22nd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Leader of the Government advise the Senate whether the decision to ban the Chinese Classical Theatre Company performing in Melbourne during the Olympic Games originated in the Cabinet or resulted from overtures made to the Cabinet by a foreign power, and if so, what power made those overtures?
– 1 am not in a position to answer the honorable senator’s question in detail, but the decision was made by Cabinet after full consideration of all the circumstances involved.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Health been directed to a paragraph in to-day’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “ stating that the children attending the eastern districts school for sub-normal children were not receiving free milk under the Commonwealth Government’s scheme of supplying free milk to schoolchildren? Will the Minister institute inquiries into this matter so that this and similar schools, wherever established, may be included in the distribution of free milk granted by the Commonwealth Government to the schoolchildren of Australia?
– 1 have not seen the report which the honorable senator has mentioned, but I shall bring it to the notice of the Minister for Health and ask him to have inquiries made and let me have a report which I shall pass on to the honorable senator as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice - l’:.What are me names of the various registered societies administering hospital and medical benefits under the Government’s health scheme?
– The Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply: -
There is practically no variation in the contributions payable to the various organizations open to the general public for comparable insurance coverage. 3. (a) Persons were insured for medical benefits purposes as at the 30th June, 1956, numbered 4,806,023, whilst those insured for hospital benefits purposes numbered 5,499,314.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin). - 1 have to inform the Senate that I have received a letter from Senator Henty resigning his position as a member of the Public Works Committee.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Anderson be appointed a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works in place of Senator Henty, resigned.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) - by leave - agreed to -
That until such time as the two vacancies for members of the Senate existing on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs are filled by members of the Opposition, Senators Robertson and Vincent be members of the committee.
That the foregoing resolution be communicated to the House of Representatives by message.
– On behalf of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Acting Minister for External Affairs (Sir Philip McBride), I lay on the table the following papers: -
International Labour Organization - Thirtyninth Session, Geneva, June, 1956 - Report of the Australian Government, Employers’ and Workers’ Delegates.
In the interests of economy, I do not propose to move that the reports be printed, but copies will be available to honorable senators from the parliamentary officers. Following recent practice, at a later date I shall inform the Senate of the action taken or proposed to be taken with reference to the recommendations adopted by the conference.
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.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the payment to the States in 1956-57 of a special financial assistance grant of approximately £20,450,000 to supplement the amount payable under the formula embodied in the States Grant (Tax Reimbursement) Act 1946-48.
In each of the last seven years the Commonwealth has supplemented the amounts payable to the States under the tax reimbursement formula. Last year, the formula grant amounted to £141,652,000. In addition, the States received a special financial assistance grant of £15,348,000 which included a special allocation of £2 million to New South Wales in recognition of the severe flood damage in that State in 1954-55. The total payment for 1955- 56 was, therefore, £157,000,000. The precise amount payable in 1956-57 under the tax reimbursement formula will not be known until the Statistician completes his calculations later in the year, but it is estimated that the formula grant will amount to about £153,600,000. Unless, therefore, the Commonwealth makes a supplementary payment again this year, the States would receive about £3,400,000 less than the total tax reimbursement grant which they received last year.
This matter was discussed at a meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers which was held in Canberra last June. At that meeting the Commonwealth offered to make a supplementary grant sufficient to bring the total amount available for distribution among all States in 1956-57 to £173,000,000. As the amount payable under the formula is estimated at £153,600,000, this offer involves the payment of a supplementary grant of about £19,400,000 to be distributed among the States in the same way as the formula grant.
In the course of this meeting the Acting Premier of Victoria asked the Commonwealth to provide some further financial assistance for Victoria in view of the special financial difficulties which faced that State in 1956-57. Among the factors which he mentioned as contributing to Victoria’s financial difficulties were the need for Victoria to assist the dried vine-fruit industry in that State and Victoria’s comparatively adverse position in 1956-57 under the formula used in distributing tax reimbursement grants. The Acting Prime Minister agreed, with the concurrence of the Premiers of the other States, to consider this request. The Government subsequently decided to pay Victoria a further £1,050,000 in 1956-57 thus bringing the supplementary grant to about £20,450,000 and the total payment to £174,050,000 in 1956- 57. The total payment to the States in 1956-57 would, on this basis, be £17,050,000 greater than in 1955-56, and the supplementary grant would be about £20,450,000 in 1956-57 compared with £15,348,000 in 1955-56.
With the concurrence of the Senate, I shall have incorporated in “ Hansard “ the following table in which the estimated payments to each State in 1956-57, as authorized by this legislation, are compared with the payments made last year: -
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Cooper) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide Benefits for certain Members of the Defence Force who have served in Malaya with, or in connexion with, the British Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve, and for purposes connected therewith.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Stated briefly, the purpose of this bill is to provide a scheme of pensions and other associated repatriation benefits in respect of members of the Australian forces who are serving in Malaya as part of, or in connexion with, the British Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve, and who suffer an incapacity or die during or as a result of that service. The basis of eligibility for pension and the classes of persons who will be eligible for pension as dependants of a member are, broadly, the same as those found in the Repatriation Act, but some variations have been made, having regard to the nature of the service these members of the forces are performing and their present conditions of service.
This bill deals with members of the Commonwealth Defence Force who serve in Malaya or Singapore as part of the Australian contingent of the British Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve or who are serving in those areas in connexion with that strategic reserve. It makes provision for the payment of pensions and for the provision, by way of regulation, of other benefits for members of the defence force who serve on Malayan service.
The conditions of service which qualify a member, and his dependants, for those benefits follow closely those which were inserted in the Repatriation Act in 1950 in respect of service in the Korea and Malaya operations. This means that the service which will qualify a member, or his dependants in respect of him, will be his period of service with, or in connexion with, the strategic reserve, commencing from the time he leaves the last port of call in Australia, if he were in Australia when allotted for that service, or from the time he was so allotted, if he happened to be outside Australia at the time of the allotment, and terminating when he returns to Australia, or arrives in some area outside Australia, after having been allotted from service in Malaya to service in that area outside Australia. The rates of pension which will apply in cases of death and incapacity will be the rates of war pension applicable to a “ member of the forces “ or a dependant, as the case may be, under the Repatriation Act.
The provisions of the Repatriation Act were designed to meet the conditions of service in a full scale war where most of the serving members of the forces were volunteers who had volunteered to serve in connexion with that particular war only. The circumstances under which the members of the forces, dealt with in this bill, are serving, are entirely different. All personnel serving with, or in connexion with, the strategic reserve are members of the permanent forces. They are persons who have chosen service in the forces as a career and who have enlisted for various terms of years. Normally, their service is performed under peace-time conditions, including rates of pay and general conditions which are comparable with those offering in civilian occupations.
In the case of the strategic reserve, however, its members have, in their anti-bandit operations in Malaya, been exposed to an additional operational risk. Although that risk is not so great as it was in either of the two world wars or in Korea, the Government felt that it merited the provision of a scheme of pensions based on that for war pensions under the Repatriation Act. Accordingly, clause six of this bill provides that, with certain minor exceptions which 1 will explain later, the provisions relating to the payment of war pensions under the Repatriation Act will, with such modifications as to time and place of service as are necessary, apply to the members of I he Australian Contingent to the strategic reserve.
At this juncture, I should like to point out that these members already have the cover of the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. The basic principle of this bill is therefore that, eligibility for pension should stem from an occurrence (including the contracting of a disease) that happened during a member’s Malayan service. Accordingly, the pro.vions of sub-sections (3.) and (4.) of section 37 of the Repatriation Act, which gave to members who had served in a theatre of war, an entitlement for pulmonary tuberculosis not attributable to their war service, are not being extended in respect of service with the strategic reserve. In respect of Malayan service, incapacity or death from tuberculosis will, of course, be pensionable if it is attributable to that service.
In relation to pensions payable to de facto wives, responsibility will only be accepted where the relationship upon which the claim is based subsisted at the time the member commenced his Malayan service. Likewise, a pension will only be paid to the illegitimate child of a male member of the forces if the child has been born before or within nine months of the commencement of the member’s Malayan service. The procedures for determning claims for pensions under this bill will be exactly the same as those which apply under the Repatriation Act. The Repatriation Commission will administer the new act and the Repatriation Boards and the Entitlement and Assessment Appeal Tribunals will have jurisdiction in determining claims.
Division 5 of Part III of the Repatriation Act is not being extended in this bill and, accordingly, service pensions will not be payable in respect of Malayan service. The bill contains a provision in clause 13 enabling the Governor-General to make regulations including regulations for the granting of assistance and benefits to members of the forces and their dependants. Regulations will be made covering such matters as the provision of medical treatment, the payment of medical sustenance, the provision of benefits under the soldiers’ children education scheme and under the disabled members’ and widows’ training scheme. Such provisions will follow the similar ones already in operation under the repatriation regulations.
To sum up, this bill provides that members of the Australian forces who serve with, or in connexion with, the strategic reserve in Malaya, and the dependants of these members, will receive pensions in respect of death or incapacity attributable to that service at rates equivalent to those payable to war pensioners under the Repatriation Act. It also provides for the making of regulations to confer such other benefits as are appropriate. Any further information which may be required concerning the details of the hill can be given at the committee stage.
The passage of this bill calls for a number of consequential amendments to be made to other acts. Bills which are to follow this bill will amend the Broadcasting and Television Act, the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, the Estate Duty Assessment Act, the National* Health Act, the Re-establishment and ‘ Employment Act. the Repatriation Act and the Social Services Act. A consequential amendment of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act is to be dealt with separately. The Broadcasting and Television Bill (No. 3) will amend the Broadcasting and Television Act to provide for a broadcast listener’s licence or a television viewer’s licence to be available to certain pensioners under the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Bill at the same concession rates as apply to similar classes of war pensioners under the Repatriation Act.
The Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act is to be amended to provide that compensation will not be payable under that Act in respect of injuries or disease for which pensions will be payable under the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Bill. A similar provision .already exists in that act in relation to war pensions payable under the Repatriation Act.
The Estate Duty Assessment Bill will amend section nine of the Estate Duty Assessment Act to extend the concessional deduction applicable to members of the forces who died as a result of service in the 1939-1945 War or the Korea or Malaya war-like operations to which the Repatriation Act applies to members who die as a result of “ Malayan service “ to which this bill applies.
The National Health Bill will amend the National Health Act to provide that Commonwealth benefit under that act for medical expenses will not be payable where medical services are rendered free of charge under the provisions of this bill. So that a pension payable under the provisions of this bill will not be taken into account as income in determining the rate of a business re-establishment allowance under section 101 of the Re-establishment and Employment Act, the Re-establishment and Employment Bill will amend that section to include a reference to a pension payable under this bill. There are three consequential amendments to the Repatriation Act. The Repatriation Bill (No. 2) will amend sections 50, 83 and 86 of the Repatriation Act.
Section 50 provides that where a child is in receipt of a pension by virtue of being a child of a member of the forces and also becomes eligible for a pension by virtue of being a child of another member of the forces, for example, by adoption, only one pension is payable. The proposed amendment of that section is to ensure that it will apply in relation to a member of the forces as defined in the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act. The proposed amendment of section 83 will exclude from “ income “, for the purpose of the provisions of the Repatriation Act relating to service pensions, an attendant’s allowance payable to a member of the forces under the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act. Section 86 includes a provision dis-entitling a widow to receive both a war pension in respect of her husband’s death and a service pension. The proposed amendment of that section will provide that a pension under the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act will be treated as a “ war pension “ for the purposes of that provision.
Finally, the Social Services Bill (No. 2) will amend sections 6, 28, 81, 106 and 143A of the Social Services Act. The general effect of these amendments is to extend the meaning of the expressions “ member of the Forces “, “ Repatriation Act “, and “ War pension “ wherever occurring in the Social Services Act to include respectively members of the forces as defined in this bill, the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act 1956, and pensions to be granted under the last mentioned act. Any further details of this bill or the consequential bills which may be required can be explained at the committee stage. This bill confers substantial benefits on members of the forces, and I commend it to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Critchley) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Cooper) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Law relating to Broadcasting and Television in consequence of the enactment of the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act 1956.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Cooper) agreed to -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma: progress reported.
Motion (by Senator Cooper) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend section four a of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930-1954 in consequence of the enactment of the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act 1956.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Cooper) agreedto -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend section nine of the Estate Duty Assessment Act 1914-1953 in consequence of the enactment of the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act 1956.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Cooper) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend section twenty of the National Health Act 1953-1955, as amended by the National Health Act 1956, in consequence of the enactment of the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act 1956.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Cooper) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend section one hundred and one of the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945-1955 in consequence of the enactment of the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act 1956.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Cooper) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Repatriation Act 1920-1955, as amended by the Repatriation Act 1956, in consequence of the enactment of the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act 1956.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Cooper) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Social Services Act 1947-1955, as amended by the Social Services Act 1956, in consequence of the enactment of the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act 1956.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the War Service Homes Act 1918-1955.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill revises certain eligibility provisions of the War Service Homes Act as part of the Government’s decision to adjust repatriation and other benefits with respect to service in Korea and Malaya. This results from changes which took place in the organization of Australian Defence Units serving overseas in Malaya and Korea.
The opportunity has also been taken to adjust the eligibility provisions of the act to include persons who, during the 1939-45 war, served on the high seas in various types of ships, but who, because of some legal technicalities, do not fall within the existing eligibility provisions of the act.
After the despatch of Australian forces to serve in connexion with the warlike operations taking place in Korea and Malaya, the War Service Homes Act was amended in December, 1951, to include persons who were allotted for duty in connexion with those operations and actually proceeded overseas.
When hostilities ceased in Korea after the signing of an armistice on 27th July, 1953, the majority of the Australian forces were withdrawn from that area. As operational areas in fact no longer exist in Korea, the provision in the act concerning service in that area becomes a dead letter. This amending bill has the effect of omitting service in an operational area in Korea, as qualifying a serviceman for war service homes benefits.
In view of the Government’s decision to re-organize the forces serving in Malaya as the Australian component of the strategic reserve in Malaya, it was necessary for special conditions to be drawn up covering such operational service. Repatriation benefits arising from such service will now be governed by the provisions of the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act 1956.
In order to establish a uniform policy for all classes of service benefits, it was decided to amend the War Services Homes Act. The amendment provides that war service homes benefits will be available to those persons or their dependants if they become entitled to a repatriation benefit in consequence of death or incapacity. This is the main purpose of this bill.
I now refer to the other more or less minor amendments to the War Service Homes Act dealt with by this bill. The act as it stands at present provides that in addition to members of the forces, members of ships’ crews who had sea-going service in ships trading between ports on the Australian coast, Australian ports and any other ports during World War II. were eligible persons within the meaning of the act.
A small number of applications has been received from persons who had service in various types of ships during the last war, such as members of the crews of troop transports, hospital ships, canteen workers on Royal Australian Navy ships and so on, who could not qualify for war service homes benefits as they did not legally fall within the definition of “ eligible person “ in the act. When these cases were examined, the Government considered that the nature of their service justified them receiving the benefits of the act equally with members of the naval forces and merchant marine already provided for, and the amendments in this bill adjust these anomalies.
I desire to make it clear that, in effect, these amendments do not extend the provisions of the War Service Homes Act to new categories of persons, but merely overcome technical discrepancies affecting certain persons who served on the high seas under equally hazardous conditions as did the classes of sea-going personnel already covered by the act. Indeed, it is mentioned that some of the classes of persons who will now be included served at battle stations on Royal Australian Navy ships and, in several instances, served in ships that were sunk as a result of enemy action.
Debate (on motion by Senator Critchley) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 24th October (vide page 895) -
. -I move -
That the time allotted for the consideration of the following votes be extended, as follows: -
Department of Territories, £234,000;
Northern Territory, £3,735,000;
Norfolk Island, £36,000;
Papua and New Guinea, £9,370,400;
Cocos (Keeling) Islands, £22,600; - until 12.45 p.m. this day.
Department of the Interior, £4,334,000;
Miscellaneous Services, Department of the Interior, £90,000; - until 3,45 p.m. this day.
When the schedule was prepared, I thought that the Senate was meeting at 10 o’clock, and not at 1 1 o’clock, this morning.
In the schedule before the committee, the time fixed for consideration of items up to and including the Cocos (Keeling) Islands expires in 10 minutes. We propose to allow until 12.45 p.m. for the first group, and until 3.45 p.m. for the second group. If the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) wants any further time for these votes, I am prepared to meet him.
– The proposed re-arrangement is satisfactory.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Department of Territories.
Proposed Vote, £234,000.
Proposed Vote, £3,735,000.
Proposed Vote, £36,000.
Papua and New Guinea.
Proposed Vote, £9,370,400.
Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
Proposed Vote, £22,600.
Ordered to be considered together.
– I propose to direct my remarks to the proposed vote for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. A recent statement by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) showed that the value of exports from the Territory had increased from £12,886,000 in 1954-55 to £13,258,000 in the fiscal year ended 30th June, last. It is pleasing to note that there has been an increase in the value of exports from Papua and New Guinea, despite the declining gold yield and the fall in values of tropical products on world markets. In view of this tendency, we should consider very closely any proposals to increase the tax burden on the Australian people by the increase of administrative staffs in Papua and New Guinea. Recently, the Minister for Territories announced his intention to recruit more than 400 persons for administrative services in the Territory. These public officers might be necessary up there, but I have not seen any case made for such a substantial increase. As I said, they might be necesssary, but we do not want to reach the point where the Public Service of New Guinea, which is largely maintained by the Australian taxpayers, becomes top heavy and out of balance with those persons who are engaged in the production of real wealth in the Territory.
Only a limited number of people are engaged on the plantations and in the various business enterprises, and an empire of public servants would be a mighty big burden for them and the Australian Government to bear. I sound that warning. I am pleased to note that the production of tropical products such as coffee, cocoa and coconut products has increased, even though the value has declined. Speaking generally, the Territory appears to be gradually progressing, but it seems to me that the appointment of more than 400 new public servants is not quite related to the number of people who are engaged in producing the real wealth.
I had the pleasure of visiting the Territory three or four years ago as a member of a parliamentary delegation. What impressed me, in both Papua and New Guinea, was the need for the Administration and the Australian Government to concentrate on teaching English in the various schools. It was a great thrill to me and to members of the delegation generally to go into the hills and to come across little schools a long way from the coast, with the Australian ensign flying from the masthead, and to discover that in a number of them in which there were masters who had been missiontrained and who could speak English fluently, there was quite a number of young boys too, who could speak English fluently. But in other schools even the teachers could not make themselves understood freely in English, with the result that the children attending those schools were not getting the benefit of training in that subject. Pidgin English is the lingua franca in the Territory and most of the several hundreds of tribes that speak their own dialects can communicate with each other through the medium of pidgin English; but it is an undesirable and babyish kind of language, and if we are to preserve New Guinea and to bring it closer to Australia, it is highly important that we should train the native youth to speak English so that we can understand them and they can understand us better than they can by speaking pidgin English, which is not thoroughly understood by many Australian citizens in the Territory and others who visit there from time to time.
One of the weaknesses of the education system that struck me during my visit was the fact that only the native boys attend the schools, where they are established, and that the girls are not sent to them. We were informed that that was because of the orders of the luluais, the chiefs of the villages or settlements. One luluai, when asked why he gave such a ruling, claimed that it was proper for the boys to be educated and to be taught English so that they could mix freely with the Australians who are pioneering the development of the Territory. But he held that there was no necessity for the girls to be educated, that under their tribal customs they were reserved for the domestic chores and work in the gardens, and for marriage. He did not see that the girls could gain any benefit from attending school, but thought that for them to do so would only help to unsettle them.
I think there is room there for compromise with the luluais. The compromise could be that, if they did not want the girls to be educated in the three Rs, at least they could have them taught English. I regard that as being most important, because it could happen that in all these little schools there might be only a negligible number of boys who are sufficiently capable to be able to rise to the secondary schools and finally be usefully employed either by the Administration or in some other direction. The great bulk of the boys attending these schools will ultimately marry the native girls and slip back into the jungle. As the girls are unable to speak English, very obviously the native boys who have learned English will drift back into the use of the local dialect, and I am afraid that in that way English might be forgotten. If that were to happen, we would be losing something that is useful to us and vital to the future development of the Territory.
As Australia progresses and as we build our nationhood, it is highly important that we should have the goodwill of all the natives of the Territory. I see no better way of doing that than by bringing them close to us so that they can understand us and we can understand them, so that native men and women can speak to the Australian men and women in the English language, and so we may be enabled to get down to good businesslike co-operation in matters of development. Of course, it is of paramount importance in the question of defence. I repeat that the one thing that impressed mc during my visit to the Territory was the need to concentrate our educational efforts on making English a high priority subject and to try to come to some understanding with the luluais in the various villages anc! settlements to allow the girls to go to school to learn English at least. If that were done, 1 have no doubt that by degrees pidgin English and the native dialects would disappear and we would build Papua and New Guinea into an English-speaking territory, very friendly and co-operating with us in all important matters.
I have received a letter from Mr. Downs, who is a very fine officer in the Administration and at present is president of the Highland Farmers and Settlers Association. Mr. Downs was a very distinguished Australian officer during the war against the Japanese in New Guinea and he is now the Administration’s district officer at Goroka, in the highlands of the Territory. I met him on the occasion of my visit. He has sent to me a copy of a charter that was adopted unanimously at the annual general meeting of the Highland Farmers and Settlers Association held at Goroka on 29th July. The letter reads -
I am enclosing for your information and any use in the public interest which you may care to make, a copy of the Charter adopted unanimously by members of our Association at their fourth Annual General Meeting held at Goroka, in the Territory of New Guinea, on 29th July 1956.
This Charter, in its aims and beliefs, is a clear indication of the sense of responsibility and humanity which has gradually grown up amongst our members, and I feel that you may share our pride that it is possible for us to compromise self-interest to a degree which enables us not only to recognize the natural ambitions of a dependant people, but to actively strive to assist them. lt is our hope that you will help the cause of reason and justice which we are committed to support, by doing all that you can to explain to others in Australia and elsewhere what we are trying to do.
Perhaps the charter is a little too long to read, but it is important. I do not know whether to have it incorporated in “ Hansard “ would be contrary to the Standing Orders, but 1 wish it could be so incorporated. It is a worth-while document, lt states, among other things -
We believe that it is our duty and function to provide those skills and services which the Highland people are not yet able to achieve without direct assistance. By collecting, purchasing and marketing the produce of all who lack the means of transportation and disposal, we can create the beginnings of a sound economy for the Highland people. We look forward to the day when they themselves can gradually provide their own transportation and find their own markets by ambition, incentive and imitation.
We believe that it is important for the highland people to realize that we and they have been thrown together at a time and place which makes us partners in the development of a country only recently released from the handicap of tribal war. We place no limitations upon the future progress of the highland people.
We accept without qualification the fact that all land is owned by the highland people until they themselves choose to dispose of their land. We believe that it is they alone who should have the right of accepting us as individual settlers. In those cases where the Administration can clearly establish the fact that despite the desire of the owners of land to sell their land, there is real danger of future land shortage for such owners, we agree that no action should be taken by the Government to purchase any land vital to future generations of highland people.
We are strongly opposed to the speculative acquisition of land, and we are opposed to unnecessary interference and obstruction of the right of men to buy and sell what they desire or own in circumstances which do not prejudice the development of the country.
We believe that the social organization of the highland people and their traditional customs must not be damaged or changed until such time as they themselves by natural processes of development, desire to make changes which will better adust them to their contact with Western civilization.
Sincere in our desire to see the highland people advance and progress without restraint, we declare that we will oppose with all the means at our command any attempt to obstruct our own economic and social status in the community.
The members of the association make the qualification that they want to preserve their own rights. They are Australians who pioneered that territory, and are developing it. They are blazing the trail and opening up the furrows; they are promoting the development and prosperity of the native races. This is an important work that calls for recognition by the local administration and the Australian Government.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- Yesterday, the debate on the Estimates was, in parts, interesting. Possibly it was the fault of honorable senators who spoke often or at length that little time was left to the Minister to reply, even if he wanted to. Some Ministers are willing to reply, but perhaps their advisers do not wish them to do so. I hope that in the remaining time allotted for the debate on the Estimates the Ministers will have adequate opportunity to reply to questions raised by honorable senators.
In the Estimates for the Northern Territory, Division 273, General Services, under the heading of “ Aboriginal Affairs “ there is provided £28,650 for educational services. Last year, the vote was £62,100, of which £33,578 was spent. In subdivision D, Other Services, there is item 8 - “ Municipal Expenditure - £45,800 “. Last year, the vote for this was £61,200, of which £60,293 was spent. 1 am not certain whether Alice Springs now has local government. There was considerable agitation in that centre for the appointment of a municipal council similar to those operating in other parts of Australia and if that has been established it may account for the reduced vote for municipal expenditure this year.
Item 1 6 under the same heading is “ Airmail Service - Subsidy- £22,800 “. Last year, the vote was £20,800, of which £20,200 was spent. Will the Minister say what air services are subsidized from this vote? Perhaps we may learn how much Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is receiving from this vote.
I am particularly interested in item 24, “ Assistance to and development of mining industry - £11,000”. Last year, the vote was £16,000, but nothing was spent. Is there any reason why it was not spent last year? Australia is fortunate to have within its boundaries, and in the Northern Territory in particular, rich deposits of minerals. 1 am not overlooking the grazing and agricultural industries in the Northern Territory, and the extensive rice fields near the northern coast.
Surely the Minister can give some explanation of the three items to which I have referred. I hope that some semblance of an answer will be given to these and other questions that may be raised. It is understandable that an answer cannot always be given on the spot, but I hope that the Minister will give some assurance that a reply will be forthcoming in due course.
Senator SCOTT (Western Australia) [12.121. - The total amount provided in the Northern Territory Estimates is £3,735.000. I have visited the Territory twice within the last few years and have seen something of the enormous development that has taken place. The people living there have a different outlook and seem to have received new life. In 1952, the Government amended the taxation law to allow settlers, and particularly pastoralists, in the Northern Territory to have the benefit of total taxation concessions if they applied their profits to structural improvements of a fixed nature on their properties. The pastoralists are taking advantage of this concession, and water supplies are being installed, new houses built for employees and extensive fencing programmes undertaken. On many of the properties horse paddocks and bullock paddocks are being fenced. In many cases, the station owners have applied their entire profits to these purposes and have been able to obtain taxation concessions on the full amount. Activity of this sort has been going on for almost three years. I do not think that that concession gave the same incentive as the one now in operation. Probably, it was because the owners of pastoral properties there believed that the concession would not be extended beyond the five years, and, for that reason, instead of ploughing back profits into the properties, decided to get all they could out of them and took the money south.
– But the honorable senator must agree that the only concession enjoyed by the ordinary worker in those areas is the zone allowance, although I frankly confess that the present Administration is not entirely to blame for that. It was in operation before this Government attained office.
– That is so, but Senator)’ Kennelly says he has been in these areas. If he has been, he must agree that the people of the Northern Territory have a new outlook. I simply referred to pastoral properties in passing. If the American venture to sow 1,000,000 acres to rice near the Adelaide River is successful, more people will go to the Northern Territory for work, the population of the area will be increased and more revenue will accrue to the Commonwealth. The recent Suez Canal dispute has had an adverse effect on buffalo hunters of the Northern Territory, who are interested in exporting hides. They have now lost their market in the Middle East, and as the price now offered for a buffalo hide is very low, none of them is shooting buffalo. While travelling by air from Darwin to the uranium fields at Alligator River, last year. 1 noticed vast herds of buffalo running on the plains. 1 had the impression that these beasts were of little value apart from their hides, that their meat was not suitable for human consumption; but I was told that there is no better meat than buffalo beef, provided the beast is killed before it is too old. If that is so, I suggest that the Minister might consider putting in train experiments in the crossing of buffalo with other beasts with a view to ascertaining whether the meat from the progeny would be suitable for consumption in Australia and overseas. I realize it is a big question, but it seems a pity that thousands of buffalo should be roaming in the area unmolested if something could be done to utilize their beef.
Within the last four or five years, large deposits of uranium have been discovered in the Northern Territory. This has been responsible for the growth of a new town at Batchelor, some 50-odd miles from Darwin, where approximately 1,000 people are now living. It is interesting, also, to read, in the report of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, that Rum Jungle is developing because of the production by Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited of uranium oxide which is being exported and thus helping to maintain Australia’s overseas balances. I shall ask for information on these matters shortly.
Whilst 1 congratulate the Minister and the Department of Territories for the work that has been done in the development of the Northern Territory, I direct attention to the provision for Commonwealth hostels in respect of loss on operations. In 1955-56, the .vote was £42,000, of which £41,849 was expended. This year, the amount being provided is £35,300. Evidently, it is expected that the losses will be less than those of last year. When Commonwealthowned hostels are established in those areas, they should be made to meet running costs at least. I should like to know how many people are living in these hostels, how many hostels the Commonwealth is operating and whether it is the Government’s intention to continue with the present system of expecting losses.
I come now to the proposed vote for general services in the Northern Territory. The sum of £295,000 is being sought for electric supply - generation, distribution and maintenance; and the sum of £95.000 is being sought for town water supplies - running and maintenance. I should like .to know whether these figures represent anticipated losses, whether any charges are made to consumers of electricity and water in Darwin and, if so, whether those charges are sufficient to meet those costs. I should be glad if the Minister could give the Senate that information when he replies.
– I wish to refer to the provision of £9,370,000 for Papua and New Guinea. When I visited these areas, I was very impressed with the work being done there. It seems to me that great opportunities exist for any Australian who cares to engage in farming, coffee-growing, or cocoa-growing in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I agree with everything that Senator Maher has said about these areas and I should like to see the Government embark upon a strenuous drive for the development of that Territory. I believe that if roads and other essentials of civilization were constructed quickly, people from Australia would be induced to settle in Papua and New Guinea. If that Territory were populated by Australians, it would become the most important defence outpost for this country. I wish to pay tribute to the patrol officers throughout the Territory because of the methods that they adopt to organize native labour for road-making. Honorable senators would be amazed to see how the natives cut roads into the sides of mountains - I emphasize mountains, and not hills. The patrol officers and the natives are doing a marvellous job of road-making. The natives use only picks, shovels and pointed sticks for the digging, and they use baskets to move the earth and other material from one place to another. No machinery of any description is used, and if they can do such a good job with primitive tools they could do a much better job with modern machinery.
Time and time again 1 have seen press reports that they Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority has sold earth-moving equipment, and I suggest that the Government could secure such equipment and send it to the highlands of New Guinea and Papua. If that were done I suggest that it would be no time before there was an adequate road system in the Territory. The earth-moving equipment could also be used tor other works to develop that area. If all that were done I have no doubt that many more Australians would want to go to ihe Territory and settle there.
I have received a number of letters from people in Western Australia who are interested in cocoa and coffee growing. They want to know the potentialities of Papua and New Guinea. I referred the matter to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), and he furnished me with all the information that 1 required. I have sent that to the people who have inquired about this matter. 1 congratulate the Administrator of the Territory for the excellent job that he is doing, and suggest that if he were supplied with sufficient money to carry out ihe projects that he has in mind the Territory would develop wonderfully within a very short space of time. The proposed vote will be more than the amount voted last year for this Territory, but I should like to see much more money expended, so that the natives could be trained and the Territory developed. If that were done, Australia would profit in many ways, and particularly in regard to defence.
– Senator Kennelly asked a question with regard to Division 273, sub-division C, item 4, educational services for aborigines. The estimate under this heading is £28,650 and the amount voted in 1955-56 was £62,100. I understand that £16,785 will be spent on government schools, £10,751 on schools on pastoral properties and 1,114 on mission schools. The Northern Territory Administration has taken over the responsibility for this education from the Commonwealth Office of Education. Salaries amounting to £34,000 payable to teachers, and general expenses associated with them, are now provided under sections A and C of Division 273, so that actual expenditure on native education in 1956-57 will be £62,650.
An amount of £48,800 is provided, under Division 273d, for municipal expenditure including street lighting, street cleaning, undertaking services, maintenance of drains and public utilities and traffic signs, and so on. At Darwin, the total expenditure will be £27,232, at Alice Springs £15.570, at Tennant Creek £1,674 and at Katherine £1.324. The total expenditure will be £45,800. The reason for the decrease is that the parks and reserves section expenditure which amounted to £23,400 in 1955-56 has been transferred to item 18 this year. There are two separate subsidies for the air mail service, £19,500 for the Northern Territory Administration’s proportion of a subsidy to Connellan Airways for internal air services provided in the Northern Territory, the remainder being paid by the Department of Civil Aviation and the Postmaster-General’s Department. So far as the Northern Territory Administration is concerned, the purpose of the grant is to assist internal air services which -attract population to isolated areas, stimulate important industries such as mining and pastoral industries, and result in administration and governmental convenience in inspections, survey and research. The Northern Territory Administration’s proportion of a subsidy to the MacRobertson-Miller Aviation Company for a fortnightly air service to mission stations and to one government aboriginal settlement in Arnhem Land .is £2,500. This service ensures a regular supply of mail and light freight to the areas. Those two -subsidies total £22,000.
The Northern Territory Development Ordinance provides for repayable advances to be made to miners engaged on developmental mining, and to prospectors. In addition, subsidies are granted to miners in respect of developmental ore crushings and for the purpose of assisting miners in the cartage of such ore from outlying mines to the battery. These subsidies are payable on a sliding scale depending on the value of the ore and the distance involved in cartage. The provision of £11,000 is allocated as follows: - Advances to mining generally, £5,000; subsidies for orecrushing, £2,000; subsidies for ore-cartage, £2,000; and advances on tin concentrates, £2,000. The expenditure on this item during 1955-56 was nil, but mining activities in the Territory continue to increase and it is anticipated that applications for assistance will be made. Crushing at Tennant Creek battery will cause payments in respect of subsidy on cartage and crushing of developmental ores. Renewed activity in tin-mining may result in considerable advances being made.
– I thank the Minister for that information.
– I was very glad to be able to supply it to the honorable senator. Reference was made by Senator Maher to the growth of the administrative staff in Papua and New Guinea. The proposed financial provision for the Territory in this financial year is £9,250,000, compared with £2,018,673 in 1946-47. This increase reflects the substantial progress that has been made in reorganizing the Administration, improving its strength and efficiency, and raising the capacity of the building and construction industries. The output of these industries, in terms of capital works, has risen from £1,190,000 in 1952-53 to an estimated capacity of £3,500,000 in 1956-57. This covers the provision of houses, hospitals, offices, workshops, roads, wharfs and communications. The increase in capacity of the construction industries has been assisted by the greater use of resources from within the Territory - labour from the growing force of skilled and semi-skilled native labour, and timber from the forests of the Territory. Credit is rightly due to the Administration for its energy and initiative in this regard.
The staff of .the Administration increased from 447 in 1946, to 1,130 in 1949, and 2,206 in 1956. It is planned to recruit 339 additional personnel for the service during 1956-57, made up of 120 professional and technical staff, 68 administrative and clerical staff, 49 general staff, and 102 cadets in the various professional fields. The system of cadet training that has been in operation for some years is being continued. The replacement of wastage is expected to involve a further 115 appointments. The service has been placed on a sound organizational basis, provision being made for such matters as superannuation, arbitration, territorial allowance, liberal leave conditions with fare allowances, education allowance, child endowment, and an appeal system in respect of promotions.
I come now to the question of trade. Total trade has increased in value from £5,320,000 in 1938-39 to £33,101,000 in 1955-56. In the same period, the value of exports has increased from £3,464,000 to £13,258,000.
Senator Maher also referred to primary production in the Territory. The production of copra and coco-nut oil production is one of the main industries of the Territory. The local production of rice and meat is increasing, and stud cattle are being exported. A high priority is given to agricultural extension work to improve land use methods and farming systems of the native population, in order to increase production by improving soil fertility. Cash cropping of coco-nuts, cocoa, coffee, peanuts and passionfruit is increasing in the native economy. During 1955-56, further cocoa plantings were made by the natives, particularly in the Gazelle Peninsula of New Britain, where nearly 2.000,000 trees have been established. The production of cocoa in the Madang area is increasing, and the indigenous people have been encouraged to increase the production of rice.
It is true, as Senator Maher said, that pidgin English is the general language in many parts of the Territory, but I have been informed that the transition stage has now been entered. The Administration is endeavouring to introduce English as the general language as soon as possible but, as pidgin English has been spoken in the Territory for many years, the transition may not be completed as quickly as is desirable.
Native education is shared by the Administration and the missions. The missions, with more than 150,000 pupils, are responsible for almost all the elementary education, while the Administration’s schools, catering for 8,300 pupils, are mostly conducted at higher levels than elementary education. The missions are assisted in their educational work by grants-in-aid, which are accepted by all denominations. These grants totalled £105,000 in 1955-56, and are expected to aggregate £123,000 in 1956-57. In order to provide more facilities for education, the Administration has concentrated much of its effort on the training of native teachers. At the beginning of 1956, the number employed was 326. There are now 227 in training, the most of whom will commence teaching in 1957.
In 1956, 21 additional scholarships were granted to native pupils for secondary education in Australia. The total is now 56. One girl gained the Victorian Leaving Certificate at the end of 1955, and the other students are progressing satisfactorily.
Land administration is considered to be one of the instruments by which a balance can be kept between the rate of advancement of the native people and the rate of development of resources. Land is purchased by the Administration from native owners for settlement only when the Administration is satisfied that the owners do not need the land and are willing to sell it. The Administration must also be satisfied that any proposed non-native settlement is consistent with the established policy for native advancement. Before land is made available, it is surveyed to determine its best use. It is then offered on leasehold, by public advertisement, in blocks for suitable size for economic development, having regard to the particular land use.
In the use and cultivation of land, first consideration is given to the general advancement of the natives by teaching them how to use the land, and by the establishment of schools, hospitals and the like, in order to bring the natives of Papua and New Guinea more into line with the civilized communities of the world.
– When I visited the Territories under discussion, I was very impressed with the manner in which they were being administered. However, when I had the privilege of visiting Norfolk Island with a parliamentary delegation, I discovered that social services benefits are not provided for the residents by the Commonwealth. The population of Norfolk Island can be described as an ageing population, and accident cases are not provided for. I notice that the proposed vote for Norfolk Island this year has been increased to £36,000. I should like the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to inform me whether it is envisaged that Commonwealth social services benefits shall be provided for the people of Norfolk Island.
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed Vote, £4,334,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of the Interior.
Proposed Vote, £90,000.
Ordered to be considered together.
.- I should like to say a few words on the Department of the Interior. All honorable senators recognize the importance of that department, because it administers the electoral system under which our fate as members of this chamber is determined. Some time ago, I raised the subject of voting. Irrespective of the party to which we belong, the number of informal votes cost at the last general election must have perturbed all honorable senators. At the recent election in Tasmania, the number of informal votes cast represented 4 per cent, of the total votes. The method of election in that State, although in some respects similar, differs from the method of election for the Senate in that a voter is required to mark only three squares, although six candidates have to be elected for each division, and 30 in the State House. A vote is regarded as formal in Tasmania as long as three squares are marked.
Let us consider the farcical position which could arise in voting for the Senate following a double dissolution. Each of the two main parties would nominate six candidates. Depending on the time when the election is held, there could be six candidates from the splinter group. That would make a total of eighteen candidates. Then, there could be six candidates from the Communist party, which would bring the total to 24. On one or two occasions, the social credit party has nominated candidates; so, the total could reach 30. Then, as a rule, three or four ungrouped candidates are nominated, which would mean that the names of 33 candidates could appear on the ballot-paper. Under the present system, if 33 candidates were nominated, a vote would be declared informal if a voter did not mark each of 32 squares on the ballot-paper. I am not blaming the present Government for this state of affairs, because, possibly, the system was introduced during the term of a previous government; but the position is that, following a double dissolution, if 33 candidates were nominated, a voter would have to mark the squares on the ballot-paper from one to 32 in order to cast a valid vote. Double dissolutions do not occur frequently, but at ordinary elections the ballot-paper would contain about half that number of names. To say that, when seventeen or eighteen candidates are nominated, a voter must mark every square except one in order to cast a valid vote, is to make the position tremendously difficult; and, in these modern times, such a procedure makes us look very foolish.
As I have said, in the election held in Tasmania a week or so ago, 4 per cent, of the total votes cast were informal, compared with 12.5 per cent, informal votes cast at the Senate election in December last, irrespective of what party is successful, the method of voting should be made sufficiently simple to ensure that the wish of a greater percentage of the people is expressed. I understand that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) is giving some thought to this matter. I read that he intends to get opinions from certain organizations. As one who has played an. administrative part in one such organization, I do not know that the organization has any request to make. I am very concerned about the matter because I think the present state of affairs is wrong.
I do not want to make a long speech about this matter, but I emphasize that conditions at polling booths are far from what they should be. Although Victoria is possibly better off for electricity services in country areas than are most of the other States, I know that in Victoria many polling booths are lighted by a kerosene lamp hung in the middle of the hall. The back of the polling box generally faces the light and, in addition, nine times out of .ten the point of the pencil is broken and is unusable. I am pointing out what I consider to be practical difficulties. I hope that what I have read, concerning the Minister’s intention to make inquiries, is true, and that any person desiring to offer evidence will be allowed to do so. The people, who in the main govern this country, should be given the necessary facilities and have the method of voting simplified so that they know for whom they are voting.
That brings me to another point. What is wrong with indicating on the ballot-paper, the names of the political parties to which the respective candidates belong, particularly in the case of Senate voting? People would then, be able to follow the cards that are distributed outside the booths. I have read that some people desire to do away with canvassing outside booths. I hope it is retained because it provides a lot of fun and sport. It enables one to make friends with people on the opposite side who are working just as hard for their candidates as I might be working for mine. If we are always scratching our backs and priding ourselves on our democracy, at least we should introduce a system which would enable democracy to work.
The third matter about which I find fault is the system of postal voting. 1 know which party introduced it, but if I. think a thing is wrong I am prepared to say so. 1 think the present system is fantastic, and 1 have learned a lot about postal voting in elections over a long period of years.
– The honorable senator has not had very pleasant experiences.
– I do not think my experiences have been any better or worse than those of any one else, but I believe that the only practical method of postal voting is that which is at present adopted in New South Wales.
– Shame on the honorable senator. That system disfranchises thousands.
– It does not disfranchize any one; it gives the participants of all parties equal rights in the filling in and posting of forms. It does not mean that people should post the ballot-paper that the voter has marked. For that reason, I believe that besides the voter concerned, only officials should handle a ballot-paper. .1 have always advised persons who vote by post to post the ballot-paper themselves, and to use ink in marking their papers.
I have had long experience of elections, and it was fantastic that in Victoria at the last general election informal votes for Senate candidates totalled 13.5 per cent, of the total votes cast. They were cast mainly by persons who wanted to vote. The percentage of those who wish to record an informal vote deliberately is infinitesimal. Generally, they have the sort of mind that makes them write funny things across a ballot-paper, some of them not altogether complimentary to the candidates.
If it is true that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) is inquiring into this matter, and is prepared to accept suggestions, I think that those of us who are vitally concerned should give their advice. Irrespective of how we might feel a month utter the election, we have to look five years and eleven months ahead to the next poll. I believe that the people should be allowed to elect the government they want, and they should be able to distinguish between the candidates for the various parties. They should not be forced to vote for eighteen or nineteen candidates to make a ballot-paper formal. If we are to follow the Hare-Clark system - which I have heard described as the “ March hare “ system - let us follow Tasmania’s example. In Tasmania, if there are five candidates to be elected, a vote is formal if it is cast for three of them. I suggest that when there are six candidates to be elected, the voter should be allowed to vote for four, and if there are ten, to vote for six. The elector should be able to vote for more if he desires, but the voting should be optional preferential voting. I know that it will be argued that the voters should have to vote for at least the number of candidates to be elected. I believe that they should be allowed to vote for one panel and that the candidates should be shown in party groups. All of us must be concerned with the number of informal votes that are cast. We should take nothing away from the electors, but we should not compel a person to mark a figure against every candidate on the card.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I wish to speak on Division 71 - Department of the Interior, and the provision for rents of buildings. In particular, I wish to refer to Commonwealth buildings in Adelaide. From time to time, I have mentioned this matter and I shall refer now in some detail to a reply that was given to me by the Minister then representing the Minister for the Interior in this chamber on 14th J une last. My question was related to buildings owned and rented by the Commonwealth Government in Adelaide. The Minister stated in reply to my question upon notice -
In reply to the honorable senator’s question, Ihe Minister for the Interior advises that he regards the position in Adelaide as most unsatisfactory, and he is at the present moment reviewing the ownership and occupation of properties in Adelaide by government departments and properties purchased in recent years for the erection of government buildings.
I raise this matter now to ascertain whether any progress has been made since 14th June because the matter is of great importance to South Australia. Apart from a repatriation building which was erected about 23 years ago, no important building has been erected or acquired by the Commonwealth Government in Adelaide since the colonial days of 1860 when the general post office was erected. The Commonwealth Public Works Committee has not visited Adelaide for at least fifteen years. Only yesterday, a report reached the Parliament from that committee in connexion with a building to be erected in North Ryde, Sydney. From time to time, the Public Works Committee goes to Darwin and other States. I believe that it is going to Western Australia next month.
– That is. good.
– It might be very good for Western Australia, but it would be far better if the committee would visit South Australia. The committee cannot do so unless the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) directs, and I ask him to consider an early visit by the committee to South Australia. In the reply I received to my question in June, the Minister said -
The aim will be to consolidate government activities and to reduce the number of governmentheld properties. A site at the corner of Currie and Topham streets was acquired some years ago for the erection of a Commonwealth building, but it has not been possible to proceed with this project.
I should like to know whether it has been possible, in the intervening months, to revise the position in regard to that matter. The Minister also stated -
Another site in Currie-street, about 100 yards west of that referred to above, is held for the erection of a taxation building for which preliminary plans have been prepared by the Department of Works. These plans indicate that after providing for all taxation branches now located in the savings bank building, the Adelaide railway station and Balfour’s building, Rundle-street a considerable area would be available for other Commonwealth purposes.
Again, I should like to know whether any further thinking or planning has been advanced in connexion with the construction of that important taxation building. The Minister also said -
Tn addition to the above sites, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has land in Waymouthstreet which it has indicated could be made available for the erection of a building for the joint use of that department and for general Commonwealth purposes.
I should like to know whether there is anything further to report on that aspect of the matter. The reply continues -
As for the dispersed nature of the freehold properties of the Commonwealth in Adelaide, some of these were acquired for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and were selected to provide postal and telephone facilities for the public and, consequently, their location is important.
Then, the Minister was good enough to say -
I understand that the Postmaster-General’s Department is investigating the possibility of securing land outside the City of Adelaide on which some of its activities could be concentrated, thus freeing city properties for other purposes.
I raise this matter under the head “ Rent of Buildings “ because, while all this disorganization exists in Adelaide, considerable rentals will be paid by the Commonwealth. Possibly, the Minister can bring me up to date on the figures I am about to quote, but when looking through the reports of the House of Representatives I noticed that on 9th May in reply to a question asked by an Opposition member, it was stated that £93,263 a year was being paid for rented premises in Adelaide.
What I want to stress is that the Commonwealth departments in Adelaide are very widely dispersed. The expenditure of approximately £93,000 in rents is bad enough, but the dispersed nature of the rented buildings in ;>at city emphasizes the tremendous urgency of the need for the Department of the Interior to really get going on the provision of proper accommodation for Commonwealth departments. Reading at random, I note that part of the Department of Air is accommodated in the Masonic Chambers, which is away down North-terrace about half a mile from the centre of the city. The Department of the Interior is housed on the western side of the city in Richard’s Building, for which an annual rental of £22,754 is paid. The federal members are dispersed. Some of (hem are in the Bank of New South Wales building and others in the Colonial Mutual Life building, for which considerable rentals are paid. The State Savings Bank building houses a part of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. Small as that department is in South Australia, it is housed in four different buildings spread over the City of Adelaide. If one did not realize that such a state of affairs really existed in Adelaide, it would seem fantastic. An amazing aspect of it is that the income tax office is on the top floor of the railway station, which is in North-terrace. Another amazing thing is that this state of affairs is being perpetuated in buildings now being built. 1 refer to the Da Costa building in Grenfell-street, on the ninth floor of which the Commonwealth Statistician’s office is to be located.
I feel that the attention of the Parliament should again be focussed on the unsatisfactory position in relation to Commonwealth buildings in South Australia. Perhaps some of my colleagues could speak about the position in the capital cities of the States that they represent but, having listened as a member of Parliament for five years to reports of what is being done in the other capitals, I feel that similar things are not being done in the capital of the State that I represent. I feel also that it is high time that the Commonwealth reconsidered certain purchases of buildings that have been made during the last ten years. As an example, 1 refer to the biscuit factory in Grote-street, which 1 understand was purchased for £130,000 but has not yet been used. If it is not to be used, it could be sold and the money used for consolidating in a more convenient area. I am not criticizing the Commonwealth for buying such buildings, because possibly at the time it was thought to be good business; but if the Government is really serious about the provision of Commonwealth buildings in Adelaide, it should sell some of the buildings that possibly are “ surplus to establishment “.
Adelaide lends itself to excellent planning, because the streets are reasonably wide and are at right angles to each other. I am not blaming this Government, but over the years it seems to have been traditional for the Commonwealth to fail to grasp the importance of providing good Commonwealth buildings in that city. In some Arabic cities in which I happened to be during the last war I noticed that the public buildings were the really good buildings; and it seems a pity that in the State capitals of Australia, particularly in Adelaide, the Commonwealth has not erected public buildings of which one could be proud. I feel that our civil servants would work much better in proper accommodation. What is more important, members of the public who have to transact important business with federal departments would get more consideration if the buildings were logically grouped. Consequently, the annual expenditure of £800,000 for rental throughout Australia, and by now possibly £100,000 in Adelaide, should be examined. I think it could be reduced in Adelaide if adequate and proper Commonwealth buildings were provided in that city.
.- I shall deal, first of all, with matters raised by Senator Kennelly in regard to the proposed vote for the Department of the Interior. I completely agree with many of the points he made. There is no doubt that the case he made, especially in regard to the method of Senate voting and proportional representation, was a. strong case. I think, as he does, that it is the height of absurdity to expect people to cast a preference vote by quoting a number that could be anywhere between ten and infinity. But if 1 may say so, I think he spoilt a good case when he referred to postal voting in New South Wales. It is not my intention to develop that argument, because I have something else to say. Let me summarize it by saying that the system of postal voting in New South Wales is one on the most wicked things that I can think of, because, in effect, it has disfranchised thousands and thousands of people. The essence of our democratic way of life is that every man and woman over the age of 21 years should have the opportunity to exercise a free and untrammelled vote. The institution of electoral visitor votes in lieu of postal votes would mean - and I leave the matter here as being one example of just how silly it would be - that, if anything happened to a person during the week preceding the election, that person would be disfranchised. I agree with him on many points. I agree with him that some revision of the system is necessary, but I believe that he spoilt a good case when he suggested that we should introduce into the Commonwealth sphere a system of postal voting similar to that in operation for elections for the New South Wales Parliament.
Now I turn to civil defence. I regret that in my remarks on this subject I shall be somewhat critical of the Government, but I feel bound to say that I regard the proposed vote for civil defence as being completely and absolutely inadequate. It is true that the world has passed from what is now called a hot war to a cold war, but I believe that the proposed appropriation of the paltry sum of £70,000 for civil defence purposes this year shows a lack of appreciation of the urgency and importance of civil defence.
Civil defence is a part of any complete defence plan. Field Marshal Lord Montgomery has gone on record as saying that, without civil defence, all other defence preparations are likely to be valueless. Some years ago, I saw the devastation that could be wrought on a city by conventional bombs dropped in what would be regarded now as a minor air raid. I saw the damage that 65 Japanese aircraft inflicted on the city of Singapore with conventional bombs. I saw human remains shovelled from the wreckage of buildings in the same way as inanimate objects would be handled, and I know from personal experience what a demoralizing effect that had on fighting troops stationed in the target area.
Last year, £234,000 was appropriated for civil defence purposes and actual expenditure amounted to £88,782. It is proposed that the appropriation this year shall be £70,000. That is an amazingly small appropriation in view of the complexity of our defence problems. This is a vast continent, with the principal cities separated by great distances, and each State has problems different from those of the other States. We all pray that there will not be another war. It is argued by some people that, if there were another war, Australia would not be regarded as of sufficient importance to warrant an atomic attack, and that our role would be to serve as a base and a source of supply of food for our allies. But I suggest that that argument ignores some of the principles of war. Sir Winston Churchill said recently that because nuclear weapons could inflict such fearful damage, it might well be that in a war the great Powers would be reluctant to use them in the main areas. The argument would be, “What is the use of using atomic weapons on the enemy’s cities if our cities will be paid back in kind? “ But nuclear weapons could be used in, so to speak, fringe attacks. No less an authority than Sir Winston Churchill has suggested that that is the way in which nuclear weapons would be used. If so, Australia would be very vulnerable to attack and the need for civil defence preparations would be more urgent than ever.
I understand that the Government has established a civil defence school and that it is the intention to train there a number of people who will constitute a cadre. They will go out amongst the civil population and train other people in civil defence. In a question asked in this chamber the other day, it was suggested that some parliamentarians be invited to attend the school. That is an excellent idea. I am certain that not many of the honorable senators sitting here now understand the principles of civil defence. If we were to hold a quiz and ask honorable senators what they would be expected to do in the event of a nuclear attack, or even in the event of an attack by conventional weapons, they would have to admit that they would not know what to do.
– We could get into our Anderson shelters.
– I should have a fair idea what to do, because during the last few days I have taken the trouble to study the subject. Every man, woman and child in Australia should be given a basic training in civil defence. As a child is taught the principles of Archimedes, so he should be taught the principles of civil defence. In the event of nuclear attack, those who had been taught the principles of civil defence would live and those who had not been so taught would die.
I speak with some feeling on this subject because I have seen something of the inhumanity of air attack on cities. I feel very strongly about the need for civil defence. In my view, we cannot afford to depend upon a hope that the world is entering an era of peace. We all pray that it is doing so, but we must be sensible and take out insurance against war. Even the most healthy and robust man insures against death by accident. Surely the time has come when we should insure this nation against accident. I say that a sum of £70,000 is absolutely inadequate for civil defence purposes. If we appropriated a sum six or seven times as great, it still would be inadequate. Every child should be taught in school the elements of civil defence. As Senator Laught says, civil defence lessons should be regarded in the same light as swimming lessons. But we cannot do those things with only £70,000. That is not something they can learn overnight; they must have a period of training. If countries like Great Britain and the United States of America believe it wise to take action along the lines I have suggested, then it is equally wise that we also do so. If big cities like New York, with a population of some millions, can arrange a complete mass civil defence practice at a busy hour of the day, surely we in Australia must look upon this matter as being worthy of a greater vote than £70,000.
I do not wish to be misunderstood. I. am a man of peace. God knows, I have reason to be. I do not want to contemplate all that has gone before. I want to think that we intend to do the sensible and sane thing to preserve our heritage, this country, for our children. I shudder to think that we are to go blithely on without making adequate preparation against the day when something evil, something over which we have no control and for which we are not responsible, might happen. Because Australia is a great citadel, because it is a great primary producing country and is on the fringe, it might well be more vulnerable than the great cities in the heart of countries controlled by the great powers. The Government might give further consideration to this vital matter of civil defence and make further provision for it by bringing down a supplementary budget.
.- Although I realize that this is my second speech, I direct your attention to the time, Mr. Chairman, and, in view of the speech just delivered by Senator Anderson, would ask that the committee be given an additional twelve minutes for the consideration of these proposed votes.
I desire to refer to the question of rental buildings. This year there is an appreciable increase in the amount to be provided for this purpose. Whereas it was £615,000 last year the Government is asking for the huge sum of £800,000 this year. 1 congratulate the Public Works Committee upon the commencement of the big block of Commonwealth buildings in Melbourne. I thank it for having the corner at Lonsdale-street truncated so that one may drive in that locality with greater safety. Now that the construction of buildings for the Olympic
Games has been completed and many building tradesmen are out of work, some impetus should be given to the building of Commonwealth offices. The Commonwealth has available the necessary money, and it should push on with the construction of these offices and so eliminate the necessity for voting huge sums for the rental of buildings. 1 point out that as chairman of a parks committee I am the legal owner of premises which the Commonwealth Government is renting. Later, 1 shall ascertain from the Minister the amounts being paid for individual buildings because, at the moment, I am not sure that I am getting all 1 am entitled to get by way of rental; and thai belief is strengthened when 1 see such a huge sum as £800,000 set down as the amount required for the rental of buildings. Here, although it might be unusual to mention the names of departmental officers, I intend to mention the name of one who has shown great kindness, courtesy and consideration to me in connexion with matters relating to the 461- acres in Albert Park still being rented by the Commonwealth. He is Mr. Doolan with whom I have agreed upon a plan under which a certain proportion of the area is to revert to us each year. It is essential that we be sympathetic towards the Department of the Army, but when the fight is on no punches will be pulled. I realize that the department cannot find accommodation for 3,000 or 4,000 employees overnight, but it is wrong that we should continue to spend these huge sums each year by way of rent. I was hoping that when portion of the new block of Commonwealth offices bounded by Spring, Exhibition, Latrobe and Lonsdale streets in Melbourne was completed the Government would make certain other offices available to the State.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the Treasury offices?
– Yes . If that were done, it would have the advantage of grouping all relevant offices together.
If Australian tradesmen are engaged on other work and, therefore, are not available for the construction of Commonwealth offices, the Government should let contracts abroad for their construction. This job should be done. It is fantastic to think that we are allocating £800,000 a year for the rental of buildings. I can see nothing wrong in this, or any other, Government employing firms such as the Utah construction organization to erect public offices. I agree with Senator Laught that we should provide decent office accommodation in each capital city, because, whether we like it or not, and irrespective of which party sits on the right of the Chair, governments will have a greater share in the activities of the nation as the years go by, and this will necessitate the provision of greater office accommodation. Having in mind the time it takes to construct even sections of certain buildings, I hope that, in about two years’ time, we shall see some decrease in this huge amount which is being sought for the payment of rentals, lt is bad business to pay rent, and we have an obligation to be as careful with the money of the nation as we are with our own.
.- I listened to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman
– Order! Senator Anderson was speaking ahead of himself. If the honorable senator wishes to speak on matters relating to civil defence, he must wait until the next item is under discussion.
– Does that mean that you made a mistake?
Chair does not make mistakes.
– I am now speaking to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, as Senator Anderson. Senator Anderson spoke on civil defence. Am I right in believing that he should not have done so?
Yes. Discussion of the provision for civil defence should not have been permitted at that juncture. Civil defence will come before the committee in approximately half an hour.
– I wish to draw attention to one or two matters in Division 65, Miscellaneous Services. Before doing so, I wish heartily to agree with you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, in what you said about civil defence.
– “Order! We are not dealing with civil defence at present.
– Very well, I shall proceed with my remarks concerning the Department of the Interior. During the last week, 1 have been much disturbed to learn that there is no provision in the Estimates for the erection of pre-school play centres although three committees of citizens in Canberra have been encouraged by officers of the pre-school section of the department to raise funds for these children’s play* centres. The number of children who could be expected to use the centres is more than a thousand. The committees have been operating in O’Connor and Deakin-
Order! I am sorry to interrupt the honorable senator, but if she is dealing with the Australian Capital Territory I am afraid that she will have to postpone her remarks for a time. That matter is not yet before the committee.
– I thank you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, and I shall speak on this matter later.
Senator SCOTT (Western Australia [3.7]. - I refer to Division 65, Department of the Interior, Miscellaneous Services, and to the item that provides for the payment of £1,000 to the State of Western Australia for the eradication of Argentine ants - the same amount as was voted last year. When I first entered the Senate, I heard a discussion on Argentine ants in the early hours of one morning. That discussion arose out of the fact that Argentine ants had only recently been found in Western Australia. These ants have been a considerable nuisance in Perth, and the Perth City Council has spent, in conjunction with the Western Australian Government, large sums of money on trying to eradicate them. The ants are very hard to control, and once they get into a property a considerable expenditure of time and money is necessary to get rid of them. There were so many in Perth that the State Government had to make special sums of money available for their eradication. The Commonwealth has donated the very small sum of £1,000 towards the fight against the Argentine ant.
– How are they eradicated?
– Their haunts are sprayed with poison. I understand that
D.D.T. is one of the poisons used. Argentine ants breed so quickly and are so voracious that after they have infested a house for a time they will mount from the ground floor to the third story, and eat any piece of meat that may be left lying about there. The ants get into refrigerators and safes, and it is impossible to keep them out of anything.
– Is the Argentine ant a big bull ant?
– No, it is a very small ant, but I suggest that £1,000 will not go very far towards eradicating the ants from Western Australia. I realize that this money is only a donation because of the Commonwealth’s interest in the matter. The Perth City Council and the present State Government, as well as its predecessor, spent much time and money in destroying the ants. At present, the Argentine ant infestation has been reduced to manageable proportions, and if the Commonwealth could give the State a little more financial assistance they could be completely eradicated.
I now wish to speak about office accommodation ‘ in Western Australia for members and senators of the Parliament. In all States of the Commonwealth except Western Australia, members and senators have very satisfactory office accommodation. Most of them have private offices, and some have ante-rooms to their offices. When I was first elected to the Senate, I found that Western Australian members and senators were given quite inadequate office accommodation on the second floor of the Commonwealth Bank building in Perth.
– I have not yet an office to myself.
– Perhaps Senator Vincent has not earned one. I suggest that this is a serious matter, and when I first raised it the Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the then Minister for the Interior informed me that I was to share an office with Senator Vincent and the late Senator Piesse. He said that we should have that office for only twelve months, and that then the whole floor of the Commonwealth Bank building would be reconstructed and a private office made available to each of us. Two or three years after that time, a single office became vacant and I was fortunate enough to get it. However, during the last twelve months, three persons connected with the Parliament have occupied one office in Perth. One is a member of the Labour party, one a member of the Australian Country party and the third is a member of the Liberal party. I do not think that that is a satisfactory state of affairs. There is no comparison beween the office accommodation in Western Australia and that available in Sydney and other cities. For six years we in Western Australia have been promised adequate accommodation but nothing has been done. I take this opportunity to express my regret to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) that members and senators in some of the States are not being provided with the office accommodation to which they are entitled.
– I join issue with you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, about electoral matters in New South Wales, in particular about absentee votes. I do not suggest that all honorable senators on this side of the chamber are puritans and that all honorable senators on the Government side are electoral rogues. Whatever system is operating is open to abuse, but’ the New South Wales Government has, to a certain extent, curtailed abuses in that State. I am not unmindful of the fact that the postal voting system is advantageous to conservative candidates, whether they be members of the Liberal party or of the Australian Country party. Unlike those parties, the Labour party cannot afford to employ organizers and agents throughout the year. I do not know whether this is so in States other than New South Wales. My friend, Senator Laught from South Australia, is laughing. Perhaps the reason for his merriment is that the anti-Labour parties in South Australia are not so financial as they are in New South Wales. However, whatever condemnation might be made of the operation of the postal voting system in New South Wales, I am convinced that it does not lend itself to as much abuse as did the system that was formerly observed in that State.
I come now to Division 70 - News and Information Bureau - for which the proposed vote is £401,000. Like Topsy, this instrumentality has just gone on growing, and expenditure is increasing at an alarming rate. I notice that the proposed vote for salaries and allowances is £20,000, and that it is intended to provide £207,500 for temporary and casual employees. An amount of £60,000 is to be provided for publicity, materials and services, and a further £60,000 for film production. Last year, the expenditure on publicity, materials and services was £55,215, and that on film production £53,787. I should like the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) to tell me why a vote of £401,000 is needed for the News and Information Bureau this year, when the expenditure on it last year was only £383,710.
.- I refer to Division 67b - General Expenses, and to, item 3, “Postage, telegrams and telephone services - £793,000”. At first sight, the proposed vote is considerably higher than the expenditure of £46,330 under this heading last year. A footnote to this item reads -
Includes £750,000 previously provided free of charge by the Post Office . . .
I think that the new method that has been adopted in this connexion was the outcome of an inquiry that was undertaken by the Public Accounts Committee. It makes a valuable contribution towards enabling the Parliament to assess the real cost of a particular department.
Formerly, the Postmaster-General’s Department provided certain services free to the Department of the Interior, including the telegraphing of electoral information and weather information. The Postal Department performed a tremendous amount of work free, for which it received no credit in the accounts. Correspondingly, the ancillary services of the Department of the Interior were not debited with the cost of this work. Consequently, it was not possible for the Parliament to assess accurately the cost of each of those departments.
An attempt is being made by the trading organizations of the Commonwealth to present their annual accounts on a commercial basis, so that the Parliament will be able to see the position at a glance. To have allowed the old system to continue would have been to condone a completely unreal method of presenting financial statements. I express my personal pleasure that the new system has been applied to the Estimates before us. Although, from now on, in terms of money, the vote of the Department of the Interior will be about £750,000 higher than formerly, at least honorable senators will be able to obtain a clearer and more accurate picture of what that department is costing.
It is pertinent to point out that, in the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure that are presented in another place, there is a note to the effect that the actual cost of the Department of the Interior can be ascertained by reference to the budget papers. But, of course, we are considering the proposed votes set out in the Second Schedule to the Appropriation Bill. A reference to the budget papers shows that the estimated cost of a department is quite different from the figure shown in the schedule to the bill. Of course, we should be asked to assess the value of a department in terms of its administrative efficiency, and the level of services that it provides, against the Teal cost of running it, as far as can be ascertained. Consequently, I am delighted to see this new method of accounting adopted. It will enable the accounts in future to be more easily followed by honorable senators.
– I refer to Division 65b, Administrative - General Expenses, and to item 9, “ Motor Vehicles - Upkeep and hire, including use of private vehicles for departmental purposes - £40,000 “. I notice that item 1, Division c, Miscellaneous, “Transport services for other departments in Canberra “, involves a proposed vote of £90,000. I am not clear in relation to the control of transport. I think that the whole of government transport should be administered by one Minister, preferably the Minister for the Interior. Both of the proposed votes- 1 have mentioned are less than was the expenditure on those items last year. In view of the fact that costs are increasing, and it is the Government’s policy to transfer the remaining central staffs to Canberra, I cannot see why the proposed votes for this year should be less than the expenditure last year. Of course, I should not like it to be thought that I am criticizing the administration of government transport. I make it quite plain that I am definitely opposed to the cheap publicity one reads in the press from time to time in which Ministers, and especially their wives, are chastized for using, for what is termed private business, the car that is made available to the Minister. I think the press is wrong.
– It is petty.
– It is very petty. Irrespective of the party to which a Minister belongs he is performing a fulltime job in the service of the Parliament. The press, in making such criticisms should remember that his wife frequently has to do without him for long periods.
– The honorable senator will get on.
Senator HENDRICKSON__ 1 am not concerned about getting on. it will not be long before the Labour party is in office and honorable members on this side will then be criticized in this respect by the press. However, I say seriously that some consideration should be given to this matter. 1 do not take exception to the provision of transport for those engaged on public service, especially in this era of quick travel. We are not in the wheel-barrow or horseandbuggy days. Modern transport should be used to the utmost when it is economically sound to do so. in regard to the huge amount spent on motor transport, I direct attention to certain privileges enjoyed by private members of this chamber and of another place. On arrival in Melbourne from Canberra I have to sit in a bus or ride-
– Not very often.
– 1 admit 1 do not sit in the bus because I drive my own car to the airport and have it garaged at my own expense. I am speaking not as an individual but on behalf of members of this chamber. I think we are entitled to some favorable consideration in regard to transport. The position is that when we arrive - I will not say when I arrive, because I am speaking on behalf of all honorable senators - at the capital city to which we are going, we have to sit in the bus and then travel in a tram, or train, and carry our own luggage. The present tyrannical Government keeps us working here in Canberra late into the night, and when we arrive in our home town we feel rather tired. Some consideration should be given to this matter. Secretaries to Ministers, secretaries to departments, and typists and stenographers, have cars waiting to take them to their homes. I am not saying that they are not entitled to them, but I think it is ridiculous that members of the Parliament have not the same privilege. I hope the Minister will see that this privilege is granted to honorable senators and honorable members. In this matter, they should at least have the same privileges as private secretaries, heads of departments and various other officers enjoy.
– Those officers do not have a nice new medallion.
– One might as well have a white rabbit to show, because taxi drivers do not look at the medallion; and if they did they would not understand what it meant. The same applies to tram and bus drivers. Honorable senators are not permitted to enjoy free travel in buses, trams or taxis in Melbourne. I do not wish to see this privilege taken from those who already enjoy it. My motto is that anything I have I hold until it is taken from me by force. The medallion is made for people like Senator Vincent, though, perhaps, he should carry something much heavier. The medallion is so bulky that it wears a hole in one’s pocket. I believe that honorable senators and honorable members are entitled to at least the same transport privileges as are enjoyed by departmental officers in the Public Service. I venture to say that the officers who are advising the Minister will be met by cars when they return to Melbourne, or Sydney, or wherever their head office is situated. There is nothing wrong with that at all. Any executive officer coming to Canberra or travelling interstate should be provided with transport, but members of the Parliament should be afforded the same facilities and not be forced to use trams, trains or some other form of transport in order to reach their homes.
I trust that the Minister and the Cabinet will give consideration to bringing the control of all transport facilities of this kind under the administration of one Minister, whether they be provided in Canberra or in any other city. Secondly, the provision of transport for members of the Parliament is not an amenity but a necessity. It is not something that should be considered by the amenities committee; the Minister should take up this matter with Cabinet on behalf of all members of the Parliament. Transport should be made available to members of the Parliament to and from aerodromes or railway stations.
– I desire to reply briefly to some of the points that have been made during the debate. Senator Kennelly mentioned the desirability of effecting some sort of reform in the method of election for the Senate. He spoke with understandable feeling. Of course, he knows that the matter is being considered by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), who has invited suggestions and ideas from members of the public and interested organizations. As a result of the consideration he intends to give to this matter, alterations will no doubt be effected. Briefly, I express the hope that if political parties intend to submit ideas, they will have less difficulty in reaching unanimity than has the party to which I belong. Within my party there seem to be as many ideas as to how the Senate elections should be conducted as-
– As a dog has fleas.
– Yes, as a dog has fleas. Senator Laught spoke of the condition of Commonwealth buildings in Adelaide. I shall see that his remarks are brought to the notice of the Minister, more particularly in view of the fact that I am aware of the attention which Senator Laught has given to this matter. He has asked me, as representative of the Minister for the Interior in this chamber, a number of questions on the subject. I shall also refer to the Minister for the Interior the proposition that the Public Works Committee pay a visit to Adelaide.
Senator Kennelly referred to the rental of buildings. I am informed that rental payments this year will amount to £800,000. Very little new accommodation has been rented, especially in Melbourne; the increased expenditure is due almost entirely to a re-appraisement of rentals. As to the position at Albert Park, I am quite aware, as is every other honorable senator, of Senator Kennelly’s intense interest in this matter. Historians record that Queen Mary said that when she died the word “ Calais “ would be written across her heart. I frequently think that when Senator Kennelly dies the words “ Albert Park “ will be written across his heart.
Senator Scott spoke with some feeling of the proposed vote of £1,000 for the eradication of Argentine ants in Western Australia. I simply point out that this proposed vote is not intended to finance a campaign for the destruction of Argentine ants to the last ant. It is a contribution made by the Commonwealth Government, as a property owner in Perth, to the campaign that is being waged with some success in that city.
As for the federal offices, I have had as much reason as any one to notice the inadequacy of the accommodation. I have not yet given up hope that when the new repatriation building is completed the situation will be relieved considerably.
asked a question about the News and Information Bureau. The increase to which he directed attention has occurred largely in the film division. There is no increase in respect of either salaries or general expenses. I have been advised that the film division will cost more because the bureau is responsible for the production of films approved by the Minister on the recommendation of the Australian National Film Board. In 1956-57, 55 reels of such films are to be completed. The production of colour films and films in the new cinemascope technique will be responsible for increased expenditure. An increased provision is sought for the production of special purpose films for South and Southeast Asia, as requested by the Department of External Affairs. Each film will be produced in the language of the area concerned. It is expected that the total expenditure on production will be ?72,000, of which ?12,000 should be recovered from other departments sponsoring the films. In addition to the speeding up of the production programme, I am informed that there has been a substantial increase in the cost of film itself.
Senator Hendrickson directed attention to Division 65 ; Administrative, and to the item, “ Motor Vehicles ; upkeep and hire including use of private vehicles for departmental purposes ; ?40,000 “. That vote has nothing to do with the transportation of Ministers or members of the Parliament. It is designed to cover departmental expenditure on exclusively departmental transport. Senator Hendrickson referred to the fact that the provision is below the amount of ?47,333 expended last year on this item. Because of close and continuous supervision, it is not expected that expenditure will be so great in this financial year.
– I should like some information on
Division 71 - Rent of Buildings. The first item under that heading provides for ?39,000 for the Prime Minister’s Department, compared with actual expenditure last year of ?18,988. Under the same heading, provision is made for the Department of the Treasury amounting to ?342,000 compared with actual expenditure last year of ?173,226. That is a big increase, and I should like some information on the reason for the increased vote for both items. I should also like to know why ?24,100 is being sought for rents for the Department of National Development, compared with actual expenditure last year of ?13,033.
– I wish to refer to Division 220 - Department of the Interior, and to the item, “Commonwealth elections and referenda - ?25,000 “. Actual expenditure on this item last year was- ?300,456. That is to be expected as a federal election was held in that financial year, and if we were getting value for the money expended every one would be more or less satisfied. However, when we consider the large number of informal votes that were cast at the federal elections last year, particularly for the Senate, the position is anything but satisfactory. About 166,000 informal votes were cast in the Senate election in New South Wales. The returns in Victoria, with a smaller population, were much worse. More than 184,000 informal votes were recorded. The informal votes in South Australia totalled approximately 40,000 or 9 per cent, of the actual votes cast. The proportion was 10 per cent, in Western Australia and 12 per cent, in Tasmania. Queensland had the best record with only 4 per cent, of informal votes, and if we could get the other States to that basis, it would be a marked improvement.
It is easy to understand why persons vote informally at Senate elections when we consider the number of voting systems that are in operation in Australia. In Tasmania, there is a Hare-Clark system, which is a form of proportional representation. In Queensland, in the State jurisdiction, first past the post is elected. In the Senate we have proportional representation, but we have preferential voting for the House of Representatives. In municipal elections, the voter generally places a cross beside the name of a particular candidate and that is also virtually a system of first past the post.
If all the persons responsible for the voting systems could be got together, it would be difficult to get them to agree to a standard system for Australia because they are all more or less married to their particular systems, but such an achievement would be well worth seeking. Many persons go to the polls on voting day merely to get their names crossed off the roll. They do not care what happens to their ballotpapers afterwards. Sometimes they do not put a mark on the paper. Others vote right across the ballot-paper, and that is a formal vote, though not a thoughtful one. Many people desire to cast an intelligent vote, but are so confused by the large number of voting systems that they do not know whether they are coming or going.
The Government should initiate an intensive and vigorous campaign to educate the people in the proper way to. vote, particularly at Senate elections. The last redistribution of electorates was anything but satisfactory. The Australian Labour party must obtain about 54 per cent, of the votes recorded to win 51 per cent, of the seats. That system is anything but democratic. The Government should examine the situation, and introduce a system for the redistribution of electorates on a democratic basis.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Australian Capital Territory.
Proposed Vote, £2,716,000.
Department of Air.
Proposed Vote, £53,750,000.
Proposed Vote, £70,000.
Reconditioning of Marine Salvage Vessels.
Proposed Vote. £18,000.
Construction of Jetty for Handling of Explosives.
Proposed Vote, £185,000.
Department of Civil Aviation.
Proposed Vote. £8,747,000.
Department of Primary Industry.
Proposed Vote, £1,506,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Primary Industry.
Proposed Vote, £685,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- With respect, 1 direct attention to the fact that twelve minutes of the time allotted for the consideration of the preceding group of proposed votes was occupied by references to a matter that did not come within that group. I trust that, if an extra period of twelve minutes is needed for a proper consideration of this group of proposed votes, it will be granted. I should like the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) to concur in my suggestion because, although a motion relating to the allotment of time for the preceding group was agreed to, I do not think we agreed to an allotted time for this group.
– I refer to the proposed vote for the Department of Civil Aviation. I take advantage of this opportunity to congratulate the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) upon having been allotted that portfolio. I wish to refer to the air navigation regulations, particularly regulations 264 and 265. Very briefly, those regulations relate to the suspension or cancellation of an air pilot’s licence and the method of appeal against that cancellation. Regulation 264 refers to the suspension or cancellation of a licence, and gives that power entirely to the Director-General of Civil Aviation. The relevant part of the regulation reads - (1.) Any licence . . . may be suspended or cancelled … by the Director-General whenever he is satisfied that such action is necessary or desirable in order to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Convention and of these Regulations, or in the interests of public safety.
Clause 3 of the regulation reads -
Where any person is convicted of an offence against these Regulations, the Director-General may suspend or cancel any licence or certificate issued to that person.
It will be noted that the Director-General has absolute power in relation to that matter.
Regulation 265 gives an aggrieved person a right of appeal, and it is in relation to that right of appeal I now wish to address the committee. The relevant parts of the regulation read -
If the holder of the licence or certificate is aggrieved by the Director-General’s decision
. he may . . . have the question . . referred for consideration by an Appeal Board consisting of -
It will be observed that an appeal from a decision of the Director-General is to a board consisting entirely of officials of the Department of Civil Aviation and the Attorney-General’s Department, and a nominee of the Minister.
I wish to stress, in the first place, the importance of the cancellation of a pilot’s licence. It goes to the very root of a man’s livelihood, because once his licence is cancelled he has to get a job as a clerk. Very few courts of law deal with more serious questions. The second point I make is that the right of appeal against the cancellation of a licence is to the department itself. The appeal is from Caesar to Caesar. The significance of this rather terrible creation - andI use the word advisedly - was recently brought to light in Western Australia when Captain James Woods was deprived of his pilot’s licence by the Director-General of Civil Aviation. He appealed, and won his appeal.
I now propose to read to the committee a few passages from the transcript of evidence which I think are rather illuminating. When counsel for Captain Woods opened his address at the hearing of the appeal, he said -
Before the Director-General begins, I feelI would not be carrying out my duty to my client if I did not indicate now that we have some misgivings as to the constitution of the Board.I make this submission with some reluctance, but nevertheless in a sense of duty both to my client and generally. I do not make these observations with any idea of criticising any member of the Board personally.
The Board must be aware that the procedure laid down by the Air Navigation Regulations as to the constitution of this Board has already been criticised in the report of the joint committee on the department and I refer now to the Joint Committee on Public Accounts the 24th report on the Department of Civil Aviation, and particularly pages11 and 12 of that report.
He continued -
The Board will appreciate that that criticism is not directed towards any individual but to the constitution of the Board nominated, as it is, by the Director-General and as far as you personally are concerned, Sir, as Chairman, on the recommendation of the Solicitor-General. My point is that Captain Woods is submitting before this Board that what the Director-General has done is wrong and that his action was unjustified, and we think it unfortunate that Captain Woods’s only right of appeal should be to a board appointed by the Director-General, or by the Minister on the recommendation of the Director-General, and that one member of it should be a member of the department from whose decision Captain Woods is appealing and that the Chairman should be a member of the Commonwealth Crown Law Department, which is not necessarily so under these regulations. We think it is unfortunate that that should be so because one of the complaints made against Captain Woods is that he has in times past been prosecuted for breaches of the regulations. It is well known that those prosecutions were conducted by the Commonwealth Crown Law Department and that in those proceedings the Commonwealth Deputy Crown Solicitor in Western Australia and the Deputy-Director of Air Navigation were, in essence, in the relationship of solicitor and client, and so we are now faced with the position that the client is appealing to a Board the Chairman of which is its solicitor.
Counsel for Woods concluded with these words -
I personally feel it is my duty to my client to point out that the procedure is by no means satisfactory, and although justice may well be’ done it will certainly not manifestly appear to be done, and that is important in itself.
I think that counsel for Captain Woods took a good point, and I am taking the same point to-day. The remarks of the chairman of the board, who agreed entirely with counsel for Captain Woods, are very interesting. He said, at page 117 of the transcript -
I can appreciate that the one answer to your point may well be that the Governor-General in his wisdom has anticipated the possibility that the Director-General may be wrong and has given emphasis to that by the provision in the regulation for a Board of Review constituted in a fashion which, unfortunately, makes no appeal to you and, in fact, very little to me either.
Those were the words of the chairman of the board. A board of review constituted in that fashion made very little appeal to him. The chairman was the nominee of the department - Mr. W. J. Roberts, of the Attorney-General’s Department. Incidentally, Captain Woods won his appeal. However, I am not on my feet to stress the significance of this regulation in relation to the success or failure of Captain Wood’s appeal. I am on my feet to plead with the new Minister to have a look at a regulation which, I believe, is opposed to all the principles of what we call British justice. I mention in passing that this case was taken up with the previous Minister by a colleague of mine. Let me read the relevant portion of the letter that he received, lt is as follows: -
In Australia, however, we have set up an independent board of review which has absolute power to vary the decisions of the licensing authority and has in fact done so on several occasions, in eluding the decision relating to Captain Woods, which it reduced from cancellation to a suspension of four months. The Australian system is something of a model in Commonwealth aviation because of “ ils vigilant observance of the principles of natural justice “ through an independent appeal tribunal.
That makes me smile. The Minister had the audacity to say that this was an independent appeal tribunal! The letter went on -
It protects public safety by having persons on such panels who have special technical qualifications for assessing the safety factors involved.
I do not believe for a moment that the Minister wrote that letter. It was written, of course, by a departmental official. I regret that a Minister should have signed his name to such a deliberate misrepresentation of the position. Under this regulation, there is no such thing as an independent board of review. The appeal is from Caesar to Caesar. It is an appeal from the Director-General of Civil Aviation to officials and nominees of the DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation. Only in Russia would that be regarded as an appeal to an independent board of review. I feel that, with a new Minister in charge of this very efficient department, something will be done to rectify what I regard as a very grave departure from the principles of British justice. It would be a very simple matter to alter the regulation so that justice would not only be done, but would manifestly appear to be done.
– I shall discuss the proposed vote for the Australian Capital Territory which, this year, is £2,716,000. I have observed that honorable senators have discussed matters stemming from administrative actions of the various departments, and have not confined their remarks to the sums for which the Government is asking for the departments. It is fortunate that there is in the Commonwealth sphere an authority known as the Auditor-General. His function is to examine the accounts of all departments and then to inform the Parliament how those departments have carried on their work - what they have done in respect of bookkeeping, stores accounting, looking after the goods in their custody and so forth. I believe that the people of Australia are fortunate to have an Auditor-General who furnishes reports to the Parliament.
We are the custodians of the interests othe citizens of the Commonwealth. The persons who spend the money are public servants. They will not tell us of their own volition how and why they have spent money. They will not tell us whether the money has been spent wisely and whether they have employed, so to speak, good housekeeping practices throughout the year. We do not expect them to tell us those things, but the Auditor-General can instruct his inspection officers to examine departmental records exhaustively and furnish reports to him, so that he, in turn, can furnish reports to us.
I feel it to be my duty to tell the Parliament what the Auditor-General had to say about some of the instrumentalities of the Department of the Interior in the Australian Capital Territory. 1 shall read first what the Auditor-General had to say in his last annual report under the heading “ Electricity Supply “. Having set out the financial situation of the Canberra electricity undertaking, he stated -
The unsatisfactory nature of the departmental accounting for the electricity undertaking has been mentioned in the two preceding Annual Reports which cover the period since the undertaking was transferred from the Department of Works. To date, no apparent effort has been made by the department to improve accounting procedures and the stock-taking of assets carried out in conjunction with the handover has yet to be finalised. Acquisitions since the handover have not been recorded in a register of assets. The accounting generally does not disclose the true results of trading operations and the financial statements for the years 1953-54 and 1954-55 are not, in the form prepared, acceptable for Audit examination. Al the date of this Report financial statements for the year 1955-56 had not been completed.
In 1954, an investigation of the undertaking by an officer of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria was arranged by the Minister. The conclusions and recommendations of the investigator were in substantial agreement with Audit observations on accounting matters.
The department indicated its intention to review the accounts procedure when the electricity supply section is moved to new offices. This was to have occurred in 1955, but has not eventuated.
No report of the activities of a department could be more damning than that. The Auditor-General said that the unsatisfactory nature of the departmental accounting for the electricity undertaking had been mentioned in his two preceding annual reports. The fact that it was so mentioned is evidence that somebody, long before this, should have undertaken to put the matter in order. 1 wager that if the Minister in charge of the Senate now were appointed to the office of Minister for the Interior, the very first thing that he would undertake to do would be to put this undertaking on a sound financial basis. That is, he would have proper accounting methods employed the very next day, and if the responsible officer did not undertake to do it, he would dismiss him. I cannot emphasize too strongly this statement by the Auditor-General -
The unsatisfactory nature of the departmental accounting for the electricity undertaking has been mentioned in the two preceding annual reports
I should like to keep repeating that for half an hour, because it shows that there is within the department a laxity which evidently it is unable to overcome, and that the department is quite happy merely to wallow along in a state of inefficiency. This is not money belonging to any one individual or head of a department; it is public money, yet the department is not prepared to introduce proper accounting methods! The Auditor-General goes on to say -
To date, no apparent effort has been made by the department to improve accounting procedures.
If the effort is not apparent, it is obvious that no effort has been made at all. Nothing whatever has been done! Perhaps the Minister believes he has an explanation to offer, but this is something which cannot be explained. I said the other day that the Senate should have authority to bring before it the officers who are responsible for this state of affairs, that it should have authority to question them and, if it finds them guilty of inefficiency, to pass them into some other form of employment. For instance, there are gardens to be weeded and other jobs of that type to which these men could be transferred by the department. If the officers who are receiving high salaries are inefficient, it is time they were transferred to some other work. The Auditor-General continues -
Acquisitions since the handover have not been recorded in a register of assets.
He was referring to the handing over by the Department of Works of the electric supply undertaking to the Department of the Interior. I have no doubt that this undertaking has been acquired because it is an electric supply undertaking and the acquisition of plant, land and other things must be undertaken. Although acquisitions must be made, there is no register of assets! Why, it is possible that in the near future this department will be re-acquiring property which it had acquired two years ago! It has no record of what it has acquired. That is unforgivable. Why, the conductor of a suburban hot pie stall in any of our cities would have a register of assets and would know what property he owned; but here there is no register of assets. It is symbolical of the general inefficiency complained of by the AuditorGeneral all through his report. The Auditor-General continues -
The financial statements . . . are not, in the form prepared, acceptable for audit examination.
This is the third year since the AuditorGeneral made his original complaint, and die accounts still are not, to use the Auditor-General’s words, “ in the form prepared, acceptable for audit examination”. In other words, the Auditor-General is saying that the accounts have been so carelessly looked after that his department is not prepared to accept them for audit purposes. In effect, he is saying to the department, “ Go back over your work and try to get your accounts into such a condition that we can audit them “. To read the Auditor-General’s report on this department, one would think that he was referring to some fishing club that was being conducted by illiterate persons. He goes on further to say -
The conclusions and recommendations of the investigator-
That is the investigator who was brought up from the Victorian State Electricity Commission - were in substantial agreement with audit observations on accounting matters.
We in this Parliament accept the AuditorGeneral and his officers as the highest authorities on accounting, and this officer who was brought from Victoria to examine the affairs of the electricity authority in Canberra arrived at the same conclusions as did the Auditor-General. Who is out of step? No doubt it is the authority charged with the responsibility of administering this electricity undertaking. In concluding his remarks on the electricity supply, the Auditor-General said -
The department indicated its intention to review the accounts procedure when the electricity supply section is moved to new offices.
That is not good enough. The department merely “ indicated “ its intention. In other words, it adopted the attitude that if it suited it, if it was convenient, it would, review the accounts procedure. It is a pity this Parliament has not power to instruct the department to do these things in order to dispel entirely the general inefficiency which seems to be hanging over the whole of the affairs of the electricity supply in the Australian Capital Territory and put them on a proper basis. If this were an isolated case, and even though it may have spread over two or three years, we might perhaps have adopted the view that steps are now being taken, or will be taken, and that next year everything will be in order, but the inefficiency seems to be persistent.
Dealing with forestry, the AuditorGeneral said -
Expenditure relating to forestry in the Australian Capital Territory is recorded within the Australian Capital Territory Forestry Trust Account. The Trust Account was established under section 62a of the Audit Act as from 1st July, 1955. An amount of £22,605 was transferred from the Interior Services Trust Account to the credit of the new trust account. This action conflicts with section 62a of the Audit Act 1901-1955 and, following audit representations the amount was provided under Capital Works and Services, Division 58, Item 11 of the Additional Estimates.
That was a serious error. Are we to overlook it? I admit that it has been corrected since, but when was it corrected? Was it done after the Auditor-General’s examination was made, or was it discovered by the person who should be administering the affairs of this department? To take moneys out of one fund and use them for the purposes of another is bad financial practice and something that this Parliament cannot endorse; but, unfortunately, we cannot apply the remedy. The Auditor-General continues -
The unavailability of financial statements of forestry activities was mentioned in last year’s report, lt has been represented to the department by my officers that prudent accounting for trading ventures such as this requires a yearly matching of true costs of operation against revenue properly creditable; a statement of invested costs and liabilities; and that this practice affords a necessary complement to the physical control of the venture.
The Department’s attitude is that such financial statements in relation to this forestry activity are not required by law, are of no value to the operating forester, and absorb time which the accounts staff could well use on other and important work.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I believe that the Senate should harken intently to the principles that Senator Benn was seeking to impress upon us. The continual disregard of the Auditor-General’s most courageous and thoughtful reports will spread corruption in this Parliament to a degree that those responsible are not conscious of. I am sad to note the disrespect that is evident towards the Auditor-General’s report, and I pay tribute to the present Auditor-General, and to his predecessors, for going on year after year calling attention to deficiencies.
I have been waiting to speak about section 105 on page 67 of the Auditor-General’s report where certain matters are set out in connexion with the Department of Air. I have spoken about this matter on previous occasions when the Estimates have been before us, and I should be surprised if there were a Parliament anywhere else in the British-speaking world that has had placed on record by its independent AuditorGeneral a statement so discreditable as appears in print in this paragraph. It concerns losses and deficiencies in public moneys allocated to the three armed services, and it records that, in 1942, the then Auditor-General, Mr. Abercrombie, stated in his report to the Parliament that losses of cash and stores by theft and from other causes consequent on inadequate safeguards and inefficiency had been numerous in the Department of the Army during the year. The Auditor-General at. that time went on to say -
It is felt that the Commonwealth interests are not sufficiently protected by the existing military regulations and related procedure.
Now I refer to the report of Mr. Brophy for the financial year 1954-55. I have read this sentence in this chamber before, but 1 will read it again. It is not the last time that I shall do so, but the last time is fast approaching unless some action is taken about it. The Auditor-General said -
Mention has been made in the last twelve annual reports of the need to ensure by some legislative provision more adequate recovery measures where members of the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force are responsible for the losses of cash and stores by theft and other causes.
The Auditor-General also said -
The Treasurer approved of this action in September 1946, but despite discussions between the Service Departments, the Treasury and the Auditor-General’s Department the matter had not been completed at 30th June, 1955.
The Rules and Regulations Committee was confronted with the legislative practice of the Department of Air - following in exact terms the regulations of the Department of the Navy. The committee had to consider an outrageous regulation which, when it was brought to our attention, the Minister saw fit to withdraw with a suitable sense of shame. The consequence is that the position in the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force remains substantially the same as was reported thirteen years ago. I believe that that position is capable of being cured in 30 days by any responsible Minister who is purposeful to achieve integrity in government and efficiency in the expenditure of public moneys. But the looseness with regard to this particular facet of the regulations is only typical of the whole body of the regulations, because when we had the officers of the department before us in the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, the chaos that we found was indescribable. I venture to say that there are very few persons in the Commonwealth who know the substantial effect of that chaotic mass of regulations.
All this only leads me to suggest that we require a sensible and purposeful approach to the matter in order to put into legislative form the laws and regulations that we desire to have covering the Air Force and the other services, so that they will be available to every person within the service, and there will then be an intelligible set of rules and regulations indicating their substantial purposes and detailed effect. If that could be done it would spread understanding throughout the services, and produce a cohesive effort to ensure compliance with the regulations. However, here we have before us the waste and inefficiency which leads to more crime than all the deliberate intent in the world. Inefficiency of supervision and control encourages the weak person to take criminal advantage of it. Then, when he gets caught, he becomes a criminal.
In order to ensure proper scrutiny of public expenditure, and to encourage honesty and integrity in the Public Service, it is important that immediate attention should be given to this matter, and appropriate regulations produced within a short space of time - I believe that it can be done within 30 days. That could be done if only as a very moderate tribute of respect to the untiring efforts of AuditorsGeneral, who have kept this matter before the Parliament for more than thirteen years.
.- T desire to say something about civil defence, and I refer the committee to Division 210, Civil Defence, for which the proposed vote is £70,000. 1 know that the Minister in charge of this section of the schedule, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) always attempts to answer questions asked by honorable senators. I hope that he will not fail us on this occasion, because I desire to raise, a serious matter, which I consider has not received the attention that it deserves. Senator Anderson has pointed out that the proposed vote for Civil Defence is £70,000, but I point out to the Minister that in 1955-56 the vote was £234,000, of which only £88,782 was expended. I ask the Minister to say why there was such a great difference between the vote and expenditure last year, because it is of no use for this committee to vote a large sum of money for a specific purpose if it is not going to be used.
Senator Anderson said that we should vote more money for civil defence, and I agree with him. However, if we are to provide more money, that money must be used in a proper fashion, and the people should be informed of the way in which it will be used. A few years ago, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) informed the Parliament and the people that there was a danger of war, and that we had to be prepared to meet it. Huge sums of money, amounting to about £200,000,000 a year, have been voted for defence. We know that the greatest critics of the Government in this connexion have been its own supporters. Like Senator Anderson has done to-day, Government supporters in another place have attacked it time and time again for its failure to properly expend the defence votes.
We know that Australia is, relatively, in a parlous position. If the Asiatic nations should at some future time link up with Russia, they may engage in attacks upon the free countries of the world. President Soekarno of Indonesia recently went to Moscow. We know that the Russians are taking every trick in international affairs, and that the Britishers have failed in every instance. Now our own Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is following in the footsteps of some of the leaders of the free nations of Europe and acting stupidly towards the people of South and South-East Asia. We know, for instance, of the foolish attitude that the right honorable gentleman adopted - this was mentioned by Senator Gorton - towards the Chinese Classical Theatre Company, which is visiting Australia. The most stupid action taken by any government is that which has been taken by this Government.
Then there was the attitude that was adopted by the British Government in relation to Nasser, lt made a big splash about what it was going to do; it was going to play hell with Nasser and the Egyptians generally! The British Government, although backed up by the English press, then climbed down. What has been the result? The Egyptian position has been consolidated, because the Arab nations, including Jordan, are backing Nasser.
I appeal to the Minister to inform the committee of the Government’s intention in regard to civil defence. As I have said, only £70,000 of last year’s vote of £234,000 for civil defence was expended.
As I have previously mentioned in this chamber, I once pointed out to Sir Percy Spender the psychological effect of the dropping of an atomic bomb. Has the Government concluded that if an atomic bomb were dropped on, say, Cairns, the whole of the people of Australia would give in and accept domination by the attacking nation? I know that a certain attitude in this matter prevails in certain parts of the world. For instance, when 1 was in Coventry, certain prominent citizens told me that they considered it was futile to try to defend oneself in the event of an atomic attack. Has this Government also come to that conclusion? Does it believe that we are in danger? Does it believe that it is futile to develop civil defence? If the Government considers that we should attend to the matter of civil defence, let the Minister say so. He should say whether he considers that both the United States of America and Great Britain are wasting their time in carrying out certain manoeuvres in relation to defence. If he considers that those countries are not wasting their time, and that it is necessary and vital that we should instruct our people in civil defence, why is not that being done? I trust that the Minister for Shipping and Transport will do his best, in answering, to satisfy not only honorable senators on this side, but the nation generally.
– I wish to direct the attention of the committee to certain aspects of civil defence, the matter concerning regulations to which Senator Vincent has referred, and the proposed vote for the Australian Capital Territory. I support all that Senator Anderson said about the lack of preparation that is apparent in relation to civil defence. I support, particularly, his suggestion that civil defence training should be commenced in the schools, because it would give the children confidence if they knew what they should do in certain circumstances. Certain training could quite easily be undertaken in the classrooms. I remind the committee that, during the last war, trenches were dug in school grounds, and both teachers and children received certain instruction. In consequence, they felt that they had a certain amount of security. Of course, I realize that trenches would be of no avail in any future war.
Some thought should be given to the introduction of civil defence measures. ! realize that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) might already have taken some steps in this direction, but we have not been told about them. I should like to know whether the Government intends to arrange for children to be instructed in civil defence at the various schools in this country.
I come now to the matter that was raised by Senator Vincent, concerning the right of appeal by aircraft pilots who lose their licences. I should like to say that I took a rather active part in connexion with correspondence that was addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation when Captain James Woods’s licence was suspended. With all due respect to the Minister, the answers that were sent in reply to my letters were very unsatisfactory, indeed. There were many very unsatisfactory features of the suspension and subsequent appeal. Indeed, so unsatisfactory was some of the evidence that was given when the pilot appealed against his suspension, that one of our leading newspapers said that it seemed - indeed it seemed very much to the public of Australia - that it was the Department of Civil Aviation that was on trial, not the pilot. Fortunately, Captain Woods’s licence has been renewed, but the fact remains, as Senator Vincent so clearly stated, that the regulations need overhauling, so that the people will have every confidence in any appeal that is made to the Civil Aviation Board.
I turn now to the third matter on which I wish to speak, which concerns the preschool centres in Canberra. There are three districts concerned. I have been very alarmed about this matter. During the last fortnight, a deputation of parents in those districts expressed their concern to me. For some years past, committees in O’Connor, Yarralumla and Deakin have worked hard, in a voluntary capacity - at the suggestion, mind you, of the Department of the Interior - to raise certain sums of money, because the department could not entertain the establishment of preschool centres in those districts until that had been done. These districts are now very largely populated. Honorable senators have only to take a trip out to O’Connor in order to see the development that has taken place. In one of the districts I have mentioned, 969 houses were visited by the committee engaged in raising money, and in another district, 461 houses were visited. It is safe to assume that a large number of children will be affected by the reduction of the proposed vote for these pre-school centres. The reduction will also have a very deleterious effect on the parents of those children. Virtually without warning these committees have been told that, although they have raised the requisite amount, as advised not only by departmental officers but also by pre-school centre officers of the Australian Capital Territory, no provision is being made in the Estimates. Naturally they feel they have been let down by the department. I appeal to the Minister to have this decision reviewed in order to see whether anything can be done to keep faith with these committees. They are conscious of the fact that they have canvassed the suburbs and have received large and small donations. They are holding these sums of money and a member of one of the committees, when interviewing me the other day, told me that it was the intention of the committees to try to revisit the homes with the object of refunding the money that had been donated. Being Scottish I advised them against that procedure and told them to hold on to what they had. I appreciate the invidious position in which these committees have been placed as a result of having made a canvass of the districts.
I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport to bring this matter to the attention of the Minister for the Interior and inform him of the very keen feeling that exists in relation to it. I hope that something can be done to relieve a very serious situation. I am sure all honorable senators are alarmed at the growth of vandalism among children and teenagers. The work of these pre-school centres is carried out. in the main, by parents on a voluntary roster system and children are taught the elements of good citizenship. It is a matter to which the Minister should give very serious consideration.
– I wish to refer briefly to the proposed vote for civil defence. I listened with very great interest to Senator Anderson when he spoke on this subject earlier to-day. Although this particular proposed vote was not then properly before the Senate, I am particularly glad that Senator Anderson was not interrupted. He spoke from great experience and with real feeling. The effect of his speech might have been destroyed had there been any interruption to his utterance. I join with him in expressing a real fear as to what would happen in
Australia if by chance we were precipitated into a third world war and were to experience atomic attacks on our cities. That fear exists in more minds than those of honorable senators.
I desire to refer to an article that appeared in the Melbourne “Herald”, of 18th September, 1956. It purports to be a statement by the Director of Civil Defence, Brigadier Wardell. It contains a serious indictment of this Government which has not been answered. I raised the matter during the budget debate, but no answer has been forthcoming. This particular commentary by Brigadier Wardell shrieks for an answer from this Government. The present debate gives me another opportunity to ask for a reply from the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge). I shall read what was said in this article, because every word of it is important. It is headed, “ Civil Defence Plan is lacking ‘ “, and reads -
An atomic attack on Australia would find us “ almost completely unprepared “, the Director of Civil Defence, Brigadier Wardell, warned to-day.
Plans to protect Melbourne and other cities had been before the Commonwealth Government for well over a year, but so far no decision had been made, he said.
I invite the Minister to say whether that is correct. Have plans been submitted to this Government for more than a year, and is a decision still awaited on those plans? Is the Minister in a position to indicate the nature of those plans? Are they tentative? Do they go a part of the way or are they complete? The article continues -
Tens of thousands of lives would be los because of inadequate civil defence.
If that is true, and an attack took place, it would be the personal responsibility of every member of the Government and its supporters. They would have a personal moral accountability for most of the deaths that would occur. If plans can be made which could help to save lives and mitigate suffering - and those plans are not being put into effect through lack of decision, the Government will have to take the responsibility for what might occur. I am not making the charge, but simply presenting Brigadier Wardell’s comments in the hope that the Minister will reply to them. The article continued - “ Any day of the week a foreign submarine could surface in Bass Strait and wipe Melbourne off the map with an atomic or hydrogen guided missile “, Brigadier Wardell said. “ Nearly every one of the many thousands of people who throng the city at lunch-time would be killed outright. “Another quarter of a million people on the outskirts of the city would be seriously injured. “ Farther from the city thousands of home*, would be wrecked by the devastating blast. “The chaos after such an attack would be a grave morale-buster for Australia. “There would be no leaders or equipment to handle the situation capably.”
Australia’s civil defence force at present consisted only of a committee in each State, a Commonwealth committee, and the Mount Macedon Defence School which could train only a small number of people, Brigadier Wardell said.
I understand that 30 persons only can be trained in civil defence at the Mount Macedon Defence School.
– Is that a school for individual training?
– Some 30 personnel are trained at a time and given instructions as to what ought to be done in the event of an atomic explosion.
– What about mass training?
– At the moment no provision exists for that, so far as I know. I have invited the Minister to indicate what plans have been submitted to Cabinet. These plans have lain dormant for over a year, according to Brigadier Wardell; and I ask the Minister whether he is in a position to inform the Senate of the scope of those plans. The article continues - and 1 think this answers the question posed by Senator Byrne - “Even when we are given the go-ahead by the Government,” he said, “ It will take three years to train 10 per cent, of the population thoroughly in civil defence. “That number would be necessary to make the scheme of any value.”
In other words, he poses very particularly that there must be a vast number of our people, about 1,000,000, trained and experienced in what should be done in the event of atomic warfare. At the moment we have a few groups of 30, and no more. Continuing the article reads -
The danger of an atomic attack on Australia was not remote, Brigadier Wardell said.
Of course, his view on that may or may noi be accurate, but in a situation like the present, with atomic energy uncontrolled, the possibility of war - even the possibility is enough - must be guarded against, and the Government must be ready to anticipate that it will happen. It is the Government’s duty to provide against the possibility or contingency, particularly when it takes three years to provide trained personnel. The article continues -
There was hardly one worthwhile-target not within range of a submarine weapon.
Bombs planted simultaneously on the industrial centres of Wollongong, Newcastle. Fisherman’s Bend, Melbourne and Sydney, would cripple Australia. “ The public are almost entirely ignorant of atomic warfare and its consequences,” Brigadier Wardell said.
That echoes the view put by Senator Anderson. I confess that the impeachment touched me personally when he asked how many honorable senators knew what to do in the event of atomic warfare. I confess that I do not know, and I believe that would be true of all of us.
– Have not the authorities in the United States of America practised mass evacuation of cities?
– Yes. I believe that this problem involves also the provision of exit roads and their development for mass evacuation, the provision of foodstuffs in . emergency dumps, emergency hospitals and the construction of hospitals with a view to atomic explosions. Those preparations mean even more than the training of personnel. That thought should run through our activities until we are assured beyond doubt that there will not be atomic warfare. Until we reach that point, one of the primary tasks of this Government is to concern itself with that matter. The authority to whom I have .referred also stated -
We have prepared information booklets which are ready to be printed by the Commonwealth Printer.
Can the Minister give us any information about those booklets? How long have they been awaiting a decision that the booklets should be printed and distributed. What is to be the scope of such distribution; and how near are those stages? The authority to whom I have referred also stated -
Civil defence planning was being made more difficult by allowing more industries and hospitals to be built in and near big cities.
What disturbs us in the Opposition is that if this is correct - and I invite the Minister to say whether these statements are correct or not - the Government has made no plans for a year and has not reached any decisions. If decisions have been reached, they have not been put into effect. We find the same pattern that has run through the Government’s behaviour since it was elected to office; a pattern of indecision, procrastination and postponements. We have met the same difficulties in aircraft production. Only a few weeks ago, the Government was concerned about continuing the aircraft production industry. Then Wing Commander Wackett came into the picture, indicating that his organization had been awaiting a decision for more than a year as to what was to replace the present production of aircraft in the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation factory. He could get no decision from the Government.
When we find indecision permeating vital matters like civil defence and aircraft production, there is reason for great uneasiness. The Government seems to be incapable of doing anything but talk. Senior responsible public men use the press in desperation to warn the people against the significance of this Government’s inaction and indecision. Within weeks of an announcement that our aircraft industry would be continued and protected, there has been an announcement that we are to halt aircraft production. That will probably mean the scattering of key personnel and there will be difficulty in getting them back again when the need arises. The tragic pattern of indecision and inaction that has persisted throughout the career of this Government has lead to the economic ills we are suffering, but the gravamen of my remarks is directed to civil defence. I have raised the other matters only incidentally. I suggest to the Minister that the article I have read demands a complete answer. On behalf of the people that we represent, the Opposition asks the Government why such an inadequate amount is to be provided for civil defence, and when proper civil defence plans are to be prepared.
.- 1 have referred before to the AuditorGeneral’s report, and I direct attention now to the section of the report dealing with the Department of Air. If a stuttering German undertook to read the AuditorGeneral’s report, he would be able to pronounce the word “ unsatisfactory “ fluently long before he had finished. Under the heading of “ Store Accounting “ the Auditor-General states -
Unsatisfactory features associated with store accounting at Royal Australian Air Force Units and depots have been referred to in previous reports. Despite some improvement resulting from continuous departmental attention during the year, the position generally is still not entirely satisfactory.
In 1953, Treasury approval was obtained to the abandonment of existing stock records at certain units and depots, and to the establishment of new records based on the results of complete physical stocktakings. Although all units and depots concerned have now been brought within the scope nf this approval, the expected improvement in the standard of accounting and stores control has not eventuated. As mentioned in last year’s report, Factors which have militated against the attainment of an improved standard continue to include large staff turnover, frequent internal staff transfers, lack of adequate training and supervision of stock recording and stores personnel and ineffective internal controls. Stock holdings at certain depots in New South Wales and Victoria, particularly No. 1 Stores Depot, Tottenham, Victoria, and No. 2 Stores Depot, Regents Park, New South Wales, are greatly in excess of current or immediately foreseeable requirements. Weaknesses in, and in some cases non-adherence to prescribed provisioning procedures and the retention of large slocks carried over from the war years or subsequently acquired as a result of policy decisions of the Government for the accumulation of mobilization reserves during the period of world tension between 1950-53, have contributed to this position. To lessen the cost of store-keeping and accounting in these depots, attention should be given to clearing excess stocks wherever possible
With the exception of units located in South Australia, where some arrears are reported, stocktaking programmes have generally been maintained. However, stocktakings continue to reveal substantial discrepancies, while undue delays in investigation of results and submission to competent authorities are evident. Reports of sectional stocktakings at No. 1 Stores Depot, Tottenham, Victoria, received over a nine-month period, showed surpluses and deficiencies of approximately £150,000 and £160,000 respectively. Stocktaking results reported during 1955-56 in various Home Command units in New South Wales disclosed surpluses of £49,300 and deficiencies of £356,000. Maintenance Command Depots in the same State reported surpluses totalling £245,000 and deficiencies £140,000.
Discrepancies were due principally to errors in documentation, identification and recording but their magnitude is an indication of the accounting and storekeeping problems which have yet to be overcome by the Department.
The portfolio of Air must be a man-size job, because, although we have read similar reports for the last year or two, there has been no improvement. The AuditorGeneral further stated that thefts valued at £31,691 were reported during the year, and compared that figure with the figure of £7,268 for 1954-55. Like a game of poker, the sum is going up, evidently with rises of £24,000 a year.
Ample information is available to enable me to continue in that strain, but I do not wish to do so. These reports indicate quite clearly that the store accounting and store control methods adopted by the Department of Air are not satisfactory from the taxpayer’s viewpoint. I do not know whether the department intends to do anything about it. If it does not, and if the Auditor-General continues to furnish such reports to the Parliament, I intend to rise in my place and refer to them for the purpose of giving them wider circulation.
– During the debate on this group of proposed votes a number of references have been made to the report of the Auditor-General, particularly in relation to the Air Force and one or two activities of the Department of the Interior. It might be of some use if I were to read the comment of the Department of Air on the Auditor-General’s report to indicate that, despite the fact that honorable senators have stressed the contents of the Auditor-General’s report and possibly have created the impression that nothing is being done to rectify the situation, the report is being given the consideration that it undoubtedly deserves. The report of the Auditor-General commences by referring to the standard of accounting and states that, although some improvement has been made, the position generally is still not entirely satisfactory. The department’s comment is as follows: -
The factors stated to be militating against improvement - i.e., staff turnover and internal transfers will, it is anticipated, be largely overcome in Stores Depots by virtue of the appointment of permanent civilians in lieu of service personnel and temporary employees.
As to other factors referred to, i.e., lack of adequate training and supervision these are mainly in the hands of Unit Commanders. They are constantly being reminded of their responsibilities in this regard. This applies equally to the “ ineffective internal controls “-
That was the term used by the AuditorGeneral - also referred to, the inference being that while the controls laid down are adequate, the operation is sometimes not effective.
The Auditor-General also stated that excess stocks were being carried at certain depots. The comment of the department on that matter reads -
Disposal action is being intensified in respect to excess and obsolete stocks, as is evidenced by the fact that over the past three years the values of stores, &c, disposed of have increased from £3im. in 1953-54 to £5im. in 1955-56.
The next point referred to by the AuditorGeneral was the delay in acquitting issue vouchers. The department’s comment on that matter is as follows: -
As stated in the Report the position is steadily improving due to constant departmental pressure. The position is that some 60% of these vouchers are outstanding against civilian contractors.
Then the Auditor-General said that stocktakes revealed substantial discrepancies and that delays occurred in the submission of results to competent authority. The department’s comment reads -
The action taken to increase permanent storekeepers in Depots should result in more accurate storekeeping and recording which in turn has a direct bearing on the extent of the discrepancies. Attention is invited to the fact that the value of discrepancies quoted by the A.G. are gross values and make no allowances for compensating items which could reduce the figure by up to one-third.
The Auditor-General also stated that the value of stores lost by theft during 1955-56 was £31,691, and he compared that figure with the figure of £7,268 for the previous year. The department’s comment is -
The figure of £31,691 for 1955-56 includes thefts totalling £8,561 at No. 1 Stores Depot in 54/55. As stated, collusion was evidenced and the security aspect has been followed up and strengthened. Of the balance of £23,000 the main losses occurred at Laverton (£8,000), Richmond (£4,000), Canberra (£3,000), Nokanning (£3,000), pilfering at Singapore from chartered vessel Tyella (£1,500).
Apart from straight-out thefts which cannot bc entirely .controlled the losses were generally due to failure of persons to observe the procedures prescribed in Orders. All losses are thoroughly investigated and where improper practices were found disciplinary or police action was instituted.
In relation to the prevention of theft by the branding of stores, the department states -
The question of branding textiles is being investigated within the Department. The proposal that Treasury issue instructions in regard to this matter is also noted.
Attention is however invited to the fact that the branding of tools has already been investigated and the opinion is that the cost of branding would scarcely be justified. 1 have referred to the comments of the Department of Air at some length to indicate that departments view the report of the Auditor-General most seriously. What has happened in relation to the Department of Air also happens in relation to other departments, including the service departments to which Senator Benn referred. 1 now refer to the situation in the Department of the Interior. It would seem, from the statements of Senator Benn, that there is a general unawareness of the position within the department. That is not so, as is evidenced by the fact that in 1954 the then Minister for the Interior caused an inquiry to be conducted by an independent authority into the Canberra electricity undertaking, including bookkeeping and recording methods employed by it. The report of that investigation is on the point of being implemented. As the AuditorGeneral himself has stated, this department is in an unfortunate position. It has lacked adequate office space, which unfortunately has entailed further delay in implementing the report of the independent investigator and the report of the Auditor-General which, I understand, in some respects, follows the report of the independent authority, lt was expected that office space would become available some time ago, but it has not yet become available. However, it is expected to be available in the near future. Just as soon as it is possible for the department to move into premises in which it is able to work effectively, effect will be given ot the Auditor-General’s comments.
Senator Brown and Senator McKenna referred to the proposed vote for civil defence. Each had something to say about the size of the vote, which has been reduced to £70,000. Senator McKenna referred, at some length, to a press report which attributed to Brigadier Wardell certain comments about the civil defence programme. I was not aware of the existence of that report until Senator McKenna referred to it. After Senator McKenna had spoken, I caused inquiries to be made of the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride). He has informed me that he had discussed the report with Brigadier Wardell, and that the brigadier had assured him that the account, as published, was entirely inaccurate.
– Wholly inaccurate?
– The expression used was “ entirely inaccurate “.
– In other words, he denies having made the statement as it appeared?
– That is right. The Minister has told me that the civil defence programme accords with recommendations made by the defence chiefs. The fact that only ?70,000 for civil defence appears in the Estimates for this year is attributable to the circumstance that at the time the Estimates were prepared, policy was not fixed. It was evident at that time that policy decisions could alter, very materially, the amount of money required for the implementation of the programme. An appropriation of ?70,000 is being sought now, but it is realized by the Minister and the departmental officers that additional money will have to be provided for civil defence. That will be attended to subsequently.
Senator Robertson referred to preschool training centres. I have a note from the department to the effect that any money available must, in the first instance, be utilized for primary education. I have been told that the reference made by Senator Robertson to a breach of faith was not quite correct, because no undertaking was given as to the time at which assistance would be forthcoming, lt is still the intention of the department to build the centres, but primary education must have the first call on available funds.
Senator Robertson referred, also, to Air Navigation Regulations No. 264 and No. 265, as did Senator Vincent. I am sure that both honorable senators will appreciate my position in the matter. Senator Vincent asked whether I would examine the regulations. I most certainly will do so. It may be useful if I read, at this juncture, a note that has been handed to me by the departmental officers, in which special reference is made to the report of the Public Accounts Committee, to which Senator Vincent referred in one part of his speech. The note states -
It is clear from conclusions 8 and 9 that the committee does not understand the board of review procedure for dealing with suspended licences and cancellations. They state that the hearing of appeals is a departmental function, whereas this has been the responsibility of an independent authority since 1939. Australia is the only Commonwealth country which has implemented fully the recommendations of the United Kingdom Committee on Ministers’ Powers. In the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa the decision of the licencing authority is final and there is no appeal allowed to the licence holder. This is probably because of the paramount importance placed on public safety, which could be effected if a purely legal body varied important safety decisions made by an authority having most competence to judge such matters.
In Australia, however, we have set up an independent board of review which has absolute power to vary decisions of the licencing authority, and has in fact done so on several occasions. The Australian system is something of a model in Commonwealth aviation, because of its vigilant observance of the principles of natural justice, through an independent appeal tribunal.
I seem to recognize that statement as a part of the letter that was read by Senator Vincent. In the circumstances, little purpose would be served if I read more of this document. Senator Vincent has already placed it before the Senate. I repeat the assurance given previously that I shall have a look at these regulations as soon as I have an opportunity to do so.
– I am obliged to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) for his reference to civil defence. However, his speech was most inadequate. I was amazed to hear him say, not that Brigadier Wardell had been misreported, but that the press report of the Brigadier’s statement was wholly untrue. I gathered from the Minister’s remarks that Brigadier Wardell said that the statement was never made. It seems to be safe to infer from what the Minister said that what, appeared in the press as a report of Brigadier Wardell’s expressed view was the figment of a reporter’s imagination - a piece of fiction.
I do not judge the issue at all. I make that quite clear. The newspaper asserts one thing and Brigadier Wardell, apparently, asserts another. I should like to know whether the report was denied or repudiated in public before to-day. If the report is not true, it should have been repudiated at once. Accepting the Minister’s statement as- a model of accuracy, I can say only that ‘the newspaper concerned, if it did what has been alleged, was guilty not only of the utmost irresponsibility, but of exceedingly dastardly conduct. Tt acted in a dastardly manner to the Brigadier and in a mischievous manner to the people of Australia by creating fears that could be groundless. A statement of that kind, emanating from a man in the position of responsibility occupied by Brigadier Wardell, must carry great weight in the community.
The matter cannot be permitted to rest where it is. The Melbourne “ Herald “ is faced with a flat contradiction of its report. lt is not a question of the report being inaccurate in one particular or in two particulars. As I gather from the Minister’s reply, this is not a case of misrepresentation. It is claimed that the statement alleged to have been made by Brigadier Wardell was not made by him. lt is denied, word for word. That puts the responsible journal clearly in the position before the public of Australia of answering it. That is its task, and I shall be interested to see the outcome.
I suspend all judgment as to the merits of the matter, but I point out to the Minister that 1 did more than read what Brigadier Wardell said. 1 and other honorable senators have asked how that £70,000 will be expended. Just tell us what is the break-up of that amount. I asked in particular what was to be done about the distribution of literature to the public; and 1 ask him now some of the questions that were posed in that article. Does the Government agree that a high percentage of our population, namely 10 per cent., would need to be trained in order to have effective civil defence in this country? Does he feel that the training of far fewer personnel would be adequate? If so, how many? The Minister owes it to the Senate and to the country to indicate beyond any doubt, on behalf of the Government, what the plans are, which way are they shaping beyond the training of a veritable handful of personnel at Macedon from time to time. Are there any plans? If so, what are they? These are questions which interest every Australian. It is not mere curiosity on my part, as Leader of the Opposition in either a personal or representative capacity. I ask these questions on behalf of all the people in Australia who are interested. Is it true that all that we have is a committee in each State, a committee at Canberra and a training school for a few personnel at Macedon? If that is not true, what are the facts? What does the Government propose to do? What is the overall plan? How extensive is it? Is it confined to this year only, or does the plan project beyond this year into future years? The Minister must give the Senate some details of what is contemplated. We have had nothing from him on the subject to-day other than a statement about the repudiation by Brigadier Wardell of the statement attributed to him in the Melbourne “ Herald “.
Although I rose mainly to deal with that particular matter, I should like to direct the Minister’s attention to what appears to be one great piece of procrastination on the part of his Government. I refer to the F.N. rifle and point out to him that on 16th September last, in the House of Representatives, the then Minister for Defence Production, Sir Eric Harrison, informed the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) that orders had been placed for the new standard service rifle which would be manufactured at Lithgow. His exact words are reported on page 1328 of “ Hansard “.
– That matter really comes under another item to be discussed later.
– Then, I shall not say any more at this stage.
– I rise to make an immediate apology. Honorable senators will understand that a Minister in the Senate who represents a Minister in the House of Representatives is at some disadvantage when he has to send to that Minister for replies to questions that may be asked. I took that course in connexion with the newspaper article quoted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and honestly thought that the message I received from the officer was to the effect that the newspaper article was entirely incorrect. The officer who sent the message tells me that the phrase he used was that the facts presented by Brigadier Wardell’s statement were “ not entirely correct “. He tells me that that is what Mr. Fairhall asked him to convey to me. The mistake is undoubtedly mine, and I offer my apology.
– I compliment the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) upon his activity and zeal in organizing and administering the department during the current year. He has now been elevated to Cabinet rank and in him we have a man with a well-ordered mind trained in both the law and economics, a man eminently suited to the important task of administering the Department of Primary Industry.
In my view, the expenditure by this department on some of its publications is completely justified. I refer in particular to the “ Fisheries Newsletter “ and to the book that the department has prepared for use in each State where dairying is carried on. I refer also to the booklet prepared by the former Department of Commerce and Agriculture in connexion with taxation as it affects the primary producer, and I assume that the Department of Primary Industry will take over the responsibility for that booklet and bring it up to date.
Now that the Minister has received full Cabinet recognition, there might be greater opportunity for closer co-operation and coordination with his Cabinet colleague, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). In my opinion, imaginative taxation could lead to increased primary production with consequent indirect reward to the Department of Primary Industry by way of an increase in the value of Australian production. I should like this afternoon to plead for the fishing industry in connexion with taxation. The Minister for Primary Industry could well take this matter up with the Treasurer. I am amazed to know that fishermen are not looked upon, for taxation purposes, as primary producers. Under the taxation law, they are looked upon as hunters, miners or some other such thing. It is hard to see the reason for this. I should say that if any one is a primary producer it is the fisherman. Yet, under our taxation law he is not entitled to a 20 per cent, special deduction for depreciation, nor is he permitted to average his income.
I should like the Minister to bring the matter to the notice of the Treasurer. I suggest also that the Department of Primary Industry could well co-operate with the States in looking after the interests of fishermen. In most branches of primary industry, the States, which are the sovereign owners, as it were, of the land upon which primary industries are conducted, are drawn into the net of co-operation with the Department of Primary Industry, but there seems to be very little co-operation under such a set-up in relation to fishermen between the department and the State authorities which own the jetties, slipways, and other facilities necessary to the fishing industry. There would be a great expansion in the fishing industry if that were done, and I know that this industry is a particular concern of the Minister. In the “ Fisheries Newsletter “ published by the Minister, the problems of the industry are documented and valuable advice is given to fishermen, but I hope that when the Minister is negotiating with the State fisheries authorities he will try to do something to ensure that the Commonwealth will provide money for the States to expend on jetties, slipways and other structures of that sort which will benefit fishermen. I believe that there is vast untapped wealth in the sea, and I am glad that an energetic Minister is in charge of this important department.
– I appreciate the difficulties in which any Minister in this chamber who represents a Minister elsewhere is faced. The Minister has my sympathy because I have sat in his position and I know his difficulties. However, I should have thought that in the light of the comment of Brigadier Wardell the Minister or his officers might have been well briefed in that matter, and I can understand how the error occurred. But in view of the gravity of the comments of Brigadier Wardell, the Minister should say which of those statements contains an element of inaccuracy so that we may know which is accurate.
Is it true that plans have been with the Government for more than a year and that no decision has been made? Is that one of the statements that is not wholly correct? I consider that the Minister should answer those questions. What does the Minister say regarding the comment attributed to Brigadier Wardell that it would be necessary, for safety’s sake, to train at least 10,000 of our people, and that it would take three years to do that? Is that statement correct or incorrect? I think it is right that Brigadier Wardell’s position should be made quite clear, and if the latter statement that I refer to is true, I ask the Government when it will make a real start on that job. Again I point out to the Minister - and I am doing this for the third time - that 1 am asking him to tell the committee how the proposed vote of ?70,000 will be spent, and what are the plans of the Government, if any, regarding civil defence. I have asked that question for the third time in the last hour, and although the Minister has risen twice in that time he has not yet answered the question.
– I wish to refer to a matter that has caused some concern in Western Australia. It may be found in the Estimates lor the Department of Primary Industry, and it concerns the arrears of rates upon properties that have been selected as war service land settlement farms under the grant from the Commonwealth administered by the States. There are a number of cases where properties have been abandoned and rates are owing on them. 1 have been informed by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) that the Commonwealth accepts no responsibility in relation to these rates. The Commonwealth, in effect, passes the buck to the Stale governments, and I suggest that the whole matter needs investigation - not only from the State angle but also from the Commonwealth angle. 1 request the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), who represents the Minister for Primary Industry, to consider this matter, because many local authorities are complaining that they are not in fact collecting rates that should be paid by somebody. The rates cannot be paid by the person who has abandoned the property, and it therefore becomes a question of whether the Commonwealth or the States should pay. While 1 do not suggest that the Commonwealth is entirely responsible, I do say that the Commonwealth has a responsibility to ascertain as between the State and the Commonwealth which should pay these rates. It is not fair, either morally or any other way, that local authorities should have to bear the burden of unpaid rates.
– I desire to address myself to the Department of Primary Industry. I was interested to note that Senator Laught complimented the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) on his administration of the department. Senator. Laught may be correct as far as the administration of the fishing industry is concerned, but I cannot agree with him about the administration of timber. Timber is a primary product, and in connexion with it I draw honorable senators’ attention to a report which appeared in the “ Mercury “, of 20th October, 1956. It reads -
Tasmania’s timber markets are being seriously threatened by importations of Malayan-Borneo timbers, particularly in South Australia and Victoria.
The chairman of the Tasmanian Timber Association (Mr. G. B. Leitch) told members this at the annual meeting in Launceston yesterday.
Mr. Leitch said that MalayanBorneo timber was being marketed in direct competition with Tasmania’s, and was underselling it.
Malayan-Borneo timber was produced by coolie labour at about ?5 6s. a week of 48 hours,’ -and was being freighted to Australian ports at rates comparable with and less than Tasmania’s freight costs to the same ports.
Another statement, attributed to Mr. Orchard, M.L.C., the one-time manager of the Tasmanian Timber Association, appeared in the “ Mercury “ of 19th October, 1956. It reads -
Excessive freights caused by out-of-date ships and inefficient waterfront labour were jeopardizing a profitable and efficient timber industry worth millions of pounds in Tasmania, Mr. Orchard, M.L.C., said yesterday.
He said that the industry - the only justification for Tasmania’s very large annual forestry expenditurehad been dealt a serious blow by excessive freights. “ Competition of quality timbers imported into Australia, especially from the near North, togethewith the decline in building demands for timber, have created a situation where an increase in the already high freights represents a most serious blow “, he said. “The critical position of the Tasmanian timbeindustry, subjected to still another freight increase, should occupy the immediate attention of industrialists and all parliamentarians regardless of party or House.” 1 have not read the whole of that report. I merely draw the committee’s attention to the part of it which has some bearing on the report which appeared on 20th October and which I have already read. 1 agree completely that this matter should occupy the immediate attention of all parliamentarians, regardless of party or House. 1 suggest that we should put our weight behind this matter and endeavour to have the Tasmanian timber industry put on a more stable footing. During the past’ few years the output of the Tasmanian timber industry has increased considerably. In 1953-54, Tasmania exported 56,695,553 super, feet of timber, while, in 1954-55, it exported 61,793,898 super, feet. That is an increase of 5,098,345 super, feet. 1 have not the figure for 1955-56, but 1 am quite confident that the production in that year exceeded the production in 1954-55.
It was only very recently - in fact, a few weeks ago - that a measure was introduced into this chamber to provide that timber from Papua and New Guinea shall be admitted to Australia duty free.
I come now to the importation of plywood. As I have mentioned, it was recommended that 12,000,000 square feet of ply board should be imported into Australia annually. But a further increase is to be sought. No limitation has been placed on the quantity of logs, spars, sawn and dressed timber that may be imported. I myself am not greatly concerned about the present rate of importation of logs and spars, because the necessity for the logs to be cut, and the timber dressed and marketed will provide a certain amount of employment. But if we allow unlimited quantities of logs and spars to be imported, there will be a considerable effect on employment in this country.
A few moments ago, I cited figures in relation to the production of and export of timber from Tasmania. At present, there are 347 timber mills operating in that State, employing 2,400 men. They are direct employees of the timber industry. In addition, office, administrative and other staff are engaged. I think a very conservative estimate of the total number of employees in the timber industry in Tasmania would be 4,000. The value of the plant employed in the timber industry in Tasmania is about £2,000,000, and the approximate amount paid in wages in 1954-55 was £1,719,700. I warn the Government that unless assistance is provided to the timber industry in Tasmania, there will be considerable unemployment.
Earlier in my remarks, I referred to the wages that are paid for coolie labour in Malaya and Borneo, which average about £5 6s. a week. In contrast, the No. 1 sawyer in Tasmania, who is regarded as being one of the top men in the industry, receives a wage of about £16 10s. a week. Therefore, the wage differential is considerable. According to the “ Overseas Trade Bulletin” for 1955-56. 3,448,000 super, feet of logs not sawn, including spars in the rough, was imported into Australia from overseas countries. In addition, large quantities of hardwoods were imported from New Guinea, Borneo, the Solomon Islands and other British countries. These constitute a large proportion of our timber imports. I am concerned mainly with the imports of timber from Borneo and New Guinea. In 1955-56, we imported 29,903 super, feet of hardwood from Borneo, and slightly more than 2,000,000 super, feet from New Guinea. All in all, the importation of hardwood into Australia in 1955-56 totalled 34,437,809 super, feet. In the same year, we imported 5,177,859 super, feet of undressed timber from Canada, South Africa and other countries. In that year, also, we imported 170,399,151 super, feet of Douglas fir from Canada, New Zealand, Indonesia and the United States of America. We also imported large quantities of timber from other British countries, Brazil and Indonesia, totalling. 51,721,000 super, feet, and imports from Borneo, Hong Kong, Malaya and a few other places amounted to 48,326,000 super, feet. I contend that if we continue to import such vast quantities of timber, considerable unemployment will result in this country.
– And we will have a lot more houses.
– I trust that the newly appointed Minister for Customs and Excise . (Senator Henty), who is a fellow Tasmanian, will have regard to the possibility of unemployment developing in the timber industry. I am sure that he appreciates the precarious position of this important Tas manian industry.
– I rise merely to explain the purpose of the proposed vote of £70,000 for civil defence, about which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) asked questions.
– Can the Minister tell us of the Government’s projected plan for civil defence?
– The amount of £70,000 is required for the maintenance and operation of the civil defence school, which is located at Mount Macedon, in
Victoria. In the past, officers were sent overseas for training in civil defence; they have now been brought home and are stationed at this school. It is intended to train in civil defence, at this school, as many people as possible from all States, and it is expected that they, in due course, will undertake the training of people in the localities in which they live. As the Leader of the Opposition probably already knows, it is intended that, in the near future. a number of parliamentarians shall attend a course at Mount Macedon.
The Leader of the Opposition has inquired about the Government’s plan for civil defence. I can only repeat what I told him earlier during the debate, that the Government’s plan is following the course that was recommended by the defence chiefs. When further decisions are taken in relation to the civil defence plan, probably later in the year, it might be necessary for the Government to seek an additional appropriation for this purpose.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
Proposed Vote, £150,000.
Department of Shipping and Transport.
Proposed Vote, £1,139,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of
Shipping and Transport.
Proposed Vote, £2,035,000.
Proposed Vote, £3,697,000.
Department of Immigration.
Proposed Vote, £1,862,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of
Proposed Vote, £8,062,000.
Defence Services - Department of Defence Production.
Proposed Vote, £19,891,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– Under the proposed vote for the Department of Shipping and Transport I cannot see any amount set aside for the purpose of subsidizing purchases of ships by private interests. I understand a discount of 33-J per cent, is allowed in such cases. From the programme which the Minister announced yesterday, in reply to a question asked by Senator Kennelly, some of the shipyards will be completing their programmes within another year or two. They do not appear to plan their programmes far enough ahead to give their employees the assurance that they will be kept in continuous employment in shipyards.
That brings me to the point I wish to raise. During recent years the Government has issued numerous permits to shipowners for the purchase of ships overseas. For the life of me I cannot understand why this has been done when the nation is short of overseas funds. We are not able to supply sufficient sterling to importers to purchase vital necessities, and although we have in Australia adequate facilities to build all the ships we need, the Government has allowed shipowners to purchase from overseas ships costing up to £1,000,000 each. The Government is prohibiting the people of Australia from purchasing vital materials and is not allowing importers to bring into Australia things that have been imported over a number of years. Yet, at the same time, it is allowing shipowners to contract overseas, to the extent of hundreds of thousands of pounds for the construction of ships that could be built in Australia.
Other nations pay substantial subsidies to their shipyards in order to build up a potential shipbuilding industry which can be used in time of emergency. Here in Australia we are not building more than 30,000 tons of shipping a year, although this is an island continent dependent on shipping to a very great extent. We are allowing our shipyards to get into the position where they cannot plan a forward programme; we are not attempting to develop a strong industry. Although we have all the requirements necessary to manufacture ships in Australia we are allowing shipowners to purchase from overseas. I should like the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) to inform the Senate what amount the Government proposes to set aside this year by way of subsidy to shipowners who buy their ships outside . Australia when they ought to be buying them in Australia? What is it costing us in overseas funds to purchase ships which could well be manufactured in Australia? If we had a patriotic group of shipowners they would be more interested in the welfare of this nation than in their own profits.
Senator McCALLUM (New South Wales) 1 8.4]. - Having been one of a party that recently travelled over the trans-Australian railway, with the object of inquiring into certain problems about which I will not speak at this moment, I found that service equal to anything in the world as regards track, rolling-stock and management. If there is one thing of which this country can be proud it is that great railway, and I congratulate the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) and his predecessors on that fact.
– I desire to refer to the proposed vote for the Commonwealth railways. I hope the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) will pay attention to my remarks. It is difficult to reconcile some of the figures cited during this debate with those contained in the very good report of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner which was recently presented in the Senate. It is an excellent report and a rarity among reports that are placed before the Parliament. In previous reports the Commissioner instanced the difficulty he has experienced in securing adequate labour for the efficient working of the Central Australia railway, the trans-Australian railway and the North Australia railway. I note with some concern a decrease of approximately £125,000 in the amount allocated for the maintenance this year of the Central Australia railway.
The Minister will recall that on numerous occasions honorable senators on this side of the chamber, and myself in particular, have directed attention to the state of the rollingstock and the permanent way; and his answer has invariably been that little could be done because of the shortage of labour. To-day, men in every State are looking for jobs. In view of the availability of labour, I wonder why the proposed vote for the maintenance of this railway has been decreased. The time is opportune for putting this section of the Commonwealth railways, and in fact every other section, in order.
If that were done, we could expect an increase in the profits that have been disclosed by the Commissioner in his report. Can the Minister give any reason why, particularly in connexion with the Central Australia railway, on which so much work needs to be done, the proposed vote has been reduced? A new line is in operation from Stirling North to Brachina. Yet, we have a decrease in the amount to be allocated for the maintenance of these railways, notwithstanding the fact that labour is now available. As I have said, the Minister and his predecessors have stated that these jobs could not be done because sufficient labour was not available.
– I should like to make one or two comments in regard to miscellaneous services of the Department of Immigration. First, I congratulate the Immigration Department and its officers on the excellent job they have done in this particular field. During the term of office of the former Minister for Immigration (Mr. Harold Holt) and his predecessors, a tremendous amount of work has been done which has meant a great deal to this country as well as to the people who have come to live among us. I feel we should pay a tribute to the department and all its officers, who have not only carried out a very excellent job in their field of occupation, but have also carried it out in a very humane way. They have appreciated the human problems, and have always done their best to help.
I pay a special tribute to the welfare officers on the immigrant ships. When I was in Opposition, and there were only three of us, I frequently suggested the need for women welfare officers on the ships. The need has been proved since then by the work that those officers have done on ships travelling to Australia. I have been fortunate enough to know a number of those women very well. Few of us realize the exacting task that is theirs. The sea journey from England to Australia is a long one, with few ports of call. They have to be available at any hour of the day or night to care for immigrants. Often there are cases of illness, and there are large numbers of children requiring attention. They do very fine work during the voyage in explaining to immigrants the living conditions in Australia, the education facilities that are available, and in generally dispensing information about Australia. I congratulate the Government upon continuing this work.
I notice that £80,000 is to be provided for migration publicity. This is very important, because intending migrants must be told what Australia has to offer. They must also understand the problems that they will have to face, and we have to supply them with all the information they require so that they will not suffer heartbreak and disappointment. Welfare officers who have travelled on the ships have told me that many male immigrants have asked for a handy booklet on primary production. The State governments have been helpful in that field, but I believe that there is still room for a good publication on rural conditions in Australia. Many British immigrants are interested in primary production. The literature that is distributed is very good, but we need more of it to give immigrants a true picture of conditions for men on the land.
I am also pleased that the Government will continue the grants to the Good Neighbour Councils, the Good Settlers Leagues and other similar organizations. They do very valuable work in promoting the assimilation of immigrants. 1 direct attention to the provision for the education of non-British migrants in the English language. The proposed vote is £350,000. Valuable work is being done in that field. We Australians should do our best to assist new Australians to settle happily in Australia, and particularly to help them to learn the English language. 1 make a special plea for the older women, who do not go out to work and meet Australians as a child does at school, or as younger men and women do at work. They have not so much contact with other people, and they have great difficulty in learning English. 1 notice that last year £60,000 was voted for child migration, British and foreign, and actual expenditure was £37,045. The proposed vote this year is £37,200. I should be interested to know how many child immigrants arrived in Australia last year, how many were British, and how many of foreign nationality, and how many arrived in Australia without their parents. Possibly, some of them have come to Australia through the Fairbridge Farm scheme, the
Shaftesbury Homes or similar organizations. I should like to know how many child immigrants were brought to Australia by those organizations. 1 have seen much of the work that is done by them in Australia and overseas, and it is an important field in child migration. I believe that all Australians welcome migrant families, and like to see children settling happily in Australia.
I notice that £12,000 is to be provided for assimilation activities. Does that mean the immigrants are being assimilated through organizations, or by some form of training? Last year, £1,000 was provided for the relief and repatriation of distressed Australians abroad. This year, there is no vole for that purpose, but I am sure that if there were any distressed Australians abroad, they would be given the necessary relief and repatriation.
.- I wish to speak on railways, and I remind honorable senators that, on various occasions, a railway link between Birdum and Dajarra, in Queensland, has been suggested in this chamber. I was astonished when I read, in a pocket compendium of the “Australian Year Book” for 1956, which contains statistics for 1954-55, that, in terms of money, meat was the second most valuable export from Australia.
– What did the honorable senator say?
– Yes, it is most remarkable. To be quite honest, I, and almost everybody else, would have said that wheat was the greatest export, but the fact is that the value of meat exported in 1954-55 was £63,486,000, and of wheat £45,220,000. Of course, wool was on its own. It will be remembered that earlier this year the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Bill was passed in an effort to ensure that secondary industries found a market, and the first report that is submitted on the results of that scheme will be interesting to read. The people of Britain need meat, and I believe that that country has a ready market.
If we are to develop Australia, the con struction of a railway from Birdum to Dajarra should receive serious consideration. Every one has read, either in magazines or in feature articles in the press, about the long treks that cattle have to undertake to get to the markets, and we have some knowledge, however meagre, of the beef that is flown to Wyndham, in Western Australia. I believe that now is the time to develop. It is of no use for us to sit here and listen to reports about the number of people who are in receipt of unemployment relief benefit; I think all of us have seen persons from overseas, most of whom are unskilled, walking the city streets. More than passing interest ought to be shown in this project 1 have mentioned. It would be far better for us to do something to increase our exports and to improve the balance of payments position, even though only to a small degree, than to go to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and borrow 50,000,000 dollars. It would be far better to construct this railway line in order to get the cattle to the great meatworks of northern Queensland in better condition and thus increase our meat exports, than to borrow overseas. lt is not my wish to play off one Stale against another. The fact is that we are here to help in the development of this country, and we ought to be willing to do it irrespective of which State is involved. Before reading the Year Book compendium I would have lost some money, if I may use that term in this chamber, because T should have thought that wheat was the most valuable export. The construction of a railway line between Birdum and Dajarra would enable us to develop the meat industry and produce more meat for a ready market, because I am hoping that the export payments insurance scheme will be a success. However, we must wait and see.
The second matter about which I wish to speak is immigration. No one would be foolish enough to say that we must not populate this country, but there are certain times at which that should be done. I believe that at the present time we should be extremely careful in our immigration programme. It is easy to be wise after the event but, to be quite candid, I am pleased that there has been a reduction of the intake of immigrants for this year. Some people might say, and rightly so, that, if we do not take immigrants now, we might not get them when we want them and when it is more convenient. I believe that any person who has to be hungry in any part of the world would much prefer to be hungry in his own country. 1 am not suggesting that there are thousands and thousands of immigrants out of work, but in the big cities, particularly of Victoria, there are more immigrants unemployed than I or any other honorable senator on either side of the chamber would like to see. I am pleased that in certain instances immigration is now more selective. I understand that the department is allowing husbands and wives and families to be reunited in this country.
I regret that I have not with me the figures I had last year when I spoke about the health of immigrants. It is not of much consolation to me to be told that the incidence of tuberculosis and mental illness amongst the immigrants is no higher or is very little higher than amongst our own people. I have collected statistics for five States, but the reason why I am not quoting them is that I was waiting for the figures relating to the sixth State and I left the others in Melbourne. However, the incidence of those two diseases is rather startling. I believe we should welcome these people in their numbers, particularly when we can find sufficient useful work for them, but we as a nation should welcome them here on condition that they have a clean bill of health. I repeat that it is of no use to tell me that the incidence of those two diseases is not much higher than, or is just about as high as it is amongst our own people. We all hope that the present state of the economy will not last long, but no one can gainsay that Australia’s economy is more or less on the brink of a precipice.
Senaor Scott. - Ah!
– Oh, yes, it is. One bad season could reduce our national income to a very appreciable degree, and I should say that that would give our economy a great set-back. We have been a most fortunate people, and I join with every other honorable senator in hoping that we shall continue to be fortunate. The number of good seasons that we have had lately is well above the average. The last bad season or partially bad season was in 1945.
– That applies to the southern half of the continent - very much so.
– I accept that. There may come a time when, to be fair to ourselves, we shall have to be a little more hard-hearted and a little more selective than we have been. 1 do not want to see discrimination between the peoples of one country and another. I hope that every immigrant who comes here will turn out to be a useful citizen of Australia, but, to be quite honest, I am somewhat perturbed by the small number of immigrants applying for naturalization. I want to see more immigrants naturalized. If a person from another country takes Australia as his country of adoption, he has a responsibility to us, as we have to him. Our responsibility is to help the immigrant as much as we can by working with the Good Neighbour Councils to break down any class or race prejudices that we may have. We say to the immigrant, “ Conditions here are good. Those conditions were not lightly won. We expect you to do the right thing. If you do, you will be one of us “. We expect him to show that he wants to become one of us by acknowledging Australia as his country. 1 believe that the time has passed for bringing to Australia great boatloads of people without skill. In saying that, I do not want to hurt anybody’s feelings. Where are the jobs now for people without skill? I am not unmindful of the part that the immigrants who came here in 1949 and 1950 have played in the production of cement, timber, bricks and other things. But for their services, it would have taken this country many more years to get back to a normal footing. I give credit to the immigrants who came here in those years and also to those who arrived later for the work that they have done in putting the country on a peace-time footing.
I have no wish to indulge in carping criticism of the previous Minister for Immigration (Mr. Harold Holt) or his predecessors, but I often wonder whether the Department of Immigration is the only department which can decide whether Mr. A in Italy shall be allowed to come to Australia. I do not think that it is. I believe there is an overriding authority, but I suppose that I look at the matter differently from honorable senators opposite.
– Which department is it?
– I invite Senator Gorton to think. 1 like to be candid, so I shall say what is in my mind. In the last elections in Italy, Communist party candidates and Social Democrat party candidates received 59 per cent, or 60 per cent, of the total number of votes cast. I want to know where the Italian radicals are in the many thousands of Italian nationals who have come to this country. I feel that there is an authority that can override the Department of Immigration and decide that Mr. A or Mr. B shall not be allowed to come to Australia.
– The honorable senator does not want any help in radicalism.
– I like as much of it as 1 can get. I sincerely hope that no person is being prevented from coming to this country because he has radical views. From what 1 have read, 1 do not think it would be proper to put the majority of the Italians who vote for Communist party candidates in Italy in the same category as the Communists in other countries.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I want to refer to the Commonwealth railways. I am sure that every honorable senator shares my view that the Commonwealth railways have done excellent work for the nation. They are very important to Western Australia as a link with the other States, but the service provided, although efficient and good, is inadequate. I hasten to add that that is no fault of the administration. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and his staff are very efficient. That is proved by the balance sheet for this year, which reveals that the services have made a profit.
Many people who wish to travel by the trans-Australia railway have to wait for considerable periods to get a booking. Very often, it is impossible to book a berth. Rolling-stock is inadequate in quantity and, in some cases, is out of date. I should like the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) to tell me whether provision has been made in the Estimates for the replacement of out-of-date rolling-stock with rolling-stock of up-to-date design and for the purchase of additional rolling-stock.
I should like to know also whether diesel locomotives and new passenger coaches have been ordered, so that we may continue to enjoy services of the high standard of efficiency to which we have become accustomed.
Tasmania receives a lot of consideration from the Commonwealth because of the disabilities under which it labours in connexion with transport services and transport charges, and I am pleased that such consideration is extended to it. But Western Australia is far more isolated from the heavily populated centres of Australia than is Tasmania. It, too, labours under serious disadvantages as a result of high transport charges. 1 do not think that the Minister for Shipping and Transport is unmindful of those disadvantages, but I regret that not enough is being done to help Western Australia to overcome them. Therefore, I shall be most interested to know whether it is intended to acquire for the Commonwealth railways additional passenger coaches of the standard to which we have been accustomed. More of them are needed. 1 should like to know the arrangements that have been made to acquire diesel locomotives to pull passenger coaches and goods wagons. Are they being built in Australia, or shall we have to buy them from overseas?
The proposed vote for the Department of Shipping and Transport reveals that Tasmanian shipping services are being subsidized to the extent of about £500,000 a year. In 1955-56, £477,400 was appropriated for that purpose, and all but a little over £1,000 was spent. I am pleased that Tasmania is receiving that assistance, but I point out that for a decade the Minister for Shipping anc! Transport, together with other Western Australian senators, has been trying to get a reasonable shipping service for Western Australia. Representations have been made, not only to this Government but also to the preceding Labour government. - The State Government has arranged for certain shipping services to serve the northern part of the State, but, to overcome the disabilities from which Western Australians suffer as a result of their geographical isolation from the eastern States - there are many hundreds of miles of desert - more efficient and better shipping services are required. The State Government has a scheme for heavy development in the area of Esperance and
Albany, but the progress of the scheme is being retarded because transport facilities at present are not good enough to make it an economic proposition. I understand the State Government is contemplating the establishment of a superphosphates works and other industries at Esperance. If this step is to be encouraged, we must have early and favorable assurances in connexion with shipping freights.
I should like some information from the Minister as to what improvements we can expect in shipping services to Esperance and Albany and as to whether the Commonwealth Government will consider granting to Western Australia a subsidy on shipping freights equal to that enjoyed by Tasmania. The State Government is endeavouring to encourage the establishment of secondary industries in Western Australia. It is doing, as much as it can also to induce the people on the home market to buy goods produced in Western Australia and we want to be able to engage in at least reciprocal trade with the eastern States. I understand that in Western Australia we can produce and market goods at a lower cost than can be done by the eastern States. In some cases the goods we produce are superior in quality, and 1 know that contracts have been entered into for the delivery of a considerable quantity of Western Australian goods to South Australia if we can only overcome the handicap of heavy shipping freights. Another factor, of course, is that the industries of that State are not highly capitalized. I urge the Minister to do all he can te ensure that Western Australia shall be given both improved shipping services and a freight subsidy equal to that granted to Tasmania.
.- As, a member of the Immigration Advisory Council, I wish to refute certain statements that have been made to-night about immigration. It has been stated that sufferers from mental neurosis and tuberculosis are being allowed to enter Australia because immigrants are not properly screened as to health. I emphasize that if there is one government department which is doing, excellent work, it is the Immigration Department; and the Government can justly feel proud of the efficiency and enthusiasm of its officers. In an undertaking of the magnitude of our immigration programme, we cannot expect everything to be 100 per cent.; but the department makes every possible effort to screen prospective immigrants for such complaints as mental neurosis and tuberculosis. The department lays particular emphasis on those two diseases. If an immigrant should develop either complaint some time after having entered this country, it. is not because of any fault on the part of the department. In any event, if I remember rightly, the incidence of these two diseases is no greater among immigrants than it is among Australian-born citizens, and I am confident that Senator Kennelly has misinterpreted the facts.
Unfortunately, if an immigrant develops a complaint, such as mental neurosis or tuberculosis, or if he does anything wrong, that fact is featured in the press with the result that Australians are prone to gain the impression that these things are more common among immigrants than among the native-born population. I know that many Australians believe that the incidence of crime among immigrants is greater than among native-born Australians; but statistics prove that that is not so. I remind honorable senators also that a committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Dovey, which was appointed by the Immigration Advisory Council to inquire into this matter, found that crime is not more prevalent among immigrants than among native-born Australians.
It has been suggested that as some immigrants come from Communist-controlled countries we may be getting a certain number of Communists among them. I emphasize that in this respect also the department subjects prospective immigrants to the tightest possible screening with a view to ensuring that they are neither Communists nor agents of subversive organizations.
– It has been suggested by some that not enough Communists are coming to this country.
– The fewer Communists we have here the better it will be for this country.
– Who is the honorable senator trying to kid?
– I make no bones about stating my attitude on that point. I repeat that the tightest possible screening is applied by the department in order to guard against the entry of such people. Most honorable senators will agree that, when they have made representations on behalf of immigrants who wish to bring out their relatives, they have often had the greatest possible difficulty in obtaining permission for those people to come here because the department is in possession of knowledge which renders the prospective immigrants undesirable to Australia. Perhaps, at times, honorable senators have thought that the department has been overcareful in its screening. I emphasize again that, if anything, the department is overcautious, and that is a good policy. I can assure honorable senators that the department agrees only to the entry of people who it is satisfied are in good health and are neither Communists nor agents of subversive organizations.
The immigration policy at present in operation has been carried on by one government after another, and it is to the credit of the Ministers of both Labour and Liberal-Australian Country party governments that the scheme has proved so successful. Both Mr. Calwell and Mr. Harold Holt have played no mean part in building up the excellent immigration policy pursued by this country. Whilst some of us might disagree as to who should come and who should not, we must all agree that tremendous development has taken place under the scheme and that in the long run Australia will benefit from it because it must lead to the building up of a virile population which is essential to the wellbeing of any country. In those circumstances, it is my firm belief that the Government should continue with its present mmigration policy at a rate at which mmigrants can be absorbed and placed in employment. I congratulate the Department of Immigration, and I congratulate its officers on the enthusiasm and courtesy which they have displayed towards the immigrants that have entered this country. One hears very little criticism of that department from any source, and as far as the immigrants are concerned, I have yet to hear one word of serious criticism from any of the million or so immigrants who are now in Australia. I shall continue to support the immigration policy of this Government, and I sincerely hope that it will continue to pay dividends by bringing in more and more and better and better immigrants to take part in our future development.
– I desire to refer to two matters within the jurisdiction of the Department of Defence Production. They are the production of the FN.30 rifle and the production of aircraft in Australia. In the history of both of these items we can read the same sorry story of inaction and delay that has already been told this afternoon about our civil defence. I wish to take the minds of honorable senators back to 16th September, 1954, when the then Minister for Defence Production, Sir Eric Harrison, said - . . we have already placed orders for the new standard service rifles, which will be manufactured at Lithgow. 1 remind the committee again that those words were spoken more than two years ago, and that it was a positive statement by the responsible Minister that orders for the rifle had been placed with the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. On 10th October last, Sir Eric Harrison indicated that the Small Arms Factory was tooling up. He said - . . the factory is tooling op for production of the FN.30 rifle.
Honorable senators will remember that two years before the order had been placed - according to the Minister - but at the end of two years he said that the factory was tooling up. I invite the committee to note particularly those two statements. Quite recently, on 11th September, he said -
The drawings of the rifle, which was conceived in Belgium are being altered from the metric system to the British system in Canada, and until the changes are approved the drawings will not be sealed. The sealed drawings have been awaited for a much longer time than we originally expected we should have to wait. We have purchased a number of the rifles, and have handfabricated certain parts at Lithgow.
On the same day, Sir Eric Harrison indicated that it would be another two years before we received the sealed patterns of the FN.30 rifle. That is a sorry record. Two years ago orders were placed, and now we are told that we shall have to wait another two years for plans. However, it is said that in the meantime we are tooling up. I ask Senator Paltridge, who is in charge of this part of the schedule, whether the statement that they are tooling up at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory is correct. I submit that it is not, and that it is impossible that it should be. Will the Minister tell the committee how there could be tooling up in the factory in respect of an item of production for which they have not received the drawings? They do not know the bore and gauge of the rifle. The point that I make is that to alter the drawings from the metric system to our system should take no longer than two hours - not two years. I remind the committee that the Minister has admitted that he has bought rifles which were manufactured in Canada. If Canada can make them, then surely we can make them at Lithgow, where we have a factory which is famous for the excellence and precision of the small arms that it turns out.
Why should there be all this delay? Why must we wait another two years for sealed drawings? I assert on very reliable authority that already at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory they have made hundreds of drawings for the parts of the FN.30 rifle, and I should like to know whether the Government has even made a firm decision to adopt that rifle for the Australian forces. No rifles have been manufactured at Lithgow in recent years, as the Minister for Defence Production indicated; the factory has merely been engaged on repairing .303 rifles and other equipment. What is the plan for the rifle in Australia, and when are we to get some action in connexion with this important unit of equipment? It is an exceedingly sad story of inaction and delay, and leaves a great deal of uneasiness in the minds of the people because of its bearing upon our defences.
On 2nd October last, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that the defences of Australia had never been in better shape in peace-time, and yet we do not know what kind of rifle our forces will use. Two years ago, orders were placed, but the sealed drawings are not yet available, and we are now told that it will be two years before we get them. Who is proud of such a record? How are we to equip our Australian forces, and with what? Are we to equip them with out-dated rifles? What is the Government’s policy regarding, the manufacture of the FN. 30 rifle? 1 suspect that there has been vacillation and delay about that, and I do not believe that firm orders have been placed even yet. In fact, practically nothing has been done about the weapon. The matter has been allowed to drift, and it is a disgrace to this Government that, after two years, its Ministers stand up and say in the Parliament that we have to wait two more years for plans of the rifle, when Canada is already manufacturing these weapons and we have bought some from that country.
– It is certainly disgraceful.
– Yes, it is. Will the Minister tell us what is the difficulty in getting sealed drawings when the rifle is already in production in another British Dominion?
– What is a sealed drawing?
– I am asking the Minister that question. If the rifles are being manufactured in Canada, they can certainly be manufactured at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. Not only are we concerned about this matter from the viewpoint of the defence of Australia, but we are also concerned about the effect that the Government’s action has had on employment in Lithgow. Employment other than at the small arms factory is not readily available at Lithgow, and I lay at the door of the Government responsibility for all the unemployment in that town. There are skilled tradesmen and other workers available at Lithgow, but this Government lacks the energy and ability to make a decision and get something done.
– The Government has done a fair bit since it assumed office.
– I am talking about the FN.30 rifle. I now pass to the second matter that I wish to place before the committee, and it concerns aircraft production. On 11th September last, the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) made a pronouncement in the Parliament about the state of Australia’s defences. He indicated what was being done in the field of aircraft production which, as everybody will agree, must play a vital part in the defence of this country. He said then -
The Government has supported a policy of development of the Australian aircraft industry.
There was no word about the delaying of that programme - not a word on 11th September about the cutting down of aircraft production; just a proud statement that this Government had facilitated aircraft production, leaving very clearly the impression that that activity would be continued. Then we come to the statement made on 10th October. In the meantime, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), after first announcing, as I indicated a moment ago, that our defences were never in better shape, said two days later that they were to be reviewed from top to bottom. That review took place within a week, and then the then Minister for Defence Production, Sir Eric Harrison, made a statement in the Parliament, in the course of which he said this -
The Government and the services are exercising caution before embarking on new production programmes in the ordnance and aircraft factories. Consequently, there must be some immediate retrenchment in the various Government munitions and aircraft establishments. This is a period of consolidation.
I invite the Minister to tell us what Sir Eric Harrison meant by the term “ a period of consolidation “. It has been a period of inaction, and we have now reached a period of utter stagnation in that important field. Eighteen months ago, this Government sent a man abroad to choose the new type of aircraft that would be manufactured when the present unit was finished at the Commonwealth aircraft factory in Victoria. The production scheme that is now operating has about a year to run. On 9th August last, Sir Lawrence Wackett, the chairman of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, made a statement of which the following report appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 10th August, 1956-
The Commonwealth Government’s deadline for naming an Australian-made successor to the Sabre jet fighter was gone, the manager of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, Sir Lawrence Wackett, said yesterday. A delay in production of a newtype aircraft when the Sabre order ended was now unavoidable. Sir Lawrence said it would be about a year before the last Sabre rolled off the production line at Fishermen’s Bend.
So now we are in a position, despite the fact that a man was sent abroad eighteen months ago, and despite this Government’s interim statement that it was encouraging the aircraft industry, that for at least those eighteen months it has dithered and delayed in making a decision on the new type of aircraft. It is quite certain that if the Government were to make a decision now, it would be at least two years before the newtype aircraft would come off the production line.
– And it would then be obsolete.
– As Senator Brown has said, it would probably then be obsolete. What a particularly sorry record this is in the field of aircraft production, which is a matter of the utmost significance to this country. Do Government senators sit in their party rooms, knowing these things, and doing nothing about them? I say that the Minister should be impeached for the dithering and delay that has gone on in all these respects.
Let me refer, just in passing, to what has happened at Woomera in connexion with the production of guided missiles. Sir Eric Harrison had something to say about that particular matter very recently. On 10th October - this month - he said -
The so-called sophisticated weapons - guided weapons - are in advanced experimental and design stages . . .
Will the committee please note that? After nearly seven years of rule by this Government - Woomera was established when it came into office; it was established by a Labour government - Sir Eric Harrison, the then Minister fo’r Defence Production, stated on 10th of this month -
The so-called sophisticated weapons - guided weapons - are in advanced experimental and design stages but, in the main, they are not ready for operational use.
After six and a half years of office, this Government has not produced a single guided missile that could be used in the defence of Australia. According to the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), the Government has expended £1,031,000,000 on defence. I should like to be informed what has happened at Woomera. We see the same pattern running through everything - dithering, delay, inaction and no results. That is evident in relation to civil defence, the FN.30 rifle, aircraft production and guided missiles.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired,
.- 1 shall direct the attention of the committee to a certain aspect of defence production. Reports have appeared in the press that the Australian jet aircraft building programme, particularly at Fishermen’s Bend in Victoria, is reaching its conclusion, and there have also been reports that many skilled aircraft workers have been dismissed. One reason that has been advanced why the building of a more modern type of aircraft than that now under construction has not been commenced is that there is uncertainty amongst the great countries with whom we are allied as to the types which are most suitable for use by the defence services. The claim has been made here that the super-Sabre is very efficient, and even though it may not be as modern as certain prototypes that are flying in the United States of America and in Great Britain, it has the great advantage that it has the ability to’ operate from smaller air-fields.
– It is still a first-line aircraft.
– That is so. In these circumstances, 1 suggest to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) that the Government should examine the possibility of continuing the manufacture of this type of aircraft for export. One might say that the market for it would be extremely limited but, in view of the kind of airfields that are available to the democracies in the Pacific, many countries would undoubtedly leap at the opportunity to obtain first-line aircraft as good as the Sabre. The adoption of my suggestion would have two results for Australia: It would help to maintain the Australia aircraft industry as an entity, and it would obviate skilled workers being thrown out of employment. Conversely, Australia would gain a very sizeable export market.
In this connexion, it is interesting to note that whilst many of Great Britain’s aircraft may not have, perhaps, the speed and weight-carrying capacity of certain American aircraft, the British aircraft industry holds orders at the moment for the supply of £124,000,000 worth of aircraft. As I have said, the British aircraft might not, in some aspects, measure up to aircraft produced by other countries, but they have the ability to operate in places where other more modern aircraft could not go. It is common knowledge, for example, that for operating in the fiords of Norway, the Navy’s flying brick, which had a top speed of 60 miles an hour, and a stalling speed of 59 miles an hour - that is, of course, hyperbole - had advantages over the fast Messerschmidts in that it could stooge around the fiords, because of its manoeuvreability, and it was more acceptable because of its less stringent requirements in the matters of maintenance and fields.
I desire now to refer to Division 114b, Marine Branch, where, under the heading of “ General Expenses “, there appears item 6, “ Lighthouse tenders - Cost of operating, £144,490 “. I point out that the tenders are submitted by civilian personnel, who do a pretty good job. At the present time, about four times as many national service trainees apply to join the Navy as can be accommodated by the Navy. Of course, that is only natural in an island country such as Australia. It is unfortunate that the Navy cannot accept all of the national service trainees who desire to spend their training time in that service. The only method by which sea time can be given to these young recruits is to engage in a fairly costly training cruise which, in a heavy cruiser of the “ Australia “ type, would cost in the vicinity of £100 a mile. That is a fairly heavy figure, and my suggestion is that some of the lighthouse tender work should be entrusted to the Navy for two purposes. First of all, it would effect certain economies in a government department; and, in the second place, it would give to the Navy the opportunity of taking in a far greater number of those young men who, at the moment, wish to do their national training service in the Navy. It would provide the Navy with a reasonably economic method of giving this naval training and an opportunity for these young men to obtain a certain amount of sea time. I should like the Minister to consider the possibilities of my suggestion. There may be one or two technical snags. 1 can see Senator Kendall looking at me a little apprehensively. I realize one or two technical difficulties might arise, but, nevertheless, 1 ask the Minister to examine my suggestion to see whether anything can be done in regard to it.
– I desire to make some comments and also to seek information from the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) concerning the administration and expenditure of the Department of Immigration. 1 say, immediately, that the Australian Labour party supports the principle of immigration. It is only in degree that we differ from the Government on this subject. The Labour party claims that Australia must have a balanced economy, but an imbalance in the economy is indicated by the restrictive policy inherent in the budget, particularly in the sphere of immigration. It is interesting to note that the Government intends to prune the inflow of immigrants this year. I immediately support Senator Kennelly, who said, recently, that in view of the pruning of the inflow of immigrants into this country, a more selective programme should be implemented. We could start by allowing husbands to be joined by their wives and families. Also, in implementing a more selective programme, we should concentrate on bringing tradesmen to this country. The present unemployment figures show that the army of unemployed is comprised, mainly, of unskilled workers. Therefore, under our immigration programmes, we should bring to this country substantial numbers of skilled workers.
The Government, having proposed a restrictive policy, should have restricted in the same ratio the amount of money to be spent. From a perusal of the proposed vote for this particular department I notice that on the administrative side the proposed vote represents an increase of £134,665. although the department will have less work to perform. I should like the Minister to explain that particular matter. The proposed vote for the United Kingdom office is £103,400. From the schedule we find that that office employs 32 employees. Half of the amount allocated to bring immigrants to our shores from the United Kingdom will be spent on the United Kingdom office. The huge amount of £145,000 is to be spent on the immigration office in Germany. That is an additional expenditure of £40,000 and represents 10 per cent, of the total proposed vote to be expended in bringing German immigrants to Australia. In connexion with the
Italian office, the amount allocated is £219,200. That office has 30 employees, only two less than the United Kingdom office and one more than the immigration office in Germany. Seven per cent, of the proposed vote for bringing Italian immigrants to Australia will be spent on the office in Italy. The office in Austria is expected to absorb 7 per cent, of the proposed vote of £101,800 in respect of that country. There are twenty employees in that office. In respect of the Netherlands, £71,500 has been allocated, and the Netherlands office, which has fourteen employees, accounts for 17 per cent of that amount. I should like the Minister to explain the discrepancies in the figures I have cited.
I should like the Minister also to furnish me with some information in regard to grants and subsidies to be paid to approved child and youth organizations for which the proposed vote has been increased by approximately £3,000. Since the number of immigrants is to be reduced under the Government’s programme, there will be fewer immigrants to share the amenities..
Provision is to be made for Good Neighbour Councils and the New Settlers League. I should like to know how that money is to be allocated, and whether it will be used to assist in social activities in connexion with naturalization ceremonies. These ceremonies are becoming more frequent. That is good, because it shows that more immigrants are being assimilated into the Australian way of life. I believe that the naturalization of immigrants should be expedited. If the Australian Government is generous enough to assist immigrants to come to Australia, there should be some reciprocation on the part of the immigrants. They should show that they are willing to become naturalized.
I notice that no provision is made this year for assistance to distressed Australians abroad and for their repatriation. The expenditure on this item last year, although small, shows that a few Australians were assisted when they were in distress. I referred to stranded Australians in the United Kingdom in a question that I asked in this chamber a few weeks ago, but the Government does not appear to be very interested in distressed Australians abroad. Many young Australians have gone abroad with bright visions of success, but they have been disillusioned and have been unable to return to Australia. They have had to seek assistance in a strange land. I believe that it would be good policy on the part of the Government to assist them to return to Australia. They have been trained from childhood in the Australian way of life, and can readily resume a useful place in the community.
– I wish to reply now to some of the questions that have been asked by honorable senators so far in this debate. Senator Arnold referred to the shipbuilding subsidy, and asked where provision for it was to be found in the bill before the committee. It is to be found under Division 226 - Department of Shipping and Transport, and the item is “ Merchant shipping construction, subsidy - £1,400,000 “. Formerly it apeared under capital works. Senator Arnold indicated that he did not agree entirely with the Government’s shipbuilding policy. He expressed some fear that the shipbuilding programme, details of which I have announced from time to time, does not induce a feeling of confidence among shipbuilders or those employed in shipbuilding. I remind Senator Arnold that there are now thirteen ships under construction in Australia, and another order was recently placed. Tenders will be called next month for two more ships of 12,500 tons, and the current shipbuilding programme in Australia will . then cover no fewer than sixteen ships.
It is true, as Senator Arnold has said, that some ships are being built overseas. That is inevitable. Many factors bear heavily on costs of construction and operation. The costs that are built into a ship remain with it throughout its life. They are carried into its daily charge for as long as it plies upon the seas. In Australia we are aiming, as well we might, at reducing transport costs. The costs of shipbuilding, which find their way into freights and fares, are of great importance. When a shipping company shows that it can build a ship overseas more cheaply than it could be built in Australia, so that operating costs may be reduced, we are not justified in denying that organization the opportunity to obtain cheaper construction. There is also the time factor. Unfortunately, we in Australia have had the sorry experience of considerable time having been taken by shipbuilding yards to complete orders. One case that springs to my mind is that of a yard which took five years beyond the estimated completion date to turn out a ship. That meant that for five years the company which had ordered the vessel was denied the use of it, was denied revenue, and had to service its outstanding capital.
– When was that?
– Only quite recently. I should prefer not to mention the yard.
– Why not? I shall mention it soon, and I shall tell the honorable senator why. It was Mort’s dockyard.
– Yes, it was Mort’s dockyard.
– It is a wonder that, being in Sydney, it was not ten- years.
– There have been occasions when permission has been given to build outside Australia because at the time all Australian yards were fully occupied, and to have fitted in another ship would have meant a disruption of the existing programme. To have delayed the construction of a vessel in order to make way for another new ship would have increased the cost of the ship already being built. Cost, time of construction and disruption of the shipbuilding programme are all factors that must be considered when application is made for permission to build vessels overseas. I submit that the programme that is now in operation, and which shortly will be increased, is a solid one. I realize that Senator Arnold would like to see a situation in which shipbuilders in Australia were guaranteed continuous work for all time.
– Hear, hear!
– Senator Sheehan says, “ Hear, hear! “, but I do not know whether that is altogether a good thing. When shipbuilders, house builders, or any one else is completely assured of business, we get carelessness and inefficiency which really cost money. Whilst the present programme provides a reasonable degree of assurance, it does not go to the limit that apparently certain Opposition senators think is desirable but which I do not.
This Government has given continuing support to the shipbuilding industry, as is evidenced by its recent decision to raise the subsidy by 33£ per cent., and I believe that it will continue to support an efficient shipbuilding industry. But I say now, as I have said frequently during the past year, that efficiency will be the factor that will determine how many ships can be built in Australia and the number that will be built overseas. I say quite definitely that this Government’s policy in relation to shipbuilding is one from which all reasonable people can draw a reasonable assurance. It has resulted in good shipbuilding and in an increasingly efficient industry. I pass from the subject of shipbuilding to that of railways. Senator Critchley asked me a question regarding the proposed vote for the Central Australia railway for 1956-57 as compared with that of last year, and also one in relation to the North Australia railway.
– I am more concerned about the Central Australia railway.
– I thought that the inference to be drawn from the honorable senator’s question was thai expenditure on the Central Australia railway was to be reduced.
– That is right, according to the Government’s figures.
– I point out that, although the vote for the Central Australia railway last year was £1,581,000, actual expenditure was £1,152,028. The proposed vote for this year is greater than last year’s expenditure, and stands at £1,294,000. I further point out that increased expenditure on that railway is being provided for despite the fact that the greater use of diesel locomotives and more modern equipment will reduce running costs. So, in actual fact, the proposed vote for this year represents a rather significant increase.
Senator Rankin posed a number of questions about the proposed vote for immigration, one of which related to assimilation activities. The Government proposes to continue the policy of consultation with community leaders on immigration matters, and is now planning for the next annual citizenship convention to be held in January, 1957. Expenditure associated with that convention is covered in the proposed vote. Senator Annabelle Rankin also asked about child migration. All child immigrants were British children. Sailings during the financial year 1955-56 totalled 341, and the estimated number of sailings during the current year is 300. All child and youth immigrants are to be introduced to farm schools and other approved establishments controlled by denominational and nondenominational migration organizations. A further question related to Australians in distress overseas. I believe that that matter was raised by Senator Ryan also. Administration of the proposed vote for that item, which is to be found in Division 217 on page 99 of the bill, has been transferred to the Department of External Affairs.
Senator Cooke dealt with shipping to the ports of Albany and Esperance in Western Australia, and asked for further details of the proposed programme. I am sorry that I have not those details; I have not been able to obtain them. However, I shall furnish them to the honorable senator by letter. I recently wrote to the Chamber of Commerce in Albany regarding fixtures for the Christmas and early new year period. I have forgotten what they are, but I shall let the honorable senator have a copy of the letter. The problem associated with those two ports is one that is common to all small isolated ports. It is not always a lack of shipping that is responsible for delays in the movement of cargoes. Very frequently, the delay is due to a lack of co-operation between the shippers and the shipowners.
Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) went to considerable trouble to explain the shipping position, but he neglected to tell the committee that during the last eighteen months (he Menzies-Fadden Administration has issued permits for ships to be built abroad of a total deadweight of 47,350 tons. Of the orders that have been placed abroad, some have gone to Japan and Hong Kong. While that is happening, the skilled men in the shipbuilding industry of this country are losing their employment. The Minister made much of the tonnage of shipping that is being built in Australia. In answer to a question addressed to him a few days ago, he explained that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is building in Australia for its own use three bulk carriers of a total tonnage of 48,000 tons, and that the Commonwealth has placed orders with Australian shipbuilding yards for ships of a total tonnage of 78,000 tons. Not a single order has been placed with an Australian shipbuilding yard by the shipping monopoly that is constantly increasing its freights, despite the fact that hundreds of men in the shipbuilding industry here are being put out of employment.
There has been a great deal of discussion about the dismissals of men from munitions factories and aircraft factories. I am interested to find out something about the St. Mary’s mystery project. It will be a considerable time before the sealed patterns of the new service rifle will be available. Every one who has any knowledge of engineering knows that, when the patterns become available, it will be another two years before tooling up can be completed and production of the rifle commenced. Therefore, this factory at St. Mary’s will not be required to produce ammunition for the new rifle for some time to come.
I have said that there is something mysterious about the St. Mary’s project. The Government is silent. It will not give any information about the project. There is a mysterious cost-plus system in operation, together with a new technique which involves the payment of an additional fee of £516,000. The architects are receiving a record fee of £1,250,000 - something unheard of in Australia before - despite the fact that there are in the Commonwealth service over 100 architects who were capable of meeting all the requirements of the defence forces of this country for architects in World War II. In those circumstances, it is very strange that the Government should employ private architects and pay them so huge a sum to supervise this mysterious project.
Some cottages are being built in association with the munitions filling factory at St. Mary’s. Experts - builders and others - have estimated that those cottages will cost from £6,000 to £8,500 each. The Government admits that that is so. Sir Eric Harrison said in another place before he left here to go abroad that the Department of Defence Production realized that too much was being paid for the cottages. Competent people who have examined them say that, including the sites and everything else, they should not cost more than £4,000 each. What is happening at St. Mary’s? In addition to a tremendous waste of money on the filling factory, cottages are being built which will cost twice as much as they should cost. They will be used only by the officers concerned with the factory. 1 want to know why there was no suggestion that Australia should be provided with a munitions filling factory until June of last year, when the Government decided that one was necessary. Honorable senators will remember that in 1950 the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that we had not a day to waste, because there would be a war within three years. Shortly afterwards, Sir Eric Harrison, who had just returned from abroad, said that war was inevitable within two years. But no mention was made then and for a long time afterwards of the need for a munitions filling factory. What would the Government have done if war had broken out? What would we have used for ammunition? I suppose that we should have had to use some of the Government’s political propaganda. That would knock anybody!
– If it had been your propaganda, it would have been a dud.
– That may be. I am dealing now with one of the MenziesFadden Government’s duds, the St. Mary’s munitions filling factory. The Government cannot justify this huge waste of public money. Sir Eric Harrison left Australia - 1 am sorry to learn that he has had to get off the boat through illness - but he should never have been allowed to leave the country until the Public Accounts Committee or another investigating committee had examined the St. Mary’s project to find out why it is necessary to spend huge sums of money and employ teams of tradesmen and labourers on- such a useless work. It is important that the Government should explain to the people of Australia the need for this factory. I regret that, as the hour is so late, I may be denying some of my colleagues the opportunity of speaking; but I ask the Minister for some explanation.
Senator Spooner interjecting,
– The Minister foi National Development (Senator Spooner) is very good at interrupting when one is speaking, but he is not so good at giving information. He promised me certain information, yesterday, in connexion with another matter, but, so far, I have not received one word from him. In conclusion, I ask that some explanation of this unwarranted and unjustified expenditure be given.
– I refer the Minister for Transport and Shipping (Senator Paltridge) to the proposed votes for the Commonwealth railways and remind him of the fact that, many years ago, in what some people call the good old days, railways were regarded as being dangerous, and were required to be fenced, but, unfortunately, there is no such protection on the trans-Australia railway between Kalgoorlie and the border. In those good old days, if a bullock or sheep was killed by a train, the railway department was liable for the cost. That applied for about 100 years, and I am sorry that it does not apply to-day, in many respects. I mention that as one reason far inviting the Minister’s attention to the condition of the transAustralia railway, which passes through some hundreds of miles of valuable pastoral country between the points I have mentioned. It is unfenced for the whole of that distance, and I am informed that stock losses on that line are becoming increasingly greater. I point out, also, that the stock were there before the railway was constructed.
Whilst that railway has caused heavy losses, the pastoralists get very little change when they suggest that the Commonwealth railways should make good those losses. I do not know the complete answer to this problem, because the line passes through some hundred of miles of pastoral country, and I quite appreciate that it would be most expensive to fence both sides of it; but there are circumstances in which it does not seem right that the pastoralists should have to bear the whole of the loss when stock are run over. It should be possible to arrange some scheme under which these very heavy losses - in one case they amount to more than £1,000 a year - could be lightened. I invite the Minister to let me have his views and observations on this question, because now is the time for discussing it. I am quite prepared to admit that, legally, the Commonwealth railways are entitled to refuse to meet any of the cost, but I suggest that to adhere to the legal position is not the complete answer to the problem.
– Earlier this evening, 1 made certain statements about the number of immigrants suffering from tuberculosis and mental illness. I said then that 1 was under the impression that I had left some of the figures in Melbourne, but some one who is much more efficient at filing and carrying things than I am had them in his case, and I propose to read them. First, I quote the following telegram which I received from the Victorian Minister for Health, Mr. Cameron -
In reply your inquiry reference new Australians approximately five per cent, admitted Sanatoria approximately seven per cent, mental admissions.
Following upon that, I received this telegram from him -
Reference previous telegram figures stated refer to percentage of admissions not to number of arrivals 75 sanatoria 400 mental admissions.
I might say that 1 asked all States for information on this matter. I received the following reply from New South Wales: -
Migrants certified and admitted to State mental hospitals (1950 to 1955) within five years of arrival: 1950, 2.8 per cent.; 1951, 5.5 per cent.; 1952; 5.5 per cent.; 1953, 8.5 per cent.; 1954, 7.5 per cent.; and 1955, 5.6 per cent.
– What are those percentages?
– They are the percentages of total admissions.
– But are they the percentages of immigrants to total admissions or the percentages of immigrants who were admitted?
– I should say they are the percentages of immigrants who were admitted. I have some further startling figures relating to New South Wales. They disclose that of the new cases of tuberculosis notified during the year ended 30th June, 1956, there were 983 males and 487 females, a total of 1,470 persons, born in Australia, and 233 males and 80 females, or a total of 313 persons born outside Australia. 1 admit that all the people born outside Australia may not be new arrivals under the immigration scheme, but I think it would be fair to say that the overwhelming majority of them would be. 1 also received the following telegram from the Minister for Health in Western Australia, Mr. Nulsen: -
Figures tuberculosis and mental disease in new Australians in Western Australia available DirectorGeneral Health Canberra stop Former in annual report Commissioner Public Health latter special reports Director Mental Health Service.
I read that simply to prove my statement that I have inquired from all States.
– Are any figures included in the information from Western Australia?
– No. 1 read that telegram simply to prove that I asked all States for the information. I also received figures from the Tasmanian Minister for Health, Mr. Turnbull, but I regret that 1 have not got them with me. I assure honorable senators I have not mislaid them deliberately. I do not propose to say more at this stage because it would be unfair to other honorable senators if I took up any more time. Suffice it to say that the figures I have quoted are astounding. We want immigrants here, but we should insist that they have a clean bill of health. I am unable to believe that in every case reported by each State the sufferer was unfortunate enough to contract the disease after arriving here.
– 1 wish to answer as quickly as I can some of the questions that have been raised in this debate. Senator Cooke asked about the replacement of equipment on the transcontinental line. Provision has been made this year for the purchase of more locomotives. Five locomotives have been ordered, two of which have been delivered, leaving three to come. Provision has also been made in the Estimates for capital works and services for the replacement of rollingstock, which includes about four passenger coaches.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) mentioned the production of the FN.30 rifle. He seemed to be in some doubt about whether the Lithgow Small Arms Factory was tooling up for the production of this weapon as stated. According to the note that 1 have received from the officers concerned with this work, the Australian Government decided in 1954 to adopt the Belgian 7.62 light semi-automatic rifle for use by the Australian services. Details of overall requirements and proposed rates of delivery of the weapon from the department’s small arms factory are secret. The factory is tooling up for manufacture. I suggest that that statement answers the doubt expressed by Senator McKenna. The note continues to the effect that this process has been delayed longer than originally expected because of delays in the receipt of sealed or finally approved production drawings from the International Rifle Steering Committee in the United Kingdom, on which Australia is represented.
Senator McKenna doubted the availability of the drawings, and he will, therefore, be interested to know that the production drawings are substantially clear for 60 per cent, of the. components involved in the production of the rifle, and the work of planning, drafting and manufacturing for the tooling of these components is proceeding. The production of the necessary machine tools and other equipment is proceeding, as is the re-arrangement of factory production lines. Australian defence authorities are fully informed of the present pre-production position, and although it is not possible, on security grounds, to furnish detailed information of progress, it may be said that the small arms factory will be in a position to initiate production within a short time of receiving authority to do so from the armed services, who are ultimately responsible for putting into effect the decision to adopt the weapon. No Canadian rifles have been purchased for Australia as was stated by Senator McKenna. A few FN. 30 rifles have been purchased from the United Kingdom to assist in production design, and for study and Army use.
– Only a few?
– Yes, and none has been purchased from Canada, as was stated by the Leader of the Opposition. The decision to manufacture the FN.30 rifle is absolutely firm.
– When will the plans be available?
– As I have already indicated, the matter is before the International Rifle Steering Committee in London, lt is important that the same standards should be maintained in this country and in the other countries that are going to manufacture this rifle. Although already 60 per cent, of the drawings are clear, 40 per cent, are still held up. It cannot be said when they will be available, but it is obvious that, planning is proceeding at as fast a rate as possible.
Senator McKenna also mentioned aircraft production, and I want to put on record some: of the details of the aircraft output that has been achieved by this Government. We have produced twelve Lincoln four-engine heavy bombers at the Government aircraft factory, 52 Vampire jet fighters at the De Haviland Aircraft Company Proprietary Limited, 41 Vampire jet trainers by the same company, and 29 Winjeel propellor trainers at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Proprietary Limited. A total of 91 radio-controlled target aircraft have been designed and produced by the Government aircraft factory; and 34 Canberra jet bombers have been turned out at the same establishment. Forty-four Sabre jet fighters have been delivered by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Proprietary Limited to the Royal Australian Air Force. There are fourteen Sabre jets at present at Avalon, and two at the factory of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Proprietary’ Limited ready to go to Avalon. Those at Avalon are awaiting test flights, so that it may be said that there are fourteen at Avalon and two with the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Proprietary Limited, making a total of 60 Sabre jet aircraft so far produced.
We have also produced 70 Nene jet engines for Vampire fighters, and 78 Avon jet engines for the Canberra bombers and for fighters. These have been produced by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Proprietary Limited. In the five-year period, we have overhauled and serviced a total of 742 air frames, 2,088 engines and 155,000 ancillary aircraft equipment units. Also in that five-year period, we have delivered to the services 123,100 different items of aircraft spare parts as they have been required.
It is worth stating for the record that the Government has not been inactive in respect of the export of aircraft. An order worth £500,000 has been received from Sweden in respect of the Jindivik radio-controlled jet aircraft, which was designed in our plant at Fishermen’s Bend. Negotiations are being carried out for the export of Canberra bombers to New Zealand. I suggest that that is a fairly substantial programme, and is a promise of what will happen in the next few years.
Senator Ashley spoke about the filling factory at St. Mary’s, and referred to it as the mystery of St. Mary’s. If it is a mystery to him, then I suggest that he cannot understand the English language, because that matter has been the subject of numerous explanations and a great deal of comment. The contract used for that job is not costplus, as suggested by the honorable senator; it is cost-plus fixed fee, which is a very different kind of contract. Such contracts provide an incentive for contractors to work quickly and efficiently, as is indicated by the speed with which the work at St. Mary’s is being done. It is understood that the job will be completed on time, and at the estimated cost. The St. Mary’s filling factory has been made the subject of all forms of criticism, but one of the most recent press comments is worth quoting. I refer to an article in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, of 9th September, which reads -
It seems that if we really need a new munitions filling factory at St. Mary’s we are getting one in a hurry and the rapidity of construction of this plant might make its cost compare favorably with that of other big projects, notwithstanding the staff difficulties.
Senator Ashley stated that permits had been issued for the building of ships in Japan. He was probably referring to the construction that has been permitted in Hong Kong shipyards.
– .1 rise to a point of order.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! It is not in order for the honorable senator to take exception to the Minister’s remarks at this stage. He may make a personal explanation at the conclusion of the debate.
– The honorable senator was probably referring to two orders that were lodged with Hong Kong shipyards, one for a vessel of 450 tons, and the other for one of 400 tons. That was the basis on which Senator Ashley criticized this Government. Permits were issued for the construction of those vessels in Hong Kong, not in Japan, as he averred. Senator Ashley also said that no private companies were now building ships in Australia. He completely overlooked the fact that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited-
– 1 mentioned that company. If the Minister did not hear me do so, he must have been asleep.
– Senator Ashledid not mention-
– I did mention that company. I even said that it had 48,000 ton:of shipping under construction.
– Senator Ashley mentioned the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited only insofar as two 19,000-tonners are being built to its order. The honorable senator was making the point that no shipbuilding was taking place in Australia.
– I have very strong feelings on this matter. I know that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) has not long held that portfolio, and I am afraid that he has not yet absorbed the spirit that we believe to be important for the future defence of Australia, lt would be wrong of him to believe that Australian shipbuilding yards could compete successfully against British yards, German yards, or yards in other parts of the world. It has never been suggested that we could do so.. I was amazed at the Minister’s statement that he hoped that the Australian yards would develop to a stage at which they could so compete, and that if they did, they would be given support. 1 hope that the Minister will not persist in that attitude, because any money that we expend on subsidizing shipbuilding in Australia will be returned a thousandfold if ever another world war conflict should break out.
I am greatly concerned about the dismissal of skilled men from the Australian
I remind the Minister that, when World War II. broke out, Australia had inadequate shipyards and insufficient skilled labour to repair ships damaged in conflict. I fear that we are drifting back to that state of affairs. I urge the Minister to ensure that the Australian shipbuilding industry is maintained in such a condition that, should another war occur, we will be able properly to maintain and repair our ships.
Proposed votes agreed to.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) has stated thatI did not refer to the fact that shipbuilding was being undertaken by a private company in Australia. What I said was that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited was the only company in Australia that was building ships. That was in accordance with what the Minister himself said to Senator Kennelly yesterday. I even mentioned that 48,000 tons of shipping was being constructed by that company, out of a total of 78,000 tons under construction in Australia. I said that no other private company was building ships in Australia.I challenge the Minister to deny,
Postponed clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Postponed First Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) put -
Thatthe bill be now read a third time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16th October (vide page 622), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The measure now before us is for the purpose of appropriating the balance of the moneys required to carry out the capital works programme of the Commonwealth for this financial year. In view of the heavy session that we have had to-day, and the stress that the Opposition in particular has imposed upon one Minister, I do not propose to address myself to a second-reading speech on this matter. 1 have many criticisms to offer of the Government’s works programme, from the financial, the political and the practical angles, but I can say with equal facility, on the supplementary estimates for works and services, all that I might say on this motion. In the circumstances, 1 do not propose to speak further to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge.) read a first .time.
– I move-
That the bill .be .now read a second time.
The purpose of, this bill is to obtain parliamentary approval to an agreement made between the Commonwealth and Queensland governments to regulate the production and marketing of sugar in Australia during the next five years.
The Sugar Agreement, which is included as a schedule to the bill, continues the series of agreements between the Commonwealth and Queensland governments which have existed for more than 30 years. Its terms are little different from those contained in the previous agreement, which expired on 31st August, 1956; indeed the main principles of these agreements have remained substantially unaltered since 1923..
Sugar is a protected industry in Australia, as it is in many parts of the world.
Only about one-eighth of the annual world production of sugar, which amounts to 40,000,000 tons, is traded on the world free market. Most of the trade is covered by various protective and preferential trading arrangements.
Under the new agreement, the Commonwealth Government undertakes to continue to impose an embargo upon the importation of sugar and the Queensland Government, for its part, undertakes to acquire all raw sugar produced from cane grown in Queensland and New South Wales; to make sugar available in Australia at certain fixed prices; to control production; to accept responsibility for losses arising from the export of surplus sugar; to pay rebates on the sugar content of goods exported: and to contribute to the funds of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee.
The effect of the import embargo, in the present circumstances, is to enable the sugar industry to obtain a price for sugar in the domestic Australian market which is higher than the current world price. The domestic price is controlled under the agreement. The wholesale price at which the Queensland Government undertakes to sell sugar of 1A grade in State capital cities, Fremantle and Launceston, is fixed in the agreement at £82 ls. a ton and a retail price of 1 Od. per lb., provides a profit margin of 13,J per cent, on this wholesale price. This price has operated from 14th May, 1956. .Prior to that (date the wholesale price was .£73 16s. lid. a ton, which was equivalent to a retail price of 9d. per lb. The increase of the equivalent of Id. per lb. in the retail price was agreed to by the two governments after a thorough investigation into cost increases of the industry subsequent to the ‘previous -price increase in October, 1952.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMuIlin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate. I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– The agreement contains a clause amending the Sugar Agreement 1951-1956 to authorize the price increase as from 14th May, 1956.
Another alteration contained in the current agreement as compared with the Sugar Agreement 1951-1956 concerns the method of financing the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. Under the previous agreement the Queensland Government, on behalf of the raw sugar industry, paid the committee £216,000 per annum. At the commencement of the agreement on 1st September, 1951, the committee’s reserve fund stood at just over £1,000,000, and the agreement contained a provision that the monthly instalments would not commence until the fund was first reduced to less than £500,000. This reduction rook place at the end of April, 1954, and the monthly contribution by the sugar industry has, therefore, been paid from 1st May, 1954. However, due to heavy payments of export sugar rebate and special grants to the processed fruit industry, the committee’s expenditure has exceeded £216,000 per annum and the excess has had to be met from the committee’s reserves with the result that, at 31st August, 1956, the fund was reduced to about £150,000. lt is obvious, therefore, that the committee cannot continue to pay rebates as provided for in the agreement unless it receives increased contributions from the sugar industry. Accordingly, the new agreement provides that the committee shall receive a contribution of £120,000 per annum and, in addition, shall be reimbursed actual disbursements of export sugar rebate. On the basis of the present rate, the export sugar rebate will total about £250,000 per annum, so that the sugar industry’s contribution to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee will be approximately £370,000 per annum as against £216,000 under the previous agreement.
Exporters of products which contain sugar at present receive a rebate which reduces the cost of sugar to the lower of (a) The lowest c.i.f . & e. cost in Australia of foreign sugar landed duty free or (b) the estimated cost of refined sugar in Australia based on the price of raw sugar f.o.b. mill port received for sales of surplus Australian raw sugar for export. The first alternative, ensures that exporters pay no more for their sugar than they would have to pay if they imported the cheapest foreign sugar, duty free, while the second results in the raw sugar industry receiving no more for sugar used in goods exported than it would receiver if the raw sugar were exported. The Government considers that this arrangement which is included in the agreement is equitable to exporters and to the sugar industry,..
The agreement undoubtedly gives the Australian sugar producers a monopoly of the Australian market and honorable senators may well ask why the sugar industry should be placed in this privileged position and why, in lieu of an import embargo, it should not be protected by import duties at rates based on the principle of reasonable, competition with overseas suppliers as is the case with other Australian industries. The fact is that the world sugar trade, is characterized by subsidies, high tariffs and import embargoes, hence the free market for sugar is very restricted. As a result of the relatively small proportion of the world production which is traded on the free market, the so-called world market price is subject to frequent and wide fluctuations. It would be impracticable, therefore, to determine equitable rates of import duties which would afford reasonable protection to the local industry. Rates of import duties considered equitable to-day could in a few months prove quite inadequate or, on the other hand, due to a rise in the world sugar price, could become excessive. Under the present system, the Commonwealth and Queensland governments, by agreement, control the price of sugar to the Australian consumer. Usually the domestic Australian price is higher than the world price but from 1942 to 1952 the domestic Australian price was well below it.
The sugar industry has an obligation to maintain a high standard of efficiency and to keep apace with modern production techniques. I am satisfied that the industry is fulfilling its obligations in this respect. Various Commonwealth governments since (federation have recognized the necessity and value of an efficient sugar industry and their confidence in the Australian industry has not been misplaced. The protection afforded to the industry has resulted in the Australian community and sugar-using industries being assured of a plentiful supply of sugar at all times while exports of raw sugar earn some £25,000,000 a year.
The Sugar Agreement Bill 1956-1961 now submitted continues the arrangements contained in earlier agreements and will, I am convinced, be of mutual benefit to the Australian sugar industry and the people of Australia. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Courtice) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– 1 move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is designed to amend the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act 1955 to provide for freedom from customs duties of goods imported into Australia from the Cocos Islands, provided that the goods are the produce or manufacture of that Territory, that they were shipped in that Territory for export to Australia - that is, that at the time of export the intended destination of the goods was Australia - and that they are not of such a nature as would be subject to excise duty if manufactured in Australia.
Honorable senators will recall that the Cocos Islands became a Territory of the Commonwealth on 23rd November, 1955. This amending bill has, therefore, been designed to operate from that date. Under the existing law, any goods which might happen to be imported from the Cocos Islands would be subject to general tariff treatment, which would be less favorable treatment than applied before the islands became a Territory. Although importations into Australia of goods produced or manufactured in the Territory concerned have been insignificant and, in view of the limited scope for economic development of the Territory, are likely to remain so, the Government considers it desirable to make specific provision for their entry free of customs duly.
Similiar provisions to those now proposed have applied for many years in regard to goods imported into Australia from Norfolk Island. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cooper) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
About three weeks ago my colleague, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) mentioned in another place that the resignation of an elected member of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, because he had decided to take employment in the Commonwealth Public Service, had drawn attention to the provisions of the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910-1956 providing for disqualifications for elected members of the Legislative Council. The Minister indicated briefly some of the aspects of this matter which were then under consideration.
The purpose of this bill is to give effect to the changes which have been decided upon following the completion of a review of the existing provisions of the act. As well as disqualification of a person who is an undischarged bankrupt or .who has been convicted and is under sentence, or subject to be sentenced, for an offence punishable by imprisonment for one year or longer, the act at present disqualifies from election to the council persons who are employed in the Public Service of the Territory or of the Commonwealth, and persons who have interests, otherwise than as a member, and in common with the other members, of an incorporated company consisting of not less than 25 persons, in any contract or agreement made by or on behalf of the Commonwealth.
There is room for some difference of opinion about the precise extent of the disqualification arising out of an interest in contract or agreement with the Commonwealth, but it is clear that in the circumstances of the Northern Territory, it could have an effect much wider than is desirable. As honorable senators know, a large proportion of the activity in the Northern Territory is activity in which the Government directly participates. To exclude from partcipation in the council, as elected members, all persons who come into any kind of contractual relationship with the Commonwealth would exclude a large proportion of the residents of the Territory, and leave a very limited field of possible candidates among whom the electors could make their choice. The Minister for Territories gave the example on the previous occasion, when he mentioned this subject in another place, of the pastoralist who undertakes, for a nominal sum - perhaps £50 or £60 a year - to maintain an aerodrome on his property for the Commonwealth. In the Government’s view, there is no reason to suppose that in any circumstances a contract of this kind would be likely to influence, in an undesirable way, the conduct of an elected member of the council. On one view, the existing disqualification goes as far as to exclude a person who holds a crown lease of land or a mining lease. Since the practice for many years has been to grant land on leasehold tenure only, the consequences of the acceptance of this view would be very wide indeed.
The bill, therefore, contains provision to alter the disqualification for elected members of the council arising out of contracts or agreements with the Commonwealth. Under the new provision, there will not be a complete disqualification, but an elected member who participates in, or has a direct or indirect interest in, a contract made by or on behalf of the Commonwealth for the supply of goods or services to the Commonwealth will not be entitled to take part in a discussion before the council, and will not be entitled to vote on any question before the council, if that discussion or question is directly or indirectly related to the contract.
The council has only legislative, and no executive, functions. I think that the only situation to be guarded against is where a member approaches a matter before the council with a view strongly biased because of dealings he may have with the Commonwealth. Such a situation could not arise on any matter of significance without the interests of the …member ‘being. .well, known to other members of the council, lt is proposed that questions concerning the application of this provision should be decided by the council on the motion of any member.
An alteration is also proposed to the disqualification of persons employed in the Public Service of the Commonwealth or of the Territory. This amendment, however, does not seek to change the existing law. lt seeks to make the existing position under the law more clearly apparent to intending candidates and electors than it is at present.
The review which has been made included an examination of the existing provisions for determining disputes as to election or qualifications of members of the council. lt was found that the provisions were incomplete and unsatisfactory. The bill, therefore, contains provisions to enable satisfactory machinery to be established. It is proposed that the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory shall be the court of disputed returns. Provision will be made by regulation for a defeated candidate, or an elector to have the right to petition the court, within 40 days after an election, for a determination on any alleged irregularities in an election or alleged disqualification -of a successful candidate. After the period allowed for lodging petitions has expired, and after any petitions which have been lodged have been determined by the court, it is proposed that the council will have the power to decide any questions relating to its membership itself, or to refer such questions to the Supreme Court for determination.
Honorable senators will, perhaps, realize from the references made earlier about the effect of the existing provisions relating to disqualification of members arising out of contracts or agreements with the Commonwealth, that some uncertainty may exist about the position of some members who have been elected to the council in the past. As a member who becomes disqualified automatically vacates his seat upon the disqualification arising, and as the act requires the presence of at least seven members in the council to constitute a meeting of the council for the exercise and performance of its powers and functions, it cannot be said with complete confidence that all acts of the council and all ordinances passed by it are valid. The possibility of a successful challenge to any ordinances passed by the council is extremely remote, as, even on the widest meaning which could be given to the disqualifications, it is most unlikely that any decision of the council has been taken by other than a majority of at least seven properly constituted members of the council. However, since certainty of the law is of such high importance, and since it was decided that it was necessary for the act to be amended, a provision has been included to put beyond any possible doubt the validity of all actions taken by the council, or which may be taken in the future, notwithstanding that there may have been, or may be, a vacancy in membership caused by a disqualification of a member, and notwithstanding that it may be subsequently discovered that an elected member, through inadvertence or otherwise, has voted on a matter related to a contract in respect of which he had a direct or indirect interest.
The bill also contains another amendment - one that is of a formal nature only. The opportunity has been taken to remedy an existing omission, and provide specifically that the Administrator shall have power to issue writs for elections for the council. The maximum term of the present council expires in May, 1957, but because the matters which I have mentioned may give rise to some uncertainty about the position of some of the elected members of the council, arrangements have been made with the Administrator that the council will not be called together until after a general election has been held. The election will be held as soon as can conveniently be arranged after the proposed new amendments have become effective.
I should like to emphasize the limited purposes of this bill. It does not represent the results of a complete review of the provisions of the act constituting the Legislative Council. It came under notice that provisions incidental to the election of members had produced an unsatisfactory situation. It was desirable that this be remedied as early as possible. There has been no occasion for a wider review of the constitution of the council, and no such wider review has been made.
I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That the Senate at its rising adjourntill to-morrow at 10 a.m.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to direct attention to a matter that is serious for the persons concerned. It relates to the granting of a vise to the father and mother of a new Australian who is living in Melbourne. The parents returned to their homeland overseas about two years ago to dispose of a business, after being in Australia for quite a long while. They planned to return to Australia. The daughter of this couple and the soninlaw are naturalized Australians, and they have children who were born in Australia. I agree with Senator Kennelly that immigrants should be carefully screened, but some leniency should be extended to the parents of persons who have settled in Australia. This couple have been refused, on health grounds, a permit to enter Australia. They have medical certificates from their own country to certify that they are in sound health, and that must be correct because the couple have been issued with a vise to enter the United States of America. I am sure that the conditions there are just as strict as, or stricter than, those applying in Australia. There is a home here for the couple, and if there is any complaint by medical authorities about their health when they arrive here, they are prepared to leave. It is a deserving case, and I ask the responsible Minister whether he will have the facts considered on a ministerial level if I present a case to him.
– My colleague, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) now represents the Minister for Immigration in the Senate.I shall discuss the matter with him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 October 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1956/19561025_senate_22_s9/>.