes to become an Australian citizen, and upon registration of that declaration, as prescribed, he shall be deemed to have become an Australian citizen upon the date of commencement of the act. For the purpose of this provision, the phrase “ordinarily resident” means that the person, at the particular date, had his home in the islands, or, if he should be temporarily absent, the islands were the place of his permanent abode. Persons resident in the islands for a special or temporary purpose only are excluded. This provision has been included to meet h condition proposed by the United Kingdom that the residents of the islands mould be given the opportunity to become Australian citizens. There are a little more than 300 residents of the islands *o whom this provision would apply.
In Part V. of the bill, provision is made for the Governor-General to have the power to grant pardon, remission or respite of sentence to offenders convicted by a court exercising criminal jurisdiction in the Territory, and to remit fines, penalties or forfeitures imposed or incurred under the laws inforce in the Territory.
It will be seen that this bill seeks to make the transfer of the Territory to Australia from the United Kingdom with the least possible disturbance of any existing rights, and with full respect for the existing customs and institutions of the islands. It may also be emphasized, if such emphasis were at all needed, that this transfer has been brought about by a process of frank and friendly negotiation with all interests concerned, and as a result of agreement among them, and that it pays careful regard to the future wellbeing of the small population resident on the islands.
As I have already indicated, this bill it a necessary preliminary to the order in council whereby the actual transfer of the islands to Australia will be made. Honorable senators are well aware of the strategic importance of the islands to Australia, and of the heavy commitment which Australia has assumed in the reconstruction and operation of the airfield there. In commending the bill to honorable senators, I am confident thai it will have their full support.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.28 to 2JB0 p.m
Debate resumed from the 8th June (vide page 734), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– -Th,measure before the Senate deals with th, question of parliamentary retiring allowances. The principle contained in the bill was introduced into the Parliament in 1948, some seven years ago, and has noi since been revised, except in a relatively minor particular. The principle of parliamentary retiring allowances is now so well established in Australia that ] do not have to address any argument to the Senate on the propriety of such allowances or pensions. Some quite substantial changes are made by the bill that is now presented to the Senate. Th< first is that the contribution to be mad* by parliamentarians is to be raised from £3 a week to £4 10s. The basic pension to a member is to be raised proportionately, by 50 per cent., from £8 a week to £12. The benefit to a widow of a member who is qualified will be £10 a week instead of £5 a week as hitherto. That alteration is probably the feature of the bill that appeals most to everybody in the Parliament. It touches an aspect of life that is particularly dear to th, heart of every one. Every decent individual regards some security for a widow as a vital matter of great consequence to each one of us. The fourth provision if to increase the pension for a retired member from £12 a week to £15 after he reaches the age of 65.
The final matter in the bill relates to a new basis of entitlement to pensions. Hitherto the minimum requirement was that a member should serve for at least eight years in order to become eligible for the pension. Clause 6 of the bill addresses itself to that question. While the eight years’ qualification is preserved, there are some alternatives included in the measure. One of those alternatives is that the member should have on at least three occasions ceased to be a member. That particular provision is subdivided into two elements, the first of which is that the member ceases to be a member by reason of the dissolution or expiration of the House of which he was a member. The second is that he ceases to be a member by reason of the expiration of his term of office. In relation to the provision that he ceases to be a member by reason of the dissolution or the expiration of the House of which he was a member, the definition of “ House “ in the principal act indicates that that word in that context refers to either the House of Representatives or the Senate. By making a practical application of the terms of the bill and applying the word ‘ dissolution “ or “ expiration “ to the Senate, one must concede that except in extraordinary circumstances the life of the Senate does not expire. The only circumstance in which the Senate is dissolved or its life expires is in the extraordinary circumstance contemplated in section 57 of the Constitution, which provides for a double dissolution. In the period of federation to date there have been only two occasions on which the provisions of that section have been invoked. The dissolution of this chamber by the operation of section 57 of the Constitution can be accepted as an event of great rarity.
– It is very remote.
– Very remote indeed; and I imagine that, as the years go by, the Parliament will get less enthusiastic about the opportunity offered by section 57. It will be seen that the provision in the bill to which I have been referring has no practical application to the Senate and that its applicability itrestricted to members of the House of Representatives. The second element of the provision is that a member ceases to be a member by reason of the expiration of his term of office. Let us look at the Senate position again. In normal circumstances a senator’s term of office does not expire until the end of a period of sis years. So, a senator in order to qualify by compliance with that particular provision of the bill, if he is to cease to be a member on three occasions by reason of the expiration of his term of office, would really have to be in the Senate foi a period of eighteen years. For the purpose of this argument I am discarding the rare case of casual vacancies, which would be filled for a period shorter than threeyears. Happily that, too, is a rare event. The second element of the new provision of the bill has no application to senators except after a term of service of eighteen years. Let us look at the House of Representatives again. We find that the new provision has very much greater significance there.
When the number of members in both chambers was increased in 1949, man, new members came into the Parliament for the first time. Those who entered th, House of Representatives in that yea] completed one term between 1949 and 1951. They completed a second term between 1951 and 1954. They are now embarked upon a third term, beginning in 1954 and concluding it may be thi* year, next year, or the year after; but the fact remains that a member of the House of Representatives who entered that chamber in 1949, at this minute haiearned entitlement. It is quite certain that his third term will expire, either b) his own death, when his widow will become entitled, or by the expiration of the life of the House of Representatives. L is safe to say that every member of the House of Representatives who entered th, Parliament for the first time in 1949 isnow qualified for pension, subject, of course, to the requirement about age 45 Now, let us look at the position in the Senate. Here it is entirely different. Nol one person who came into the Senate foi the first time in 1949 has qualified. The minimum applicable to any senator who came in here in 1949 is that he must serve a period of eight years.
– That is not quite right. Some of us have had three elections.
– Who came in in 1949?
– Who came in for a short term. I follow. Let me put it more accurately, on this basis: There are senators who came into the Parliament in 1949 who will not qualify until they serve eight years. I am not in a position to indicate to just how many senators that applies, but I know that it applies to some. The conclusion that one can draw from this situation is that under this bill there is a differentiation in the treatment of members of the House of Representatives and members of the Senate. We, on this side of the chamber, regret that under this bill the Government has allowed that position to develop. We feel that the test ought to be length of service and that that principle ought to underlie entitlement to pensions. We r)a:-m that if that principle is the oneto be applied, and it entitles members of the House of Representatives, exactly similar conditions should be applicable to senators. The Opposition commends that thought to the Minister. We realize that we are now in the closing stages of this sessional period, and we should like to be assured by the Government that this matter, to which sufficient attention has not been paid, will be fully and sympathetically investigated.
The very big question of the relative rights of members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives is involved in this issue, and I expect that the gentlemen who represent the Government in the Senate will consider that they are under a duty to press that viewpoint. I do not propose an amendment, which might be placed on the basis of entitlement upon the determination of the House of Representatives on three occasions, and that that provision should be the basis of entitlement not only for members of the House of Representatives, but also for senators, but on behalf of the Opposition I must say that we should like to have from the Government an assurance that the Government has not set. its face completely against such a proposal. I ask for an assurance that the Government will investigate the matter during the impending recess, and that if it finds the position to be that senators are treated on quite a different basis from members of the House of Representativeswith exactly similar service, the Government will take steps to adjust that anomaly.
It is true that members of the Houseof Representatives have been in personal’ jeopardy perhaps more often than senators, but I think that that is a relatively minor consideration, and that the proper basis on which to approach this matter should be the length of service in theParliament. There should be no differentiation between members of the Houseof Representatives and senators at all. With those comments I record the fact that the Opposition supports the measure-
– I rise to express my sincere regret that we have before us this amending measure in the form in which it appears. I am of opinion that the bil! should not have been brought before theParliament at thi3 time, because such an. action involves a matter of principle. When retiring allowances for members of the Parliament were instituted in 1948, the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act made it mandatory that periodical actuarial investigations should be madeSection 12 (1.) of that act reads -
An investigation as to the state and sufficiency of the FUnd shall be made as at thethirtieth day of June immediately following theexpiration of seven years after the commencement of this Act, and thereafter at intervalsof not more than seven years.
I presume that, in approving that provision, the Parliament in its wisdom said, in effect, “ This scheme is somethingnew. We do not know if it will be a paying proposition. We do not know whether it will be fair to the contributors to the scheme, but we shall give it a sevenyears’ trial and then have a report made tothe Parliament “. It would be presumed’ that, upon receipt of that report, the trustees of the fund would say to theParliament, or the Government, “ Thi* is the position. We recommend that such and such provisions should be altered “. That is, that they be made more generous or more, harsh according to the result of the investigation that had been made. But now we are trying to make increased benefits available before the trustees have met and considered whether the fund can stand these increased benefits. We are saying to the trustees, in effect, “ We have taken certain action. Let us know in a couple of months’ time whether you think that our action is correct”.
I suggest that the Parliament would have been far more correct, and would have been paying more attention to its own legislation if it had delayed the passage of this message until the trustees had met and reported upon the position of the fund. Therefore, I oppose this bill. I believe that, by passing this amending legislation, we shall harm ourselves rather than help ourselves. I am not an actuary, of course, but I believe that if we were to wait for a while, the trustees would be able to put before us a much fairer proposition, and in the long run we should probably benefit more than we shall under this measure.
The point that escapes the notice of many people is that although the parliamentary salaries of those of us who have no income other than our parliamentary salary, is not to be increased, nevertheless, we are to be asked to pay an additional £75 a year out of that salary. We are to be asked to do that at a time when I am of the opinion that no level-headed member of the Australian Parliament would say that his salary is sufficient to enable him properly to maintain his position as a member of the Parliament. We should have thought that our salaries would have been reviewed. I am quite frank about this matter, and I say that [ believe that our salaries are not sufficient when looked at from the viewpoint of a man who has no income other than his salary from the Parliament. If the people desire to have only those men in the Parliament who have professions, businesses, properties or large capital assets, then the salaries may be kept low. But, if the people desire that the employees of Australia should be represented in the Parliament, and I hope that the Liberal party always will adopt that outlook, then we must provide a salary sufficient for a member to do this work in a proper manner.
We cannot take part-time jobs with private employers, because we should not have sufficient time to devote to that work and no employer would pay us to work for him. That is another reason for my opposition to the measure. I am- being forced to agree to give £75 a year out of my salary, which I consider is not sufficient for a member of the Parliament. What a hypocrite I should be to agree to this measure, and then to support, probably next sessional period, a proposal for an increase of salary !
I do not oppose the provision of retiring allowances for members of the Parliament ; I whole-heartedly support it. However, soon after being elected to the Senate, I was amazed to discover that sarcastic references were made by the public, led on by the press, about the wealthy fund from which members of the Australian Parliament drew their retiring allowances. According to those people money seemed to fall like manna from Heaven on to the shoulders of members of the House of Representatives and senators. Accordingly, I interviewed the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and he gave me a layman’s version of the operations of the fund and all the figures connected with it. I then wrote an article which later appeared in the Launceston Examiner. Although I wrote the article, the editor of the Examiner gave it its caption, which was, “ Federal M.P.’s certainly earn their retiring allowances “. I brought out quite clearly in that article the provisions of the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act which, as most honorable senators know, do not make it easy for a defeated member of the Parliament to draw a pension. For example, a defeated member or senator has to be 45 years of age, be must have had eight years’ service in the Parliament and he cannot be employed by the Crown. In regard to the last provision, I remind the Senate that one out of every four employees in Australia is employed by the Crown. Therefore, it is not very easy for a younger man to draw a pension after he has been defeated. Consequently, T have always supported the principle of retiring allowances.
It may be feared in some quarters that a discussion of increased salaries for members and senators will be ridiculed by the people, but recently I was at a Liberal party convention in Hobart, and a motion was moved condemning an increase of the salaries of members of the Tasmanian Parliament. The motion was moved and seconded, and there were five speakers, all of whom condemned the motion. Those people took the attitude that if we desired to have good representatives in the Parliament, we should pay good salaries. I do not think that the Government would lose anything by increasing members’ salaries in this session.
If this amending legislation is passed, the scheme will be weighted in favour of older members, and members with private means or other income, because to those members the £234 a year that they will pay is chicken feed, although it is real money to the younger men. The provisions in this bill will weight the scheme against the younger men in another respect, because they cannot receive benefits from it until they are 45 years of age. There are members in another place who are as young as 32 years of age, and if they were defeated at the end of the period of eight years they would still have to wait until they were 45 before drawing the allowance. “What are they expected to live on in the meantime? I believe that the trustees, after seven years’ experience of this scheme, should have deleted that provision. “When a young man enters this Parliament he has to forego any other -job that he may have, and when the people kick him out before he is 45 years of age the Parliament will wy to him, “ “We have nothing for you until you reach the age of 45 years “. That member should receive benefits from the day that he is defeated, and I believe that if the trustees were given the opportunity to do so they would see reason and grant the benefit as soon as the member was defeated.
I have a further criticism to make of his fund. This matter affects young men who may have a fairly long term in the Federal Parliament. One could serve for twenty years in this House, and would then have paid £4,680 into the fund. The Commonwealth contribution at that stage would be a little over £7,000, making a total of £11,700 if a member wanted a bulk payment. But if the member died while he was a member, and if he was a bachelor or his wife had predeceased him. . his estate would not receive one penny. The £4,680 cash that had been paid would be retained in the fund and the members” estate would get nothing. In every other superannuation scheme that I know ofand surely this is a superannuation scheme - if such a thing happened the estate would receive the contributions paid by the person concerned, although it would not receive the Government contribution. That is another aspect that th,trustees should consider. If a man remains in Parliament for a long time, and continues to pay £234 a year into thi? fund, he is making one of the worst investments possible. I could get far better benefits from an insurance policy with a premium of £234 a year than from the fund if I remained in Parliament for a long time.
These are points which I believe we should carefully consider before passing this legislation. The trustees should begiven the reports of this debate and of the debate in another place. They would then be in a far better position to consider the views of members of this Parliament, and when the statute requires them to examine the scheme they would bt able to recommend to the Parliament fr and proper amending legislation. ] think that the trustees should consider the position of widows who may be members of this Parliament, of spinsters and bachelors, and of married members whose wives predecease them, and they should ensure that a member’s estate receives some benefit if the member dies while serving in the Parliament.
– I wish to join in this debate al the second-reading stage, because I oppose this bill, but for reasons which in somrespects are quite different from those of my colleague, Senator Marriott, to whom I have listened with interest. First ] want to re-affirm the argument of Senator Marriott with reference to the provision in the original scheme requiring an investigation every seven years by the actuary, and requiring the actuary’s report to be laid upon the table of each House of Parliament. It is important that after the actuary has made his investigation a copy of his report is available for the consideration of every member of Parliament. This legislation shortens that seven-year period by a year or fifteen months, and I have not heard any reasons advanced why it is necessary to abridge the period that was originally laid down as a proper time for experi ment.
Secondly, we are at the marked disadvantage of having no actuary’s report to guide us. Any one with experience of superannuation funds, whether in a government service or in private enterprise, will rue the day that he interferes without proper advice in such a complicated matter as a superannuation fund. [ confess myself completely incapable of forming a conclusion that satisfies my mind, without the advantage of an actuary’s report. We may be doing untold damage to the fund by including this provision, which is in the nature of an inroad on the fund, without satisfactory actuarial advice. It is true that the Minister has been good enough to give us some information which has been provided by the actuary, but it is also true that that information did not include advice as to the likely incidence of contributors surviving three risks in the parliamentary sense.
More important than those considerations is the fact that I find myself opposed to a bill of this kind at this time. Here I differ in a major respect from my friend and colleague, Senator Marriott, f believe that the national interest of this country was never better served than when stability was achieved, in the economical sense, about the end of 1953 and the beginning of 1954. We all know that during 1954 the chief agency of economic fluctuations in this country, the Arbitration Court, was engaged in a most intense struggle to solve the problem of social justice involved in the margins issue, and eventually that court found itself compelled to grant a measure of social justice, even at the risk of disturbing the general economy. But I would deprecate on the part of any agency in the country any indication, for instance by way of salary increase - and I include most emphatically parliamentary salaries - to other agencies or instrumentalities throughout the country that Parliamenthad given a lead which could be copied without detriment to the country. It if not that the amount of money involved in the parliamentary salary adjustment, is not great or significant in size, but it is most significant from the point of view of the authority from which it stems. If the Parliament, in relation to its own allowances, indicates that increases are permissible at the present time, other people may be pardoned for saying, “ Then, they are permissible, without detriment to the economy, for us also “. Therefore, I feel obliged to say that I oppose the bill in toto.
I remind the Senate that, whatever the actuarial view of this position maj be, and although, as Senator Marriott has said, the increased allowance from £8 to £12 a week is to be supported by an increased payment by members from £3 to £4 10s. a week, the additional £1 10s. a week is sufficient, on an actuarial basis, to finance only 40 per cent, of the allowance, and the Treasury is asked to supply the remaining 60 per cent, of the allowance. It is in that respect tha: I believe we are giving a wrong indication to those who are so busily engaged in stabilizing the economy, and it is an indication to which I, for one, cannot subscribe.
– in reply - I wish to make a few comments in reply to points that have been raised during the course of the second-reading debate. I think that, first, I should reply to the Leader of theOpposition (Senator McKenna), who requested an assurance from the Government that the legislation would be the subject of further review by the Government during the forthcoming recess. ) do not think that I could fairly allow such a request to pass without comment, because the circumstances are that theaspect of the bill which the Leader of the Opposition criticized has been the subject of representations to the Government.
That aspect of the matter has been considered by the Government, and it has declined to accede to the representations.
Weighty arguments support the Government’s view. To go over the ground of those arguments in detail would take some little time. I think that the matter may be expressed shortly by saying that this superannuation scheme has the characteristics that go with the normal insurance scheme. It includes good risks and bad risks, if we may apply that description to ourselves. Good risks and bad risks are taken into the scheme, and from those different kinds of risk an average is struck, and the scheme insures against that average. Length of service in the Parliament, and other matters, are basie elements of the scheme. The Government has decided that it cannot fairly depart from the nature of the proposals in the legislation now before the Senate. I say that because I think it is fair to do so, having regard to the fact that the Leader of the Opposition has made the request to which I have referred.
In reply to comments and criticism made by my colleagues on this side of the chamber, it may be true to say that the provisions of the fund require actuarial examination. I think that such an examination is some twelve months hence. But, of course, it is the Parliament that makes the law and lays down the conditions. The bill before the Senate contemplates, with the approval of the Parliament, the making of certain alterations in the scheme, so as to increase the benefits and also to increase the contributions, and obviously it is within the province of the Parliament to make such arrangements. However, I think it would be unfair to the Government to suggest that those alterations were being made carelessly or recklessly, or without regard to the strength and stability of the fund. The Government’s recommendations have been made after consultation with the Commonwealth Actuary, who has reported that the increased contributions will finance the increased benefits to the extent that those benefits will be payable from the fund. The extent to which the benefits are added to, or contributed by the Government, is a matter of Govern- ment policy with which honorable senators will either agree or disagree. But as far as the financial position of the fund is concerned, I point out that the increased contribution, which contributors to the fund are being called upon to pay, will finance the increased benefit* that they are to receive.
I cannot answer Senator Marriott’s question regarding the impact of the increased contributions on parliamentary remunerations. I think that two separate and distinct problems arise in thai connexion, and that they cannot be run one into the other. During our lifetime, all of us are faced - particularly in our early days - with the situation where we have to make payments in excess of those we can afford, in order to be prudent and ensure benefits for the future. As to the personal position of honorable senators, I know that in my case the only benefit, which is tremendous, is the proviso for the payment to the widow. That provision cannot be properly evaluated although, perhaps, the actuaries may be able to make some calculation in respect of it. It is beyond our ability to say who will benefit by the provision and who will not. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it is a provision on which most people would be willing to take a risk.
I think I have answered Senator Wright’s criticism of the actuarial report. What may be the difference between his view and that of the Government is that he considers that the actuarial report should have been completed and tabled in the Parliament before any alteration was- made. I take the contrary view. Many changes have taken place and the rate of benefits payable under this fund have not been altered since 1948. The actuarial report is not due for another twelve months and, although it might be wise to wait until it is tabled in order to make assurance doubly sure, it would mean waiting another twelve months to consider an amendment and the Parliament would be debarred from making any further alteration for another seven or eight years until the next actuarial report became due. I think the honorable senator’s argument cannot be sustained.
In my opinion the Government has acted wisely. The Government has considered that the time is opportune to make a change and it has taken the precaution of having the actuaries check the fund to ascertain whether it is in a sound position. Because the result of that check has been satisfactory, the Governmentis satisfied that what it proposes to do is proper; and the Senate may accept this proposal with confidence.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Section eighteen of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting sub-section (2.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-sections : - “ (2.) In the case of a member who does not retire voluntarily, the benefit shall be-
where his period of service is not less than eight years or he has, on at least three occasions (including occasions before the commencement of this Act), ceased to bea member by reason of the dissolution or expiration of the House of which he was a member or by reason of expiration of his term of office -
Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) [3.151. - I move -
That, in proposed new sub-section (2.), the words “ ceased to be a member by reason of the dissolution or expiration of the House of which he was a member or by reason of expiration of his term of office “, be left out with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the words: “been a member (otherwise than by virtue of an appointment by the Governor of a State under section fifteen of the Constitution) immediately before the dissolution or expiration of the House of Representatives “.
As the bill is drawn, the qualifying condition for a member to obtain the benefits of this measure is a period of service of not less than eight years, or that he cease to be a member by reason of the dissolution or expiration of the House of which he was a member or by reason of expiration of his office, always assuming that he is more than 45 years of age. The purpose ofthe amendment is to introduce an additional qualification by which a member shall obtain benefits. When we consider the dissolution or expiration of the House of the respective members we are confronted at once with the difference that the Constitution makes provision in respect of the period of life of each House. It is obvious that for a member of the. Senate to obtain the benefit and protection of the proposed new subsection a much longer period of service would be required than in the caseof a member of the House of Representatives. If I approach this matter upon a business basis it seems to me that the 183 members of this Parliament, all paying the same rate of premium to this fund, should be entitled, in exactly the same set of circumstances, to exactly the same degree of benefits from it. If there is to be a differentiation between the qualifications of a member of the House of Representatives and those of a senator, that differential should be reflected in the premium rate.
I have assumed the responsibility of circulating an amendment in circumstances of some novelty. My colleague and friend, Senator Vincent, has concerned himself very closely with the problem to which I have just referred and has also circulated an amendment with the sameobjective as mine, although couched in different terms. Regrettably, just before lunch, he suffered a seizure, but happily he is recovering fromit. Therefore, I have circulated in my name an amendment expressed in a slightly different form, but designed to achieve the same purpose. If theamendment is accepted a member of the Parliament will qualify for the benefit after eight years’ service, or if he has been a member, otherwise than by an appointment by the Governor of a State under section 15 of the Constitution, immediately before the dissolution or expiration of the House of Representatives. That follows the reference of three electoral risks. I wish to add that the exception printed in parentheses, referring to an appointment by a Governor of a State under section 15 of theConstitution, is not a reference to all cases of filling a casual vacancy in this chamber. Itis simply a reference to filling casual vacancies by an appointment by a Governor, as distinct front election by a Parliament. I commend the amendment to the Senate.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Wright’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator J. A. McCallum.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
. -I have several thoughts to express oh the clause that is before the committee. If I remember rightly; the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in the course of his second-reading speech on this bill) indicated that he was in accord with the terms of the amendment that has just been submitted and defeated. I am astonished that thoughts should be expressed in this chamber without sincerity behind them. I am one who upholds the rights of the Senate, and I believe that the clause before the committee is the wrong sort of clause to include in this measure. Therefore, while I am not enthusiastic about the bill-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable senator must address himself to the clause, and not to general reflections Upon the measure.
– I am referring to the clause before the committee. I believe that it will put the Senate in an inferior position. Therefore I am not in favour of it.
– I am surprised and disappointed at the vote of the committee. Although I do not intend to cast any reflection upon the vote that has just been taken, I am astonished that honorable senators should see fit to relinquish some of the rights that were conferred on them by the framers of the Constitution. I believe that we are not fulfilling the functions that we were elected to this chamber to fulfil. There should be no discrimination in favour of persons who serve in another chamber for a similar period to the period that we in this chamber serve. The essence of the contract is time. If it is constitutional for a person in another House to qualify for a pension by the factor of time, then the same rule should apply to every member of this chamber. I cannot support the clause.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Benefits on death of member).
– I rise, not to reflect on the vote on the previous clause, or on those who took part in the division in support of the bill as printed, but to make it plain, in relation to the differential rates that are now provided for, that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), when he stood to support the second reading of the bill, clearly endeavoured to persuade me and my fellow senators to the view that the measure should apply equally to members, of the Senate as to the members of the House of Representatives. I believe that when he was put to the test he voted to renounce that attitude only because he thought that the consequences might be that the bill would be lost entirely.
– One might expect comment such as that which Senator Wright has made from a senator who didnot vote with me in the division just taken. Every one in this chamber must recognize that I donot appear here in a personal capacity. I am here in a position of responsibility for a party, and when I take an attitude in regard to matters that come before the Senate I do not assert my own views, but those of the party to which I belong. I do not withdraw one word that 1 said in relation to this matter when I spoke earlier. Even at this stage, I still urge upon the Government the propriety of considering the placing of senators and members of the House of Representatives on the one base. I immediately accept the soft impeachment that the Opposition does not desire to lose the benefit of this bill. We think that the bill confers distinct advantages, and shows progress, and is a proper measure, except in one particular. We certainly are not going to sacrifice the benefits that the bill confers on the great majority of members of this Parliament merely because complete justice is not done to relatively few members. But that does not mean that we shall not continue to press for the rectification of what we regard as anomalies. I think that honorable senators on the other side would have been exceedingly disappointed if, as the result of the vote just taken, this bill and its operation were postponed, or dropped.
.- This clause relates to the widows of deceased members, and amends section 19 of the principal act which deals with that aspect of the scheme. I should like a representative of the Government to tell the Senate the reasons why pensions are confined to the spouses of deceased male members of the Parliament. Why is the bill confined to pensions to widows, and why does it specifically forbid the payment of pensions to widowers? If it is a matter of an act of grace, or of charity, I could understand the differentiation, but as it is an actuarial scheme, towards which all members pay approximately £250 a year and which depends on those payments and length of service, I should like to know why it differentiates between widows and widowers. I go further, -and ask why an unmarried member of the Senate, who pays the same amount of his salary, and serves the same number of years, should not, in an actuarially sound scheme, be able to pay his pension to his mother or father, if the parent is dependent on him. The same remark applies to an unmarried female member of this chamber. I should like to hear an ex- planation of this provision, and to know whether the Government proposes to do anything to rectify the anomaly that now exists.
– I answer Senator Gorton by saying that this is an insurance scheme, based on proper calculations, under which members pay a proportion of the premiums and the Government pays the remainder. I hope that there are few of us who would like to be associated with a scheme in which we do not pay a fair proportion, or a scheme which amounts to the granting of a social services benefit rather than a proper superannuation pension. When people go into a superannuation scheme the contributions that they pay, and the benefits that those contributions will support, are carefully calculated. If greater benefits are desired, the contributors must be prepared to pay greater premiums. If any honorable senator wants some variation of the scheme along the lines suggested by Senator Gorton, I ‘say, with all respect, that the approach should not be to ask what the Government will do about it. The proper thing to do is to go to the trustees of the scheme, and say that they would like the scheme to be amended, and are prepared to pay greater contributions to gain certain additional benefits. In such an event, the trustees would almost certainly approach the actuaries to find out what the additional benefits would cost. So I repeat that this is not a matter for the Government. It is for the honorable senators themselves to approach the trustees. I suggest, however, that before that is done, we should consider the actual provisions of the present scheme. As it now stands the scheme provides a good foundation of insurance. If a deceased person is a female who is survived by a widower, there is provision in sub-section 4 of section 19 of the principal act to meet that situation. That sub-section reads -
If the deceased person was a female who is survived “by a widower who, in the opinion of the Trust, was, by reason of his mental or physical incapacity, totally dependent upon her for his maintenance, there shall be payable to the widower a pension, at such rate, not exceeding £5 per week, and for such period as the Trust, in its absolute discretion, determines.
– That is provided for in the principal act?
– Yes. There is definite provision in the scheme as it stands for a dependant of a female member of Parliament.
– That is obviously regarding it as an act of grace.
– No, it is the benefit for which the senator is paying.
– I do not get it.
– The senator is not a female member of Parliament. I imagine that when this scheme was formed the people who worked it out sat around a table and said, “What will we do about women members of Parliament? Are they to be in the same category as male members of Parliament?” I imagine also that they concluded that the sensible thing seems to be that there is no need to provide superannuation for a man who is able and willing to look after himself and that their attitude was, “ Why should we pay a premium to cover the position of a man who has the capacity to look after himself? We will keep the premium at a lower level and we will provide only for those who really need the provision “. Another provision of the principal act reads -
If the deceased person was a male who is not survived by a widow . . . there shall be payable to the personal representatives of the deceased person the contributions paid by the deceased person less the amount of pension (if any) received by, or accrued due to, the deceased person before his . . . death.
I speak subject to correction, but a bachelor gets his money back; and I do not think even a bachelor can growl on that score.
– Did I understand the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to say that when a bachelor who has been in receipt of a pension dies, all that would be received by the person to whom his estate is left, is the residue, if any, remaining after the amount of pension paid to him is deducted from his contributions without any interest or other accretion?
– He gets his money back.
– That is not a tempi.-, ing proposition for a bachelor.
– It poses the question, why should bachelors be in Parliament ?
– Probably they are better members of Parliament through being bachelors. The treatment of bachelors that the Minister has described is most unfair. We bachelors in the. Parliament have been contributing £3 a week to this fund and under this bill we are compelled to increase that contribution to £4 10s. a week. It is possible that a bachelor will remain a member of this Senate for many years and at the end of that time his estate would noi even get interest on the money that her has contributed. The Minister said there is no accretion whatsoever.
– The honorable sens tor had better get married.
– I am fighting noi for a matter of expediency but for a matter of principle. It might be worse to get married. The Minister mentioned that bachelors might be seeking extra benefits. That is not so. We are not seeking extra benefits. I consider that spinsters and bachelors should be placed on the same footing as married persons because they contribute the same amount. We do nol contribute any less and I am certain that this scheme is weighed heavily against bachelors and spinsters. ] should sooner be outside the retiring allowance scheme. I know that it applies in most parliaments, but it has never appealed to me. It appeals to me even less when I am compelled now to contribute £4 10s. a week to this fund. Therefore, I am opposed to the clause as ii stands.
Senator BYRNE (Queensland) T3.46]. - As one of the persons on this side of the chamber in the same position as Senator Wood and. similarly affected by the bill. I must mention that this Senate in the last two days, with the assistance of such bachelors as are members of it, has been giving keen consideration to the plight of persons who want to get married and others who want to get divorced. It is therefore only appropriate that we should take this opportunity to give the same consideration to the people who want to do neither. It is a rather extraordinary disclosure by the Minister - and I take it that it is correct - that all a bachelor contributor will receive from the fund will be the exact amount of his contributions, without interest accrued. I cannot believe that that is the correct position.
– He is insured against a risk. If he loses his seat he gets the pension - that is the main thing.
– That is right, but nevertheless I would say that he could have insured himself otherwise in circumstances in which there would be an accrual, and I am surprised to find that there is none in this instance. The point [ wanted to make relates to the position of a bachelor who may have a next-of-kin, say, an aged mother or aged father, who is dependent upon him. It is likely that the age of the member of the Senate would be such that the dependent mother or father herself or himself would be of an age that would entitle her or him to the age pension. Immediately a lump sum came from this fund to that person who is the next-of-kin of the deceased bachelor his mother or father would come within the ambit of the means test. Immediately the dependent parent would become disentitled to the age pension until the lump sum had been dissipated by use over a period of time. This situation could easily apply to the circumstances of senators serving in this chamber now. 1 know of one or two cases in which it would apply, though it would not operate in my own case.
No doubt there are many anomalies in this scheme and honorable senators COUld go on for some time reciting them, but this one appears specially prominent to me. It constitutes a disability that is suffered by persons who have not chosen to marry, perhaps because they have domestic responsibilities of another character. After all, some persons have responsibility thrust upon them, but married men assume the responsibility of a wife. In a sense the volunteer should receive more solicitude than the conscript, but certainly neither should receive less than the other. In consequence of what the
Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has said, I commend the continuous examination of this scheme to the regard of the Government. The matters that have been raised to-day should be kept under close scrutiny. At this stage they are advanced only by way of observation, but no doubt the scheme, which is substantially improved by this bill on the form in which it was initially introduced, will as the years go by be improved still further, not only in relation to the terms of eligibility which have been the subject of an amendment to-day, but also in relation to the level of receipts and payments, and in addition by the ironing out of the anomalies that have been mentioned. I am sure that experience will dictate that these should be remedied, and with Senator McKenna I commend the continuous examination of this legislation to the scrutiny and solicitude of the Government and its officers.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment: report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– As Chairman, I present the second report of the Printing Committee.
Report read and - by leave - adopted.
Debate resumed (vide page 774).
– The purpose of this bill, as was explained earlier to-day by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) in the course of his second-reading speech, is to provide for the interim distribution of deficiency payments which are expected to be received from the United Kingdom Government under the fifteen-year meat agreement. The agreement was made in
October, 1951, between the United Kingdom Government and the Australian Government. lt provided for initial governmenttogovernment trading, but it also included a provision that the parties could alter the system to a tradertotrader basis. That was done in the case of mutton and lamb from the 30th June, 1954, and in the case of beef from the 30th September, 1954. The’ agreement also provided that when the tradertotrader basis was established, the average price realized for each of the meat commodities would be determined over a year, and if that fell below a certain guaranteed minimum price, the difference would be made good by the United Kingdom Government to the Australian Government on the understanding that the payments should be directed to the benefit of the producers of meat.
It seems to be clear that while there will be no deficiency payment in the course of the current year relating to lamb ov mutton, there will be a substantial deficiency payment in relation to beef. We recognize that the amount cannot be determined until the meat year ends on the 30th September, 1955. Of course, the average price for the year which ends on that date cannot be determined until the year has concluded, but all the expectations are that approximately £1,000,000 will be due by way of deficiency payments from the United Kingdom Government at that time.
This bill addresses itself to two main matters. The first is the making and adjusting of these interim payments, and the second is ensuring that the payments to be made shall benefit the producers of meat grown for export. I believe that the Government has successfully dealt with the first problem. It has arranged for an overdraft in favour of the Australian Meat Board, guaranteed by the Government which, in turn, is safeguarded in various ways under the bill. The Australian Meat Board is authorized to distribute the money so raised in anticipation of receipt of deficiency payments from the United Kingdom Government. If the amounts received from the United Kingdom Government eventually turn out to be less than the amount distributed to the producers, the board will be authorized in a separate measure to levy an export charge to re-im burse its funds in the subsequent year. There is a separate measure before the Senate to provide for that charge in those circumstances.
The real crux of the bill, where the Opposition joins issue with the Government, is in relation to the approach to the problem of ensuring that the payments do reach the producers of meat. I have sufficient knowledge of the mechanics of the meat industry to realize that it is completely impossible at this stage to trace the producers of meat which is about to be exported. Most of the meat processors are engaged not only in exporting, but also in canning and providing meat for local consumption. Much meat is bought at auctions, and from the time cattle leave the growers they often pass through a whole chain of dealers before they reach the stage of being exported as carcasses.
The proposal contained in the bill is the extraordinary one that amounts which it is intended in the agreement should reach the producers, will be paid, not to producers, but to exporters of meat. The pious hope is expressed that the exporters will pass the money on to the producers by adding the relevant amount of the payment to the price they can get for cattle in hard bargaining in the marketplace. In other words, as the Minister has indicated in his speech, if by hard bargaining in the cattle market a certain price would be determined, the exporters are asked to add the equivalent of lii. per lb. or £3 12s. an animal to the price so determined. The bill proposes to pay to the exporters some £700,000 in the course of the three months of May, June and July, in the belief that these amounts will be passed on in that way. That hope is buttressed by the reservation of rights to inspect the accounts of exporters to ensure that they are passing on the benefit of deficiency payments. It is buttressed, too, by a power vested in the Minister to withhold payments in the future if the Minister is not satisfied that these deficiency payments are being passed on to the producers. I realize that that involves a lot of close study of accounts.
It might not be possible to establish, as an accounting matter and beyond doubt, whether the deficiency payments had in fact been passed on or not. But the greatest criticism that the Opposition makes of this measure is that it runs counter to human nature. It means that the Government says to exporters, “ Here is £700,000. It is perfectly lawful for you to put that in your pocket and retain it,, but please do not do that ; go out into the market place and pay more for cattle than the price you could reach by bargaining’”. Surely that imposes an extraordinary strain on human nature. In the absence of any machinery for this distribution that the Minister can explain, it amounts to asking that exporters shall give away what they are lawfully entitled to retain.
– In what way?
– The payments are made to them in the hope only that they will pass on deficiency payments. There is no obligation on them under the bill to pass them on. The sole sanction that can be applied against them under the bill is provided by the fact that if they do not pass on the payments to the satisfaction of the Minister no further moneys will be paid through them. I repeat that it is not unlawful for them to retain this money for their own purposes.
We are concerned with the possibility that this money will not have the effect that the Minister thinks it will have - that the exporters will use it as a fund to compete with one another and so force up prices to the advantage of producers. We do not believe that that will happen. We hope that the Minister is right, and that the whole amount would be distributed, but we feel that it is a lazy and inefficient approach to the problem, to make a distribution to exporters who are relatively few in number instead of facing the problem of getting the payments back directly to the producers.
It may be that I will be asked, “ What is the alternative?” There are the difficulties that cattle are in various qualities, first, second and third grades, and that it is not possible to weigh animals at the time of sale and so determine the proper amount of deficiency payments to make. I recognize those difficulties, and while I do not concede that it is impossible to devise a method which will result in the payments being made directly to the producers, I say that if it were impossible to do that, then the proper thing would be to pay this amount into a trust account controlled by the Australian Meat Board, and to direct that the money be appropriated either for research in the industry, or for the provision of such facilities as water-holes and stock routes in the northern areas. Apparently there is room for research in relation to the processing, chilling and transporting of beef. As to the provision of facilities, practically all the beef exported comes from the northwest of Australia, from Queensland and from the Northern Territory. The producers whom this bill is designed to benefit are located in those areas. I understand that very little beef is exported from any other part of Australia. There is a little from New South Wales, but practically none from the rest of Australia. The relatively few producers concerned with the export trade are gathered together in the northern areas. If it is impossible to locate and identify them, then it is far better to accumulate these deficiency payments in a trust fund that can be used for the benefit of the industry generally.
I put another alternative to the Minister. What is to prevent the Government insisting upon the registration of producers of beef in the northern areas? The power to require registration would be contained in the power of control of exports. If the producers were registered, the payments could be based upon the number of cattle that they breed in a particular area. They have to ascertain that for the purpose of income tax. They have to determine what their stock raisings are. I am open to criticism on this point, but surely it is possible to ascertain who the producers are, and those producers could claim on the basis of their raisings, which they must ascertain for purposes of income tax.
If that is not possible or desirable, why not locate the producers and distribute the deficiency payments among them in proportion to the sales they have made?
Let them put in returns as other primary producers do. I do not accept the argument of the Minister that it is impossible to find any better and more practical basis of distribution than the one set out in this bill. I direct the Minister’s attention to the fact that his scheme does net enjoy the general approval of those engaged in the meat industry. I invite him to consider an article which appears in the issue of Muster, the journal of the Graziers Association of New South Wales, dated the 31st May, 1955. In this article, which is important, and which I propose to read, doubts are expressed by Mr. D. W. Bucknell, the president of the Graziers Association of New South Wales, as to the effectiveness of the proposed bounty, and he develops a very reasoned argument. The heading of the article is, “Doubts, Fears on Meat Export Bounty “, and there is a subheading, “ Growers may be Penalized “. Then the article continues -
Doubts as to whether meat-growers would derive any solid benefits from the £500,000 Commonwealth export “ bounty,” an-1 a fear that many producers might even find themselves in the position of having to contribute towards repaying to the Government an advance in which they had not shared, were expressed last week by the President of the Graziers’ Association of N.S.W., Mr. D. W. Bucknell.
Mr. Bucknell said that the Association ha/1 always been conscious of the difficulties in the way of evolving a practicable scheme for ensuring that growers would get the full benefit of the export prices guaranteed under the Austral ia-U.K. Meat Agreement.
Examination of this latest scheme to bridge the gap between current market prices and the guaranteed level did not reveal any evidence that these difficulties had been satisfactorily overcome. “ Since, apparently, means cannot be devised to pay the bounty direct to every grower who sells meat for export, the money made available will be paid to the exporters,” Mr. Bucknell said.
The argument is that the grower will eventually benefit in the form of increased competition (and, one assumes, higher prices) from the exporters. It is not an argument that will reassure too many interested graziers.
Mr. Bucknell said that it was impossible to overlook two grounds on which the reasoning of those seeling to justify the scheme was open to criticism.
The first was that extra money - bounty money - in the hands of the exporters was only one of the many factors which would influence competition for the growers’ stock. Unless those other factors were favorable to the grower, competition could be as dead as the frozen meat we exported. Prices would remain low, but the exporters would still enjoy the advance on deficiency payments.
The second was that, even assuming conditions were such as to combine with the distribution of the bounty to arouse stronger competition and hence higher prices, there appeared to be no possible way of ensuring that all growers of meat for export would benefit. Some might gain very significantly, others not share at all. “ But there appear to be even greater weaknesses still “, Mr. Bucknell continued. “ Unless there are features of the scheme which have not been made known to the Association, all growers of meat for export, whether or not they have benefited from the bounty, will have to contribute towards repaying it to the Commonwealth Government in the event of the results of trading over the full meat year revealing that no deficiency payments are owing by the United Kingdom.
As the General Secretary of the Association stressed in “Muster” last week, the £500,000 bounty is not a straight-out gift but an advance to the industry. This is a vital fact to keep in mind.
Although nothing definite is known, it is to to be presumed that legislation will be introduced to provide for a Meat Export Charge to be levied in the event of United Kingdom prices recovering to the point at which no deficiency payments will be due to Australia at the end of the year.
Such a charge would, I imagine, toe levied on the exporters. It is difficult to think that the exporters would not pass it on to the growers. “ In such circumstances as these “, Mr. Bucknell concluded, the producers are left with very problematical benefits, even should the market remain at its present level, and with almost certain additional losses in the event of it recovering sufficiently for the Commonwealth Government to demand the return of its £500,000.”
The only people who seem to be fully protected are the exporters.
That is a very powerful indictment of the basis of distribution that the Government has seen fit to adopt. The Opposition is of the opinion that proper care has not been taken in determining this method of distribution.’ We are also of the opinion that Mr. Bucknell, speaking for the graziers of New South Wales, has raised very real questions and problems in opposition to the method adopted under the bill.
On behalf of the Opposition, I move -
That all words after “ bill “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: “be withdrawn and redrafted to provide a better method of distribution of deficiency payments so as to ensure that such moneys in fact are received by the producersof export meat.”.
I conclude by again pointing out that the problem lies to the north of Australia, in an area where the element of competition is least. In the southern States, the demand for local consumption of meat is so great, and there is so much competition, that the price is rather well regulated. But, in the north, the great bulk of the production is for export and relatively little for home consumption. Accordingly, there is relatively little competition and, I add, comparatively scant hope of stimulating competition in that area. There is certainly less hope of doing so there than there is in the south. In those circumstances, we of the Opposition feel that the Government should have another thought about this matter.
There is no great urgency, as far as I can see, to distribute the payments, and it appears obvious to the Opposition that the Government has not given adequate consideration to other methods that might be adopted. I should like the Minister to say, particularly, where the difficulty lies in registering producers, and why this money should not be distributed either on the basis of cattle raised in a year by the people concerned, or sold by them. If that could be done, it would be a practical method of making the deficiency payments in the direction that this Government is under contract to make sure they go. It is under contract to the British Government to ensure that the benefit goes to the producers of meat. I shall let the matter rest there, in the hope that the Government will realize the need, in the light of the views expressed on behalf of the graziers of New South Wales, to have further thoughts about the matter.
– I wish, at the outset, to express extreme regret that a bill of this importance should have been brought into the Senate on the last day of the sitting. It is not fair to the members of the Senate when bills are rushed on in the concluding hours of a. sessional period. This bill refers to matters about which I should like to get in touch with people who are better informed on them than I am, but of course there is no time to do that now. Consequently, I again register a protest at action of this kind. Surely to goodness, it would not be impossible lor the Government so to arrange its programme that we could have the final legislation of the sessional period introduced on the first day of the last sitting week, so that we could give some attention to it. We meet almost every day, but there is certainly little time in which to study legislation. The measure before the Senate at the moment is not one thai can be read casually and understood. It deals with intricate and technical matters about which the average member of the Parliament probably is not as well informed as he should be. However, it is my intention to support the bill, because it has been introduced with the sanction of the Australian Meat Board.
I venture to say that the members of the Australian Meat Board know far more about this matter than does any member of the Senate. They all are interested in the production of meat and are dealing with that subject from day to day. They have held office for some years now, and I take it that if they are satisfied with the measure, there is no basis for the claim of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that it has been introduced in a lazy manner. If there is a Minister in this Parliament who is not a lazy man, it is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), who, I think, had a great deal, if not all, to do with bringing up this bill. He gave a very good explanation of it recently, although his explanation has left me with some doubt whether it will carry out the intentions of its sponsor. Like the Leader of the Opposition, I also am concerned to know whether the deficiency payments will go back to the producers. However, it is not an easy matter to suggest another scheme which would ensure that payments would go to the producers.
I have been associated with this matter for the last ten or twelve years, more particularly with the export of lambs from Western Australia. Of course, lambs are not covered by this bill, but during that time, I have been concerned to know why the surplus money received from the export of our meat overseas should not go direct to the producers. I have been assured by representatives on the Australian Meat. Board that that is impossible. It is all very well to say that the money ought to go back to the producers, but the difficulties become more apparent when one knows what happens at meat-works. A mob of cattle will come in, be slaughtered and go through on the hooks. Another mob will come along, and the whole place will be filled with carcasses of beef for distribution throughout the world. It is not a very easy matter to keep a tally of the owners of that beef, especially after the sides have been cut up. However, desirable it may be to return the money directto the producer, the board has not been able to evolve a scheme to do so.
The Leader of the Opposition suggested that any deficiency payment might be paid tothe raiser of beef on the basis of his raisings last year. I have visited the meatworks at Wyndham and have seen prime beef brought in for slaughtering. The following season, however, owing to drought conditions, the cattle could scarcely walk to the works because of their poor condition.Would the raisers of that prime-quality and the poor-quality beef each receive a deficiency payment? Although it was earned by one raiser it could not be claimed to have been earned by the other. The raiser of the poor beef would surely not be entitled to payment equal to that earned by the producer ofprime-quality beef. The bill proposes a method of making a payment to the exporter, but I share the doubts expressed by the Leader of the Opposition as to whether it will produce the result intended. Every purchaser of beef is not an exporter, but the deficiency payment will certainly give an exporter added financial backing when he is competing for beef and he will have a margin with which to outbid the non-exporter. There is a possibility that the money will go back to the grower as is intended by the bill. Honorable senators may be assured that if the Australian Meat Board had had any doubts on this subject it would have advised the Minister and would have suggested a better method.
The Leader of the Opposition said that a large sum of money would be paid to the exporters, perhaps £700,000 or more a year. It must be remembered that not all meat exporters are concentrated in one part of Australia. Some are at Wyndham, others in northern Queensland and others in the southern States, and the beef is exported from those points. More than 40 per cent. of the cattle slaughtered in the northern part of Western Australia goes to Perth for export. Exporters in the Northern Territory will have the advantage that this deficiency payment will enable them to compete against beef going to the southern areas.
A defect in the bill appears to be that the deficiency payment this year is to be recompensed from a charge to be made on next year’s beef. Consequently, the deficiency payment made to the man whose beef brings him an income this year, will go to the man who sends in his beef next year. Some producers may not send any beef this year and will, therefore, receive money earned by somebody else. The whole matter is so intricate that it would not be possible to devise any other scheme. Apparently, the meat board is satisfied with this proposal; and I know that the Minister would not present a bill containing such a scheme without thoroughly investigating it and being satisfied with it. However, it can be tried, and if it is not found satisfactory some other method can be adopted.
The Leader of the Opposition suggestedthat instead of making a direct deficiency payment, the money should be paid into a trust account in the name of the Australian Meat Board for the benefit of the meat industry. If that were advisable the board would have suggested such a course. The proposal contained in the bill is worthy of trial and. I commend it.
– I support the bill. I can see no way out of the dilemma in which the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) finds himself other than to return this money to the producers. The element of competition that will be brought into the markets all over Australia will be beneficial. The fact that this scheme has been recommended by the Australian Meat Board, whose membership of twelve includes seven representatives of the producers, enables me to accept it with confidence. One result will be to establish a floor price for beef for export as well as for meat consumed within Australia. That will be of great advantage to the producers. Those who will gain the principal benefit from this -scheme will be the northern producers. That is desirable because it is necessary to maintain the volume of export. Of course, all the producers throughout Australia will benefit because the floor price in the export market will be reflected in the local sales of fat beef and store stock.
Protection is given by the bill to the producers of lamb because their prices will not be interfered with in any way. The prices of beef, lamb, and mutton are worked out separately and are based on a twelve-monthly period, which is an advantage. It is important that producers who might receive an increased price for lamb should not have that set off against a loss on beef prices. Because the effect of this proposal will be beneficial to all concerned, I give it my support.
.- This bill is typical of the Government’s method of greasing the fat pig. It provides money for exporters, and attempts to lead the Senate to believe that the producers will benefit. Actually, the producers will receive no benefit. The producer sells his stock on the hoof; some may be bought as store stock and fattened and resold to an exporter. This bill provides for payment to the exporter but not to the producer. It simply makes finance available to the exporter. Not long ago, honorable senators were told that it was not possible to make separate arrangements for three different items of primary products in a case similar to that which is under consideration. At that time, the Senate was discussing primary products also, but honorable senators were told that the Government could not be expected to make finance available to the growers so that they could carry on. That is not the objective of the Government, apparently. It is not concerned with the primary producers, but with the men who are engaged in trade. In this case, it is out to help the exporters. The Government is prepared to make money available to them. In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) said -
The fifteen-year meat agreement provided that when the parties to the agreement decided to revert to normal trader to trader selling (which occurred last year) then, if the average prices obtained over each year for beef, lamb or mutton separately were higher than the schedules of minimum prices provided under the agreement, Australian producers were to get the benefit of such higher prices.
That is a provision of the agreement, but it is not contained in this bill. The only persons who will get the benefit of higher prices will be the exporters who buy the stock on the hoof. They might keep a general record of their purchases, but they would not have a record of the individual producers who sold the stock to them. The exporters will not return the money to the producers. They will retain the profits, and the payments under consideration will be included. The producers will not benefit. In his secondreading speech, the Minister also said -
However, if average market prices over the year were lower than the scheduled minimum prices, then the deficiency was to he made up by way of a lump sum payment by the United Kingdom Government.
The deficiency is to be made up by a lumpsum payment by the other party and, again, it will be made to the exporters, and not to the primary producers. I am concerned about this matter because the Opposition could not get the Government to assist other primary producers recently. The Minister also stated in his secondreading speech -
Beef, lamb and mutton are each treated separately so that if, for example, average lamb prices for a year are above the minimum schedule, whilst average beef prices are below the minimum schedule, the beef deficiency payment will not be offset by the higher lamb prices.
Beef, lamb and mutton are to be treated separately, but the Minister said previously that items could not be separated.
– What is wrong with the statement made in the second-reading speech ?
– The Government is giving the benefit to the exporters and not to the primary producers. Last year, South Australia exported more than 300,000 lamb carcasses.
– The honorable senator does not know what he is. talking about.
– Does the Minister mean to imply that the Government has made some arrangement with producers of lambs so that if the price of lamb is below the minimum rate, something additional will be given to the growers? That is not the purport of the bill.
– The bill has nothing to do with lambs.
– The Minister has said that the producers will get the benefit. The Government has to put the agreement into operation, since there has been a reversion to trading on a trader-to-trader basis. The Government expects that prices will fall considerably, fs it making financial arrangements to give the primary producers the benefit of any deficiency? It is not. It proposes to give the assistance to the exporters. It will make arrangements through the Australian Meat Board, again for the benefit of the exporters, and not the primary producers. The Minister stated in his speech -
The finance provided to cover the payments authorized by the bill will not be a charge against the taxpayer. In the first instance, it will be provided by the Commonwealth Bank by means of a Commonwealth Government guaranteed overdraft to the Australian Meat Board.
What for? So that the exporter shall get the benefit. This is typical of the legislation that is being introduced constantly by this Government. It is always providing finance for some huge concerns that are getting their cut from the Government, in the first place, because of the finance that is made available and, in the second place, because the producers are not handling their own products.
– That is the Government’s policy.
– That is exactly the point that I am trying to make. The Government suggests that provision should be made so that producers will be able to get some guaranteed overdraft or something of that kind through the Commonwealth Bank to enable them to carry on. but the recoup ment has to go through some middle nian.. If it does not, this Government will not make an arrangement. This bill will achieve everything that the Government said it could not do when the Opposition put forward proposals for assistance to primary producers along the river Murray. It is time the Government did something to help primary producers, instead of helping the big fellows who are exploiting the producers.
– in reply - The Senate has listened to the views of a warped socialist mind. If Senator O’Flaherty thinks there is so much money in the export business, it is a pity he does not try it. It is well known in the industry that the exporters of lambs lost a considerable sum of money last year. The problem is a difficult one, and I agree with Senator Seward that the matter has been considered for months by the Australian Meat Board. The majority of the members of that board are primary producers. After very careful consideration by men who have had practical experience, assisted by the able men in the Department of Commerce and Agriculture who specialize in this matter, they came down, not with a perfect system, but the best system they could evolve in the difficult circumstances. Having regard to that fact, the Senate can rest assured that everything possible has been done in this bill to safeguard the interests of producers. Those who are interested in this particular market, and have had an opportunity to follow the bidding from time to time, or have been associated indirectly with the various buying organizations for overseas markets, will know that it is the most highly competitive buying anywhere in Australia, with the possible exception of wool. There is keen bidding, and the buyer knows that if the price goes below the floor in the United Kingdom, he is in a position to bid up to the floor, and also that if the price goes below it, he will be safeguarded. Any honorable senator who witnesses these sales will soon have evidence of that fact. Over the year3 these men become expert in this business. There is only a certain quantity of stock available for home consumption and export, and the fact that processors are able to bid a certain figure, knowing that they are sure of the floor price, has an important bearing on the price the producers get for the stock sold in Australia. “When things are all summed up, it comes to this, that in a normal season 75 per cent, of the beef auctioned in Australia is auctioned for home consumption. It is interesting to note, from a study of records for the Northern Territory and other States, and particularly from the article from the president of the Graziers’ Association of New South Wales which was read by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), that that association in New South Wales is primarily a wool organization, and exports very little meat. By this arrangement they are in a position to get a better price for what is sold on the local market.
On the figures supplied to me, Queensland’s exports of beef are about 100,000 tons out of a total export of 120,000 tons, and therefore Queensland is particularly interested in the disposal of meat. I am advised by my officers that the Queensland Graziers Association considered this scheme and voted in favour of it. That is a matter of some importance, as they are the people principally concerned.
It is easy for the Opposition to move an amendment, and to say that the bill in its present form is not perfect, but when we hear a speech like that which we have just heard from Senator O’Flaherty, who does not know anything about the business at all and makes the same kind of speech about wealthy exporters on every possible occasion, we can only conclude that the honorable senator believes that what he says is true. The Government is not prepared to accept the amendment. The bill, in its present form, has the support of the Australian Meat Board, on which there is a majority of members representing primary producers. These men know a great deal more about the meat industry than Senator O’Flaherty does.
Amendment (Senator McKenna’s) negatived.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) [4.45 J. - I gather that this is a scheme for th, general imposition of a charge, and for the payment by the Australian Meat Board to certain exporters of meat. I listened with great interest to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) who pointed out that there is no legal obligation imposed on the recipients of those payments to pass on the benefit to the producers. I also listened with great interest to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), as I always do. The Minister said that the very existence of this payment would, of itself, be an inducement to those who participate in the auctions to raise the price of beef up to the floor level. One can understand that as a business consideration; nevertheless it does mean that the ultimate destination of the payment is the exporter. I am a little doubtful whether, owing to the complexity of the exporters’ business considerations and accounts, that payment will not lose its significance by the time it passes through his business, in which event it is possible that no payment will be made to the producer. I should like to understand more clearly what precise considerations we rely upon to ensure that the benefit of these payments is actually received by the producers.
– The only real safeguard to the producer is contained in clause S, which provides - (1.) Where the Minister is not satisfied that the prices paid by a licensed exporter to producers in respect of participating meat exported to the United Kingdom are such as to pass on to those producers, in an equitable manner, the full benefit of deficiency payments made to that licensed exporter, the Minister may, by instrument in writing, direct that deficiency payments shall not be made to that licensed exporter. (2.) The Minister shall, before exercising a power under this section, consider any report made to him by the Board in connexion with the exercise of that power.
The board is particularly interested in these transactions, and as there is a majority of producers’ representatives on it, they naturally have a lively interest in all that takes place.
– This bill deals with beef-trading, not horse-trading.
– I agree with the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) on the keenness of bidding in the various saleyards, and I should say that the whole success of the scheme would depend upon the producers being au fait with the amount that they should receive in the markets for first-quality beef. If the growers had that information they would have a pretty fair idea whether the exporters were giving them the price plus, I should say, a reasonable proportion of the1½d. per lb., that they are entitled to get. I remind Senator O’Flaherty that the amount of1½d. per lb. that is being allocated is the result of a very fortunate agreement made by the Minister himself, and it extends over a fifteen-year period. Therefore, the producer is very fortunate indeed to receive this amount in addition to the market price in England, which he would otherwise be entitled to receive without the support of the1½d. per lb. The producer will receive the benefit of the1½d. per lb., and I see no alternative proposal before the Senate. There is no suggestion from our friends on the other side of a scheme that would take the place of this one. The scheme proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) would not be of any practical benefit to the industry itself. The Minister has done all that he could do in the circumstances, and I believe that the competition of traders in an open market will guarantee that the producer will receive the full amount to which he is entitled.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 775).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed (vide page 776).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Appeals from Supreme Courts of States).
Amendment (by SenatorO’ Sullivan) agreed to -
That clause 2 be left out with a view to insertin. lieu thereof the following’ clause: - “ 2. Section thirty-five of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-paragraphs (1) and (2) of paragraph(a) of sub-section (1.) the words ‘Three hundred pounds’ and inserting in their stead the words ‘ One thousand five hundred pounds’.”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 776).
– This measure is complementary to the one that the Senate has just passed and an amendment in this bill has been foreshadowed by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) similar to the amendment that was made in the committee stage in the preceding bill. On the adoption of the amendment proposed to be made in this bill at a later stage, the present measure will accord exactly with the one to which the Senate has just given its approval. On that basis the Opposition supports the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Appeals from Supreme Court in civil cases).
Amendment (by Senator O’Sullivan) agreed to -
That clause 2 be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “2. Section fifty-one of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from paragraphs (a) and (b) of sub-section (1.) the words ‘Three hundred pounds ‘ and inserting in their stead the words ‘ One thousand five hundred pounds’.”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 778).
– This measure follows on one which the Senate debated last November, and which related to the cession of the Cocos Islands to Australia as one of our territories. The second-reading speech of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) adequately described the purpose and the nature of the measure, and it is not incumbent upon me to do more than to record the Opposition’s support of the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin). - I have to announce that the Clerk of the Senate, Mr. John Ernest Edwards, will retire from the Parliamentary Service upon attaining the age of 65 years on the 21st July next. Mr. Edwards has been absent on sick leave almost continuously since July, 1954. All honorable senators will regret that illness prevents him from being in his accustomed place to-day. I hope that he will return to duty before his retirement, but because it is unlikely that the Senate will meet again until after Mr. Edward’s retirement, it is fitting that we should now pay our tributes to him.
Mr. Edwards’s career in the Commonwealth Public Service began in August. 1911, as clerk in the Public Service Commissioner’s office at Melbourne. On the 1st August, 1913, he transferred to the position of secretary to the then Leader of the Opposition in the Senate who was Senator the Hon. Gregor McGregor, the blind senator from South Australia. Then, for a period in 1915 Mr. Edwards was private secretary to the then AttorneyGeneral, the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes.
Mr. Edwards’s career as an officer of theSenate began on the 12th July, 1915, when he was appointed to the position of clerk and shorthand writer. Promotions followed, and, in turn, he filled the positions of Clerk of the Papers, Usher of the Black Rod, Clerk-Assistant and Secretary Joint House Department, and, from the 1st December, 1942, he occupied the high office of Clerk of the Senate.
Mr. Edwards filled all his posts with the highest distinction. He brought to his work the advantage of wide reading and great learning; and his knowledge of Senate procedure is remarkable. I feel sure that no man, as Clerk of the Senate, could have enjoyed greater confidence and respect than does Mr. Edwards. Perhaps, the best example of this fact was provided during the period prior to the double dissolution of 1951, when the Opposition controlled the Senate. During that difficult period the lot of the Clerk was not an easy one. Both sides of the Senate exploited every one of the Standing Orders in an effort to gain tactical and strategical advantages over the other, and the Chair, the Government and the Opposition all looked to the Clerk for the traditional counsel. That Mr. Edwards was able to emerge from those and other troublous times with enhanced prestige and respect is probably the greatest tribute this Senate can pay to his ability.
During his 40 years as an officer of the Parliament, Mr. Edwards has witnessed many dramatic moments, some of farreaching parliamentary significance, and others now rich in their historical import. Ee encouraged senators to be jealous of the great legislative powers of the Senate, as, for example, the Senate’s right to press a request to the House of Representatives for an amendment of a money bill. In the interpretation of the Standing Orders, he encouraged Presidents to lean towards rulings which preserve or strengthen the powers of the Senate rather than towards news which may weaken or lessen the Senate’s powers. He witnessed such dramatic moments as the announcements in the Senate of the end of two world spars, when on each occasion the National Anthem was sung, and cheers were given. He heard the longest speech ever delivered in this Senate - a twelve-hour filibuster by Senator Gardiner on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill in 1918.
But I think that if he were asked, Mr. Edwards would choose the opening of the Commonwealth Parliament by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, on the 15th February, 1954, as his most treasured memory. To him went the privilege of reading the proclamation and executing the Queen’s commands on that historic day when our Parliament was opened for the first time by the Monarch, [t was a fitting climax to a distinguished and eventful career as Clerk of the Senate.
The time has now come when, with [egret. T must record Mr. Edwards’s forthcoming retirement. You, honorable senators, have made certain contributions for the purpose of making a fitting presentation to him. On your behalf I shall arrange and make this presentation as soon as Mr. Edwards is well enough co receive it, and will let him know that with the present go the respect, affection and good wishes of every member of the Senate.
I conclude my own official tribute to Mr. Edwards by reading the final paragraph of his own book - Parliament a.nd How it W Works. I quote -
To conclude, it may be said that to serve as an officer of Parliament is a unique and fascinating occupation. One can feel that he is present at the making of history. He can watch the play of political passions, the ebb and flow of great movements, the pathos and tragedy of lost causes and personal defeats, the rise and fall of personalities, and so on. He can enjoy an election campaign as an interested spectator, watching the fall of the mighty with joy or regret, according to hit inmost feelings which he keeps strictly to him self. If he reaches the retiring age he can write his reminiscences if he feels so inclined It is a most satisfying life’s experience.
I can only add that, if Mr. Edwards has found it a most satisfying life’s experience to serve as an officer of the Parliament, we have found it a most gratifying experience to be members of the , Senate during his clerkship.
I tender to both Mr. and Mrs. Edwardsthe respects of the Senate and the hope that they will enjoy many years of happy retirement.
I shall add a few personal words. J feel that I owe a great deal to Mr. Edwards. When I became President of the Senate, his sound advice, encouragement and guidance were of great assistance to me during the months when I was feeling my way. One thing that he impressed on me was that the Senate is a very different chamber from the other place. His advice was, “Let the debate run. Let it run fairly widely. If you let it run fairly widely and fairly easily, you will get through your work very much better “. He also said, “ The Senate is a place where you should, perhaps, discuss matters that you would not discuss in another place”. He was always ready to give that friendly word of advice, to lean to the weaker person. One leans naturally towards a man who is in trouble. It is natural to lean towards the Opposition because it is the weaker party, but maintaining always that justice must be done. I say quite sincerely to all honorable senators that .1 shall always remember with very keen appreciation the kindness that Mr. Edwards has personally extended to me.
Senator O’SULLIVAN (QueenslandMinister for Trade said Customs) [5.1 3J. - -by leave - I am sure that all honorable senators completely endorse the remarks that you, Mr. President, have just made regarding Mr. Edwards. His career in the Commonwealth Public Service has been a notable one, and the Senate will be for ever in his debt for the service that he has rendered to it for 40 years, and particularly during the last twelve and a half years when he occupied the high office of Clerk of the Senate. Mr. Edwards has always been the counsellor and friend of senators. Many times [ personally have enjoyed his wise counsel, particularly during my early years in the Senate, when, as you will remember, Mr. President, there were only three of us on the Opposition side, and 33 very ferocious members on the Government side of the chamber, Senator Cooper, Senator Annabelle Rankin and I. We relied to a very great degree upon the sagacity, the generosity and the courtesy that were ever available to us from Mr. Edwards in those lonely days. Later, during the very trying period which preceded the double dissolution, to which you, Mr. President, have referred, all honorable senators came to respect and admire Mr. Edwards, not only for his obvious mastery and knowledge of all forms of parliamentary procedure, but also for his keen intellect and quick and thorough grasp of the situation at hand. He has been, as you have said, ever the champion of the rights and legislative powers of the Senate, never ceasing to stress that the Senate is a strong and powerful chamber, and that its rights and privileges should not be lightly regarded or disregarded. He has set a high standard for his officers to follow, and I am sure that his example will remain to inspire his successors for many years to come. We very much regret his ill health during recent months. We regret also that he is unable to be present on this occasion. We wish him a speedy recovery and hope that in his retirement he will enjoy the good health and happiness that we so earnestly wish him, and that he so richly deserves. Although Mr. Edwards has not been with us for some months past, I am sure that he will continue to receive the affection, esteem and respect of all honorable senators who have known him.
I move -
That on the occasion of the retirement of John Ernest Edwards from the position of
Clerk of the Senate, the Senate places on record its appreciation of the long and valuable service rendered by him to the Australian Parliament, and conveys to him good wishes for many years of happy retirement.
– I second the motion. I should like to associate myself and all of my colleagues of the Opposition with the eloquent tribute paid by you, Mr. President, and by the Leader of the Government, to the Clerk of the Senate, whose retirement, on the 21st July next, will mark the end of a definite era in this Senate. Mr. Edwards has had the deep respect and the very real regard of every member of the Opposition in this chamber. I agree with Senator O’Sullivan that at all times Mr. Edwards was most helpful, courteous, and efficient. I, in particular, had the honour of serving with him in this Senate, both in Government and in Opposition. One felt that one could make him the repository of one’s confidence without hesitation, without even a thought of any breach of confidence. He was able to steer a path between Government and Opposition in a way that won the confidence of both sides. That confidence was never betrayed. He was able to advise efficiently and impartially.
I express my own great personal indebtedness to him for his courtesy and helpfulness over many years. He extended his help without consideration of party affiliations of any kind. He was very well learned in the law and the traditions of the Parliament, and in particular of the Senate. At all times he upheld the dignity and prestige of this chamber and its Standing Orders. Perhaps one of the tests of his greatness, and one of the assurances that he will continue to live in this chamber, is afforded by a survey of the thoroughly well-trained and competent staff that he has left to the Senate. We, of the Opposition, feel that so long as any of the men trained by Mr. Edwards are serving the Senate, not only will the Senate be privileged but the spirit of Mr. Edwards will live on in this place. I certainly hoped, and I know my colleagues did too, that we should see him in his place once more before his retirement became effective.
We very much regret that that will not be possible.
I join most cordially with you, Mr. President, and with the Leader of the Government, in conveying best wishes to Mr. Edwards for a speedy and complete recovery, and in trusting that he will have a long, happy and useful existence in which to follow the fortunes of this chamber, knowing, too, that he will follow the fortunes of those who are in it with real interest and sympathy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the Senate from the termination of the sitting this day to the date on which the Senate next meets.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to a date and hour to he fixed by the President, which time of meeting shall be notified to each senator by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) proposed -
That the Senate do no adjourn.
– A copy of the Standing Orders, which I hari annotated at considerable trouble, has gone from my possession. I do not know whether it is within the precincts of theParliament or not, but if any honorablesenator finds that it has wandered’ n his possession, or discovers it in Parlia ment House, will he be good enough t advise me? I might add that my name is in it.
Question resolved in the affirmative
Senate adjourned at 5.22 p.m., to- at date em hour to be fixed by the President..
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 June 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1955/19550609_senate_21_s5/>.