22nd Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport by stating that his previous actions to facilitate the shipment of timber from Tasmania to mainland ports has been greatly appreciated by Tasmanians. Is the Minister aware of tile critical situation that is now facing the timber industry, particularly in Hobart and Launceston, and the urgent need for two ships to lift available supplies immediately? Is the Minister aware also of the necessity for regular shipping space to be provided for the transport of timber in the future? Will the Minister inform the Senate whether shipping is likely to be available in the near future for that purpose?
– I have been informed that there is a large accumulation of timber at Tasmanian ports, and to-day the Tasmanian Traffic Committee is examining the situation to determine whether any action can be taken to accede to the request of the Tasmanian Timber Association for two ships to lift the accumulated cargo. I expect that I shall have information upon the deliberations of the committee later this afternoon. As to the availability of shipping after the accumulated stocks have been lifted, I am to have a meeting with the secretary of the Tasmanian .Timber Association next week at which the manager of the Australian Shipping Board will be present. We are to determine whether any arrangements can be made to improve the transport of timber from Tasmania.
– I preface a. question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior by stating that in the Commonwealth Gazette to-day there is an announcement that several new streets have been named in the residential area of Duntroon. One of those streets has been named after the famous airman, Squadron-Leader K. W. Truscott. “Bluey” Truscott’s name is known throughout Australia, not only because of his gallantry and courage as an airman, but also because he was a mighty footballer who rendered great service to the Australian game. Will the Minister convey to the Minister for the Interior congratulations, on behalf of servicemen and sportsmen throughout Australia, for his initiative in commemorating the name of Truscott in the national capital?
– I shall be pleased to accede to the request of the honarable senator. I am very happy that he has put me in the unique position of conveying congratulations emanating from the Opposition side.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether he is aware of the fact that as the Import Procurement Board granted permission for the the importation of 71,000,000 lb. of negroproduced Virginian tobacco Into Aus.ralia in 1955 as against 38,000,000 lb. in 1954, Australian tobacco growers are extremely worried about their position, especially as sales are to be held in Victoria next week. They feel that the same thing will happen at those sales as happened in Queensland where 70 per cent, of the offerings were either knocked down at the first bid or passed in because bids did not come up to growers’ reserve owing to the fact that there was no competition because the British American Tobacco Company, which is one of the rottenest monopolies in the world, stepped in and grabbed the whole show. Will the Minister make a statement on this matter with a view to satisfying the minds of those men who have been encouraged by the Government to engage in tobacco production?
– Senator George Rankin was good enough to advise me that he proposed to ask this question, and I took the opportunity to ask the Minister for Primary Industry to give me some information. The Minister has advised me that the Government is well aware that a healthy development of the tobacco industry in Australia would curtail the quantity of tobacco leaf which it is necessary to import and so provide a valuable contribution to Australia’s balance of payments problem. The Tobacco Growers Association has suggested that a saving of two and a half million dollars could be effected on imports in 1956-57. Actually, the dollar allocation for tobacco leaf to be imported in- 1956-57 has recently been cut substantially, compared with 1955-56: The amount of the cut is greater than was suggested by the Tobacco Growers. Association. The Government has decided that the percentages of Australian leaf to be incorporated for duty rebate purposes in manufactured tobacco products for the year 1957-58 will be substan’tially increased, the increases ranging from 7i per cent, to 12£ per cent, for cigarettes and from 17 i per cent, to 21 per cent, for tobacco’; and full regard lias been paid in the decision to the estimated availability of Australian leaf. The tobacco growers and the manufacturers fire still in negotiation regarding prices for the 1956 crop. The Department of Primary Industry is in close touch with the situation and has indicated its willingness to do everything possible to bring the negotiations to an early satisfactory conclusion.
– I ask the Leader of the Government whether he is in a position to give any information to the Senate and the country concerning the projected visit of Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh, to Moscow.
– I am not in possession of any information along the lines raised by the honorable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service and Minister for Immigration. Is the Minister aware of the growing number of unemployed in Western Australia - at present nearly 5,000 - of whom only about a quarter are receiving unemployment benefit? Is he aware, also, that there is a large stockpiling of building materials; and that, as an example, because there is a surplus of a million tiles, one tileworks is completely closed and another is working with only half its staff ? Does the Minister know that many immigrants are arriving at Fremantle with no jobs, and because they have no prospect of obtaining work, immediately make claim for unemployment benefits? If these are facts, will the Minister see that something is done with regard to the landing of such immigrants at Fremantle, and will he see that the governments of the countries from which they come arc given adequate information concerning the unemployment position in Australia before others leave their countries to come here ?
– The honorable senator’s statement with regard to these matters is very much exaggerated. The latest, information that my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, has in regard to unemployment in Western Australia, is that the number receiving unemployment benefit on the 12th of this month was 813, consisting of 746 males and 67 females.
– I said there were nearly 1,000.
– They are mostly new Australians.
– At the end of April, more than 1,400 vacancies for employment were registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service, so that it is clear that the number of jobs available exceeds the number of persons now drawing unemployment benefit. It is a great pity that some members of Parliament attempt to exaggerate greatly thisposition. I suggest that the honorable senator might peruse the figures relating to unemployment throughout Australia, which were issued a day or two ago. They indicate that, although there has been some decrease in the number of vacancies, there are still many positions in Australia unfilled. They far exceed the number of persons registered as unemployed.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister : Whyis the report on the air beef lift being withheld from honorable senators and honorable members of another place? When is the report likely to be released ?
– The honorable senator has framed his question in unnecessarily harsh terms. The report is not being withheld. I understand that it is now being considered by Cabinet, and after that is done I have no doubt that it will be made available to all honorable senators and members of another place.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade whether he is in a position to confirm a reported statement by the Australian Dried Fruits Association, that they are hostile to the agreement entered into by this Government concerning the sale of Australian dried fruits overseas. Can the Minister say what are the conditions of this agreement? If the report is not t rue, will the Government or the Minister contradict the report appearing in the daily press in every State of the Commonwealth ?
– In the absence of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Trade and endeavour to obtain an answer for him.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs a. question relating to Korea. Is it not a fact that, during the recent election in that country, President Syngman Rhee was re-elected and that the vice-president, whose name I do not know, who was elected was a member of a party of a different political colour from that of the President? Could the Minister inform the Senate whether the vice-president is a member of the Communist party, or could he throw any light at all on the political situation in Korea ?
– I have read, only in newspaper reports, that the vicepresident who was elected at the election is not a member of the party to which President Syngman Rhee belongs. As to whether he is a member of the Communist party, or has ever had any association with it, I am afraid I cannot say, but I shall have inquiries made for the honorable senator and endeavour to let him know.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth .Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, is supplementary to the questions asked by Senator George Rankin and Senator Robertson concerning Australian tobacco. Undoubtedly, every one in this chamber wishes to see increased consumption of Australian tobacco, because that would save us dollars, as would the production of a cigarette, of agreeable flavour, without the use of Virginian tobacco. Could the Minister instruct the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to carry out experiments with cigarettes made with a still greater proportion of Australian tobacco in relation to the proportion of Virginian tobacco? If the results of those experiments were to make available a cigarette with a flavour acceptable to the Australian public, the growers of tobacco would be assisted and large numbers of dollars would he saved.
– I do not know whether the functions of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization extend as far as that, but I shall bring the suggestion of the honorable senator to the notice of the Minister in charge of that organization and obtain a reply for him.
– I address a further question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, and I preface it by saying that the information on which my previous question was based was not irresponsible. I received an urgent telegram this morning from the general secretary of the trade union movement in Western Australia along those lines, and 1 shall confirm it when I ring the west, bi view of the fact that there are 813 people receiving unemployment benefit, can the Minister say how many of that number are new Australians? Can he also say how many of the unemployed in Western Australia, who number between 4,000 and 5,000, are immigrants, and the number of immigrants who are arriving in this country each month and who have no jobs to go to?
– I thought I had already indicated that I was not prepared to concede that there were 4,000 or 5,000 unemployed in Western Australia; but subject to that qualification, I shall bring to the notice of the Minister for Labour and National Service the further question that the honorable senator has asked, and endeavour to obtain the information for her.
– The question that I direct to the Minister for Shipping and Transport refers to the deputation that the Minister, together with the Treasurer, was good enough to receive some fortnight or three weeks ago on the subject of a trans-Bass Strait ferry service to Tasmania. I remind the Minister that he then indicated that the next stage of the development of that service depended upon two aspects, as to one of which he expected to be in a position to make an announcement within a week. I now ask him whether he can make any announcement on that aspect of the matter.
– Since the deputation referred to by Senator Wright. I have been able to make quite considerable progress in this matter and I am happy to say that one of the aspects which I then referred to as requiring completion has now been completed. There remain one or two aspects, which I propose to discuss early next week with the Chief Secretary of the Tasmanian Government. Depending upon the outcome of that discussion, I trust that shortly
I shall be in a position to make firm recommendations to the Government, and, as a result of those submissions, to make a public statement of some precision in relation to the replacement of Taroona.
– Apropos the question that was asked a moment ago by Senator Tangney, I now ask the Attorney-General whether he is prepared to supply to the Senate a list of vacant positions available - he mentioned previously that there were 4,000 or 5,000 such positions - and inform honorable senators whether the vacancies are for skilled or unskilled workers. Will he also state the industries in which the vacancies exist? I point out that it is poor consolation for unskilled worker* to know that vacancies exist for skilled workers, as it is futile for them ‘to apply for such positions.
– Apparently, the honorable senator did not listen carefully to what I said. At no stage have I mentioned a figure of 4,000 or 5,000 vacancies in relation to Western Australia. I said that there were still 1,400 vacancies registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service in Western Australia. I was talking about Western Australia only. At one stage, I said that the last, report issued by the Minister for Labour and National Service - I think it was issued a couple of days ago - showed thai there were, I think, more than 40,000 vacancies in the whole of the Commonwealth.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Health been directed to the fact that in Western Australia the supply of pharmaceutical benefits under the National Health Act 1953 is not being effected in accordance with the provision of the act, which states specifically that all such benefits shall be dispensed by, or under the direct supervision of, a qualified doctor or a pharmaceutical chemist? Is the Minister aware that these drugs and medicines are supplied in bulk to all hospitals in Western Australia from the State Drug Depot, and that, when doses are ordered for patients by doctors, the drugs are obtained from the bulk supply by a member of the nursing staff, and administered by her? Does the Minister consider that an element of danger exists in this practice, which is contrary to the regulations under the National Health Act?
– I shall be very glad to bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Health, and to ask him to furnish her with a reply as soon as possible.
– I address a question to you, Mr. President. Last week, when the proceedings of this chamber were being broadcast, you called a Liberal senator, then Senator Cole, and then another Liberal senator. I appreciate that you are confronted with certain difficulties in this matter. However, in fairness to honorable senators on this side of the chamber, will you in future, after calling Senator Cole, give the next call to a member of the Australian Labour party?
– As I have stated previously, it is not usual for the President to be asked questions.
– In view of questions that have been directed, this afternoon, to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, and in view of the statement given by the Minister which conflicts with information supplied by my colleague, Senator Tangney, the accuracy of which I cannot doubt, I should like to ask a further question. The Minister replied that there are so many thousands of jobs available. Will he inform the Senate, if possible, of the nature of those jobs that are available? Enlarging on the matter for one moment, I received a request in regard to a bootmaker who could not be placed in industry at all. It is useless to ask a bootmaker to be a boilermaker, or a labourer to take on a technical job. Will the Minister obtain further information in order to give the Senate a clearer idea of the number of jobs that are available? I have not yet seen a statement issued by the Government that gives an accurate picture of the position. The Senate would very much appreciate being informed of the character or nature of the vacancies that are available.
– I understand that the honorable senator is asking for some classification of the nature of the jobs that fall within the list of vacancies that I have cited. I shall make inquiries from my colleague to see if any information along those lines can be provided.
– I ask you, Mr. President, whether tedious repetition is contrary to the Standing Orders. I ask this question in view of the question that has been brought forward by Senator Hendrickson. Last night, I referred to Senator “ Hendrickson as “ Little Sir Echo “ because of the fact that he is the echo in this chamber of Senator Kennelly, who had already asked the same question.
– Order! What is the honorable senator’s question?
– I desire to know whether tedious repetition is out of order ?
– It might be advisable to direct the attention of the Senate to May, loth Edition, dealing with questions addressed to the Speaker. On page 340, the following appears : -
Questions dealing with matters within the jurisdiction of the Speaker should be addressed to the Speaker by private notice.
Of course, the Speaker in this context isinterchangeable with the President. The quotation continues -
No written or public notice of questions addressed to the Speaker is permissible; nor can any appeal be made to the Chair by a question, save on points of order as they arise, or on a matter which urgently concerns the proceedings of the House for which he is responsible.
Further, in Beauchesne’s Parliamentary Bides and Forms, House of Commons, Canada, Sir William Campion is quoted as follows : -
Questions dealing with matters within the jurisdiction of the Speaker are out of order. The proper way to deal with the Speaker if, perchance,his fitness is challenged, is by a regular motion made under the ordinary rules of procedure and debate.
I should very much appreciate it if honorable senators would bear that procedure in mind when they are prompted to address questions to the Chair.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice - 1.Is ita fact that the estimated average cost of each prescription dispensed under the British national health scheme in this financial year is 4s.6d.? 2.Will the Minister inform the Senate of the average cost of prescriptions dispensed under the Australian national health scheme?
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following answers : -
Curlewis (New South Wales), Mr. J. S. McCreery (Victoria) , Mr. J. Townsley (Queensland), Dr. H. K. Fry (South Australia). Mr. R.E. Halliday (Western Australia). Mr. M. L. Moore (Tasmania).
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer : -
It is understood that the federal executive of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union has been considering a recommendation from one or two State branches of the union to the effect that a stop-work meeting be held in protest against the rates of pay of postal workers and that the union is also anxious that staff be rostered to ensure that they obtain the benefit of penalty rates for Saturday morning duty. The rates paid to postal workers are those which have been prescribed by the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator in the light of decisions given by the Arbitration Court. The department has no power to vary these rates of pay.
In regard to the payment of penalty rates for Saturday morning duty, the rostering arrangements are designed to provide for the most economical and efficient disposition of staff in order to meet the public needs. The department would not be justified in departing from this principle simply in order to give certain of its employees the benefit of penalty payments for Saturday work. However, the roster - ing arrangements will be kept under constant review and changes made where justified in the public interest. The federal executive of the union is aware of these facts and it is hoped that it will recognize that no good purpose would be served by agreeing to a stoppage of work on the issues involved, especially as the decision of the Arbitration Court in the basic wage and cost of living adjustment case is imminent.
– On 2nd May, Senator Wordsworth asked the following question, upon notice -
Has the Minister seen a report which was splashed across the front page of the Sydney Sun of the 30th April, in which it is alleged that two secret delegations from Russia and red China have arrived in Sydney, and that they will visit every important industrial centre in all States except Western Australia, and that at the end of their tour they will have complete information about our heavy industry potential? It was also stated that the police and federal authorities have a detailed outline of their itinerary. Will the Minister makea statement about this matter?
The Minister for External Affairs has supplied the following information in reply to the honorable senator’s question: -
These delegations are visiting Australia at the invitation of several unions in Australia. - the federal council of the Boilermakers’ Society of Australia, the Building Workers Industrial Union, the Sheet Metal Workers Union and the miners federation. Each delegation consists of three members together with an interpreter. The Chinese delegation arrived in Sydney on the 24th April and the Russian delegation on the 1st May.
It is understood that their hosts have worked out for the visitors an itinerary which will enable them to see some of the things in which their occupations suggest they have an interest, namely, light and heavy industries, mining, the press and education.
The honorable senator will appreciate that this is purely a private visit, without any suggestion of official sponsorship. It has been felt that the visit should, nevertheless, be allowed to take place.
The exclusion of visitors from Australia is considered only when important matters of security are involved, and in such cases there is consultation between my department, the Department of Immigration, the security service and other relevant bodies. In certain instances Cabinet may examine the question. That was done in this case and it was decided that visas would be issued for a limited period of one month.
- by leave - I desire to inform the Senate that the Government proposes to continue the practice of appointing parliamentary secretaries. I use this description as experience has persuaded the Government that the term “ Parliamentary Under-Secretary “ is not appropriate in this Parliament. Mr. Howse will be Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Territories; Mr. Swartz, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade; and Mr. Hamilton, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Interior and the Minister for Works. The matter of the functions which these honorable members will perform in the House of Representatives will be taken up with the Standing Orders Committee of that House by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). I do not exclude the possibility of further appointments in appropriate departments as occasion arises.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill 1056.
Gold Mining Industry Assistance Bill 1956.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill1956.
Debate resumed from the 23rd May (vide page 889), on motion by Senator O’ Sullivan -
That the bill be now read a first time.
– The measure before the Senate seeks to appropriate forthe ordinary annual services of the Commonwealth the sum of £21,003,000. During the budget session, Estimates were presented to the Parliament and it appears now that, as a result of circumstances that arose in the interim, the amount authorized to be expended must be increased. I recognize that that can happen. In a budget of about £1,000,000,000, an amount of £2.1,000,000 is relatively a drop in the ocean. We recognize that situations change. There are some good reasons for various amounts that appear in the Estimates covered by the bill. For example, the amount of £3,500,000 provided in these Estimates must be provided because of an award that was given by the Public Service Arbitrator on the 23rd September, 1954. There can be no question that that commitment had to he met. That is a contingency that could not have been foreseen, and it has arisen since the budget was presented. We have no complaint about that or about the amounts that are included for flood relief. That sort of demand arises suddenly, and it must be met.
Provision is also made to meet payments totalling £1,600,000, due by other administrations outside Australia. They will not be recovered within the financial year. The Minister who introduced this bill in another place dismissed the whole amount with just those words. I think that the leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’sullivan) might properly indicate to the Senate the nature of those amounts, how they arose and, above all, why they cannot be recovered before the close of the financial year. It may well be that there are amounts due from the United Kingdom, or elsewhere. There can be no doubt about the claims in respect of them, and at this stage of the financial year there does not appear to be any good reason why they should not be collected before its close.
Other amounts interest the Opposition particularly. An additional amount of £7,671,000 ‘is provided for defence. The history of the defence Estimates has been that, in recent years, a round sum of £200,000,000 has been appropriated. It has never been fully spent, and even after some of it has been placed in reserve from time to time, the actual expenditure has been of the order of £170,000,000 a year. This year, the Government reduced its first estimate of £200,000,000 to £190,000,000. Having made that reduction, it now proposes to increase the Estimates by £7,671,000. I believe that the amount is subject to a substantial reduction, and I should like the Minister to indicate whether
I state the position correctly when I say that the Minister stated, in his secondreading speech, that £6,396,000 represented increases in particular items in defence expenditure, corresponding to reductions of the same order in other items of defence expenditure.
– I have not given my second-reading speech yet.
– I must confess that I have read, the second-reading speech of the Minister in another place on this measure. I gathered from that speech that the position was as I have suggested. At all events, when he does make his second-reading speech in due course, if it does not include some reference to this particular item in detail, I should like him to particularize it. I think it is due to the Senate that some information should be given as to what has caused the increases in particular things and decreases in others. One can readily understand the increases, because rising costs, higher wages and the rest of it might well play a substantial part; but I think the Senate is entitled to an explanation in some detail from the Government as to that rather substantial figure. It may well be that when the explanation is before us £6,300,000 has to be deducted from the £7,600,000, and the net increase in the defence vote may be merely £1,275,000.
I indicated at the beginning that we recognize that adjustments have to be made during the year, and at this stage I mention that we are not opposing the measure in any way. It is more appropriate that we deal with individual items at the committee stage when we are considering the schedule to the bill. I indicate now to the Minister that I shall be interested presently, when a more favorable opportunity develops, to ask some questions about the Browne-Fitzpatrick payment of £9,740.
– Under what headingis that?
– It appears at the beginning of the bill, near the top of page 3. I advise the Minister now, so that he may have the information available for the Senate, that we should like some details on that. 1 comment at this stage that I think it was a general anticipation of the public and the Parliament that, following the events that led to this expenditure, there would be some clarification of the procedures to be followed in this Parliament in relation to the event that was the subjectmatter of this expenditure. I should like the Minister to indicate to the Senate whether any consideration has been given to taking that procedure, which rests at the moment solely upon a perfectly general provision in the Constitution, out of that category and giving it some degree of shape and particularity with a view to protecting democratic procedures affecting the rights of individuals.
The only other matter to which I wish to advert is the £3,500,000 that is being expended out of revenue upon the redemption of War Savings Certificates. I do not think anybody will argue that that redemption is not a matter which, in normal circumstances, would represent a charge against loan funds. I comment on it at this stage as indicating the great hurden that is imposed by this Government upon the taxpayers of Australia in paying, not only capital expenditure of the Commonwealth to the order of about £100,000,000 out of revenues raised in a year, but also in dealing with an item like this. This is a capital expenditure, the redemption of a debt of £3,500,000. In normal circumstances, if the loan market were stable, and had not been disrupted by this Government through allowing inflation to run in the first place and then by tinkering with the position of Commonwealth bonds on the stock exchange, this would have been a capital expenditure. We certainly think that the Government’s actions are imposing undue difficulty and burden upon the taxpayers in a particular year.
I recognize that on this motion for tha first reading of the bill we may talk about matters relevant and irrelevant. I do not propose to exercise that right, although I reserve it for any of my colleagues who may wish to take advantage of it. I conclude my remarks in relation to the bill by stating that we shall seek some information, but we do not oppose the passage of the measure.
.- I desire to speak in support of the bill. I appreciate the concluding remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that his colleagues would talk somewhat at length on matters of State. I propose addressing the Senate quite shortly on the question of the efficiency of the Public Service because, by measures such as this, we are appropriating many millions of pounds for the basic purpose of carrying on the service of government that we are rendering to the Australian people.
My first research in connexion with th? efficiency of the Public Service consist of the reading of the 31st report of the Public Service Board. which was placed in our hands recently. I refer in. particular to the paragraph relating to the efficiency of the Public Service. .1 1 reads -
In the opinion of the Board-
That is, the Public Service Board - the operations of the Commonwealth Service are generally efficient. Policies which the departments ‘and the Board are following in intensification of organization and method review and in training have made an important impact on operational efficiency.
I welcome that statement, but I propose to point out during the course of my remarks where, in my opinion, great inefficiency results from what I call the complete disregard over the past 50 years of the question of making proper provision for the housing of the various de. partments and the failure to make proper provision for the customers, as it were - those members of the public who do business with the Public Service. I was interested to read and study, the remarks made in another place by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) on that very question. He frankly confessed that over the last half century there has arisen a set of circumstances that has caused what I might term the climax that has arisen at the present time; and those circumstances have been aggravated by two world wars. During the course of his remarks, he drew the inference that the Government has failed to provide for the needs of its expanding administration through some sort of inverted fear of public opinion. We should mould public opinion along the lines that it is right and proper for this Government to spend adequate sums on the efficient housing of the Public Service. The Minister for the Interior went on to say that there is some move in this direction in Sydney and Melbourne. He referred to the fact that in those cities government departments are scattered, that one department may be operating in three pieces, in three different corners of the city. This, of course, leads to higher cost of administration and to inefficiency in administration. He said - 1! believe that we have to take these steps, expensive though they are going to he, in order to overcome the problem.
As we are now examining Estimates, we should consider this question and, being a senator from South Australia, I propose to invite the attention of the Senate to the position in the City of Adelaide. I hope honorable senators will bear with me, because I propose quoting specific details which, to say the least, were staggering when I first learned of them. As honorable senators may know, Adelaide is a planned city. It was planned by a great military surveyor, Colonel Light, approximately in the year 1836. It has an area of a square mile, and is surrounded by a regular belt of park lands. The city cannot expand beyond those park lands, because they are sacrosanct and cannot be built upon. As a result, the space within the square mile is tremendously valuable for the citizens of Adelaide, and the use to which they put it is of paramount importance. It is their city, and it is their responsibility to use it to foster their trade and commerce. Any intrusion by the State or Commonwealth governments into the area should be watched most carefully.
Over the years the use, or the lack of use, of lands in that area by the Commonwealth according to its statutory rights, leaves much to be desired. I refer the Senate to an answer given in another place, on the 9th May last, to a question asked by a member of the Opposition. That honorable member had asked -
The extensive answer of the Minister concerned occupies seven or eight pages of Hansard, but I shall refer specifically to the portion relating to Adelaide, and highlight these facts for the information of honorable senators. - The present annual rental paid by the Commonwealth for buildings hired all over the city - not all in convenient positions - is £93,263. The rent paid for part of the Saving Hank building is £14,10S, and for part of a building known as Richard’s building, whi cb is situated quite a distance down Currie-street, the Commonwealth pays £22,754. For space in the Colonial Mutual Life building, which is in a very convenient spot - but not for parking motor cars - the rental is £10,539, and for the Simpson building, £12,750. The total rent of £93,263 paid annually, is for offices, converted shops and mansion houses all over the city of Adelaide. There is not one proper Commonwealth building in the city. Although the General Post Office is now a Commonwealth building, it was built by the State of South Australia, before that State was forty years old. lt is a beautiful structure, but although the Commonwealth has discharged administrative functions in South Australia for fifty-six years, it has not erected one public building in that time. To-day, I made some inquiries and ascertained that during the memory of the present Secretary of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Public Works Committee, not once has any matter been referred to that body from South Australia. That fact alone clearly shows a lack of interest by people in high places with regard to doing a decent job in South Australia, particularly in the city of Adelaide.
The position goes from bad to worse when one examines the attitude of the Commonwealth with regard to freehold in the City of Adelaide. Recently, in conjunction with one of the leading officials of the Adelaide City Council, I made a thorough examination of the city.
Wc motored for some miles along its streets, and the further we travelled the more amazed I was at what I saw. I invite the attention of the Senate to some illuminating facts. In 1951, a large warehouse, known as Wilkinson’s, in Grenfell-street, was purchased by the Commonwealth for £200,000, and since that time only portion of the building has been used by the Postmaster-General’s Department. In Grote-street, a building which at one time was used as a biscuit factory was purchased by the Commonwealth in 1954 for £130,000, but, according to information I have received, it is completely unoccupied. In the West Park lands - one of the sacrosanct areas - a galvanized iron building stands, which I understand the Postmaster-General’s Department has used since about the time of World War I.
– They love to do that sort of thing.
– That building is a disgrace.
– I am giving the Senate some of the results of my investigations of premises occupied by the Commonwealth in the City of Adelaide. I am not blaming this Government entirely, because these buildings have been purchased or rented by various Commonwealth regimes, but these purchases over the last 40 years should be investigated. For example, a property known as Peter Smalls, on the corner of Pulteney and Flinders streets, of an estimated value of £90,000, was purchased by the Commonwealth, and, although that building is at present being removed, nothing is being done to erect a new one in its place. I cannot envisage any concerted plan for building on some of these large areas which I have mentioned. I was somewhat disturbed when the matter of a building for the new integrated Statistical Department in Adelaide was being considered. This department is to be housed on the ninth floor of a building at present under construction in Grenfell-street, known as the Da Costa building. Admittedly, that department will be in the most modern surroundings in Adelaide, but the ninth floor is in rather an “ ungovernmental “ portion of the city, and it will be out of touch with other government departments.
I fear that there has been no planning whatever in relation to Commonwealth acquisitions or its use of premises in the City of Adelaide. This fact makes for gross inefficiency in any government department, particularly in such a fastgrowing city as Adelaide. Over the years there may have been justification for acquiring one property or another in various parts of that city. A prudent department would say, “ This is a good buy. Let us buy it now “. There seems to have been no over-all planning in the acquisition of these properties, and I invite the attention of the Senate to the matter.
I think I have made it clear that it is bad, from a governmental point of view, that such a lack of planning should exist, and it is also bad from the municipal point of view. The city fathers in Adelaide started off with a planned mile square. The planning of the city was the envy of the world. We, as members of this National Parliament, should be most careful to see that the planning we do fits in with the original plan of Colonel Light, the planner of Adelaide, and with any town-planning that the city authorities have in mind. From what one reads in the newspapers, it seems that our planning, such as it is, is of a higgledy-piggledy nature and is completely out of step with the planning of the Adelaide city authorities in relation to important matters such as provision for car-parking areas and other aspects nf good town planning. I was rather shocked to read recently that even the South Australian Government appears to be getting out of step in relation to town planning, and that it has purchased, for nearly half a million pounds, a structure known as the Foy and Gibson building, in the shopping area of Rundle-street. The problem, therefore, does not concern only this Government. In my opinion, it. should be tackled at the level of a Premiers conference, where ‘the responsible Ministers of this Government could mee! the responsible Ministers of the State governments with a view to co-ordinating with the municipal authorities the planning of our capital cities. After all, apart from Brisbane, where I understand the city fathers are paid for their efforts, this work in the cities is done on an honorary basis. Because of the lack of planning, they are despairing of any proper development being achieved.
I pass to the subject of rates. Admit tedly, the Commonwealth makes grants to the States and some of those grants come down to the municipalities, but it is, nevertheless, true that in Adelaide the municipal authorities lose rates of an estimated amount of £17,829 a year. I think it is a bad thing that the Commonwealth does not set an example to the .States in this matter. It is also bad from the point of view of municipal planning and the interests of private citizens. A private citizen is entitled to obtain office space in a good part of the city if he is prepared to bid sufficiently high for it. During the regime of the previous Labour Government, which exercised compulsory powers of acquisition rather severely in the city of Adelaide, many private citizens who had built up professional practices and businesses in some of the better buildings in the city were compelled to evacuate their premises to make room for Commonwealth departments. It seems to me that the answer to this kind of thing is for the Commonwealth to plan immediately the erection of adequate buildings of the most modern design in the cities. As a representative of South Australia, I speak with some knowledge of the position in this respect in Adelaide. I have made inquiries and have ascertained that the Commonwealth has two excellent sites in Currie-street, and 1 hope that the Minister in charge of the Senate at the moment will report my remarks to the Minister who is responsible for building construction, with a view to having two suitable buildings erected immediately on those sites. Then, when Commonwealth officials were moved from all the various offices scattered about the city,’ the tenancy of that office space could be given back to the land-lords for re-letting to people engaged in business and commerce. That is a matter of dire urgency in Adelaide. If the action that I have suggested were taken, the efficiency of the Public Service would increase immediately. The Senate recently had before it a report from the learned committee which it appointed to investigate the development of Canberra. If my recollection serves me aright, that committee expressed alarm at the degree of inefficiency which had been brought about by the spread of administration between Canberra and other cities. Similar comment could be made about the spread of administration within a particular city.
I believe that the structure of the Public Works Committee is long overdue for overhaul. I understand that, until about 1934, it was mandatory on the Minister to refer to the committee all projects of an estimated cost of more than £25,000. During the depression years, the operations of the committee were suspended, but when it resumed its work, with the dawn of recovery in the mid-1930’s, there was no compulsion on the Minister to refer any matter to the committee. Consequently, I think that the important subject of the erection of public buildings in Australia was put on a loop-line, as it were, because there was no activity by this committee, and none of the usual publicity that the activities of a good committee receive in the Australian press. The Australian people did not know what was being done in connexion with public building, because there was no information about it in the press. As I have pointed out, the Public Works Committee has not been to Adelaide for twelve years, and the whole matter of Commonwealth public buildings in that city is in the doldrums.
I suggest that the committee should be reconstituted, and that its terms of reference should contain a provision requiring the Minister to refer to the committee all projects costing more than a certain sum of money. Such a provision might have the salutary effect of curing this ill that I see in Australia at the present time - the bad planning and the inadequacy of planning in relation to Commonwealth freehold and leasehold buildings. I notice that my friend, Senator Henty, is listening rather intently to my remarks, because he, as we all know, is chairman of the Public Works Committee.
We might well start by giving the committee a new charter which would include, as I have said, a provision requiring th,Minister to refer to the committee for inquiry the proposed construction of buildings to cost more than a certain sum. As I go about South Australia, I am amazed by the number of public buildings .that have been erected without any prior ‘inquiry being conducted by the Public Works Committee. I refer particularly to the large number of buildings at the West Beach airport. In this chamber, I have heard honorable senators from New South Wales refer to a large project at St. Mary’s in that State, and I have also heard some Tasmanian senators speak of the Commonwealth Bank building in Hobart. I believe that if the Public Works Committee were required to look into all these matters, & considerable saving in the expenditure of public money would be effected. Despite the remarks that I have made, I fully support the bill before the chamber.
– Although I am handicapped by a heavy cold, I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without offering u meed of support to Senator Laught’s submissions in relation to Commonwealth offices in Adelaide. It is not often that we agree, but on this occasion I agree wholeheartedly with what he said. In common with Senator Laught, I hope that the ‘Public Works Committee will devote a week or a fortnight to taking stock of the position in Adelaide, because only by a first-hand inspection oau the committee gain a proper appreciation of the circumstances. Apparently, little restriction has been placed on the acquisition by the Commonwealth of buildings and land in Adelaide in order to provide additional office accommodation rendered necessary by the rapid development of South Australia. In many instances, only temporary structures have been erected on land so acquired.
Senator Laught referred to property owned by the Postmaster-General’s Department in West Terrace. I agree with the honorable senator’s statement that little more development has taken place at that site than at another desolate area only a few chains away. Senator Lau eh t has directed the attention of the Senate, to the disreputable condition of the stores and workshops belonging to the Postal Department near the West Terrace cemetery. For as long as 1 can remember, and despite the fact thai much additional office accommodation in Adelaide became necessary during the war and in the immediate post-war period, no attempt has been made to remodel those premises in order to make them more suitable for the purpose for which they are used. They are an absolute disgrace. I do not know how the employees of the Postal Department put up with them.
In Currie-street, Adelaide, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department appears to be acquiring a lot of property. In recent times, it has erected garages for departmental motor vehicles. About three years ago, the department purchased a private house with the object of demolishing it and erecting a post office on the site. Although the tenant who was occupying the house at the time of its acquisition was forced to vacate the premises, to date the construction of the proposed new post office has not been commenced.
I am sure that all South Australian members of this chamber have the same degree of pride in the capital city of that State as I have. We all are a little perturbed at the long delay by the Postal Department in using its land and buildings in Adelaide for the purposes for which they were acquired. I am sure that a visit to Adelaide by the Public Works Committee would have beneficial results.
Apart from the properties I have mentioned, I am also greatly concerned about the fact that the various departments and sections are scattered throughout the City of Adelaide. Of course, I admit readily that the Commonwealth was confronted with considerable difficulty in obtaining suitable office premises in such a compact city. However, owing to the dispersal of Commonwealth departments, it is quite impossible for a visitor to the city to locate them without the assistance of a policeman or other official. Most nf the Commonwealth departments are located in out-of-the-way places, and they are quartered in obsolete buildings.
For many years prior to the visit to Adelaide of Her Majesty the Queen, federal members were provided with office accommodation at Parliament House, in Adelaide. However, shortly before the Royal visit, they were forced to relinquish that accommodation, and other offices were found for them on the third floor of the Bank of New South “Wales chambers at the corner of King William-street and North-terrace, and on the seventh floor of the Colonial Mutual Life building at the corner of King William-street and Hindley-street. Admittedly, in some respects, we now have better facilities than we enjoyed at Parliament House. For instance, each federal member has an office to himself, which is of great advantage to a public man.
I am greatly concerned that the Commonwealth has not commenced to remodel the various properties that it has a’cquired in Adelaide in order to convert them into modern offices. In the interests of economy, this work should be commenced without further delay. I have never been prone to condemn a government for looking forward to the future, and I do not criticize the present Government for acquiring properties capable of conversion into modern offices for Commonwealth administrative purposes. However, I think that it is time the properties that have been acquired were remodelled and taken into use by the various departments. Although there are no South Australian members on the Public Works Committee, I am sure that a. visit by the committee to Adelaide would result in the presentation of a report that would have beneficial consequences.
Senator Laught has referred to the fact that both Commonwealth and State government buildings are exempt from local government rates. As any one who has had experience of local government realizes, the resultant loss of income is a cause of considerable worry to local governing bodies. I agree with Senator Laught, who criticized the South Australian Government by expressing his amazement that it should buy an establishment, for use as government offices, on the corner of Rundle-street and Pulteney.street. I sometimes wonder what the public thinks of a State government which goes cap in hand to the Commonwealth Government asking for money for developmental purposes and then does a thing like that. The South Australian Government is apparently able to spend approximately £500,000 on a building that is older than I am; and I am not committing myself by saying that. It will require the expenditure of a lot of money to make it fit for the purposes for which it has been bought. A transaction like that is quite wrong. That, of course, is a State government offence, but the Australian Government also has purchased ramshackle properties which, if owned by private citizens, would be condemned. This Government, for as long as I can remember, has been gradually acquiring properties in the City of Adelaide, but has done little or nothing to make them fit or suitable for the purposes for which they were purchased.
The general public frequently indulges in outbursts against public servants. On many occasions I have brought to the notice of the Senate the conditions under which many of them work. Many of them, who are honest workers, are forced to perform their duties under conditions which not one member of this Senate would tolerate for a minute. I conclude by expressing my pleasure at being able to support Senator Laught. I hope the Senate will take some notice of the accurate report he has given and will also believe what I have said about conditions’ in Adelaide.
– I wish to occupy the time of the Senate for a few minutes by making some general observations on what I believe is an increasingly important problem which will need to be given first consideration in future budgets. The Senate is now dealing with appropriations for supplementary Estimates and this is the last occasion on which a bill of a budgetary nature will come before the Senate before the principal budget is brought down later in the year.
With a view to gearing the economy of Australia to meet coming trends it is our duty to those whom we represent to take stock, as best our judgment enables us, of the situation that is developing. I have stressed before, and I wish briefly to stress to-day, some of the problems that seem to me to be looming with respect to that section of Australian industry which we make responsible for. more than .85 per cent, of our overseas trade - our primary industries. I remind the Senate that those industries are governed directly by their relationship to secondary industries, and that we in this Parliament have direct responsibility for the maintenance of such agencies as the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and the Tariff Board which interact directly upon primary industries. We cannot interfere with the authority that has been given to the Tariff Board or the Arbitration Court without bringing about a reflex action on our primary industries, which, as I have said, are the mainspring of our export trade.
Yesterday, emphasis was placed on this aspect of our trade when we were discussing a measure in relation to export markets. At the present time, were we to review the position of our primary industries, such as wool, beef and lamb, we might be inclined to say that they are in a comparatively good position. But there is a light-hearted assumption that these industries are invulnerable. As a. matter of fact, we are accustomed to say that we ride on the sheep’s back, but the price of, wool is getting down to 60d. per lb. and .does not exceed the cost of production by too comfortable a margin. If it is to be subject to industrial interruption, then, even this great . industry, on an ordinary competitive basis, is going to be in not too happy a position. If we consider sugar, canned fruits, apples and pears and mutton, the best that can be said is that those industries are in a fair position. The sugar industry is already backing up its barrow for an increase at the expense of the Australian economy. And I trust that the Senate will engage itself, at the appropriate time, in a thorough, though not unsympathetic, review of that industry for the purpose of effecting a proper renewal of the sugar agreement. The apple and pear industry is, of course, one that is very close to my heart, as I live among the orchards of Tasmania. Tasmania has developed, over the last half century, a unique apple and pear trade with the United Kingdom. The industry this year survived an industrial disruption, which threatened to destroy it, only because of a bad season in Europe.
Other industries, such as wheat, dried vine fruits, wine, pig meats, poultry and, looking forward to next year, dairying, are in a sick condition. A responsibility is placed upon every one of us to ensure that these industries shall be maintained. We can no longer afford to continue to ignore the effects upon these industries of some of the agencies for which we are responsible. I have already mentioned two of those agencies. I have figures which indicate the position of our primary industries during the years 1952-53 to 1955-56. The index of prices received by farmers during those years is as follows : - 1952-53, 187; 1953-54, 189; 1954-55, 176; and 1955-56, 165. During four years there has been a reduction in prices, as indicated by those index figures, ranging from 187 down to 165. Honorable senators can work out the percentage for themselves. On the other hand, figures indicating farmers’ costs during those years are as follows :- 1952-53, 194; 1953-54, 197; 1954-55, 199; and 1955-56, 203. The trend of prices received by farmers has gone progressively down, whereas the trend of expenditure incurred by farmers has gone progressively up. That is illustrated in a striking fashion to point the relationship between the primary industries and other sectors of the economy, by the> Treasury white paper which was circulated at the time that the last budget was being discussed in’ the Parliament. Statistics covering a series of years from 194S-49 to 1954-55 were tabled, and the income of farmers in 1948-49, according to that document, was £329,000,000. In 1954-55 their total income had increased to £480,000,000. Wage and salary earners received £1,060,000,000 in 1948-49, but in 1954-55 the figure wa3 £2,321,000,000. Others - excluding wage and salary earners and farmers - received personal income amounting to £403,000,000 in 1948-49, and £867,000,000 in 1954-55. Therefore, the incomes of wages and salary earners and those with other personal incomes increased by about 100 per cent, from 1948-49 to 1954-55, while the incomes of farmers increased from £329,000,000 to £480,000,000, or about 50 per cent.
In order to be quite factual, I recall that in the interim there was a very large increase of the prices of farm products in 1951, when the value of that produce increased to £709,000,000, but such prices have been progressively reduced since then. The time of high prices was during the wool boom. In that year, I believe, our wool cheque alone amounted to about £660,000,000. The figures that I have mentioned show that we are developing a differential in a two-section economy in Australia that means crucifying Australia’s economy. If we are going to put the industries responsible for So per cent, of our exports into the position where their prices are being reduced, their expenses increased, and their incomes proportionately to those of other sections of the economy lowered to the degree that I have mentioned, it is obvious that all influences will not intensify the development of this country, but will provide an additional incentive for people to flock to the cities in order to see television and the dogs, and take their chances with lotteries and so forth.
As I speak, I am reminded of a sentence with which my old mentor used to stir my soul. I forget the author of it at the moment, but he used to say that in the days of bread and games in Home, the hand that should have dressed the vine was found applauding in the circus.’ I believe that in Australia we have a terrific responsibility now to face up to solving this problem, and while we develop our internal economy by means of the agencies to which. I have referred, we must seriously advert to the method by which the primary industries are to be supported. Are those industries to be stimulated by export insurance for extraordinary markets? I should be sorry to think so.
We have seriously to turn our minds to the question of the actual support of a financial nature that we give by artificial agencies such as the Tariff Board to secondary industries and city interests, and decide how we can give some sort of equality of benefit to the primary industries. Make no mistake; honorable senators need have no fear about legislating to turn ofl: television sets for the kiddies in the country between 6 o’clock and 8 o’clock . at night, because they will still be out milking the cows or working in the garden. It will certainly not be necessary to legislate to prevent them from seeing television. This is a grave national problem, and I focus attention on it because I believe that now is the time to do so before the incomes of farmers fall to such a degree that, with the increased capital liability that many of them have contracted over the last period of six or seven years, they find themselves bearing too heavy a financial burden.
It is interesting to notice the extent to which Australia is peculiarly dependent on this cost spiral in its effect on country producers, because figures that, have come under my notice over the last few years from 1950 to 1954 indicate that prices paid by farmers have increased in this country by 23 per cent. In the same period, the same figure for Canada is S per cent, and in the United States of America prices paid by farmers have decreased by 1 per cent.
– Are they prices for implements used on the farm, or prices paid for all goods?
– I would not undertake to state the full” category of these statistics. I rely on the caption on the figures supplied to me, which is, “ Prices paid by farmers “. Any one who has lived in the country knows what the costs of farmers are in general. They are represented by a motor car, a few implements, seed, manures, bags, no entertainment, a. grocery bill of very modest dimensions and so on. These prices in France, the Netherlands and Denmark have increased from 3 per cent, to 5 per cent. In Canada they have increased by S per cent. Therefore, the comparison is - European countries, an increase of from 3 per cent, to 5 per cent; Canada, an increase of S per cent. ; the United States, a reduction of 1 per cent., and in Aus-, tralia, an increase of 23 per cent. I draw honorable senators’ attention to the fa ft that even though, our prices have risen so greatly, we are dependent for our existence in world trade upon the maintenance of our primary industries on :i competitive basis.
– -What were the reasons for those increased prices? Everybody agrees with the honorable senator’s theories.
– If I am speaking about matters that are already well known to honorable senators, I apologize. I would not take up their time unnecessarily. I am making a brief review of some figures that have arrested my attention, for the very purpose of trying to engage the attention of the Government and, at any rate, the co-operative attention of all honorable senators. To conclude this part of my submissions to the Senate, I remind honorable senators that Professor Titterton made a review of our economy from the independent standpoint of a professor of economics from America, and he was struck by the fact that while, prices generally in Australia had increased by 124 per cent, since 1949, the genera] increase due to the necessary post-war inflationary effects had been only between 70 per cent, and 73 per cent, in Canada, the United States and Great Britain. The argument that immediately springs to one’s mind is, as he inferred, that the most probable explanation is the artificial effect of our unique .system of arbitral industrial adjustment.
– The Tariff Board supplying feather beds for secondary industries.
– So much for that problem. The next matter I desire to refer to is a policy of the Government which I believe has had very beneficial effects, but which I believe is due for review for the purpose of improving it. That is the Government’s policy of land development by means of income tax dedication. Expenditure on land improvement became totally deductible for income tax purposes before the present Government came into office. We all know the tremendous development that has taken place in the last six or seven years as a result. One can see the results of land improvement in practically every country district. It has been greatly stimulated by the supplementary provisions made by this Government, which has provided a 20 per cent, depreciation allowance for structural improvementsover a period of five years. That provision was recently renewed. i want to say just a few words about each of those two matters. The structural improvement depreciation provision has never been clarified by a public announcement making it clear that those who seek the advantage of that depreciation deduction reap the whirlwind when they sell their property, as they have depreciation written back against them so as to aggregate their income in the year of sale, and they are liable totax on it for that year.
– It is possible to get around that provision.
– My colleague from Tasmania has said that it ispossible to get around that provision. I have had too much experience of peoplewho know less about the income tax law than even I do, and who have been, ruined by ignorance of the- income tax. law.
– I agree.
– Indeed , anybody who claims to be fully conversant with th”income tax law must be a veritable Argus. It is complicated in the extreme. In fact, it is not generally known that those provisions expose the taxpayer, who has had the benefit of a deduction over five years of the 20 per cent, depreciation allowance for improvements of a structural nature, to the liability of having them written back against him in the year in which he sells the property, thereby attracting a well-nigh ruinous tax. That situation needs review. It is a snare and a delusion to expose a taxpayer to that liability.
The other point about the total deduction for land improvement is this: It is available to the large land-owner in such a degree that, out of a net income of say £30,000, he can cheerfully -plan a programme of land improvement involving him in £15,000 or £20,000 a year. Inasmuch as he would otherwise have to pay tax on that £15,000 or £20,000 at the rate of 10s. or lis. in the £1, he has no particular need to be so cautious about the cost that he incurs in his land development programme. Consequently, he has less cause to be careful as to the price that he pays for a new property for the purposes of improvement. He is, therefore, a very inflationary factor as a competitor in the market against the ordinary land purchaser. Further, a small farmer who has a net income of £1,500 or £2,500, even if he is comparatively well-to-do, has little ready money to put into land improvement by the time he educates a couple of children, maintains his family, pays for ordinary maintenance and provides for the next year’s crop. Therefore, we need some modification of this scheme whereby adjustments could be made to prevent the big from becoming monstrously big, and the small from getting no advantage from the policy at all. The great strength that comes from agricultural development arises from the encouragement of the industrious farmer who owns a property. It does not come by the development of a nobility which engages wage-earners for his farm labour.
It is a difficult proposition, but it is not beyond solution;. It is quite obvious that some adjustment could be made by way of an inverse graduated scale for the purpose of a deduction when it exceeds a fixed figure, and for using the money so prevented from being deducted, to make cheaper some of the very general items which small farmers need for development. That is a very primitive suggestion and, obviously, I show an incapacity to deal with it. I do not pretend to such capacity, but I rise to speak on these matters to engage the attention of the Government. I have no doubt, having regard to the interest shown in his new portfolio by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Mc.Mahon), assisted by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) who represents him in this chamber, that these matters will receive attention. I take this opportunity to mention them so that they may receive consideration before the next budget.
Senator KENNELLY (Victoria) 1 4.23]. - This debate gives honorable senators an opportunity to expound their theories upon the economic situation. I was very interested in the speech delivered by Senator Wright. He gave us food for thought but, unfortunately, he did not attempt to advise honorable senators upon a cure for the ills about which he spoke. He said, in effect, that the costs of the ordinary farmers of Australia had risen by 23 per cent. He compared them with Canadian farm costs of 8 per cent. He went even further, and no doubt, when he stated that the costs in European countries ranged from 3 per cent, to 5 per cent., he was thinking of Denmark, which is a very great competitor on the British market with our own butter. I thought that at least he would have indicated for the Senate’s information how this country’s costs could be brought nearer to those of our competitors. I do not suggest that he should have pointed out how we could reduce them to 3 per cent., but at least he could have made some attempt to indicate how we might get’ somewhere near Canada’s S per cent.
– We shall be dealing with an arbitration bill in a few hours, and with a waterfront bill as well.
– The honorable senator gives us the old, old story. He did not tell us the reason why the price structure rose by 23 per cent, in rural industries in Australia between 1950 and 1954. I have never heard Senator Wright raise any objection to this Government’s policy, and he should realize that the Government must accept some responsibility for the present position. I remind him, too, that the position did not develop overnight. If he had examined the statistics properly, he would have known that at the beginning of 1950 the economic position of this nation was as good as that of Canada. He quoted figures which showed that Australia was at a disadvantage of 15 per cent. In those circumstances, is it any wonder that this country is faced with an almost impossible task in finding a market for its primary industries to-day? No doubt, unless wo are very fortunate, it is possible that, with the increased money value, we may have to introduce a measure shortly dealing with the storage of wheat. Senator Toohey lias told us about the parlous position of the dried fruits industry. At the best, it is alarming to think of the position of all those people whom the Commonwealth and State governments placed on dried fruits blocks along the Murray River flats and in South Australia after World War I.
– Much of it is due to the weather.
– I take it that Senator Wright’s figures related to primary production as a whole. A month or so ago, I read in an American magazine that a delegation had gone from Florida to the Mediterranean countries with a view to learning how they should go about producing dried fruits in order to compete on the markets there. All must be appreciative of what the present cost structure means to this country; and 1 do not believe that even Senator. Wright would argue that 50 per cent, of the increase is due to higher labour costs. I do not argue for a moment that higher labour costs do not play some part; but all that concerns the Labour party is what the people, whom we represent in the main here and elsewhere, can buy with the money they receive. After all money is only a means of exchange. Some months ago I read that in France the whole of the country’s economy had been cut by a certain percentage. One reads also of statements made by supposedly reliable correspondents of our press that in the countries behind the iron, curtain, including the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics itself, there has been a reduction in costs. However, I emphasize that I am not stating that as a fact; I merely mention that one reads of it in the press. When we appreciate our geographical position and the distances we have to send our products to market, we cannot look with pleasure or extreme hope at the future.
Although I do not say that I believe wheat production should be reduced, I point out, with my very limited knowledge of rural industries - a knowledge gained mainly in my early youth when I worked on farms - that if I were engaged in wheat-farming to-day and my land would carry sheep I should be inclined to cut my wheat acreage -considerably. I emphasize again that I do not advocate that as a policy of the Labour party; ‘ I am simply voicing my personal opinion. I admit that there has to be a certain amount of carry-over, for I remember the position in which our wheat-growers were placed in 1945 when we had a severe drought. But one wonders what is going to happen when one realizes the present world position with relation to wheat. And what applies to wheat applies in the main to all classes of primary production with the exception of wool.
– The honorable senator must not forget that a Labour government cut the wheat acreage a few years ago and that in the following year Australia was importing wheat that waa rubbish from California.
– It is all very well to be wise after the event.
– The Labour government was not wise before the event.
– According to honorable senators on the Government side, the Labour government was never wise in anything it did, but I remind them of the fact that when we handed the government of this country over to them the economic position of Australia was as good as that of any country in the world. Honorable senators opposite can win elections on scares, -but even when a country is handed over to them on a silver platter, with an economic position equal to that of any other country, they ruin it in a very short space of time. Within the past day or two the Senate considered a bill relating to trade insurance, and as I said then, I say again that I hope that it may produce what the Government desires, but every one has his doubts whether that will be so. As the Government has been reminded on more than one occasion in this chamber, the Labour party has always come to the rescue of this country in days of evil, brought about by the maladministration of the Government parties under their present names, or their predecessors who have had so many political aliases. It is a marvel that their present members have the cheek to rise and speak about their supposed achievements.
– At least, we have continued to exist.
– It is interesting to hear the voice of the convert !
– He is a Labour “ rat “.
– I read in a book to-day that such expressions are unparliamentary, and I assure you, Mr. President, that I am very much on your side just now. Next week, I may have something to say about such words, but for the moment I do not wish to be suspended from the service of this House. The Government parties have to face the position that although they are proud of the present economic position, the time will come when people will not worry about policy, because when they are unemployed and hungry, they will follow any banner. They did so in 1941.
– That is the Labour party’s one hope of returning to government.
– It is not our only hope. Before the present Government parties were voted out of office, in 1941, they had the opportunity to carry on the normal process of government. But the Labour party in that year took office when the present Government parties ran away from the troubles the country was facing because they could not cope with them.
– Rubbish !
– It is true. In 1941, the then anti-Labour Government had a majority in both Houses.
– But it could not govern.
– The Labour Government applied controls, but when the anti-Labour parties took office after the war, their policy was to do away with them all. Senator Wright has pointed to an increase of 23 per cent, in living costs. Is it any wonder that costs have risen? I invite honorable senators to compare the price which the rural producer has to pay for land to-day with the price when costs were pegged.
– Why does not the honorable senator stop and think?
– I have no desire to rob Senator Wright of one of his pastimes. No doubt he believes that he alone thinks correctly, and I leave him to his thinking. When the Menzies Government took office in 1949, it wanted only to return to the “ good old days “, and to do so it abolished controls.
– The days that have followed have been pretty good, too.
– They have been good, but when action was taken without at least some semblance of responsibility, the stack of cards has fallen down. Before long I shall be asking the Government - as many others will, also - how it will be able to preserve for its friends the little they have been able to save under present conditions? Certainly, conditions in Australia are good for the single person, and I agree with the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) that in no other country is an unmarried person, with no responsibilities, better off. But I ask the Attorney-General to think of the person who has responsibilities, particularly the young married man. Surely he is entitled to some special consideration and thought.
– Exactly - some thought.
– He is entitled to some action also, if it is needed. When the Opposition pointed out that the recently announced economic policy of the Government would result in increased prices, our statements were condemned as almost heretical, and the old bogy of the red pup was brought from under the table. The Government always drags it along on the chain. Costs have risen by 10 per cent., and if a young married person in Victoria wishes to build a timber home he has to pay between £3,000 and £3,500 for it.
– Does the honorable senator think that the “ unity ticket “ will reduce the price ?
– Once again the old red pup ia brought along. I have no doubt that he is well fed. I give credit to Senator Wright for some positive thinking, and it was his contribution to the debate which caused me to rise and speak. But as for the Leader of the Government (Senator O’Sullivan), I say, with the greatest respect, that I do not know how he ever reached his present position. I am always a little suspicious of the honorable gentleman. I do not like the colour of his tie ! He has trotted out the old bogy. I am the last who wants to see unemployment in Australia, and I do not want it to be the plaything of politics. That is a filthy way to play the game. But as surely as night follows day - as the aftermath of the Government’s economic legislation is proving already - unemployment will be widespread. The world will have to face a time of economic stringency.
– What does the honorable senator advocate?
– For years the Opposition has been asking the Government to legislate in the interests of the many instead of the few. Even in the bill dealing with the sale of Australia’s products abroad the Government adopted a small-minded, petty attitude, and was concerned chiefly with protecting its friends from losing the little profit they could make. This Government’s policy is to protect its friends, but unfortunately they do not include the great mass of the people. The Government suggested that as a result of its economic policy prices would not increase, but in Victoria building costs have risen already by 10 percent
– The reason being that the honorable senator’s party has encouraged the amateur loafer to become a professional loafer.
– The honorable senator has made a bald statement, unsupported by facts. He has used words that mean nothing and would not win an argument, even at a conference of the Victorian Country party. I have had something to do with keeping some of the members of that party in office and with plucking things from them. I laugh to myself when I hear an interjection of that kind.
We must give serious consideration to the question of costs, and we must also give some thought to the conditions of the people, not only in the rural industries but also in the big towns and cities. The supporters of the Government used to say that if wages were pegged, a millennium would come. They said that if cost of living adjustments of the basic wage ceased, the sun would shine, there would be greater prosperity, and prices would remain stable. But we find that exactly the opposite has been the case. The Government parties told the people that they could govern the country, and it is up to them to do so. Perhaps because of the Government’s own acts, within nine months or twelve months it may find independent spirits within it3 ranks who are big enough Australians, as they were in 1941, to say to the Government, “ You have failed. Let, some one else get this country out of its troubles “.
.- I have listened with interest to a number of the speakers during this debate, particularly Senator Laught, Senator Critchley, and Senator Kennelly who has just spoken. I think we all agree that Senator Kennelly is quite an acquisition to the Senate. I imagine that no one in this chamber appreciates his worth more than does the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), because he is now able to sit back and let his deputy deal with many of the matters that previously he had to handle himself. It must be a great help to him that the deputy leader is coming along so well and is taking the load from his leader’s shoulders. We on this side of the chamber appreciate very much the contributions. that Senator Kennelly makes to the debates here.
– -Usually with the same speech.
– Yes. Of course, sometimes the honorable senator becomes a little party political in his outlook, and [ have noticed that he does not always stick to facts. Sometimes his memory is a little short.
– The honorable senator should not say that.
– Well, apparently Senator Kennelly has forgotten about the Scullin Government and the fact that Joe Lyons, with his ten years of sound government, pulled this country out of the awful mess in which the Scullin Government had left it. Perhaps, the truth is that Senator Kennelly, being a shrewd politician and Deputy Leader of the Opposition in th.e Senate, remembers only what he wants to remember and forgets what he wants to forget. That, of course, is supposed to be one of the first principles for the successful Labour politician to adopt.
I was interested to hear Senator Kennelly say something about the supporters of the Government protecting their friends. The protection of friends is a rather touchy subject in the Senate at the moment. It seems that we must not refer to the friends of .honorable senators opposite, because if we do so, all kinds of uprisings are likely to break out.
– It is offensive to them.
– Yes. We must not speak about protecting their friends by the use of unity tickets, and that kind of thing. Incidentally, it will be interesting to see whether the new president of the Australian Railwaymen’s Union in Victoria will be elected on a unity ticket. Although honorable senators opposite say that we protect our friends, we must not mention the fact that they protect their friends.
– You have an open go-
– We have been called fascists and all kinds of names by honorable senators opposite, but we have never raised a hand in defence. We have let. those references pass over our heads. But the minute we direct attention to the friends of honorable senators opposite, there are protests and points of order that go on until 1 o’clock in the morning, lt, seems that they will do almost anything to stop us from speaking about this subject. It is amazing how peaceful they are sometimes and how hostile they become at other times. It is interesting to note their tactics. Any one who has read of the tactics which the Communists adopt at meetings that they want to control will know that they move motions and take points of order and do all kinds of things to frustrate the efforts of the meeting to discuss the matters that should be discussed. Those are the old Communist tactics. If we did not see those tactics in operation in this chamber last night, then I do not know what it was we saw.
– Order !
– I mention this matter in passing because I think it is worthy of note. It seems that we must not speak about the friends of honorable senators opposite, although they may speak about our alleged friends.
Now let me refer to one or two matters that have been raised during this debate, and let us get away from the fact that honorable senators opposite can deal it out but just cannot take it. Senator Laught and Senator Critchley both referred to the activities of the Public Works Committee, particularly in relation to South Australia. It is news to me that the committee has not been to South Australia for twelve years. I am sure that the honorable senators appreciate that the committee just cannot go on jaunts around Australia. That is unfortunate, because nothing would give me greater pleasure than to visit South Australia. The Public Works Committee, of course, must go where the Parliament directs it to go. The Minister submits the details of a building project to the Parliament, and the Parliament directs the committee to inquire into the matter. If the Minister could be persuaded to encourage Commonwealth building in Adelaide, the committee would have great pleasure in inquiring into such building.
That leads me to the point that I wish to discuss, a matter that is of great interest to Canberra. Some of the most recent references to the committee have been concerned with the Canberra water supply and the erection of bridges and buildings in Canberra. Work on all of those projects has been held up, and no preliminary action has been taken in connexion with the recommendations of the committee because no final decision has been made concerning the three basins of water and the West Lake scheme. The Senate Committee on Canberra, and also the Public Works Committee, have discussed this scheme at considerable length, and 1 think that most members of the committees are in agreement about it, but because no decision has been made about the scheme, no levels have been taken for the bridges. All of these things are being held up pending a decision to abandon the ribbon of water scheme - which is the only possible decision now - and to develop the West Lake. When that decision is made, work on the bridges as recommended by the committee can be proceeded with. I trust that the Minister will soon make a firm decision on the reinstatement of the West Lake in the lakes scheme, in order to permit this urgent work to be gone on with. I do not think that any one would deny that another high-level bridge for Canberra is an urgent necessity. The sooner we have two high-level bridges here the better.
I notice that provision is made in the Supplementary Estimates now before us for £3,000 for preliminary work on the extensions of the Canberra Community Hospital. I mention this in order to highlight my previous remarks. Although the recommendations of the Public Works Committee came before the Senate only last week, there is provision in these Supplementary Estimates for £3,000 for that purpose. This shows how necessary it is for the department to be kept informed of developments, to enable it to take action to include in its Estimates amounts for preliminary work, so that when the decision to proceed with a project is made, it can be gone on with expeditiously.
T was interested to learn of the announcement by the Minister for the interior that he intends to lend his support to the proposal for expeditious construction of Commonwealth offices in the various capital cities. A huge Commonwealth centre has been planned for Melbourne, and I understand that construction work has been commenced. However. I remind the Senate that many central administration staffs that should he in Canberra are still located in Melbourne, where they occupy many privately owned buildings. The sooner the administrative building in course of construction in Canberra is completed, and those staffs are transferred to the national capital, the sooner will the Government be able to return the buildings it now occupies in both Melbourne and Sydney to their owners, which will be best for all concerned.
The Public Works Committee has examined the plans of a new Commonwealth office block in Sydney which, when constructed, will greatly relieve the acute shortage of office accommodation in that city. I applaud the decision of the Minister to push on with the provision of additional Commonwealth office accommodation in the various cities. One cannot help but note the utterances of some of the big industrialists who have come to Australia. For instance, a director of Utah Construction Limited, which has more than £1,000,000 worth of heavy machinery in Australia, and which has done a great deal of construction work by private contract in this country, is reported to have said that, in his estimation, buildings worth £15,000,000 were on the point of being erected in Melbourne and Sydney, and that Australia was on the eve of a boom such as the United States of America experienced 50 years ago. He expressed great faith in the future of Australia, and confidence in the tremendous developmental work that is taking place.
– That statement reflected great credit on Australian workmen.
– That is so. All that they want is right leadership. When they are properly led, and when the leaders of the trade union movement have a clear understanding of the job ahead of them in Australia, we shall be abV to compete with America or any other country. I quite agree with Senator Sheehan’s assertion that there is nothing wrong with Australian workmen. It i° only their dreadful leadership that needs correcting. Those who should know better still cling to the old shibboleth of class hatred, which should have been abandoned long ago. When Labour leaders are properly educated in the matters pertaining to modern development, Australia will go ahead. Hie Jeremiahs on the Opposition side of the chamber are continually preaching unemployment.
– What is the honorable senator’s policy in relation to the trends that are developing in industry?
– They should know that if they continually talk depression and unemployment they will ultimately bring about that state of affairs. That is the great danger that exists at the present time. 1 remind Senator Grant, who is interjecting, that a big industrialist has stated that Australia is on the eve of great building development, which will provide thousands of Australian workers with employment on good wages and conditions. All this talk by the Opposition about unemployment is just rubbish. Having said that-
– The honorable senator should sit down.
– I shall not sit down yet, because I have some more to say. Senator Critchley should take me into his confidence, if I were not provoked, I would not normally enter into some of these controversies. I should like to congratulate the Department of Customs and Excise on a forward step that it has taken in issuing to all members of its staff throughout Australia a pamphlet entitled Operation Work Simplification, in which this statement appears -
The Public Service Board is prepared to pay a reward to any officer who suggests an improved method which brings measurable increases in efficiency or reduction in workins costs. And remember that worthwhile ideas point to “ MERIT “ - and on this promotions are based! WHEN CAN WE EXPECT YOUR IDEAS?
The foreword to the pamphlet is signed by Mr. Frank Meere, ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, to whom great credit is due. The pamphlet sets out ways in which the staff can help by making suggestions to reduce costs, and so on. I hope that this efficiency drive will be successful, and I am sure that, if it is, similar drives will be instituted by other departments throughout Australia. I have always thought that the Department of Customs was one of the most efficient in the Commonwealth service. I do not think that any one doubts that that is so. It has a most efficient staff, and I am confident that they will respond to the invitation in this pamphlet.
– I do not like its red cover.
– I suppose that colour was adopted because of the colour of the tape that is used in all government departments. Personally, being a trueblue Liberal, I should prefer a blue cover. Reverting to the provisions of the bill, I remind honorable senators that, during the last few years, a financial revolution has been quietly taking place in Australia due, in part, to the restraints that have been imposed by the Government.
– A great revolution has been in progress.
– If Senator Cooke would restrain himself and listen to what I have to say about this interesting subject, I am sure that he would learn something. There are not now lodged with the banks very short-term deposits which traditionally were lodged with them, and from which the banks were able to make advances. It was customary for people of moderate means to lodge money on fixed deposit for terms of from six to eighteen months. One of the results of the Chifley Governments legislation on banking, which kept the interest rates that banks could pay to depositors at a very low level, has been the disappearance of the short-term, small deposits to which I have referred. What has happened to them 1 After all, small people favour saving. People do not change their habits without good reason. Because of the lower interest rates which the private banks are permitted to offer for deposits, depositors have withdrawn their money from them. As a consequence, the advance policy of the banks has been tightened. I am not just referring torecent happenings, but to what has occurred over a number of years. Banka are still able to obtain large deposits, but they have lost small deposits. In the commercial world in Australia we have seen the growth of huge investment trustee companies, which, by purchasing a wide range of shares in commercial industries throughout Australia, have been able to pay much higher rates of interest. Their capital is composed of money that’ formerly comprised short-term deposits in the banks. These” investment trusts are one -.of the great growths that have taken place in the financial world of Australia during the last few years.
Another banking operation under the Chifley .Government, which I know is normal procedure, was to take special funds from the banks and hold them in the central bank. Interest at the rate of 3 ;per cent, was paid on those deposits. I have often wondered whether the real effect of that has ever been realized, because it is really a fascinating study. All the special deposits payable into the central bank, if my guess is right, are used to take up treasury bonds. All that money is taken out of the market, but only 3 per cent, interest is paid on it. In other countries, banks are allowed to buy government securities with such funds. Following our practice to its logical conclusion, I ‘wonder what stage we shall reach eventually by taking that huge amount of money out of the market, paying only -) per cent, interest on it, and using it for government purposes, lit really falsifies governmental costs. This system is in contrast to systems in other countries, which allow those special funds to be taken from the market and invested in government securities. The income that would be earned by this money if it were invested in government securities would bring about one or two things. Either it would enable an increase to be made in deposit rates and thus reestablish the large amount of short-term deposits that previously existed; or it would enable the banks to reduce overdraft interest rates. I wonder how much extra .primary producers, and those work ing on overdrafts are paying because of the law which enables this huge amount of special desposits to be taken by the ‘Government and be paid for at i per cent, interest. The banking institutions are being denied the opportunity to relend that money. It is an interesting study and one that is well worth undertaking. I am confident that if the practice I have mentioned were not followed, small deposits would increase con”siderably and interest rates would risE accordingly.
The final point I wish to make is the necessity to encourage saving in the community. 1 know the Government has been criticized one way and another; but it should face up to the criticism that it has not taken sufficient steps to encourage saving in Australia. A world-wide shortage of capital exists. I have read with a great deal of interest about the steps that have been taken in various countries to encourage the saving of small amounts by the people. In the aggregate those small amounts mean a great deal. A very interesting incentive has been adopted in Sweden. The Swedish Parliament gran’ts income tax relief to people with small savings. To those who save £70 or more annually, a rebate of £14 is allowed. That is a step the Swedish Government has taken to encourage saving.
– tA Labour government, too.
– I do not care what kind of government it is; I am not talking party politics. I know the honorable senator would not understand what I am saying; I do not think he has the capacity to take it in. It is a subject of great interest. Both the Government and the Opposition parties should encourage saving. Every country is chasing capital for developmental works. I now refer to Germany. I direct attention to the steps the Adenauer Government has taken. :Dr. Adenauer said he would allow income tax reductions on profits used for the development of housing. No one can deny that West Germany has made the greatest recovery of any country since World War II. That is a very interesting point. A friend of mine returned last year from an extensive trip during which he investigated the housing position throughout the world. He told me that Germany has made the greatest recovery; and I think that a great deal of that recovery has been due to the serious measures that have been taken by the Adenauer Government to encourage interest in bousing.
The United Kingdom has also introduced incentives, and I notice :hat, in Palestine, similar measures have been taken by industry and by the Government. The Palestine Portland cement works of Nesher Limited, has two popular debentures. I am sure that this will interest Senator Wright. There is an A class debenture, bearing a basic 6 per cent, interest rate whilst the final interest and capital repayment increases tn proportion to increases in the price of cement. That is a theme I have heard Senator Wright develop, both inside and outside this chamber - the protection of the capital of small investors. It is a very worthy subject. The company has also a “ B “ class debenture for which the holder can get repayment, if he wants it, in bags of cement. The Palestine Electric Corporation has just floated a £16,000,000 debenture issue whose holders have the choice of linking interest rate and capital to the official exchange rate against the dollar or to Israel’s own costofliving index. The Zim Israel Navigation Company, expanding its fleet, is to issue securities linked to the dollar. The nation’s big labour union, Histadrut, in order to raise more funds for the industries it operates, is launching a £10,000,000 securities issue pegged both to the cost of living and to the dollar. Those are measures which are being taken in other parts of the world. They are of great interest, and are well worth studying. If we desire to encourage savings, and I suggest that it is of immense1 importance that we should do so at the present time, then we should attempt to do so in the ways that I have suggested.
I am trying to indicate the ways in which savings are being stimulated in other countries of the world, and I suggest that we should carefully examine those methods. For example, we should be very wise to give some attention to allowing greater deductions from income tax in respect of Commonwealth loan interest received by the taxpayers. That would boost investment in Commonwealth loans. We should also increase the deductions allowed in respect of premiums paid on life assurance policies because that would cause more money to flow into the life assurance concerns which are the traditional supporters of Commonwealth loans. We should encourage people to invest to the utmost in life assurance with the great mutual companies, so that no question can be raised by honorable senators opposite about profits.
Perhaps we should also allow deductions from income tax in respect of a small amount of interest received from savings banks deposits. That would be an important method of encouraging people to use the facilities of the savings banks, and to save their money. Again, we have never really exploited the national savings certificates scheme, and I suggest that we could introduce a scheme along the lines of the war savings certificates scheme. We have now gone past the days, in which the Opposition thinks we still live, when the wealth of the nation was concentrated in comparatively few hands. To-day, our wealth is spread more widely than it has ever been spread before, and it is in the hands of most people of the Commonwealth. Consequently, we have to encourage all those people to save, and if we do so, the aggregate savings will amount to a vast sum of money.
If we are to carry out the great public works that must be constructed for the welfare of Australia, and which are under the supervision of both State of Federal authorities, we must have more money. The suggestions that I have made should be carefully investigated in order to ascertain whether, if given effect, they would result in greater savings being accumulated. We need more savings, and we need more subscriptions to Common-‘ wealth loans in order to allow our great public works to be completed in our time. I have much pleasure in supporting the hill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I purposely did not reply to the various points raised by Senator McKenna and other honorable senators on the first reading of this measure, because I understood that those honorable senators desired to raise some matters during the committee stage of the bill. We shall have a further opportunity, when discussing Supply, to go into the matters raised by Senator Wright, Senator Laught, Senator Kennelly, Senator Critchley and Senator Henty. The purpose of this measure is not so much to raise fresh money as to re-allocate money. It is a matter of pluses and minuses.
This bill, and the associated Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill, seek parliamentary authority for certain expenditures for which provision was not made in the 1955-56 Estimates. Details of the various items contained in the bill will be explained, when necessary, in committee. There are some major items, however, to which it is appropriate to refer at this stage. Approximately £3,500,000 is included under the votes of civil departments, to meet the increase in salaries determined by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration with effect from the 23rd December, 1954.
Within the total budget provision of £190,000,000, certain re-allocations of defence appropriations have been approved, with consequential increases and decreases in individual votes. Additional appropriations totalling £6,396,000 will be necessary for those votes where the revised allocation will exceed the existing appropriation, and a further £1,275,000 is required for the pay increases approved for members of the services and civil staffs.
Now, in order to save time in committee, perhaps I should deal with those points. Senator McKenna’s assumption is quite correct. He is anticipating that there is a savins? 0f £6,396,000. The net addition is £1,275,000, and there are reallocations rather than savings. The main items are in connexion with construction works and materials, and the £6,396.000 is made us as follows: - Navy, £2,312,000; Army, £2,292,000; Air, £1,381,000: Supply, £173,000; and Other Services, £238.000. Those sums make up the total of £6,396,000 mentioned by the honorable senator, and the actual addition is £1.275,000.
Included in the bill is £1,600,000 to meet expenditure on behalf of other governments, which will not be recovered within the financial year. Without going into details, I may say that ti -re are many works and services which we carry on under a sort of lend-lease system for other governments. Works in Korea, and, possibly, Malaya, and certain other works, would come within that category; they are projects that we undertake in conjunction with the British Government. Never at any time is the amount of indebtedness correctly ascertainable because it fluctuates, and the figure shown is the amount which in due course will be recovered by the Australian Government.
For the Postmaster-General’s Department, £651,000 is provided to meet increased rates paid to State railways departments for the conveyance of mails. An amount of £3,500,000 is included in the bill for the redemption of savings certificates from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. This procedure has also been followed in each of the past three years. It has been customary for the Australian Government, at all events since the present Government assumed office, to meet the State loan fund requirements very substantially out of revenue. If they were not met out of revenue they would have to be met out of loan funds, so that the matter is as broad as it is long. Prior to 1952-53, this class of expenditure was met from loan funds, but in the last two years, due to the condition of the loan market, it has been considered desirable to charge this expenditure against thi? Consolidated Revenue Fund. It is again proposed to follow that course in the current year.
There has been some re-allocation between the items of the Capital Works and Services Estimates. Provision has also been made for certain other unavoidable expenditure which could not be foreseen when the original Estimates were prepared. Honorable senators will recall that the 1955-56 budget provided for the appropriation of £48,500,000 to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, which was established by the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Act 1955. At this stage, it is not possible to say exactly what additional revenue will be obtained in this financial year from the taxation measures introduced to Parliament in March last. Between now and the end of’ June, moreover^ there may be some other minor variations in the budget estimates. Consequently, the financial result for the year at the moment cannot be forecast precisely.
The- Government proposes that any surplus of receipts over expenditure additional, to the £48,500,000 for which provision was made in the budget, shall be paid into the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. There it will be available to meet the purpose of the reserve which, as was explained when the legislation was brought down last October, is to assist in. meeting possible redemptions on the large Commonwealth loans which mature during the next few yearn. In the meantime, funds will be available in the reserve for investment, as necessary, in a loan to finance Commonwealth loan expenditure, and to assist the 1955-50 Australian Loan Council programmes. Honorable senators will recall that, at the meeting of the Australian. Loan Council, in February this year, the Commonwealth agreed to assist these programmes to the amount of £67,200,000.-
asked a question about the expenditure of £9.740 in connexion with the Fitzpatrick-Browne case. In the appeal in that case to the High Court of Australia and the> Privy Council, the Commonwealth was represented by J. D. Holmes, Q.C., R. Else Mitchell, and Messrs. Coward Chance and’ Company, of London. Costs, of the appeal were -
– Does the Government contemplate, any legislation to cover the question of privilege? ^ Senator O’SULLIVAN. - Consideration Has been given to the matter generally, but finality has not been reached yet.
Senator: McKENNA (Tasmania. -
Leader of the Opposition) [5.2I7J. - I rise on. the second reading merely to make a. brief comment upon an aspect to which I did not refer on the motion for the; first reading of the bill. The Leader of the. Government in the Senate (Senator O’Sullivan), in his second-reading speech, directed attention, to what are, in effect, the provisions of. clause 4 of the bill authorizing the Treasurer to expend out of Consolidated Revenue any further surplus that might be disclosed. The amount is to be transferred to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. I recognize the need for some appropriation of any surplus, in order to reflect the true accounting position, and to prevent the payment of undue amounts to the States.
I rise merely to point to two matters. The first is that, already, the Government has estimated that the surplus for this year will total £48,500,000. lt has already appropriated that amount in the budget documents to the credit of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. Then it purports to announce the surplus for the year after that transaction. As additional taxation has been imposed recently, and is expected to yield £30,000,000, it appears now that there will be a substantial addition to the surplus for the year. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is not in a position to indicate - or will not indicate at this stage - what is likely to be the amount of the surplus. I do not blame him for not wanting to be pinned down to an estimate with only one month still to’ run. in the financial year.
The point I wish to make, however, is that items of this sort appropriating a surplus - covering amounts spent by the Commonwealth on capital works and in paying off liabilities in respect of war savings certificates - ought not to be. grouped’ in the papers presented to this. Parliament with items that relate solely fo the ordinary annual services of the. Government. Tn other words, a completely false picture is created in the minds of the people if a certain surplus isannounced when, in fact, the amount is very much greater. If the accounts vere resented1 in a1 form disclosing the surplus that remains after revenues have- been’ collected, and after all the annual expenditures of the Commonwealth have been incurred, the balance then would represent the surplus arising on the year’s normal transactions. There should be a further statement showing the disposal of that surplus, such as an amount of £100,000,000 for capital works or £48,000,000 or more transferred to a trust fund. It is not right that the true surplus should not be plainly disclosed on the papers presented to the Parliament.
It has been suggested that all the amounts deducted are in trust funds, but the items of capital expenditure, instead of being scattered through the budget papers, should be extracted, put together and recorded against a clearly disclosed surplus or deficiency as the case may be. In this case, of course, it must be a surplus. If that were done, the people of Australia would have a better appreciation of the fact that they were meeting all these great commitments on capital works, and building up trust funds, out of. the revenue of the year. They would have some appreciation of the burden that falls upon them. I warn the Government that the Opposition will be critical of the presentation of accounts which do not clearly show the true surplus on the normal transactions of the year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– The Public Accounts Committee, in its report to the Parliament on Supplementary Estimates, has directed attention to the gross inaccuracies in estimating - both over and under estimating - that have occurred. I mention the fact briefly because a Supply bill has a certain significance in this respect : It picks up the rate of voting of various departments during the year, and then takes the pro rata proportion of them as the supply needed, in anticipation of coming appropriations. Therefore, if inaccuracies occur in the annual estimating in relation to departments, they will be translated into aSupply bill such as that which is now beforeus. We are really voting under difficulties as we have not the opportunity of close scrutinyof this measure that is given during consideration of the annual Appropriation Bill. I direct attention to that fact because this Parliament must give closer attention to these matters in view of the perplexities of public finance. Taking into consideration the new areas of administration into which the Commonwealth is entering, we must give increasing scrutiny to the accuracy of estimation in government expenditure.
I come now to a small item which bears relation to flood relief in Queensland. It is significant that the amount voted to Queensland for the comfort of those who were victims of recent floodsin that State is £6,000, whereas the provision for floodrelief in India and Pakistan is £10,000 in each case. Nobody would dispute thatthose last two items are most worth while and most deserving, but they arecompletely ex gratiapayments.
– And charity begins at home.
– It is not so much a matter of charity beginning at home as perhaps one of justice preceding charity. To my mind, that is the more important principle. The Commonwealth Government, with its very large revenues, could be more generous in the assistance it gives for flood relief in the various States in which catastrophies occur. A point that has been raised many times in this chamber and in another place, and which I wish to highlight, is that it is time that the question of flood prevention and relief was put on a proper administrative basis as between the States and the Commonwealth. These virtually arbitrary payments that are made from time to time must be increasingly unsatisfactory. They rest in the generosity of a particular government at a particular time in relation to a particular catastrophe. Such a by and large approach cannot altogether, or for toolong, satisfy the National Parliament. This matter should be brought before the first available conference of Premiers to put it on a proper basis not only as a matter of mitigation, or as a matter of assistance, but also in an endeavour to provide a specific fund to be disbursed on a proper basis to those who, after all, are the primary producers of this country, upon whom we depend so much.
Under such a scheme, sufferers would not feel in any way that they were to be the constant, or perhaps sporadic, recipients of charity. They would then have a national entitlement which would be acknowledged by both the National and State parliaments. If we had such a scheme, it would mean that just as exporters of primary products are insured against risks attendant upon that phase - as they will be under the bill which we considered yesterday - the producers also would have some form of insurance. It should be possible to create some form of insurance to protect those who are producing the goods, the export of which has been protected, against damage by flood, cyclone, and so on. I direct the attention of the Government to those matters in the hope that they will receive full consideration at the proper time.
– I hope that the Minister for the Navy (Senator O’Sullivan), Senator Laught or the members of the Public Works Committee will not construe my earlier remarks to mean that I am pressing for new Commonwealth public offices in Adelaide. God knows, they are a necessity; but at the moment, we are pressing for a quick and thorough inspection of existing offices, many of which are pigsties completely unfitted for human occupation. They should be renovated, and I confidently look to the Government to heed the appeals of both Senator Laught and myself in this respect.
– in reply -I intended to reply to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) concerning the presentation of accounts, when speaking to the second reading. I shall bring his commentsto the notice of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), but the honorable senatorknow from his own experience that while there can be substantial creditsin revenue accounts there can also be substantia deficits in the capital accounts at the same time. However. I shallbringhis remarks to the attention of the Treasurer.
As to Senator Byrne’s remarks,I point out that, rightly or wrongly, it has been a tradition for Commonwealth contributions not only for flood relief but also relief in other necessitous cases, to be harnessed to contributions made by the States. That is because the provision of such relief is primarily a State responsibility. Not only this but also other federal Governments have “ gone to the party “ as it were to relieve distress at the request of the States on a £l-for-£1 basis.
I have had the pleasure of reading the report of the Public Accounts Committee and I understand that the departments concerned are giving close attention to the suggestions and observations made in it. I am quite sure honorable senators will appreciate that the number of imponderables and unknowns at the time when some Estimates are made make it very difficult indeed to hit even an approximate target. However, as the report has indicated, perhaps something better than what has been done in the past could be done in the future. The remarks of honorable senators on this matter will be given earnest consideration.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from. 5.48 to8 p.m.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the following motion, and asking for the concurrence of the Senate therein : - (1.) That a joint committee be appointed to review such aspects of the working of the Constitution as the committee considers it can most profitably consider, and to make recommendations for such amendments of the Constitution as the committee thinks necessary in the light of experience. (2.) That the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives be ex officio members of the committee. (3.) That in addition, the followingmembers of the House of Representatives, namely, Mr. Calwell, Mr. Downer, Mr. Drummond, Mr. Hamilton, Mr.Joske. Mr. Pollard, Mr. Ward and Mr. Whitlam, be appointed to serve on the committee. (4.) That the Senate be requested to appoint four members of the Senate to serve on the committee, and to appoint one of those members to be chairman of the ‘committee. (5.) That the chairman of the committee may, from time to time, appoint another member of the committee to be the deputy chairman of the committee, and that the member so appointed act as chairman of the committee at any time when the chairman is not present at a meeting of the committee. (6.) That, in the absence of both the chairman and the deputy chairman from a meeting of the committee, the members present may appoint one of their number to act as chairman. (7.) That the committee have power to appoint sub-committees consisting of four or more of its members, and to refer to any such sub-committee any matter which the committee is empowered to examine. (8.) That the committee or any subcommittee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to adjourn from place to place and to sit during any adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament. (9.) That the committee have leave to report from time to time, and that any member of the committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report. (10.) That six members of the committee constitute a quorum of the committee and two members of a sub-committee constitute a quorum of the sub-committee. (11.) That, in matters of procedure, the chairman, or person acting as chairman, of the committee, have a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of voting, have a casting vote, and that, in other matters, the chairman, or person acting as chairman, of the committee have a deliberative vote only. (12.) That the foregoing provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) - by leave - agreed to - (1.) That the Senate concurs in the resolution transmitted to the Senate by message No. 30 of the House of Representatives relating to the appointment of a Joint Committee to examine problems of Constitutional Change. (2.). That Senators Kennelly, McKenna, Spicer and Wright be members of the Joint Committee. (3.) That Senator Spicer be the chairman of the Joint Committee. (4.) That the resolution, so far as it is inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders. (5.) That the foregoing resolutions be communicated to the House of Representatives by message.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
Documents relating to the Double Dissolution on 19th March, 1951.
Annexed to the documents is a narrative by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) of events immediately preceding the tendering to His Excellency of the advice to dissolve the Parliament.
Debate resumed from the 23rd May (vide page 909), on motion by Senator O’Sullivan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The bill now before the Senate is the Appropriation . (Works and Services) (No. 2) Bill 1955-56. When the budget was presented to Parliament, legislation was included in the budget proposals to provide for the expenditure from revenue of £104,000,000 upon capital works and services of the Commonwealth alone. A few months later, as the financial stringency and the economic crisis in the affairs of Australia developed, the Government announced that a reduction of £10,000,000 would be made in the Commonwealth works programme so that the total tobe spent this year would be something like £94,000,000. The bill now before the House proposes to increase the expenditure upon these capital works and services by £3,783,000, bringing the amount that one might reasonably expect to be expended, according to Government statements, to nearly £98,000,000 for the year. This increased expenditure will go a long way towards restoring the position which was originally contemplated under the budget.
I direct the attention of the Senate to the fact that the whole of this expenditure is being met from revenue - whether under the original budget proposals, or that contemplated by the reduction, or the £3,783,000 to be provided under this bill. It all comes from. the. revenues of the year, taxation and otherwise, and constitutes a particularly heavy burden upon the taxpayers for the one year. Under normal and happy conditions, this amount would have been raised on- the loan market and would impose1 no- particular burden upon the taxpayers in any of the 53 years over which repayment would be spread under the terms of the financial agreement. I have already developed that theme to some extent this- afternoon, particularly as to why the loan market has failed, and I shall not pursue that line of discussion in dealing with this measure.
I should imagine that a substantial proportion of the expenditure contemplated oy the bill will be to meet rising costs that have accrued since the 1st July last. That fact is one more acknowledgment of the presence of inflation in the country -an unhappy presence that has never departed since this Government took office in December, 1949. I have an immediate or particular interest in only two matters in the schedule, and I am indifferent as to whether the Minister deals with them in any reply he may make to the secondreading debate, or leaves them to the committee stage; So that the Minister may have some foreknowledge of those matters and obtain advice on them, I refer to Division 15 in the schedule under the heading “ Department of Works “. An item appears in which provision is made for additional share capital of £700,000 for Qantas Empire Airways Limited.
I should like the Minister to give to the Senate particulars of that sum and indicate the reason for this additional appropriation. He might also indicate why it was not possible to anticipate such expenditure during the budget session.
In relation to the proposed appropriation for the Department of National Development, Division No. 40, I should like to know what lias led to the necessity for the item “Expenditure under Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act 1949-1955, £7.46,000 “. Is that an amount that could have been foreseen? Does it cover a particular- project which was not in1 contemplation when the budget was being considered, or does the whole of it represent increased costs- of the project during the yean-?i With those comments,
I indicate that the Opposition does not oppose the- passage of the- measure:
Senator O’SULLIVAN (Queensland-
Minister for the Navy). [8:11].- in reply. - If. it is convenient, to the Senate, I shall deal with the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) now, rather than at the committee stage. The honorable senator was kind enough to indicate to me earlier this evening that he intended to- ask for details of the two matters that he has raised. In relation to the proposed appropriation of £700,000 for the provision of additional share capital for Qantas Empire Airways Limited, which is referred to in Division 15, I point out that the sum of £380,000 is required to meet payments as follows: - Passenger services building, including frozen food facilities, at Mascot, £285,000; and passenger handling facilities at Darwin airport, £95,000.
The immediate requirement in respect of. Qantas Empire Airways Limited arises because the organization has been compelled to vacate, at short notice, its existing frozen food factory at St. Mary’s in order to make way for the ammunition filling factory. The new building will incorporate a frozen food factory and also the other catering and passenger services establishments now situated at three different locations. The proposed works at Darwin are to replace the- company’s present unsatisfactory passenger facilities, which consist of an old army barracks at Berrima, with appropriate buildings situated conveniently at the airport. This is to Be achieved by reconstructing the existing hangar te provide a lounge, a dining room, a bar, a toilet and showers at a cost of £95,000. The new- building is to be completed’ in time to handle the heavy flow of Olympic Games visitors through Darwin. It has been made essential by reason of the new and faster schedule of passenger handling following introduction of Britannia aircraft by the British Overseas Airways Corporation. The balance of the total appropriation, £327,000, is required for the purchase of engine conversion kits for Super Constellation aircraft. The aircraft delivered to November, 1955, were fitted with D.A.I type engines, but later deliveries have had thu improved D.A.3 type engines. The kits will convert the D.A.I engines to D.A.8 engines, thus ensuring uniformity throughout the fleet, resulting in obvious economies.
In regard to the proposed expenditure of £746,000 in connexion with the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, thu additional appropriation is being sought to enable the authorities to pay certain retention moneys to a group of American contractors to which two contracts have been let for the construction of major works projects in the Upper Tumut section of the scheme. Provision for the payment of these moneys was not included in the 3955-56 budget for the authority. The relevant contracts provide for progress payments to the contractors at the rate of 90 per cent, of the value of work done until the contracts are half completed, and thereafter, at the rate of 100 per cent., if the authority is satisfied about the progress of the contracts. Under the contracts, however, the authority has a discretion to pay, at any time, the 10 per cent, retention money in return for an appropriate bank or other guarantee. Retention moneys withheld from the group of American contractors amount to £746,000. The group has requested payment of these moneys, in return for an appropriate guarantee, and it is considered that the request should be granted. The contractors recently have made excellent progress with the execution of the contracts, and to refuse their request would be contrary to the spirit and intention of the contracts and also contrary to recognized good practice in contract management.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Senator O’BYRNE (Tasmania) [8.15 J. - I refer to the proposed appropriation for the Department of Civil Aviation, Division 15. I wish to know where provision has been made for the expenditure of £900,000 on the purchase of two Convair aircraft. No provision for this expenditure was made in the last budget, nor was provision made in the appropriation measure with which the Senate dealt recently.
– The sum of £900,000 is not mentioned in the bill.
– I know that it is not mentioned, and that is why 1 am asking where provision for this expenditure can be found. No mention was made of the purchase of these two Convair aircraft until they suddenly arrived here in Australia. It is very important that the Parliament should know how the expenditure of that large sum of money came to be authorized. As I say, neither the budget nor the appropriation measures which recently have come before Parliament mention the matter, although it has been referred to in the newspapers. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Townley) has been very reticent abour supplying information concerning the purchase of these aircraft.
I believe that the fact that Convair aircraft have been purchased is a distinct slight to British aviation. In this jet age, there are magnificent turbo-jet aircraft available in Great Britain, but we have turned to aircraft of the piston type engine and have purchased two of thom from the United States of America for almost 2,000,000 dollars, lt is discourteous to the Parliament that such a large sum of money should be expended and its expenditure kept behind the scenes, so that it is practically impossible to obtain information about it. According to recent investigations of the Public Accounts Committee of this Parliament, most of the service departments have been grossly over-estimating, and it may be that themoney for these aircraft has been made available as the result of such overestimating.
In the near future, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Sir Anthony Eden, and Lady Eden, will visit Australia, and it will be an insult to them if the best aircraft that we can provide to transport them about Australia are of American manufacture, although Great Britain manufactures the best aircraft in the world. The same applies to the Duke of Edinburgh, who will be visiting Australia later this year to open the Olympic Games. Yet we are purchasing oldfashioned aircraft at tremendous ‘ cost.
I have just been reminded that Australia recently sold one of these aircraft to Pakistan, but the price has not been divulged.
– We received more than we paid for it.
– This is certainly an odd situation. According to to-day’s press, Trans-Australia Airlines has sold one of these aircraft to Pakistan, and now we find that the taxpayers of this country are committed to an expenditure of almost £1,000,000 on two more of these outofdate aircraft. Either the Department of Civil Aviation or the Royal Australian Air Force will have to train mechanics to look after these radial engine aircraft, when they should be trained to look after turbo-prop and turbo-jet engines.
That brings me to another important aspect of this matter. At a time like the present, when we are expending quite a lot of money in sending trade missions to the United Kingdom and elsewhere, the Parliament should be informed of the details of purchases of aircraft overseas. Tt has been necessary to impose very severe import restrictions and trade cuts, but I had hoped that there would still remain some sentiment in the hearts of supporters of the Government in favour of reciprocity between the Mother Country and Australia. But sentiment and patriotism seem to have flown out the door. We are endeavouring to increase reciprocity between the United Kingdom and Australia, but here we have a glaring example of the purchase of relatively obsolete aircraft from hard currency areas, for the purpose of conveying very important persons’ by air in Australia. Everybody knows that the day of the piston engine is just about over, and that the jet era has dawned.
– Are these aircraft that are being bought new or second hand ?
– They are brand new.
– But they are out of date?
– At least, they should be brand new, because they are costing us almost 2,000,000 dollars. I should like the Minister to furnish the committee with particulars of their cost because, according to the press, their price ranges about the 2,000,000 dollars or £900,000 mark. T do not know whether or not they are new, but an aircraft costing £450,000 should not only be brand new; it should have gold knobs all over it.
It has been stated in some quarters that it has been necessary to obtain new equipment in order to transport by air very important people who come to this country, and that it would not be practicable for us to wait until English aircraft were available. We should give a very high priority to British manufacturers, in view of the very heavy import cuts that have been imposed. I should like the Minister to give me whatever information he can concerning the purchase of these two aircraft for which, apparently, no provision has been made either in the measure now before us or in the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1955-56. If he is not able to supply me with any information on this matter, he should at least assure honorable senators that the Public Accounts Committee will inquire into it, and report to the Parliament.
Senator O’SULLIVAN (QueenslandMinister for the Navy) [8.261. - [ am sorry to say that Senator O’Byrne’3 enthusiasm far outstrips his accuracy. I should like it to go on record, as an illustration of the tolerance of the Government, that the whole of his speech was entirely out of order, although I did not raise a point of order about it. The matter that the honorable senator ha.raised was covered specifically bv th’.Appropriation B;11 (No. 2) 1955-56 that we parsed this afternoon. I am not trying to he funny about this matter; indeed, I have had to inquire about it myself in order to inform Senator O’Byrne of the position. During the debate on that measure this afternoon, the Leader nf the Opposition (Senator McKenna) sought information in relation to the appropriation of f6.396.000. I informed him that, included in that amount, was provision of about £2.000.000 for the Department of the Navy, £2,000,000 for the Department of the Army, and about £1,000,000 for the Department of Air. It is because the expenditure to which he has referred will be borne by the Department of Air, not the Department of Civil Aviation, that the matter is not mentioned in the measure now before us. I assure the honorable senator that there is nothing secret about the transaction ; it is all fair and above board.
– Did the Minister have those particulars this afternoon?
– As I have said, 1 gave them to Senator McKenna this afternoon.
– Did the Minister mention the cost of the aircraft?
– No, that question did not arise. What did arise were the component figures in the appropriation of £6,396,000. I gave Senator McKenna the cut-up of that figure. Apparently, this enthusiasm in relation to aircraft is not peculiar to Senator O’Byrne, because question 17 on the notice-paper, standing in the name of Senator Henty, is as follows: -
I do not know whether or not Senator Henty has been instructing his junior colleague from Tasmania.
– There seems to have been some collusion.
– Yes, thorp could have been collusion between the two senators from Tasmania. Anyhow, getting back to the question of the origin of the funds, I remind honorable senators that, in the last budget, an amount of £10,500,000 was provided for the purchase of aircraft. Money for the purchase of the two Convair aircraft to which Senator O’Byrne has referred was obtained from that vote.
Senator CRITCHLEY (South Australia) rs.29]. - I refer to Division 22k, under which Item No. 1 reads, “Lemnos Mental Hospital, Western Australia Contribution towards cost of extension- £17,300 “, and Item No. 2 reads, “Kerbing and guttering at Repatriation General Hospital - Payment to Concord Municipal Council - £500 “. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) has assured the Senate that plans are proceeding apace for the building of the neurosis block at the Dawes-road Military Hospital. I know that this bill is more or less a supplementary budget, but I should like to know why no mention has been made in it of that project. Can we rest assured that the people suffering from these maladies will be catered’ for in spite of that fact? I hope that the Minister for Repatriation will take notice of what I have said. He has promised to make a statement on the matter before this period of the session ends.
– I arn sure that any remarks along those lines directed to my colleague the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) will not fall on deaf ears.
Senator KENNELLY (Victoria ) [8.32 . - I desire to speak on the Department of the Interior, Division 11 - “ Commonwealth Offices and other buildings - Acquisition of Sites and Buildings, £120,000 “. I am interested in this item for the reason that I have had a great deal to do with the department’s officers’ in Melbourne in connexion with the vacating of certain portions of a park, Albert Park - its name is now known throughout the world. I am glad to say that the officers of the department and of the park trust have got on very well ; but to carry out the agreement that has been reached will necessitate money being found by the department in the immediate future. I have nothing but praise for the chief officer of the department in Melbourne but, as chairman of the park trust, I do not know how the agreement can be honored unless the money is provided.
A certain amount of interest in this matter is always displayed when the budget is brought down each year. I am hoping that this matter will be given attention and that the land which belong? to the people will be returned to them. The Government has been in occupation of it since 1941 and up until 1946. or 1947, did not pay any rent.
– Has- it not beengiven back yet?
– Things are moving slowly. One of my parliamentary colleagues, although not of the same party persuasion as 1, seems to make a fetish of this matter every time the budget debate takes place, and, as a result, I, of course, receive letters of inquiry asking when the department is going to vacate the park. Everything has been done in a nice way and an agreement has been reached,, but the department will need to spend money.
Another matter about which I should: like information concerns the progress that has been made with the proposed building of offices on the very excellent site, which the Commonwealth acquired many years ago, bounded by Spring, Latrobe, Lonsdale and Exhibition streets. Progress seems to be very slow. I admit that the area is huge and that the project vill take a good deal of planning. However, unless I can see some progress being made in that respect I fear that the area m which I am interested may not receive any attention. If I cannot obtain some information now, I would be happy to receive it at some future time so that I can reply to those people who are interested in taking re-possession of Albert Park.
, - I am not in a position even to inform the honorable senator what stage has been reached in the planning of that project. I shall inquire from my colleague, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), and let the honorable senator have what information I can obtain.
– I refer to the Postmaster-General’s Department, Division 47 - “Telegraph and Miscellaneous Services, £27,000 “. 1 am wondering what miscellaneous services are to be provided out of that sum after the proportion allotted for telegraphs is accounted for. I appreciate that this bill is being discussed under conditions different from those under which the budget and Estimates are debated. In the latter instance, depart mental officers are available- to. advise the Minister concerned of various details. I. do not know whether that can be donetonight. I desire to know how much of this money will be spent on providing the necessary materials for the extension, of telephone, services. 1 have a question on the notice-paper which was prompted as a result of replies I have received from time to time- from officers of thedepartment. I have no doubt that other honorable senators and members in another place have received similar replies in all good faith. The replies generally state that owing to a shortage of material or because of the necessity for some engineering project the application for the installation of a telephone cannot be acceded to. I believe that the officers are, in fact, advising honorable senators and honorable members of a position that does exist. Those officers are unable, of course,, of their own volition to undertake the procurement of material for engineering projects or the employment of more engineers unless the Government makes sufficient funds available.
Under the bill that was passed in the Senate this afternoon and under the present bill that is now being debated, a small amount of funds will be made available to the Postal Department. A marked change has taken place, not only in the Senate but also in another place, since I first entered the Senate. In those days the Estimates for the Post- master-Genera.1’3 Department were very keenly canvassed by members on both sides of the Senate; and the PostmasterGeneral, if he was a member of this chamber, or the Minister representing him here, conveyed quite a lot of information to honorable senators. It is deplorable that when some applicants for the installation of a telephone meet with a refusal, all sorts of suggestions are made to the effect that if you know somebody among the administrators of the Postal Department you will get preferential treatment. I believe that the postal officers do their work in a most efficient manner, and that they treat all applicants for telephones in strict order of priority and give them the best service of which they are capable. However, it is true that from time to time unfortunate incidents take place which might give people some other idea about the administration of the department. Be that as it may, it has been my own personal experience that the officers of the Postal Department do everything possible for all members of the public with whom they come into contact during their official duties.
I should like to know the nature of the plan, if any, that the Government intends to adopt to overcome the lag in telephone services. People living in isolated districts, sick . people and even members of the nursing profession are unable to obtain telephones, although for them telephones are essential. Quite recently, the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral stated, in answer to a question that the delay in the installation of telephones was an indication of our prosperity. If the failure of the Government to render services to the community is an indication of our prosperity, I am at a complete loss to understand why the Government is worrying about economic plans at. the moment; for Australia must be the most prosperous nation on earth.
I do ask the Minister to endeavour to inform the Senate to-night of the proposals that the Government may have, and the money that it is setting aside, to increase the rate of installation of telephones in this country. Let us know why this important work is being held up. From time to time we hear of thousands of outstanding applications for telephones, but the Postal Department should be one of our best revenue-earning undertakings. A few years ago, the Postmaster-General showed a remarkable profit on the activities of his department year after year, but that is not the case to-day. I ask that the Government should inform honorable senators about what it intends to do to reinstate the Postal Department as a highly efficient and profitable part of the Government’s activities. I sincerely hope that honorable senators will be informed to-night about the Government’s plans in this regard, and how it intends to increase the revenue-earning activities of the Postal Department and satisfy^ those people who arc so eager to obtain telephones.
– 1 desire to refer to Division 51, which deals with the acquisition of sites and buildings for broadcasting and television purposes. Can the Minister for the Navy (Senator O’sullivan) indicate where and what those buildings are, and whether they constitute all the buildings that the the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) proposes to acquire immediately for the provision of television services? I also ask whether the £83,000 shown in that division represents the total commitment of the Postal Department for the acquisition of sites and buildings, or whether there are other negotiations proceeding.
Senator KENNELLY (Victoria) [8.45 J. - I take this opportunity to ask the Minister for the Navy to ascertain for me at some future time the names and addresses of the people who subscribed for the 40 telephones in the luxury flat at St. Kilda, which was recently raided by police. I believe that the Senate is entitled to be informed of the names and addresses of those people, and also of the dates upon which the telephones were installed. I do not object to any one who is foolish enough to spend his money on starting-price betting, because that is his own concern, but a matter such as this causes some uneasiness in these times when telephones are hard to get.
I recognize that man-power, particularly skilled man-power, is difficult, to obtain for the installation of telephones, and I also believe that we have recently bought a lot of telephone instruments from a country inside the iron curtain. If we have to get our telephones from Czechoslovakia, at least we shall have them, but in order that, the representatives of the people of Victoria can answer questions about this matter, I suggest that we should have the information that I seek from the Minister. This matter received a certain amount of publicity - some one said in a Labour newspaper - but I believe it was in the Argus - on the 21st May, and perhaps my colleagues will not mind if I hand the Minister the newspaper that reported the matter so that all the facts will be before him, and so that at some future time he may be able to supply me with an answer to my questions.
.- With regard to the question asked by Senator Sheehan, the £27,000 represents an additional expenditure incurred by reason of marginal adjustments in wages, salaries and so forth. It has nothing to do with the complete project of the Postal Department.
asked a question about Division 51. The additional appropriation is for two specific acquisitions of sites for television purposes, one at Gore Hill, Sydney, for £70,000, and the other at Walkerville, in South Australia, costing £13,000.
In reply to Senator Kennelly, I have not read the friendly newspaper that he handed to me, but I am quite sure that at this stage I should be most surprised if the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) would publish the names of the people involved simply because their premises had been raided. We are still living in a British country, thank goodness, and every man here is innocent until he is proved guilty. However, if convictions are recorded against the people mentioned, I believe that the public will be entitled to know the names of those who obtained telephones and used them for illegal purposes.
– 1 refer to Division 30, Department of Shipping and Transport, in which £380,000 is allocated for ship construction. I was recently pleased to read the announcement that the Government had at last decided not to sell the Commonwealth line of ships. That was a very important announcement, and I have no doubt that the people of Australia, who have a deep financial and patriotic interest in our ships, were very pleased to read it. May we expect that the amounts for such an important project as shipbuilding will be increased in the next budget? In these days of high costs, the amount of £380,000 might pay only for preliminary arrangements for the construction of one ship, but I should like to know whether the Commonwealth shipping line is to be expanded now that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) has announced that it is not to be sold. That news will be a great relief to the Australian people. I am pleased that we are able to congratulate the Minister again on an important announcement which will be greeted with satisfaction by the people.
– I hate to deflate Senator O’Byrne but, in all honesty, I must assure him that I have made no announcement at all regarding the future of the Commonwealth shipping line.
– It is reported in the press.
– Press reports about ships are rather strange things. As to the Additional Estimates for shipbuilding, the original Estimates provided for £2,900,000. Actual expenditure under the heading of ship construction is now found to be £3,200,000. During the year, it was found that the estimate of £2,900,000 would be exceeded because of a speed-up in ship construction at all the yards, and the allocation to the various yards over and above the Estimates was broken up in this way -
The additional amount of £300,000 is accounted for by payments to shipbuilders in excess of the original estimate.
– The figures contained in the schedule show an amount of £80,000 recovered from the sale of ships. Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) inform the committee what ships have been sold?
– The amount of £SO,000 is made up of £40.000 each from sales to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and the Western Australian State shipping service. The honorable senator will remember that
Koojara, was launched for the Western Australian service. I have no details of the transaction with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited.
Senator SHEEHAN (Victoria) [8.54J. - I thank the Leader of the Government (Senator O’sullivan) for the information that he gave me about financial provision for the improvement of telephone- services and installations. I should like to refresh his memory about a matter that was raised by Senator Seward.
– In this debate we are dealing with specific matters. This is not a second-reading debate.
– I could criticize the Government for not placing on the Estimates an adequate amount of money for the development of telephone services. The amount provided is far short of our needs. In view of the importance of this matter, I should like the Minister to indicate the plans that the Government has in mind. If a similar measure is introduced during this sessional period, there might be some hope of obtaining this information. Otherwise, possibly the Minister for Repatriation (‘Senator Coober) who represents the Postmaster-General in this chamber might hasten an answer to my question.
– -We shall hurry chat matter as much as possible.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Senator VINCENT (Western Australia) [8.53 . - I move -
That in the opinion of the Senate the accelerated development of the north-western region of Western Australia is a matter of urgent national importance.
The motion before the Senate is a matter not only of national but of urgent national importance. It is most appropriate that such a matter should be discussed by the Senate, which is a House of the States. Perhaps it is also appro priate that I, as the only member of the Senate from Western Australia living outside the metropolitan area, should be charged with the responsibility of this motion. One has to live in the outback to understand its- problems and what the people of the outback think about them. E have several introductory remarks to make by way of general reference to this subject, and I should like them to be accepted by honorable senators as the background for my subsequent comments.
In the first place, I suggest that this should be entirely a non-party matter. I hope that honorable senators will participate in the debate in that spirit. No party politics should enter into such a discussion. I intend to criticize, not only federal governments, but also State governments. I hope that my criticisms will be objective, and that they will be accepted as an attempt to expedite the development of the area mentioned in the motion. I sincerely trust that a good number of honorable senators will take part in this debate and that they will treat it as an entirely non-party matter. As I have postulated that this is a national question, I invite the remarks and observations of honorable senators from some of the other States because I hope to establish that this question concerns not only Western Australia but the eastern States as well.
At the. outset, I emphasize that more nonsense has been talked about our northwest by parliamentarians, journalists and self-styled experts than about any other part of Australia. Some of those selfstyled authorities have referred to that area as a land flowing with milk and honey, capable of enormous production and of supporting a population running into, perhaps, millions. Others see it in a gloomy light. Perhaps, they have been influenced by the existence of desert regions in the north-west and, therefore, see it as something completely hopeless and useless, something that cannot be developed, and something that is a virtual incubus on Australia. I suggest that this hopeless or unimaginative attitude of mind is just as silly as the rather ludicrous and over-optimistic attitude of mind in relation to this area. I should say the better attitude to adopt in connexion with the north-west would be something between those two extreme views.
My third observation concerns the reason why I have introduced this motion in its present form. So “ far as I can ascertain, the subject has never yet been fully debated in this chamber. It certainly has not been fully discussed in the six years that I have been here. From the investigations that I have been able to make, it would seem that we have never had a properly arranged debate on this subject since the commencement of federation. It is true that many times honorable senators, those from Western Australia in particular, have referred to the question in general debates; but I do not think we have, before this, had a debate upon a motion relating exclusively to the development of this area.
M’y purpose to-night is to obtain, if possible, some co-ordinated, thought between the State Government of Western Australia and the Government at Canberra in. relation to this problem. I suggest that the attitude of the State Government in Western Australia and the national Government here towards this question is wrong and that a different attitude of mind on the part of both Governments is essential if this serious national question is to be dealt with in a really business-like way. To illustrate my point, I mention that if one goes to Perth and makes some suggestion there about the north-west one is assailed with the answer that it is a matter for Canberra because the Western Australian Government has no money for the development of the region. On the other hand, if one raises the question in Canberra one is told that it is the responsibility of the Government of Western Australia. That attitude towards what I suggest is a national question is terrible and should cease, for we have grown up. After all, when the town of Broome was bombed during World War II. nobody suggested that it was the State government’s responsibility to do something for the people of that town. That was treated as an urgent national matter and nobody quarrelled over whose responsibility it was. That attitude was taken in respect of not only Broome, but also the one hundred and one different matters arising from war operations along the coast of Western Australia. Again, nobody quarrelled about the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. That was accepted as a national question. No one suggested that it was the responsibility of the Victorian Government, or that that work should be carried out by the people of New South Wales. I repeat, that was quite- rightly accepted as a national responsibility, just as I suggest that the accelerated development of Western Australia should be accepted as a national responsibility.
During the course of this debate I shall endeavour to show that both governments have some responsibility, although, at the moment, I suggest that neither is shouldering that responsibility. Before proceeding further, I shall refer briefly to one or two things about the area that I am discussing. In my motion I refer to it as the north-western region of Western Australia. Actually, I mean the area north of the latitude at Shark’s Bay. It consists of what we call the north-west area and the Kimberley regions of Western Australia. For the purposes of this discussion, I suggest it has five natural divisions. They are not natural physical divisions, nor are they geological divisions; but, for the purposes of my remarks this evening, I suggest that they are five regions that merit individual consideration. The first is the coastal belt from Carnarvon north to the Ord River. That area contains many rivers that I might call seasonal rivers, the largest probably being the Fitzroy. Although they do not embrace a tremendous area compared with the total acreage under consideration, those river valleys contain some 500,000 acres of land with a very high potential for tropical agriculture. It is possible to grow sugar, rice, sorghum, groundnuts, and good pastures such as lucerne for the fattening of stock. In short, if the water is properly conserved, those river valleys could supply a large amount of foodstuffs and could support a large agricultural industry.
I come now to the second region, extending further into the interior. I referto the large pastoral area which is suitable for those industries that are carried; on there now - cattle raising in the north and sheep grazing in the south. Probably, not much can be done to develop those areas further except, perhaps, by assisting in the establishment of better methods of animal husbandry and the provision of proper amenities as well as transport and marketing facilities for pastoralists. That region is sparsely populated and lightly stocked. It could probably double its output of both cattle and sheep.
The third region extends further to the east; that is, the desert region. It figures either very largely or very minutely in the remarks of people who discuss the north-west. As I understand the position, there is no way of utilizing that enormous tract of desert country at the moment and, therefore, I do not propose to dwell upon it. I propose to dwell, however, on two other regions in this large area. One is what I call the north-west highlands, the large area of land running somewhat to the east or south-east of Port Hedland, with mountains up to about 4,000 feet high. “Geologically, it is one of the most interesting areas of Australia and, as is well known, it contains large quantities of minerals of many types. Some of them are being mined, but the area has never been properly surveyed, geologically.
The fifth region which I mention in this area of Western Australia is probably “the most interesting and important of all. I refer to what I may call the Wiluna water basin. For 200 or more miles north and south of Wiluna stretches a large area of land over what is probably an ocean of fresh water, lying 10 or 20 feet underground, which could be tapped and used to make this area one of intensive agriculture. With proper research, and provided there was sufficient water there, this tract could ultimately become the cabbage garden of Australia, out of reason.
A great deal of nonsense has been “talked about the climate of the north. Some people like it, but others say that it is not fit for a white man to live in. In the north, the climate is tropical, but in the south it is sub-tropical and dry. 1 will not discuss the climate in detail, except to say that the. suggestion that this area of Australia is not proper for any white man to live in is pure nonsense. Between 100,000 and 200,000 Queenslanders live on the east coast of Queensland, where the climate is probably worse. The winter climate in the whole of the area is delightful. I am confident that, ultimately, the little town of Carnarvon will become one of the winter-garden resorts of Australia because of its glorious climate.
– No, and there is plenty of mineral there still. That area has not been properly investigated or developed.
I now come to the reasons for saying that this matter is one of national urgency, and they are three in number. In the first place, the north-west region is the most undeveloped, isolated and neglected area in the whole of Australia. Secondly, if it is not developed by Australians, some one else will do it, and Australia will lose it. In the third place, to accelerate development of this region is beyond the resources of the State of Western Australia, and consequently it becomes a national obligation.
I wish to elaborate, briefly, my first, proposition that the area is undeveloped, neglected and isolated. It was first colonized more than 90 years ago. In that area, 50 years later, there were 7,000 white people. To-day, the popular.inti. exclusive of coloured people, has dwindled to something under 5,500. It cannot he suggested that the area has prospered in the last 50 years. Production statistic? confirm that fact. In 1915, more than 600,000 cattle were running in the Kimberley region, but to-day the number has dropped to below 475^000. Tn 1936, that area carried 250,000 sheep, but now there are fewer than 200,000. Mineral production, one of the most important industries, has almost ceased, apart from the production of iron ore at Yampi Sound.
In the same period of 50 years, during which the north-west has retrogressed, other areas of Australia have improved and prospered. Millions of pounds of federal money have been poured into the
Northern Territory, whilst a few paltry thousands have been spent by the State Government of Western Australia for the development of this more important and larger region. A federal Minister lias been given responsibility, among other things, for the development of the Northern Territory. Some areas of Papua and New Guinea have been better developed over the years, whereas the north-west of Western Australia has declined. Towns such as Cairns, in northern Queensland, have expanded, and that place now has a population of more than 20,000. Townsville has grown also, and has a population of more than 40,000. I understand that the population of Darwin exceeds 10,000. The biggest town in the north-west of Western Australia is Carnarvon, but its population 50 years ago was greater than it is to-day. It now has barely 2,500 residents.
I have said that the development of the area involves an attitude of mind on :he part of both governments. I suggest that both governments must accept the Marne for the lack of the development nf the north-west, as well as responsibility for future development. At the moment, he Western Australian Government is constructing a very handsome bridge over ibo narrowest part of the Swan River, at h place known as the Narrows. Several million pounds of the taxpayers’ money will be spent on the bridge and the approaches to it, far more money than the expenditure in any period of five years !>y the State government on the northwest of Western Australia. No one will argue that the bridge over the Narrows is not desirable, but I suggest that a person would not get very far if he suggested that the money that is to be expended on this bridge could be more profitably spent on the, north-west. That illustrates the attitude of mind of the people of Western Australia. This north-west area of our« is farther from Perth, politically speaking, than it is from Canberra. In other words, the people of Perth are not really concerned with the development of that part of the State.
During the next seven years, approximately £6,000,000 of federal money is to be expended on the Mascot aerodrome.
Much of that expenditure is not really necessary. Some of it is desirable, of course, but perhaps the majority of it is not essential. I wonder how far I should get if I were to suggest that half of that £6,000,000 should be devoted to the provision of the most common everyday amenities for the people of the northwest of Australia? I should probably be laughed to scorn in this Senate. Again, I suggest that the development of the north-west comes down to the attitude of mind of the governments concerned. We in this capital city of Canberra are not concerned with this matter of development, but I hope to establish that development of the north-west is as much the responsibility of Canberra as it is of Perth.
There are three reasons why the development of this area is an urgent national responsibility. There has been a great deal of talk of the defence aspect of the development of the north-west. I suggest for the earnest consideration of the Senate that increased population in itself is not essential, or even desirable, for the successful defence of this area. For example, 20,000 or 30,000 people spread over the north-western districts of Western Australia - that is to say, over an area bigger than New South Wales - in time of war would be more of a hindrance than a help. They would have to be fed by the Army and perhaps evacuated by it. They would not assist the defence of the area one iota. From a defence point of view, it would be far better if the area were denuded of people altogether. I do not say that that argument would apply if there were 1,000.000 people in the area, with railways, roads, adequate water supplies, foodstuffs and all the other services that are so essential for an army of occupation, but I suggest that the introduction of 1,000,000 people into the area is something that will never happen. Personally, I do not think that that population figure will ever be reached. Until it is reached, and for many years to come, the defence aspect of populating the area is of no great consequence at all.
There is another element of the defence aspect. The greatest danger to our security in that area does not lie in the lack of defences. I suggest to the
Senate for its serious consideration that the great danger lies in a country such as China taking possession of the area and refusing to get out. That is not beyond the bounds of possibility. I do not suggest that China is necessarily the only country that might do that. I have referred to China only in a figurative manner of speaking.
– Does the honorable senator mean that the Chinese people might go there as a result of warlike action?
– Modern warfare is a peculiar thing. Supposing that, in due course, the Chinese People’s Republic became a member of the United Nations and introduced a measure to the effect that the United Nations should condemn Australia for its complete neglect of that area and that Chinese people should be allowed in there. Let us suppose that that motion were adopted by a majority of the United Nations. What would be our attitude in those circumstances? Should we fight the whole of the United Nations? I suggest that the matter of defence by means of arms is not the serious problem for that area that some people seem to think it is.
– Is the honorable senator suggesting that the Chinese, for instance, might come there other than as the result of a. war?
– Unless our allies, the United States and Great Britain - we could not include India, perhaps - were prepared to help us to fight, nothing could stop people from walking in there to-morrow and staying there. They could say, and they would get considerable support from, perhaps, the Indians, the Indonesians, and the people of other South-east Asian countries, that as we had neglected the country they had a moral right to come and take it. That is not beyond the bounds of possibility, not only so far as China is concerned, but also so far as other countries are concerned. Therefore, I say that the development of this area, in order to establish a moral right to it, far transcends in importance all considerations of defence. Defence for us involves international economics and morality rather than the use of weapons.
I have suggested that there is another reason why the development of the northwest is a national responsibility, and I have postulated that the State of Western Australia cannot afford to develop the area itself.
– I take it that the honorable senator is suggesting that, unless we can establish a moral right to the area by developing it, people who are starving in other countries may claim it.
– Something like that. The Western Australian Government cannot possibly cope with the financial aspect of its development. The whole is always greater than the part, and so far. as the development of Western Australia is concerned, it is ridiculous to suggest that there could be development of any consequence with State funds alone. The matter is a national one from the point of view of finance, if from no other.
In recent years, moves to develop the area have been accelerated, but I regret to say that, so far as the various State governments have been concerned, those moves have not gone very far. In fact, it would be reasonable to say that those governments have done absolutely nothing, for some years, in regard to the area. They have had every conceivable opportunity to do something, but have passed the buck to the Commonwealth.
– Have they had the finance ?
– As I mentioned earlier, the Western Australian Government can afford to build a bridge over the Swan River which will cost some millions of pounds. The construction of that bridge is important, of course, but is it as important as the construction of a school at Hall’s Creek or the provision of dental services for the north-west? In the whole of this area, which is almost as big as Queensland, there is not one dentist, and the State government refuses to put one there.
– Tim Royal Flying Doctor Servian is provided.
– Yos. but the point I make is that the S*ar>. record in regard to this matter is quite boneless and abject. I am not saying that the Federal Government is much better, and I shall recount several proposals that have been put to Canberra.
– What about Melbourne ?
– The problem does not arise in Melbourne, because the climate there is too cold. The first proposition, I think the most important, was submitted to the Federal Government in 1952, and a start “was made on it. The Government agreed to appoint an interstate and inter-departmental committee of four gentlemen - two from Western Australia and two on behalf of the Commonwealth - to go into the question of development. Those four gentlemen submitted a very fine report. It might be indicative of the interest that has been taken in this question in Canberra. I mention, in passing, that it is impossible to get a copy of the report in Canberra; it simply does not exist. The only copy I could get was from the newspaper, the Western Mail. In a way, it was an excellent report, because it endeavoured to set out, quite briefly, some of the difficulties that were likely to be encountered, and how they could be overcome. I shall mention just a few of them in passing. It is a long report. I suggest to honorable senators who are interested that they read it through. 1 have not the time at my disposal to do 50 now, but I shall cite one or two brief references to four or five industries that the report covers. The first is the pastoral industry, the position in relation to which the committee summed up in rh cse words -
On the assumption that a successful programme of station improvements can be implemented, and that meatworks of adequate capacity will be established at Derby or Black Rocks in lieu of Broome, it is the considered view of the committee that the output of beef from the Kimberleys would be al least doubled.
The committee made some interesting comments about the agricultural industry. One reads -
There is undoubtedly a considerable area of the Ve:t Kimberleys at present running cattle which could he turned over to sheep . . No agricultural industry has so ‘ far been developed, but definite possibilities appear to exist in both East and West Kimberley regions … In the Ord River Region, level areas of approximately 100,000 acres in a rainfall of 25-35 in. could be irrigated from a dam site already tested and estimated to be capable of storing 2,000,000 acre-feet tff water.
That represents the considered opinion of the committee. In relation to some other portions of the area, the report states -
The Fitzroy Valley offers better and moreextensive agricultural soils than the Ord, but it presents considerably greater engineeringdifficulties, principally because a great area of the River plain floods to varying depths at irregular intervals.
– Who were the members of the committee?
– .Messrs. Diamond of the Western Australian Department of Works, Mr. Nunn of the Western Australian Department of Agriculture, Mr. Rudduck of the Commonwealth Department of National Development, and Mr. Reid of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in Canberra,, comprised the committee. The committee summarized its views on the fishing; industry as follows: -
The fishing potential on the North-West, coast is very considerable but, up to thepresent, all attempts to develop the industryhave been on such limited lines and so sporadic that no useful data can he deduced . . .
The C.S.I.R.O. have carried out investigations along the North-West coast and it lias been ascertained from Dr. Serventy and theState Fisheries Department that extensivetuna fishing possibilities exist. The tuna area< extends from North-West Cape to Cape Leveque. Given the necessary capital, recruitment of labour and initiative, this enterprisecould operate on a scale which would justify the establishment of a cannery exporting to the United States.
Turning to minerals, the committeereported -
A wide variety of minerals- is known to exist: in the Kimberleys. In addition to the iron ore, silver, lead and gold now hein? worked., there are silver-lead deposits at Spoowah, about 70 milos from Wyndham, while wolfram, mica., tin, emery a -d copper deposits are all known to e’ ist. Traces of coal have been found and the sea-ch for oil is being continued. Ai,art from the iron ore and. possibly, the silver-lead’ deposits being worked bv the Devonian Lead Mine at Barker River, which shows great prnmise. insufficient is known about the e-tent of” deposit’ of other minerals to enable any reliable estimates to he made of the potential; development of mining.
In relation to the all-important establish ment of secondary industry, the committee had this to say in its report - lt is unlikely that the exploitation of ironore deposits will have any marked effect upon the population or general level of development of the area unless a steel industry could be established, based on back-loading of New Sui i th Wales coal, along similar lines to that at Whyalla, or unless coal suitable for steel making could be discovered locally.
As it haig been pointed out, coal has been found in the West Kimberleys and prospect -inures may be drilled in the near future.
Geological conditions are sufficiently favorable to justify the continuation of the search for oil. From geological examination there appear possibilities in both the East and West Kimberleys.
So much for some of the conclusions and observations of that committee. I just want to say one other thing about the committee, and it is this: Nothing more has been seen or heard of that report since it was put in some pigeon-hole in the archives of this Parliament.
I come now to the second project that was placed before the Parliament in 1955. It was known as the Leslie scheme.
Mr. W. A. Leslie and a number of other gentlemen formed what was known as a rehabilitation committee, which put forward certain proposals to the federal government. Those proposals were mainly based upon what I should say was a rather optimistic faith that taxation concessions would be granted to all people living in the area. The submission argued that only by that means could the area be developed. “Without wishing to detract from the proposal of Mr. Leslie and his colleagues, I do not believe that the adoption of their proposals would have solved the problem, although such concessions would undoubtedly encourage further development. It is necessary to consider, if the people living in that area were granted complete immunity from taxation, how schools could be provided, water conserved and electric power made available; how harbours could be improved, and bridges and roads constructed; how research stations could be established,, and geological surveys carried out. In other words, an expenditure of millions of pounds on capital works is necessary before any substantial develop- ‘ ment can take place in the area. Again, I merely mention that the report of this northern rehabilitation committee was carefully recorded in Canberra, but nothing has been heard of it since. Then, there was a third project inquired into only last year. The investigating committee was under the auspices of Mr. Charles Davidson, now the Postmaster-General, and it investigated the air transport of beef. That committee took a lot of evidence in Western Australia relating to the air-beef scheme. I think it is five or six months ago that it made certain recommendations which have not been published and which also repose somewhere in the archives of the Parliament.
Lastly, I mention a fourth project which has suffered the same fate as the other three. Submissions were made to this Government by Mr. Hawke and Sir Ross McLarty, the Premier and Leader of the Opposition respectively, in Western Australia. Those gentlemen came to Canberra last year and submitted to this Government a proposal in respect of eight projects. The first was in connexion with the Ord River irrigation and conservation of water project. The second related to extensions to the Wyndham jetty. The third had reference to the payment of a subsidy towards the cost of building a ship for trade in those waters. The fourth was a request for the surfacing with bitumen of the Great” Northern highway from Ajana to Carnarvon. The fifth was a request for the development of a deep-water port at Black Rocks near Derby. The sixth related to certain income tax concessions. The seventh was in connexion with the blue asbestos industry which is being operated at Wittenoom in the Hammersley Ranges. Finally, there was a submission in respect of financial assistance for the construction of the Roebourne- Wittenoom road. With great respect to Mr. Hawke and Sir Ross McLarty, I say that their submissions were of a piecemeal nature without either purpose or form. Had the Australian Government agreed to every one of them, the real answer to the development of the north-west would not have been provided. They were piecemeal suggestions and had a certain woolliness about them as far as the planning of the whole scheme is concerned. The whole scheme is much greater in amplitude than the isolated matters contained in that fourth project which, along with the other three I have mentioned, was submitted to Canberra.
– A concession was made to the blue asbestos industry.
– That is so ; but no reply was received by Mr. Hawke or Sir Ross McLarty. When I say that, I mean that this Government did not say, “ Yes, we will grant your requests “, or “ No, we will not grant your requests “.
I said at the outset that I would endeavour to be objective in my criticism. This Government should have answered the propositions put to it by the Western Australian Government and should have given its reasons for refusing to carry out the suggestions. It is high time that the Government in Canberra dealt with those submissions; it is high time that it went to the State Government and, in effect, said “ You are best able to solve this problem of the development of the north-west. We accept it as a national responsibility, but we should like your views “. There are other men in Western Australia who understand this problem better than I do. I refer to the Honorable Frank Wise, who recently vacated his position as Administrator of the Northern Territory. At the present time, he is doing nothing ; but his experience would be invaluable. I am reminded, too, of Mr. Dumas, another man with considerable experience, knowledge and capacity. I could name others, but those two names come to my mind. Surely, the Commonwealth and State governments should cease continual bickering and commence a partnership that was envisaged in federation.
I have concluded what I intend to say. First, I mentioned the problem and then dealt with the present position. I have not attempted to say how this matter can best be tackled. I have not had time to cover that very important aspect and I do not propose to deal authoritatively with it. I have attempted to show that the problem is a national responsibility, that it is urgent, and, finally, that there should be a partnership between the Commonweath and State governments. I think, perhaps, there is one pre-requisite to any plan and any scheme for the de velopment of this area. As I have said, this area is geographically remote from Perth and Canberra. That remoteness presents a problem. I do not believe for a moment that any scheme of development will succeed unless, concurrently with that planning, there is envisaged the creation of an additional State. I do not propose that that be done overnight but, in due course, there should be the creation of a seventh sovereign State, covering the area from Shark’s Bay to Wyndham, and perhaps even to Darwin. Then, and only then, would the people around Perth realize that there is an area in the northwest of vital strategic importance requiring urgent action to be taken in respect of it. I suggest that that is one of the pre-requisites to the planning of the area. I shall not go further at this stage, but I hope that honorable senators from other States will take the opportunity to make some observations on the motion.
– I second the motion. Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of the Senate, the present practice of broadcasting the proceedings of the Commonwealth Parliament should either cease or be varied to provide for the broadcasting of portions only of those proceedings, such as question time in both Houses and important speeches in either House; and that this resolution be forwarded for the consideration of the Government.
In speaking to the motion, I say at the outset that I am not concerned whether the broadcast of the proceedings of the Parliament help, from an electoral point of view, the Government or the Opposition. Nor amI concerned whether the continuance, or discontinuance, of broadcasts may help or handicap an honorable senator, or an honorable member in another place in his electorate because of some inabilitv to put over the air the personality that he thinks he possesses.
In bringing this motion before the Senate, I am concerned with three particular pointsthat I shall enunciate. They are as follows: - First,does the microphone rule the Parliament?
Secondly, does the broadcasting of the proceedings of Parliament lower the prestige or reputation of the Parliament? Thirdly, is the practice of broadcasting the proceedings of this Parliament distasteful to the general public, or unwanted by it? I suggest that as we approach the tenth anniversary of the introduction by the Chi.1ey Government on the 10th July, 1946, of the broadcasting of the proceedings of the Parliament, it is an admirable time for this matter to be debated. I say quite frankly that I believe that the Senate is the House of this Parliament which should . debate this matter, and then should send on its majority decision to the Cabinet for consideration by that body.
It is interesting to note that times do not change very much, because on Wednesday, the 10th July, 1946, the day of the first broadcast of our proceedings, the first question asked in the House of Representatives was addressed to the then Prime Minister, the late and honoured Right Honorable J. B. Chifley. The question was addressed to Mr. Chifley by a member of his party, and it referred to inflation. The second question was addressed to him by the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), and related to industrial unrest. The third question was addressed by a Labour member, Mr. Russell, to the Minister for Air, on the subject of housing. Therefore, honorable senators will perceive that although our opinions about the rights and wrongs of broadcasting parliamentary proceedings may alter in ten years, the type of questions that are asked in the Parliament and go out over the air to listeners does not alter. The procedure by which the proceedings of this Parliament are broadcast is laid down by act of Parliament, and I am well aware that that procedure cannot be varied except by amending that act. All that I desire the Senate to do, if it is of that mind, is to put forward a recommendation to the Government that it should consider carrying out the view of the Senate - whatever that may be.
I say, not by any means as a threat to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), who is representing the Government here at present, that if the
Senate, by a majority, approves of my motion and the Government decides to take no action about it, I shall be quite happy to introduce, if I have the power to do so, a bill to amend the act in order to put a stop to this practice of broadcasting our proceedings which I consider to be harmful, wasteful and not wanted. I desire to say at the outset that 1 trust that my proposition will be treated on a completely non-party basis. Being candid, as I always am, I may say that at one time I addressed my leader on this matter and he said, “ See what the party thinks about it “. I mentioned it in the party room, but there was no further discussion of it. In other words, the attitude towards me seemed to be, “If you want to submit a motion and accept the abuse or the praise, you do so. We shall not express an opinion “.
Except for the seconder of the motion, I do not know how any honorable senator here will vote to-night, so I am approaching the matter on a purely non-party basis. When I have referred to the Government or the Opposition I have meant governments or oppositions during the last ten years and not those who, through the grace of the electors, occupy those positions at present.
My first and main point is that the microphone rules the Parliament. I say straight out that if I can prove to the Senate that my contention is correct, then the practice of broadcasting our proceedings should cease. I do not believe that any mechanical means should in any way govern the tenor of debates in the Parliament, or rule the order of business, or should have any effect on the opinions of the members of the Parliament. To ray way of thinking as a democrat, there is only one form of opinion and only one influence that this Parliament should heed outside the voices raised in debate in the Parliament, and that is public opinion. By that, I mean public opinion expressed through the normal channels of press, radio, letters and deputations. I have always felt that strong public opinion should always be heeded by the Parliament, but do not let us be ruled or governed or guided or misled by some mechanical contrivance such as radio.
I believe that I can adduce incontrovertible evidence to show to the Senate that the microphone is ruling the Parliament. Take, for example, a document that has an effect on every living soul in Australia to-day - the budget. Prior to the days of broadcasting, the budget was brought down at 3 p.m., and that was the acknowledged time for the close of business. Now it is brought down at 8 o’clock at night, because we are all of the one opinion that with a live microphone available, 8 o’clock at night is the time when the greatest number of listeners are available. It has been called the prima donna hour, and all honorable senators know how we like to get the 8 o’clock call. “We all know that the. main secondreading speeches on bills are delivered in the Senate and another place when the proceedings are being broadcast. Also, the debate is adjourned after the secondreading speeches to a time when the same House is on the air again, and the pernicious practice is in operation that the Leader of the Opposition or chief spokesman for the Opposition replies to the second-reading speech at the same prima donna hour. We know that ministerial statements are given during that hour when the House is on the air, and that the debate on them is adjourned until the Opposition can reply at a similar time. Honorable senators should note that those debates are not adjourned according to the normal programme of parliamentary business.
We all know perfectly well that the business of the Parliament is ruled to a great degree by the microphone. How often in the last ten years have we seen a debate adjourned at 5.45 at night - a debate that should go on in order to finalize the business of the country - so that a Minister or Opposition speaker eDU Id take up another debate at 8 o’clock in the prima donna hour. So the microphone directs how the business of the Parliament should be carried on.
We in the Senate should also be very conscious of the fact, and also admit it, that we believe in the rights, privileges and power of the Senate. But what do we do on Wednesday? If the Government wants to introduce a budget or make a ministerial statement, it does so at 8 p.m., on Wednesday. If the Government has made a statement through one of its Ministers, the Leader of the Opposition, or the Deputy Leader, speaks at 8 p.m. By agreement, Wednesday is the day when the proceedings of the Senate are broadcast, but if somebody in another place wants to broadcast at 8 p.m., on Wednesday, the Senate gives way to him. We admit inferiority. The microphone rules Parliament and the business of the Parliament, and it governs the times when the proceedings of the Senate will be broadcast. “
Another experience illustrates the power of the microphone. On Wednesdays, when we have the broadcasting time,, we .sit an hour longer, until 11 p.m., so that we can have one more speaker. Those who want to speak at that time are honorable .senators from both .sides of the chamber who represent Western Australia, because between 9 and 11 p.m. Western Australian time, they hope to have a bigger crowd of mythical listeners. Therefore, not only the programmes and the business of the Senate, but also the order of business of the Senate, are ruled by the microphone.
Let us admit that, over the years, Government and Opposition tactics havebeen ruled by the microphone, also. We all know that those responsible for government arrangements note which Houseof Parliament will have its proceedingsbroadcast the following day. What sort of business will the government of the day introduce into the House that hasthe broadcasting time ? Will it bring in an innocuous measure ? No, it will introduce an item from the business-paper that will help the supporters of the Government to make a point, or to gain theattention of these mythical radio listenersto parliamentary proceedings. Does the Senate debate motions of urgency on Tuesday or Thursday when the proceedings are not being broadcast ? Of course not. Its tactics are quite correct.
– So what?
– I ask the honorable senator to allow me to wheel my own barrow to-night. The Opposition naturally introduces motions of urgency when the Senate is on the air in the hope that it will be able to get the Government into an awkward position.
Every member of the Parliament has the right to bring forward any matter of interest on the motion for the adjournment of the House. In July, 1946, when the practice of broadcasting proceedings was introduced, the Parliament ruled - against the opinion of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), I admit - that the broadcast should cease’ at the moment the motion for. the adjournment was moved. Therefore, in this House - where we do not gag the minority in Opposition - we do not have many speeches on the adjournment; Admittedly, I am speaking on the evening following the exception that proves the rule, but why do we not get many speeches on the adjournment’? The answer is: Because the microphone is dead. The only way we can get publicity is to wrack our brains and turn a speech into a question because we know that questions and answers are broadcast, or recorded for broadcasting later. I believe the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) will agree with me that that is another point to show that the microphone holds sway over the proceedings of the Parliament.
The Standing Orders provide that honorable senators have the right to speak for an hour. Very few of us have the ability to do that, but on broadcasting days, by general agreement, we speak for only half an hour, and heavy frowns are cast across the chamber if somebody forgets to look at the clock and a speaker exceeds his time. The microphone makes us try to get as many speakers as possible on the air. Let us suppose that a bill dealing with arbitration is to come before the Senate, and my friend from Tasmania, Senator “Wright, who has considerable knowledge of the subject, wishes to sneak. Would we complain if Senator Wright were forced to curtail his speech, despite the fact that the average person would benefit from his statements? There would be no protest, and it is evident that neither the Standing Orders nor the customs of Parliament rule in this chamber. The rule of the microphone prescribes that a speaker can be on the air for 30 minutes only, regardless of his knowledge, or party, or the importance of the national business.
When a State election is approaching, the speeches that are made over the radio system when either House of the Parliament is on the air are directed at the electors of the State where the election isto be held. We make electioneering speeches over the air whenever we can in the period preceding an election. How often have we heard honorable members in another place, or honorable senators, add to their opening words of address - “ and listeners “. Perhaps that addition is unintentional, but they are doing great harm to the work of Parliament. Parliament is a deliberativebody, and we shall not keep it deliberative if we address an outside, unseen audience. We are here to make decisions,, and not to try to sway the opinions of unseen listeners scattered around this continent. We know that propaganda is distributed over the microphones instead of arguments to sway the opinions of honorable senators or honorable members.
– Before broadcasting, propaganda speeches were made to gointo Hansard.
– The honorable senator who would make a propaganda speech simply for Ilansard would be expecting to reach only the libraries, because Hansard does not reach so many outside readers. I have adduced arguments to support my statement that the microphone rules the Parliament. I now come to the second phase of my argument. In my introductory remarks, I posed the question, “ Does the broadcasting of the proceedings of the Parliament lower the reputation or prestige of the Parliament?” My answer to my own question is, “ Yes “. The principal reason is almost a technical one. For instance, there is before me a microphone to which I am sneaking with a fairly powerful voice. Later, some one behind me may address the Senate and his voice may not be as powerful as mine. The microphone is, therefore, “ pepped up “ so that the weaker voice will be received through the radio at a volume equal to that of the stronger voice. Honorable senators opposite may grin if they wish, but it is obvious that they do not know anything about the technical side of radio. The very fact that the microphone is boosted means that the weaker voice is not only reproduced through the radio at the correct- volume, hut also that the crumpling of paper, coughing, or any movement in the chamber is greatly amplified. Although such noises may not be heard in the galleries here, they are most annoying to listeners. After having listened-ih myself, and after having spoken with listeners, I am convinced that listeners get the impression that there is a Donnybrook on at times, especially when listening to the proceedings in ‘another place where there are twice as many members who sit closer together.
Any honorable senator who has the courage to admit it will agree that he, like myself, has sponsored visits by many people to this Parliament, who, after having listened to broadcasts of proceedings for years and after having listened to proceedings from the galleries here, have said, “ You are a better behaved crowd and take more interest than I thought. There is not nearly so much noise here as I thought there was”. The very fact that such a small percentage of the population listens from our galleries means that a very. big percentage gets the wrong idea of Parliament. Take the proceedings in the Senate late last night. If they had been broadcast, the dignity of this chamber would have been lowered, because such proceedings give a shocking impression when they are broadcast. Even if they were reported - and one can bet that with the present press the Senate will not be properly reported - they would’, look far better in print and give a better impression than would be gained by hearing such proceedings broadcast. I believe that such happenings as took place in this chamber late last night would lower the prestige of the Parliament if they were broadcast. It is the sacred duty of every member of the Parliament to do all he can by way of decisions, such as the one I am asking this chamber to make on this motion in due course; and in any other way that may come within his power, not to lower but to enhance the prestige of the Parliament. I do not want to be too serious on this matter, nor do I want to spend a great deal of time in dealing with it ; but I am at least sincere. If we continue to lower the reputation and dignity of the Parliament, it is possible that we shall lose the democratic form of parliamentary government that we enjoy. I am sure that no honorable senator in this chamber can name any form of government in the world to-day that he would exchange for our democratic system. That being so, we should cling to, cherish and build up what we have instead of doing anything that would tend to allow the white ants to undermine it.
The third point I mentioned in my opening remarks related to whether the practice of broadcasting proceedings of the Parliament was distasteful to the general public, or was unwanted by them. I suggest that in the last ten years we have all had humiliating evidence that a big majority of the people do not want the persistent broadcasting of the proceedings of the Parliament. We have had evidence of that in public speaking clubs; and we have had it in the press and in letters to editors of newspapers. Such letters are really public opinion columns and at least reflect the true outpourings of the souls of those who write. We know from discussions with our electors that they are sick and tired of the practice of broadcasting the proceedings of the Parliament.
There are three obvious reasons why this practice should cease. First of all, if listeners are to enjoy, or be entertained or educated by, a broadcast, two prerequisites are necessary. The first is a good broadcasting voice, if it is a spoken programme. Thanks to the whims of our electors and to ordinary human frailties, very few of us, including Senator Grant, can claim to have a good broadcasting voice. Secondly, if the mind of the listener, who is in a room miles from here and who hears all the offside noises and interjections that are broadcast, is to be kept on the subject, a good public speaker is essential. Here, we must be frank. No members of any parliament, anywhere in the world are elected because of their oratorical powers or the broadcast quality of their voices. It would be shameful if they’ were. That being so, only a small percentage of members of any parliament have what we might call powers of speech-making which would enthral or interest a listener for more than a short period of time.
A further reason why proceedings should not be broadcast is that we have two Houses of Parliament. I support the retention of the bicameral system of government, but, with it, measures are dealt with by each House in turn. This, of necessity, means that repetition of debate takes place. This repetition is not organized ; it just must happen. If two assemblies of men and women are to debate a measure one after the other, there must be tedious repetition, and the listener suffers. All of us in this chamber think that we are putting over something good and bright, but the listeners have heard it a couple of days before from another place. That is the third reason why I believe that the listeners are fed up with this practice of broadcasting the proceedings of the Parliament.
In all discussions such as this, it is obvious that certain arguments will be advanced to defeat the motion put forward. I think, perhaps, the most obvious argument that will be raised against this motion - and I am trying to scotch it at birth - is that if proceedings in the Parliament are not broadcast, the public of Australia will not know what goes on in the Parliament, that the press will publish only reports of skirmishes in Parliament or stupid facetious questions or insulting remarks. Very little space is given in the Australian press to-day to the opinions, criticisms and suggestions expressed by honorable senators and honorable members. I hold no brief for the press and honorable senators will agree that at the present time that is a very true statement. Press reports of Parliament have been dwindling and becoming worse over the years, and that is why,- after ten years of broadcasting, I submit this motion to-night. Newspapermen know what is news, and who are we to teach them their profession? They do not give the Parliament much space in the newspapers because they know that, hours before a debate is reported, it has been broadcast over the air. They do not want to play second fiddle to anybody, even the most modern mechanical means of communication.
If the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings -were to cease, press reports of Parliament would improve. This is the first time, I admit, that I have spoken in any party political spirit, but honorable senators opposite have recently been saying a great deal about the monopolistic press. Every one knows that two sections of the press are fighting for supremacy in Australia, and if the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings ceased it would not be long before one of them paid some attention to what is said here. They would realize that the public wanted to know what was going on in Parliament, and they would report it adequately. The other section of the press would soon come in and this competition in private enterprise would gradually restore press reports of Parliament to a decent standard. Those reports would be far more valuable to the public than the broadcasting of proceedings. If I am wrong in that opinion, the fact that necessity is the mother of invention still holds, and if parliamentary broadcasts ceased and the press blanketed Parliament from the public, would it not be possible to make Hansard, a little more attractive in its format? I do not mean the actual contents, but if it were published in a more attractive form a larger number of people would read it, and ascertain what actually was said and done here.
I have tried to explain my reasons for submitting this motion. I trust that it will be debated on a fair and nonparty basis. I hope that it will be opposed, so that in rebuttal honorable senators may be able to clear their minds of fallacious thoughts. If I may paraphrase Shakespeare, I suggest to honorable senators that the question is, “ To be or not to be - to broadcast or not to broadcast “.
My motion contains an alternative, but, I am not very pleased with it because it is of little value. There would be no possible means of any body of human beings deciding which were the principal speeches to be broadcast. There are four parties in this chamber, and, for the time being, three in another place. Which representatives would be regarded as the principal speakers in the broadcast of a debate, and when would they be broadcast? Obviously, the alternative would not work. The real aim of this motion is to abolish the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings.
I direct the attention of honorable senators to the cost which taxpayers have to meet for a service which I am convinced they do not want, and which depreciates the prestige of Parliament and tends to lower the standard of debate. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has two networks throughout Australia, and during the 600 hours that parliamentary proceedings are on the air the second network is fully occupied with what is happening here. Regular features and programmes have to be put aside, and either cancelled or transferred to the other network, where they displace a regular feature on that programme. Although I do not agree with much of the policy of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, it does want to keep as many listeners as possible. This Parliament orders it to broadcast proceedings while the session is in progress, but how can it expect to hold the interest of listeners by substituting parliamentary proceedings for a favourite programme feature? In country districts, particularly in remote outposts, only one Australian Broadcasting Commission channel is available to listeners, and if that is taken up with Parliament, the listeners are deprived of what, to them, may he an important period of entertainment and enjoyment. Letters received from country listeners by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, both in the early stages of broadcasting the Parliament and in recent years, have reviled the commission for this practice. If honorable senators were to read some of that correspondence, they would pass this motion without further debate. Honorable senators have not had to face that abuse because we are living, as it were, in a glass house, and are unaware of the harm we are doing to the listening public who have had to suffer.
Speaking from the level of plain, business sense, I suggest that if the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings is persisted with it will not be long before the Australian Broadcasting Commission will bring forward an irresistible case for the establishment of a third broadcasting channel throughout Australia to be devoted to the broadcasting of the proceedings of the Parliament. When the Parliament is in recess, the listeners will have an extra programme of entertainment. The commission will have every right to stress the argument that they should not lose their listeners to the commercial broadcasting stations.
When television is established, if Parliament is still being broadcast the awful possibility will arise of the electors of Australia having to view the proceedings of Parliament. Great sums will be expended on broadcasting something which the listener or viewer does not want. The pains which listeners and viewers would have to bear if that happened would be so great that there could remain no justification for the added cost involved.
I have given much thought to this matter, and have discussed it with many interested people. I am convinced that this Parliament should say to the Government, “ Cease this expensive and unwanted broadcast which is injuring the reputation and prestige of the National Parliament “.
– Is the motion seconded ?
– I second the motion, and reserve my right to speak to it.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 May 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1956/19560524_senate_22_s8/>.