22nd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade observed that wide and unfavorable publicity has been given to the procedure of granting import licences to persons whose interest in the importation of goods is confined strictly to the making of profits of from 40 to 50 per cent, by trafficking in the rights of their licences? Will the Minister personally investigate the licences in operation for the purpose of ascertaining what Minister, or officers of the Public Service were responsible for the issue of import licences to these persons, or will he recommend that a royal commission be appointed to investigate the whole matter?
– A similar question has been raised in another place. Suggestions were made to the Minister for Trade that persons were being issued with licences and were making very large profits by trafficking in those licences. My recollection is that the Minister said that if any such case were referred to him he would investigate it thoroughly. It is my recollection also that very few such cases, if any, have been referred to him. The Minister made it quite plain that he will not issue licences to persons to enable them to make inordinate profits, and I am quite certain that Mr. McMahon, who is at present acting for the Minister for Trade, will follow the same principle. If the honorable senator can cite a specific instance in which a person who has received a licence is obtaining more than a reasonable profit, the Minister will make the appropriate inquiries.
– I preface my question to the Minister for National Development by pointing out that the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Gair, at the next conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers proposes to suggest the establishment of a national emergency fund to meet losses caused by floods, cyclones, bushfires and other disasters. The Leader of the Government in the Senate indicated last week, in reply to a question 1 asked, that the only reason why the Government would not support such a scheme was because it has not the necessary power. Is the Minister prepared to indicate that the Government will give sympathetic consideration to this proposition when it is brought forward at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers?
– I think the question is hardly a fair one to ask without notice. Very big issues are involved in such a proposal. 1 remember quite well that a similar suggestion was made in respect of damage arising from floods but after a good deal of investigation it was found, according to my recollection, that it was impracticable. I presume the honorable senator is suggesting a fund on some contributory basis to cover all sorts of national emergencies. I am not prepared to express an opinion on the matter offhand without having more information than is at present available to me.
– I preface my question to the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate by stating that on Friday last the Minister for Labour and National Service made a statement to the effect that the total number of unemployed persons in Western Australia receiving unemployment benefit dropped by 338 during September to 1,871 on 29th September. Does the Deputy Leader of the Government believe that continued over-stressing of the unemployment position in any one State has the ill effect of actually creating a fear of recession and uncertainty in the minds of employers? If this fear is once created, is not the final result further unemployment? Will the Deputy Leader of the Government assure the Senate that it is his view that prosperity is still with us?
– I subscribe fully to the third proposition that has been put to me by Senator Scott. As to his other questions, I hold the opinion, also, that continual harping on unemployment, when there is no justification for it, has a weakening effect upon the economy generally. Nothing succeeds like success. We have had full employment in Australia now for about sixteen years, and I see no reason why it should not continue.
– There are 2,000 unemployed in Western Australia.
– I do not believe that 2,000 unemployed detract from a condition of full employment.
– So long as you are not one of the 2,000.
– It all depends on what standard one sets. I understand that the executive of the political party to which Senator Willesee belongs regards an unemployment figure of 5 per cent, as not incompatible with a condition of full employment.
– Has the Minister for National Development read a statement by the New South Wales Minister for Housing, Mr. Landa, that the Commonwealth Government evidently proposed to leave building societies to their own devices? In view of the passage last week of the Loan (Housing) Bill 1956, which provides special funds for the building society movement or similar organizations in each State, does the Minister agree that Mr. Landa’s statement is, to say the least, wholly inaccurate?
– I do not know exactly what the New South Wales Minister for Housing was aiming at. Under the new housing agreement, 20 per cent, of the total money provided will be appropriated for building societies, so that I cannot imagine that the Commonwealth could be accused, in any set of circumstances, of leaving the building societies to their own devices. At the annual meeting of building societies held at Katoomba, I strongly urged the societies to extend their sphere of activity by seeking funds in as many directions as possible. I asked them not to get into a situation of relying too much on government assistance. There are banks, insurance companies and other sources from which building societies can obtain funds on loan. I believe it would be very good to see building societies extend their activities by obtaining money from those sources.
– Can the Minister for National Development say whether the Government has received a submission from the Premier of South Australia regarding Commonwealth assistance amounting to £1,500,000 for the rehabilitation of areas devastated by the recent disastrous river Murray floods? If a submission has been received, has Cabinet had an opportunity to consider the request for assistance beyond that already so promptly made available on a £l-for-£l subsidy basis? If the Minister is not in a position to make a definite statement to-day, will he, as a matter of urgency, discuss the matter with the Prime Minister with a view to an early announcement of the Government’s attitude towards this very serious problem?
– We are all aware of the difficulties that are being experiencd, particularly in South Australia, as a result of the floods. I should prefer not to express Government policy in advance. As the honorable senator knows, the Government has stated that it will assist the South Australian Government in the relief of personal distress on a £l-for-£l subsidy basis. It has also invited the South Australian Government to submit evidence of damage to public works in the area. Regarding the final proposal, I can only tell the honorable senator that I shall mention the matter to the Prime Minister and seek his guidance as to what should be the Government’s policy in relation to it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Was the Government aware that the Commonwealth Statistician intended to issue two sets of cost of living figures for September in connexion with the quarterly basic wage adjustment? Did the Government know that in New South Wales the increase would be lis. under one computation and 6s. under another? Did the Commonwealth Statistician receive any instructions or request from the Menzies Government before he released the cost of living figures in the completely unorthodox manner adopted last week? Why was paragraph
II specially placed in that statistics bulletin? Its inclusion indicates that some instruction had been given. It reads -
Tribunals and other authorities concerned wilh wage adjustment and other purposes decide in the light of their own requirements what price index it’ any is relevant to their purposes and how it should be applied. The Statistician’s function is to supply indexes and information thereon as required by the authorities. The Statistician expresses no view as to the merits or demerits of the use of price indexes in this connection.
Will the Government assure the public that it will present a true and accurate picture of the continuing inflation and upward trend in the cost of living without resort to double standards as was conveyed by the September set of C series index figures? When will the Government produce conclusive proof that the freezing of the basic wage by suspending cost of living adjustments will check rises in the cost of living?
– The honorable senator lives in the past. He still thinks that his party is in government. He casts his mind back to the instructions that he gave and the influence that he attempted to exert over public servants. I give him the answer that whatever the* Commonwealth Statistician did, he .did without reference to, or consultation with, the Government, let alone being influenced by it. It is not the policy of this Government to influence the views of persons who are in positions of trust, nor to attempt in any way to cloud any issue where a responsible public servan; has the duty of bringing facts before the public.
– 1 ask the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he is aware that the Chinese ballet company, which has been refused permission to perform in Melbourne during the Olympic Games, has already performed brilliantly in many cities in Europe, including London, Paris and Amsterdam; also in Asian cities including Tokio, as well as in our sister Dominion of New Zealand, without a single instance of anything improper being said or done? As this Government is continuously claiming, through its spokesmen in Parliament and also over the radio, that it is doing everything possible to foster goodwill with the Asians, will the Minister take up this matter with the Prime Minister with a view to having rescinded the decision not to allow the company to perform in Melbourne during the games, so that the cultured section of Europeans and Asians in the community, and particularly the Chinese, will know that the Government realizes that a mistake has been made; and so that instead of further estrangement being fostered between these people and Australia goodwill towards us will be restored?
– 1 think there is some misconception on the part of the honorable senator. I do not think that Australians are one whit concerned about where this ballet company comes from, and we shall certainly not be offended or excited because it comes from Communist China. The important matter is that Australia is running the Olympic Games in November in Melbourne, and it is our objective and desire that they should proceed smoothly and quietly. We shall not be worried about the Chinese ballet company, but people from some other countries attending the games may not look with favour on Communist Chinese representatives. They may cause some incident if this company is allowed to perform in Melbourne during the games. The ballet will not be disadvantaged in any way. It can play in Sydney or Adelaide or some other city until the games are over, and then go to Melbourne. By such an arrangement any possibility of incidents will be avoided, and that will be a good thing for the games and for everybody concerned.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services to a resolution passed by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of Victoria at its last monthly executive meeting, which reads as follows: -
We urge that earnest consideration be given to the introduction of amending legislation whereby the present old age pension might be increased to an amount which would be adequate to meet the present day necessities of the aged.
I ask the Minister: In view of the pleas made by all sections of the community for some improvement in the lot of the aged and invalid, whether he will assure the Senate that an increase of pensions will be announced before the sessional period ends?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is that the Government’s proposals on social services are in the budget, which is at present before the Parliament.
– In view of my statement earlier that no unseemly incident has occurred in New Zealand, Great Britain or Asia, where the Chinese Classical Theatre Company ballet has performed, has the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate any information that certain incidents might take place here? What is the source of his information, and what incidents are suggested?
– I remind the honorable senator that the ballet did not perform in those countries at a time when there was in any of them a great concourse of representatives of the nations of the world.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport - upon notice -
– I am now able to inform the honorable senator that the vessels at present on order in Australian shipyards are as follows: -
In .addition to the above vessels the Commonwealth has announced its intention of placing an order on the State Dockyard, Newcastle, for a 6,000 tons gross vehicular/passenger ferry for the Bass Strait trade and has called tenders from Australian shipbuilding yards for the construction of two 12,500 deadweight tonnage bulk carriers.
– On 18th October, 1956, Senator Anderson asked the following question: -
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?
The Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply: -
– On 16th October, Senator Poke asked a question without notice relating to the difficulty Tasmanian hop-growers are experiencing in disposing of their crop. The Minister for Primary Industry has advised me as follows: -
Although complaints of a general nature have been made, no specific figures of hops remaining unsold have been supplied to him. It seems that the concern of the growers may stem from their impression that stocks held by brewers and others are somewhat high rather than from the existence of’ any surplus held by growers. Imports of hops are subject to licensing and full account is given to the availability of domestic supplies when imports are programmed by the Department of Trade. The Minister advises that the Department of Trade made no provision of overseas exchange for the importation of hops at the last quarterly review in view of the stock position.
Notice of Motion No. 1, in the name of Senator Henty, for the amendment of the National. Capital Development Ordinance 1938-1953, called on and- by leave - withdrawn.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to authorize financial assistance by the Commonwealth to approved organizations engaged in the conduct of home nursing services. The national health service is based on certain principles. One of the most important is the idea of a partnership - of co-operation between patient and doctor. Implicit in this is the realization that a powerful factor in recovery from illness and restoration to health is the sense of personal responsibility of the patient for what happens to him. This means that the foundation of a national health scheme should be an efficient and competent general practitioner service. The importance of domiciliary medicine can hardly be overestimated. A hospital service can never be a true substitute for the family doctor, whose role is becoming more instead of less important with the recent developments in medical knowledge. The modern general practitioner has powerful weapons in his hands - such things, for example, as the sulphonamides and the antibiotics - and if his own standard of work and knowledge is high, can undertake in the home, and in full and proper collaboration with the specialist, a great deal of treatment to the great benefit of his patients in particular, and the country in general.
Much is said nowadays about medical and hospital benefits, and all sorts of claims are made that these should be higher or more extensive. Whether this is so or not, the thing of fundamental importance is the quality of medical care, and it is essential that there must be not only no deterioration of the standard of family and general practice from the high level at which it has existed in the past, but also that this standard should be maintained and, if possible, raised. If this is so, then several things are necessary. Not only is there need for good training of general practitioners, but’ the conditions of general practice must be such as to give scope to men who possess good training and ability, and be designed to allow their patients to benefit from it to the full. This means in modern medical practice that trained assistance by a complementary service, namely the nursing profession, should be available. >>
For more than 50 years, home nursing care has been provided for the poor and needy throughout Australia by district and bush’ nursing associations and religious organiza- tions. Honorable senators will be familiar with the charitable and public-spirited work of these bodies, whose efforts have brought relief to the sick and aged - particularly in the poorer areas of the cities. The nurses employed by these home nursing organizations are generally known in Australia as “ district “ nurses. The special feature of their work is that it is carried out by visits to the homes of the patients as distinct from hospital, clinic, or institutional care, or the services rendered by a nurse engaged privately by the patient.
The district nurses are generally referred to the patients, in the first instance, by a hospital or by a local doctor. The majority of patients nursed are those with long-term illnesses such as patients suffering from cardiac disease, arthritis, incurable carcinoma, &c. Many of these patients are very ill, and would be transferred to hospitals or other institutions but for the serious shortage of hospital beds. The nursing these patients require is mainly general care, sponging, supervision, and general nursing treatment, which is always arduous and time consuming, though there are many cases which do not require more than a daily visit, or perhaps a visit several times a week. Although chronic illnesses are prevalent among all age groups, they mainly affect people over 60 years of age. It is these people that make up the majority of the district nurses’ patients.
It is estimated that approximately threequarters of the patients of each district nursing association are chronically ill, and over the age of 60 years. A considerable amount of home nursing work is also done for patients who cannot be classified as chronically ill, but who require prolonged care, such as those requiring aftercare for unhealed wounds following operations. Al the same time, under modern conditions an increasing number of acute cases is becoming suitable for treatment at home.
Since the war, it has been impossible for hospital construction to be maintained at a rate in any way commensurate with the growth in population. Consequently, it has become necessary for surgical and acutely ill cases to be discharged from hospital at the earliest possible time, whilst the chronically and less acutely ill have found it progressively more difficult to obtain hospital accommodation at all. Many of these chronically ill people, who in other days would have been hospital cases, cannot now receive the nursing attention they require unless they are visited by the district nurses. Because of this oppressive shortage of hospital beds, the need for adequate, properly equipped home nursing services has greatly intensified in recent years.
At the present time, some 150 district nurses are employed by home nursing associations. A work analysis recently made indicates that each of these 150 nurses is at present saving the provision of six hospital beds; that is. the home nursing services are saving 900 hospital beds throughout Australia.
The capital cost of providing new hospital accommodation has risen to extraordinary heights. In the case of hospitals recently completed, the cost is reckoned to be at least £7,000 per bed. The cost of maintaining a hospital bed has also reached a new and very high level; it is. now rarely, if ever, less than £3 per day, and in the case of many individual hospitals it is considerably more than that. By way of contrast, the cost of a visit to a home by a district nurse averages something like 7s. These figures give some indication of the savings of very great significance to the community that are to be made by encouraging home nursing for the sick, instead of hospitalization, whenever it is possible. It has been reliably estimated that the maintenance of 150 nurses in district nursing work keeps hospital running costs down by at least £1,000,000 per year. The total cost of keeping these 150 nurses in the field is less than one-fifth of that sum. 1 shall cite a further example. If, in a few years’ time, home nursing were to expand to four times its present level, there would be, on these considerations, a saving of 3,600 beds, resulting in the following financial savings: -
Annual maintenance expenditure relating to these beds . . 4,000,000
A capital expenditure, assuming they were all provided, of well over .. 20,000,000
The cost of home-nursing services to produce such a result would be very small indeed. These are, of course, theoretical figures, but they indicate the magnitude of the financial relief which could be afforded to the general problem of hospital costs, in an expanding population.
These, in brief, are the financial and practical considerations in favour of the development of home-nursing services. At the same time it is realized that many patients, particularly old people, will be much happier, and perhaps will be better, if they can be nursed at home, and modern medical thought favours this practice. Furthermore, it is now realized that the visiting nurse can do much effective work in the field of preventive medicine, giving instruction in general health, nutrition, food habits, &c. It is advantages of this kind which Australian and overseas authorities are now coming to recognize in the practice of sending the nurse into the home, instead of sending the patient into hospital. In view of these developments, the Government recently decided that the building up of numerically stronger and better equipped organizations of district nurses should be encouraged, so far as it is practicable for the Commonwealth to do so. The voluntary organizations already in the field have done splendid work. They have kept their services going when times were difficult and have accepted heavy financial burdens in an effort to expand their services in recent times to keep pace with growing public demands. We, therefore, believe that the most promising approach to the expansion of home-nursing services is to provide financial assistance for public and religious organizations qualified to perform this work. As the Commonwealth is entering this field for the first time we felt it inadvisable to specify in this bill precise terms and conditions on which Commonwealth financial assistance will be made available. These matters will be determined according to circumstances affecting particular organizations and, perhaps, varied from time to time in the light of experience.
In general terms, the Commonwealth’s policy will be to grant to non-profit making home-nursing organizations now in the field subsidies approximating the salaries paid to nursing sisters employed by them over and above the number ordinarily employed during the year prior to the commencement of the act. Thus, if an organization has ordinarily employed, say. ten nurses during the past year and increases its staff to twelve nurses when this scheme commences, it will receive a subsidy approximating the salary of the two additional nurses; if it increases its staff to fifteen nurses it will receive a subsidy approximating the salary of the five additional nurses. This basis for calculating the subsidy will be applied in relation to the organizations which are conducting homenursing services at the present time. It is possible, of course, that new organizations will enter the field. It will be evident to honorable senators that it will not be practicable to subsidize these “ new “ organizations on exactly the same basis as that proposed for the existing organizations, because that would involve the payment of a Commonwealth subsidy equal to the full salary of every nurse employed by each “ new “ organization. This would put “ new “ organizations on a much more favorable basis than those that have pioneered this field, lt is proposed, therefore, that the organizations which commence home-nursing services after this act comes into operation will be entitled to apply for a subsidy equal to approximately half the salary paid to each nurse employed on home-nursing duty. This, I think, is a fair and equitable basis for handling this problem.
Up to the present, finance for the district nursing associations’ work has come mainly from State government subsidies, collections from patients, and donations by the public. We think it right that money should continue to be supplied to the associations from these sources. The work of the district nurses results in a significant saving in State hospital expenditure and the States, as I have pointed out, already support organizations engaged in this work. This bill provides that the subsidy to be paid by the Commonwealth- is not in any case to exceed the State government subsidy. Naturally, State governments are being consulted about the effective carrying out of the provisions of the bill. The Minister’s approval will be required before an organization is granted a subsidy under this scheme. The organizations which are granted subsidies will, of course, have to supply the DirectorGeneral of Health with adequate information and properly audited accounts and reports. For example, the Director-General of Health will in all cases have to be satisfied that the nurses on account of whom the subsidy is claimed are properly qualified. At the same time, I assure honorable senators that the department will not be seeking to impose conditions or restrictions which will hamper the organizations in their conduct of their work. There will be no attempt by the Government to interfere with the organizations’ management and control of their affairs, except insofar as is consistent with the proper expenditure of public funds. I believe that this measure will prove to be of very great importance and value in. the field of public health. I, therefore, hope that all senators will be sympathetic to its objectives and will accord it their full support.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 19th October (vide page 777).
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed Vote, £9,158,000.
– Under this heading one has the opportunity to speak on Commonwealth-State finances. The Victorian Government is at present testing in the courts the validity of the uniform taxation law. We on this side of the chamber support that action and trust that at least the courts will give the same decision as they have given in the past. That, however, will not get the States out of the difficulties in which they find themselves at the moment. In the limited time at my disposal I cannot go into this matter very deeply, but there are three angles from which the matter can be approached so far as the States are concerned.
The natural suggestion would be that the Commonwealth should give the States more money. That would be a simple, but not an easy approach to the matter. The second would be that the Commonwealth return certain taxing rights to the States. I hope it will not do that; but that could be another method of giving the States more money, which they claim they need, than they are at present receiving. The third suggestion, and to my mind the most practical of the three, is that the States hand over to the Commonwealth certain of their functions. The principal functions that come under the control of the States are health, education, and transport - both road and rail. The last figures available for all States are those for 1952-53. They show that the States expended £61,700,000 on education and £54,600,000 on health, and that they had a deficit in connexion with the operation of the railways of £19,200,000. If we are to face properly the position of Commonwealth and State finances, and if uniform taxation is here to stay, as 1 hope it is, we shall have to give the States more money or take some of their functions from them, so that they can at least attain the objectives they set themselves.
The present position of Commonwealth and States finances is unsatisfactory. I refer to expenditure as well as to grants. Although the Commonwealth collects the money and disburses it, we have little say in how it is expended by the States. Reports of recent meetings of the Australian Loan Council in Canberra reveal that, although the representatives of the States came to Canberra with plans for which they required certain sums of money, the Treasurer of the day told them that they would get £190,000,000, or whatever the amount might be, and no more. We can imagine the position of the States. They have started certain works, such as the construction of a new road, and they need money to finish the work. If there is to be an effective works programme, there should be a committee representative of the Commonwealth and the States, and it should be given certain powers.
– Order! I do not wish to interrupt the honorable senator unduly, but will he state to what division of the proposed votes he is relating his remarks?
– I was applying my comments to Division 46 - Administrative. An amount of £585,800 is to be provided, and I assumed that portion of that amount would be devoted to the administration of financial matters as between the Commonwealth and the States.
– The honorable senator may continue, but I ask him to apply himself specifically to the measure that is before the committee.
– As time goes by, the appointment of a committee, such as the one I have suggested, will become more necessary. I would prefer to see transport, both road and rail, come under the direction of a Commonwealth Department. First, I believe that the railways should be considered primarily from a Commonwealth point of view for their value in defence. I am sure that the States would be only too delighted to place the railways in the hands of the Commonwealth Government. If that were done, the Commonwealth could plan for the future of the railways, and would need to give less money to the States. Unless something is done to put Commonwealth and State financial relations on a better basis, the States will have to curtail some developmental works. Some action should be taken to improve the transport position.
I regret that time does not permit me to go into this matter more deeply, but I hope to do so later because we must put Commonwealth and State financial relationships on a much better basis. It is not right that representatives of the States should come to Canberra with a programme of works, some of which might be half completed, only to find that the work must wait until something else is done. The fault does not lie entirely, with the Treasurer of the day. I should like to see a responsible body set up to decide priority for works on a nationwide basis, having regard to the money that is available. I know there are difficulties in the way of such a proposal. The States will say that they are not prepared to accept dictation from Canberra. We should be willing to adopt a formula so that both the Commonwealth and the States may know where they are going.
I have taken advantage of this opportunity to raise this matter, because the Minister might have a chance to say something about it in his reply, lt is one that we must face up to. I saw the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) smile when I suggested that transport should come under Commonwealth direction; but I point out that the Commonwealth has entered into other fields, including that of home nursing. Unless something is done, the States will not be able to carry on.
.- I wish to relate my remarks to Division 47, Commonwealth Stores Supply and Tender Board. I know that that division is related to the administration involved in purchasing stores for Commonwealth departments, but I feel that the question of the control of stores when they come under Commonwealth jurisdiction after purchase is sufficiently relevant to enable me to comment upon it. One of the most significant features of the reports of the Auditor-General over the years has been the references to losses and. thefts, the inadequacy of accounting, and the shortage of stores in virtually all departments that have to control stores. I shall not go through the report for the year ended 30th June, 1956, in great detail, but upon glancing through it I noticed at least seven references to this matter. For example, on page 28 he said -
Unsatisfactory control of stocks and sales of the publication-
He was referring to the Commonwealth consolidated statutes - has been brought to the attention of the Department.
On page 35 appears the following reference to the Department of Works: -
Reference was made in the Annual Report for 19S4-S5 to unsatisfactory features regarding departmental control of projects constructed under contract in the Papua and New Guinea region. Further investigations confirmed that substantial overpayments on three wharf projects should be recovered from contractors.
I admit that that paragraph is not com. pletely in consonance with the reference to stores control. There are other references, in terms of greatest stricture, to the Department of Air and some of the service departments.
I merely raise the matter now in order to advance this suggestion:- I feel that stores control is not considered by the Public Service Board to be sufficiently important to justify the specialized training of officials who will be concerned with that part of government administration. I do not know exactly where stores control officers are obtained. I know that for some major projects of a Commonwealth character stores officers are obtained from private industry. In some cases that procedure has been successful and in others it has not. Before a person enters the ordinary clerical division of the Public Service, he receives training by way of examination. After he joins the Public Service, organization and management schools and other means are used to help him to maintain his efficiency and bring him up to date with modern administrative methods. I feel, however, that, in this important field of the control of public stores, the Public Service Board is not correspondingly alert to the importance of the occupation and the necessity for specialized training and perhaps specialized qualifications both before and after entry to the Public Service.
Repeated references by the AuditorGeneral to the shortcomings and inefficiency in this aspect of administration emphasize the need for a positive approach to it. I think the first positive lead should be a recognition by the board of the specialized nature of the occupation and of the fact that it is not a job that can be done by any person who might not be sufficiently’ competent to pass a clerical examination and become a third division clerk. In commercial organizations, stores control is an important part of administration, and I see no .reason why it should not be regarded as being correspondingly and increasingly significant in Public Service administration. I commend to the Public Service Board the need to recognize its importance. I suggest that methods be devised to ensure that those persons who wish to specialize in this particular type of work may sit for an appropriate examination and qualify for entry to the Public Service as stores control officers with opportunities for reasonable promotion and advancement, and that there should be available to them training in specialized schools just as organization and management schools are available to members of the clerical division. If that were done, training in the most modern methods of stores accounting and control would be within their reach. To the satisfaction of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and to the gratification of honorable senators, there would ultimately be “a tremendous saving as a result of the strict and efficient control of stores.
– T had intended to speak along lines similar to those followed by Senator Byrne. Some time ago, I inquired about the functions of the Commonwealth Stores Supply and Tender Board, but I discovered that it had nothing whatever to do with the matters raised by Senator Byrne.
– That is right.
– Those matters are outside the control of the Stores Supply and Tender Board. As a matter of fact, its activities are not related directly in any way to the Department of the Treasury.
– I acknowledge that.
– I discovered that the- board did not do any buying. It approves of tenders and prices. I discovered also that it did not do any merchandising, that it had no warehouses of its own. No stores are controlled by the board. I discovered that the Postmaster-General’s Department controls the stores of all other departments and that items such as stationery and typewriters which come under the heading of recurring expenditure are issued by the Postmaster-General’s Department to the other departments. The point i wanted to emphasize was that the Department, of the Treasury and the Stores Supply and Tender Board are not responsible for the matters raised by Senator Byrne.
– That is right.
– The particular matter I wish to raise with the Minister is this: Is there any connexion between the activities of the Stores Supply and Tender Board and the sale of surplus military goods? From time to time, one sees in the press throughout Australia advertisements relating to surplus military stocks.
– I support in its entirety the plea that Senator Byrne has made for greater care in the control of stores. It is a highly complex business, and varies greatly in detail from one department to the other. For example, as between the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Defence Department there are two completely separate categories of goods, involving on the part of everybody concerned with stores administration a nice appreciation of nomenclature and an intimate understanding of the goods and the varying qualities.
Honorable senators may be interested to know that, at one stage, I drafted for the Commonwealth Auditor-General the very sections in the act dealing with surpluses and deficiencies in stores accounting. That was prior to the year 1924, and 1 used to be very proud, in those days, to see my modest writings appearing in the report that the Commonwealth Auditor-General presented to Parliament. I find, now, however, that the pattern of stores accounting is identical with what it was prior to 1924. Not only are there deficiencies in stores, but there is also, sometimes, the mystery of surpluses. In addition, there are thefts. Stores accounting is a highly specialized business, and requires great training’ in each department. I support the plea made by Senator Byrne that, throughout the whole range of government activities, those controlling stores should be treated as specialists.
One has only to have regard to what happened at the Australian Aluminium Production Commission works in Tasmania and, in fact, upon every major construction job in Australia, to realize the chaos and confusion that arise when proper accounts ot the receipt and disposal of stores are not kept. Unless this is done, there can be overpayment for goods, payment for goods not received - of which many instances have occurred - and illimitable opportunities for fraud.
I now take the opportunity, under the heading of taxation, to refer to two matters, the first of which concerns representations that were made by the National Union of Australian University Students to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). This affects students who pay their university fees, and I read an extract from the case submitted to the Treasurer, in the course of which it was stated -
Our claim is that, at the moment, there are 40 per cent, of students who receive no financial assistance at all. If parents pay the fees of these students whilst they are under 21 years of age, they are entitled to deduct this amount from their total income for taxation purposes. However, » student who pays his own fees cannot make such a deduction.
We believe that this is a grave anomaly and would like to see the law amended to allow that a student paying his own fees can make this deduction.
The students most gravely affected in this regard are those doing a part-time course at the University, working during the day in order to earn sufficient money to pay for their course of evening lectures. These people are already under considerable strain and we feel that they are entitled to the greatest possible consideration. In .fact,, students who pay their own -fees are . in greater need of the above mentioned concession than the majority of parents.
I commend that thought to the Government. Nothing appears in the part of the Treasurer’s speech dealing with taxation proposals to indicate that he has given favorable consideration to this request made on behalf of university students. I need not argue to the Government the desirability of encouraging the youth of Australia to seek higher education. The Government itself acknowledges that need in many ways. lt continued the provision of scholarships to the tune of £1,000,000 a year, which was initiated by its predecessor, the Chifley Labour Government, in 1949.. It makes very substantial grants to universities and, generally, it shows a very proper and nice appreciation of the importance of higher education in the community. I suggest that university fees should be an’ allowable deduction for income tax purposes. 1 think
I am safe in saying that the money is expended for the purpose of increasing income potential in later’ years. It might fairly be regarded as an expense incurred for the sake of seeking higher qualifications and wider . opportunities to earn greater income. It might well be considered, therefore, as an expense incurred in earning income. If, after a student has obtained a degree, he travels abroad for the purpose of post-graduate studies, the expenses involved in that trip would, I have no doubt, be allowable deductions once he is engaged in earning actual income, lt is unfortunate for a young man if, while paying fees to qualify for a degree or a diploma, he cannot deduct the amount of those fees from his income, until he earns income with his qualifications.
– The amount paid for text-books and instruments should also be an allowable deduction.
– That is part of the same request, in principle, and I should have no objection to supporting the honorable senator in that proposition. At the moment, I am asked to concern myself solely with the question of fees that the students pay in the circumstances I have outlined.
The other matter I wish to discuss concerns taxation also - the matter of zone allowances. In 1945, the Government introduced special concessions for persons living in ‘remote’ areas. There were’ three factors to be taken into consideration - uncongenial climatic conditions, the isolation of particular localities, and the higher cost of living associated with residence in those areas. An amount of £40 per annum was fixed for zone A, covering mainly the northern and sub-tropical parts of the continent. The amount for zone B, which included the west coast of Tasmania, among other areas - unrelated in the case of zone B - was £20. In 1947, the allowance for zone A was lifted to £120, and it remained at that figure for nine years. The Minister announced in his second-reading speech recently that it is to be lifted to £180, and will be - regarded as a concessional deduction. The area of zone A has also been widened to include portions of Western Australia and northern Queensland. That is a 50 per cent, increase after a period of nine years. But it is eleven years since anything was done to relieve the position in zone B. where the figure has stood at £20 a year from 1945 until now, and the Government proposes to increase the sum by 50 per cent, to £30, and make it an allowable deduction.
I am addressing to the Minister the argument that this sum is inadequate for zone B. If one regards the increase in the cost of living in the interim it will be seen that overall costs have at least doubled, and the basic wage has more than doubled. These are two pointers to the fact that something more substantial should be done than to make only a 50 per cent, increase in the zone allowance for zone B, raising it from £20 to £30. I refer, particularly, to climatic conditions on the west coast of Tasmania where it rains every day, and many times each day. The place is continuously wet, and the towns most particularly involved are 165 miles from Hobart by road. “ Senator Benn. - Some atomic bombs must have been dropped there.
– I cannot say whether atomic bombs were responsible for the wet conditions I have experienced many times on the west coast of Tasmania.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the town of Strahan?
– I am referring to the towns of Strahan and Queenstown. They are set in a mountainous region, and in the vicinity of Queenstown the hills and mountains are , completely denuded of vegetation. The mountains are almost continuously clouded, rain is frequently falling and often the weather is squally. The climatic conditions are decidedly uncongenial. It is isolated. I could supply figures showing the cost of transporting ordinary essential commodities and housing materials either by road for 165 miles from Hobart, or by rail round through Burnie and then subsequently by road to places like Queenstown and Strahan. It would have been utterly inadequate and insignificant over the last eleven years to have said to them, “ Because of your disabilities, which we -acknowledge, we give you a deduction allowance of £20 a year “. That would have meant very little when it came to considering the actual remissions in taxation, and when the amount is lifted to £30 a year it is equally insignificant. The Government might address itself to this question with a little more generosity. In my opinion, it -was fixed very meanly by the Labour Government in 1945. That Government realized its error in relation to zone 1 very quickly and trebled that allowance to £120 in 1947; but both governments have left the allowance for zone B at £20 from 1945 right up till now. What I have said of the west coast justifies a higher amount than that. The changes in the value of money and costs alone justify a far more substantial increase than is now contemplated.
No bill is before the Parliament at the moment dealing with the Income Tax Assessment Act under which these concessions might be made, but if the Minister feels that he is not in a position now to accept the proposals I make, I urge upon him the desirability of taking the matter up with the Treasurer before any bill relating to the Income Tax Assessment Act is introduced.
I should like to pay tribute to the work of the Commonwealth taxation branch. It is most encouraging to read in the Auditor-General’s report that the amount of outstanding tax has been reduced once again. I understand that about three years ago the amount of income tax outstanding was about £150,000,000. By 30th June, 1955, it had. been reduced to £68,000,000, and by the end of last June it was reduced still further to £57,000,000. It is a good thing that it should have a minimum carryover of overdue income tax. . Three or four years ago, some consideration was given to the question of provisional tax. From my experience, the whole system of provisional tax, especially so far as. it applies to primary producers, is now working very smoothly. Very few requests have been made to me in connexion with provisional tax during the last twelve months, whereas three or four years ago I received many. Another aspect of the work of the income tax branch that is worthy of note is the service it provides each year to country taxpayers in the lower income groups. In the months of July and August, officers visit the towns and cities of South Australia to assist smaller taxpayers with the preparation of their returns so that they may obtain early recovery of amounts overpaid under the pay-as-you-earn plan. This service is greatly . appreciated by those taxpayers. Another gratifying feature is the fact that the cost of collecting taxation revenue in Australia is approximately 1 per cent. In the United Kingdom it is 1.23 per cent., and in Canada .88 per cent. Obviously, there are different methods of collection in those two other countries, but it is pleasing to know that in Australia the rate is between that of the United Kingdom and that of Canada.
In the head office at Canberra, there are approximately 107 officers. That number includes research officers; and here I pay tribute to the skill of those research officers whom I have met and with whom I have discussed taxation problems. When the budget papers come before us each year, I feel that we are not given enough details showing the ‘ effect of employing a fairly large team of research officers. Two years ago, there was really no alteration in the general framework of our taxation law. Last year, again, there was practically no alteration, but this year there have been some important, although rather minor, alterations of that law. The whole pattern o,f Australia’s commercial life, seems to have changed since the war when tremendous development has taken place. Before the war, Australia was essentially a primaryproducing nation, whereas now .the emphasis seems to be moving towards secondary industry, but there has been no great change in the structure of our taxation law to meet that move. - .Just as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when opening yesterday a large research organization for Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited, stressed the importance of research in industry, I feel it is important that this Parliament give a direction to the taxation branch that it review the whole question of taxation research. In my opinion, that important (question has not been given the attention; that it deserves. It is just as important that we modernize our taxation law as it is that we modernize our agricultural and industrial practices. To support my contention, I point out that in Janaury last six professors stated that in their opinion taxation should be increased in order to draw off the excessive spending power of the people. To my way of thinking, they missed the mark completely. They simply made a. bald statement suggesting an increase in taxation. The great need of this country is not the drawing off of spending power by way of taxation and then making that money available for expenditure by the
Federal and State governments; the real need is to do everything possible to promote the saving habit among the people. In my view, increasing taxation is not as effective in the curbing of inflation as is the promotion of private saving.
– The Government adopts the contrary theory.
– I shall not debate that matter at this stage. I suggest that research should be carried out in order to promote private savings by using the taxation incentive method. Such research would be very valuable at the present time. One particular, instance of taxation incentives which I would like to mention 5i provided in the report of the Millard-Tucker Committee of the United Kingdom, which was recently adopted in the budget of the United Kingdom. The report recommends that savings be promoted by means pf superannuation’ encouraged by taxation remissions. I give ‘’ that as an illustration. The Taxation Branch should be encouraged and fortified by the Government to bring down regular research reports on matters bearing on taxation and to make recommendations that would eventually promote savings . which are of paramount importance to our country at the present time. I believe that the Taxation Branch which collects such an enormous amount of money in this country is doing an excellent job. I pay tribute to the way that job is being done, but I believe that the branch could make a really great contribution to the solution of our problems . if it were enabled to do some of the things, that have been.. done in other countries to promote savings, particularly with regard to making taxation concessions to companies, so that such savings would be put back into industry in order to increase production and generally to decrease the unit cost- of goods available to the community.
– Almost a month ago I asked a question in this chamber about the division of Commonwealth funds between the States. At that time there was a considerable degree of unemployment in Western Australia, and my question was a matter of urgent public interest. Some honorable senators who represent Western Australia in this chamber have taken advantage of their positions here to charge the Western
Australian Government with causing that unemployment. There was an adjournment debate on that matter, and ultimate!;. £2,000,000 was provided by the Commonwealth for the relief of Western Australia. The question I asked has been on the notice-paper for about a month, but it still remains unanswered, even though it was placed on the notice-paper at the request of the Minister representing the Treasurer. That question was -
If that question had been answered, honorable senators would have been in a much better position to discuss this section of the Estimates. As we have not received the information asked for. I. hope that the Government wil give due consideration to this question and furnish an answer within a reasonable time. I also ask the Government to consider making a more appropriate division of Commonwealth funds among the so-called smaller States. In 1949, just before the ‘general elections, cartoons and statements were issued by the leaders of the present Government designed to influence people against the policies of the Labour party. I can well remember the non-Labour parties saying at that time, “ Cast off Canberra control “. We also heard them saying that there was “ remote control from Canberra “, and exhorting the people to “ cast off the dead hand of Canberra “. However, time has gone on and ever-growing inroads have been made by the Commonwealth into the revenues that should properly be used by the States.
This year the Commonwealth expects to expend £1,235,113,000 from Consolidated Revenue, but the States are to receive only £243.770,000 of that vast sum. In 1955-56 the States received £220.541,872. From time to time honorable senators on the Government side have attacked the Administrations of the Labour-controlled States of
New South Wales and Western Australia, but this Government has done nothing to help the States themselves fully to finance their capital works and so benefit the Commonwealth economy. Huge amounts will be expended from Consolidated Revenue on other functions of the Commonwealth, but not enough will go to the States. This year £56,040,000 will be expended on Commonwealth departments: defence services will take £190,000,000, miscellaneous services £23,381,000, bounties and subsidies £14,850,000, war and repatriation services £123,109.000. and special appropriations other than for war and repatriation services and capital works, £350,713,000. Capital works and services will absorb £64,321,000. So, there will be a total expenditure for 1956-57 of £822,414.000 as against £760.102,048 for 1955-56.
Therefore, every honorable senator who has given serious thought to the financial position and the development of the States must conclude that if the Australian Government does not spend a reasonable portion of its revenue in a State, the State, deprived of an equitable share must lag behind in industry and development. In the larger States such as New South Wales and Victoria, where there are many people and which the Government desires to influence, the allocations by the Commonwealth are proportionately larger than they should be. It is useless to ask the States to develop Australia if they get only about one-fifth of the revenue that they need for that purpose. That is another reason why I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer to furnish a reply to the question that I have already mentioned. States such as Western Australia should not be treated inequitably in the matter of Common expenditure from Consolidated Revenue, because otherwise their governments will be placed in the position of being merely civic authorities or local councils. Honorable senators should be given details of the huge sums of money that are paid out of Consolidated Revenue, and how Commonwealth grants are distributed among the States. We have a right to such information both from a constitutional viewpoint and from a State viewpoint.
During the last three years, whenever the Estimates have-‘ been discussed in the
Senate the speeches of Government supporters have been merely a re-hash of the second-reading speech of the Minister. Obviously, honorable senators on the Government side do not care very much about how this Government allocates its revenues. The country areas of Western Australia badly need money, and money should be spent on standardizing railway gauges in that State. The Government has paid lip service to railway gauge standardization but has done nothing about it. As I have said, there is no practical evidence that Western Australia received a reasonable proportion of this huge governmental expenditure. The vitally strategic Eyre Highway is in a bad state of repair. Whenever this matter is raised, Ministers are not greatly concerned about it. They invariably say that it is a State matter. Surely they realize that this highway is a vital strategic link.
– There are better roads in Western Australia than in the other States.
– The would-be Minister for the Navy, who is interjecting, can have his say later. He should not interrupt me when 1 am addressing myself to budgetary affairs.
– Hear, hear!
– lt is estimated that £9,276,000 will be expended on broadcasting and television services in this financial year, although television is not likely to be introduced into Western Australia for another ten years. While the broadcasting services in the metropolitan areas of Western Australia are quite good, those serving the north-west areas of the State are very bad. lt is most unjust that adequate broadcasting services are not provided for the people of the north-west who are, in effect, settlers helping to promote decentralization by developing the outback. The Government is well aware that the broadcasting services provided for the north-west are inadequate, because the Australian Broadcasting Commission has reported to that effect. It is idle for supporters of the Government to say that, as it is proposed to make payments to, or for, the States totalling £243.770,000, out of a total proposed Commonwealth expenditure of £1.235,1 13,000 in this financial year, we are doing all that we should do. The States are- jealous of their sovereign rights. They should not have to come cap in hand year after year to the Commonwealth asking for money, as one might ask a moneylender. Why should they be dependent on charity from the Federal Government? Whenever honorable senators on this side ask the Minister representing the Treasurer for particulars of proposed Commonwealth expenditure in the States the questions are parried. 1 hope that, as my question has been on the notice-paper for a month, before the consideration of the Estimates is concluded, he will supply the information I have sought, and also explain in more detail the proposed expenditure to which I have directed attention.
– I intend to address myself briefly to the proposed vote for the Taxation Branch. As 1 entered the chamber, I heard the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) say that the zone allowances for people who are living in certain parts of Australia had been increased. The allowance for people living on the west coast of Tasmania has been increased from £20 to £30, and that for people who are living in certain parts of the Northern Territory, and elsewhere above the 26th parallel, from £120 to £180. Although the increase of these concessions will assist many people, it will not solve the problem of our sparsely populated areas in Australia, lt is true to say that, from time to time, successive governments h:!ve studied this problem but, nevertheless, the population of these areas has not increased since 1900. In addition to the taxation concession that has been given to the wage-earners in those areas, I think that the Government will have to do much more in order to attract additional people to them from the populated areas of the country. The granting of additional taxation concessions to people in the areas to which I have referred might encourage other people in the south to go to the north. lt was in 1953, 1 think, that the Commonwealth Government decided to grant total depreciation allowances to primary producers who were living in the Northern Territory in the year in which structural improvements were effected. That concession has been responsible for encouraging those primary producers to invest their profits in the Northern Territory. If a similar concession were granted to the people living in other isolated areas of this country, additional capital would be attracted to those areas. in other parts of Australia, the Government has granted to primary producers a depreciation allowance for structural improvements, spread over five years, at the rate of 20 per cent, per annum. This has proved quite satisfactory in the southern areas. 1 believe that many pastoral lessees in the north of Queensland and in the northwest of Western Australia are investing the profits they gain from those properties in other properties in the south, where they can get a quicker capital accretion. If we sincerely wish to encourage increased production in the sparsely settled areas of the north, the Government will have to make the taxation concessions there more attractive.
– Successive governments have considered the matter.
– That is so, but no government has done much about it. I represent a State, well over half of which is situated north of the 26th parallel. That area is sparsely populated, and I know that station owners actually spend their profits in the south of the State in order to gain taxation concessions. 1 think that is wrong. They should be encouraged to spend their money where they are earning it and so develop the north.
Australia has great difficulty in balancing its overseas payments. I should like to refer to taxation concessions granted to people interested in mining. The Government has a specified list of minerals, which is added to from time to time, which enjoy a taxation concession to the extent of 20 per cent, of profits earned. In other words, if a person is mining a specified mineral, such as copper, silver, asbestos, or various other minerals, 20 per cent, of the net profit is deducted and the rest is taxable at the ordinary rate. That practice has been in existence for some years and, although the Government had added to the specified list of minerals, I believe that an even greater concession should be given to people interested in mining. In other countries in the British Commonwealth, taxation concessions have been granted in respect of mining. In Canada, new mining undertakings are tax-free for a period of three years, and the costs of improvements, construction and development are allowed as deductions. Further, deflation allowance is spread over three years. Those countries which have granted such concessions have increased their productivity by 300 or 400 per cent. Since Canada altered its taxation laws, its exports of minerals have grown to such a degree that their value is greater than that of wool exported from Australia. The value of those minerals has trebled during the last ten or fifteen years.
We, as a nation looking, for overseas income, should consider ways of encouraging the development of mining within Australia. If the correct encouragement is given to the mining industry, particularly in the north of Australia, it could be developed tenfold. I was recently in the north, and saw lead and copper deposits untouched. At Mount Morgan, in Queensland, copper deposits of less than 2 per cent, and 3 per cent, are being mined. In Western Australia, large copper deposits of about 3 per cent, in bulk are in existence, but nobody is interested in mining them, the reason being that a start has been delayed too long and the capital now needed is too great. Present taxation concessions are not sufficiently large to encourage the investment of the capital needed to start these mining ventures. As we shall not have an opportunity to discuss taxation during this sessional period, because very few alterations are being made to the act, I have taken this opportunity to point out a few things which should be done in the interests of the development of the remote areas of Australia.
– I should like the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to tell me why, in Division 48 B, item 8, dealing with uniform income tax and compensation to State governments for use of accommodation, furniture and equipment, has been transferred, according to the footnote, to Division 71, dealing with rent of buildings. Under this item the vote last year was £75,000, and the amount expended £83,201. In Division 71 the amount of the total proposed vote is £800,000. The transfer precludes honorable senators from following the adequacy of that vote to cover the rent of State buildings, furniture and equipment.
While I am on my feet, I cannot resist the temptation to refer to the remarks of Senator Kennelly, who advocated the transfer of further powers from the States to the Commonwealth. 1 know Western Australia very well and I can tell honorable senators that they need, not hope for any such transfer of powers from Western Australia to the Commonwealth. We have the awful example of the Northern Territory staring us in the face. Until the present Government appointed a man to take charge of the Northern Territory that part of Australia was going back and back over the years at an alarming rate. Western Australia also has had the experience of promises of assistance being made by the Commonwealth. On one occasion the various States together were to take certain action. Western Australia took that action, but the other States did not, and as a result the people of Western Australia have been penalized. Therefore, honorable senators need hold no hope at all that Western Australia will transfer > any further powers to the Commonwealth. Senator Kennelly, of course, gave his whole case away when he said that if the States were to transfer certain powers to the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth: would have the money to carry out the necessary functions. If that is so, why does not the Commonwealth give the money . to the States? The States have the knowledge o£ .what is required to a very much more accurate degree than the Commonwealth Government could possibly have. The States could spend that money more wisely than could any Commonwealth Government because of the knowledge possessed by the various State departments.
We all know, of course, that at the last meeting of ,the Australian Loan Council £190,000,000. was allocated to the States, but that, of course, was based on the amount of money that the council considered could be raised .on the loan market. That was the deciding factor. I can well recall the Deputy Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Tonkin, the night after the sitting of the Australian Loan Council concluded, stating that he was pleased that Western Australia had been allocated £19,000,000, as it would enable that State to carry on necessary works. In” addition to receiving that £19,000,000, I am thankful to the Commonwealth for granting-‘ an additional £2,000,000, which,” of course, will enable the State to engage in further work that otherwise would not have been carried out.
I should like to join with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in making a plea to the Government to appoint a chairman to the committee which is to review the Constitution. If that were done, we might at least obtain some recommendations from the committee. We would then be able to consider whether the recommendations should be given effect or not. I have no great confidence in the committee because I am afraid it will not go into the matter deeply enough. However, the remedy for the present situation is not the transfer of further powers to the Commonwealth, but a better distribution of revenue and loan moneys between the States and the Commonwealth. I am not quite certain what Senator Cooke said, but I think he suggested that the decision to implement the uniform railway ‘gauge scheme was being held up by the Commonwealth, although the Government of Western Australia had agreed to the scheme.
– I said the scheme had been under consideration for ten years and although the Government had received numerous favorable reports on its implementation, it had done nothing.
– It would be nearer the mark to say that it is being held up because the Western Australian Government will not make a request to have the work done by the Commonwealth. However, I am averse to the handing over of any further powers by the States. I think that the remedy lies in a better distribution of revenue and loan moneys as between the States and the Commonwealth. The State of Western Australia is largely undeveloped and, in fact, unknown to the large majority of members of the Parliament. It is not to be expected, therefore, that the Commonwealth could administer the functions of departments in Western Australia as well as the State Government can. I again ask the Minister to supply me with the reason why the item I have mentioned has been- transferred to another division.
.- Senator Kennelly, in expressing his concern about the development of Commonwealth and States financial relations, was expressing the concern that is felt not only by honorable senators, but also by responsible authorities in private, public and commercial life in Australia. It is becoming one of the outstanding political, constitutional and economic problems of our generation.I believe that the considered opinion of responsible public men in the States could, with advantage, be placed in the records of this chamber. For that purpose, I rise to have incorporated in “ Hansard “. by quotation, an observation that was made by the Treasurer of Queensland when he was presenting his financial statement in the Committee of Supply in the Queensland Parliament on 20th September last. He directed attention to certain alarming and significant facts. He referred to the tremendous revenue collected by the Commonwealth Government, the budgeting for a considerable surplus, only a portion of which is for Commonwealth expenditure, whilst the balance is to be put into a loan investment and reserve account for underwriting or assisting State loans. The Treasurer of Queensland drew these conclusions -
Naturally, the extraction of this large excess from the taxpayers curtails contributions to publicloans. The consequent inability of public loans to finance a reasonable public works programme enables the Commonwealth, with its surplus funds to -
determine the State’s Loan Borrowing Programmes and consequent Works Programmes, in accordance with the amount of assistance it is prepared to render from surplus revenue;
Of course, to that degree, it determines the politicial policy that will be applied in the supposedly sovereign States of Australia. The Queensland Treasurer continued -
State governments have made numerous and repeated protests on this question of surplus Commonwealth revenue being lent to the States at the current rate of interest. The matter was raised last at the meeting of the Australian Loan Council held earlier this year. The Treasurer of Queensland went on to direct attention to a most significant fact that becomes alarming when the figures are studied. As we recognize the constitutional responsibility of the States, in a particular and detailed way, for the development of this Commonwealth, any financial burdens that are unduly and unfairly imposed on them must hamper the discharge of those duties. The Queensland Treasurer had this to say -
The White Paper on National Income and Exepnditure, 1955-56, shows the downward movement in the interest bill of the Commonwealth as compared with the strong upward trend in interest payments by State and Local Governments.
He cited the White Paper to show that the interest paid by the Commonwealth in 1946-47 was £47,000,000, whereas that paid by State and local governments in that year was £40,000,000; but in 1955-56, the interest paid by the Commonwealth had dropped from £47,000,000 to £32,000,000, whilst the interest paid by State and local governments had increased from £40,000,000 to £99,000,000. Over the years, tremendous relief has been given to the central government in the way of interest payments, but a tremendous added impost has been placed on State and local governments. Commenting upon this fact the Treasurer of Queensland stated -
Thus, Commonwealth interest payments are £16,000,000 per annum, or 33 per cent., below their maximum level of £48,000,000. On the other hand, the interest bill of State and Local Governments has increased from £40,000,000 to £99,000,000, or 147.55 per cent., in the last nine years.
In other words, merely by the imposition of interest charges, we are asking the States to assume added financial burdens which will make the work of day-to-day State administration very difficult, and the discharge of responsibility for national development, so far as it rests in State hands, virtually impossible.
This is emerging as the critical political, economic and constitutional issue of our day, and the maximum goodwill of all concerned will be needed to find a solution. In this chamber, we shall hear suggestions that taxing powers should be returned to the States. Other honorable senators will oppose that suggestion, and state that from such a move the big States would benefit at the expense of the smaller States. There will be suggestions that certain other powers should be returned to the States, or that there should be a redistribution of constitutional power between the States and the Commonwealth. Other honorable senators, from the perimeter States, if 1 may so describe them, will resist that proposal, and will say that the States are not prepared to surrender any powers.
In other words, there is a wide division of opinion on this matter, and possibly there will be as many different opinions as there are individuals expressing them.
There is no reason why some order should not emerge from this constitutional tangle. It will take an effort of will, and particularly of goodwill, on the part of all concerned, especially on the part of those who have the responsibility of interpreting the law as it affects these matters. We shall need goodwill from those in the States who do not want to see any more of their powers transferred to the Commonwealth, oven though the transfer may seem to be desirable. In these circumstances, 1 think that the functions of the constitutional committee, which has been set up by this Parliament, but which has not met so far, are of prime importance.
This problem must be solved. Year after year, there is a recurrence of this tragic conflict between the central government and the State governments, the effect of which is that the announced and accepted policies of the Slate governments must be emasculated because not enough money is available to implement them in their original form.’ If that state of affairs is to continue, and if central governments, with different political ideas, impose their ideas regarding finance on any one, or all six, of the States, we shall have a state of affairs that will grievously and seriously retard the progress of the Commonwealth.
I appeal to all honorable senators to give their personal and immediate attention and enthusiasm to the solution of this problem.
I ask them to use every means in their power to interest all sections of the community in the urgent, vital and increasingly compelling need to deal with this problem in every detail. To solve this problem would be a radical and historic development, but on the success or failure of our efforts will depend whether we successfully develop Australia in the foreseeable future - let us say 25 to 50 years - or go struggling along,, immured in political and constitutional’ difficulties, in a period of the world’s history when national development and defence are of such prime importance. The lesson to be learned from the political conflicts of the past five or seven years is that constitutional conflict must stop. All political parties must, with goodwill, attempt to find a solution. Even if the solution that is found is not the best solution, it must certainly be an advance on the present situation, in which chronic disagreement between the Commonwealth and the States is becoming a blot on the Australian nation.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of the Treasury.
Proposed Vote, £349,000.
– Are we to understand that the Minister for National Development is treating the committee with contempt by not replying to any of the submissions made by honorable senators during the debate on the preceding proposed vote?
– Order! Is the honorable senator addressing himself to a particular item in the Estimates?
– I am raising a point of order. Honorable senators have gone to considerable trouble, but they are being treated with thorough contempt in relation to the most important section of the Estimates.
Order! I cannot accept that as a point of order. The Minister may please himself whether he replies.
– I propose to move that the preceding proposed vote be recommitted for consideration, because I was particularly interested to hear what the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) might say in reply to what I thought were the very objective arguments that were addressed to the committee by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. I thought that he would not be able to dispose of them as not being weighty or objectively presented. Honorable senators have opened up fairly wide subjects. It might be that the Minister was taken by surprise and did not have the opportunity to reply. We know, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the Chair is concerned with having the Estimates passed very quickly, and sometimes it acts smartly.
I should be surprised if the Minister just allowed the debate, which I think was on a very high level, to go by the board. As I indicated, 1 now propose to move for the recommittal of the preceding proposed vote.
Order! The honorable senator would not be in order in doing so at this stage. It can be done at the end of the debates on the Estimates.
– At the end of the whole debate on the Estimates?
– At the end of this section.
– Those of us who would be interested in the Minister’s reply might not be present at that time. I should think that the appropriate time to deal with the various matters that have been raised would be now. To enable me to achieve my immediate purpose, I move -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator McKenna moving that the vote - Department of the Treasury, £9,158,000 - be reconsidered forthwith;
– I do not cavil for one minute at the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that the debate on the preceding proposed vote was on a very high level. Senators Kennelly, Byrne, Cooke, Laught and Seward all opened up the question of Commonwealth and State financial relations. I agree with what . has been said. The future development of parliamentary, financial and democratic relations is a fascinating and interesting subject. ,
Order! Is the Minister addressing himself to the motion submitted by Senator McKenna?
– Yes. If I were a member of the Opposition or were not a Minister, I should be delighted to enter the fray and to express my views on this question, but it is not within my province to do so during this debate. My position during this debate is that of Minister in charge of the measure before the committee. I say with respect that the debate on the Estimates is not the occasion on which one should make an announcement of government policy on such an important matter.
I listened to the debate on the preceding proposed vote very carefully, and I made certain notes. I was in a position to reply to honorable senators, but, with respect, 1 suggest that there were only two matters that were really pertinent to the Estimates. Senator Byrne raised the question of the control of stores, and another honorable senator referred to the functions of the Commonwealth Stores Supply and Tender Board.
– lt was I.
– They were the only two matters that were pertinent to the Estimate’s and in relation to which a reply might well have been given. The question of the control of stores, which is fundamental to the production of good accounts and which can cause just as much trouble in commercial circles as in governmental circles, opens up a tremendous field on the administrative level. It opens up such matters as a continuous record of stores used and a physical stocktaking and all that goes with it, but they seem to me not to constitute a subject that one should debate on an occasion like this.,”
I do not wish it to be thought that I was discourteous. With one exception, I felt rather that the nature of the debate was such that a ministerial reply was not called for. I refer to Senator Cooke’s request for a reply to a question that appears on the notice-paper. The reply furnished to me was such, that I thought it would not find favour with Senator Cooke. I now tell him that the reply is that the information he wants is kept by Commonwealth departments and not in the States, and that major research will be required to obtain it. I hope that in the fullness of time it will be available; but it will certainly not be available before the conclusion of this debate. I repeat that I do not. wish to be regarded as being discourteous. I again submit that one cannot answer during a debate on the Estimates questions of general principle like the majority of those that have been raised to-day.
Question put -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator McKenna moving that the vote - Department of the Treasury, £9,158,000- be reconsidered forthwith.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Refunds of Revenue.
Proposed Vote, £22,000,000.
– In relation to Division 231, Refunds of Revenue, involving a sum of £22,000,000, the footnote (b) reads -
To be applied by the Treasurer in making refunds of amounts which have been collected but which do not properly belong to Revenue such as - Value of postage stamps repurchased by the Postmaster-General’s Department; Unexpired portion of telephone fees, and of fees for private boxes and bags; Moneys paid to Revenue in error…
I should like the Minister to give some explanation of the item “ Unexpired portion of telephone fees, and fees for private boxes and bags “. Does it mean that if a person wishes to surrender these facilities during the currency of the term for whichhe has paid rental or a fee, he may recover a pro rata contribution? In respect of “ Moneys paid to revenue in error “, I should be. interested to know what class of items fall within that category. The footnote (b) mentions also -
Proportion of radio and cable traffic receipts due to Overseas Telecommunications Commission;
Refunds of tax overpaid under various taxation Acts; . . .
Would these refunds of tax relate to matters, and if so, which matters, other than refunds of tax paid by wage-earners pursuant to the “ pay as you-earn “ scheme? The footnote continues -
Refunds of tax rebated by the Boards appointed under section 265 of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1936-1956 and the corresponding sections of the previous Act; and section 70 of the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Act 1941-1954.
Can the Minister give me some information under the headings I have particularized?
– I have not a great deal of information to give the honorable senator other than that which is set out in the bill. In relation to refunds of revenue, £22,000,000, the Treasury has supplied a dissection of the expenditure for 1955-56 amounting . to £19,157,033. The actual refunds were as follows: Income tax £17,418,405, sales and other taxes £763,662, postal revenue £648,929, and sundry items £326,037.
The item “ Moneys paid to revenue in error “ covers a thousand and one transactions. For example, a person may draw a cheque in favour of a government department for an incorrect amount, and on necessary occasions the amount paid in error is refunded. To answer the questions relating to refunds of tax rebated by the boards under section 265 would require a knowledge of the provisions of that section of the act.
– I have an idea it relates to hardship.
– If that is the provision relating to hardship, then I think the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) will agree with me that not many cheques are drawn under that heading. With the figures I have given relating to the break-up of last year’s actual expenditure and my statement that it would be hard to give details of each item mentioned, I trust the Leader of the Opposition may rest content.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Advance to the Treasurer - £16,000,000- agreed to.
Department of Works.
Proposed Vote, £3,134,000.
.- On many occasions we hear adverse criticism about the operation of the Department of Works. I am unable to say, of my own knowledge, whether this criticism is justified or otherwise. 1 do know that i he department is efficient in its head office al Canberra. At the same time, I have very good reason for believing that as we get further away from Canberra that efficiency wanes. There have been various happenings connected with the department which were not very pleasant. We in this Parliament do not know what is going on in the Northern Territory and other remote regions where the department is required to carry out works, but, fortunately for the taxpayer, there is an authority in the Commonwealth whose, duty it is to send out officers to examine what is going on within the ramifications of the Department of Works, and I propose reading the evidence that has been supplied to the Parliament by the Auditor-General in connexion with certain features of the workings of the department.
I shall refer, first, to what he has to say under the heading, “ Control of Labour and Material on Projects “. Honorable senators will recall that this matter was discussed last year by the Auditor-General in terms similar to those contained in this year’s report. If I remember correctly, he. made so’mewhat similar remarks in the year before that. It is interesting to read, this year, that some progress has been made by the Department of Works during the last three or four years in setting up a proper accountancy system; but this is what the Editor-General says in his report, under the heading 1 have mentioned -
Unsatisfactory control of labour and materials has been the subject of report in the last three years.
The department has directed all regions to comply with instructions issued in 19S3 dealing with control of materials on day labour projects. Not all regions have applied the procedures satisfactorily, but some improvement has been noted.
A review of further departmental tests of quantitative costing indicates that it is a valuable control and should be adopted wherever appropriate. The department has advised the Public Service Board that the procedure is suitable for particular types of projects but its general adoption is not favoured.
Reference was made in the Annual Report for 1954-55 to unsatisfactory features regarding departmental control of projects constructed under contract in the Papua and New Guinea region. Further investigations confirmed that substantial overpayments on three wharf projects should be recovered from contractors. Recently, £8,730 was recovered in respect of one project, but the other two remain unsettled. The department is taking action with a view to recovery of the overpayments and to improve internal controls and checks.
The Auditor-General has pointed out that improvement is being effected in some, but not all of the regions in which the Department of Works operates. If an arrangement is made between the department and the Auditor-General, through the Public Service Board, for certain instructions to be given to all sections of the department in all regions, surely those instructions should be observed in every way by all sections in all territories.
Another serious matter is overpayment. Why should there be any overpayment at all? Overpayments were made with respect to three wharf projects. The AuditorGeneral does not say in his report whether one or several contractors were involved, but the payments were made in connexion with three wharf projects. These are not times in which overpayments should be made to contractors. Surely, in the year 1955-56, it was possible for the Department of Works, through the Public Service Board, to organize a staff which could safeguard the interests of the taxpayers of Australia? Inefficiency should be abolished completely in.,these days. If inefficiency was displayed only in an isolated case, I should hesitate to say anything about it; but it seems to be general, and this is a serious matter. What I have quoted from the Auditor-General’s report refers to Papua and New Guinea. This is what he says about the Northern Territory -
Efforts to place store accounting and control on a sound basis continued throughout the year and considerable improvement was evident. Further progress has been made in centralizing the Trust Stores in Darwin and improving storehouse facilities. Greater reliance can now be placed on stock-takings, which are conducted more regularly and under close supervision. The stocktaking recently completed disclosed surpluses amounting to £1,201 and deficiencies totalling £970! When the system of unit piling of stores is in full operation further improvement may be expected. Reorganization of stores staff is under departmental consideration with a view to increased efficiency.
He has this to say about project stores -
Excessive delays still exist in finalising stocktakings relating to certain project stores. A check of holdings at the Darwin Power House store was conducted during March, 1956, but the value of dis- crepancies has not been determined. A check of the stockholding at the Katherine Power House store is long, overdue.
A more suitable register of furniture and equipment, including technical equipment, has been established and placed under the control of the Finance Section. A recent stocktaking disclosed only minor discrepancies.
Procedural instructions designed to strengthen the control over tools in use were introduced as from 1st July, 1955. However, there has been an unwarranted delay in completing action on stocktakings and in effecting necessary reconciliations with the register of assets.
I know that the Minister does not approve of these procedures. I am confident that if he were in charge of the department one of the first steps he would take would be to have established an efficient system of store accounting. I know that he is strongly opposed to unsatisfactory methods of store accounting, but it is essential that the interests of the taxpayers of Australia be properly safeguarded by the Department of Works. Unfortunately, they do not seem to be safeguarded adequately by it at present. Why were there excessive delays in finalizing stocktaking in projects? I do not think that a satisfactory reply can be given to that question, because competent staff are available at present to carry out all sorts of bookkeeping. Qualified accountants are not required to establish bookkeeping systems and operate them; men of ordinary clerical knowledge can do that sort of work. Therefore, if the Department of Works had wanted to do so, it could have organized a competent staff to do the work involved. With regard to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, I wish again to quote the report of the AuditorGeneral because his remarks are of interest. In paragraph 55, under the sub-heading of “ Plant Operations “ the Auditor-General stated -
Departmental control over plant operations is not satisfactory. Essential items of plant have not been replaced as soon as practicable after becoming uneconomical to retain in service. The present adverse operational balances on existing plant items are being reviewed by the Department, with a view to increasing plant hire rates.
Then under “ Stores “ we find -
Certain stocktakings have disclosed discrepancies which are attributed to errors in previous stocktakings, incorrect documentation and inadequate security arrangements. Departmental proposals for the provision of adequate storage facilities are under consideration. 1 wish to know now why the control over plant operations has been unsatisfactory. because I take it that plant operating is the work involved. The department evidently does not know the use to which its plant is being put. Then, again, towards the end of the statement on stores, honorable senators will notice that the Auditor-General has stated that there are inadequate security arrangements. Surely this department can employ watchmen to ensure that the stores in the territories are kept secure? We know something about the natives of these territories, and their habits, and it should be possible for the department to place honest men in charge of the stores. The AuditorGeneral has said quite a lot about this department, and much of it is not of a very pleasant nature. In paragraph 55 of the report, under the heading “ Radio Telephone Stations”, we find -
A series of contracts were entered into with a single contractor for the supply and erection of eight prefabricated buildings required by the Postmaster-General’s Department for Radio Telephone Stations in Victoria and Tasmania. Immediately following completion of six of the build,ings, the wall panels and other components were found unsuitable for the extreme weather conditions prevailing at the sites.
To make the buildings weatherproof it was necessary in each instance to erect new or additional walls, and to add galvanized iron roofs. The contract price for the six buildings was £47,383 and the remedial work is estimated to cost not less than £18,000. A change in construction was adopted for the seventh and eighth buildings.
The constructing Department should have been aware that the materials and possibly the structural design were unsuitable in view of the known exposed positions of the sites. In reply to Audit inquiries the Department advised that the type of construction adopted was to some extent experimental, due to the shortage of standard materials.
As the project had limited priority, economy would have resulted had a pilot building been erected on one of the selected sites as a test of suitability for the severe climatic conditions.
The Department of Works employs architects, engineers, cost clerks and a full staff at the offices in the various States. They are all employed in one way or another to design and ascertain the cost of buildings, and to determine where the work should be done and how it should be done. Therefore, it is unpardonable that such a waste of money should occur. I could understand this sort of wasteful expenditure occurring during World War II. and immediately after the war, but I cannot understand its occurring after the department has had ample time to reconstruct itself and to obtain suitable staff and all the materials that it requires. Eight prefabricated buildings were ordered for the Postal Department in Victoria and Tasmania, and although the climate is moderate in those States, the buildings have commenced to fall to pieces. That is a deplorable situation.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I refer to Division 73 - Repairs and Maintenance, item 16 - Immigration. May I assume that the expenditure on immigration includes expenditure on plant and equipment? The Estimates for the Department of Immigration also appear to provide for maintenance. I ask why those items are not grouped together.
– I refer to the Department of National Development, Division 127, C - Miscellaneous - Industrial land and buildings, St. Mary’s - Sub-division and. disposal. Will the Minister explain the nature of that item?
– I ask Senator Ashley to raise his question later when the committee is dealing with national development.
– I shall do so.
– With regard to Senator Benn’s question, to be fair to the Department of Works, we have to concede that its contract work for the current year will cost about £40,000,000, and that that sum will be spread over every State and every Territory of the Commonwealth. Knowing that this year, as in past years, the Auditor-General had made certain criticisms, I have had the department prepare a reply to each point of criticism. The reply, which covers the matters raised by Senator Benn, runs into a number of foolscap sheets of paper. If the honorable senator so desires, I shall make it available to him.
asked whether it was intended to expend the proposed vote of £268,500 for Division 73 - Repairs and maintenance - item 16 - on the maintenance of plant and equipment. Provision has been made in this proposed vote for the maintenance of reception centres in the various States, which have been established for the accommodation of immigrants. At 30th June last, it was estimated that an expenditure of £98,204 would be needed to finish incomplete works. Provision has also been made in the proposed vote for the carrying out of renovations in order to maintain and preserve the buildings, and to improve their appearance and cleanliness.
– I refer to Division 72, item 19 - Administrative - B - General Expenses - for which the proposed vote for legal costs is £10,700, and item 20 of the same division, for which the proposed vote for incidental and other expenditure is £30,600.
Sitting suspended from 5.47 to 8 p.m.
– Before the sitting was suspended I was directing the attention of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to items 18 and 19. 1 should like the Minister to give me some information first of all as to the need for employing outside architects and consultants for which an amount of £135,000 is being sought. As I understand, the position a large staff of architects is employed in the Department of Works and specialist advice may be required from time to time. If the Minister can give any information as to the particular circumstances in which private architects and consultants are required by the department, I should be interested to hear it. Item 19 deals with legal costs, the proposed vote for which is £10,700. Will the Minister give some indication .as to what those legal costs would be? After all is said and done, we have the Attorney-General’s Department and Crown Law Office and I should imagine that the officers of those departments should be able to give advice.’ Would the costs include the briefing of counsel in some cases, and if so, in what type of cases? If they represent counsel’s fees I could understand the matter, but how would counsel’s fees arise in relation to the Department of Works? I should imagine that it would not be in connexion with the drawing up of contracts for works, as that is something that would be undertaken by the Crown Solicitor in the normal course of routine duties.
– I should like some information in respect of the large variations in some of the amounts shown in Division 73, Repairs and Maintenance. For instance the amount being sought under this heading for the Prime Minister’s Department has been increased from £6,000 to £24,000. That is a rather significant increase. In respect of the Department of the Interior the amount being sought shows an increase of £83,000, whilst the corresponding amount being sought for the Department of National Development shows a decrease from £60,000 last year to £13,000 this year. I should be obliged ifI could have some information on those variations.
.- I should like to ask some questions and obtain some information from the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) as to the reasons for certain provisions in the contract forms which the Department of Works requires builders to sign when they are carrying out work for it. I suppose these forms have been in use for a long time and are therefore not something peculiar to any one government. However, they seem to me, as a casual observer, to contain in them clauses which ought not in equity be found in contracts between an authority and those who are carrying out work on behalf of that authority.I direct the attention of the Minister to page 5 of the normal contract of the Department of Works, where clause 28, relating to patent rights, reads -
The Contractor shall ensure that no patent is infringed and that unless otherwise specified all amounts payable are paid and all conditions imposed in respect of the manufacture, use or exercise of any patented invention are complied with.
It appears to me that it would be eminently possible for the department itself, which after all provides the plans to which the contractor has to work, to infringe in those plans some patent in connexion with some building device, method of erection, or structural or engineering patent. It would not appear to me to be fair, nor would it appear to be a provision in a normal contract of this kind, for the contractor to be required to see that the plan supplied to him did not infringe a patent.
Clause 29 of the contract form relates to progress payments. In the normal course, when a building is being erected by a contractor what happens is that the architect in charge of the work, or his representative, after a certain amount of work has been completed, issues a certificate to the effect that the work up to that stage has been carried out satisfactorily. That certificate is then presented to the client and, automatically on its presentation, a progress payment is made by the client for that amount of work. That is a normal provision in a contract and one that is necessary to enable a contractor to keep his capital turning over until the completion of the job. The clause in the department’s contract form seems to give to the Department of Works powers which an ordinary client would not have. It reads -
Unless otherwise provided in the Specifications, and subject to these Conditions, the Contractor shall from time to time, at periods to be approved by the Director of Works–
That is the operative clause - be entitled to receive 95 per centum of the value of work done as determined by the Director of Works.
That, in effect, means that the Director of Works could, if he wished, not provide progress payments until half or threequarters of the work had been done. I do not suggest for one moment that that is a normal practice of the Department of Works. I am sure it is not. Nevertheless, this is a legal document and it does appear from it that the Director of Works is able to determine the periods at which progress payments are to be made. That is not a normal clause in a contract between a client and builder.
The next clause which is of some significance is clause 35, which appears on page 7. I shall read what appear to me to be the operative words, leaving out some inoperative matter. It reads -
Should the Contractor be delayed or impeded in the execution of the works by reason of . . .
extras or variations being ordered by the Director of Works, the Contractor may, from time to time, within fourteen days of the happening or occurring of the inability . . . apply in writing to the Director of Works for an extension of time … the Director of Works shall, if he thinks the cause sufficient, but not otherwise, by writing extend the time for completion of the works . . .
That, as it reads, appears to me to be quite clearly a statement that if the contractor is delayed in the execution of work by reason of extras added by the Department of Works, then it is within the power of the Department of Works itself to refuse to extend the time for the completion of the contract. It is fairly clear that it is quite possible for a dispute to arise between, in this case, the Department of Works and the builder regarding the operation of the various clauses. The particular clause to which 1 shall refer now appears to me to be extremely unjust. As in all contracts of this sort with contractors and builders, disputes can arise! Clause 37, dealing with the settlement of disputes, states -
Except where otherwise provided in this contract, all questions and disputes arising under this contract shall be finally settled by the DirectorGeneral or such officer as may be deputed by the Director-General in that behalf.
If a dispute does arise, the Director-General will be a party to it. 1 urge, Mr. Chairman, that the Minister take up with the Department of Works the question of writing into that clause provision for outside arbitration on any dispute between the Director-General of Works and the contractor employed by the Director-General. 1 believe that, on occasions when such disputes do arise, and if agreement cannot be reached between the Director-General of Works and the contractor, it is the normal practice - but hot the invariable practice - to resort to outside arbitration. If that is so, I suggest that there should be written into this legal document proper provision for outside arbitration so that one of the parties to the dispute should no longer have the right to arbitrate on it. I bring these matters to the attention of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) in the hope that he will take up with the department concerned the clauses in the contract that do not appear to me to be completely fair or in accord with the normal contract between a client and a builder.
I direct the attention of the Minister, now, to another matter that is worthy of consideration. J have been informed that there has been, or is, a direction that, in all shortterm contracts, there is to be no provision for escalator clauses allowing for increases of wages that may take place during the term of the contract. Short-term contracts are defined by the department as contracts of not more than twelve months’ duration. Therefore, if my information is correct, the department is not allowed to have escalator clauses providing for rises in wages over a period of one year. I do not know the reason for this, but it is clear that, in one year, wages could rise very considerably.
Again, it does not appear to me to be a clause that should properly be written into a contract if we are to consider this - as I claim we should - as the sort of contract that would be entered into between one private person and another. 1 know that some of the commissions that carry out our great works do not have complete escalator clauses written into their contracts. The contracts used to provide for payment in full of wage increases, but the commissions found that the contractors concerned would not fight hard to put their own case against claims for increases because the client would have to take the whole brunt of the increases. Such contracts now include escalator clauses providing that the client commission shall pay up to 75 per cent, of any increases due to arbitration court awards. That appears to me to be an example that could well be followed by the Department of Works in this connexion. 1 should be pleased if the Minister for National Development will advert, during the course of his reply, to the suggestions that 1 put forward, and will refer them to the responsible Minister if he believes, as I do. that there is substance in them.
Senator SPOONER (New South WalesMinister for National Development) [8.161. - Reference has been made to the item “ Fees of private architects and consultants. £135,000” under Division 72 - Administrative, Section B. That item does not relate so much to architects as to the engagement of quantity surveyors. I remember thai the same point was taken last year during a debate on the Estimates. Quantity surveyors are specialist professional officers, and it has not proved practicable to train and engage them within the Department of Works. In actual practice, they are limited in number, and it is necessary to retain the services of quantity surveyors.
Reference has also been made to the item “legal costs, £10,700”. That is to provide for the usual, or unusual, arguments that arise in connexion with various contracts. This provision is for obtaining legal advice when litigation cannot be avoided. I am informed that all this work is done through the Crown Law Office. The Crown Solicitor does all the advising in each matter, but this provision is in respect of charges which he may incur on behalf of the Department of Works, and which he debits to the department. In other words, the professional responsibility is taken by the Crown Solicitor. He may retain other solicitors and may brief counsel and incur expenses. Having done so, he renders a debit to the Department of Works.
Several points have been raised by Senator Gorton. 1 have some notes on them from the department, and some personal views of my own which 1 feel inclined to intrude into the debate. ‘I put the point of view that where there has been a series of transactions over a long period of years based upon a document which the parties know and understand, and have worked with for a long time, one ought to proceed carefully before changing it. In such a case, the vendor and the purchaser, the builder and the contractor, know a particular clause in the document, and how it has operated over a number of years. Both take that into consideration when making their estimates of what the job will cost, and what the tender price will be. I start with that as a foundation, and when I accept it as such I do not find a great deal upon which to criticize the terms of the contract document. I should think it would be a wise precaution for the builder, the owner, or the vendor - whatever the correct term is - to place the responsibility upon the other party to the contract not to offend against the patent rights, lt is not only a question of the design of the actual plant used on the job; there are all sorts of conditions under which patents can be broken, if that is the right word, and of which the Department of Works might not hear anything until litigation is commenced.
Let us consider the clause under which the Director-General of Works has the right of arbitration. I think it would be interesting if I were to read to the committee the note that was handed to me by the department, because to me it threw new light on this point. It reads -
It is agreed thai at first sight it might seem odd for the Head of a Department, or his nominee, to arbitrate in matters concerning his Department. However, the clause is very similar to that used by most Government and semi-Government works organizations in Australia and has operated satisfactorily for very many years.
From time to time discussions have been had with contractors and contractor’s organizations who have, in general, accepted the present position as quick, inexpensive and apparently generally satisfactory to them.
It is pointed out that the Director-General is not concerned with the detailed administration of contracts, which are carried out by the Branches. Thus, he or his nominee, who is selected in accordance with this principle, is in general expert in the problems to be arbitrated upon while not having been administratively concerned with the contract.
That is rather a new concept as distinct from commercial practice. In commercial practice one would scarcely find a builder prepared to enter upon a contract under which the other party to the contract had the right of arbitration. But, in this case, we have a rather different atmosphere in which the permanent head of a department has only a supervisory interest spread over a great number of officers, branches and sub-contractors, and in which apparently the building trade as a whole is prepared to accept the situation that, because of his professional standing or the office that he holds, he will act impartially.
I revert to the question of patents. The departmental note I have obtained reads as follows: -
It is incumbent upon the contractor to ensure that no patent rights are infringed and that all conditions stipulated by patent holders are complied with.
That is another angle again. It is a question not only of using something in breach of the patent right but also of not using the patent right in accordance with the terms of that right - a breach of the right as distinct from what I, as a layman, call a misuse of the right. The note continues -
It will he appreciated that the Department specifies, in general, the type of fittings and equipment to be used but the Department holds the contractor responsible for the payment of any royalties should he use patented equipment or methods.
In other words, if a contractor uses equipment for the use of which a royalty is payable, the responsibility to pay that royalty is upon not the department but the contractor.
– I should like to comment briefly on the remarks of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) because, after all, this is a matter on which two viewpoints can be held. I know and appreciate the fact that notes on this matter have been handed to the Minister by the Department of Works, because last week I informed the department that the matter would be brought up so that it would be prepared for the debate. But it seems to me that the department has not made out a completely watertight case, or one which does not require some attention by the Minister in relation to certain details.
Let us consider the obviously, in normal practice, unfair provision that the DirectorGeneral of Works shall be the arbiter in his own cause, which it is admitted would not be tolerated for one moment under an ordinary private contract. As 1 understand it, the justification advanced by the department is that it has been going on for a long time. To my mind, that is not a proper justification if the clause is a wrong one. The other justification advanced is that building contractors in general are prepared to accept a clause of that kind. I suggest that, although that might be true, it may not mean what at first sight it seems to mean. Many of the works that are undertaken by the department are done by large firms and large contractors who, for the sake of getting a very large order and of keeping their plant and men in operation, are prepared to accept a clause of this kind which they would have the facilities to fight in court if it should unjustly act against them. In other words, they are prepared to accept it for the purpose of getting a large contract, and they are able, and have the money, to buck it if a manifestly unjust decision is given against them.
But that does not apply to all the small contractors who do jobs for the Department of Public Works. I should think that a great number of them might accept the clause, with grave misgivings, for the purpose of getting some work; but, having accepted it, they, unlike the big contracting firms, are completely at the mercy of the department because they have not behind them the facilities to protest in the courts of law, which after all are the final arbiters in such matters, against a decision that might go against them. If it is admitted by the department - and I gather it is - that it would be more just for a man not to be a judge in his own cause, but that it would be more just for provision to be made for outside arbitration if agreement cannot be reached between the parties, why not, at the expense of another line of type and half an hour spent in the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, write into the contract provisions that would allow the small builder to be better safeguarded and which would make it a better and more proper legal document?
It is said that the Director-General of Works usually is not directly concerned with a particular contract, and of course I agree with that; but the department for which he is responsible is directly concerned with it. The officers who, in the nature of things, he feels he must back up and support are concerned with it.
– He needs to stand on a fairly high pedestal, does he not?
– I think that at last I am convincing the Minister. He does need to stand on a very high pedestal. It would rescue him from a very embarrassing, position if provision for independent arbitration were written into this clause. It. is a principle which has not been opposed by the department, which has had a week to consider the arguments I am now putting forward.
I am not so concerned with these other matters as I am with this particular clause on arbitration, because the disputes which arise about them can finally be settled by arbitration. I am not a lawyer, but I have the gravest doubts whether these other clauses are legally enforceable, and 1 should like to hear comment from any lawyer in. the committee on the matter. Could the. department hold a contractor liable for the. payment of royalties or for the infringement of patents? I say again that all these matters in dispute could be settled if provision were written into this contract for outside arbitration between the two parties concerned.
– I have been interested in the argument advanced by Senator Gorton, and ‘ I add this comment to his remarks relating to the arbitration clause. My experience is. that any agreement containing a clause which is vague or unjust has the effect of causing the contracting parties to regard it very sceptically, and this applies particularly to an unjust arbitration clause. The price tendered by the contractors who look at such an agreement carefully could be inflated because the agreement contains an element of injustice. The department, in its own interest, would be wise to have the usual clause giving the power of arbitration, if need be, to an outside arbiter or umpire. All contractors, before they tendered, would then see that there was natural justice in the agreement, and there would not be that tendency to inflate the price because of an obvious injustice in the agreement on the subject-matter of the contract.
Proposed vote, agreed to.
Department of Social Services.
Proposed Vote, £2,796,000.
– This is one of the most important votes, because many people rely on social service payments for their living. Unfortunately, they appear to have received scant consideration in this year’s budget, and in the early speeches on the budget honorable senators on both sides agreed that pensioners should have received better treatment. Comments have frequently appeared in the daily press, and also in the reports of the activities of church organizations, outlining the acute need of the aged and infirm- in Australia. Honorable senators who visit these people know how true are those reports. They will all agree, as does every decent Australian, that it is wrong for these old citizens, many of whom have been pioneers of Australia, should be homeless and hungry as they fight a losing battle for self-respect, and all because the Government does not discharge its responsibility by giving, them an adequate pension. I. have been inclined to think that officers of the department fail to realize how desperate is the position of many of these old citizens. If the officers will not be convinced by representations or reports, an obligation rests upon them to visit these people and see for themselves in what destitute circumstances they are forced to live.
Many age and invalid pensioners live in the capital cities. In Perth, there are some hundreds but in large cities like Melbourne and Sydney they number thousands. I know that some of them own their homes but many are paying rent, and unprincipled landlords are taking a despicable advantage of these old and . needy folk. I know of some who live in enclosed verandahs, and pay as much as £2 a week rent. Others are living in rooms . occupied by five or six people, and out of their meagre £4 weekly pension the grasping landlord takes 30s. to £2 a week rent. It should be possible for this Government to make a thorough investigation of the whole position, ascertain how many aged people there are in each of the cities and towns of the various States and then come to some satisfactory arrangement with the State governments for the establishment of homes for the aged. A splendid example of what can be done is the Claremont Home at Fremantle, which, accommodates between 300 and 400 men. It has been in operation for years, is carried on most efficiently and is subsidized by the. State government, the pensioners donating a certain proportion of their pension to the . institution in return for accommodation. I think the pensioners retain £1 a week for spending money, and, of course, they also receive gifts of tobacco and other things from outside organizations. Another excellent institution is the Mount Henry Home for Old Ladies in Western Australia. The establishment of that institution was made possible by the State Labour government, which advanced a certain amount of money, and by the Lotteries Commission of Western Australia, which made a substantial donation. I advise honorable senators on the! Government side, if they should be visiting Western Australia, to inspect both those institutions. If they did so, they would be inspired to urge this Government to do all within its power to help with the establish- . ment of similar institutions in other parts of Australia. ,
Unfortunately, far too many of our aged are not living in suitable accommodation. ‘ Numbers of them sleep in railway carriages, sheds and doorways, and in huts on beaches. . A number are living in those circumstances . at Geraldton and Fremantle. They are. literally starving. They are unable to buy proper food because, after buying clothes, they have not enough left out of their pensions to buy food. It would seem that , this Government is determined that they must do one of two things; they must either clothe themselves and starve or feed themselves and go without clothes.
A member of the Opposition in another place suggested that the department send a questionnaire to pensioners and applicants for pensions with a view to ascertaining,exactly what expenses such people have to meet, what they are required to pay in rent, rates, and so on. The information gained in that way could be of extreme value to the department when drawing up plans for the future. In a country such as this, we . should not permit the state of affairs under which our old people are compelled to suffer such deplorable conditions. We are a small nation of under 10,000,000 people, and it would seem to me that some of the millions of pounds which are spent in every direction could well be diverted to the provision of reasonable housing for pensioners. In the last five or six years Australia has expended over £30,000,000 on the Colombo plan. This year, £4,700^000 is earmarked for that purpose. Let us have an Australian plan. Let the Government share that £4,700,000 among the States with the direction that it be expended upon the provision of homes for the aged and infirm. If it did that, it would be doing something worth while, something which would pay dividends in the long run. Our old people are entitled to decent conditions. I notice that provision is made, also, for the payment of £22,000 to the United States of America and £10,000 to India for flood relief. All this money is going overseas while many of our own people are in dire need of reasonable accommodation. Charity begins at home. Let it begin here with our aged. We should not allow that money to go outside Australia at a time when so many of our own people are living under deplorable conditions. 1 urge the Government to allocate funds to the States in order that our aged men and women might be afforded some alleviation of these most undesirable conditions.
I come now to the medical benefits provided for the aged. The Minister has told us, on more than one occasion, that the Government is doing splendid work for the pensioners. I admit that some pensioners are receiving free medical attention, just as I admit that all did not enjoy this benefit under the Labour government; but 1 remind the Minister that under the Labour government’s plan every pensioner in the Commonwealth was to receive free medical attention. Unfortunately, the members of the British Medical Association, who appear to be the Government’s chief advisers, put the Government in the wool press, as it were, and dictated to it as to who should receive medical benefits and so on. The British Medical Association refused to allow the doctors to have anything to do with the Labour party’s scheme. It prohibited them from receiving books and prescribing treatment. Only a few of the doctors of Australia had the courage to defy the British Medical Association, with the result that the Labour party’s scheme could nol be brought to fruition.
Now, the Government has imposed a means test in respect of the provision of medical benefits for pensioners. That is wrong. After all, the person who is seeking these benefits is not a millionaire; he is not even wealthy. Any person who receives the full benefit of £4 a week obviously cannot stand very well financially.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I desire to refer to the Department of Social Services, Division 111 - Central Administration, and also to State Establishments in the Schedule. There appears to have been a re-organization of a major character in the top administration of this department. Four assistant Directors-General of Social Services have been replaced by one, and four additional Directors of Social Services have been appointed. Will the Minister indicate the purpose and nature of that re-organization?
My other query is directed to the provision for the Department of Social Services, in respect of salaries and allowances. In Tasmania, provision for new staff in 1955-56 was £11,270. No provision has been made for this item in 1956-57. If one looks at the numbers of staff, one sees that in 1955-56 the number was 76 and in this year the number is expected to be 75. Therefore, there has been a reduction of one. It would appear, therefore, that unless the staff appointments were of a temporary nature, the purposes for which the sum of £1 1,270 was voted last year by the Parliament, have not been carried out and seem to have been abandoned. Will the Minister indicate the purpose of the vote last year, to what extent the purpose was carried out, and whether that purpose has been abandoned?
.- I wish to direct attention to the same matter as that dealt with by Senator Harris. No provision has been made , for the proper treatment of our age pensioners.
Order! The matter at present before the committee is the administration and establishment of the Department of Social Services, involving a sum of £2,796,000. I believe that the debate has been wandering rather widely from the matter at present before honorable senators.
– I wish to direct attention to an omission by the Department of Social Services. The department has directed attention to matters mentioned here, but no attention has been directed towards what I regard as a most important matter. .1 consider that more adequate provision should be made for age pensioners, and that it is the duty of the Minister and the officers of the department to direct attention to that fact. It appears that because these pensioners are aged, are more dr less helpless and have not the organized strength to demand the consideration to which they are entitled, the Parliament has deliberately ignored both the presence and the needs of these people. I enter a protest against that omission. Whether we like it or not, in this democratic and Christian community the age pensioners are destined to wither away and die in the slums or the State institutions for the destitute. But they are men and women who, in their prime and for as long as they were able, worked so well that they made it possible for us to be where we are to-day. Yet nothing is being clone for them.
The age pension is £4 a week. The Government pays that pension, but business organizations and others, particularly landlords, decide what shall be the purchasing power of the pension. Therefore, the Government and the department are tragically remiss in their duty in not directing attention to this state of affairs and in not recommending something better for the pensioners. Surely Government members are under some obligation to do something for their own parents or the parents of other people who have made our existence possible. That obligation is deliberately and callously ignored both by the Government and by the department. Senator Harris has directed attention to the medical treatment that pensioners receive. For all practical purposes, the medical treatment to which they are entitled is not worth having. So much is given in name, but very little is given in practice. 1 want to know from the Minister just what he is. prepared to recommend. I ask him to imagine himself in the position of these people, and to imagine that he is being ignored, just as they are being ignored. What has he so say about that? Because he is more fortunately placed than the age pensioners, be ignores them and treats them as though they do not exist. If they were young and able like the waterside workers, the transport workers and other groups of workers, he would be compelled by their organized strength to do something for them. But because they are helpless, for all practical purposes the Minister forgets them.
I remind the Minister and the Government that these men and women have paved the way for us and made our existence possible. In the Commonwealth household the Government does what would not be done in any reasonably decent private household - it ignores the aged, those who are failing, those who are withering away. Yet it poses as a government of great democrats! The members of the Government postulate that they are prepared to do their best in the interests of all men, but they forget the aged. The Government emphasizes the “ all “ theoretically, but forgets that it includes the aged.
I feel very strongly about this matter, because of my past experience. Senator Harris has directed attention to Claremont Old Men’s Home in Western Australia. I was there in 1915, and the conditions under which the inmates were living in that institution at that time were absolutely shocking. The position generally to-day is no different from what it was then. At the time that 1 brought the matter to the attention of the government of the day, it was thought that I exaggerated the position. However, a royal commission found that all the charges I had made could be fully substantiated. I am sure that if, to-day, another royal commission were appointed, composed of men prepared to do their duty, it would find that the overall position in Australia is similar to what it was in those days. At the commencement of each sitting day, the President of the Senate recites the Lord’s Prayer -
Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven . .
Pure hypocrisy - blasphemy!
– Hear, hear!
– Supporters of the Government should be ashamed to call themselves human beings while they allow the state of affairs that I have described to continue. In the streets of Sydney and Melbourne, many helpless pensioners can be seen. Nothing is done for them. Yet honorable senators opposite speak with pride of our country, a state of full employment, and such things. To me, it is tragic that the present state of affairs is allowed to continue. The supporters of the Government are not human beings, in the full sense of the word because, while they are well fed, well clothed, and adequately housed, they forget that they owe their prosperity, and even their existence, to the pioneers. Indeed, I believe that some people would be glad to see the pensioners die off as soon as possible.
– I desire to bring to the notice of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) an injustice in relation to medical services for pensioners. A single man, who is an age pensioner, receives a pension of £4 a week. If his income from other sources does not exceed £2 a week, he is entitled to free medical attention. Under the social services legislation, he may receive other income up to £3 10s. a week, without its affecting his pension.
I have in mind the case of a railway employee who, having paid into a superannuation fund for many years, became entitled on his retirement to a pension of £2 Ss. a week. Because the total amount of his age pension and superannuation is 5s. a week more than £6, he is prevented by the operation of the means test from obtaining free medical attention. In effect, he is forced to contribute to a medical benefits fund in order to receive a government subsidy against medical expenses. I think honorable senators will concede that many pensioners, when sick, are unable to visit a doctor’s surgery, so that it is necessary for them to be visited at their home by a doctor. The cost of such visits ranges from 17s. 6d. to £1, and the pensioner has to pay the doctor in cash in order to obtain a receipt for submission to the office of the fund. If a pensioner, in the circumstances I have mentioned, were required to pay £3 for three visits in one week, he would have left only £3 5s. on which to live. As I have said, he must obtain a receipt from the doctor to present to the benefit society, which is really a debt collector for the doctor. After submitting the receipt to the benefit organization, the pensioner might have to wait for three or four weeks before receiving a refund of 12s. in the £1; the other 8s. is payable by himself.
What I have said in relation to a single pensioner applies equally .to a married couple, both pensioners. If their combined income, including age pensions, exceeds £12 a week, they are forced to join a medical benefit fund, to which they must contribute 3s. a week. A very distressing feature of this matter is that, although such pensioners are required to find ready cash with which to pay the doctor, they have to wait for several weeks for their refund cheques.
I appeal to the Minister to give serious consideration to increasing to £3 10s. a week the amount of income that a pensioner may receive apart from his pension without its affecting his right to free medical attention, because it is in the evening of their lives that many people need medical attention.
.– I should like to bring to the notice of the committee the fact that some people experience difficulty in obtaining copies of birth certificates to produce to the Department of Social Services when applying for social services benefits. A large proportion of the people who apply for benefits are elderly and, despite the excellent system of registration of birth and deaths that has been established in Australia, it. is sometimes difficult for them to obtain copies of their birth certificates. I have in mind the case of a British subject, who came to this country many years ago when, a child. In the course of time, she became eligible to apply for certain social services benefits. The form was filled in by persons who had known her for a considerable period of time, but because she came from a remote area of the British Commonwealth there was delay in investigating and endeavouring to ascertain the ship on which she sailed to Australia and other such records. The result was that months elapsed before that person was able to obtain social service benefits. As a matter of fact, it was well over twelve months before her birth certificate was finally obtained. People who knew her were aware of the fact that she was at. least 60 years of age and was entitled to social services benefits. I suggest that there should be some elasticity in the department whereby administrative officers should be enabled to accept the sworn testimony, if it is so desired, of persons who have known an applicant for a considerable period of years and who are prepared to certify that he or she is eligible for social services benefits. That is a matter of administration. I know that departmental officers, in the case of a delay occurring during investigations, if it is at all possible, will back-date the payment of benefits to the date of application. One of the main requirements, of course, is proof of the age of a person. I hope that the Minister, as the result of what I have said to-night, and in the light of other evidence he has along the same lines, will exercise whatever power he can to make possible what I have suggested.
We on this side of the chamber should miss no opportunity to bring before the Parliament the matter that was raised by Senator Harris, namely the inadequate payment of social services benefits to aged and invalid people. I know that a social services bill, dealing with pensions, has been passed during the current sessional period. During the debate on that bill, protests were made by the Opposition. However, the Government remained deaf to the pleading of honorable senators on this side and, in one or two instances, to honorable senators on its own side. We pleaded for a greater payment to, and more equitable treatment of, those who unfortunately have not been able to save any of this world’s goods. If one looks through the Estimates, he sees division after division, in department after department, providing considerable increases in salaries. Considerable increases have been granted to officers who deal with the payment of social services benefits. Members of the Parliament have had their allowances increased. For what reason have officers of this department and members of Parliament received these increases?
For what reason is an increase of lis. a week in the basic wage to be granted? Simply because of the increased cost of the very essentials of life. We are told that the cost of potatoes and onions will make a difference of at least 5s. a week in the basic wage. The C series index indicates that the rise is to be 6s., and if potatoes and onions are taken into account, 1 ls. How is this great section of our community, which has rendered service and lived good lives to get on? It was once suggested that any person who made a claim for an age pension had dissipated his earnings. However, we know that to-day many men and women in receipt of a pension do not come within that category. Even though they have saved as much as they could during their lifetime they cannot sit down and enjoy the good things of life. A year or two ago they may have felt they were beyond any of the trials and tribulations of trying to eke out sufficient each week to keep them in a reasonable standard of comfort, but to-day they are disillusioned. Others on fixed incomes are also looking for social services benefits because of increases in the prices of commodities and in rents. We frequently hear suggestions that rents should be increased in order to meet the cost of improvements and so on.
In spite of our boast about our standard of living and progress in this country, this Government remains deaf to the pleadings that have been made on behalf of the section of the community about whom I have been speaking. It is not yet too late for the Government to do something. We are talking about going into recess within the next week or so until some time next year. Yet, at the same time, we have this cry for the unfortunate people outside who depend upon the actions and decision of this Parliament to help them to keep body and soul together. If, during the intervening five or six months when the Parliament is in recess, the cost of commodities and foodstuffs continues to rise, how are these people to exist? I appeal to all honorable senators as decent men and women who make up this Parliament, to do something before we adjourn at least on behalf of this section of the community that looks to us. I hope my appeal will not fall on deaf ears. Honorable senators opposite talk about the spread of communism and of this, that and the other thing, but despite protests raised from this side of the chamber the Government remains adamant and will not do anything to alter the position. I repeat that before the Parliament goes into recess the Government should do something to meet the needs of this section of the community.
– In my view, this should be a debate on the administration of the Department of Social Services. I do not think that it should be an occasion to canvass the adequacy or otherwise of the fortnightly social services payments. Consequently, I desire to bring the debate back where it should be. The administration of social services in Australia is something of which we should be very proud. In our capital cities diligent civil servants perform their work in rather congested offices. I pay a tribute to those working in Adelaide because I know how well they work, but I desire primarily to focus attention on the officers who assist the department in the country. In country areas numbers of public servants, including police officers, clerks of courts, postmasters and postmistresses, render sterling service to pensioners and would-be pensioners by helping them to fill in forms and by assisting them generally. Stage by stage the Government is ameliorating the means test and generally raising the rates of pensions for aged and invalid people, widows, children, and so on; but I have found, on making application for a set of forms at some post offices in the country, that the instruction sheets are considerably out of date. I urge upon the department the need for keeping up-to-date the instruction forms that accompany applications, so as to avoid confusion among pensioners and those who assist them. 1 ask, also, that the booklet that is issued by the department be brought up-to-date. As honorable senators have said, the rates of pensions have altered and so also have conditions, and it is against the interests of good government to prepare a booklet that is out-of-date. Possibly, some over-printing in another colour would meet the situation for one year after the original book has been printed, but that would not do in the second year, and a new social services booklet for the public should be prepared.
– Senator Laught has said that we should be proud of our social services provisions. I should like to take him to certain places in Melbourne and to the slums in which many pensioners are living, and ask him whether he is proud of those conditions, and whether he would like to be living as those pensioners are. Certainly, he could not say that he was proud of those conditions, and he would object to them in the strongest terms. As I have said that the pensioners are not receiving the consideration to which they are entitled, I feel under an obligation to say how it would be possible financially to improve their conditions. We could have a graduated tax on capital investments. We tax the salaries and wages of the workers, but the millions of pounds that are added to capital are not taxed. We could also deal with the enormous waste of expenditure.
– Order! The honorable senator’s remarks are rather wide of the administration of social services to which the committee is now devoting its attention.
– I have been critical of the fact that pensioners, and others who are in receipt of social services benefits, are not receiving enough. Naturally, the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services will ask me where the money could be obtained to improve the lot of the pensioners. I feel obliged to tell him where the money could be obtained, and also that there is no shortage of the goods that pensioners need. Certainly, there is a shortage of houses, and that is being maintained to keep up rents. The Government is under an obligation to find money to provide for the pensioners. I point out that enormous resources are untaxed, and the Government does not intend to tax them. There is big expenditure also on luxuries. I suppose that many citizens are much more concerned about the hundreds of thousands of pounds that will be spent on the Olympic Games than they are with the plight of the age pensioners. The Government is in a position to do what should be done for the pensioners, and by refraining from doing that it is simply capitalizing the poverty of the unfortunate persons who, by their pioneering efforts, made it possible for us to be here to-day. Not one protest has been raised on the Government side.
All of us have benefited from the work that has been done by the age pensioners of to-day, but honorable senators on the Government side are not in the least grateful. They give the age pensioners £4 a week, and then leave them to the mercy of the landlords and the businessmen who increase rents and the prices of commodities. No action is taken by the Government, and it is merely capitalizing the helplessness and poverty of these unfortunate people. I leave the matter to the conscience of honorable senators. How would they like to be treated as the pensioners are being treated? I invite honorable senators to consider what they could do for the pensioners, but have refused to do.
– I agree that the pensions are inadequate, but I wish to record my appreciation of the fine way in which the administrative officers of the Department of Social Services in the various States apply themselves to their duties. I believe that they feel as keenly as any person in the community the unfortunate position in which the people they assist are placed by the paucity of funds at their disposal.
I should like the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) to give the committee some information on the employment of officers in the Department of Social Services. Over all, the staff is relately the same as it was last year, but in each State provision is made for senior social workers and social workers. I should like to know the number of social workers who are employed in the States, and what their duties are. If any increase of staff is made, it should be made among social workers because the age pensioner is still a pauper. He has to rely on old clothes that are gathered by organizations, and upon Junior Chambers of Commerce which gather bread and other necessaries from socials. Those organizations, such as Meals on Wheels deserve commendation, but the present form of relief is a blot on a nation that is as prosperous as the Government claims we are. Aged persons are provided with a bowl of soup and a good meal once a week. That is what it has developed into. The areas in which there are public-spirited people who are prepared to do social work to enable the pensioners to live, to be fed and to be clothed with a minimum of decency, are all right, but there are many areas that do not enjoy that service.
Although I abhor the fact that pensioners are still beggars in the community and have to rely on the magnanimity of persons who are willing to serve them in an honorary capacity, I think we should ask the Government to increase the number of almoners who are employed by the department so that they may be able to report on the many cases of distress that we, as senators, see and which we endeavour to help in the course of our duty. The relief that the member of Parliament or the social worker can give is quite inadequate. Therefore, I ask the Minister to furnish me with information showing the number of social workers in each State, the service that the department gives to the pensioner who is quite incapable of looking after himself or herself, and whether some form of assistance will be given in cases of dire distress where sickness has occurred or where a pensioner is suffering real hardship because of the smallness of his pension.
– I have refrained from entering into this debate for the reason that I gave before the suspension of the sitting for dinner. Many of the matters that have been raised are matters of policy as distinct from administrative matters. Let me illustrate the point. Senator Cooke asked for particulars relating to social workers. That, in my opinion, is the kind of question that should emerge from such a debate as this. On the other hand, Senators Harris and Cameron gave a dissertation on their views of the Australian social services system and how it operates. I think the short answer to give to Senator Cameron is this: If he thinks all these harsh and bitter thoughts, why did he not do something about it when he was a Minister of the Crown? The standard of payments and of service has increased very materially during the seven years that this Government has been in office.
I have been avoiding participation in the debate on the Estimates for the Department of Social Services. Indeed, I say with respect, ‘that that is the only way in which one can handle the Estimates. If one is dealing with six or seven portfolios, one cannot be expected to give a dissertation upon the pros and cons of import licensing, of social services, of Army matters, and matters appertaining to the other portfolios that I represent in this chamber. I say that to clear the air. I disagree very profoundly indeed with what has been said by Senators Harris, Cooke and Cameron. I have before me great masses of information prepared by the Department of Social Services, including a contrast of the rates of pension in 1949, 1950, 1952 and 1955. At every stage at which the contrast is made, the Liberal-Australian Country party Government is shown to have done more for social services beneficiaries than did the Australian Labour party.
Opposition senators interjecting,
– That is a statement of fact, a statement of truth. To argue that out would mean that we should be arguing here for hour after hour; but this is not the occasion, at least in my opinion, for such an argument. Rather is it an occasion on which to look at the administrative approach to these matters. In reply to one inquiry that has been directed to me, 1 am informed that ‘the number of social workers and senior social workers in each State is not available at present, but that the social work of the department throughout the States is performed by a staff of approximately 31 workers.
– Between all the States?
– That is the total number of social workers. I can understand why there is a sort of instinctive reaction to mention of the number 31, but I am sure Senator McKenna will agree with me that these social workers are expert people and that their services are not easily obtained. There is very great demand for them in the hospitals, and not many of them are otherwise available. In reply to Senator Laught’s inquiry, 1 am happy to be able to say that a new booklet is in the course of preparation and that information sheets are being made available.
– The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) mentioned, at the outset of his remarks, that he wished to clear the air as to what matters might be discussed during the debate on the Estimates. 1 certainly do not subscribe to the viewpoint that he expressed. I refer him to his own very brief second-reading speech when he introduced this measure. It was a three-paragraph speech, in which he incorporated the budget speech of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). If he refers to that speech, he will note that it deals with all sort of policy matters, including the National Welfare Fund and every matter that is concerned with it. Accordingly,
Opposition senators are entitled to criticize the budget proposals and to point to the omissions that we think deserve noting.
I remind the committee that at the firstreading stage we may talk about relevant and irrelevant matters, that at the secondreading stage we could not exercise that right, but were obliged to deal with matters relevant to the bill, and that, while the proceedings were being broadcast, the speeches of most honorable senators were limited to half an hour. Accordingly, the one opportunity that we have to canvass policy and to comment upon omissions in policy and directions is when the Estimates of the various departments are before the committee. I have taken this stand year after year, and I shall never concede any proposition that affirms the contrary. This is the one opportunity that the Opposition has to deal with policy and to roam over the activities and policies of the respective departments. Otherwise, to what position would we be reduced in dealing with the Estimates? Particular provision is made for salaries and for the administration of the various departments. Are we to concern ourselves solely with the adequacy or otherwise of the amounts that are made available for salaries? Is there to be no freedom to discuss the policies that are being implemented, and omissions from those policies? I merely .wish to affirm these propositions to indicate that, from my viewpoint and the viewpoint of the Opposition as a whole, the Minister has not cleared the air. If he persists in his viewpoint, he will merely accentuate a very sharp difference.
I conclude by agreeing with what he said about social workers, lt takes a long time to train them, they are highly skilled officers, they are not easy to come by and there is a terrific demand for them, not only in government institutions but also in private industry because they do such excellent work. I should like to feel that there would be relatively no limit to the number of social workers that the department would be prepared to engage. They not only humanize the investigation and administration of individual cases, but they are also the media through whom is evaluated the particular services that are given by the department. They see the effects and side-effects of the operation of the different policies, so that not only do they perform a most humane service, but they are also the most important’ branch of the research section of the department. They were incorporated in the department’s activities under a previous regime, and I am happy to know that there has been no curtailment of their activities. 1 join with Senator Cooke in the hope that those activities will be extended.
.- 1 was very interested in the speech of the deputy leader of the Government (Senator Spooner) and in his statement that this Government had increased the amount of social services benefits and had improved the lot of pensioners. I was reminded of an occasion when I listened to a Minister in Queensland, the Honorable James Larcombe making a very fine speech eulogizing the Queensland Labour Government in regard to its efforts to increase employment. This was many years ago, and by way of illustration he pointed out that at that time in Western Australia about 11 per cent, of the workers were unemployed, in South Australia about 10 per cent., in Victoria about the same, in New South Wales 9 per cent., and in Queensland only 5 per cent. A man at the back of the crowd shouted, “ That’s all right Jimmy, the statistics sound well for Queensland, but what about me? I am unemployed, and statistics don’t feed me “.
The fine phrases of Senator Spooner, outlining what this Government has done for age and invalid pensioners sound very well, and may be very warming to the hearts of those who sit behind him and of those Liberal claquers and supporters in various parts of the country, but they do not help the person who is compelled to live on a paltry £4 a week. The Minister asked Senator Cameron to do something himself instead of criticizing the Government. All honorable senators, individually, do something whether they be Labour supporters or Liberal or Australian Country party supporters. Only the other day, a man who was in distressing circumstances called to see me. For several days, he had been living on bread and fat. He was an invalid pensioner, suffering from a disease similar to that from which the late King George VI. suffered - some trouble in the legs. We helped him a little, and he outlined his position to me. He was unable to work to earn a decent living. He said that he could do a little brain work - he was the product of an English university and, as far as 1 could see, was a fine type of person. 1 tried to obtain some employment for him, but he pointed out that if he got a job his pension would be stopped because he would not be allowed to earn anything as an invalid pensioner. £ ask the Minister to have a social worker sent to interview that man, and, if the story he told me is proved to be true, would it be within the power of the Deputy Director of Social Services to make some provision for him? This man had come from North Queensland, he was paying £2 a week rent for a room and was trying to live on the remaining £2 of his pension. Is it within the discretionary power of a deputy director to assist him? The Minister shakes his head.
– The deputy director can send a social worker to interview the man, but he can only administer social services under the terms of the act.
– I feared that that might be the position. Although social workers may find many of these poor people in dire circumstances, suffering in this land of great prosperity - Liberal prosperity - and report the need to the deputy director, nothing can be done to help. I agree heartily with Senator Cooke that the deputy directors are splendid officers, who are willing at all times to do their best to help all cases. In this instance, 1 telephoned the local deputy director, and his reply was that he could do nothing.
On a previous occasion, another deputy director gave me the impression that it was within his discretion to give a little help. Many times he gave me advice to convey to invalid or age pensioners which enabled them to take certain action and, ultimately, claim a full pension. I admired him for his independent and helpful spirit. These deputy directors and social workers have great experience, and understand the difficulties of the pensioners, and if the Government were to consult them or call them together in conference, it would obtain a much more practical understanding of the problems, and how to solve them. If these officers were not excluded from political discussions, they would be able to give the Government some good ideas on how to improve the lot of pensioners throughout Australia. However, I doubt whether it is of much use my saying any more on the subject. 1 have listened to my good friend Senator Sheehan. I have also listened to my true and venerable friend, Senator Donald Cameron, who speaks from his heart - and he has a big heart - and then I look at the poker face of the Minister, whose stony heart I cannot see, and I am unable to tell whether our pleadings will be of avail. However, I still throw out the suggestion that the Government should confer with its deputy directors and make use of the information they are able to offer. Instead of making a political football of the aged, the Government should genuinely set about doing something for them; and if its members were Christians, they would do something in that direction.
– I appreciate the Government’s difficulty in obtaining the services of fully trained welfare and social workers, but when I compare the salaries and conditions offered by the department with those obtainable in outside industry I have no difficulty in discovering why the Government is unable to obtain the services of such highly skilled people. On the other hand, however, much of the work now being done for the department by fully qualified social workers could be done by trainees under their supervision. The department now employs a certain number of investigating officers. I suggest that selected suitable officers could do much of the work now being done by fully qualified welfare workers and in that way the present staff of 31 could be supplemented with advantage. These selected persons could be trained under the direction of fully qualified welfare workers. Almoners and social workers have many calls to all sorts of places and they work unremittingly, and it is essential that some effort be made by the department to ease their burden. By adopting my suggestion, these officers could be relieved of much unnecessary work and thereby great benefit would accrue to both the department and the public.
Senator CAMERON (Victoria [9.54].- Our social workers are handicapped to a great degree to-day. I have discussed the position with many of them. They tell me that they have to work strictly according to the act, and I can well imagine that if any of them attempted to say what should be done in preference to working strictly in conformity with the act, they would be told in no uncertain manner that their duty is not to offer advice, but to carry out the provisions of the act. I am confident that much good would result if they were called into conferences and asked for suggestions. But that is not done. Like privates in the Army, their’s is to do or die, their’s is not to reason why.
The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) asked what I did when I had the opportunity. Let me say, in reply, that I did all that I could, especially during the war years. When I was Minister for Defence Production, we re-employed the superannuants. They were qualified men who had a fine background of both practical experience and theoretical knowledge. They did wonderful work showing the trainees how to operate machines, and so on. As n result of their efforts production was increased enormously and costs were reduced. Similar action was taken in the Postal Department. Superannuants were re-employed to train inexperienced workers, and so effective were they that the revenue of the Postal Department was increased during the war years. When hostilities ceased, of course, these men were thrown on the streets again with the added hardship that the purchasing power of their superannuation benefit was reduced by the inflated conditions obtaining in the country. When the war was on, these men and women diet well. In these times of peace when they should be doing even better, they are extremely badly off, and nothing is done about it. I do not judge men and women by their age; I judge them by their deeds and their capabilities, and it is no exaggeration to say that to-day thousands of men and women who are capable of doing useful work are just walking the streets. If another war broke out to-morrow, they would be welcomed with open arms, only to be thrown to the wolves again when it ended.
I emphasize my previous statement that the Government is not doing what it should for the aged. It could do a lot more. Again I remind it that sea pilots are not retired when they reach the age of 65 years. So long as they are capable of doing their work efficiently, they are continued in employment irrespective of age but these unfortunate superannuants are retired at 65 irrespective of their ability to continue working efficiently. When the Opposition moved that the retiring age be increased to 68 years, the Government rejected the suggestion. In the light of those circumstances, the Minister cannot even imply that he has the interests of these people at heart. We of the Opposition would be sadly remiss in our duty if we did not direct attention to the present state of affairs and remind the Government that it owes a duty to those people whom it is both physically and financially able to help. Instead of doing anything for them the Government neglects to honour that obligation, and in that respect it is recreant lo one of its most sacred duties.
– As a Western Australian, I have been amazed to listen to some of the stuff that 1 have been forced to listen to to-night. 1 said earlier that honorable senators cannot be expected to know about conditions in Western Australia, but 1 think that it would be unfortunate if I did not intervene in this debate to contradict some of the statements that have been made to-night. I admit that we in Western Australia have not made provision for all our aged people, but I was present last week at the opening of a home in Fremantle, The people who entered that home will have a beautiful view; it is beautifully fitted up and had been erected with the aid of the £l-for-£I subsidy instituted by this Government. In the last (wo years the Government has made about £2,000,000 available for the erection of homes for the aged, and 1 believe that that has been a vast contribution towards alleviating their distress. Moreover, other homes are being erected now and will be erected in the future, on the same basis. I have another home in mind at present where provision will be made for the aged, and to hear one honorable senator opposite describe conditions that existed in 1915 in a home in Fremantle was rather ridiculous. I point out that we are discussing the Estimates for 1956 and not 1915.
– I said that conditions were the same as in 1915.
– I did not understand the honorable senator to say that, but I will accept his assurance. I suggest that he should come out and see some of these homes. For example, he should see the aged women’s home on the banks of the Canning River, which is something that any State could well be proud of. The Sunset Home for men, on the banks of the Swan River, is another home which is beautifully fitted up. If honorable senators want an unbiassed account of conditions in Western Australia I refer them to one written by Sir John Medley, the ViceChancellor of the University of Melbourne, in ‘ last Saturday’s Melbourne “ Age “. Although he did not deal specifically with homes for the aged, his account is well worth reading. This Government was the first to institute a £l-for-£l contribution to the States for the construction of homes for the aged, and on behalf of Western Australia I thank the Government for its action. About £116,000 has already been made available on that basis to Western Australia, and that has enabled homes to the value of about £250,000 to be erected. In the future more will be built in that State and other States. 1 also congratulate the Government for making the other advances in social services that it has made during its term of office.
.- First I would like to ask whether there is any Minister in the House at present who can answer my questions on this particular matter.
– Yes, I shall endeavour to answer any questions asked by the honorable senator.
– I should like to know whether those who are engaged in social services work make any report to the Director-General of Social Services or the deputy directors in the Slates, on conditions which operate among those in receipt of social services, and indicate any improvements which in their opinion the Government should make. I suggest that when social services legislation is being prepared the advice and assistance of the people engaged in the work would be of some material value. Senator Cooke detailed some of the social services work that is at present being performed. In my own Slate of Victoria an organization has been set up to investigate the conditions of the aged, and it is hoped that through that organization further assistance will be given to them. I do not know whether the Commonwealth plays any particular part in that organization, although I know that it is financed through a municipal council which receives a certain sum of money from the State government. In addition to that, I understand that funds will be raised by private charitable organizations. Tha! work appears to be different from the work undertaken by the Social Services Department, and I should like to know whether it would be possible to co-ordinate all these activities.
– I have been informed that State social workers do chiefly case work in the States, but that there is a research section at the head office. Reports from the States are received there and that information is tabulated and then considered by the Director-General of Social Services, who advises the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). Perhaps I could detail the procedure in my own department, which is somewhat similar to the Department of Social Services. I have innumerable discussions with the deputy commissioners from the States. They also attend a conference at the central office every year, at which the chairman of the commission and myself are present. We go through all the information that has been gleaned from the States and decide what action we shall take in the future. T have no doubt that the Minister for Social Services and the Director-General of Social Services obtain information in the same way, because the functions of the Department of Social Services are similar to the functions of the Repatriation Department.
– I join with Senator Seward in commending the Government on the payment of a £l-for-£l subsidy to assist the States to build homes for aged persons. That is a move in the right direction, and although only a small number of people are housed, they are accommodated in great comfort. The scheme is a credit to the Government. I ask the Minister to indicate the amount of subsidy that will be available this year. Last year £2,000,000 was granted, and I should like to know whether additional funds will be made available in the present financial year.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Social Services.
Proposed Vote, £845,000.
.- The vote for the Department of Social Services under this heading includes the sum of £110,000 for “ Compassionate allowances - payments under special circumstances “. Although the vote last year was £90,000, a total of £96,895 was expended on payments made under special circumstances as compassionate allowances. I should like the Minister to inform me whether in cases such as the one I mentioned a few minutes ago when, after long conferences take place, and the required evidence cannot be produced, compassionate payments will be made out of the proposed vote of £110,000 for this financial year.
– Senator Sheehan will recall my saying previously that, in certain circumstances, compassionate allowances can be paid to aliens who have resided in Australia since 1902, but who have not been naturalized. In certain circumstances, widows’ pensions can be paid to women who are not legally or technically entitled to such pensions. These are instances in which compassionate allowances can be paid.
.- I refer to Division 225, item 5 - “ Building of Homes for the Aged - Assistance to approved organizations - £700,000 “. There appears to have been gross over-estimation last year in connexion with this item, because only £397,994 of the vote of £1,500,000 was expended. I doubt whether there is any other instance of such gross over-estimation in the whole of the Estimates. I think that the Estimates that we are asked to consider should bear some relation to reality. In these circumstances, I should like the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to inform me of the degree of reality that has been observed in estimating the amount required under this heading in this financial year at £700,000. Can the Minister assure the committee that this is not merely a nominal figure, that the actual expenditure will not, in fact, be much lower? I think that the Minister owes to honorable senators an explanation for last year’s gross overestimation for this item.
– I refer to item 4 of Division 225 - “ Housekeeper service - Grant- £14,000 “. The annual grant that is made under this heading has increased gradually since it was introduced, and it has been of great assistance in providing a housekeeper service to women who have needed it because of ill health or other reasons. I should like the Minister for National Deevlopment (Senator Spooner) to inform me how the proposed grant will be allocated between the States. Will the grant be divided according to the population of the various States, or according to the number of organizations in the States that are providing housekeeper services? 1 come now to item 5 of Division 225 - ‘ Building of homes for the aged - Assistance to approved organizations - £700,000 “. 1 was astounded earlier tonight to hear a member of the Opposition say that the Government is giving no assistance in the provision of housing for aged people in the community. Of course, the honorable senator was in error because, by means of this subsidy, church and charitable organizations have been enabled to extend their operations in the provision of housing for aged people. They have established garden settlements and other kinds of homes for aged people in various parts of Australia. This grant has done more to assist in the provision of homes for aged people in the community than anything previously. Many hundreds of aged people have directly benefited as a result of the legislation under which this money is provided. As we all know, the money has been distributed to organizations engaged in the provision of homes for the aged throughout the Commonwealth. They have provided these homes not only in the metropolitan areas, but also at ‘places as far away from the big cities as Alice Springs. I congratulate the Government on the assistance that it is rendering in this respect.
I turn now to item 7 of Division 225 - “ Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service - Contribution towards expenses of overseas consultant - £2,000 “. It is, of course, not evident from Division 225 what is the total amount of money that is expended on rehabilitation services. As I have done in previous years when the Estimates were under consideration, I take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the officers who have conducted rehabilitation centres on behalf of the Government throughout this country. In my own State of Queensland, I have seen a great deal of their work, and I know that other honorable senators have been keenly interested in the rehabilitation services in their States. In many instances, I have seen people who were unable to engage in any occupation, or to help themselves very much, regain hope, faith and confidence in themselves at the rehabilitation centres, with the result that, after leaving t!:e centres, they were able to engage happily in useful occupations. I compliment the men and women who work untiringly at the rehabilitation centres to help to restore the confidence of incapacitated persons.
As money has not previously been provided as a contribution towards the expenses of an overseas consultant, I should like the Minister to inform me whether an extension of the valuable work that is being performed by the Commonwealth rehabilitation service is envisaged.
.- 1 should like the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to furnish me with some information in respect of items 4 and 5 of Division 225. From time to time, the municipal council of which I am a member has received requests for the establishment of a housekeeper service. I should like to know how it is intended the proposed vote of £14,000 for the housekeeper service will be allocated among the States, and whether the local governing authorities in the States will be able to obtain some of the money from their governments. Of course, £14,000 will not go very far, but it is encouraging to note that the proposed vote is for the same amount as last year, of which £13,919 was expended. In order to extend the scheme, 1 should like to see more money made available under this heading.
I am not unmindful of the grants that have been made to various organizations that provide homes for aged people. As only £397,994 of last year’s vote of £1,500,000 was expended in providing assistance to approved organizations, I should like the Minister to inform me whether all of the grants that have been made for this purpose were provided from that vote. Is provision made under any other heading in the Estimates for grants for this purpose? Of course, after homes have been constructed for aged people, it is necessary to obtain adequate staff. I was very surprised to notice in the local press of my own town an item relating to additions which were made recently to an institution as the result of assistance rendered by the hard-working community subsidized by the Government. The opening of the additions took place only a few months ago, but I noticed in the press that the management is afraid it will have to close a part of the institution because of financial difficulties which it is encountering. lt is a deplorable state of affairs when a body of citizens after working hard and raising funds to expand an institution finds that the institution cannot carry on. I should like to know something more about that matter.
.- I also should like to know something more about the position. As has been pointed out £1,500,000 was authorized to be spent but the amount actually expended was £397,994. Who is responsible for not spending the amount of money allotted when thousands of people are in need of adequate housing? What is meant exactly by an “ approved “ organization? In Melbourne we have a Combined Age Pensioners Organization. Would that organization be approved, and would it be subsidized if it were to spend money on housing that is so desperately needed? It is no exaggeration to say that in Melbourne - and the position is even worse in Sydney - people are not able to obtain decent housing mainly because of the rapacity of landlords and landladies, or because sufficient housing is not available. Yet, we have the position in which the department is authorized to spend 1,500,000 but does not spend half that amount. It must be perfectly obvious to the officers of the department and to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) also, if he looks outside his office, that housing is needed. The money is available but the houses are not being built. Why? Men and materials also are available. .
An enormous amount of material is being used for non-essential work such as the building of clubs, palatial hotels, offices and residences and other non-essential work. The homes we are discussing are essential. The money has been authorized, yet it is not being spent. I should like to know the explanation. Apparently, the policy of the Government is officially to spend £1.500,000 as a maximum but its unofficial policy is to spend as little as possible, or to reduce the amount to a minimum. The Government proposes to spend £700,000 this year, a little less than half of the amount it proposed to spend last year, but the possibility is that next year when the corresponding proposed vote is being discussed we will find that the money has not been spent. When discussing other Estimates we will find that the Government has over-spent on unauthorized military and other expenditure, but when it is dealing with pensioners it is no exaggeration to say that it does not consider them to be as important as it considers these other matters to be. The Government is adopting a most inhuman attitude which I cannot imagine any man or woman on the opposite side can justify. I again ask my two questions: Why was the money provided not spent? Is it intended to spend the £700,000 allotted for this year?
– Senator Cameron can be answered shortly. The amount appropriated, in accordance with the terms of an act of Parliament, was £1,500,000. The department had no right to go beyond the terms of the act which provided that the Commonwealth would subsidize the erection of homes on a £l-for-£l basis. If the homes are not being erected, then the Government cannot pay out the money. The money is there, and the Government is willing and anxious to make it available, provided the organizations are prepared to use it. The unpaid grant carried over from 1954-55 to 1955-56 was £347,743, and the amount granted during 1955-56 was £772,979. Two things have to be considered, the grant and the actual payments. The government budgets for the grant, but can only make the actual payments as and when the other partner in the scheme makes his payment. The payment of £397,994 made during the year leaves an outstanding liability of £722,728 as at 30th June, 1956. The provision for 1956-57 must, therefore, cover a substantial portion of this amount of £722,728, plus estimated expenditure against grants that will be approved this year.
A total amount of £ 13,900-odd was allocated to housekeeping services, of which £5,900 went to New South Wales, £4,120 to Victoria, £1,000 to Western Australia, £500 to Tasmania, and £2,200 to Queensland. This scheme is administered on the basis that the amounts are paid to the State
Treasurers, with the exception of Queensland, where the amount is paid to two organizations. The provision of the amount of £2,000 is to cover the cost of the expenses of Dr. Howard Rusk, an international authority on rehabilitation problems, who is coming to Australia in a consulting capacity to advise the Government upon our rehabilitation scheme.
– I do not wish to intrude unduly on the time of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) in his explanation as to why the proposed vote in 1955-56 was £1,500,000, whereas the actual expenditure was much less. But, did I understand the Minister to say that the enabling statute provides that the Government may make grants up to a ceiling value of £1,500,000 in terms of demands in consonance with the statute?
– Per annum.
– 1 take it that that was the top appropriation made in terms of that statute. I do not believe that it was ever intended that it should be spent in one year, or that the act itself should provide an appropriation of that amount.
– 1 made an error. I am informed that the Aged Persons’ Homes Act itself makes no provision of a particular amount. The sum of £1,500,000 was the Government’s estimate of the amount that would be spent in the first year. The position is that there is an act giving the Government the right to take action, and the actual amount required is appropriated year by year.
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.
.- The point still remains that there was a gross over-estimation of expenditure. It represents, roughly, an error of 80 per cent.
The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) had made a serious admission. It is wrong to include in the Estimates that come before the Parliament an amount of £1,500,000 when that estimate is unreal. 1 should like to know upon what basis the Government made that estimate, and upon whose advise it estimated that the expendiure would be £1,500,000 when it was, in fact, £397,994.
– Senator Byrne will recall that when the scheme was inaugurated, it broke new ground. The Government was, and still is. very enthusiastic about it. We provided £1,500,000, and the fact is that the department could not find work for that amount. However, I believe it is possible to exaggerate the position because, as I said earlier, expenditure can take place only while a building is being erected, and as the other party to the project pays money in from lime to time. Actual expenditure during the year was £397,994. We finished the year committed to pay a further £347,000, but we were unable to pay it over because the buildings concerned had not progressed far enough. At the end of June, 1956, we still had a liability of £722,000 in respect of approved buildings. It appears that there will be difficulty in using £1,500,000 a year on the scheme. The appropriation this year, which is down £700,000, is an admission of that fact.
.- In view of the explanation that has been given by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), it is evident that the Government believes that the Treasury can stand a commitment of £1,500,000 on a £l-for-£l basis for this project. As the estimate appears to be over-generous, will the Government consider subsidizing the scheme on a somewhat more generous basis so that the £1,500,000 will bc absorbed as originally contemplated?
.- It appears that the £l-for-£l basis for this scheme is not a working proposition, because the £1 that the Government seeks from other parties is not forthcoming. Am I correct in assuming that the Government does not propose to spend anything because other persons are not prepared to contribute on a £l-for-£l basis? If that is so, the Government cannot justify its attitude, because it has full powers of taxation. When £1 is not offered voluntarily, it can be taxed into commission. The Government is saying, in effect, that the aged persons shall not receive adequate housing because others are not prepared to assist. In that case, the Government is justified in using its taxing powers. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said that the work had not progressed far enough for payments to be made. I should like to know why. Is the £l-for-£l provision the Government’s excuse?
.- I understand that, in 1955-56, actual expenditure on homes for the aged on a £l-for-£l basis was £397,994. I believe it is correct, also, that the Government has a liability of £700,000 to be met on account of approved buildings.
– That is correct.
– If the approved buildings are completed, the amount of £700,000 will be absorbed. I should like to know whether the amount of £700,000 provided for 1956-57 is the liability that the Government has already accepted in relation to approved projects.
– That will be the cash outgoing.
– The Government is budgeting for a liability that was approved last year?
– I do not know. We have to meet the cash payments when they are due. It may take twelve or eighteen months to expend £700,000.
– That is admitted, but if the Government has budgeted for liabilities incurred in 1955-56, the implication is that the scheme will be static this year, or is the Government proposing to refuse any further approvals until the amount of £700,000 is taken up?
– We will spend as much as we can.
– The Auditor-General made this statement on homes for aged persons in his annual report for the year ended 30th June, 1956 -
Under the Aged Persons Homes Act 1954, the Director-General of Social Services is empowered to make grants to eligible organizations towards the capital costs of approved homes for aged people.
Grants approved and payments made to 30th June,1 956, are as follows: -
What I want to know is exactly what the Government proposes to make available this year for this laudable scheme.
– The answer must be that it is making available £700,000, which is the amount shown in the Estimates. That is the Government’s view of the utmost sum that, having regard to all the circumstances, it will be proved possible to spend. I am sure that the Government and the Department of Social Services would like to spend more than that, but I am asking the committee to approve that amount. If more than £700,000 can be spent,I have no doubt that a further approach will be made to the Parliament.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of National Development.
Proposed Vote, £1,107,000.
– I wish to direct attention to an omission from the Estimates. If there was ever a time in the history of this country when national development in the form of the provision of an adequate and up-to-date railway service was needed, it is now; yet nothing has been done. As far back as 1912, Lord Kitchener pointed out the absolute necessity for a uniform railway gauge.
– Order! To which item is the honorable senator referring?
– I am relating my remarks to an omission from the Estimates.
– I think that provision for the Commonwealth Railways comes under another heading.
– Many items are included under the heading “ Department of National Development “. I emphasize the word” national “.
– Order! The honorable senator will have to relate his remarks to a particular item in the Estimates.
-I refer to Division 127, Administrative.
– I do not see any item there which relates to the Commonwealth Railways.
– What is meant precisely by the word “ national “ in the first place and the word “ administrative “ in the second place?
– Order!I remind the honorable senator that the Estimates for the Commonwealth Railways will be before the committee at a later stage.
– I am not referring to the Commonwealth Railways alone.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I cannot allow the honorable senator to proceed.
– Then I relate my remarks to Division 127k, Division of National Mapping. What has been done in the form of mapping for better roads?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN. Order! I cannot allow the honorable senator to proceed to discuss railways.I am not depriving him of his opportunity to discuss the matter, because it will be available at a later stage. He must relate his remarks to the particular Estimates now before the committee.
– Well, then, I refer to incidental and other expenditure which appears under the heading, “ General Expenses” in both Division 127, Administrative, and Division 127k, Division of National Mapping. What is meant by “ incidental and other expenditure “? That is merely a generalization. Has it anything to do with mapping for the purpose of providing more or better roads, or anything of that kind? The terms “ national “ and “ general “ imply that an overall survey is being made.
– Order! I cannot allow the honorable senator to develop his argument along those lines.
– What is meant by the item, “ Incidental and other expenditure, £2,500”? That might mean anything at all. How can honorable senators be in a position to discuss these matters when the particular purposes covered by the items are not specified? Are we to understand that the administrative officers have authority to spend this money as they wish? Is it to be spent at the direction of the Minister, or at the direction of the senior officers? I do not wish to prolong the discussion, but the wording of these items in very general terms without details being set out is unsatisfactory. An entirely wrong impression is created in the minds of people generally when one speaks about national development. The same thing happens when one speaks about national income. There is no such thing as national income. As you ruled, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that I must refer to a specific item in the Estimates for the Department of National Development, I thought it appropriate to raise that matter.
– We have not been making the progress that we had anticipated. It was my desire to spread the Estimates over as long a period as was practicable. As we have a fairly heavy programme for the remainder of the week, I now move -
That the following votes be taken together, viz.: -
Department of National Development. £1,107,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of National Development, £262,000.
Department of Trade, £1,440,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Trade, £334,000.
Department of Labour and National Service. £2,013,000.
Defence Services -
Department of the Army, £60,284,000.
Other Services -
Administration of National Service Act. £239,000.
Recruiting Campaign, £226,000.
I ask the committee to sit until midnight to deal with this group of Estimates.I shall take appropriate steps just before midnight to bring the debate to a conclusion.
– That is right, bludgeon it through!
– I knew the honorable senator would be disappointed ifI did not. I think that that is the fairest method of approach. It will give to honorable senators a chance to discuss the Estimates of all the departments concerned. I shall do my best to extend the courtesy of a reply to any questions that may be raised.
– On behalf of the Opposition, I oppose the proposal. At least it has the merit of complete frankness, and the Opposition knows where it stands. The proposal has the virtue, that, if the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) intended, as I believe he did, to gag. at midnight, the debate on the Estimates entrusted to him, it is better for the Opposition to have an opportunity to say at least something about each of the departments that have not yet been dealt with than merely to talk about one or two of them and have no opportunity to proffer comment about the others.
I direct the attention of the committee to the sums that are involved in the various Estimates that will be considered between now and midnight - a period of one hour and ten minutes. Although only £1,440,000 is involved in the Estimates for the Department of Trade, the whole question of the administration of imports, the balance of payments, and major questions affecting the economy are opened up. Debate on the Estimates of the Department of Labour and National Service involves a consideration of the unemployment position in Australia, which is a matter of vital concern. The proposed vote for the Department of the Army is £60,284,000. All these are to be disposed of between now and midnight. I record a very emphatic protest on behalf of the Opposition, but so that we may take the fullest possible advantage of the time available. I content myself by leaving the matter at that.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– Division 128, sub-division C, item 1, deals with operational expenses of the Bureau of Mineral Resources, and £400,000 is provided for the service of this year. The details at the foot of the page indicate that for oil search surveys the sum of £129,400 is made available. That is a most inadequate amount, having regard to the vast importance of oil to the Australian economy. As I have said on previous occasions, many millions of pounds might well be spent by the Government in combing this land from end to end in a search for oil, not leaving it to private enterprise to follow a very meagre lead from the Government.
I should be much happier, having regard to the economy and the defence of this country, if the Government were making an all-out endeavour to locate oil in Australia. An amount of £129,400 out of a total budget revenue of £1,230,000,000 is an insignificant contribution in this important field. Apart from the essential nature of oil, without which our transports could not run, our ships could not move, and our aircraft could not fly, the vast question of balance of payments is involved. Australia imports petroleum products to the tune of £90,000,000 a year, and if oil were discovered in this country Australia would be relieved of that great overseas debit, and might even be able to turn it into a credit by exporting oil.
– Is not Australia exporting oil now?
– Australia is exporting an insignificant amount of oil which, first of all, is imported into this country at high cost. It would be an infinitely better commercial proposition if oil were discovered in Australia, and exported after treatment. That would have a most beneficial effect on the balance of payments position. It is hard to visualize any commodity that could have such an important bearing upon the defence of Australia.
– If it could be discovered.
– That is so, and my complaint is that the search is not being prosecuted with anything like adequate vigour. This Government is fond of citing figures to show what it is doing in various fields, but this year, out of a revenue of £1,230,000,000 it proposes to spend £129,400 on oil search. That is .0001 per cent, of the total revenues of the Government. It is all very well to say that private enterprise is doing something in this field, that it has the revenue and that in the first place the Government should give its general blessing to this work, and in the second place should indicate from a limited number of oil surveys where potential fields exist. I know that the oil companies are spending considerable sums, and have a £14,000,000 programme for oil search, but having regard to the difficulties that face Australia the efforts of the oil companies are inadequate. I say again that I should like to see Australia combed systematically from end to end in a search for oil under government-sponsored schemes. An all-out effort should be made by the Government, employing experts, geologists and people well experienced in oil search. There are hardly any brains in the world that cannot be bought at an adequate price. I believe that we could import all the scientific personnel who could guide us to the desired result and who could progress very much quicker than we are progressing now. This is one respect in which Australia is being let down. I shall take no more time on that topic at the moment, worthy though it is of much greater amplification. 1 should like, now, to refer the Minister to a most interesting article which appeared in the “ Quarterly Review of Agricultural Economics “, published in April of this year. It is headed, “ Direct foreign investment. Influence on Australia’s balance of payments “. It is written by one C. Dawson. I do not know whether he is a member of the department, or is not connected with it, but at least the article is published under the sponsorship of the department in its review of agricultural economics. I do not say that it necessarily expresses the view of the department, but at least the department poses this man’s article for consideration. He points out the vast growth in foreign investment in this country, for which this Government has taken a great deal of credit. He points to its short-term advantages. He indicates the many manufacturing industries in which it has played a substantial part. He points out its virtues as being an immediate contribution to our receipts of foreign exchange. He referred to the fact that much of the investment is in import replacement production and that foreign investment is in production for the extraction of goods for export and instances uranium, rutile and beef cattle.
– And all are very important.
– They are all very important, and very useful. He is putting the credit side first, and he points out it is a source for augmenting our capital in Australia. But then he points out that, whilst huge profits are being made, most of them at the present time are being ploughed in. He indicates, at the outset, that -
Private oversea investment in commercial enterprises in Australia has flowed in :it a particularly rapid rate in recent years. Between the end of June, 1947 and June, 1954, the total estimated value of oversea investment in companies in Australia increased by 156 per cent, from £244,900,000 to £626,700,000.
Then he deals - and I select only three brief extracts from the article - with the adverse effects of this great capital inflow. In view of the short time at my disposal, I content myself with posing problems to the Government by reading those three brief extracts.
– The honorable senator agrees with them?
– 1 do. They constitute a real warning to the Government, which is looking at the favorable aspects in importing foreign currency to the order that has been obtained. He said - “Even more striking is the fact that the total income (including undistributed profits) accruing to American companies in Australia rose, as a proportion of Australia’s dollar export income from 10.8% in the 3 years ended June 1950 to 42.6% in 1953-54. This rate of increase indicates that within a few years a decision by American companies to repatriate profits as dividends instead of ploughing them back could absorb the whole of Australia’s dollar income and Coree the imposition of even more drastic restrictions upon imports of developmental equipment for Australian rural industries and manufacturers.”
That is a very significant increase. The second extract 1 select is -
Australia’s recent experience is that the added stimulus rj direct foreign investment is inflationary in an economic context, such as the present one, of pressure on key domestic resources, and that it may aggravate imbalance in the pattern nf investment.
That also is completely true. ! agree entirely with that view as one of the debits. Perhaps, I might read the whole of his conclusions. He says -
The foregoing outline of the main general features of direct foreign investment in Australia which have a bearing on her balance of payments suggests that there are numerous adverse effects and associated risks, which must bc weighed against the favourable aspects of this type of capital inflow. tt suggests that, far from reducing Australia’s dependence on the rural and other established export industries in paying for imports required to maintain her standard of living, direct foreign investment, unselectively welcomed, may well increase that burden. The consequences of direct foreign investment for the balance of payments vary, of course, from industry to industry and from one undertaking to another.
He concludes -
In the light of these considerations, Australia’s present and prospective balance-of-payments position would appear to call for a policy of critical selectivity in the admission of, and in the granting of assistance to, direct investment from overseas.
Merely pointing to the vast sums of money that come into Australia does not give me, and certainly not the writer of the article, any cause for confidence or rejoicing. It needs to be exceedingly selectively employed when it does arrive here, and it does pose the great danger that it will mean a vast export in dollars of income earned by foreign capital in this country. A very nice judgment is required to determine just where to draw the line, having regard, to the short-term benefits and the long-term disabilities. I hope the Minister will give himself the opportunity, before the fatal hour of midnight, to inform the committee whether the Government has adverted to those long-term prospects. I indicate that general reserves are building up in Australia at a very high rate. This is shown by the figures appearing on page 17 of Appendix fi to the tables circulated by the Treasurer relating to national income and expenditure. According to those figures, it appears that undistributed profits have grown very substantially during the last three years. Let me take the period from 1950-51. In that year they were £187,000,000. They fell to £121,000,000 the next year and to £100,000,000 in 1952-53. They rose in 1953-54 to £213,000,000, held at £208,000,000 in 1954-55, and last year were estimated by the Government Statistician to be £213.000,000.
– Are they the undistributed profits of all companies?
– Yes. 1 merely direct attention to those figures as showing the great bank-up. To get the position in true perspective, the profits of companies for the past year were estimated at £550,000,000. A total of £20,000,000 was paid in dividends, I presume to the apparent satisfaction of shareholders; £180,000,000 went for taxation and the balance, £213,000,000- the largest figure of the trio - went to undistributed profits - avenues which, as the writer, Dawson, pointed out in his article, exercise a heavy inflationary influence in competing for the key resources in this country. I think that poses a matter of the greatest importance to this country. I feel that insufficient attention has been given to that aspect, and that the readiness with which the Government has been going into foreign markets borrowing money will unquestionably one day have the effect of adding seriously to our balance of payments burden and to the imbalance of our trading accounts, because not only has interest to be paid on those loans periodically, but also there are service requirements which have to be met year by year in order to amortize the loan payments. As money is borrowed, that money must be repatriated to the owners. As you attract more capital, and it earns dividends, more and more dividends have to be sent out of this country, and you simply postpone the evil day when the balance of payments position can cause a most evil crisis in this country.
.- In May this year the Senate had before it a bill which it received from the House of Representatives - the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Bill - which, with some qualifications, was received with approbation by honorable senators on this side of the chamber as one of the few positive approaches that the Government was making towards stimulating our export trade, and thereby redressing our balance of payments situation. It will be interesting to read to the Senate, in brief form, the comments of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) when he introduced the measure in another place, and those of the Minister representing that Minister in this chamber, who handled the measure here. I refer to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). Speaking in another place the Minister for Trade said -
As I have said earlier, the provisions of this bill must be looked at against the background of our acute balance of payments position and the pressing importance of fostering and expanding export. The bill is one instalment of the Government’s export drive.
When the Minister for National Development, who is in charge of these Estimates, was handling the same bill in this chamber, he said -
The proposals are an earnest of the determina- tion of the Government to assist in expanding exports. They must be looked at against the necessities of the balance of payments position, and as one instalment of the Government’s export drive.
It is rather interesting to have a look at our exports-imports position in the period since 17th May, 1956, as disclosed in one of the monthly bulletins issued by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician. In May, 1956, the excess of exports over imports was £18,600,000; in June it was £9,500,000; in July it was £7,400,000; in August we had a debit balance of £17,200,000. In other words, the necessity for increasing our exports was becoming greater and greater every month. Yet, in spite of the apparent enthusiasm of the Government when it introduced that measure I was amazed and taken aback the other day when I directed a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade to receive the answer that I received from him. The question was in the following terms: -
The Minister replied -
I have been supplied with 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.
This was a reply given on 18th October in respect of a statute which passed this chamber on 17th May as an urgent matter closely related to the stimulation of our export drive, and related more closely to the redressing of our balance of payments position. Yet no effective move has yet been made by the Government to make the legislation effective. A commissioner has not yet been appointed, and no insurance has been effected under the act. Having regard to the kind of legislation then enacted and its subsequent history in the ensuing five months the good faith and bona fides of the Government must necessarily come under suspicion. The exporters of Australia, and those who today are enduring the effects of very severe import cuts in an attempt to redress our balance of payments position, must be taken gravely aback when they realize that apparently this legislation has, up to now at all events, been no more than a piece of political windowdressing, because it has not been brought into operation in the slightest degree to achieve the purpose for which it was designed.
There are other honorable senators who wish to speak to this group of proposed votes, so I shall keep my remarks brief. In my opinion the Minister owes to the Senate an explanation of why up to this time a commissioner has not been appointed - a condition which apparently is precedent to the operation of the act. I know that when a commissioner has been appointed the legislation will not immediately be put into operation, because policy must be determined in consultation with the Minister, and in the event of a disagreement the Minister must lay down the policy. There is a tremendous amount of machinery still to be operated, and it is fair to say that this act may not be operating before the end of the year. It is up to the Minister to explain what 1 call an almost unforgivable delay in implementing a measure which, at the time of its passage, we regarded as valuable and urgent legislation.
.- I wish to say something, under the proposed vote for the Department of National Development, about the grant to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. The grant this year is some £18,000,000, an instalment of a total investment which, I believe, will reach £450,000,000 and will provide this country with the greatest aggregation of irrigation water and electricity which it could hope to get from the Snowy Mountains catchment area. Whether full effect from irrigation water and electricity will be gained is dependent entirely upon the proper retention of conditions in the catchment area from which the water runs into the dams whence it goes through the channels to the turbines which generate the electricity. In this chamber, not so long ago. we heard from Senator Buttfield, an informed address on the ways in which that catchment area is, in certain respects, deteriorating. I do not propose to go, step by step, over those various ways, but it is clear that the catchment area is at least on the threshold of becoming seriously eroded through the bogs being over-grazed, through snow grass being killed, through fennel coming into the bare patches in between, through frost and wind erosion and the destruction of timber, and through normal soil erosion due to rain. Now, if that area is on the threshold of becoming seriously eroded - and I put it no higher than that at the moment - then the process could be halted now without great effort. But once it is allowed to over-pass that threshold the effort and the expense involved in reclaiming the area rises in geometric progression, and a task which could be easily undertaken now could then call for the expenditure of tremendous resources by this nation. I point this out at this juncture, though the area is now on the threshold of being seriously eroded, because now we are offered an opportunity to take the greatest step which could be taken towards preserving these catchment areas. It is generally agreed that the greatest factor in causing this erosion about which I have been speaking is the system of letting snow leases for grazing, allowing them to be over-grazed without proper policing and supervision, and regularly burning off the leases to kill the snow grass - which is unpalatable to animals - to bring on a green pick and allow other grasses, which do not bind the soil like snow grass, to take root.
It is generally agreed by all, except the graziers who use these snow leases, that that is the greatest factor in causing erosion in those areas. Those snow leases come up for renewal in 1957, and it might well be that this will be the last convenient opportunity that the Parliament will have to consider this matter before the leases come up for renewal, which renewal will be for a period of seven years. At present, they are leased or let to graziers by various instrumentalities of the New South Wales Government, including the Kosciusko State Park Trust and the Department of Lands of New South Wales, and they bring in - in return for the damage which qualified people believe is done to them - an income of a paltry £20,000 a year. It seems that we now have a golden opportunity to tackle this whole problem as these leases come up for renewal.
No proper action has yet been taken because of the great number of authorities which have something to do with the snow leases. Among those authorities are the Kosciusko State Park Trust of New South Wales, the Department of Lands of New South Wales, the Soil Conservation Service, the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission, the Forestry Commission, the Tourist Bureau, the State fisheries, the Monaro Acclimatization Society, the Department of Main Roads, the pastures protection boards, certain shires, the HumeSnowy Bushfires Protection Advisory Committee and the Catchment Area Protection Board. In addition, authorities which have some control over the small part of the catchment in Victoria are the Victorian Department of Lands, the Soil Conservation Authority, the Forests Commission and the State Rivers and
Water Supply Commission. The River Murray Commission also has something to do with the area, as do the Snowy Mountains Advisory Committee - I believe that is the title - and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority.
About twenty bodies, all with overlapping powers, have something to do with this matter, and there is therefore no organization to which responsibility can be finally sheeted home. I suggest that the Commonwealth, in agreement with the States - particularly New South Wales - should place this area under the control of one body. 1 do not suggest how that body should be made up, because that is a matter for negotiation between the Ministers concerned. The River Murray Commission has recommended that that body should be composed to a large extent of soil conservation boards from each State; but there should be one body with full responsibility for ensuring that erosion does not continue in that area, ;md with full powers to police the regulations which it ought to be empowered to make.
Snow leases, allegedly, have been wiped out in the Guthega catchment area, but at present and in the immediate past there are and have been just as many cattle and sheep grazing on those snow leases as when they were in full operation, because there is no one body with proper powers to police the area and punish people who infringe the relevant regulations. If we could seize this opportunity to bring this area under the control of one body with proper powers, we should do some good and take some action to combat erosion. I should not mind if the Australian Government paid a bit of money towards the running of such a body because if that were done, the benefit of the retention of an investment of £450,000,000, whatever is paid out, would be almost incalculable.
At present streams are not filling the reservoirs to any great extent. As a matter of fact, the measurement of siltage brought down by streams indicates that those reservoirs would take 400 years to silt up completely. But that is presuming that erosion does not progress geometrically. Even so, 2 per cent, of those reservoirs would be silted up in ten years, and that is more than a water-hungry inland can allow to be silted up if it can be prevented.
The sixth annual report of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority for the year ended 30th June, 1955, which is the last report of that authority, refers at page 19 to a commission set up, and states with regard to its terms of reference as follows: -
The terms of reference do not include an examination of the cost of Snowy power, but it is hoped that the investigations will, amongst other things, clear up once and for all the vexed question of low load factor for Snowy power, which was adopted by the original Commonwealth State Snowy River Committee and later by the Authority as a basis for the design of the ultimate Scheme, and about which there has been such a diversity of opinion. 1 should appreciate it if the Minister could explain what diversity of opinion there is about the vexed question of low load power, and give us any other facts in respect of that matter which he would care to bring forward. Will the Minister also give honorable senators a history of the protracted negotiations which have taken place over the years in an endeavour to reach some form of firm agreement concerning this authority and a resume of the present position of these negotiations? As he is not a prophet, I shall not ask him to prognosticate the future of them.
– I wish to refer to the Department of the Army. It will be noticed that the proposed vote for this financial year is £60,284,000, and the expenditure last year was £61,445,936. Therefore, the proposed vote is approximately the same as the expenditure was last year. I know as well as every other honorable senator knows that it is futile to look through the Estimates to ascertain whether the money provided last year was spent wisely. We know that the expenditure was more than £61,000,000, but that does not tell us anything at all. Therefore, we have to go further afield and make our own investigations. In this regard it is interesting to turn to the report of the Auditor-General for the year ended 30th June, 1956, in order to see what he has to say after having examined the accounts of the Department of the Army. The Auditor-General’s report at page 72, under the heading of “ Stores and Stores Accounting “, reads as follows: -
In previous Reports adverse comment was made on unsatisfactory accounting and ineffective control .over Unit stores.
Later he said -
The position in the various States with regard, to stores and store accounting is summarized hereunder.
He then dealt with New South Wales and his remarks were -
Unsatisfactory accounting for, and ineffective control over Unit stores are still evident. At 30th June, 1956, visits of inspection by the Army Audit Staff were seriously in arrear; many Units had not been inspected for eighteen months. When this Report was prepared, stocktaking at twelve Units was overdue for more than a year and considerable delay was occurring in the investigation and adjustment of discrepancies disclosed by stocktakings made at other Units.
In 24 cases reported during the year, results of stocktakings at Depots and Units showed large discrepancies. At one Unit, School of Mechanical Engineering, surpluses and deficiencies totalled £21,864 and £8,792 respectively.
Defalcations by Service personnel of rations, petrol, clothing and general stores at the Belmore Training Depot were reported during the year. Fourteen members were prosecuted and eight found guilty on various charges. The thefts were made possible by the collusion of members and the failure of others to carry out instructions. The matter is still under departmental investigation.
In collusion with two civilians a member of 2 Base Ordnance Depot, Moorebank, defrauded the Commonwealth of 29,857 gallons of petrol. The member was sentenced to imprisonment and ordered to make restitution of £1,460. This fraud was facilitated by the Department’s failure to institute suitable internal checks. Detection was delayed by the member destroying relevant documents and by’ ineffective internal audit examinations. A satisfactory system of internal check is now in operation and the internal audit procedures are under review.
The main part of that statement, and the part which concerns the Senate, is -
Unsatisfactory accounting for, and ineffective control over Unit stores are still evident.
The Auditor-General drew attention to this unsatisfactory position in previous years, but when he made a further inspection he found that the faults of the previous years were still evident. No government can afford to overlook this position. No government can afford to ask the people to provide a sum of £190,000,000 for defence purposes without safeguarding their interests by protecting the stores from even ordinary forms of theft. The surpluses and deficiencies at the School of Mechanical Engineering call for special attention by the department. We as a Senate must hold the Minister responsible for these things. We do not look to the heads of the departments or to any one else. We say that the Minister is the person responsible for the administration of the department and we lay the blame on his shoulders. If the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), who is now overseas, is responsible he should be called back to answer the charges at the bar of the Senate. These are serious matters; the sums involved are large and show that the Minister has been lax in his administrative functions.
A wide range of goods, covering rations, petrol, clothing and general stores, is affected by the thefts. A large quantity of petrol - more than 29,000 gallons - was stolen. The Minister for the Army should give this matter special attention. When he was appointed, we were told that he had been given the post because of his prowess as a businessman. He should now apply his business ability to this matter and1 protect the interests of the people.
The losses through thefts and general dishonesty are not restricted to one State. They occurred also in Queensland. One would expect better from a State like Queensland, but the Auditor-General, referring to that State, said -
Accounting for and control of stores at some Army Units have not reached an efficient standard, whilst there is evidence of failure of Unit personnel to carry out internal checks set down in departmental instructions.
The check of stores at Units by the Army Audit Staff is considerably in arrear. This position was contributed to by the poor state of store accounting at various establishments already examined and the resultant necessity to spend excessive time at those establishments in order to advise and assist in placing the accounting on a more satisfactory basis.
At the Jungle Training Centre, Canungra, a particularly unsatisfactory position was reported. A low standard of store accounting, lack of security, inadequate storage and issue facilities, and insufficient control and accounting for rations, petrol and oils were some of the matters instanced. A Command inspection has been ordered. A stocktaking carried out at this Centre in June, 1956, disclosed surpluses and deficiencies amounting to £918 and £3,543 respectively.
I am sure that the Minister for National Development would not stand for this conduct. If he were made the Minister for the Army to-morrow, I feel sure that some of the “ tall poppies “ would have to gel to work immediately and arrange their stores so that these thefts would not be carried out as easily as they appear to have been in the past. As I said before, this conduct is not confined to one State; it exists throughout the Commonwealth. In respect of Western Australia, the AuditorGeneral said -
Unit store accounting and stocktaking programmes were reasonably maintained but biennial stock checks of C.M.F. Units required to be carried out by Army Audit Staff are seriously in arrear.
Storekeeping and accounting for Engineer stores are unsatisfactory.
Thai is the strain in which the AuditorGeneral has reported upon the stores and accounting of the Department of the Army. The Department of the Army is not a new department; it has functioned for years. To my mind, there is no excuse for the condition which existed at the time the examinations were made. If this kind of thing is to be permanent, the Government should tell us that it is the warp and woof of the Department of the Army. We are tired of listening to reports of this nature. This is the third year I have spoken of similar matters. So we go on in our unhappy way!
I do not think that the Minister can make any reply to what I have said. I do not think that he can give me any assurance, except that he will take up the matter in Cabinet and say, “ In future we must have a proper system operating in the Army so that the interests of the people will be properly safeguarded “.
– We know that defence is most important to Australia. I am very surprised that recruitment for the Regular Army is dropping. In view of the present state of affairs in the world, it is important that the Australian Regular Army be kept up to standard, and at full strength. I have before me a letter that I received from a serving member of the forces, and it stresses a great number of important points. Figuratively speaking, this is right from the horse’s mouth. Members of the forces are not supposed to approach members of Parliament direct, so I shall not mention the soldier’s name. As his letter is of considerable interest, I shall read it to the committee. It is as follows: -
As a member of the Australian Regular Army with the interests of my country at heart, I think that it is high time that a little bit of publicity was given to the present state of the Regular
Army. I am writing to you, sir, as you are, at present, the only man in either House of Parliament who can take up this matter. It is due to the present government’s mishandling that the situation is as bad as it is, whilst, were the Evatt Labour Party in power, it is doubtful if we would have any army at all!
He is, apparently, a very discerning gentleman. The letter goes on -
The present position is that the Regular Army is several thousand men under strength, and discharges are exceeding enlistments. Although this fact is known to the government, nobody seems to have the slightest interest in the fact, and no effort is made to find out from serving members just what is wrong, so the number of Regular Soldiers decreases from month to month. . . . I do not claim to have the answer to all the army’s ills, but I can give you a few reasons which I know of personally as to current discontent in the Army, and a few suggestions for improvement. What is really needed is a complete inquiry into the R.A.A., with facilities for all ranks to speak their minds to the investigators.
I commend the following very important points in the letter to the committee: -
Some reasons for discontent: Living Quarters. These are in many cases hang-overs from the last war, and are not fit for Peace-Time soldiers.
Married Quarters. In every district where Regular Troops are stationed, sufficient homes should be provided to provide for all married men. At present, homes (an inadequate number) are provided at only some places. There are practically no quarters in the Melbourne area. A married man in the Army must rely on such homes, as it is pointless to buy a home in Melbourne when he might be moved to Darwin the day after! This was, of course, one of the points in your party’s election programme, but neither of the other parties gave it a mention.
Promotion. - To qualify for promotion to confirmed rank, a soldier must pass certain examinations in military subjects. The present position is that men have qualified in all subjects for promotion to ranks higher than those which they hold, but cannot get promotion as there are no vacancies, owing to positions being held by men of temporary rank who have not passed promotion exams. The army should bring in a strict rule that no man can be promoted until he has passed all required exams. “ Temporary “ rank should be abolished. Another obstacle to promotion is that some C.M.F. men are employed on “full-time duty”, thus stopping A.R.A. men from being promoted to the positions which they hold. Promotions to W.O. should be done within each corps, on a nation-wide basis, strictly in accordance with the seniority of qualified personnel. At present, many very junior sergeants are promoted to W.O. just because they happen to be in the right spot at the right time.
Postings. All ranks should be automatically re-posted after two years in one place. At present, men are able to get into the “ plum “ jobs and stay there indefinitely, which means that A.R.A. men serving with National Service units (the most unpopular posting amongst regular soldiers) cannot get re-posted.
Continuity of Service. Many regular soldiers are dubious of making the army their career, as they are afraid that if the Evatt Labour Party is returned to office (whichGod forbid!!) they will be “ axed “. There should be an all-party statement issued guaranteeing that regular soldiers will not be sacked consequent upon a change of government.
And now, some suggestions for improvement:
Annual Leave. At present, a soldier can only get a free travel warrant to the address of his next-of-kin. Thus, if he is stationed at Puckapunyal, and his wife lives at Puckapunyal, he doesn’t get one at all. Every serving soldier should be entitled, once annually, to a free rail warrant for himself, and dependants, to anywhere in the Commonwealth,–
– Do you agree with that suggestion?
– Politicians enjoy that privilege. The letter goes on - it being understood that he would NOT be entitled to additional “ travelling time “ above that normally required to get to his next-of-kin’s address.
The next suggestion is most important -
Re-engagement bonus. At present, a man is offered no inducement to re-engage when his term expires. As it must cost several thousand pounds to enlist, train and equip a soldier, I suggest that any man re-engaging be given a re-engagement bonus . . . and fourteen days’ leave.
– Fourteen days’ leave?
– The whole point is that the Army is losing trained, efficient men. If a re-engagement bonus were payable, it would encourage the men to re-enlist in the Army, and a quite considerable sum of money would be saved in training recruits. The next suggestion is -
Rations. If a man lives out of camp, he is not entitled to any rations. If he lives several miles from his unit, as many “ living-out “ men do, this means that he must take a cut-lunch with him, not at all satisfactory in the winter months. I sug- gest that the army rationing system be amended so that a midday meal is provided for all “ livingout “ personnel. Most living-out men are married, and they receive no additional allowance for living out of camp.
The points that have been brought out by this serving soldier, and that he discussed with a great number of other serving personnel, might seem trivial to some people, but they are important to a well-trained soldier of the Australian Regular Army. I remind certain honorable senators who are smiling that when, not long ago, our stamp allowance was cut out. although that action by the Government did not seem to people outside to be very important, it elicited many squeals from members of the Parliament. In the same way, the things that this soldier has mentioned are very important to serving personnel and I think that, if we wish to keep the Army at its proper level - and I hope that that is what we want to do - they should receive consideration. These points could, with advantage, be looked into by both the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) and the administrative heads of his department.
– I refer to the proposed vote for the National Service Training Scheme. First, let me say that I think that the scheme is providing splendid training for the young men of this country. I believe that they enjoy the training and that Australia benefits because their sense of citizenship is increased. However, I have been concerned for a considerable time about a particular aspect of the scheme. I refer to trainees who receive a permanent injury during training. Fortunately, so far as I can gather, not many trainees have suffered in this way, but nevertheless there are some tragic cases. I know personally of a boy of eighteen years of age who received a permanent spinal injury during his training and who will never leave his hospital bed.I admit that when trainees are injured they are compensated, and that is as it should be, but there seems to be no provision for subsequent treatment during, perhaps, years of invalidism. National service trainees who are incapacitated do not seem to be covered by the various schemes for other permanently incapacitated members of the community. They cannot be admitted to repatriation hospitals because, in the strict sense, they are not exservicemen.
The young man to whom I have referred is a patient in a public hospital where, of course, he is receiving the best attention that can be given him. But he is a little different from the other patients. They are not ex-servicemen, and most of them are older than he is, whilst others are chronically ill. I believe that national service trainees who are injured should be cared for in the same way as any other man who serves his country. Surely it cannot be denied that these young men are serving their country!
The very fine family of this young man lives in a country district of Queensland. They have not much of this world’s goods, but week after week and month after month the mother travels to see her son in hospital. She receives no assistance such as fares or anything of that kind. I understand that in the case of incapacitated exservicemen, fares and other assistance are available. This boy’s mother is in indifferent health, but that does not prevent her from visiting the hospital frequently to see her son who is helpless and who suffers greatly.
I have taken up this matter with Minister after Minister, and although they have been most sympathetic, they have not been able to close the gap which seems to exist somewhere in the legislation and which prevents the necessary assistance from being given. This boy will never walk again. His life, whether it be short or long, will be tragic, and I think that everything possible should be done to improve his lot. I hope that the number of such cases will never be large, but whether there are few or many we should not fail to do everything we can to help them.
– I was interested in the remarks of Senator Annabelle Rankin regarding incapacitated national service trainees. 1, too, am concerned with that aspect of the scheme, but from another angle. With my colleagues from South Australia, I fought for years for justice for a South Australian national service trainee who was injured during the course of his training. He was in hospital for 88 days, I think, after the camp ended, but was not paid for that period. After long and persuasive arguments by myself, Senator Ryan and other South Australian senators, the matter was adjusted, but other cases of the kind have occurred in South Australia, and I have no doubt that that is also true of other States. I hope that the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) will take notice of this matter.
A lad who goes into camp cheerfully, in compliance with the law, may be injured a week or a fortnight before the camp breaks up, and be admitted to hospital. In South Australia, most of these cases are admitted to the repatriation hospital at Springbank, or to the hospital at the Keswick military barracks. The trainees receive the daily rate of pay until the day on which the camp breaks up, but they do not receive pay thereafter. In one instance, a young man was in the repatriation hospital at Springbank for 63 days after the camp broke up, but received no pay for that period. As national service training is compulsory, the Government should devise means to overcome the grave injustice which is suffered by trainees who are injured through no fault of their own. I believe that if this injustice were rectified, much of the hostility to national service training would disappear.
Recently, when we were discussing the proposed vote for the Department of Trade, I was told that the subject of import licensing could be dealt with when the schedules of salaries and allowances were being discussed by the committee. I notice that there are 456 administrative officers of the Department of Trade concerned with import licensing. In South Australia, there are dozens of small businessmen who are adversely affected by import restrictions, and I wish to present a plea on their behalf. The success of many small businesses depends on the availability of imports. I wish to make a special plea for a particular firm, Golden Nut Margarine Limited. I am just as keen as are other honorable senators to ensure that householders have all they need of Australia’s good butter, but they have never been able to do so. By an arrangement between the State and Federal governments, quotas have been fixed for the production of margarine, which is being used to an increasing degree by bakers, pastrycooks and housewives, because of the high price of butter. In South Australia, the demand for margarine is always greater than is the quantity available. Over a period of two years, the company to which I have referred has applied for permits to import oil, used in the preparation of margarine, which has no resale value. Yet, because of the refusal of this Government to grant them a permit they have been forced to close down their business for months of the year. That is bad enough, but because of quotas being granted to manufacturers of this commodity in other States their product is being sold in South Australia whilst the South Australian institute has had to close down. We say that is wrong. There is a demand for this commodity only because of the inability of the people to pay the price for what should be the only foodstuff of this sort of the Australian people, namely the best Australian butter. However, if it is right that quotas should be granted for the manufacture of this commodity, then those who are in business in a small way should not be penalized by the restrictions to which I have referred. That is the position of the firm 1 have mentioned. It has reached the stage where already this year, after only four months of processing, it has had to cease manufacturing part of its product, and is continuing to manufacture only that grade of margarine used for cooking. I say that is wrong and unjust. I have given one example but could quote four or five others.
I again impress upon the Government the bad effect that these restrictions have on the smaller businessmen in Adelaide who for years have enjoyed a good reputation with the public. No doubt the same position exists in other parts of the Commonwealth. Because of the restrictions these people are slowly but surely being forced out of business. 1 hope that the Government at an early date will reconsider the impossible and unfair implications involved in its import restrictions.
Wednesday, 24th October 1956.
– My own personal opinion is that the Senate has more profitably employed the time available to it during .the latter part of this evening than it did during the earlier portion. I only wished I had conceived earlier the idea of putting the debate on the basis upon which it has proceeded during the last hour or so. One of the objections to it is that the hour is so late that it is hardly fair to reply at length to all the very interesting points that have been made during the last hour or so.
I shall speak, not at great length, upon two matters which affect the Department of National Development. The first is that raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) concerning the search for oil in Australia. He was very critical of the Government’s activities and of the level of expenditure. In reply, I say first of all, in a minor key, that the £129,400 which the Leader of the Opposition mentioned covered only the operational expenses. One needs to add to that the cost of staff and equipment which brings the figure for this year’s appropriation more correctly to £324,750 instead of £129,400. I have no doubt that the honorable senator’s reply to that will be, “ It is still far less than it should be “. I think the correct rejoinder to that criticism is to ask the question: In what way, in what direction and by what methods could the Government justifiably increase the expenditure? I adopt the same approach as did the Leader of the Opposition. There are few matters more important and none offers a greater reward than the discovery of oil in Australia. The Government wants to do all it can to achieve that result. This year it is spending £324,750 and, of course, because of that programme the oil companies themselves are spending some £7,000,000 each year in the search for oil in Australia.
The search for oil is a very chancy business. In Canada the search went on for 30 years before the right patch was struck, and then, on the information obtained in that strike, a foundation was laid which enabled the same process to be repeated over and over again. I am told, and 1 hope I. understand the position correctly, that a most extraordinary situation has occurred in Western Australia. The first strike of oil in that State represented one chance in a million. Working on the experience of Canada, the scientists were of the opinion that they would be able to go on from strength to strength, but the Western Australian strike was extraordinary in two respects. First, it was such a long shot; and secondly, the oil struck there had apparently migrated from somewhere else and in its present situation it does not provide the geological information upon which scientists anticipate that having once struck oil they will be able to repeat the performance.
The search for oil is not just a matter of spending money; it is a matter of staff and equipment which is much more important than money. The Leader of the Opposition said that we can buy brains and import people, but that has not been the Government’s experience in this particular field of activity, in the search for either oil or uranium. I remember very well, when in London in 1952, making most urgent representations to the British Government to provide technical officers and scientists for the search for uranium in Australia. The results were most disappointing. I could talk for a long while on this subject but shall refrain from doing so.
I desire to touch on one other point raised by Senator Gorton in regard to the catchment area of the Snowy Mountains scheme. I shall do so very quickly. I have pushed ahead with this scheme with my lights focused on two objectives. The first is to obtain from the Government each year as much money as I can in order to push the scheme along as far as possible; and the second is to try to tie up an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State governments. I think that success is within our grasp in both directions, but I will not believe that the agreement is signed until it is signed. It has eluded us from time to time, but I think it is fair to say that there is agreement between the three governments. It is a question now of getting the agreement down in a suitable set of words which the three governments will accept. Having said that, I move -
That the votes be agreed to.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Australian Trade Representation in Spain -
Export of Scrap Metal - Import Licensing - Immigrant Sufferer from Hansen’s Disease.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– It is apparent that the only opportunity that I shall have to discuss certain matters will be on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate.I would much rather have discussed them in the normal course of business, but because of circumstances over which the Opposition has no control, this seems to be my only chance to bring to the notice of the Senate certain matters which I think ought to be considered. I would not for one moment reflect on any decision of the Senate, butI may reflect on certain decisions by Ministers.
I should like to bring under notice the matter of the Commercial Intelligence Service in the Department of Trade. From time to time I have pointed out the very important advantages of hvaing representation in one of the main European countries in which, over the years, we have failed to take our place. I refer to Spain, where every country of the British Commonwealth other than Australia is represented, in some cases on an ambassadorial level. Although Spain has very great trade potentialities for us, particularly in the sale of wheat, we have refused to send even a trade commissioner to that country. I do not know whether or not the opportunity has been lost. I know that it has been almost lost, but perhaps it is not yet too late to take appropriate steps. I shall develop this point at another time, but 1 want to leave this thought with the Minister in the hope that he will take the matter up with the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). For an expenditure of £1 1,000 we obtain trade representation in a number of countries. This seems to me to be rather cheap representation. After all, if we can send representatives to Trinidad, Burma, and the Central African Federation, for reasons which are good in the opinion of the Minister for Trade, surely there is more value in having a representative in Spain at this time. 1 should like to mention another very important matter while Senator Spooner is present in the chamber. This is a matter with which he had much to do in the Department of National Development but which has now passed out of his control. The Government has been subjected to very great criticism as a stop-start government, which seems to have the greatest difficulty in making decisions. I ask the Minister, with his great background of knowledge, to influence somebody in Cabinet to make some decisions in respect of the export of scrap metal, particularly steel rails. The Government transferred control of this matter from the Department of National Development to the Department of Trade just before last Christmas. After many, many months of trying to get a decision, the important thing for a potential exporter is to get a decision so that he may know where he stands. This Government has a reputation for delays in coming to decisions. In the case of scrap steel, after six months of cogitation, the mountain has brought forth a mouse and decided to set up a committee. It is the old story. The committee consists of three men, including a representative of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, a representative of outside business and a representative of the department.
I do not know why the department cannot stand on its own feet and make its own decisions. The setting up of a committee is another waste of time. The representative of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited will object to any scrap steel leaving Australia except in special circumstances. The man representing industry will want to send it away. Then the public servant on the committee, who is virtually an arbitrator, will give a final decision. Why should he not make the decision in the first place?
Only last week, I was asked to try to get a decision from the Department of Trade. I made contact with the department but the matter had been referred to a committee, and the committee had gone to Melbourne. It is days before matters are heard of once they go there I telephoned Melbourne and was told by officials that they had not heard of the matter. Later, I was told that it had been sent back to Sydney. In Sydney I was told that they did not have it there, but they knew that it was on the way. That is where the matter stands now. Many cases have been sent to Melbourne for final decision. Surely the Minister responsible must know that the setting up of committees only blocks progress and delays decisions.
The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is the only company in Australia in the position of advantage that it holds. It has access to scrap steel at a pegged price. The only pegged price is the level at which it buys the scrap. The price at which it sells the steel is not pegged. If a man in the woollen textile trade wants to buy raw material, he has to go to an auction sale and pay the world price. He fabricates the wool and sells it against world competition, but the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is protected by this Government in the market of scrap steel. If it produced cheap steel, we would not mind, but after it has bought scrap at about onethird of the overseas price in many cases, it fabricates the steel in its own mills and charges the public what it pleases.
I ask the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to refer this matter to the Cabinet. Why cannot the responsible Minister or a public servant make the decisions in the first place? If somebody puts a question on scrap steel, he is informed that the committee has to examine the matter. It then becomes sacred. I ask the Minister to examine the whole question.
Finally I wish to refer to the old problem of import licences. I know the problem is difficult but, again, the main complaint is about lack of decision. I know that at times it is difficult to reach a decision, but it is not* as difficult as it is made to appear. Decisions should be made quickly so that persons whose licences have expired know where they stand. I read the last annual report of W. Watson and Sons Limited, who manufacture X-ray and surgical equipment and medical accessories. This company has developed a high degree of efficiency. When the Government imposes import licensing, it should endeavour to prevent the importation of goods that are manufactured in Australia of good quality and sufficient quantity. Watson and Sons Limited have been manufacturing the goods to which I have referred for many years. At the annual general meeting of the company, the chairman of directors, Mr. J. P. Trainor stated -
Importation has weakened Australian enterprise. There has been far more overseas expenditure than in the pre-import licensing period.
This company has to contend with more imports than it did before. Mr. Trainor continued -
Unless governments reduce the habit of importing cheap apparatus and providing duty-free clearances, we will find a repetition of the position in this key scientific industry, which was rightly deplored by the late Sir Alan Newton, famous surgeon, when he told his colleagues of the Medical Equipment Control Committee in the “ Medical Journal of Australia “: - “ We must, therefore, rely on our own manufacturers, and here the difficulty lies in the fact that we have foresaken these men in the years of peace by showing a marked preference for imported instruments. It is to be hoped that our successors will profit from the knowledge that, had we supported local manufacturers to a greater degree, we should not be in our present predicament in regard to the supply of instruments “.
Without doubt, the Army could buy bullets from cheap foreign sources, but will not - nor should authorities permit the purchases of cheap foreign technical equipment for the removal of those bullets.
If the Government wants to examine the Department of Trade and believes that the time is opportune to reduce trade restrictions, it should not apply a general increase of 5 or 6 per cent, to imports, but should study Australian industries and help them by supplying raw materials. That is preferable to maintaining an influx of ready-made goods that are already being manufactured in Australia.
I thank the Senate for its sympathetic hearing. I should not have brought these matters forward now but for the arrogant stand that was adopted by the Minister responsible for the departments concerned in this chamber. His suggestion that the application of the gag had improved the debate was a gratuitous insult to honorable senators.
– I have received an answer to a question which Senator Tangney addressed to me as the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Harold Holt). The Minister for Immigration will cease to hold that portfolio as from tomorrow and, therefore, I wish to include the question and answer in the report of to-day’s proceedings. Senator Tangney asked the following question, upon notice: -
The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers: -
Section 8A of the Immigration Act 1901-1949 provides, amongst other things, that “where the Minister is satisfied that, within five years after the arrival in Australia of a person who was not born in Australia and who arrived in Australia on or after the date of commencement of this Section, that person -
It seems clear the Parliament’s intention was that not only persons convicted of criminal offences but also those who became inmates of insane asylums or public charitable institutions, should be liable for deportation.
The individual case to which the honorable senator has referred has, in my view, raised the general question of whether deportation should continue to be required under the Immigration Act on the grounds that a migrant has become a charge upon public funds. I am arranging for the Immigration Advisory Council to consider this question. This has been a very difficult case to decide but I have been influenced by the fact that the present condition of the man is not serious, there is every prospect that he will completely recover within a period of two years and he has a wife and two children in Australia.
I have also had regard to indications received that migrants already settled in Australia acquire some feeling of insecurity when this type of case arises, since they are apprehensive of their position should they be unfortunate enough to break down in health; and to the possibility that deportation, on health grounds, might result in other migrants who suffer from serious complaints not reporting for treatment, and thereby endangering the health of the community generally.I have cancelled the deportation order and granted approval for Mr. Prosopapa to remain.
The special factors which I have mentioned, coupled with other compassionate circumstances, have led me to the view that deportation should not take place.
Question resolved in the affirmative..
Senate adjourned at 12.32 a.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 October 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1956/19561023_senate_22_s9/>.