21st Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Some time ago I asked the Minister for Repatriation if he was aware1 of the closing down of some wards in the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, and, if so, whether that was due to a shortage of staff which in turn was mainly attributable to the discontinuance of the bus service from Heidelberg to Melbourne. In reply, the Minister said that he was not aware that wards had been closed down. Since then, I have learned from authoritative sources that wards have been closed because of a shortage of staff and that the shortage of staff is due entirely to the discontinuance of the bus service. I now ask whether the Minister will take steps to have the position rectified, with a view to the re-opening of those wards..
– I remember quite well the question previously asked by the honorable senator. My answer to it was wrongly quoted in the press. I did not say that I was not aware of wards in the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital having been closed down. What I did say was that I was not aware that any further wards would be closed down. At the time, I looked up Hansard, and found that I was correctly reported as having referred to “ further wards “. The fact is that 21 wards in the hospital are still open, although some wards have been closed. That is the position in every hospital; wards are either closed down or re-opened, according to the number of patients requiring hospital treatment. No particular significance can be attached to the opening or closing of a number of wards because that is the normal procedure, not only in repatriation hospitals, but also in other hospitals. However, as I promised the honorable senator that I would get a report on this matter, I shall do so, and let him have a reply later.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing ‘the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, in connexion with conferences which have been held between the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and his officers and representatives’ of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, the purpose of which was to establish a stabilization plan for the industry. I now ask the Minister whether he will ascertain from his colleague the exact present position. I understand that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is giving consideration to definite proposals which were submitted to him by representatives of the Australian Dried Fruits Association.
– I shall be pleased to confer with my colleague, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, with a view to making available to the honorable senator all the information possible.
– Yesterday, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services a question relating to war service homes for war widows and the average rental charged for such homes. The Minister replied that the question of rental did not arise. Will the Minister inform the Senate of the average weekly repayments being made by war widows for homes provided under Commonwealth schemes, and whether any proportion of homes built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is set aside for the use of civilian widows ? If the latter is the case, what is the average rental that the civilian widows are expected to pay?
– I shall have to ask the Minister for Social Services to supply to me the figures which show the average weekly instalments paid by war widows, and therefore I ask the honorable senator to put her question on the noticepaper. The second part of her question is a request for information as to whether any of the houses built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement are set aside for widows, and, if so, on what terras. There is no specific provision in the agreement, to my recollection, which gives any priority to widows. However, J do not believe that the point raised by the honorable senator is of practical importance because each State has its order of priority in making houses available to the people. It is my belief that high in those orders of priority ave to be found civilian widows with families. However, the matter is one for each State and not for the Commonwealth.
– There is no specific provision in the agreement in respect of widows ?
– No, there is no specific provision of that kind.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior noticed that a campaign is at present being waged in Australia by voluntary organizations, which is designed to lessen the death-rate by accident among children in the home? To assist the good work of these organizations, will the Minister approach, his colleague with a request that ti Department of Information film should bc produced to show the common household accidents which can happen to any child, and to portray the necessary safeguards that parents should take to protect the lives of their young children?
– I have noticed a number of references in the press to the campaign mentioned by the honorable senator, which is designed to reduce the incidence of accidents in households, especially among; young children. I shall bc pleased to bring the question to the notice of the Minister for the Interior in order that he may give consideration to the suggestion that has been made.
– T preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army by saying that at the present time in New South Wales there is a strike of firemen and a consequent grave danger to life and property. Has the Government offered assistance to New South Wales in the form of the pro vision of army personnel to man firefighting equipment during the present emergency, and, if so, will the Minister give the Senate some details of this offer of Commonwealth aid?
– The present arrangements that have been made between the Australian Government and the Government of New South Wales follow very closely the arrangements made when the firemen were previously on strike in New South Wales. The Australian Government will make available to the New South Wales Government the services of the armed forces, but not to man the various fire stations where the firemen are on strike. Under the current arrangement, the Australian Government is maintaining a sufficient reserve of service personnel, who will be available in an emergency. If an emergency arises or a fire breaks out, and the firemen are on strike, some properly constituted authority in New South Wales will communicate with the military authorities in that State, and the military authorities will quickly and readily divert members of the armed forces to the fire, wherever it may be.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that two vacancies exist on the board of control of TransAustralia Airlines? Does the Minister know that one of those vacancies has existed since June last and the other since April last? Is there a plan to fill those vacancies after the next general election with Mr. Ivan Holyman and a representative of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited? Is that the reason why Mr. Holyman was able to open negotiations with Butler Air Transport Proprietary Limited the day before yesterday with an offer, on behalf of TransAustralia Airlines, to buy the Vickers Viscount aircraft of that company?
– I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to the Minister for Civil Aviation and obtain a reply. I think I can give a definite assurance to the honorable senator that any plans that the Minister or the Government might have will not be directed to placing representatives of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited on the board of control of Trans-Australia Airlines.
– In view of the recent statements made by the Minister for Supply to the effect that experiments carried out by the Department of Supply had shown that there was little or no difference in the performance of motor cars and other vehicles which had used the highly publicized higher-octane petrol, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply say what steps are being taken to safeguard the long-suffering motoring public from this additional exploitation, which is assisted by highpressure advertisements?
– I shall be pleased to bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Supply, and obtain an answer for her.
– Can the acting Leader of the Government say whether it is a fact that when a bill was brought before this Parliament to authorize an agreement between our two major airlines, terrible forebodings were expressed here and in other places to the effect that the agreement would sound the death knell of Trans-Australia Airlines? Is it also a fact that the latest balance-sheet, which was laid on the table of the Senate yesterday, shows that the agreement was well justified, and that Trans-Australia Airlines is doing very well indeed ?
– The answer is an emphatic “ Yes “.
– On the 11th October, Senator Critchley asked a question concerning new telephone connexions. I find, after discussing with the PostmasterGeneral the points raised by Senator Critchley concerning the delays encountered by applicants for telephones, that the Post Office is connecting new services as rapidly as the resources allo cated to it will permit. Although the current rising application rate makes it quite impracticable for requests for telephones to be satisfied without delay, the department will continue to develop its plans to meet increased demands as additional resources are made available.
– On the 12th October, Senator Fraser asked a question regarding the train service on the transAustralian railway. I have made inquiries into the matter, and can now advise the honorable senator that the normal train service on the transAustralian railway consists of four airconditioned expresses weekly. . At present, and until the end of the first week in November, a fifth train is being run each week. Continuance of the running of the fifth train is dependent on the demand for rail accommodation continuing at somewhere approaching its present level. Five trains weekly is the maximum service practicable with the air-conditioned rolling-stock available. Increase to a daily train service is not necessary at present, and is not contemplated in the near future - Christmas period excepted - as the running of additional trains would necessitate the use of old style nonairconditioned carriages, which are not popular with the travelling public. Extra trains are being scheduled for the Christmas traffic, but they will be made up of the old-style carriages just mentioned. Additional modern air - conditioned carriages are on order, and further olderstyle cars are being modernized and airconditioned. When these carriages are available for service, consideration will be given to increasing the number of services, in the light of the demand for accommodation then existing.
asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs has supplied the following answers : -
The honorable senator’s question is no doubt prompted by an item in the Auditor-General’s Report. On this assumption, the answers to his questions are as follows: -
Sir Keith Officer was appointed Ambassador to France in 1050. The Minister for External Affairs approved that the Commonwealth should meet the whole of his representation and living expenses plus the expense of maintaining the official residence with essential domestic staff, subject to a charge of £10 per week to be met by Sir Keith Officer. The rate of actual expenditure was kept under review by the department. The limit on that part of these costs which was attributable to the functions of representation was originally set at £2,500, and specific provision was made permitting this figure to be revised from time to time. For the first two years an attempt was made to classify the kind of expenditure which could be attributed to “ representation “ and that attributable to living and servants’ costs. In fact, in the circumstances at the time, any division was necessarily arbitrary, and in May, 1953, the Minister for External Affairs agreed that expenditure of £2,985 and £0,183 for the two years ending in June, 1952, should be classified as representational, and he made a revised determination as provided for in the original determination. One cause of the higher expenditure in 1951-52 was the holding in Paris of the United Nations General Assembly. The figures of £5,303 and £4,890 for the two years ending June, 1954, include the cost of all the provision for Sir Keith Officer’s expenditure. In 1954, a system was inaugurated under which a clear distinction was drawn between expenditure on representation and expenditure on other costs, and a financial limit was placed upon each separately.
Ho question of discipline arises.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– I now supply the following answers: -
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon, A. M. McMullin) - I have received from Senator Ashley an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The serious situation which has .developed in the coal industry resulting from declining demand, largely attributable to increasing use of substitute fuels, and failure of the Government to take any effective step” to rehabilitate the industry, the action of the Government in authorizing substantial increases in the price of coal and the failure of the Government to secure export markets owing to the h i ,11 increase in cost as a result of government action.
.- I move-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till 10 a.m. on Friday, the 2lst October, 1955.
– Is the motion supported ?
Four honorable senators having risen in support of the motion,
– As a result of Government action through the Joint Coal Board a great deal of unrest and misapprehension has arisen on the northern and western coal-fields of New South Wales. Last month the Joint
Coal Board advised the Electricity Commission of New South Wales that there had been a sharp decline in the demand for small coal previously supplied to interstate markets. This applied particularly to coal supplied to the Electricity Trust of South Australia where the demand for the future is only 4,000 tons a week compared with 9,000 tons a week supplied previously. A large proportion of the small coal which has now become surplus is produced in the Maitland and Muswellbrook coal-field areas. These areas also provide large coal for the New South Wales railways and for gas production in that State. As there is still an unsatisfied demand for large coal the Joint Coal Board cannot solve the problem by merely reducing production because in order to produce large coal small coal must be mined as well. It thus becomes necessary to create a market for the small coal from this area.
The position, in effect, is that consumers have been informed that if no market is available for small coal, no large coal will he produced. It has Deen the custom of the Joint Coal Board to purchase all the small coal that was available and to supply it to other States which dealt with the board. This practice has now been discontinued. Negotiations have been completed by which the principal consumer, the South Australian Electricity Trust, will buy coal direct from the producers. Howard Smith Limited will act as vendors for Maitland coal and Newstan ‘ Colliery Proprietary Limited will act as agents for Newcastle coal. Other collieries that have been supplying small coal for shipment to South Australia, will not now participate in the new arrangements, and they have been given eleven days’ notice in which to adjust their business. As a result of “the new arrangements the Joint Coal Board is arranging for the dismissal of a number of mine-workers. In the northern district 76 men finished at Leconfield on the 30th September, 1955, 42 notices were issued at the Belmont North colliery, and 30 at Kent, to take effect on the 3rd October, 1955, 113 at Millfield, Greta, which is closing down, and 120 more notices, which will take effect before December, have been issued at Bloomfield. That is a total of 3S1. In the western district, 25 notices wore issued at Newcom on the 30th September, and eleven more are to be issued. At Ivanhoe, 33 miners finished on the 30th September and 40 more will finish on the 31st October. At Renown siding, nine notices were issued on the 30th September and at Lidsdale, 28 are to be issued. That is a total of 146 for the western district, and a grand total of 527.
On the 23rd September. the chairman of the Joint Coal Board, Mr. Cochran, said that arrangements had now been completed for the re-allocation of coal supplies for South Australia. He said also that re-employment committees had been formed at Newcastle and Lithgow whose personnel included representatives of the unions, the employers, the Department’ of Labour and National Service and the Joint Coal Board. The fact that those committees have been appointed is greatly appreciated, but it does not relieve the Government of its responsibility. In these mining centres communities have grown up, and businesses have been established, and as a result of the dismissals which have taken place and those that are forecast, they will all suffer.
Mr. Cochran emphasized that the adjustment of the coal markets was less than 3 per cent, of the weekly production. That may be true, but the men who have lost their employment are affected 100 per cent. It ill becomes the chairman of the Joint Coal Board to try to minimize the position. Presumably, Mr. Cochran had been instructed by the Minister because he would not move without instructions, which 1 assume would he issued by the Minister, as master of his department. Mr. Cochran said he hoped that no individual or organization would, seize the opportunity to magnify the problem with unjustifiable cries of panic and disaster.
It is all very well for the chairman of the Joint Coal Board, sitting in his cosy office, to say that. I have no desire to magnify the position, and I appreciate the problems that are confronting the Government, but would any honorable, senator suggest that a breadwinner who has been dismissed from his employment should not panic? Is it not only natural that he would do so? Miners who are thrown out of employment have great difficulty in obtaining work in other occupations. The remedy suggested by the Government is that these men should transfer to the south coast mining district, where there are vacancies for coal miners. It is suggested that men who have been working in mines in the western district, at Lithgow, or in the northern raining areas, should obtain work in the coal mines in the south coast district, and travel to and from their homes each week. The Government, which has control of coal-mining, must accept responsibility for these men. If miners have to be transferred to the south coast district, the Government should assist them by transferring their homes and their families to the south coast, because these men have lost their employment through no fault of their own.
The plan envisaged by the Government is designed to stabilize the position of the larger coal companies and open-cut interests at the expense of small producers. It cannot be denied that publicly owned mines operated by the Joint Goal Board served a very useful purpose when there was a shortage of coal, and that they made a major contribution to the solution of the difficulties arising from that shortage. Now mine3 in the western district at such places as Newcom, and in the northern district, at Newstan, are to have their markets taken away, and those markets handed over to large coal companies operating privately owned mines. The proposal to divert 150,000 tons of coal from the western district to mines in the northern part of New South Wales bears out my claim that the larger mines are being favoured by the Government. The trade which will be lost to the western district is to be allocated on the basis of 30,000 tons each to mines owned by the J. and A. Brown interests, which have always been favoured by the Government, and to Abermain Seaham Collieries Limited, the largest company operating in the industry, Hebburn Limited, which is associated with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and the Durham coal mine, which is an open-cut concern.
The allocation of contracts to an opencut mine calls for adverse comment. I shall be interested to hear the Minister’s reply. The Joint Coal Board has repeatedly given the assurance, and its assurance has been confirmed by the Minister, that open-cut mines would not be permitted to operate to the detriment of underground mines. Nevertheless, underground mines are now threatened with closure, whilst an open-cut mine is to be assisted to expand because of the action of the Government, through the Joint Coal Board. Some months ago the Joint Coal Board must have had knowledge of what was happening. That is a reasonable assumption in view of the fact that in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 9th July, 1955, there appeared an advertisement inviting tenders for the erection of a coal-washing plant at the Durham open-cut mine. It is remarkable how that advertisement coincided with the Government’s plan in regard to the allocation to an open-cut mine of a portion of the trade that small mines were doing in that area. The Joint Coal Board tries to justify the redistribution of coal by pleading the necessity to sellMaitland “ smalls “. At Durham the ratio of small coal to large coal is 70 to 30, yet at Leconfield, working the Greta seam, some miners are being dismissed. There has been a large volume of antifederation propaganda, suggesting that the growing use of oil, and of brown coal and Leigh Creek coal, is attributable to the industrial lawlessness of the miners. I have no desire to avoid the facts. Indeed, they are well known.
The coal-mining industry is a turbulent industry, but this needless aggravation of existing troubles must have an adverse effect on the industry. If there is trouble in the coal-mining industry, it is only a case of history repeating itself because, as I have said, coal-mining is a turbulent industry. For ten years after the termination of World War I. there was a lack of employment in the industry, and miners were fortunate if they obtained two or three days’ work a week. Most of them worked for only two days a week. Their sufferings at that time made them resentful. Their meagre employment did not permit them to provide for their dependants in the way that workers in other industries could do, and, naturally, some of the resentment of those days has remained in the industry. It was hoped that action by the Joint Coal Board and the Commonwealth and State governments, particularly the State Government of New South Wales, would remove that resentment, but some of it still remains. It cannot be argued that the miners are responsible for the loss of markets. Surely the Minister will not suggest that. There are many facts which prove that much of the propaganda against the miners is false. In 1953-54 the production of coal reached the all-time record figure of 14,926,000 tons, whilst figures supplied by the Registrar of the Miners Superannuation Fund disclose that during that year there were 1,100 fewer contributors to the fund than there were two years earlier, when 14,264,000 tons of coal was produced in New South Wales. That discloses that fewer men are producing more coal than ever before. I appreciate, of course, that mechanization and improvement of the industry has been effected as a result of the activities of the Joint Coal Board. I suggest that the major contribution to unemployment in the coal industry, and the threat of further dislocation of the industry, has been made by the policy of the MenziesFadden coalition in overriding the Joint Coal Board, and in granting increased prices for coal. Since the increases were made, enormous profits have been shown in the balance-sheets of the collieries. In 1950, the price of coal in Sydney was 70s. a ton but, later, enormous increases were granted by the direction of this Government. If any doubt is entertained by the Senate about what I have said in that regard, I refer honorable senators to a letter written by the chairman of the Joint Coal Board to Mr. Warren, who is chairman of the New South Wales Combined Colliery Proprietors Association. The letter reads -
I refer to the dismissions which T had with yon la°t week when I intimated that it was the wish of the Prime Minister that the Joint Coal Board should appoint a committee to investigate the price fixation policy of the Board and to make recommendations to the Board as to whether the existing policy provides sufficient incentive to the Colliery Proprietors to increase the output of coal from their mines and. if not. what modifications of existing policy should be made.
As I intimated .to you, it is the Prime Minister’s wish that the committee should consist of Mr. Walter D. Scott as Chairman, a nominee of your Association and Mr. B. H. Nolan, the Chief Accountant of the Joint Coal Board. 1 enclose copy of a letter which I have to-day written to Mr. Scott which will indicate that immediately you advise me of the name of your association’s nominee I shall inform Mr. Scott so that the committee can get to work.
The committee got to work, and the Government responded nobly to the representations of the coal barons. The price of coal, as a result of government interference, increased from 70s. a ton in 1950 to 115s. a ton in 1952. Honorable senators will note that the increase is 45s. a ton. At Newcastle, the price of coal increased from 60s. a ton f.o.b. to 97s. 6d. a ton, an increase of 37s. fid. a ton. At Port Kembla, the price of coal increased from 60s. a ton f.o.b. to 100s. a ton, an increase of 40s. Those figures indicate the enormous and unjustifiable increase of the price of coal made by this Government without any consultation with the Joint Coal Board. The board was told to appoint a committee to inquire into the price of coal, and the Prime Minister, without reference to the board at all, nominated two members of that committee.
The result was, to take one example, that Caledonian Collieries Limited increased its profits by 116 per cent, in the first year of the application of the increased price. The company’s profits were so great that it was able to pay off four years’ arrears of dividends in the one year. I remind the Senate again that that was because of the Government’s action. It should also be remembered that when seeking an increase of the price of coal, the coal proprietors first approached the Joint Coal Board, which refused to allow an increase. The board had all the information and balance-sheets concerning the activities of the companies, and was thus in the best position to determine a fair and reasonable price. That price was fixed by the board at 1 per cent, on the capital invested in the industry, plus all charges incidental to the production of coal. If this Government had been as generous to the bond holders who provided the money to fight the war, as it has been to the coal barons, its actions would have been more appreciated.’
Another example of the profits among coal-owners, brought about by the action of this Government, is that of a small colliery in ‘ the western district of New South Wales whose average profit had been £7,000 to £10,000 a year. That profit increased during the first year of the increased price of coal to £50,000. In view of those figures, honorable senators will realize that when I recently said in this chamber that coal-owners had increased their profits by 200 per cent, or 300 per cent., I was not exaggerating. Increased profits have also been made by the South Clifton colliery, which is controlled by the Joint Coal Board. Its profits used to be about £6,000 or £7,000 a year, but in the first year of the application of the increased price of coal, it earned more than £60,000. I could continue in the same strain and enumerate the increased profits of other collieries.
The Minister for National Develop ment (Senator Spooner) is continually reminding the Senate and the people of the amount of money involved in mechanizing the coal industry. He has stated that the coal proprietors use their profits to improve the industry, and he used a farmer’s term when he said that they plough their profits back. He also used that term when speaking about the £9,800,000 profit made by General Motors-Holden’s Limited. When the Minister states that £18,000,000 or £20,000,000 has been spent to mechanize the coal industry, he is not disclosing the full facts of the matter, which are that, because of the enormous increase of the price of coal, the consumers are paying for the mechanization of the industry. If an industry desires to extend its business it calls upon the shareholders to provide the capital, and I challenge the Minister to give the names of the coal-owners in New South Wales, or anywhere else, who are not mechanizing their mines out of profits. I ask the Minister to give the Senate some information about the amount that J. and A. Brown and Abermain Seaham Collieries Limited has provided out of shareholders’ capital for mechanization of its mines. On the other hand, it has been provided by the consumers of Aus tralia. That rise in -the price of coal has been the greatest contribution to inflation and the .high cost of Jiving.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Pearson).- Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Senator Ashley has followed a familiar line. He has rehashed or repeated arguments that he advanced previously in the Senate, and I have replied on previous occasions to those arguments. I propose, therefore, to give a reasoned explanation of the position that exists in the coal-mining industry, and 1 shall refer from time to time to the comments that have been made by Senator Ashley. In doing so, I shall reply to the honorable senator, because everything that he has said is commonplace in that it has been said over and over again, and replied to just as frequently.
Honorable senators should understand clearly that this period of re-organization in the coal-mining industry is not an unexpected development. The miners are not being displaced, as some of them claim, because of imported fuel coming into Australia, or because fuel oil has become available only recently. The use of fuel oil is a continuation of a normal development. In some cases it has replaced coal as a fuel, but that was occurring long before Australia’s oil refineries were built. The fuel oil that is now going into consumption is coming principally from the Australian refineries.
When the oil refinery programme was suggested in 1950, we were starved for coal throughout Australia, and we welcomed the refineries because of the prospect that they would give us an alternative fuel supply. The establishment of those refineries marked an important stage in Australia’s development. They provided a source of fuel as an alternative to coal. Some consumers were able to obtain fuel that was cheaper than coal, and the coal-mining industry had to face competition. Previously, one of the weaknesses of the situation was that the coalmining industry did not have competition, and had a virtual monopoly over the supply of fuel. We must accent that, under present circumstances, as Senator
Ashley has said, some miners are losing their employment, hut from a national point of view, we are in a far more favorable position than we were when we depended solely upon coal for fuel. At that time, we were unable to get even reasonably adequate supplies of coal for our requirements.
What are the facts? What has happened within the coal-mining industry, and what are the circumstances of the competition between oil and coal? The capacity of the refineries, when they are completed in 1956, will be 2,500,000 tons of fuel oil each year. At present, we are using fuel oil in Australia at the rate of 2,000,000 tons a year, so that four-fifths of the potential output of fuel oil is already being consumed. We have established effective competition between fuel oil and coal.
What has happened? Although fourfifths of the track has been covered, speaking figuratively, the number of employees in underground mines has remained unaltered for all practical purposes. I invite honorable senators to consider the following statistics in connexion with employment in underground mines in Australia. The number of employees at the 30th June each year was -
For all practical purposes, therefore, the level of employment in underground mines has remained stable. The reason is that, despite the competition between oil and coal, the production of coal from underground mines has increased. It is as well that everybody should understand the situation. I made no bones about it when I met the representatives of the miners’ federation in conference with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt). I told the representatives of the federation, straight from the shoulder, that they were doing great harm to the coal-mining industry and to the members of their own union by the series of exaggerated statements they were issuing about the decline and fall of the coalmining industry. There is no decline and foll of .the coal-mining industry in New
South Wales. The total production of coal from underground mines in New South Wales up to this stage has been increasing, as the following annual figure* show : -
Although the consumption of fuel oil has risen to 2,000,000 tons a year, there is no crisis in the coal-mining industry. All that has happened in the coal-mining industry in New South Wales is that it has not progressed as it would have done if there had not been competition from fuel oil. I agree with the honorable senator that this stability that has occurred in the coal-mining industry has resulted in improved efficiency. The test of efficiency in the industry is the output per man shift, which has gone from 2.9 tons in 1949-50 to 3.3 tons last year. There has been a. 10 per cent, improvement in the last two years as a result, principally, of the fact that the mines have been made more efficient. There is now an incentive for the proprietors to fight for trade and to provide better conditions for their men.
There is nothing on which I disagree with the honorable senator more profoundly than with his criticism of the principle that the coal-mining industry should be given a decent level of profit. That was the basic trouble with the industry when I first became associated with it in 1951. It is all nonsense to say that the colliery proprietors to-day are making exorbitant profits. If honorable senators turn to the stock and share lists they will see that there are comparatively few coal-mining companies whose shares, even to-day, are selling above par. Shares in the New South Wales coal-mining companies may be bought at under par. The shares of the biggest coal-mining company of all, J. and A. Brown Limited, whose business record goes back over a long period of years, and which is undoubtedly the market pointer for the industry, can be obtained at 18s. to-day, being a discount of 10 per cent. When the honorable senator speaks of exorbitant profits, I suggest that he should line up his remarks with that situation: With the greatest respect, I think that his contention about exorbitant profits is fantastic and foolish. When it is advanced against the background that it was a policy forced on the Joint Coal Board, that again is quite incorrect. I claim credit for having originated that policy. It was done carefully and in a calculated way in order to give a fair thing to the industry and encourage it to develop.
The honorable senator has referred to the tremendous increase of the price of coal. Let me make the point that, in all the inflationary years that have elapsed since 1950, although the prices of most other commodities have increased, the price of coal, which is a basic commodity, has fallen year by year as the result of improved efficiency in the industry. The pit-top price of coal in 1952 was 64s. 6d. a ton. It was 63s. 4d. a ton in 1953, 60s. a ton in 1954, and it is 59s. 3d. in 1955. I am sorry that I cannot contrast those figures with the figures cited by the honorable senator, because the two sets of figures have been computed in different ways. Those used by the honorable senator were computed on the basis of f.o.b. Newcastle, Port Kembla, and so on, and the figures I have are pit-top prices.
The price of coal has fallen not only because the mines have been brought up to date and mechanized, although it is true, as the honorable senator said, that great sums have been expended in this connexion, but also because the employees, by and large, are more contented than they have been previously in the history of the industry, evidence of which is given by the decline in the proportion of time lost through industrial disputes. I shall not refer to 1949, because that was the year of the big coal strike, but in 1951, 12 per cent, of productive capacity was lost through industrial disputes. The loss on that account is now down to 6 per cent, or 7 per cent.
Another point I wish to make is that the taxpayers of Australia should rejoice because, throughout this Government’s association with the coal-mining industry, there has been a reduction of the amount of government funds invested in it. In June, 1952, the Australian Government had £13,465,000 on loan to the Joint Coal Board. That amount has been reduced, and at the present time it is £3,500,000. I make that point with some emphasis, because in the world in which we live, once a government becomes associated with an industry the trend is for that government to become even more deeply immersed in it, to take more and more part in it and to invest more and more of the taxpayers’ money in it. Here, the situation has been reversed entirely. In the last three years, the Australian Government has received back from the Joint Coal Board no less than £7,750,000.
The coal industry is in the position that its turnover, its trade, is being maintained despite the competition from oil. The mines are becoming increasingly efficient, the price of coal is falling, and industrial conditions are improving. If any one can complain about that situation, then he must be a more successful critic than I think it is possible to be. We have reached a stage at which fourfifths of the oil capacity is in circulation. During the next eighteen months, the remaining one-fifth will come into circulation at a rate equivalent to 500,000 tons of coal a year. There is no profit in being a prophet in the coal-mining industry, because whatever we say, no matter how hard we try, or how good the job we are doing, we are going to be cut to shreds by the miners’ federation.
As I say, the quantity of oil to which I have referred will be coming on to the fuel market during the next eighteen months, but of course that is not the only factor involved. We have taken 2,000,000 tons of oil and have maintained our production and our level of improvement, because as markets have been lost to coal, other markets have been opened up. Australia is a growing country. If we lose markets in one direction, the growth of the steel industry, the growth of power houses and of manufacturing industry will create markets in other directions. I hesitate to forecast what is going to happen, but I hold the private view - a view which cannot be supported by figures, but can be supported only by a study of what has happened in the past - that although oil equivalent to 500,000 tons of coal will come on to the market, twelve months hence the production of coal will be at the same level as it is at the present time. The difficulties which confront the federation are not so much because of the competition from oil, the fact being that the level of coal production is remaining constant, but because the industry is becoming increasingly efficient, aud because coal can be produced, and will be produced in the future, with a smaller number of employees than is used to produce it at the present time. That is the basic trouble. The industry is being modernized. Of course, that presents problems for those who are engaged in the industry. I can appreciate the honorable senator’s assertion that, from the point of view of the men concerned, although the overall displacement of miners is only 3 per cent., that does not alter the fact that the displacement is 100 per cent, in individual cases. All I can say is, that the Government is doing everything it can to minimize the problem for each particular person in the industry. I believe that we have an effective organization operating. At the conference that has been mentioned, I asked the representatives of the miners’’ federation to tell me of anything the Government could do beyond what it was doing to help members of the federation. lt can be fairly said that, in effect, they replied there was nothing more that the Government could do at the present time.
I point out that greatly exaggerated statements have been made about the fears of displacement in the coal-mining industry. There is no reason why any person engaged in that industry should fear unemployment during the era that we are now entering. As has been already pointed out to-day, there are at present 500 vacancies in the coal-mining industry - 500 vacant positions for which the proprietors cannot obtain employees. Over and above that number of vacancies in the industry, there are, in the Newcastle area alone, 600 vacant positions outside of the coal-mining industry for which coal-miners would be suitable. Again, there is a considerable turnover of labour in that industry. Each year, for their own personal reasons, 1,700 men leave the industry. In addition, approximately 300 men leave the coal-mining industry each year upon attaining the age for retirement. To recapitulate, there are 500 vacancies in the industry to-day; there are 600 vacancies outside the coalmining industry in the Newcastle area for which coal-miners would be suitable; and vacancies will occur in the industry in the future at the rate of about 2,000 a year. There is not the remotest possibility of insufficient vacancies occurring in the future to absorb all coal-miners who lose their jobs on certain fields. All that is required, in these circumstances, is co-operation and the exercise of common sense on all sides. Obviously, as men are displaced from employment in certain sections of the industry, as those sections become more efficient, the men will be able to step into other positions elsewhere. That process is inevitable.
The honorable senator has referred to the fact that miners are losing their employment on the western coal-fields in New South Wales, because the contract to supply coal to the Victorian railways has now gone to the northern coal-fields I am sorry that the western coal-fields have lost this contract for the supply of 150,000 tons of coal a year, but let its consider the point of view of the Victorian railways. It is claimed that, by buying northern coal instead of western coal, the Victorian railways will effect a saving of £400,000 a year. What sort of a government would we be, and what sort of a nation would we be to stand in the way of progress by saying that the Victorian railways should not save £400,000 a year on coal if it were possible to do so? Why should not the Victorian railways buy coal from the northern fields in New South Wales instead of on the dearer western coal-fields market ?
Senator Ashley’s statement that the only vacancies available in the industry are on the south coast of New South Wales is incorrect. The figures I have cited show that there are sufficient vacancies in the industry to provide other employment for men who lose their jobs on the western coal-fields. Both the Joint Coal ‘ Board and the colliery proprietors’ organization are cushioning coal-miners displaced from certain coalfields into other jobs in the industry and elsewhere. The only point that arises is whether the powers that be are handling sympathetically and efficiently the problem of moving coal-miners from one place to another. I assure the Senate that the Government is doing its utmost in connexion with this aspect of the matter. The honorable senator spoke tommy rot when he referred to ghost communities, deserted villages and that sort of thing.
– It was not tommy rot.
– In the majority of instances, displaced coal-miners find employment in the same district. The organizations I have referred to have found, on occasions, when endeavouring to place men displaced from one section of the industry that they have already obtained employment elsewhere. Good luck to them! Let them make their own arrangements, if that is the best and most efficient way of handling the problem. But it makes me furious to hear confounded nonsense spoken about stress, unemployment, and an impending crisis in the coal-mining industry.
The position is that this nation can now exercise a choice in relation to fuel. No longer are we under the control of the miners’ federation. There are now available alternate fuels; oil and coal of better quality and at cheaper prices. They have become available without harmful effects on the New South Wales coal-mining industry. When we cast our minds back to the conditions that existed in the coal-mining industry in former years, we remember that it was the weakest part of our economy. That industry, by holding the community to ransom, caused unemployment in other industries, and increased costs generally. But we now have the position under control ; those days have passed. Coal is now in ample supply. Indeed, a stockpile of 1,000,000 tons of coal has been established. Coal is being produced at less cost than formerly, whilst a fair thing is being done in relation to both employers and employees. This, I think, is the complete answer to the submissions that have been made by Senator Ashley. As I cannot see any advantage in carrying the debate further, I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the negative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 19th October (vide page 586).
Department of the Army.
Proposed vote, £63,128,000.
– When the Senate adjourned last night I had completed my remarks on Division 128 - Civilian Services; and was proceeding to deal with Division 129 - Citizen Military Forces and Cadets. In respect of Item 4b, “ Compensation for death, injury or illness on duty “, for this year an amount of £55,000 has been allocated; last year £45,000 was voted, and £55,448 was expended. I am a little confused because the following division, Division 130 - General Services, also provides in item 10 for “ Compensation for death injury or illness on duty “, and an amount of £20,000 is voted for this year; £20,000 was voted last year, and £16,499 was spent last year. I should be glad if the Minister in his reply would make clear why this item appears in those two divisions.
– The honorable senator will notice that the item also appears in Division 127 - Australian Regular Army. .
– I understand that, but if the Minister will allow me to proceed there is just one point with which I desire him to deal. If a soldier in the Citizen Military Forces becomes ill and is removed to a repatriation hospital, under which of those divisions does he come? I should like that point cleared up, because, as far as I am concerned, there is an element of doubt.
I desire to refer again to the case of ex-Private Luxton, which my colleagues and I have raised previously. He was a national service cadet at Woodside, and fourteen days before the camp finished, he was stricken with a malady, of the nature of which we have not had a satisfactory explanation, despite our efforts to obtain that information. That malady caused him to spend 88 days in the Dawes-road Military Hospital after the camp he was attending had finished. Up to date he has not received one penny compensation, and no satisfactory explanation has been given by the Government, the Minister or the department as to why this man has been treated so unjustly and unfairly. My colleagues and I have taken a certain stand outside of Parliament because of the apparent inconsistency on the part of the Government in denying this man his rights, and we are awaiting with interest the outcome of our action. When an amount is provided for the purpose of paying compensation for illness or injury on duty there can be no reason why a trainee should be denied compensation if he has not committed a misdemeanour or in any way transgressed the law. My colleagues from South Australia, and honorable senators on the Government side from that State agree that precautions are necessary, but we cannot understand why this man, who willingly undertook his period of national service training and complied with all requirements, should be denied his just claim.
I intend to press this case, because it is one of the most glaring anomalies I have ever encountered. If the Government could give me a confidential reason I should be happy. I have been assured by this man that he would be prepared to take any statement from the Government as long as it was a genuine reason. I had an interview with an officer of the Department of the Army, and because of my unwillingness as a layman to allow a principle of justice to be overridden by a regulation I came away from that discussion unsatisfied and more than ever convinced that an injustice had been done.
I implore the Government, and particularly the Minister administering this department, to re-open this case. The taxpayers would not tolerate such treatment if they were in the position of Parliament or the Government, and I hope that some satisfaction may soon be forthcoming.
.- A matter of great interest in Victoria in respect of which I have received many requests is covered in Division 130, General Services, Item 6, compensation for hired properties, for which the vote both last year and this year appears as £8,000, but of which only £1,106 was spent last year. The Department of the Army occupies public park lands in Victoria, and I direct attention particularly to its occupation of Albert Park. I should like the Minister to say whether this item is for rent of such properties and if so, why the total vote last year was not expended. If this annual vote is for the hire of properties other than park lands in Victoria can the Minister inform me which item in the estimate covers the hire of parklands and what amount is paid by the department for each area so occupied. What is the attitude of the Department of the Army towards the occupation of these premises? Does it propose to relinquish this land to the park trustees, and if so can it set a date on which it proposes to do so? Perhaps Senator Kennelly might like to add something to the point which I have raised.
.- I should like the Minister to give me some information on item 11 of Division 130. This item covers expenses of officers sent abroad on training, and the vote last year was the same as for this year - £140,000. Is this expenditure for young officers going abroad for training? Where are they being sent, and what inducement is offered to them when they have completed their training to give the Commonwealth the benefit of their knowledge and experience for a period - say two years? This may not be unrelated to a later item in the Estimates dealing with recruiting, provision for which has been increased by £100,000 this year. I know the difficulty that is being experienced in obtaining new recruits to keep the armed forces at strength and in maintaining those who are trained. Could the extra £100,000 set aside for recruiting propaganda be better spent on an item such as this, to provide an inducement for young men to take an officer training course and go overseas to gain experience and skill in their profession?
– The question of rent paid by the Department of the Army for park areas has been raised, a subject which has received some publicity recently in the Victorian press. I am interested in it only so far as it affects one particular area in Victoria. During World War II., the Commonwealth under its war-time powers, and with the consent, then, no doubt, of the particular trust, took 56 acres of Albert Park, for which it paid £122 a year. I understand that at the time that was the sum which the trust was receiving from sporting bodies using that particular area.
Sitting suspended from- 12.1(5 to 2.15 p.m.
– In the early years of World War II., the Australian Government, under the war-time powers it possessed, and with the consent of the committee in control of Albert Park, took over 56 acres of the park at a rental of £122 per annum. In 1946, there was a change in the personnel of the trust controlling Albert Park, and I then, as chairman of the trust, reconsidered the rental and spoke to the then Prime Minister about it. The result was that some time later it was agreed that the trust should be paid a rental of at least £50 an acre. At the time, I took some trouble to find out what the Commonwealth Government was paying for other land, and in the light of that knowledge I concluded that the Government was getting the use of the land cheaply. In 1949, the then Minister for the Army, Mr. Chambers, visited Albert Park at my request, and handed back to the trust about 9^ acres, so that to-day the Commonwealth Government has the use of 45J acres. I do not know what proportion of that acreage is occupied by the Army, but I do know that practically every Commonwealth department has offices in Albert Park. Some people have said that the trust wants to have them there. Included among those who say that are some persons who at one time were councillors of the South Melbourne City Council. I. have in mind particularly an honorable gentleman in another place, whose main interest in the park was to see that it was kept as a filthy and dirty tip for the South Melbourne City Council. The trust does not want the tip there.
Some three or four months ago I wrote to the Department of the Interior, the department which I understand controls the hiring of buildings and land required by the Government for which rent is paid. In my letter, which is on the departmental file, I said, on behalf of the trust, that the Government had three months to hand back to the trust a rather large shed which had been erected on a portion of the park fronting Albertroad, and near the MacPherson Girls High School. In addition to a number of telephone communications, I received a letter from Mr. Doolan, who is the Chief Property Officer of the department in Victoria, in which he said that the request had been noted, and that the department had placed on the Estimates a sufficient sum of money to cover the removal of the shed. Later I again wrote to Mr. Doolan, notifying him that it was the policy of the Liberal Government then in office in Victoria to raise rents by 25 per cent. Although I understand that an increase in the rental for the land has been approved, the only communication I have had from Mr. Doolan is that the department will recommend to the Minister that the rental be increased by 25 per cent. In another communication, which also is on the file, I said that the trust would be grateful to know when the area covered by that huge building would be handed back, and also when the remaining area now being used by the Commonwealth would be handed back to the trust. I must be honest, and point out that there was a time when the rent received from the Government for the land was a consideration, but that has not been the position for a number of years.
I believe that as a senator in this Parliament I have some responsibility in this matter. I am not indulging in cheap party political propaganda when I say that some people now appear to take an interest in these affairs that they did not take when they were in a position to do something in the matter. I allude in particular to an honorable member in another place. Although I realize that it is not possible overnight to find accommodation for 3,000 or 4,000 employees of the Crown, I repeat that the trust desires to resume the whole area as soon as possible. However, we must be practical, and naturally the question where these people are to go arises. I am not here to put up a case for the Department of the Interior, or-to help the Minister in charge of this bill out of an awkward position, particularly as it affects one of his own supporters. AH that I wish to say is that I am somewhat concerned at the very slow progress that is being made with the construction of Commonwealth buildings which would enable us to get back the portion of park land now occupied by Federal Government offices. In this matter the Government has something to answer. I would be the last person to indulge in cheap political propaganda and to stand up here and say that some thousands of government employees who are now working in offices at Albert Park should be put out on the streets.
I understand that, at the moment, there is no other place to which they can go. In saying that, however, I do not wish to imply that there are no persons still em ployed there who wish to remain there. I have gone so far as to speak to the General Officer Commanding Southern Command on this matter and have pointed out that something should be done. I did that long before there was any considerable controversy about this matter. “We have practically reached the position that all capital works under construction in other areas have either been completed or are expected to be completed within twelve or eighteen months. I well remember the time, in the early post-war years, when the press of this country, aided by some persons who now sit on the Government benches in this Parliament, complained about Federal Government employees occupying private offices in various capital cities, i do not know whether this Government, in the early days of its term of office, or the government that preceded it, was responsible for taking government employees out of large homes in the suburbs of Melbourne, and probably other cities also, and placing them elsewhere. I rose to express the views of people who are prepared to give their time, without fee or reward, in an endeavour to provide playing areas for the people, and to deny the assertion that Federal Government departments are in occupation of park lands at Albert Park because the trust which controls the area wants them to be there. That is not correct. I should be very pleased if in the coming twelve months we could get back other such areas. The Chief Property Officer in Victoria of the Department of the Interior is on leave at the moment, but we have already arranged a conference so that we can at least have it placed on paper that particular areas will come hack to the people. I am certain that our talks up to the present time have borne some fruit, and I hope that any future talks will do likewise.
– I should appreciate it if the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), as the representative of the Minister for the Army, would in his reply give the Senate some detailed information concerning Division 129b, item 4, Compansation for death, injury or illness on duty. Last year, the vote for this particular item was £45.000 and the expenditure was £55,448. This year the vote is less than the amount that was expended last year. No doubt there is some reason for that difference between this year’s vote and last year’s expenditure, and I ask the Minister, when he is explaining that, to detail the amounts that have been expended and the number of persons involved in the expenditure.
I now desire to support the statements about Frank Luxton made by my colleague, Senator Critchley. No doubt all honorable senators are conversant with that matter, because my colleague and I have persistently ventilated it in this chamber for a considerable time. I do not desire to weary the Senate by detailing all the circumstances surrounding the case of national service trainee Frank Luxton, because Senator Critchley has already acquainted the Senate with most of the details. However, all our representations to the Government for the equitable and just treatment of this unfortunate national service trainee have been of no avail. We have asked questions in this chamber and we have written letters to the appropriate Minister, but we have been told that the matter has been fully investigated by a delegate of the Treasury. We have also been informed that because Luxton did not discharge the onus of proof, his claim for compensation had not been recognised. I shall not enter into the merits of the case at present, because I have done that on previous occasions in this chamber, but I most emphatically protest against the indifferent attitude of the Government to all our representations on behalf of Luxton for some form of settlement of his claim. - Our representations have been totally ignored, and for that the Government stands condemned.
During the last sittings of the Senate, despite having submitted a number of questions to the Government about the delegate who heard Luxton’s case, his qualifications to deal with compensation matters, and the terms upon which he had decided the case, we received no information and no attention whatsoever. During the last sittings of the Senate I asked that all the files and details associated with the investigation of Luxton’. claim be placed on the table of the Senate for my perusal and the perusal of any other honorable senator who wished to see them. However, I was met with a blank refusal. ‘ That refusal seems to indicate that the Government has something to hide, and is shielding a guilty party. If the case hinged on a simple examination, there is no doubt in my mind that the merits of the case would overwhelmingly justify compensation being paid to Luxton. But the Government adopted a most despotic attitude, and my questions remained on the notice-paper practically throughout the whole of the last sittings. It was only in the final stages of the session that Senator Critchley and I received an invitation to meet a treasury official and discuss the matter with him. However, he stood by the present position quite adamantly, and would not consider any departure from the attitude of the delegate. Then we received a letter from the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) to the effect that as a result of the conference of the senators and the treasury official, the case of Luxton remained the same as before. If Private Luxton required a further appeal, he would have to act on his own volition and take the appropriate action. That was done to force him into the local court. Such an appearance was tantamount to an appeal in conformity with requirements of the act. He complied with that procedure and engaged the services of an eminent industrial lawyer, Mr. L. J. Stanley, who is an outstanding advocate for the South Australian industrial movement. What was the reaction of the Government to Mr. Stanley’s approach for information and the relevant papers? He sought to investigate the case and peruse the papers for the benefit of his client and advise him whether to proceed with the matter or drop it entirely. The Government remained adamant and refused, deliberately in my opinion, to reply to the correspondence. At the end of a month Mr. Stanley renewed his overtures, and asked for the necessary particulars to be supplied to him. After a further wait of two weeks, the department replied that the matter had been submitted to the Crown Law office for further consideration and investigation. There it remains. This Parliament has been in session for seven or eight weeks, and still no reply has been received concerning a settlement by the Crown Law office.
These tactics do not show the Government up in a good light. No wonder the public is incensed over the treatment that is meted out in such cases. The proposed vote under discussion is less than the expenditure last year. Is it the policy of the Government to delay payment of compensation to national service trainees? I do not know whether the Government’s actions are deliberate or inspired, but its attitude indicates something of that sort. I should be obliged if the Minister would give details of the various categories of compensation affected, and also supply any further information that is available concerning the case of Private Luxton.
– I congratulate the Government upon the fact that the proposed vote for. the Department of the Army this year is £63,128,000, compared with an actual expenditure last year of £61,504,740. That indicates an increase of expenditure upon this department. I am pleased about this proposal, because honorable senators have heard criticism from the Opposition of the defence expenditure. Honorable senators on the Opposition side have suggested that it should be reduced by about £40,000,000. I do not believe that this is the time to reduce Australia’s expenditure on defence simply because Russia has made some sort of peaceful gesture. Naturally, we have to take notice of that gesture, but 1 do not think the time has come for us to consider reducing our defence expenditure. Australia is spending less per head of population on defence than are the people of the United Kingdom or the United States of America. As a nation, we must honour our obligation to the other democracies to play our part in the defence of freedom. Immediately after World War II., the democracies considerably reduced their expenditure on defence, but Russia did not do so. We have been forced to build up our defences again, but they have not reached anything like the strength we had attained at the end of hostilities ten years ago. Russia could reduce its armed strength considerably before we could consider doing the same.
I direct attention to Division 127 - Australian Regular Army, “Pay and allowances in the nature of pay, £19,570,000 “, compared with actual expenditure last year of £19,256,961. The proposed vote represents an increase of more than £300,000. The next paragraph directs attention to the schedule at page 187. On that page we find complete details of the numbers of men and women engaged in the service of the Australian Regular Army. Is it really necessary that we should place details of the exact strength of our defence services in a document that is open to the press and to the public for all the world to read? These details are also supplied in connexion with the Department of the Navy and the Department of Air. That is a straight-out gift to our enemies of the details of the number of men and women we have in our pay in the defence services. This document makes the matter too simple for our enemies. They could make an accurate guess at our defence services by studying our expenditure, but why should we give them this little bit extra ? It is not necessary for honorable senators to know how many men and women are engaged in the armed services. I think we could very well do without it. I do not wish to be funny, but it appears to me that, in some respects, the Australian Regular Army is rather like the Portuguese Army, which was renowned for the number of generals in it. The Australian Regular Army may not have an undue number of generals, but I point out that, of a total of 24,000 personnel, there are 13,000 officers and non-commissioned officers, leaving only 11,000 men. That seems to me a little top heavy. I appreciate, of course, that those officers and non-commissioned officers would form the staff of a war-time army, and that they have to train the citizen forces. There are many reasons why the proportion should be as it is, but I contend that our regular army is not big enough. I know that, by saying so, I open up all sorts of avenues for debate.
I am aware that we are short of recruits for the Army, and that it is diffi-cult to get recruits in these days of overfull employment. I consider, however, that we may not be doing our share when we have only two brigade groups available and ready for service overseas, but have we really got those two brigade groups? I doubt whether we have. We have two battalions overseas at the present time, and it is taxing our resources to keep up reinforcements for them. How, then, could we expand our regular army? I feel sorry for any Ministers connected with the defence forces who have to go overseas and talk to their opposite numbers in either the United Kingdom or America, because when they are asked what our contribution to the defence of democracy would be if war broke out, they will be in a very difficult position.
I do not know how we are going to rectify this state of affairs. We are spending large sums of money on advertising in the daily newspapers, and I shall have something more to say about that matter later on. However, advertising alone is not producing a sufficient number of recruits. True, we are doing better than we did last year, and I give due credit for that improvement. As I have said, it is extremely difficult, in these days of over-full employment, to get people into the Army, because tha Army has to compete with industry. I am not blaming the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis),, or the other Ministers concerned with defence, for this state of affairs. In fact. I am sorry for them and am trying to put forward some constructive criticism.
I return to the point at which I started, the question of pay. A man may be patriotic enough, but in peace-time his patriotism is governed, to a large extent, by his pocket. If he can earn more money in a civilian job than in the services, he will not go into the services.
– His wife sees to that !
– Yes, and his children have some say in it, too. If we wish to increase the number of personnel in the forces, we have to be prepared to put our hands into our pockets and pay servicemen more. That applies particularly to tradesmen. We get recruits, but lose them after a certain length of time. We train recruits to become tradesmen; industry offers them higher wages, and out they go. The Navy, Army and Air Force are doing good work for the country in that they are training technicians and passing them on to civilian life, but that good work should not be debited against the defence estimates. Those services are doing a job of national importance in training young men to become tradesmen.
Not only must we consider the wisdom of giving members of the forces more pay, but we must also consider giving them better amenities. Of course, we are already doing that to a degree. For instance, with the forces we are sending overseas, we are also sending their wives and children. In my opinion, it is proper that that should be done, and because we are doing things such as that we are getting a larger number of recruits. However, I ask the Minister to consider whether we have yet induced a sufficient number of recruits to enter the forces. I suggest that, if he agrees that the number is not sufficient, he examine the question of pay and amenities. Are we giving them enough to attract them to enlist, and having got them to enlist, are we doing enough to keep them in the forces ?
I come now to Division 129 - Citizen Military Forces and Cadets. I notice that we propose to spend £8,857,000 in this connexion this year, and that we spent £8,262,628 last year, so that there is to be an increase of more than half a million pounds. In my opinion, the provision of that £8,857,000 is the best thing that we are doing in these army estimates. We shall receive more value for that expenditure than we shall from the remainder of the Estimates. This matter must not be looked at only from the point of view of defence, because it is also extremely important for the youth of Australia, and for boosting the. morale of the people generally. Even if there were complete disarmament amongst the nations of the world, it would pay us to continue to train our youths, to get them into camps and give them a certain amount of discipline for three months, even if it were more on a boy scout basis than on military basis. This money could not be spent in a better way. Having said that, I want to say a word somewhat in criticism of it.
It will be noted that, in Division 129b - -General Expenses, reference is made, in Item 1, to camps of training, schools and courses of instruction, regimental exercises and bivouacs, the proposed vote for which is £2,180,000. I suggest that that really amounts to provision for regimental exercises. As I said, the weakness of citizen forces training is that it does not go far enough. At the most, it goes to regimental training standard which, as any soldier in this chamber knows, is not sufficient in time of war. Ti war were to break out, in my humble opinion - and I say this with some diffidence, because one gets out of touch after being out of the armed forces for any length of time - it would take us from niue months to a year to get a force composed of such people fit to take its place in action in any theatre of war, because the men would have received only basic military training. They would have been taught to fire a rifle, a trench mortar and a light machine gun, and to move from A to B in formation, but they and their officers would not have been trained in brigade, divisional or army methods and manoeuvres. What is more important, the officers and the staff would not have been trained in the handling and administration of forces in the field. I know, from personal experience, that such training is necessary before it is possible to fight efficiently.
In Australia to-day, we have remarkably few officers who were above the rank of, say, regimental commander during the last war and who could take their place in the field to-morrow if war broke out. We have on our hands a relatively large number of trained men and others with whom a lot of time would have to be spent in finishing off their training before we could permit them to the field without committing almost murder. It is absolutely necessary that something should be done in this respect. I do not know the answer, and again, I feel extremely sorry for the Minister. It appears to me that they require a minimum of a .year’s training. Of course, I arn not advocating a minimum of a year’s compulsory training; I am merely pointing out the necessity for these things. I come now to Division 130 - General Services.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I wish to make some comment in relation to the item, Recruiting campaign, under Division 130 - General Expenses. My remarks will be directed along two lines - first, the technique that has been adopted in the presentation of this item in the Estimates, and secondly, the amount of the proposed vote. I direct attention to the fact that this year a different method has been adopted in relation to the inclusion of this item in the Estimates from that which was followed formerly. Last year, provision was made for this item in the vote for the Department of the Army; this year, provision is made in the proposed vote for General Services. The proposed vote for Division 1861. - recruiting campaign - is £384,000. The reason for the change in the method of presentation of this item may be due to the comment that was contained in a report of the Public Accounts Committee in relation to Supplementary Estimates - Commonwealth Consolidated Revenue Fund, for the year 1953-54, which was presented in February of this year, and which has since been printed by order of the Senate. The Public Accounts Committee thought, in the light of evidence that was given by representatives of the defence services that, as the recruiting campaign was conducted in .relation to the three services, it was inappropriate for the vote for the campaign to be included in the vote for the Department of the Army, although, as will be noticed from the Estimates this year, the Department of the Army has control of the vote and provides the administrative machinery to handle it. Although no amount for this year is shown against the item, Recruiting Campaign, under Division 130, I presume that I shall be in order in referring to the recruiting campaign. Actually, the recruiting campaign is under the control and direction of the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), who is the coordinating authority for the three defence services. I presume that that is the reason why the alteration in the method of presentation to which I have referred has been adopted.
– Was it not right to do so?
– I consider it to be a correct procedure.
– The honorable senator is not complaining about the change?
– No. On the contrary, I commend the Government for making this logical change. I think it is excellent. Indeed, I should like the Government to go further in the matter. As the recruiting campaign is conducted in the interests of the three defence services, I consider that, as far as possible, the proposed vote for the recruiting campaign should be dissected according to the proportion applicable to each of the defence services, so that one might get an exact pen-picture of the amount that it is costing to run each department. I commend this suggestion to honorable senators in order that more detailed and intelligent consideration might be given to this subject when the various appropriation bills are being considered. Honorable senators should be able readily to see the proportion of revenue that is expended by the various departments. I urge the Government to adopt and implement this suggestion in future Estimates.
The other aspect of the matter to which I desire to direct attention also emanates from the deliberations of the Public Accounts Committee, which reported, at page 12 of the report to which I have referred, as follows: -
The estimate for 1953-54 was f 250,000 and the actual expenditure was £175,303, an overestimate of f 74,037.
The department explained that, although the vote was listed among its votes and without any qualifications, in fact it was for the recruiting campaign for all three service departments. It was controlled by the Department of Defence but the accounting organization of the Department of the Army handled the paying and recording of accounts.
A review of the recruiting organization had been put in hand in June, 1953 and, pending the completion of the review, a figure of £250,000 was included in the Estimates. That figure was based on an estimate by the DirectorGeneral of Recruiting of £251,000 for the year. When the review had been completed, the Minister for Defence, in November, 1953, directed that the expenditure should be reduced to £190,000 for the year.
In a letter that the Minister for Defence subsequently sent to Mr. Bland, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, this appears -
In regard to the statement in paragraph 1 of your letter, that the Recruiting Vote for 1953-54 was seriously overestimated, it is desired to advise you that the amount of £250,000 in the Estimates was based on th« then existing organization and scale of advertising. Subsequent to the Estimates and following a review of the organization by the Defence Committee, 1 directed that the financial allocation for the Recruiting Organization in 1953-54 was to be limited to £190,000. Owing to savings effected during the financial year on this amount, the actual expenditure for the year amounted to £175,3(13, which was £14,U37 below the approved allocation.
Obviously, at that time, the Minister for Defence had given consideration to the whole of the machinery of the recruiting organisation, and the amount that was voted in anticipation of what might be required. The Minister found that the vote would be substantially under drawn, because he directed that the maximum expenditure should not exceed £190,000. It will be seen from the Estimates that although only £283,000 was voted for ti).’ recruiting campaign in the last financial year, £308,170 was expended, and the proposed vote for this financial year i> £384,000.
I should like to be informed of the outcome of the re-organization that was mentioned by the Minister, as a result of which he imposed a ceiling limit of £190,000 on expenditure on the recruiting campaign. In the light of that ceiling limit, how was it that an amount of £308,170 was expended on the recruiting campaign in the last financial year, and why is it now apparently proposed to expend £384,000 under this heading in this financial year? I make it clear that I am not at present directing my attention to the merits or otherwise of the recruiting campaign, but I think the committee should be informed of the nature of the re-organization that was undertaken by the Minister. What was its outcome? If the Minister contemplated that as a result of it, an expenditure of approximately £200.000 would be a reasonable limit- that is how I read the Minister’s letter - how is it that in the immediate subsequent year the amount jumped to £308,000 and has now risen to £384.000? Honorable senators will see that the great bulk of that sum, over £300.000 out nf the total expenditure of £384.000. is spent on advertising. Has there been gross overexpenditure or over-estimation on the Minister’s re-organization or has his nian miscarried? Or, has he decided to abandon the re-organization which he must have had in mind and which he estimated would operate at a very much lower figure? In view of what Senator Wordsworth has said, the Senate should consider this matter of attracting recruits. Five-sixths of the vote is devoted io advertising charges, and it may be committed to advertising of a type that is wasted on those who are sought to be attracted. Such expenditure could be grossly wasteful. If one advertises he should advertise something that is saleable. 1 do not pose as an authority on the correct wages, conditions and the various levels which should apply in the services. I mention this matter because Senator Wordsworth has introduced it. I should like the Minister, in his reply, to explain to the Senate just what type of organization now operates. In view of its evident expansion, and the apparent abandonment of the re-organization which was mentioned by the Minister in his letter, what has been the net result of the campaign in gaining recruits? Has there been an expanded programme with little or no result, or has the same programme been carried out, but costing more money and still producing no different outcome? Those are considerations which I place before the committee. I should also like the Minister in his reply to refer to the manner of presenting these accounts. I think it is now more illuminating than previously; but I should like him to inform the Senate of the extent, cost and nature of the machinery of the recruiting campaign.
Senator WORDSWORTH (Tasmania) [3.81. - I desire to refer to Division 130, in which item 11 is “Expenses of officers sent abroad on training, £140,000 “. Last year £127,260 was spent under this beading. This is an item which could be very greatly increased and the money would be extremely well spent. I say that in continuation of what I said a few moments ago. As the Australian Military Forces are at present constituted, officers cannot gain experience in the peace-time equivalent of commanding troops in the field. It would pay great dividends if we could make some arrangement with the British Army to send officers from Australia to British commands where they could handle real live troops and take part in training and manoeuvres which would actually prepare them for war. The difficulties would be great, and it might not be very popular with the British Army because it is faced to a large extent with the same difficulty as confronts us. It wants its officers trained just as we want our officers to be trained. Perhaps, more could be done along those lines. In times of crises we add considerably, to the Empire forces and I am sure that consideration would be given to a proposal of this kind. It may probably have been tried; I do not know. It is with, some diffidence that back-benchers put forward these suggestions, because we cannot be in the know on these matters.
Australia has troops in Malaya and the British Army also has a very large force there. Perhaps, we could arrange to send officers there up to the rank of full colonel or brigadier. Admittedly, we have a force of only one battalion which does not provide us with any staff experience; hut we may be able te send over some staff officers up to the rank of brigadier, if not higher. In Korea we had a major-general commanding the British division and I am sure that that arrangement was of great value to us. We should explore every avenue open to us to enable our men to get this experience.
I shall deal now with Division 133 - Forces Overseas - Maintenance. I notice that this year there is an allotment of £3,000,000, whereas the expenditure last year was £3,496,346. I wonder if the cost of our battalion overseas in Malaya is included in that amount. I presume that it is. Also, why is the proposed vote £500,000 less than the amount expended last year? Last year we had a force overseas. We brought one battalion home from Korea early in the year, and one battalion remained there. This year we have two battalions overseas the same as we had last year. Is it cheaper to keep troops in Malaya than to keep them in Korea? This is not a very big matter, and I ask the question mainly out of curiosity.
Senator Byrne spoke about recruitment. Practically the whole of the expenditure on the recruiting campaign is really incurred on advertising in the press. I do not exaggerate when I say that all honorable senators know what the advertisements will contain - “ Join the Army and see the world”; and the same in connexion with the Navy and the Air Force. Expenditure on that kind of advertising is a complete and absolute waste of money. Every Australian youth knows what these advertisements will contain; he sees them day after day. Every lad in my village knows these advertisements quite well. They have been repeated so often that they have no effect. They cost a lot of money - £300,000. As ‘ Senator Byrne said, if one has not got something that is saleable, it is no use advertising it. I do not think that at present our services are saleable. As I said a short time ago, we must improve the conditions. The sum of £300,000 now spent on advertising should be used to provide amenities; that would be much better propaganda. The matter requires only a little imagination. Bather than continue the present system, it would be better to send round recruiting sergeants, as was done in the days of Queen Victoria, and give each recruit the “Queen’s shilling”. That would probably produce better results than the present type of advertising. I appreciate how extremely difficult it is to get recruits, as it always is in times like these. However, the Minister might consider saving the money which, in my humble opinion, is being wasted on advertising.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Other Services, Recruiting Campaign, £34S,000 - agreed to.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed vote, £3,633,000.
– I refer to the administrative vote of £1,418,000, and invite the attention of the Minister to the division dealing with war service land settlement. In paragraph 46 of the Auditor-General’s report an interesting comment appears as follows : -
The Commonwealth provides financial assistance to the States for the settlement of exservicemen on the land under the States Grants (War Service Land Settlement) Act. The Minister for the Interior determines the conditions of assistance.
I direct the attention of the representative in the Senate of the Minister for the Interior to a paragraph which appeared in yesterday’s issue of the Adelaide Advertiser concerning a matter of pressing urgency - the reaching of finality on the question of soldier settlers’ liabilities. The paragraph reads -
As a result of conferences between Commonwealth and State officers, considerable progress had been made in overcoming the apparent stalemate regarding the fixing of liabilities on war service irrigation properties, the Pre,mier (Mr. Playford) said in the Assembly yesterday.
That would have been on Tuesday last. The paragraph continues -
He said that delay had occurred because it was considered necessary, in view of the present position of the dried fruits and wine industries to have further investigations made into values in relation to long-term prices.
This was essential before final agreement was reached on the basis to be used for fixing values under the War Service Land Settlement Agreement Act.
The report goes on to add, concerning the Australian Government - which is the point to which I draw particular attention -
The Commonwealth Government had been asked to advise what progress had been made with the investigations, and when they would be completed.
Mr. Playford, the South Australian Premier, reminded his questioner - that the principle of amounts being written off was being shared by the Commonwealth and State on a three-fifths and twofifths basis respectively.
I am reminded also that, a week earlier, the Premier, in answer to a question by one of the members of the South Australian Parliament, said that there were various differences with the State of Victoria which had to be settled. One of his Ministers said that the possibility of establishing a uniform system of valuation for New South “Wales, South Australia and Victoria was being canvassed. It must be apparent to members of this committee that the question of fixing the liabilities of ex-servicemen under war service land settlement is long overdue.
– On a point of order. My attention has been directed to the fact that the subject to which Senator Laught is now addressing himself is dealt with on page 99 of the Estimates under the heading “War and Repatriation Services, £15,977,000”.
– I am dealing with the question of administration by the Department of the Interior.
– I ask the honorable senator to relate his remarks to the particular item of the Estimates for the Department of the Interior.
– I am dealing with Division 61, Administrative, for which, the vote for the current financial year is £1,418,000. Negotiations have been taking place by members of the Minister’s staff with regard to the question of determining settlers’ liabilities, and I am anxious to know what progress has been made. I am not canvassing the question of the expenditure of the money, but I am emphasizing the importance of those negotiations.
Senator KENNELLY (Victoria) [3.21 1 . - I am concerned with the large amount that the Department of the Interior is paying for rent. I recognize that accommodation must be . found for departmental employees, but I am amazed” that such slow progress has been made by the Government in providing its own departmental buildings. The Government is not finding accommodation for its employees as rapidly as one would expect an outside firm to do for its employees. Each year, the Government’s rent bill seems to grow, and I have complained on previous occasions that this is so. Although a large block of offices is planned for the Department of the Interior, the Department of Works has not yet built it. Both departments have a mutual interest in finding accommodation for their employees.
In about the year 1946 or 1947, the Australian Government’ made an excellent move and acquired a large block of land in Melbourne bordered by Spring-street, Exhibition-street, Latrobe-street and Lonsdalestreet, on which to build offices. So far there is no sign of any building, and until repent weeks, I doubt whether the foundations had been laid. It is of no use saying that the Government cannot obtain labour and materials to do the work. When one observes work being done for private enterprise, such as the
Myer Emporium having its front windows renewed, it is obvious that the Government could find the ways and means of undertaking this work. I hope that some practical move will be made to provide buildings for staff, and that the people’s money will no longer be wasted in rent. If loan money is to be used, we should be able to do a tremendous lot with £598,000 should that sum be made available each year for repayments and interest. I do not think that sufficient attention is being given to this matter. It would appear that we are taking the easy way out. We should push on with our building programme. It is not in the best interests of the nation to take so long over these things. We have had reports, but they seem to have been passed over. The result is that money is voted each year, and I suppose additional money will continue to be voted in the future, because the growth of all departments will mean that additional rent will have to be paid. I hope that in the near future it will be possible for us to say that, in a foreseeable time, say three, four or five years, at least one area will have been built on, and that accommodation will be provided for those who need it.
– The rental of buildings by the Commonwealth is an important matter, particularly in view of the recently announced policy of the Government to cut down its public works programme by £10,000,000 in the coming year, because that will have a considerable effect on the plans that have been made for the erection of Commonwealth offices in the capital cities of Australia. We have reached the stage where it is obvious that the Commonwealth Public Service is the biggest business organization in Australia, and that the Commonwealth Government is the biggest employer of labour in the Commonwealth. It, therefore, behoves the Government and those responsible for the administration of the Public Service to see that the conditions in which public servants are expected to carry out their work are not only equal to, but in fact are better than, those provided by other employers. In this matter the Commonwealth Government should set an example to other employers. But that is not all.
There rests on the Government the obligation to provide facilities for the general public to transact their business with government departments. Throughout the year large numbers of people have occasion to attend at the offices of the Department of Social Services, the Taxation Branch and other government departments, and therefore, it is desirable that these offices should be centrally situated and easily accessible to the public. As a member of the Public Works Committee, I have examined this problem closely. I know something of the research that has been undertaken in this field, and the various inquiries that have been conducted, and, to say the least, it is disheartening to see that so little has been done. I agree with what Senator Kennelly said on this subject in its relation to Melbourne, and I believe that the position is much the same in the other capital cities.
A matter which, in my opinion, is long overdue is the proper training and staffing of public departments. I understand that in Sydney a move has been made in the direction of training Commonwealth officers in public relations. In these days, when Commonwealth Government activities are increasing, it is incumbent on those in charge of departments to see that the contacts between their officers and the general public are satisfactory. Each member of the staff whose duties bring him in contact with the public should know something of the importance of proper human relations. I know that much of the criticism of public servants is ‘ unwarranted, but there is a fairly general belief on the part of the public that many public servants are bureaucratic in their dealings with other people. I believe that, individually, the members of the Public Service are decent, honorable citizens, who carry out their duties to the best of their ability, but I also know that the directors of private^ conducted organizations insist that their employees shall be given training in salesmanship and public relations, the writing of courteous letters, the way to deal with persons suffering from disability, find other aspects of human relations. They believe that the man behind the counter is as important as is the display in their front window. This is a matter which affects every department. I believe that there is need for the setting up of a course of training in public relations. The training could be given by visual methods, such as the use of films, to show the proper way to make use of a telephone. In these days, when so much business is transacted by means of telephone communications, and so much depends on the tone of voice of the person speaking, some training in this field is desirable. One section of the Public Service that should be particularly interested in this kind of training is the Taxation Branch, because it has dealings with a very human matter in that the hip pockets of taxpayers are involved. Yet it often happens that when people approach officers of the Taxation Branch they find themselves brushed, off. and they have no redress for that discourtesy.
I do not say that private business is greatly superior to Government business, but I believe that we should endeavour to obtain the same results from the Public Service as private industry is able to get from its officers. Surely we should expect the same courtesy from public officers as we get from the employees of private companies. Therefore, I should like to sec some provision made in the future for a carefully organized course of instruction in public relations;., which would embrace Commonwealth public servants from chief officers to office boys. That would improve the value of the services that we get for the expenditure of great sums of money. I suggest that such a course of training should be thoroughly organized, and, if necessary, an additional section of the Public Service could be established, staffed by experts of proved training and teaching ability to improve our Public Service. Such training could be carried out by the adoption of visual training methods, by lectures and by the teaching of practical administration. If that were done the relationship between the Public Service and the general public would be greatly improved.
Senator MATTNER (“South Australia) T3. 381. - I desire to refer to Division 61, Administrative. Department of the Interior, salaries and allowances. I notice that a certain sum is to be appropriated in respect of the salaries of surveyors, cadet surveyors, draftsmen, cadet draftsmen, computers, architects, and so on. I also notice that the number of officers who fall within those categories has increased from. 212 last year to 228 this year. I understand that those persons are part of the administrative staff of the department, and play an essential part in the land settlement of exservicemen. I am. well aware that when the system of war service land settlement was first introduced, the properties allocated to ex-servicemen were to be on leasehold tenure. Then after a number of years had passed, the Parliament decided that this very valuable section of the community, the ex-servicemen, should be able to convert their leasehold tenure to freehold after ten. years. In other words, after ten years, an ex-serviceman settler could either convert his leasehold to freehold or allow it to remain leasehold. I now suggest to the Government that any new leases or agreements made with exservicemen should contain the information that the land involved may be so converted after ten years.
Recently, the land settlement officer in South Australia of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, and myself approached the director of the war service land settlement branch in Canberra and asked whether that provision would he inserted in any new leases. He informed us that that would be done, but so far nothing along those lines has taken place. There may be excellent reasons for not including that provision in the lease’s, but any exservicemen settlers from the last war have already been on their properties from seven to ten years, and they have ploughed back their profits into the land. Many of them do not know what their commitments really are, and they have not the faintest idea what they will eventually have to pay for their properties. That i3 bad enough, but unfortunately some of these men have died, and their widows and families have discovered that they have no equity at all in the properties. Irrespective of how long the family has been on a property, and irrespective of how greatly the value of the property has increased, the widow and family have no equity in it, and need outride assistance to tide them over their difficulties after the death of the settler. It is all very well to say that the Repatriation Department will see them through, but if it will do that, why should it not put a provision in the lease to the effect that the land can be converted to freehold?
I am a war service land settler, and .1 settled on my property after World War
– The Department of the Interior could do with a clean-out from top to bottom, particularly at the top. Senator Kennelly complained about some of the delays associated with the work of the department in Melbourne, and a similar complaint was made by Senator O’Byrne. If they had been in the Hotel Kurrajong during the past three months they would have seen an illustration of their complaints without the need to take moving pictures. I do not know what is being done there, but they are taking a considerable time about it.
Can the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) give nlf. some information about the provision for extra duty pay, under Division 61 - Administrative? Last year the actual expenditure was £14,477. The proposed vote for this year is £43,000. That is an extraordinary amount of money to pay for extra duty.
I wish to direct attention now to item 5, “ Office cleaning, other than salaries, £9.1.000 “. Actual expenditure on this item last year was £66,405. I am particularly anxious to know whether the office cleaning is done by contract or by day labour, because we have had information about this work submitted to the Public Accounts Committee. The evidence related to about twenty buildings in Canberra, and only one was cleaned by contract. The saving on that building was about ls. a foot, or £1,000 a year, and one can imagine the saving that would be effected if all the buildings were cleaned by contract.
I wish to turn now to Division 254: - General Services, and the item, “ Transport - -loss on city omnibus service (for payment to the credit of Australian Capital Territory Transport Trust Account “. This is a recurring item, and I wonder how long the Government proposes to allow the situation to continue without taking some measures other than inflicting higher fares on the unfortunate persons who use the omnibuses. In 1952, the loss was £26,000 and in succeeding years it was £63,000, £60,000 and £64,000, and it is estimated that this year it will be £70,000. Surely it is not beyond the capacity of somebody in the Department of the Interior to investigate this matter and determine whether something can be done to reduce the losses without imposing higher fares. I suggest, for a start, that one-man buses should be used, and that the services of the conductor should be eliminated. I travelled on a bus on Sunday morning. The conductor stood by the bus and was too indifferent to his duties to open the rear door. Passengers were struggling to open it, and he stood by and watched them. He could have used his time more profitably if he had been at home in his garden.
To facilitate the work of a single man on the bus, I suggest that tickets should be sold in advance to intending passengers. Most of the persons who use the buses do the same trip between their homes and their offices every day. If they could buy tickets beforehand, they could give them to the man in charge of the bus, and there would not be any delay.
I suggest also, that a parking fee should be charged for the cars that are to be seen standing about the streets of
Canberra. The people who use those cars are responsible for the losses on the bus services. If they used the buses, there would not be any losses. If they were in Melbourne, they would have to pay a parking fee of ls. an hour, and I do not think it would hurt them to pay a parking fee of ls. a day to reduce the losses on the buses. It is time somebody took an interest in this matter.
I direct attention now to the proposed vote of £30,000 for street lighting. Last year, nothing appeared against this item, and I should like to know the reason for the proposed large expenditure this year. I am not surprised to hear that honorable senators cannot get replies from the Department of the Interior, because I have been trying to get information on one matter for five or six months. I am not getting anywhere with it, and 1 think that a change of personnel might do some good.
– I wish to refer to the News and Information Bureau, and I shall begin by repeating some history. One of the first acts of the present Government, when it took office in 1949, was to abolish the Department of Information. The present Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) was Minister in charge of that department at the time. The Government issued a lot of propaganda to the effect that it was eliminating the Department of Information because it said that the department was only the servant of the Government. Its function was to praise the Ministers, particularly one of them, and to laud the Government above all. That was completely untrue, but this Government won the election on that plank of its platform, among others, and it set out to eliminate the Department of Information.
Supporters of the Government said, at the. time, that the men who were employed in the department would be dismissed, and would be sent into the highways and byways of the Australian community to earn an honest crust after having been on the milk and honey wagon of the Department of Information for some years. A little later, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was asked a question in the House of
Representatives about what had happened to the employees of the Department of Information. He said -
At the time of its abolition, the Department of Information had 300 employees. Of this number, 17!) have been retained in the Commonwealth Public Service - 103 in the News and Information Bureau of the Department of the Interior and sixteen have been absorbed in vacancies in Commonwealth departments.
I shall not read the whole of the reply, but the fact was that only sixteen employees actually had their employment terminated out of the total of 300, so obviously the proposal of the Government to eliminate the Department of Information was merely so much propaganda.
The Government then proceeded to bury that department in the Department of the Interior, and called it the News and Information Bureau. It was so successful that, for a short time, it did not even mention the bureau in the Estimates, but buried it in the administration side of the Department of the Interior. In the year when the Department of Information was abolished, the allocation for it was £339,000, but the proposed vote for the News and Information Bureau this year is £372,000, or £33,000 more than was needed to carry the Department of Information in 1949. A special item is shown at page 159 of the schedule for the News and Information Bureau, but it still does not give the whole picture, or any great part of it, because the only employees mentioned in that item are one director and three clerks. Honorable senators seeking other information about the News and Information Bureau have to look under the heading of “Administration “ in the section relating to the Department of the Interior, but there is no indication how many employees work in the News and Information Bureau. I should like the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) to give that information to the committee. How many are employed in the news and information services ?
I do not mention this matter to attack the News and Information Bureau, but to prove to honorable senators that the work done by the Department of Information in the days of the Chifley Labour Government had some merit, because the work has been continued under the name of the News and Information Bureau. The point I want to make is that not enough is being done by this bureau. I am not being critical of the Government because of the smallness of the bureau; my criticism is directed to the fact that there is a great deal more work in Australia on which the bureau could be employed at the present time.
I noticed an article in to-day’s press concerning the efforts of Western Germany in this connexion. Having regard to the efforts that have been made by that country during the last four or five years, it is obvious that there is much that we can learn from its example. The German resurgence has amazed all of us. Even those who thought that the Germans could rehabilitate themselves did not think that they would be able to do it so quickly. Already German secondary production represents a tremendous threat to the trade of Great Britain and other countries of the world. As we all know, the Germans sent out to Australia two little motor cars, not much bigger than fourpence, so to speak, and they ran first and second in the Redex reliability trial which was held recently. As I say, we have a lot to learn from Germany. Immediately after the war, the Germans were not hounded by prosperity, as this Government claims to be hounded now ; on the contrary, their country had been denigrated. Yet, in a very few years, they have rebuilt their industries. Not only have they rebuilt their businesses, but they have also built homes, flats and factories. We in Australia cannot find the secret.
– We will not work - that is why.
– That is only a part of the answer. In my opinion, there is a financial aspect involved, also, about which we could learn.
In to-day’s press, I notice that the West German federal press office has built in Berlin new premises, at a cost of more than £500,000, to accommodate a staff of 400, to do the kind of job that, to my mind, should be done in Australia by the News and Information Bureau. That is an indication of the value that the West German Government attaches to what may be called propaganda, but what we call news and information. That news item should bring home to all of us very clearly the fact that governments must have publicity, both at home and abroad. Such publicity plays a very important part in making a nation. It is obvious that West Germany is going about this task in a way that it hopes will help it to take its place again among the great nations of the world.
It is strange that, on the same day, Mr. Bolte, the Premier of Victoria, should have given notice that he proposes to bring before the next Premiers Conference a plan for Australian publicity. His point in doing so is that, although each State is doing a little to publicize Australia, some of the projects involved may not justify the money being spent on them, and also, the effort is not coordinated. He suggests that the Premiers and the Prime Minister should get together and try to work out an overall scheme for publicizing Australia. This is a matter about which I have spoken in the Senate many times, and it is gratifying that Mr. Bolte proposes to p’roceed along those lines. Some effort has been made by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture to publicize Australian primary products during the last few months, and that is a step in the right direction, but it is important that the News and Information Bureau should be stimulated to do the job that is there for it to do.
I do not know the exact function of the News and Information Bureau, but I have the impression that it does not do as much as it should. One of its functions seems to be to train men who are sent overseas, where they are attached to diplomatic posts as press officers, or to the trade commissioner service. In my opinion, that is one of .the least important aspects of the work that the bureau should undertake. I bring the matter to the notice of the committee partly to show the political propaganda that was involved in the abolition, by this Government, of the old Department of Information. That department was given a shameful burial. Now, we find that the News and Information Bureau is costing more than was spent on the old Department of Information. We are unable to see how many employees are associated, directly or indirectly, with the bureau, because the budget papers do not disclose that information. Having given this work greater prominence by making enhanced financial -provision for it, I think that the Government should forget the filthy propaganda that it loosed on the Department of Information when it was being administered by the previous Chifley Government. We of the Opposition are prepared to forget about it, too, if the News and Information Bureau is re-organized so that it may be able to undertake the functions it should perform, and be directed along the proper channels.
– Replying first to Senator Armstrong’s remarks, I am advised that, in connexion with the dissection and presentation of the accounts last year and in previous years, salaries, subsistence, postage and other expenses of the News and Information Bureau were shown under the heading of “ Administrative charges “ of the department. J am, therefore, unable to give the information he desires. It is, however, interesting to note that the Estimates of the News and Information Bureau provide for the employment of a staff of 167 persons, 133 at home and 34 overseas. This compares with the staff of 357 in the last year of operation of the former Department of Information, 94 of whom were employed by Radio Australia at the time of its transfer to the Australian Broadcasting Commission in 1950.
Unless the committee wishes me to do so, I do not propose to discuss the functions of the bureau in detail. I have been provided with a fairly lengthy statement concerning its activities. That statement covers eight pages and deals fairly closely with its work.
– I suggest that the Minister select the high lights. They should run into only about four pages.
– Possibly. J thought that I might do even better than that and circulate the statement to honorable senators who are interested to see it. I shall make it available to any honorable senator who would like to have a look at it.
– I should like to see it.
– Senator Seward asked about office cleaning which, this year, is estimated to cost £91,000. I have been provided with information to the effect that, in the votes this year, provision is included for cleaning contracts in respect of the Commonwealth offices in Melbourne, the offices at Wellingtonstreet, Perth, the offices at Waverton, Sydney, and the Acton, Barton and Patent offices in the Australian Capital Territory, which are included in this item for the first time, and which account for the increase.
– Are they contract or not?
Yes, they are contracts. There is also included an amount of £30,000 for street lighting. I am informed that this amount has been credited to the electricity trust account. That is the amount of the charge to the Commonwealth by the electricity trust.
Senator Seward also queried the continuing losses on the Canberra bus service. The estimated loss in this financial year is due to the payment of increased marginal amounts to the employees. The honorable senator suggested that the department should consider the introduction of one-man buses in Canberra. I am. pleased to be able to inform him that, several of those buses are on order, and it is expected that they will be placed in service this year.
– Has consideration been given to a system of selling ticket? beforehand ?
– The one-man buses will be equipped with ticket machines. Does the honorable senator mean the system of selling tickets at the kerb ?
– No. I mean a system under which regular bus travellers can purchase tickets in dozen lots. This system saves time and obviates problem? associated with the giving of change.
– I am not sure whether the introduction of such a system has been considered.
Both Senator Laught and Senator Mattner directed their remarks to problems associated with the finalization of commitments on war service land settle ment blocks. The Minister in charge of the war service land settlement scheme (Mr. Kent Hughes) is fully aware of the extremely irritating manner in which certain aspects of the present scheme operate in relation to soldier settlers. 1 do not know what stage has been reached in this matter, but I shall direct the Minister’s attention to the honorable senators’ remarks, and supply them with any information available at the earliest possible moment.
Both Senator Kendall and Senator O’Byrne referred to the cost of renting premises for Commonwealth offices, which, in this financial year, is estimated at £59S,000 compared with expenditure under this heading during the last financial year of £561,000. The increase this year is attributable, in the main, to reappraisal of rentals. Provision has been made to meet known commitments, and a small margin has been allowed for unforeseen requirements. Both honorable senators stressed the importance of the Commonwealth building its own premises in preference to continuing to pay rent. I should be the first to agree that, in considering the amount of money that should be expended to provide Commonwealth buildings, there will always be differences of opinion. I remind the committee that only this morning there was introduced into this chamber a bill to appropriate approximately £101,000,000 for capital works during thi. financial year. The expenditure on capital works during the last financial year was approximately £95,000.000. I remind honorable senators opposite that, from time to time, they have severely criticized the Government’s financial policy, but they now seek increased expenditure on capital works. They cannot have it both ways. In considering the appropriation of money for new buildings and works, the Government must, of necessity, take into account the amount of revenue that it can reasonably expect to raise by taxation, and also the proportion of such revenue that should bc expended on the provision of Commonwealth premises. The Government has made a reasonable approach to this subject. I do not consider that the proposed vote for this purpose should be increased.
.- I refer to the item “Film Production, £55,000 “ under Division 66 - “ News and Information Bureau - C. - Miscellaneous “. If we are to engage in publicity overseas for Australia by means of films, they must be well produced. I do not know whether the proposed vote is sufficient to enable the job to be well done, but I do know that many of the films that have been produced for publicity purposes are dull and uninspiring; I do not think that they are of much propaganda value from the point of view of publicizing Australia. On the other hand, some of the films that have been produced by certain oil companies in Australia have been of a much higher standard than the official films. The reason for the superior standard of those films might well be that the oil interests are prepared to spend large sums of money on their production, and that they give a freer hand to the producers. Generally speaking, the films that they have turned out - mostly colour films, compared with black and white official films - are much superior to the official films. They pay a great deal of attention to the beauty spots of this country, so that the films go a long way towards proving to people overseas that the whole of Australia is not arid country, and that many parts of our land are well worth seeing.
I believe that we have recently produced what might be termed dated films. The official films have followed a more or less stereotyped pattern, and do not, from a propaganda point of view, depict Australia in the way that they should. In view of the absence of detail in relation to the proposed vote, I urge the Minister to take steps, if it is intended to continue to spread propaganda about Australia overseas, to see that the job is properly carried out. It would be better to abandon the idea altogether, rather than that the work be done badly. I recently viewed a film entitled Alice Through the Centre, which honorable senators had an opportunity to see screened this year in the Senate clubroom. This film, which was produced by one of the oil companies, was extremely well presented. It would be a grand advertisement for Australia if shown overseas. It should not be left to the oil companies to give a lead to the Go vernment in the matter of propaganda. Surely the bureau that we have established for the purpose of publicizing overseas the advantages of Australia should be able to produce better films. I urge the Minister to consider whether sufficient money is being provided for this purpose because, as I said before, it would be better not to do the job at all than do it badly.
– When the Minister is answering Senator Arnold I should like him to look at the item under the heading “ Miscellaneous “ which relates to film production and provides for an amount of £55,000. That can be only a small proportion of the total expenditure upon films. I was wondering whether other departments, who ask for films make a contribution towards their cost, and whether the Minister has any idea of the total amount of money that is actually spent by the New and Information Bureau in making films. What contribution do other departments make? Previously, when he answered me concerning the man-power in the old department of Information, which the bureau, succeeded, I think he said that the number employed was 357. On the same point the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that at the time of the abolition of the department, there were 300 persons employed.
– In relation to the last part of Senator Armstrong’s remarks I assure him that I was reading from a statement provided by the department and I rather think that it would be accurate. Possibly, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) quoted approximate figures.
I am happy to assure Senator Arnold that the quality of the films being produced by this unit is extremely high. That is evident from the very favorable comment made overseas. In the lengthy statement supplied to me on the activities of the News and Information Bureau, three or four pages are devoted to the work of the films unit and to an appraisal of the quality of the films, it produces. Senator Arnold might care to read that statement. One film in particular had a striking result. It was the film, The Queen in Australia. The department comments on this matter as follows: -
In the United Kingdom, 85 film division productions showing varied aspects of Austraiian activity are on theatrical release in public cinemas. One such film, the feature-length colour production, ‘J’ lie Queen, in Australia, was shown in no fewer than 1,000 cinemas throughout the United Kingdom, reaching vast audiences of potential immigrants. By placing its films with theatrical exhibitors, the Bureau not only ensures wide publicity for Australia, but earns useful revenue.
It is quite apparent that the general standard of these films is one of which we might well be proud.
asked whether this £55,000 represents the total spent by the various departments. It represents only the amount spent on films by the Department of the Interior. Other departments sponsor films and pay for them, but this £55,000 refers only to the amount chargeable to the Department of the Interior.
– I desire to add a few words to what has been said on the films unit, but not by way of criticism because I think some excellent films have peen produced. However, my feeling is that the operations of this unit are restricted to some degree. “Whilst excellent films dealing with industry are produced, not sufficient travelogues in colour are made. That activity ought to be extended. Travelogues could be sent overseas so that people in other countries could be given some idea of the beauty of Australia. The amount involved would be repaid by increased tourist traffic to this country. I make that suggestion because I believe that the operations of this unit are restricted, whereas a little more imagination should he exercised.
There are two other matters I should like to deal with. The first comes’ under Division 63 - Meteorological Branch. Item 7 is “ Publication of meteorological data “, for which an amount of £6,000 is sought. Last year the amount voted was £4,350, but only £659 was actually spent. Some explanation is needed for the wide discrepancy between those two figures. If an amount of only £659 was spent last year, it seems extraordinary that an amount of £6,000 should be sought this year. Division 64-^-Forestry Branch - includes the item, “ Field and laboratory equipment”, for which an amount of £1,650 is sought for the current financial year. Last year the amount voted under this heading was £6,000, but only £987 was spent on that type of material. I should imagine that field and laboratory equipment would be a very valuable requirement in the research activities of the Forestry Branch. In view of the fact that £6,000 was voted last year, I would be interested to know, first, why an amount of only £9S7 was spent last year; and, secondly, why only £1,650 is sought for the current year. Forestry, of course, is a very important aspect of national development aud it appears that there is some serious discrepancy in those figures. They suggest that this country may not be availing itself of the latest scientific equipment in order to expand forestry schemes in Australia.
.- I felt that the Minister, when he was replying to me, adopted the attitude that he had to protect his department. I was not trying to attack the department, but merely pointing out that it could do better and should do better. I know that the film he mentioned was an exceptional one. The Queen in Australia was very well produced, but it was exceptional, or, perhaps, I have been very unlucky in my choice of the films I have seen. All I ask the Minister to do is to avail himself of the first opportunity to look at the problem I have mentioned to see whether we are hampering the activities of the films unit. I give the officers concerned every credit for developing it, but I desire that Australia should be presented in the best possible light. I ask the Minister to have a look at this matter to see if the unit requires additional help.
– I shall be pleased to have a look at the activities of the film unit. I appreciate the helpful manner in which Senator Arnold made his suggestion, but I am informed that the officers concerned do not feel that they are restricted in their activities. They are quite happy about the scope of the work they are performing and they feel that they are doing a good job. Nevertheless, I appreciate the honorable senator’s criticism. Whenever I get the opportunity I shall have a look at the matter he has raised. I wish to inform Senator Toohey that the work of the field unit is not restricted. It covers all aspects of Australian national life. The travelogue aspect of which the honorable senator spoke is well advanced, and the unit has completed a series of capital city travelogues which will he exhibited during the coming month.
asked also about the publication of meteorological data, and the reason for the increased cost. Provision is made for the publication of a number of climatological studies, and an analysis of observational data for use in regional development and for the information of the public generally. Money unexpended from the 1954-55 vote for publishing figures of South Australia’s rainfall volume is included. Publication of additional State rainfall figures and meteorological bulletins is proposed. That accounts for the increase.
The next matter was in connexion with Division 65, Item 6, which covers field and laboratory equipment.Research, particularly in the field of forest soils, forest botany and fire control is being carried out at the bureau, and activity, particularly in connexion with fire control and forest botany, has been responsible for the increase.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Miscellaneous Services, Department of theinterior.
Proposed vote, £291,000.
– I refer the Minister to item 4, “ Commonwealth elections and referenda “. The Minister will acknowledge the general interest on the part of parliamentarians, if not the public generally, in this item. I should like him to notice, first of all the terminology used, and to be explicit in explaining the word “elections” which is stated in the plural. Does that “mean that there is to be a number of Senate elections or that there is to be a Senate election and a House of Representatives election? If the Minister happens to be in good form, would he mind stating the dates on which these interesting events are to take place? I am sure that he will not deny the general interest of everybody in the question.
The second part of this item relates to referenda. The Minister will recall that in April, 1954, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated that the Commonwealth Constitution needed overhaul, and promised that a joint House all-party committee would be established to review it. To remind the Minister of the exact promise, I will read the precise statement from the Prime Minister’s policy speech. He said -
To put this problem on a practical footing, we will constitute an all-party committee of both Houses to review the working of the Constitution and make recommendations for its amendment. If a measure of agreement were reached, proposals could be produced witha prospect of popular acceptance. Among the subjects which could he usefully considered are such matters as the procedure for creating aNew State; relations between the Senate and the House of Representatives; the treatment of subversive activities; and the relative financial and trade powers of the Commonwealth and the States.
That speech was delivered in April, 1954, but that election pledge has not been honoured, and exactly nothing has been done about it. The Government has had many promptings and remindings in this matter. I have before me an article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 30th November last year, which was seven months after the promise was made. The heading is -
More Talk Than Action On the Constitution.
That article appeared exactly twelve months ago, and still there is plenty of talk and no action in relation to what is a very vital problem. Not only that ; there is the matter of honouring a pledge made to the people. Many reminders have been given to the Government in the Parliament, both in this chamber and in the House of Representatives. The Prime Minister himself made a statement on the 11th January last in which he said that legislation to appoint the committee would he introduced in the next session of Parliament, probably in April. That was six months ago. April has come and gone, and there is no legislation. He added that proposals for the committee were complete, but Cabinet had not yet had time to consider them. He promised that they would be sent to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt).
If the proposals were complete as long ugo as January, 1955, I ask the Minister what is the reason for .the inaction, and for shirking to honour this pledge? Recently, in another place, the Prime Minister was asked a question about this matter. He tendered his apologies to the Leader of the Opposition in the middle of September, and said that he would write him in a few days. On the 5th October, he was still apologizing and to-day there is still no action. That is a sorry record. It is a pity for the country, because certainly there should be a Senate election within the term of the present financial year. This would have been an excellent opportunity for the findings of such a committee to be presented to the people. It is regrettable that the opportunity has been by-passed. It now appears that the dithering is to be continued, even throughout this session because there seems to be no prospect of the appointment of the committee. Even if it were appointed, what opportunity would it now have to sit and deliberate property and formulate proposals upon which there could be a large area of agreement, and enable the people to take some of the barnacles off the Constitution and off tin’s Government?
It is generally- acknowledged that the Constitution is outmoded. There are vital problems in this Parliament alone. In the parliamentary set-up a major difficulty is posed by the provision that Senators, after a double dissolution, are to date their terms from the preceding first of July. That led to throwing out of alinement the elections of the two Houses. Unless that is corrected the country will have four elections every five years. If there is to be a Senate election this year it will mean that there will have been three federal elections in three years. That is a disgrace. This problem has been on the hands of the Government since 1951, but the Government has not lifted a fi niter to solve it. That is in keeping with the pattern of inaction that afflicts this Government. It seeks to solve every problem with a speech, and the speech having been made the problem is put on the shelf and forgotten.
The problem of synchronizing the Senate and House of Representatives elections lias been before the Government since 1951. Two elections have been held since then, one in 1953 and another in 1954. The opportunity might then have been taken to resolve this difficulty, but it was .by-passed then, and it is obvious that it will be by- passed again. I put it to the Minister that there must be a clear explanation of the elections an:! referenda that the Government has in mind and for which the sum of £250,000 is provided in this financial year. There is that problem, and also the other great problem of resolving deadlocks between this chamber and another place. It is unquestionable that the provision made in section 57, which involves a doubt dissolution, is the only way to resolve a deadlock. There should be machinery to resolve deadlocks between the two chambers, and attention should he given to that matter.
Another undemocratic provision is that which relates to the filling of casual vacancies by State legislatures.
– Is it undemocratic?
– It has proved so in operation. There have been instances in this chamber of a casual vacancy having been filled by a State legislator by the appointment of a person of a different political complexion from that of the person whose position has become vacant.
– That is not the fault of the system.
– It is the fault of the power to anoint a successor being vested in a State Parliament.
– What can be done about it? Does the honorable senator suggest holding an election in the State?
– There are many possible alternatives. Besides the one suggested by Senator Vincent in his interiection, there is the alternative of providing for reserve cadidates. T suggest that the question of providing in the Constitution for reserve candidate? should be looked at. With such a provision the votes of the person whose decease or retirement has caused the vacancy would be allocated immediately in such a way as inevitably would lead to the return of a person of the same political complexion. There are many possible solutions. This is a matter to which the committee might have addressed itself. I do not, at this stage, advocate any particular solution, but I point out that these and other problems might well have been considered by the committee.
In relation to this Parliament there is the extraordinary provision that the number of members of the House of Representatives must always be twice the number of Senators. That means that, with the normal growth of population, every increase of the number of members of the House of Representatives must mean also an alteration of the number of members entitled to sit in this chamber. Those are four matters that occur to my mind on the spot, as affecting this Parliament alone.
I have said nothing, so far, about the difficulties associated with section 92 of the Constitution, or of the fact that this Parliament has no direct power over aviation matters. It may be that the States have control over the inter-state activities of aircraft, but it is unthinkable that it is possible to have in this country seven different sets of laws, or even more if we include the territories, dealing with air transport. Such a state of affairs is absurd. These are problems which shriek for attention. The Prime Minister acknowledged that fact in April, 1954, when he promised to set up an all-party committee of both Houses to deal with it. The party that I represent said at the time that it would be happy to act on such a committee, and since then it has been pressing the Government to set up the committee. However, nothing has yet been done. I ask the Minister to say why nothing has been done. Surely that is a fair question. Why has the Government burked this question, and why has the Prime Minister’s pledge not been honoured? Why did the Prime Minister announce in January of this year that the committee would be established by legislation passed in this Parliament? I expect the Minister to give us some information on that point. We need more than a plausible excuse to explain why the pledge and the undertaking to which I have referred have not been honoured. I am sure that the Minister would resolve many of the doubts in our minds if he would answer the questions that I have put to him.
– All that I can say in answer to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) regarding the setting up of a committee and the work that it might undertake is that I shall bring this matter to the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies).
– He knows about it.
– The honorable senator asked why the sum of £250,000 had been set aside to cover the cost of elections and a referendum. I am advised by the departmental officers that the amount is being provided to cover the cost of the Senate election which must be held before the 30th June, 1956.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Australian Capital Territory.
Proposed vote, £2,367,000.
– In Division 254 - General Services - the sum of £1,300 is to be voted for “National Capital Planning and Development Committee - Canberra National Memorials Committee - Expenses “. Expenditure in connexion with the National Planning and Development Committee is a matter that could well be given an airing, particularly in view of the fact that a committee of this Senate has just reported on the development of Canberra and submitted some very important recommendations, which are now before the Senate. In my opinion, there is need for greater coordination on the part of the bodies concerned with the development of the Australian Capital Territory. The Public Works Committee, of which I am a member, undertook an extensive investigation of a number of matters affecting the future development of Canberra, such as the construction of bridges across the Molongo River and the future water supply for the city.
In the course of our investigations we caine into contact with the work of the National Capital Planning and Development Committee. “We found that, unfortunately, the objectives of that committee were not given effect because the committee is merely a consultative body which may make recommendations to the Minister, but because it has no authority beyond the making of recommendations, and because its reports are frequently pigeonholed, it works under a sense of frustration. The committee consists of men of experience who have the interests of Canberra at heart, but whether because of lack of funds or because of the absence of authority, much of the efforts of its members are wasted. The responsibility of the people of Canberra appears to be rather nebulous. It is difficult to know whether the National Capital Planning and Development ‘Committee is able in any way to influence the department administering the Territory. It has been recommended that a different type of administrative body should be set up in Canberra, and I suggest that careful consideration should be given to recommendations contained in the report of the Senate Select Committee on Canberra about the National Capital Planning and Development Committee.
The expenditure of £1,300 on the American war memorial is well justified. In the last year or so, this very fine memorial has been erected in Canberra to the memory of Americans who served in World War II. and laid down their lives in the defence of Australia. That is a beautiful monument, and the fact that a print of it is appearing on the present issue of our postage stamps will indicate to the rest of the world the close liaison that exists between Australia and the United States of America. The expenditure involved in the care of the memorial is dealt with in a different section of the appropriation measure, and consequently cannot be discussed now. I believe that the National Capital Planning and Development Committee has been much restricted in its work of co-ordinating the planning and development of our national capital.
– I refer to Division 254, “ C. - Canberra brickworks - Loss on operations (for payment to the credit of Australian Capital Territory Brickworks Trust Account) “. I draw attention to the magnificent piece of estimating in relation to the losses incurred by the Canberra brickworks. Last year, the vote in anticipation of the loss was £18,000. Bather miraculously, the loss turned out to be £18,000. In a demonstration of magnificent confidence we are told that next year the loss will again be £18,000, and no doubt when next year’s appropriation bill comes before the Senate, we shall discover that the loss was exactly £18,000. I do not know by what mathematical brilliance these figures were arrived at, and why they are always correct, but I compliment those concerned on the accuracy of their forecasting.
Now, speaking seriously, I believe that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) may have some knowledge of the matter that I am about to mention, because he has already considered it in connexion with another matter. Will he inform the committee how the Canberra brickworks is progressing, and whether it is anticipated that the losses shown last year will be reduced in the foreseeable future. B!e may have some general comments to make on the price of bricks and so on, which would remove the impression from our minds that the Canberra brickworks will show a fixed loss which will never be reduced but which will always be budgeted for and always realized.
– The estimating, as revealed in the bill, is not quite as accurate as would appear. Last year the loss suffered by the Canberra brickworks was £20,000. An amount of £18,000 was provided for payment to the credit of the brickworks trust account in order to keep the account in credit. .
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Defence Services, Other Services, Civil Defence, £234,000 - agreed to.
Department of Civil Aviation.
Proposed vote, £7,719,000.
.- I believe that it is appreciated by all honorable senators that it is not possible for any honorable senator seriously to discuss any item that appears in the schedules of the Appropriation Bill. We have a rough idea of the expenditure by looking at the amounts of money stated in the bill, but we do not know how the money has been spent, and we have no particular knowledge of the activities of each department. A good example of what I have been saying was presented to the Senate yesterday when a Tasmanian senator compared the costs of one parliamentary committee with those of another. He said that the Public Works Committee did all its work during last financial year at a cost of about £3,000 and asked why should the other committee have cost more; and he pointed to a sum of about £5,000 incurred by that second committee. That honorable senator did not have access to the vouchers, the receipts or the account books of either of the committees to which he was referring. He did not know anything about the expenditure of the committees, yet he made a comparison of their activities and expenses. I am sure that if he had been afforded an opportunity to examine the accounts of the second committee that he mentioned, he would have had a much better idea of how and why the amount allocated to that committee had been expended.
– That honorable senator was pointing out how stupid people outside the Parliament are to say that we are spending too much money.
– The honorable senator himself was acting stupidly because, on his argument, the expenditure on the Public Works Committee, for example, should not have exceeded the expenditure on the royal commission into espionage in Australia. We can make all sorts of comparisons and not get anywhere at all, and such comparisons lead only to absurdities. Fortunately, there is an authority who has access to the accounts of all Commonwealth departments, and I intend to quote the remarks of that authority about certain expenditure. The authority to whom I refer is the AuditorGeneral, and on page 40 of his latest report we may read as follows : -
The control and accounting for materials, stores and equipment used in this project have been unsatisfactory.
I feel sure that honorable senators understand the meaning of the word “ unsatisfactory “. The report continues -
Stores and materials were forwarded to the Island in the early stages of the project without adequate preparation for storage, and as a result thereof stores and equipment dumped on the beach were lost through exposure and other causes.
The dumping of those stores and equipment on the beach was the action of a Commonwealth department. I do not know how the people of Australia feel when they are told that valuable stores and equipment were taken from Australia and dumped on the beach at Cocos Island without any provision having been made to have them protected from the weather. The report goes on -
Prior arrangements for store accounting were inadequate, one storeman only being employed on such duties.
Stores and equipment despatched from Australia were received without documentation. Stores were issued without the necessary vouchers.
I do not know whether there are natives on Cocos Island, as there are on Manus Island and other islands in the Pacific Ocean, but one should have thought that the islanders were in charge of affairs over there and that the Department of Civil Aviation merely sent the stores there and let them take their chance of survival. The report continues -
Unused materials were dumped inthe station store, no attempt being made to credit the. respective works authorities.
Apparently it did not matter what became of them. We do not know whether they were used or thrown into the sea. The report continues -
A stocktake was conducted by departmental officers in October, 1054, but owing to the absence of reliable store accounting records, reconciliations with vouchers and store ledger cards were dispensed with and stock was listed as found.
That is a wonderful report! Nothing could be more condemnatory of the action of the department than the last portion of the report that I have read. It continues -
The department has advanced the explanation that the nature of the project made normal store accounting procedure impracticable without incurring substantial expenditure in the provision of adequate staff.
That is a very loose explanation. The department would rather lose the value of the material and the stores than pay adequate staff to do the job. That is a great form of economy ! Is it any wonder that the capital works of the Commonwealth have to be cut by £10,000,000? The report continues -
The department proposes to seek Treasury approval to the abandonment of reconciliations of stocks with existing ledger accounts and to the raising of new ledger accounts from the stock balances as at the date of stocktaking.
In other words, the department knows full well that there has been a loss, and i is merely going to get the Treasurer to write it off and start afresh. Some honorable senators might think that this is an isolated case. In any event, Cocos Island is a long way off and the people who pay taxes are not likely to see what is going on there, but I shall now come closer home, to the Northern Territory. Evidently the Department of Civil Aviation has some transactions there. In that connexion, the report of the Auditor-General states -
The position in the Territory is unsatisfactory because stock ledger postings are several months in arrear; the ledger card control has been defective and audit test-checks indicate that an unusual proportion of ledger balances were arithmetically incorrect.
It appears that they have aborigines in the Northern Territory looking after the ledgers. They cannot even keep them correctly. The report adds -
An examination of ledgers recording tools, Sc., held on personal ledger charge disclosed 51 instances of long-standing accounts where staff have ceased duty in the region hut the accounts have not been cleared.
Let us pause there for a moment. Employees were engaged by Commonwealth departments in the Northern Territory. They required tools to carry out the work. They obtained them from stores and a record was made, but after the employees had worked for a period, they left the department and nobody knows where the tools are now. They have not been returned to store, and they have not been checked in the ledgers. Then the AuditorGeneral reported -
The stores stocktaking programme is in arrear. A stocktake at No. 7 Main Store was completed 4th September, 1950, and Treasury approval was obtained to dispensing with reconciliations with ledger cards. A further stocktake was completed 30th May, 1053, but was unsatisfactory because of the inefficiency of emergency stocktaking personnel. A third stocktake is now being conducted. The department has progressively written-off disclosed deficiencies under local delegation.
It is easier to write-off deficiencies and shortages than to follow them up. Apparently, this department finds it easier to follow that practice than to pay competent staff to do the work as it should be done. Other comments in the Auditor-General’s report are interesting. This is one -
With the exception of the Northern Territory, an internal checking staff has been established and generally is functioning satisfactorily. Since December, 1054, an effective degree of internal chuck has not been carried out in respect of Northern Territory stores records. Staff normally assigned to such activity have been employed on stores stocktaking duties.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) has been giving replies to questions about works Estimates. Unless we had the report of the Auditor-General to inform us on these matters, however, we would not be seeking this sort of information at all. The report states under the heading “ Works Estimates “ -
In New South Wales, a considerable number of cases has been observed where the final costs have exceeded the works’ estimates. The matter is receiving consideration by the department.
Perhaps the experience of costs exceeding estimates is a common result of some of the contracting that takes place. Perhaps it could be avoided in the case of the department that is under consideration. 1 have no doubt that between the time thi? report was furnished and to-day, officers of the department have been able to collect information and supply it to the Minister so that he can pass it on to me. I now direct attention to the subsidy on living costs on Cocos Island. The report of the Auditor-General states -
The department’s share of messing costs at Cocos Island, payable to Qantas Empire Airways Limited, is in the vicinity of £20,000 per year, whereas the deduction from salaries in respect of these charges approximates £2,500.
The department has made some deductions from the salaries of officers for messing purposes. They have been charged £20,000, and an amount of £2,500 a year has been collected from somebody to balance the account. I have to pay my way, and I believe that everybody else in the community should do so, too. The Minister may be able to inform me of the reason for that discrepancy between £20,000 and £2,500. The report of the Auditor-General continued -
In February, 1952, when the proposal was submitted to Treasury, it was estimated that the Commonwealth would be required to reimburse Qantas approximately £4,200 per annum. In view of the substantial discrepancy between actual and estimated expenditure, it has been suggested to the department that a revised Treasury approval for the arrangement be obtained.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I wish to direct attention to Division 71, K. - Development of Civil Aviation, item 5, “National Safety Council of Australia - grant “. Last year, the vote was £5,000 and that amount was expended. No provision is made for a grant this year. Will the Minister for Shirking and Transport (Senator Paltridge) inform me why no provision has been made this year for such an importantmatter? Excellent work has been done in this connexion in Western Australia, and the National Safety Council uses to good purpose all the money it can get.
– I wish to refer to Division 72, domestic air services, and the item, “ Conveyance of Mails - Payments to contractors “.
Last year, the expenditure was £794,393. This year, payments to air-mail contractors will be made directly by the Postal Department, according to a note at the bottom of page 41 of the Estimates. In 1952, an agreement was concluded between Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited regarding the rationalization of services,, the transport of .mails, and so on. It appears that, at the present time, there is growing competition amongst the air services-
– I rise to order. I think the time of the committee will be saved if I point’ out that the item towhich the honorable senator is now addressing himself has been transferred from the votes of this department to avoid budget duplication. This division has been eliminated from the Estimates of the Department of Civil Aviation, and provision to meet the payments has been made in the votes of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. It seems to me that, as the vote is now included in the Estimates of the Postmaster-General’s Department, it would be more appropriate to deal with it when the votes of that department are being discussed.
– The point of order is well taken. Senator O’Byrne will have an opportunity to discuss this matter when the proposed votes for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department are before the committee.
– I appreciate that. I wish to refer now to Division 71, which is concerned with the maintenance and operation of civil aviation facilities. I invite the attention of the Minister to a matter with which I came in contact recently in northern Queensland. I refer to liaison between the Royal Australian Air Force Construction Squadron and the Department of Civil Aviation, working in close co-operation on aerodrome construction and maintenance. The position was that a new aerodrome was being built at Garbutt, Townsville. Private contractors did not have the requisite facilities for constructing the airport, and the consequence was that the Royal Australian Air Force Construction Squadron was called in to complete this very important project. The work it did was most creditable and proved how valuable such training could be for the personnel of the Royal Australian Air Force. After all, much of the work that the construction company doe3 is of a theoretical kind and not very interesting. The proposed vote for aerodrome construction is £1,233,000, in addition to construction work to be carried out by the Department of Works and the Department of Air, and I think that a great saving of Commonwealth funds could be made by raear.3 of closer liaison.
– What does the honorable senator think the unions would say about that?
– I do not think that the unions would protest about giving these men some practical work to do. The Seamen’s Union never takes exception to navy personnel performing similar functions. I think that if the men in the forces were given more practical work to do they would have more incentive. In addition, their sense of achievement would be greater. I am sure that their workmanship would be of a very high standard. If they were called on to do work of that kind, their esprit de corps would be enhanced, and their morale would be boosted. As I have said, I think that big savings could be effected by means of closer co-operation between the Royal Australian Air Force and the Department of Civil Aviation.
In connexion with air route and airway facilities, I congratulate the department on the improvements that have been made at airports. Although, perhaps, the Department of Civil Aviation passenger terminals at airports leave a lot to be desired, we find that at least a few improvements are being made, such as those being made at Mascot. However, I point out that on a busy day at Essendon, when a great number of people from all over the world pass through the terminal, there is a certain health hazard because of the crowding that is necessary. I believe that, as soon as possible, the Department of Civil Aviation should consider the provision of better facilities at all airport terminals.
I refer now to Division 71k - Development of Civil Aviation, and particularly to the payment of subsidies to aero and gliding clubs. Over a period of years, I have raised this matter when the
Appropriation Bill has been before the Parliament, and on each occasion I have stressed the value of aero clubs in training pilots. As is well known, we have been very fortunate, in the past, in having had a pool of pilots on which to draw, as a result of the Empire air training scheme. However, more than ten years have elapsed since the end of the war, when most of those pilots came on to the labour market, and were rapidly absorbed by the commercial airlines. Those men are getting on in years now, and the supply of pilots is tending to diminish. Australia is an air-minded country. We have many thousands of miles of air lanes, and the air traffic represents an important factor in OU] economy. It is from the private aer( clubs that we can expect to derive the future pilots and navigators of our commercial airlines. In the past, aero club training has been regarded more as training for the Royal Australian Air Force. It is important, of course, for the Royal Australian Air Force to be able to draw on that source, but I put it to the Minister that young men should be given the opportunity to learn to fly an aeroplane in the same way, and perhaps with as little expense, as they have the opportunity to learn to drive a motor car. Of course, there will never be as many aircraft in the air as there are cars on the road. That is obvious. We should look to the future and provide such facilities as will ensure a steady flow of pilots into commercial aviation. In the circumstances of to-day, without financial assistance from his parents, a young fellow who wishes to undergo flying instruction must forgo other pleasures in order to be able to pay for his tuition. I should like adequate assistance to be given to aero and gliding clubs to enable them to attract young men to be trained as pilots. If that were done as a national investment, young men would be imbued with a love of flying as a career, and- the clubs would be able to ensure in peacetime a regular supply of commercial pilots. In time of war, Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited can be turned into transport wings of the defence services. Tn the same way, the aero aud gliding clubs could supply trained personnel should we again become involved in war. Therefore, any assistance given to these clubs is really a national investment. I urge the Government to continue to subsidize these clubs, and if possible to increase the amount of the subsidies.
.- I refer to Item 4, “Telephone and Eire Services, £42,000 “ under Division 70 - Administrative - B - General Expenses. I shall direct my remarks to the provision, of fire protection services at the various airfields. Earlier this year, adverse articles were published by certain newspapers of New South Wales in relation to the adequacy . of the fire protection service at the KingsfordSmith aerodrome at Mascot. I have had some experience in this matter and I consider that it is a subject that should be examined again to see whether we are doing all possible in the best interests of civil aviation in Australia. I understand that each major airport- has its own fire service, and that these firefighting units are divorced from the State fire services. Usually, the airport fire service comprises only a small body of men, who render fire service only at the airfield to which they are attached. 1. do not think that this is the best system that could be devised. I believe that the various aerodromes should draw upon the State fire services for their fire crews. In each State, the fire brigade service is a big organization.
– It would be unfortunate if a fire occurred at an airport and the fire-fighting organization was on strike.
– The position would be much more difficult if the small group of fire-fighters attached to the airport under the present system were on strike, and there was no other firefighting organization to which the authorities could appeal for assistance. There- fore, that argument cancels itself out. Where there is a big fire brigade organization, such as in New South Wales, there is at call a large body of men who can be transferred rapidly to wherever they may be needed. Under the present system, if half of the members of a small fire-fighting body at an airport are absent through sickness or accident, it is necessary for the airport authorities to ask the
State fire services to provide assistance, and if it is not forthcoming the small number of the airport’s fire-fighting unit on duty must carry on by themselves. If these small airport fire-fighting units were members of the big State organization, this difficulty would be overcome.
Secondly, I believe that the big firefighting organizations are more capable of training and developing highly efficient airport fire-fighting services than are the small groups at the respective airports. By virtue of the fact that the big organizations are continually on the lookout throughout the world for improved firefighting equipment, they are peculiarly well fitted to provide efficient fire-fighting units at airports. Furthermore, it must bc remembered that the small groups of trained personnel to whom I have re.ferred are stationed only at big airports. The majority of country aerodromes have to rely on the State organizations for fire protection’ services. If the State fire-fighting organizations were charged with the responsibility of providing fire crews at airports, in the ordinary course of rotation of duty all members of that, organization would receive special training in the best methods of handling fires at airports. Consequently, before being attached to country aerodromes, the members of the organization would probably undergo specialized training at Mascot or elsewhere.
I think that this problem ought to be tackled fairly quickly, because we do not know when disaster will overtake a small airport fighting crew, making necessary a call upon the State organization for assistance. There should be greater liaison between fire-fighting groups at the airports and the State organizations, because the scheme that I have suggested must necessarily form part of a long-range plan. Even at present, after an aerodrome fire-fighting group goes into action, it is” frequently necessary to call on the State organization to assist in preventing the fire from spreading to buildings. Therefore, to that degree, reliance is already placed on the State organizations. I urge the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation f Senator Paltridge) to have a look at this particular problem to see whether it would not be in the best interests of civil aviation to integrate the present airport firefighting units with the various State firefighting organizations, and so provide throughout Australia men who are trained in the fighting of fires at airports.
– I am sure that Senator Arnold does not expect me to comment on his suggestion at this stage.
– Certainly not.
– I shall direct the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Townley) to his suggestion. When I was a member of the Public Accounts Committee I learned that the proposition that the honorable senator has made was canvassed at various times and was examined by the Department of Civil Aviation. For various reasons, which I shall not go into now, it appears that the department considered that the scheme envisaged would not be entirely suitable. However, I assure the honorable senator that I shall direct the Minister’s attention to his remarks, as I shall also Senator O’Byrne’s comments in relation to subsidies for aero and gliding clubs.
Senator Seward has asked why the grant to the National Safety Council of Australia has been discontinued. The departmental approach to the matter is that whilst the work done by the council in the past in the interests of safety is appreciated, in view of the development of airway and other safety facilities, it is not proposed to make any further grants to the council. Senator Benn mentioned those subjects which were commented upon by the Auditor-General, and as he anticipates, the departments in turn have commented upon the Auditor-General’s remarks. I gather from Senator Benn’s comments that he will not readily accept the departmental explanations, but I hope he will draw some comfort from the fact that, at the moment, these matters are under investigation by the Public Accounts Committee, whose report in due course will be presented to the Senate.
With respect to Cocos Island, the deportment’s comment on what the AuditorGeneral said is as follows: -
This job involved the rehabilitation of a badly deteriorated war-time landing strip on a small coral island in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
It included the construction of buildings and associated services by a E.A.A.F. Construction Unit, which at its maximum numbered some 540, and the provision by the Department of Civil Aviation of airway facilities, to enable an international air service linking Australia with South Africa to operate, lt presented operational disabilities which would be likely to exist in war and represented an excellent peace-time training manoeuvre for the R.A.A.F.
At the outset there was neither living accommodation nor a suitable building to house stores, and for these reasons stores staff was kept to a minimum. The project was not a normal construction undertaking and was carried out under the most difficult conditions.
All materials, however, were properly checked off the ship and used on the project; shipments were supported by normal accounting vouchers with the exception of one lot of furniture and this was supported by a detailed schedule.
There was little or no risk of misappropriation at this isolated location.
With the approval of the Treasury, the Department has opened up fresh accounts on the basis of stock on hand at a stocktaking conducted in October, 1954.
As to the Auditor-General’s comment on the position in the Northern Territory, the department has this to say -
It is extremely difficult to obtain staff, particularly competent staff, for this Region, and to hold those you may obtain. The Department has been faced with a rate of turnover in staff in this Region in excess of 100 per cent.; in the Stores Branch it was 40 in an establishment of 31 positions over the year ended 30.0.55. The difficulties in regard to stores accounting and stocktaking stem from these acute staffing difficulties, and the matter is under active investigation by the Department and the Public Service Board.
The transfer of the Main Store from unsatisfactory accommodation at Parap to better accommodation in the Winnellie area, and the acquisition of additional binning and fixtures, has, however, permitted the application of modern storehouse-keeping practices - unit piling and loading - and the Department now has what the Public Service Board representative recently indicated to the Public Accounts Committee was the best laid out store in Darwin and that it is very well managed. This is now facilitating more efficient stores accounting and stock control.
The 1!)55 stocktaking programme is now well under way and, provided there are no more changes in staff, should be completed by the end of this year. Moreover, the Department is actively pursuing the possibility of introducing in the Northern Territory the advanced mechanized store accounting system which is operating so efficiently in other Regions on the mainland but which for technical reasons (lack of maintenance facilities) has not hitherto been practicable.
The Internal Auditor is now employed on his normal internal checking duties.
The Auditor-General also commented on internal controls and checks. The relevant department makes the following comment :-
Because of the acute staffing difficulties in the Stores Section the Internal Auditor was for a time engaged on actual stocktaking work.
He has, however, reverted to his normal general internal checking duties.
The Auditor-General’s comments on the works estimates have been replied to by the department in the following terms: -
In a number of cases workmen have quoted incorrect authority numbers on working reports, stores vouchers, &c, resulting in certain jobs being overcharged, other undercharged. These charges are being corrected as overexpended authorities are reviewed. This will result in elimination of over-expenditure on many of these jobs.
Certain of these works were completely new in that the Department had never carried out similar jobs previously. This factor caused considerable difficulty in arriving at accurate estimates.
In some cases additional equipment wau “ borrowed “ from store in order to complete jobs speedily. The return of these “ borrowed “ items to store will eliminate some of the over-expenditure.
Some jobs necessitated because of the “ Royal Tour “ of Australia and these of course were mostly “ rush “ jobs of a temporary nature, where time was insufficient to permit detailed estimates being prepared.
The lack of sufficient suitably trained and experienced engineers and supervisory staff resulted in delays in reviewing over-expended jobs. These stalling difficulties are now being overcome, and, as a consequence, the review work is being carried out more speedily. Delays which have occurred in the production of job cost statements have also to some extent slowed down action in relation to over-expenditure, but these also are now being overcome.
In relation to living costs on Cocos Island, the department’s comment is as follows : -
The matter of increased messing costs and charges lias been referred to the Treasury and the Public Service Board.
The basis of cost has been accepted by this Department after investigation.
. - I desire to ask the Minister if he can give the Senate information as to expenditure on the maintenance of civil aviation facilities. The amount of £4,286,000 is sought this year, whereas last year the amount expended was £3,746,539. The Department of Civil Aviation expects to recoup, from the various companies using the facilities provided, some moneys by way of fees and charges for the use of aerodromes. Will the Minister inform the committee to what degree the Government is recouped by the various airlines companies in charges it makes for the maintenance of civil aviation facilities and meteorological services ?
Another matter which I think is worthy of the attention of the committee is that when Trans-Australia Airlines was established a system of maintenance operated which required airlines companies to replace each engine after it had been in use for a certain number of air-hours. Whether the engine was defective or not, it had to be replaced in order to be thoroughly tested and checked. According to information given to me by various aircraft captains and others, the maximum period of continuous service for aeroplane engines has been extended by all companies to an almost dangerous limit. It remains, of course, the right of a captain to refuse to take an aircraft into the air if he has any doubt about the efficiency of an engine. However, it is felt by many people who are knowledgeable that the Department of Civil Aviation should introduce a regulation, to make it incumbent upon any airlines company to replace an engine, after it has been run for a certain number of airhours, in order to be thoroughly tested and, if necessary, reconditioned. Australia has been exceedingly fortunate because of few air transport accidents. In recent times, however, all companies have realized that by extending the limit of service of aircraft engines to a dangerous maximum of flying hours, relying mainly on the knowledge and judgment of air technicians as to the airworthiness of the craft without overhaul, they are bringing danger close to civil aviation. I recommend to the Minister that a rule should be made that irrespective of whether or not aeroplane engines are showing a deficiency in performance, they should be removed and overhauled at more frequent intervals. This time limit should approximate that imposed when Trans-Australia Airlines began to operate.
– All operating airline companies in Australia have to conform to the civil aviation regulations in respect of safety and maintenance of engines and all matters connected with the operation of aircraft.
– But the maximum period of service before overhaul has been considerably extended.
– On a number of occasions I have heard that regulations imposed in respect of Australian commercial aircraft are far more rigid than are those in any other country. I am not aware that, in recent times a variation has been made in the length of time an engine may operate before being overhauled. The record of safety which has been achieved by Australian airline companies under the general operational control of the Department of Civil Aviation leads one to the conclusion that the regulations are framed so as to ensure a minimum of accident. I shall bring to the notice of the Minister the remarks of the honorable senator, and no doubt he will have some comment to make on them. I have just been handed some figures concerning the number of passenger fatalities for each 100,000,000 passenger miles. In the United Kingdom the number was 4.3; in the United States of America it was .08; and in Australia nil.
asked what revenue had been received by way of air navigation charges. Last year the receipts totalled £371,707 and it is estimated that in the current year £410,000 will be received.
– When the Australian National Airlines Commission was established five commissioners were appointed hut now only three are in office. Two vacancies which occurred last April and June, respectively, have not been filled. The chairman of the commission, Mr.
Watt, is a full-time officer but his two colleagues have other occupations and can give only part-time service to the commission. Mr. Warren McDonald has a large business of which he is managing director and that takes the greater part of his working time. He devotes such time and attention as he can to the affairs of the commission, but he is very busy.
– Can the senator inform me to which item he is directing his remarks?
– I am dealing with administration. Sir Giles Chippindall, the third of the remaining members of the commission has to carry the responsibility of Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, and consequently he is not able to give anything like full time to the work of the commission. The two former members were Mr. R. J. Webster, who retired last April, and the vice-chairman, who retired last June.
I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) why those two vacancies have not been filled ? Ugly rumours are circulating in Sydney that Australian National Airways Limited is very happy about what is to happen to the Australian National Airlines Commission. It cannot be said that the three commissioners can control the affairs of the commission efficiently, and suggestions have been made that the vacancies which have existed so long will be used as an excuse to bring the affairs of the commission under some other control. The Minister told us this morning that there was no chance of a representative of Australian National Airways Limited being appointed to the commission. That is a ray of hope, even though the statement was made by the most junior Minister of the Cabinet. I should like him to repeat it for, although he is but a junior Minister, such re-assurance would be welcomed. If the Government later reneges on him we can deal with that matter when it arises.
A report appeared this week of negotiations between a representative of the Butler Air Transport Proprietary Limited and the Department of Civil Aviation because the department had refused that company permission to use its Viscount aircraft for three or four weeks. The trouble is that the department had fallen down on its promise to provide airstrips suitable for the landing and take-off of Viscounts. Although the Butler company is not allowed to fly its Viscounts the way may be open for others to operate them. How was Mr. Holyman, an executive of Australian National Airways Limited able to make an offer to the Butler company on behalf of Trans-Australia Airlines?
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The provision in the 1955-56 Estimates for expenditure on capital works and services is £104,000,000, made up of £101,245,000 from annual votes and £2,755,000 from special appropriations. This measure, which should be read in conjunction with the Supply (Works and Services) Act 1955-1956, provides the necessary parliamentary appropriation for the expenditure under annual votes, which may be summarized as follows: -
Details of the proposed expenditure will be found on pages 220 and 233 of the printed Estimates, in the schedule to the present bill, and in the document “ Civil Works Programme 1955-56 “ which was recently made available to honorable senators at the direction of the Minister for Works (Mr. Kent Hughes).
When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made his statement recently on the condition of the Australian economy he stressed at length the need to mitigate the pressure of demand upon the resources available to us, and he canvassed briefly a number of fields in which action to that end appeared to offer some promise. The field of government was one to which he naturally gave attention, because this falls immediately and more or less directly under our control. He thought it necessary to point out that, over several years past, the policy of the Government had been one of firm restraint on levels of public spending, and hence on the demands being made- by public authorities on the supply of resources. Nevertheless, he said that the Government recognized an obligation to give the rest of the community a lead in this matter, and it intended, therefore, to make all possible efforts to achieve further economies in finance, labour, equipment and materials.
He made particular reference to the Commonwealth programme of capital works and services, and he recalled that in the 1955-56 budget, provision of £104,000,000 was being sought for that purpose. He said that we proposed to defer this year projects totalling £10,000,000. That was a considered proposition on the part of the Government, which decided on the step, notwithstanding the fact that the Commonwealth works programme had already been critically examined and very severely pruned back at the time expenditure proposals were being prepared for the budget. The Government felt that this was a time when all ideas of priority and essentiality, however soundly based on previous standards, ought to be reconsidered and re-assessed in the light of circumstances now prevailing in our national economy. Accordingly, in the period following his statement, Cabinet took up the question of how great a reduction could be effected, and it drew up some directions of a general character for a committee of Ministers, headed by the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) which was to go into the detail of the matter and make recommendations on particular items. That committee went to work with a will, and I propose now to outline what might he called the first fruits of its labours in the form of reductions and deferments of works and other forms of capital expenditure contained in the programme originally covered by the budget.
Perhaps I ought to say, first, that it is no easy matter to effect major reductions in a works programme of this character. It is not just a question of taking up a list and striking items out of it with a pencil, blue, red or otherwise. First of all, there is the fact that has been mentioned, that the programme had already come under very strict scrutiny, so that there was nothing in it that could not be justified as serving some important and highly desirable purpose in the economy. Then there is the further fact that rather more than four months of the financial year have already elapsed, so that whatever further savings are to be made must be achieved in the period of something less than eight months which remains. Again, a large part of the programme, the greater part of it, in fact, is made up of works already in progress - in many cases well advanced towards completion - and covered by firm contracts which cannot readily be varied or departed from. Yet again, there are elements in the programme - most of them very large elements - which, I think, very few people would want to see reduced, even in present circumstances. Perhaps the outstanding example is the vote for war service homes, which provides funds for the building and purchase of homes by ex-servicemen in all parts of the Commonwealth. But that vote takes up no less than £30,000,000 of the total of £104,000,000 in the original programme.
These factors impose fairly severe limitations on the scope for revision of the programme at this stage of the year. Nevertheless, the committee has been able to bring forward some very useful recommendations, and the Government has adopted them. I shall now mention the more important items: -
Commonwealth Offices, Melbourne. - The estimated cost of this project is £1,460,000. Tenders have been called, but if a contract is let, it will be subject to the provision that no work will be undertaken, or expense to the Commonwealth incurred, during the financial year 1955-56.
Molonglo River Bridge, Australian Capital Territory. - This project, estimated to cost £700,000, has been deleted from the 1955-56 programme.
Civil Aviation “Works, Buildings and Equipment. - Various works, estimated to cost £600,000, are to be deleted from this year’s programme. There will also be a reduction of £50,000 in the provision for various types of technical equipment required for civil aviation.
Atomic Energy Commission. - Commencement of the laboratory buildings at Lucas Heights, near Sydney, estimated to cost £1,900,000, will be deferred beyond the current financial year. Work on the building to house the atomic reactor, which is being fabricated under contract in the United Kingdom, will however proceed.
Post Office Buildings. - Buildings of various kinds estimated to cost £350,000 are to be deferred.
Post Office Technical Equipment. - Procurement and installation of various types of equipment totalling £1,300,000 will be deferred.
Housing for Canberra. - A project for the construction of 1,500 houses and two hostels in Canberra at an estimated cost of £8,300,000 is to be spread over four years instead of three.
Housing for Darwin. - A project to provide 100 houses with related services in Darwin at an estimated total cost of £800,000 will be extended over a longer completion period.
Television Buildings. - A rearrangement and slowing down of the £1,000,000 building programme for both transmitting and studio purposes is to be effected.
Television Equipment. - Procurement of studio and other equipment, estimated to cost in total £1,800,000 is to be spread over a longer period.
Qantas. - Work on an administrative building in Sydney and a hangar at Mascot is to be slowed down. The cost of the work previously planned to be done this year on these two projects was £850,000.
Miscellaneous. - There will be deferments or extensions of certain projects and orders in the fields of broadcasting, railways, overseas buildings and telecommunications, and savings will be effected in plant and equipment sought by the Department of Works and other departments.
The committee also extended its survey to works and other capital expenditures within the defence programme, with the result that various projects coming within the purview of the service and supply departments and estimated to cost £2,100,000 are to be deferred or slowed down. The saving in expenditure during 1955-56 from these measures so far is estimated at £4,000,000, and we regard this as very good and quick progress in a task of considerable difficulty.
We are continuing our revision of expenditure and, in particular, the area of defence expenditure of a capital kind is to be exhaustively surveyed. By that is meant not only constructional works and buildings for the service and supply departments, but expenditures related to defence production. I refer to defence production especially because recently a lot has been said about what is known as the St. Mary’s project. This is a project for the establishment of a new filling factory and work on it has begun. It seems to me that much of what has been said in criticism of the project has been said with not too much knowledge of the facts, and even less of the expert and responsible advice of the defence authority. However, the survey which I have spoken of will undoubtedly include the St. Mary’s project. My colleague, the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), has this particular survey in hand and he will report to Cabinet shortly. A further announcement will then be made on this subject.
As a matter of procedure it is not proposed to introduce new estimates for capital works and services, but the reductions of expenditure and deferments of projects will be given effect administratively on the basis of an instruction from Cabinet. I think it reasonable to say that what the Government has already decided to do by way of eliminating, deferring or extending projects will contribute helpfully towards the object of lessening demand on resources. In total, the projects so far affected involve an overall expenditure of £21,000,000. When projects are deleted from the programme or when the time for completion is extended, fewer contracts are let, fewer or smaller orders for supplies are placed and there is a general lessening of the tempo of works activity. Under present circumstances these are the important things to secure. Any further information which may be desired regarding specific items will be supplied in committee by the Ministers concerned.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 632).
Department of Civil Aviation.
Proposed vote, £7,719,000.
– I refer to Division 70, A. - Administrative - Salaries and Payments in the nature of Salary. Honorable senators will remember that yesterday I commented upon the number of temporary and casual employees in the Public Service, many of whom have no prospect of becoming permanent. In this division the same matter crops up once again. Last year, £2,326,866 was expended in salaries and allowances for permanent officers, and £2,174,943 was expended in respect of temporary and casual employees. The appropriation sought for this year is £2,733,000 for permanent officers and £1,922,000 for temporary and casual employees. I suggest that an inquiry should be conducted into the proportion of temporary and casual employees in the Department of Civil Aviation. It would be a great service to such people if they were made permanent. For example, many of them are younger men and have family commitments and other commitments which are of a permanent nature, and a permanent salary would enable them to fulfil those commitments.
I suggest that it is completely wrong for any government to continue the employment of people on a temporary and casual basis year after year. The only excuse given by the Government for such employment is that much of the work in the Department of Civil Aviation is of a temporary nature. If an inquiry is held along the lines I have suggested, I am sure it will reveal that many ex-servicemen have been employed in those departments for years. They have received no encouragement, apart from the fact that they have had a job as long as the department wants them. They are doing work of a permanent character and hold responsible positions efficiently. I cannot understand why this situation is allowed to continue, and why proper consideration is not given to the army of workers concerned.
– I wish to refer to the provision for examiners of airmen which is mentioned at page 162 of the schedule. The total proposed vote for various technical officers under the direction of the Department of Civil Aviation is £93S,409. “When I spoke earlier, I referred to the need to encourage flying schools, so that young prospective pilots would he able to learn how to fly aircraft. I omitted to direct the attention of the committee to the examination of instructors who are employed by flying schools. Recently, examiners employed by the Department of Civil Aviation have introduced a comprehensive system of grading pilots who are acting as instructors in private flying schools. As a result, some of the instructors have been down-graded with a consequent loss of pay and seniority. The flying schools are finding it difficult to obtain instructors because the salaries they can pay are not sufficient to enable them to compete with the major airlines.
I suggest that the department should consider organizing civil instructors in flying schools so that they will form an organized body to ensure that their rights are not infringed because they work in widely separated flying schools. The Department of Civil Aviation should be in close contact with them so as to keep them informed on changes in policy, and to enable them to continue their activities properly. The lead should come from the department. So far, there has been misunderstanding and lack of liaison between the department and civil flying instructors employed by the flying schools. This suggestion should be considered alongside my recommendations for assistance to flying schools and the training of young pilots who will create a pool, not only for commercial airlines, but also as a reserve in the event of a sudden call for expansion of the Royal Australian Air Force.
– I should like some information about the National Safety Council of Australia, which is listed under Division 71k. Last year, the vote was £5,000 and that amount was expended. Why has there not been an appropriation this year?
.- Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) inform me whether it is the intention of the Department of Civil Aviation to proceed with the construction of a terminal building at the West Beach airport?
– The item to which Senator Pearson has referred comes under capital works, but I am informed that there has been no change in the plans for the construction of a terminal building at the West Beach airport. Senator Wedgwood asked a question about a vote for the National Safety Council of Australia. A similar question was asked earlier, and the answer is that the council did good work in the past in the interests of air safety, but in view of the development of airway and other safety facilities by the Department of Civil Aviation, it is not proposed to make any further grant to the council. The amount of £5,000 that was paid last year was to cover two years’ activities, not one year.
I have taken a note of the suggestions that have been made by Senator O’Byrne regarding flying school instructors. I shall pass on the honorable senator’s comments to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Townley), but I remind the honorable senator that the department makes a grant to the flying schools of more than £50,000 each year. As to the inquiry by Senator Critchley, I am informed that, during the past financial year, 330 temporary employees have been transferred to the permanent staff.
– Hear, hear I That is the first ray of hope I have seen.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Commerce and Agriculture.
Proposed vote, £1,952,000.
– I cannot cite the page and line upon which the item to which I wish to refer appears, because it is shown only in part at page 169 of the schedule. Provision is made there for a vote of £2,850 for a director of fisheries. That appears to me to suggest that there is a department of fisheries, although it is not shown in the Estimates. Is such a department shown anywhere, or is it so small that it is not considered worthy of mention? [f it is shown, where can I find out how much money is ‘being spent on the fishing industry? Who publishes the Fisheries Newsletter which is distributed, and what other information is available about this organization? I should like to know how much money has been expended by the department, if there is one, during the past twelve months, and how much will be spent next year.
.- [ wish to direct attention to Divisions 87u, 87v and 87w, which are concerned with the commercial intelligence service in the Central African Federation Burma and the Philippines. It will be noticed that, last year, the vote was £3,S70 in respect of the Central African Federation. This year, the proposed vote is £8,100. Last year, in respect of Burma, the vote was £1,230, and this year the estimated expenditure is £9,500. In respect of the Philippines, last year there was no vote, whereas this year the estimated expenditure is £4,200. I should like to know why increases have been made in the votes for the services in the Central African Federation and Burma, and why a new vote is proposed for the service in the Philippines. I imagine that the department has explored the markets in the Central African Federation and Burma and has found outlets for some of Australia’s primary products, resulting in the appointment of additional staff to the services in those places. Evidently, a market for Austraiian products also has been discovered in the Philippines, and its possibilities are to be explored further.
Once more, I call the Auditor-General to give evidence. I refer to page 46 of his report for the year ended the 30th June last, and to his remarks under the heading “ Trade Commissioner Service He has this to say -
The attention of the Department was drawn to its departure from the provisions and limitations of the Trade Commissioners Act and Regulations. In particular it was indicated that rent allowances which are now paid to some officers of the Trade Commissioner Service have not been determined by the GovernorGeneral in accordance with regulation 11a and are in excess of the maximum amount prescribed therein, and that amending legislation is necessary to correct these illegal payments.
I do not wish to appear too punctilious in regard to the matters, but on the face of the report, it seems that illegal payments have been made to members of the staff of the Trade Commissioner Service, and that payments that they have received for certain services have not been authorized by any statute. If that is the case, it is a serious sin, so far as the Government is concerned, and far too important a matter for the Senate to pass over lightly. I have no doubt that the Minister has a reply in this connexion.
– I refer to Division 85i. - “ Commercial intelligence service - United Kingdom “. Apparently, the staff of that service in the United Kingdom consists of two trade commissioners and one assistant trade commissioner. I should like the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to explain the activities engaged in by those representatives, because recently, we have noticed criticism, particularly in the press, concerning the methods adopted to publicize Australian products in the United Kingdom. 1 should also like to know whether the proposed vote of £13,300 represents the total amount that is to he expended in popularizing Australian primary products on that very important market.
It is regrettable that, from time to time, Australians return from abroad and complain about the publicity methods that are adopted overseas. I referred, by way of a question, in the Senate recently to remarks made by Mr. Rymill, a wellknown South Australian pastoralist, who had been abroad to have a look at the manner in which Australian meat was marketed. Some few months ago, I attended a municipal conference in one of the northern districts of Victoria, at which two delegates, both primary producers who had recently returned from abroad, referred in very disheartening terms to the way in which Australia places its products on the English market. For some time, we have been hearing a good deal about our declining overseas trade balance, as a result of which certain restrictions are being imposed on the importation of goods from abroad. Those restrictions undoubtedly will affect our economy and may mean, also, that certain industries will have to curtail their production. As the recent report of the Tariff Board stated, the import restrictions may lead to the commencement of industrial enterprises which will be uneconomic, in an attempt to fill the gai) caused by the temporary cessation of imports.
The whole question of our trade with the United Kingdom is most important, because it vitally affects our economy. I do not know whether the Government works in co-operation with the States and utilizes the services of the respective Agents-General, or whether it works in some other way. When the Estimates are before the Parliament, they should contain explanatory notes instead of merely the bald statement that so much money is to be expended. In common with other honorable senators, I have noticed that while this discussion has been proceeding, large sums of money have been grouped together with no details concerning them, and in many cases we do not know exactly how that money is to be spent. I bring this matter to the notice of the Minister in the hope that he will be able to assure the committee, as well as the people of Australia, that this Government is doing all that it possibly can to popularize the products that we send abroad. I take it that the Commercial Intelligence Service operates in other countries in much the same way as it operates in the United Kingdom. It seems that not a great deal of money is to be spent on publicity, although I have noticed in the press that some effort is to be made by the department to publicize our primary products. Of course, no reference is made in the Estimates to that matter. Possibly, the
Minister will be able to give us som: information about it. This is a matter which affects not only meat, but also dried fruits, wine, butter, and indeed, all the products that we export to markets ou the other side of the world.
.-Senator Kendall asked a question about the expenditure on fisheries, and asked where the proposed vote appeared in the Estimates. I inform him that provision for fisheries is made in Division 85 - Administrative. The cost of administering the Fisheries Division, including salaries and expenses, is approximately £23,000 per annum. Its functions include the implementation of Government policy, co-ordination of Commonwealth and State activities, and the control of fishing in extra-territorial waters and whaling activity in Australian and adjacent waters.
About 14,000 copies of the Fisheries News Letter are issued weekly to professional fishermen, the State fisheries departments, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, members of both Federal and State parliaments and commercial firms. On request, they are also issued to overseas governmental and. semi-governmental bodies, universities, trade commissioner posts, and officers of the Department of External Affairs. Under reciprocal arrangements, copies of numerous overseas publications are received by the division. The net cost of the printing and distribution of Fisheries News Letter is £2,S00 a year, the gross cost being reduced by revenue from advertising. The Fisheries Division has received many letters of commendation in relation to the Fisheries News Letter, which apparently is regarded in fishing circles as a journal of high standing.
asked some questions about the Trade Commissioner Service. As the honorable senator surmised, the reason for additional provision for Division 87, U. - Commercial Intelligence Service - Central African Federation, is that that post has been in operation for only a few months; last year’s vote did not provide for a full year’* expenditure. This also applies to Division 87, V. - Commercial Intelligence Service - Burma. As in the Philippines, this is a new post that is to he opened up in the current financial year. Senator Benn also asked a question arising from the Auditor-General’s report in relation to the Trade Commissioner Service. I inform him that action is now being taken to remove the anomalies in the present act and regulations in order to bring that service up to date.
asked whether the provision for expenditure on the United Kingdom post of the Trade Commissioner Service was the full expected expenditure on trade promotion in the United Kingdom. It is not the full amount The amount shown in Division 87, 1, covers the trade post only. The establishment comprises two trade commissioners and one assistant trade commissioner, who are located in London. The cost of administration of all trade matters in the United Kingdom is set out in item 5, “ Trade publicity - United Kingdom, £133,000 “, under Division 196. That amount makes provision for a concentrated campaign in the United Kingdom, including trade displays, promotion, and exhibitions to form the basis of the main sales drive. This programme is being implemented with the co-operation of the Australian producers. Doubtless, in recent weeks, honorable senators have noted with pleasure the success of that campaign.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Miscellaneous Services, DEPARTMENT of Commerce and Agriculture.
Proposed vote, £911,000.
.- I take this opportunity, to refer to item 5, “ Trade publicity - United Kingdom - £133,000 “, and item 6, “ Trade publicity - Other than United Kingdom, £57,000”, under Division 196- Department of Commerce and Agriculture. I compliment both the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) and the Government on recognizing the value of trade publicity. Although the financial provision for these two items is considerable, I point out that press and radio advertising is expensive. Although our present publicity arrangements are splendid, I think we should go further. In view of the necessity to increase our overseas funds, I think that, with advantage, £1,000,000 a year could be spent on trade publicity overseas. Already, good results have flowed from the campaign which is being conducted in the United Kingdom by the department.
In the past, Australia has lacked drive in this connexion. Private enterprise has found that advertising sells the goods. Therefore, I hope that the dead hand of government will not be placed on our overseas trade publicity, and that the campaign that is now being conducted will result in increased sales of our commodities. If the efforts of Australian producers and manufacturers are supplemented by a successful advertising campaign overseas, I am sure that, within a few years, the prestige of Australian products will be raised, and that there will be increased demand for them. The fact that the provision for trade publicity in the United Kingdom this year is six times greater than it was last year indicates a new approach by the Government to this subject. I hope that the value of this relatively modest approach will be appreciated, and that the allocation of money for this purpose in the next financial year will be even greater. I believe that every pound expended on trade publicity will bring many pounds to this country. Australia needs increased income from its export commodities, and I consider that overseas trade publicity will result in the expansion of our overseas credit.
– I refer to item 11, “ Tobacco - Grant to States for experimental work on tobacco leaf production, £15,000 “, under Division 196 - Department of Commerce and Agriculture. I think all honorable senators are aware of the importance to Australia of the tobacco industry - for more reasons than one. It is well known that the Australian market requires about 30,000,000 lb. of tobacco leaf a year, but the present rate of production in Australia is only from 5.000,000 lb. to 6,000,000 lb. a year. Therefore, it is apparent that a huge market is available to be captured by Australian growers. At present, a considerable quantity of tobacco is imported, and from time to time we bear quite a lot about Australia’s tobacco-growing potentialities. It might be held by some people that the leaf we produce is not equal in quality to that produced in Virginia and other parts of America. I therefore think that the proposed vote of £15,000 is too small. It is a bagatelle when we consider the importance of the industry. Honorable senators should visit the Mareeba district in Queensland, go out on to the farms and see for themselves how the leaf is produced. They should also visit the kilns and see how the leaf is cured, and then go to the factory in Mareeba to see how the leaf is processed and manufactured into tobacco. They could also 3ee how a good quality cigarette is manufactured.
The tobacco industry is important in view of the fact that the latest advice about some of our other primary industries is rather disconcerting. At the end of the next wheat season Australia will have something like 130,000,000 bushels of wheat unsold which will become a burden on the Australian Wheat Board and probably upon this Government. We have to turn to other products, and other markets, and tobacco is one industry to which we can apply ourselves. A good deal of scientific knowledge is required to produce tobacco in a marketable condition, and I should like to see the best export advice made available to the growers and manufacturers. Perhaps this is something that the Government cannot handle on its own; it may have to combine with those who are privately engaged in the industry. One. cannot step into the tobacco industry one year and, at the end of the following year, expect to produce a grade of tobacco equal to that produced by countries which have been engaged in the industry for a century or more. That is not possible, but we can benefit from the knowledge gained in the industry in other countries. We have land in Australia that is suitable for tobacco-growing and I should like to see a much larger sum made available to this industry so that it can be put upon a firm footing.
– I should like to address myself to matters controlled by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, particularly the subject of trade publicity which was referred to by Senator Wood. I notice that it is proposed to place at the disposal of the department for trade publicity purposes the sum of £133,000, which is a very large increase on the amount of £31,000 provided last year. It is more than six times as much. I note, too, that the department highlights the importance of the United Kingdom market to Australia by placing this large amount at its disposal for publicity purposes during the current year. The sum proposed for trade publicity in countries other than the United Kingdom is £57,000, an advance from the £32,000 voted last year. It is important that our primary products should be sold on the overseas market because of the present position of Australian primary products. It has been stated in this chamber that 85 per cent, of our exports overseas comprise primary products. Wool and wheat comprise 60 per cent. ; sugar, dried fruits, meat and butter, 20 per cent.; and base metals 6 per cent. Honorable senators will realize the importance of retaining our overseas markets for primary products.
I commend the Government for its continued policy of expanding rural productivity and helping primary producers. I would like to be assured that the Australian market has been fully exploited by the use of publicity, particularly in relation to meat, eggs and butter which are very important items of food. I should like to be assured that we are doing all we possibly can to increase our sales of those products within Australia.
The sum of £15,000 proposed to be made available to the tobacco industry is in accordance with the importance of that industry at the moment, and appears to be all that will be required for the current year. Two other items to which I desire to refer are item 12, “Dairy industry - Extension grant, £250,000 “ and item 18, “Food production - Grant for extension of agricultural advisory services, £300,000 “. These two services are, of course, complementary to the publicity campaign and form part and parcel of the policy of this Government from the time it was elected in 1949. The £250,000 to be allotted to the dairying industry is, of course, made available to the dairymen through State agricultural departments. The second amount to which I referred is to be granted in respect of extension services, and this year the proposed vote is £300,000. It has been increased from £200,000 and is a continuing grant for the next three to five years, and will, when necessary, be raised to £500,000. Those two items are very important and I commend the Government again on its foresight in providing this important service.
Another amount in which I am interested is item 22, “Berry fruits - Publicity, £8,000 “. We in Tasmania are almost a forgotten legion, and it is very encouraging indeed to find that the Government has at last realized the importance of this Tasmania industry. This year we are enjoying a fairly good market but it is good to see that the Government has recognized the importance of the industry to Tasmania.
Another small, but very important item, is item 15, “ International Dairy Federation- Contribution, £300”. This is a sum which Australia contributes to the International Dairy Federation which holds its conference in Belgium every three years. It is important that we keep in touch with that federation in order to obtain information which is of value to the dairying industry. I commend these items to the consideration of the Senate; they have my full support.
.- Item 11 is a grant of £15,000 to States for experimental work on tobacco leaf production. Last year, £11,832 was distributed, and I should like to know to what States. Ammonium sulphate appears to come into the Estimates for the first time, and a sum of £60,000 is provided for freight on local production. Is this subsidized freight distributed among the States, and, if so, can the primary producer look forward to some relief from the burden of freight on ammonium sulphate?
– Item 8 provides for a vote of £8,000 for farm mechanization research. Last year, the figure was £8,400, of which £8,374 was expended. I should have thought that the various farm machinery manufacturing companies would have been responsible for all the research needed into the mechanization of farm machinery. Why was £8,374 spent last year, and why is £8,000 to be provided this year? Item 9 provides £200 for expenses for wool appraisement centres. There are many of these places, and the sum of £200 is smaller than I should have imagined necessary. Many of these centres were taken over at the end of the war, and I am unaware whether this sum is provided for their maintenance only. Special food investigations are covered by Item 19 with a proposed vote of £47,000. What special food is being investigated to entail this expenditure? In Item 21, £500 is provided this year for the Commonwealth’s share of operating expenses in tractor testing. Last year, the vote for this purpose was £2,300, which was fully spent. I do not know in what activities the Department of Commerce and Agriculture is engaged in tractor testing. I should have thought that the manufacturers of the tractors would do all the testing required. Perhaps the department tests them to see that they are at a proper standard of efficiency. The vote for the Flax Production Committee, which last year was £50,000, appears to be discontinued. Is there any reason why that has been eliminated ?
– I shall first reply to some of the questions asked by Senator Seward. His first question was with regard to the £8,000 for farm mechanization research. The Australian Agricultural Council has expressed the opinion that this programme is achieving useful results, and is making an important contribution towards the efficiency of primary production in Australia. The research is carried out objectively to modernize Australian agriculture in respect of mechanical equipment. An extensive programme is proposed under the direction of the Division of Agricultural Production.
In respect of the wool appraisement centres, £200 is required for the payment of miscellaneous expenditure such as rates, ground rent, and so on at Albany and Geraldton. Item 19 shows a vote of £47,000 for special food investigations. This provision is for operational costs for research into problems relating to both services and civilian food under emergency conditions. The projects were: Tasmania, dehydrated vegetables, mashed potato powder £9,100; South Australia, fat anti-oxidants, dehydrated eggs £28,600; New South Wales, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, dehydrated meat, £7,000; Victoria, dehydrated meat fibre board container, £1,300; Commonwealth, miscellaneous projects - ration packs and so on, £1,000 ; a ‘ total of £47,000. _ Senator Seward asked about the discontinuance of the payment for flax production. The Flax Production Committee was taken over by the Flax Commission as from the 1st November, 1954.
The amount of £500 for tractor testing in item 21 covers the Commonwealth’s share of 50 per cent, of running costs involved in testing of tractors in Australia. The actual testing is carried out under the supervision of the Agricultural Engineering Faculty of the University of Melbourne. The States are contributing to the balancing of the running costs. The initial agreement expires on the 31st March, 1956. The provision of £500 completes the agreement.
asked about the discontinuance of the amount for freight on ammonium sulphate. Sixty thousand pounds was provided in the 1954-55 Estimates to assist in paying the necessary freight on ammonium sulphate distributed by the Nitrogenous Fertilizer Pool, and freighted from factories in the southern States. By efficient placement of overseas shipments, the assistance on the freight on local production was not required.
asked also about the grant to States for experimental work on tobacco-leaf production. I regret that the department has not provided figures showing the distribution of last year’s vote, but the senator may be interested to know that the £15,000 provided this year will be distributed in the following proportions : - New South Wales will receive £2,2^0; Queensland, £5,625; Victoria, £3,375; and Western Australia £3,750. Senator Benn expressed the opinion that £15,000 was not sufficient to encourage the expansion of this industry. Further money is provided for tobacco research under item 18 - “ Food production, grant for expansion of agricultural advisory services, £338,000 “, and of that sum £30,000 will be applied to capital expenditure and £8,000 to operational expenditure on Tobacco Extension Services. An expansion programme in the tobacco industry, over a period of two years is being commenced this year, and altogether £76,000 will be provided on a £l-for-£l basis. I now have the distribution of the tobacco industry assistance grant for which Senator Cooke inquired. New South Wales is to receive £1,914, Victoria £1,600, Queensland £4,504 and Western Australia £3,814.
– I support Senator Wardlaw’s remarks about the grant for expansion of agricultural advisory services in connexion with food production. The amount of the grant has been considerably increased this year. I express my sincere appreciation of the appearance of a sum for that purpose in this year’s Estimates. There is no doubt that if production in any branch of primary industry in this country is to be as efficient as present-day conditions require, we must take full advantage of the discoveries that scientists are continually making, and ensure that all the information obtainable is made available to those on the land. In the past there has not been sufficient liaison between the scientists and the primary producers. The only way to bridge the gap is to see that in every State there are people whose job it is to disseminate the information obtained by the scientists to the men who are actually working on the land.
The Australian Government has seen the need for an expansion of this programme, and the primary producers of this country ought to be made fully aware of the benefits that this vote may confer on them. I also express the hope that the States, whose job it” is to expend the money, will endeavour to still further perfect their organizations for this purpose. I pay a tribute to the officers of the South Australian Department of Agriculture, men who are well versed in every aspect of the work that they have undertaken. I think that in South Australia we have a method of disseminating information which is second to none in the Commonwealth. I have no fears that in that State the extra money now being made available will not be spent wisely and well. It is interesting to reflect on what scientists have done for primary production in this country and, therefore, for the nation as a whole. We have only to think of the development in the field of cereal production, and live-stock production, as well as in pasture improvement to realize that there has been wonderful development in recent years, with the result that production has increased beyond what we thought was possible only a few years ago. Those results have been due largely to the fact that the work of the scientists has been passed on to the men on the land. I endorse Senator Wardlaw’s remarks about this vote.
I notice that the sum of £15,000 is being voted this year in connexion with aerial surveys. This is a new item; at least no provision under this heading was made in 1954-55. I do not know what these aerial surveys will cover, but I have no doubt that the Minister will be able to give a satisfactory explanation of the item when he replies.
– I desire to refer to the proposed votes for trade publicity. I was pleased to hear the Minister say that it was the intention of the Government to increase the vote for trade publicity in the United Kingdom. The reason I am interested in this matter is that the trend of events in our economic system is a matter of considerable importance to Australia. Recently, grave doubts about the future of the economy have been expressed and there have been hints that Australia might again enter a period of deflation, or depression. I recall that the depression of the 1930’s was attributed to the adverse balance in our overseas trading. In an effort to rectify the position at that time, Australia experienced a period of calamity; thousands of men were thrown out of work, and their families suffered great hardship. I do not want such things to occur again, and, therefore, When I see a trend towards the happen ings that were said to cause the depression to which I have referred, I am concerned. I do not want to see Australia forced into a similar disastrous state of affairs, and, therefore, I urge the Government to take all steps possible to ensure that our financial position abroad is maintained in a satisfactory state.
The proposed vote for trade publicity in the United Kingdom is being increased from £21,250 last year to £133,000 this year. The actual expenditure last year was £23,573. The proposed vote for trade publicity in places other than the United Kingdom is £57,000, which also is an increase on the vote of £32,000 of last year almost all of which was expended. I am concerned to know whether the sum of £57,000 to be expended on trade publicity in countries other than the United Kingdom is the total contemplated expenditure under that heading with the object of popularizing Australian produce, in those countries. Surely there are prospects of finding markets for more Australian products on the continent of Europe, in the United States of America, and in countries to the north of Australia, where we hope that Australia’s name is viewed favorably, and that Australian goods will be welcome. A sum of £57,000 docs not seem a large amount to spend in an effort to popularize Australian products in countries outside the United Kingdom. As I have said, the depression of the 1930’s was attributed to our loss of trade overseas and to the low prices received for our wool, wheat, butter and other produce. We must take steps to ensure that history will not repeat itself. It is clear that the Government realizes, to some degree at least, the seriousness of the situation, because it has increased the vote for trade publicity in the United Kingdom. But what would be wrong in making a determined effort to find other markets for Australian produce? I shall be pleased if the Minister can assure me that the department intends to engage in an intensive publicity drive in other countries, so that my fears in regard to increasing unemployment resulting from a recurrence of depression experiences may be allayed.
Senator ARMSTRONG (New South Wales) [9.201. - I do not know whether the matter that I desire to bring up comes within the scope of the debate on the proposed vote now before the Senate, but it is a most important matter which should be considered by the Minister for Trade and Customs. I refer to the necessity to develop an Australian trade in the export of whale meat. I understand that we have received inquiries from all over the world for whale meat, but none of the whaling companies in Australia can supply it because overseas buyers want contracts for periods of from three to five years. Because of the uncertainty of the whaling industry, and because the Department of Commerce and Agriculture is not prepared to guarantee any company a certain quantity of whales for each year, the whaling companies cannot export whale meat.
– Do the overseas buyers want whale meat for human consumption ?
– I do not. know, but I have eaten it and it is not bad. I suggest that this matter is important, because whale meat can be pulverized and used for fowl and animal foods, and a substantial trade could be built up overseas. Perhaps the Minister could collaborate with the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and ascertain whether a half or three-quarters of the number of whales that the companies are catching could be guaranteed to them so that they might make contracts for the supply of whale meat overseas. I should be very grateful if the Minister would comply with my suggestion.
Another matter that I wish to mention concerns the money that is expended on our overseas trade offices. Is the money allocated in such a way that we shall obtain the best results from it in increased exports? On a number of occasions I have mentioned that Australia has no trade representative in Spain. I suggest that it is important that we should have representation there because, as the Spaniards are a nation of bread eaters, there is a possible market for our wheat there. The Spanish market is largely lost to us because any trade negotiations that we conduct with. Spain are of an indirect nature, and have to go through the British Ambassador in Spain. There is also a difficulty with the Spanish currency, because the peseta has different values according to whether it is to be used in the export trade or in the home market. Consequently, because we have no representative in Spain, our trade with that country is fraught with difficulty.
Italy is another country in which there is no Australian trade representative, although we have our representatives in Ceylon, the British West Indies, the Central African Federation and Burma. There is also a possibility of developing trade with the Philippines. However, the currency of that country is so difficult to deal with that although the Minister for the Philippines in Australia has tried to foster trade between Australia and his country, he has not been very successful. In any event, we should definitely be represented in Spain and Italy. At present, we have a Minister to represent us on the diplomatic side in Italy, and a trade representative could work under him. A trade organization could also be set up in Spain, which could be administered from either France or Italy.
– I desire to refer to Division 196 - Department of Commerce and Agriculture, Tuna fishing research. The vote last year in respect of this activity was £7,311. I am obliged to the Minister for his remarks about our fisheries, but obviously a vote of about £23,000 for fisheries research is not very extensive. The vote of £7,311 last year was no doubt expended on the expedition to seek information about tuna, which took place about six months ago. That turned out to be a futile and useless survey. The expedition spent about two and a half months off the coast of Queensland, but returned with no information as to whether or not tuna could be found in that area. Its report stated that a much longer period would have to be spent in investigating the area before any useful information could be obtained, and I completely agree with that view.
When the budget papers were before the Senate, I spoke at some length of the fishing industry in this country, pointing out what was being done in the way of fishing in other countries. I spent almost twelve months investigating the fishing industry before I spoke about it. The Canadians spend about 10,000,000 dollars a year on fisheries research, and maintain ten or twelve vessels to investigate the spawning and other habits of fish. The United Kingdom and the United States of America, and even Dutch New Guinea also carryout important activities in fisheries research. South Africa has three vessels engaged in this important activity, but Australia is doing nothing. I hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs will take this matter up with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) in order to ascertain whether we can do something in the way of fisheries research along the lines adopted by other countries.
Our fishing industry has been completely neglected by successive Australian governments, and it was neglected long before I entered the Senate - and even before I took any interest in the fishing industry. Perhaps we could set aside a sum of money to maintain two or three vessels to carry out research in oceanography, hydrography, and other branches of knowledge, around this coast of this country. They could send the information that they gathered to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which at present carries out biological surveys. It is worthy of note that at present the Japanese voyage 4,500 miles to the Coral Sea to catch tuna. Then they return another 4,500 miles, can it, and sell it to the Americans. If they can do that, surely we can catch tuna off the New South Wales coast and in the Coral Sea, and sell it in the same market so as to increase our earnings of dollars.
We have known for 30 years that tuna are to be found around the Australian coast, but until we carry out proper surveys, and are able to increase the catches of fish at certain _ periods by knowing their spawning habits, our fishing industry will be retarded. Because we have not taken the proper action at the right time, the fishing grounds in our estuaries, particularly in Queensland, where the fish go to spawn, are being ruined. In Queensland, there is a pilchard and anchovy industry, which could compete with the European anchovy industry, and also the industry in sardines, because the sardine is really the same fish.
Another matter that I desire to mention is that it would be worth while for the Minister to ascertain whether the Australian Government would be willing to make long-term loans to fishermen so that they could repair their ships and build new and suitable ships for fishing in the Coral Sea. The majority of fishing vessels on the Queensland and New South Wales coasts are not seaworthy enough to go to the Coral Sea, nor have they the fuel range or equipment required. Consequently, the Queensland fishermen have to keep their cockle-shells fishing along the Barrier Beef. They are fishing, in the estuaries instead of being able to go out and compete with the Japanese vessels that travel 4,500 miles, and still make it a paying proposition. I ask the Minister to give close attention to these’ matters, particularly long-term loans to fishermen. They, are a recognized method of finance in Great Britain. Long-term loans are provided, not only for the English fishermen, but also for Scottish fishermen who fish for herrings and white fish. Long-term loans are made available to fishermen, not only for repairs, but also for brand new boats which they pay off over a long term just as we do with war service homes in Australia.
.- I wish to refer to the vote for trade publicity in the United Kingdom. The proposed vote is £133,000, compared with the previous vote of £21,250. Far be it from me to express anything but delight at the substantial increase, but I think we should look at this proposal clearly, because the mere expenditure of money on publicity will not solve the problem. The fact is that we have to produce goods suitable for the market in which we trade. I have had the privilege of being in the United Kingdom and across the Continent of Europe within the past six months, and I know, from my own personal observation and experience, that we have tried for too long to get away with anything on the overseas markets, particularly in the United Kingdom.
As I have stated previously, we deplore the fact that there has been a decline in the sale of Australian wines, particularly in England. The plain fact is that we have been trying to sell wines of inferior quality on the British market. The essential in successful marketing is an article of good quality. We must be sure that anything that goes out in the name of. Australia is designed to suit the market in which it is offered and, above all else, that it is worthy of Australia. We know from recent reports in the press that there has been difficulty with the sale of Australian mutton on the British market. That difficulty arises, not so much from quality, as from taste. If we want to succeed on that market, we have to produce mutton that will suit the requirements of the consumers. All the advertising in the world will not assist us unless we do that.
We must insist also that anybody who uses the precious and glorious name of Australia in trade shall produce an article of standard quality. I regret to say that [ have seen foodstuffs on the British market carrying labels of shocking design, poorly canned and with only one prominent feature which indicated that they were Australian products. While it is excellent to increase publicity, we must give quality goods. I hope that provision is to be made to ensure a specified standard of quality in connexion with the proposed new trade publicity.
As Senator Sheehan has said, the provision for publicity in the remainder of the free world is to be increased from £32,000 to only £57,000. My experience on the Continent was that Australia was not particularly well known. In a general way, all that is known about Australia is that we have a badge with a kangaroo 0/1 it. One can travel from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean and hardly see an Australian product in the markets. I think we should increase our publicity in the rest of the free world as well as in the United Kingdom.
I direct attention to the air beef subsidy under Division 196, for which (he proposed vote is £16,250. I should like to know whether there is some qualification in that connexion regarding Western Australia, as I believe that a new provision is to be made for an air beef subsidy.
– Senator Anderson has referred to the air beef subsidy. The vote last year was £10,000, and actual expenditure was £10,965. The proposed vote this year is £16,250. That amount is to be provided to assist the transport by air of beef and edible beef offal from the killing works at Glenroy in Western Australia. The assistance amounts to 2d. per lb. on meat transported by air. An increased payment is to be made this year because the Western Australian Government last- year withdrew its concessional price for meat treated at the Wyndham works.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of Shipping and Transport, £1,034,000; Miscellaneous Services, Department of Shipping and Transport, £2,093,000 ; Defence Services, Other Services, Reconditioning of Marine Salvage Vessels, £135,000 - agreed to.
Proposed vote, £3,336,000.
.- When Senator Paltridge was appointed Minister for Shipping and Transport with the Commonwealth Railways under his administration, unknowingly he inherited considerable wealth. Some of that wealth is in Brisbane. I hope that at some date when he visits Brisbane 1 shall have an opportunity to accompany him to see some of the wealth he has inherited. I should like to have the pleasure of showing him what I am talking about, and to note his reaction. In Brisbane, there are several old Garrett locomotive engines. I understand that they belong to the Commonwealth ; they are on Commonwealth property and have been there for a number of years. They are having a very bad effect on the progress . of Brisbane and Queensland generally, in that visitors who proceed to Brisbane by train, on entering Clapham Junction, notice twelve or fourteen Garrett locomotives on the lefthand side. When they return to Brisbane some years later they see the same number of Garrett locomotives standing in the same place, and they gain the impression that things in Brisbane are standing still.
– Why not use them?
– I know that the honorable senator is a farmer and is very resourceful. It has been suggested that they be sold or given to poultry-farmers in the district, so that they might be used as heu roosts. They are certainly not useable again as locomotives. I have been informed that they were never any good, not even when they were new. I understand that they were imported during the war years, and that they are worn out and good for nothing at the moment. Perhaps they could be stripped and some of the copper taken from them, and the whole lot then sold as scrap. I should like the Minister to do something to remove them, even if they are only buried in the soil. Perhaps they could be used as reinforcement for concrete on a construction project. I do not know whether the Minister has received advice from his departmental officers concerning them, but if he has done so, I should like to hear about it. I do not expect him to rush into an investigation of the’ matter and tell me to-night what he proposes to do about these engines. I should be satisfied if he were able to give me a reply next week.
– The Garrett locomotives at Brisbane, to which Senator Benn has referred, are not on charge to the Commonwealth railways. They were built during the war, under multiple contracts, by the Department of Supply. Due to poor construction and lack of homogeneity of materials, they were not acceptable to any State railway, and were rejected by the Commonwealth railway commissioners. They were the subject of a royal commission undertaken by Mr. Justice Wolff after World War II., and it was agreed that they were of pretty poor quality. They are considered by railway experts to have merely scrap metal value. The locomotives and the siding at which they are located are not associated in any way with the Commonwealth railways.
Senator CRITCHLEY (South Australia) [9.45 J. - I wish to make some comments on Divisions 223, 224 and 225, all of which refer to Commonwealth railways. I notice that the proposed allocations for the trans-Australian railway, the central Australia railway, and the north Australia railway are almost the same as were the allocations last year. In some instances, such as the allocations for store, and materials, the amounts are identical. I think that honorable senators who have travelled on those railways during the last ten years would be lacking in their duty if they failed to place on record their appreciation of the vast improvement thai has been made by the present Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. This capable officer is not only popular with his men, but also knows what is required on the railway lines which he administers. He understands the circumstances involved and appreciates that they are somewhat different from those encountered by railways in other parts of Australia. In order that the good work of the commissioner maybe continued, I would like the Minister to give me an assurance regarding maintenance, welding and ballasting, which are necessary to ensure long service of rolling stock on these lines.
The new trans-Australia train is acknowledged by all who have travelled on it as one of the best of its kind in the world. I have travelled on it on three occasions, and I must say that on each occasion I have had a certain amount of apprehension because of the bad state of the permanent way, due to lack of ballast and the fishplate type of joint. The commissioner is doing as much as he possibly can to get suitable engines, including diesels, for which the late Senator Mcleay must take a great deal of credit. He has shown what can be done if he is given an opportunity to modernize these railways.
Ballasting is not a cheap proposition because of the long distances that the ballast has to be transported in many instances. Those of us from South Australia who know the “hills” line appreciate the wonderful improvement that has been made since the line has been strengthened and ballasted. Prior to that happening, there had been several derailments, some of a serious nature, but since it has been strengthened and ballasted, and the old fishplate dispensed with, fast-moving, heavy transport is quite safe on it. Since the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) assumed office, we of the Opposition have been pleased to see that he has been prepared to answer questions and to obtain information for us, and we hope that he will not lose sight of the fact that it is absolutely necessary for the National Parliament to support action to improve the permanent way on both the transAustralia railway line and the northsouth line, because unless such action is taken the commissioner will be more or less hamstrung.
– As we now have a new Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), I desire to direct his attention to certain aspects of the TransAustralian Railway. I concede readily that that railway provides a very good service, and that great credit for improvements that were effected to it is due to the late Minister for Shipping and Transport, Senator McLeay. The Trans-Australian train is a very fine train, but there is a horrible blemish associated with it. I refer to the awful train journey from Port Pirie to Adelaide. When the broadgauge railway was constructed from Whyalla to Port Pirie, a certain clause was placed in the relevant bill which stipulated that, as a part of the bargain, the Melbourne-Adelaide express should be run through to Port Pirie, instead of stopping at Adelaide. I hope that the Minister will persist in his endeavours to get the South Australian railway authorities to honour their responsibilities in this connexion, because the trip from Port Pirie to Adelaide detracts from the pleasure of the rail journey from Perth to Melbourne. If even a section of the Melbourne express - say several roomette carriages - were run through to Port Pirie, the popularity of the rail journey from Port Pirie to Perth would be enhanced considerably.
I wish to direct the attention of the Minister to another aspect of this matter. The volume of patronage for the TransAustralian train demands the provision of more new rolling stock for the TransAustralian Railway. People who have to travel by the old train are very disappointed. They look forward to a journey on the new train, and when they have to travel on the forward journey by the old train they sometimes return by other means of transport. I have not the slightest doubt that the volume of passenger traffic offering justifies the running of the trans-Australia train on seven days a week. I hope that the Minister will make strong representations to the South Australian Government about the first matter that I have mentioned.
– I think that all of the tributes that have been paid to our late colleague, Senator George Mcleay, who was Minister for Shipping and Transport, for the excellent work he did in connexion with the Commonwealth Railways - ably assisted by his staff - were very sincere. I was delighted to hear Senator Critchley refer to the widening of the Port Augusta-to-Marree railway line to the standard gauge of 4 ft. S in. I think, Mr. Chairman, that it would be a very good idea if either Senator Critchley or I, or both of us, were to accompany you on a train trip from Marree to Alice Springs. I am sure that you would be convinced of the necessity to proceed with the widening of that line to standard gauge, after work on the section of the line between Port Augusta and Marree is completed. That would be, perhaps, one of the best things that could happen for the people who are living at Alice Springs and beyond.
I was very interested in Senator Seward’s remarks about the AdelaidetoPortPirie railway line. That opens up a very wide field for discussion, in view of the very valuable agreement that the Commonwealth has with South Australia in relation to the conversion of that line to standard gauge. At the same time, however, I think Senator Seward will agree with me that that is only one aspect of the agreement. In my humble opinion, there are other very important matters contained in it which should take precedence. But I do not intend to get into an argument about the matter, because I believe that the widening to standard gauge of the Marree-to-Alice Springs railway line is far more urgent than the conversion to standard gauge of the Port Pirie-to-Adelaide railway line.
I was delighted to hear Senator Critchley pay a tribute to the men who work on the trans-Australian railway line. I think that he and other South Australian senators will agree with me that the introduction of diesel-electric locomotives has effected a wonderful improvement, particularly in relation to water supplies along the line. The provision of more diesel-electric locomotives on the trans-Australian line would further improve the position because, unlike steam locomotives, they do not need to take in water fairly frequently.
I should like to commend to the Minister for attention, when times are moTe propitious, and men, money and material are available, the conversion of the railway line from Marree to Alice Springs to the standard gauge of 4 ft. 8£ in. It is nearly time that we devised some way to look after the comfort of the men engaged on construction work. When there is an enormous turnover of man-power on railway construction work, considerable additional cost is involved. Every penny that we spend in providing decent living conditions for the men-
– And their wives!
– Yes, the men and their wives and families. That money will be repaid by greater efficiency and consequential cheaper construction. I hope, Mr. Minister, that during your term of office - I say this advisedly - the conversion of the line I have mentioned will be completed, because if it is completed while you are in office, you will be Minister for Shipping and Transport for considerable time to come.
– I wish to add a few words to Senator Mattner’s remarks about the railway line from Marree to Alice Springs. I just want to assure you, Mr. Chairman, that if you feel disposed to adopt Senator Mattner’s suggestion, either he or I, or both of us will be only too pleased to accompany you on a rail journey from Marree to Alice Springs. We should like you to undertake the journey at an early date. We could show you the new workmen’s cottages that have done much to improve the conditions of the railway employees along the line.
The TEMPORAY CHAIRMAN (Senator McCallum). - The last two speakers have conducted something in the nature of a private conversation with the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge). I ask honorable senators to address the Chair.
– I have been very interested in the discussion that has taken place with reference to the necessity for widening the Marree-to-Alice Springs railway line. I assure Senator Critchley that as soon as possible I propose to make that trip, and I equally assure him, and Senator Mattner, they will be welcome to come with me. The widening of the gauge on that line is, of course, ultimately envisaged, and there is no doubt that in the fullness of time it will receive attention. I point out to both those honorable senators, however, that there is a priority in connexion with rail standardization and that the Commissioner, whom they regard so highly, has expressed the view that the next important rail standardization task to be undertaken should be that from Port Pirie to Broken Hill. It is important that these works should be put. on a proper priority basis.
– That does not stop us from going to Marree.
– Not at all. Senator Seward mentioned the desirability of continuing the Melbourne to Adelaide run through to Port Pirie. I understand that the reason why that has not been possible in the past has been an acute shortage of rollingstock. That shortage exists both on the Victorian and South Australian systems. The honorable senator referred also to what we know in the west as the “ old train “. In answer to a question this morning - I think it was asked by Senator Critchley - I was able to say that four new German cars are on order and that existing rolling-stock is being reconditioned. When the new rolling-stock arrives and the re-conditioning of existing rolling-stock is completed it will be possible to provide an additional train weekly if the traffic should justify it.
Senator Critchley will appreciate that as I have only recently been appointed Minister I am not f amiliar with technical problems associated with the line. 1 shall meet Mr. Hannaberry on Tuesday next and refer to him what the honorable senator has said about the necessity for ballasting and in respect of general maintenance. However, I am assured that ballasting and adequate maintenance work is being carried out, and that improvements are being effected as rapidly as man-power, money and materials will permit.
Proposed vote agreed to. .
Department of Air.
Proposed vote, £50,926,000.
– I desire to refer to the most unfortunate incident that occurred recently in Western Australia in which Flying Officer E. J. Williams was killed at Pearce aerodrome while flying a Sabre jet aircraft during Air Force week celebrations. I do not wish to highlight the incidence of air accidents, although that may be incidental to what I am about to say. I appreciate that all men who fly are aware of the risks that are inherent in flying. My purpose is to refer to the compensation that is payable to the dependants of members of the Royal Australian Air Force who lose their lives in carrying out their duties. I understand that Flying Officer Williams left a widow and several young children and that Mrs. Williams is entitled to a maximum payment under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act of not more than £2,350 in respect of herself and a maximum payment of £100 in respect of each of her children. One does not require much time to calculate that in pensionable form that would be the equivalent of about £95 a year in respect of herself as a widow of an airmen who lost his life in the pursuance of his duty, and about £4 a year in respect of each of her children.
– Does she not get a pension?
– She does not get a pension.
– Why not?
– I do not know why she does not get a pension. That is why I am now on my feet.
– Is she eligible to receive a civilian widow’s pension?
– I wrote to the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley) and I shall quote what he said in his reply. He stated -
I would mention that the benefits payable to Mrs. Williams are as provided in accordance with the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. The maximum amount payable under the Act is £2,350, plus £100 in respect of each child.
I shall read the rest of the letter because I think that it is rather significant. The Minister continued -
I feel, however, that the private affairs of Mrs. Williams, should not be divulged to the press. It would, I think, be sufficient to say that payment to Mrs. Williams will be in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act.
The reason I am now on my feet is to invite the attention of the committee to what I regard as a very extraordinary state of affairs. I understand that the dependants of a flying officer in Malaya who might be killed in an accident while he was flying a Sabre jet, would receive a pension, but then, on the other hand, the dependants of a man who is killed, in the circumstances in which Flying Officer Williams lost his life would not get a pension.
I have only three things to say, very briefly, in support of my plea that dependants of all flying men, who may be killed whilst on duty, should receive a pension. First. I suggest that Flying Officer Williams, and any other flying officer or any other member of an air crew, is not in fact, a Commonwealth employee. A man who flies a Sabre jet aircraft is in a category different from that of the man who pushes a pen; he runs a somewhat different risk. The man who pushes a pen, and breaks bis ankle while on duty, would come under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. But it is completely unreal to suggest that a man who flies a Sabre jet aircraft should be compensated on the same basis. That is the first proposition I desire to establish. The second wrong way to try to attract air crew recruits is to provide for the widow and children of a young flying man only a miserable, paltry couple of thousand of pounds as full compensation in respect of his death. My third proposition flows from those two propositions. Australia is a very prosperous country. Surely we can afford to pay the men in our fighting services, and their dependants, at a better rate than that provided in the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. I do not expect the Minister to reply to this matter immediately, but I invite his attention, and that of the committee, to it.
– I have some interesting documentary evidence to bring before the committee concerning the Department of Air. It appears at page 67 of the AuditorGeneral’s report, and under the heading “Store Accounting” the following appears : -
Efforts were continued during 1954-55 to correct the unsatisfactory store accounting referred to in previous reports.
It will be recollected thatin other years the Auditor-General referred to the unsatisfactory store accounting carried out by this department. The report continues -
Except in three instances, Treasury approval has been obtained for the acceptance of a commencing date for full post-war accounting in all stores stock accounts.
Evidently, after the Auditor-General had indicated to this department the flaws in its stores accounting, it endeavoured to organize a proper system. Notwithstanding its efforts, the department has been wholly unable to carry out the requests made. Why was it unable in three instances to comply with the AuditorGeneral’s requirements? His report continues -
At some units lag in the investigation and completion of stores discrepancy reports is still apparent.
In other words, it is not satisfactory. The word “unsatisfactory” appears in these comments of the Auditor-General on numerous occasions. He writes further -
Although there was some progress in reducing the number of unit issue vouchers requiring acquittances the position is not yet satisfactory.
Many recommendations of the departmental committee which investigated equipment store administration at units have been put into effect; other recommendations are still under consideration.
Some substantial discrepancies were disclosed following stocktakings, the principal contributing factors being lack of adequate training and supervision of stores accounting personnel, frequent changes of personnel and ineffective internal controls.
All those factors could have been overcome with proper organization. In an efficient department, controlled as it should be, these factors would never have been in operation. The Auditor-General has not made any unreasonable request to the department, and consequently no excuse can be offered by the Minister for the sad state of affairs that has existed in that department. The Auditor-General’s report proceeds to deal with the theft of stores, which is a serious matter. It reads -
Losses of stores by theft reported during 1954-55 were valued at £7,263, compared with £18,884 last year.
That was certainly an improvement.
The report continues -
However, further thefts, of a value estimated at several thousands of pounds, which were disclosed at a Stores Depot towards the end of the year, are still under investigation During the previous year thefts of watches and binoculars to the value of £940 occurred at the same Stores Depot.
It must be the easiest thing in the world to steal goods there. It is a wonder the department itself remains. It would not be surprising to find the aircraft chained down so that they will not disappear also. The report on this subject concludes with the following sentence: -
At another establishment from which substantial losses by theft had previously been reported, the department has not found it practicable to introduce adequate security measures.
I want to know what was the establishment at which those substantial losses by theft occurred, and also why it was not possible to provide adequate security measures against theft. Surely the department can protect its own property. When I refer to the department’s property I am speaking actually of the property of the people of Australia. No people and no government can tolerate this continuous thieving that appears to have been going on.
– 1 wish to refer to the matter raised by Senator Vincent, and the unfortunate position in which Mrs. Williams is placed owing to the death of her flying officer husband. Some years ago, when an explosion occurred in Tar alcan, and members of the crew were killed in the execution of their duty, their widows were plunged into a similar tragedy. There was considerable correspondence between myself and the Minister on the subject of adequate assistance for those women. Fortunately, not many of these tragedies occur, but, irrespective of whether the service personnel involved are in the Navy, the Army or the Air Force, adequate compensation should be paid to their widows without having regard to the provisions of the Public Service Act. The conditions of service for these men are entirely different from those in the Public Service. Not only is the matter of a widow’s pension involved, but also the wide field of repatriation benefits. The widows and children of these men deserve to receive all the financial assistance that the Government can give them. Usually they are young, and it would not hurt this country, whose great prosperity is so often emphasized, to help these young widows to meet the tremendous responsibility of providing for their families after the bread-winner has so tragically lost his life.
– Division 152 relates to the acquisition of sites and buildings. The time is fast approaching when the acquisition of land for air strips must be dealt with on a different basis. Recently, my attention was directed to the fact that with the advent of new types of aircraft, such as jet-propelled aeroplanes, a fresh problem has been created. Formerly an air strip was adequate for the take-off and landing of aircraft, but with jet aircraft it is essential to have a new perimeter or green belt beyond the air strip itself, t have in mind the extraordinary speed of these machines and the noise that they make, and the fact that living conditions in the vicinity of aerodromes are made uncomfortable. The aerodrome at Schofield is used for training in connexion with jet aircraft. Adjacent to the aero drome is a substantial property belonging to a poultry farmer. The consequences to him of these fast moving and noisy machines practising landing and taking off have been disastrous, as he has suffered considerable financial loss. Provision should be made for special strips to be used for such purposes. The practice of using strips not made for such aircraft should not be continued, as grave losses to business people are involved.
I support the remarks of Senator Vincent regarding servicemen who die after their return to Australia. Their dependants should qualify for pensions in the same way as if the men had died when on active service. I assume that in the case mentioned by the honorable senator the widow and children would qualify for civil pensions.
– I do not quarrel with that.
– Surely we should see that the descendants of a man who has served his country should be treated fairly.
– I assure Senator Anderson that the provision of strips for modern aircraft has not been lost sight of by the department, and that the particular problem to which he referred in connexion with turbo-jet aircraft is receiving attention.
I appreciate Senator Vincent’s remarks that the payment of compensation in the case of Flying Officer Williams is one which could be more suitably dealt with elsewhere by the Government, but there are one or two things that I think ought to be said in relation to this matter. Flying Officer Williams was an officer of the civilian Air Force, and I point out that such officers do not contribute to any pensions fund as do officers of the Royal Australian Air Force. However, consideration is now being given by the Government to a recommendation received from the Department of Air that compensation should be payable to Citizen Military Force officers in similar circumstances to those mentioned by the honorable senator.
In reply to Senator Benn, who directed attention to the comments made by the
Auditor-General in his report on the Department of Air, I shall read some comments by that department -
Store Accounting. - The report by the Auditor-General is the best during the postwar era and reflects the efforts of the departmental committee to improve the store accounting procedures at Units. The full effects of the Committee’s recommendations are only now showing. Orders dealing with provisioning have been rewritten and now set out clearly for provisioning officers methods of procurement and ordering which obviate large stocks being held. Regarding delays in reducing the number of issue vouchers requiring acquittance, orders have been issued which require serially numbered lists of outstanding vouchers being forwarded to Command Headquarters for hastening action. The discrepancies disclosed following stocktakings resulted from a more itemized and detailed check of stocks which were formerly, with Treasury approval, accounted for on case markings which on progressive opening and counting have proved misleading. The discrepancies should disappear with progressive itemized stocktakes.
Thefts of Stores. - The theft of stores valued at £7,208 occurred in the Royal- Australian Air Force. The other establishment referred to was Tocumwal, where aircraft spares were being held for stripping and disposal. Inquiries show that to enclose the field and engage guards would be uneconomical having regard to the nature of the equipment. The amount of £7,2(18 quoted as the original value of the stores stolen but on account of their age and condition had little or no market value. As regards the reference to more recent thefts being investigated, these have proved to be due to collusion between personnel, against which no check is possible. The thieves have been apprehended and punished.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Senate adjourned at 10.29 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 October 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1955/19551020_senate_21_s6/>.