22nd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMulIin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– 1 ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether Australia will be represented at the forthcoming annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund, to be held shortly at Washington. Can he assure the Senate that, if represented at the conference, Australia will strongly advocate that the fixed price of gold be increased?
– Australia will be represented at the forthcoming annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund. The Treasurer himself contemplated going, but events prevented him from doing so. Sir Percy Spender will be the Australian representative al: the meeting of the fund, and the Secretary to the Treasury, Sir Roland Wilson, has gone to the United States of America to attend also. I have no doubt that Australia will continue its almost traditional policy of advocating, on all occasions when it has the opportunity, an increase of the price of gold.
– I direct a question to the. Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the Government given consideration to the recent decision by Mr. Justice Spicer pf the Commonwealth Industrial Court that union officials may not represent their unions before the court unless they happen to be legal practitioners? Hi so, what was the result of the Government’s consideration of this matter? If the Government has not considered this important matter, will it do so at the earliest opportunity, and announce its policy on the subject?
– The Government, as a government, has not given consideration to Mr. Justice Spicer’s decision. I know, from conversation with my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, that he has given very careful consideration to the view - it is not a judgment - of Mr. Justice Spicer.
– lt was a ruling, I think.
– I did not read it as an absolute decision. I know that the Minister for Labour and National Service has the matter under consideration, and I will ask him to supply an answer to the honorable senator’s questions. I shall put his questions on the notice-paper. I do not think that J should interpret my colleague’s views.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade read the statement that appeared in the Melbourne “ Age “ to-day, and which was reported to have been made by Mr. E. A. Earnshaw New South Wales Inspector for the Scottish Australian Company, to the effect that poor advertising had led to a marked decline in the popularity of Australian meat, butter and wines in London; that Australian beef was not to be found on the London market because it was frozen, and had been killed at too late an age; that Australian lamb had to be marketed as a New Zealand variety in order to sell it; and that, so far as the meat is concerned, the fault lay with the Australian system of grading? Will the Minister make immediate inquiries as to the accuracy of these statements? If the charges are found to be true, will he notify the Senate what action is to be taken to rectify matters?
– I saw the newspaper report to which the honorable senator has referred, but I am sorry that I have not had an opportunity to discuss’ it with the Minister for Trade. My personal view is that such reports, which constantly recur, are, like the report of Mark Twain’s death, somewhat exaggerated. I know that the Minister for Trade has, quite recently, obtained a substantial increase in the appropriation for advertising Australian primary products in Great Britain, and has begun a very active campaign to improve selling results. I shall put the matter before the Minister for Trade so that he will be informed of the interest that is being taken in the report.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Government - as well as the Government of Victoria and the Melbourne City Council - is making a large contribution of the taxpayers’ money to make the Olympic Games in Melbourne a success; and having in mind also the outspoken criticism of newspapers which have interests in television companies that the Olympic organizing committee has become a party to a deplorable brawl concerning film and television rights; and in view of the many conflicting statements that have confused the mind of the public, will the Government prepare a considered, non-political statement on film and television rights in connexion with the Olympic Games? Will the Leader of the Government inform the Senate, and the people of Australia, of the real facts, particularly whether the Olympic organizing committee has arranged a reasonable cover of the games for newsreel and television purposes? Can he say whether the statement contained in a newspaper editorial that the decision of the Olympic organizing committee “ has the hall-mark of a supreme piece of bungling “ is pernicious propaganda? Will he give any other particulars that will enable the people of Australia to know the real position?
– The question raised by the honorable senator, although very important, hardly comes within the province of Commonwealth administration. Apart from giving the Olympic Games its blessing, all that this Government is doing is to contribute substantial sums towards the expenses involved. As far as I know, it has no real authority or jurisdiction in the matter, but I shall make inquiries along the lines suggested by the honorable senator. If there are ways and means whereby I shall be able to place before the Senate the information sought, I shall be very happy to do so. I think it is important that the matter should be cleared up.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether the following passage in the report of the
Tariff Board which was published in the “ Australian Financial Review “, of 20tb September, is correct or incorrect: -
Measures designed to bc anti-inflationary taken by the Government have still to produce results,, for there is as yet no sign of stability in economic foundations on which it might be possible, with the use of long-term plans, to construct an edifice thai will secure national solvency.
– I am very flattered by the action of the honorable senator in seeking my opinion on this very involved and intricate economic matter. However, to seek my opinion on a particular section of the Tariff Board’s report is hardly fair. The extract quoted must be read in the context of the whole report. I think that on the whole the report is an excellent one. .
– I ask the Leader of the Government a plain, simple question, and not one about the Tariff Board report. Can he say whether the severe import restrictions imposed by the Government are having the desired effect on inflation? Id view of the disturbing nature of the restrictions and the grave dissatisfaction and uncertainty caused by them in the community, will the Leader of the Government make a considered statement on the matter, and inform the Senate whether the restrictions are to be lifted in the near future?
– The effect of the import restrictions is a matter of opinion. Nobody likes restrictions, and this Government, in particular, finds that restrictions of all descriptions are distasteful. In the circumstances, however, it has been necessary to re-introduce restrictions to some extent, but to nothing like the extent to which they were imposed when a government of the political persuasion of honorable senators opposite was in power. The import restrictions are having some effect in improving Australia’s balance of payments position. They are having a disastrous or a very severe effect on some importing businesses, but, on the other hand, a beneficial effect on some manufacturing businesses. What the overall effect may be is a matter of opinion. The fact that the Government is continuing them is not to be interpreted as an indication that they are part of a permanent economic policy. They are still temporary, and their chief purpose is to correct the balance-of-payments position.
– I ask the Leader of the Government whether the policy of the Government is to supply the press with important reports dealing with Government business before members of Parliament receive copies. If not, how is it that the Tariff Board report was supplied to the press at least two weeks before it was supplied to honorable senators?
– This question was raised last week, and had the honorable senator been attentive or in the chamber, he would have been aware of the answer.
– I know what was said.
– The answer was that two or three copies of the Tariff Board report were available in typewritten form. They were not printed because, at that time, the motion authorizing the printing of the report had not been agreed to. In any event, as a result: of the piling up of work at the Government Printing Office, some time elapses between the time that Parliament authorizes the printing of a report and its actual printing. In such circumstances, once papers are tabled in Parliament they are public documents, and the press can have access ti) them, as also can any honorable senator. The press, being very active and keen to get information for publication, came to the table at the earliest opportunity and, although they did not take the report away, they perused it, as they were entitled to do, because it was then a public document. Any honorable senator would have been able to do the same, and it is most erroneous to suggest that, although the documents were made available to the press, honorable senators were denied an opportunity i:o see them at that time.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether his attention has been directed to the fact that at present a film entitled “ Bigger than Life “ is showing in London. Is it a fact that this film is condemned by the British Medical Association? Is it a fact, also, that the film depicts cortisone as a dangerous drug of addiction and one that is, in effect, a destroyer of life? Will the Minister take the earliest steps to prevent this film from being introduced into Australia because of the deleterious effect it could have on many patients using cortisone to-day with beneficial results? Will the Minister re-assure the public on the medicinal qualities of this drug, if used according to directions by qualified men?
– I will be very pleased to bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Health, and obtain a considered reply as early as possible.
– Last sessional period I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether interest was being earned, in part or in full, on Australian balances in London. Can the Minister now give me an answer to that question? Further, can he say what procedures are adopted with Australian balances in London?
– I understand that no interest is earned on those funds and that the arrangements are precisely the same as obtained when the honorable senator was himself a Minister.
– Could I have a written reply to my question? I asked it several months ago.
– I do not remember the honorable senator having asked the question. I ask him to put it on the notice-paper.
– In view of developments in the Suez Canal and Middle East areas, does the Leader of the Government in the Senate believe we should intensify our search for oil in our own territories? Will the Government consider giving greater assistance to the search by granting additional taxation concessions, and by making available further assistance from the Bureau of Mineral Resources? Would not such action tend to excite salutary second-thoughts in the minds of other nations whose wealth largely depends upon the production and transport of oil, and strengthen our hands in future negotiations?
– This question could be better answered by my colleague, the Minister for National Development.
– The extent of the search for oil in Australia is very largely bound up with the number of professional men whose services are available. The Government does its utmost and endeavours to encourage as many as possible to undertake the task, but it has to distribute the services of professional men between the various calls on their time. In the long run, better results are achieved by the Go.vernment doing the basic survey work and allowing private companies to carry out the search. This policy has proved successful as is evidenced by the great activity in that direction at the present time. As to the latter part of the question relating to the possible effect of the suggested action on lue Suez Canal situation, I should prefer not to deal with that. It will be the subject of debate in . the Senate to-night and it is a matter upon which there could be quite a lot in the honorable senator’s point of view.
– Is the Minister for National Development aware that a secondary problem, following the disastrous floods in South Australia, is now causing grave concern in the flooded areas, namely, saline seepage which, appearing up to half a mile behind levees, is now threatening to kill fruit trees and vines which have escaped being ruined by flood waters? Since this problem of saline seepage and the reclamation of soil impregnated with salt has had constant attention from the Dutch authorities in Holland, where the entire country is below sea level, will the Minister take steps to have a Dutch authority brought to Australia to discuss their latest methods with Australian authorities to whom this is a new problem, and thus ensure that the Australian taxpayer will not be called upon to finance methods of rehabilitation or flood reparation which are not the most effective?
– With great respect, I doubt whether this is a new problem in South Australia. I have always believed that it was one of the characteristics of the lower Murray that the outlying country along the river bank was subject to the saline condition that the honorable senator has mentioned.
– But not to the extent that is at present evident.
– The current flood, has extended over a far greater area of land than any flood since the big floods of 1870, but the problem would be always inherent in farming on the banks of the Murray in a substantial proportion of South Australia. I was not aware that this problem existed also in Holland. Before giving a promise that the Government will bring some one out from Holland, I shall make inquiries about the position and endeavour to ascertain what is being done in Holland to overcome this trouble.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
How many Asian students have undertaken or are undertaking technical, commercial, university or other courses, respectively, in Australia under the Colombo plan for each year from 1951 to date?
– I have been supplied with the following answer: -
The following table shows the number of students who have undertaken or are undertaking technical, commercial, university or other courses, respectively, in Australia under the Colombo plan for each year from 1951 to the end of June, 1956. Of the total of 1598 who have come to Australia in these years, 806 are still here.
– On 30th August, Senator Willesee asked me the following question: -
Will the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation arrange for airports situated on the coast, particularly those in Western Australia, to be supplied with air-sea rescue gear, such as robber floats and dinghies to enable the vic tims of aircraft crashes into the sea to be rescued?
The Minister for Civil! Aviation has now furnished a reply in the following terms: -
The provision of search and rescue equipment throughout Australia and Papua-New Guinea has recently been reviewed by my department and additional arrangements have already been made in some instances and are continuing with other private launch owners in the vicinity of coastal airports to assist as necessary in emergency. It has also been decided thai: the present system of maintaining supplies of rubber dinghies and life jackets should be extended to additional coastal aerodromes, including certain of those in Western Australia.
– On 5th September, Senator Robertson asked the following questions: -
My questions are directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Following the suspension of a pilot, Captain James Wood, of Woods Airways, Perth, from flying between Perth and Rottnest Island, because .of a stated unsafe landing strip, can the Minister for Civil Aviation inform the Senate what measures are necessary to ensure safety for passengers landing on and leaving this island strip? When will the necessary alterations be made? What will be the approximate cost of such alterations?
The Minister for Civil Aviation has advised that the present Rottnest aerodrome, like all aerodromes to a greater or lesser extent, has limited usability in certain wind conditions, which are subject to specific definition. It is only when such definitions are ignored that conditions become unsafe. In other words, if the department’s instructions are adhered to; the existing Rottnest aerodrome may be used safely, but at times the usability factor will be low. In order to improve this factor, an extension of the east-west runway is being planned, and it is anticipated that the extension work will be completed this financial year. Plans and estimates are not yet sufficiently advanced to permit of an approximate estimate of cost being given.
– On 5th September, Senator Critchley asked the following question: -
I direct a question, to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. If he is not in a position to provide the answer to-day will he secure information as to when the amenities, such as lounges, waiting rooms and other improvements at the West Beach Airport, in South Australia, will be completed, in order that the longsuffering public will be at least relieved of the inconvenience that they now endure?
The Minister for Civil Aviation has now supplied the following reply: -
The Commonwealth has incurred an expenditure of the order of £3,000,000 in endowing the people of South Australia, and those of Adelaide in particular, with one of the most modern airports in Australia. Included in this amount is a sum of £272,000 for the erection and fitting of one of the most up-to-date passenger terminal buildings that has yet been designed for Australian civil aviation. This building is at present being erected and it is expected that it will be completed, together with all services such as roads and car parks, by April, 1957. Pending the completion of this building the Department of Civil Aviation has provided a temporary building in an annex to a hanger. From my own observations, the temporary occupancy of this furnished annex has not made the demand on passengers’ personal endurance which the honorable senator’s question would infer.
FLOATING dock at newcastle.
– On 12th September, Senator Arnold asked a question regarding the floating dock at Newcastle. 1 am now able to supply the following answer: -
Maintenance and repairs of the floating dock at Newcastle are the responsibility of the State of New South Wales, and the State instrumentality operating the dock - the State Dockyard of New South Wales - receives all fees,’ &c, for use of the dock. The last survey of the dock and the necessary repair and maintenance work was completed in 1954. The dock was out of commission from 12th February, 1954, to 27th August, 1954, and during this period the Stale Government took the opportunity to dredge the dock site so that the dock could be operated at its maximum capacity.
Post-graduate training of nurses.
– On 13th September, Senator Anderson asked the following question: -
I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health by pointing out that certain private interests in New South Wales are providing scholarships for nurses to do postgraduate courses. That is to say, nurses who hold certain certificates are being encouraged to undertake post-graduate courses in order to obtain additional certificates.
In view of the fact that health is a national matter, and having regard to the wonderful contribution that nurses make in that field, will the
Minister indicate whether the Commonwealth will consider subsidizing the provision of scholarships to nurses to undertake post-graduate courses?
The Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply: -
The Government has made available assistance for the post-graduate training of nurses. Steps already taken include the provision of an annual subsidy of up to £2,000 for the College of Nursing. Australia - a post-graduate training organization. In addition, the Government contributes to the cost of post-graduate courses in nursing for Colombo Plan students. Scholarships for postgraduate nursing study are also provided by State governments which, of course, have the primary responsibility in this field.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice - 1: How many people in the Commonwealth of Australia are in receipt of a pension for the blind?
– The Minister for SocialServices has supplied the following answer: -
– by leave - I have pleasure in informing the Senate that His Excellency the Administrator of the Government of the Commonwealth recently proclaimed the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act and the Australian Coastal Shipping Agreement Act with effect from 1st October.
His Excellency has also been pleased to appoint to the commission the following gentlemen: - Chairman: Captain J. P. Williams, O.B.E.; vice-chairman, Mr. K. W. Edwards; members: Mr. A. G. Thomson, Mr. H. P. Weymouth, and Mr. D. C. L. Williams. I feel sure the chairman and the commissioners will bring to their task a degree of knowledge and experience which will ensure that the vessels of the Commonwealth fleet will be efficiently and economically managed in the best interests of the shippers on the Australian coast, and of the public generally.
Captain Williams has had a life-time of experience in most aspects of shipping and associated industries. In his earlier years, he served in Cape Horn sailing vessels, and has since been connected with various companies associated with the shipping industry. I recall that Captain Williams was in charge of the Commonwealth marine salvage organization during the war years, and among the many outstanding salvage feats which he performed was the raising of the gold from “ Niagara “, which was sunk in New Zealand waters during the war. Captain Williams’s initial term of office is five years.
Mr. K. W. Edwards is assistant general manager of the Westralian Farmers Cooperative Limited, Perth. Throughout his business career, Mr. Edwards has also been associated with aspects of the shipping industry. During the war years, he was on the staff of the Australian Wheat Board, and in that capacity, as well as since then, he has been very closely associated with the movement of bulk cargoes and the chartering of vessels. He has been appointed for four years.
Mr. A. G. Thomson has had a wide business experience and is at present master warden of the port of Launceston. His appointment will ensure that the interests of Tasmania, which is vitally concerned in shipping services, should be kept prominently before the commission. His appointment is for three years.
Mr. H. P. Weymouth is chairman and general manager of the Australian Shipbuilding Board and his knowledge and experience in that capacity will be particularly valuable to the commission in connexion with the construction of new ships and the maintenance of existing ships of the fleet. He has been appointed for two years.
Mr. D. C. L. Williams is First Assistantsecretary of the Department of Shipping and Transport and has been associated with governmental aspects of shipping in various capacities since the early days of the last war. He has been appointed initially for one year.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cooper) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill deals with an amendment to the Post and Telegraph Rates Act 1902-1951 to adjust certain postal and telegraph charges on and from 1st October, 1956, with the object of obtaining additional revenue to offset higher costs of an inescapable nature which are being incurred by the Postal Department in the provision, operation and maintenance of its services.
The bill provides for the following revision of rates: -
Letters andlettercards: The existing rate of 3½d. for the first ounce will be increased to 4d. The charge for each additional ounce will remain at 2½d.
Postcards: The existing charge of 3d. will be increased to 4d.
Commercial papers, patterns, samples and merchandise: The existing rate of 3d. for the first 2 ounces will be increased to 3½d. The charge for each additional 2 ounces will remain at 2d.
Printed matter (including printed papers, circulars, catalogues and books, periodicals and newspapers not registered at a General Post Office): The existing rate of 3d. for the first 4 ounces will be increased to 3½d. The charge for each additional 4 ounces will remain at 2d.
Telegrams: The base rate for ordinary telegrams not exceeding twelve words will be increased from 2s. 3d. to 2s. 9d. where the offices are not more than 15 miles apart and from 2s. 6d. to 3s. in other cases. The charge for each additional word will be raised from 2d. to 3d. Urgent telegrams will continue to be charged double the rates for ordinary messages.
No change is proposed in the present postage charges for Commonwealth and
State “ Hansards “, books registered in Australia and newspapers and periodicals, whether posted singly or in bulk. The rates for press and broadcasting telegrams, which will include television telegrams containing news or other information for dissemination, will continue as at present, in view of the important role which they play in the distribution of news.
As honorable senators are aware, the act which this bill is designed to amend relates only to the principal postal and telegraph charges. The rates for other services provided by the Postal Department are covered partly by regulations and partly by executive action. To enable honorable senators to appreciate the directions in which it is proposed to alter certain telephone and other charges, which are not embraced by the bill, I have circulated statements for their information. I will now refer briefly to the circumstances under which the bill has become necessary.
With the exception of a1d. increase in public telephone fees in 1955, Postal Department tariffs have not risen for over five years. During that period, however, there have been substantial increases in costs, due to factors entirely outside the control of the department. Cost of living adjustments alone since July, 1951, when the present rates for Postal Department services were fixed, added almost £12,000,000 annually to the wages bill. Marginal adjustments in 1954 and 1955 and the recent basic wage increase added a further £6,000,000 a year. These levels of expenditure were increased still more by consequent higher costs of materials which the department uses in enormous quantities. Stores, freights, motor vehicles, canvas and many other items needed to operate the largest business in Australia all rose in price over the period. In addition, the Postal Department has had to pay more to those contractors who carry its mails by road, rail, air and sea.
The aggregate effect of these factors has been to add no less than £21,000.000 a year to Postal Department costs. This situation would, of course, have been aggravated still further, but for the marked growth in business which has occurred with a consequent increase in revenue. In addition, and of no less importance, is the fact that, as explained by the PostmasterGeneral in another place, close attention has been given both on the administrative and the technical sides to the adoption of the most efficient means of achieving maximum output. Not only has staff loading been carefully determined in relation to the volume of traffic offering, but every possible advantage has been taken of the many new developments which have emerged from experience and research in Australia and overseas. For example, marked improvement has been made in letter sorting methods and in other avenues of mail handling. The extensive use of modern earth-moving equipment, including some specially designed by the Postal Department, has also helped to reduce costs.
Output has definitely improved as the result of these positive measures, and standards of service have also risen. Although business has grown by 34 per cent, in the past four years, and, in addition, greatly accelerated capital works programmes have been carried out, the number of employees in the Postal Department has increased by only 10 per cent, in the same period.
These two factors - an increase in business and operating economies - have enabled the Postal Department to absorb a substantial proportion of the cost increases to which I referred earlier. There are limits, however, to such absorption, as has been demonstrated over recent years by the way in which public utilities and private enterprise alike have been obliged to increase their charges to the public.
To illustrate this point, I mention that electricity and gas charges over the Commonwealth as a whole have increased on the average by nearly 40 per cent., while tram and rail fares and rail freights have, in practically all States, gone up by a substantially higher percentage. By comparison, the proposals covered by this bill, together with the higher telephone and other charges to be made by regulation or other executive authority, will increase Postal Department charges overall by no more than 9 per cent.
Even after the proposed increases in the rates have been effected, nearly all postal, telephone and telegraph services will be cheaper in real terms than they were in 1939. For instance, the Commonwealth weekly basic wage to-day would pay for 738 letters at the proposed rate of 4d. compared with 474 in 1939. It would pay for 82 interstate telegrams as against 59 prewar. A metropolitan telephone subscriber could make 984 local calls whereas in 1939 he could only have made 758. With trunkline calls, the comparison on the SydneyMelbourne route is nineteen to-day against fifteen in 1939. To-day’s basic wage would pay for 48 weeks rental of a telephone service by a business subscriber in Sydney or Melbourne, but seventeen years ago the basic wage then ruling was sufficient to meet only 37 weeks rental.
In the light of all the factors I have referred to, the Government has been left with no practical course but to require users of Postal Department facilities to bear some share of the unavoidable higher costs now being incurred in providing, maintaining and operating services. The only alternatives would be to charge a substantial proportion of these extra costs to the taxpayer, irrespective of the use he makes of the postal, telephone and telegraph services, or to severely curtail facilities with consequent inconvenience, and hardship in many cases.
In all the circumstances, Mr. President, I am confident that honorable senators will agree that the proposed overall increase of 9 per cent, in Postal Department charges can only be regarded as equitable and moderate. 1 commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 19th September (vide page 346), on motion by Senator Cooper -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The bill that is now before the Senate, under which new burdens will be imposed on the people of Australia, was introduced some’ days ago by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), who made a somewhat sketchy second-reading speech. I, and, no doubt, other honorable senators, have experienced some difficulty in determining the full effects of the measure in the absence of a consolidation of the relevant acts. I noted, when the Broadcasting and Television Bill 1956 was before the Senate earlier this year, that there was circulated to honorable senators a memorandum incorporating all the amendments in one consolidated measure. I rather expected that, in the interim, a consolidation, would have been prepared in respect of this measure, as the Government Printer and the Government had a flying start based on the memorandum. However, that hai; not yet been done. Now that both broadcasting and television figure so largely in the social life of Australia, I hope that the a.cts will be consolidated without further delay, and that there may be ease of access l:o the law on. these important subjects.
The bill before the Senate opens up interesting possibilities for discussing all aspects of broadcasting and television, but I do not propose to avail myself of that opportunity. T shall confine myself to the immediate provisions of the bill. It has three purposes. The first is to lift the licence-fee for a radio broadcasting sound receiver from £2 a year to £2 15s. In that connexion, the fees payable by pensioners and the blind will be unchanged. The existing legislation fixes the amount payable by pensioners and the blin.d at one-fourth of the normal licence-fee. Thus, 10s., which is a quarter of £2, has been payable by eligible persons within 250 miles of a broadcasting station, and a reduced fee of 7s. has been payable by those beyond that radius. The bill that is now before the Senate will eliminate the reference to one-fourth of the licence-fee, but will leave the fees payable by pensioners on the current level. We have no complaint with that. The bill provides that the television licence-fee shall be one-fourth of the total normal fee of £5 per annum. The third aspect of the bill to which T. direct attention is that it sets a commencing date for television licensing, and the date fixed is 1st January of next year.
When I regard the provisions and the effect of the measure, it seems to me that the Government has made up its mind that it might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb, because it was only on the fatal Ides of March last, the 15th March, that it imposed on the people of Australia additional taxes to the tune of £115,500,000 per annum in the matter of things that concern their daily lives. It imposed additional taxes upon those persons who imbibe intoxicating liquor, who smoke, and who use petrol and the many other commodities of relatively daily use. Having imposed that severe series of burdens, the Government now proposes to impose one more which at first sight might seem to be of small proportions but which will reach into every home in Australia. It seems to me that there are many counts upon which the Government might be ashamed of adding this . additional burden.’ First, these is the matter to which I have already referred - the imposition in March last of extra taxes amounting to £115,500,000. Secondly, in this very year in which this latest burden is being imposed; the Government is budgeting for a surplus of approximately £109,000,000, One would think that, in the light of those two facts at least the Government would be ashamed of adding this additional burden which will make its impact in every home.
– I wonder why the Government is budgeting for another £109,000,000?
– The honorable senator would not wonder if he read the Treasurer’s budget speech. 1 commend to him a perusal of that document.
– Senator McKenna knows why very well.
– I take it that the honorable senator’s question is perfectly rhetorical. I indicate to him that the money is required because the Government that he supports has crashed the Australian loan market, has brought it down in ruins. That is the real reason. If the loan market had held, there would not have been the slightest necessity for the Government to budget for a surplus. According to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), the money is required to make up the deficiency in the loan raisings in Australia. The Government is pushed into the position of having to borrow money from abroad to support the State works programmes, thereby adding to the burden of future years. The second reason, according to the Treasurer, is that it is expected that large sums falling due for conversion this year will not be converted, and further moneys will be required to make up the deficiency. Both those reasons point to the utter failure of this Government to control the finances of this country. Nothing could pinpoint that failure more effectively than the collapse of the loan market and the misery and the loss suffered by hundreds of thousands of Australians who put up their money believing that they would be able to get it back at face value. What do they get back? They get back on the due date the same quantum of money to buy half the quantity of goods that it would have bought when they invested it.
Added to that is the Government’s tinkering with interest rates, producing the disgrace that in this day and age the value of a £100 bond is £82. Nobody but the Government that Senator Scott supports is to blame for that calamity. It has allowed inflation to come and has tinkered with interest rates and produced the collapse of the loan market. It is for that reason, as the Treasurer has acknowledged, that it is necessary for the Government to make up deficiencies. The right honorable gentleman expects that that sum of £109,000,000 will be available for that purpose; but whether all of it will be required is completely problematical. In view of the astronomical figures that are disclosed in the budget, including revenue amounting to £1,230,000 and a surplus of £109,000,000, why should the Government take into the homes of the people an additional burden of approximately £105,500,000 per annum? It is contemptible, mean and paltry. That is the viewpoint which I express on behalf of the Opposition.
When I was interrupted, I had mentioned only two counts upon which the Government should be ashamed. I direct attention now to the National Welfare Fund which, during the term of office of this Government, and despite its having been frozen by the same Government, has risen by £62,000,000. The money might have been applied for other purposes in order to make up for the failure of the loan market. I have no doubt that the fund has been applied to provide treasury-bills and for purposes for which it was not originally intended. It seems so mean to the people of Australia that, having- provided in taxes the surplus for which the Government is budgeting, they should be asked to find another £1,500,000 this year. On the face of it, the people are entitled to be properly infuriated.
I refer, fourthly, to the trust fund position. Sir Frederick Shedden referred to it in the course of some notable comments that he made early in August before the Public Accounts Committee. He pointed out that at lune, 1955, there was £98,000,000 in defence trust funds which the Defence Department and the defence services could not spend. That money is still there. In the Strategic Stores and Equipment Trust Fund is £48,000,000, which has been there for years, and in the Defence Equipment Trust Account is another £20,000,000, which also has been there for years. One would expect the Government to be ashamed to come along and impose this additional paltry penalty and ask for increased fees from the radio listeners of Australia. Why should the Government sud.dently decide to balance the budget in the broadcasting field? The deficiency has not arisen suddenly this .year. There was a deficiency of £1,500,000 last year, and in the year before that a deficiency of almost £1,000,000.
– In the broadcasting field?
-Yes. In 1954-55, it was £996,331, and last year it was £1,692,997.
– Does the honorable senator not think that it is a good idea to balance it?
– Why the excitement now?
– There is no excitement about it.
– Why should this additional paltry penalty be imposed upon the people of Australia? One would have expected a little bit of good sense to have prevailed and to have influenced the Government in this matter. When the Government produces a measure with the effect that this one has, it obviously has completely lost its perspective. After all is said and done, I am curious about where the Minister for Repatriation, who represents the Postmaster-General, obtained the figure for the extra costs that he quoted in his second-reading speech. He said -
Due to inescapable extra costs, there is now a difference of £1,721,000.
If honorable senators refer to the Estimates that were circulated to us a few weeks ago, they will note on page 138 that the total estimated expenditure for this year is £6,802,000, and at page 115 that the total estimated revenue foi: both broadcasting and television is £5,288,000. According to the Estimates just circulated, the difference between the estimated revenue and expenditure connected with broadcasting and television is £1,514,000. I ask the Minister to tell us where; the deficiency of £1,721,000, referred to in his second-reading speech, comes from. The only plausible suggestion that occurs to me is that it is anticipated that a profit will be made from television but a bigger loss from broadcasting. If that is not the explanation, I shall be interested to learn from the Minister, in due course, just what it is.
There is another element of deceit in this measure. I ask, where were the people of Australia told, in December of last year, that radio fees were to be increased? What warning were they given that such an additional impost would be levied? Not one word was said about it, consequently the Government cannot claim that it has . mandate on this matter. I shall refer, briefly, to the phrase used by the Minister, that 1 have just quoted. He spoke about “ inescapable extra costs “ adding to the difference between revenue and expenditure connected with broadcasting and television. I say, at once, that the raging inflation of the past six and a half years has been due to the utter ineptitude of the Government and its failure to act. These costs were not inescapable. The Government, in its earlier years, faced inflation at its worst stage by announcing that it was a matter for the people to halt inflation, and that governments could do nothing. The representative of the Treasurer in this Senate said that governments could do nothing. In short, the Australian Government - the Menzies-Fadden Administration - dropped the reins and let inflation bolt. It is utterly hypocritical and incorrect for the Government to refer to these additional costs as inescapable. The one step that has been taken, in recent years, to halt inflation in Australia was taken, in desperation, by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court when, in 1953, it abolished cost of living adjustments. It saw a government utterly inactive and unable to grapple with the situation, and, in effect, stepped in and legislated in a frantic endeavour to halt inflation. In doing that it highlighted the utter ineptitude of this Government.
– Is the honorable senator suggesting that the Arbitration Court is politically influenced?
– No. I suggested that the Arbitration Court acted to halt inflation, seeing that this Government had done nothing about it. The court abolished cost of living adjustments, and asked the workers of Australia, with the applause of this Government, to bear the whole burden of halting inflation. The Arbitration Court did what it could. It based its decision, at that time, on the conclusion expressed in its judgment that there would be no hardship of the workers because costs had stabilized or might be expected to stabilize. The very foundation upon which that judgment was based and written failed in the intervening years, again because of the ineptitude and lack of action on the part of this Government.
Another objection to the measure is that it perpetuates the utter unfairness that this Government perpetrated in November, 1951, when it altered the original base of fees for this particular service. Up till that time, £1 a year was paid for the first receiver and 10s. for each additional receiver in a home or unit. The Government, from 1st January, 1952, lifted the fee to £2, regardless of how many receivers a person might have. We opposed that alteration very strongly at the time, because it discriminated unfairly against the small person. We say to this Government that, if additional moneys have to be raised now, the Government’s first approach should be to review the whole basis of licensing, and leave the fee for one receiver where it is. at £2, and then make a charge of 10s. or 15s. for each additional receiver. It is wrong that a person with one receiver in a home should pay £2 now and £2 15s. in future, whereas a person with a receiver in every room of his home and one in his car, pays exactly the same fee. That is plainly inequitable. If this Government had to raise money, why did it not address its mind to making additional charges for multiple receivers in a home? By its proposal in this measure, it is maintaining the pattern of putting the whole burden and full weight upon the small man. lt has done it with taxes, with its medical benefits scheme, with its hospital benefits scheme. That pattern is beginning to be understood in this country, and to be greatly resented.
What has this Government to be proud of in its policy to licences for broadcast listeners? When this new fee of 15s. is imposed, the Government, during its term of office, will have raised the fee for listening to radio programmes by 175 per cent. - from £1 to £2, and soon to £2 15s. That is certainly nothing to be proud about. If there were some improvement in the programmes, there might be some justification for raising the fee. I am not competent to speak on that matter, however, because I listen very rarely.
– One would think that the honorable senator does not like the Government.
– I have neither like nor dislike for the Government. I concern myself now, as always, with its acts and Omissions. I certainly do not like its acts or omissions, but my feelings about the Government do not enter into my calculations.
– What does the honorable senator think of the Opposition?
– I do not have to think about the Opposition; I am able to take it as it is. I now wish to refer to one more count upon which I might have indicted the Government; that is, its imposing this additional burden of approximately £1,500,000 upon the Australian people in a year when it is asking those same people to find, out of taxes, almost £2,500,000 for capital works connected with television and broadcasting. The exact figure is £2,474,000. Is it not an intolerable burden to ask the people of Australia this year to ‘ provide the revenue with which to acquire sites, build television stations and provide equipment? T invite honorable senators to look at pages 242 and 243 of the Estimates for this year, dealing with capital works and services. There they will find the details of this proposed expenditure, and will realize what a burden the Government is placing upon the Australian public in this matter. Broadcasting and television services are dealt with in divisions 56, 57 and 58. The first division provides for an expenditure of £1,662,000 on engineering equipment and services, television transmission equipment and television studio equipment. These things are normally provided, not out of revenue raised by way of taxation in one year, but out of loan moneys. If this Government had done its job properly it would have spread this amount over the taxpayers for a period, of 53 years, but it is asking the taxpayers of this year to find £2,500,000 with which to build television studios and buy television equipment, which will provide services for posterity. Is not that enough to ask them to do in this year of grace without increasing radio broadcasting licence-fees as well? The sum of £24,000 is to be spent upon the acquisition of new sites and buildings, and £788,000 for buildings, works, fittings and furniture for sound broadcasting and television. By and large it is alone a terrific burden to impose upon the people of this country without making them pay more this year for their listening licencefees.
The third matter that the bill attends to, and it rather surprised me that it should do so, is to postpone the operation of licensing of television until 1st January, 1957. In other words a free period is to ensue from the present time - television has commenced a trial run in Sydney - until 1st January, 1957. There is to be a completely open season for television receivers from now until the end of December. It might well, be argued that it is a trial period for television broadcasting - if that is the right expression, although I think “ transmission “ is the more accurate word - during which it will not be up to standard but will be undergoing tests and it would not be fair to charge a licence-fee at the moment. Whatever reason could this money-hungry Government have for postponing the opportunity to collect a fee? Why is it postponing it?
– Television has to go through its teething troubles.
– I recognize that. I have stated that it will have to go through an experimental stage, or teething troubles as the honorable senator has said; but the only surprise to me is that the Government is not imposing the additional tax immediately.
– Does not the Leader of the Opposition like that?
– I did not say that. Knowing the form of this Government it really surprises me. It has shown itself to be so money-hungry that not to impose this burden from 1st October really surprises me.
– A pleasant surprise, we hope.
– I am not sure about that. I take it that when television studios are established iti other States teething troubles will be experienced in those States also. New South Wales in particular is to have the privilege of a free period, but wherever television is shown in Australia after 1st January, 1957, there will be no period of grace, no time for teething troubles. In South Australia, Tasmania or any of the other five States the people will have to pay on the day television commences. Let the honorable senator think about that.
– The fee may be higher by that time.
– As Senator Benn very properly says, by that time the fee may be higher and, under this legislation it will have to be paid from the day the receiver is installed.
– One does not need to have a receiver.
– One does not need to have a receiver, but if a person has one, under this bill he or she will have to pay. I am not making a major point of this postponement, but I am pointing out that a free period does exist from now until the end of December.
– Is the Leader of the Opposition against it?
– No, but I point out that whereas this will operate in New South Wales the same facilities will not be extended to the other States.
– The honorable senator does not know.
– The honorable senator says I do not know; but I do know that the bill provides that on and after 1st January, 1957, a person with a television receiver must pay the licence-fee. There is no doubt about that.
– That will apply only to people in New South Wales and Victoria. “When television is introduced in Tasmania and other States there may be an amendment to the bill giving those States the same privilege.
– As Senator Benn so properly pointed out, the fee may be larger. Judging by the way this Government is letting inflation run and by its general form, it will be higher. If Tasmania gets a television service, the people are wondering what will be the position there. One of the Opposition’s criticisms of this Government is that it. has dithered with television for six years and is now setting up two stations in two capital cities.
– Two national stations.
– One national station in Sydney, one in Melbourne and two commercial stations in Sydney and two in Melbourne. That is three in each of two capital cities. If this Government were looking at the matter from a national viewpoint, why not have one station in each of the capital cities? Why should the rest of Australia have to wait?
– I cannot understand that. We should have one in Perth.
– The honorable senator is right, and I would be very glad if he would criticize his Government for concentrating whatever benefit television may have in two States and leaving the rest of Australia utterly unprovided for.
In this bill the Government at least had the opportunity to make a gesture in the pension field. It is charging pensioners a licence-fee of 10s. per annum to listen to the radio. According to the Minister there are 171,000 pensioners. Eighty thousand pounds is not very much out of a total revenue of £5,288,000. That £80,000 is being taken from pensioners in a year when nothing has been done for them in the matter of increasing their pension rates. Surely, the Government could have considered putting pensioners generally on the same basis as blind pensioners by abolishing the paltry charge of 10s. Even at this stage it is not beyond some hope, even though it may be without expectation, that the Government will relent. It is a gesture the Government might well have considered and it is a suggestion the Government might now well adopt.
I do not want anybody on the Government side to argue to me that because the increase in broadcasting licence-fees is only 15s. a year, or 3±d. a week, it can be disregarded. 1 do not want anybody to tell me that it is insignificant; because 1 say quite seriously that for a man earning a little over the basic wage - thank goodness nobody is on the basic wage - it creates difficulty. The average worker to-day is receiving £14, or £15, a week and he needs every penny of that to get by from week to week. He is in difficulty trying to meet his commitments every day of every week and no amount of planning will enable him to put away his 3id. a week against the day when he has to pay his licence-fee of £2 15s. I say with all seriousness that it is a major calamity for the man earning near the basic wage when in one week he has to find £2 15s. It may be hard for honorable senators to really appreciate that, fact.
– He did not have to find £2 15s. in 1949. In those days he would not have had a wireless and could not afford a washing machine or a refrigerator.
– The honorable senator knows perfectly well that the £6 9s. basic wage in 1949 bought infinitely more things, including radio receivers and other facilities, than the basic wage buys to-day.
– They did not drink so much beer in those days.
– I point out to the honorable senator that there were not so many of them. The population has now grown and, apparently, its thirst has grown with the deterioration of the weather. However, I am putting it very seriously to this Senate that for the man on a low wage, particularly the family man with three or four children, it will be a major calamity for him when he has to dip into one week’s wages to find £2 15s. The Government has been particularly mean in the light of what it has been doing, and in the light of other funds that are available -to-day, in imposing this additional burden, falling as it does without discrimination on the person who has one receiver in the home. So we oppose the bill. We oppose it because no indication was given to the people at the last election that the charge was to be inTeased. We consider that that was one more piece of deceit. We oppose it, secondly, because of its absolute meanness, and we oppose it, too, because the blame for the increase of operating costs of broadcasting can be laid at the door of this Government. This is one more instance of its ineptitude. I say, very deliberately, that this ineptitude is known to senior public servants in Australia, who have experienced lack of leadership by this Government over the last six and a half years.
– Have they ever said so?
– Many of them have said so. Let me point to a few who have said so publicly. Sir Frederick Shedden, the Secretary of the Department of Defence, said recently that, in 1953, when the Government expected war ‘ any day, it was not prepared to mobilize, and it is not prepared to mobilize to-day.
– What does the honorable senator mean by “ mobilize “?
– Senator Mattner should ask Sir Frederick Shedden that question. I am enumerating top public servants who have publicly condemned this Government. Take Sir Lawrence Wackett, the chairman of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation-
– Why not mention what the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said?
– Supporters of the Government do not like me to name’ the public servants who have publicly condemned this Government. However, despite the interruptions, I intend to persist until I complete the list I have in my mind. First, I nail Sir Frederick Shedden to the mast. Then I name Sir Lawrence Wackett, who said recently that there was no telling what type of aircraft would come off the assembly line, and that when the one now under construction was finished, there would be a big gap and a long delay in aircraft production in this country. That condemnation points to ineptitude.
The Tariff Board’s report was the subject of questions earlier to-day. That board consists of thoroughly independent and competent people, so acclaimed by the former Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan), who is now the Minister for the Navy, and so acknowledged by
Other honorable senators. In paragraph after paragraph of its report, the board has condemned this Government for its ineptitude. I understand that we shall be afforded an opportunity in the near future to debate the report. I do not expect the Government to derive much comfort from the debate.
Proceeding with the list of top public servants, men of acknowledged repute and competence, who have condemned this Government, I mention Brigadier Wardell, the Director of Civil Defence, who recently pointed to the tragic position in relation to civil defence. He was reported in the press to have stated that plans to protect the cities of Australia were submitted to the Commonwealth Government over a year ago, but nothing has been done in the matter. He pointed to the unutterable misery and tragedy that would occur if an atomic explosion, at the instance of an enemy, took place in this country, because no scheme to evacuate the populace has been drawn up, and the people have not been trained in civil defence. He said that at least 10 per cent, of the Australian population needed training in civil defence, and that a period of three years would be needed in which to train them, once a start was made. What has this Government done in this matter? Exactly what Brigadier Wardell said - nothing! This Government has been lacking in decision. That is the way that we look at it. I have digressed a little, but I shall go ho further. When 1 spoke of the ineptitude of this Government I was not expressing merely my own opinion; I was also voicing what has been said privately by many senior public servants. They know, because they are suffering through the Government’s lack of leadership. We very strongly oppose the measure.
– I support the bill. After listening to the remarkable speech that has just been delivered by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), I say, “ Heaven preserve us if ever Senator McKenna becomes the Federal Treasurer “. If ever there was a time when the Government should collect more revenue and balance its budget, that time is now. There might have been some justification for the honorable senator to speak in that strain in the ‘thirties, when the people had no money and very low prices were received for our produce. But, at a time like the present, for the honorable senator to say that we should not balance the budget, but let the deficits go on and on was simply crazy.
Senator McKenna blamed the Government for the collapse of the bond market. He knows, perhaps better than many people, that this Government was not responsible for the collapse of the bond market. The fixing of the interest rate for bonds is the responsibility of the Australian Loan Council. As we know, when the interest rate was increased the price of bonds fell on the stock exchanges. If Senator McKenna were the Treasurer of the Commonwealth to-day. and the holders of bonds which were noi due for repayment for another ten years came to him to redeem them, would he pay them their full face value?
– He would not allow loan companies to pay the holders of bonds their, face value provided they left the money with the companies on fixed deposit at 7i per cent.
– That is another matter. I am talking about the Government redeeming bonds that have a currency of another ten years. For the Leader of the Opposition to blame the Government for altering the rate of bond interest was just stupid.
Towards the end of his speech, Senator McKenna referred to the Tariff Board’s report. If any one is responsible to a greater degree than anybody else for the conditions that the Tariff Board has criticized, it is the Opposition, whose policy has always favoured high tariffs. I venture to say that tariff duties would not be reduced if a Labour government came to office. We shall be very pleased to debate the Tariff Board’s report, and the Leader of the Opposition should be prepared to accept his share of responsibility for the present state of affairs.
Senator McKenna also said that the people were given no warning of the pending increase in December last. The honorable senator has a very short and convenient memory. I have a distinct recollection of hearing the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) say, about September of last year, that, if the measures that he then outlined did not achieve the desired result, further steps might have been taken. As the first measures were unsuccessful in correcting the inflationary trend, it was necessary for the Government to bring down additional measures. The honorable senator made a great play about the people being unable to pay an additional 15s. I am afraid that I cannot agree with that contention. If Senator McKenna were to observe the number of people buying tickets in Tattersalls consultations in Melbourne for 5s., 10s., £1, and even £5 each, he might alter his opinion.
– Who are those people?
– The honorable senator might well ask who they are. I should much prefer to see them putting their money into the savings banks rather than throwing it away on sweeps and other methods of gambling. Recently, the Labour Government of Western Australia legalized betting shops, and I understand that the turnover of these shops is in the vicinity of £27,000,000 a year. Honorable senators should also realize that thousands of people spend money on picture shows and other entertainments. I remember reading a statement made by a worker who was a witness in arbitration proceedings in Perth on a claim for an increased basic wage. He told the judge of that court that it cost him £3 a week for beer, yet honorable senators opposite complain about 15s. a year being added to the radio listener’s licence-fee.
I am afraid that symphony orchestras do not appeal to me in the slightest, but I have heard praise by listeners all over Australia for symphony concerts arranged by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It is very expensive to bring the best of singers and artists here, and’ the Australian Broadcasting Commission needs the money to pay them. I believe that there is no general feeling against the increase of the licence-fee, because the people realize that they are getting a great benefit by being able to hear the most talented singers, and other artists, in the world. Now is the time for the commission to balance its budget, as well as the time for the Government to balance its budget, because if there ever has been an occasion in history more favorable to the balancing of budgets than at the present time, I do not know of it.
When listening to the Leader of the Opposition I was led to believe that we had returned to the budget debate, t do not complain of the increase of the radio listener’s fee, but I should like to obtain information from the Minister with regard to two matters which I consider are of importance. There are now about 2,000,000 listener’s licences in existence, and those listeners who are more than 250 miles away from a national broadcasting station will not have to pay more than £1 8s. a year. As I said, I am not so. much opposed to the increase of the listener’s licence-fee, but I am concerned about what some listeners get for that fee. Last time I was out in the north-west of Western Australia I discovered that the people up there with radios could not hear the programmes from Perth. They could get Japan, Indonesia and other countries on their sets, but they could not raise Perth, and consequently could not hear the local Western Australian news and other local programmes from the capital of the State. I referred the matter to the then Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) and was informed that the power of the Wagin station was to be doubled. Wagin is 150 miles south, but Geraldton is 370 miles north of Perth and closer to the north-west portion of Western Australia. It would have been more sensible to have strengthened the power of the Geraldton broadcasting station if the intention was to give the people of the north-west some value for their £1 8s. The [people up there can get the programmes from Radio Australia, of course, but they want to hear the regular Western Australian news and local programmes broadcast from Perth. I ask the Minister to inform us whether there has been any recent improvement in the radio services to the people in the north-west of my State.
We Western Australians are in an invidious position in the Senate at present, because there are many matters that we desire to put forward. We cannot discuss them during the budget debate, and we cannot discuss them under the item that appears on the notice-paper because that matter will not be brought up for discussion. Therefore, we have to deal in a piece-meal fashion with the matters that we are interested in. At any rate, I hope that the people in the north-west of Western Australia will soon be able to receive radio programmes from the capital of the State. When I first entered this chamber about five years ago, I complained because I was not able to receive the: Western Australian news over the radio in Parliament House. 1 am still unable to listen to that news, and I suggest that it is time that the authorities made it possible for Western Australian members of the Parliament to keep abreast of news from their home State. The Western Australian newspapers dribble in here in an irregular fashion, and on Mondays the latest newspaper available in the Library from Western Australia is dated the previous Friday. I do suggest that a news service would be of great assistance to those of us from Western Australia.
– We are citizens of a far country.
– Of a forgotten country, I should say., and I was amazed to hear the Leader of the Opposition express such great concern because the smaller States were not getting television, while he is unmoved by many other disabilities from which we in the undeveloped States suffer. After the last atomic experiments at the Monte Bello islands, some Western Australian shipping services were dislocated. During that time a pas toral company in the west lost about £40,000 worth of bullocks from tick fever, because the national news could not be heard in that area. If a national broadcasting station had been in operation with power to reach that area, a warning could have been sent to the manager of the station that shipping would be held up, and he could have made arrangements to hold the cattle back. The people out there have to rely on pedal wireless, and by the time the manager got the message about the hold-up of shipping, it was too late for him to get in touch with the drover, who was already on his way to the port with the bullocks. That example provides a further reason why people in the north-west of Western Australia should be able to receive news broadcasts from Perth.
I support the increase of 15s. in the listener’s licence-fee, and I hope that it will help the Australian Broadcasting Commission to balance its budget next year. I understand from the second-reading speech of the Minister that by the end of this year the commission expects to have another 35,000 listeners, and with that added number of subscribers and the increased licencefee a large amount of money should become available to the commission. I do not know whether the number of listeners’ licences will continue to increase after television has been established; perhaps television will cause a reduction in the number of listeners’ licences taken out. However, that is a matter for the authorities to consider. I support the bill.
.- As a rule I listen to Senator Seward with rapt attention, because his speeches on wheat and other rural products are usually instructive. However, they are more in conformity with facts than the speech he has just delivered. It was remarkable for him to say that the Government has no control over the Australian Loan Council, but it is even more remarkable for him to say that the Government has no control over interest rates. I suggest that he had better study these matters. The honorable senator then said that he did not know what would be the receipts from listeners’ licence-fees, because he expected that the great majority of the people would soon obtain television sets. 1 understand that the licence-fee required of television viewers is £5, and, that being so, if the vast majority of people change to television, there will be much more money available to the Australian Broadcasting Commission than there is at present:
J am opposed to this bill, not so much because of the increased licence-fee, as because of the method adopted by the Government to raise additional money. 1 have always opposed the principle that a person with two or three radio receivers should be required to pay only the same broadcast listener’s fee as the person who has one set. I cannot understand why the Government persists in this method of charging the person who has only one set proportionately more than the person who has several. Prior to 1952, the fee for a broadcast listener’s licence was’ £1 for the first set and 10s. for each additional receiver. Then, for some reason or other, in 1952 the Government introduced what it called a uniform charge, but it was still a charge that was not uniformly fair in its incidence. The increase proposed now is 1 5s., making the charge. £2 15s., but again the unfair principle to which I object is retained.
I realize that the Government needs money, and it needs it because inflation has got out of control in connexion with everything the Government touches. Whether the extra money that will be received will buy as much as the same amount would have bought in past years is a matter of conjecture. Possibly, it will not buy as much. The amount collected by way of listeners’ licence-fees last year was £3,800,000. It is expected that the 15s. increase will return a further £1,500,000 to the Postal Department.
When it was looking for ways of raising more money, I am wondering why the Government did not give more consideration to the profits being made by commercial broadcasting stations. Until the passage of the Broadcasting and Television Act recently, the fee paid by a commercial broadcasting station was a flat amount of £25 plus one-half of 1 per cent, of its profits. Under that system, the average total amount paid by each broadcasting station was £45 a year. Under the present arrangement, the initial payment is still £25 but the additional fee is 1 per cent, of the revenue derived from the sale of the station’s time, irrespective of whether the Station makes a profit. The Australian Broadcasting Control - Board discloses on page 10 of its report for the financial year ended 30th June, 1956, that the total profit made by commercial broadcasting stations for that year was £1,434,093. Remembering that figure, and realizing that it is expected that the increase in licence-fee to 1 per cent, of the sale of the station’s time will mean an additional charge of approximately only £68,000, one cannot help but feel that the Government does not believe in dealing harshly with commercial broadcasting stations. According to the report to which 1 have referred, there are 106 of those stations in operation. Of that number, 95 are making a profit. Their total revenue for the year just ended was £6,680,000 and their expenditure £5,250,000. To take only £68,000 from the profit of £1,434,000 is certainly not being over hard on these people.
On page 13 of its report for the year ended 30th June, 1955, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board refers to the technical services it gives to the broadcasting industry and, dealing particularly wilh the increase in the power of the various station, it says -
The Board is glad to report that, partly in consequence of these improvements, the financial position of nearly all the stations involved has improved considerably.
Again, one cannot help feeling that these stations are well looked after for the small amount collected from their profits.
In its report for the year just ended, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board points out that its expenditure last year was £5,400,000, of which £2,200,000 was expended on technical services. The loss on last year’s transactions is stated to be £1,500,000, and it is estimated that there will be a loss of £1,721,000 for this financial year.
The Postal Department certainly has nothing to congratulate itself on in its method of ascertaining whether a person has a broadcast listener’s licence. The present method is most cumbersome, and it would be interesting to know just how much is spent each year on detailing officers to detect whether a certain person in a certain street has a wireless set. Some more satisfactory and efficient method should be evolved. For instance, 1 suggest that one better way would be to require manufacturers, importers, or, better still, retailers of radio sets to furnish a monthly statement of the people to whom sets are sold. If the department had that information, it would know where the sets were installed and could follow the normal procedure. 1 should like the Minister to inform the Senate, when he is replying, how many employees are engaged on that work, and the cost. The present system is too cumbersome and if it were revised, as 1 have suggested, we would not have the spectacle of numbers of persons being brought before the courts, [‘do not condone the failure of radio listeners to obtain licences, but I think that a better system of policing the law could be devised.
I do not believe that the Government can be very pleased with this measure. Certainly, the fees that are charged to pensioners have not been increased, and they are so moderate that I do not think a case for a reduction would bear scrutiny unless it were decided to forgo the charges altogether. If the Government decided that unfortunate blind people should not pay licence-fees, I am sure that a case could also be submitted on behalf of other sections of the community. 1 object to the bill because I believe that those on the lowest rung of the financial ladder are being hit harder proportionately than are other sections of the community. I cannot understand how a fee of £2 15s. will cover three or four radio sets in one home in addition, possibly, to a set in a motor car when the same fee is demanded from a person who has only one wireless receiver. 1 think that is unfair. The Government is taking too big a percentage of its imposts from those who can least afford to pay, and is assisting those who have sufficient means to buy more than one set.
The method of ascertaining whether a wireless set is installed should, at least, be investigated. Surely it could be improved. 1 do not think we would be placing too great a burden on retailers if they were asked to submit to the local post office the names of persons who buy radio receivers. It is deplorable that an efficient organization like the Postal Department should employ men to snoop on radio listeners, although I do not condone failure to meet legitimate obligations. For the reasons I have given, I oppose the bill.
– in reply - The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has referred to the need for a consolidation of the laws applying to broadcasting and television. That work is being, done. I am informed that a reprint of the Broadcasting Act 1942-1954, as amended by the Broadcasting and Television Act 1956, was in the course of preparation when, instructions were received to draft the bill that is now before the Senate. A reprint of that measure was delayed to enable incorporation in it of any amendments that were made necessary by the passage of the bill that is now under consideration, lt is expected that the reprint will be available in’ the near future.
Senator McKenna also referred to an amount of £1,514,000 as the difference between revenue and expenditure in the maintenance and operation of the national broadcasting service. The Leader of the Opposition included television expenditure and revenue in the figures from the Estimates to which he referred, and also included the revenue of £1,100,000 that will be obtained from the new licence-fees. After allowance has been made for the higher fees, the difference between broadcasting revenue and expenditure will be £621,000. If those new fees are not included, the estimated difference is £1,721,000. The Leader of the Opposition also referred to the fact that the new television licence-fees will not come into operation until 1st January, 1957. The explanation is that it was not expected that television facilities would be available generally before that date. A few facilities are available now, but they will not be in use as a whole before next January. That provision was made in the original legislation, and is not something that has been plucked from the air. It was not anticipated that it would be possible to put full facilities into operation before the end of the year.
Senator Seward referred to the difference in the broadcasting power of the Wagin and Geraldton stations. I cannot obtain the full details at the present time, but 1 suggest that the honorable senator will have an opportunity to raise the matter during the debate on the Estimates, when I shall have a better chance to furnish the information. I shall ensure that it is obtained, and shall let him have it at that stage.
Both the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and Senator Kennelly referred to the fact that the fee covered more than one wireless set in a house. It was necessary for the Australian Broadcasting Commission to police the old arrangement to ascertain whether more than one wireless set was owned by a family, and that led to much dissatisfaction among listeners, because they felt that they were being snooped at. It was a very difficult situation. It is quite true that a family with four or five sets would get a better deal for the fee of £2 15s., or £2 as it formerly was, than the family with only one set. Taking into consideration the difficulty of policing the old arrangement and all other matters involved, the Government thinks that it did the best thing when it applied the fee to the household, irrespective of the number of sets used.
There is no doubt that the purpose of the bill is to try to balance the broadcasting budget. Broadcasting stations are providing an excellent facility. They offer not only a form of entertainment but also news facilities. I think it was Senator McKenna who said, “ Do not try to say that the additional burden will be only 3½d. a week “. The majority of people in Australia buy at least one newspaper a day. Even if they bought only one a week, it would cost them more than the 3½d. that the extra fee will impose upon them. I repeat that the main reason for introducing the bill is to balance the broadcasting budget.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 20th September (vide page 436), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The measure now before the Senate is a bill to amend the Canned Fruits Export Control Act, which has been operative, with sundry changes, since 1926. The board, appointed pursuant to that act, concerns itself with the control of the export of canned fruits. Honorable senators on this side are not opposing the measure, which has two main purposes. The first is to extend the term of the elected representatives on the board from a period of two years to three years. That has the support of the canned fruits industry, is approved by the board itself, and is in line with what has been done with other export control boards and, consequently, the Opposition sees no objection to a proposal that has such universal acceptance.
Next, it is proposed that the representative of the pineapple canners should be elected and not nominated by the Queensland State instrumentality, the Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing. Again, by reason of the fact that that committee, the board and the industry prefer that the representative of the pineapple canners should be elected and not nominated, the Opposition has no objection to the proposal. I understand that an exactly similar result will be achieved, regardless of whether the representative is nominated or elected, for the reason that the Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing in Queensland is, itself, the biggest producer of pineapples and is in business as a canner of pineapples in the largest way in that State. Accordingly, it will control the majority of the votes, unless the system of election is changed, and again will determine, by its votes, who will be the representative.
On the question of voting, there are two elected representatives at the moment, one of the proprietary or private canners operating for profit, and the other of the cooperative canneries. Regulations have been in force since about 1926 relating to the (election of the first-mentioned of these two representatives. What is not clear to me from the bill is whether exactly the same system of election apply to those two representatives will now apply to the representatives of the pineapple canners. I think, under the system operating, that there is one vote to each cannery in respect of each group of 120,000 tins of canned fruit or pineapple juice, provided that each -tin contains not less than 30 oz. of canned material. I should like to know from the Minister whether it’ is contemplated that the voting system will be changed or whether the present regulations will be strictly applicable to the new election and require no variation, lt is a mere detail, but I should like the Minister to advert to it when he has an opportunity to do so.
It would seem, from a perusal of the Australian Canned Fruits Board’s report that the Australian fruit canning industry is facing a real threat from the United States of America. That country is an enormous producer and consumer of canned fruits. But it has a surplus to export, and, having regard to the size of its home market, it could afford to sell abroad at a loss. The freight haul from the United States to the United Kingdom is very short and the American producer enjoys advantages which the Australian producer does not - one of them being the heavy home consumption demand which would make exporting at a loss a matter of comparative ease. The resumption of imports into Britain of American exports has been permitted in recent years. Two years ago, imports of a value of 2,500,000 dollars were allowed. Last year the value was about 3,000,000 dollars. If the United Kingdom, in the interests of obtaining cheaper canned fruit were to lift its embargo now operating against United States canned fruit, the Australian canned fruit market in the United
Kingdom would be in real difficulties, particularly in view of the higher costs which have obtained in Australia in recent years. That position must be watched very carefully by Australia to ensure that Great Britain accords Australia precedence and does not allow dumping from the United States or any other country. It would be asking a great deal to expect the United Kingdom Government to resist the opportunity of obtaining fruit for its people at the cheapest possible price.
– Dollars enter into the matter also.
– I realize that. Although a strain would be imposed on Great Britain’s dollar resources, the temptation to get fruit at a cheaper price would be very strong, particularly since the demand in Great Britain for canned fruit is colossal. As the honorable senator would know, it would be an easy matter for canneries on the Californian coast particularly, to export their surplus at a loss rather than to go out of production. America could easily tolerate such a situation.
We are not opposing the bill, because its two proposals are not open to objection. On behalf of the Opposition, however, I wish to make a suggestion to the Government. A principle was contended for by the trades union movement of Australia - the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the Trade Union Congress - that any boards controlling the export of materials, in the production of which many workers are engaged, should include a representative of the workers. The great virtue of that is that the two parties in industry - those who provide the capital and the management and those who provide the work - have a joint interest in the end result - the profit and the economics of the industry. There would be a far better understanding throughout the whole range of industry if the ordinary workers, through representation on these boards, felt that they were in a position to watch the economics of the industry and its trends. If that were the sole aim of such an appointment it would be a most excellent thing for industrial relations generally, but I think it may be accepted that from experience and the united wisdom of the trade union movement, particularly the relevant trade union, many suggestions for the betterment of the industry might be forthcoming. Even if that did not happen, the mere fact that the trade union had its representative on a board such as this to watch trends and keep the trade union apprised of developments, would be responsible for greater satisfaction and far better industrial relations between both sides.
I intimate to the Senate that during the committee stage I shall move an amendment to the effect that the personnel of the board should be increased by an additional member. The proposal has everything to commend it and nothing against it. Action of this kind was taken by the Labour government in relation to every export control board set up during its period of office. Examples are the Australian Meat Board, the Australian Dairy Produce Board, the Australian Egg Board and the Australian Wheat Board. I understand that the trade union representatives on those boards have won their spurs and have given very good service, and during the last six and a half years this Government has done nothing to alter or disturb that representation. To an extent, therefore, this Government has acquiesced, for six and a half years, in what was done, and if no exception was taken in those cases, the Government might well accept this suggestion. The actual amendment was moved in another place by Mr. Percy Clarey, who is president of the Food Preserving Union of Australia. I understand that no formal request has been made to the Government for the reason that the union was not aware that the amending bill was pending. I was told that by the president himself. Whilst no formal request has been received from the union, public sponsorship of the request has been given by the federal president and those members of the federal council that could be summoned at short notice. I have also been assured by Mr. Clarey that the federal council will meet on 8th October, and is certain to uphold the amendment I shall propose on behalf of the trade union movement generally and this union in particular.
The union has a history of difficulty. It fell into the despond in the 1920’s during the depression and saw grave retrenchment take place in the industry, lt has lived to see the industry recover the lost ground and develop into one that is not only earning very useful sterling for Australia but is also providing much needed employment. It has increased its output enormously. Of course, it has been highly mechanized in the meantime. Operations formerly done by hand are now done by machine with the full concurrence of the workers who recognize that they must contribute if they want the export trade to flourish. The mere fact that they have been so willing to assist production by the introduction of improved and mechanical methods is’ an additional reason why their representation on such a board ought to be favorably considered. Apart from that suggestion we have no other proposal to make about the bill. It serves two purposes which we do not oppose. The matter I have mentioned is not covered and I shall take the opportunity to give the Senate a chance to express its opinion upon the proposal at the committee stage.
.- I express my thanks to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) for the information he has given us as to the reason for the introduction of this measure. 1 am sure that not only the speech delivered in this place by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), but also that of the Minister who introduced it in another place, left honorable senators in the dark as to the necessity for it. The Minister for Shipping and Transport indicated that it was proposed to alter the representation on the board in order to give the pineapple industry in Queensland a representative but very little other information was given in his speech. Coming from a State in which at least two exportable fruits are mainly produced, namely, pears and peaches, I was concerned to know the necessity for interfering with a board that had done an excellent job. However, we now know the reason for the alteration and, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, we on this side do not intend to oppose the bill.
I suggest that the Minister give very care- ful consideration to the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition that the employees be represented on the board. It is continually suggested that if our adverse trade balance is to be corrected we must engage in more production, and that our primary industries can help most to offset that adverse trade balance. The canned fruits industry is very important in that it -earns a considerable amount of revenue. Up to the moment the relations between employers and employees can be commended. It is true that in the early stages of the industry a good deal of opposition was expressed because wages and conditions were very poor, but eventually the representatives of the growers, realized that if they were to attract to their industry sufficient labour, especially during the harvesting period, then reasonable wages and conditions would have to be offered. Because of those improvements, conditions to-day are fairly reasonable and, speaking for my own State, we have had no industrial trouble of any magnitude. If workers are to be encouraged to take an active interest in industry it is necessary for representation to be given to them whenever possible. In this industry in particular it is most essential to have co-operation between the management and the employees because the struggle for a market overseas has not been easy. During the war years and while trade was on a government-to-government basis, a ready sale existed for these commodities but now that we are getting back to the merchant-to-merchant basis of bargaining, as has been mentioned, we have to face competition from the United States of America. During its early years the industry had to struggle very strongly against competition caused by imports of canned fruit from the United States to the United Kingdom. As I have said, during the war years the Australian industry gained a firm footing which we have to maintain.
At one period, commodities from Australia were not in great favour in the United Kingdom, the reason being that some of the get-rich-quick people engaged in the industry were prepared to export all kinds of fruit. They did not give the necessary attention to their exports in order to gain the confidence of people abroad. That is a matter which should receive the serious consideration of this Parliament in respect of all our exports. Only to-day, I read in the press a comment from a person interested in the meat industry to the effect that Australian beef, mutton or lamb is not acceptable to the British people. That is an indictment against Australia, which produces some of the finest meat to be found anywhere in the world. Yet, such allegations are made against us. Unfortunately, the same allegation is being made in regard to other exports such as wine. In our canned fruits industry a lot of care needs to be taken in the processing of the fruit. lt is necessary for the employees to play their part in seeing that a first-class article is produced. By having a representative on the board, the employees would feel that they had a personal interest in the control of the industry, and that their work in helping to maintain the good name of this country had been recognized. Therefore, the amendment foreshadowed by the Leader of the Opposition, which is designed to provide for the inclusion on the board of a representative of the employees, should be very seriously considered. 1 point out that this would not be an innovation. A similar practice has operated successfully in quite a number of industries. If the Government really desires to improve employeremployee relationships, it should accept the amendment that has been foreshadowed by my leader.
.- 1 was very interested in the speeches that have been delivered by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and Senator Sheehan. 1 think it should be added to what Senator McKenna has said, that the greatest threat on the English market to the products of our Queensland canning industry will come, probably, not from the United States of America, but from South Africa. We should take steps to prevent a recurrence of what has happened in this industry in the past. During the war, and immediate post-war periods - the formative stage of this industry in Queensland - when controls were rigidly applied, private enterprise found that it could no longer continue profitably, and so transferred to South Africa. To-day, private enterprises which transferred to South Africa are offering a serious challenge on the British market to the products of our Queensland industry.
– What are the names of the South African companies which formerly carried on business in Queensland?
– lt is a great pity if we do not profit, from our previous experience, instead of descending again into the political garbage tin, because there is an interesting story to be told.
– Tell us the story.
– 1 certainly prefer Senator Brown to interrupt me by speech, rather than by yawning. As I was saying, there is a story behind private enterprise in this industry being driven out of Queensland and establishing itself in South Africa. Our approach to this subject should not be so rigid that it becomes impossible for the co-operatives and private enterprises to work side by side. We should not impose controls which might have the effect of forcing either of them out of business.
Having said that, I now want to deal with the other aspect of the matter that was raised by Senator Sheehan. I refer to the necessity to maintain the quality of our canned fruits at a standard that will ensure their acceptance on the British market. The honorable senator’s remarks in this connexion were most interesting. At present, we are spending about £250,000, which is a large sum of money, in an effort to establish a stable market for our products in Great Britain. I have been greatly heartened by the scheme that this Government introduced for that purpose. We ‘have employed one of the finest advertising firms in- the world to institute a sales promotion policy in England. An emblem, embracing the . name “ Australia “ in distinctive colours, has been adopted with the idea that when the British housewives see in stores products bearing that emblem, they will say, “ Any product that bears that emblem is good “. By house to house canvassing, an attempt has been made to instil in the minds of the British consumers the thought that this emblem appears only on the best goods that can be purchased. However, due to a serious oversight, the scheme is in danger of collapsing. As we all know, there are various grades of primary produce. The emblem that I have mentioned, indicative of the highest quality, should not be permitted to be used on goods of a lower quality. I am not saying that we should not market other than firstgrade products, but the . use of the emblem should be restricted to our highest-grade commodities. As we all know, most canning firms have several’ brands. The highest quality could be marketed under any name chosen, but the important thing is that the emblem should be reserved for the label which implies the highest quality. 1 believe that, by not first setting the standard in the way that I have mentioned, we are only wasting money in canvassing the
British housewives with the object of increasing our canned fruits trade. I understand that the new policy of the department represents a departure from the policy that has been applied during the last two years in an attempt to impress on the minds of the British consumers the meaning of the emblem. It is intended to use a portion of the available money to subsidize the advertising of private brands. In my opinion,, unless we insist on the emblem being, reserved for our highest-grade products,, this will be a retrograde step. We must keep in mind the great potentiality of the British market, particularly for pineapple products.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m..
– Before the suspension of the sitting, I was speaking about the marketing of our primary products in Great Britain. I consider it to be very fitting that the pineapple industry of Queensland should be represented, as foreshadowed in this bill, on the board which will deal with the marketing of pineapples in the years to come. This industry is bound to suffer from severe competition.
– Only the canneries will be represented.
– 1 believe that the canneries are the most important part of the industry as far as the overseas marketing of pineapples is concerned. That is because I do not think that we shall ever sell fresh pineapples in Great Britain. It is my belief that we shall meet the most serious competition from South Africa, but there are other countries in the Pacific which will also enter into strong competition with Australia. Recently, when I was in Formosa, I noticed that the Republic of Free China was setting up a cannery with a view to entering the export market for canned pineapple. A particularly good-quality fruit is grown in Formosa, and the people of that country intend to compete with us in the markets of Great Britain and other countries. It is fitting that our own pineapple canneries should have a representative on the proposed board, because such a representative could carefully watch the marketing position, particularly in the future. I hope that we shall learn something from the fact that the Queensland Government drove private enterprise in pineapple production out of that’ State.
– -Private enterprise in which industry?
– If the honorable senator will refer to the bill he will see that it deals with the pineapple industry, and that is the industry that I am talking about. It is regrettable that the Queensland Labour Government so short-sightedly continued controls in Queensland that eventually it drove private enterprise out of the pineapple industry and sent it to South Africa. The Queensland Government has brought a great deal of trouble on itself through that -action.
– When did the Queensland Government drive private enterprise out?
– Speaking from memory I should say that the exodus started in 1947 or 1948. I am particularly perturbed about our altered policy of advertising in Great Britain. For two years we have been building up a name for our products in Great Britain, but we have not yet protected that name by insisting that our exports shall be of high quality. As one who has marketed many products in Australia for many years, I say that in sound marketing there is no alternative to high quality. If we have good quality goods, we can sell them with the greatest confidence in any market. If my information is correct, the Department of Trade is about to depart from all the practices of the past two years and is now talking about allocating finance from the advertising fund to private brands in Great Britain. Some brands are well known and are accepted by the people of Great Britain, but some have done irreparable damage to the reputation of Australia, because the marketers of those brands have not insisted that the goods be of high quality. I appeal to the Government, and particularly to the Department of Trade, to study the aspect of quality very closely, because I believe - as I think all honorable senators believe - that the future prosperity of our country lies in building up an export trade in goods of a satisfactory standard.
We cannot purchase anything overseas unless we have first exported something and sold it. It follows that the more we export, the more we can import; and, therefore, I appeal to the Government and the department to recognize what has happened overseas during the last couple of years. If we are to continue to spend money in advertising, we should first take the fundamental step necessary in any sales promotion scheme and lay down a standard of quality which can be relied upon by the purchaser who, in most cases, is the housewife; and the housewife overseas wants to be sure that whenever she buys Australian products, she will receive goods of a uniformly high quality.
– Will not the proposed board ensure such standards?
– I was speaking generally . of Australian products sold abroad, because at this stage we have set no standard for canned fruits. I agree that most of our marketing boards have tried to lay down proper standards, but I was dealing with the general matter raised by Senator Sheehan. I say that we should stop trying to force the sale of our surplus goods regardless of their quality. We should find out what our prospective customers want and then produce goods to satisfy that demand. Only in that way can we build up goodwill and a stable overseas trade which will bring sufficient money to this country to pay for all the goods that we need to import.
My information is that the Department of Trade, after having had one policy for two years, is going to depart from that policy and use part of the advertising money the Government has supplied for the promotion of sales in Great Britain, for the promotion of private brands without first laying down standards of quality. If my information is correct, I believe that the department should reconsider its decision. If it does not do so, we shall have wasted all the money that we have spent on sales promotion over the last two years, and we shall get nowhere. We must insist that the goods exported from Australia are of the highest quality. If we do, we shall find a sure market and, moreover, the market will be a continuing one. Only in that way shall we bring from overseas the money that we so badly need in this country.
.- I agree with the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), and I suggest that it is more democratic for an industry to elect a representative to a marketing board than it is to appoint a nominee. The Labour party has always stood for democracy, and if the amendment is accepted it will bring us closer to true democracy in this industry, lt would be of great advantage if there were also a representative of the employees on this board of control because he could put forward certain aspects of the industry of which, probably, the other members on the board would not be aware. In those circumstances, I suggest that it would be to the advantage of the industry to accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. After having read the statement issued by the Australian Canned Fruits Board, I was amazed to hear Senator Henty say that a Labour government had driven the pineapple industry out of business in Queensland. A perusal of the published figures will disclose just how absurd such a statement is. One honorable senator referred by way of interjection to garbage tins. Let me remind the Senate that fruit is not found at the bottom of garbage tins and, further, there were neither garbage tins nor garbage in the Senate until the honorable senator came into it.
It is true that there was a slackening off in exports during the war years when we certainly did have mountains of controls, but I shudder to think what would have happened to this country at that time if we had not had controls. During the war years, the Government paid out millions of pounds to the producers of apples, pears, apricots, peaches, pineapples, indeed of fruit of all descriptions in order to keep those industries going. Senator Henty knows perfectly well what happened during the war years, just as he knows perfectly well what would have happened to this country but for controls.
– I was speaking about the post-war years. The honorable senator does not seem to understand that.
– Let me confine my remarks to the pineapple industry, which Senator Henty said controls had driven out of existence. A perusal of the figures will disclose that there was a steady increase in production right from 1926 but it remained stationary from 1941 to 1945 at about 237.000 cartons. At that time, controls were in operation, and a further factor to be remembered is that much of the pineapple producing country had been: evacuated during the war years. A furtherimportant point is that during those war years pineapples were not exported becausethere was no shipping to convey them, overseas.
– I was not speaking, about the war years; I was speaking about, the post-war years. Does not the honorable senator know that by 1947-48 the war was over? They are the years I mentioned.
– Now that Senator Henty has finished his second speech I might be accorded the privilege of being: allowed to continue. Evidently, he does not relish my remarks. He has made erroneous statements. When I quote from official! documents he feels a little uncomfortable, although I can understand that because themaking of erroneous statements is part of his stock in trade. Senator Henty said that he was referring to the post-war period. Let me deal with the period between 1946- and 1950. Not even Senator Henty can. deny that from 1946 to 1949 Labour occupied the treasury bench in this Parliament’ or that during those years the average production, when he said the industry had beendriven out of Queensland-
– I was referring to private enterprise.
– Let me quote the figures published in a document issued by a> Minister of the Government of which Senator Henty is a member. Surely, Senator Henty will not say that a Minister of this. Government has been guilty of issuing “ phoney “ documents? Production in thisindustry, which he said Labour drove out of existence after the war, increased from 237,000 cartons in 1945 to 375,000 cartons in 1950.
– I do not deny that.
– But this was during: the time when Senator Henty said we had1 driven the industry out of existence!
– I said that private enterprise had been driven out of the industry. That production was achieved by the co-operatives. The honorable senator knows that. He is misrepresenting the whole position, and he knows he is doing, so.
– I gave the honorable senator a courteous hearing while he was speaking. When he was seeking to misquote the Minister’s statement about the production of pineapples, 1 sat quietly listening to him because: 1 had in my possession a document issued by that Minister which would completely explode all the arguments the honorable senator had been putting forward.
Let me deal now with private enterprise about which the honorable senator had so much to say. He said that we had driven it to South Africa. That is not the truth. If private investors went to South Africa to engage in the pineapple industry, they did so for the same .reason as prompted the Canadians, for instance, to engage in industry in New Guinea. They sought to establish the pineapple industry in Africa because labour was cheap there and, therefore, they could make greater profits. By conducting an industry in Africa where employees exist on a slave standard of living they could make much higher profits than they could ever hope to make in Australia where the standard of living of the worker is so much higher than that of the native labour of Africa. I know about the slave labour conditions in Africa, because I have been to that country and have seen them. I also saw how strong racial prejudice is there. I had visual evidence of how the white population treats the African natives.
– Has the honorable senator been to South Africa?
– Do not let honorable senators get the idea that private enterprise went to South Africa and paid the same wage rates as they were paying in Australia. They did no such thing.
– Has the honorable senator been to South Africa?
– I have been to parts of it.
– Why did not the honorable senator stay there?
– I had to come back to keep irresponsible people like Senator Scott in order in this chamber. I might have stayed there, but I knew that some honorable senators would run wild, just as Senator Henty did with his erroneous statement to-night.
It has been said thai: some of those who had been engaged in the industry here went to South Africa. Despite their establishing the industry over there, production here continued to increase and jumped from 237,000 cartons to 375,000 cartons under a Labour government. By 1951, production had increased to 449,000 cartons.
– Under a non-Labour government.
– That is correct; but by 1952, and still under a Government supported by Senator Scott, production had dropped to 208,000 cartons. Can the honorable senator blame the Labour party for a drop in production that took place during the regime of a Government which he supported?
– Yes. That drop took place in Queensland.
– I remind the Senate that nature plays a part in these things, that seasons fluctuate and that, therefore, there are gluts land famines. I do not say that the drop was due to any mismanagement on the part of the present Government. 1 realize that nature plays a big part in industries such as this. After 1951, production began to increase, and by 1954 it had reached 1,109,000 cartons. Under a Liberal government it declined. Production has fluctuated. There has been a steady increase of production since 1926, and it is not correct, as the honorable senator suggested, that we drove people out of production while the Labour government was in office.
– I was referring to private enterprise.
– I admit that we drove some sections of private enterprise out of production, because it was necessary to do i so unless we wanted the Japanese to overrun Australia. Senator Henty knows that controls were essential at that time. As a result, some sections of private industry were driven out. It was a case of living or dying, and we preferred to live. It must be admitted, however, that we tried to fit everybody into a position where he or she would contribute most to the war effort or to essential industries. During the war, many industries tried to get the label of an essential industry. 1 know the circumstances because I was associated with man-power controls.
The industry that is under consideration has developed steadily. I agree with honorable senators on the Government side that, in 1945, there were no exports of fruit, but the industry has expanded since then. In those years, we paid out millions of pounds to allow millions of cases of apples and pears to rot on the ground. We did that to keep the industry going at a time when there were no ships to carry goods for export. The honorable senator is not supporting his case when he cites those circumstances.
The Labour government’s policy was so good that we accumulated an overseas credit balance of £800,000,000, and left it for this Government. Now it has dwindled to about £300,000,000. That shows that this Government’s policy is out of step with the performance of the Labour government. Immediately after the war, and until 1949, during the regime of the Labour government, our exports increased, and showed a big surplus over imports. This Government has allowed the balance of payments to fall by £500,000,000; yet Senator Henty had the audacity to criticize the export policy of the Labour government. Before the honorable senator talks again about garbage tins, he should study the report of the Australian Canned Fruits Board, which was published over the name of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture at that time, Mr. McEwen.
.- The object of the bill is simply to provide machinery for persons, firms and exporters engaged in canning pineapples to elect one of themselves to the board which will control the exports of canned pineapple. The discussion on the bill has followed various channels, and I would not have had anything to say on the measure but for the fact that Senator Henty commented upon Queensland conditions. I do not believe that he was fully informed on the canning activities in that State, nor did he have complete knowledge of the pineapple industry as it has operated in Queensland during World War II., and up to the present time. Senator Henty said, in effect, that the controls were too rigid. I do not know whether he implied that that was the situation during the war, or that the Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing was using the powers conferred upon it by the
Queensland Parliament to ensure that the pineapple industry operated under its jurisdiction. The co-operative companies knew the class of pineapple to grow in variousparts of the State, and they knew what the overseas market really required in. canned fruit.
– Senator Benn understood what I said. I was talking about the years 1947-48.
– As I know Queensland conditions, I did understand what Senator Henty meant, although he did not put it that way. It is a fact that one company transferred its activities to South Africa. It saw an opportunity there, but Queensland has not suffered as a result of that transfer. Certainly, it has met with some competition from another country, but we should not shrink from international competition in trade. We must take the broadest view. When we are producing foodstuffs, we should not adopt the attitude that we must not compete with South Africa and other countries.
I do not know exactly what has happened over the years, or why the Government has introduced this bill. I do not know why it should decide now that there are so many persons engaged in the pineapple industry, and they want to elect a representative. How does that coincide with the statement by Senator Henty? If there are several companies engaged in the industry in Australia, evidently the Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing has not prevented them from maintaining and extending their activities. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) stated, in his second-reading speech -
The committee itself has since become the largest producer of canned pineapples, but there has been some development of independent pineapple canneries outside the jurisdiction of the committee.
It is not clear to me whether that means outside Queensland, or inside Queensland but outside the jurisdiction of the committee. The statements that have been made in this chamber to-day, and elsewhere at times, suggest that the Government has become export happy. There is too much emphasis on exports.
– Not enough emphasis.
– That is what the Government and its supporters think because of the falling overseas balance of payments.
Our balance now stands at £300,000,000. When the Government suggests that that is not enough, and calls for concentration upon goods that can be exported overseas, it is forgetting the Australian market of approximately 9,000,000 people. The Government could do much better if it attended more to the quality of the commodities that we are producing, and gave some attention to the local market.
I shall have more to say on that matter later, but as I am replying now, more or less, to Senator Henty, I remind him that there are now 11,000 sacks of potatoes in storage in Sydney. Why are they held in store? I presume they are of good quality.
– The housewives will not buy them.
– They will not buy them, because the price is too high. I do not doubt the quality of those potatoes, but, as I have stated, the price is too high. Therefore, irrespective of whether a commodity is being produced for local consumption or overseas export, quality is not the only thing that must be considered. We constantly hear from other countries comments about what they purchase from Australia and what we obtain from them. That attitude seems to be developing throughout the world. As I said a while ago, this Government is becoming export happy. Every country wants to export its commodities to other countries, but it does not wish to purchase anything from those countries to which it exports. That attitude exists in Australia, and it is of no use for the Government to try to hide the fact. Australia wants to export everything it possibly can to overseas countries that are capable of buying its products, but it does not wish to buy anything from them. International trade cannot be conducted along those lines.
A little while ago I mentioned the local market. I now propose to say something further about it because it is important, and I think it can be developed. Every producer and manufacturer should satisfy Australian customers before he thinks of his export trade. Let us examine what is happening in relation to the products of the South Australian dried fruits industry. We find that the manufacturers are engaged in the blatant topping of packets qf muscatels.
– They are blatantly topping the packets of muscatels.
– If the honorable senator does not know what topping is, I tell him it means that the good quality muscatels are placed , at the top of the packet and immediately beneath the cellophane paper whilst the muscatels underneath are so small that they are little larger than the stones in the big muscatels. They become mouldy in Queensland and cannot be stored for more than a week or two. So the manufacturers should guard against sending mouldy muscatels, topped as they are, to the Queensland market. In addition, the packets are shaped in such a way as to deceive the public. They are offered in various weights, but very often are sold at the same price. The muscatels are packed in packets containing 14 oz., 16 oz. and 18 oz., but very often the price for all sizes is the same. Housewives buy a packet of muscatels weighing 14 oz. thinking they are getting a pound of muscatels.
– These things are going on. This Government has the power to deal with weights and measures, and I propose to advocate a more vigorous exercise of those powers because of the practices in which the muscatel packers of South Australia are engaged. I shall now say something about the peaches and apricots that are canned in Victoria. Senator Sheehan raised this matter this afternoon. Before I pursue it, I remind the Senate that pineapples, because of their shape, are easily canned, and that when the average housewife goes into a shop and purchases a can of pineapple, she gets value for her money. But, if one purchases a can of peaches or apricots from Victoria, one finds, particularly in regard to some of the apricots, that they are small, sour, and half green. The producers are told that, if they improve their products, their packing methods and that kind of thing, they will be able to sell their goods overseas easily; but I say that it is the duty of the producers and manufacturers to attend first to the requirements of the local market which is expanding all’ the time. Senator Henty told us a little while ago that goods that are exported to the United Kingdom and other countries, should have the word “ Australia “ stamped! on them, and that we should insist upon a certain standard. 1 suggest that across the top of the bags of potatoes that Tasmania exports to the mainland of Australia should be printed the word “ Tasmania “. The contents of bags of Tasmanian potatoes are found, upon examination on the mainland, to be seven-eighths potatoes and one-eighth Tasmanian mud.
– This is good stuff; keep it up.
– I believe that Government senators support the dishonest practices that are being followed. Indeed, I know they do. I know that they support the companies that are deceiving the public and are overcharging for their products. I know they believe in a form of legalized robbery. I know that Senator Scott would do anything that is un-Australian.I challenge him to interject again before I sit down. If he does, I shall tell him something that he has done that is distinctly unAustralian.
– What have I done that was un- Australian?
– Order !
– I support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna).
– in reply - This debate has got well away from the real purpose of the bill. I shall resist the temptation to enter into a discussion of the relative merits of the export-import policies that have been adopted by this Government and the previous government. I rise simply to give certain information to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) who asked for more specific information about whether it was envisaged that the basis of representation would be altered. I inform him that that is not intended, but that the basis of one vote for 120,000 tins will be retained. He asked, too, about the regulations. I inform him that the regulations are being re-drafted to meet the conditions that will be imposed by this measure. Before the debate wandered from the amendments that are contained in the bill, I was interested in what had been said about marketing arrangements and the need for keeping under constant surveillance this very important aspect of overseas marketing. I was particularly interested in what both Senator Sheehan and Senator Henty had to say on the subject. At this moment I can do nothing more than assure the Senate that I have noted what they said, and that I propose to direct the attention of my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) to it.I have no doubt that, in his wisdom, he will, in turn, discuss the matter with the Australian Canned Fruits Board.
Senator McKenna proposes to move an amendment in committee with respect to employee representation on the board, and it will probably be more appropriate if I reserve my comments on that matter until it is formally moved.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Bill - by leave - taken as whole.
– I refer to clause 3, which reads -
Section four of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting paragraph (e) of sub-section (2.) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph: - “ (d) one member elected to represent canneries engaged in the production of canned pineapples or canned pineapple juice.”; and move -
That, after proposed paragraph (d), the following word and paragraph be inserted: - “ and (e) one member elected by members of the Food Preservers Union of Australia to represent employees in the canned fruit industry.”
The purpose of the amendment is clear. It is to add to this board of four members one more member, representative of the union controlling the employees engaged in the canning of fruit. I do not propose to develop the argument at length. Already I have addressed one to honorable senators when the Senate was in session. I merely summarize that argument by saying, in the first place, that it is trade union policy, enunciated long ago by the Australian Council of Trades Unions, to secure representation of employees on boards of this nature. That policy was implemented by the Commonwealth Labour government, and I mentioned as examples the Australian Meat Board, the Australian Dairy Produce Board, the Australian Egg Board and some others. These, under the aegis of this Government, have continued to function as originally constituted. Consequently, the proposal that the Opposition now” puts forward, is not an innovation. It is in accordance with a principle that is in operation, and by acquiescence on the part of this Government is functioning successfully. It may well be applied in the fruit canning industry, more particularly than in other export industries, because in the canned fruit industry there is a combination of primary activity and manufacturing activity. It is vastly important that the workers engaged in the industrial process should see through to the end of their work, which is the sale of the goods that they have helped to produce.
It is easier for a representative of the employees than for any one else to persuade them that the packing should be good, that the highest grade fruit should be used and defective fruit rejected, and to drive home to them the need to preserve a high standard of Australian products, not only in the interests of the proprietors of the fruit, but also for the sake of the good name of Australia, their country, and to safeguard their own employment.
I can imagine no better advocate for the cause of satisfactory marketing methods than the representative of the employees on such a board. He would be the liaison between the board and the workers. Unquestionably they would take far more notice of the informed opinion of a representative who knew the vagaries of international markets, and the difficulties that the board experienced in competing against other countries with a shorter freight haul and the advantages of subsidies from their governments. They would be more likely to listen to .one who knew not only the economics of marketing the product, but also the difficulties which surround the process of competing in a world market that is tightening. They would learn from him the threat from American products, and above all from the Philippines. I understand that the Philippines are probably the biggest producers of canned pineapples and pineapple juice in the world. They dispose of their products all round the globe. They do not trade in the English market because their interests are in the dollar areas. That is the real explanation for their not cutting in to the sterling area. I have little doubt, however, that they could undercut the price of the Australian product. The United Kingdom is extending preference to Australian goods, but I think every honorable senator would agree that it is desirable that, there should be an understanding of these processes and difficulties, and of all the economics of the industry throughout all stages of production. Surely it would be conceded that that, in itself, is a good principle.
We are asking, accordingly, that good relations be preserved between the two sides of industry - the management and the work force - by this method, and I commend the amendment to the committee. I do not feel that I should advance further arguments in its favour at this stage. I rather fear that the Minister is not prepared to accept it, having regard to what the Minister in another place, whom he represents, did. That is unfortunate, but I think it would be worth while for the Minister to examine the proposal carefully. I am certain that he would be the first to acknowledge that the workers in this industry have played a magnificent part in bringing it out of the doldrums, and lifting production to the very satisfactory level at which it stands to-day. I certainly pay tribute to them for the part that they have played. They have taken a most enlightened attitude in accepting the mechanization of their industry and every new development that has been responsible for achieving greater production at lower cost. I understand that the wage element in the production of canned fruits is less than that in any other Australian product. That is due to the high degree of mechanization, which has been readily accepted by the members of this union.
On behalf of the workers, and of the Opposition in particular, I urge the Minister not to take a narrow view of this proposal. I am putting it objectively, and in the interests of our foreign exchange, for the sake of the good name of Australia, for good relations between workers and management and, generally, to assure continuity of work in the. fruit-canning industry.
.- I support the amendment moved and spoken to by Senator McKenna. In his second- reading speech the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) said -
The industry and the Australian Canned Fruits Board consider that the canned pineapple representative should now be elected rather than -appointed on nomination so as to conform with the position of the other representatives, and the Government agrees with that view.
The Opposition believes that to be a valid proposition, particularly in an effort to achieve uniformity. Having moved the amendment, the onus is scarcely on the Opposition to justify the proposed representation of employees on the board, because although Senator McKenna has advanced a most valid argument in support of that contention, the fact is that on many similar boards the unions are repre.sented. As the Government, in respect of one principle, has rested on the plea of uniformity, the onus is now on the Government to apply that principle and have union representation on this board. I feel that the Government would have some difficulty in establishing why there should be a distinction in this case. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has said, this is a most important and valuable industry that is likely to be of increasing importance and significance in the Australian economy and on our trade scene. This is a union which, because of its nature, is likely to be intensely affected, I should -imagine, by automation and when that position arises and we proceed past the present stage of highly-applied automatic -processes to the actual stage of the application of automation there will then be a tremendous concern for the workers in the :industry. Concern will be felt not only for the welfare of the industry but also for protection of the interests of the workers in it. At that stage, it is quite likely that the Government will be very regretful that it did not accept the proposition proposed in this amendment, because at this stage the giving of the workers representation on a board will represent a major factor in the welfare and development of the industry. “Such representation will be considered completely justifiable when conditions we now visualize can easily arise actually do arise.
Before I sit down, I shall take the opportunity to quote briefly from the report for the 1955 financial year of the Director of Marketing in Queensland with reference to the export of canned pineapple. I do so simply to indicate to Senator Henty that there is no point in resting on the completely doctrinaire approach that because private enterprise, for one reason or another, moved out of the canning industry in Queensland, that is a matter for grave regret. That proposition could only be sustained if the job was not being done at all, or was being done inefficiently, and either the primary producer, the canning industry, the consumer or the nation was suffering in consequence. The report of the Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing for the year I have mentioned indicates that the contrary is the case; and I ask the Senate to bear with me while I read one or two excerpts from that report. It states -
C.O.D. canning activities have proved an important economic factor in stabilizing the Queensland Fruit Industry, particularly with regard to pineapplegrowers who, before the establishment of the cannery at Northgate, regularly suffered the effects of limited intake by canneries during the peak harvesting period of each summer crop. The Cannery Board of Management has throughout planned to provide canning facilities to handle the peak of each crop without allocations of fresh fruit supplies.
A very interesting graph indicates that there has been a record sales turnover over the years for the canned products of the Committee of Direction. From a figure of about 10,200 tons in 1947-48 sales have risen to a figure of 51,000 tons in 1954-55. That shows that under this co-operative system - apparently a very efficient system - there has been a tremendous production - not necessarily continuous, because it has been sporadic and there have been recesses, particularly in 1951-52 - of canned products and that marketing has reached a satisfactory stage. Perhaps, a more important comment is the following: -
Opening prices of pineapples sliced and pieces were most satisfactory and the sale of the remainder of the pack was finally negotiated at firm prices with delivery spread over the months February to October. Pineapple canners were the only section of the Australian canned fruit exporters to sell at prices higher than the minimum prices fixed by the Australian Canned Fruits Board.
That is a very temperate and no doubt accurate, and, indeed, comforting comment on the efficient activities controlled by the Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing. I mention that fact in reply to Senator Henty and also to highlight the importance of this industry. That comes back to the amend- ment moved by the Leader of the Opposition on. behalf of senators on this side of the chamber, and. to the important part that the workers play in the industry, and, therefore, the real necessity to take this opportunity to have them represented on the export board because in them ultimately, in a large measure the future of the industry will lie. I support the amendment.
.- I support the amendment because it embodies a principle which should be given much wider application than it has hitherto been given. Two representatives of trades unions who are members of boards in Victoria are known to me personally. They are Mr. R. Balcombe of the Australian Dairy Produce Board and Mr. W. P. Taylor of the Australian Wheat Board. I have been told that their presence on those boards has been to the good of the industries they represent, and the fact that they have been, re-appointed by successive, governments- indicates that they have given satisfaction.
The Food Preservers Union is in very good hands. That is always a consideration to which a government should give heed when making a decision as to whether it will permit a body to be represented on an export commodity board. Not only is this union in good hands; but it- has also co-operated very well indeed with the employer’s side of the industry in endeavouring to raise standards and preserve industrial peace. From what I know of this union and those associated with it, I feel that if a representative of it were to be put on this board it WOUld be a big factor in developing the industry and’ preserving good industrial relations.
– I support the amendment. My reason for doing so is that if employers’ representatives only are on a board of this kind the dominating influence will be minimum cost and maximum profit. To the extent that that policy can be enforced, the workers will receive the very least, and the employers the very most. That is the conflict of interests which is responsible for most industrial disputes and strikes, lt a representative of the employees is a member of a board he can submit reasons why employees should receive the consideration to which they think they are entitled and thus a better opportunity will exist for the industry, to. be carried, on peacefully in the interests of all. In this instance, the Government says that the employers should have all the voice and the employees none at all. Such a provocative and challenging attitude is fundamentally responsible for all the trouble that, it condemns.
I have represented employees on many boards and also in connexion with many propositions, and I have found that the more points of view that are presented and discussed around the table the better is the chance of arriving at an amicable agreement. However, when the Government provides, as it does- in< this bill, that employees are not to: be heard but employers are to have all the voice, all the trouble to which it objects originates from that attitude. A bill that provides only for the representation of employers is both provocative and challenging. Because of its approach to such matters, the Government itself is the originator of industrial trouble, which is increasing. Why should the employers have all the say and the employees none? Do the employers act ex cathedra on these questions? Must their word be final? Are not the men who actually do the work to have any say? If this crystalizes the Govern: ment’s attitude, it must be prepared for the inevitable reaction, which, in the long run, will cost more than if the amendment were accepted. Why should the employers have, all the say on what should, or should not, be done in the interests of both employers and employees? This onesided’ approach to industrial matters has been the primary cause of much of the trouble that exists to-day. If the supporters of the Government are not influenced on the grounds of logic to accept the amend. ment, inevitably they will be influenced, in time, by practical considerations.
– Despite the persuasive speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna); and the speeches of his colleagues who have supported him, I am sure that the Opposition will be neither disappointed nor surprised when I say that the Government will not accept the Opposition’s amendment. As the Senate probably knows, this amendment is having its second run, having been proposed- in another place when the bill was under consideration there. At that time, and since, the Government gave consideration to the proposal, and decided not to accept it.
I would be idle for any one to argue that, in certain circumstances, a very healthy and fruitful liaison could not be established by the employment of a representative of the union, even if not’ as a member of the board. I point out, however, that this board is not a body which concerns itself in any sense with production. lt is not a body that has to do with employment conditions. It is purely a regulatory body. It is not a marketing body nor, I repeat, a body which has anything to do with production. Its chief function is to order the market, and to see that fruit gets to its market place at the right time and in appropriate quantity.
– How, then, is it not a marketing body?
– It merely regulates the flow of fruit to the market. Having regard to the kind of board that it is, the Government does not consider that its efficiency would be improved by the adoption of the amendment. There is, of course, no bar whatever to the union making advances, representations or suggestions to the board. lt may be that it lies within the competence of the union, or of some members of the union, to enrich the board by some knowledge. Surely no sensible board would resist or discourage that sort of association between itself and the employees.
This board has been in existence for 30 years, and it is a significant fact that not until this late date has the union, in this rather unusual manner, if I may use that term, submitted a case to the Government for representation on the board.
Senator Byrne sought to convince the Senate that we were, in fact, departing from an accepted principle by excluding from this board a representative of the union. I remind the honorable senator that other boards, performing similar functions, do not include representatives of unions. The Dried Fruits Board and the Wine Board are two examples of organizations that do not include union representation. In conclusion, let me point out that it is the firm policy of this Government, regardless of the policy of the Opposition, that wherever possible or practicable producers should comprise the membership of these organizations. It is the intention of the Government to stick to its own policy.
– I am obliged to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) for his statement. 1 inform him at once that the Opposition is disappointed, but not surprised, by the Government’s decision. He has said that the board does not concern itself with production, and that it is purely regulatory in character. 1 think that I quote the Minister correctly when I say that he said that the board’s job was to see that the product getsto its market place at the fight time and in. appropriate quantity. I think that he might well have added, “ And that it is of the right quality “. That is the particular point - although not the only one - at which theemployee enters the picture I think it is a basic fact of human relationships that the worker, the man who makes things with hishands or by his toil, is not satisfied, as a. human being, when the products pass from his possession. He does not lose all interest in them the moment that he is paid. Thai, is a narrow view that does not recognize uman’s personality. I think it is an aspectthat must be considered quite apart frontall the economic considerations that arcinvolved. I do not accept the assertion that, this is a board upon which employee representation would not be appropriate. Ot course, the Minister can point to various boards which do not include union representation. That, I think, indicates that theprinciple has not been extended far enough, and should be further extended, lt is a very heartless approach - a soulless proposition - that the union can make suggestions. It would be infinitely better if a spokesmanfor the union had the right to be present, when terms and conditions of marketingwere under consideration, to state the union’s point of view, and to answer objections. I repeat that we are disappointed that the Government has decided not to accept our amendment. The Minister indicated that in some 30 years the union had not pressed this point. Some unions are active and some are not in matters such as this; but at the moment this union has a federal president who has had the widest industrial experience. He is Mr. Percy Clarey, the honorable member for Bendigo. who brings to his office of federal president not only the widest knowledge of the industrial front and of industrial policy as a former Australian Council of Trades Unions chief, but also a very nice concept of the parliamentary and national issues involved in a matter of this kind. He is ihe federal president of the Food Preservers Union of Australia, for which the Opposition seeks representation on the body to be set up under the bill. He has the widest knowledge of all industrial and parliamentary affairs, and I have no doubt that everybody would’ treat with great respect any views put forward by Mr. Clarey because they would know that his opinions would not be put forward lightly. He has undoubtedly brought to his position in that union the fruits of his experience and knowledge, and has moved the union to a position where its effort to secure recognition should be encouraged and welcomed in the interests of everybody, and should not be rejected.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator McKenna’s amendment) be inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– by leave - To-night in another place the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a very important statement. 1 intend to read that statement to the Senate. It is as follows: - lt is essential, if we are to form valid judgments on the Suez Canal issue, to begin by getting our facts right. 1 therefore propose to begin with the facts. The Suez Canal was not built by Egypt. lt was, as I have said elsewhere, “ the product of the bold vision and engineering genius of a Frenchman, de Lesseps, and ihe financial resources of a company whose shareholding was international. The then government of Egypt (the Khedive) granted to the company a concession not due to expire until 1968. This concession meant the construction of a canal which had for centuries been merely dreamed about. So far from subtracting from Egypt, it made Egypt, in an international sense, for it put her on one of the great cross-roads of the world.
In 1888, a convention was entered into between the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Spain, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Russia and Turkey (under whose authority the Khedive of Egypt had granted the concession), under which the “ free use of the Suez Maritime Canal “ was guaranteed. The purpose of the convention was “ to establish, by a conventional act, a definite system destined to guarantee at all times, and for all the Powers, the free use of the Suez Maritime Canal, and thus to complete the system under which the navigation of this canal has been placed by the firman of His Imperial Majesty the Sultan, dated the 22nd February, 1866, and sanctioning the concessions of His Highness the Khedive ‘.
Nothing could be clearer. As the firman of 1866 had established the canal company’s concession, that concession was expressly recognized and, as it were, incorporated in the terms of the 1888 convention. It is an abuse of language to describe the company, merely because it was technically resident in Egypt, as anything other than an international entity, with rights recognized by an international treaty.
It became, and is, a vital element in much of the world’s trade, including the great bulk of our own. Peaceful and unimpeded traffic along its waters is, in great measure, the condition of industrial prosperity and employment in western Europe, half of whose total oil supplies pass through the canal. Its business is expanding. Tanker traffic alone will double and treble in a few years’ time. East of Suez there are hundreds of millions of people for whose goods, bought or sold, the Suez canal offers the shortest and cheapest route.
The canal company did, and continued to do, its work. Until the Israel-Egypt question of 1951 and since, there were no politics in the canal. It was not the instrument of any domestic politics; it was, in the strict sense, a free and open international waterway, upon the continuance and freedom of which the trade and economy of scores of independent nations came increasingly to depend. Indeed, in a broadcast made as far back as 17th November, 1954, the Egyptian President, Colonel Nasser, said that there remained fourteen years until the end of the canal company’s concession. He said that good relations existed between the company and the Egyptian Government, which had, he said, full confidence in the attitude of the company.
Egypt had no grievance against the company’s administration. It is another remarkable fact, too little known or remembered, that on 10th June of this year, the continuing validity of the concession was again recognized by the present Government of Egypt. On that day that Government approved an agreement under which the company was to invest in Egypt an amount exceeding £21,000,000- £10,000,000 by the end of 1956, £3,000,000 by the end of 1957, £2,000,000 by the end of 1958, and instalments to be increased annually until the end of 1963. The whole agreement recognized that the company’s concession ran until 1968.
This is a most significant fact. The company was actually encouraged to continue to lay out vast sums in Egypt. Seven weeks later, the company was, assuming the legal validity of Colonel Nasser’s action, destroyed.
On 26th July, Colonel Nasser, stung by the refusal of an American loan for the High Dam, purported, by a so-called nationalization decree, to terminate the concession and appropriate the assets of the company. In express terms, he made it clear that the canal was being taken over so that financially, it should serve the special needs and interests of Egypt. While he paid lip service to the 1888 convention, the terms of which he had, in the judgment of the United Nations, glaringly broken in the case of Israel, he made it plain, though in rhetorical terms, that in future the canal was to be an instrument of Egyptian politics and the servant of Egypt’s financial needs. This position he re-asserted in our Cairo discussions.
This high-handed, and as I believe, illegal action, produced a world crisis. The whole future of the canal was, and is, at stake. It was, of course, at once said by some people who, quaintly enough, regarded the problem as a purely academic one, that Egypt, as a sovereign power, had the right to “ nationalize “ an Egyptian enterprise and company, and that therefore there was nothing to argue about. Such people ignored, and ignore, the two salient operative facts:
First, for the historical reasons to which I have referred, the concession had an international character, recognized by an international convention. It could not, therefore, be regarded as a merely domestic enterprise, under the sole control of the Egyptian Government.
Second, what Egypt did was to repudiate this contractual concession twelve years before its due date, without consultation and without agreement. If such a repudiation is not a breach of international law, then there is no international law.
From the point of view of the canal using nations, there were great and urgent issues at once created by Colonel Nasser’s act of repudiation and confiscation -
This meant that, without any formal violation of the 1888 convention, to which Colonel Nasser professes to adhere, the interests of the canal and of its users could be completely subordinated to the financial needs of Egypt. Thus, as I repeatedly pointed out to Colonel Nasser in the Cairo talks, Egypt could, as the sole canal authority and under pressure from her own Treasury, raise the canal dues to the highest point consistent with not actually driving the traffic away. In other words, the canal dues instead of being as light as possible, in the interests of international trade, would become as heavy as possible, in the interests of Egypt’s domestic finance.
Again, the canal has already almost reached traffic saturation point. Over the next comparatively few years, vast sums will need to be raised and laid out On duplication, or widening and deepening, or the construction of more by-passes. Without this kind of thing, the inadequacy of the canal will become an economic disaster for many trading nations and their people. With these improvements and an expanded capacity, canal dues might reasonably be expected to fall. But if Egypt’s internal financial position is to be the determining factor, then current earnings which should be used in part for expansion may well be drawn ofl: into the general revenues of Egypt.
These are but a few of the grave and critical implications of Colonel Nasser’s action. It is small wonder that the reaction in the world was so sharp, and that 22 nations came to the London conference with such anxiety about the future.
The reaction of the Government of the United Kingdom was both prompt and vigorous. It denounced Colonel Nasser’s action. It concerted measures with both the United States and France for the calling of a. world conference of interested nations - including Egypt herself. It put into train military measure!! of mobilization and preparation.
In these Steps, as I would like to remind the House, the United Kingdom Government secured, in Parliament, the swift support of all parties. The philosophic doubts which have since assailed some minds were not pres:nt in the House of Commons on 2nd August, when a debate occurred which deserves to be remembered.
The Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, said, inter alia -
I think it is true to say that the cause for the anger and alarm felt, not only here but among the governments and peoples of the democratic world, at the action of the Egyptian Government, is due to the special character of the canal. It is right, therefore, that the House should be reminded of some aspects of this.
As the world is to-day, and as it is likely to be for some time to come, the industrial life of Western Europe literally depends upon the continuing free navigation of the canal as one of the great international waterways of the world. I need give the House only one example. Last year, nearly 70,000,000 tons of oil passed through the canal, representing about half the oil supplies of Western Europe. . Nor does this traffic affect the West alone. Australia, India, Ceylon and a large part of South-East Asia transport the major proportion of their trad,:, or a large proportion of their trade, through the canal.
Therefore, it is with these reflections in mind that I must repeat the carefully considered sentence which I used in the House on Monday last, if I may quote it again -
No arrangements for the future of this great international waterway could be acceptable to Her Majesty’s Government which would leave it in the unfettered control of a single power which could, as recent events have shown, exploit it purely for purposes of national policy.
That is still our position, and it must remain * so.
The Prime Minister later referred to Colonel Nasser’s broadcast of 17th November, 1954, and to the agreement of 10th June, 1956, of which I have already made mention.
When he came to the matter of military measures, the Prime Minister said -
Colonel Nasser’s arbitrary action in breach of Egypt’s solemn undertakings, many of them recently given, without previous consultation or previous notice, reveals the nature of the regime with which we have to deal, and I think that the action of the Egyptian Government in compelling the Canal Company employees to remain at their posts under threat of imprisonment is certainly, to say the least, a violation of human rights.
In these circumstances, and in view of the uncertain situation created by the actions of the Egyptian Government, Her Majesty’s Government have thought it necessary - and I wanted to take this first opportunity to tell the House - to take certain precautionary measures of a military nature. Their object is to strengthen our position in the eastern Mediterranean and our ability to deal with any situation that may arise.
That the matter was no partisan affair was clearly shown when Mr. Gaitskell spoke for the Opposition. Having stated his own view that the act of nationalization in itself was not wrong, Mr. Gaitskell went on to state three powerful objections to what had been done. First, he said the company was not an ordinary one conducting ordinary activities. It was a company controlling an international waterway of immense importance to the whole of the rest of the world. It was, therefore, bound to be a matter of international concern when it changed hands. He went on -
Now the ownership and control of the company is to be transferred to a single power, to the hands of one State controlling it and, therefore, in a position even more than before to decide how the canal shall be run. It may be said there is no need for anxiety because we have had these assurances about the 1888 convention. I am bound to say that it seems to me the strongest reason for having doubts in our minds as to whether we can accept those assurances has been the behaviour of the Egyptian Government in stopping Israeli ships from going through, and equally important - indeed, even more important - the clear defiance of the resolution of the United Nations condemning this action, passed in September, 1951.
Mr. Gaitskell proceeded ;
The second reason why I think we must take strong exception to this is that any confidence we might have had in an action of this kind was profoundly shaken by the manner in which it was carried out. It was done suddenly, without negotiation, without discussion, by force, and it was done on the excuse that this was the way to finance the Aswan Dam project.
Mr. Gaitskell continued ;
My third reason for thinking that we must object to this is that we cannot ignore - and this is a matter that the Prime Minister did not touch upon, no doubt for good reasons - the political background and the repercussions ofthe whole of this episode in the Middle East. We cannot forget that Colonel Nasser has repeatedly boasted of his intention to create an Arab empire from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf . . .
The fact is that this episode must be recognized as part of the struggle for the mastery of the Middle East. That is something which I do not feel that we can ignore.
Mr. Gaitskell showed a realistic approach to the matter when he said -
I am satisfied, for these reasons, that if the Western democracies and, indeed, other countries in the world, had simply accepted this and done nothing about it, highly dangerous consequences would have followed.
When it came to the military measures which have been so much criitcized since, he said -
I do not myself object to the precautionary steps announced by the Prime Minister to-day; I think that any government would have to do that, as we had to do it during the Persian crisis.
Mr. Herbert Morrison, whose standing is so well known, made a remarkable speech. He said that-
No country unilaterally should do something which is calculated to upset the interests of the wider world and unilaterally upset the international applecart.
In one sentence, he cut through all the alleged legal arguments when he said of Colonel Nasser -
He is a person to be condemned, because he has acted contrary to the law of nations, of international good faith and against the principle of an institution which, while it might be more internationally owned, is, at any rate, internationally owned and held in trust for the common use of all the peoples of the world.
Having condemned the Government for what he described as “ an excessive policy of appeasement towards Egypt “, Mr. Morrison went on to deal with the question of force.
Having staled that he was in favour of taking the matter to the United Nations, so long as the United Nations would be expeditious and effective about it, he went on to say -
I say to the United Nations that if it wishes - as we would wish it - to become the great moral authority of the world and the great decisive instrument, it must stop dodging vital international issues. If our Government and France, and, if possible, the United States should come to the conclusion that in the circumstances the use of force would be justified, then I think that it is up to each honorable Member of this House to tell the Government whether he would support them or whether he would not For my own part, in principle, if, after an elaborate and proper consideration the Government and our friends come to that conclusion, I think that in the circumstances of this particular case it might well be the duty of honorable Members, including myself, to say that we would give them support.
I think it fair to say that when honorable members read these speeches, one made by a Prime Minister who has had an enormous experience in foreign affairs and whose name is honorably associated with the constitution of the United Nations, another by Mr. Gaitskell, the new Leader of the Labour party in Great Britain, and the third by Mr. Herbert Morrison, a former Foreign Secretary and Minister, whose services will be long remembered and who is a veteran socialist in the Labour movement, it can hardly be said that the United Kingdom’s reaction was either illconsidered, partisan or hysterical.
The facts were, of course, that force had already been used by Egypt, with the threat of more to come. This aspect of the matter just cannot sensibly be overlooked.
The so-called Nationalization Decree of 26th July went into operation on that day by the arrival, at the company’s various premises and depots, of armed troops who proceeded incontinently to seize the premises and plant. Call this nationalization if you will. It is not our conception of nationalization. It was, in plain English, the acquisition of property - somebody else’s property - by the use and threat of force. Moreover, there was a strange violence in the treatment of non-Egyptian pilots. These pilots owed no allegiance to any employer other than the Suez Canal Company. They were not chattels to be taken over by a new master, at will. Yet they were, by the terms of the “ nationalization “ decree, compelled to serve in the employ of the new Egyptian authority, on penalty of imprisonment!
I will quote the precise words of the canal company nationalization law, referring to the new Egyptian board -
Article 4 - Said board shall retain all the employees and workers of the nationalized company. They will continue performing their duties and none can leave his work or give it up in any manner or for any reason except with the permission of the Authority mentioned in Article 2.
Article 5 - Every contravention of Article 4 shall be punishable with imprisonment in addition to denying the person concerned any right to compensation, pension or end of service gratuity.
Is it to be wondered at that preparatory military measures were taken on our side of this argument?
Further, it is perhaps not adequately known that Egypt, under a military dictatorship, exhibits all the normal features of the police state. The very pilots who have been foolishly criticized for recently leaving so soon as they could, could tell a story - of houses searched, telephones tapped, bank accounts controlled, children ostracized, and personal search when going aboard ship. Having regard to the presence in Egypt, in these circumstances and conditions, of many thousands of British and French citizens, the condemnation of military preparations by Great Britain and France sounds just a little unreal.
It was said by some that, when the crisis arose after Colonel Nasser’s nationalization decree, the whole matter should have at once been taken to the United Nations. Strongly as we support the charter, I cannot accept this view. The problem was urgent. The longer Colonel Nasser remained in possession of thefield, the greater would be the temptation for people to say that we were dealing with an accomplished fact and that nothing could be done about it. It was essential that something should be done about it at once.
The nations principally concerned, therefore, decided that they would call a conference of those countries vitally interested in the Suez Canal in order that they might evolve fair and sensible proposals for a just settlement. Hence the London conference.
All this was done, not in defiance of the Charter of the United Nations, but in performance of it. Article 33 of the charter says -
The whole atmosphere of the London conference was excellent. It is quite wrong to claim that it decided either for or against the use of force. On the contrary, it did not discuss that matter at all. It devoted its energies to producing constructive proposals designed to seek “ a peaceful solution in conformity with the purposes and principles of the United Nations “.
These proposals, which were presented to and elaborately explained to Colonel Nasser by a committee of which I had the honour to be chairman, are in the hands of honorable members and I will not occupy time by repeating them in full.
But it is, I think, important to recall to the public mind that our principal proposal was that, in the language of the 1888 Convention, there should be - a definite system destined to guarantee at all times, and for allthe Powers, the free use of the Suez Maritime Canal.
The eighteen nations went on to say -
These proposals were given clear substance by our major working proposition, which was that there should be installed by agreement with Egypt, an operating authority, the tenant, in effect, of Egypt, constituted of members drawn from a variety of nations including Egypt herself but not subject to political direction. Such an authority would be set up, not under the law of any one country, but by the terms of an international convention, as in the well-known case of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Being thus, on anybody’s view, an international body not subject to nationalization, it would enjoy world-wide confidence. Being armed, under the proposed convention, with extensive corporate and financial powers, it could readily borrow money for works of development; it could assure, in practical terms, the future freedom and efficiency of the canal; there would be no profits for any shareholder except Egypt; and Egypt’s asset would be at one and the same time made more valuable and more productive.
I sincerely believe, with the representatives of the other seventeen nations, that no fairer or more generous proposal ever emerged from a conference, though that conference was convened at a time when feelings’ ran high and the dangers of conceding a clear victory to Colonel Nasser were, as I hope they still are, so vividly understood.
Let me repeat that, while these proposals gave adequate protection to the interests of canal users, and assured the future of the canal as a non-political waterway, and provided financial guarantees for its maintenance and expansion, there were also enormous advantages for Egypt These were summarized in my letter to Colonel Nasser of 7th September as follows: -
I have no doubt whatever that what was put to Colonel Nasser represented a fair and, indeed, generous settlement. He rejected our proposals, not, as honorable members will observe, by reasoned argument, but by reference to what can only be described as slogans. He offered the view thai the presence of any “ foreign body “, as he would describe it, in the canal was a derogation from Egyptian sovereignty. There were and are two complete answers to this claim. One was that we were not imposing something upon Egypt but inviting her willing agreement; an agreement which she would make in exercise of her sovereignty and not in derogation of it. The second was that Egypt’s position as the landlord of the canal being fully recognized, what we were seeking was to have a working tenant which would at one and the same time produce increasing returns for Egypt, and for Egypt only, while creating such international confidence in the conduct of the canal as would enable the tenant itself to provide the necessary finance and engineering skill so that the canal might become increasingly effective as an international waterway.
At the risk of some repetition, I think that I should clear up one important aspect of this matter. For various reasons, there seems to be an impression abroad that there was nothing intrinsically wrong with nationalization and that consequently the attack upon Colonel Nasser’s action is misconceived. I have even heard it suggested that the London conference approved of the legal validity of the nationalization of the canal. This is not so.
The question of the validity of the nationalization decree is in essence one of law. The London conference was not a judicial body and, therefore, did not attempt to make any judicial finding on this point. What it did, in effect, was to say, “ Let us work out some proper plan for the future. Let us work it out on the assumption that the nationalization is completed and that adequate provision is or will be made for compensating the shareholders. On this footing, let us evolve a series of proposals which we think both fair and acceptable.”
Colonel Nasser himself, in the course of our discussions, constantly reiterated that his nationalization decree was valid and that in consequence there was nothing to complain about. I, therefore, while stating clearly that I for one thought his action illegal, found it necessary to tell him in direct terms that he was confusing two matters. One was the question of his power; the other was the question of the character and circumstances of its exercise. What he had actually done was to repudiate a concession which had twelve years to run. When he said, “How could anybody complain about that if it was within our power? “, my reply, on behalf of the. committee, was that if his attitude was that merely because it was within his legal power he could repudiate a contract binding upon him, this in one blow destroyed the moral confidence that the world had in Egypt’s contractual word.
His retort was that the concession would have expired in twelve years’ time and that no doubt an “ uproar “ would then have occurred. Our reply to this was that if he had not interfered with the concession the company itself would no doubt have soon begun negotiations for a further concession; and if he had then said that he would not contemplate such a thing the user nations would have begun negotiations with him for some future organization for the canal. But those negotiations would have been conducted in an atmosphere which was not one of crisis, and sensible and fair conclusions might well have been arrived at without the development of heated views on “ sovereignty “ and “ collective colonialism “.
The difference that emerged between legal validity and the justice and morality of the action taken is vital and cannot be sensibly overlooked in our consideration of this most vexing problem.
When our proposals were rejected, a new proposal was made for the formation of a “canal users’ association “ designed to protect the interests of the nations affected. The nature and form of that association, to which I will return later, have been under discussion in the second London conference. Is this inconsistent with the United Nations Charter? I think not. In fact, the plan for a Users’ Association having been worked out and adopted, the matter is now going to the United Nations for, we hope, expeditious treatment.
Referring this matter to the United Nations has, to some, and very naturally, seemed the obvious course from the beginning. This point of view ignores three elements of great significance.
One is that the conferences and international discussions which have already occurred have at least disclosed and clarified the issues, so that an informed Security Council can deliberate with speed.
The second is that the rules which tend to inhibit action by the Security Council (except in the case of Korea, when the Soviet Union was absent) rendered it necessary for the nations most concerned to do all they could to produce a speedy but. proper settlement by direct negotiation.
The third is that a confiscation of the canal, achieved by force, made it both reasonable and necessary for the user nations to make it promptly clear that they were not prepared to allow their own economic sovereignties to be subordinated to the aggressive sovereignty of one nation.
This they have done, at each of the London conferences, the second of which has now constituted and defined the Suez Canal Users’ Association by a document, which, by leave, I lay on the table.
The scheme is not as comprehensive or as precise as one could have wished. But, if sufficient shipping nations not only adhere, but pay their dues to the new association, the fruits which Colonel Nasser hoped for will be largely ungathered by him, and his attitude towards making the fair agreement we offered him vastly improved.
Before I conclude, I want to speak quite frankly about three other matters.
One is the question of force. That question calls for a cool and clear answer. There has been a great variety of vocal opinion, ranging between what I will call two extreme views.
One view is that force should at once have been used to defeat a confiscation by force. This view is out of harmony with modern thinking; at any rate, this side of the iron curtain.
The other is that force can never be employed (except presumably in self defence) except by and pursuant to a decision of the United Nations Security Council. This I would, regard as a suicidal doctrine for, having regard to the existence of the veto, it would mean that no force could ever be exercised against any friend of the Soviet Union except with the approval of the Soviet Union, which is absurd. The public exponents of this view have been much heard during the weeks of the Canal negotiations. Their opinions have enjoyed great prominence in Egypt, and profoundly influenced the current of our conferences with Colonel Nasser in Cairo. They ended by convincing the Egyption Government (which was quite willing to be convinced) that there was no danger in rejecting our proposals; that, force being absolutely out, Egypt could afford to sit back, agree to nothing, carry off the spoils of victory, and further build up its prestige.
Each of these extreme views must, I believe, be rejected.
The truth is that, in a world not based on academic principles, a world deeply affected by enlightened self-interest and the instinct of survival, but nevertheless a world struggling to make . an organization for peace effective, force, except for self-defence, is never to be the first resort, but the right to employ it cannot be completely abandoned or made subject to impossible conditions.
Let me say, quite plainly, that the whole lively and evolving history of the British Empire and the British Commonwealth of Nations was not the product of any theory. It has been from first to last, a practical matter, an inductive process, like the slow creation of the common law and of all the great instruments of self-government. It would be a sad day if it allowed itself to be theorized out of existence. We need not get into a timid state of mind in which the very mention of the word “ force “ becomes forbidden. There is no community of nations which can say, with a clearer conscience, that it has set a great twentieth century example of using force only when forced into it, and then not for conquest but for resistance to aggression.
But does this mean that we are to be helpless in the presence of an accomplished threat to our industrial and economic future? I believe not. Is our task to “ patch-up “ peace and no more? Surely our task is not merely to prevent hostilities but to build up a firm order of law and decency, in which “ smash and grab “ tactics do not pay. We must avoid the use of force if we can. But we should not, by theoretical reasoning in advance of the facts and circumstances, contract ourselves out of its use whatever those facts and circumstances may be. We are to seek peace at all times, but we are not bound to carry that search so far that we stand helpless before unlawful actions which, if allowed to go unchecked, can finally dissipate our own strength and deprive the world of that power and authority, both moral and physical, which reside in the free nations, and are still vital to the free world and the human interests which the free world protects.
What, then, should be our programme of action in relation to the Suez Canal, that great international waterway, up to now non-political, which is at present the economic life-line of hundreds of millions of people, north, south, east and west of it?
First, negotiation for a peaceful settlement by means of honorable agreement. So far, we have tried this without success. The failure, let me repeat and emphasize, has not been due to any unfairness or illiberality on our side, but to a dictatorial intransigence on the other.
Should we continue to negotiate on a watereddown basis, in the spirit which says that any agreement is better than none? I cannot imagine anything more calculated’ to strengthen Colonel Nasser’s hand, or weaken our own.
Second, the putting on of pressure by cooperative effort on the part of the User Nations. Colonel Nasser must be brought to understand that his course of action is unprofitable to his country and his people, and that he is abandoning the substance for the shadow. This is one of the great merits of the Users’ Association now - established by the second London conference: The more canal revenue that is diverted from the Egyptian Government, the less will the Egyptian people believe that it pays to repudiate.
Third, should the United Nations, by reason of the veto, prove unable to direct any active course of positive action, we may find ourselves confronted by a choice which we cannot avoid making. I state the choice in stark terms -
This is, I believe, a realistic analysis of the position.
It has been, for me, an astonishing experience to find that there are people who reject force out of hand, reject economic action on the ground that it is provocative, and so, being opposed to action of .either kind, are prepared to accept the new tyranny, with regret perhaps, but without resistance. Such an attitude is so inconsistent with the vigorous tradition of our race that I cannot believe it commands any genuine and informed public support.
The second matter concerns the attitude and activities of the Soviet Union. My observations in London and since have convinced me that -
The third matter concerns the impact of the Suez Canal confiscation on Australia and on the great new nations of South and South-East Asia, whose interests we respect and have done something to help.
So far as Australia is concerned, I need hardly say that an open canal is essential to British prosperity, and that a closed canal could mean mass unemployment in Great Britain, a financial collapse there, a grievous blow at the central power of our Commonwealth, and the crippling of our greatest market and our greatest supplier.
We are not alone in this. The nations and peoples of South-East Asia, being nearer to Suez than we are, are even more dependent on it than we are. Further even than this, Asia contains great populations which need the developmental assistance of foreign capital and friendly cooperation. Colonel Nasser’s policy of repudiation in the name of sovereignty is not calculated to help the very countries whose admiration and support he is now claiming. Indeed, it is ironical that, in the guise of their leader, he is now taking steps to deprive some of the great Middle East powers of the naturaland established market for the product of their oil wells.
A final note of warning is necessary. In or out of the United Nations, there are great principles and vital interests at stake. A matter of this kind is not disposed of by being sent to the Security Council or, under present procedures, to the General Assembly. Nothing could suit the Egyptian dictator better than for the free world to lose interest, or a sense of crisis and urgency. There must be both speed and realism. We must also look ahead, keep our sense of direction, and maintain our impetus.
Should the United Nations’ machinery fail to produce an early settlement, are we then to wash our hands of the whole matter, saying, “Well, it is too bad; but we can do nothing. Colonel Nasser must be left with his spoils; retreat in the Middle East must go on “ I decline to believe it. The principle of internationaly assured nonpolitical control of the Suez Canal is vital. It cannot be watered down without being washed away. To abandon it would be suicidal.
Therefore, if the United Nations, once more frustrated by Soviet action, proves ineffective; if it cannot impose economic sanctions or direct any other course of effective action, we, the user nations, must in the absence of willing and proper negotiation, be ready to impose sanctions ourselves. For the central and unforgettable fact in all this unhappy business is that unless Egypt’s action is frustrated and the international status of the canal assured, a score of nations, great and small, will have put their fortunes into pawn. We are indeed, at one of the cross-roads of modern history. We will take the wrong turning at our peril.
I lay on the table the following papers: -
Suez Canal - Statement by the Prime Minister, dated 25th September, 1956;
Declaration providing for the establishment of a Suez Canal Users’ Association; and move -
That the papers be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I rise to protest against the actions of the Government in supplying copies of important reports to the press before they have been distributed to honorable senators. It is not sufficient for the Leader of the Government (Senator O’Sullivan) to inform me - as he did at question time to-day - that he does not know how the press obtained possession of a copy of the Tariff Board’s report.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– That was the purport of what the Minister said in reply to a question that I asked him. It is my firm impression that the press is supplied with copies of important reports before honorable senators have had an opportunity to discuss them, so that the press may be favorably disposed to the Government. This is. not the only instance in which the practice of which I complain has been followed. It is part and parcel of the Government’s technique in trying to gain the favour of the press. Does the Government intend to continue to ignore the rights of honorable senators to read and discuss important reports before copies are made available to the press? I protest emphatically against this practice. Of course:, I am not greatly influenced by press reports, but in this instance I believe that an attempt is being made by the Government to use the press to excuse its own lack of action. I refer, of course, to the fact that the full text of the report was published in the “ Financial Review “ of 20th September. The Minister should assure the Senate that, in future, copies of important reports such as the Tariff Board’s report, will be circulated to honorable senators before copies are supplied to the press or other outside bodies. The practice to which I refer has been carried on very insidiously and, I am pleased to say, not too successfully, for some time. In the past, I have done a lot of press work. I am convinced that what appeared in the Financial Review “ was a copy of the board’s report; it could not have been taken down in shorthand in a. few minutes.
I take this early opportunity, also, to protest about the statement that was made this evening by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in the House of Representatives, a copy of which has been read to us. I do not propose to discuss the merits of the statement, but merely to pose these questions: “ ls the Prime Minister entitled to commit this country to certain proposals without consulting the Parliament? Are we being led up the garden path to a dictatorship - another Hitler, or another Mussolini?” The right honorable gentleman went to London and discussed the Suez Canal crisis with members of the House of Commons. He also discussed that subject in other parts of the world. But he has not discussed it here! To-night, honorable senators have been treated with contempt. They have been handed stapled copies of the Prime Minister’s statement which, as I have said, indicates that the right honorable gentleman has committed this country to certain things. Members of the Parliament are being treated as though they do not count for anything. We have been committed to certain proposals without prior consultation and agreement. If this sort of thing continues to any extent, this Parliament will simply become an instrument of the Prime Minister. So far as I can prevent it, that will not happen.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 September 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1956/19560925_senate_22_s9/>.