22nd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, by saying that yesterday the Minister, in reply to a question upon notice by Senator Kennelly, outlined the current Australian shipbuilding programme. I ask him how far the programme has progressed, and how many ships are in the initial stage of construction.
SenatorPALTRIDGE. - Perhaps 1 could best answer the honorable senator’s question by announcing the dates of the proposed launching and commissioning of vessels now under construction. I stated yesterday that two 19,000-tons vessels were being built at Whyalla, and it is expected that the first will be launched about June, 1959, and commissioned about February, 1960. The second will be launched about May, 1960, and commissioned in February, 1961. The first of the two 1 0,000-ton bulk carriers being built for the Australian Shipping Board at Whyalla will be launched in March. 1957, and commissioned in September, 1957. The second is expected to be launched in October, 1957, and commissioned in May, 1958. One 10,000-ton turbine bulk carrier, “ Iron Spencer “, is expected to be launched in February. 1957, and commissioned in May, 1957. The 10,000-ton motor bulk carrier being built at Whyalla will be launched in August, 1958, and commissioned in March, 1959. Of the three 10,000-ton vessels being built by Evans Deakin Limited, Brisbane, “ Lake Colac “ will be launched in April, 1957, and commissioned in October of that year. “ Lake Sorrell “ will be launched in February, 1958, and commissioned in May, 1958. “Lake Boga “ will be launched in 1956 - apparently late 1956 - and commissioned in May, 1957. At the Newcastle State dockyard two 7,000-ton motor colliers are being built and one will be launched this month, if it has not been already launched, and will be commissioned in February of next year. The other will be launched in April, 1957, and commissioned in August, 1957. The 6,000-ton ferry will be commenced shortly. Of the two 2,000- ton cargo vessels being built by Walkers Limited, Maryborough, it is expected that the first will be launched in January, 1957, and commissioned in June of that year. The second will be launched in January, 1958, and commissioned in June, 1958.
– I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise whether he has been made aware of reports that people are dealing illicitly in the export of gold from Australia. Will the Minister check these reports, and if they are found to be true will he take the necessary action to prohibit the illegal export of this valuable commodity?
– The reports referred to by the honorable senator have not yet come to my notice, but I will refer the matter to the department and give the honorable senator a considered answer in due course. This is a very important matter.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether he has seen a report by the Melbourne University School of Education which claims that many radio serials, most popular among children, are wholly unsuitable for children, and gravely infringe the code for children’s listening proposed in 1945 by the Broadcasting Control Board, and accepted by the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. If the Minister has not read this report will he do so, and investigate the allegations to ascertain whether the programme standards laid down have been observed? If he finds that they have not been observed, will he assure the Senate that he will take action to prevent further such occurrences?
– I shall be very pleased to bring the honorable senator’s question under the notice of my colleague, the Postmaster-General, and ask him to give the matter earnest consideration.
– Has the Minister representing the Treasurer seen reports that the Prime Minister is prepared to relax restrictions on bank advances on the ground that Australia has overcome the inflationary problems which these credit restrictions were designed to cure? Are these reports correct? If they are, how does the Minister reconcile this claim with the increase of lis. in the cost of living for the quarter ended September, 1956, in New South Wales?
– 1 have not seen any such reports. Further, if they do exist, I very much doubt their accuracy.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade been directed to a statement appearing in the Sydney Sunday “ SunHerald “ that a group of men known as “ Menzies spivs “ are making huge profits out of import restrictions and are holding a gun at the heads of some of Sydney’s biggest importing and warehouse firms? Is he aware that representatives of big firms say that in order to maintain supplies they are forced to buy goods from these spivs at premiums of up to 40 per cent, and 50 per cent.? Is he aware that two operators working in homes in the eastern suburbs of Sydney each hold import licences for carpets far in excess of that held by one of the largest and oldest established firms in Sydney? Is it a fact that a Chinese cafe proprietor has obtained a licence to import from Japan more goods than a big firm which has been trading with Japan since before World War II. is permitted to import? Will the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade have these cases investigated in accordance with the suggestion made by the Minister for National Development yesterday?
– I do not regard the general statements made by the honorable senator as references to specific cases which can be investigated. I repeat the offer that I made yesterday, and which I was interested to notice my colleague, the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade, also made in the House of Representatives yesterday. If the honorable senator will submit a case in sufficiently specific terms to enable it to be investigated, then it will be investigated, and any corrective action necessary will be taken.
– These are specific cases. Does the Minister wish to make a policeman out of me?
– They are not specific cases.
– They are. The names are given in the press.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral inform the Senate what stage has been reached with the case instituted by Victoria against the Commonwealth to destroy the system of uniform taxation? Pursuant to the announcement of the Premier of New South Wales last week, has any step been taken by New South Wales to join with Victoria as a co-plaintiff, or to intervene in the suit?
– I am not aware of the precise date on which the case will be heard, but I understand that it is unlikely that it will come on this year. I have not been formally informed whether the Premier of New South Wales has joined in the proceedings, but 1 shall ascertain that and inform the honorable senator accordingly.
– Perhaps my question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, may involve a matter of Government policy, but I intend to ask it just the same. In view of the recently announced increase of the cost of living, will the Government give the Senate an assurance at an early date that pensions will be increased generally?
– That matter will be considered in its proper light in due course.
– I ask the
Minister for Civil Aviation whether he is aware that two French-built “ Armagnacs “ airliners, operated by a Japanese airline, have been refused permission to land at Brisbane while bringing people to the Olympic Games? Is the reason given, that they were too big and heavy, correct? If it is correct, what are the restrictions and conditions which govern the use of other capital city airports, such as Essendon, Kingsford-Smith, Llanherne and Adelaide?
– I am pleased to be able to tell the honorable senator that an alert department noticed the same press report as he has apparently noticed, and furnished me with some material that may be of use to the honorable senator. 1 have been advised that, of all the aircraft that are visiting Australia for the Olympic Games, the French-built “ Armagnacs “ to which the honorable senator referred is the only type that presents any runway difficulties. That is because the “ Armagnacs “ has a unique undercarriage design, with small wheels and small high-pressure tires, making the wheel loading greater on impact than that of any other type of big aircraft. The runways at Brisbane are, at present, under construction, but the “ Armagnacs “ will be able to land at Darwin, Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne airports.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that the policy of credit restriction that has been forced upon the trading banks by the Government is playing right into the hands of hire-purchase companies, which are unrestricted in their lending? Does he know that this situation encourages profiteering and high interest rates? Finally, can the Minister inform the Senate whether the recent conference between the Prime Minister and the bankers reached any agreement that will help to reduce the burden of the workers, who have been forced to pay high interest rates to hire-purchase firms in connexion with their purchases of domestic goods?
– I am sure that the honorable senator is aware that the Commonwealth cannot legislate in regard to the transactions of hire-purchase companies, or control the rate of interest charged by them. I suggest that he direct, his energies in this regard towards the Premier of the State from which he comes.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation by stating that I understand that the British Overseas Airways Corporation has ordered jet aircraft capable of speeds averaging more than 550 miles an hour, for its passenger service on external air routes. In view of the long distances between the capital cities of Australia, does the Minister consider that that type of aircraft would be suitable for our internal airlines?
– The honorable senator will appreciate that only a couple of hours have elapsed since I was sworn in as Minister for Civil Aviation. I have not yet had an opportunity to examine all of the data that it would be necessary for me to consider before I could make a pronouncement on such a momentous issue. If Senator Scott asks me a similar question in two or three months’ time, I might be in a position to answer it.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished the following answer: -
– I have available an answer to a question asked by Senator Hannaford on 16th October in respect of a petition signed by the heads of various denominations in Adelaide relating to lottery matter distributed through the post in South Australia. Such distribution was described as flagrantly aiding and abetting Tasmanian lotteries, and as a direct contravention of the laws of South Australia. The honorable senator stated -
In my previous question I asked the Minister whether he would look into this matter, and he assured me that the Postmaster-General was making a full investigation of it, and he would inform me of the result. As I have had no answer to that particular question, I ask the Minister if he will pursue the subject further and let me have a reply.
As I promised in my reply to the honorable senator when he again sought advice on this matter, I have referred it to my colleague the Postmaster-General. I have now been informed by the Postmaster-General that the matter, which involves very complex legal considerations, has not yet been finalized. It is hoped to have a decision in the not far distant future and the PostmasterGeneral has assured me that a full reply on the matter will be made available as soon as a decision is reached.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin). - I have received from Senator Cole an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The threat to the peaceful assimilation of migrants in this country, which arises directly from the existence of present Extradition Treaties between Australia and the following countries: - Albania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Roumania, Yugoslavia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and San Marino.
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till to-morrow at 10 a.m.
– Is the motion supported?
Four honorable senators having risen in support of the motion,
– This matter is of grave national importance because many immigrants in Australia are not sure where they stand in relation to their former countries. Only last May, a naturalized Australian named Rancic had to appear before an Australian court which was called upon to determine whether he should be extradited to Yugoslavia. Under a treaty negotiated in 1900 between Great Britain and Servia - which has since become Serbia, and ultimately part of Yugoslavia - the Australian Government was liable for Rancic’s extradition, but he was lucky because there was an optional clause in.the agreement that allowed the Australian Government to refuse to extradite him. The optional clause provided that extradition of an Australian national could be refused without committing a breach of international law. It was a happy ending for Rancic because he was a naturalized Australian, but Sir John Latham stated at the time -
Although Rancic remains, there is no guarantee that similar cases will have such a happy ending.
If Rancic had not been an Australian national, the Commonwealth Government would have been forced to allow the processes of international law to be put into effect in accordance with the treaty that was signed between Great Britain and Servia in 1900. What will happen to immigrants who have not become Australian nationals? Some of them might escape from behind the iron curtain, and from countries with which we have extradition treaties such as Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia and then, on some trumped-up charge, they could be extradited to their homelands. This possibility has caused great apprehension among new Australians since the Rancic case arose. An unsympathetic government, which might not be alert to the totalitarian menace, would not bother much about extradition orders. It is incumbent on the Government, therefore, to make sure that its exact responsibilities are understood.
No legislation dealing with this matter has been introduced since 1 930. No treaties have been signed since World War II., and most of the extradition treaties in force came into effect in the nineteenth century. Mostly they were signed by Great Britain, and the countries concerned and were accepted by the Australian Government. It is time these extradition treaties were reviewed, especially as many of the countries with which such treaties were made are now under Communist domination and have not even minimum standards of justice.
Extradition can be defined as the delivery of an accused or convicted person to a State where the crime was committed by a State on whose territory the alleged offender happens to be. The law of extradition is based on the very broad principles that cri””” “.gainst civilization should not go unpunished just because the persons who have committed them have left the country; that the country in which the crime occurred is interested chiefly in the detection and suppression of chime; and that it is desirable that the trial should take place in the country where the crime was committed, because the evidence would be more easily obtainable there. Gratius Vattel and Kent have enunciated the broad principle that there should be extradition from any country; but we know that the practice in most States has been to reduce that to granting extradition only in cases where extradition treaties exist. The American jurist, Hyde, has stated -
For a S!ate to permit extradition always indicates that it regards with respect the administration of justice of the country demanding the fugitive.
So we find that civilized States have refused to enter into extradition treaties with States that do not recognize fundamental human rights and whose legal systems do not guarantee the minimum standards of justice. What are the minimum standards of justice? They are as follows: First, that a person must be charged openly, secondly, that he must have proper representation; thirdly, that he must appear before an impartial and independent judicial tribunal. If those conditions are nor fulfilled, there should be no extradition arrangements. It has always been recognized that political offenders should not be extradited. Indeed, it has been recognized in Corollary 14 (1.) of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, which deals with the rights of asylum for political offenders, we shall say, who escape to other countries. Once extradition treaties are recognized, there should be no questioning of the bona fides of the countries with which such treaties are entered into.
Under most extradition treaties, it is not permissible for the government of one State to question the bona fides of a friendly State. Consequently, where extradition arrangements exist, normally it is not possible to ensure adequate safeguards or that, in order to obtain the extradition of political refugees, the process of extradition will not be abused by making false allegations that they have been guilty of criminal offences. For example, under Article VI. of the extradition treaty that is recognized by the Australian Government as being in force between Australia and Hungary, an alleged criminal is entitled to protection on the grounds that he is. in reality, a political refugee only if “ the offence in respect of which his surrender is demanded is of a political character, or if he prove that the requisition for his surrender has, in fact, been made with a view to try to punish him for a political offence “. It is the practice of some countries, as Australians observed during the Petrov case, to allege that any political refugee has been guilty of an ordinary criminal offence. According to the treaty to which I have referred, it would be incumbent on the person charged to prove that the requisition was really made for a political purpose. Of course, it would be very difficult for a refugee to do that in a foreign country. Consequently, it is most desirable that extradition arrangements should be entered into only with countries in the integrity of the governments of which we can place full confidence, lt was for this reason that the Imperial Extradition Act 1870 included provision that treaties must be terminable by either party after the expiration of a notice not exceeding twelve months.
It can be said, therefore, that, according to international law, a State is under an obligation to allow extradition of its nationals or foreigners within its territory to take place at the request of another State only when there is an extradition treaty in force between those two States. Once such extradition arrangements have been completed, however, it is generally not permissible for a country to question the bona fides of the State that requested extradition, except in conformity with the terms of the treaty. For that reason, extradition treaties should be concluded only with those States in which the administration of justice can be respected and in the integrity of the governments of which full confidence can be had.
Having said that, let us examine the list of countries with which Australia, at present, has extradition treaties, lt is significant that the Australian extradition act is only a very small act; it contains hardly any provisions. Australia relies mostly on the English extradition act and the treaties made by Great Britain with various countries, and we honour those treaties. Apart from the British Commonwealth countries, the Australian Government recognizes treaties with the following States, under which the countries concerned are entitled to requisition for extradition: - Albania, Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Chile, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, Iraq, Italy, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Roumania, San Marino, Spain Switzerland, Thailand, the United States of America, Uruguay, and Yugoslavia. Australia, therefore, at present has extradition arrangements, not only with Yugoslavia, but also with Albania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and Roumania. lt is true that the treaties were concluded when those countries were not under Communist control, but the Australian Government has taken no action to modify or terminate them. Therefore, we should look at them with great care. The position under international law is such that extradition arrangements should be entered into with only those States whose legal institutions are worthy of respect, and in the integrity of whose government it is possible to have confidence.
I propose to cite some examples of the law, and to quote the utterances of members of the judiciary in the various countries 1 have mentioned. The character of the law and of legal administration in Communist States is probably best indicated by an oft-quoted passage from the famous Russian legal text-book, “ A Course in Criminal Procedure “, published in 1936 by Vyshinsky and Undrevich. They wrote -
There is no contradiction between revolutionary legality and the suppression of class enemies. The task of revolutionary legality is so to organize summary justice and the suppression of class enemies that the courts, under the dictatorship of the proletariat are turned into an unerring weapon against the class enemies, pitilessly suppressing them and mercilessly dispensing justice.
The courts are not seen as independent by Communist legal theorists. As a writer in the “ Czechoslovakian Law Review “ wrote -
To-day our judiciary must lead the anticapitalist, the fight against the remnants of the defeated ruling class which tries desperately to save whatever can still be salvaged.
It has been repeatedly emphasized by Communist lawyers that the courts and the judiciary in Communist States cannot stand aside from political matters, nor can they be impartial in the administration of justice. A member of the office of the Czechoslovakian Prosecutor-General pledged in a broadcast - a daily fight against the village rich, the humiliation and expulsion from the economic and political positions in the villages as the guiding principle for the work of the judiciary.
One of the clearest statements of the function of the judicial system in a Communist country is to be found in a recent publication by Professor Golyakov, a recognized Soviet authority. This is what he says -
The court as an organ of State power cannot stand aside from politics. In its decisions it has always carried out and continued to carry out the policy of the ruling class. The work of tile court is itself political work.
It is possible to quote a number of similar statements by leading Communist lawyers stressing the fact that in Communist countries the judicial system is part of the administrative structure, and that Communist courts are not, and do not claim to be, impartial. In most cases, the purpose of the court is merely to carry out executive decisions. Consequently, it can be said that there is no guarantee, and very little likelihood, that a person extradited to one of the Communist countries with which Australia has extradition arrangements, would be given a fair trial by an impartial tribunal. If the individual is of sufficient importance to the executive for it to apply for his extradition, then there can be no doubt that the function of the court will be merely to give judicial effect to whatever the executive may decide in respect of him. In addition, there can be little hope that the person extradited would be allowed proper legal representation. The Czechoslovakian Minister for Justice, Dr. Rais, outlined the function of defence counsel on 12th June, 1952, when he said -
Counsel must not follow blindly his client’s own selfish interests. He must not try always and at any price to save his client. The attorney has to keep in mind the higher interest of the people - to defend and strengthen the socialist community.
As the “ Bulletin of the International Commission of Jurists” concluded -
Within this straitjacket, the activities of the defence are limited to the support of the state’s to propogandistic utterances, and, at the best to a meek presentation of such alleviating circumstances as describing the client as a mental case, blaming influences of his bourgeois environment, praising his “ Complete spontaneous confessions “, and claiming credit for him for the free denunciation of his own defendents
Even if the extradited person were to be given a fair and just trial, the nature of the punishments that can bc inflicted are such that no civilized State could allow extradition to a Communist country. We know that the economic system of Russia is such that it is dependent greatly on its slave camps, most of which, as set forth in a memorandum by the International League for the Rights of Man, are situated in or near industrial and mining centres, lt seems to be beyond doubt that economic reasons determine the extent and use of slave labour, and from reports of refugees who have passed through some of these camps, we may safely estimate that about 80 per cent, of the prisoners in the camps are political prisoners.
After careful consideration of the evidence at present available on the nature of the legal system in Communist countries, and the fact that the Communist governments have, by their attitude to international obligations, including questions of extradition, shown that no confidence can be placed in their integrity, it must be concluded that the essential prerequisites of extradition arrangements do not exist in the case of Communist countries. On that account, I believe that Australia should terminate its extradition treaties with those countries that I have mentioned. In dealing with this subject, I have concentrated mostly on Communist countries. It is my firm belief that extradition treaties with them should be terminated, and that no further extradition treaties should be made with Communist countries, for the reasons I have enunciated.
I shall not deal to-day with the other matter relating to extradition so far as Australia itself is concerned. _ That is a matter for thorough investigation by lawyers, by the Attorney-General and others, but it certainly needs urgent consideration. I have just spoken about Communist countries. I do not say that our treaties with certain other countries should be terminated, but, because we have not complete faith in their methods of Government, I suggest it is essential that we write certain safeguards into our extradition laws. 1 refer to such countries as Spain and Argentina.
The committee to which I have referred has made certain excellent recommendations in this direction which might well be adopted in the extradition laws of this country. The first recommendation is that upon any application for extradition the accused shall have the right to raise the question whether, if extradition is granted, his trial in the foreign State will be conducted in accordance with the requirements of natural justice; that is, that he will be openly charged, that he will be tried by an independent judicial tribunal, and that he will be given adequate opportunity for his representation and defence. The second recommendation is that if, upon such question being raised, it appears to the court that there is a reasonable doubt as to these matters, it shall inquire into them, and for th?.t purpose may inform itself in such manner as it deems proper. The third recommendation is that no order shall be made unless the court is satisfied that the trial of the accused in the foreign State either will be conducted, or has been conducted in accordance with the foregoing requirements. The fourth recommendation is that no order shall in any case be made unless the court is satisfied that the offence in respect of which extradition is sought is not a political offence. The committee suggests that in this regard, the exception in favour of political offenders should be extended to include treason, sedition and espionage, whether committed by one or more persons, and that it should also include any offence directed against the governmental system of the requisitioning State, and any offence directed towards escaping from the territory or control of the requisitioning State but not other offences having a political objective. The committee also states that in this regard, too, the court must be at liberty to hear evidence as to the real, as distinct from the admitted, motive for extradition and to. examine the bona fides of the request for extradition. In conclusion, the committee states that with these amendments to the existing law full protection will be assured against the misuse of the process of extradition, the onus being placed on the requisitioning State in cases in which the question is raised to establish the bona fides of its application and the integrity of its judicial system.
Finally, it is felt that the incorporation in our law of firm guarantees protecting the fundamental rights of all who seek refuge within our shores will contribute in no small measure to a sound restoration of the whole fabric of the international law of extradition. To-day, thai fabric has all but lost its texture. Its delicate and noble design has almost faded from sight. Abuse and misuse have rent it. Fear and mistrust have worn it thin. Subtle and powerful . forces are at work which would tear down and destroy the last vestiges of human dignity, and the asylum which we owe to all true political fugitives is under fire from those who would crush every basic human right and pursue their foes to the ends of the earth.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– The question raised by Senator Cole is one of great human interest. Among the million and more immigrants who have arrived in Australia since the end of World War II., there are probably tens of thousands who have come here as refugees from tyranny and oppression. They have sought here in our free land a haven of refuge from the terrors that haunted them in their home lands. This Government is not unmindful of the fears and misgivings of these new citizens. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), when he was Minister for Immigration, and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) have each in turn made it abundantly clear that there is no real ground for or substance in their fears and that their rights and liberty shall be jealously guarded by the Government.
The treaties to which Australia is a party and with which we are, in the motion, concerned are those with Albania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Roumania, San Marino and Yugoslavia. Most of these treaties were concluded with those countries before World War II. Broadly speaking, each treaty specifies offences in respect of which extradition may be sought by either party. At the same time, each treaty either gives to each party discretion if it is asked to surrender its own nationals, or, alternatively, provides that it shall not surrender its own subjects. Each treaty also provides for the protection of persons where extradition is sought on political grounds. 1 should mention that the Imperial Extradition Act 1870-1932, the provisions of which have been adopted by Australia, also deals with the question of surrender in respect of offences regarded as having a political character. The act expressly forbids surrender if the offence on which extradition is sought is of a political character, or if the request for surrender is made with a view to trying or punishing a person for an offence of a political character. There are, therefore, two broad grounds on which discretion may be exercised if a request is made for extradition. The first is if the offence is of a political character or if the person concerned proves that his surrender has been sought with a view to trying or punishing him for an offence of a political character. The second is if the person is a national of the country which is asked to extradite him. It will be noted, as I have mentioned already, that some treaties expressly forbid surrender of one’s own nationals.
The Government is not unaware that some unease is felt by immigrants to Australia in regard to their position under these treaties, and it earlier examined carefully whether their apprehensions were, in fact, justified. The Government is satisfied that no action prejudicial to the rights of the immigrant country will in fact be taken. At the same time, the Government is examining whether any further steps of a more formal nature are required. Honorable senators will recall that this matter has been the subject of emphatic public statements and assurances by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration over the past few months which should, I think, have allayed any fears on the part of the immigrant community. The Prime Minister stated on 13th April last -
The Government’s view is that whether or not a person living in Australia is an Australian citizen, it/ will exercise its discretion under the Extradition Acts and will noi grant extradition unless it is thoroughly satisfied that such a move is not being” sought for political purposes.
The Extradition Treaties which Australia has with Eastern European countries date back for many years. They were entered into under entirely different circumstances and atmosphere from those which exist to-day.
Under present circumstances the Australian Government has to be convinced before agreeing to extradition that the application from Eastern European countries is bona fide and not a pretext to obtain custody of an individual for other purposes.
Tn this approach there must be no element of doubt. The Commonwealth has undertaken immense responsibility for the million or more New Australians who have passed the rigid screening of its Immigration officials overseas. It will be vigilant in this responsibility. . . .
The question of reviewing these treaties is a complex matter and involves a study of the whole system al extradition, not merely in relation to the group of countries mentioned, but generally. Substantial considerations and many factors are involved. I am sure that honorable senators will agree with me, having regard to the consideration which the Government is at present giving to the problem, that it would be inappropriate to enter into a public discussion at this stage of any future formal steps in respect of the treaties. In its examination of this subject the Government will take full cognizance of the report of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I have much - pleasure in laying that report on the table of the Senate. The Government has given earnest and careful consideration to the subjectmatter of Senator Cole’s resolution.
– Earlier this afternoon I rose, with a number of my colleagues, in order to indicate that we acknowledged the importance and interest of the matter raised by Senator Cole. We recognized that there were fundamental human freedoms in the matter that he projected into the discussion. I believe that all of us in recent years have been horrified by reports, which have reached us from behind the iron curtain, of trials in various Communist-controlled countries that really made a mockery of justice, where the rule of law was abrogated, where there was an amazing regularity of what purported to be voluntary confessions and were in fact extortions, and where there was political direction of tribunals - in short, where not only the principles of natural justice adverted to by Senator Cole were thrown into discard but also the rule of law as we understand it in British countries was completely abrogated.
The matter of extradition is not easy for the people to understand, or, indeed, for any one to understand, as the AttorneyGeneral (Senator O’sullivan) has indicated. I agree with him that the rejection of extradition treaties that we have entered into can carry with it some real dangers. I am sure, although the Attorney-General did not advert to them specifically, he had at least one danger in mind, that is that an extradition treaty does not operate unilaterally - it affects both countries involved. If we throw completely overboard an extradition treaty with another country then, in effect, we create a haven in that country for any of our own fugitive criminals who may seek sanctuary there. Therefore, we have a vital concern in proper extradition treaties.
There is no doubt that, constitutionally, we have the power to legislate. Our immigration power helps us and our power relating to the influx of criminals and our external affairs power all tend to give to this Parliament complete power in the matter of extradition. In 1903 we adopted the English Extradition Act of 1 870; and amendments made to it since then have also been adopted by us. The Australian legislation is exceedingly sketchy, but it does project the Governor-General of Australia into the position where, when an approach is made from another country for the extradition of one of its nationals who is an alleged fugitive from that country’s justice, it is for the Governor-General to determine whether he shall order a judicial officer to inquire into the matter to ascertain whether a prima facie case is available before that officer makes any order for extradition. The English legislation that has been adopted by us provides that no man can be extradited for a political offence. That provision gives extraordinarily wide cover, and perhaps some honorable senators may be shocked to learn that it protects a man who, in effect, has committed murder. In that connexion I refer to a headnote to be found at page 49, volume 1, 1891 Queen’s Bench, Division Law reports. That matter refers to a disturbance in Switzerland and the headnote reads -
By Hie Extradition Act, 1870 (33 & 34 Vict. c. 52), s. 3 ( 1), “ A fugitive criminal shall not be surrendered if the offence in respect of which his surrender is demanded is one of a political character “.
Held, that the true meaning of this expression is that suggested in Sir James Stephen’s History of the Criminal Law, vol. ii., p. 71, and therefore that 10 bring an offence wi.hin the meaning of the words “ of a political character,” it must be incidental to and form part of political disturbances.
A number of the citizens of one of the cantons of the Swiss Republic, being dissatisfied wi.h the administration of the government of the can.on, rose against the Government, arrested several members of the Government, seized the arsenal, from which they provided themselves with arms, attacked, broke open, and took forcible possession of, the municipal palace, disarmed the gendarmes, imprisoned some members of the Government, and established a provisional government. On entering the municipal palace the prisoner, who had taken an active part in the disturbance throughout, shot wilh a revolver and killed a member of the Government. He escaped to England, where he was arrested and committed for extradition on a charge of murder.
On a motion for habeas corpus: -
Held, that the offence which the prisoner had committed was incidental to and formed a part of political disturbances, and therefore was an offence of a political character within the meaning of the statute, and the prisoner could not be surrendered, but was entitled to be discharged from custody.
The decision of a magistrate, who commits a prisoner for extradition, that the offence charged is no! of a political character, is subject to review by the Court on an application for habeas corpus.
The other case to which I desire to refer relates to certain anarchists who are engaged in a rather desperate action. The reference may be found at page 415, Volume 2, 1894 Queen’s Bench Division law reports. The outrage was committed at a cafe and certain barracks, and there were certain explosions which injured people. It was held in this case - . . that the outrage at the barracks was not an offence of a political character, within the meaning of s- 3, sub-s. 1, of the Extradition Act, 1870 for to constitute a political offence there must be two or more parties in the State, each seeking to impose the government of their own choice on the other, which was not the case with regard to anarchist crimes, and therefore the prisoner was liable to extradition.
There are many safeguards under the extradition legislation for a person who is in our own country. First, an application from the foreign country is screened by the Governor-General or his delegate. That involves a recommendation for the Executive Council or the Government, either here or in the States. That applies, even if a magistrate holds that a prima facie case has been made out, and that .the offence alleged is not a political one. The individual has the right to go to the superior courts of our land. Where the GovernorGeneral feels satisfied - and he would act on the advice of his Ministers - that the offence is political, or the man is sought primarily for a political purpose, to be punished in connexion with a political offence, he has the right, even after the decision of a magistrate committing the man to custody, to order his release.
Very great fear was projected into the minds of many new Australians as a result of the Rancic case. It was rather interesting that the whole trend of proceedings through diplomatic sources was set in train before the man became a naturalized Australian, lt was only after the proceedings had been initiated that he became an Australian citizen. The case created great interest in this country and, I repeat, raised a great fear in the minds of some of our. nationals. I do not think it was fully justified, because there is ample protection for them under treaties and under the law.
It is interesting to note that the terms of a specific treaty made with another country under the Extradition Act can, in fact, override the provision of the act, so that, when we address our minds to a consideration of a resolution of this kind, it is essential to look at every treaty and every term of it. I would not subscribe, without the closest examination of each of the treaties, to a proposition which might be expressed by saying, “ Let us abrogate them all “; that is, to substitute for some law, no law; to avoid all regulation in a matter which, though it arises only rarely, is of great importance, involving as it does the personal freedom of individuals.
On 1 3 th April last, Mr. Holt, as well as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), indicated that the Government was examining all treaties with the Communist-controlled countries, and, only last week, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) indicated in the House of Representatives that he. the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan), and the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) were still conferring about the matter. I point out to the Senate that that was six months ago, and no conclusions yet appear to have been reached by the Government. I was very interested to hear the Minister indicate that, as he spoke, he was laying on the table of the Senate the report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs dealing with this very important matter of extradition, lt is a pity that that was not immediately available for our consideration during the course of this debate. I look forward to perusing it with interest in the very near future, and J think it will be acknowledged that, whilst I am glad that the debate has been initiated, and whilst 1 recognize its importance, this is not a proper occasion to debate a matter of the scope and importance of this subject. 1 suggest to the Senate that it might be better if, on a matter of this kind, which is without party significance, but which concerns elementary human freedom, we appointed a joint committee of both Houses of the Parliament, and representative of all parties, to consider it. I say with confidence, although 1 have had no opportunity to consult my party on the matter, that it would not hesitate to play its part on such a committee.
If the present Foreign Affairs Committee has addressed its mind to this matter, it will have recognized the difficulties, and the need for considering the exact terms of each treaty. It would know all the dangers of having no extradition treaties. The statement of Senator Cole, when he laid down the conditions that might apply to extradition treaties, was quite impeccable. The trouble with our law is that prosecutions and proceedings under the treaties have arisen only very rarely. They generally arise in respect of some unworthy person in regard to whom no political or international issues are involved, so that the extradition law does not attract to itself the fierce searchlight of publicity that was turned on the Rancic case. Not all countries are prepared to participate in extradition treaties with the rest of the world. France, for instance, positively refuses to extradite anybody from its territory. It is prepared to deal, on its own territory, with persons accused of crimes committed abroad. So. there is no broad rule in relation to the whole matter.
I think that it has been useful to raise this subject, and to project a public discussion on it, not only to stimulate the Government into more speed in looking at the treaties which, six months ago, it indicated would be looked over, but above all” to relieve the minds of new Australians. I think they could be assured that the whole of the population of Australia would react most strongly against any proposal to extradite them to their former countries on charges arising out of their political activities in those countries, irrespective of whether or not they are now naturalized Australians. That became fully apparent through the Rancic case in April last. So that, 1 think the motion has done some good, even if it does no more than to speed the Government’s consideration of these treaties, which have been unchanged down many decades. Some - probably most - came into operation under British legislation and, in fact, were functioning even before the Commonwealth of Australia came into being on 1st January, 1901.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! the honorable senators time has expired.
– in reply - The Leader of the Government in this chamber (Senator O’sullivan) mentioned Q that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), when Minister for Immigration, gave an assurance that they would not permit the extradition of- any persons to a Communist country. That being so, why do we need to continue extradition treaties with countries such as Hungary and Poland?
– There was a reservation that we would not extradite them for political offences.
– Those countries might cease to be Communist-controlled.
– I hope that the Communist control over them does end. With the reservation that has been mentioned by Senator O’sullivan, it was stated that we would not extradite anybody to Communist countries. As I have said, in that event we do not need treaties, and that is why I have asked that they be abrogated.
I do not mean that we should abrogate all extradition treaties.I referred specifically to Communist countries, and other countries which are suspect in this connexion, such as Spain and Argentina. In the interest of the preservation of human rights, I consider that the Australian law should be amended to ensure that justice is done to any person whose extradition is sought by another country. Speed is essential in this matter. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has mentioned, the Government has been talking about doing something in this connexion for the last six months. Under the British Extradition Act of 1870, up to twelve months’ notice of intention to apply for extradition has to be given; in practice, usually six months’ notice is given. In these circumstances, the sooner we abrogate our extradition treaties with Communist countries, the better. Speed is essential at the present moment. It may well have been that if I had not brought forward this motion to-day, the report of the Foreign Affairs Committee on extradition treaties might not have been tabled for several months. As the report has now been presented to both Houses of the Parliament, I have at least gained for honorable senators an opportunity to study the work the Foreign Affairs Committee is doing in regard to extradition treaties. The formation of a select committee, as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) is something on which the Government could act very quickly in this very important matter.
I say, once again, that if the Australian people wish to build up their country by bringing in immigrants from behind the iron curtain who wish to adopt a new way of life, we must be prepared to see that the fears and apprehensions that were created after the Rancic case are dispelled. If the Government will move in that direction, it will be doing a great deal for those people who still wish to come to Australia, but are being turned to other countries because of the fear that as soon as they arrive in Australia they may be returned on extradition behind the iron curtain. As the purpose of the motion has been served, namely to permit a debate on a matter of great urgency, concerning which I hope the Government will act speedily, I ask leave to withdraw the motion.
– I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Erection of food research laboratory buildings at North Ryde, New South Wales.
Ordered to be printed.
– by leave - During the absence of the Minister for External Affairs the Minister for Defence will act for him, and the Minister for Primary Industry will administer the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
I desire to announce to the Senate that His Excellency the Governor-General has this day accepted the advice of the Prime Minister on the reallocation of portfolios recently announced by him and has sworn in Senator Henty as Minister for Customs and Excise, and the other Ministers affected by the reallocation.
Representation of Ministers in the two Houses will henceforth be as follows: -
In the House of Representatives the Prime Minister will represent the AttorneyGeneral; the Minister for Immigration will represent the Minister for Shipping and Transport and Civil Aviation; the Minister for Supply will represent the Minister for National Development, with the exception of the War Service Homes Division; the Minister for Social Services will represent the War Service Homes Division; the Minister for Health will represent the Minister for Repatriation; and the Minister for Air will represent the Minister for Customs and Excise.
In the Senate I will represent the Prime Minister, the Minister for External Affairs, the Minister in Charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Minister for Defence; Senator Spooner will represent the Treasurer, the Minister for Labour and National Service, the Minister for Trade, the Minister for the Army, the Minister for Works and the Minister for Social Services;: Senator Cooper will represent the Minister for Territories, the Minister for Health and the Postmaster-General; Senator
Paltridge will represent the Minister for Supply and Minister for Defence Production, the Minister for Primary Industry and the Minister for Air; and Senator Henty will represent the Minister for Immigration, the Minister for the Navy and the Minister for the Interior.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Report from the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs relating to Extradition.
Twenty- third Report.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Commonwealth Grants Commission Act - Twenty-third Report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission (1956).
The recommendations contained in the report will be adopted by the Government and the enabling legislation will be introduced in the House of Representatives to-day. Copies of the report will be available for honorable senators later to-day.
– I present the fourth report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Bill received from the House of Represenatives.
Standing orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. .
This bill is associated with the Government’s 1956-57 budget and its purpose is to give effect, insofar as imported cathode ray tubes are concerned, to the Government’s decision to apply a duty of £7 each on all cathode ray tubes as used in televivision receiving sets. The application of this duty to locally produced cathode ray tubes will form the subject of a separate bill. Prior to the Government’s decision in this matter, television cathode ray tubes imported into Australia were for all practical purposes, free of duty when entitled to entry under the British preferential tariff and dutiable at 12½ per cent. ad valorem when not qualifying for preferential tariff treatment. The comparative statement which has been circulated to honorable senators shows in detail the tariff changes, which this bill is designed to effect,
In establishing the national television service the Government is committed to considerable expenditure. This year, with the two stations in Sydney and Melbourne coming into operation before Christmas, it is estimated that operating costs will be in the vicinity of £1,036,000. In addition to this, capital expenditure for the year is estimated at a further £1,830,000. It is expected that the viewer’s licence-fee will yield only about £150,000 during 1956-57, and, in order to reduce the call on the budget for the national television service, the Government has decided to impose a customs or excise duty, as the case may be, on the cathode ray tube with which each television receiving set is fitted. The revenue which the proposed duties will return this year is estimated at £210,000.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first, time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is complementary to the Customs Tariff Bill (No. 4) 1956, and, as I intimated to the Senate when speaking on that bill, gives effect to the Government’s decision to apply an excise duty of £7 on each television cathode ray tube produced in Australia. I have already explained to honorable senators the reasons which prompted the Government’s action, and 1 feel that they would not wish me to cover that ground again.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. This bill has for its purpose amendment of the Superannuation Act 1922-1956. There are four principal amendments; three arise from the sixth quinquennial investigation of the Superannuation Fund as at 30th June, 1952. The Commonwealth Actuary’s report has been tabled in the Senate and, in accordance with his recommendations, certain increases in pensions to officers retiring after that date for which they were contributing to the fund are being granted. That part of the cost of such additional pensions, which has temporarily been borne by the Commonwealth, will be met from the resources of the fund in accordance with the conclusion of the Commonwealth Actuary.
Section IIA of the act provides for the payment to the fund from Consolidated Revenue of the amounts necessary to maintain an average rate of interest of 3i per cent, on the assets of the fund. The decision of the Government, taken in 1947, to grant this assistance was conditional upon any surplus disclosed at a quinquennial valuation being used to repay it. The drafting of the existing section is defective, and does not conform to that decision; the amendment will provide for the amount of any Commonwealth subsidy to be repaid to the Commonwealth from a surplus.
The other principal amendment provides for continued contributions to the fund by temporary employees. The effect of the act, as now drafted, is that if an employee moves from one position in the Commonwealth to another, even without a break of continuity, he is disqualified from further contributing to the fund, at least for another period of three years. This was not the intention when provision was made for temporary employees to contribute to the fund and the purpose of the amendment is to ensure that employees preserving their continuity of service will not be disqualified from contributing to the fund.
The other amendments are of a drafting nature, details of which I propose to explain in committee.
Debate (on motion by Senator Critchley; adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
Senator SPOONER (New South WalesMinister for National Development) [4.43J. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend our present borrowing legislation in two respects which are relevant to overseas borrowing. In some recent overseas borrowings, it has been necessary to obtain an order in council authorizing the borrowing before the terms have been finally settled with the underwriters. This order has specified the limits approved by the Government and the Australian Loan Council as to the terms and conditions to which the Treasurer, or his authorized representative, is permitted to go. It is proposed in future to adopt a more flexible procedure under which an authority would be obtained from uht Governor-General to borrow a specified sum of money on terms and conditions to be determined by the Governor-General or the Treasurer. This procedure would make it unnecessary for the negotiating limits to be set out in the order in council itself. These limits would, of course, still have to be approved in the first instance by the Government and by the Australian Loan Council as provided in the Financial Agreement.
The view may be taken that the existing legislation does not provide sufficient authority for this form of approval and it is. therefore, proposed in clause 3 of the bill now before the Senate to repeal the existing section 3 of the Loans Securities Act and to replace it with a new section. The proposed new section provides that the
Governor-General shall determine the amount to be borrowed and may determine or authorize the Treasurer to determine the terms and conditions of the borrowing.
The second proposed amendment to the Loans Securities Act relates to the currency in which moneys may be borrowed. There is no doubt that borrowings in a foreign currency may be made pursuant to the Financial Agreement, and that the Australian Loan Council may authorize loans to be raised in foreign currency. However, where the Commonwealth has borrowed moneys for its own use or for the use of itself and the States, the borrowing has invariably had the authority of statute, in addition to that of the Financial Agreement. In some cases, specific legislative authority is sought for borrowing in a foreign currency. A Commonwealth borrowing in Canada, last year, for example, was covered by the Loan (Canadian Dollars) Act 1955. However, legislation specifically authorizing a borrowing overseas is not always sought. Where, for example, an existing act authorizes the borrowing of a sum sufficient to cover the amount of any particular borrowing - whether local or overseas - the Commonwealth may rely on the Act, as it did on the Loan Housing Act 1955 in connexion with the recent Commonwealth-State borrowing of 25,000,000 dollars in New York. That act doss not contain an explicit reference to borrowing in a foreign currency, nor is there any such explicit reference to overseas borrowings in other statutes, such as the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 191 1-1946 or the Loans Securities Act 1919, which may be regarded as links in the chain of statutory authority for an overseas borrowing.
Commonwealth governments have borrowed overseas for many years, and there has never been any doubt that, if the Parliament authorizes the borrowing of any sum of money, then that amount may be borrowed either in Australian or in foreign currency. Indeed, the Government has been advised strongly to this effect on more than one occasion. In a recent New Zealand case before the Privy Council, however, the suggestion was made in argument, but not decided, that the relevant New Zealand law - which was in terms similar to Australian loan acts, and made no reference to borrowing in foreign currency - might not authorize borrowing in other than New Zealand currency. Although, as I have said, there seems to be no room for doubt on this matter, it is clearly desirable to put the matter beyond question and so avoid any possibility of argument on the point in connexion with any future loan. Accordingly, it is proposed to insert in the Loans Securities Act a provision to the effect that, whenever a borrowing is authorized by the Parliament, the borrowing may be made in any currency authorized by the Governor-General. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare that the Appropriation Bill 1956-57 is an urgent bill.
Question put -
That the bill be considered an urgent bill.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
– I move -
That the time allotted for the consideration of the bill be as follows: -
For the committee stage of the bill - until 10.20 p.m., Thursday, 25th October.
For the remaining stages of the bill - until 10.25 p.m., Thursday, 25th October.
I am sure honorable senators will agree that to allot the proposed amount of time for consideration of the remainder of the bill is not in any way treating the Senate in a cavalier fashion. The Government proposes that the remainder of to-day’s sitting and all three sessions of to-morrow’s sitting should be allotted for the remaining Estimates contained in the schedule to the bill. 1 suggest with great respect that, in view of previous performances, it is possible that the Senate might not need the time that it has been suggested should be allotted. It is necessary for the Government to know that it will be able to have consideration of the Estimates completed by 10.25 p.m. to-morrow, and for both sides of the Senate to feel that they will be disposed of in an orderly way and that in the last hour we shall not be applying the gag and approving the expenditure of large sums of money. The Estimates must all be passed by to-morrow night, because the Government has Supply only until 31st October. That date is fast approaching. In addition to the Estimates contained in the bill now before the Senate, honorable senators will see on the notice-paper other measures of a similar character. The Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill 1956-57 relates to substantial sums of money, and there are also two supplementary appropriation bills, one of which I describe as dealing with the current account and the other with works and services.
When the budget session began, the Government plotted the course of business from day to day, and at the moment the Senate is one full day behind schedule. On past performances it may well be that we could very easily overtake that delay of 24 hours.
– Put Senator Reid in the chair and the bills will be through in five minutes.
– Perhaps the business would be dealt with more quickly if Senator Grant decided to go for a cup of tea at a critical moment. To-morrow, 21 bills will be introduced. This approach to the business cannot in any way be regarded as abrupt or discourteous, but merely as an attempt by the Government to have the remaining business of the session dealt with in an orderly fashion. At the committee stage, I shall ask for an alteration of the order of considering the Estimates in order to allow those matters in the charge of Senator Cooper to be dealt with to-night and to-morrow morning, and Senator Paltridge’s section to be considered late to-morrow morning, to-morrow afternoon and tomorrow evening.
, -I oppose the motion onbehalf of theOpposition. The Minister (Senator Spooner) overlooked one matter when he indicated that the remainder of to-day, and all of to-morrow, would be available to deal with ‘the remaining Estimates. As happened to-day, the Senate may be presented with an adjournment motion, but not at the instance of the Opposition. That might take some hours to dispose of. is the Minister prepared to say that he would scotch such a development and assure honorable senators of more time for debate? To-day, we had the spectacle of Ministers giving notice of no fewer than nine bills to be presented to-morrow. In relation to each of those measures, there will be the first and second reading motions and a second-reading speech. The time taken in that procedure will, unquestionably, curtail the time for debating the Estimates to-morrow. In addition, bills may be received on message from the House of Representatives, and that will further interrupt the consideration of the Estimates.
Obviously, the Minister is not accurate in suggesting that the debate on the Estimates will be- uninterrupted from now until 10.25 p.m. -to-morrow. I rather fear that the programme will be greatly disrupted. It is possible that, if there were no interruptions, the debate on the remaining Estimates would conclude within the time proposed, but I am surprised that- the Minister has seen fit to introduce the “ guillotine “, which, from past experience, he knows is always irritating to an Opposition.
I am making no threats, but I think that proceedings would have gone more sweetly had the “ guillotine “ not been applied. The Minister has not done it in an orderly . way. He has merely fixed a time at which the debate is to conclude. He might have addressed himself to the details of the Estimates that remain to be considered, assessed their importance and allocated the times for their discussion in the remaining two days. Those who are interested in the various departments would then have known in which order they would be dealt with, and have been available for divisions or any other procedure.
-I propose to do that in committee.
– The Minister indicated that at the committee stage he would ask for an alteration of the order from that in the list circulated so that Senator Cooper’s matters might be taken before Senator Paltridge’s. If the Minister did not mean more than that-
– I did not mean more than that.
-I did not gain that impression from the Minister’s remark, but that may be my fault, or the Minister’s. However, if he is prepared to reduce the proposed programme to some kind of order, that ground of objection is no longer tenable. On the broad, general principle, however, I oppose the motion because there is no need for what the Government proposes to do.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 866) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 23rd October (vide page 847).
Motion (by Senator Spooner) put -
That votes to and including Defence Services - Department of Defence Production. £19,891,000, be postponed until after the consideration of the votes - Department of Health, £1,516,000, to Cocos (Keeling) Islands, £22,600, inclusive - and that the time allotted for the committee stage of the bill be apportioned as follows: -
Payments to or for the States, £1,925,000;
Broadcasting and Television Services, £6,802,000. - until 10.55 p.m. this day.
Cocos (Keeling) Islands, £22,600; - until 12 o’clock midday, Thursday, 25th October.
Department- of the Interior, £4,334,000;
Miscellaneous Services - Department of the Interior, £90,000; - until 3 p.m., Thursday, 25th October
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Primary Industry, £685,000; - until 5.45 p.m., Thursday. 25th October.
Self-balancing items, £150,000;
Commonwealth Railways, £3,697,000;
Department of Immigration, £1,862,000;
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Immigration, £8,062,000;
Defence Services - Department of Defence Production, £19,891,000; -until 10.15 p.m., Thursday, 25 th October.
Postponed clauses 3 and 4, the postponed First Schedule and the Title. - until 10.20 p.m., Thursday, 25th October.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed Vote, £1,516,000.
Proposed Vote, £1,231,000.
Payments to or for the States.
Proposed Vote, £1,925,000.
Proposed Vote, £778,000.
Proposed Vote, £15,132,000.
Proposed Vote. £17.306,000.
Proposed Vote, £87,123,000.
Proposed Vote, £6,802,000.
.- A glance at the vote under consideration shows that the Government proposes to spend £1,516,000 on the Department of Health in this financial year, and honorable senators may notice that last year the expenditure on this department amounted to £1,362,159. It is obvious that the Government proposes to spend even more on the department during the present financial year than was spent on it last year; and when one considers the ramifications of the Department of Health, one can appreciate the request that more funds be made available this year.
Now and again, during the past two or three years, we have all read in the press disconcerting reports of medical practitioners not observing the ordinary rules of justice and not carrying out their duties to the Department of Health in a proper manner. We have also read of chemists who are doing work under the national health scheme and under the pensioners’ pharmaceutical benefits scheme, not exactly trafficking in drugs, but exercising their powers and authorities in respect of the improper distribution of drugs. Although I have examined press reports to try to ascertain what has occurred about these matters, I have never seen a strong denial of these practices made by the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron).
I feel sure that the department is capable of establishing a section which can follow up misdemeanours; and when I use that word about doctors, I believe that I am using very courteous language. When we consider that blatant acts of dishonesty have been committed by doctors and chemists, I feel sure that the people desire an assurance about the steps taken to deal with those malpractices. The people also want an assurance from the Minister, as the head of the department, that these practices no longer exist. If they do exist, we look for some intimation to the effect that the Government is taking positive action to curtail them. I know that the national health scheme is comparatively new, and I realize that it would take at least a few weeks to establish a section to check effectively the accounts of doctors and chemists. However, some time has elapsed since the .scheme came into operation, and the easy harvest that some doctors and chemists sought to reap should have been put beyond their grasp.
The sum of £283,000 has been requested for the administration of quarantine services. The quarantine function is one of the important functions of the Department of Health. Years ago there was not so much need for quarantine services, but because air travel has become more popular and air services are expanding every day, we have reached the stage when more money must be expended upon the quarantine services of the department. I feel _ sure that the department is capable of looking after itself, and of establishing its own organization to deal with the matter that I have raised. I am concerned, not altogether with quarantine, but with the examination of incoming passengers in order to make sure that they are not bringing to Australia diseases which exist in other countries. Perhaps the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) who represents the Minister for Health in this chamber will assure me that the improper practices by doctors and chemists which were rather prevalent at one stage, have been stamped out.
– I desire to direct some questions to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) about the Department of Health. I refer to the item “ Nutrition of Children - Payments to States “; the proposed vote in connexion with this item is £7,900. I wish to know the reason for that item and to what States it is anticipated that the £7,900 will be paid.
I also refer to the item “ Control of Foot and Mouth Disease “. The proposed vote in this case is £1,300. I think that three or four years ago about £80,000 was voted in respect of foot-and-mouth disease. That disease is a great scourge in other countries, particularly in Europe, and if such a disease were to be introduced into Australia, it would decimate the dairy cattle population in a very short time. 1 should 1,ke to know why only £1,300 will be provided this year, when a much “ larger amount has been provided in past years. Is it because the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, or some other body is handling the matter? I believe . that it was the practice to pay great attention to the baggage of immigrants with a view to preventing the entry of footandmouth disease. It is important, therefore, that the Minister should let us know the attitude of the Commonwealth towards the introduction of such diseases, and what preventive measures it is taking. I ask this question because it appears that £1,300 would barely pay the salary of one officer engaged in investigation work of this nature for the whole of the Commonwealth.
– I refer to Division 81 - Administrative - for which the proposed vote is £559,000. The matter that I desire to raise concerns the administration of the national health scheme. I have recently received many complaints - one only a couple of days ago - that certain contributors to the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited, with which is associated the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales, have been refused benefits by that organization. I remind the committee that, not long after the national health scheme was inaugurated, the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited, informed the people of this country by advertisements in the press that, after two years’ membership of the fund, persons who suffered from chronic illnesses which were evident at the time of joining would become entitled to benefits. That undertaking has not been honoured by the organization.
I have before me the case history card - which I am prepared to show to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) - of a person who joined the organization on 27th July, 1953. Several weeks ago, after three years’ membership - which is considerably in excess of the qualifying period of two years, as advertised by the organization - this member had to receive hospital attention. He was subsequently denied the benefit to which he was entitled. Although I do not know why it was necessary for him to enter hospital, I do know that he was an in-patient for a fortnight. Honorable senators are aware of the expense in which he would be involved for that period. Although this person is a heavy contributor to t’.ie fund, on application for the payment of hospital benefits, he received a cheque for only £3. I have the cheque in front of me, and I am prepared to make it available for the Minister’s inspection. The cheque from the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales was accompanied by a letter in the following terms: -
We refer to your claim for benefit on this fund for admission to hospital, but it is regretted that a benefit cannot be granted. The medical information before us indicates that the condition was in evidence prior to your joining the fund. In this connexion, Rule 9 reads as follows: -
Exclusion from Benefits.
There follows an extract from that rule. The only benefit that this person has received is the Government subsidy. 1 am greatly concerned about the frequency with which this kind of thing is happening. The case that I have mentioned is by no means an isolated instance in which the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales has accepted no responsibility at all for hospital expenses incurred by members of the organization.
As I have mentioned, this person contributes to the fund at the intermediate scale, his contributions amounting to £4 lbs-, a year. But in addition, like every other person in the community, he has paid social services contributions. In 1948-49, the year prior to the amalgamation of income tax and social services contributions, an amount of more than £100,000,000 was collected as social services contributions compared with £95,000,000 levied on the people in personal income tax. The present collections are more than double that amount.
As the Government .provides financial assistance to people who obtain hospital treatment, I think that it should ensure that organizations of the kind I have mentioned live up to their advertised promises. I emphasize that, although the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited advertised that, after completion of a probationary period of two years’ membership, chronic sufferers would be entitled to fund benefits, in the specific case that I have cited, the payment of benefit was refused to a person who was suffering from a chronic complaint at the time of joining the fund.
I now wish to bring to the notice of the committee the hardship that is being inflicted on pensioners who are denied free drugs. Almost every day, I receive letters of complaint in this connexion. Only to-day, I have received a letter of complaint from a man 83 years of age, who managed to refrain from claiming an age pension until a few years ago. As he has been in very delicate health, he consulted a doctor, who prescribed certain tablets for him. When he went to collect the tablets from the chemist, he was told that he would have to pay for them. As I have said, this man refrained from applying for an age pension for as long as he could afford to do so. He was one of the pioneers of this country.
This Government is constantly claiming credit for the provision of free medicine and free hospital treatment to pensioners. Yet, this is a case in which an old gentleman, who neglected to claim the pension for as long as he could do so, was required to pay for tablets that a doctor had prescribed for him for a disability probably resulting from his advanced age. The old gentleman states that he is unable to afford to pay lis. a bottle for these tablets. As we can i imagine, if he had to obtain a couple of bottles a week, he would not be able to afford to pay for them at this price out of his pension of £4 a week. When he mentioned the matter to his doctor, the latter stated that all he could do was to get in touch with the Department of Health to ascertain if a substitute drug could be provided free of charge. I do not desire to criticize the medical profession, but the wisdom of some doctors in using certain drugs has been questioned. As a matter of fact, only within the last fortnight, a doctor appealed against the action of the Minister in refusing him the opportunity to prescribe certain medicines under the national health scheme because, apparently, according to the Government, he had prescribed too liberally. I ask the Minister to give serious consideration to these matters. They are important to pensioners and subscribers to the various medical benefit funds who should receive the treatment for which they are paying not only by way of subscriptions, but also by taxation.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! I doubt whether all honorable senators know exactly which of the proposed votes are before the Chair at the moment. They are the following, and they will” be considered together: - Department of Health, £1,516,000; Miscellaneous Services, Department of Health, £1,231,000; Payments to or for the States, £1,925,000; Australian Atomic Energy Commission, £778,000; Defence Services - Department of Supply, £15,132,000; War and Repatriation Services, £17,306,000; Postmaster-General’s Department, £87,123,000; and Broadcasting and Television Services, £6,802,000.
– I desire to refer to the annual report of the Auditor-General, because it is interesting to note that it deals with some of the matters which Senator Ashley raised. On page 43 of his report, dealing with the Department of Health, the AuditorGeneral states that his officers are aware of certain accounting control and audit difficulties associated with the provision of medical benefits to contributors. It is interesting to know that the Auditor-General has been in close collaboration with the Department of Health. He makes the following comment -
Since the introduction of the scheme, Audit Officers have carried out test checks of transactions and have made critical appraisals of procedures. Conferences have been held between the Audit Office and the Department and suggestions made by my officers have been adopted by the Department with a view to improving accounting control over payment of benefits.
It is well for the committee to realize that the Auditor-General and the Department of Health are co-operating to achieve this control. I am pleased to see that the position has greatly improved.
With regard to the pensioner medical service, the Auditor-General reports -
During the year, checks of transactions and reviews of departmental controls have been made by my officers. The results of these checks and reviews have revealed that, in general, departmental controls are operating satisfactorily.
This very difficult administration is receiving the approval of the Auditor-General. Opposition senators continually refer to parts of his report which criticize departmental activities. It is appropriate that the committee should realize that the AuditorGeneral has made a favorable report on the administration of the hospital benefits and medical benefits schemes, and the pensioner medical service.
.- I wish to refer to the proposed vote of £15.132,000 for the Department of Supply under the defence services’. I pointed out yesterday that the Government is seeking millions and millions of pounds for the defence of Australia and that the people are under the impression that the money is being wisely spent and that good housekeeping is being practised by the defence services. When we turn to some of the documents which are available in order to see just how the money has been and is being spent, we are rather shocked. The average taxpayer in Australia would be severely shocked if he were to understand just how money has been wasted through negligence on the part of some departmental officers.
When a case of extreme negligence involving wastage of money comes to the notice of honorable senators, we blame, not departmental officers, but the Minister because we acknowledge him as the administrator of the department. I call again upon my absent witness - the Auditor-General. Dealing with storage in the Department of Supply on page 76 of his report, the Auditor-General has this to say -
The Department of Supply acts as a general storage authority for the Commonwealth, but responsibility for the care of goods placed in its stores is not clearly defined. In its Ninth Report, the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Public Accounts drew attention to the necessity for a definition of responsibility but completely effective action has not been taken.
A case was noted during the year where serious damage to approximately 1,200 blankets, which had been stored after withdrawal from closed hostels, had been caused by insect infestation. Many of the blankets had not been cleaned prior to storage and had been allowed to remain in store, without attention, for a period approaching three years.
Owing to the length of time the blankets were in storage a Board of Survey was unable to determine whether the infestation commenced before or after receipt into store.
The question of responsibility for inspection and treatment of stores held by one department on behalf of another has been referred to the Department of the Treasury.
These are not my words. I have repeated only what the Auditor-General has said. He made a serious statement and I am sure that the citizens of Australia, who are required to pay their taxes, are very disturbed about it. The statement reveals first of all extreme carelessness on the part of the department. The evidence in support of that statement is damning. I invite honorable senators to dissect the report. The Auditor-General has stated -
The Department of Supply acts as a general storage authority for the Commonwealth.
If that were so, one would think that the department would not quibble about whether the blankets were cleaned before they were stored. If the department were the general storage authority for the Commonwealth, it would act as a good storage authority, and take all necessary precautions to ensure that proper care was taken of the goods placed in its custody. The Auditor-General referred to the need for the definition of responsibility and stated -
What is the reason for this quibbling on the part of the department regarding the storage of goods? It should know that, if it is its duty to store goods, it should do so in a proper way and have appropriate buildings at its disposal. The people are providing millions of pounds for Government purposes. 1 shall direct my attention now to the goods that were spoilt.
Sitting suspended from 5.48 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting, I was dealing with the “ rock n’ roll “ methods that have been adopted by the Department of Supply in relation to storage, and,/ in particular, to laxity in the storage of 1,200 blankets. While I was dealing with that matter, 1 recalled that, some months ago, during the winter, Senator Brown directed a question to a certain Minister about the possibility of making a free issue of blankets to pensioners. The minute one mentions a free issue of blankets to pensioners, even to age pensioners only, people visualize the necessity to spend a huge sum of money. But, to-night, 1 am dealing with the ruination of 1,200 blankets as a result of the neglect of the department in failing to protect them adequately. I feel sure that, if the department had been thoughtful and had acted as one would have expected an ordinary citizen to act, it could have purchased ls. worth of DDT powder and could have protected them effectively for at least two or three years. Instead, they were eaten by silverfish. I can visualize, when a check was being made, the audit inspector going along and holding up a blanket and wondering whether it was really a blanket or a new kind of mosquito net.
So, the whole sum involved, which must be £5.000 or £6,000, is merely written off! At least, each of 600 pensioners could have been issued with a pair of those blankets. And what comfort they would have derived from them! Dealing further with the economics of the loss, if the blankets had been issued to pensioners, the Department of Health would not have been called upon to attend to them because of colds, bronchitis and pneumonia.
I pass to another matter that, also, is related to the failure of the Department of Supply to act as a department is expected to act by the citizens of Australia, who have to find the money to enable it to function. The Auditor-General, in his report for the year ended 30th June, 1956, said -
During the year the Department made progress towards remedying unsatisfactory aspects of storekeeping and store accounting-
I pause there to mention that the AuditorGeneral, in dealing with some of the affairs of the various departments, has worn out . the word “ unsatisfactory “.
– To what item is the honorable senator referring? I am trying to follow him.
– My dear man, you know what I am talking about. It is not my duty to inform the honorable senator what subject we are discussing.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I protest. I merely asked for information, without any ill will.
– The report continues - which were the subject of adverse comment in previous Reports, and in the issue and implementation of instructions for the control of stores. There are, however, still some stores which are not under satisfactory accounting control.
Subsequent to the Treasurer’s approval to accept new stocktakings as the basis for future recording and control of certain assets (plant, equipment and furniture), the Department has arranged to conduct a complete stocktaking of these items at an early date.
A system of costing has been introduced in the Workshops and Area Maintenance Sections and, while differing from normal costing methods, is considered by the department to be adequate for its particular needs. The efficiency of the system is under Audit examination.
Internal audit remains unsatisfactory.
Again, the word “ unsatisfactory “ is used. The report further reads-
It is evident that insufficient trained staff is engaged on this aspect of control.
Let us go back over the report and see what it means to the taxpayers of Australia.
– To what page is the honorable senator referring?
– I am referring to page 77 of the Auditor-General’s report. 1 know 1 must assist the- honorable senator. He is so dense, and is quite unable to follow what I am talking about.
– Thank you. 1 am much obliged.
– I direct the attention of the committee to the following passage which 1 read earlier: -
There are, however, still some stores which are not under satisfactory accounting control.
If they are not under satisfactory control, the form of control is left to one’s imagination. Again we note the “ rock ‘n roll “ methods employed by the department. I am referring to these matters to-night because they are of interest to the broadcast listeners of the Commonwealth. Now they have an idea how the expenditure of £190,000,000 by the Commonwealth Government is taken in its stride. The wastage of 1,200 blankets is a mere bagatelle. Recently, 1 referred to the syphoning off of 39,000 gallons of petrol. Just imagine 39,000 gallons of petrol going to waste in 1955-56 However, that was related to another department. After the AuditorGeneral points out the shortcoming of the Department of Supply, he says - . . the department has arranged to conduct a complete stocktaking of these items at an early date.
Of course, it does not do so as a matter of duty.
– The quantity of petrol involved was not 39,000 gallons, but 29,000 gallons.
– The department has arranged to conduct a stocktaking as an act of grace. There is no such thing as doing it as a matter of compulsion or because it is its duty to do so. Again I direct attention to the following words in the AuditorGeneral’s Report: -
Internal Audit remains unsatisfactory.
He did not say “ Internal audit is unsatisfactory “. It was not something that he discovered in the last financial year. He discovered it two or three years ago and directed attention to it. I made use of this chamber to publicize the shortcoming, but the position still remains unsatisfactory. Is it not something that can be corrected? These are just ordinary things. As 1 stand here, I am looking at the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), who is in charge of this section of the proposed votes. One does not read such comments . about the affairs of the Department of Repatriation. He would go mad if they were to occur in his department; but evidently one Minister, or several Ministers responsible for the defence departments can allow these things to go on from year to year without feeling any discomfort about it. I am not asking the Minister for Repatriation to offer an explanation of these things, because I know there is no explanation that can be offered. I just ask the people of Australia to make their own deductions about these matters. Apparently, the responsible Ministers do not care two hoots about how the goods are cared for and about how much money is wasted as long as they can go from one set of estimates to another in the following year.
– I should like to clear up one or two matters that have been brought to my notice. Senator Laught asked about the provision of £7,900 for the nutrition of children. That sum represents the cost to the States of the distribution of milk which is met by the Commonwealth and the States on a fifty-fifty basis. The total amounts to be paid to the States are as follows: New South Wales £1,500, Queensland £1,300, Victoria £1,500, South Australia £1,000, Western Australia £1,000, and Tasmania £1,600. The main part that is played by the Commonwealth Government in child nutrition is the provision of free milk. The estimated cost to the National Welfare Fund of free milk to be distributed to school children in 1956-57 is £2,670,000.
The honorable senator referred to control of foot and mouth disease, for which only the small sum of £1,300 is provided. I am informed that the amount is practically all spent on disinfectants for immigrants’ belongings. Many countries now have a quarantine system under which these belongings are treated before they are shipped to Australia, so that disinfection on arrival is not necessary and our costs in this connexion are considerably reduced.
Senator Ashley mentioned a specific case in which a claim was made on a medical benefits fund without success. Some organizations regard chronic illnesses in a different light from pre-existing ailments. If a contributor has been paying into a fund for two years, practically all medical benefits organizations will accept claims in respect of pre-existing ailments, but as I have already said, a chronic illness is placed in an entirely different category. Each fund considers these matters in accordance with its own rules. Entitlement to benefits is assessed on the facts of each case, and in accordance with the rules of the organization concerned. However, if Senator Ashley can provide me with, details of the case he mentioned, I will pass them on to the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) and ask him to examine them. I will ask the Minister for Health to ascertain whether the claimant in this case has been unfairly treated, and whether anything can be done to assist him.
Senator Benn referred to an item in the Auditor-General’s report relating to blankets that were handed to the Department of Supply for storage. I am informed by the department that, although it is a storage authority, it does not hold itself responsible for the preservation of goods stored on behalf of clients. In the case in question, the department advised the client of the condition in which the blankets had been received, and it then considered that further action to remedy any defects in the goods was the responsibility of the client. When the blankets were brought to the department they were infested with germs, but nothing was done to clean or disinfect them, [f the Department of Supply were to accept responsibility for the condition of goods stored, it would need to employ many extra storemen and technically qualified persons to carry out detailed inspections and prescribe preventative treatment. The AuditorGeneral has discussed with the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) the general question of responsibility for goods placed in store with the Department of Supply, and a decision is awaited.
It is easy for honorable senators to say that the department should do this or that, but if I were intending to store goods, especially blankets which, to a certain extent, are perishable or liable to infestation, I should take good care to have them well packed and disinfected and in a condition not likely to be affected by storage.
– If the Department of Supply was not to blame in this case, some other department was.
– That may be so, but the honorable senator made his charge against the Department of Supply. Senator Ashley referred to drugs that had been removed from the list of pharmaceutical benefits. I am informed that amendments to the list are recommended by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, which meets in the various States. All new drugs produced are brought to the notice of the committee and examined. Under the act, no drug or medicinal preparation may be prescribed as a pharmaceutical benefit without the committee’s recommendation. From time to time, this committee investigates the desirability of retaining certain drugs on the list of pharmaceutical benefits. Drugs are removed from the list only after careful examination, and In many cases they are replaced by new drugs. Deletions from the list may also be considered to be necessary.
– I direct the attention cif the Minister to Division 240, which deals, with War Service Homes. Item 6 of sub-division B, “ General Expenses “, provides a vote of £15,100 this year for payments to the Department of Supply for the hire of motor vehicles. Last year, this item involved an expenditure of £14,357. I ask the Minister whether it is not possible for this important department to be supplied with vehicles of its own. This seems to be an extraordinary large amount to be spent on hire.
I direct attention also to applications for war service homes. At the outset, I record my appreciation of the courtesy and consideration I. have received from the officers of the War Service Homes Division in Adelaide. They operate under an act that is most difficult to administer because of lack of funds. Many ex-servicemen have applied for ware service homes finance, and in some cases a wait of years has been involved before their applications have been approved. Despite the fact that their applications have been approved, if these applicants wish to commence building their homes promptly they are compelled to seek temporary finance elsewhere at high rates of interest until their loan is made available by the War Service Homes Division. It is not uncommon for twelve months to elapse after applications have been approved before the loan is actually made available. That is most undesirable, especially if an applicant should happen to be a married man with a young family. In such cases it is essential that everything possible be done to avoid unnecessary expense.
I know that in South Australia many applicants have had to seek temporary finance at high rates of interest from outside sources in order that they may be enabled to move into their homes as soon as they are ready. I have been instrumental in helping some of them to obtain temporary finance pending the making available of their loans by the War Service Homes Division. This year we are asked to provide £768,100 tor administration and salaries, less an amount of £113,500, which it is estimated will remain unexpended. Last year the amount estimated to remain unexpended was £159,382. I venture the opinion that if that £159,382 had been made available to those applicants whose loans had been approved, many ex-servicemen would have been saved the extra financial burden they are now carrying through having to arrange for temporary finance elsewhere. I sincerely hope that the Minister will be able to tell us that the £113,500 which it is estimated will remain unexpended for the year 1956-57 will be used in the way I have suggested. In any event, I look forward with confidence to his being able to tell us that in future approved applicants will” no longer have to undergo the presenlengthy waiting period.
– I wish to refer to the proposed vote for the Postmaster-General’s Department. The proposed expenditure of £87,122,000 is a colossal amount for any one department. I direct attention to the fact that it is not proposed to expend any of this money on the provision of amenities for the employees of the Postal Department. Although these people earn the revenue for the department, no provision is made for reasonable amenities for them. I have emphasized many times that they are working under the worst conditions affecting any employees in the Public Service.
I notice that £274,000 is earmarked for rental buildings. Prior to the outbreak of World War II., many suburbs which are now flourishing were almost non-existent.
In those earlier days, certain premises were rented by the Postal Department for post office purposes. Since then the suburbs have developed tremendously with the result that the old private buildings which were rented in the early days are not now adequate for the service required. During the last few years I have had the opportunity to travel throughout Victoria and to see for myself the deplorable conditions under which mail sorters and letter carriers are required to work. I do not blame this Government entirely for this state of affairs; I blame previous governments which have not seen fit to provide the facilities necessary for these employees.
Recently, the postal employees decided to work strictly to the regulations governing their employment. Some people said that they went on strike. They were not on strike at all; they were simply directing the attention of the people of Australia to the most undesirable conditions under which they are required to work and demonstrating to them how unsatisfactory the service would, be if employees- worked strictly according to regulations. The regulations are not couched in terms calculated to safeguard the interests of the employees; they are drafted in such a way as. to provide safeguards for the department, and, in the interests of the public, the employees are violating those regulations every day. In most instances where premises have been rented for use as post offices, letter carriers are required to sort and prepare mails for delivery under what can be described only as deplorable conditions. In the first place, we know that it is part of their work to deliver mails in all. weathers, wet or fine, but only too often we find that upon returning wet through after delivering the first mail in the rain the letter carriers have no means of drying their clothes. The majority of the Australian people sympathize with our postal workers, and I urge that a part of the proposed expenditure of £87,000,000 be devoted to the provision of reasonable facilities for these employees.
Linemen are in. a similar position. 1 admit that it is part of their job to work on the lines in all weathers, but some provision should be made for their comfort. For instance, facilities should be provided to enable them to change into dry clothes after working in the rain. At the present time, they must either change in the street or i ravel home in wet clothes. It should be possible io allocate a proportion of this proposed huge expenditure for the provision of reasonable amenities for these employees. The Government should see to it that the central administration makes some of this money available for that purpose.
Recently, the Senate dealt with a bill to authorize further increases in charges to the public for postage and telephone services. We found it impossible to obtain from the Minister in charge information about the profits made or the losses incurred in the operation of the telephone services, the mail services or the bulk postage services. I point out to honorable senators that there has been no increase in the cost of transport of bulk postage in Australia, and yet the charges for the ordinary postal facilities available to private citizens have been increased enormously.
Another matter that I wish to bring before the committee is the adverse criticism of the administration of telephone services that has appeared in the press from time to time. I have made certain inquiries about this matter, and as the result of those inquiries 1 believe that it is the duty of the Minister to deal with the matter in the chamber to-night. It has been stated that certain postal officers are prepared to accept bribes to provide telephones for people associated with starting-price bookmakers in the various States of the Commonwealth. On behalf of the Postal Department, I take this opportunity of definitely denying all such charges. I say that nobody can obtain a telephone service unless sufficient of the right kind of cable is available and unless there is a vacancy on the telephone frame at the relevant exchange.
In connexion with the cancellation of telephone services at the request of the police authorities that has taken place recently in Victoria, I point out that there is no obligation on telephone technicians or on the telephone or works branches of the Postal Department to ascertain for what purpose a telephone is to be used. It is the duty of the officers of the department to install telephones wherever they are required, if the facilities are available to allow them to be installed. If, after installation, telephones are used for an illegal purpose, that is a matter for the police of the States and has nothing at all to do with the officers of the Postal Department.
Through the foresight of Labour governments between 1941 and 1949 it has been possible for this Government to provide many telephone services which otherwise could not have been provided. Among those were the telephones which, at the instance of the police authorities, have been disconnected in Victoria. However, although there are ample cable and exchange facilities available, not 2 per cent, of the telephones that were disconnected have been re-allocated to other people. Therefore, it will be seen that it is quite wrong for the press or for anybody else to state that postal employees are prepared to sacrifice the rights of ordinary ciitzens in the interests of those who want to use telephones for an illegal purpose. Moreover, because of an agreement between the Commonwealth and State authorities the Postal Department is losing hundreds of thousands of pounds in revenue that would be gained if telephones had not been disconnected at the instance of State authorities.
During the 1930’s, non-Labour governments placed all profits made by the Postal Department into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. That action starved the Postal Department of money, and prevented it from carrying out necessary extensions of its activities. In those days this Parliament voted money for the erection of new post offices, telephone exchanges and the provision of amenities for the workers, but that money was not used for those purposes, because all the profits of the Postal Department in those days were taken away from the department and used for general governmental purposes. Therefore, if there has been a shortage of telephones and other postal facilities in the Commonwealth, blame for that state of affairs cannot be laid on the employees of the Postal Department; it must rest with those governments which were not prepared to allow the Postal Department to use its profits to extend its services.
Much has been said during this debate about the important matter of defence, but when World War II. broke out we were unable to provide telephones even for essential war industries. The Postal Department is a very important part of our defence organization, and every effort should be made to ensure that its facilities are made available to all those who want them, and are made capable of sudden expansion. At present hundreds of post offices and telephone exchanges are required, but the Government is not making sufficient money available to carry out these important defence works. At the present time men are being dismissed from government projects such as aircraft production and establishments under the administration of the Department of Supply, but 1 warn the Government and the Department of Supply that if we are to have strong defences we must have adequate postal facilities and telephone services. Therefore, the people who are being dismissed should be employed on the construction of more post offices and telephone exchanges and also on the laying of underground cable. If that were done we should have no future trouble with our postal services. This is a most important matter, and I hope and trust that the Government will see the wisdom of the suggestions that I have made to-night. 1 emphasize that we must not leave the Postal Department in the position in which it was found by a Labour government in 1941. 1 reiterate that no officer of the Postal Department, whether he belongs to the central administration or is employed in one of the States, is to blame in any way at all for the mismanagement that has occurred in the department. Those difficulties are all due to the activities of past non-Labour governments which were not prepared to provide the necessary money to make adequate postal facilities available. I remember in the 1920’s when the late Senator Gibson was Postmsater-General, money was being wasted in the Postal Department. We paid dearly for that later. However, to-day we have a most efficient staff of engineers, technicians and other workers in the Postal Department who can make all the necessary services available if they are given the chance to do so. I believe that the Government should consider making more money available to build new post offices first of all, because one thing that a soldier depends upon in time of war is his mail from home. Also the Government must provide proper telephone and telegraph communications. If the money is not made available for those services now it will be too late if we are faced with another situation similar to that which faced us in 1939.
.- One phase of the activities of the Australian
Broadcasting Control Board, provision for which may be found in Division 268 of the schedule under “ Broadcasting and Television Services “, is the supervision of licences for radio stations. 1 desire to refer particularly to the fact that one of the stations listed under the control of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, Radio Station 3KZ, Melbourne, has not been operated, as far as I can ascertain, in the whole period of its existence, by the persons to whom the licence was originally granted, but was leased almost as soon as the licence was granted, and has been operated ever since under the lease.
I desire to make the point that either the board or the Government should take the stand that the grant of a radio licence envisages that the persons who receive the licence shall undertake the responsibility for operating the station. Even if, in the initial stages, due to some difficulties that may be encountered, it is necessary to lease the station, after a reasonable period of time the board should take action to insist that those holding the licence shall actually operate the station.
This licence was originally granted in the early ‘thirties to a group of people who applied for it in the interests of the trade union movement and the Labour movement of Victoria. At the time, due to the depression, the unions and the Labour movement had very small funds, and they were compelled to lease the station to the Val Morgan Advertising Service. It was the intention of the men who, on behalf of the trade union movement and the Labour movement obtained that licence, that within a reasonable period they should take it over and operate it on behalf of the Labour movement and the trade union movement. Efforts have been made by the trade union movement and the Labour movement since that date to obtain the licence to operate it themselves, but they have been frustrated because of a. peculiar trust under which the particular body, the Industrial Printing and Publicity Company, which operates the licence, operates in Victoria. That company is the successor of an old propagandist body that did great work for the Labour movement in the early 1900’s. When that body went out of existence, it handed over its property to a trust company which, it supposed, was going to be operated in the interests of the trade unions and the Labour movement, but by the circumstances in which the body allocated the trust, the sole control in that company, and now of that licence, is in the hands practically of two men, Mr. M. B. Duffy and Mr. J. V. Stout, the secretary of the Trades Hall Council, each of whom has steadfastly resisted any attempt on behalf of the trade union movement and the Labour movement to get back the licence, and each of whom has insisted year after year in leasing the station to a private company under terms which have been very adverse from the point of view of the trade union movement and the Labour movement. The situation has been reached that, after large sums for equipment and other purposes have been taken out of the earnings of the radio station, the Labour movement and the trade union movement, which supposedly own the licence, received in one year only £8,000 out of a profit of £22,000, the remaining £14,000 going to the company, which represents private enterprise and has no association with the people who were originally granted the licence.
When efforts have been made, as they have been over the years, to obtain the reversion of the licence, in the interests of the trade union movement and the Labour movement, they have been frustrated because the peculiar form of trust operated by two men has prevented the Labour movement and the trade union movement from getting back their own station. That position has persisted in spite of the efforts of men like Mr. Clarey, Mr. Calwell, Mr. Lovegrove and Senator Kennelly, who were voted on to the board supposed to control the company, to take back the lease. They have been frustrated by the efforts of other people who, for some reason that cannot be ascertained, persist in saying that the Labour movement cannot run its own radio station - an amazing statement from people who believe in the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. They have frustrated the efforts of Mr. Clarey, Mr. Calwell, Mr. Lovegrove, Senator Kennelly and Mr. John Cain, the ex-Premier of Victoria, whom I have heard express the utmost resentment at the way in which this radio station has been taken from the control of the Labour movement. That position, of course, comes about because, after 25 years, the licence is not in the hands of the people to whom it was originally granted. After 25 years, the radio station is still being operated under lease by a private company. 1 know myself that this position has caused great concern to the persons controlling radio stations in the interests of the trade union and Labour movements in other States. I can recall that, some three years ago, the Victorian Executive of the Labour party made arrangements with the New South Wales Labour and trade union movements, which are able very effectively to control radio stations, to send representatives to Victoria to discuss proposals for taking over this radio station and operating it entirely in the interests of the Labour movement and the trade union movement. Mr. Bob King, of the Sydney Labour Council, and Mr. Shortell, the manager of their station, came over and assured us that if this radio station were put into proper hands it would be possible, because the Labour movement and the trade union movement would have an all-Australian network, to make available out of the profits very considerable sums of money for the purposes of the trade union movement and the Labour movement. But every effort that has been made to achieve that very desirable result has been frustrated because the persons who, through this peculiar trust, have control of the radio station, have insisted on handing it over year after year to private enterprise, and because the lease is approved year after year, with the result that the great bulk of the profits from the station, which was intended for one purpose, and should be used for that purpose, is now being applied for purposes outside the Labour movement.
Now, it may be said that if the Labour movement cannot settle this matter itself, why should others interest themselves in it? I shall simply say this: It is regrettable that when, in certain States, unions like the Australian Workers Union are able to control their own radio stations, and the council of the Australian Labour party in New South Wales is able very effectively to control radio stations, persons associated with the Labour movement and the trade union movement in Victoria insist on handing over their particular radio station lo private enterprise. To those who ask, “ What can be done? “, I say this: It is wrong that a radio station should be permitted to operate under lease for a period of some 25 years, and it is most desirable that the board should insist that, in view of the lengthy period that that licence has been leased, it should now revert to the persons to whom it was originally granted. The board should insist that, in Victoria, the Labour movement and the trade union movement take over the licence that was. originally granted to them and operate it themselves, so that ali the profits accruing from it may be used for the purposes of the Labour movement and the trade union movement.
– Although, under the method that has been adopted for considering the Estimates, an honorable senator may traverse a fairly wide range of subjects, 1 wish to confine my remarks to the proposed vote for the Department of Health. I wish to refer to a number of isolated matters, and also to certain matters that 1 have raised in previous years when the Estimates have been before this chamber. I do not make any excuses for doing so because I know the need for assistance is even greater than before. Division 222 of the proposed vote for the Department of Health is a most fascinating division in that it provides funds for many phases of health work including the World Health Organization, the Australian Red Cross and various overseas medical associations.
I note that an amount of £170,000 is provided for medical research. Even though that proposed vote represents a small increase, it is still an incredibly small amount to spend on medical research, and I should like the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to inform me whether other provision is made for this purpose in another proposed vote. The need for medical research is most urgent to-day, even when one considers cancer research alone. Obviously, the sum of £170,000 is only a drop in the bucket. It is possible that work is being done in the States and, perhaps, the answer to my question is that the Commonwealth is making contributions to the States under some other proposed vote. If that is so, the Minister should inform the Senate during this debate. 1 now wish to refer to national fitness. The Minister may recall that during the last sessional period I asked a question on this matter. A sum has been set aside for the
Commonwealth Council for National Fitness. I refer the Minister to the question 1 asked on this subject in May last. In addition to seeking the names of the various members of the council, who were the representatives of the various States and of the Senate and the amount granted to the council, I asked how often the council met. The answer I received from the Minister, which is recorded in “ Hansard “, was -
There have been no meetings of the council during the last twelve months. The council last met in September 1954.
The Senate is discussing proposed votes and it is true that in the scheme of things there must be fluctuations between anticipated and actual expenditure. Nevertheless, the Senate has a serious obligation to peruse very carefully all proposed votes. We are providing the sum of £72,500 for the Commonwealth Council for National Fitness and yet, on the Minister’s own say-so, that council has not met very often. I ask him whether any alteration has taken place in the management of the council since I asked my previous question. At that time he indicated that only one meeting had been held since 1954.
Before I come to the item which I usually raise each year I desire to refer to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. On one or two occasions I have read in the press dramatic stories of individuals - in one case a child - having been bitten by a funnel-web spider. In the case of the child the Sydney press featured a front page story of how the child was rushed to the Royal North Shore Hospital and received a special anti-spider injection. The whole burden of the story was that that particular hospital is the only one in the City of Sydney that has the necessary antidote for the bite of that particular spider. I ask the Minister whether it is the function of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to manufacture this type of serum. If it is, the laboratories have a glorious chance to distribute the serum to other hospitals. To me it is a fantastic story - I have read it twice during the last twelve months - that people who have been bitten by spiders have, by the grace of God, been able to get to the Royal North Shore Hospital before the poison has taken effect. When we think in terms of a city of 1,500,000 people, with a colossal volume of traffic, and the harbour bridge to be crossed in order to reach the Royal North Shore Hospital, it would be extremely unfortunate if a person living on the other side of the harbour were bitten by one of these spiders. If there is any substance in the story published in the press - I make that qualification - and the Royal North Shore Hospital is the only hospital which possesses this serum, obviously all the major hospitals in the big capital cities should be supplied with the serum.
I return lo the subject of medical research. Each year, during the few years I have been in the Senate, I have stated a case for medical research into the care and treatment of the subnormal child. Only £170,000 is proposed for medical research and yet we have these unfortunate children in this land who, through no fault of their own, have been born with this affliction. Medical research into the problem of the subnormal child is being conducted in other parts of the world. I know that subnormal children’s associations in the various States are doing a magnificent job. With Mr. Fitzgerald who was, at that time, a member in another place, I made representations 10 the Commonwealth Government for a special grant for these associations to help them in the magnificent work they are doing. Unfortunately, we did not succeed. I know that, in the scheme of things, there are numerous worthy organizations doing a magnificent job in welfare work and, of course, the Government cannot give to all. However, 1 suggest that the case of the subnormal child is one that cries out for Government help. I may have said this before; but every parent, when he sees a subnormal child, should say, “ There but for the grace of God, go 1 “. So far, medical science can offer no explanation for this type of subnormality. On the score of national fitness, we owe it to the nation to conduct a great amount of medical research to see if we can find some of the answers to the problem in relation to children who are bordering on the line between low or retarded mentality and subnormality. It is a tremendously big question. My good friend. Senator Agnes Robertson, has been assisting certain organizations which are performing work in connexion with this problem. 1 have done the same, but there are many children whose minds will always be immature. The fear of their parents is that they will have no one to help them when the parents are dead. They ask themselves whether their children will be put into a mental institution. There is a case for medical research along the lines thai are being followed in the United Kingdom to find medical answers to the problem and to reduce, if possible, the incidence of subnormality so that comfort and hope will be given to the parents and, perhaps, to the children themselves.
I notice that a substantial vote is to be set aside for the World Health Organization. I. have had the privilege of talking with the senior officers of that organization in Geneva. They are doing magnificent work for world health, but we have our own problems, and while I do not criticize the vote for the World Health Organization, I suggest that we should look at our own health problems and ascertain that any financial help we give is properly allocated and applied.
– Having regard to the fact that we are dealing, in a limited time, with eight different departments, and that the debate will conclude to-night, I regret that I am under an obligation to divert the trend of the discussion. I do so without apologies but with regret. I do this because I wish to direct attention to a matter which is of vast importance, not only to Australia, but to all mankind. In this connexion, I apply my remarks to the vote for the Department of Supply which totals £15,132,000. It is the department that is concerned with the atomic tests that are being conducted in Australia by the Australian Government in conjunction with the Government of the United Kingdom. I direct attention particularly to atomic explosions, and I wish to state at once the outlook of the Australian Labour party towards this matter. At the conference of the Labour party in 1955, the views of the party were laid down plainly in these words -
The development of atomic weapons has reached such dimensions that the people of the world are now faced with the stark and terrifying spectacle of a possible atomic world war, causing a danger to the very fabric of the earth, its atmosphere, and all its inhabitants, which is so real that distinguished scientists refer to the prospect with a sense of “ desperation “. This desperation is partly due to the vacillation and delay in arranging high level political talks aiming at the effective prevention of the use of atomic and hydrogen bombs by any nation, whether for purposes of war or experimental purposes.
Two vastly important and cheering things have taken place since that pronouncement was made. The first stems from the historic “ Atoms for Peace “ speech made by Mr. Eisenhower in December, 1953, to the United Nations. He suggested the setting up by the United Nations of an international atomic agency which would concern itself with stockpiling atomic energy and using it for peaceful purposes; to promote agriculture and for use in medicine and, above all, to provide energy for the peoples of the world, particularly the nations that lack industrial power.
That speech attracted world-wide attention. It was adopted unanimously by the United Nations, which set up a committee representative of twelve sponsoring nations to draw up a statute or charter for the new proposed international atomic energy agency. Australia had the honour of being a member of the twelve sponsoring nations, and Russia was also included. Russia was the main stumbling block until a year ago in that it insisted that the activities of the new atomic energy agency should come under the purview of the Security Council. That meant that the power of veto would apply, and could be used by Russia or any other of the great powers to whom the veto is available. I am happy to say that the difficulty has been overcome completely and that, in April last, the twelve nations unanimously agreed upon a charter and presented it to the United Nations. A debate on that charter was initiated only last month by the meeting of the United Nations at which 81 nations were represented. It bids fair to be accepted with very slight modification if any.
The important thing is that that agency will not be responsible to the Security Council, lt will report to the General Assembly where the veto does not apply. That is a very important step forward on the road to dealing with an atomic agency at a world control level. The link is to be with the General Assembly and not with the Security Council to which the agency is invited to report when appropriate. Those words are not defined, but the primary responsibility is to the General Assembly and not to the Security Council where the veto operates.
The proposed charter provides for an international staff of inspectors with the right of entry into the various countries using atomic energy. They are to see that the energy that is supplied from the central fund is being used for peaceful purposes and is not, in any way, being diverted to military purposes. Sanctions and powers are then vested in the controlling agency in the event of any misuse of the energy entrusted to a nation.
– What sort of sanctions?
– The removal of the stockpile, for one thing, would be a very clear economic sanction.
– Who could enforce that sanction?
– That might well come back to the Security Council. If it became a matter of military action, undoubtedly it should go to the Security Council. That would happen in the event of any act of a military nature. Complete inspectorial and policing provisions are included in the agreement. That is a very hopeful sign. The second sign of a hopeful nature is the fact that, in quite recent times, not only has Russia indicated its willingness to discuss the cessation of nuclear tests apart from all other considerations of disarmament, but the United Kingdom also, for the first time, has expressed its willingness, through its Prime Minister, to discuss nuclear disarmament and the abandonment of nuclear tests, again divorced from the general question of disarmament. The United States of America also has intimated that it is prepared to have talks and discussions about the cessation of nuclear tests with appropriate safeguards. That is a very proper qualification. What we of the Opposition are concerned about is that the ground seems to be ready for a discussion that might give good results. Yet, nobody is moving actively at this moment lo ensure that the great powers, above all those controlling atomic energy within their own boundaries, should be brought together to have these very fine public expressions reduced to practical terms.
There does seem to be a real prospect of the nations of the world getting together on the question of the abandonment of nuclear tests. One cannot, in reason, expect any one nation that has atomic power at its disposal to abandon tests or stockpiling, yet some country must eventually move and take the first step to halt this mad race in the stockpiling of atomic weapons for military purposes, and to abolish tests. I do not deny that the tests have had some use - first, from all the scientific and practical angles, for purposes connected with peace, and, secondly, from the viewpoint of determining the effects of radiation and fall-out and all the side effects of nuclear explosions. Many lessons can bc learned from them.
It seems that if an agreement could be reached between the various nations not to hold any more tests, they could be policed with the very greatest of ease, because I understand that instruments are available which can detect any such explosion in any part of the world. If there were an agreement and proper safeguards, a breach of the agreement would be readily detectable, and whatever sanctions were necessary could be put into force. But the main thing in the eyes of the Opposition is that a move should be made in this direction. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the vote - Department of Supply, £15,132,000- by £1.
As an instruction to the Government -
That it should take the initiative in bring together the great nations for the purpose of making an agreement immediately to abandon atomic tests with a view to obtaining a firmer agreement under which they can be banned altogether.
In recent weeks, there have been some four atomic explosions in Australia at Maralinga. Those tests have been conducted in conjunction with the United Kingdom. I regret very much that the explosions took place on Australian soil and that Australia has been exposed to whatever dangers are inherent in such explosions in our own country.
– That is better than having Russian bombs dropped on us.
– Infinitely better, but I point to the risk that is inherent in such explosions. First, if it is completely local, it might do local damage. The mere fact that an explosion was postponed day after day for approximately a fortnight indicates that perfect and completely predictable conditions must obtain in order to carry away the dangerous elements in the atomic cloud before the explosion dare be released. It is perfectly clear that there is danger and that, if there were an unpredictable element in the weather, grave danger could be caused. I think everybody will recall the grave anxiety that was felt in Australia following the first explosion as the atomic cloud began to drift back towards the eastern seaboard of Australia.
Seater Pearson. - Does the honorable senator say that the tests should be discontinued before there is any international agreement?
– If the honorable senator had been listening to me, he would have heard me indicate that nobody could expect any one nation unilaterally to discontinue them while other nations were continuing them.
– The honorable senator said he was sorry that they took place in Australia.
– 1 am sorry that they were held in Australia, or have been held anywhere else. 1 can understand why they take place, but I object to their taking place in this country.
– Where does the honorable senator think they N should take place?
Seater McKENNA. - Some other place could be found. An uninhabited island could be found.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that they could be held outside London?
– The honorable senator is being facetious when he suggests that I might think that London would be a more appropriate place. They could be held in an area where no damage would be possible. We certainly deplore the fact that these tests have taken place in Australia, and we say very strongly that we hope there will be no more of them.
We invite the Government, rather than proceeding with an activity of this kind, to concentrate its very best energies upon urging the great nations to proceed immediately to the question of nuclear disarmament and the abandonment of atomic tests. That is not unreasonable. Australia might be a small country, but, during the term of office of both this Government and the Labour Government up to 1949, it played a very disproportionate part in the affairs of the world. It was Australia’s action that led to United Nations intervention to halt the war ‘between Holland and the Indonesians, with an enormous saving of life. I know from my own personal knowledge that that stemmed from Australia’s immediate initiative, which is indicative of what can be done if somebody moves with a will. 1 do not anticipate that all the nations would bow the behest of Australia, but somebody must make them realize - and world opinion is lending most strongly to this - that atomic explosions must be halted as a prelude to the banning of atomic bombs altogether for warlike purposes. Australia could play a noble role in the interests of not only its own people but also of all humanity by moving in this direction.
– We must not explode them in Australia?
– We do not want them in Australia. Find another place, lt is not for me to suggest where that place is. but .1 suggest that they should be held at a place where there can be no possibility of danger to life. If explosions are conducted in Australia, it is inevitable that there should be danger to the Australian people. That is abundantly clear from the precautions that have been taken at Maralinga in recent weeks. After all is said and clone, this is the most important aspect of disarmament. Russia has given a unilateral lead in the matter of disarmament, apart from nuclear explosions.
– Just before the American elections!
– It has indicated that it reduced its armed forces in 1955 by 640,000 personnel, and, correspondingly, its equipment and expenditure.
Government senators interjecting,
– Let me qualify my statement later. It has announced that, by 1st May, 1957, it will reduce its armed forces by 1,200,000 personnel, with appropriate reductions in armaments and expenditure. Having regard to the enormous size of its total forces, they might not be significant contributions. They might be made with an eye on the American elections and other aspects of the world situation, but at least let us give that country credit for the announcement and the gesture, and be fair enough to acknowledge that it has been done unilaterally.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I should like to reply to one or two questions that have been raised. Senator Critchley refered to the item “ Payment to Department of Supply for hire of motor vehicles, £15,100” under the heading, General Expenses, in Division 240 - War Service Homes Division. Most vehicles that are used in the Commonwealth service are rented by the various departments from the Department of Supply. lt is considered that to obtain transport from a centralized depot equipped with facilities for maintenance is much better than for each department or division to have ils own transport and be responsible for its maintenance. The War Service Homes Division merely rents vehicles from the Department of Supply.
The honorable senator referred to the waiting time of applicants for war service homes. Honorable senators are all aware of this waiting period, and in some States it has been considerable, but there is a heavy demand for homes and insufficient finance and materials to meet that demand. Honorable senators are aware, too, that the general building programmes of the Government and of private enterprise are also heavy. Ex-servicemen receive preference in the building of homes, but owing to high costs the division has to carry a heavy burden. Ex-servicemen’s organizations realize that the Government is doing everything possible to meet the demands. In each of the last two years, £30,000,000 has been allocated for war service homes, and the same amount has been ear-marked this year for that purpose. An exserviceman who, of necessity, has to obtain a home may raise finance in the free market at a very high rate of interest, but as soon as the War Service Homes Division is able to assist him he is able to obtain finance at a lower rate.
A few weeks ago, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) answered a question on this subject, and pointed out that very few war service homes purchasers were paying an exorbitant rate of interest, such as 15 per cent, or 20 per cent., as was stated in the press. The bulk of the borrowings are at 5 per cent. In the last six and a half years this Government has provided 85,774 war service homes. I admit that far more are asked for, and the Government is not overtaking the lag at a fast rate.
– I am perfectly satisfied with what the Government is doing, but I ask that the waiting time should be reduced.
– The supplying ot war service homes is linked with the general housing shortage. If the Government were to provide more finance for war service homes the result would probably be greater competition for materials, and higher prices.
– Building materials are in adequate supply.
– That may be so tn Western Australia, but it is not the case generally throughout the Commonwealth. The Government has this matter in hand and is doing everything possible, in view of the general economic situation, to reduce the waiting time. I am certain that the Director of War Service Homes, who is advisig me this evening, is doing everything possible in this direction.
Senator Hendrickson spoke about amenities for workers in the Postal Department. Approximately £25,000 has been provided for this purpose this financial year, and that is £4,790 more than was spent last year. This money is to be applied to the purchase of water coolers, heaters, urns and other items for the preparation of food and the general welfare of employees. Linemen’s camps are equipped with refrigerators in warm climates, and with other amenities in other areas.
Senator Anderson raised the subject ot medical research. A great deal has been done in this field, and this year, as the honorable senator pointed out, £170,000 has been voted for this purpose. The honorable senator asked whether further amounts would be provided in the Department of Health estimates for medical research. No such amount is provided. The section of the Department of Health doing research work is linked with the National Health and Medical Research Council, which meets in May and November of each year. It. consists of seventeen members, and the chairman is the Director-General of Health. The council includes representatives from each State nominated by various medical bodies. The honorable senator will appreciate that part of the vote of £170,000 is being spent wisely in arranging- these meetings so that the representatives from the various branches of the medical profession in each of the States can confer. They are the people who advise the Commonwealth and State governments on matters of public health legislation, administration and so on.
The honorable senator asked about meetings of the Commonwealth Council for National Fitness. He asked if there had been any alteration in the number of meetings held each year. The position is as it was when he asked about it on a previous occasion. The council meets once a year. It is expected that its next meeting will be early in 1957. In the interim, allocations to the various national fitness organizations have been arranged and will be expended in accordance with existing proposals.
The honorable senator also mentioned the case of a young person who was bitten by a funnel-web spider and had to be rushed to the Royal North Shore Hospital at Sydney, and asked if this was the only hospital which had available the serum required for treatment of these bites. The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories are working on serums for spider bites, but I am unable to say whether this hospital is the only one with the serum used for the treatment of funnel-web spider bites. I shall make inquiries of the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) as to whether other hospitals have it. I understand that there are two branches of the serum laboratories. The branch at Melbourne manufactures vaccines and serums whilst the other branch concentrates on research work. The proposed expenditure is for research work only.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has moved an amendment seeking the banning of atomic experiments for war purposes. 1 am sure that most people in the world would like to see the end of experiments with atomic weapons, but I remind the Leader of the Opposition that the democracies cannot very well cease experimenting with atomic weapons while one nation is persisting with their manufacture.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- 1 propose to deal with two matters relating to the Postmaster-General’s Department. First, I refer to a promise given to me ,by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to supply certain information for which I asked. I do so because I believe that when a Minister gives an assurance he should see to it that his department enables him to honour it and that we are not given cause to doubt any further assurances he may give to honorable senators. The Minister will recall that when we were discussing the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill I. asked for certain information and he said -
It is not the general practice to have detailed information of this kind available in these circumstances, particularly when the Estimates will be considered within a short period. I shall get the information, but it is not available yet.
On that occasion, in the early hours of the morning, the Minister and 1 had a wordy battle in connexion with certain matters about which 1 had requested information. The measure then under discussion sought to impose an additional charge of f 7,000,000 upon the people of this country for postal services and 1 was unable to obtain certain information. I cannot now allow the Minister to say that he was unable to give the information because T had asked for it at such a late hour; because on that occasion he specifically said -
I can only say, as I said before, that the information desired by Senator Kennelly will be obtained and supplied to him when the Estimates are before the chamber.
One could not have a more definite assurance than that from a responsible Minister; and when he gives an assurance like that, it is the duty of departmental officers to see that he is not let down. Those officers also have an obligation to recognize, whether they like it or not, that I have some responsibility in this chamber and am entitled to certain information, especially when it has been promised by a Minister. In order to ensure that the information would be supplied, I asked a definite question of the Minister and a reply to it was given to-day. 1 point out that the date, 16th October, is shown on the reply but has been altered to “ 24th October “. lt would seem to me that this is just another subterfuge adopted by officers of this department to deny certain necessary information to the people of Australia. Whilst 1 absolve the Minister from any underhand action in connexion with it, 1 cannot absolve those officers of the department who have the responsibility to see that an undertaking given by the Minister should be honoured. This information has been deliberately withheld. Possibly, the officers responsible thought that the debate on the particular proposed votes would have been concluded by now, because I say again that it is typed as question 22, crossed out in ink and the number “ 7 “ put in according to to-day’s notice-paper. I accepted the assurance of the Minister, and 1 believe that he gave that assurance on the advice of the Minister who was at that time representing the Postmaster-General in this chamber. If the parliamentary system of this country is to be carried on in such a way that Ministers can break their word, is it any wonder that certain people express over and over again the fear that we shall be overrun by hordes from other countries. If there is anything which will overthrow democracy in the parliamentary sphere, it is the broken promise of a responsible Minister.
I hope even at this juncture that the Minister in charge of this group of departments - that is, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) - will see that the information that I asked for is supplied, either before the Parliament rises for the Christmas recess or during the next sitting of the Parliament. I hold the Minister to his promise.
I understand that during my absence from this chamber, while I was attending an engagement in the precincts of the Senate, Senator McManus said something about radio station 3KZ. It is true I did not hear what he said, and I am, therefore. not at this moment going to give a full explanation of his charges. I see that he has just entered the chamber and I see that honorable senators on the Government side are applauding him. They have always applauded those who have left our party; they have done it all their lives to the Lyonses, the Hugheses, the Pearces and others. They rush to put their arms around them the moment they leave us. Senator McManus said something about station 3KZ; and that could have been said to-night only because we are broadcasting and his remarks v/ould damage the station. I shall take the opportunity to study his remarks, because I shall find an opportunity to answer them later in this chamber. However, if there is any man from Victoria who should criticize station 3KZ less than Senator McManus, I should like to know who he is. For five years before the Labour party’s break in Victoria, Senator McManus was a paid employee of station 3KZ for five minutes each night. At that time he never said a word about this or that. I expected that others would say something about the station, but, in my capacity as a director of station 3KZ, I did not expect it from Senator McManus. Perhaps being a director was rather out of my line-
Robertson has one important job to do and after she has done that I may be able to talk about a lot of other matters. I hope that she will keep to the trade that I mentioned to her in debate recently, because I am certain that during the Olympic Games festivities in the State of Victoria she will be of great assistance to our women folk. I leave the matter at that.
When I have had an opportunity to read Senator McManus’s speech I shall reply more fully to it, but I do say that his remarks could only have been construed to damage a station that is the property of the party of which he was a member for more than twenty years. If he desires to damage it-
– It never has been that party’s property.
– Senator Cole will have an opportunity of speaking in this debate later. Just because Senator McManus has ceased to be the voice of the news in Victoria - and for the amount of work that he did he received a fair remuneration - it ill becomes him to attempt to damage the radio station. .
– Surely the honorable senator does not object to that?
– I do like to see Government supporters rushing to the support of Senator McManus, but I suggest that they will get tired of him in the end. I hope that the Minister will give me some answer to the questions that I posed in the beginning of my speech.
– The answers that the honorable senator asks for may be found in the papers before him.
– I do not think that is so, because I have received to-day an answer compiled on 16th October and delivered on 24th October. It was delivered late possibly in the hope that the depart1 mental votes would have been dealt with by that time, and that the whole matter would then have had to be left until next year. I say that I have not received answers in accordance with the assurance that I was given, and that when an assurance is given it should be carried out. Promises should be honoured. I shall be happy if I can obtain the answers to my questions at an early date, or even during the next session of the Parliament, because I do not want the Minister to remain in the position that he is in to-day. Some Ministers may hold office for a long time, some honorable senators who aspire to office may never reach it, but the political pendulum swings, and I suggest that the Minister will do a good service to the Government and to those who may follow him, irrespective of whom they may be, if he stands up to the department and tells it that when he is advised that a question can be answered within fourteen days, the answer should be supplied in that time.
.- I wish to direct the attention of honorable senators to the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) when he moved an amendment earlier to-night to reduce the proposed vote in respect of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. He did so partly as a protest against the taking place and continuation of atomic tests in Australia, and partly as an instruction to the Government that it should take some part in endeavouring to ban the stockpiling of atomic weapons and the manufacture of atomic weapons. I trust that it will not be considered disorderly if I ask the Leader of the Opposition to correct me if I am wrong, because two or three speakers have intervened since he spoke in the debate. I gathered that he wished to tell the Government of Australia that it should not allow Great Britain to carry out atomic tests in Australia, even though the Soviet Union and other countries should continue to carry out atomic and hydrogen bomb tests in other places.
– Why does not the Government of the United Kingdom carry them out in England?
– In other words, his suggestion is three-fold: First, Australia should take a leading part in endeavouring to prevent the manufacture and stockpiling of atomic bombs and preventing atomic tests; secondly, that we should take a leading part in the stopping of atomic tests; and thirdly, that even if the Soviet Union does not stop atomic tests, we should not allow Great Britain to carry out atomic tests of any kind in Australia. Those contentions, and the thought behind them are in line with an interjection that was made a moment or two ago by a Labour backbencher from Tasmania. Senator O’Byrne asked, by interjection, why Great Britain did not carry out atomic tests and hydrogen bomb tests in England. That was a rather silly interjection, the answer to which is perfectly obvious. It indicated the antiBritish feeling that is behind this suggestion, a feeling that is entertained by some members of the Opposition, but not, I think, by the Leader of the Opposition.
It is the suggestions of the Leader of the Opposition on which I should like to comment. He said, I believe, that it would be reasonably easy to prevent atomic tests, and reasonably easy, also, to prevent the manufacture of atomic weapons, because, if atomic tests were carried out, they could be detected; and if hydrogen bomb tests were carried out, they could be even more easily detected. I agree entirely with that contention. Some action could then be taken through the General Assembly of the United Nations to enforce sanctions of some kind against nations that conducted atomic tests contrary to the agreement, or that continued to manufacture atomic weapons. That contention, I suggest, when subjected to realistic examination, is just fantastic. It is quite impossible for the Assembly of the United Nations to initiate sanctions, or to enforce them against any great power which contravenes an agreement, and thereby become liable to sanctions. It is, as the Leader of the Opposition knows, the Security Council of the United Nations which is, as it were, the executive, and the body which is alone empowered to use military force, or other sanctions against some one who has broken the law of the United Nations.
The process of bringing a matter, which should normally go to the Security Council, before the General Assembly has fairly recently been adopted, but it is a long, drawn-out process. It involves, for even a decision to be made, a two-thirds majority in the assembly, and any action supposed to be taken can, in fact, be vetoed by any of the great powers with which we are now concerned. I ask the Leader of the Opposition, as a matter of fact and not of legalistic theory, how he would enforce any sanctions against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics? If Soviet Russia were to break a solemn agreement, how would he enforce sanctions against it? The only possible way would be to make war upon it, which would be, in fact, to launch a third world war. If the United States of America were to break an agreement entered into, how would the rest of the world enforce sanctions against the United States? It could only be done, I suggest - I know of no other way in which it could be done - by using force against the United States, and that action, as against Soviet Russia, would involve what he says he is eager to prevent; that is, the beginning of a great war in which atomic weapons could be used.
So, let us not put our trust in the Assembly of the United Nations to prevent a great power breaking an agreement of this kind, because the only way that the agreement could be enforced would be by doing the very thing that we are seeking to prevent. That is not to say, by any means, that endeavours should not be made to prevent the future manufacture of atomic bombs and to reduce the stockpile of atomic bomb* at present in being. I merely emphasize that we should have clearly in our minds the facts of life, and not the legal theories which do not obtain in international law when force is the final arbiter.
If that is so, what ought the Australian Government do to arrive at the end that the Leader of the Opposition says he wants to reach? I suggest that the record of the present Australian Government and, indeed, previous Australian governments, has been very good, indeed, in this respect. This Government has consistently supported in the United Nations all the proposals made by the Government of the United Kingdom and by the Government of the United States of America for the atomic disarmament, and for the reduction or elimination of atomic stockpiles. It is consistently said that this can only become a reality if there is a world-wide and water-tight system of inspection and control to ensure that agreements entered into to ban atomic weapons are, in fact, kept, because there is nothing worse than thinking that the solution to this matter is an agreement to ban atomic weapons; that is not the solution at all. The solution is an enforceable agreement, an agreement which can be . supervised to see that it, in fact, works. That cannot be done unless the Soviet Union can send to England, or to the United States, its men to see that the agreement is being kept, and unless we can send to the Soviet Union our men to see that the agreement is being kept. That has been submitted to vote after vote in the United Nations, and supported by the Australian Government. The last instance of it that I remember was President Eisenhower’s “ open skies “ proposal - a suggestion that the Soviet Union should allow inspection from the air throughout its territory, and that the United States and Great Britain should allow inspection by the Soviet Union from the air to ensure that agreements on atomic disarmament were kept. Just as consistently, that proposal has been rejected by the Soviet Union.
While I do believe that eventually it is essential that an enforceable agreement, or an agreement providing for the right of inspection, should be reached between the nations of the world before every country has atomic and hydrogen bombs - not only the giants, but everybody else - if the agreement is to bear any relation to reality, if it is to be of any use to humanity, it must be an agreement that everybody can see is, in fact, being kept. It would be quite impossible to point to any instance in which this Government has not supported such a proposal, and I am quite certain that, on all occasions in the future, it will continue to support such proposals. So, there seems to be little need for a reduction of this proposed vote as an instruction to the Government to support proposals of this kind.
Another matter to which I desire to advert is the danger of thinking that atomic tests alone are a menace to the world. Atomic tests, and even hydrogen bomb tests, which are of infinitely greater magnitude than atomic tests, according to the best scientific evidence available and according to councils of scientists set up by Great Britain and the United States of America, would, if they continued at their present rate for the next 30 years, add an amount of radioactivity to ordinary human life of something like one-twentieth of that which every year enters into human life from background activity, from medical X-rays and from the other everyday uses of radio-active substances. I do not wish to minimize the seriousness of this matter. I believe that any addition to the amount of radio-activity, particularly of strontium, in the air and the upper atmosphere is a bad addition, but on the other hand to keep the matter in balance, as I have previously said, if tests were to be continued at their present rate for the next 30 years only a small fraction of radioactivity would be added to that which every day comes into our lives in normal ways.
– How does the honorable senator know?
– I do not know, because I am not a scientist, but I believe the report of the committee set up by the Government of Great Britain, a copy of which is available for Senator O’Byrne to read, and I believe the report of the committee set up by the Government of the United States of America, a copy of which also is available for him to read. The reports are not distorted and convey the truth as far as it is possible for the scientists who comprise those committees to find the truth. I am prepared to accept the word of those scientists before I accept the word of my friend from Tasmania who has the temerity to question not me but them in their official reports. They have not guessed at this matter but have measured reactions in stations all over the world. The point is that it would be very dangerous if we were to accept the implied belief of the Leader of the Opposition that the wiping out of tests would be a solution to this problem. If the scientists are right, and 1 believe they are, the only thing that would happen-
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Senator Gorton has presented to the Senate my argument in his own words. I would not have put it that way myself. However, I have little fault to find with his presentation of the argument, except in one particular. I did not say it would be easy to stop atomic explosions; I said it would be easy to police and detect them. When the honorable senator challenges me to say what sanction could be applied in the event of a breach of any agreement, I face that challenge immediately and say to him that the same sanction would be available in those circumstances that has prevented war during the last five years. Only one element has prevented war during that period and that is the fact that the democracies have possessed atomic power in at least an equal degree with Russia, and almost certainly to a very much greater extent. That has been the great deterrent against war in the world.
Each of the powers was afraid to move knowing that its likely opponent was already armed with atomic weapons. Let me carry that argument right to the point where the honorable senator challenges me. I have argued for an agreement between the great powers to discontinue these experiments and ban the use of atomic power in time of war. Assuming that that were a term of the agreement - if in the event of a breach of the agreement and tests being undertaken by one of the great powers all the other great powers would be freed from their obligations under the agreement - we would get back to the very situation that operates to-day where the great powers are frightened to go to war. That does not involve military action by the Security Council and it does not even necessarily involve intervention by the United Nations. If it were a simple term of the agreement that a breach on the part of one of the contracting parties enabled all the others to disregard their obligation under the contract, in my view that would operate as a deterrent.
– How would it be known that a nation had breached the agreement?
– I accept the word of the scientists that no atomic explosion can take place in any part of the world to-day that cannot be detected and pinpointed on their instruments. I assumed that was common ground and that I would not need to argue it. I see Senator Gorton nodding his head in concurrence. I should be surprised if anybody denied that proposition. Scientists know when an atomic explosion takes place.
I am presenting the argument to the Senate in response to the challenge that was put to me as to how I would police an agreement. The only thing that occurs to me at the moment is the solution that I have put to the Senate. If any honorable senator has a better solution, such as invoking the military might of United Nations through the Security Council, he can put it forward, but 1 do not think that it is practicable as long as a right of veto is available to the nation most likely to breach the agreement. The General Assembly of the United Nations can do no more than bring the weight of world opinion to bear on the situation. That is not a miserable contribution, because it can have a very powerful influence and effect. I say to the honorable senator that we could get back to the position that has been demonstrated so adequately during the last few years when there were all the elements of imminent war which has been halted only by one consideration, namely the horrifying effect of atomic war. That has halted war and again it could be the factor that would halt war if a breach of the agreement 1 have suggested were to occur. One of the parties would not be likely to proceed with an atomic experiment if he knew that instantly the fact would be known to the world, and the other nations would then be free to embark upon like experiments, and so recommence the old race for nuclear power for military purposes.
I am not prepared to think that the situation is hopeless, and I have argued to the Senate earlier to-night that the time appears to be completely ripe to make a move. Nothing but good could come out of a session now between the Great Powers directed to the one purpose only - if we could only get that far - of halting these tests. Although
I have no scientific knowledge at all, I at least read comments, and the differing comments of the scientists; and the fear that is in my mind, and 1 believe in the minds of a great many people in this world, is that if at different points, in an uncoordinated way, atomic explosions are to take place, it may well be that a chain reaction could be set up that could destroy the very world. Unco-ordinated explosions of that kind, taking place without pre-arrangement as to locality, time or anything else, might bring that about, lt is sheer madness; and people with any sanity and any humanity in them must, in these modern times, regard the great international challenge of the day to be the halting of all atomic tests, whether by way of explosions or accumulation of bombs for warlike purposes. That is an excellent trend that is evident in the United Nations now.
I want to take Senator Gorton to task for his reply to an interjection that was made by Senator O’Byrne, a member of the Opposition from Tasmania. Senator O’Byrne asked why Great Britain did not explode the atomic bombs in England. That question brought from Senator Gorton an allegation that it was un-British, and that Senator O’Byrne was un-British. No greater untruth has been uttered in this Senate. Senator O’Byrne participated in the very earliest stage of the Battle for Britain, and was shot down during that battle. I assure Senator Gorton that the question was quite intelligent, and was directed to demonstrating that the bombs were not exploded in Great Britain because they would kill half the population, as it is a thickly populated country. Senator O’Byrne made the point very powerfully that there is danger to human life from atomic explosions. I say to Senator Gorton that it was unworthy of him to direct that attack against Senator O’Byrne, of all people.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The answer that I gave to an interjection by Senator O’Byrne has been misrepresented, to an extent, by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I am not in the habit of arguing ad hominemI do not consider that the answer that I gave to him amounted to a statement that he, as a man, was anti-British, because I do not believe that he is anti-British; but I do believe that an interjection of that sort - Why does not England explode its atomic bombs at home instead of in the deserts of Australia? - is against British interests.
– Such a bomb would kill too many people in England.
– Of course it would. For that reason, the explosion cannot take place there, but it is not clear for that reason - and this is where my attitude was misrepresented - that just because there are many people closely settled in the British Isles within the radius of a possible explosion
Order! As Senator Gorton has risen to make a personal explanation, he must not introduce new matter into the debate.
– I was misunderstood because it is not clear that an explosion should not take place in the middle of the Australian desert. Those who argue against tests of that sort taking place in an Australian desert are, in fact, arguing against the interests of Great Britain. Great Britain wishes these tests to take place and, to that extent, the arguments against the tests are anti-British. I did not attack the man when I addressed myself to Senator O’Byrne. 1 attacked the arguments, and I still believe that they are anti-British.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of Senator Gorton, but he intimated that I was un-British because I said that the atomic tests should have taken place in Great Britain. If the tests take place in Australia, they are just as great a danger to human life here as they would be in a thickly populated country such as Great Britain. The atomic fallout
Order! As I have already ruled, the honorable senator cannot introduce new matter when making a personal explanation.
– I object strongly to Senator Gorton’s statement that I am unBritish or anti-British. I believe in the British Commonwealth of Nations just as much as he does. I am as good an Australian as he is, and I object to his aspersions. I am glad, however, that he has explained that he was not speaking against me personally, but against my argument.
Senator LAUGHT (South Australia) [10.1,1 - 1 invite the attention of the committee to a matter that is entirely unconnected with the discussion that has been very well developed. 1 refer to Division 248 - Australian War Memorial. It is time that somebody said a word in this chamber about the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Officers of that institution deserve commendation. A remarkable atmosphere has been created in that memorial. lt contains priceless works of art, mementos and curios and fine paintings. 1 am pleased that the Government proposes to increase the vote for the war memorial this year because it is a continuing thing. Every time one visits the memorial, one sees additions and improvements. I hope that exservice organizations will make a pilgrimage to Canberra with the Australian War Memorial at the end of it.
I commend the Australian War Memorial authorities for their co-operation with a committee that has been formed in South Australia to display the Vickers Vimy aircraft in which Sir Ross Smith and Sir Keith Smith flew from England to Australia. This aeroplane can no longer be housed in the Australian War Memorial at Canberra, and it is fitting that it should be appropriately housed and displayed in South Australia where Sir Keith Smith and Sir Ross Smith were born and educated and enlisted for World War I. I thank the authorities of the Australian War Memorial and the committee responsible for providing data and exhibits associated with those two intrepid airmen. I hope that the transfer of that aircraft to South Australia will give as much pleasure to the rising generation as it has given to many thousands of visitors to Canberra during the past twenty years. I commend the Government for maintaining at the memorial the splendid traditions associated with Australia’s efforts in two world wars.
.- I am sorry that Senator Kennelly has left the chamber, and because he is absent I shall not spend much time in replying to certain remarks he made. I believe that he is going to engage in some homework in connexion with remarks that I made, and the little that I shall add can be read by him in “ Hansard “. Senator Kennelly said that I was employed by radio station 3KZ for some five years. He, as a director of that station, should know that I was appointed as a commentator by the Melbourne Trades Hall Council. I was employed by the Melbourne Trades Hall Council for some years, and, when that appointment was terminated, I was employed as a commentator by the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour party. Radio station 3KZ, which Senator Kennelly said employed me, wrote to me during my term as a commentator, when some one outside took exception to certain remarks that 1 had made, and informed me that they were going to instruct their lawyer to make it perfectly clear that I was employed not by the station, but by the Melbourne Trades Hall Council.
Senator Kennelly also said that I attacked a station owned by the Labour party. He is a director. I was on the executive some years ago when it received a letter from the Trades Hall Council saying that it would allow the executive to appoint a director, and we appointed Senator Kennelly.
– No, you did not.
– We appointed Senator Kennelly. I was at the executive officers’ meeting when he was appointed. Some time later, after he had ceased to be a member, the executive wrote to him and, under the impression that it had the right to appoint a director, asked him to make way for a man who was a member of the executive. He declined, and made it perfectly clear that the station was not owned by the Labour party; and the directors of the company have always made it perfectly clear that the station is not owned by the Labour party. I am at a loss to understand how, when the directors have always made it perfectly clear that the station is not owned by the Labour party, Senator Kennelly can come before this committee and say that it is.
The only other matter to which I wish to refer is the motion that has been submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I have the utmost sympathy with every effort that is made to prevent the manufacture or the explosion of atomic bombs, but I would not, in any circumstances, accept the situation that this country, whether a Labour or a non-Labour government has been in office, has not made it clear at all times that it is opposed to that form of warfare and that, provided other countries will agree to prevent it, we too will do so. It seems to me that, if this motion were agreed to, the committee would appear to agree that up to date Australia has not made it perfectly clear that it is both opposed to atomic warfare and engages in atomic experiments only in selfdefence. In those circumstances, I am not prepared to support the motion.
.- If Senator McManus thinks that he can make this chamber a forum for his miserable, threadbare linen washing, he has the wrong idea. We do not want to hear about Victorian politics.
Senator Wright interjecting,
– I ask Senator Wright not to put his oar in, either. He is making a big enough mess of things in Hobart already. If he wants to reduce this chamber to the same level as that to which he is reducing the legal fraternity-
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid).- Order!
– Then let me say that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) is a most disarming Minister. One cannot fight him, because he represents the happy medium. Although he replies to various questions that are raised, 1 do not think the message comes through, because he is such a nice man.
Let me refer to what is happening In relation to the War Service Homes Division. Ex-servicemen were young men when they went to the last war, but now that they have a wife and children, they feel they have a responsibility to get a home together. Accordingly, they apply in the normal way to the War Service Homes Division. Their application is held for a certain period of time, and then they are furnished with a notification, in the form of a letter, which states that they have some hope of obtaining a home through the division, but does not say specifically that they will get a home. I should like the Minister to direct the division to tell the applicants that they have a chance of getting a home within fifteen months, eighteen months, or two years, as the case may be. Then, they could go along to financial organizations and say, “ Here is a guarantee from the War Service Homes Division. It has not the money available at the moment, but its word is its bond “. Both the Commonwealth Bank and the hire-purchase organizations will lend money provided such a specific assurance is forthcoming from the War Service Homes Division. I should like the Minister to examine this matter and, if the Government is not able to make the money available to the division, to give, in effect, a letter of credit.
The War Service Homes Division is in a cleft stick; it is not getting the money from the Treasury, yet it has a great reputation. Many ex-servicemen are disappointed because the traditional attitude of the division has changed in the present critical economic period. I ask the Minister to transmit a little of his disarming kindliness to the division, and to assure ex-servicemen who are trying to get a home together that the word of the division is its bond. If it were able to write to the applicants and assure them that the finance would be available within a certain period of time, they would be able to go ahead, obtain the finance and build their homes. The reputation of the division is at the highest level, but, because of its indefinite policy during the last twelve months or so, it is losing prestige. Although the Government is allowing the profiteers, the hire-purchase companies, and the other money-grabbing merchants to get more than their share, the main thing is to get people housed and to honour the promises that were given to the servicemen that, after the war, they would be able to get a home for themselves and their families.
I refer, now, to atomic and thermonuclear bomb tests. Senator Gorton referred to my loyalty. I had a few words to say about that earlier, but, apparently, I was out of order. Although this chamber is not supposed to be a forum for testing loyalties one against the other, I should like to match my loyalty against his at any time. I like to feel that I am an Australian, and that, as a man who has been honoured by having been elected to represent his fellow men, I am protecting their interests, the interests of Australia, and the interests of the British Commonwealth as a unit in what, I hope, is a world family. The utter stupidity of people who think that we can gain anything from war just appals me. It just proves that they do not know anything about the 1939-45 war, which ended eleven years ago, or about what the old bombs could do, let alone what these new bombs can do. 1 want to tell Senator Gorton that as long as he thinks along the lines of the old regular army boy, he is out of date. He has in mind the lad who starts as an Army cadet and gradually works his way to commissioned rank. He expects that if war comes he will rise to the position of a senior officer, and eventually retire on a handsome pension. I remind the honorable senator that those days are over because the world is now in the thermo-nuclear era, and imminent destruction is facing all civilization. I am no scientist, and as Senator McKenna pointed out earlier, there are no scientists on this side. There may be” good scientists, neutral scientists, Menzies’ scientists, biased, screened, or propaganda scientists, but those who have a basic belief in the continuation of the human species are not certain that these thermo-nuclear tests will not destroy the fabric of the earth. 1 ask Senator Gorton, and also the Minister, whether they can provide me with specific proof that thermo-nuclear tests will not have that effect. The mushroom cloud following the explosion, containing radioactive particles, rises up beyond the immediate atmosphere of the earth into the ionosphere and the stratosphere, and subsequently can rain down radio-active particles that will destroy the leaves of the trees, the micro-organisms of the earth and eventually animals and humans. If they drop into the sea they will make the waters radio-active and destroy the fish. A thermonuclear war is not necessary to cause widespread destruction of this kind; these tests are sufficient. Why are these tests conducted? lt is solely that one nation might be able to defeat and even annihilate another. Who is the other nation? Australia is only a small section of the world, and the world is only a minute portion of the universe. The British Empire ruled the seas for an infinitesimally small era in history, but because it was once mistress of the sea it seems to think that it has a prerogative to make a bigger and better bomb so that it may destroy other nations.
Senator Gorton, and those who share his support of thermo-nuclear tests for the purpose of defeating other peoples, are among the most mistaken persons in the world. My leader has moved for the entire banning of thermo-nuclear tests because only evil can come out of them. They are destructive, and nothing of positive good can result from them. Some of our fellows may throw out their chests, whether they have any hair on them or not, and say, “ We are better than you are “. I know of no more animal-like bragging than for one man to say to another, “ I am better than you are “. Whether we censure the Government or not, if we can get enough people on the face of this earth to object to this negative approach to peace by building stockpiles of atomic weapons which, if used, can only result in mutual destruction, we shall be ‘doing something of a positive nature. As long as a nation follows the path of thermo-nuclear preparation for war it is on the road to destruction.
I do not subscribe to Senator Gorton’s philosophy; it is only fit for small-minded people. If we have enough common sense to work for the survival of the human race and rise above petty, stupid, narrow nationalism we shall do something to lift mankind from an animal level towards the divine level. That is the highest objective for which we can strive. Destruction by means of atomic weapons is only an expression of the animal side of human nature. As temporary representatives of our fellowmen in this Parliament, we should strain every fibre in our beings to oppose thermonuclear tests, which must inevitably bring about the destruction of mankind. The purpose of the motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition is to end these tests, and 1 hope that it will succeed.
Nature has a way of casting off the things it does not want, and of sustaining those that are of value. Of all things in the universe the most important is the continuation of the human species and the upward development of man’s mind until it becomes more like the mind of his Maker. As long as we subscribe to this little “ dog-bite-dog “. “ beat-your-neighbour “, “ catchapointhereandthere “ attitude and beat down great principles, we are on the track to ruin. If we are such fools as to spend time in trying to produce a more powerful bomb to defeat nations located across a geographical boundary, we are only adding a little more to the power that will bring about our own destruction..
I am glad to have had this opportunity to tell the committee that the whole tenor of this debate dealing with expenditure on thermo-nuclear weapons has been negative.
Unless the nation is prepared to spend every penny to divert the use of atomic, power to the conservation of water to irrigate our fields, to the reafforestation of our lands or to some positive, productive purpose, we are following the way that leads to destruction.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
said that with modern scientific instruments one nation knows when any other nation explodes an atomic bomb, and I believe him. I think he went so far as to say that it would know in what part of the world the bomb was exploded. I ask him and Senator O’Byrne whether Russia at any time since the last war has notified the rest of the world of its intention to explode such a bomb. Has that country notified the countries adjacent to where the bomb was in fact exploded that it intended to explode it? Did it take steps to ensure that the people of those countries would be protected from radioactivity? Why did Russia explode its bombs in the vicinity of Norway, Sweden and Turkey? To-night we were asked why a bomb was not exploded in Great Britain.
– Why was one not exploded there?
– I have always given the Opposition credit for having brains and knowledge. The justifiable complaint of the countries adjacent to where Russia exploded its bombs is that they were never notified of its intention to explode them; and I have yet to be convinced that Russia has not within its boundaries more suitable places in which to explode atomic bombs, places in which this could be done with far less risk of subjecting people to the dangers of radioactivity. If the British nations did not continue with: their experiments, if another war broke out and we had none of those weapons, the cry that we do nothing to defend. Australia would be increased one hundredfold.
I regret that a remark made by Senator Gorton was misunderstood by Senator O’Byrne. Both those honorable senators had brilliant careers in the Air Force. As I understood him, Senator Gorton had no intention of reflecting upon Senator O’Byrne, and I am convinced that no other honorable senator believed he had any such intention. It is unfortunate that Senator O’Byrne misunderstood him, but I emphasize that both honorable senators had equally gallant careers in the Air Force. Finally, what really annoys me is the fact that the Opposition is all too ready to belittle everything done by Great Britain and to uphold everything done by Russia.
– We have heard much about radioactivity, thermo-nuclear bombs and bombs that shed particles that are- dangerous to human life. I should like the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to shed a few particles of information on the Senate. I have asked for information relating to the Government’s commitments for defence services. There is provision in the proposed votes for an expenditure of £190,000,000 upon our defence services, and the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) has stated that there is also provision for the expenditure of a further £150,000,000, making a grand total of £340,000,000. I am wondering whether the £15,132,000 provided for defence services within the control of the Department of Supply is included in that grand total. I read in the press that the Minister for Defence admitted that the munitions filling factory at St. Mary’s has cost over £10,000,000 to date. Originally, it was estimated to cost £23,000,000. What the final cost will be, I do not know, but I assume that the £10,000,000 mentioned by the Minister for Defence is included in the £150,000,000 to which I have referred. Can the Minister for Repatriation tell us where the balance is to be expended? Is it to be spent on the Air Force, the Navy, the Army, or on the erection of new buildings?
I come now to the provision of £87,123,000 for the Postmaster-General’s
Department. One of the most lucrative sections of this department is the telephone branch. In his report for the year 1952-53, the Postmaster-General stated that 10s. l0d. in every £1 of the department’s revenue is earned by the telephone branch and that of every £1 expended 10s. was spent on that branch. So, in that year the telephone branch showed a profit of l0d. in the £1. In the financial year 1953-54, the annual report of the Postmaster-General discloses that of each £1 of revenue11s.1d. was received from telephone services and that 10s. 2d. was spent on such services. In 1954-55,11s. 3d. was received from and 10s 6d. was spent on telephone services. Therefore, it is quite evident that the Postal Department is overcapitalized, and that something should be done to overcome the lag in telephone installations.
The Government has suggested that there has been a continuous improvement in the installation of telephones, but the figures show that that is not so. In 1952-53, there were 59,739 applicants for telephones. In 1953-54 that number had increased to 65,190, and in 1954-55 to 67,630. Therefore, honorable senators will notice that the number of outstanding applications is increasing, and until the Government provides the department with the funds necessary for the installation of telephones to meet the outstanding applications the position will continue to deteriorate.
When I was Postmaster-General I made a suggestion to the then government which I shall now make to this Government. It is that the automatic telephone system should be extended to remote country districts in order to connect them with country towns so that the people living in the outback can have the advantages of direct telephonic communication with all parts of Australia as are enjoyed by the people in the cities. I ask the Government to overcome the lag in telephone installations as quickly as possible, because the figures that I have disclosed show that the telephone service is very profitable and provides about half the revenue of the Postal Department.
– Senator O’Byrne mentioned war service homes, and said that letters sent to applicants for loans were not sufficiently clear and definite to enable applicants to raise credit on the letter for the period between the making of the application and receipt of the loan. I understand that the letter sent out in respect of existing houses states that the property has been inspected and is satisfactory to the division, and that it will be taken over when the time arrives for the applicant to receive his loan. That has always been accepted in my own State of Queensland as a guarantee that the War Service Homes Division will make money available, and finance has been obtained on that assurance. That, of course, applies only to homes that are already erected, and not to the building of new houses. The War Service Homes Division cannot take over a house before it is completed, and consequently, in such a case it cannot say that the finance will be available. The house has to be completed and inspected and found to be up to standard before the division can give any notification that finance will be provided.
– Order! The time allotted for consideration of the proposed votes at present before the Chair has expired.
Question put -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the vote (Senator McKenna’s amendment) by. £1.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . .8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - proposed -
That Senator O’sullivan be appointed to fill the vacancy on the Joint Committee appointed to examine problems of constitutional change; that Senator O’sullivan be the chairman of the Joint Committee’, that these resolutions be communicated to the House of Representatives by message.
– I welcome the motion. I congratulate the projected appointee, and 1 should like to say but two things to him: I should like him to call a meeting of the Constitution Review Committee whilst we are at Canberra, before the recess, if for no other purpose than to arrange the sittings of the committee during the recess. Once we disperse, it might be very difficult to arrange sittings. Therefore, I should be very grateful if the proposed appointee, our new chairman, will consider my request. I also ask Senator O’sullivan to appoint his deputy at the very first opportunity, so that in case anything should happen to him in the near future, the committee can continue to function. The Senate will remember the circumstances on the last occasion.
– I thought that the Leader of the Opposition meant something else!
– I assure Senator McCallum that I meant something quite pleasant.
– I thank the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) for his kindly words of congratulation, and 1 give him a definite assurance that a meeting of the committee will be held before the Parliament rises for the recess, so that we may .make arrangements foi” meetings during that period. As for anything happening to me, I am quite sure that Senator McKenna hopes for the best.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 October 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1956/19561024_senate_22_s9/>.