22nd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade whether his attention has been directed to a statement in this morning’s press by Mr. Withall the Federal Director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, who recently returned from India, that there are many opportunities for Australian exports to that country. Is the Minister satisfied that every effort has been made to take advantage of the openings in that direction? Has the Government yet considered inviting the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Nehru, to visit Australia?
– I did not see the press report to which the honorable senator has referred. I cannot say that we have taken advantage of every opening that is available in India. I can say, however, thai Mr. McEwen is very eager to increase trade with India and has strengthened the trade commissioner service in that country. I know from conversations I have had with him about certain matters, which I think it would not be wise to mention, how intent he is upon expanding markets in India. I refrain from answering the last part of the question which relates to Mr. Nehru, because, I am sorry to say, my recollection is not clear. I had an idea that he was coming to Australia, but I am not sure on that point. I should very much like to see him do so.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Health been directed to a statement by Mr. Hollis, a Sydney dental surgeon, that dental decay costs Australia at least £40.000.000 a year in reduced efficiency? Are the Commonwealth health authorities carrying out any significant research in regard to this matter or doing anything towards solving this very serious problem?
– I cannot say what the Commonwealth authorities are doing in regard to this matter, but I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Health, and get a reply as early as I can.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Has his attention been directed to the position of telephone subscribers at Dora Creek, in New South Wales, who have decided unanimously to protest against the useless telephone service by having their telephones removed? ls he aware that the 75 subscribers have had their service reduced from 24 hours to fewer than ten hours a day? Is the action of the department an indication of a general reduction in the provision of telephone facilities? If the answer is in the negative, why have 2,000 residents at Dora Creek been penalized and inconvenienced, especially when, as a result of the increases in telephone charges, they will be paying £375 a year in rentals alone?
– I am not aware that the telephone facilities available to subscribers at Dora Creek have been reduced. I assure the honorable senator that it is not the desire or the intention of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to do that.
– Why does the department do it?
– I ask the honorable senator to listen; he can make his comments later. It is not the intention of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to reduce the service to any subscriber, but rather to make available the best facilities possible. I will bring the position of the Dora Creek subscribers to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral, and ask him to give me a full and considered reply. I will then pass it on to the honorable senator.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport by directing his attention to the fact that in this Olympic year thousands of overseas visitors will be making their first visit to Australia, many of whom, as well as inter-State visitors to Melbourne for the Olympic Games, would be glad to go to Tasmania and take their cars with them. Is the Minister aware that the space for motor vehicles on the Tasmanian steamer “ Taroona “ is completely booked from the mainland for the summer holiday period, December to February? Does he know that although cargo vessels are available for the conveyance of motor vehicles, their standard freight rate is £64 2s. 6d. return, as compared with £23 16s. return by “ Taroona “? Will the Minister direct the attention of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, which 1 understand is having its first meeting this week, to this anomaly, with a view to make some acceptable improvement in the position?
– I am aware that at holiday time a great demand is made on the passenger and vehicle accommodation on “ Taroona “. However, 1 do not think that the position is quite as bad as suggested by the honorable senator. The ship is booked out until the end of December for passengers, and until about the middle of January for cars, but 1 am informed that vacancies usually occur as a result of cancellations, and permits are then granted for more cars to be carried. This eases the position. The difficulty in providing a better service arises from the fact that few passenger vessels are now operating along the coast. They are all committed at that time of the year, and in the past the attempts to obtain an overseas ship on charter to do even one or two trips to Tasmania at that time of the year, have been generally unsuccessful. I will certainly ask the new commission to examine the position to see whether any alleviation can be made by providing more cargo ships. As to the question of freight, I remind Senator Wardlaw that “ Taroona “ operates under a subsidy and I very much doubt whether it would be possible to extend the subsidy to other ships.
– 1 ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether he can provide statistics for the last financial year showing the total amount paid by contributors to registered hospital and medical benefit funds, also the total amount paid to all societies handling these funds, and the amounts paid out in claims for hospital and medical services. If the Minister has not these statistics readily available, will it be possible for him to obtain them in the near future, and give them to the Senate?
– I doubt whether the statistics asked for by the honorable Senator, especially those relating to the medical societies, can be supplied in full, but 1 shall ask my colleague, the Minister for Health, to do what he can to obtain the desired information.
– Can the Minister for Repatriation tell the Senate whether it is true that the pensions received by totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners are taken into consideration in assessing the income tax to be paid by recipients? If it is, will he endeavour to arrange with the Government or the Treasurer to have these pensions exempted from the means test?
– No war pension is taken into consideration in assessing the income tax payable by recipients. If that is all the honorable senator desires to know, 1 can tell him now that that is the position.
– Pensions for totally and permanently incapacitated persons are not included?
– No war pension is taken into consideration in the assessment of income tax.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether it is a fact that the profit of over £1,500,000 made by the Commonwealth Railways is attributable to the use of diesel electric locomotives. Is it the intention of the Government to purchase more of these locomotives? If so, how many are on order, and when is delivery expected?
– It is true, as the Commissioner has pointed out in his report, that the profit achieved by the Commonwealth Railways was, in large part, due to the use of diesel electric locomotives as well as to other factors which he mentioned. It is the intention of the Commonwealth Railways to continue purchasing diesel locomotives. At the moment, there is an order current for five of them. I imagine that two or three have been delivered already; and the remainder have yet to be delivered.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In view of the fact that the Minister has approved of another rise of 6 per cent, in interstate shipping freights as from next Friday. Will he inform the Senate if this increase is the result of his decision or whether it arises from a decision of the shipowners or of the newly appointed Australian Coastal Shipping Commission? Will he also tell the Senate when any application by shipowners for increased freights has been refused?
– The procedure followed in the fixing of freight rates for coastal shipping has been that from time to time, as the necessity arose, conferences which departmental officers attended have been held between the Australian Steamship Owners’ Association and the Australian Shipping Board, which does not now exist. The variation in costs is placed under close analysis at such a conference. Its decision is transmitted to me as Minister, and I examine it minutely. The result of my examination is then considered by the Government, and the decision as to the extent of the freight rate increase is made in that way.
– Does the Minister take into consideration the question whether the industry can afford to pay the increase?
– The factors taken into consideration include that sort of consideration, and also the very important factor that to keep ships on the coast they have to be allowed a reasonable margin of profit. 1 am sure that Senator Hendrickson would be the first to complain if ships disappeared from the coast because it was impossible to operate them economically and return a fair margin of profit to the shareholders. I was also asked whether any application by the steamship owners had ever been refused. My memory does not go back sufficiently far to enable me to answer that question; but within the last year no application for increased freights has been made which could not be substantiated by those making the claim - not only the Australian Steamship Owners Federation of Australia but also the Australian Shipping Board, which the honorable senator will realize has to operate at a reasonable margin of profit.
– My question is supplementary to that asked by Senator Hendrickson. Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport indicate to the Senate whether there is any Commonwealth law that permits the Australian Government to regulate interstate freights? Assuming that interstate shipping owners decided that they would not reach agreementwith the Government or its representatives, what could be done to prevent them from charging exactly what they liked?
– As far as I am aware, there is nothing at all to prevent shipowners from charging whatever they wish to charge.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Ministeracting for the Minister for Trade has supplied the following answers: - 1, 2 and 3. Reports received by the Department of Trade from Australian trade commissioners range from cablegrams and letters despatched as the need arises to monthly administrative reports and quarterly reports on economic conditions in their territories. In addition, the department receives copies of all letters sent by trade commissioners to Australian business houses.
The reports are usually more concerned with providing information on opportunities for Australian exports than with advising in regard to increased sales effected.
Much of the information which trade commissioners provide is of a confidential nature relating to reports and surveys conducted on behalf of individual firms. This could not be made available. Information which is not of a confidential nature and concerning such matters as increased sales and market opportunities is published in the Department’s journal “ Overseas Trading”, which circulates widely among the business community. The Minister will be pleased to arrange for any honorable senators who so desire, to receive copies of this journal. In addition he will arrange for the Department of Trade to furnish information in more detail on the activities of trade commissioners to any honorable senators who may require it.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has furnished the following reply:-
Trans-Australia Airlines has not made any decision to purchase Comet IV aircraft. My statement in the House of Representatives concerning the purchases that were made by TransAustralia Airlines referred to the British Viscount aircraft purchased by Trans-Australia Airlines for use on the relatively shorter domestic services.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– My colleague, Mr. McMahon, who is acting for the Minister for Trade during his absence overseas, has furnished the following answer: - 1, 2, and 3. An appointment to the position of Commissioner of the Exports Payments Insurance Corporation is likely to be made within the next few weeks.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Minister acting for the Minister for Trade has supplied the following answer: - 1, 2, and 3. The Export Payments Insurance Corporation Act, 1956, provides for the setting up of a Corporation constituted by a Commissioner. A Commissioner has not yet been appointed and no insurance has been effected under the Act. An announcement regarding the appointment of a Commissioner will be made in the near future.
– On 27th September, Senator Vincent asked the following question: -
The question that I shall direct to the Minister representing the Post master-General relates to the provision of an alternative national regional Broadcasting Station on the Goldfields in Western Australia. During the last twelve months or longer, there have been indications, statements, and, in fact, promises made that a second Regional Station would be provided in that area. Can the Minister inform me when the new Station is likely to be constructed? If it is expected that the construction work will be commenced in the near future, will the Minister ensure that the new Station will be sufficiently powerful to enable the people in the North-West of Western Australia to hear Broadcasts from it? At the present time, those people are denied the advantages of radio, except broadcasts by Radio Australia, which I assure the Minister, nobody in that area listens to.
The Postmaster-General has now supplied the following answer: -
The national broadcasting service has been developed on the basis of ensuring reliable reception by day and by night of at least one medium wave national station in all but the very sparsely populated centres of the Commonwealth and the reception of a second programme at least during hours of darkness.
The provision of additional stations to ensure reliable reception of an alternauve programme throughout the Commonwealth at all limes would necessitate the duplication of existing regional stations and the provision of some thousands of miles of programme lines and would be a project of very considerable magnitude and very substantial costs.
The extension of the alternative national service to country areas generally has, therefore, been based on increasing the power of existing stations and with regard to Western Australia the planned increase of the power of 6WFPerth to 50,000 walls should, with appropriate rearrangement of programmes between 6WF and 6WN, enable the alternative programme to be received over a very large area of the State during the evening listening hours.
With regard to the broadcasting service in the north-west of Western Australia, it is not practicable to provide reliable day and night service from medium frequency stations to so wide an area, and for coverage of this area the high frequency (short wave) stations VLW and VIX in Perth are provided. The adequacy of the service given by the latter stations is being examined by means of regular observations taken at aeradio stations of the Department of Civil Aviation on behalf of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and when adequate data has been received the best methods of improving the service will be determined.
– As Chairman, I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Erection of automatic telephone exchange building at Haymarket, Sydney.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) agreed to -
That Government business take precedence of general business after 8 p.m. this sitting.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) agreed to -
That Standing Order 68 be suspended up to and including the 1st November, 1956, to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Railways Act 1917-1955.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 17th October (vide page 679).
Proposed Vote, £1,729,000.
– When the committee adjourned last night, I was speaking on Division 59, Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and I was commenting on the form in which the items under that heading are presented. I was pointing out that the term “ Court of Conciliation and Arbitration “ is now somewhat of a misnomer having regard to the recent amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. If we attempt to assess the costs as they are set down under this heading, we shall receive a mistaken impression of the actual cost of this and associated tribunals. Outside the chamber, I had a short talk with the Leader of the Government (Senator O’Sullivan) on this matter, because 1 had made the point that the amendments to the act had been assented to on 30th June, 1956. The Leader of the Government pointed out to me that certain sections were proclaimed and came into operation only on 14th August, 1956. That may be why it was not possible to alter the heading of this division, and it might have determined the form in which these items are presented.
I notice in the Estimates of expenditure as presented in the House of Representatives, and in the section dealing with special appropriations, that reference is made to “ Industrial Court Judges, Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1956 “. However, I cannot find that special appropriation in the schedule to the Appropriation Bill that honorable senators are considering. The point is that the legislation setting up the Industrial Court came into operation on 14th August, and although it was possible to include the provision for that tribunal, by a specific reference and an appropriation, in the legislation before another place, it is not included in the Appropriation Bill before this committee. If it was possible to do that in the case of the House of Representatives, the schedule to the appropriation Bill which we are discussing should have been brought up to date similarly in accordance with the amendments to the act.
I make the point that the schedule to the Appropriation Bill does not, in itself, present a complete story to honorable senators who are endeavouring to assess the cost of a particular department or a section of it. The document that is presented in another place is not an annexure to a bill as is the document that this committee is considering. References are made in the document presented in the House of Representatives to the total costs of departments. That is an informative phrase to direct the attention of honorable members in another place to the actual proposed expenditure, but the figures in the schedule to the Appropriation Bill, as we are considering them in this chamber, do not represent the total cost of the departments concerned.
The division of the schedule to the Appropriation Bill to which I am referring should include the Industrial Court, the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and the Industrial Commission, but the figures presented cannot possibly give a picture of the total costs of those organizations. Honorable senators would have to study the special appropriations dealing, in this case, with the officers holding judicial office under the statute to discover the full extent of the financial provision for these tribunals. Expenditure of £15,000 is estimated for the judges of the Industrial Court, £41,000 for the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and for judges under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 19U4-1955, £4,630. That will increase the actual proposed expenditure set out in Division 59, Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, by approximately £60,000. 1 simply direct the attention of honorable senators to that matter because, if they want to estimate, either in this case or in any similar case, what the total cost of a department or a particular part or section of a department will be, it will be necessary for them to consult either the document relating to the Estimates of expenditure that was presented in another place or, perhaps more properly and more effectively, the budget papers that were presented in this chamber at the commencement of the budget debate.
I should bc pleased if, at the appropriate time, the Minister would indicate to me why Division 59 was not re-written in terms of the then either known or determined amendments of the arbitration machinery in order to give to honorable senators the fullest possible picture of the cost of the various sections of this new organization. I should like to know whether he can indicate how these details will be set out in future presentations of Estimates of expenditure.
– I refer to that section of Division 64, Peace Officer Guard, which relates to salaries and allowances and the amount recoverable from defence and repatriation establishments and other administrations. Do the salaries referred to in this part include the salaries of peace officers at the various repatriation and munition establishments and provost units throughout Australia?
– It is quite true that the salaries of peace officers who are engaged in the protection of defence or other establishments are charged against that item.
– And the salaries of the provost units as well?
– If a member of a provost unit were engaged exclusively in looking after a defence project, his salary would be charged against the defence vote.
– Item 2 shows the amount that is recoverable from defence and repatriation establishments and other administrations.
– Let me correct what I said. There are peace officers and provost men. The provost men are servicemen, and their sustenance payments and salaries would be charged against the Navy, Army, or Air Force, as the case ma be.
– I now wish to direct attention to extravagance in the Provost Corps. As an example of the growth, but the lack of useful service rendered by the Provost Corps, I direct attention to the provost unit at the Keswick Barracks in South Australia. I do not expect the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) to know what occurs in New South Wales or Queensland, because he is never there, but he travels through Victoria and should know what is happening in South Australia. In 1944, this unit consisted of three men - one warrant officer and two corporals. In 1949, the duties performed by that unit were handled capably by three men, but in 1952 the strength of the unit was increased to ten personnel - one warrant officer,, two sergeants and seven corporals. The unit was at reasonable strength at that period of enlistment for the Korean force; those ten men had to perform increased duties and a great amount of investigation work, which included criminal and compassionate investigations. When the Korean war was finished, it was expected that the unit would be reduced considerably; but to the surprise of all concerned its strength was increased to 21 members, and it has remained at that figure. The increase might have been justified if the volume of work had increased, but it had diminished to a considerable degree. To justify the increased strength and to make it appear on paper that some work was being done, extraneous duties were created.
– Does this all apply 10 Keswick?
– Wholly to Keswick. I am quoting an example of extravagance in the Provost Corps. The honorable senator , who comes from South Australia, should know something about it. It is a wonder that he has not found out about it. A list of the locally allotted tasks shows that the officer commanding directs the operations of the other twenty men and passes the duties down to the regimental sergeantmajor who, in turn, passes on the duties to the five sergeants. The sergeants are in charge of the following theoretical departments: - Absence without leave, transport, Citizen Military Forces investigation, motor-cycle patrol, and unit maintenance. Those duties are then allotted to the corporals in the following ways: - Orderly room corporal, transport corporal, quartermaster corporal, compound corporal, Citizen. Military Forces investigation corporal, compassionate investigation corporal, absence without leave investigation corporal, four corporals motor cycle section, and two corporal drivers. All the manual work of the unit is performed by prisoners - if there are any. For most of the time there are no prisoners. A full month often passes without any prisoners being in custody. Honorable senators may laugh, but I direct special attention to this matter because it is very serious. They must not take it so lightly.
I now direct attention to the vehicle position in this unit. In 1949, there was one jeep to three men; in 1952, there were three jeeps and four motor cycles to ten men; and in 1956, there were three Holden utilities, two with two-way radio, a one-ton truck, a one-ton panel van, seven motor cycles, and one combination motor cycle - thirteen vehicles to 21 men.
This unit occupied considerable building space. In 1952, the approximate building area was 2,000 square feet, but by 1956 it had increased to 7,000 square feet. I understand that plans have been drawn for a new building for this unit, estimated to cost £45,000. An increase has taken place in the annual wages during the three periods to which I have referred. In 1949, the wages bill was £2,000, in 1952, £8,000, and in 1956, £19,500. In 1952, this unit had only the bare essentials in stores, which were on inventory loan from the main central command which issues stores.. Apparently, however, the stores had to increase in keeping with the number of men, vehicles and wages. Some of the additions were extra vehicles, floor space, fluorescent lighting, extra telephones. furniture, crockery, tools, linen, 30-ft. refrigerators, radiograms and so on. This gives some indication of the waste that is going on in the Department of Defence. This department is a minor St. Mary’s, and the details I have just given are an exposure of that waste. Some explanation of it is certainly called for.
– Who told the honorable senator about it?
– Never mind who told me. The Minister himself should know about it because he is pretty keen on investigation. He was very active in making investigations when a great deal of distress was prevailing in New South Wales, and if he made inquiries into this matter he might find out something. Certainly, some examination’ should be made.
– Evidently the honorable senator has had an inquiry made.
– I am telling the committee what has happened, and I want to know why it is going on. In 1949, in peace-time, three officers were capable of doing all the ‘ work required in this unit in South Australia. This year, still in peacetime, the number has increased to 21. i have enumerated the vehicles attached to the unit, and I want to know what work they are doing, in view of the fact that often a month elapses without any prisoners being in the unit’s premises. This is only one example of what is happening in the Department of Defence, and if this enormous expenditure and waste is occurring in a small State such as South Australia, one can only imagine what is going on in the larger States. I hope some inquiries will be made, and that before the discussion of these Estimates is concluded some explanation will be given by the Minister in control of the department - even if he has to be assisted by Senator Spooner, who is looking on.
.- I wish to direct attention to Division 59, which relates to the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. 1 direct particular attention to item 7 of Division 59B, General Expenses. Under item 7, money is allocated for court-conducted ballots, and the words, “ amounts recovered from trade unions may be credited to this vote “ are added in parenthesis to the description of the item. The vote for this year is £3,000, against a vote of £1,500 for last year. It is interesting to note that although the vote was only £1,500 last year, the sum of £2,980 was spent. Evidently, it is the intention of the court to conduct more secret ballots this year, because the Estimates provide for £3,000.
I have said, on previous occasions, that it is the intention of the Government, through the instrumentality of the Arbitration Court, to impoverish the industrial unions of Australia as much as possible. The seeking of new awards, the fixing of an adequate basic wage and the making of amendments to existing awards cost the unions thousands of pounds. So expensive is the procedure of arbitration that unions now have to consider, irrespective of the merit of their claim for a new award or the amendment of an existing award, whether they are in a financial position to approach the court. Although a basic wage hearing may be pending, or an urgent case may have to be dealt with by the court, the unions have to consider whether they are financially able to appear in these hearings before the court. The Government has provided a total of £136.000 in this division to cover the costs of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and, in view of the enormous expenditure involved in the process of arbitration, it is little wonder that the attitude of the workers towards arbitration is changing.
Honorable senators will recall that, not many years ago, the workers of Australia had a high regard for the arbitration system as it operated in both the Commonwealth and the State spheres, but, within recent years, that attitude has changed. At one time, the workers looked to the court for wage justice, and also for a measure of social justice, but now that is being denied them. Still the Government goes on its happy way, placing costly procedures in the way of the unions that seek justice. At one time, the workers approached the courts with confidence. They were court-minded, and felt that any decision that the court made would be in line with justice, and that it was their duty to observe that decision. Now, the workers are inclined to treat the court with contempt, and it is little wonder that they do so in view of the way in which the court was constituted. The faith of the workers in arbitration is disintegrating, and that feeling is spreading among the people generally. Conviction is growing that the arbitration courts, both Commonwealth and State, are accepting instructions from the Government.
– The honorable senator’s party did its best to foster that conviction.
– The honorable senator knows nothing about this.
– Neither does the honorable senator.
– Let me deal with this matter in my own way. There is a feeling that arbitration courts to-day are nothing more than government departments which take instructions from various governments. If the arbitration system continues to operate as it has done over the last year or two, it will not be long before it can be wholly dispensed with. From time to time, the Government has brought down amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, in the pious hope that they would serve as a sponge to soak up all the industrial discontent in the community. What has been the result of that? It has resulted not in a lessening of the discontent and dissatisfaction among workers but in an aggravation of the irritation felt by them, and the Government has aggravated the position still further.
Now let us examine what has happened during the last twelve months. An almost completely new conciliation and arbitration act has been introduced by the Minister. Under it, we established a court of conciliation commissioners and made the procedure more costly. Under the new procedure, there will be still further delay. Shortly after that, the same Minister brought down a bill fixing the salaries to be paid to judges of the court; and a little later still that very Minister takes a position on the court which he was responsible for creating, as he was instrumental in fixing the salaries of the judges. I do not doubt for a moment that he will be able to carry out his duties in the way in which they should be carried out as a judge of that court; but the way in which the matter was handled was entirely wrong.
We have also heard much about the capacity of industry to pay. That was always one of the factors considered by industrial courts in fixing the wages payable in a particular industry. Industries were classified into those of average prosperity and those of excess prosperity, and the court fixed the wage to be paid according to the economic condition of the industry concerned. But the court does not take these things into consideration any longer. The means test is now abolished, and we now have what might be termed a catchascatchcan procedure.
– No doubt the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) will recollect that earlier this year a conference of the various State representatives was held at Canberra to consider matters relating to companies and company law. I understand that at that conference, which was convened by the Attorney-General’s Department, a number of the difficulties in the way of a uniform set of company laws for the whole of Australia were ironed out. - 1 understand that such matters as the incorporation of companies, the issue of prospectuses and so on were discussed, and I invite the Minister, when he is replying, to tell us just what has happened in connexion with that conference and to give us his opinion on whether it will be possible in the future to expect some degree of uniformity in company law.
– Many years ago, the Arbitration Court was set up to carry out a very important function in the Commonwealth of Australia. Senator Benn has pointed out that most of the trade unions feel to-day that the arbitration system is failing. In 1953, the learned judges of the Arbitration Court decided to freeze the basic wage. Some of us will remember - probably some will not - how the basic wage first came to be introduced. It was introduced only after a very exhaustive investigation of all angles of industry and a thorough examination of the employees engaged in industry. Men working in industry were asked by the court to give evidence as to what they considered to be the bare necessaries of life. Even representatives of these workers’ wives were interrogated as to the cost of the various articles of clothing deemed absolutely necessary even to enjoy a bare existence. After having heard all this evidence, the court arrived at what it considered to be the basic needs at that time of a man, wife and three children, and fixed a salary which it considered would enable such a worker to buy those things. Since then, the standard has been the basic needs of a man, wife and one child.
In 1953, however, the court froze the basic wage and it is now suggested that it did so because of the inability of industry to pay any increased remuneration. We had had quarterly adjustments of the basic wage for years, and it must always be remembered that those adjustments were made long after prices had increased. For instance, if, for the three months from October to December, there was an increase in prices, that increase would not be taken into, consideration until January or February of the next year when there would be what we call a quarterly adjustment of the basic wage to meet those increases. Under those circumstances, it will be appreciated that the wages of the workers have always been chasing price rises and therefore, if we are to take as correct the figure set by the court in 1907 as being necessary to enable a worker to buy the bare necessaries of life, then it is obvious that the workers have been forced to live on a subnormal standard in each ot the quarters since the cessation of World War II. It would seem that the AttorneyGeneral (Senator O’sullivan) is not conversant with what is going on or just does not care because he said in this chamber that the basic wage in the Commonwealth of Australia was £14 odd a week, but that most workers were taking home £17 a week.
Before speaking in this chamber on a previous occasion, I went to the trouble of obtaining from Melbourne the basic wage figures for the various States and I then asked a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. He obtained a reply from the Minister for Labour and National Service but said that it was unintelligible, and for that reason he refused to read it. The reply furnished to him would have taken only about two minutes to read. It he had read it, every one would have known what was the basic wage in each of the Australian States. The question I asked was -
The: answer supplied by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) stated-
The basic wage under federal awards is not adjustable in accordance with changes in the C Series Index numbers. At the present time, the federal basic wage stands at £12 13s. per week in Sydney, £125s. per week in Melbourne, £11 18s. per week in Brisbane . . .
I said on a previous occasion that the difference between £11 8s. and £14 may not seem much to us, or to the Minister, but to the man on the basic wage it is a fortune. The reply continued - £121s. per week in. Adelaide, £12 6s. per week in Perth, and £12 12s-. per week in Hobart.
Then, referring to the margins for skill, it contained the following particulars: -
Bricklayers, 75s; carpenters, 75s; plumbers. 75s; and printers, 75s.
If we add that margin of 75s. to the Queensland basic wage of £11 8s., we arrive at a total remuneration of £15 3s.. for a fully qualified tradesman, yet the Minister states that the basic wage is £14 odd and that most men take home £17 a week! No tradesman in. the Commonwealth is taking home £17 a week unless he is working overtime, and the Minister was wrong in quoting those figures in a way which would seem to indicate that they mean nothing at all. It is because of attitudes such as that adopted by him towards this matter that the workers are losing confidence in the arbitration system.
The Arbitration Court has stated that it fixes the basic wage according to the ability of industry to pay. If it had applied that principle to the wool industry in 1951, the shearers probably would have been getting £20 a hundred sheep and would have probably had diamonds in the blades of their shears, and the employees of General Motors-Holden’s Limited, instead of coming to work in buses, would have been driving to work in their own motor cars, while the poor railway employee and. the man working in the Postal Department, in both of which undertakings no profit is shown, would have been receiving no wages at all..
I emphasize that the. basic wage was intended to be the minimum required by a man, wife and one child to exist, not to enjoy a decent standard of living. Whether a man be working in the railways, the Postal Department or the most flourishing industry in. the Commonwealth, he is giving of his best to society and at least is entitled to receive the means wage granted’ to. him in 1907, plus the adjustments that have been made to accord with the quarterly increases in the cost of living. When the workers read in such publications as “ Rydges “ journal of the enormous profits being earned by various industries while their wages are pegged, the Government cannot expect to see harmony in industry, especially when it is claimed that their wages are fixed according to the ability of industry to pay. In the year ended December, 1954, General Motors-Holden’s Limited made a profit of £9,686,104, and for the year ended. December, 1955, that figure had increasedby nearly £100,000 to £9,755,835, But enormous profits were made prior to that I am not complaining about that circumstance, but honorable senators should realize that the wages of the workers at General Motors-Holdens have been frozen, as far as the basic wage constituent is concerned, since 1952. That has been done because it is said that industry cannot afford to pay the increased basic wage charges. I say, however, that industry can still make enormous profits. Last year; Moulded Products made a profit of £220,618 as against £156,000 the previous year. Honorable senators will see that that is an increase of profit of more than £50,000 in twelve months. Custom Credit Corporation earned a profit of £441,900 for the year ended 30th June, 1955, as against a profit of £558,157 for this year. Fowler Constructions increased its profit by about £20,000 in twelve months. I could go on giving instances of companies that have earned increased profits through the efforts of the workers, and yet the basic wage for the workers remains frozen. lt is of no use for honorable senators on the Government side to say that nobody is working for the basic wage, because I shall prove later that many people earn only the basic wage, and in some cases employees of the Commonwealth are earning less than the basic wage. The Burns Philp shipping company, and other coastal shipping companies, are making huge profits, and honorable senators will remember that to-day, in answer to a question that I asked of him, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) said that he has authorized an increase of 6 per cent, in the freight rates charged by the owners of interstate shipping lines. Why should not the claim of the shipowners be submitted to the arbitration, tribunals so that it can be ascertained whether industry is able to pay for the increased freights? I suggest that the cost of living must increase if freight charges increase on goods carried by ships. Of course, if the cost of living increases, the lot of the workers is made harder because the basic wage is pegged at 1952 levels.
Those of us who are in contact with industry know that if many workers did not work overtime, and if many of their wives did not also work they would not be able to live at a reasonable standard. Whan a worker’s wife has three children, for example, she cannot go to work to supplement the family income, and that family has to live at a very low standard. In such cases the increase of shipping freight, by increasing the cost of goods, will add to the hardships of families. Applications for shipping freight increases are granted as they are made, and the men on the lowest rung of the income ladder are forced to pay for them. Therefore, the increase of £136,000 in respect of arbitration and conciliation, will be wasted as far as the workers are concerned. They will derive no benefit from it at all-. Quite recently, certain postal workers decided to work strictly in accordance with regulations because they were not receiving: increases of wages according to the increase of the C series index figure. At that time, we were told that increased wages could not be paid because the Postal Department was losing money.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– When the system of industrial arbitration was first introduced to this country, the organized workers thought that it would operate as successfully in practice as it had. been calculated to operate in theory. In fact, for a few years, the conditions of the workers were considerably improvedthrough the medium of the arbitration tribunals. The first case that I took to the State arbitration court in Western Australia was a claim by the plumbers’ union in 1912. We convinced the court that, our claim was reasonable in the circumstances which operated at that time, and plumbers’ wages were increased by 3s. a day from 10s. to 13s. Also proper provision was made for the training of apprentices and improvers in the trade. I can recall other applications, including one by the undertakers’ union. In those days, an advocate was expected to be able to prove that the relevant industry could afford to pay the increases sought. We were able, without examining the employers’ books, to prove to the satisfaction of the court that the claims we made on behalf of both the plumbers and the undertakers - particularly the undertakers - were quite justified in the circumstances, with, the result that all our claims were granted.
But a change came about after World War I., mainly because £1 notes became non-convertible, lt was not then so easy for the wage-earners to detect the extent to which they were being fooled, ruled and robbed per medium of uncontrolled and practically unchecked, inflation. The same position exists to-day. The court,, nowadays.. does not take into consideration the origin and the purpose of inflation. I doubt very much whether a union advocate would now present an application to the court without referring to the fact that, while wages have been increased by more than 100 per cent., in terms of paper money,- they have nol increased in terms of purchasing power. Years ago, I could purchase more with three sovereigns than 1 can now purchase with £20. Of course, I am referring to the time before the price of gold was fixed. As we know, the price of gold was fixed for the same purpose that wages have been fixed; that is, to increase profits. If I were still working at my trade, I should have to work faster than formerly in order to earn sufficient money to purchase the necessaries of life. Lead work, previously done by hand, which used to take a long time, is. now practically all carried out by quick factory processes.
Money wages are higher now than in years gone by, but there has been no increase of the purchasing power of wages. It is a fundamental anomaly that the court fixes wage rates in terms of money, while the various business associations fix purchasing pow;r in terms of increased prices. This anomaly has resulted, for one thing, in increased shipping freights, and recently, the flour millers in Melbourne decided to increase the price of bread. Therefore, as Senator Benn has said, the court is a farce, and the workers are becoming disillusioned as they pass through the hard school of practical experience.
Reference has been made during this debate to the fact that wages were frozen in 1953. On paper, it would appear that, due to inflated costs, industry is in a bad way, but the truth is, of course, that industry was never better off than it is to-day. Profits have reached colossal proportions because real costs, assessed in terms of food, clothing housing and other essentials or, if you like, in terms of gold, were never lower. On the other hand, prices, in terms of inflated paper money, were never higher.
As I have said from my place in this chamber on many occasions, although many workers may not understand the causes of inflation, they are suffering from its effects. Repercussions, similar to the recent postal strike, may be expected, due to the high cost of living and the conditions of employment of the workers. In many instances, they are concerned more with effects than with the causes. In this respect, I believe that the judges are at fault. Either they are ignorant of economics - from my own conversations with many judges, I thing there is a good deal to be said in that direction - or they are deliberately giving effect to the Government’s policy, which is implicit in the act. It is for this reason that the respect that the workers originally had for the court has now largely disappeared.
Reference has been made to the cost of legal representation before the court. In my opinion, legal advocates, both for the unions and for the employers, charge exorbitant fees for the work they perform. When appearing on behalf of employers, they rely on economists to produce figures to make it appear that the cost of granting a union’s application for increased wages would be colossal. In my opinion, the proposed vote of £136,000 will be expended, ostensibly in the interests of justice, but the net result will be the virtual robbing of men who create the wealth in this country. As I said earlier, an accurate assessment of the capacity of industry to pay increased wages cannot be formed without inspecting the books. 1 am convinced that, in nine cases out of ten, if the books were examined it would be found that expenses under the old headings had been enormously inflated. All sorts of charges are said to be incurred which have never been incurred. I speak from practical experience as a former Minister for Aircraft Production. I had books examined by costing experts and found that in almost every case overhead costs had been inflated. I shall not mention names, as 1 do not wish to be personal; I am just dealing with the system. In one case a well-known monopoly in Australia charged £15,000 for entertainment. The late Mr. Harrison, who represented the department on behalf of the Treasury, had the books examined and suggested that the amount should be reduced. Of course, I agreed with him. The only difference between us was that he wanted to reduce the amount to £5,000 and I wanted to wipe it out altogether. Just imagine directors being paid to cater for their friends by way of elaborate dinners and that sort of thing during a time of war, while the workers on the job were being rationed! That sort of thing went on throughout the war years. In the aircraft industry alone the department recovered at least £1,500,000 as will be shown if the files are inspected. Had we engaged a team of two or three costing experts we would have recovered probably twice that amount.
We talk about the capacity of an industry to pay, but, without having access to its books, it is impossible to find out whether an industry can or cannot pay. A company may declare a balance-sheet and state a profit, but its undeclared profit is not mentioned. It is the undeclared profit which represents the major portion of the profit. Let us consider the question: What is profit?
– With which item are we dealing?
– With the Arbitration Court and the fraud perpetuated by the Government of which the honorable senator is a member. Profit is all the wealth in excess of actual cost of production. When 1 speak of actual cost of production 1 mean all the money used in production, managerial expenses and so on.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I refer to Division 59, Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. In view of the fact that there is now an Industrial Court and an Industrial Commission with conciliators and conciliation commissioners, on the face of things no need exists for the existence of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The latter was a body that exercised judicial, arbitral and conciliatory functions and the High Court decided that it could not, while it exercised arbitral functions and activities of that nature, be vested also with judicial power. Against that particular judgment, the Government has appealed to the Privy Council.
I should like the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) to indicate how far that appeal has progressed, whether it is near hearing, when the hearing is likely to take place and when a decision is likely to be made. I am going to make a suggestion - I do not want the Minister to comment on it, nor do I wish to provoke him into doing so. I think the sole reason for preserving the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, with a full range of judges with attenuated functions, is simply to help the appeal before the Privy Council, so that the body which provoked the decision against which the appeal has been lodged will not be completely non-existent at the time the appeal is heard. No other reason at all can exist for preserving that body in its present form because both the Industrial Court and the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration have a concurrent jurisdiction. An appeal may be lodged to either of them; an interpretion may be sought from the Industrial Court constituted by some of the judges and may be sought also from the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Some rather extraordinary situations could arise if the one application were lodged in the two courts and different interpretations, having different results, were given. That is a perfectly practicable result.
The new Industrial Court has purely judicial functions. The Industrial Commission is concerned with arbitration and conciliation, and, obviously, there is no further room or need for a body of this type. It would be wise to get a superfluous body like this out of the way. That certainly will not be done until this appeal has been disposed of, and that is the reason why the Minister, when he replies, should give us information as to the progress of the appeal.
.- On Division 62, Patents, Trade Marks and Designs, I have a small query to ask the Attorney-General and the Minister for the Navy (Senator O’sullivan) on the extraordinarily large amounts which are- continuously paid under the heading of extra-duty pay. Last year the vote was £23,000, of which £21,068 was spent, and the provision made for the coming year is £23,000. The Queensland Government, because of the financial position in which it discovers itself, has appealed to its public service to eliminate as far as possible extra-duty pay and overtime. Although that may impose great burdens on the officers of the Queensland Public Service, nevertheless it is a demonstration of statesmanship at a high level in view of the financial strictures which face Queensland in common with the other States.
Unless, therefore, some compelling reason exists for the provision of this extra duty pay, which is something that pervades the Estimates in respect of practically all departments, I feel that the Commonwealth Government is not displaying the same solicitude for the husbanding of expenditure as are the State governments which are no longer the masters of their own financial destinies. If large sums of money like this are to be provided year after year, the Government should have a most compelling reason to present to the Senate as to why these extra-duty payments are made and why the work is necessary. However, that is an incidental comment.
I want to express a few thoughts in relation to Division 57, the High Court, on a matter which was referred to incidentally by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), when he said an appeal to the Privy Council in regard to a decision of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration was pending. I desire to express some general thoughts on appeals to the Privy Council. 1 do not know whether honorable senators are generally aware of the conditions under Federal and State laws under which appeals are made to the Privy Council. Some are made as a right, some by leave of State courts, some by leave of the High Court in exceptional circumstances and some by leave of the Privy Council. There is now throughout Australia a current of opinion developing as to the wisdom or otherwise of retaining the provision for appeals to the Privy Council.
Sitting suspended from 12.34 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting, 1 was directing my observations to Division 57 - High Court, and I was referring to the attitude that is developing in many quarters in Australia regarding the retention of the right of appeal to the Privy Council. I think we are moving into a period of tremendous significance in connexion with this matter. Some time ago, during a debate in this chamber, an honorable senator on the G0vernment side mentioned what might be called the cardinal instrumentalities in the Australian democracy which are having fundamental and significant effects upon the national life. He was referring to bodies such as- the Parliament itself, the banking system, the Commonwealth Bank, and the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and that’ group must include also the High Court of Australia.
We are living under a federal system where the ultimate fate of the written Constitution rests in the hands of those who ire entrusted with its judicial interpretations. From the time that the Constitution was originally laid down, the effect of alterations to it by the way of judicial interpretation, upon national development and national life have probably been far greater than any alterations to it in terms of the constitutional alteration machinery in the Constitution itself, or in terms of any powers referred to the National Parliament by the States. Therefore, the operation of the High Court in exercising its judicial functions of constitutional interpretation is becoming increasingly a most significant and important factor in fixing the direction in which the affairs of this nation will move.
In those circumstances, possibly it is only right that the final determinant in matters of this character and importance, should lie ultimately in the courts of our own creation, which live and move in the context of Australian life. For that reason, it is quite understandable that a trend is developing in many academic quarters in Australia, and among jurists that, perhaps, the time has passed for the retention of the right of appeal to the Privy Council in England.
No doubt honorable senators know that, in the British Commonwealth of Nations, only two units have retained the right of appeal to Her Majesty in Council - the Dominion of New Zealand and ourselves. The newer dominions within the Commonwealth - Pakistan and India - have abandoned that right, and so also has Canada. I can imagine that, when the Constitution was first framed, and in view of the State laws existing at that time and also what might be called our comparative judicial and legal inexperience, the opportunity to have important cases reviewed at the highest . level could have been of considerable importance. We could thus draw from the well of judicial thought that had been accumulated over the centuries in England. If that was the reason for retaining and writing into the Constitution this right of appeal in certain circumstances, I believe that we can take it that circumstances have so changed that that argument is no longer compelling. We have established our own juridical authority, and proved the competence of our courts in State and Federal jurisdictions at the highest level.
An interesting article on this point was written recently by the Professor of Law at the Melbourne University, Professor Zelman Cowen. It is part of the policy of the Australian Labour party that the right of appeal to the Privy Council ultimately should be written out of our judicial and legal practice. I merely refer to the interesting article published by Professor Cowen to show that there are some who believe, quite separate from political ideologies, that it is time our own Australian courts became the courts of final appeal on matters affecting the Australian people.
Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Lord Reid, a distinguished English jurist, at the Australian Legal Convention in
Queensland. Lord Reid, who is a member of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, was a guest speaker at the convention. He is a man of great legal eminence who came from the Scottish Bar. He has, therefore, been associated with a system ot jurisprudence that is different from ours. He has been saturated in the traditions and knowledge of the Scottish system of jurisprudence, and has been appointed as the chairman of a committee that was sent to Malaya to advise on a constitution for that country. Therefore, Lord Reid is highly regarded, but I could not help thinking that he was a man who lived 12,000 miles from Australia, who had never seen the warp and the woof of the Australian pattern of life, yet he is asked, in many important cases, to make determinations and decisions that affect the lives of living members of the Australian Commonwealth, and determine the national pattern for years to come. 1 believe that it is productive of an unreal set of circumstances to ask such men, or to expect them, to adjudicate any longer on the day-to-day fundamental and important matters that affect us in Australia.
I know that the argument advanced for the retention of the right of appeal is that these men are removed from the ebb and flow of social and political passions which naturally would affect those living in the Australian scene. I am not one of those who think that constitutional law must necessarily be determined and decided in the cold and remote atmosphere of a legal postmortem.
– Does one have to live in a country to adjudicate on those matters?
– Let me put it this way: 1 do not think that the law is any less a living and developing thing than is an ordinary social or political order. In view of the importance of the judicial interpretative body in relation to the written Constitution, I think that it must be more effective if it is a vital part of the organism on which it is going to sit in judgment. I know that men are appointed to our courts - both to the Supreme Courts of the States and the High Court of Australia - who have been personally and actively associated with political organizations before they entered upon their judicial careers, but it is to the credit of our courts of justice that, in their legal determinations, their obvious political affiliations and sympathies have been put aside in all cases.
After all, every judge is the product of some environment. He might not have been actively associated with a political organization, but every man has political and social ideas, and his outlook will be affected by them. I see no point in allowing an English judge, who would be affected by his background and political and social environments, to bring them to bear on a question relating to Australia’s internal affairs while we deny the competency of Australians to exercise judicial impartiality, allowing always for the effect that the environment would have had on a man’s judicial approach.
If we thought that, in the English scene, English judges were more aloof and more detached from any political or social interest, perhaps I would agree that the right of appeal to the Privy Council should be retained. They can be no more detached, no more dissociated, than men appointed to judicial bodies in our own country. In the publication, “ Law of the Constitution “. appears the following interesting comment by Dicey, an eminent constitutional lawyer, whose name is now a byword in constitutional history and development: -
The most honest judges are after all only honest men, and when set to determine matters of policy and statesmanship will necessarily be swayed by political feeling and by reasons of State. 1 feel that judges should be swayed by reasons of State. I do not think that any longer can judges, sitting in the completely detached and remote shades of the judicial atmosphere, hand down judgments that are completely divorced from the circumstances in which the matters arise.
I am not criticizing the judgment of the Privy Council in the transport cases, but it has definitely created a constitutional, and a real political, economic and social problem in Australia. Perhaps, on the clear law, and driven by the exigencies of the statutes involved and the case law up to that point, the judicial committee may have had no alternative but to hand down the decision it made; but the fact is that it is a decision which immediately cuts across the whole of the Australian transport organization, and which poses political and economic problems which we ourselves are no longer able to solve. I could not find it in my heart to criticize a bench which, in considering judgments of that character, had some regard for what Dicey, an eminent and impeccable man, described, in a completely objective report on matters like these, as reasons of State.
For those reasons, I really think that the old demands for the retention of the right of appeal have passed and that such things as questions of loyalty or bonds of empire no longer apply. Because our association with Great Britain is now on a basis of equal loyalty but of different fundamental ideas, that link is no longer necessary in order to strengthen those ties but could be broken without affecting them. There are major local considerations that would justify the High Court of Australia becoming the supreme and ultimate tribunal in matters involving the interpretation of the Constitution.
– The honorable senator would not have a court above the High Court of Australia?
– No, I would not have a court above the High Court. I cannot see any reason why it should not be the final determinant. I feel that the Constitution Review Committee, which we trust will soon go into active operation, will consider, among many other matters that are now of compelling necessity, removal of the right of appeal to the Privy Council.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I desire to speak on the subject that has been developed by Senator Byrne. I should be sorry to see the right of appeal to the Privy Council taken from Australia. I have noted that over the years that right has been removed from the constitutions of Pakistan, India and Canada, as Senator Byrne said; but it is still retained in Australia and New Zealand. I agree that certain improvements to the process of appeal to the Privy Council should be effected very quickly. Those improvements would do a great international service.
At the present time, the cost of appeals to the Privy Council is quite high. In most cases counsel go to the United Kingdom to seek leave to appeal first, and then after an interval go back again to conduct the actual appeal. I feel that the existing rules thai are applicable to Privy Council appeals should be looked at on the highest level at Westminster, because I understand that those rules are made mainly under imperial statutes. We have an illustration in the Poulton case, which is at present running some sort of course between here and the Privy Council. It has been quite clear to me that great economic stagnation can occur, as in relation to the distribution of the Joint Organization wool moneys, as a result of ineffective rules of appeal to the Privy Council. The rules relating to the lodgment of appeals and the time within which they must be prosecuted should be closely looked at.
When I conducted some research into this matter, I discovered that some of the rules dated back to the 1830’s. In other words, they are over 100 years old. A considerable amount of good could be achieved if attention were given to shortening the process so that it was not necessary, in the first place, to seek leave to appeal, and then later to prosecute the actual appeal. I feel that we in Australia, placed as we are in this age in the Asian-Pacific area, might be able to set a lead for judicial appeals in the British area in this part of the world. Surrounding Australia are certain British Crown colonies - the Solomons, the Seychelles, the Gilbert Islands, the Ellice Islands, and Hong Kong to the north. New constitutions are about to come into being in Malaya and Singapore, and Australia and New Zealand themselves are Commonwealth nations. I feel that possibly Australia could become a judicial centre, as it were, for the British world in this part of the globe, and that the retention of the right of appeal in Australia and New Zealand could form the nucleus of what might be described as the Colombo plan for British law in these parts. 1 feel that it is not necessary for the judicial committee of the Privy Council to sit in England at Downing-street. With the easy passage of air, there ought to be occasions when such a court could sit in Australia. As Senator Byrne has indicated. Lord Reid was in Brisbane last year, and a few years before that Lord Jowitt, the Lord Chancellor, was out here. Nowadays, these great legal men move backwards and forwards quite easily, and I see no reason why the Privy Council should forever be based in Downing-street. With some sort of co-ordination, the committee that has been appointed to advise Her Majesty on top appeals from this part of the British world could reasonably sit in Australia.
I, too, read the article by Professor Cowen with great interest, but I somewhat disagree with Senator Byrne inasmuch as he rather said that the members of the highest court of appeal for Australian cases should be people who live and move in the context of Australian life. I do not see the necessity tor such a new appellate jurisdiction, and for the judges to live and move in the context of our life. It is essential that the court should be of easy and reasonably cheap access to the people who appeal, but I do not think it is necessary that the judges themselves should live and move in the same community, as Senator Byrne suggested.
If we did away with the appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the States, particularly the smaller States, might feel that some legal right that had been preserved to them in the Australian Constitution, was suddenly taken away, and the final court of appeal for them was a court appointed by a Minister of this Parliament, the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth. People living in some of the States might feel that a prescriptive right of theirs had been withdrawn from them. There is a danger there. We should not seek to cut the painter by abolishing the right of appeals-, rather should we bring up to date the present procedure in connexion with appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, with particular reference to keeping down costs. Perhaps it would be possible for the Judicial Committee, in relation to Australian appeals, to be composed of an eminent New Zealand judge, an Australian judge and a British judge. Perhaps the members of the Judicial Committee need not even be judges. They could be lawyers of the highest standing, and recognized as entitled to sit on the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. That might possibly be a means of helping to solve the judicial problems that those in the legal profession in Australia see ahead.
Last night, in my remarks on the report of the Royal Commission on Espionage, I suggested to the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) that it was high time the
Attorney-General’s Department made a thorough examination of the Crimes Act to bring it up to date, and to incorporate suggestions that were made in chapter 20 of the royal commission’s report. The royal commissioners pointed out, most clearly, existing deficiencies in the Australian law. If a constitutional amendment is necessary before an adequate and up-to-date section of the Crimes Act can be formulated to deal with official secrets, then let that matter be considered by the Constitution Review Committee which, I hope, will meet in the near future.
– Naturally, I defer on legal matters to Senator Byrne and Senator Laught, but I feel that there is something about the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council that appeals to us all. At the moment, it is one of the few really centralizing units in the British Empire. But it is not purely British. The idea that one would get from Senator Byrne’s speech is that the judges on that committee are either Englishmen or Scots, but, in fact, the Judicial Committee consists of eminent lawyers from all parts of the Empire. Both the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) would be entitled to sit on that committee.
– But they have never sat on it.
– That is so. but I understand that Sir Isaac Isaacs once sat on it.
– Sir George Rich sat on it.
– That is so. When I was in London four years ago. I found that eminent British lawyers held a very high opinion of great Australian lawyers. It was my great privilege to have some little conversation with the present Lord Chancellor, and he told me that among the great legal minds in the world to-day, he considered none to be ahead of the present Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir Owen Dixon. He told me, also, that he had a very great respect for the legal opinions of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt).
– Hear, hear!
– For these reasons the judicial committee of the Privy
Council should be retained as one of the unifying forces of the British Commonwealth.
.- I should like the Minister to say whether the Attorney-General’s Department is responsible for drawing up contracts entered into by the Department cif Works with builders and contractors to carry out works for that department.
– I believe that it has been the practice for pro forma contracts to be drafted by the Attorney-General’s Department and made available to the Department of Works. Normally, that department enters into its own contracts, but the AttorneyGeneral’s Department is always available to settle details. Sometimes, the Department of Works avails itself of this assistance.
Senator Ashley referred to the Keswick barracks in South Australia, and I reminded him- that this was more properly a matter to be dealt with under the defence vote. No doubt, Senator Ashley is convinced that the information that he gave to the committee is correct, but it is difficult to pinpoint and deal satisfactorily with a complaint on information that is anonymous.
– It is not anonymous, and the Minister has no right to say that it is.
– It is anonymous, because the honorable senator did not disclose the source of his information:
– I read out the particulars. I raised certain points, and the Minister should answer them.
– I do not know whether Senator Ashley and 1 agree on the meaning, of the word “ anonymous “. The point I am making is that the name of his informant was not disclosed-.
– Am I obliged to disclose it? Does the Minister ask every one who brings a matter before the Parliament to disclose the informant’s name?
– The honorable senator does not have to do it, but the information he gave the committee is anonymous.
– It is a serious enough matter to warrant the Government making some inquiries.
- Senator Ashley, out of his rich experience as a Minister, will recall that frequently he received information or was given alleged statements of fact which, upon investigation, turned out to be completely false and baseless. 1 am simply pointing out that greater attention would be paid to Senator Ashley’s allegations if he were to say that the information had been supplied to him by a person of impeccable reputation and sound mind, and one likely to possess knowledge that would substantiate the charge. The honorable senator, as an ex-Minister, would know, also, that if every anonymous allegation were to be pursued by the Minister responsible, he would have no time to devote to his portfolio.
– The Minister is now revealing the inefficiency and irresponsibility of the department he administers. He will not answer my statements.
– It is comforting to know that if Senator Ashley had not been listening to this information, he would probably have been doing something else. He certainly exhibited great patience in listening to such a long story but I am sorry that he does not feel it to be of sufficient importance to let the responsible Minister know the source of his information.
– I have given all particulars. What more does the honorable gentleman want?
– So far as I know, Senator Ashley could have read all this in “ World’s News “, or “ Twin Earths *”. or last week’s comic strip. If he will make known the source of his information, I am certain that his complaint will receive the utmost possible consideration. If there is a bad state of affairs existing, if there are ills that should be remedied,, Senator Ashley will contribute greatly towards effecting that remedy if he will only disclose the source of his information.
– What is the security service for?
– Apparently, Senator Ashley does not take the matter seriously. I am sorry to say that because of his attitude I am forced to the conclusion that he is not serious.
Senator Benn, Senator Hendrickson and Senator Cameron referred to the Arbitration Court and, coming from a man holding a responsible position, the suggestion made by Senator Bena against the integrity of both the Government and the Arbitration Court is abominable.
– But the honorable senator knows it is true.
– There are two types of people in this country. There are those who seek to uphold arbitration and there are those who seek to destroy it. Fortunately, the great majority of the trade unionists of this country, those who are Australian-minded, want to uphold the integrity and efficiency of the Arbitration Court. The Communists want to destroy it: in fact, they want to destroy both our Parliament and our courts. I know that Senator Benn is not a Communist, but he is preaching from his place in this Senate precisely the gabble one hears on the Yarra bank or in the Sydney Domain. A while ago, he complained that the Arbitration Court does not enjoy to-day the prestige that it enjoyed in earlier years. Unfortunately, that is true.
– This is due largely to the types of people in the trade union movement who are no longer enlightened Australians. The arbitration system has been built up upon the advocacy of enlightened trade union leaders, but unfortunately to-day we have in Queensland - this has happened elsewhere also - the spectacle of men trained in the great traditions of the Australian trade union movement defying arbitration. In the old. days, men like Clarrie Fallon would see to it that the members of their unions obeyed the awards of the Arbitration Court.
– But we had a court in those days.
– Now we have people like Senator Benn and others in Queensland condemning arbitration and encouraging, people to defy the decision of the umpire. So long as people who occupy responsible positions are prepared to undermine the authority and integrity of the courts, then for so long will we have this great feeling of bitterness against the independence and real value of the court.
Reference was made to the conduct of secret union ballots. What is wrong with secret ballots? When electing our representatives to Parliament, we insist upon the secret ballot; but here again the only people in Australia who are complaining against the secret ballot introduced by the MenziesFadden Administration are the Communists who have been kicked out of control of our unions because of the efficiency of the secret and controlled ballot. After all, the secret ballot was introduced not at the whim of the court but at the request of a good percentage of trade unionists themselves. lt has enabled over 38 unions to regain democratic control of their organizations which were once controlled by Communists.
– Give us the list of the anions.
– 1 shall not do that now. Senator Benn knows them as well as I do. The Federated Ironworkers Association is a classic example. Again, the Victorian Railways Union was in a similar position until the Australian Labour party formed a unity ticket with the Communists.
Senator Vincent referred to companies and company law. A conference was held, and I hope, in spite of the decisions made in. the Huddart Parker case in 1929, that the day will come when we shall have, a uniform, company law in Australia just as we now have a uniform bankruptcy law.
– Where are we now? Are we in the Privy Council?
– I am coming to that.. Senator Hendrickson, complained about the system adopted by the Arbitration Court of assessing wages, on the: ability of industry to pay. That is a sound basis. The men who decide whether industry is able to pay keep in mind the general economy of industry, not a particular employer. They also have regard to whether in their opinion the economy of the country can: stand a higher wage; in other words,, they decide whether the workers who contribute to the prosperity of industry should participate in that prosperity. That is a much more sensible way of determining what rate should be payable than the principle of whether the price of potatoes, for instance, goes up or down. Recently, there was a phenomenal rise in the price of potatoes. I do not know precisely what impact that has on the C series index, but it is suggested in the press that it might be as much as 4s. or 5s. a week.
– It depends upon how many potatoes one buys.
– No, it is a part of the formula and everything depends upon its impact on that formula. A rise of ls. a week in the basic wage means an additional cost of approximately £8,000,000 in the overall national wages bill, so that an increase of 5s. would mean the payment of a further £40,000,000.
– And what does the 6 per cent, increase in shipping freights mean?
– That comes under another item, and I shall come back to it. If the prices index rises by 5s. - and this can happen when there is a shortage of only one particular commodity due to seasonal conditions - it can have the devastating effect of inflating our economy to the extent of £40,000,000 a year without one extra box of matches being produced. Who is hit by circumstances such as that? Obviously, it is the working man and the person on the fixed wage. It is a more intelligent and intelligible arrangement to fix the basic wage not on what we eat but on what is the maximum that industry can afford to pay.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) asked why the old Court of Conciliation and Arbitration is being continued; and what I have to say now will answer Senator Byrne’s question also. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that it was being continued merely for the purpose of using it as exhibit A, as it were, before the Privy Council. I do not think the Privy Council will be influenced one whit whether the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration continues in existence or goes out of existence. He will appreciate the fact that at the time of the proclamation of the act - it was passed on 13th June but not proclaimed until 14th August - it was too late to re-write the Estimates. But there is a common registry and a common staff being used, except that each judge and each commissioner has his own personal associate. All the work for both the commission and the industrial court is being done by the registry of the old Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. By this time next year the various costs will be more clearly written out and Senator Byrne will not find it necessary to raise the point he mentioned to-day.
The reason why the old Court of Conciliation and Arbitration is being continued is that it still has certain matters to conclude. The Leader of the Opposition will appreciate as readily as any of us that there were causes and cases in the process of being heard. The work of the tribunal could not be stopped immediately on the 14th August when the act was proclaimed, so it will conclude the hearing of those cases which were part-heard on 14th August. Cases which have been listed since the proclamation of the act on 14th August will, according to the direction of the Registrar, which will be made on the nature of the applications, go before either the Arbitration Commission or the Industrial Court.
Senator Byrne mentioned the increased vote for the Patents Office. In explanation of that, I point out that there is still a large backing of patent applications stretching back to the conclusion of World War II. It is necessary to make expert and difficult technical examinations of patents, and employees who can carry out that work cannot be readily obtained. Therefore, a considerable amount of overtime has to be worked in the Patents Office, and paid for. In passing, perhaps I may mention that constituents of mine frequently approach me and ask me to expedite the hearing of their patent applications. Some of them tell me that their applications have been in the queue awaiting hearing for as long as eighteen months. The reason for the increased vote is that we have to pay overtime to have applications investigated, but we hope that these matters will soon be brought up to date.
Senator Byrne also raised the matter of appeals to the Privy Council, and I was glad to hear Senator Laught and Senator McCallum support the present system. There is much to be said, out of an exaggerated and misplaced sense of nationalism, for abolishing the right of appeal to the Privy Council, but in such a matter my attitude is orthodox, and I am afraid of heresy. Australia obtained the whole of its common law from the system of common law that has grown up in England, and that law in turn derives from earlier systems. The greatest boon that England has given to the world is the rule of law which is based upon the English common law. That law was passed on to the United States of America and to the vast dominions of the British Commonwealth, and it is probably one of the greatest cohesive forces in the British Commonwealth of Nations. Even people who no longer regard themselves as British still owe a debt to the English system of jurisprudence, and the English law forms a common bond among all those nations who have benefited from it. Therefore, it is highly desirable that there should be one fin.:l authority for the countries that constitute the British Commonwealth which owe so much from a juridical point of view to the English common law; and that authority, at present, is the Privy Council, decisions of which are final. Without the Privy Council there would be a danger of heresies and drifts away from the established system of the English common law. [f that should happen the cohesion among many of the free nations, which is valuable for their existence in a free world, will be lost.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– The Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) has tried to treat very lightly the matter that I raised during this debate. He has done that because I did not name the person who gave me the information that I placed before honorable senators. The Minister knows as well as I know, and as well as every other ex-serviceman in the chamber knows, that if a soldier is named as having given information of this sort, he becomes a marked man in his unit and that is the end of him. I have not divulged his name, and I will not do so, but I have given times and dates and places, and I have also named the unit where the staff has increased and indicated the place where it is stationed. The Minister said in effect, “ Senator Ashley has been a Minister himself, he knows how often we get information of this kind “, and so on. If, as a
Minister, I had received information which amounted to a charge of inefficiency and irresponsibility in any department that I was administering, I would have immediately sent out a teleprinter message and obtained a report about it within a very short period - perhaps only two hours. 1 shall not tell the Minister or anybody else the name of my informant in this case. I have given the Minister full particulars about it, I have stated that there are thirteen vehicles on the establishment for the use of 21 officers, and that the number of officers has increased from three in 1949 to 21 at present. Every member in the unit is an officer. I point out again that that is during a time of peace. Surely that charge is serious, and warrants full inquiry by the Department of Defence.
– I believe that Senator Ashley has raised this matter under the wrong heading of the bill.
– 1 asked the Minister about that.
– However, as Senator Ashley was able to bring the matter up, I assume that I am entitled to deal with it.
– I rise to order. Senator Hannaford has accused me of raising this matter under the wrong heading. Honorable senators will remember that when I asked the Minister whether I would be in order in raising this matter under the Estimates at present before the Committee, he said that I would.
Senator Ashley has not raised a valid point of order. I inform Senator Hannaford that Senator Ashley was allowed to proceed with this matter with the consent of the Minister, and I also allowed the matter to be discussed.
– I do not canvass your ruling, Mr. Temporary Chairman, 1 merely express the opinion that the matter was brought up under the wrong heading. However, I am willing to let bygones be bygones. The vote under consideration covers peace guards, but Senator Ashley was obviously referring to the permanent military forces at Keswick. As the charge made by Senator Ashley is serious, I believe that it should be given further consideration by the Government and that the Minister in charge of the establishment referred to by the honorable senator should be asked to investigate the matter. The honorable senator said that there was gross waste and extravagance in regard to personnel and vehicles, and that charge warrant’s investigation. He made a comparison between the military establishment in 1949 and the present establishment. The whole of Senator Ashley’s complaints relate to Central Command at Keswick, which is the Army head-quarters in South Australia. I believe that the increase of personnel there is justified on the ground that in 1949 that command bore only a fraction of the responsibility it now carries. We now quite justifiably have a much bigger set-up at Keswick than formerly. We could not have a major-general in charge at Keswick, with all the ancillary services of an Army command, without providing him with an adequate staff. If, as Senator Ashley has suggested, the increase of personnel compared to 1949 is not justified, the matter should be investigated. But having regard to the increased responsibility that has been assumed by Central Command at Keswick since 1949, I believe that both the increase of staff and also the increased number of motor vehicles are justified.
.- 1 was surprised to hear the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) agree with the statement that the workers are rapidly losing confidence in the Arbitration Court. The Minister acknowledged that that was so, but he did not indicate what he, as a senior member of the Cabinet, proposes to do to correct that situation. It is generally conceded that the workers of this country have not now the degree of confidence in the court that they once had. The reason for this state of affairs is that the Government has fallen down on its responsibility to provide an industrial court which will function properly. An industrial court should keep constantly in mind the maintenance of industrial peace. How can industrial peace be maintained unless the workers receive wage justice? That is the crux of the situation. The Government has made several attempts to provide a court which, according to its lights, would function satisfactorily, but this important factor - the preservation of industrial peace - has been ignored. Mr. Justice Spicer, an ex-senator, now presides like a lord high executioner over the Commonwealth Industrial Court, and exercises jurisdiction over judges and conciliation commissioners. When we study the procedure in connexion with applications that are made to conciliation commissioners or judges, we see .that the underlying principle of arbitration is being destroyed. As I have previously pointed out, due to the growing cost of presenting applications to the court, it is now almost impossible for many trade unions to bear this financial burden. The Minister, quite ignorantly, overlooked this fundamental factor in maintaining industrial peace. If we are to attain industrial peace in this country, the Government should provide an industrial court that will function properly.
.- I was making the point in my earlier speech, when my time expired, that all wealth produced, in excess of the actual cost of production, can be regarded as practically unpaid labour. That is one of the reasons why profits are increasing automatically.
Order! The honorable senator is getting wide of the mark.
– Unless the court adopts a different approach to this matter from its attitude in recent years, the position will gradually become more unsatisfactory. I refer to the principle of ensuring maximum production for the owners of capital and a minimum of consumption for non-owners. That was the origin of what is now called the basic wage. As I have pointed out previously, the minimum is being reduced still further. The actual real wage, assessed in terms of commodities, was never lower than it is to-day. The courts should adopt the principle that has been advocated by the workers, of maximum consumption consistent with productivity. An anomalous situation exists, in that the productivity of labour was never greater than it is to-day. With the advent of automation, it will become even greater. As the court establishes the basic wage on the basis of the limited cost of subsistence, the real value of the wage decreases automatically as production increases. Up to date, neither the court, the Government, nor the economists who advise the Government have made an intelligent approach to this subject.
In cases where indirect action by the workers has failed, they will be forced to take direct action in order to gain redress. We had the spectacle recently of 2,500 postal workers ceasing work. It is not unusual for casual waterside workers, and workers in the building industry, with which I am associated, to stop work in order to direct attention to their grievances, but it has been unheard of previously for postal workers to take direct strike action. This course was literally forced upon them through the ignorance of the conciliation commissioner who handled the matter initially. Had the commissioner made an intelligent approach to it, he would have pointed out, at least for the guidance of the Government, what was done in the early days. In 1907, the late Mr. Justice Higgins directed attention to the injustices of which the workers complained. He then helped to frame amending legislation. But the judges of to-day have not made one constructive suggestion. They just accept without question the bare statement that costs are increasing. Actually, real costs are a diminishing factor in production, but inflated costs are an increasing factor. I am directing the Minister’s attention to this aspect of the matter because already stoppages are occurring in industry. What is the approach of the Premier of Victoria to this subject? He may be a good farmer and know all about growing wheat and wool, but he is as ignorant as a wooden god about economics and politics. He is, primarily, responsible for the stoppage. If he had brains enough, he would make a more intelligent approach to the working man, who is easy to approach and convince provided he believes that the person with whom he is dealing is sincere. When a dogmatic approach is made to him, he takes direct action. Unless this Government, or any other government for that matter, is prepared to go into the subject of arbitration and see that a worker is properly rewarded for the work he does and is protected against preventable unemployment, it will have on its hands more industrial strife than it can cope with.
– The honorable senator has been saying that here for the last seven years; but it has not happened yet.
– Before the postal strike occurred, 1 pointed out what was likely to happen. I pointed out what would be the natural and inevitable reaction of the collective man to economic pressure. Those reactions are operating at the present time. A psychological, as well as a physical or economic approach, has to be made to these matters.
I point these things out as one who has had at least 50 years’ active experience among workers and knows exactly what happens. I have been through most of the strikes since as far back as the 1890’s. I cannot see any improvement in the attitude of mind of those who are supposed to be governing the country in the interests of all the people. They use the collective term because it is regarded as good propaganda, but actually the Government’s policy is not in the interests of all the people; it is limited to the interests of the owners of capital. It is a matter now of whether the working class will submit to what is happening to-day. If the Government is wise in its day and generation, it will think the matter over, and, by taking appropriate action, will possibly save a great deal more in many ways than by adopting its present dogmatic and arrogant approach to the worker who is told he must do this or that. The same approach is made in the army, where the private has no mind of his own in the eyes of the general and has to do what he is told. That approach will not be effective in industry, even if the Government uses civilian police to assist it in its purpose.
– 1 listened with interest to the reply the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) gave to me on arbitration matters which 1 raised in this chamber. He made the statement that if an increase of ls. a week were granted in the basic wage the cost to the nation would be £8,000,000, and that if an increase of 5s. a week were granted the cost to the nation would be £40,000,000. The cost would not be to the nation, but to the people who own industry. This morning I cited the enormous profits being made by firms which are paying men the basic wage, which is less than it should be because quarterly cost of living adjustments have been suspended since 1953. What does the Government propose these men on the basic wage should do in order to gain a reasonable wage which will give them a reasonable standard of living? Are we to understand from the statement of the Minister that the workers in industry, their wives and families, because of the increase in the cost of living, must eat less in order to make their money go round? Does he suggest to the people of Australia that they must accept less while the big combines go on increasing their profits?
– The honorable senator knows he is talking rot. I never said anything of the sort.
– It may appear to be rot; I may be thick in the skull. But 1 venture to say that the Minister would not be prepared to tell an assembly of 200 or 300 of these people, who to-day are working on the basic wage, that irrespective of any rises in the costs of the necessaries of life they can expect no more because wage increases would worsen inflation.
– I did not say that at all.
– The Minister did say that. He said that the case which I had put was wrong. I say that I am not wrong. I have just been successful in persuading the State Government in Victoria to grant a housing commission house to a worker on the basic wage. The rent of that house is £4 5s. a week. That man has three children to keep on the basic wage.
– He is paying £4 5s. a week?
– He is paying £4 5s. a week for a house in East Balwyn. But the man is grateful to get it because he and his wife and three children were previously living in two rooms. Out of his basic wage he has to pay £4 5s. a week in rent, and then has to pay his fares to work.
– My word.
– The honorable senator-
– I am agreeing with the honorable senator.
– The Minister says I am talking rot. It is all right for honorable senators to make fun of this matter. We are sitting pretty on £3,200 a year.
– The honorable senator is getting £200 more than he should.
– Or, whatever the amount may be.
– What is a couple of hundred to Senator Hendrickson?
– I reared my family of four children during the depression years when I was receiving less than the present basic wage. I come from the working class.
– And reared them well, too.
– That is quite true. I know how to look after myself, but, unfortunately, all the workers cannot get to this place. If they could they would do worse than Guy Fawkes proposed to do. They would not blow it up; they would blow it down because of the hypocrisy that goes on in this chamber. The Government has never contested an election on an issue which has enabled the workers to clarify their minds sufficiently to know for what they are voting and why they are voting. The Government always raises some bogy.
– Most of the workers vote Liberal.
– Possibly the workers with whom the honorable senator associates would vote Liberal; they do not think they are workers just because they wear a white collar. Some other plan has to be devised by this Parliament to ensure that men who are prepared to work and give a fair day’s labour for their pay have the right to live in reasonable comfort with their wives and families. That is where the basic wage is important.
– To what division is the honorable senator referring?
– I am speaking on Division 59 - Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and 1 have a perfect right to do so. If the court is allowed to continue to function as it is now, we might as well get back to the law of the jungle.
– That is what the Australian Labour party tries to do, but we will not allow it.
– We might just as well go back to the days when the workers’ only chance to get a fair deal was to jack up on the boss. He had no right to negotiate for a reasonable share of the wealth he produced. 1 am comparatively young, but 1 can remember when members of the present Australian Workers Union carried their swags from one shearing shed to another. Because they agitated to form a union, which is now the Australian Workers Union, they were boycotted, and had to return to their homes. That position would prevail again if it were, not for the trade unions. They are reasonable in the requests they put forward. If honorable senators on the Government side want communism, they will allow the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to continue as it is going to-day.
An announcement was published in the “ Canberra Times “ to-day that the shipping combine trading around the Australian coast had been granted an increase of 6 per cent in freight charges. Who is to pay for that? Did the Government or its supporters ask whether industry could afford that impost? All that supporters of the Government can say in connexion with this matter is that the waterside workers do not work hard enough. Have they inquired whether industry can afford to pay the increased freights?
– The Leader of the Government (Senator O’sullivan) has already said that they did.
– Of course they did not. The shipowners have never failed to get an increase of freight rates when they have applied to this Government. The shipping companies are increasing their profits, but the basic wage is frozen. The Leader of the Government has said that an increase of ls. in the basic wage means much to the economy. Quarterly cost of living adjustments of the basic wage operated for years. Why are they not operating now? The Minister has said that they were suspended in order to prevent inflation. Can any supporter of the Government tell me when the freezing of the basic wage has prevented inflation?
– The basic wage is not frozen. It can be adjusted according to the capacity of industry to pay.
– If that is so, the shearers should have been getting £21 to shear 100 sheep in 1951, and the railway men should have been working for nothing.
– Get down to earth.
– We could get something into Senator Scott’s head only by using a brace and bit. lt is wooden. I am trying to explain to honorable senators that something must be done to improve the condition of persons on lower incomes. If the Government believes that the freezing of wages will stop inflation, why do we not freeze prices?
– Tell the truth. Do not misrepresent what has been said on behalf of the Government. It has never said anything about freezing wages.
– The Government has claimed that the freezing of the basic wage would stop inflation. In this chamber to-day, the Leader of the Government said that ls. a week added to the basic wage would increase the cost of living by £8,000,000. He said that 5s. a week would mean another £40,000,000 on costs,- and that that would increase inflation. We complain if we are taxed 10 per cent, or 20 per cent, on our incomes, but the workers are taxed 100 per cent. Everything that they earn goes into some form of taxation, direct or indirect. If the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration is going to dictate wages and conditions, we must have some other tribunal that will fix the price of commodities that are consumed by the workers and their families.
– Senator Hannaford has attempted to put up an umbrella to protect the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’sullivan).
– I did nothing of the sort. I said that if your charges were correct, they needed investigation.
– Senator Hannaford said that my charges referred to the Army Central Command. Surely Senator Hannaford does not believe that I am foolish enough to suggest that the expenses of Central Command in South Australia are only £19,500 a year. If he had been listening he would have known that I was speaking of -the provost unit. I said that it was entirely separate from Central Command, and that, in its early days in South Australia, it had obtained stores from Central Command on inventory. My complaint is that a unit of 21 officers-
– They are not officers.
– They are noncommissioned officers. There are 21 officers and thirteen vehicles, and wages have increased from £2,000 in 1949, and £8,000 in 1952, to £19,500 in 1956. Three men could do the work in 1949, and they would be quite capable of doing it now. The Leader of the Government should explain this misuse and wanton waste of public money. He said that 1 was not prepared to divulge the source of my information. That comment does not warrant a reply. 1 say That this is another grave example of the waste and misuse of public money by the Department of Defence throughout Australia.
Senator COOKE (Western Australia) [3.25J. - 1 understood the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan), when dealing with the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, to say that the policy of the court now will be to assess the base wage for the people of Australia according to the capacity of industry to pay. That constitutes a very radical change from the general concept in Australia ot me method of fixing base rates, lt is quite obvious to any person who has the interests of the people of Australia at heart, and who desires to see industrial peace, that such a wide and serious departure from the accepted principles of wage fixation, and the difference of approach between the Commonwealth court and the State arbitration courts, will have serious repercussions.
In Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, State government policy has allowed to the lowest paid worker a wage that will provide a frugal existence for himself, his wife, and two children in certain States and three in others. In the past, the base rate has been based on the C series index, which is a compilation of prices of a number of essential items, and certain other information that has been accepted by the court. The Minister has now given the committee to understand that, rightly or wrongly, the Commonwealth court will fix the basic wage according to the capacity of industry to pay. That is the point at which industrial peace becomes disturbed.
– That has been the test for twenty years. It was so when Labour was in office.
– That might be so, but the method of fixing the wage has been altered. Honorable senators may use any term they like, but the basic wage adjustments have been frozen or stopped. The only thing that has saved Australia from real industrial upheaval recently has been the fact that certain State courts are adjusting the base rate in the manner in which it has been adjusted for at least two decades. Price increases and certain other conditions are taken into consideration by those courts in fixing the wage. There would have been an Australia-wide stoppage right now were it not for the fact that at least 60 per cent, of the workers in all States, and 80 per cent, in the Labour States, work under State awards. This Government has tried to force on to State arbitration tribunals and State governments a wage fixation policy that does not take cognizance of the human factors and the principles that have always formed the basis of conciliation and arbitration.
The industrial unions will agree that, in the Commonwelth sphere, processes of conciliation and arbitration have become so expensive for the unions and the workers that only the big unions can enjoy the privilege of seeking the protection of the court. In the main, they have failed to obtain it If the big unions are successful, the little unions can tag along behind. There will be continual and very serious industrial dispute if the Government, in collusion with the court, continues to adopt the policy of pegging the wages of workers on the base rate and in turn pinning down the wage of every person in industry who receives a margin for skill, experience, or any other reason.
The Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration is assuming a form of aristocracy. There has been no parsimoniousness in making provision for the court. Judges and conciliation commissioners have been appointed. The judges are well paid.
– They are overpaid.
– If they maintained industrial peace, they could be paid more and the nation would still show a profit; but, when they adopt an entirely political policy which results in industrial unrest, they are really expensive. Efficiency is never expensive, and if they were paid twice as much and obtained a good result, we would be doing well to pay them that sum. However, at the present time we are not getting that result. The Opposition wants the Government to explain to the committee why this nation is losing not thousands of pounds but millions of pounds a year. In the struggle for existence on a basis of social justice, the workers are paying £1 for £1 with the Government. The living standards of the workers are declining. The Commonwealth arbitration system is failing, and the Australian worker will soon be forced into collective bargaining, which is a term that very often is wrongly applied. Tt will be a case of the strong succeeding and the weak failing. If a fair and equitable basis for fixing the basic wage is not found, vicious industrial turmoil will occur. The method of fixing the basic wage in both the Federal and States spheres was satisfactory until recently when the Government interfered and decided that cost of living adjustments should cease.
An examination of the schedule of salaries and allowances shows that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration is well provided with attendants. Provision is made for an industrial registrar; four deputy industrial registrars; fourteen clerks; and nineteen assistants, typists, and junior assistants. There are associates to seven judges, and they are filling unclassified positions. I should like to know from the Minister why a judge’s associate should occupy an unclassified position. In addition, there are seven tipstaffs. I take it they are more or less personal valets to the judges. Very few other judges in Australia enjoy thai amenity. They, too, are filling unclassified positions. Financial provision amounting to £8,256 is made for the associates, and for the tipstaffs, £6,210. I am not quarrelling with the provision of the best possible facilities for the court, but I point out that almost 100 per cent, of the workers who work under federal awards are dissatisfied. lt is only natural that, when the matter is placed before the Australian Council of Trades Unions, the personal element should manifest itself. Workers under State awards, who have continued to receive quarterly cost of living adjustments, are in a better position than those under federal awards. The latter have had their wages pegged, and the Government has tried to convince the public that pegging is the only way to arrest inflation. If such a thing were done to employees under State awards, the Australian Council of Trades Unions would immediately promote a stoppage in industry. The Opposition in this Parliament does not want that to happen, because any stoppage is most serious to the worker, who never recovers from it. I should like the Minister to inform the committee how an advocate of the worker can convince the court of the amount that an industry can afford to pay the workers, lt may be argued that the worker should be paid in accordance with the state of the national economy. If that- is so, the workers would have a claim against the Government for robbing them of their rights. The present system has destroyed the basic standard living wage that the Labour party has sought. Although some privileged workers can earn more than a living wage, the Labour party contends that the basic wage should be the minimum amount on which a worker and his family can live. The Government fails to realize that. In the process of arbitration, the minimum wage has often become the maximum, and this has destroyed any benefits to which the workers are entitled. If the living costs of a worker and his family are greater than the minimum wage fixed, he should be entitled to be paid above the base rate. If industry can afford to pay more than the basic wage, he should be entitled to share in that benefit.
In the last three years, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court has fixed the basic wage in accordance with government policy, and in collusion with the Government has tried to alter the standard living wage throughout Australia. That is causing widespread discontent in industry. A standard wage should be determined in accordance with the human factor - that is, the living costs of the worker, added to which should be a share of the prosperity which the Government says prevails throughout Australia. It is obvious that the Commonwealth Government has given some States preferential treatment, and some States have been blackmailed into accepting Commonwealth Government policy in the fixing of a base rate of wages. Western Australia has resisted the Commonwealth Government’s policy, but Victoria has capitulated and has abolished quarterly cost of living adjustments. The unions are no longer able to present a unified case to the Arbitration Court for the fixing of a base rate, because in some States quarterly adjustments are retained and in others they have been suspended. The result of the Government’s policy and its application by the Arbitration Court is that the base rate of wages will be lowered, and living standards will deteriorate. The Minister will have a hard job to convince members on this side that the Arbitration Court, in carrying out government policy, will bring peace in industry.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I have listened with great interest to this debate, and although I appreciate that the Parliament, as an institution, has no power to determine the method by which the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration or any other wage-fixing tribunal shall fix wages, nevertheless it can greatly influence the court’s decision. I am disappointed with the reply of the Minister (Senator O’sullivan) to the arguments that have been advanced from this side. Senator Benn began the discussion on this item of the Estimates, and pointed out that the workers were losing faith in the arbitration system. The Minister made no endeavour to answer the argument concerning the ability of the Arbitration Court to determine the wage needs of the workers, but resorted to the old stock-in-trade arguments that have been heard in this chamber for a long while. He suggested that Communist arguments were being advanced, and that any one who criticized the expenditure of money on the upkeep of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration was adopting the Communist line.
– That is completely untrue.
– lt is untrue?
– I said nothing of the sort.
– I hope that the Minister will read the report of his speech. He should have the transcript of it by now.
– The honorable senator knows that what he is saying is untrue.
– The Minister suggested that some people in our midst were eager to destroy the Arbitration Court, and that the idea emanated from the Communists.
– That is so.
– The Minister further insinuated that Senator Benn’s remarks were of that nature.
– Senator Benn challenged the integrity of the court.
– I did not rise to argue with the Minister, but I had hoped that he would give some indication of the Government’s desire that a tribunal should operate that would bring about industrial peace, and encourage the workers to have faith in an instrumentality that has been in existence for a number of years. I remind the Minister that that instrumentality was a creation of the Labour party. The inspiration came from both the industrial and political wings of the Labour movement because men wanted to get away from the law of the jungle that had operated prior to the establishment of the Arbitration Court. Can the Government honestly claim that the money provided in the Estimates for the continuation of this tribunal will be utilized for the establishment of the type of tribunal to which 1 have referred?
Reference has been made to the need for a just wage. 1 do not know what honorable senators on the . Government side deem to be a just wage but, after tracing the history of the Arbitration Court, 1 cannot for the life of me believe that this tribunal has ever granted to the worker sufficient to enable him to enjoy those things to which he is justly entitled in a civilized community. Irrespective of the formula adopted, the wage granted has never been enough. The worker has never been given more than the minimum amount necessary to keep him quiet. Why is the worker losing faith in the Arbitration Court? In the days of the late Mr. Justice Powers, the wage was reviewed every twelve months. There were no quarterly cost of living adjustments at that time; and because he knew that the worker was continually endeavouring to cope with increased costs of commodities, Mr. Justice Higgins added 6d. a day to the Statistician’s suggested standard in order to give the worker some chance of surviving.
When that system was found to be inadequate, a new formula was adopted. Quarterly adjustments were introduced simply because it had been demonstrated conclusively that the cost of commodities was rising at such a rate that the worker was suffering continual hardship; and that system was continued until recently. Eminent judges have spent months and months in determining what industry can afford to pay and have issued awards based on that principle; but the worker has gained nothing from these adjustments because certain people who are outside the authority of the courts decide what the worker shall pay for commodities. Now, solely as a result of the actions of the Commonwealth Government, State governments which believed that the principle of quarterly wage adjustments was fair, are being forced to suspend that principle by legislative enactment.
When we were discussing the budget some weeks ago, the Government had the temerity to say it was not in favour of freezing wages; and it argued from time to time that costs of production were causing an economic crisis. Further, it has emphasized throughout that the wages ingredient in costs has been responsible for this crisis. By refusing to give the workers the opportunity to enjoy some of the good things in life, this Government is destroying their faith in arbitration and driving them to another ideal. If the growth of this other and undesirable ideal is to be stemmed, the workers must be given some measure of justice. We can never hope to prevent its growth so long as we adopt the attitude that the worker must remain on the bottom rung of the ladder all the time, and so long as the worker knows that no matter how frugally he may live the best he can hope for when he reaches the end of his working life or when he is compulsorily retired, as many of them are, upon reaching a certain age, is a miserable pittance doled out by way of social services payments, lt is useless for honorable senators opposite to suggest that those who direct public attention to the failure of the present system are encouraging the growth of communism. The growth of communism is being fostered more effectively by the manner in which the Government is dealing with the workers at the present time. Why should the workers be the only ones engaged in industry to have their share of the profits made by industry measured by this yardstick? Why is not the remuneration of every other section based on the same system?
For these reasons I am doubtful whether the provision of money for the continuation of this tribunal is worth while, lt is time responsible men and women in all walks of life grappled with the problem confronting us. If we want to ensure the continuance of our present system of society we must guarantee fair treatment to the men and women who are making it possible for industry to continue. I regret the attitude adopted in this matter by honorable senators on the Government side this afternoon. I appeal to the Government to give the workers a lead, to prove to them that this democratic institution, this Parliament elected by the people, is prepared to legislate in the interests of that great section of the community. If the Government should do that it would be doing something worthwhile, and I suggest that it should do it rather than that Ministers should give cynical replies to questions asked by honorable senators and make innuendoes and suggestions about the motives of the Opposition.
– I have listened with interest to this debate, particularly to the contributions made by honorable senators opposite, and those honorable gentlemen indulged in the same old diatribe about the necessity to increase the basic wage and about unionists not getting their fair share of the national income. Recently in this chamber I quoted some figures about the national income, and I shall again put them before the committee. At present our national income is about £4,310.000,000 of which wages and salary earners get about 60 per cent. Therefore, their share of the national income is about £2,650,000,000. The statement made by honorable senators opposite that wages have been frozen is not correct, as is very easily shown. Last year our national income increased by £265,000,000, and wage and salary earners received 80 per cent, of that increase, or £209,000,000. Therefore, it is quite plain that the contention by the Opposition that wages have been frozen is not correct. lt has been said that in the early days if men became unemployed they had to carry their swags around the country looking for work, and that since the industrial arbitration system was adopted the lol of the worker has greatly improved. I agree that that is so, and rightly so. But, now that the workers have got all that they can get out of the industrial arbitration system they, and honorable senators opposite, want to throw it overboard and are talking about developing a system of collective bargaining. I recently read a report to the effect that in the opinion of experts Australia was not ready for a system of collective bargaining between employers and employees, because our production is not yet high enough to sustain such a system. In America production is three and a half times greater than our production, and they can have collective bargaining there; but we are not quite ready for it. I suggest that when our production increases the workers can expect higher wages.
It has been asked what is a reasonable wage for a unionist to get. I say that a reasonable wage for him can be properly estimated according to what he puts into industry. He cannot get more out of industry than he puts into it, and if he puts more into industry then industry can afford to pay him more. That is only common sense. Until the unionists work a proper 40-hour week and put more effort into their work, they will not be in a position to draw more money. I do not think that any reasonable person would object to a unionist getting a good wage. I do not object; and I think that unionists should get higher wages. However, the effort that they are putting into their work is not great enough to warrant higher wages. Why, economically speaking, Jim Healy of the Waterside Workers Federation is the greatest infliction that Australia has ever suffered. He will not work himself, and he will not let any one else work. His activities have cost this country tens of millions of pounds. You know it!
– He has just put up a world’s record in work on hydro-electric schemes.
– I do not know what he has put up. He will not allow the members of his union to work properly. There, I am opposed to him. Honorable senators opposite have asked what should Labour get out of industry. I say that it should get exactly as much as, or a little less than, it puts in. There is no reason why unionists should not work on contract and be paid by results. Most of the work done in primary industry is contract work, and, as honorable senators know, contract workers are paid by results. If primary workers can work in that way, why should not unionists in industry work on the same system? Primary industry is the backbone of our economy, and if it can work on a contract basis so can any other industry. I believe that wages should be as high as industry can pay, and the workers can earn higher wages if they put more effort into their work. Senator Cooke and I stood on the deck of a ship at Port Adelaide and watched wharf labourers work. After watching them for a while, I said, “ Joe. have a look at those men “. I think even Senator Cooke was staggered by the small amount of effort put into their work by those men on that Saturday afternoon, ls that right?
– I shall answer that statement when I have an opportunity.
– No man has more sympathy for the working man than I have, but I am definitely against those men who will not work, and I say that, generally speaking, until we in Australia get down to tintacks and work a proper 40-hour week and not a token 40-hour week, and put our backs into our work, we shall get nowhere. Until that day comes, we shall continue to wander about in the bush.
.- I wish to make a suggestion based on what was done in 1920. In that year, a royal commission was appointed by the then Hughes Government, which consisted of three representatives of employers and three representatives of employees, with the late Mr. A. B. Piddington, K.C., as chairman. That commission was appointed to inquire into the following matters: -
TIT. How the basic wage may be automatically adjusted to the rise and fall from time to time of the purchasing power of money..
I emphasize that word “ purchasing “ in the third objective. The commission’ opened its proceedings in Melbourne, and evidence was taken in each of the Australian capital cities and in Newcastle. In all, 115 sittings were held and 796 witnesses examined. The report of the commission was signed by all its members, and was submitted to the then Government on 19th November, 1920. lt caused a stir owing to the difference between its finding of £5 16s. a week, flat rate, in contrast with the current basic wage of £4. Following that report the then Government called for a report from the Commonwealth Statistician, who stated that the increase could not be paid. Therefore, in that particular case the word of the Commonwealth Statistician was accepted by the Government against the finding of a royal commission which had taken evidence from 796 witnesses. The recommended basic wage of £5 16s. a week was not paid, and since that time there have been constant applications by organized labour for an increased basic wage and tinkering with awards by members of the court. As a result, the present position has developed. 1 suggest that if the Government is really sincere in desiring to avoid unnecessary and very expensive industrial unrest, it should approach this matter in a way similar to the approach that was made in 1920. If the Government should do that, then I believe that the basic wage would be fixed at a rate which is a good deal higher than the present rate. Senator Wardlaw said that the more the workers put into industry the more they could take out. Actually, the reverse is the case, and that is the cause of all our trouble.
– Does the honorable senator believe that the workers should put in less than they take out?
– No; assuming Senator Wardlaw were working for a living instead of talking for a living, the harder that he worked and the more that he put into industry the more his wage would be reduced. That is happening all the time in this country. To the extent that productivity is increased by the workers putting more into industry - particularly per medium of the machine - the less they take out of industry in the form of a basic or subsistence wage. The present position is due entirely to that basic and far-reaching anomaly. Unless the Government takes notice of the men and women who are actively engaged in industry, examines the extent to which profits have accumulated over the last couple of years, and estimates the extent to which the workers should be provided for, the position will deteriorate still further.
– On several occasions, during the last few years, Senator Wardlaw has described incorrectly an incident that happened at Port Adelaide, when he and 1 were travelling at government expense to attend a banquet. On that occasion, we watched a few waterside workers sitting on the wharf waiting to unload a ship. When I was walking along the deck of the vessel. Senator Wardlaw directed my attention to them and said, “ If that is typical of the interest that waterside workers take in their job, it is no wonder that Australia’s economy is stagnating “. Those may not have been his exact words, but that is the gist of what he said. I asked him whether he was prepared to come with me to find out why the men were sitting down. I suggested that we might inquire from the captain of the vessel, or from the purser. As Senator Wardlaw was not interested in ascertaining the reason, I made inquiries independently.
At the time, the hatches were off, and the lumpers were working in the holds. The cargo in the holds was being rearranged. When the waterside workers were engaged for unloading operations, it was not known that the cargo had been badly stacked in the holds. But it was made clear to them that the ship would be leaving at a certain time. Admittedly, they sal down on the wharf until the cargo started to come over the side. They had no choice but to wait until it did. lt was no fault of theirs that the cargo was badly stacked in the holds, and it was to their credit that the ship sailed on time. Many people, through sheer ignorance, or possibly in bad taste, criticize things that they know nothing about, and on which they are not prepared to inform themselves. I do not blame any one for innocently taking away the good name of an honest worker, but when his mistake is pointed out to him, he should withdraw the slander. This is one imputation that I can definitely nail. I remind Senator Wardlaw that certain privileged people, thinking that the vessel would not leave on time, had to arrange for a special gangway to be lowered so that they could get aboard because, as I have said, the waterside workers finished their work, and the boat left on time.
– I should like to state my version of the incident on the Adelaide wharf to which Senator Cooke has referred. On the occasion in question, the wharf labourers reported for work at 8 a.m., but did not actually start until 9 a.m. Senator Cooke may correct me if I am not stating the position accurately.
– I know that the incident occurred fairly early in the morning.
– It was known at the time that the boat was scheduled to sail at 5 p.m. Although about 150 tons of cargo had not been unloaded, the waterside workers knocked off at 4 p.m. The cargo was taken on to Melbourne, and had to be railed back to Adelaide.
– It was not the fault of the waterside workers that the cargo for Adelaide could not be readily got out of the holds.
– My objection was that they were being paid time and a half to unload the cargo, but they were having a great time with their kids on the trolleys.
– Can you honestly say that?
– Four men had their kids there.
– There are no kids in Adelaide; they are all children.
– Mv contention is that the wharf labourers should be paid more money if they do more work. I am sure that fourteen women from a factory in my home town could shift twice as much cargo in a given time as twenty men like those I saw on the wharf in Adelaide on that occasion.
– For a number of years. I have been vitally interested in the Arbitration Court. In common with many workers in industry, I believe that, under the present system, the court has almost outlived its usefulness. I have been associated with the timber industry since 1920. Under the award that was granted to that industry by the Arbitration Court, saw doctors receive a marginal payment of 90s. a week. Under an industrial agreement, certain employees in the industry performing work of the same classification receive a marginal payment of 98s. a week. Under another industrial agreement - all of the awards and agreements to which I am referring apply to workers in Tasmania, and they can be readily checked - a saw doctor receives a marginal payment of Ills. 6d. a week. 1 point out that these agreements were obtained as a result of direct negotiation between representatives of the employees and representatives of the employers. One advantage of this method is that the agreement operates from the time it is finalized, which is usually about four or five days after the negotiations are concluded. On the other hand, it may be three months, six months or, indeed, anything up to fifteen months before applications lodged with the Arbitration Court are dealt with. In fact, I know of certain applications that were not called on for hearing for two years. In these circumstances, is it any wonder that the workers are up in arms against the Arbitration Court?
I mentioned a moment ago that, under a certain industrial agreement, some timber workers in Tasmania receive a marginal payment of 98s. a week. Those men are also paid an industry allowance of £1 a week. They also receive shift benefits, which are about 50 per cent, greater than those payable under awards of the Arbitration Court. In common with workers in the timber industry, I am convinced that, whilst this state of affairs persists, the days of the Arbitration Court are numbered.
I come now to another aspect of proceedings before the Arbitration Court that displeases me considerably. When a trade union representative submits an application to the court for determination, he finds opposing him not only a representative of the particular industry concerned, but also representatives of the Chamber, of Manufactures, the Chamber of Commerce and the Employers’ Federation, irrespective of whether or not the particular award involves a metal trades classification. I have been in the Arbitration Court when there have been five advocates representing the unions and sixteen representing the employers; and, believe me, when I say that what one gentleman on the employers’ side did not think of, one of the others did. 1 know something of the history of the basic wage, lt was first introduced under the Harvester award, in 1907, by the late Mr. Justice Higgins. If my memory serves me correctly, he awarded a base rate of 7s. a day. lt must be remembered that employees of the Harvester company, at that time, were enjoying many conditions not enjoyed by outside workers. For instance, they received free wood, paid a low rental for the premises in which they lived, and had the benefit of a reduced lighting rate. At that particular time, it was generally conceded that, on a comparable basis, outside wages should have been fixed at 10s. a day. However, the award made by Mr. Justice Higgins was adopted as the yardstick by which all awards were measured. There was no such thing as quarterly adjustments, and unions had to go back to the court periodically and apply for an increase in the basic wage as the cost of commodities increased. That was done periodically until 1921. Then, Mr. Justice Powers introduced the system of automatic quarterly adjustments to the basic wage, which remained in force until 1953. when the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration froze the wages of the workers. Prior to that time, in the 1940’s, an increase of 7s. a week had been granted in the basic wage. At a later stage, the wage was increased by 20s. a week, because the court considered that industry could afford to pay that much. In Tasmania, we received 21s., although some of the mainland States received only 19s. We were a shade better off for once.
As 1 have said, in 1953 the basic wage was frozen, although an increase of 10s. a week was granted and became operative at the end of last year. If, as has been suggested, the basis of fixing wages is to be the capacity of industry to pay, some anomalous situations will arise. In the motor industry, in which General MotorsHolden’s Limited is making large profits, employees would receive a very high wage, whereas in the timber industry, which is not showing such a large margin of profit, workers would receive a very low wage. One set of workers in Australia would receive high wages whilst others would receive a very low wage. Industrial unrest, worse than we are experiencing to-day, would result and, goodness knows, if something is not done lo reduce the margin between costs and wages, we will experience considerable industrial unrest.
With the basic wage frozen, and unions having to apply periodically to the court for an increase because of the rise in the cost of living, workers feel, and rightly so, that the situation has been brought about by the court, backed by this Government, in an attempt to draw finance away from the trade union movement and thus weaken its fighting force. The trade union movement, in order to keep up with continually rising costs which affect union officials, has to increase the contributions of members in order to have sufficient funds to fight for better working conditions. A breaking point will inevitably be reached. The men eventually will not be able to pay their union contributions, and when that day comes the Arbitration Court and this Government will have got the workers just where they want them.
Senator Wardlaw referred to the fact that some employees get more out of industry than they put into it. Employees can put into industry only as much as employers enable them to produce. I know something about out-dated machinery. 1 have worked on out-dated machinery and on modern machinery, and I know that a worker can perform three times as much work with modern machinery than he can with out-dated machinery, and in an easier manner too. He does not get any more for thus increasing production. In the industrial set-up a minimum wage is fixed at the lowest rate an employer can pay. However, no limit exists - the minimum is not the maximum. If the employer thinks the employee is worth more than the minimum, nothing in the world prevents him from paying £2, £3, £4, or £10 a week above the award rate. I know an employee in lasmania who should be receiving the basic wage plus a margin of 70s., but who in fact is receiving £38 a week. Why? Because he is a good man. There is nothing to stop any employer from doing the same thing.
The whole system of arbitration needs to be overhauled and reasonable consideration given to the needs of the worker. Other- wise, we shall have not only 24-hour stoppages but also longer stoppages, as has been suggested by the Australian Council of Trades Unions.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Miscellaneous Services Attorney-General’s Department, £14,000 - agreed to.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
Proposed Vote, £5,000,000.
– I desire to offer one or two comments and to make one or two requests in connexion with the organization and ramifications of the Commonwealth Scientfic and Industrial Research Organization. I do not wish my remarks to be construed as in any way challenging the integrity of any officer or person connected with the organization. Nothing could be further from my mind. I have a very great respect for the director whom I know personally. He receives a fair salary and does valuable work for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, but there are times when he enters into the realm of politics. He should be a little more careful. I have no objection to anybody entering politics, but a man in his position should not make statements of a political character when he is visiting a place on behalf of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. If he does so, he is leaving himself open to criticism.
Not long ago. he came out with a statement, according to a newspaper report, in which he told the Government that it ought to set aside the White Australia policy and allow a quota of immigrants from other countries to enter Australia. The White Australia policy has been supported by all political parties in Australia for a long time, not necessarily always because of the colour of the people concerned. It is a policy which has some relation to colour, but it is also linked with economic factors in the early history of Australia, when the gentleman to whom I have referred was not here. Indentured labour was brought into Australia to compete against the working people, and finally those coolie labourers competed against the bosses themselves. Eurasians, who were neither one thing nor the other, were born in Australia.
As a result of all these factors, the White Australia policy was evolved. The man to whom I referred has suggested a quota system. That is all right for a man who has been brought up in a feudal atmosphere where the white man is the overlord andthe others do his bidding, but in Australia it is different. First, there is the economic factor and, secondly, we do not want the racial troubles that are occurring in theUnited States of America, Africa and other places. When I meet the gentleman to whom I have been referring I shall reprimand him.
The scientific investigations of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization cover a very wide field. From lime to time, the organization issues very interesting publications, and I am fortunate enough to get most of them because I am interested in primary production, but those booklets are full of scientific terms. As a result, the ordinary man working on a farm or a sheep station is flabbergasted when hereads the articles. He does not know what they mean because scientific terms are used. I cannot even pronounce some of them. I think there is a better way of conveying information from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
I have here the seventh annual report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization for the year ended 30th June, 1955. At page 103, there is a reference to the physics of polymer deposition. It states -
A considerable number of experimental treatments for resin deposition for shrinkproofing cloth have been examined by physical methodsinvolving stereomicroscopy, . . .
The article does not say what that means and a man in business would not understand it. The paragraph continues - staining, sectioning, shadowing, and micromanipulation.
Another paragraph reads as follows: -
A method has also been developed for shrinkproofing wool with a solution of unsubstituted polyamide (i.e. nylon) …
The last word shows that the report is referring to a system in which nylon is used. The other paragraph did not contain an. explanation of the technical terms. In other publications of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, I have seen one paragraph after another that I could not understand. The words cannot be found even in the big dictionaries. It is necessary to get a scientific dictionary to understand these reports, i suggest that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization should give in parenthesis the simple meaning of technical terms. In the Appropriation Bill it is proposed to vote £16,000,000, under the heading of Miscellaneous Services, as an advance to the Treasurer. That amount has not been allotted for any specific purpose. Recently, together with the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and officials of the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organization, some of us visited the Waite Research Institute in South Australia, which is doing magnificent work. It deals, in a general way, with plant life, soil investigation, certain phases of irrigation, animal husbandry, and matters related to primary production. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is situated in the building belonging to the Waite Institute, which is part and parcel of the University of Adelaide. The institute is growing year by year, and accommodation is becoming cramped. More people are going to the university and are studying at the Waite Institute, but no provision has been made for other accommodation for the staff of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
The Minister agreed that something should be done, but he said that he had to get past the Treasurer or somebody else. The Waite Institute has a block of land across the road from the existing building, and it is available if the organization wants it for the purpose of erecting a new building. I made certain inquiries and I ascertained that, over a period of five or six years, or perhaps a little longer, a sum of approximately £100,000 would be required to provide a building. That is only a mere drop in the bucket when it is noted that the Government proposes to raise revenue amounting to more than £1,000,000,000. I repeat that the sum of £16,000,000 is being made available as Advance to the Treasurer without having been allotted for any particular purpose. I ask the Minister, through the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan), whether he will take up the matter with the Treasurer or whoever is responsible. I know the organization wants the building and that the Minister in charge would be only too pleased to have it if he could get it.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- 1 wish to refer to one or two aspects of the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I believe that no honorable senator feels that the money allotted to this organization is wasted, but that all will agree that it earns far more for primary and secondary industry than the amount spent upon it. I was interested to hear Senator O’Flaherty refer to the premises in South Australia, because, within the last week or so, the Public Works Committee has been devoting its attention to the provision of new premises for the organization at North Ryde, in Sydney, in which it is proposed to establish a modern research station for the various phases of the organization’s activities in New South Wales. In the course of that investigation, we inspected premises at the Homebush abattoirs in which they are working. 1 pay tribute to the scientists of this organization, who work under most uncongenial conditions. In that matter, I ally them with officers of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, who worked under horrible conditions before they obtained better premises. At Homebush, senior officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization work in cellars, and every time it rains the water runs down the walls. Nobody should be expected to work under such conditions, and it is only their loyalty and enthusiasm that causes them to remain in the organization.
I am convinced that private industry has never properly appreciated the valuable work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. It seems that private enterprise is not researchminded. That is contrary to the attitude of private industry in the United States of America, where, each year, millions of dollars are spent in research. In Australia, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is financed from the taxpayers’ money, and private industry contributes a proportion of that revenue, but much larger sums should be contributed for research. Private industry could then approach this organization with any of its problems, such as rust in tins or the development of mould in a pack, or any other matter. Many of the discoveries made by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization should be patented, which would enable the organization to derive some revenue and make itself at least partly self-supporting. Private industry has made a great deal of money out of the discoveries made by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. 1 agree with Senator O’Flaherty that this organization is often asked to do its research work in premises unsuited to its work. The time has arrived when Parliament and private industry, realizing the tremendous value of this research, should provide the organization with up-to-date premises and the latest scientific equipment.
– In speaking on the vote for the Commonwealth Scientfic and Industrial Research Organization I wish to continue from the point where Senator Henty ended. All honorable senators will agree that money spent on this organization is not wasted, and I support Senator Henty’s remark that private industry should show a greater appreciation of what the organization is doing. I was interested to read on page 8 of the seventh annual report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which has only recently been presented to the Parliament, under the heading, “ Co-operative Research with Industry “ that in South Australia a new institute is being established under the Wine Research Act. lt will have its own scientific facilities, and will undertake research on behalf of the wine industry. The money to establish this institute came from a fund which, honorable senators will recall, was dealt with by the Senate about a year ago. Between £400,000 and £500,000 has. accumulated over the years from contributions by the wine industry, and this money is now being used in a co-operative venture between that industry and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I pay tribute to the Minister (Senator O’sullivan) who, at the relevant time, was the Minister for Trade and Customs. He was a guiding force in bringing about co-operation between the wine industry and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and now this institute is being established. I hope that more such institutes will be established as a result of co-operation between the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and various branches of industry, both rural and secondary.
I quote from the annual report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization as follows: -
Negotiations have been effected for a number of new sponsored research projects to be undertaken on a co-operative basis in industry and other establishments.
These include -
A research project on tinplate for canning purposes being undertaken by the Division of Food Preservation and Transport for the Commonwealth Can Makers’ Association.
That might solve the problem of rust in tins to which Senator Henty referred. It is tremendously important to get at the root of these problems before attempts are made to expand export trade. The report mentions also -
A project on farm mechanization sponsored by the Australian Dairy Produce Board and the Rural Credit Development Fund of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
Honorable senators can see that at long last the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is really co-operating with industry, and that is a good trend. Paragraph 12 of the report deals with Australia’s water resources, and begins -
The availability of water supplies is perhaps the greatest natural limiting factor in the Australian environment. The Organization has for a number of years been engaged on various research projects bearing upon this problem.
A great problem exists in South Australia in the river Murray areas, caused by the surplus of water and the effect of seepage. I hope that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization will be able to develop a technique to deal with surplus water in these areas. I wish to highlight the collaboration between the organization and university authorities. In paragraph 17, the report states -
The Organization’s work in the universities is reported in various places in the main body of this report.
Some of the most important arrangements are outlined, but 1 wish, particularly, to refer to those that have been made with the University of Adelaide, where accommodation is provided for the clay mineralogy section of the Division of Soils. That has been mentioned by honorable senators from time to time. I hope that there will be closer collaboration between government departments, such as the Department of Primary Industry, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in rural research. I hope that the success of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organizaton will be acknowledged, and that it will be able to co-operate with industry, with the universities, and with government departments.
– It has been gratifying to hear the comments on the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and I join with honorable senators who have urged that this organization should be able to work under the best possible conditions. For some time, South Australian senators have been interested in the soil analysis branch of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which has been housed in the Waite Research Institute at the Adelaide University. The happiest co-operation has existed between the Adelaide University and the organization. A mutual arrangement was made between them to allow the organization’s officers to occupy portion of the buildings of the Waite Research Institute at the Adelaide University.
It has been pleasing to observe that although, in the past, few agricultural science students have been enrolled at Adelaide University, this year the number has increased, and it is expected that the enrolment will be in the vicinity of 40 each year. The agricultural science course is of four years’ duration, and, in three or four years’ time, the Adelaide University will have to accommodate approximately 160 students. This means that the buildings now occupied by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization officers will have to be vacated. The university is reluctant to tell them to look for new premises, but I am pleased to say that a solution of the problem appears to be in sight. As Senator
O’Flaherty mentioned, the university has offered to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization a site of 3 acres across the road from the Waite Research Institute, on a 99-year lease. It is an ideally situated area, on which the Government can erect suitable buildings to accommodate the Soil. Analysis Branch of the Division of Soils of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. As a South Australian, I am particularly anxious that the soil analysis branch remain in South Australia, not for any parochial reason but because the present site is admirable for its work. Because of the importance of soil analysis to our primary industries, it is essential that plans and specifications for the new building be drawn at the earliest possible moment and I am assured by Mr. Taylor, the officer in charge of the soil analysis branch, not only that tenders will be called in the very near future but also that the foundations of the new building will be laid this financial year. But the job does not end with the laying of the foundations. This is really a national project and once the foundations are laid, obviously, in the interests of Australian primary producers it is essential that the building be completed and equipped in the shortest possible time. The knowledge disseminated far and wide by the soil analysis branch to date has been of tremendous benefit to the farming community. I urge that everything possible be done to complete the new building in the very near future.
– 1 cannot allow the Estimates for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to be agreed to without commenting on the magnificent contribution made to Australia’s development by this organization. The proposed vote for this year is £5,000,000 as against a vote of £4,700,000 last year, and last year’s expenditure of £4,716,000 is expected to be increased by only approximately £300,000 this financial year. Considering the importance of the work being done by this organization for Australia, it must be admitted that we are really not voting sufficient money to it. Only this morning we read in the press a statement by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casev) that our national income had benefited to the extent of £30.000,000 by this organization’s activities.
– The value of its work cannot be assessed in terms of money.
– It is impossible to assess its true value, but I can say with confidence that the wool industry of Australia has benefited by at least £50,000,000 from the work that has been done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Its research into the use of myxomatosis has resulted in such effective control of the rabbit pest in Western Australia that in that State it has been possible to increase the sheep population by something like 750,000 a year in the last three years. The sheep population of Western Australia has increased from 9,000,000 at the end of the war to just over 15,000,000 this year, and I repeat that this tremendous improvement has been due largely to the efforts of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in introducing myxomatosis for the destruction of rabbits.
Reference was made, yesterday, to the amount being allocated for flood damage and relief. lt is proposed to provide £334,400 this year in respect of the investigation into soils and irrigation. That this work is important is proved by the fact that the Commonwealth Bank is contributing £1,000 for scientific research into the construction of dams on private properties for irrigation purposes. I am confident that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, through its own efforts, will eventually find a means of controlling the run-off of water throughout Australia in wet seasons. 1 believe that, eventually, instead of flowing out to sea down the Murray and other rivers, excess waters will be held in the various creeks and rivulets on farming properties throughout Australia. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that a system of irrigation and damming which would prevent from 80 per cent, to 90 per cent, of our flood waters from flowing into the sea will be evolved and that this excess water, which would otherwise be lost, will be held on the various farming properties to be utilized by private farmers during dry seasons, for irrigation purposes.
At the present time, the various State governments are spending vast sums on the construction of dams intended to serve large areas. In my opinion, a much more sensible approach would be to encourage private farmers to construct dams along the creeks flowing through their properties so that they may have their own small irrigation plots. Despite the fact that hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent on the damming of rivers for the irrigation of large areas, over 98 per cent, of the. water that falls on the continent still runs into the sea. Who can say that it is not possible that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization will eventually evolve a system under which the whole of the rainfall of the Australian continent will be held in reserve, to be used during dry seasons?
I notice that this organization is carrying out fisheries investigations. I refer now to Division 129, Section C - Investigations - item II, “ Fisheries investigations “. It is estimated that we shall spend £168,300 this year on those investigations. I believe that quite recently an officer from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization visited Western Australia to investigate, in conjunction with the State fisheries authorities, the possibility of establishing a prawn fishing industry in Exmouth Gulf. I understand that a report about that investigation will be issued shortly. The prawns in that area are very large, and as we have already developed a crayfish-tail export industry to America which is worth about 4,000,000 dollars a year, we may well develop a prawn export industry to bring in about 15,000,000 dollars or 20,000,000 dollars a year. Already export licences have been granted to companies in Queensland and New South Wales for the export of about £3,000,000 worth of prawns to America this year.
I refer now to item 28 in the same section and division - “ Unforeseen and urgent investigations “. A sum of only £ 1 ,000 is provided under that heading. I suggest that it is bordering upon the ridiculous to allow only £1,000 for such investigations when the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is making hundreds of thousands of pounds a year for Australia because of the investigations it has undertaken and the discoveries that it has made.
Investigations into nuclear energy are also mentioned in Division 129 and in 1955-56, £14,100 was voted but only £10,168 expended. However, this year, nothing at all has been voted. I should like the Attorney-General to explain that particular item. Perhaps the money that will be expended on nuclear energy investigations will be found under another heading in some other part of this bill. I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without congratulating the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (Mr. Casey), and his officers, for the valuable work that they have done for Australia and for the great help that they have given to our export industries.
.- 1 wish to direct attention to the use in this debate of the collective pronoun “ we “. The implication is that the whole nation has benefited from the work that has been done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. However, the fact is that only the wool-growers and a few other sections of the people have benefited, and, therefore, the pronoun “ we “ should be restricted to them. The pronoun does not include the shearers, of course, because their wages have been gradually diminishing in value. When we speak of “ our “ wool income, it is not our income; it is the income of the woolgrowers. In the same way, when we speak of “ our “ national income, we are speaking of the aggregate of all the private incomes in Australia. However, I pay a tribute to the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, but i do say that its work has benefited only the owners of capital and not the whole of the people.
.- I have been unable to find in this bill any provision for the publication of the various books and pamphlets put out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. All the publications that I receive from the organization are very carefully preserved. They are not placed in the waste-paper basket as are quite a number of other publications that are sent to me from time to time. I must say that I agree with Senator O’Flaherty in regard to the language used in many of those publications and reports, because it is difficult for the uninitiated to understand what the author is driving at if his ideas are clothed in technical terms. It is not always possible for people engaged in primary production. and in other fields of industry, to have technical dictionaries readily accessible when they are reading these reports. Therefore, I support the suggestion of Senator O’Flaherty that, with the report, an explanation should be given of the technical terms that are used. If that were done, I am sure that those who receive the pamphlets would appreciate them much more than they do at present.
I now ask the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) to explain the distribution of the publications, especially those that detail research activities. Are the publications dealing with wool distributed to those engaged in wool-growing, and are those publications dealing with beef distributed to the cattle industry, and so on? Friends of mine who are engaged in those industries have been given these pamphlets from time to time, and have expressed great appreciation of them. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization costs Australia a lot of money, but I believe that even if more were spent, it would be well spent. 1 also agree with Senator Henty’s suggestion that those in private enterprise who benefit from the work of this organization should be required to pay something into its funds. Senator Scott has detailed the great benefits that Australia has received from the work of the organization. I believe that it the organization discovers a method which it has not the power to patent, and which can save a section of industry much money, then that section should pay something to the organization for the benefit that it receives. If that were done, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization would be able to increase its activities.
In looking through Division 129 - Administrative, Section A - “ Salaries and payments in the nature of salaries “, I fin’d the same old statement about temporary and casual employes. They run into a fair number. I should like the Minister to inform me for how long it is necessary for temporary and casual employees to wait before they can be made permanent. Obviously, these people have received the benefit of advanced education, either at universities or at technical schools. I have in mind the case of a young man who graduated as a bachelor of science from the University of Melbourne. After he had, as a temporary officer, performed experimental work for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization for some years without being classified as permanent, he transferred to another organization which provided him with permanent employment. lt is quite natural for a young university graduate who has married and acquired a family to want security in his employment. As it is reasonable to assume that men and women who accept temporary or casual employment with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, involving experimental work, are of a scientific turn of mind. I consider that the Government should consider placing them on the permanent staff as soon as possible, in order to retain their services. This matter is probably of greater importance to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization than to other government instrumentalities. This valuable institution has performed great work and, I am sure, it will go on doing great work in the interests of the development of Australia.
– I should like to associate myself with the tributes that have been paid by previous speakers to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which is one of our most important Government instrumentalities. Since its inception, considerable improvements have been effected in industry, particularly primary industry. The improvement of pastures and farming practice generally, which has resulted in increased production, has been particularly noticeable during the last few years. It has been estimated that, as a result of the scientific advice that the organization has given to primary industry, the value of the yield from primary production has been increased in those years by £100,000,000. I assure honorable senators that this is not an overstatement. I think that anybody who is aware of the ramifications and wide diversity of interests of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization will agree that it is a very important body. I am glad to see that the proposed vote for this year is greater than last year’s vote, and that the organization intends to concentrate principally on animal health and production, plant industry, and wool research. I am sure that these very important activities will repay any expenditure on them. I think that everybody is seised of the importance of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization continuing its research in the interests of both primary and secondary industry, and I have much pleasure in complimenting the organization on the valuable work that it has performed during the past year.
– It has been very gratifying to hear honorable senators say how much they appreciate the work thai has been performed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. As you know, Mr. Chairman, that body is composed of very talented, very capable and very devoted men who, by successfully engaging in a war against pestilence and disease, have saved Australia untold millions of pounds. By their important discoveries, they have enabled Australia to increase the production ot goods to an extent that has added tens of millions of pounds to our national income.
The people of Australia - not only the members of this chamber - owe to the organization a tremendous debt of gratitude.
I think that the point that was raised by Senator O’Flaherty in relation to the Waite Agricultural Institute in South Australia was answered satisfactorily by Senator Mattner. Approval has been given for the construction of a building for the institute, and plans have been drawn up. As soon as the necessary money is available, tenders will be invited. My advice to Senator Mattner, Senator Pearson, Senator O’Flaherty and other honorable senators is to render -any personal assistance they can to the institute, bearing in mind that a lazy parson does not get a parish.
Both Senator Sheehan and Senator O’Flaherty have referred to a periodical that is published by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I think that they are under a slight misconception in this matter. Some highly technical publications, such as. medical magazines and law reports, are usually supplied only to doctors and lawyers respectively, and the information contained in them is passed down the line. Funnily enough, copies of the technical publications are sent to honorable senators, as we.l as io agricultural institutions in the various States and o:her bodies that are interested in the work on which the organization is engaged. Of course, extension work is not really undertaken by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. That body gives technical inform tion and advice to State agricultural and mining bodies which, in tu. n, arrange for practical work in the field to be carried out on farms as distinct from the experimental farms. But there is another publication in more or less popular language that is sent out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. It is called “ Rural Research “. Senator Sheehan will be interested to know that any one who is interested in this publication can have his name added to the distribution list.
Senator Henty has referred to the greatly increased ramifications and activities of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. There has been a considerable expansion in its activities, a: I have said, in relation to animal health and production, plant industry and dried fruits. There is an irrigation research station at Merbein in Victoria, and another at Griffith in the Murrumbidgee irrigation area. There is also the Division of Food Preservation and Transport. Many persons, organizations and concerns to whom the organization gives advice make contributions, in turn, for the furtherance of its work. I have before me a list of donations from such people, which aggregate a considerable total. The list includes the Australian Meat Board, the New South Wales Metropolitan Meat Industry Commissioner, the New South Wales Department of Agriculture, the Commonwealth Can Makers Association, Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited, and Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Limited. I do not want to mention these to the exclusion of others. lt is a quite significant list of contributors who have benefited by the assistance they have received from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and who, in turn, have made generous contributions for the furtherance of the work of the organization.
Senator Henty also suggested that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial
Research Organization might make a few pounds by patenting;, copyrighting or otherwise protecting so.Tie of its inventions. In some instances, that is already being done and, as time goes on, it will be done to a greater extent. In the last couple of years, one invention for which a patent was obtained by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, took out an income of 30,000 dollars.
Senator Laught referred to the Wine Research Institute. There are now four co-operative associations apart from the Wine Research Institute, namely, the Leather Research Association, the Bread Research Institute, and also research institutes in connexion with tobacco, coal and, of course, wine. By virtue of the cooperative nature of these institutes the Government is very confident that satisfactory results will flow from their operation.
Senator Scott expressed the view, with which many honorable senators agree, that it is a pity that the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is not even more widely spread than is the case at the present time. That is unfortunate; but the state of the economy and the amount of money available are the only limitations to its further development. I sincerely hope that as time goes on more money will be made available for the further extension of the magnificent work- the organization is doing. He also inquired about the nuclear energy proposed vote. That has been transferred to the Estimates of the Atomic Energy Commission.
Senator Sheehan inquired the reason for the large number of temporary and casual employees. That is largely due to the nature of the work performed, particularly during harvesting time, for the purpose of examining specimens of crops, or, in the case of ihe wool industry, in carrying out experimental work during shearing-time. The work may occupy anything fro n two weeks to three months. It is the type of labour associated with animal husbandry and farming work. Very few cas casuals are employed on the scientific side of the work.
– On several occasions when previous Estimates have been debated I have suggested the establishment of a bureau to control Australian standards. Such an organization could work in co-operation with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization for the purpose of setting a standard for the manufacture of Australian goods, such as piece goods, textiles and other commodities. Closer co-operation between this very excellent organization and the industries which would benefit most from the establishment of such a bureau should be encouraged. Such a scheme is well worth considering. 1 understand that in South Africa a similar organization is doing excellent work. Industries which benefit from the information supplied are registered with the bureau of standards and make some contribution to its upkeep. They accept the standards laid down by the bureau. lt is a highly scientific organization.
As far as our overseas trade is concerned, it is obvious that on many occasions we have established trade but have not maintained the necessary standards. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, carries out research work bin in many cases the results of that research are not being applied to industry. 1 should like to know from the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) whether any move has been made, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, to establish such a bureau of standards to enable research work to be carried out in this country and thus set a standard of production for Australian industry. lt would also assist in defence projects. The bureau would pass information on to industry and, at the same time establish, standards of production. It would not only assist our overseas trade but would also enable industry to work in closer cooperation with the Commonwealth Scientific anc! Industrial Research Organization.
When I was in Japan I visited the University of Sapporo on the Island of Hokkaido. I saw there an institute which was carrying out industrial and scientific research work. Until the coming of the Arnericans that institute had not made any great advance. The Americans were able to; make use of the research that had been carried out in this university and use it for the’ benefit of industry and the people generally. I should like to know whether the5 Government has contemplated setting up anything of that nature and whether there is any likelihood of its doing so in the near future.
– Senator Cooke’s suggestion is very commendable. In fact, it has already been acted upon by the Government. Some time ago a standards association was formed, and if Senator Cooke will look at Division 229, he will notice an item, “ Standards Association of Australia - Grant, £45,000 “. That grant is made by the Government to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization for the purpose of handing it over to the standards association, which works in very close association with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
– Could we have some more specific information at some other time?
– I can tell the Senate now that the standards association was formed by the amalgamation of the Australian Commonwealth Engineering Standards Association and the Australian Commonwealth Association of Simplified Practice, with the object of preparing and promulgating Australian standards, specifications, safety codes and simplified practice recommendations which would bring about the following objectives: - The elimination of waste in industrial administration, production and distribution with consequent reduction in production costs; the development of industrial practice on efficient lines; the co-ordination of the Australian market in order to facilitate the establishment of new industry; the convenience of the purchasing community; the safety of industrial operatives and the general community, and the development and co-ordination of the systems of inspection and control of industrial plant and appliances on a uniform and sound basis throughout the Commonwealth.
– That follows the lines which I visualize.
– I desire to correct the AttorneyGeneral (Senator O’sullivan) in respect of the information he gave concerning the finance necessary for the extension of the project in South Australia about which I asked. The fact that some plans have been approved and a part of the organization started does not mean that the project will be finished in a reasonable time. That is the very point 1 raised. 1 do not want an assurance from somebody else that certain things are going to happen; that is no good to me. The Minister should go to the people from whom he hopes to milk the money, and then get on with the job.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Miscellaneous Services - Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, £109,000 - agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 5.44 to 8 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’sullivan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill makes provision for two amendments, one of which is aimed at improving the quality of Australian wines and removing an unnecessary restriction now placed on winemakers. The other is of a purely administrative nature.
Under existing legislation, a winemaker cannot fortify his wine with brandy - whether it is matured or unmatured - which hus a maximum strength of 30 degrees overproof and a minimum strength of 10 degrees overproof, unless he is prepared to keep the wine under Customs control for two years. The winemaker is also restricted under the present law from using spirit of a strength less than 10 degrees overproof to fortify his wines.
The wine industry has maintained tor some time that it should not be limited in the production of quality wines in Australia, as is the case under the existing law, as some of the best European fortified wines are made by the use of matured brandy for fortification.
Winemakers have established that the quality of their high class fortified wines would be improved by the use of mature. brandy and it is intended by this bill to assist the wine industry in its endeavour to improve standards of Australian wines especially where export markets are concerned. This will be achieved by relieving winemakers who use matured brandy of the present necessity to keep wine fortified with a spirit of a strength less than 30 degrees overproof under Customs control for two years. If the brandy added to wine has been matured in wooden vessels for two years, then the wine itself need not be held for maturing purposes.
The bill also provides for the use oi matured brandy which has a strength below 1 0 degrees overproof but not less than proof as, in many cases, brandy is stored for maturing purposes at a strength slightly exceeding proof.
Matured brandy usually contains a small percentage of colouring and flavouring matter, and the bill further provides for the use of this type of spirit, coloured or flavoured within certain limits, in the fortification of wine.
The other amendment proposed by this bill introduces an administrative change, and will give to Collectors of Customs the power, at present lacking, to arrange for the disposal of dutiable spirit which remains at a distillery if the premises cease to be licensed.
The amendment will enable Collectors oi’ Customs to remove such spirit to a place of security, sell it if necessary and to account for the proceeds. Similar legislation to that proposed by this bill is already contained in the Customs Act in relation to imported goods.
Debate (on motion by Senator Critchley^ adjourned.
Senator PALTRIDGE (Western Australia - Minister for Shipping and Transport) rs. 6]. - I move -
Thai the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Commonwealth Railways Act 1917-1955 to empower the commissioner with the approval of the Governor-General, to close any railway or part of a railway which is no longer required as a railway, and to empower the commissioner -
The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner has been given legislative authority for the construction in South Australia of a standard gauge railway from Stirling North to the Leigh Creek North coal-field, and for its extension to Marree. This authority is contained in the Stirling North to Brachina Railway Act 1952-1954; the Brachina to Leigh Creek North Coal-field Railway Act 1950-1952; and the Leigh Creek North Coal-field to Marree (Conversion to Standard Gauge) Railway Act 1954.
The construction of this railway has reached the stage where the section from Stirling North to the Leigh Creek coal-field has been opened for traffic and coal is now being conveyed direct to the power station at Stirling North in standard gauge vehicles.
To provide for the transfer of general goods and live-stock coming from or consigned to stations on the narrow gauge line north of the coal-field, temporary transfer facilities have been established at Copley, 12 miles south of the Leigh Creek North coalfield. Arrangements are also in hand for passenger traffic between Port Augusta and Alice Springs to be transferred at this point. These facilities are only temporary, as it is the intention to transfer them to Marree when the construction of the standard gauge railway reaches that place.
As a result of this progress, that section of the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge Central Australia railway which lies between Hawker and Brachina, a distance of 41 miles approximately, has now become redundant, and the principal reason for this bill is to provide the means for its closure.
So that the honorable senators may understand why it is now proposed to close this section of the Central Australia railway. 1 shall briefly outline the history of thelegislation which has governed this railway: The Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910 approved and ratified an agreement made on 7th December, 1907, between the Commonwealth andthe State of South Australia in which are set out the terms under which the State surrendered to the Commonwealth the Northern Territory. Under this agreement, the Commonwealth undertook to -
Give and continue to give to the State and its citizens equal facilities at least in transport of goods and passengers on the Port Augusta Railway to those provided by the State Government at the present time and at rates not exceeding those for the time being in force on the railways of the State for similar services.
In the 1907 agreement, the Port Augusta railway was defined as the then existing railway between Port Augusta and Oodnadatta, of which the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line between Hawker and Brachina formed a part.
In 1949, the Commonwealth undertook to convert to standard gauge the existing 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line from Port Augusta to Alice Springs. The agreement embodying this undertaking was authorized by the Railway Standardization (South Australia) Agreement Act 1949.
There was a difference of opinion as to which was the most suitable route for the Stirling North to Brachina section of the standard gauge railway, and this matter was referred to a royal commission, the form of which was agreed to by the State of South Australia. Section 3 of the Northern Railway (Alteration of Route) Act 1950 of South Australia reads -
The route adopted was that recommended by the royal commission. This route, which skirts the Flinders Ranges to the westward by-passing Quorn and other stations on the narrow-gauge line, is the route on which the standard-gauge line to Brachina has been constructed. It follows from this that the State has, by legislation, freed the Commonwealth of its obligation to run trains on the narrow-gauge line Stirling North-Quorn-Brachina.
The section of the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge railway between Hawker and Brachina which it is now proposed should be closed, serves only three intermediate sidings, Hookina, MernMernaandEdeowie,allofwhichare less than ten miles by direct route from the nearest station on the new standardgauge railways. The redundancy of this section of the narrow-gauge railway is clearly evidenced by the following statistics, which relate to the period of twelve months ended 31st March, 1956 -
It will be seen that most of the traffic to and from the three sidings on the line is in live-stock, a proportion of which, in any case, would be more conveniently served by the new standard-gauge railway, and that the cost of maintaining the track and structures alone for the year was £13,000 in excess of earnings. Fifteen station properties are, at present, served by this section of the railway, five to the east of the line and ten to the west. The small inconvenience that would be suffered by the few settlers in the area if the section were closed as proposed would be more that outweighed by the advantages gained by others who are more conveniently served by the new railway, and by the benefits of faster and more frequent services on the new line.
When the findings of the royal commission previously referred to were made public, the town clerk of Quorn addressed a letter to the Prime Minister requesting, inter alia,that the narrow-gauge line between Stirling North and Brachina be kept open. In the reply, it was stated -
In its conclusions the Commission recommended that the routeproposedbytheCommonwealth Railways Commissioner, i.e., construction of a railway west of the Flinders Ranges between Stirling North and Brachina. should be adopted. As aconsequence it has been decided that on completion of this railway, the existing 3-ft. 6-in. gauge railway between Quorn and Hawker will be maintained and a service conducted in keeping with the requirements of business offering. However, the section between Hawker and Brachina (41 miles) should be closed as there is no justification for the expenditure of public funds to retain this portion of the railway which passes through an area in which very few persons are resident and who will still be provided with a service within a reasonable distance.”
The request made by the townspeople of Quorn through their town clerk was in the hope that “ through “ railway traffic might continue to flow on the narrow-gauge line through that town. However, whether or not the line were closed as recommended. “ through “ traffic would be routed over the new line via Stirling North.
It could be argued that if the section of railway were distant from any transport services, it should remain open as a government contribution to the development of the country, butI wish to emphasize to honorable senators that this section is parallel to, and for most of its length not more than 10 miles away from, the new standard-gauge railway. Another important consideration in this matter is that if the section of line were closed, valuable materials could be released for use elsewhere on the railway. For example, immediate use could be made of materials in the tracks, particularly rails, for relaying in other sections, for telephone poles, stock yards, culverts and storage sidings. I am confident that honorable senators will agree that no reasonable objection could be raised to the proposal to close this section of the railway, but as under section 36 of the Commonwealth Railways Act the commissioner is bound to maintain the railways and all works in connexion therewith in a state of efficiency, it is necessary that legislative authority be obtained for the dismantling and removal of the line.
Provisions such as those sought in this bill are not new to railway legislation. For example, under the South Australian Railways Commissioners Act 1936-1950, section 84, it is provided that if any land or other property of any kind vested in the commissioner for railway purposes, or for the purposes of any railway, is not required for the said purpose, the commissioner may, with the consent of the Governor, sell, exchange or dispose of such land or other property “ for such price or other consideration as he deems proper “. Similar provisions also exist in the legislation governing railways in Queensland and Tasmania.
I submit that the powers it is proposed to confer on the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner under this bill are, particularly in view of existing circumstances, essential to the efficient and economic operation of the railways under his administration. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Critchley) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the raising of loan moneys totalling £32,150,000 which it is estimated will be advanced to the States during 1956-57 for the purposes of the erection of dwellings and of the provision of finance for homebuilders under clause 5 of the housing agreement. This agreement is set out in the schedule to the Housing Agreement Act 1956. It replaces the 1945 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement which expired on 30th .lune, 1956. lt is proposed that the moneys will be advanced to the States on the following basis: -
Under the terms of the housing agreement, 20 per cent, of the allocation to each State is to be advanced to building societies and other approved institutions for lending to private home-builders. The remaining 80 per cent, of the allocation will be used for the erection of dwellings by State housing authorities. lt is a condition of the agreement that an amount specified by the Commonwealth, not exceeding 5 per cent, in any one year of the moneys made available for State housing programmes, shall be set aside for the erection of dwellings for serving members of the forces. The Commonwealth will provide supplementary advances to the States equal to the amounts set aside by the States for this purpose. The total amount to be set aside by the States in 1956-57 for housing of serving members of the forces is estimated to be £1,172,175. It is estimated that the total figure of £2,344,350 thus available will provide 759 dwelling units for serving members throughout the six States this financial year. All State governments have indicated that the Commonwealth scheme is acceptable to them. The agreement is now in the course of being circulated for signature. The Premiers of Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia have already signed it.
I commend the’ bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide £51,000,000 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the payment of war pensions.
It is necessary to submit a measure of this nature to Parliament from time to time for the purpose of appropriating from revenue an amount for payment into a trust account to enable pensions to be paid in accordance with such rates as are approved by Parliament.
The balance of the amount of £48,000,000 appropriated last budget session is sufficient only to meet payments to the end of this month. The bill has no relation whatsoever to the rates or conditions under which pensions are paid. It merely authorizes the provision of funds for the trust account from which war pensions are paid. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Critchley) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Commonwealth Observatory at Mount Stromlo in the Australian Capital Territory at present operates under the Department of the Interior. At the time of its establishment in 1923, Mount Stromlo was primarily a solar observatory. Its functions have been considerably enlarged over the years to include a time service, and during the war years the addition of an ionospheric prediction service, whilst generally its research work, particularly in the field of astrophysics has developed considerably. In 1953, the then Commonwealth Astronomer, Dr. R. v. d. R. Woolley, who, incidently, is own Astronomer Royal, recommended that the observatory should be transferred to the control of the Australian National University for incorporation in the Research School of Physical Sciences. There are particularly sound grounds for such a transfer.
First of all, the observatory does not operate in a vacuum, and the mere collection of data, as the result of research, is not an end in itself. If the work of the observatory is to be fully exploited the result of its observations must be incorporated into the broad field of research in astrophysics and related matters which is being carried on by the university and other bodies. For instance. Professor Oliphant has pointed out that a substantial reason for the transfer is that the emphasis of the observatory’s work is moving progressively away from routine and service tasks to more fundamental research. He expresses the view that it is desirable that the observatory staff should work as part of the academic unit.
In his recommendation the Commonwealth Astronomer drew attention to the advantages which would accrue in the engagement and employment of staff under the control of the university rather than under the Public Service Board. The greater part of the work of the observatory is now in scientific research which can more appropriately be done in a university than in a government department. University procedures in appointment and conditions of service are more appropriate to scientific workers than are Public Service conditions. There is likely to be a wider selection of suitable scientists attracted to a university post than to a departmental position whilst the essential exchange of research officers with similar institutions in other countries will be facilitated.
The transfer of the observatory to the control of the university follows a trend now well established in most advanced countries of 38 leading observatories throughout the world, 30 of them are under university control whilst some of the remainder, for purely historical reasons as in the case of Greenwich, have remained under government control. South African observatories remain under government control, but the leading observatories in countries like Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Japan and the United States of America are almost exclusively under university control.
It is, therefore, evident that nothing will be lost to the nation by the transfer of control of Mount Stromlo observatory to the Australian National University. On the contrary, there may be tremendous advantages in the closer integration and the better use of the research data becoming available. It is, therefore., proposed by this bill to transfer the control of the observatory and its equipment to the Australian National University, with the exception of the ionospheric prediction service, a small section which was established at the observatory only as a matter of convenience during w ir years and not intimately associated with observatory work. Its functions are more closely associated with communications and, in fact, its work is carried on in Sydney, and not at Mount Stromlo.
The Commonwealth Observatory Trust Fund Act established the Commonwealth Observatory Trust Fund and set out the provisions relating to receipts into, and payments from, the fund. It required that moneys in the fund be used for the purposes of the observatory, and because of the existence of the act the present transfer cannot be made fully effective without legislation by the Parliament.
The present balance in the trust fund is £5,560 and, apart from interest on invested moneys, no new money has been paid into the fund for more than 25 years. The fund was set up with donations from private sources collected by the first director of the observatory, and moneys made available by the Government on a £l-for-£l basis on the donations received.
The bill provides that, on the repeal of the Commonwealth Observatory Trust Fund Act, moneys which stand to the credit of that fund shall be transferred to the university. The original objective that such funds should be available for purposes of the observatory is, therefore, being preserved.
The bill authorizes the Minister for the Interior, on behalf of the Commonwealth, to enter into an arrangement with the university covering the transfer of observatory equipment and authorizes the Minister to require such undertakings by the university as he thinks necessary with respect to a continuation by the university of all or any of the activities previously carried on by the observatory; the continued employment of all or any of the persons employed by the observatory at the time of the transfer and the use of moneys and investments paid or transferred under section 3 of the act.
Finally, the bill provides that the rights of officers of the Public Service, who are members of the observatory staff will be fully protected on their transfer to the university. There are 33 officers and employees on the staff of the observatory.
Twelve are officers of the Public Service. It will thus be seen that the activities of the observatory will be continued, the value of its work will be enhanced and the rights of its staff will be preserved on transfer to the university. For these reasons, I commend the bill for the favorable consideration of the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Toohey) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second lime.
This bill provides for the raising for war service land settlement of loan moneys amounting to £8,500,000 for capital expenditure. Financial assistance to all States for non-capital expenditure under the scheme, for example, living allowances for settlers, interest and rent remissions, writing down of the cost of holdings, &c, estimated at £2,200,000 for the present financial year, will be met by the Commonwealth from Consolidated Revenue. The Commonwealth, in 1945, entered into identical agreements with the States of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, which are referred to as principal States, and other agreements consistently applicable to the other States, the so-called agent States. The scheme operated under these various acts which ratified these agreements until the High Court ruled the Commonwealth act invalid. The Commonwealth now operates under the States Grants (War Service Land Settlement) Act, under which funds are made available on conditions determined by the Minister. These conditions largely correspond with the terms of the original agreements.
The principal States provide the capital funds necessary for the acquisition and development of suitable land and the provision of credit facilities to ex-servicemen deemed eligible and qualified by State authorities to undertake farming of the type designated for the holding. The States retain all payments made by settlers. The Commonwealth provides the cost of training applicants for land, grants a non-repayable living allowance during the first year ot occupation - the assistance period - and shares on a 50-50 basis with the State the loss of revenue incurred by remitting the rent and interest due during the assistance period. The Commonwealth also contributes to the State half the amount by which costs of acquisition and development exceed the valuations agreed upon by the Commonwealth and State and half the losses on advances to settlers. The Commonwealth also makes available to the States of New South Wales and Victoria, repayable loans to the extent of £1 for each £2 spent by the State, from its own resources, on war service land settlement. The maximum loan in any one year is £2,000,000 for each State.
In the other States - South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia - the Commonwealth provides all the costs of the scheme except part of the costs of State administration. Rent, interest and principal are paid by the settler to State authorities who remit the collections to the Commonwealth. All the training and assistance period benefits are provided by the Commonwealth. The States contribute 40 per cent, of any write-down incurred due to excess of cost over valuation.
Originally, Victoria was the only State with freehold tenure for holdings allotted under the. scheme. This Government has, with the concurrence of the three agent States, given settlers an option to freehold the land allotted to them after it has been held for a period on lease. The pattern of settlement has varied within the States. In New South Wales it has been mainly the subdivision of large estates, to some of which irrigation facilities have been made available and farms under the promotion scheme. In Victoria, a somewhat similar plan has been followed with large irriga tion schemes in the Murray Valley. Recently, clearing of virgin scrub has been undertaken in the Otway and Wilson’s promontory areas. lt is regretted that settlement in Queensland has been terminated prematurely by the government of that State.
In the agent States the emphasis has been on bringing into production tracts of virgin country with the resultant increase in national production. This has been made possible by the extensive use of heavy machinery. In Western Australia, the Rocky Gully project will provide 170 fat lamb farms from 285,000 acres of virgin forest. Forty-eight wheat and sheep holdings are being provided from 125,000 acres at Jerramungup, and 40 farms for fat lambs at Mount Many Peaks near Albany and up to 100 farms are being .developed from selected parts within an area of half a million acres north of Bremer Bay. ,
In South Australia, over 250.000 acres of scrublands are being developed on Kangaroo Island to form more than 170 fat lamb holdings, and a number of smaller projects in the drained areas of the south east of the State are nearing completion. On the Murray River, at Loxton, Cooltong and Loveday 328 blocks, to ether with the extensive ancillary irrigation headworks, have been developed fo:- the production of horticultural crops under irrigation.
In Tasmania, 13,000 acres of a densely timbered swamp at Montagu have been drained and are being developed to provide up to 100 dairy farms. On King Island, in Bass Strait, 90 farms have been occupied and a further 74 are nearing completion. On another Bass Strait island - Flinders - 128 farms are being prepared from virgin scrub to provide fat lamb and beef cattle units. It appears that farms in these areas will be in excess of the number required for Tasmanian applicants. They will be made available for qualified ex-servicemen from other States.
National undertakings of this magnitude are costly, and it is the purpose of this bill to provide for the capital expenditure to be incurred in the continuation of the scheme during the current financial year. The cost of the scheme for the last financial year and since its inception, including funds from consolidated revenue, together with the number of farms allotted, is as follows: -
As well as the farms actually allotted in the agent States, many holdings are occupied under various forms of tenure pending the properties reaching, the necessary level of production for allotment.
Previous loan acts have authorized the raising and spending of loan moneys amounting to £36,125,000 in respect of war service land settlement in South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia and the making of the repayable advances to New South Wales and Victoria, initiated during the last financial year. Gross expenditure on capital items to 30th June, 1956, was £38,531,000, of which £8,029,000 was met from repayments. Loan moneys used, therefore, total £30,502,000, leaving a balance of £5,623,000 at the beginning of this financial year. Expenditure from this source during the financial year 1955-56 in South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia was £5,975,000, of which £4,442,000 was new money and £1,533,000 was the reexpenditure of repayments received during the year of amounts expended in previous years.
The amount provided for repayable advances to New South Wales and Victoria during 1955-56 was £3,900,000, but, despite estimates by the States that this provision would be fully utilized the actual amount used was £3,180,000, of which £1,570,000 went to New South Wales and £1,610,000 to Victoria. Of the £8,500,000 to be provided this year, £5,000,000 will be advanced to the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, for the acquisition, development and improvement of land for subdivision and for providing ex-servicemen with working capital and finance for purchasing structural im provements, stock, plant and equipment. This proposed appropriation for South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania is required to meet an estimated expenditure this financial year on war service land settlement of £8,375,000, of which it is estimated £3,375,000 will be met by repayments to be received during the year. The sum of £3,500,000 will be available to be advanced to New South Wales and Victoria. The amount to be advanced to each State will depend on the allocation made by the respective States from their own funds. On information available to date, the Commonwealth provision will be adequate to meet the States’ requirements. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Hendrickson) adjourned.
– by leave- I desire to make a statement about the rearrangement of ministerial portfolios. The statement that I shall read is similar to a statement now being made in another place by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). It is as follows: -
It will be seen that I have made several structural changes designed to improve the working of government and administration.
The Minister for Defence will, of course, as at present, be in the Cabinet, but the three service Ministers will be outside the Cabinet. This will get rid of what has been to some extent an anomaly, and will confirm the special responsibility of the Minister for Defence for broad policy. I am transferring from the Department of Supply to the Department of National Development, uranium, atomic energy, the development of bauxite and certain other minerals. All these matters, I have concluded, should be dealt with in association with the other mineral activities of the Department of National Development. They should no longer, in my opinion, be part of the
Department of Supply, whose activities are principally, if not entirely, military. I am taking the opportunity of placing both the Department of Supply and the Department of Defence Production under one Minister, Mr. Beale.
Mr. Holt, who will from now on have extremely arduous duties as Leader of the House and Chairman of what has previously been called the VicePresident’s Committee of Ministers, can clearly no longer continue to administer both Labour and National Service and Immigration, each of which is indeed a busy and extremely important portfolio. I regret very much that by sheer necessity Mr. Holt should have to terminate his own administration of immigration, for which the country owes him a great debt. I am appointing Mr. Townley to be Minister for Immigration. In addition to this he will be associated with me in my own department where he will be able, as Sir Eric Harrison did, to relieve me of the administrative aspects of a number of problems which are associated with the Prime Minister’s Department, for example, the Office of Education, the National University, the Universities’ Grants, the Public Service Board, and the like.
In addition to his present portfolio of Shipping and Transport, Senator Paltridge will take over Civil Aviation, thus bringing within the purview of one Minister the transport problems associated with shipping, the Commonwealth railways and civil aviation. This is a heavy assignment, but our experience of Senator Paltridge already suggests that he will cope with it
Mr. Davidson, in addition to the Postal Department, takes over the Navy from Senator O’Sullivan, who will become Vice-President of the Executive Council and will continue to be AttorneyGeneral and will, of course, have the particular responsibilities of Leader of the Government in the Senate. Senator Spooner will become Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate. i am transferring Mr. Osborne to the Department of Air where his abilities and energies will be of particular advantage in a period of reconstruction. I am appointing Senator Denham Henty to the Department of Customs and Excise. It will be seen that the number of Ministers will, for the present, stand at 21. It is, in my opinion, undesirable that the Senate representation should be reduced which would be the result if both ministerial vacancies - one in the Senate and one in the House of Representatives - remained unfilled. The Statutory authority is for 22 Ministers. I do not propose to ask for any alteration of the act but will see how the re-arrangement of work indicated above succeeds. The two vacancies in the Cabinet will be filled by Mr. Beale and Mr. McMahon.
The Cabinet will be -
Minister for Trade-Right Honorable J. McEwen, M.P.
Minister for External Affairs and Minister in charge of Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization - Right Honorable R. G. Casey, C.H., D.S.O., M.C., M.P.
Minister for Defence - Honorable Sir Philip McBride, K.C.M.G., M.P.
Vice-President of the Executive Council and Attorney-General and Leader of the Government in the Senate - Senator the Honorable N. O’Sullivan.
Minister for National Development and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate - Senator the Honorable W. H. Spooner, M.M.
Minister for Primary Industry - Honorable W. McMahon, M.P.
The other Ministers will be -
Minister for Repatriation - Senator the Honorable W. J. Cooper, M.B.E.
Minister for Shipping and Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation - Senator the Honorable Shane Paltridge.
Minister for the Army - Honorable J. O. Cramer, M.P.
Postmaster-General and Minister for the Navy - Honorable C. W. Davidson, O.B.E., M.P.
Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works -Honorable A. Fairhall, M.P.
Minister for Customs and Excise - Senator the Honorable N. H. D. Henty.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to repeal the wool Products Bounty Act 1950 and the regulations in force under the act. As was explained to the Parliament at the time of the introduction of the measure in November, 1950, its purpose was to authorize the payment of a bounty to manufacturers of wool products, in order to subsidize the price of woollen goods consumed in Australia. The act was administered by the Australian Wool Realization Commission, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government.
During the 1950-51 season, the prices paid for Australian wool sold at auction reached record levels, and the aim of the bounty payment was to alleviate the effects of the high prices on Australian consumers of woollen goods. Arrangements were made with authorities controlling prices in the various States to ensure that the subsidy received by manufacturers by way of bounty was passed on to the consumers.
The bounty was paid on all wool purchased during the 1950-51 season, and manufactured into wool products for local consumption before 30th September, 1952. The rate of bounty paid varied according to the quality of the wool purchased by local manufacturers, and it was paid in accordance with the table of subsidy limits determined by the Australian Wool Realization Commission! The total value of bounty paid under the scheme amounted approximately to £16,700,000.
Regulations made pursuant to the act enabled manufacturers to claim an advance of bounty as soon as wool had been purchased for the manufacture of wool products. Bounty became payable when the wool products had been manufactured. Wool products manufactured after 30th September, 1952, did not qualify for bounty.
In view of the fact that the Wool Products Bounty Act has fully achieved its purpose, it is now proposed to repeal the act and the regulations made under it.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Defence Act in two main respects: First, to provide that a soldier may re-engage for further service prior to the expiration of his current engagement; and secondly, to stabilize the provisions of the Imperial
Army Act in their application to the Australian Military Forces. At the present time, section 36 of the Defence Act provides that a soldier may re-engage for further service on the expiration of his current engagement. It is not now possible for a soldier to re-engage prior to the expiration of his current engagement. This causes various administrative difficulties. For instance, a soldier may desire an overseas posting, but his current engagement may be due to expire prior to the completion of his overseas tour. It would be both unsatisfactory and uneconomical to post him overseas and find, when the time came, that he had decided not to reengage. The Army would then have to return him to Australia for discharge, as well as to provide a replacement in the overseas posting. The amendment to section 36 is designed to enable a soldier to re-engage for a further period of service in advance of the expiration of his current engagement. It is also proposed to omit the second proviso to section 36, as, since the amendment to section 40 made in 1949, this proviso is no longer needed.
I turn now to the amendments relating to the stabilizing of the provisions of the Imperial Army Act. Ever since the passing of the original Defence Act, following federation, a section has been included providing that, in general, the laws and regulations relating to the court-martial system in the British Army shall also apply to the Australian Army. A similar provision was also included for the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. However, British court-martial procedure is now applied to the Navy and to the Air Force, by reason of section 36 of the Naval Defence Act 1910-1952 and section 5 of the Air Force Act 1923-1952, respectively. There is, therefore, no further need for these latter provisions in the Defence Act.
In the case of the Army, by virtue of section 88 of the Defence Act, the whole court-martial system is built on the existing British Army Act and Rules of Procedure. Certain modifications to meet Australian requirements have been made by Australian Military Regulations, and these have been included in the Australian Manual of Military Law. Moreover, under section 55 of the Defence Act, members of the Australian Military Forces, when on war service, are subject to the disciplinary code of the Army Act, as modified and adapted. Section 54a of the act, enacted in 1917, also provides, inter alia, that members of the military forces serving with the Imperial Forces, or travelling to and from Australia for such service, shall be deemed to be on war service and shall be subject to the Army Act, as modified or adapted. This was the basis of discipline in the Australian Military Forces, whilst on war service, in the two world wars.
The United Kingdom Parliament recently passed a new Army Act, which will come into force on 1st January, 1957. The new British act is of different construction from the present act, and has different sections and provisions. The result is that references in Australian Regulations and the Australian Manual of Military Law would, if read in conjunction with the new act, be meaningless. For example, a well known section of the old British Army Act is section 40, which deals with offences of “ conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline “. Many courtmartial charges are laid under this section. However, in the new British act, section 40 relates to the particular offence of falsely obtaining or prolonging leave. References in Australian Military Regulations, and the Australian Manual of Military Law to section 40, would, under the new act, be without meaning.
To re-write Australian Military Regulations, and the Australian Manual of Military Law to conform to the new British act would be a lengthy process. In the interim period, the Australian Army would be left with no legal court-martial system. It is therefore desired to ensure that, pending the completion of our new Australian defence legislation, the provisions of the existing Imperial Army Act shall continue to apply to the Australian Army; in other words, that we should retain, for the time being, the existing system which has been in force for very many years. To give effect to this intention, amendments are necessary to sections 4 and 88: First, to amend the definition of the “ Army Act “, so that it will refer to the present British act, and not the new act, and secondly, a consequential amendment to section 88.
A somewhat similar situation exists in regard to the Air Force. It is proposed to stabilize the application of the Imperial Air
Force Act by an amendment of its definition in the Defence Act, and by a short amendment to the Air Force Act 1923-1952.
This bill will not change in any way the disciplinary code, or the court-martial procedure under which the Australian soldier serves to-day. Moreover, its passage is necessary before 1st January, 1957, to ensure that the present codes and procedures are preserved. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
When the Defence Bill was introduced it was explained that it would be necessary to effect minor amendments to the Air Force Act 1923-1952, in relation to the application of the Imperial Air Force Act. This bill is for that purpose.
In 1939, Parliament passed an act applying the Imperial Air Force Act to the Royal Australian Air Force. That act provided that the Imperial Air Force Act in force on the date on which the Air Force Act 1939, came into operation, namely 15th December, 1939. would, subject to such modifications, adaptations and exceptions to be prescribed by the Air Force Regulations, apply in relation to the Royal Australian Air Force in the same manner as it applied to the Royal Air Force. The 1939 act further provided that any amendments made to the Imperial Air Force Act after 15th December, 1939, could be applied by . regulation to the Royal Australian Air Force. These provisions are now in section 5 of the Air Force Act 1923-1952.
On 1st January, 1957, a new United Kingdom Air Force act will come into operation and the existing United Kingdom Air Force act will cease to apply to the Royal Air Force. But for the fact that the latter act is expressed to apply to the Royal
Australian Air Force “ in like manner as.it applies to the Royal Air Force “, amendment of the Air Force Act 1923-1952 would not have been necessary. Furthermore, as the old United Kingdom Air Force act will obviously not be further amended, sub-section (2.) of section 5, providing for the adoption of amendments of that act, is redundant. The two amendments constituting this bill delete the words I quoted and sub-section (2.) of section 5. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Critchley) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to seek the approval of the Parliament for the ratification by Australia of the International Wheat Agreement 1956. Honorable senators will recall that the first postwar International Wheat Agreement came into force in 1949, and covered a four-year period up to 31st July, 1953. That agreement was renewed, with certain modifications, by the three-year International Wheat Agreement of 1953, which expired on 31st July of this year. The agreement, to which this bill relates, provides for a further three-year extension with some amendments, of the arrangements covered by the two earlier agreements. Copies of the new agreement have been distributed to honorable senators for their information and reference.
The text of this agreement was negotiated at a special United Nations Wheat Conference, which met in OctoberNovember, 1955, and again during FebruaryApril, 1956. The entry into force of the agreement was made conditional upon it being signed and ratified by governments of countries responsible for a prescribed proportion of the volume of wheat covered by its provisions concerningguaranteed purchases and sales. Following the negotiations, Australia became a signatory to the new agreement, as did also 39 other countries. However, signature did> not in any final manner commit Australia or any other country to adherence to the agreement, which is dependent upon the deposit before 1st December, 1956, of a formal instrument of acceptance, or ratification, in accordance with the constitutional or legislative requirements of each individual country. In conformity with the practice followed in respect of the twoearlier agreements, the Government is now seeking parliamentary approval for the lodgment of an instrument of acceptance to permit Australia’s participation in the agreement.
In principle, the new agreement is iden»tical with its predecessors which have operated for seven years. As the arrangement is well known to the Senate, and to> Australian wheat-growers, it is, I believe, unnecessary for me to elaborate on the general nature of the agreement and its historical background. The basic objectives are defined in article I, as being “ to assure supplies of wheat to importing countries and markets for wheat to exporting countries at equitable and stable prices “. They must bc regarded as very worthy objectives in. relation to a commodity which, in times when no international scheme operated, was notorious for the violent manner in which its prices fluctuated. The agreement attempts to achieve its objectives by provisions governing both prices and quantities. Maximum and minimum prices arestated, and transactions under the agreement must be within the prescribed price range. For each importing member country there is a quota, or “ guaranteed quantity “, which it may be required to purchase at the minimum price, or which exporting countries .may be required to sell1 to it at the maximum price. Similarly, for each exporting member country there is a quota which it may be required to sell at the maximum price, or which importing countries may be required to purchase from it at the minimum price. The experience of the past seven years demonstrates that these arrangements work satisfactorily in practice, and go a long way towards providing a reasonable degree of stability in the international wheat trade.
Although similar to the 1953 agreement in principle, the new agreement differs from it in two important points of detail. The first concerns the basic maximum and minimum prices which, in the new agreement, are 2 dollars and 1.50 dollars respectively, on the basis of No. 1 Manitoba “Northern wheat in bulk in store Fort William/ Port Arthur, the main shipping -points for Canadian wheat. These basic prices are 5 cents lower, in each case, than the prices specified in the 1953 agreement, reflecting to some extent, but by no means wholly, the decline which has occurred in wheat prices since the last agreement was negotiated. The new agreement includes the same formulae as <lid the 1953 agreement for determining the equivalent maximum and minimum prices for wheat shipped from other exporting countries. These formulae take into account differences in transportation costs, the relative qualities of various types of wheat, and different currencies. The underlying principle is that wheats sold at the maximum or minimum prices in the different exporting countries should be competitive one with another, in the various markets, thereby conforming to commercial practice.
In the case of Australian f.a.q. wheat, the new maximum price is equivalent to 18s. a bushel, f.o.b. Australian ports. The equivalent minimum price for Australian wheat will vary from time to time in accordance with movements in transportation costs, but, on the basis of current freights, is about 12s. a bushel, f.o.b. eastern Australian ports. The figures I have -quoted as the equivalent maximum and minimum prices for Australian wheat are, in each case, subject to such allowance as may be agreed between Australia and the importing country concerned to take account of differences in wheat quality.
The second point on which the new agreement differs from the last is in respect of membership and guaranteed quantities. In the 1953 International Wheat Agreement, 44 importing countries participated, and the volume of wheat covered by the importers’ quotas amounted to 395,000,000 bushels. In the new agreement, as negotiated, 44 importing countries again submitted figures for inclusion, but in many cases, the quotas which they were willing to subscribe were substantially less than their commitments under the 1953 agreement. In consequence, the total quantity covered by the importers’ side of the agreement has been reduced by almost a quarter, to 303,000,000 bushels. To some extent, those reductions reflect a growing dependence upon domestic production, often stimulated by high support prices. In some cases, too, the quantities for which particular countries were prepared to subscribe were undoubtedly influenced by their hopes or expectations of securing wheat outside the agreement under one or another of the United States programmes for the disposal of accumulated wheat stocks.
On the exporting side, the new agreement is significantly different. In the first two International Wheat Agreements, the main exporting member countries were the United States, Canada, and Australia, whilst France, though a member, had only a nominal quota. On this occasion, Argentina and Sweden have joined as exporting members, and France, which since 1953 has emerged as a substantial wheat exporter in normal seasons, is included with a significant quota.
The effect of these two changes - the reduction in the total quantity subscribed b importing countries and the participation of France, Argentina and Sweden - has been a steep reduction in the quotas available for Australia, Canada and the United States. In Australia’s case, our quota has been reduced from 45,000,000 bushels under the 1953 agreement to 30,000,000 bushels in the new agreement.
The figures 1 have just quoted are those which appear in the text of the agreement which was negotiated, copies of which have been distributed. I should add that some minor variations from those figures are possible when the agreement is fully in force. I mentioned earlier that each country that has signed the agreement has until 1st December, 1956, to declare its adherence to the agreement by the deposit of a formal instrument of acceptance. Accordingly, the final position regarding membership will not be known until that date, but on the information currently available, it is likely that the changes, if any, which will be necessary will be relatively small.
Although Australia and a number of other countries which have indicated that they intend adhering to the agreement, have not yet formally ratified it, the operative provisions concerning prices and quantities came into force on 1st August, 1956, and transactions are now taking place within the terms of the new agreement.
The Government regards the existence of an effective international wheat agreement as being of very great value to the Australian wheat industry and to the economy generally. This is particularly the case in times like the present, when stocks of unsold wheat are at record levels and anything in the nature of panic selling could bring widespread distress to wheatgrowers and sharply reduced export earnings for Australia.
The Government, therefore, through its delegation to the recent conference, pm.sued every means of obtaining the best possible agreement under which some measure of stability might be given to the export marketing of Australian wheat. The Government is convinced that, in the present circumstances, the new agreement is the best obtainable. The new price range cannot be regarded as other than satisfactory, in the light of current price levels. The quantity of wheat covered by the new agreement is, admittedly, disappointing, as it represents only about one-third of the wheat entering world trade. The Government would have liked to have seen an agreement with a very much wider cover, as the effectiveness of an arrangement of this type is, to some extent at least, influenced by the relationship it bears to total world trade in the particular commodity. But in considering the alternatives of having no agreement at all, or of staying out of an agreement which other countries - our competitors and our markets - were prepared to implement, the new agreement undoubtedly offers advantages to Australia which far outweigh any reservations associated with the reduction in quantities.
For example, the formal adherence by such a large and representative group of countries to the basic objectives of the agreement offers some prospects that fundamental wheat problems, such as the stimulation of uneconomic production, will be kept within limits. Again, with accumulated wheat stocks so great, it is imperative that some degree of orderliness in export marketing should prevail. An International Wheat Agreement provides the only convenient and effective way of introducing any degree of orderliness.
In connexion with this point, I attach considerable- importance to the entry into the agreement of Argentina and Sweden, and the participation of France on a substantial basis. And finally, whilst the agreement is kept in existence, particularly with Argentina, France and Sweden participating, there is always the possibility that a more satisfactory agreement, embracing wider membership and larger quotas, might be negotiated. A complete breakdown now would put back the clock by twenty years, to the time of the chaotic marketing conditions of the early I930’s, when efforts to find a solution to international wheat marketing problems had their origin.
It is for these reasons that the Government is convinced that participation in the new agreement, which is sought by this bill, would be of undoubted benefit to Australian wheat-growers and to the economy of this country.
I wish to make it clear that in reaching its decision in regard to ratification of the agreement, the Government has had the advice and the views of the wheat industry. Indeed, the chairman of the AustralianWheat Board, and the general president and general secretary of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, served as members of the Australian delegation to the negotiating conference. Those gentlemen are in full accord with the Government’s views on the desirability of ratification by Australia.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sheehan) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 723).
Department of Customs and Excise.
Proposed Vote, £3,922,000.
.- I wish to refer to the excise duty on cathode ray tubes that was included in the budget proposals. I raise the matter at this stage, because, possibly, I shall not be able to do so later.
– What is the honorable senator’s point? ls he complaining about the increased duty?
– Yes. The Government proposes to raise £210,000 during the remainder of this financial year by imposing a duty of £7 on these tubes. The duty applies to tubes of all sizes, ranging from 8i inches to 24 inches. As it is a flat-rate duty, the percentage of increase will be much greater to those persons who buy television sets with 8i-in. tubes than to those who buy sets with 24-in. tubes.
Television was introduced in Australia in order to develop engineering techniques in radar frequency. To my mind, the application of this duty will encourage the use of imported tubes rather than locally-manufactured tubes. 1 am interested in the matter because in the suburb in which I live there is rather a large factory that was tooled up to make these tubes. Representations have been made to me to voice the protests of those who are engaged in the local industry, because harm must automatically flow to it. It means, more or less, that a preference is being extended to the imported article. 1 shall advance my argument on that point as I proceed.
– If the honorable senator does not mind my interrupting, I point out that, on 30th August, a proposal relating to this matter was introduced in another place. The honorable senator understands, as well as I do, that there are two kinds of duties - revenue duties and protective duties. Protective duties are generally implemented following an investigation by the Tariff Board. If the report of the Tariff Board is adopted, the proposal is tabled in the Parliament. As I said, the other kind of duty is a revenue duty, and the duty now in question is a revenue duty. In due course, a measure dealing with this matter will be introduced, and the honorable senator will then have an opportunity to debate a substantive bill rather than discuss the matter now as an item in the Estimates. He may prefer to hold his fire, as it were, until a substantive bill is before the Senate.
This is what the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr. Osborne) said on 30th August -
The tariff proposals I have just introduced were foreshadowed earlier this evening by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden during the course of his speech on the budget. The proposals give effect to the Government’s decision to apply a duty of £7 each to both imported and locally produced cathode ray tubes as used in television receiving sets. At the present time, television cathode ray tubes produced in Australia are not subject to excise duty and in the case of imported tubes these are, for all practical purposes, free of duty when entitled to entry under the British Preferential Tariff, and dutiable at I2i per cent. ad valorem when not qualifying for preferential treatment. The comparative statement which i> attached to the proposals circulated to honorable members shows in detail the tariff changes effected by the proposals.
The Minister said later -
I hope to be able to give honorable member.” an opportunity to debate the proposals at an early date.
I am assured that a specific measure relating to this matter will come before the Senate before the end of this sessional period. If it does not, the honorable senator may reserve his right to discuss the matter.
– In view of the assurance given by the Minister that we shall have an opportunity to debate this matter at a later stage, I reserve my right to deal with it.
– The schedule of salaries and allowances for the Department of Custom;* and Excise shows that approximately 1,000 inspectors of various kinds are employed by the department. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr. Osborne) has stated that sixteen” excise officers were to be appointed to the Kwinana Refinery in Western Australia, and 22 at Kurnell, in order to assess excise duties. It seems to me to be extraordinary that that number of men continuously employed should be required to assess the duties that might be payable on the various kinds of spirit produced. Surely to goodness there is a less expensive way of dealing with the matter. Surely information could be obtained , from the various refineries showing the amount of spirit that is distilled, and the excise duty could be assessed on that return instead of having a whole army of people employed round the clock, as I think the Minister said in his letter to me. on such work. I place this matter before the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) to see whether something can be done to overcome the necessity for such a large staff. The expenditure incurred in order to obtain the duty involved seems to be extraordinarily large.
I wish to register a most emphatic protest against action taken by the Minister to remove the invoice room of the custom* house from Fremantle to Perth. Ever since the establishment of Perth, the customs house has been in Fremantle. It has been found that the existing building is not large enough, and, with one or two exceptions, it has been decided to remove the staff to a new building in Perth. I understand that the loading branch and one or two other branches are to be retained at Fremantle. I introduced to the Minister a deputation representing the whole of the business community at Perth and Fremantle, to ask that the invoice room of the Customs Department be retained at Fremantle. The deputation consisted of representatives of the Perth Chamber of Commerce, Fremantle Chamber of Commerce, Perth Chamber of Manufactures, the Retail Traders Association of Western Australia, the Wholesale Grocers and Druggists Association, The Fremantle City Council the Wholesale Wine and Spirits Association, the West Australian Road Transport Association and the Customs Agents Association. The deputation was backed by the Fremantle Harbour Trust.
It must be obvious to those who have had anything to do with shipping business that it is essential to have the invoice room as close as possible to the offices of the customs agents and shipping agents. One of the customs agents pointed out that the minimum time that would be taken to send the documents to Perth and return them to Fremantle would be four days, and the maximum time ten days. If this invoice room is removed to Perth it will be situated in a building on the corner of the Esplanade and William-street, which is a most busy place. The parking area nearby is always taxed to its utmost, and agents coming to this office would be delayed by time spent looking for a parking place. 1 appeal to the Minister, at this late stage, to have this invoice room retained at Fremantle. I am certain that this proposal is simply to meet the convenience of the clerks in the office who want to work in the city. When the Minister was hearing the deputation, he asked the collector about the accommodation of the clerks at Fremantle, and the answer was that there was ample room for them there.
– 1 understood that the Perth people wanted it moved to Perth.
– That is what they said at first, but they subsequently expressed the opposite view. They were represented at the deputation. The only people who wanted the office moved to Perth were the consular representatives, but they are unimportant in comparison with all the interests that want it retained at Fremantle. Many of the goods are unloaded from the slings at the ship’s side, and taken away immediately by road transport. They cannot be despatched, however, until a clearance is obtained, and it is obvious at once what delay would be involved if a wait of four days were involved to obtain that clearance. Even now, nineteen or twenty clerks at Fremantle have to examine the documents,, and the delay by having all that work done at Perth would be intolerable. The argument was advanced that it would be necessary to have an office in the city in order to clear goods arriving by air at the Guildford airport. The volume of goods arriving by air is very small compared with the volume arriving by ship, and it would be a comparatively simple matter to establish a small invoice room at the airport if that were necessary. lt is essential that ships should be unloaded and turned around as quickly as possible at the port of Fremantle. It is not big enough to cope with a large number of vessels, and if delays occur while waiting for clearance of invoices the port will become congested, and trade and commerce will be greatly hampered. I ask that further consideration be given to this matter, and that the Government retain the invoice room at Fremantle.
– I will refer the matter raised by Senator Seward to my colleague, the incoming Minister for Customs and Excise, Senator Henty. I do not entirely share the sentiments expressed by the honorable senator, however. I think the decision to move this invoice room to Perth was taken when I was Minister for Trade and Customs. Before that happened, many deputations and representations from all sections of the community stated their views, and upon advice and from personal observation I came to the conclusion that on the ground of convenience the better course was to transfer the invoice office to Perth, except those parts of it which needed to be retained alongside the wharfs. Consequently, the essential part of this office is being retained at Fremantle. I know that strong views are held on this matter, and I will bring the remarks of the honorable senator to the notice of my colleague, the new Minister for Customs and Excise.
In regard to the number of excise inspectors at Kwinana, I assure the honorable senator that no more than are necessary are employed there. The production at this plant runs into some millions of gallons a year, and a considerable amount of book-keeping alone is involved. Before appointments are made, the local collector, the ComptrollerGeneral and the Public Service Board all have to be satisfied that they are necessary. Under the old. Department of Trade and Customs, a great deal of preventive work was done - that is, antismuggling work. The total collections amounted to something like £200,000,000 in customs and excise, and altogether the work was most efficiently performed. T shall bring this matter to the notice of the Minister.
– Division 79 relates to the administrative costs of the Department of Customs and Excise, and in the schedule of salaries and allowances the Central Import Licensing Branch is shown to have a staff of 116. A footnote says that these were provided under the Department of Trade. Are we to take it that this staff is to be transferred to the Department of Trade, and that it will be limited to 116? Owing to the transfer of this branch to the Department of Trade, considerable confusion has been caused by applicants for import licences not knowing where to address their correspondence. I should like to know, also, what is the meaning of the item, “ Private Secretaries filling unclassified positions “. Have they anything, to do with the Import Licensing Branch or are any of them attached to the Retail Licensing Branch? A vote is included also for permanent officers occupying temporary positions. What are their duties?
– In reply to the honorable senator’s question about private secretaries filling unclassified positions, the reply is similar to that which I gave in connexion with associates to judges, dealt with under the Attorney-General’s Estimate. They are not classified, because although they are paid by the Government and their appointments are gazetted, they are nominated by the judge who appoints them. If the judge retires or dies the associate or tipstaff officially dies or retires also. They have novested right in the position. The same applies to private secretaries to Ministers. They do not remain on the public payroll’ once the Minister ceases to be a Minister or employs his private secretary no longer.
As to the 116 clerks employed in the Central Import Licensing Branch, as- a. result of a change of policy, the new Department of Trade, which was formerly included in the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, took over the whole of thework of licensing. That was cut off from customs.
– I understand that.
– Is it clear now.
– That is clear, but my point is that it is very badly set out in the schedule. There is no provision in these Estimates for a private secretary filling an unclassifiedposition. Are we to assume that he waspreviously attached to the licensing section?’
– That is so, but, at the same time, a particular private secretary may be a permanent public servant.
– I understand that, but that is not the point which concerns memost. There is also provision in the schedule for allowances to be paid to permanent officers occupying temporary positions. The amount provided for this year is £119,218. There must be some reason, why permanent officers are occupying temporary positions. Are they to be attached! to the central import licensing branch, or are they to remain- officers of the Department of Customs and Excise?
– No licensing officersare now employed by the. Department of Customs and Excise.
– And this item does, not refer in. any way to import licensing?’
– They are customsofficers acting as agents for the Department of Trade.
– They are still included in the general staff?
– Yes, to an extent.
.- I should like an explanation of the significance of the words appended to the provision for extra duty pay. Those words are -
Money received as payment of overtime charges in connexion with services of officers for the purposes of the Customs Act 1901-1954 may be credited to this item.
Does the insertion of those words stem from the reference by the Auditor-General to the Solicitor-General of the fate of moneys collected under that section; that is, as to whether they should go into a trust fund or be otherwise dealt with? The opinion of the Solicitor-General appears as an” appendage to the Auditor-General’s report. The question directed to the Solicitor-General was -
Whether, in view of the provisions of Section 81 of the Constitution, moneys raised under the authority of Section 29 of the Customs Act 1901- 1954 and Customs Regulation 22 -
could have been legally credited to the Customs Officers’ Overtime Trust Accounts; or
can now be legally credited to expenditure under the item for the extra duty pay of the salary appropriation of the Department of Trade and Customs.
To the first part of that question, the Solicitor-General replied, “ Yes “. To the second part, he replied, “ Yes “, and added the qualification, “ provided the amounts are received and paid to officers in the one financial year “. I was wondering whether the words to which I have referred have been inserted because of that opinion given by the Solicitor-General. Will the Minister also be good enough to explain the type of collection that is made under section 29 of the Customs Act 1901-1954, and which the Solicitor-General says must be paid and received in the one financial year? I should imagine that it would be a type of payment on a contractual basis between a customs officer and a particular importer, or exporter, for services performed to enable goods to get away out of time.
.- As to the first point, Senator Byrne’s surmise is correct. This does arise from the point raised by the Public Accounts Committee and consequent upon the advice received from the SolicitorGeneral. The types of payment envisaged there would be such as would be made if a special bond is created at the request of an importer and it becomes necessary for the department to send an excise or customs’ officer to supervise it. That is done at the expense of the importer. There are occasions when breweries, to meet a rush, want some special overtime done. Again, ships sometimes want special services rendered. This provision covers that type of extraordinary work outside the ordinary scope of business when an officer is made available at the expense of the person seeking the extra duty.
– And the SolicitorGeneral merely insists that the money must be paid over within the financial year?
– I have not seen the report, but I understand that the insertion of these words arises out of the opinion given by the Solicitor-General.
.- The Minister told us that the licensing work of the Department of Customs and Excise had been transferred to another department. Are we to take it that the Department of Customs and Excise now has nothing whatever to do with the granting of import licences?
– That is half-correct.
– I understand that we now have a Department of Customs and Excise with certain functions and a Department of Trade with certain other functions. In the change-over that took place earlier in the year, some officers who were with the old Department of Trade and Customs were not retained in the Department of Customs and Excise. I understand that they have been transferred to the Department of Trade which is administered by Mr. McEwen. Can the Minister tell us whether any extra cost has been involved in that transfer? Would it be true to say that because of the changes made inthe working of the two departments theex tra cost will be approximately £20,000 a year?
– The Department of Trade now deals exclusively with the authority to give licences. The actual handing across the counter of the licence is done by the Department of Customs and Excise as agent for the Department of Trade. A person wishing to obtain an import licence will no longer go to the Department of Customs and Excise; he will go to the Department of Trade. For instance if the application is made at Brisbane, Sydney, or Newcastle, or at any other place where there is a customs office, the licence is handed over by the Collector or Sub-Collector of Customs, but questions of policy are now entirely matters for the Department of Trade. I understand that the change-over did not result in any economy, and I think the extra cost would be something approximating the figure mentioned by Senator Benn. I have no reason to doubt his figure.
Senator CRITCHLEY (South Australia) 19.49]. - 1 rise to refer to the provision for film censorship. 1 notice that the number of persons provided for last year under this heading was eight. This year the number has been increased to fourteen and the provision covers a deputy film censor, an administrative officer, a clerk, a film-cutter and biograph operator, assistants and typists. Year after year I have protested against the types of films that are released constantly for exhibition in theatres throughout Australia. The Australian Government has done nothing to improve the films that are exhibited in this country. During the last twelve months, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria have amended the legislating covering films in those States in order to make it more difficult for films of an objectionable nature to be shown, but the Commonwealth has done nothing. Last year, I spoke on this subject, and at that time I informed honorable senators that I had examined the advertising columns of a Melbourne newspaper and had discovered that 90 metropolitan and suburban theatres were advertising that the film on one part of their programmes was unsuitable for children, but that the second picture was for general exhibition; and in many cases the first picture was stated to be fit for adults only.
Surely the Government is aware of a widespread objection throughout the country to the types of films that are generally shown, and it cannot be denied that crimes by youths and child delinquency, have attained alarming proportions in this fair land. In answer to questions asked by honorable senators on this side of the chamber Ministers have told us repeteadly how difficult it is for the Commonwealth to censor films unless they have the cooperation and approval of the State authorities. But I say that the Commonwealth should exercise whatever power it has to prevent the exhibition of undesirable films.
Last year I asked a former AttorneyGeneral, ex-Senator Spicer, what power the Commonwealth had over the exhibition of films in theatres in the Australian Capital Territory and other territories controlled by the Commonwealth, and in asking thai question and in speaking as I have done 1 have been voicing the sentiments of a large number of Australian people, particularly the parents of children. I am not a killjoy, and I like to see children enjoying themselves at picture shows. I do not by any means wish to interfere with their amusements, but I suggest that it is the responsibility of the Australian Government to ensure that they will not see undesirable films.
The Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) and his predecessor have informed me in answer to questions on this subject that it is the parents’ responsibility to prevent their children seeing objectionable films. We must agree with that up to a point, but I suggest that the main responsibility rests with the Government. 1 hope that when the Minister is replying to me he will not brush me off with the trite statement that this is a matter of the responsibility of parents. I do not think that any honorable senator will disagree with me when I say that a number of films shown in theatres are sadistic and pornographic, and not fit for public exhibition. At this; late hour, I ask the Attorney-General to inform me why it is that if fourteen officers were required to deal with the exhibition of films, it is now only necessary for eight to be engaged on film censorship. I repeat that a number of films shown in Australia are unfit for public exhibition, and I hone that the Minister and the Government will heed my remarks and do something to relieve the minds of many thousands of parents throughout this country who are concerned about the Government’s inactivity in regard to the exhibition of objectionable films.
Senator O’SULLIVAN (QueenslandAttorneyGeneral and Minister for the Navy) [9.561. - Just as Senator Critchley has not brought forward anything in addition to the arguments he submitted last year and the year before, 1 have nothing to add to the answer that was given to him then. It is the primary responsibility of parents to ensure that their children shall not see undesirable films. If a picture is imported into Australia the Commonwealth can censor it, but we have no control over the exhibition of pictures made in Australia and, as I have said before in answer to a question asked by the honorable senator, it would be most desirable if all the States would agree to an overall Commonwealth censorship. Some States have so agreed, because they realize that the Commonwealth censorship is of a very high standard. However, I do not think that we shall attain the state of perfection to which Senator Critchley rightly aspires until the parents of children show a greater sense of responsibility and the States agree with the Commonwealth upon a uniform standard of censorship.
Senator CRITCHLEY (South Australia; [9.57]. - I am amazed at the way in which the Minister has brushed off my submissions.
– I did not brush them off.
– Does the Commonwealth maintain that it has no authority over films shown in the Australian Capital Territory?
– We. do have authority over films shown here.
– How long is it since the films exhibited in the Australian Capital Territory have been examined? The Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) did not answer my question when I asked why the number of officers in the department has been reduced from fourteen to eight.
– The number has not been decreased; it has been increased.
– 1 am sorry, I read the bill wrongly.
– What is the film that the honorable senator is complaining about?
– If the warrant officer from South Australia will keep out of this matter I shall attempt to put my arguments. I hope that he will realize his mistake in interjecting, as quickly as I realized the mistake that 1 made. I am really concerned about the trash exhibited in this country as films, and it is disheartening to hear a responsible member of the Government say that it is the parents’ responsibility to ensure that their children shall not see objectionable films, and leave it at that. There are some parents who do not properly supervise their children, but that is because of economic circumstances, bad housing and the separation of parents. I have not been putting only my own personal opinion before the committee, because throughout the length and breadth of this country parents are concerned about the films that their children are seeing. Children now live in a way that we did not think possible a few years ago, and with all due respect to the Minister’s assurance 1 again suggest that the Commonwealth should exercise all the power at its disposal. I suggest most strongly to the Minister that the responsibility for calling a conference rests on the Commonwealth.
– In view of the reply by the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) to the previous question I raised in relation to the Department of Trade, I should like him to explain to me exactly what has happened as a result of the establishment of the Department of Primary Industry. The proposed vote for salaries and allowances under Division 85 - Administrative, is £550,000. According to the schedule of salaries and allowances, there has been an increase of staff of 456 officers. I assume that this staff was provided by the old Department of Trade and Customs for the purpose of administering import licensing.
– I interrupt the honorable senator only to point out that it would be unfair of me to answer a question in relation to the Department of Trade which should properly be directed to another Minister in this chamber.
– But surely this staff deals with matters relating to Customs and Excise?
– It is not my responsibility to answer questions in relation to the proposed vote for the Department of Trade.
– I concede that that is so.
– The vote for salaries of administrative officers last year was £287,000.
– Does the proposed vote include provision for the officer!) administering import licensing?
– The proposed vote of £550,000 is for the salaries of administrative officers of the Department of Trade.
– To make my submission clear, 1 direct the Minister’s attention to the schedule of salaries and allowances for the Department of Customs and Excise, from which it will be seen that in this financial year, the staff of the Central Import Licensing Branch will not be under the control of the Department of Customs and Excise, and consequently no financial provision is made for them in the proposed vote for administrative salaries and allowances for that department. Notwithstanding this fact, the overall staff of the department this year will be only 31 less than last year, and the proposed vote for the department is only £11,400 less than last year’s vote.
– It is quite true that there has been some increase of staff in other sections of the Department of Customs and Excise, but the big increase has occurred in the Department of Trade.
.- The question that I propose to direct to the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) could quite properly be directed to any Minister who is in charge of departmental Estimates. It will be seen from the schedule of salaries and allowances for the Central Import Licensing Branch that it is estimated that an amount of £243,253 will remain unexpended at the end of the present financial year. That is only a little less than 10 per cent, of the projected total expenditure. This item is not peculiar to the Department of Customs and Excise. The idea behind the submission of departmental Estimates is to acquaint the Parliament of the exact sum which the Government expects to expend on specific items during the financial year. Yet we have this extraordinary item included in respect of every department, amounting sometimes to 10 per cent, of the projected expenditure, but there is no attempt to relate the money to particular items. For example, of the amount of £243,253 estimated to remain unexpended by the Department of Customs and Excise, for all we know £100,000 of that sum might relate to a certain item, and the remainder be spread over a multitude of other items. But in the absence of information, we are quite unable to assess the accuracy of any item of any division of any proposed vote. I realize that there must be some good and compelling reason for this because, as I have said, this item appears in every department’s schedule of salaries and allowances. Perhaps the Leader of the Government - because, as I mentioned, my question could be directed properly to any Minister - might be good enough to acquaint honorable senators with the general principle underlying this method of presenting the Estimates.
.- The matter raised by Senator Byrne relates more to book-keeping than anything else, lt arises because permanent positions might be filled by temporary officers. If the honorable senator will refer to Division 79A - Administrative - Salaries and Payments in the nature of Salary, he will see that item 2 makes financial provision for temporary and casual employees. There is also provision for permanent employees. There are instances in which temporary employees fill permanent positions, but they do not receive the amount of salary payable to permanent officers.
– That happens very often.
– In other words, provision is made for unfilled permanent positions that may be filled during the year?
– That is so. Furthermore, apart from that, it is the provision that would be required if the permanent positions were filled. There is provision for the temporaries, and also for the permanents, because temporary officers fill permanent positions.
– 1 accept the Minister’s explanation, but it seems to me to be a most confusing way of presenting the figures. I suggest that, in future, an explanatory note should be circulated.
– An explanatory note, and cross-references.
. I have no criticism to offer regarding the proposed vote for the Department of Customs and Excise. 1 believe that this department is very efficient, and I am quite satisfied that the Estimates have been faithfully presented. However, 1 should like to record my protest against the change that has taken place as a result of divorcing the trade section and the Tariff Board from the Department of Customs and Excise. That has practically cut the heart out of this department which, when it was known as the Department of Trade and Customs, for very many years earned the confidence of all sections of the community - including business people and industrialists. I consider that this was a retrograde step, which has caused tremendous disruption. Men who were on the staff of the old Department of Trade and Customs for many years, men of great ability who had had a close association with government policy, have been transferred from a department with which they were familiar and of which they had expert knowledge, and transferred to another department where the Government will be denied their services in regard to customs matter. In regard to trade and industry, no better qualified officers can be found than those who ocupied positions over the years in the former Department of Trade and Customs. Much of the disruption and unrest that exists now, and which has existed to some extent over the years, has not been dispelled. I believe that the change that has taken place is in some way responsible for much of this unrest. I protest very strongly. I should have liked to see the then Minister for Trade and Customs follow the example of one of his colleagues and say, “ You will do this only over my dead body “. I hoped he would have fought for his department because of the great service it had performed to the Commonwealth over very many years.
The Government’s policy has cut the heart out of that department and has created a terrific amount of disruption and unrest. Many important matters regarding imports have had to be referred to these qualified officers for decision as to whether licences should be granted. In time the unrest may settle down and the departments once more may regain an even keel. Officers of the old Department of Trade and Customs were extremely successful over the years in negotiating with other countries. What has happened during the last twelve months has not helped our trade relations with other countries. I have great respect for the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), but as a negotiator he is hopeless. He has the idea that he can bulldoze his way through trade relations with other nations, and I feel sure that Australia will suffer because of his policy. I very much regret what has happened, and when the Estimates for the Department of Trade are being discussed 1 shall have something to say. I think that the removal of the Tariff Board from the control of the Department of Customs and Excise is simply foolish. The Tariff Board over many years has had the confidence of governments, industry and business people; and why it has been removed from the Department of Customs and Excise I do not know. The board has performed a necessary service in directing attention to certain things that happen with regard to industry in this country. Over the years it has rendered great service to this nation. I regret very much what has happened in respect of the old Department of Trade and Customs, and 1 feel sure that the Government will regret what it has done.
– At the risk of making another error and to be corrected by Senator Hannaford, I refer again to the central import licensing branch. I ask the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) for information regarding the appointment of officers in that branch. I notice that they are provided for in the Estimates for the Department of Trade and I presume that any remarks which honorable senators may wish to make on that item will have to be made when the Estimates for that department are being discussed.
– That is so.
– Other than to say that £166.650 was voted for the branch last year, I reserve what remarks 1 have to make until the Estimates for the Department of Trade are being discussed. 1 voice my strong disapproval of the reply of the Minister, on behalf of the Government, to my remarks on film censorship. The Minister said that seeing I had nothing fresh to suggest, neither had he. It is not my function, nor the Opposition’s function to make suggestions.
– The honorable senator has already said that.
– I am saying it again.I ask the Minister not to be impatient; he is not generally so. 1 feel very strongly about this matter. I am sure that the Minister has heard that a lot of rubbish is being exhibited throughout Australia. Any Government can do the easy thing, but it is a government’s function to administer the law in relation to the morals of the country and it should assist parents by helping to provide good, clean and cheap amusements.I admit that the States have authority over censorship, but, it is the responsibility of this Government to call a conference to see if the very low standard of a lot of the films being exhibited throughout the length and breadth of this country can be improved. I realize that no good purpose will be served by delaying the Senate further. I conclude by voicing my strongest disapproval of the Government inaction in that matter.
– Considerable discussion has taken place on the cutting up of the Department of Trade and Customs. Reference, with which I entirely agree, has been made to the loss of the services of qualified employees. However, no mention has been made of the inconvenience and hardship suffered by importers and exporters as a result of the change made by the Government. The position was that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who only returned to Australia a few weeks ago, was out of the country when the change took place. If any honorable senator made representations on behalf of an importer to the Minister’s office he was told to telephone the Department of Customs and Excise at Canberra. Having done that he was told he would have to go to Sydney and get in touch with the department there. Eventually, he was referred again to Canberra and when he did so he was told that Dr. Westerman, or some other officer in’ the department who was handling the matter was in conference and was not available to talk to him.
That is the sort of thing that happened during the changeover. Importers and exporters were subjected to considerable inconvenience and hardship in having to wait for their quotas to be established on conditions that were not exactly fair or just. I refer to the case of importers who had had quotas established during a certain year and then, perhaps through some delay in shipping, the goods they were expecting arrived a couple of days after their quota had expired. No consideration was given to them because of that fact happening. The Minister knows I could cite many cases about which I made representations and which were eventually adjusted after a good deal of harm had been done to the firms concerned. I shall mention one case in particular in regard to the manufacture of pianos in this country. No one will say that we should prevent the manufactureof pianos in Australia. Their manufacture provides highly skilled employment and also helps to carry out the policy of the Menzies-Fadden Government which isto save overseas funds. A piano can be manufactured in Australia at one-third of the cost of importing one from abroad. That means that instead of spending £400 abroad, only £150 need be spent in Australia with the result that in the vicinity of £250of overseas funds would be saved. The imposition of quotas impedes firms because they are not able to seek export trade in the East, and in adjacent countries where possibilities for trade exist. The policy of this Government operates against the interests of manufacturers, who are trying to build up our overseas funds by selling their products. I do not reflect upon the Minister who represents the Minister for Trade in this chamber. He is not in the position of the responsible Minister, who makes policy decisions. The Minister who acts for another Minister will not take the risks that the head of a department or a Minister will take. I suggest that the responsibility of dealing with matters that are brought before the Senate be placed in the hands of the Minister who represents the relevant Minister in this chamber.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Miscellaneous Services. Department of Customs and Excise. £43,000- agreed to.
Department of Defence.
Proposed Vote, £890,000.
.- I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the vote by £1.
The defence of Australia has been widelydiscussed in recent months. The Parliament and the people are indebted to the former secretary of the Department of Defence, Sir Frederick Shedden, for bringing to public notice the condition of the defence services in Australia. In all respects, we are in a position similar to that which existed in the defence services, and in our preparation for war, in 1941, when the government led by Sir Arthur Fadden was defeated at a critical stage of World War II. The Government that occupies the treasury bench to-day is of the same brand of political thought as the government of 1941. That government was defeated, not because of any action by the Opposition, but by its own supporters, who crossed the floor of the House as a protest against the inefficiency and ineptitude of the MenziesFadden government of the day, and its neglect of war preparations.
When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) returned from abroad in 1950, he said that war was almost inevitable within three years. A few months later, Sir Eric Harrison, on his return from England said that war was inevitable within two years. Sir Frederick Shedden has revealed that Australia was not prepared for war in 1953. The statement that was made about the defence services by Sir Frederick Shedden before the Public Accounts Committee has stirred the Prime Minister into action. A few weeks ago, he said that the defence services were perfect. Those were the words he used. Two days after he made that statement on 2nd September, the right honorable gentleman announced that there was to be a general review of the defence situation in Australia. Everything’ had to be reviewed. We changed from a perfect position in connexion with defence to one of uncertainty.
When honorable senators on the Opposition side have sought information on defence, it is like trying to break through the iron curtain. We have been brushed off with an indifference that was comparable only with the irresponsibility and the casual air of the Ministers concerned. There is no man in Australia who is better able to assess the defence situation than is Sir Frederick Shedden.
– What about Ezra Norton?
– If the honorablesenator was half as good a man as Ezra. Norton he would do.
– I wish he would prepare my speeches, too.
– Ezra Norton doesnot prepare any speeches for me. Fancy the honorable senator making such a suggestion! That shows how stupid he is. Since Sir Frederick Shedden made his statement to the Public Accounts Committee, there has been a flood of information on defence. We have had excuses from thePrime Minister and from several Ministerswho administer the service departments. Indeed, there has been such a flood of information and alibis that one of the greatest scandals in this country, the erection^ of the ammunition filling factory at St. Mary’s, has been completely submerged and: has almost passed into obscurity.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! In conformity with, the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and’ report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I direct attention, also to the fact that the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) has admitted that the Menzies-Fadden Government has spent £1,031,000,000 on defence during the last six years. I understand that there is alsoa further commitment of £150,000,000. We have not heard much about that com-, mitment but it means that, taken in conjunction with an allocation of £190,000,000’ for this financial year, the total defence commitment will be £340,000,000. The Parliament and the people of Australia want to know what there is to show for the £1,031,000,000 which the Minister for Defence has admitted has been spent during the last six years, and I think it is pertinent for me to ask to what service this further commitment of £150,000,000 applies. When we have nothing to show for the £1,031,000,000 that has been expended! during the last six years, it is right that I should ask what we can expect in the future for this commitment of £150,000,000- and the allocation of £190,000,000.
I hope the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) will give us some indication of the purpose of that commitment. The Government and its supporters, particularly Senator O’sullivan, will say that when Labour took over the defences of this country in 1941 they were all right and that the plans had been laid. They will go further and even use the name of the late Labour Prime Minister, John Curtin, and say that he admitted that the defences of Australia were all right when Labour assumed office.
– He did say that.
– He did not. 1 shall tell the honorable senator what he said, if he will remain quiet. He will have plenty of time to speak later; I do not mind if it is at midnight or to-morrow morning.
– Will the honorable senator tell us what he wants to say?
– 1 do not want to be told by Senator Marriott what to say.
– I asked, “Will the honorable senator tell us what he wants to say? “
– Listen to the Indian hawker! He is getting cheeky.
– What the honorable senator knows about the defences of Australia could be said in two words.
– 1 have learned more about the defence of Australia than the honorable senator ever has.
– In the Boer War!
– I learned it the practical way. I do not go about wearing my ribbons or my badge to show it, either.
– The Boer War is forgotten.
– This is what Mr. Curtin had to say -
Blind to the dangers in the Pacific, the Menzies and Fadden Governments had left Australia very much unprepared.
Australia’s resources were spread over many far-flung battle fronts. The men of the three services fought with fine efficiency and made conspicuous contributions, but at home the then government-
The Menzies-Fadden Government - had left the country almost undefended. Australia was a sector as menaced, and as helpless, as the Philippines. ‘
I shall now refer to the alarming state of Australia’s defences in regard to defence equipment when Labour assumed office in 1941. At that time, Army equipment related to initial requirements was available in Australia in the following percentages: - Rifles, 20 per cent.; sub-machine guns, 28 per cent.; light machine guns, 41 per cent.; anti-tank rifles, 15 per cent.; anti-tank guns, 21 per cent.; anti-aircraft guns, 9 per cent.; and field guns, 56 per cent. Australia had not a single fighter aircraft; it had only trainer aircraft available at that time. Yet, Government supporters talk about what the late John Curtin said in praise of the defence services that were established by the Menzies-Fadden Government!
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– The speech of the late senator really amazed me.
– 1 am still here, and I will be a senator for much longer than Senator Wordsworth will.
– I meant to say, “ the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat “. He spoke about what the Curtin Government did, what we will say about it, and how we will criticize it. The thing the honorable senator ought to remember about the last war is that Australia put up a great effort. He should not bring the subject down to a party political level, irrespective of whether the effort was made by a Labour government or an antiLabour government. Let us remember what Australia did. If the honorable senator wants to get down to what happened in 1949-
– I was talking about 1941.
– Let us come to 1949, when this Government assumed office. What was the condition of Australia’s defences then? Australia had fewer troops in 1949 than it had in 1900, before it was a Commonwealth. What did the Labour Government do about Manus Island? Its leader, Dr. Evatt, refused to allow the United States of America to continue in occupation of the naval base there, which had cost millions of pounds. All the United Slates of America asked of the Labour Government was that if another world war occurred, the United States of America might be allowed to use the island as a base. The Labour Government refused this offer, and America sold the equipment on the island to General Chiang Kai-shek for £5.000,000, whereas it was worth £50.000.000. Senator Benn visited Manus Island with me in the early 1950’s, and knows all about it. We saw millions of pounds worth of equipment lying there which the Labour Government refused to accept from the United States of America. If 1 were a member of the Opposition, I would not talk about the Labour party’s war effort or its post-war effort. Where would Australia be to-day if the Labour party’s policy had been implemented?
– That is what we want to know.
– Australia is better prepared for war now than ever before in peace-time.
– That is wrong.
– It is not wrong.
– lt is wrong, and you know it.
– If it is wrong, how does Senator Ashley know that it is wrong? He knows absolutely nothing about the matter. I ask the honorable senator to tell me who is the military adviser to the Labour party? This Government has behind it the chiefs of the General Staff, both of England and of Australia, but the Labour party has no one. In the Labour party. Senator Ashley, Senator Aylett and Senator Donald Grant would make jolly fine heads of the defence services. Does Senator Ashley know whether Australia needs a superior army or air force? In which arm of the forces does he want to concentrate the most power? If there is to be a world war will Australia need huge masses of land forces or will it need forces that are capable of dropping a few atomic bombs here and there? The honorable senator has no idea of what is required, but he criticizes the Government’s proposal to expend money on defence. He does not even know what an anti-aircraft rifle is or how much it would cost. He is unaware whether Australia has sufficient aeroplanes or tanks, because neither he nor his party has military advisers.
How many honorable senators, on either the Opposition side or the Government side, know the details of what is required or what is available? 1 do not profess to know, but the Government has experts to keep it fully advised. It has the assistance of the Chiefs of the General Staffs of Australia, Great Britain and the United States of America behind it, but the Labour party has no one. Senator Ashley went to the Boer War, but that does not give him any up-to-date information. Can the honorable senator say whether Australia needs a large army, consisting mainly of national service trainees or a smaller, well-trained army that can provide hard-hitting units at strategic points? Should Australia place its future defence in the hands of a small, well-trained force that can direct selfpropelled atomic weapons? The Russians claim that they have a weapon with intercontinental range of at least 3.000 miles, fitted with a hydrogen bomb warhead which would completely wipe out the air force. Senator Ashley does not know whether the Navy, the Army or the Air Force should have the greatest strength. What is his opinion about aircraft carriers? The experts differ on this matter. American military advisers consider that we need an Air Force sea-borne on aircraft carriers, but Australian experts say thai aircraft carriers are obsolete.
I join with Senator Ashley and his colleagues, to a certain extent, in criticizing the defence policy of the Government. It has been maintained practically unaltered for the last ten years, and it is high time that it was revised and overhauled. I am glad to say that that is being done, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) recently announced. The honorable senator may rest assured that Australia’s defences are being well cared for. There is no need for Senator Ashley to move for a reduction of £1 in the defence vote, because he has no idea of Australia’s defence position or what is required. The Labour party offers criticisms of this kind, and then, in almost the next breath, calls for a ban of the atomic bomb or any atomic experiments because it claims that it is a danger to the world and to peace. It is ridiculous to talk like that. Already Russia has carried out thirteen experiments with nuclear weapons, and leads the world in this field. It naturally wants other nations to make no further experiments. The Labour party is playing right into Russia’s hands by calling for an end to atomic experiments.
We need to make certain about disarmament. That is the policy of the democracies, and after World War II. they were the nations that first disarmed. What did the Labour government do in Australia? It disarmed until we had hardly anything left at the outbreak of war in 1939. Now honorable senators opposite suggest that we should dispose of our atomic weapons until we reach the position at which Russia has everything in the way of atomic weapons and we have nothing, lt is only the fact that we do possess certain atomic weapons that is preventing the outbreak of a World War III. Despite this, the Labour party advocates the cessation of atomic experiments by us so that Russia may be the sole possessor of atomic weapons.
If Russia would only permit inspection, we could be assured of world peace tomorrow but so long as it refuses to dispose of its atomic weapons, there is no reason why we should discontinue our experiments or dispose of our atomic weapons. I see no reason why we should allow Russia to be the only one conducting these experiments. It has already carried out thirteen, which is far more than has been carried out by Great Britain and the United States combined. Russia has also successfully dropped a hydrogen bomb from an aeroplane. We have not yet done that; in fact, the British Empire has not yet dropped one hydrogen bomb. It is only the threat of the hydrogen weapon that is preventing another world war; yet members of the Labour party advocate that we disarm and allow Russia to carry on in the atomic field. They advocate that we should trust Russia to destroy all its atomic weapons and such advocacy can only be looked upon as foolish. In conclusion, the Labour party has not got a clue to what should be done for the defence of this country. It has no one to advise it. I ask any honorable senator opposite who may rise to-night to tell me who advises the Labour party and who gives it these foolish half-baked ideas which its members express.
– I am amazed at Senator Wordsworth’s great knowledge of Russia’s activities in connexion with atomic weapons. He told us that Russia has successfully dropped a hydrogen bomb from an aeroplane and that it had conducted other experiments while England has done nothing. I do not know what Russia has done, but I have a very vivid recollection of what the Liberal party and the Australian Country party did prior to the outbreak of World War II.
– I ask Senator Henty, who is not made a Minister every day, to take Senator Scott out of the chamber.
– I rise to order. 1 object to the continual guffaws from Senator Scott. They make it impossible to hear what is being said. Senator Scott has made a nuisance of himself, and the exhibition he has given before his colleagues is both disgraceful and unworthy of an honorable senator. It is only fitting that we should object to his carrying on in that way.
– I agree with Senator Critchley. No one objects to fair interjections. We are all prone to interject at times, but Senator Critchley’s objection is sound.
The political position to-day is similar to that which existed just prior to the outbreak of World War II. Honorable senators on the Government side have criticized what they are pleased to call the Labour party’s inability to face up to its responsibilities when war was declared in 1939.
– We all fell down.
– They criticized the late John Curtin. They have criticized the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and they have criticized honorable senators on this side for advocating that we should disarm. They have said that it was the Labour party’s fault that Australia was not armed to the teeth when war was declared in 1939. Senator McCallum has just interjected, and said that we were right.
– No. The late John Curtin was right, but nobody else was.
– The political position to-day is similar to that which existed just prior to the outbreak of war in 1939. The government of the day had a majority in both Houses of the Parliament just as it did from 1931 until the outbreak of World War II. That being so, if there was anything wrong with the defences of this country in 1939, the Government cannot lay the blame for that fact at the door of the Labour party. The Australian Labour party believes in defending Australia. All we ask is that as representatives of the people we be given some idea of where and how the money that is voted is being expended. When men like Sir Frederick Shedden tell a committee of this Parliament that we are not able to put any kind of an army into the field after spending over £1,000,000,000 during the last six years, when we hear the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) criticizing the Government time and time again because we have not a stronger air arm, and when we hear criticism of the Government from a former Chief of the Air Staff, Air Vice-Marshal Jones, we cannot help but suspect that there is something wrong somewhere. I repeat that all we ask is that we be given some idea of where the money is being expended.
Senator Wordsworth challenged us to say who our advisers are on military strategy. He said that the Prime Minister’s present advisers were the great generals in England, America and Australia and that the Prime Minister had the position firmly in hand. Not three minutes later - this will be on record in “ Hansard “ - Senator Wordsworth said, “I join with Senator Ashley. We should have a look at our defences. We do not know where we stand after spending all this money. I agree with Senator Ashley, but fortunately the Prime Minister “ - this great general who creates wars but never fights them - “ has called another conference of the High Command to consider the defences of Australia “.
– The honorable senator knows that the late John Curtin was on the track because he had good advice; but he was the only member of the Labour party who was on the track.
– I remind the Senate and the people of Australia - again this is something which should be recorded in “ Hansard “ as often as possible - that in his policy speech in 1937 the late John Curtin told the people of Australia, just as he told the Parliament, that our greatest need, if we were to defend Australia effectively in any future war, was to build up a strong air arm. This evening Senator Ashley told us that there was not one fighter aircraft in the Commonwealth when war was declared in 1939. The only aircraft that we had were trainer fighters, that is, aeroplanes in which only ‘ training could be done.
The Labour party’s attitude towards defence has always been criticized, and it has been said that we want to disarm the country and that we would fail to defend it. No one can deny that the workers have always taken as active a part in the defence of Australia as have those who support this Government. 1 hope that war is not declared to-night if we have to depend for air defence upon the few honorable senators who are at present sitting on the Government side. I particularly wish to deal with the statement made by Senator Wordsworth - that Opposition senators have no defence policy for this country, and are continually advocating disarmament. That is not so; all that we want to ensure is that the money allocated for the defence of Australia is not wasted. It should not all be spent on the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. Some of it should be allocated for road building and for standardizing railway gauges.
The Government is not prepared to standardize railway gauges because the shipping combines believe that standardization would reduce their profits, and therefore they will not allow the Government to carry out this great national work. If we had more and better roads and if we had a uniform railway gauge throughout the country we should be much better able to defend ourselves. Indeed, the spending of money on those two objectives is a war preparation. In 1912 the Labour party introduced compulsory military training. The Labour party also established the small arms factory at Lithgow, and the Commonwealth clothing factory.
– Senator Scott would not understand me if I answered him. As I have already said, the honorable senator is all right from the ears down. but from the ears up he is solid wood. The Labour party has always been greatly concerned about the defence of this country, and in addition to what I have already detailed, it should be remembered that our party established the Royal Australian Navy against the advice of those people who branded us as a non-combatant party.
– The Labour party threw out the men who did the job - Hughes and Pearce.
– Some of the people who laid the foundations of air defences are still at the helm of the great Australian Labour party. They were our pioneers, lt is true that we did lose some of our supporters on the conscription issue.
– What did the honorable senator say?
– Order! Senator Scott must come to order.
– As it is nol possible for me to take part in a sensible debate in this chamber to-night, I shall resume my seat.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) agreed to -
That the Senate, at ils rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 10 a.m.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I wish to offer the congratulations of all honorable senators to Senator Henty, one of our colleagues, upon his elevation to the Ministry. I am sure that he will discharge his onerous responsibilities as a Minister with great distinction. He will bring to his portfolio rich knowledge and practical experience, and, above all, a will to serve to the utmost of his quite considerable ability. I also congratulate Senator Paltridge, upon whose broad shoulders has fallen the weightier responsibility of the portfolio of Civil Aviation.
– On behalf of my colleagues of the Australian Labour party in the Senate, I tender to Senator Henty our best wishes and congratulations upon his elevation to ministerial rank. His is not only a personal honour; it is also an honour to Tasmania. Some of us have turned out to be bad tipsters because we may have considered too earnestly another very important State; but the person who had the choice did what he desired to do. It is true that wc have clashed with Senator Henty in the past, and it equally true that we will clash with him in the future, but I am quite certain that those clashes will occur only in the Senate, and that outside this chamber we, as responsible people, will show no ill feeling. I congratulate the honorable senator very sincerely on the honour that he has received.
– 1 should like to add my congratulations, on behalf of my party, to Senator Henty. As Tasmanians, we appreciate the fact that he has now been appointed a Minister. I am sure that he will carry out his duties with great ability. It is very fortunate for the honorable senator that he has been given such a portfolio because, in the capacity of Minister for Customs and Excise he will not be, by any means, a square peg in a round hole. I know that he will bring a wealth of knowledge to the position. Having known Senator Henty personally for quite a long time, I really wish him every success in his new position. I am sure that he will discharge the responsibilities of his office with great credit to himself and, of course, to Tasmania.
Senator HENTY (Tasmania) [11.111.- 1 should like to thank the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’sullivan), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly), and the Leader of the AntiCommunist Labour party (Senator Cole), as well as other good friends in the Parliament and outside who have wished me success in the administration of the portfolio of Customs and Excise. Being human, I should like to believe some of the good things that have been said about me, and I trust that I shall receive assistance from those who have wished me well in the carrying out of my duties.
There is just one interesting aspect of the matter that I should like to recount, because all newcomers to the Senate sit, initially, on the back benches. Not long after I took my seat on the back bench of this chamber, the adjoining seat was allotted to Senator McMullin, who has since been elevated to the high office of President of the Senate. When Senator McMullin moved from his seat alongside me, it was occupied by Senator Paltridge, who was subsequently appointed Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon which he moved to the Ministerial bench. As we know, Senator Paltridge has now been allotted the additional portfolio of Civil Aviation. Following Senator Paltridge’s elevation, I placed a premium on the seat, but there were no takers. However, from my adjoining seat, I have had the good fortune to receive a ministerial appointment.
I may say that I feel very humble about the matter. I know that a heavy task lies ahead of me. However, with the assistance of my colleagues, whomI have learned to respect, I feel confident of being able to discharge my duties satisfactorily.I have a certain philosophy in the matter. I believe that when a senator is elevated to the Ministry, it is his duty to serve faithfully all members of the Senate irrespective of which political party they support.
I think that I shall have only one regret in transferring to the front bench, and that is, that I shall have to refrain from interjecting so much, although I do not really think I have consistently offended in that regard. For this reason, some of the joy that has been mine as a back-bencher will go out of my life. In conclusion, I should like to emphasize that I really appreciate the good wishes of honorable senators, and I thank them all very much.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 October 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1956/19561018_senate_22_s9/>.