22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMulIen took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, and I have no doubt that he will reply to me in the same dignified and gentlemanly manner in which he answered my question yesterday. I ask him whether he has been informed that a parliamentary committee is about to be appointed to investigate the import licensing arrangements which are now causing widespread dissatisfaction. If he has been so informed, has he any statement to make in defence of the licensing methods which are causing intense antagonism?
– I have no information about a parliamentary committee being appointed for the purpose mentioned by the honorable senator. Indeed, I have not heard of one being appointed. I hope that I am correct in giving the answer that no parliamentary committee is being formed. The honorable senator asks whether I have any statement to make in defence of the licensing system. That is a big task to allocate to any one, for no one can expect that action to place restrictions on business, or to put restrictions of any kind into operation, will be popular. All that the Government can do is to do what is being done, and to do it as efficiently as it can.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry read the leading article in last Friday’s “ West Australian “ which criticizes the Government for allowing Japanese pearlers to fish 100 tons of mother-of-pearl off the coast of Western Australia, south-west of Broome? The article states that the shell is valued at £700,000. I desire to know if that figure is correct, and, if so, can the Minister advise the Senate where Australian producers of pearl shell can sell it for £7,000 a ton?
– My attention has been directed to the leading article in the newspaper to which the honorable senator has referred. It would appear that the newspaper has made an error of considerable magnitude.
– That would not be the first error it has made.
– No, particularly during the last couple of years. The leading article is unfortunate in that it completely distorts the financial implication of this matter, because the average price obtained for Australian shell last year was about £610 a ton. I am informed that Broome shell brings generally a little more than the average price, and could rise to £700 a ton. If the maximum of 100 tons of shell were taken, the value of the cargo would be about £70,000, not £700,000, as stated in the newspaper referred to. lt is to be hoped that the usual practice will be followed and a correction made, as is done by most newspapers of any standing, so that this unfortunate impression may be corrected.
– Has the
Minister representing the Prime Minister seen newspaper reports of the recent judgment given in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on the basic wage case, stating that the commission could not assume that either the C series or the interim price indexes measured with reasonable accuracy the general price level or the cost of living? Does he accept the commission’s assumption? If he does, what action has been, or is being taken to compile an index which will measure the general price level and the cost of living with reasonable accuracy?
-This is a very vexed question which has been exercising the minds of a good number of people who have the responsibility for it. I am not familiar with the facts, and I ask that the question be put on notice.
– In the absence of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, can the Minister for National Development inform me whether the attention of the Government has been directed to a statement made by Mr. Statzko former Premier of the Ukraine, that Russians had disguised bases in the Antarctic as meteorological stations, and that these stations were submarine bases with easy access to Australia? In view of the serious nature of the report, will the Minister give an undertaking that a thorough investigation will be undertaken immediately in order to ensure the maximum protection of Australia from Communist aggression from the south?
– I am sorry to say that 1 have not seen the newspaper report to which Senator Wedgwood refers. In view of the importance of the matter, I shall mention it to the Minister for Defence during the lunch hour, and if the honorable senator will put the question on notice, we shall then see whether a reply can be given before the Senate rises.
– Does the Minister for National Development recollect that from time to time the North Australia Development Committee has submitted reports to the Government? Does he further recollect that a motion for the adjournment of the Senate was submitted either last session or earlier, so that the development of the north could be discussed as a matter of urgency, and that an assurance that the Government was very mindful of the position in the north was given? If he does, can he say whether the Government has formulated any policy in relation to taxation remissions in the Northern Territory as recommended in the report of the committee to which I have referred, and as suggested in the motion for the adjournment? Can he say whether we may expect any relief in this direction during the next budget year? Can he give us some hope that the Government is now considering doing something in the budget in connexion with this most important matter of peopling the north and developing industry there?
– I well remember the circumstances to which the hone-able senator refers, but he himself has gi; ,u the answer to his own question. This is a budgetary matter, and he should know from his long experience in the Senate that it is not right to discuss budgetary matters before the budget session.
– On 11th April last, I addressed a question to Senator Cooper, as representing the Postmaster-General, asking whether he could obtain some particulars of the proposed alterations to the Port Lincoln Post Office. Is the Minister now in a position to give me any details in connexion with that matter?
– I am now in a position to give details relating to the question asked by the honorable senator about the Port Lincoln Post Office. The PostmasterGeneral advises me that it is proposed to erect a new telecommunications building at Port Lincoln, and tenders for the project will be invited by the Department of Works early next month. Following the completion of this building, all exchange and other telephone equipment will be removed from the post office premises. Extensive alterations will then be made to the post office building, incorporating the vacated telephone space. With the additional area thus made available, and the proposed alteration work, it is considered that the post office accommodation at Port Lincoln will be adequate and suitable to meet requirements for some time ahead.
– I should like to address a question to the Minister for National Development, who is at present acting as the Leader of the Government in this chamber. In view of the complexity of the many problems associated with the European free trade area and the contemplated establishment of a common market, together with the effect of a common market on imports, and in view of the fact that the Government is * doubt in receipt of copious messages from trade representatives in Europe and the United Kingdom, will the Government prepare a preliminary authoritative memorandum on the subject and have it distributed to members of the Parliament, the Associated Chambers of Commerce, the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, trade unions, primary producers’ organizations, bankers and industrialists? Will the memorandum include (I) a comprehensive statement of the attitude of Great Britain to the free trade area, with special reference to her obligations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and her obligations to Australia under the recently signed trade agreement; (2) a summary of the discussions relating to the question of the free trade area which took place at the last meeting of the Organization for European Economic Co-operation - whose activities directly affect more than 250,000,000 people, and whose membership includes some countries which are Australia’s best customers - and a summary of the discussions which took place at Gatt recently; (3) a detailed statement showing whether any sensitive Australian products are likely to be affected, and, if so, how valuable is the trade in them; (4) the main outlines of the tariff structure of the common market?
I ask the Government to give serious consideration to the calling of a meeting in Canberra, during the parliamentary recess, of representatives of the organizations mentioned, so that Australia’s position can be thoroughly examined and the full impact on Australian exports of meat, wheat, wool and butter can receive the closest examination. In view of the necessity to maintain a favorable trade balance, this matter is of serious importance to every section of the Australian community. From the viewpoint of international trade it is one of the major problems of the twentieth century.
– As the honorable senator has said, the matter is of profound significance from a commercial point of view. We have recently debated in the Senate the new United Kingdom trade agreement, which bears upon this matter. As to what my colleague is doing, I could not say offhand, because this problem is the subject of constant discussion and consideration by the Department of Trade, chambers of commerce, chambers of manufactures and other members of the commercial community. I can say no more than that I shall put the honorable senator’s suggestions before the Minister for Trade. I very much doubt whether the Minister will adopt them, because the problem has so many ramifications. It would be difficult to prepare a factual statement upon the subject, let alone to express opinions on it in answer to a question.
– This conference would provide an opportunity to do so.
– Which conference?
– The conference that I have suggested should be called in Canberra during the forthcoming parliamentary recess.
– If I were the Minister for Trade, I would not call a conference at this stage, because, as the honorable senator mentioned in his question, I think, there are to be discussions of this matter in Gatt between Great Britain and Australia.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. As it is evident that contemporary architecture is that of a period of transition, and produces much that is good and full of promise but also much that is bad and destined to be the laughing-stock of the future, will the Minister provide advice and assistance to private associations to ensure that they will not be misled by charlatans, but helped to obtain the services of good architects?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, and obtain a considered reply for him.
– Has the Minister for National Development seen a recent report of the discovery of perlite in the northeastern part of Tasmania? Would it be possible for the department that he administers to help financially in the exploitation of the find? Will the Minister state whether he is prepared to make available, if required, the services of officers of the Bureau of Mineral Resources?
– I have seen reports of the discovery to which the honorable senator has referred. I am quite certain that the services of my officers are available for technical advice, but it is not Government policy to provide financial assistance for mining.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. Will the Government give consideration to the appointment of a committee to examine the import licensing system to ensure that a thorough examination will be made into the methods by which importers and merchants secure their surplus quotas, and to ensure that those who are trafficking in licence quotas are not placed in a more advantageous position than are some of the genuine manufacturers and merchants who, as a result of the Government’s restrictions, have had their businesses severely curtailed and, in some cases, threatened with destruction?
– The answer is “ No “.
– Is the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that the Acting Commonwealth Statistician, Mr. Carver, recently stated that the list of various components which make up the basic wage is outdated, and that this applies particularly to the component covering rent? In view of the statement made by Mr. Carver, will the Government set up the necessary machinery to bring the various components comprising the basic wage up to present day standards?
– I have seen the statement to which the honorable senator has referred and read it with some interest. I am not able to give any assurance about what will be done in this matter. I am sure that attention is being given to it.
– Has the attention of the Minister for National Development been drawn to an announcement by the United Kingdom trade authorities that Great Britain is now manufacturing and selling complete nuclear power stations for industry, and that those sources of power supplies are expected to effect considerable savings in the cost of production in secondary industries? Will the Minister have inquiries made to ascertain whether that type of power unit is suitable now for any Australian industries? If those units would be an economic proposition, will the Minister encourage, by appropriate action, their use in Australia?
– I have seen the newspaper report to which the honorable senator has referred, and I try to keep in touch with developments of that sort. 1 am sure that a question on this matter was placed upon the notice-paper, and I believe the answer will show that nuclear power stations of 5,000 to 15,000 kilowatts capacity might produce power at a cost of 2d. a kilowatt hour. As to larger power stations and the provision of power generally, 1 remind honorable senators that those are matters for the State governments. They have the responsibility of providing power to meet the demand. It is their responsibility, therefore, to examine the economic result that is likely from the installation of thermal, hydro-electric or atomic power stations, and to consider the advantages and costs of each source of power.
– I direct a question to the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the uncertainty about the repercussions that might follow hydrogen bomb tests with consequent radio-active fall-out, have discussions taken place between the Australian Government and the United Kingdom Government on the most suitable place, from a safety point of view, for such tests? If so, has consideration been given to the use of the Antarctic for such tests as Australia claims to have control over a large area of the Antarctic, and it is free of human life and fishing beds?
– The Australian Government is in constant touch with the British Government on the matters that the honorable senator has raised. I had not heard previously of the use of the Antarctic for tests.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration the following questions: - First, what is the number of immigrants in each State who, up to the present, have fulfilled residential and other qualifications for naturalization?
Secondly, what is the number of such people in each State who, up to the present, have presented themselves for naturalization? I do not expect the Minister to be able to furnish me with a reply immediately, but my purpose in asking the question is to ascertain whether he can obtain the information and give it to me during the Parliamentary recess.
– I shall be happy to accede to the honorable senator’s request. I have not the figures or facts at the moment, but I shall ensure that he gets them during the recess.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, by saying that some two years ago arrangements were made for the establishment of an automatic telephone exchange at Mil Lel, which is situated in the south-east corner of South Australia. However, because of certain difficulties it could not be established. Can the Minister inform me what progress has been made with the establishment of that exchange? If he cannot reply offhand, can he obtain the information for me?
– I shall be very glad to ask the Postmaster-General for a report on the matter that has been raised by the honorable senator, and I hope to be able to furnish him with a reply at an early date.
– I ask the Minister for National Development, who is acting as Leader of the Government in the Senate, the following questions: - Does the Government believe that the Australian people should be well-informed regarding the defence of the free peoples of the world? Is it a fact that the United States of America has a large number of military air bases in England? Has the United States other bases in Europe? If it has, can the Minister inform the Senate in what particular countries those bases are situated?
– I answer all the questions except the last one by saying “ Yes “, and to the last one I can only reply “ No “.
– On 4th April I directed to the Minister for National Development a question on housing and co-operatives. I should like to know whether he will let me have a reply to the question as soon as possible, because I require it.
– I have settled the terms of the answer. I shall ensure that it will be given at an appropriate time next week.
– I directed a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral on 8th May in relation to the prohibition on the sending of food to Hungary in hermetically sealed tins. The Minister was kind enough to have investigations made, and he informed me that it was because of a postal regulation. I now ask him whether he is aware that postal instruction M 2322/28/1, issued on 3rd April, 1957, prohibits the forwarding of parcels containing food in hermetically sealed tins to distressed persons in Hungary. Will the Minister explain to the Senate why this instruction has been issued? Will he inform the Senate of any way that is known to the Government whereby food parcels can be forwarded to distressed persons in Hungary?
– Naturally, I cannot furnish the honorable senator with that information at the present moment, but I shall bring his request to the notice of my colleague the Postmaster-General and ask him to let me have a full report.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade a question which I hope will be more palatable than questions on import licensing. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to the fact that, at a tea testing party which was held in Sydney yesterday, eighteen of 23 ladies declared in favour of Formosan tea? Will the Government give consideration to increasing the opportunities for importing that tea, as it can be imported for at least 2s. per lb. less than Indian tea? I suggest that the relationship of the price of tea to the C series index and its effect upon the worker’s budget should command the attention of the Government.
– I did see the newspaper report to which the honorable senator referred. Whilst I have not discussed the matter with my colleague, the Minister for Trade, I should think that his thoughts on it would be running along somewhat similar lines to those of the honorable senator.
– As the Minister for National Development could not give an answer to the fourth part of the question that I asked just now, will he be kind enough to make some inquiries, through his officers, about the situation and the number of air bases in Europe controlled and owned by the United States of America?
– The honorable senator asked me whether I knew the number of those bases, and I said “ No “. I did not say that with any desire to be discourteous.
– I am not suggesting that.
– I should think that all the possibilities are that the information, if it’ were known, would not be such as could be made public. But we shall test that. If the honorable senator will put that part of his question on notice, we shall see if we can get an answer to it.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
With reference to the statements attributed to the Minister for Trade in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ on 2nd April, 1957, containing an announcement on relaxation of import restrictions -
In what form was this decision or directive expressed?
Was the announcement, statement or directive laid on the table of either House of this Parliament?
Is it the practice for such statements to be communicated to members of the Parliament?
Will the Minister amplify the statement that for some items importers would be able to obtain licences direct from Collectors?
– The Minister for Trade has advised me as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade has advised me as follows: - 1 and 2. The Government is well aware of the importance of Japan as a market for Australian products and has entered into trade negotiations with Japan directed towards, the conclusion of a trade agreement with that country. These negotiations are at present continuing in Canberra. In 1955-56 Japan was our second most important export market. In the same year, Japan was the second biggest buyer of Australian wool, the best customer for barley and an important buyer of wheat and sugar. There are good grounds for believing that Japan offers an expanding market for Australian primary products.
The Australian Government has this year arranged an Australian exhibit at the Japanese International Trade Fair which opens at Tokyo on 5th May. This exhibition will show Japanese buyers a wide range of Australian goods and raw materials of which Japan is at present an importer. The Government in its attitude towards a trade mission to Japan will be influenced by the outcome of the present trade talks and the results of the trade exhibit.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade -
– The question which the honorable senator asks is answered by the Minister for Trade in statistical form, and with the concurrence of honorable senators I incorporate it in “ Hansard “. It is as follows: -
The freight rates requested are tabulated below in sterling. All figures are net.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice - 1.Is it a fact that the agents responsible for shipping steel to India were able to secure shipping space for one voyage only, and that this has merely given temporary relief, and left the future position uncertain?
– The Minister for Trade has advised me as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade has advised me as follows: -
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
On the other hand, a comparison of costs of War Service Homes in New South Wales and Victoria has been completed. The Director caused an investigation to be made by the quantity surveyors and chief architects in the two States to ascertain why the results of competitive tenders in New South Wales were so much higher than in Victoria, lt was as the result of a report following this investigation that I furnished the information in the Senate on 9th April, 1957. The following additional information will help the honorable senator to appreciate the reasons for the higher costs in New South Wales: -
From the above facts the honorable senator will realize that in any factual comparison of homes of a reasonably equal standard and size, the New South Wales home is more costly than the Victorian home.
– On 8th May, Senator Byrne asked me the following question: -
Twelve months or more ago, I directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General a question relating to the very confused nature of the information pages in the front of telephone directories, and I was informed that the matter would receive attention when the next issue was being prepared for publication. I pointed out to him that those pages contained a great mass of technical and rather unnecessary information which could only be confusing. Since then, a new telephone directory has been printed and a lot of that information quite properly has been discarded. Nevertheless, the few pages that remain hardly fulfil the very desirable idea of furnishing information to the person who wants it. I now ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether he will again put before the Postmaster-General the desirability of having an expert look at the method of presentation of these introductory pages in terms of the modern methods of the presentation of information to see whether this information can be made readily and easily accessible to the public, who now approach a telephone directory with a great deal of exasperation and a considerable amount of confusion.
The Postmaster-General has now furnished the following information: -
The presentation and set-up of the information at the front of the telephone directories is at present being reviewed for the purpose of reinserting information regarding trunk line charges as well as postal and telegraph rates. These details were deleted from the current issue of the directories because alterations to the charges were under consideration at the time the current directories went to press. It is proposed also to make further changes to the set-up of the information pages, and as a result the presentation of the matter should again be improved.
. -I move -
That the regulation amending the Postal and Telegraphic Services (General) Regulations, as contained in Statutory Rules 1956, No. 84, and made under the Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1950, be disallowed.
In my view, the matter now before the Senate is one that impinges upon the safety of the people of Australia in a physical sense. It is a matter affecting the lives and limbs of the Australian people, and I do suggest that there is a grave responsibility upon every honorable senator to address his mind very seriously to the considerations that are involved.
The terms of my motion repeat exactly the terms of notice of a similar motion given by Senator Seward some time ago. The Opposition had not had an opportunity to consider its attitude to that motion when Senator Seward withdrew it, and, in order to preserve the Opposition’s position, I gave notice of the motion just before the time for giving it expired. In the meantime, the Opposition has completed its inquiries, and has determined its attitude.
We regard this particular regulation most seriously. I should like to read it to the Senate. It is very brief, and copies have been circulated. It is as follows: -
Notwithstanding the provisions of a law of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth, an officer or servant of the Department may, for the purpose -
of collecting postal articles from a post office or from a letter pillar or a box erected for the reception of postal articles; or
of delivering postal articles to a post office, stop, and leave standing, upon any public street, public road or other public place any motor vehicle used by him for the purpose of the carriage of postal articles.
That comes from the very wide regulationmaking power contained in section 97 of the Post and Telegraph Act. I say to the Senate at once that State traffic laws - each State has a code in the matter - are made by State parliaments and local governing bodies for two main purposes. The first is to provide for the safety and convenience of pedestrians. In particular, such laws are designed to ensure the safety of ^children, of disabled and of aged persons. They are designed to ensure the safety of vehicular traffic using the roads, and they are intended to ensure as well the even flow of traffic in congested areas, particularly at peak periods. But the overriding consideration at all times is the safety of the people.
The first point to which I direct the Senate’s attention is the fact that the proposed regulation, in the matter of stopping and parking, discards those aspects of the State traffic codes. It puts them completely in the discard, and it gives to the drivers of postal vans complete licence in these matters.
The second point is that this regulation is not limited in scope to any particular area, to areas where the Postmaster-General has encountered difficulties, to the busy cities or congested areas; it has omnibus application from one end of Australia to the other. It applies equally in the City of Sydney and any little hamlet in the backblocks. Therefore, from that angle, it is entirely too wide. I suggest to the Senate that we are virtually concerned with road safety. We have debated the subject in this place, and I think everyone of us is filled with horror at the toll of the road that keeps on filling our hospitals, cramming our rehabilitation centres and, unfortunately, even crowding the cemeteries of Australia.
So all the regulations designed for protection in these two matters of stopping and standing are thrown completely into the discard. The regulation is also given Australia-wide scope. In addition, I invite the Senate to have regard to the fact that the regulation is .made absolute in its terms, conferring upon the drivers of postal vehicles absolute licence above all law, both State and Commonwealth. The PostmasterGeneral steps into this very complicated field and brushes State codes aside, giving licence to his drivers, and putting nothing in the place of the State laws. If there were even provision in this regulation that it was to be limited to particular situations or particular areas, we could address our minds to it. There is not one word in this regulation which requires a postal driver, in the circumstances contemplated, to have due regard either to public safety or public convenience. I impress that point upon the Senate very particularly. The driver is given an absolute licence to do as he likes in the matter of stopping and standing for the purpose of picking up or delivering mail, and I do put it to the Senate that that is a most serious situation. The Opposition is particularly concerned with it.
What does the regulation do? It enables a postal vehicle to park away from the kerb, and not only to double park but to treble park. Complete compliance with the regulation would enable such a vehicle to park in the middle of a tram track in the heart of a busy city. The driver could completely disregard all directions from the police. He could throw traffic into chaos at every peak period. When I point out that in the City of Sydney there are 393 postal vehicles running continuously on the road, the Senate must realize what would happen if each of these drivers, every time he approached a postbox or pillar box, parked his vehicle in the middle of the road, perhaps in the middle of a tram track, and then proceeded to pick the letters up one by one, taking from five to ten minutes on each occasion. Not only would there be chaos, but there would be accidents everywhere. The driver can do that. There is no obligation on him to park as near as possible to the kerb. He is given complete and absolute licence.
I invite the Senate to consider two matters relating to stopping. No State traffic law applies to stopping. That may well include the proposition that a postal vehicle driver is not even obliged to give a signal when he is about to stop. It certainly raises that proposition. If all State laws relating to stopping are excluded, then the driver of a postal vehicle need not give a signal. Those are aspects that gravely concern the Opposition. I repeat that surely the over-riding consideration in matters connected with traffic is the safety of the people. I am prepared to concede that the convenience of the public in the matter of posting letters and the convenience of the employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department in picking those letters up and speeding them on their way have to be considered also. The Postmaster-General’s Department must run to a schedule. The mails have to be ready for trains, planes and ships, and the department’s work has got to be facilitated. But there is no indication that 1 know of that any State traffic law has been designed to obstruct that. I am informed that in New South Wales, in places where there are congested conditions, parking areas next to pillar boxes are reserved for postal vehicles.
I invite the Minister, when he deals with this matter, to say what provoked this regulation. Was it obstruction by a State? Was it the refusal of a State to co-operate with the Commonwealth. If so, what State was unco-operative? As f understand the position, every State is opposed to this regulation. I would like to know whether the States were consulted. I believe they were not consulted. I do know that at a recent meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council, the New South Wales Minister for Transport raised this matter and objected, on behalf of his State, to this regulation. I have been told that one of the Ministers of this Government who was at that meeting undertook to take up the matter with the PostmasterGeneral and that the discussion lapsed on the giving of that undertaking. I am informed that Mr. Enticknap, the New South Wales Minister for Transport, raised the matter at the meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council and that Senator Paltridge undertook to take it up with the Postmaster-General.
–That has been done.
– But the regulation has not been altered.
– I gave no undertaking in respect of the regulation. I stated merely that I would bring the matter to the notice of the Postmaster-General.
– That is exactly what I said. I have not put it any higher than that. I have indicated that an objection was raised by the Minister from New South Wales, and that, upon the Commonwealth Minister undertaking to refer the matter to the Postmaster-General, the discussion ended. I draw the conclusion that if that undertaking had not been given, opposition would have been expressed by all the six States. I have conferred with some of the State Ministers. They are hostile to this regulation. Many of them are gravely concerned about it.
I want to direct the Senate’s attention to the terms of an explanatory memorandum that was circulated. Having regard to what might happen, I invite the Senate to note the cold legalistic approach to the promulgation of the regulation. The memorandum reads -
The Post Office is charged with the responsibility of providing an adequate postal service and for this purpose the Postmaster-General is empowered by the Post and Telegraph Act to establish post offices and erect letter receivers. It is implicit in these powers and responsibilities that the officers and servants of the Department should, as and when necessary for the clearance and delivery of mails, be able to stop and leave standing in any street vehicles used by them for these services. It is most important, however, that the authority to do so be made explicit in order to avoid any possible impediment to the Department in carrying out its prescribed legal functions.
How cold and legalistic is that, although, as I have demonstrated to the Senate, there may be the gravest danger to the safety of pedestrians and to the even flow of vehicles in the streets. Absolute licence is given to the hundreds of postal vehicles in the capital cities. As I have indicated, there are 393 postal vehicles operating in New South Wales. There is not one word requiring the drivers to address their minds to the safety of other vehicles or of pedestrians. I am informed - the Minister can correct me on this - that this regulation stands bare and alone. In the period since it was issued, no instructions have been given to drivers by the Postal Department as to how they are to behave. In these circumstances, there is absolute licence for the drivers of these vehicles in the capital cities to do exactly as they like.
I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that some time ago there was a very rare occurrence. There was a postal regulation strike, during which the postal officers complied directly with the traffic laws of
New South Wales, lt may be that this regulation is designed to prevent that type of strike. If that is the purpose, the Senate should know. If it is, the regulation will fail in its objective, because, under the regulations as it stands, a postal vehicle may park in the middle of the road. It may park anywhere in a street. One can imagine what would happen during a peakhour in one of the capital cities, when there were four lanes of traffic either going out of or coming into the city, if a vehicle parked in the middle of the road in order to draw attention to a grievance of postal workers in their employment. If 393 postal vehicles did that scores of times in the City of Sydney, not only would chaos result, but innumerable people would be killed.
I think it is irresponsible for the PostmasterGeneral to design a regulation to suit his convenience only, utterly disregarding the safety and convenience of other users of the road. 1 think that the mind that addressed itself to the drafting of this regulation was concerned with only one thing and did not see the major damage that could be done. We need only to reflect to see the chaos that would be caused by a regulation strike in which advantage could be taken of the unlimited power given to postal workers by this regulation.
I believe that in many cities the traffic problem is so great that parking, particularly in peak hours, is prohibited. In many streets in Sydney where there is one-way traffic, no car is allowed to stop at all between certain hours. If it does, it is towed away. Let us say that there are four lanes of traffic in Sydney moving towards the bridge or the Central Railway Station, or, in Melbourne, four lanes of traffic moving in one direction on an arterial road. The drivers of postal vehicles could park in any of those lanes, because they are absolutely beyond the law. That could be done because this regulation authorizes it.
Without dramatizing the matter, I want to remind the Senate of the toll of the roads. According to statistics that were published by the Bureau of Census and Statistics in February last, there were 105,638 accidents known to the police during the twelve months ended 30th June, 1956. There were 2,119 deaths on the roads, and 48,773 persons were injured during that year. Every one of us is con cerned vitally with those figures. Every one of us should be gravely concerned with a regulation that is irresponsible. I do not say that it was designed to be irresponsible, but it has the effect of giving complete licence to postal vehicles when picking up or depositing mail. The use of the regulation for the purposes I have indicated would be not only irresponsible, but culpable, but it is a possibility. I remind the Senate that when men are embroiled in industrial disputes and tempers are roused - as they were in the recent unfortunate postal strike - they are disposed to take any opportunity to achieve their objectives.
If the Senate is not prepared to disallow this regulation and accidents are caused in Australia - if deaths are caused and people are injured - the Senate must accept some responsibility in the matter. I say that to every individual senator in this chamber.
I put it to them as well that, without consultation with the States, and in the teeth of the hostility of those to whom I have referred, we have thrown State traffic codes into the wastepaper basket so far as these matters are concerned, and have granted complete licence to the servants of the Postmaster-General. I do not say for one moment that, in drafting the regulation, the Postal Department had regard to those factors. I think it was concentrating on its own services, and did not see the effect of the regulation and the way in which it might be used. As a States’ House, we must look at these matters. We must examine them also as persons who are concerned with public safety.
The only other statistics on road deaths and accidents to which I shall refer are contained in the annual report of the chairman of the Australian Road Safety Council. That organization is subsidized by the Commonwealth. Referring to the same period that has been covered by the Statistician, he has summarized the effects of road accidents in these terms: Last year there was one fatality in Australia every four and one-sixth hours. Personal injuries were caused at the rate of one every 10f minutes. An accident was reported throughout the year every five minutes. The estimated cost of those accidents was £35,000,000, or £67 every minute.
– Was that the physical cost or does that include compensation?
– I take it that the statistics include everything - damage to vehicles and all other costs. The particulars are not given.
– The total estimated cost was £35,000,000?
– Yes, according to the chairman of the Australian Road Safety Council the total cost was £35,000,000 in the year ended 30th June, 1956, and that represents £67 every minute. I should imagine that would cover the cost of damage to property and all other costs resulting from motor accidents. At least the figures show that this is a major matter.
I am putting strongly to the Senate the risk of allowing the regulation under discussion to stand. 1 emphasize that the Postmaster-General has done nothing to ensure that safety precautions should be taken by drivers. The drivers are given absolute licence. The fact that they are not given any instructions about safety should disturb all of us.
What would happen if we disallowed this regulation? If it were disallowed, there would be reversion to the traffic codes of the States. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) has not proved, so far as I know, that the States would not cooperate in facilitating the work of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. My information is to the contrary. The States are prepared to co-operate and they will help the employees of the department. The Minister must tell the Senate what is the purpose of the regulation. Does he not see the danger of giving complete licence to drivers of the Postal Department? Why was not some statement issued, when the regulation was made, to indicate that the drivers would have to have due regard to safety? There is not one word in the regulation about that. Why is the regulation so wide in scope? Why must it apply throughout Australia? I say to the Senate most earnestly that 1 am disturbed deeply by this position.
– For what reasons?
– I have been giving the reasons for the last twenty minutes.
– I suggest that they are not the true reasons. Will you advise the union to tell its members to obey or disobey the regulation as they wish?
– Obviously Senator Mattner has not understood what it is all about. I am not saying that unkindly, and 1 shall answer his question. This regulation simply states that a postal vehicle stopping or standing in the street may be operated as the driver likes so long as what he does is connected with the picking up or dropping of mail. I say that that gives complete licence to the driver. With the qualification I have mentioned, he may do as he likes. Now, Senator Mattner has asked me whether I would advise the drivers to obey or to disobey the regulation.
– Just obey.
– 1 invite the honorable senator to say how I can answer a question of that sort. The regulation does not oblige the drivers to do certain things but gives them absolute licence to do as they like.
– Is there another view upon the interpretation of the regulation, to the effect that it gives them not absolute licence but merely licence to stop their vehicle and to leave it standing, but to do so subject to any relevant law not directly to the contrary?
– I do not accept that proposition. I take it that the regulation gives the drivers absolute licence. I direct attention to the opening words of the regulation which states -
Notwithstanding the provisions of a law of a State or territory . . .
– What provision of the law of a State or territory states that a postal worker may not stop his vehicle and leave it standing?
– We are dealing with a hypothetical case.
– I am dealing with the draftsmanship in order to get the true meaning of the regulation.
– My reply to the honorable senator is that, in the first place, no State, to my knowledge, has made such a law. Secondly, if there were such a law. what is the proposition that the honorable senator is submitting? Would he repeat it?
– I have said that, to my knowledge, there is no law in any State which declares that a postal worker may not- stop his vehicle and leave it standing, but there are laws that provide that, in so doing, he shall comply with certain precautions. I invite consideration as to whether the regulation overrides the provisions as to precautions.
– I say that it does.
– ls it intended to do so?
– The regulation specifically states that it applies notwithstanding anything contained in a State law. The honorable senator postulates that the driver of a motor vehicle may stop it and allow it to stand. What do we find in the traffic code of the States? Any person who intends to stop a vehicle must first give a signal, and it must be given at an adequate distance before stopping. He may not park it at a curve. He must not double or treble park. In every major city in Australia, there is an increasing number of streets where parking is completely prohibited at peak periods and where drivers may not stop.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition suggest that this regulation would override those laws?
– Yes, the regulation says so. The operation must be connected only with the picking up and setting down of mail.
– Would it override all the regulations even to the extent of absolving the driver of his obligation to put up his hand to signal?
– I am in doubt about that. That is one point upon which I am not sure. The regulation provides without question that the postal worker may stop in a street where parking is prohibited. It is absolutely certain that he may place his vehicle in a street anywhere he likes.
– Is there any difference between stopping and parking? In Queensland, in some streets, a driver may stop but not park.
– I do not think that is relevant. The expression in the regulation is “ leave standing “. It is quite clear. We are not interested in the difference between stopping and parking. This regulation goes much farther. The
Opposition feels strongly on this matter. We cannot see that postal workers would be at the slightest disadvantage if they were to comply with the traffic laws. It would be most exceptional if the PostmasterGeneral’s Department had to override the State laws. Why could not a regulation be made which would deal with that particular matter? It could be justified on that ground; indeed, I would support it on that ground. But that is a reckless way in which to approach a problem or two in a local area. The problem might exist in one State and not in any other, but this regulation grants a licence to postal vehicle drivers throughout Australia. On the face of the regulation there is not one word which says, nor, I am told, is there any instruction, that they must observe the regulation with due regard to safety precautions. I think it would be completely dangerous for the Senate to allow the regulation.
I hope that honorable senators will see that viewpoint and will ensure that no harm is done if we go back to State laws. We say to the Postmaster-General, “ Have a look at your real problem and submit to the Parliament a regulation that is confined to overcoming your particular problem and. if it is equitable, we will support it “. I do not feel that I am exaggerating the position when I say that each of us has a personal responsibility, now that attention has been directed to the matter. If misuse of this regulation causes trouble in Australia, each of us has a personal responsibility in the matter.
– Ask the Minister why the regulation was promulgated.
– The honorable senator has brought into prominence the note upon which I should like to conclude. Will the Minister tell us what was in the mind of the department, what result it was aiming at? What was the need for such a wide regulation, giving such vast scope all over Australia? 1 ask the Minister sincerely: Would not the PostmasterGeneral’s proper purpose be served if we confined the regulation to his real problem?
I do not wish to address myself to the matter further; I think I have covered it adequately. All I hope is that I have impressed upon the Senate two things - first. the danger of leaving the regulation as it is and, secondly, the fact that, if we disallow it, we will err on the side of the protection and safety of the public of Australia.
– I have listened with very great interest to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). Although he disagrees very strongly with what has been done, I think that he and all other honorable senators will agree that the Commonwealth is responsible for postal and telegraphic services in Australia. The Commonwealth was given that responsibility at federation. Those who were responsible for federation realized that, because of the great importance of postal and telegraphic facilities, the Commonwealth must have full control over them. I agree with Senator McKenna’s contention about the safety of the people. Naturally, the safety of the people is the first consideration; nobody would disagree with that. But the honorable senator has imagined that a large number of grave difficulties will be caused by the promulgation of the regulation in question. The honorable senator should know that what has been done in promulgating this regulation has been done previously to a very large extent.
– Oh, no!
– Oh, yes! A great deal of it has been done before, and. the honorable senator knows that quite well.
– I know the position.
– Unfortunately, in the past the Commonwealth was disobeying a State law. I admit that the matter came to a climax in September last. But this is not the only regulation that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has promulgated in the last few months to improve its work. We all know that transport facilities have increased, have become faster, and have improved over the years. It is impossible now to work to regulations that were applicable perhaps 30 or 40 years ago, and it is only natural that new regulations should be promulgated. The regulation now in question has been made in order to facilitate the collection and the transport of mail between the mail boxes and the post offices.
– What responsibility does the department accept in performing that work?
– I did not interrupt Senator McKenna when he was speaking; I listened to him. So I should be very glad if Senator Hendrickson would listen to me. The promulgation of this regulation was necessary to bring up to date the regulations that governed the collection and delivery of mail.
As 1 said earlier, the Commonwealth is responsible for the collection, transport, and delivery of mail. As facilities improved, pillar boxes and posting boxes were installed, especially in the metropolitan areas. They are now to be found throughout the Commonwealth. It has become necessary to collect mail from those boxes and to transport it to the post offices to be sorted and later delivered to the appropriate addresses. As the Leader of the Opposition said, the volume of that work has increased considerably. In metropolitan areas throughout the Commonwealth, there are now approximately 6,500 pillar boxes and posting boxes from which mail has to be collected. In these modern days, that mail is transported by motor vehicle. The introduction of motor vehicles has made it possible to collect the mail, to transport it to the sorting places, and to have it delivered quickly. The use of motor vehicles in the collection of mail is not an innovation; it has operated for some years.
I agree with the statement of Senator McKenna that the transport problem in Australia is now very great. The proper use of mail vans for the collection of mail has posed a problem, but I do not know of any accident that has been caused by mail vans when collecting mail.
– The Leader of the Opposition referred to the figures.
– Pardon me, he did not give figures relating to that point.
– No, not relating to that matter.
– At any rate, when compared with the figures that Senator McKenna mentioned, the number of accidents involving vans employed on mail delivery is very small. I agree that, even if there have been no accidents, an accident should be avoided if possible.
Senator McKenna said that mail vans might park in the middle of the road, or might stop anywhere else and park. The regulation distinctly provides -
Notwithstanding the provisions of a law of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth, an officer or servant of the Department may, for the purpose -
of collecting postal articles from a post office or from a letter pillar or a box erected for the reception of postal articles; or
of delivering postal articles to a post office.
Surely that is explicit.
– My word it is.
– He may stop only to collect from post or pillar boxes and deliver to post offices. How can he stop in other parts of the street where there is no post box?
– Where there is a pillar box.
– He has to stop where those are.
– Of course he has.
– The Leader of the Opposition said that he may stop anywhere he likes. That is not so.
– Providing it is necessary to pick up mail.
– This regulation states specifically where he is to stop.
– Has not every State government and municipality cooperated with the department up to the present?
– I shall give the Senate all of that information. Let us have the position quite clear. The regulation states specifically where he shall stop. It may be that he would have to doublepark. In some States - for instance, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland - a line is drawn for 20 feet at or near a post box, and this space is reserved for postal officers to park their vans. This provision is not made in some of the other States, and so double-parking is involved in some instances.
It is necessary to make the law uniform. State laws in regard to parking are not consistent. This regulation merely brings into operation a law which is consistent in all States, so that officers will know exactly what is required throughout the Commonwealth. I am informed that in Perth the traffic department is arranging for a space of 20 feet, marked by a yellow line or otherwise, to be made available for the parking of postal vehicles. Senator Seward would know whether that has been done. The department would like such a provision in every State.
asked whether the traffic authorities were consulted. I am informed by the Postmaster-General that before this regulation was promulgated senior officers of the Postal Department consulted senior traffic or police officers in each State. The matter was thoroughly gone into, and those State officers were all aware of what was to be done. Whether they were all in full agreement with the proposal, I cannot say. According to the Leader of the Opposition, they were not.
– Two Ministers have told me that they viewed it with complete disfavour.
– From what I can gather, the general opinion was not hostile. They agreed that a more specific regulation, which could be carried out, should be introduced. Previously, the regulations were not observed. The State law was infringed on almost every occasion. This is a regulation which we can carry out. Senator McKenna said that there was open licence. In every business some directions are given to employees, and I am sure that Senator Hendrickson would know, from his experience in the Postal Department, that explicit directions are given, not only to drivers, but to all employees in the department.
I should like to read, with the indulgence of the Senate, a few of the directions that have been given to drivers in regard to this regulation -
Although the new regulation does allow drivers to park vehicles as may be necessary to collect or deliver mails at post offices and to clear street receivers the Department is emphatic on the point that a driver must observe local traffic laws wherever practicable and must stop his vehicle so as to cause the least obstruction to vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Further, the Department insists that its drivers must observe the directions of a traffic officer so that if he is directed to move his vehicle he must do so. Working instructions are framed to ensure that drivers are fully aware of their responsibilities in this connexion and the following extracts from the Instructions to Motor Drivers are quoted to illustrate the position: -
Paragraph 30 - “ A driver must at all times strictly observe any directions given by a traffic policeman.” (An amendment is being issued to read “ officer “ for “ policeman “).
Paragraph 3 1 - “ A driver must not argue, dispute or quarrel with the police or members of the public … On any occasion when a Motor Driver has been reported for a breach or alleged breach of the Traffic Regulations and/or State or Municipal By-laws relating to traffic, the Officer in Charge must be advised without delay and be kept fully informed of all developments until the matter is concluded.”
Paragraph 43 - “ At all times strictly observe and comply with traffic control signals.”
Paragraph 61 - “ Notwithstanding the provisions of a law of a State or territory of the Commonwealth it is prescribed by Regulation under the Post and Telegraph Act that an officer or servant of the Department may for the purpose
Clearance rounds are arranged to ensure clearance of a letter receiver every three to six minutes, including travelling time, with a minimum number of turns and preferably so that letter receivers are always approached on the near side of the road. In the city area round organization is more complex than in the suburbs owing to the size of receivers and traffic density but in all cases it is necessary not only to have a space reserved adjacent to a receiver in which the vehicle can stop, but also to see that it is kept for that purpose and not used by other vehicles.
The various State and municipal traffic authorities have worked in very close cooperation with the Postal Department.
– Then why introduce the regulation?
– I emphasize that State and municipal traffic authorities have on all occasions endeavoured to assist the department in every possible way. Senator Hendrickson asks me to explain why it is necessary to alter the position. I reply that before the regulation was altered the department was breaking the law practically every day.
– This regulation is an instruction to break the law.
– No, it is not. The regulation makes the law valid. Now a driver is not breaking the law, but is working within it when he carries out his duties. The regulation is not as strict or as dangerous as the honorable senator would have the Senate believe.
There is one further point I should like to mention. The Postmaster-General’s Department works in close co-operation with the various traffic departments and municipalities throughout the Commonwealth, and has asked those authorities to make a survey of the positions of pillarboxes and receiving boxes. If better positions can be found, the postal department will have the boxes moved to them. I understand that in Adelaide and Melbourne the department has already moved a number of pillar-boxes to positions that have been sited by the local authorities or the traffic department.
– It has been done in Perth, too.
– I understand it has happened in Perth as well. Honorable senators will see that great thought was given to the regulation before it was promulgated, and I hope that the Senate will agree to it. I now move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the regulation amending the Postal and Telegraphic Services (General) Regulations, as contained in Statutory Rules 1956, No. 84, and made under the Post and Telegraph Act 1901- 1950, be disallowed.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 12.46 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Represenatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cooper) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill does not raise any new question of policy, but seeks to modify the provisions in the Papua and New Guinea Act 1949- 1954, relating to the qualifications of members of the Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea. As honorable senators are aware, there is a Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea composed of both nominated and elected members, and the qualifications of members are set out in the Papua and New Guinea Act 1949- 1954. In this respect the act follows very closely the models established in this Parliament and other Australian Parliaments, and among the disqualifications from membership is a provision that a person who has an interest, otherwise than as a member, and in common with other members, of an incorporated company of more than 25 members, in any contract or agreement made by or on behalf of the Commonwealth or the Territory, is not qualified to be elected or appointed, or to continue as a member of the council.
Recently, occasion arose to seek legal advice on the exact effect of this disqualification, and the legal officers of the Government have taken the view that the disqualification is not limited to cases in which a person supplies goods or services to the Commonwealth or the Territory, but applies in all cases in which a person enters into any form of contract or agreement with the Government, including such contracts or agreements as a lease of land, a lease of buildings, or a mining lease. In Papua and New Guinea, where, at this stage of its development, a large number of public activities are conducted by the Government, a large percentage of the European population are leaseholders in one capacity or another, and the strict application of the disqualification would exclude a very large percentage of the population from any hope of participating in the work of the legislature. Moreover, it is considered that the fact that a person has a contract or agreement, such as a lease, with the Commonwealth or the Administration, does not necessarily reduce the likelihood that he will act in a disinterested and impartial way in most of the matters that come before the Legislative Council. The bill therefore is intended to remove the absolute disqualification and provide that a member of the Legislative Council, who is a party to, or has a direct or indirect interest in, a contract made by, or on behalf of, the Commonwealth under which goods or services are to be supplied to the Commonwealth or the Administration, shall not take part in a discussion of a matter, or vote on a question, in the council where the matter or question refers directly or indirectly to that contract. In other words, a person who stands in a contractual relationship to the Commonwealth or the Administration, is not rigidly excluded from membership of the council, but if he becomes a member, he is prohibited from taking part in the discussion or vote on any matter in which he has a direct interest.
In a community such as exists in the Territory to-day, it is highly unlikely that the interest which a member may have in any matter which comes before the council would escape the knowledge of other members of the council, particularly as the members of the council include a number of officers engaged in the business of the Government. It is, therefore, proposed that all questions concerning the application of this new provision shall be decided by the Legislative Council itself on the motion of any of its members. I feel confident that this new provision will uphold the traditional view that a member of Parliament should not be in a position to discuss or vote on matters in which he has a pecuniary interest, while at the same time it will not exclude from membership persons capable of giving good service to the community.
Before we had received the legal advice to which I referred earlier, and before doubt had been cast upon the qualifications of existing members, the council had functioned in the belief that all of its members were qualified to sit and to act on the council. The advice we have received, however, does raise a doubt whether all of them were, in fact, qualified to do so. In these circumstances, it may be that the validity of the ordinances passed by the council will be called into question. To place their validity beyond doubt, the present bill includes a clause to validate the past or future acts of the council, notwithstanding any defect in the qualifications of a person who has purported to sit or vote as a member of the council or at a meeting of a committee of the council.
The bill provides that the council itself may determine questions respecting the qualifications of members, or a vacancy in the council, other than questions of a disputed election or a disputed return in connexion with an election. If the council does not wish to determine the matter itself, it may refer it by resolution to the supreme court of the Territory, which will thereupon hear and determine the question. The provisions of the bill which I have described correspond very closely with the provisions of an act made by this Parliament last year in respect of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. In view of its earlier agreement to proposals relating to the Northern Territory, I do not anticipate that Parliament will find any reason for not taking similar action in respect of Papua and New Guinea.
In summary, this bill seeks to clear up and place beyond doubt the question of the qualification of members of the Legislative Council for the Territory; to validate acts of the council which have been done in good faith in the past, but which may be open to question because of the doubt regarding the qualifications of members; and to provide a means by which questions relating to the qualifications of members may be determined.
As it was necessary to bring a bill before this Parliament for the purposes which I have described, advantage was taken of the occasion to rectify an omission, apparently as the result of an oversight, from the parent act. Section 73 of the act empowers the Administrator to grant a pardon to an offender, other than one sentenced to death. It is proposed to extend this power to pardon for an accomplice who gives evidence leading to the conviction of a principal offender. This provision existed in the Papua Act of 1905 and was continued in the Papua and New Guinea Provisional Administration Act 1945, but, apparently by an oversight, was omitted from the Papua and New Guinea Act of 1949. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Benn) adjourned.
– I move -
That Standing Order 68 be suspended up to and including 22nd May, 1957, to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
This is the usual motion submitted to the Senate on the closing days of the business before the chamber. So far as we can foresee the situation, the circumstances of the closing days of this session may be a little different from those of the past. The Government desires the Senate to sit on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. At the present time, there are some eighteen bills on the business-paper of the House of Representatives. We shall endeavour to clear the business-paper each day, keeping step, as it were, with the bills that come from the House of Representatives. If the other place finishes on Wednesday night, it may be that the Senate will need to sit on the following day in order to do the necessary work in the way in which it should be done. Whatever the way in which it is approached, there is this need to have sufficient flexibility in the handling of the business of the Senate to enable us to put new matters on the business-paper from now on.
The authority which the Government seeks by this motion will not be exercised arbitrarily. We shall endeavour to proceed in the way in which the Senate would like to see proceedings conducted; but, with only three more days left for business to come forward, there is, I think, very great advantage indeed in being able to put matters on the business-paper later at night, even though it may only mean putting them on the notice-paper and taking them to the second-reading stage so that every one may have the information before him. But I am not asking for a qualified approval; I am asking for the adoption of the motion as it stands on the business-paper.
– The Opposition will oppose the motion. As the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has indicated, it is the usual motion which is brought on as a session is nearing its end, and that, quite frankly, is one of the grounds upon which we oppose it.
I recall that the Leader of the House of Representatives (Mr. Harold Holt) announced that he had streamlined the business of this Parliament in such a way that only minor matters would be presented this session, that an end-of-session rush would be eliminated and that the convenience of members of the Parliament would be better met thereby. Now, with the general anticipation that the Senate, at least, will conclude its business on Wednesday, and after that happy forecast by Mr. Harold Holt, the Minister has submitted the usual motion for the suspension of the 1.0.30 o’clock rule. If the Minister had not given notice of this motion yesterday, I should have expected him to do it to-day, after seeing the heavy frost on the ground at Canberra this morning. I find, as a result of experience extending over many years, that the exodus from Canberra always follows the first severe frost in this city. The Minister has not disappointed me, nor has he surprised me in the least, by bringing forward this motion.
We voice our opposition, first of all, to this apparent result of the new streamlining procedure that Mr. Harold Holt announced, and secondly, to the proceedings of the last 24 hours in which, in major matter after major matter in which the Opposition is interested, debate has been most ruthlessly gagged after the viewpoint has been put.
I am not reflecting upon the determination of the Senate in those matters; I am commenting upon the action of the Government in proposing the closure of debate as was done on a very important adjournment motion and on two of the most important types of motion that could come before this chamber. I refer to motions for the disallowance of regulations. The Opposition has been treated with absolute contempt by the Government on three occasions within the last 24 hours, and I am sure that under those conditions honorable senators do not expect to find the Opposition meekly concurring in this prelude to all-night sittings. We oppose the motion for that reason.
What opportunity has the Opposition got, when the Government ruthlessly determines upon the application of a gag? That closure can never be debated. I invite the Government to remember that the Opposition is immediately thrown back upon whatever device comes to hand to indicate its annoyance at and its hostility to the procedures, and the sense of frustration which it feels. Accordingly, we make such gestures as we made to the Minister last night - not in his personal capacity - when we refused to grant him leave in a particular matter, and somebody came to his aid. Here, I give full marks to his “ aid “ for the speed with which he responded. I tendered him privately my congratulations upon his speed, and I now offer them publicly. That action was designed, frankly, to voice our protest against the type of treatment to which we have been subjected as an Opposition. I do protest against that type of thing. I am sure that every honorable senator in this chamber who has an appreciation of the need for giving the Opposition a proper opportunity must, in his heart, have resented what was done if he has any knowledge of parliamentary procedure and any basic sense of democracy. I doubt whether any honorable senator on the Government side is really happy about what has happened on the last three occasions
I do not want to take up the time of the Senate by prolonging my own remarks on this subject, but I do take the opportunity to express the sense of frustration that the Opposition feels as the result of that treatment and to point out that our opposition to this motion is based not only on the merits of the case but also on our resentment of the treatment that we have been accorded.
.- I wish to say a few words in opposition to this motion, because I said the other night that honorable senators were overpaid and underworked. When saying that, I had in mind those honorable senators who want to do as little as they possibly can for the money they receive. The fact is that this attitude on the part of the Parliament is bringing the institution more and more into contempt. The Parliament is about to go into recess. The recess from November to March last was about the longest on record. The object of Parliament’s going into recess, in my opinion, is to enable the Government to rule by regulation rather than by legislation, and I say that as one who was a member of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee in 1941. Regulation after regulation came before that committee and members had no opportunity of making the proper examination in order to ensure that those regulations were in conformity with the Acts Interpretation Act. Senator Spicer, and other honorable senators said of them, “ This is so much chicken-feed “. We were expected to agree to regulations without analysing or studying them. I resigned from that committee, and I gave the Senate the reasons for my resignation.
The tendency of this Parliament is to govern by regulation rather than by legislation, and that is leading us into a form of dictatorship. As a result of the action I took in 1 94 1 , regulations are now referred to some outside authority, but the position is not very much better to-day than it was then. We are asked to accept without question everything that is said in the name of the Government. I refuse to do that. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has pointed out that it is treating the Opposition with contempt to expect that. I. could use a stronger term and say that it is conspiring to mislead the people of this country. Yet the Government expects the Opposition to support it.
There is another reason why I oppose the motion. I refer to all-night sittings. After an all-night sitting, quite a number of Opposition senators, at least, are incapable of studying the matters before the Chair because they are suffering from mental exhaustion. If bills are to be considered on their merits, we must have a reasonable amount of time in which to discuss them.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has referred to the fact that we are not given sufficient time to discuss adequately proposals for the disallowance of regulations. The Government has adopted a dictatorial attitude in that respect. A measure is passed and regulations made under it are gazetted. Very few of us, if any, have an opportunity to study them to see whether they are in conformity with the principal act or with the Acts Interpretation Act. We are expected to accept them. I am not prepared to be a rubber stamp for the convenience of the Government or anybody else.
Then there is the gag, a procedure used by the Government to enable members of the Parliament to get through their work in the minimum time. If the average worker takes that attitude to his job, he is branded as a Communist and smeared from one end of the country to the other by members of Parliament, who profess to set an example to the people. Supporters of the Government are doing exactly what they criticized the Communists and so-called Communists for doing - that is, they are doing the least possible work for the highest pay. In these circumstances, I consider that I am justified in my opposition to the motion.
The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has said that we have eighteen bills to consider in three days. They might be measures of major importance or of minor importance - we do not know. But in any case, three days is not sufficient time for honorable senators to do the job that they are paid to do and which they promised to do on election day. Back in the days when I addressed the workers on the Yarra bank and in the Sydney Domain I used to tell them, “ You are being fooled, ruled and robbed from the cradle to the grave “. If I were speaking from a soap-box to-morrow, I would say the same thing, but with added emphasis, backed by all the necessary evidence of practical experience as a member of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– I take this opportunity to reiterate what I have said on previous occasions about late sittings of the Senate. As has been rightly said by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), the motion that has been proposed by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) is a prelude to late sittings. It is no laughing matter for us to have to sit late at night and early in the morning and sometimes all night. Honorable senators should realize that they can punch themselves too hard. Nervous tension increases with late sittings, and our health suffers. I intended to direct attention to this aspect of the matter towards the end of the last two sessional periods, but I was caught napping and did not have an opportunity to do so. I should like the Minister to assure me that, whichever way the vote goes, we will not be required to sit after midnight. I think that that is quite late enough.
I point out, sir, that if the Parliament sat for another fortnight or so, the business still to be attended to could be dealt with leisurely and in comfort, without knocking ourselves and the staff about by late or allnight sittings. I know that the Government must get its legislation through, but I cannot see any reason why we should not continue to sit for another two or three weeks. I deprecate the practice of Ministers announcing, towards the end of sessional periods, that, as it is intended that the Parliament shall go into recess in the following week, honorable senators will be required to sit from early in the morning until late at night, or perhaps for all night. As I have said, we can punch ourselves toohard. I protest against very late sittings and all-night sittings.
Question put -
That Standing Order 68 be suspended up to and including 22nd May, 1957; to enable new businessto be commenced after 10.30 p.m:
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senator SPOONER (New South Wales-
Minister for National Development) [2.47]. - I move -
That Government business take precedence of general business after 8 p.m. this sitting.
This motion creates circumstances under which we shall not be able to take to-night the notice of motion that has been given by Senator Armstrong. I should like to have had the motion presented because I believe that when notice of such a motion is put on the business paper we should deal with it. However, we are in such a position that Senator Armstrong’s motion has been crowded out by the need for us to get through our programme. So far as I am concerned personally, I would welcome it being dealt with in the first week of the next sessional period.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I present the first report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Debate resumed from 15th May (vide page 758), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– When the Senate adjourned last night, I was endeavouring to show that the Opposition’s objection to this measure was groundless. I made the point that the bill is purely an administrative measure, and that the fears expressed by the Opposition that the bill would lead to the creation of some formidable police service, whose activities might be used improperly by the Government, were without basis.
The bill does not in any way relate to the prescribed functions of the joint services that are mentioned in the measure. The functions of the services have already been laid down with particularity, and they will not be altered in any way by this legislation. Even if they were altered, there would still be a definite obligation upon the responsible Minister to ensure that the appropriate duties were being carried out. If at any time, the proposed Commonwealth police force exceeded its function, the court would still be able to ensure that justice was done and that the proper duties of the force were performed correctly. 1 have endeavoured to show that this measure administratively has certain virtues. There are one or two other matters in that connexion to which I wish to refer. I believe that the Government is facing a difficulty - which this bill will overcome - relating to proper recruitment for the joint services and particularly for what is now called the Commonwealth Investigation Service. As I have endeavoured to show, the volume of work performed by this service, and its importance, have been increasing. The nature of the work is such that it requires more staff and, particularly, more senior staff.
It must be admitted that the only field of recruitment for the Commonwealth Investigation Service is the State police forces. We cannot get an investigator from the Commonwealth Public Service because they do not exist there. The investigation service requires more recruits. Where can it get them? As it cannot get them from the Commonwealth Public Service, it must look to the State police forces, but a difficulty arises because it is obvious that no State police officer of any promise would readily agree to transfer to the Commonwealth Investigation Service in the present circumstances. He would immediately become a fourth division Commonwealth public servant as an investigator and, upon promotion, actually would have to leave that field and would become a member of the clerical staff. That is something that no true investigator would desire. Therefore I suggest that in the field of recruitment the Government is facing a difficulty which this bil) will circumvent.
There is another problem which I suggest is important. It is related to the direction and control of the two joint services. As I have endeavoured to show, the two services are in fact serving two masters in some respects - the Public Service Board and the Attorney-General. It must be difficult for the Attorney-General and the board to control two services when in fact they are not completely under their control. It is a well known axiom of military administration and organization that there can be only one commander-in-chief and that the chain of authority must proceed through the system of command down to the lowest administrative or organizational unit.
– Will the honorable senator explain why clause 5 (4.) does not cover that position?
– It is because the Public Service Board is responsible for such matters as pay, allowances, leave and promotion. There is a further objection to the present set-up in that both services are carrying out the same function - that of a police force. As we all now know, they are called respectively the Commonwealth Investigation Service and the Peace Officer Guard; but they are, in fact jointly carrying out the function of a normal police service. If one regards them in that context, surely one must accept the proposition that there must be times when the separate functions of those two bodies overlap. It is all very fine to prescribe separate duties for the respective services, but, when they are performing only one function, surely it must be accepted that at times confusion must arise because of the overlapping of duties and responsibilities. I suggest that the Attorney-General and his departmental officers must find it most difficult to control the services when there is overlapping and when the officers of one section of his department cannot issue instructions or exercise authority over the other.
For all the reasons that I have given - they are all administrative reasons - I suggest that the present measure is desirable. I do not think that the Labour party is sincere in its opposition to the bill, but has only raised a bogy. I repeat that it is not proposed that there shall be any alteration of the function of these two services. I mention in passing that the proposed force will have nothing whatever to do with what was described last night as the secret service. The police force will be an overt service, a normal police force, whose only function by law will be the prevention of law-breaking.
– Or attempted lawbreaking.
– Or attempted lawbreaking. If at any time, because of ministerial direction or for any other reason, it exceeds that function the courts will, I hope, as in the past, be there for the express purpose, amongst other things, of preventing such maladministration.
So, I suggest, very briefly and in conclusion, that the measure is desirable on three counts. First, it will assist the Government in the efficient administration of what is to be a combined service; secondly, it will assist the Attorney-General in the control of the service; and, thirdly and most importantly, it will give some impetus to recruitment and offer a field that does not already exist for the promotion of officers who are deserving of it.
.- Government supporters have endeavoured to persuade the Senate that this bill is very simple. The manner in which it has been presented to us makes one wonder why it has been necessary to introduce it. We have been told that it has been introduced for the purpose of amalgamating two important Commonwealth services. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), in his second-reading speech, and honorable senators who have supported him have said that in 1917 an investigation branch came into existence and was attached to the Public Service. It has been further said that later it was necessary to create a uniformed organization known as the Peace Officer Guard, the members of which do not belong to the Public Service. We have been told that each of those organizations has been carrying out, in its own way, the important function of protecting the people of this country.
Now we are told that all that the bill seeks to do is to amalgamate those two organizations. It has been suggested that all along there has been a connecting link between the two, that the officer who is in charge of the Investigation Service is also in charge of the Peace Officer Guard. It is one of the most remarkable bills that have been presented to the Parliament since I became a member of it. Likewise, the Minister’s second-reading speech is one of the most remarkable that have been delivered to the Parliament since I was elected to it. I make that statement because of the lack of detail that has been presented to the Senate both in the bill and in the Minister’s speech. Those honorable senators who have supported the measure have not enlightened in any way the Parliament about the necessity for introducing the measure. Last night, Senator Vincent complained that Opposition senators, because the proceedings of the Senate were being broadcast, made a great attempt to frighten the listening public in regard to what was intended in this very innocuous - to use the words of those who support it - measure.
If there is one reason why there should be any suspicion in the minds of Opposition senators, it is the lack of information that 1 have complained about. Clause 10 provides that the Attorney-General may appoint special police officers. We have not been told what their duties will be or why they are to be appointed. The bill seeks to give to one man the power to augment the police force without the Parliament having any say in the functions which the additional members of that force will perform. Senator Cameron and I, in particular, and other honorable senators, have cause to remember the formation of a secret police force in this country. The fact that neither of us was incarcerated was not the fault of the secret service or the investigation officers who were appointed in 1917. Because we opposed the policy of the government of the day, we knew, whenever we rose to address the people and to point out what we felt was the infliction of a wrong upon them, that secretly behind us, behind a tree, or concealed in the audience, were men who were recording our speeches. If we had erred, to even a small degree, we could have been haled before a tribunal and incarcerated.
That force was established by one man, and it continued in existence for a number of years. Is there any guarantee that such a state of affairs as existed in those days may not exist in the future? All that was being done was to oppose a Government measure. There was no subversive activity. We were right out in the open, addressing the people, who endorsed our actions in an unmistakable manner. That is the early history of the Commonwealth investigation service, which is still in existence.
We, as members of a responsible Parliament, are asked, without being given any information at all, to give to the AttorneyGeneral power to bring a special force into being. I would say that no one would object to the establishment of a Commonwealth police force if the purpose for which it was to be established were known. Surely no honorable senator believes that the sole purpose of this bill is to co-ordinate the activities of the two existing bodies. Surely we are not so simple as to believe that statement. There are other reasons for the bill, we cannot find them, and so we are quite justified in believing that this force may become the equivalent of the American Federal Bureau of Investigation. It may be a strike-smashing organization, or another branch of the secret service.
We are told, of course, that it will not have anything to do with the security service, which seeks out those persons who are secretly plotting and planning to destroy this Commonwealth. I understand that the Commonwealth Investigation Service was entrusted with very important work during the early days of World War II., and it did that work with great efficiency. It was able to ensure that Australia was kept free from subversive elements, and it was a recognized part of the police forces. There was no need then for security men, of whom we learned from the proceedings of the Royal Commission of Espionage in Australia. That royal commission - the Petrov inquiry - illuminated the machinations of the secret service, not only in our own country, but also in other countries, lt was quite interesting to learn that there is an espionage service within the espionage service.
The Commonwealth Investigation Service went about its work in an efficient manner and was able to do all that was necessary. Our uniformed Peace Officer Guard, which has watched over the assets of this country in safe deposits and munition factories, or on aerodromes - wherever they might be - has done a remarkably efficient job. After reading the bill and the Minister’s speech time and time again, I cannot see where anything that will increase the efficiency of these services is to be done.
We have been told that it is rather difficult to recruit people for these services. 1 do not know that there has been any difficulty. In Victoria recently the office of Deputy Director of the Commonwealth Investigation Service fell vacant, and although there were efficient officers appointed as deputy directors in other parts of the Commonwealth, they were passed over. It is suggested that this bill will make it possible for the Commonwealth Police Force to become a career service. I do not think that the Attorney-General, or those persons who are in charge of the administration, gave very much encouragement to members of the Commonwealth Investigation Service when a member of the Victorian police force - admittedly, a very efficient and capable detective - was chosen to fill the senior position in Victoria when it fell vacant. Does any provision in the bill guarantee to members of this force that such a course will not be followed again? 1 should say that the appointment was made under a regulation. Certainly the Parliament knew nothing about it. Is there any guarantee to those persons with power of perception to sift evidence and track down wrongdoers, who feel that there is a bright and brilliant career in the inquisitorial sphere, that they will share in the plums of office? ls there not a clause in the bill to provide that after the Commonwealth Investigation Service is removed from the Public Service, the executives of that service will still remain members of the Public Service? This is the service in regard to which the Minister complains that we cannot get sufficient recruits. What a paradox! The rank and file of the service are to be withdrawn from the Public Service, but the tall poppies, the executives, are to remain in it. Talk about an anomaly! I do not know of any other bill that has contained such a provision. Who are the executives who will remain in the Public Service? There is no information on that in either the bill or the second-reading speech. I hope that during the committee stages we might get that information.
Look at the power of regulation! We have spoken of the Gestapo, the secret police, and all that sort of thing. When honorable senators opposite want to ridicule some other nation they refer to such matters. If this bill becomes law, we shall have in operation an instrumentality which will be directed according to regulations. A few minutes ago Senator Cameron spoke of the manner in which regulations, in connexion with other matters, have been promulgated by Ministers. At the moment every regulation made under those conditions comes before this Parliament and honorable senators are able to investigate it. As a matter of fact, a copy of the regulation is posted to every member of the Parliament and he has an opportunity to peruse it. Any defici encies can be brought to the notice of the Parliament and the regulation may be disallowed if the Parliament so desires. However, in this service, regulations can be written and need not even be forwarded to the Government Printer to be printed in the usual way. The regulations can be secretly written in the office of some person, and secretly put into effect.
– Where is that provision to be found?
– In this bill. If the honorable senator reads the bill, he will see the provision. That is how it will operate. This Parliament will not have the opportunity to challenge any regulation that is promulgated. Is it any wonder, then, that the Opposition is suspicious of this measure?
Another function of the proposed new police force will be to co-ordinate the activities of many investigating services at present operating throughout the Commonwealth. The members of the police forces of the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and other territories are assured in this bill that they will not be brought within the ambit of the new police force;, but there are other services whose activities the new force has the responsibility to coordinate, direct and so on.
I put it to honorable senators as reasonable men who have some knowledge of the working of the Public Service or of any organization, that they know full well that when a section such as this has the opportunity of furthering its own interests, it will undertake the work of these other sections, and slowly but surely they will be absorbed. As a matter of fact, Senator Laught expressed that point of view last evening, indicating what is in the minds of some who are supporting this bill. He said that he hoped the day would come when all these various forces would be brought together in one big organization. So I suggest that if there are members of police forces in the territories who feel that, because of the words printed in this bill, or that have been spoken, during this debate, they are immune fromsuch a possibility, I am afraid that they should visualize the day, not too far distant, when they will be included in this, service.
What about the investigators who are already at work? Most of our departments have investigators. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) pointed out that the Department of Social Services has officers who investigate any allegation of fraud or other offence against the Social Services Act. The Department of Customs and Excise has a very efficient set of investigators who are aware of all the artifices that are practised by those who want to infringe our customs regulations. These investigators have almost X-ray eyes judging by the manner in which they are able to detect contraband, especially narcotics and drugs, that smugglers attempt to bring into this country. They are a very efficient force.
Can anybody tell me the necessity for this new force? Will the new force help us to improve the very efficient standard of service that exists in the Customs Department to-day? Members of the executive of the force may be members of the Public Service whilst the rank and file will not be members of the Public Service. The executive may suddenly say, “ We had better have a look at the sections we have to co-ordinate “, and interfere with an already efficient service.
The same thing applies with regard to the Postal Department, which employs very efficient investigators to detect infringements of the Post and Telegraph Act. This new force may undertake the work that is being undertaken in that connexion. Although the hill says that the members of the police force are to remain in their present positions, one provision gives to the new body the power of co-ordination and direction. That is the source from which trouble is likely to arise in the very near future.
This bill is remarkable for what it does not contain, and the second-reading speech of the Minister was remarkable for the same reason. One would have thought that in introducing a measure of such importance as this, the Government would have told the Senate why it was necessary. lt has been suggested that work has increased. What work? We have been given no details of the increased duties that the present existing staff are performing. Some honorable senator mentioned the aerodromes that are being established. Good gracious! We look back to the war years and think of all the aerodromes, munition plants, annexes and all the other paraphernalia that goes with fighting a great war. All those establishments in the far-flung parts of the country were protected by the peace officers as we know them. Now the Government comes along to-day at this stage of our development and tells us that great expansion has taken place.
The Minister also suggests that the population of Australia has increased. Of course the population of this country has increased! But when did it become the function of the Peace Officer Guard or the Commonwealth Investigation Service to deal with State affairs? Have we not a police force in each of the six States? That is their function and they have cooperated with the Commonwealth. I know that at times a very fine line can be drawn between what are Commonwealth and what are State responsibilities, but up to the moment everything has gone along satisfactorily. We have arguments of this kind placed before the Senate. Surely those who were responsible for the introduction of this measure cannot believe that honorable senators on this side are so simple as to accept what has been stated here. There must be some other motive for the establishment of this body, and therefore, although we agree that a police force is necessary, this bill is of such a nature that there is no other course open to us than to oppose it at every stage.
– The members of this party had not intended to speak to this bill because we thought that the most sensible thing to do was that which the bill proposes shall be done. However, it seems that as soon as some one mentions a secret service there are those who jump to the conclusion that a conspiracy is contemplated. That attitude is a hang-over from the Petrov case of a year or more ago. That is the reason for the strong opposition to this bill by the Evatt party.
– Why not call it the Australian Labour party?
– The only sensible thing to do is to combine these two services. In none of the Australian States is the detective service separated from the uniformed police force. Why should they be separated in the Commonwealth sphere? The question may be asked whether the union of which the peace officers are members is opposed to the bill. So far as I know, its members have not expressed any opposition to it, but, on the contrary, are quite prepared to accept it.
There was only one provision in the bill concerning which this party had some doubt. We thought that it would be possible in framing the regulations governed by clause 13 to leave a loophole which would enable promotions to be decided on the basis of favoritism. We therefore made some inquiries in the right quarters, and ascertained the legal position. We were informed that under the regulations appeal tribunals could be set up. That information overcame the only objection we had to the bill.
Last night Senator Aylett made some remarks to the detriment of the security service and the Peace Officer Guard. If either of those bodies was responsible for bringing to public notice the unsavoury mess in which Senator Aylett was a principal in Tasmania, all I can say is that its action stands to its credit. Having found no reason to object to the bill, the members of this party have much pleasure in giving it their approval.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . ….. 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Commencement).
– This clause reads - “ This Act shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation “.I ask the Minister to inform the Senate what the Government has in contemplation regarding the commencement of the proposed new Commonwealth police force. It seems to me that the amalgamation of the two bodies with which the bill deals could take place very rapidly by reason of the fact that they have a common executive head and that very little machinery will be required to combine them. It is not as though these officers were being brought under the Public Service Act. If that were the case, I can understand that there could be some delay because of readjustments involving classifications, and so on. The purpose of the bill is not to bring officers under that act, but to put them outside its scope. Administratively, the fusion of those two bodies can be facilitated. Is the Minister in a position to indicate when it is contemplated that the measure, if passed, will be proclaimed?
– Replying to the specific question asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) I point out that many of the administrative changes proposed in the bill will need to be provided for by regulation. It will take some time to prepare the regulations. The present estimate is that it may be a period of some months before the act is proclaimed and before the scheme becomes effective.
If I may add something whilst I am on my feet, I should like to say that I regret that a position arose by which I did not reply to the arguments advanced during the second-reading debate. I had gone to some little pains in preparing to do so, but the debate finished unexpectedly when I happened to be out of the chamber, and therefore I was unable to reply. If honorable senators approve, there are one or two points with which I should like to deal even at this stage.
– We have no objection at all.
– The main point is that, judging from the tenor of the debate on the second reading, there was some misunderstanding about what is contemplated in the bill. What is contemplated is that these two law enforcement agencies of the Attorney-General’s Department will be integrated. One of those agencies is the investigation service, which is the civilian or plain-clothes detective force. Its officers are employed under the Public Service Act, and the staff numbers 54. It operates in all States of the Commonwealth. The other section is the uniformed constabulary, known as the Peace Officer Guard, totalling some 650 members. It operates outside the Public Service Act. It is covered by the Peace Officers Act of 1925. The bill proposes to integrate the two agencies into one, the new agency to be named the Commonwealth Police Force. That new force will operate, not under the Public Service Act, but under this bill when it becomes law.
The bill seeks to do two things in connexion with the Peace Officer Guard. The bill gives it a new name, and opens up to its members possibilities of promotion to the upper investigational and administrative ranks. The measure gives them some permanence of employment, which is denied to them at the present time.
As to the Peace Officer Guard, its duties, powers and responsibilities are virtually unchanged from what they are and have been. I make that point because there seemed to be some other views expressed in the chamber as to what might be the function of the new integrated force in the future. There are other points of a similar nature, and if information is wanted on them in the committee stage, I shall do what I can to supply it.
– At this stage, I advert to only one matter raised by the
Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). I think he indicated that there were only 54 who constituted the Commonwealth Investigation Service. Did I hear him aright?
– Then I refer the Minister to page 180 of the Estimates, which gives details of the establishment, and the money provided. It shows that the total staff of the Commonwealth Investigation Service is 90. It is true that this figure does include clerical assistants, typists assistants, junior assistants and so on. Is that the explanation for the difference?
– Yes. I have excluded those.
– That would very nearly reconcile the two figures. I was just concerned about the discrepancy between the figure mentioned by the Minister and that appearing in the Estimates.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Constitution of Commonwealth Police Force).
– This is a substantive clause which provides for the establishment of a police force. It proceeds to say that that force shall consist of, firstly, Commonwealth police officers of such number, ranks and grades as the AttorneyGeneral, with the concurrence of the Public Service Board, determines.
This clause provides for what is normally known as the establishment of the force. From what I understand of the position, the procedure is that the Government, or the Attorney-General, makes the decision that the force is to exercise certain functions. An approach is then made to the Public Service Board. The Public Service Board cannot act in denial of that decision of the Government, and must confine itself to determining the grades and numbers that are required.
I point out that pursuant to that clause any kind of function may be entrusted to the new body, and the first question I put to the Minister is a functional one. Is he in a position to put before the committee, in broad terms, exactly what are deemed to be the present functions of the Commonwealth Investigation Service and the Peace
Officer Guard? We have been told generally that the latter body is concerned with the guarding of Commonwealth property, but I have not heard from the Government, or on behalf of the Government, to date, just what are the broad functions of the Commonwealth Investigation Service. I think it is not a proper answer to say that the service is concerned with Commonwealth law enforcement. 1 suggest that does not give any adequate picture of their activities to the committee.
One of the arguments that has been addressed to the chamber in support of the bill is that the new set-up would provide a career service. I point out to the Minister that that situation already exists in the Commonwealth Investigation Service. Men are brought into that service, which is administered under the Public Service Act, both from inside and outside the Public Service. It would appear to me that many of them have been brought in from outside the Public Service, particularly in the beginning and during its developmental stage. One can well understand that that might be so. To indicate that there is a career service already, pursuant to section 39 of the Public Service Act, by which those outside the Public Service may be brought in without examination, I point out that the present director himself joined under that provision as a fourth division officer and has gone through all grades to the head of the Service. I understand that to be the position. If that is so, there is a perfect demonstration of the fact that already the present body does provide a career service.
I understand that there are some five grades. The first is that of assistant investigator, for which the salary range is £868- £958. Then comes investigator, grade 1, with a salary ranging from £958-£l,048. That is followed by investigator grade 2, whose salary ranges from £1,048-£1,136. After that comes investigator grade 3, with a salary ranging from £1,108 to £1,198. He is followed by the senior investigator, whose salary ranges from £1,178 to £1,358. The men in those five grades provide the material for the higher executive and administrative posts. I think it was Senator Sheehan who pointed out earlier that quite recently the service went outside the ordinary Public Service to the police force of Victoria to select and bring in a deputy director. It seems to me that the service has the widest field for recruitment. It may take applicants from both inside and outside the Public Service. It has in its agencies and sections a whole series of grades, providing opportunities for advancement. It does constitute a career service. In those circumstances, we find it difficult to accept the two reasons that have been given, first, that there are difficulties about recruitment, and, secondly, that the service does not provide the opportunities that are provided in a career service. It appears to me that if this service wishes to do so, it may hand-pick its men from the Peace Officer Guard. They are outside the service. If there is good material in the Peace Officer Guard, what is to prevent the Commonwealth Investigation Service from picking the best men of the Peace Officer Guard? I am submitting to the Minister that that could be done without this bill. In addition, the element of career service is there all the time. I know that the Minister has not been able to give me his full attention, but does he feel that I have made my case plain?
– As to functions, the Investigation Service is, in truth, the Commonwealth detective service. Its work is to investigate alleged offences against the laws of the Commonwealth. To a very great extent, it is the detective service for the Commonwealth for alleged offences under the Crimes Act. Then there is the Peace Officer Guard, which I would describe - erroneously I am sure - as being in the nature of a caretaker service - peace officers doing guard duty. I cannot state the functions more clearly or simply.
I turn to the second question that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has raised. The Commonwealth Investigation Service, being a detective service - a highly skilled service - is under the Public Service Act. One of the objectives of this bill is to apply to the Commonwealth Investigation Service the procedure that has been adopted in respect of the Snowy Mountains Authority, the Joint Coal Board and other quasi-independent bodies. Their staffs are not subject to the Public Service Act, but they get the benefit of the provisions, the atmosphere or the background of the Public Service Act, combined with freedom of action for the commissioners, which is very desirable indeed. What happens in practice is that most of the important steps are taken by the authority concerned, with the advice and assistance of the Public Service Board, against the background of the Public Service. But there is left to the commissioners concerned that freedom of action which is so important, especially in respect of promotions. In the Snowy Mountains Authority, for instance, seniority is not by any means the deciding factor in appointments to professional posts requiring skilled and experienced men. The best man is appointed to do a responsible job. It is that system that we contemplate for this body of men. I do not pretend to be an expert on the Public Service. I have had it explained to me that the Public Service has various grades, and that an officer may go from grade 4 to grade 3, and so on.
The Leader of the Opposition has argued that the present system cannot be detrimental to the staff because the present Director of the Commonwealth Investigation Service has come up through the ranks, while the service has been under the Public Service Act. But my instructing officer has passed me a note which says that the director was appointed under section 47 of the act to the Second Division, which, I assume, means that a special procedure was adopted and that the appointment was not made in the way in which Public Service appointments are made ordinarily.
A man may be a good constable or a good detective but, in accordance with Public Service rules and regulations, he must have certain educational qualifications before he can be permitted to go from grade 3 to, we will say, grade 2. The Public Service rules and regulations on this subject, like the laws of the Medes and the Persians, are immutable. They prescribe that, for promotion from, say, grade 3 to grade 2, certain qualifications are required, but our proposal aims at cutting away that red tape and letting the officers in charge of the Commonwealth police force make promotions, not by seniority, not by educational qualifications, but so that the right man will be selected for the right job. I do not think it wants a great deal of imagination to see that in this service the selection of the right man for the right job is not only important, but has inherent or particular difficulties.
Senator McKenna (Tasmania - Leader’ of the Opposition) [3.52].- Sub-clause (2.) of clause 4 reads -
The regulations may provide that the person for the time being occupying or performing the duties of a specified office in the Public Service of the Commonwealth shall be an executive officer of the Commonwealth Police Force and that person shall be deemed to be n Commonwealth Police Officer for the purposes of sections three, six, seven and thirteen of this Act.
I understand that the explanation of this provision is that the present executive heads of the Commonwealth Investigation Service, both in the central body and in the States, are members of the Public Service, that it is intended that they will be confirmed in their positions, and that they will remain members of the Commonwealth Public Service. If the position is as I have described it, why has this not been done by means of a substantive provision in the bill, instead of providing that it may be done by regulation? That is the first question that I pose. It seems anomalous to me, if the main purpose of this measure is to take the Commonwealth Investigation Service away from the Commonwealth Public Service, that a determined effort is being made to retain members of the Commonwealth Public Service at the head of it. That makes it a rather hydrid body. The main purpose is to shift the Commonwealth Investigation Service out of the Commonwealth Public Service, but to preserve the heads of that service under the Public Service Act. I can understand the need to preserve their rights, but why is the provision so hybrid?
– Although I was correct in the interjection I made, I did not go far enough. Not only that the senior officers would be deemed to be police officers; there are also junior officers on the clerical staff who are not normally members of the Commonwealth police force, but who, from time to time, in a particular investigation or for some particular purpose, need to be clothed with the authority of a police officer. The provision will enable those clerks and clerical assistants to be so regarded.
– Does that mean that persons who are outside the police force shall have that authority? The bill states -
I take it that the Minister is saying there will be members of the Commonwealth police force doing administrative or clerical work who will be sent out on investigation work. That does not seem to reconcile with the clause as it is drafted.
– Members of the clerical staff who are not members of the Commonwealth police force may from time to time be required to be clothed with authority. That is the position.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 Commonwealth Police Officers).
– I wish to refer to sub-clause (2.), which states -
Subject to this section, the Attorney-General may appoint persons to be Commonwealth Police Officers.
Sub-clause (3.) provides that a person who is appointed must be a British subject, must be passed as medically fit and must take an appropriate oath. Subject to those three requirements being satisfied, the Attorney-General, pursuant to sub-clause (2.), may appoint persons to be Commonwealth police officers. In a later clause of the bill, the Attorney-General is authorized to delegate his powers, and I have no doubt that the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth will not concern himself about selecting the personnel. He would delegate that duty and leave it entirely to the head of a department.
I put it to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) that this is a vast power to put into the hands of an individual, whether it be the AttorneyGeneral or the departmental head in charge of the amalgamated service. I point out that it could lead to favoritism when one man has complete determination of the personnel that will constitute the force. The appointees are not to be screened by Public Service officers. The appointments are to be made arbitrarily at the discretion of one individual. That is the focal point where we cross swords with the Government on this bill. What can the Minister say in justification of that provision?
I would be prepared to give away the principle in favour of the Commonwealth security service where very different considerations obtain. The need for secrecy in connexion with the Commonwealth police force is not so apparent as it is with the security service, and the Minister would not be prepared to argue that contention. Why should not the Public Service Board or its officers be imported into the screening of the personnel? After all that is the body which screens and assesses every other type of applicant medically, dentally and professionally. There is nothing specially marvellous about a detective force. It would be easier to pick a good detective than to select a good technical officer, yet the Public Service Board, with its vast experience and large staff, is able to make those assessments very much better than any individual could do.
I merely point out that in relation to the terms and conditions of employment generally, the Public Service Board is brought into the matter. Why is it not brought into this provision in relation to appointments? Why should it not be provided that the Attorney-General may, with the concurrence of the Public Service Board, make the appointments? The other two aspects of employment are determined in conjunction with the Attorney-General.
I pass now to sub-clause (4.), which provides that Commonwealth police officers appointed under this bill will not be subject to the Public Service Act. The officers in the Peace Officer Guard are definitely concerned. I have had a telegram from their organization only to-day, and they are concerned that they might not have opportunities of appeal. They are outside the Public Service Act at the moment. They have communicated with me to ascertain whether they will have a right of appeal against punishment, demotions and promotions over their heads. Once a body like this, which constitutes a large public service, is cut off from the well-established code under the Public Service Act, everybody is nervous until the new code is determined.
Is it contemplated that, under the new terms and conditions of service, there will be machinery for appeals by officers against arbitrary determinations of the AttorneyGeneral or the permanent head? I think the Minister will agree that there should be some such provision. Under sub-clause (4.), the terms and conditions of service are such as the Attorney-General, with the concurrence of the Public Service Board, determines. I have no doubt that he will not determine anything until the police force is established. But is the Minister able to give an assurance that all officers of the Commonwealth Police Force will be safeguarded with some sort of appeal comparable to that provided for the Public Service?
I pass now to sub-clause (5.), which states -
Determinations made in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section shall be in writing, but shall be deemed not to be Statutory Rules within the meaning of the Rules Publication Act 1903- 1939.
What is the purpose of making that provision? It seems to me that it establishes or justifies some suspicion that there is an element of secrecy about this matter. The Rules Publication Act provides that determinations or appeals or rules by a Minister, among other things, are to be sent to the Government Printer, are to be printed and available for sale. What is in the mind of the Government in proposing that that machinery may not operate in this case?
I raise a second question. What does the Minister say regarding determinations which the Minister is not obliged by the bill to lay upon the table of the Senate or the House of Representatives? What opportunity will the Parliament have to veto the terms and conditions that the AttorneyGeneral, with the concurrence of the Public Service Board, shall determine?
What will be the position of the new force in relation to the Public Service Arbitrator? As I understand the matter, I think the new force would, under the definition in the Public Service Arbitration Act, be deemed to come within the Arbitrator’s scope and power. Under section 12 of that act, this body - the new police force - would have access to the Public Service Arbitrator if its members were not satisfied with the determinations of the Minister. Will the Minister inform me whether that is the position?
– It is intended that both promotions and disciplinary appeal boards shall be set up, and that the Public Service Arbitrator shall be available. I direct attention to clause 13, which obviously contemplates appeals against punishment.
– I broadened it by referring to appeals against the promotion of men over the heads of other men.
– I have already said that it is intended to set up both promotions and disciplinary appeal boards. I think they were the specific matters referred to.
– What about the Rules Publication Act?
– Will the appeal board be set up within the department?
– The scheme has not yet been worked out to that extent. On the general question about the possibility of favoritism, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has expressed a viewpoint that goes right to the heart of the whole scheme. In introducing the bill, the Government presents a proposal that has a Public Service atmosphere or background in that there will be certain directions in which action must be taken with the concurrence of the Public Service Board. Superimposed upon those requirements will be other matters which nominally will rest entirely in the hands of the Minister, although, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, in practice they will rest in the hands of the senior officer of the Service. I would not attempt to deny that. The whole thought behind this scheme is that, in order to establish an efficient police force and to get men who have the qualities that are needed for appointments to the detective service, it is necessary to have a degree of flexibility that cannot be obtained if an organization is part of the Public Service.
– But that is not stated in clause 5. All that clause provides is that the appointees shall be British subjects and be of good health. No educational standard is prescribed.
– That is the point. The measure allows for flexibility in those directions. I cross swords with the Leader of the Opposition when he says that it is not difficult to obtain the right kind of recruit for this work. It is difficult to obtain men who have the qualities that are needed in a good detective, and I think that, upon reflection, the Leader of the Opposition will be inclined to agree with that statement. Certain qualities which may not run hand in hand with the educational qualifications that are required for entry into the Public Service are needed to enable a person to do this kind of work effectively.
– Of course, these employees must write reports. The Victorian police force is now calling in young lads at sixteen years of age to give them a Couple of years’ training, and the new scheme is proving to be very good.
– My instructing officers point out that there is no other police force in Australia that is subject to the provisions of the respective Public Service acts. For various reasons, those forces have been removed from the scope of the ordinary Public Service regulations. I have been arguing from the viewpoint that it is desirable to have flexibility in building up an efficient police force. Another reason, perhaps, why the various police forces in Australia are not subject to the control df Public Service authorities is the desire to preserve their independence so that, if they are called upon to conduct an investigation in a certain department, they will not be subject to pressure or the atmosphere that would be created if they had an obligation to, owed allegiance to, or were subservient to that department or the Public Service Board.
Because the answers that have been given by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) indicate that quite a lot of detail has yet to be worked out, I ask him why there is so much hurry in introducing this bill. The two organizations in question have been in existence for some time and are working very well at the moment. Why, then should there be so much hurry in presenting the measure before the various details have been worked out? I suggest that consideration of the bill should be deferred so that the employeesof the two services, and honorable senators,, will know in detail what the Government: proposes to do.
– I thank the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) for the comprehensiveness of his reply. I point out that the Commonwealth’ Investigation Service is only a small organization, its effective investigational forceconsisting of no more than 54 persons. 1 now ask the Minister: To what extent is it intended to expand the service? Is it to be merely increased, doubled, or trebled? One reason why a distinction may be drawn1 between this force and the various State forces is that, when the size of the Commonwealth force is compared with that of the State forces, it is insignificant.
– At the moment.
– Yes, at the moment, and it has been so for some 40 years. After all is said and done, it has managed to get the men it wanted during the past 40 years, and I think the Minister indicated that even the head of the service was recruited under section 47 of the Public Service Act. That section provides for the entry into the Public Service of persons who have certain certificates. I agree with the statement that good detectives are rare, that they are specialists. I agree, too, with the statement that, when a man is required who is trained and ready to go into action, it is necessary to go outside the service in its formative stage. Apparently no difficulty has been experienced in getting the Public Service Board to assist to that end.
Section 39 of the Public Service Act enables personnel to be recruited in the fourth division and to pass through five or six grades up to a substantial salary. It seems to me that there would be more confidence in permanency of employment in the new body if outsiders felt that they were coming into the Commonwealth service knowing that the code under which they were to serve protected them in relation to conditions, tenure, superannuation and the rest.
There was one matter to which the Minister, I think, did not advert. I had asked whether a determination as to the terms and conditions, made by the Attorney-General with the concurrence of the Public Service Board, would be such a document as should be laid on the table of both Houses and be subject to disallowance. My own impression is that it will not be so subject, and the Minister may tell me that that does not worry him by reason of the fact that the Attorney-General is compelled to make once each year a report containing a summary of the activities of the body. I say that that is not satisfactory, first, because one may not be able to debate it, and, secondly, because one can move no amendment to it or take any other effective action. I should like a specific answer from the Minister as to whether, in the way that sub-clause (4.) is framed, there is any obligation upon the Attorney-General to file in the Parliament the document that he draws up, in conjunction with the Public Service Board, determining the very important matter of the terms and conditions of employment of this force.
.- Before the Minister replies, I wonder if I may be permitted to intervene, just briefly. I did not dream that on the consideration of this bill it would be necessary to establish the need of any government to have an effective police force for the maintenance and execution of its laws. The history of the British police force, if one reads the apprehensive statements of the British Parliament in the time of the French Revolution, when the British police force was born, should quieten all fears that in a country like ours a police force will be used for the abuse of power by the Executive.
I have indulged in the luxury of reminding myself of the statements that were made in those day by Lord Byron and Lord Eldon - who acted as his own policeman and brought two ruffians into his household and threatened them with hanging - and of the amusing spectacle of the Lord Chancellor of the day being his own policeman, before the British police force was born. If I may be permitted, I shall refer the Senate to Peel’s moderate approach. After several unsuccessful attempts in 1822 to secure acceptance of his bill, he referred it to a committee and was astonished to find that that committee reported -
It is difficult to reconcile an effective system of police with that perfect freedom of action and exemption from interference which are the great privileges and blessing of society in this country, and Your Committee think that the forfeiture or curtailment of such advantages would be too great a sacrifice for improvements in police, or facilities in detection of crime, however desirable in themselves if abstractedly considered.
That shows the terror with which the people approached the establishment of a police force by a Parliament which was then not democratic, in the days when hangings were by the dozen for petty offences. This was ten or twelve years before the Reform Bill. Even an authority like Sir John Copley, the Solicitor-General of the day, was reported to have said -
Other countries had means of prevention which this country had not; other countries had means of detection and conviction, through the agency of their police, which this country had not, and which, he hoped to God, it would never have.
I could cite further statements made at that time by people whom we venerate as exponents of jurisprudence. Sir John Copley himself, at a later stage, attained the office of Lord Chancellor. So I do urge the Opposition, when we are discussing a bill like this, at a time when representative government has been in existence for so long, not to suggest that we could be terrorized by this police force.
I have said much by way of preliminary remarks, straining your indulgence a little, I believe, Mr. Deputy Chairman, but those remarks are related to the argument about clause 6, which deals with the nature of the duties of this force, and to Senator McKenna’s contention that it would be proper for the members of the force to be under the Public Service Act and governed by all the regulations and rules applicable to members of the Public Service. Clause 6, I believe, was penned in the form in which it is found now, as an acknowledgment that the duties of a police officer stem from the common law. They are not, in the main, delegated duties of agency at all. They are independent duties, which, by virtue of the nature of his office, a police officer is bound to discharge. I am pleased to say that no request or instruction by a Minister of the Crown can absolve a police officer of his duty to maintain the law. If, after the arrest of a malefactor, a Minister were to say, “ He is a political supporter of mine. Let him go”, the police officer, if he obeyed the Minister’s unlawful instruction, should be arrested by his next colleague, so far is he the custodian of the law, not the agent of any Minister or executive officer.
That is why I suggest that we should not say that this police force should be a part of the Public Service, as such. It is due to the policeman’s office that we recognize his independence, and that, I suggest, is why his appointment stems from the AttorneyGeneral himself in this instance. It may be that in a little time it will be considered that the States’ system should be adopted, and that another superior, independent officer, called the Commissioner of Police, should be appointed, with the approval of the Attorney-General, because an AttorneyGeneral sometimes puts more emphasis on his political affiliations than on his position as the first guardian of the law, in the sense of being an independent custodian of the execution and administration of the law.
I now turn to the argument as to the rules and regulations, and invite from the Minister consideration of the bill in relation to clause 5 (4.), clause 5 (5.) and clause 13 (a). It will be seen that under clause 5 (4.) the Attorney-General, with the concurrence of the Public Service Board, has to determine the terms and conditions of service, and by clause 5 (5.) those terms and conditions of service are put out of parliamentary control, because determinations relating to them are not to be put on the table of the Parliament and subjected to a right by each House to move for their disallowance. I suggest to the Minister that a fairly wide scope of power is involved in the provision relating to determinations of terms and conditions of service. It has to be read, no doubt, with clause 13, which is not a mandatory provision, but a facultative provision, enabling the Governor-General to make regulations for the general government and discipline of the Commonwealth Police Force and its members, including the punishment of disciplinary offences and appeals against such punishments. When the AttorneyGeneral makes determinations for terms and conditions of service, he is therein prescribing the very things which the Public Service Board, in relation to public servants proper, prescribes by regulations. Speaking at the moment with a little hesitation, I believe these regulations, even though they are made by the Public Service Board with the approval of the Governor-General, are certainly submitted to each House and may be disallowed.
I should like to know what is the purpose behind the specific statement in sub-clause 5 which provides that determinations of the Attorney-General specifying terms and conditions of service shall not be in the form of a regulation and available for review by either House of Parliament. If it is that he is going to appoint one person on £2,000, and when he sees another efficient officer the next day to say to him “ I have a job for you at a salary of £2,500 “, it seems to me that neither the members of the service nor either House of Parliament will know the whole formulation of the terms and conditions of service. Such a situation is not conducive to harmony within the service or in respect of the relationship between the service and the Parliament. I should like to know specifically why it is stated in sub-clause (5.) that those determinations are not to be made within the Rules Publication Act and, therefore are not to be tabled in the Parliament.
– The note I have on this was prepared for me to use in winding up the second-reading debate, but I did not speak on that occasion. The note is as follows: -
Determinations made by the Attorney-General will not, as the Leader of the Opposition said, be within the Rules Publication Act, and therefore will not be subject to disallowance by a vote of either House. In this respect the AttorneyGeneral’s determination will be strictly in the same position as other determinations by the executive authority of the terms and conditions of appointment where the employees concerned are not under the Public Service Act. Illustrations are: Boards of appeal and arbitral tribunals covering members of the Australian Capital Territory Police Force and the Northern Territory Police Force. Determinations by the Public Service Board in respect of employees exempted from the Public Service Act are in exactly the same position.
In practice, in fact, none of the authorities outside the Public Service, such as the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission or the Joint Coal Board, is subject to a provision for tabling terms and conditions of employment.
– Will the Minister permit me to say that those are essentially modern business undertakings, whereas a police force is essentially and intrinsically a government service?
– And very close to the executive.
– I wonder. I was very intrigued by Senator Wright. I thought he might be a Daniel come to judgment and not a destroying angel when he was explaining the independence of the police force. Is it not desirable to leave law enforcement officers, detectives and people of that kind under the control of the Attorney-General? Do I paint the picture in wrong colours by saying that, in a work-force such as this, there is, in a very lowly sort of way, the same sort of atmosphere as in appointments to the judiciary and we need a situation where they are capable of being appointed without the Public Service atmosphere. That is the best I can do. I had another note to the effect that the Commonwealth Bank, with 10,000 employees, does not table terms and conditions.
– That is another business undertaking.
– I understand the honorable senator says a line of demarcation should be drawn between business authorities and governmental authorities. I think there is a difference between a person in the Public Service, a person in the Commonwealth Bank, a person working for the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, who would be a sort of professional man, and a member of the police force, who, I think, is in a different category from the ordinary or normal public servant.
– I rise to advert briefly to the opening remarks of Senator Wright. They were very interesting. He was dealing with the genesis of the police force and he made reference to the common law powers of constables, but I should not like to let his remarks go if, implicit in them, is a statement that the Opposition is opposing the establishment of a Commonwealth police force. Certainly nothing I have said indicates that to be so either now, or when at the second-reading stage. T doubt whether any of my colleagues have averred that. I did Ant her them all. Our opposition is not to the establishment of a force of this kind. We are discussing its administrative arrangements and the merging of two services. I do not want to appear to accept a rebuke on behalf of my party which it certainly does not deserve.
– Certainly not a rebuke! 1 never do that! I merely made an observation as inoffensively as possible.
– The only way for the Leader of the Opposition to establish his bona fides is to forfeit his right to debate the remaining clauses.
– I think the Minister should be patient. We have not very much further to go; perhaps we are over the worst. The second point in Senator Wright’s speech to which I should like to refer was his statement that police officers as such have common law rights and duties. It is not suggested that the regulation of their rights, promotions, appeals and everything else should be under one code rather than another. They are separate matters. Whatever their duties and rights are is one thing; how they are treated in the matter of pay, terms and conditions of employment, protection against punishment and provision for appeals, is in an entirely separate category. I do not think the question of their powers, and the terms and conditions under which they are working, are fused at all. Their powers, privileges, immunities, duties and responsibilities are set out in clause 6. My remarks hitherto have been directed solely to their control and government.
I advert to the other matter to which Senator Wright made reference, namely, clause 13, wherein it is provided that the Governor-General may make regulations for the general government and discipline of the Commonwealth police force and its members. I notice the words “ not inconsistent with this act “. I should imagine that if there were a determination on a matter pursuant to sub-clause (5.) of clause 5, the Governor-General would not be free to do anything that would be inconsistent with that.
– I am obliged to the honorable senator for that statement.
– Accordingly, that centres attention on the great power that is vested in the Attorney-General in making the determination in the first instance. I agree with Senator Wright that there is a distinction to be drawn between what may be termed business undertakings and executive undertakings. While the honorable senator was speaking I interjected to say that a police force is very close to the Executive. One possible fear about a police force of this kind is that its functions may be expanded. I am not uttering any fears, but I point out that a police force may be given a new function to perform to-morrow. Some honorable senators on this side of the chamber have expressed the fear that members of the police force may be used as a strike-breaking force. That is possible. I am not saying that it is probable, but I do say that the functions these officers may be called upon to perform can bc expanded day by day by the Executive. The Minister may proceed to fill positions rapidly. That is the concern which some of us feel - that the functions of the police force may be expanded. I can understand that a government may regard it as desirable to have that power of expansion, but its possession makes it important that the terms and conditions of service of this body should be under close parliamentary scrutiny all the time.
.- 1 rise to express some anxiety as to subclause (5.). I draw attention to the fact that the statutory rules and regulations available for review deal, first, with offences. That comes under discipline which, under clause 13, will be dealt with by regulations. The next things are hours of duty, overtime, meal allowance, travelling allowance, recreation leave, deductions from recreation leave on account of absences, sick leave, and so on. These would seem to be matters comprised within the phrase “ terms and conditions of service “, and hitherto were thought proper to be covered by regulations, but now are carried one further step away from the authority of the Parliament. When these matters were dealt with under regulations the regulations had to be tabled in the Parliament, and be subject to review, whereas now there is a specific provision that the determination of the Attorney-General shall not be subject to that power. In the most unprovoking way possible to me 1 plead that there shall be vigilance on the part of Ministers seeking my support for these matters to see that they fully understand the menace that is involved, first, in subordinating these matters to the regulatory form of legislation and, secondly, going the further step and putting them in the form of a determination as to terms and conditions of service which are not reviewable at all by the Parliament.
If I heard aright, I heard an interjection that the employees of the Commonwealth Bank would be in a position parallel with that of the members of the police force. Literature has been written by persons anxious to preserve our system of rule of law, about this principle of administrative corporations injected into the apparatus and machinery of government, particularly under the socialist Government of England, which established a coal commission in lieu of the private agencies, which then claimed complete immunity from answering to Parliament on the ground that its trading operations would be affected and prejudiced if Parliament ever intervened in its affairs. On the same basis, arguments have been advanced from time to time by Senator Gorton, if I do not misunderstand his purpose, as to the remoteness of the Commonwealth Bank and the claim on the part of the bank that it should not be compelled to give to Parliament any information as to its transactions or the regulation of its services. That contention is based on the proposition that these commercial appendages of government are of recent creation, and are therefore outside the scope of the Parliament. That cannot be claimed in relation to a police force. It may be that that view could be justified in some circumstances. Some honorable senators will see that I am in a conciliatory mood to-day. It may be that there is some justification for maintaining secrecy even as to the terms and conditions of service, because confidence must be preserved between the Attorney-General and his executive force. But I think that we could not justify this complete immunity on the part of the Attorney-General from having the terms and conditions of service in relation to peace officers tabled in the Parliament for scrutiny. I rose to point out that under the act which this bill seeks to repeal these matters were all the subject of regulations. I ask it to be noted that, if on this occasion one fails to attempt to put the legislation into conformity with one’s purpose in public life, it is only another instance of restraint.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 (Powers, &c., of Commonwealth Police Officers).
– I direct attention to subclause (2.), which provides -
A Commonwealth police officer is not required under, or by reason of, any law of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth -
to obtain or have any licence or permission for doing any act or thing in the performance of his duties or the exercise of his powers as a Commonwealth Police Officer . . .
I am not clear as to the intention of this sub-clause. Unlike Senator Wright, I am ignorant of the many matters associated with a police force, and, therefore, I shall ask three specific questions First, does this provision give a Commonwealth police officer any greater or wider power than that possessed by a State officer, such as a policeman in New South Wales? Secondly, is it intended to override any State law which may protect the liberty of ordinary citizens against what might be called arbitrary police action? Thirdly, would it empower a Commonwealth police officer, without a warrant or written authority, to enter a private house, and search?
– My notes are not in such specific terms as to enable me to give what might be regarded as a complete answer to the points that have been raised by Senator McCallum. Sub-clause (2.) is designed to exempt Commonwealth police officers in the performance of their official duties from the requirement of any State law in respect of licences and permits as, for example, the necessity to obtain a pistol licence. Similar provision is at present made in regulation 4 of the Peace Officer Guard Regulations. If I correctly read that note, the purport of the provisions is to give the Commonwealth police force some general immunity from State laws. Not being a lawyer, 1 would describe this immunity as something given in the passive rather than active sense.
– I am not quite satisfied. I should like some specific assurance about this possibility of a policeman’s entering a private house. I understand that under State laws a policeman may not force his way in without a warrant. Is this provision intended to override any such requirements?
– I should like to carry this matter a little further. It seems to me that by this clause, the Commonwealth officer is to be given authority which overrides State law in certain circumstances. Have there been any discussions between the Commonwealth and the States as to the extent to which the Commonwealth officer may disregard State laws with impunity when carrying out his duties? In my opinion, this provision seems to impinge to some degree upon the protection of the citizens of a State. Will the Commonwealth officers be given authority to do things which State laws prevent State police officers from doing? As I see it, the States have laws that give strong protection to their citizens against certain actions of State police officers. If a citizen feels that a police officer is exceeding his duty or authority he has the right to appeal to certain responsible authorities. To my lay mind, it seems that the Commonwealth officers are to have much wider authority than is given to State police officers. What action is proposed to restrain a Commonwealth police officer from taking any action which may impinge upon the civil rights of citizens and the sovereign rights of States?
.- Senator McCallum touched upon a point of intense interest to me when he asked whether sub-clause (2.) of clause 6 would enable a Commonwealth police officer to arrest without warrant, or to enter a home without warrant. These are freedoms for which real fights were fought. I wonder whether my approach to the matter will be confirmed by the Minister? I suggest that under sub-clause (l.)(b) the Commonwealth officer is given the like powers, privileges, immunities, duties and responsibilities as are conferred or imposed on a constable or other officer of police under or by a law of the Commonwealth, so that he gets his authority there from a Commonwealth law. In relation to the laws of the Commonwealth he is given the like powers, privileges, immunities, duties and responsibilities as are conferred or imposed on a constable or other officer of police in the place in which the Commonwealth police officer is acting. I suggest that with relation to Commonwealth laws he is clothed with the same powers, privileges, immunities, duties and responsibilities as a State constable.
It seems to me that paragraph (a) of subclause (I.) confers upon him powers and duties under a Commonwealth law while paragraph (b) gives him powers and duties only in relation to a Commonwealth law the same as a State constable has. So he has no authority in relation to the execution of State law. In the execution of Commonwealth law, he must have a warrant where that law requires it, and he would not be entitled to override any State law requiring a warrant in its execution because he would have no authority, as I see it, with respect to that law unless it is imposed on him in some other way.
It is this careful language of sub-clause (2.), which should carry reassurance to Senator McCallum because it exempts the Commonwealth officer merely from the obligation of having a licence or permit. 1 should think those words are totally inappropriate to any purpose of exempting him from the requirement to have a warrant. Secondly, he is exempted from the requirement of a State law to register a vehicle or animal belonging to the Commonwealth. I should think that merely expresses, in a properly confined context, an appropriate superiority for Commonwealth law in relation to those two points.
– Do I understand that the Minister accepts that explanation?
– I am advised by my officer to concur in the judgment of Senator Wright.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Resignation).
Senator McKENNA (Tasmania - Leader of the Opposition [4.49]. - The effect of this clause is to prevent a Commonwealth police officer from resigning or withdrawing from his duty unless he gets the prior authority of the Attorney-General, or gives three months’ notice. Default on his part is visited with a penalty of £100, or imprisonment for six months. I do not know whether this provision is section 6 of the Peace Officers Act 1925. I should not the Minister to justify its inclusion in this bill in this enlightened day and age. What is the need for that provision to-day? I know what it means and I know what it says. But why should an officer not be permitted to resign?
– He ought to give certain notice.
– I am suggesting that he should give some notice and I understand - I am subject to correction upon this - that no notice is required in the Public Service. I should like the Minister to explain why that type of provision is retained to-day. It seems to me to be archaic.
– 1 remember sitting in my office in the early days of the last war. A young chap came in to have a talk to me. He wanted a position somewhere, and he asked if I could help him. I said “ What have you been doing up till now “? He said, “ I have just completed seven years in the Navy “. I said, “ After completing seven years in the Navy, surely you would have no trouble, particularly at this time, in getting a position in the Navy where your experience would pay dividends “. He said, “ Yes, but I do not want to be in the Navy in war-time “. Surely we could not have these men withdrawing from their responsibilities at a time when they were needed.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 (Special Commonwealth Police Officers).
– This clause gives unlimited authority to the AttorneyGeneral, at any time and on whatever terms and conditions he alone thinks fit, to appoint such special Commonwealth police officers as he thinks fit, who shall be deemed to be officers under this legislation. 1 acknowledge that the clause repeats section 8 of the old Peace Officers Act, which has been on the statute-book for very many years. I ask the Minister to inform me whether action has ever been taken under this provision to appoint special police officers and, if so, in what circumstances. Next, in what circumstances does he think that that power might be required in the future?
– The Leader of the Opposition is correct in thinking that the provision in the clause for the appointment of special police officers is primarily intended to be invoked only to meet emergencies. As the honorable senator has said, the provision has stood as a part of the Peace Officers Act since 1925. Departmental records do not disclose any instance of its operation for emergency purposes, but throughout its history it has been a useful method of giving to selected officers of the specialized departmental investigation services the powers and protection of constables, enabling them to be appointed as special peace officers under the 1925 act.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 11 and 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 (Regulations).
.- I remind the committee that 1 previously directed attention to sub-clause (a), which contains a general power to make regulations for the general government and discipline of the Commonwealth Police Force and its members, including the punishment of disciplinary offences and appeals against such punishments. It is implicit in what the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has said that no detailed thought has been given to the actual framing of regulations for that purpose. That is a pity. If regulations had been drafted, we would know exactly the scope of the authority that was going to be claimed by the executive under this regulationmaking power. All sorts of disciplinary boards can be created - some of them dreadfully inappropriate, and some very good. This is a matter that I hoped would be the subject of legislation, as it is in Tasmania, where the Police Regulation Act was passed. In that State, there is no need for regulations, because there is a specific act. However, I pass by subclause (a) as something that can be accepted on that basis - neither hot nor cold, and leaving the result to the Scriptures.
Sub-clause (b) provides for the making of regulations for, or in relation to, the protection of Commonwealth police officers in respect of acts done in pursuance of their duties or in obedience to instructions received by them. Pausing there, let us assume that a constable makes an arrest which turns out to be an illegal arrest, and a person is victimized by unlawful imprisonment. The constable may be liable for damages. Some State laws require the complainant in a case of that kind to give security for costs, to give notice of action, and to pursue his action within a very limited time - say six months. I would not read this clause as authorizing provisions of that kind. It refers to the protection of Commonwealth police officers in respect of acts done in pursuance of their duties, and I should like to hear an explanation of the subject-matter of the regulating authority. But, more particularly, my anxiety is aroused by what follows. The regulation-making power extends to the protection of Commonwealth police officers in respect of acts done in obedience to instructions received by them. I obtruded an observation when I spoke previously that there are instructions which may be given to a police officer which, by law, he is required completely to disregard. I would not interpret this provision as authorizing regulations to give protection for acts done in respect of unlawful instructions of that sort. But I am left mystified as to the purpose and content of the regulation-making power under sub-clause (b), and I should like to receive some enlightenment from the Minister, if he would be so good as to give it to me.
– I do not know whether I can throw any light in dark places on this occasion. The departmental note says that the clause will enable the Governor-General to make the necessary regulations for the government and discipline of the Commonwealth Police Force and for the protection of Commonwealth police officers in respect of acts done in the course of their duty. As I see it, the damage or the wrong can be, as it were, in two directions. There can be two victims - the person to whom the wrong is done, and the police officer who becomes liable because he has done something that he should not have done. What is contemplated is the making of regulations which will indicate to the police officer that if he does something properly and in accordance with his instructions, we shall see that he is not held personally responsible for any liability incurred. We are not saying to persons outside the police force, “ Commonwealth police officers are now clothed with extraordinary power, which overrides the ordinary law “. What is said to the Commonwealth police officer is, in effect, “ If you do your job as you are told to do it, and in the process you incur some liability, the Commonwealth Police Force will stand behind you “.
Clause agreed to.
– The schedule provides for an oath an affirmation embodying a promise to serve the Commonwealth. I am not familiar with any oath of that sort. Any oath that I have been asked to take, or that is known to me, has been an oath to serve Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second. I believe that that embodies the Commonwealth. Why is specific reference made in this oath to the Commonwealth, and why has no reference been made to the Queen?
– The answer is that the terms are interchangeable. It is permissible to promise to serve Her Majesty the Queen or the Commonwealth.
.-In connexion with the schedule, there is a point that I would like to put to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) with a request that those responsible for the bill should consider it and possibly amend the schedule after consideration. The proposed Commonwealth police force will be called upon to guard installations of considerable defence significance including ammunition factories and the weapons range at Maralinga. The Commonwealth Investigation Service also has considerable responsibility in this matter. The new service is, therefore, one peculiarly in which the Communist party would seek to impose under-cover agents to know what was going on, and to be in a position to commit sabotage should the occasion arise.
If members of the Communist party were to infiltrate the Commonwealth police force as under-cover agents and were to be discovered, nothing could be done because they are members of a legal party. I should like to see embodied in the oath or affirmation a further statutory declaration or something of that sort to this effect: “I swear that I am not now and never have been a member of the Australian Communist party “. In the event of a person being discovered to be an active or former member of the Communist party, proceedings could then be taken against him for perjury.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Motor and aviation spirits.
Debate resumed from 15th May (vide page 741), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The debate on this bill has been very interesting. The measure has been criticized caustically in another place by members on both sides of the chamber. I admit that the criticisms were based on different grounds, but the measure obviously met with considerable opposition. What will be the effect of this bill? It will alter the length of time that youths who are called up for national service training will have to serve. It will also reduce the intake each year from 33,000 to 12,000.
It is interesting to note that the new defence plan that was submitted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) recently is similar in many respects to the plan that was debated in another place as far back as November, 1950. On 21st November, 1950, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), speaking on the defence plan which, he said, had originally been formulated by the previous administration, stated -
The foundations of the postwar defence forces were, as this Government has already acknowledged, laid by the previous administration. Our main quarrel with what that administration did is that it was not enough and appeared to rely much too heavily upon the scientists, a few specialists and small permanent service cadres.
That could be said very truly of the present plan. The main difference between the plan in 1950 and the plan that has been submitted by the Prime Minister recently is that the Australian Labour party opposes the continuance of even the smaller national service training scheme. We believe that time will prove us right, just as we have been proved right by the reduction of intake from 33,000 to 12,000. We believe that the time is not far distant when the Government will abolish the national service trainling scheme.
We ask: What will be the effect of the new scheme? It will not provide national service trainees for the Navy or the Air Force. The Prime Minister’s defence statement and the second-reading speech that was delivered by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), when introducing this measure do not agree. The Prime Minister said, in effect, that the Navy and the Air Force had been able to secure recruits from among national service trainees. On the other hand, the Minister for Shipping and Transport said that the Government’s review had shown that the current and prospective needs of the Navy and the Air Force could be satisfied. Those two statements do not dovetail; there seems to be a difference of opinion.
As I said earlier, the annual intake will be reduced. It is now proposed to have available a modern force of approximately 4,000 men, and we all hope that that force will be raised. I believe that we should discontinue the national service training scheme and use the 2,000 men who are needed to train national service trainees, together with 2,000 volunteers, to form a -second brigade group.
We all agree that the scheme has not produced what it was intended to produce. I do not deny that it has brought some thought of discipline into the minds of a lot of young men nor do I say that it has been a complete waste of time; but I believe that, from a military view-point, it has not been as successful as was hoped. I am supported in that belief by people whose views one must respect. Since its inception, the scheme has cost in the vicinity of £115,000,000 or £120,000,000, and I repeat that every one admits that it has not been particularly successful from the military view-point. I suppose it is reasonable to say that the training of 12,000 lads each year will cost about £8,000,000 or £10,000,000. As the larger scheme has not proved to be as successful as was desired, can we expect the proposed smaller scheme to be more successful?
If, in addition to the brigade group that the Government proposes to form, we form another brigade group, as I have suggested, we would have a force of 8,000 men who would be properly trained and equipped with modern weapons. We all hope that Australia will not be attacked, but if it were, we would have a force of which we could be proud and which would be of valuable service to the country.
We all want defence on the cheap, particularly where personnel are concerned. I believe that our defence forces should be regarded as being one of our main undertakings. Australia has a population of only 10,000,000 people. Why do we not make pay and conditions sufficiently attractive to enable the Army to compete with outside industry? Traditionally, the Australian Labour party has been more or less opposed to conscription for military service. It is true that during World War II. we agreed that conscripted servicemen should be used outside Australia in part of the South Pacific area.
– Enough to make a holy mess of everything.
– I do hot know that it did, and I do not think it is fair of the honorable senator to say that. After all is said and done, he has not complained about the administration of this country during those years. If he wishes to find fault, he should rise and do so. We were fortunate enough to be on the winning side, although one wonders whether, in view of all that follows victory, we are much better off than if we had been on the losing side. As one of my colleagues has reminded me. Nasser is alleged to have lost out at one stage of the recent unfortunate happening in Egypt. Now he nas again picked up the ball and the goal is in front of him.
Any person who does not believe that this country is worth defending has very peculiar views. The whole argument on this question revolves around the methods that are to be employed. Labour believes in the voluntary system of enlistment. I do not think we would have any difficulty in obtaining men for the second brigade group that I have suggested if we made conditions sufficiently attractive. I should much prefer the formation of an additional brigade group to the revised national service training scheme. I base my attitude on the statements of persons who- have a right to speak. I have read the speech made in another place by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes). I should say that when he speaks on defence, at least, one should give his remarks some notice. I do not say for one moment that his words should be the gospel, but at least his years of service in the Army entitle us to believe that he knows something about the matter. He is as critical of this bill as I am, but perhaps from different points of view.
– I’ll say!
– No one worries about what is said by the honorable senator who interjects. Why persist with a system which we have proved has not contributed to the defence of this country?
– How do you know it has not? We must have a war to prove it, you know.
– All I can do is to mention what the Prime Minister said, which supports me in my argument. In addition, the honorable member for Chisholm said -
However, as far as its contribution to defence preparedness is concerned, unfortunately I am amongst those who feel that in its present form it is an unqualified failure.
– In its present form.
– Yes. One would at least take some notice of that statement.
– The honorable member does not advocate abolishing it, as you do.
– No, he does not, but he is not over-friendly towards the bill at all. He used the expression “ an unqualified failure “, so one is hard put to know why he wants to continue with the scheme. I can only conjecture his reasons, and I could not understand from his speech why he would want it continued.
The Minister said that the scheme that we have embarked upon would produce partly trained men and enable the C.M.F. to be maintained at a strength of 50,700. But in that respect he is in conflict with the Prime Minister’s statement in another place on Australia’s defence.
Sitting suspended from 5.30 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension, I was submitting the Labour party’s criticisms of this bill. I said, first, that Labour believed that the whole scheme ought to be scrapped in view of the fact that competent authorities in our midst have stated that it has not been wholly successful. I mentioned the cost incurred in the past six years and said that the estimated cost of training 12,000 national service trainees, would be £8,000,000 or £10,000,000. I also said that it was estimated that 2,000 members of the Regular Army would be required to instruct this number of national service trainees. As it has already been stated in the Government’s defence programme that it is intended to have a brigade of 4,000 adequately trained men we could, if this scheme was scrapped, use the 2,000 instructors as the nucleus of a second brigade.
To my mind it would be far better for the defence of this country if we were to offer better conditions to entice volunteers to fill a second brigade, rather than attempt to use some national service trainees to that end. I cannot visualize that the standard of the training given to 12,000 youths will be any better than the standard of the training given to 33,000 youths previously. I assume that it is the intention of the defence chiefs to give the 12,000 national service trainees training similar to that given to their predecessors. Since the men have gained little benefit in the past, from a defence point of view, I am hoping that the new trainees will be trained in civil defence. If the Government persists with this scheme, the lads trained in civil defence will obtain some benefit from the time they spend in camp.
Although the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes) has stated that the national service scheme has been an unqualified failure, it looks as though the Government intends to persist with it. It is necessary, therefore, to have a look at the new proposals. The overall length of service remains at 140 days although the initial period of continuous training has been shortened; it will be only 77 days as against 98. If it can be said that the last scheme was an unqualifiedfailure, when the Army had the lads in camp for 98 days’ continuous training, I cannot see that any one can claim that 12,000 lads will be better trained under the new scheme as they will receive only 77 days’ continuous training. The third point in the new proposal is that the remainder of their service of 140 days will be spread over three instead of two years. I think the lads would view the position much better if they could finish their training in the time specified under the old proposal rather than string it 0U over three years. 1 believe that the whole scheme will be detrimental to recruitment for Citizen Military Forces. Those of us who have had sons in the national training service or had older sons in the war, know that there has always been a differentiation between men who are in the Army as volunteers and those who have been compelled to enter it. I think the term used in regard to the latter is “ Chocos “. That does not go over very well, and it has had an effect on the number of volunteers in the C.M.F. I do not think any one can be satisfied with the position to-day.
– Three divisions of the C.M.F.?
– We should not have two systems operating, one under which men volunteer for service and the other under which they are compelled by law to give that service. I do not think the two sets of men will mix in such a way as to help our military service. As I said before the suspension, I believe we could get the number of young men we need to fill the C.M.F. by offering better conditions. Industry is just as entitled to compete for men as is the Army. I see nothing wrong in the Army wanting a certain number of men, but it should be prepared to enter the field and compete with industry by offering conditions that will entice young men to become interested in it.
It is intended to select the 12,000 men by means of a ballot. I do not know of any other way the Government might do it. If it wants only 12,000 men, how is it going to get them? I was pleased to read in the Minister’s second-reading speech that he intends to help apprentices, but I also hope that in the deferment of service some consideration will be given to the lads who are attending night school. It is essential for this nation that we have trained artisans and professional men. Throughout Australia, particularly in the cities and big country centres, there are many lads who, mainly for economic reasons, work during the day and then attend school at night. I regret that the same consideration was not given to them in the Minister’s speech as to other classes of lads. I am not seeking ways in which young men may escape their obligations, but I believe many young lads would be encouraged to learn trades if their studies were not interrupted by nacional service training. Special provision is made to meet the claims of young men engaged in rural occupations, and as far as I can remember consideration has always been given to them. Moreover, for at least 30 years, to my knowledge, lads living more than 5 miles from a training centre have been exempted from compulsory military training. I now ask the Government to go a little further, and extend similar consideration to lads in the classes that I have mentioned. We are living in a different world from that in which some of us grew up. To-day, even in the best of families, parents are being told that things which they considered right in their day are not necessarily satisfactory to-day, because we are living in a different age. We must be prepared to face the hard facts. As I have said, rural workers have been granted certain exemptions and I should be delighted if similar treatment were accorded to apprentices in recognized trades. I repeat that my purpose is not to seek exemptions merely for the sake of getting them. If it is decided to continue national service training, I seek exemptions only in order to serve a useful national purpose. I cannot see how the scheme envisaged by the Government can be a success. It is admitted that the scheme that has been in operation during recent years has not been a success; at least it has not been successful from a military point of view. It seems to me to be illogical to argue that, under a similar system but with fewer men, we can hope to do more than we did before when the numbers were much greater.
The Minister told us that the Navy and the Air Force were getting sufficient recruits for their needs. The Prime Minister gave another reason for the Government’s altered plan. Apparently, trainees under this system are not of much use to the Navy or the Air Force. I believe in the defence of Australia, and that we should do what is in our power to ensure its safety, but 1 also believe that the national service training system should be discontinued, and that we should attempt to raise a second force of 4,000 men. I believe, without any qualification at all, that if we make the conditions attractive, as we ought to do, considering that we never know when we may have to rely on our first line of defence, we should have no trouble in obtaining the men necessary. 1 hope that if this bill is passed the Minister will give some consideration to the section of lads that I have mentioned who seem to have been left out of consideration. I refer to lads who are studying at night school. A lad who attends school on three nights a week for three years will be of great value to the nation, but if his studies are interrupted by having to attend parades at night he is likely to be discouraged, and perhaps discontinue his studies. A student of accountancy or architecture, for instance, might be retarded by as much as two or three years if his studies are interfered with. I have an intimate knowledge of this matter, because I am personally acquainted with one lad whose career was seriously interfered with in this way. I do not think it is right that the future of our young men should be jeopardized by compulsory military service. It is not easy for a lad to continue his studies at school at night after working all day. If we give consideration to the rural worker, as we do, and also to apprentices, we should give the same consideration also to these lads I have mentioned. All of us, regardless of our differing views on many subjects, are pleased to see lads attending night school, and so fitting themselves to become better citizens and, therefore, better assets of this country. I plead with the Minister to give my representation his earnest consideration.
– I wish to make it clear, at the outset, that 1 support this bill, although I do not agree with many aspects of it. as I shall explain presently. T support it because I believe that it covers the best scheme that can be devised with the resources available. When 1 mention resources, I mean the money and the manpower available. 1 listened with great interest to the speech of Senator Kennelly, and I say at once that I agree with much that he said. Nevertheless, I was greatly surprised at the policy put forward by him because - I say this with great respect - it does not appear to me that it is the policy of the Labour party to which he belongs. I may be wrong in that belief. If the views expressed by Senator Kennelly are the views of the Labour party, 1 am surprised, and also extremely pleased. But I wonder how it is possible to reconcile the views of the Labour party with Senator Kennelly’s advocacy of a second brigade of regular troops. Has the honorable senator considered the cost of maintaining such a brigade? In other words, is he prepared to agree to extra grants to cover the cost, instead of reducing the amount voted? Is he prepared to raise the amount to £210,000,000 a year, instead of reducing it to £190,000,000, because that is the difference it would make? I agree that an extra regular brigade is desirable, and I urge the Government to take steps to that end. 1 think it is essential. However, the governing factor in this matter is the cost; it will cost money. The scheme set out in this bill is, as 1 have said, the best that can be achieved with the money and man-power available. Perhaps I should say the lack of man-power, due to young men not volunteering.
I should like to comment further on some aspects of Senator Kennelly’s speech. He criticized the plan that was introduced in 1950 and has operated until now. The honorable senator said that that plan had achieved nothing. I do not agree with him. The conditions that existed in 1950, when the scheme was introduced, were entirely different from those existing to-day. At that time, as every one will admit, we appeared to be threatened with a war. We were told that we must prepare for war within three years. That was the state of the world in 1950. At that time, it was not possible to buy the equipment we needed.
– But the Government still spent the money.
– I agree that it did. We expended the money on the introduction of this national service training scheme and on building up large reserves of partly trained men, armed with rifles and ready to back up our Commonwealth military forces which, when till is said and done, are the backbone of the defence system of this country. All that had really a world effect; it may have been small, but it added to the general strength of our democracy.
When I think back on past conditions, 1 cannot understand how it can be suggested that we wasted that money. I will admit that if we had been prepared to spend more money, and if we had been prepared to introduce a system of compulsory training similar to that introduced in Great Britain, we could have had a much more efficient organization for our money; but, because funds were limited, because the people of Australia would not submit to a compulsory system similar to that in England, we had to introduce the scheme now sought to be amended.
I admit that it was only a second best, but it was certainly the best we could do under (he circumstances then obtaining. The people of Australia were not prepared to accept conscription in those days. Any government which tried to enforce conscription here would have gone out of office within a week. The people just would not have it.
It has to be remembered also that conditions were entirely different in those days. Although the atomic bomb had been dropped, the nuclear weapons were not in great supply. Tactics, strategy and the composition of armies rested on man-power reserves in those days. Our enemies adopted the same system. Look at what Russia did! She did not reduce the strength of her army by one man after the war. She kept it up to its then tremendous strength. It is only now that the various nations are beginning to reduce the man-power of their armed services. It is only now that, owing to the development of atomic weapons, both strategical and tactical, the situation is altering. To-day, emphasis is being placed more on weapons and less on man-power. That is why the Government is forced to take the action now contemplated. We have got to reduce the man-power strength of our services and that is what we are seeking to do.
Senator Kennelly then suggested that we should abolish national service training and rely upon voluntary enlistments. Many people of both political colours argue that way. We could talk about it at great length, and we could put forward many good arguments for and against the suggestion, but the important point is that the chiefsofstaff of the three services have said that, in their opinion, the strength of the Army will not be kept up under the voluntary system. That is the advice offered by our professional advisers, and I suggest they are the best judges of the situation. They know all the facts and have all the statistics at their disposal, and we should heed what they say.
At times, we in Australia have relied purely upon voluntary enlistment, but we have also had compulsory training before. I started my military career under the compulsory training system as introduced by the Labour party in 1911. Why was it introduced by that party then? Probably it was because the leaders of those days held the opinion that the voluntary system had failed. We are adopting the proposed system on the advice of our service leaders. I have heard many suggest that if we scrapped our national service training scheme we would build up the strength of our armed services. There is something in that argument, but the Government is following the advice of its advisers, who are specialists paid to do that kind of work.
Senator Kennelly has suggested that we should abolish national service training and build up a second brigade in our Army, and he argues that if we improve conditions we will get the men. When speaking on the matter of defence recently, .1 used almost those exact words, and I repeat them now. If we compete with industry, if we offer better conditions than those held out by industry, we will get the men. Here again, the whole matter boils down to the question of money, and the people of Australia do not want to pay more money for defence. They want a reduction in taxation, and honorable senators opposite continually advocate that we should reduce taxation. Continually do we hear them asserting that we have promised to do that but as yet have failed to make any reduction, while at the same time arguing that we should adopt a policy that will require the expenditure of a further £20,000.000 to implement.
They cannot have it both ways. I should like to do exactly what Senator Kennelly has suggested. I should like to see that extra £20,000,000 expended, because I think the defence of this country needs that second brigade in the Regular Army which he has advocated.
Then he asks whether the training of 12,000 men under the proposed new scheme will be better than that hitherto given to 30,000 men under the present scheme. I agree with him that it is open to doubt, but conditions have changed. It is proposed to reduce the intake and to keep up the Citizen Military Forces to a strength of three divisions as suggested by our advisers as being adequate for the new type of warfare with which we might be faced in the not so distant future, for they are the backbone of our Army. Shortage of money and lack of volunteers force the present proposal upon us.
– Money should not be any handicap. The Government has a surplus of £80,000,000.
– Senator Cooke does not know what will be proposed in the next budget, and I do not know, either. Perhaps the Government proposes to adopt the Labour party’s suggestion to reduce taxation.
– The Government could still do that and also adopt the scheme which the honorable senator is advocating. Iti could use up that surplus in that way.
– I do not propose to be diverted from my argument by answering interjections. The point we are considering now is whether the training under the proposed scheme will be better than was given under the old system. I feel that, with changing conditions, the training might be better, because I think it is possible that, under the proposed new system, the trainees will probably receive certain training from C.M.F. instructors which, perhaps, they did not get before from Regular Army instructors.
Senator Kennelly’s last point referred to apprentices, students attending night school and the method of balloting; and I agree entirely with what he said. I think that any one who is in an industry, whether it be primary or secondary, which will have to be carried on during war-time, should be exempt from military training, because trained artisans were just as necessary as soldiers in the last war. It is my view that such people should never be called up, and I offer for consideration a suggestion that they be excluded from ballots. I realize that there are many difficulties in the way of doing this, but I am confident that if those difficulties could be overcome the scheme would be greatly improved.
In answering Senator Kennelly, I have touched on many of the points I proposed to raise. The main consideration prompting the Government to make the change is the saving of money, lt is estimated that the saving which will be effected by reducing the number of trainees will be £7,000,000. Said quickly, that does not seem a great deal, but when said slowly, it is a fairly large sum. I offer the suggestion that, when considering this saving of £7,000,000, we should give some thought to what we are relinquishing by effecting that saving. I feel that we shall lose something, but I do not think that, under present conditions, with new weapons and a new strategical outlook, we are losing such a great deal by the proposed step. I agree to a large extent with what he has said, but I do think that, from the social point of view - the good it does to the lads by instilling discipline in them, by improving their physique and by enforcing upon them a certain amount of self-sacrifice in that they have to give up a certain amount of their leisure time for the good of their country - £7,000,000 is very well spent. Cut it out from the defence vote, if you like, and put it under some other heading, but still give these young fellows a certain amount of training. I am probably an old die-hard whom the youth of the nation regard as out of date, but I am a great believer in a little bit of discipline, and I think that this is one way to instil it in our young men.
I am very sorry to see national service training being reduced in this way. If it were not for the fact that the Minister has promised that he will examine the situation again and consider how the youth of the country can be used in civil defence - in which, I presume, they will get a certain amount of training - if he had not stated the lads who are not called up by ballot will be given a chance to volunteer for service, and if he had not promised that lads who wish to do so may undertake six months’ continuous training with the Regular Army, I would certainly vote against the bill. But I would not vote against it for the same reason as Senator Kennelly opposes it. I am not in agreement with the bill because it will reduce national service training, whereas he opposes it because national service training has not been abolished. I urge the Minister, even at this late stage, to reconsider the matter very carefully. If we asked the parents of the lads who have done national service training what they thought of it, nine out of ten would say that they heartily approved of it, because of the good that it has done their children. In saying that, I differ from honorable senators on the other side, I know, but that has been my experience. Go into any returned soldiers’ club, or to any of the returned servicemen’s league meetings and ask the people there what they think about it. I go so far as to say that we would get a 99.99 per cent, vote in favour of it.
– And there are many trade unionists who are members of the R.S.L. clubs.
– Yes, but I am not taking that aspect of the matter into consideration. I am saying that I think a certain class of the people believe in it. I believe that a gallup poll would reveal that more than 50 per cent, of the people are in favour of it. I shall finish on the note on which I commenced, by saying that I think that this scheme, having regard to the limitations of money and men, and the attitude of the Australian people - who want defence on the cheap - is an excellent scheme and probably the best that could be devised under the circumstances.
– I feel inclined very much to agree with Senator Kennelly in one way, in that I am opposed to this - shall we say - bastardized edition of national service training. The national service training scheme was brought into being for special purposes. We believed that we must have ready the nucleus of the army that we might need in the future. So legislation was passed and the scheme was introduced. It was the policy of the then Labour party to support compulsory national service training. For a while, the people of the country were against it. The youths themselves were against it. But, in course of time, the people of Australia came to realize what a fine thing national service training was for the youth of Australia and for the defence of the country. When the scheme was inaugurated, members of Parliament were visited by people who asked them to get their children out of national service training. They offered all the reasons in the world why their children’s training should be deferred. But when the Government put its foot down and said that every lad would sooner or later have to do his national service training, most of the objections withered away, as it were, overnight, and the people came to accept national service training as a definite part of our national life, in the interests of the welfare of Australia.
I am afraid that the Government, by bringing in this revised edition of the national service training scheme, will undo all the good groundwork that has been done and that hatred of this form of training will be fomented amongst parents. What will be the result of the ballots conducted to select the 12,000 youths? There will be situations when two next door neighbours are both eligible for military training, but one will be called up and the other will be passed over, because their birthdays fall on different dates, or for other reasons. There will be much heartburning and there will be a great deal of trouble in getting the boys to register for national service training.
I believe that the national service training scheme should not have been curtailed for any reason, because it was achieving its objective. Those people who say that it was of no value have very little idea of what the scheme has accomplished. As we all know, when a war begins the initial training of the troops is the hardest. The national service trainees are getting an excellent initial training in discipline, in army customs and in the use of essential small arms. I heard somebody say recently that, within six months of completing a national service training course, the lads have forgotten all about it.
That is not true. The training remains and it is remembered in later life. If those boys were called up to-morrow, they would fall naturally into the Army ways, even if they had never been members of a Citizen Military Forces unit. They would have some basie training. After a little revision of the work they had done as national service trainees, they would recall everything they had learned. They would be a disciplined body of men. We have that organization ready. Good groundwork has been done and they are ready to play their part in a national defence force. For those reasons, I believe the Government is acting wrongly. The defence of Australia is of vital importance. If this revision of the national service training has been brought about because of the shortage of money, I would be prepared to support the provision of more money for defence. lt is better to spend money now than to spill blood later.
Senator Kennelly, who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, has expressed opposition to the national service training scheme. He said it was of no value and was against the policy of the Labour party. Until recently, the policy that he now opposes was Labour policy. Then the defence policy and the foreign policy of the Labour party were changed drastically. It ill behoves those who supported that policy to mouth the Communist policy on defence and foreign affairs that has been introduced into the Australian Labour party since the Hobart conference. It seems peculiar to me that they should support the Communist policy which would leave Australia bare to any aggression, because they know in their minds and hearts that their ideas on the defence of Australia and its foreign policy are quite different. To safeguard their seats in the Parliament or a position on the ballotpaper, they are prepared to mouth the Communist foreign policy.
If we think anything of Australia we must hold its defence dear. In doing so, we must think of defence in terms beyond arms and soldiers. It is essential that we have them, but we must also show other nations that we are prepared to spend our wealth on defence so that they will give us their support. We should not sit back, mind our own business and spend our money on the internal economy and then rely on some other nation to come to our aid in time of need. Many people in Australia are thinking along those lines now.
– That is what the Australian Labour party encourages them to do.
– That is the reason why they are thinking along those lines. We have to broaden our views. We have to consider who are our friends and think of defence from the point of view of those who can help us in the hour of need. Some of our Defence vote could be set aside to encourage treaties with non-Communist countries of South-East Asia. We have the South-East Asia Treaty Organization, which is very important to the defence of Australia. An attempt to debunk Seato was made not long ago at a certain conference in Brisbane, but it failed. We must think of our friends and make sure that our policies are acceptable to them because if those friends abandon us in time of trouble, we have very little hope of survival.
Reference has been made to the integration of our forces and our arms with those of the United States of America. That is essential because the United States is the only country that can help us in time of need. The acceptance of that policy is one good point in the Government’s defence plan. However, we should be careful that we do not lose the friendship of the United States by our attitude to other foreign nations. We might do that, for example, if we decided to recognize red China, which is against the foreign policy of the United States. The Americans consider that Formosa, the Philippines and Australia form their outer defence line. What will happen if we break that defence line and then require the assistance of the United States? We will find her lacking. A conference is to be held in London soon and we must consider our position carefully because we do not want to lose our friends in the Pacific.
Honorable senators have discussed at length the type of war that is likely to come. Many believe that the next war will be principally an atomic war. We are taking that for granted. If we believe that the next conflict will be an atomic war, we might as well give the world away, but I believe that we should realize that our troubles could;be much closer to Australia. They could come from Indonesia and other places near to us, especially if Singapore turns Communist and we have no further defence in that area. Communist pressure in Indonesia could easily make that country the starting point for conflict so far as Australia is concerned.
The Asians look upon Australia as part of Asia. When they consider a balanced economy in their own sphere, Australia is Asian so far as they are concerned. Trouble could come from that direction. Within the next ten or fifteen years we could find ourselves engaged in what we might call a local war; that is, a war between Australia and those countries to the north of Australia. If that happened, a world war with atomic weapons could develop. I believe that any future war will be fought with improved conventional weapons and not with atomic weapons. I think that national service training should be retained so that all the youth and manhood of Australia will have a certain basic training in the use of conventional weapons. That is why I say that this bill is doing a great disservice to Australia. I have recently visited quite a number of returned soldiers’ clubs, and I attended marches on Anzac Day. Every person with whom I spoke on those occasions deprecated the fact that national service training was to be curtailed, and I think it will be emphasized at the conference of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia that is now being held in Canberra.
It seems rather peculiar that Senator Kennelly should advocate the formation of an extra brigade group because, if I remember rightly, during the last budget debate the cry was “ Cut down defence expenditure “. As Senator Wordsworth said a while ago, Opposition senators cannot have it both ways.
– The cry was to cut down waste, not defence expenditure.
– Any one who knows anything about the Army knows that there is waste, and no one can stop that waste. If the honorable senator wants to know what waste is, he should see the Americans in the field. I repeat that waste in the Army cannot be stopped. If we had to police everything that happened in the Army, we would need more police than we have soldiers. In the past the Australian Labour party has advocated the cutting down of defence expenditure, but to-day it has advocated an increase of the defence vote. I repeat that they cannot have it both ways.
I do not like the bill very much, although at least it represents some action by the Government. The only thing that will help it on its way is the fact that, with the introduction of the FN rifle the units will have increased fire-power. But I can foresee that in the future the nucleus of a welltrained army will not exist. If two brigade groups, consisting of 8,000 men, are to be formed, where are the trainees to come from? Is it better to have in the service men who are growing older than to have young men coming on?
– At least 12,000 a year will be coming on.
– That will just about make up the wastage. I should like the Government to reconsider its proposals and to forget about the cost, because to pay the cost in money is much better than to pay it in blood.
– Mr. President, I support the bill and the retention of the principle of compulsory national training. However, I deprecate the reduction of the numbers of national service trainees and accept it only as a temporary measure. If we are to understand the purpose of the bill, we must remember the masterly statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on defence in which he pointed out that we had three things to consider - the possibility of a global war, the possible imminence of a limited war, and also a cold war.
I believe that the Government has introduced this bill on the advice of its military, naval, and air advisers as being the most expedient way of getting ready in the shortest possible time for a possible limited war. A limited war demands that we have an air force, a naval force, and a mobile land force of regular soldiers. Given the amount of money that we have to expend, and given the other obligations that are related to defence such as the provision of roads and the standardization of railway gauges, I think the Government has made, for the moment, a wise choice. To-day, equipment is very dear, and it is necessary to have the best equipment and also to divert to the forces that may actually fight the regular soldiers who are engaged in training. For that reason, I accept the present reduction of training.
But I will not agree with the contention that, because we are using the draft system that is used in America, Britain and many other countries - in fact, which is used in most countries where there is any kind of compulsion - we should abandon the general idea of compulsory training. Unlike Senator Wordsworth, I began my military training as a volunteer really. I began it in the back-yard with my father, who was an enthusiastic member of the volunteer forces, which were the only defence forces we had in those days. He instructed me in basic training by the time I had reached the age of ten years. Then I joined the school cadets, which was a voluntary organization. So, even before the compulsory system was introduced, I had a basic training, and I have not forgotten one bit of it.
One thing we must remember when we talk about waste is that, if those 180,000 men who have been trained have been well trained, they will never forget it. I have not put my hand on any kind of firearm for about 30 years. I do not enjoy what people describe as the sport of killing animals; I love animals too much to want to kill any of them. But if some one advanced quickly through the door of this chamber, I think I could defend myself before I or any one else knew what had happened. That is what training does; the reaction is automatic.
If we have a nucleus of 180,000 partly trained young men, we have taken a great step forward. The Government was informed by its advisers that for the immediate purpose of a mobile force those men would not be of very great use, because to be of use they needed a lot more training. Those of us - and I suppose that includes the majority of those who are in the chamber - who have undergone the various phases of training know perfectly well that to make a soldier, a sailor, or an airman, a highly efficient person who is ready to go into action, a vast amount of extra training is needed. A toughening of nerve and sinew is needed. A serviceman needs to be in such condition that he is ready for any demand that is made on him. 1 can remember very well the six months’ hard and severe training we had in the deserts of Egypt before we were ready. So when it is said that these young men who have had their basic training are not ready for combat service, that they were nothing but very raw material for an army, that is not in any way condemning the system of universal training.
For that reason, I think that we can accept the bill, and yet at the same believe that the compulsory system should be retained. It should be retained, because its value is that it does bring home to many of the youths of our country, whose home tradition, school tradition and whole social environment, possibly do not do so, the attitude that we need if this country is to be defended. It is necessary to bring them, by compulsion, into a suitable atmosphere. I do not agree with anybody, on this side of the chamber or the other, who says that the five years or so of training we have had was wasted. I have been to the camps and seen the young men training. I am quite sure that the training was of a good type. There was far less of the old drill sergeant, not that he is to be despised. I have learned quite a lot from the tough old drill sergeant. But there was less of him and more of the modern, sympathetic attitude which teaches self-discipline.
The reason that the Government gives, and that its advisers gave, for retaining this shrunken form of national training is that otherwise we would not be able to keep the C.M.F. up to strength. I am sad to think that that is true. It would be good if that could be done purely by voluntary enlistment, but it is the deliberate opinion of people whose advice we must take that that cannot be done. There is no doubt that we shall get volunteers. The best men in our military forces - the officers, non-commissioned officers, and others - are volunteers, insofar as many of them give far more than is compelled of them, and continue their service long after they need, purely out of their love for the training they have entered upon.
I want to commend all the people in our militia services whom I have met, and I have met a great many. I want to commend the officers commanding in the States and in the various units. I shall pick one particular unit that I have seen, but not to indicate that the men there are better than men anywhere else. I took the trouble to go out to South Head and see the commando group. There I saw men doing a kind of training which demands infinitely more than most young men are prepared to give. Men in the toughest of sports hardly put up with some of the risks that these young men were putting up with. All of them were keen and enthusiastic, and that, T think, goes for the whole of our C.M.F,
I am surprised to hear anybody in a democracy advocating a purely professional army, or an army that is professional but perhaps uses a voluntary system as a feeder. One of the things that has preserved British liberty is a distrust of the professional soldier. When all, or virtually all, of the countries of Europe were autocracies, controlled by professional armies, Great Britain remained free simply because it always had as a basis of defence a militia force. In our own country some, but not all, of our very greatest soldiers have come from the militia service. In World War I., some of our most distinguished soldiers - Monash, for instance - were men from the volunteer service, who had devoted their leisure to studying the art of war. The same is true of World War II. I mention General Dougherty, who is now in charge of civil defence in New South Wales, and General Windeyer, both of whom were what some people cheekily used to call Saturday afternoon soldiers. I agree that we must have a professional army to-day, and I should rather see two brigades than one. However, we do not want that alone, and I place an enormous amount of trust for the future defence of this country on the C.M.F., our old volunteer militia force.
I agree with Senator Kennelly that civil defence should form part of the training of national service trainees, and I hope that next year we shall find a modification of training in that respect and that the number of national service trainees will be enlarged. I hope that the number will be enlarged year by year and that part of the training will be in civil defence. Civil defence is thought of, according to the propaganda that we read, mainly in terms of the possibility of atomic destruction and that sort of thing, but it would be invaluable in any type of war or any type of catastrophe. What it involves is training in working in groups, in taking orders and advice, in using one’s own initiative, having a knowledge of first aid, excavating, rescuing people from debris, and fighting fires, all of which knowledge could be of the utmost use if there never was a war in the sort of emergency that occurs in this country at ordinary times. I refer to flood, fire, and disasters of that nature.
The moral training that goes with that experience is of inestimable value. I am not one who believes in compulsion for its own sake, as I think everybody knows and some regret. I always prefer to be, as somebody once said, one of those fools who think for themselves. I always prefer to follow my own inclinations, but I know that for the adolescent, discipline, obeying of orders, team work, and going in groups, is necessary. It is unfortunately true that some of our youth to-day do not learn these things, particularly in the cities. Perhaps school and the home have little effect on them. Somehow or other they break loose and revert to the old gang attitude. They do not become individualists. They become followers of some cult or group which, I am afraid, is a sort of corruption and perversion of very primitive ways. In a civilized society we want something more than that. We want people who, however independent they may be, however much they can think for themselves are prepared to work with others and, on occasion, obey orders.
All of those benefits come from the type of basic training that I know was given under the old cadet system and that is given under national service training. For that reason, while I accept the bill and believe that it is essential and does meet the emergency of the moment, I do not accept it for all time. I accept it in the mood of the Russian general -Who ordered the retreat before Napoleon, or of the Rome general who ordered a retreat before Hannibal, because they knew that was the way to win in the end.
In this bill we have drastically reduced national service training, so drastically that some people have said that we have made it farcical. I do not believe that we have done that. We are retaining the principle. We are using the draft. We are continuing the system, and I hope that when the present emergency has passed, when we have this well-equipped force, when we can either spend more money on defence or find cheaper ways of doing things, we shall enlarge the number of trainees until the scheme becomes what it was when we introduced it in 1951. It is something that we hoped would put into the minds and the hearts of our young men - those who did not have it already - the spirit of patriotism, something that would equip them to be ready for a more thorough training and something that would stand by them and help them during their lives to be good citizens of this Commonwealth.
– I am astounded at the pious expressions of Senator McCallum and the sort of half-hearted appeal he made to the Government to change its policy. He is not game enough to cross the chamber and vote against the measure. He uses nice pious expressions to try to convince the Opposition that he is not supporting the Government, although he does intend to support it. He is “Yes” and “ No”. During the course of his speech he told us how he was trained to use a rifle. What for? The bloodthirsty idea was to shoot some other human being.
Then Senator Cole told us all sorts of things because he has a fanatical bitterness against the Australian Labour party. It was only near the finish of his speech that he said anything about the bill. He placed his own interpretation on something that he said occurred at some conference - I think he mentioned the Hobart Conference. What he said was untrue. As usual, he brought in the question of communism and tried to lead honorable senators to believe that the Labour party, along with the Communists, thinks it is necessary to leave Australia wide open so that the Communists can come in. Good heavens! He apparently does not look, or travel around Australia. What part of Australia, under this Government, is capable of being defended? As a result of what has been done between 1950 and 1957, what part of Australia can the Government defend at the present time? Yet he tells us that the Labour party believes in leaving Australia wide open for the “ Comms “ to come in.
Our pious Senator McCallum has just nicked out of the chamber. He told us that we want to find out where our friends are. How do you make friends? Do you make friends by hurling epithets and insults at them and by making threats and suggestions that you are going to use your military strength against them? Usually you go in a friendly fashion and see whether you can do something for the people with whom you want to make friends. If my friend opposite comes over and shakes hands with me,. I do not use some of the epithets that have been used by the powers-that-be against some of the countries just around Australia. I tell him what a good fellow he is and try to win him to the Labour party. I cannot get him into the Labour party but he is still a good friend and I feel sure that if the necessity arose he would assist me. That is the spirit that we have to use with these people all around us. We must not tell them that we have the atomic bomb and we are going to drop it on them if they open their mouth a little too wide. That is not the way to make friends. By carrying on in that way we find out whether they are our friends. Government supporters have been using the defence debates to point out where our enemies are, and what we should do to protect ourselves from some particular enemies. That is what they have been doing all the time, but that is not the way to make friends.
I now come to the question of the defence of Australia which is involved in this bill. We of the Labour movement believe in defending Australia and have always done so despite the statements that have been made by Senator Cole. We have complained bitterly against not only the recent actions of this Government, but also its actions in years gone by in doing nothing tangible in Australia to defend Australia. It is in the defence of Australia that we are concerned. I do not want to go back to the last war, or even to the previous one, other than to say that the Government knows as well as I do that there was a period during which Australia was not in a position to defend itself in any way. Whatever forces we had were sent out of Australia and this country was left open. Yet Senator Cole says that it is the Australian Labour party that wants to leave this country open. A fight took place between the Labour Prime Minister of Australia and the Prime Minister of Great Britain in World War II. before the troops that the party opposite had sent overseas to the Middle East could be brought back to defend this country. It is the Labour party that has set out to defend this country, -something which no other party in Australia has ever done.
The Labour party believes that it is possible by voluntary effort to defend Australia to-day by making the conditions here such that men and women will decide that it is worth fighting for. It believes that the voluntary system is better than the compulsory system introduced by the present Government in recent times. It is no use saying that the youths themselves will be the backbone of the defences of this country, because the Government is reducing the training period from 170 to 140 days, and after the trainees serve for that period they go into a reserve. After a period of five years they are not liable to be called up at all. What earthly good are they for the defence of Australia? If they were volunteers and had to put in a certain period of training the Government would get some benefit out of them. At present these young fellows are being taken into the army at eighteen years of age and given 140 days’ training spread over, I think, four years. They are given a paltry few days a year and honorable senators opposite tell us that that is an efficient system for training youths. That is the system under which the Government thinks it will be able to keep a standing army of regular troops. Honorable senators opposite are dreamers - nothing but dreamers. The present scheme is the most inefficient one that has ever been put into operation by any country in the whole world, and the Government wants the Opposition to support it! If we do not believe in the method advocated by honorable senators opposite we are called a lot of nasty names.
Senator Cole said that when the last budget was under discussion the Labour party had advocated a reduction of defence expenditure. We did say that there had been tremendous waste in the expenditure of defence money, and that it would have been better to expend some of it in putting into operation a proper scheme under which the materials required for the defence of this country could be obtained. We said that if that had been done, better and more permanent results would have been achieved. Speaking in this chamber, I said that £50,000,000 of the defence vote would have been better used if it had been expended to provide strategic roads throughout the country, because that would have given us something tangible and of great value to the defence of Australia.
– Evidently the honorable senator believes that we should defend Australia within Australia.
– Honorable senators on this side said that since 1950 the Government had been spending money on the so-called defence of Australia, but in fact had wasted much of it. We stressed that aspect of defence expenditure because we wanted to avoid waste. Our desire was that the money should be expended on something of real value in the defence of the nation.
Australian troops have been sent to Malaya. For what purpose have they been sent? We have been told, of course, that it was a task force for Seato. We found later, however, that that task force was used to shoot down some of the residents of Malaya who were fighting the government and the combines engaged in obtaining tin and rubber in Malaya. Recently, in the newspapers it was stated that some of the lads who would undergo training for 140 days in a period of four years would be sent overseas as a part of their training. What forces have we overseas with which they could be associated during their training other than those in Malaya? If we send those lads to Malaya, what chance have we of protecting them during their training period if something serious happens? Honorable senators opposite learned nothing as a result of the last war. The Government, too, learned nothing. That war proved that a nation has no chance to defend itself away from its own shores. That war should have taught the Government that by establishing bases around Australia this country could be defended better than by sending forces overseas. How many naval bases have we around Australia? The Government apparently found difficulty in training its naval officers at Flinders, in Victoria, and so it decided to transfer the naval college to Jervis Bay, in New South Wales. At those two places we have the only two naval bases in Australia. I realize that Sydney and Melbourne and other big centres have to be defended, but there are other places also which must be defended. In fact, our duty is to defend all Australia, not merely a part of it. Honorable senators should not forget what occurred during the last war. I remind them that the then leader of the Labour party, Mr. John Curtin, said that the Australian Labour party believed in defending the whole of Australia, and not leaving the northern part to be overrun by an enemy. He and his colleagues then set to work to defend the whole of Australia, and in order to do so they brought our boys from overseas to do the job.
– And after they were brought back they were kept for nine months on the Atherton Tableland.
– I seem to remember that those Australian lads had something to do with the protection of the northern part of Australia, and if the history of the war, as recorded by the historian, can be relied on, it was an Australian division that broke the Japanese on the Kokoda trail. I was not there, but that is what the official historian of the war has recorded. I remember, also, that the Labour Government obtained valuable assistance from an ally on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. The Australian boys did a magnificent job.
Senator Wordsworth’s remarks, were similar to those of another pious Government supporter who has since left the chamber. The honorable senator learned his trade in 1911 in a school for which the Labour party was responsible. He is still soldiering on; he does nothing else. He still has the mind of the officer class, because he has been trained in that school. He believes that there must be soldiers so that the officers can boss them. It is not a matter of skill. One of the leaders of honorable senators opposite, Sir Arthur Fadden, said something that honorable senators opposite are telling us again today, when he said that naval and military experts - Senator Wordsworth is one of them - all take advantage of critical times in order to urge expenditure on projects calculated to advance the interests of professional sailors and soldiers rather than those of this country. That explains the attitude of some honorable senators in a nutshell. That is the attitude of Senator Wordsworth and men of the officer class; brass hats, I call them.
– Officers constitute only a small percentage of an army.
– I suppose it is. an automatic action for men of his training, to order men to pick up a gun to shoot, some one else. Senator Wordsworth told us that wherever ‘ he went parents, approached him and wanted know why it. was proposed to curtail the compulsory training scheme. All I can say is that somehonorable senators opposite must go to the tops of lots of mountains where there isnothing. I have no doubt some parents, those of the officer class in particular, approve of the scheme, but, generally speaking, all the parents with whom I havecome in contact have not had anything, good to say about the scheme or the training of their children except that good foodis provided. They certainly do not agreewith Senator Wordsworth who asserts that, the parents favour the scheme and areeager to see their sons called in.
Then Senator Wordsworth said that Returned Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen’s. Imperial League of Australia favours thescheme.
– So it does.
– Has a ballot been taken to ascertain the true opinion of this league? Of course not!
– I have spoken to them.
– The only ballot ever conducted is the one held for theappointment of officers to control the league, and it is time a court-controlled ballot was. conducted into the appointment of some of the leaders of some branches. The leaders of the league, generally speaking, favour the scheme because they belong to the officer branch of the service. I emphasize that I am referring now to those who control the organization. They believe it is right to keep up this military machine so that they can tell the men to shoot somebody else, so that they can enjoy the privilege of manipulating the men under them and teaching them how to do things for them. Honorable senators opposite know as well’ as I do that when we discussed the Defence Estimates last year it was pointed out clearly that there were five officers for every three privates in the armed services. Naturally these people favour the scheme! So would I if I were in their position!
I think I have answered most of the statements that have been made in an effort to belittle the case put forward by the
Labour party and in an effort to tell us what our policy should be. We do not need the advice of honorable senators of the Government side. We have learnt from the best teacher of all; we have learnt from experience and, therefore, we know what it is best to do, whereas honorable senators on the Government side have no experience at all. They simply steamroller their way over difficulties, using the power they are privileged to wield. Sometimes that power is money, sometimes it is the power to tax, but I warn them that Nemesis is coming.
After having castigated us in the way they have done, they support a bill which, in effect, admits immediately that the system of compulsory training which was introduced in about 1950 has proved a complete failure. Last year, the Government told us that everything in connexion with defence was in a splendid position, yet only recently the Minister said that the proposed scheme is the result of a review of the defence programme which the Government has made after a close examination by the Department of Defence, the Chiefs of Staff and the relevant departments. He said that the review necessarily has covered not only the strategic basis of Australia’s defence policy but also the composition and equipment of the Australian defence forces.
In a previous statement, the Prime Minister admitted that there was waste in the defence forces. Now the Government, in effect, admits the waste and will eliminate some of it by reducing the intake of the national service training scheme. In doing that, it admits the futility of continuing with not only the proposed scheme but also the one already in existence. The Government proposes now to reduce the intake from 33,000 to 12,000 youths. That will possibly reduce the number of men per officer, but the worst feature of the proposed scheme is the method adopted for selecting the 12,000 trainees.
Not so long ago, the Government proposed to bring all these lads in, and actually set about doing so; and then, because of pressure from the monied people, and from others in rural areas, it relaxed a little and exempted youths living a certain distance away from rural training centres. Then it made certain concessions to university students, exempting some and deferring others. Under the proposed scheme, the exemptions are extended, and a system of ballot is introduced. It is now proposed that ali youths born between certain dates must register. Those born a day before or a day after those dates will not be required to register.
As has been pointed out, when all the exempted youths are excluded from the number registered the true purpose of the scheme becomes apparent. That purpose - and it is deliberately done - is to call in only the working-class boys of Australia in order to inculcate into them the military system of discipline. Honorable senators on the Government side argue that others can volunteer. Some will. Their object will not be to defend the country. Thm will make the Army their career, following the old practice of buying commissions. All honorable senators know that the three main professions are the Law, the Church and the Military. The Government is deliberately opening the door to a military profession for members of the officer class by leaving them free to volunteer while the sons of the working classes are being forced into it in an endeavour to inculcate into them the doctrine of military discipline. And this by a government which has told us time after time about indoctrination practised in other countries!
One small concession is proposed, but even that will be subject to the control of the Minister. I refer to apprentices. I commend the Government for its action here. I think it is beginning to realize at long last that tradesmen are just as essential, probably more so, to the protection and defence of this country as the men who actually fire the rifles. To-day, with the development of atomic weapons, men may discharge new types of missiles from points situated great distances from the actual scene of destruction. The Government would not take any notice of the suggestions that were made from time to time by the Australian Labour party, but it is now beginning to realize that factory workers and farm workers are probably more essential than are men in the Army - that it is more essential to teach youths essential trades and callings than it is to cultivate the officer class.
Let me remind the Senate that it was the Curtin Labour Government that established munitions plants and aircraft factories, and provided for the mobility of our forces. Prior to that, anti-Labour governments had made no provision whatever for those things. About all that we had were a few repair shops for aircraft and a small arms factory. It was the great Labour party, through the Curtin Government, in which the late Mr. Chifley was Treasurer, which took action to utilize Australia’s raw materials and establish factories to manufacture the articles required for war. We have been told for as far back as I can remember - and I have been taking part in. politics for over 50 years - that it is impossible to do this, that or the other thing because no money is available. During the war years, Labour found all the money that it needed for the defence of the country, yet our pious friend has stated that, even in the field of defence, we can do certain things only if enough money is available. In this country, we should be able to do anything we want to do that is physically possible, and for which labour and materials are available. Lack of money should not stand in our way. After all, money is only a means of exchange. It is issued by private institutions by way of credits, backed by the confidence of the people of Australia. The anti-Labour parties - not the Labour party - destroyed the people’s confidence, and that is why the Government cannot get credits to enable it to go on with this scheme. It has had to break it down.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson). - Order! The honorable senator is getting too far away from the bill.
– Under the new scheme, the children of working-class parents will be called up, while the children of other people will be exempt or will have their training deferred.
From time to time, Labour has been accused of wanting to leave Australia open to attack and of being unwilling to spend money on defence. Because we did not believe in the conscript system, it was said that we. wanted to leave Australia open to attack. I remind honorable senators that it was the great Labour movement which was called upon to organize the defences of this country during the last war. It was a Labour government which brought our troops back from overseas then. I warn this Government that if at any time it attempts to send national service trainees to foreign parts to protect the interests of private individuals, it will hear something: about the matter in this chamber. That would be unfair and unjust. In addition,, the training that the lads would receive there would be of no earthly use to them< or to Australia. In the event of hostilities, we would have no hope of defending successfully any bases we had established in Asia. Our troops there would be lost. The history of events in Singapore and the Malayan peninsula during the last war proves that. Labour believes in utilizing every phase of Australian industrial production. It believes in manufacturing in Australia the things that we need for our defence, such as the aircraft that the Government is talking of buying ‘overseas. It also believes that our forces should be used to defend Australia against any aggressor.
– I well remember that when the bill to introduce national service training was before the Senate some years ago, a speech was made very similar to that just delivered by Senator O’Flaherty. I well remember the Opposition’s attitude to national service training then. It was not until the twelve great men of the Australian Labour party - the executive that rules the party - told Labour senators to support the measure that they did, in fact, support it. There was a remarkable change of attitude by the Opposition to national service training. Then when the scheme was successful, they claimed credit for its introduction.
To-night, we have heard one of the most damaging speeches from the viewpoint of Australia’s defence that has ever been delivered in this chamber. It contained many plain, unvarnished untruths. Senator O’Flaherty stated that the Curtin Government established every munitions factory in this country. I have said before in this chamber - and no one has yet produced any evidence to the contrary - that the Labour government never built one factory for which blueprints were not in existence when it came to office. I challenge honorable senators opposite to point to one factory that Labour built, or one industry that it established, for which blueprints had not been prepared previously.
To-night, we have heard a most vitriolic attack on the returned soldiers. Members of the returned servicemen’s league never asked those who are ineligible to join the organization why they did not serve. Sometimes, we look at them and think that we would have liked to have had them with us as pals in the 1914-18 show, but we do not criticize them, ask them why they were not there or say that we would have liked them to be there. As one who has been a member of the returned servicemen’s league since my return to Australia in 1919, I want to say that it is one of the most democratic associations in which I have ever participated.
I should like to ask Senator O’Flaherty where he gets his information. He claims that he has been around the country districts, I suggest that he ask the members of any branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in the country towns who are the president, secretary and members of the executive. Are they the so-called brass hats? The truth is that the officers of the R.S.L. branches are diggers who served Australia overseas. They are elected by the members of the league who have a free vote at a secret ballot. Those officers are appointed by the rank and file of the organization. I have had some experience of the First Australian Imperial Force and the Second Australian Imperial Force and I can say of my own knowledge that the men who were privates and noncommissioned officers - the men who formed the rank and file - administer the affairs of the R.S.L. I regret the unfounded and unwarranted attack that has been made on the men who are in charge of that organization.
Senator O’Flaherty has said that certain people are exempt from service. I should like to ask him whether he applied to have a man pulled out of Darwin during World War II. so that he could go back into the office of the Prices Commissioner. Was price-fixing more important than the defence of Darwin? What was the honorable senator told on that occasion? He applied to the man’s employer, who said, “ Go and see Mr. Forde, the Minister for the Army “. He is the man who has risen and spoken all the claptrap we have heard to-night. When a man was wanted by the Army in Darwin he asked that he be withdrawn for the Prices Branch! His speech was all poppycock. 1 would not have spoken about these matters had it not been for the almost traitorous slanders on Australia that have been voiced in this chamber. Does not the honorable senator realize that if the Liberal-Australian Country party Government had not sent troops abroad to Egypt in World War II., Suez would have fallen, India would have gone and Japan would have come into the war twelve months sooner than she did? The honorable senator has said that he would not send one man outside Australia. Would he suggest that we allow an enemy to come to our shores and so leave our women and children open to the horrors of war?
To-night we have heard again the untruth about “ the Brisbane line “. A Labour government was in power when Japan entered the war. The honorable senator has been talking nonsense. Honorable senators on the Opposition side have voiced many untruths about what was done and what was not done during World War II. They missed the whole point of our defence strategy when they said that our divisions which fought in Egypt during World War II. did nothing to defend Australia. I disagree entirely. Reference has been made to the battle of the Kokoda trail. If we had followed the policy that Senator O’Flaherty has advocated, there would not have been an Australian soldier on the Kokoda trail because he said that he would not send a man outside Australia.
– Who sent the Australian troops to New Guinea?
– Members of the Opposition have said that they would not send a man outside Australia. If that policy had been adopted, there would not have been anybody on the Kokoda trail to defend Australia.
– Do not talk nonsense.
– Honorable senators on the Opposition have said, “ Let them come here “. They would not allow our troops outside Australia. They confused the issue when they claimed that national service trainees would be sent abroad. They cannot be sent away from Australia unless they volunteer, and the Australian Labour party has always advocated the voluntary system of enlistment. I cannot follow their arguments about volunteers.
Each and every one of us, whatever hisstation in life, is responsible in some degree for the defence of Australia. I do not care who knows it: I am a conscriptionist straight out. It is the only fair way to raise troops to wage any war. It is the only fair way to obtain men to be trained and put into an appropriate job. It is the only way in which we can obtain equality of service, and it is the only way in which we can defeat what Senator O’Flaherty has slightingly called the “ brass hat movement “.
The honorable senator has referred to brass hats. I remind him that we have an example of a brass hat in this chamber; a man who has served his country in the best tradition and attained the rank of General of the 10th Army. Could any one say with truth that he is a so-called brass hat - a man who would grind down his fellow men and use those under his command as cannon fodder? That is what Senator O’Flaherty has implied. He has suggested that men such as Senator Wordsworth would use the men under their command as cannon fodder. It is all ridiculous in the extreme and the people of Australia “know it.
Last Friday it was my privilege to travel home from Sydney with one of the leading figures in the trade union movement. The question of national service cropped up. He favoured it. Those who have had any experience with the armed forces know that “their members comprise a cross-section of the community. The trade unionists who have been overseas and mixed with their “fellow men realize that national service training is in the best interests of the youth of Australia. The union to which this gentleman belonged is actively interested in apprentices. Many of those apprentices have completed their national service training and have mixed with their fellow men. The Army is a common pool where Australians meet their fellows from all walks of life. They have returned to their normal way of life better men for their experience. After one has served this country overseas or in Australia and has mixed with representatives of every strata of the community, one has a much broader and much more tolerant attitude than if he had not had that service.
Let me now discuss the question of the “ brass hats “. I believe that it is necessary to have these so-called “ brass-hats “, and I am very pleased to note that the bill that is before us preserves their existence. Instead of reducing their numbers, I advocate an increase of them. We should not only maintain the present intake, but, if possible, should increase it. Who advocated a reduction of the intake? Did the chiefsofstaff advocate it? I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), who is in charge of the bill in the Senate, to re-state the reasons for which the reduction was proposed.
The Opposition has suggested that volunteers should be sought and that there should be an additional striking force of 4,000 men. I should like to know how they are to be trained. Who will teach the so-called “ brass-hats “? Who will give the staff officers the necessary instruction in the handling of large bodies of men? In the dim, distant past it was my privilege to be the adjutant of the 6th Artillery Brigade, and I thought I knew something about what was required to handle a bridgade But at short notice the colonel in charge of the brigade was appointed as an acting divisional commander, and it fell to my lot to try to handle a division. I can say from experience that it is very difficult to handle large bodies of men successfully. One of the weaknesses of the Australian defence system is that in the future we will not have enough sufficiently trained staff officers to handle large bodies of men. I look forward to the time when our skilled staff officers will be given the opportunity to handle not only brigades, not only divisions, but, if we can raise five divisions in due course, an army corps.
Mr. President, I am forced to say that I sincerely regret that the intake of national service trainees is to be reduced. In my opinion, the scheme has been a great success; we have obtained our money’s worth. Opposition senators talk glibly about waste. If they know where waste exists, they have a national duty to say where it is. Not one Opposition senator who has said that there is waste in the services can point to a concrete example of it. I repeat that, if we know that public money is being wasted, it is our duty as trustees of that money to bring the facts to the notice of the responsible authorities.
Senator O’Flaherty said that we have not very many bases in Australia. I remind him that the great Manus Island base was offered to Australia, but that the offer was rejected by the Australian Labour party. That being so, I fail to see how he can rise and say that there should be more bases in Australia. I reiterate that the finest base that was ever offered to Australia was refused by a Labour government.
In spite of what has been said about the national service training scheme, I again say that I think it has been a good one. I speak as one whose sons have passed through it, as a plain, honest citizen, and as one who has a slight knowledge of what is required in relation to the defence of Australia. On one occasion, I was asked, in a manner calculated to cast a slur, what my record was. At least I have a military record. I say, as one who has had service overseas, that the national service training scheme is the very best scheme that has ever been introduced in Australia. I am very sorry indeed that the intake is to be reduced. I join with other honorable senators in expressing the hope that, in the very near future, the intake will be increased because, in my opinion, if a decent kind of education is to be had by the youth of Australia, it is to be had through the national service training scheme.
– Mr. President, any student of social science, as distinct from physical science, knows perfectly well that danger faced in common produces the strongest bond of unity between men. No law is required; the natural law of self-preservation and of group-preservation operates continuously. No compulsion is needed. Men, entirely of their own volition, unite with one another to defend themselves or their country. That law operated long before the parliamentary system came into being. It is the law that operates to-day, and it is the law that is responsible for the adoption by the Labour movement of its present attitude.
There was no conscription in England before the 1914-18 war. Why? It was because at that time England relied entirely upon its naval forces. As a small island, it was able to protect itself with a very highly efficient naval force. Then came the 1914-18 war and land forces were needed. Because of opposition in England at that time to the methods that were adopted, conscription was introduced. I well remember several prominent politicians saying, “ Conscription means cheap blood. Let us have conscription “. I know what was said, because I took an active part in the fight against conscription. But military conscription then became law. We discussed the matter at a federal conference of the Australian Labour party, held in Adelaide in 1915. The then Prime Minister was the late Mr. Andrew Fisher, who was succeeded very soon after by the late Mr. William Morris Hughes. The latter’s words in 1916 were, “In no circumstances shall I be a party to conscripting men for overseas service “. He gave that solemn promise to the people of Australia. He was then Prime Minister. Subsequently he went to England and returned, and on his return there was a complete volte face. That led to a split in the Labour movement. He walked out of the Cabinet room, followed by Sir George Pearce and others, committed to conscription.
I was at that conference, and I was closely associated with all that took place. I was convinced then as I am convinced now, that Mr. William Morris Hughes did not understand the position as it should have been understood. Then the fight came on. We had two referendums. The majority of the people in 1916 and 1917 declared overwhelmingly against military conscription for overseas service.
From 1916 onwards there was a voluntary system. Time went on and Mr. William Morris Hughes went to England. He made several visits to England in the same way as visits are being made to-day. He returned from one trip in 1936 and in July of that year, in Brisbane, he said, “ To talk about peace when the nations are armed to the teeth is utterly futile. The last war was a trade war, and the next war will be a trade war “. History proved that that was the case. What he said in 1936, the Labour movement said in 1916. The Labour movement was not prepared to allow the workers to be the mere military capital for brass hats. It was well known that a conscript army is never consulted on whether or not it should fight. That is a prerogative which is exercised vindictively and arrogantly by anti-Labour governments, which enforceit if they can.
In the 1939-45 war we had the same split over conscription. At a conference- in Melbourne on the matter I was responsible, with others, of course, for pointing out that the Labour movement, as a movement, had never been consulted on the matter. Either in peace or in war, better results are obtained from men as a result of conference and agreement than by taking up the arrogant attitude that you are the one who knows what should be done and that nobody else knows anything. That is the attitude of the sergeant-major, who looks upon the privates merely as so much cannon-fodder. Theirs is to do and die, but not to reason why.
The point I made first is that the Opposition subscribes to the law of selfpreservation, a natural law which has operated ever since man made his appearance on earth, and which is operating to-day. I remind the Senate that the State exists for man. Man does not exist for the State. Therefore, the people of the State should have the right to say what shall or shall not be done, but that is not intended by this Government. The Government intends to conscript youth - to discipline, train, and subordinate young men so as to make them, to the extent that that is possible, mental dependents and followers of those who control the State.
– What is the alternative? Is it to have them become delinquents?
– The alternative is the voluntary system, as I said before. Danger faced in common is the strongest bond of unity. As soon as it is realized by any group of people that they face a danger in common anywhere, they group together almost spontaneously. When a serious accident occurs, it is not necessary to conscript men to rescue their fellow men. The law of self-preservation is operating every day of the week, both individually and collectively. Therefore, when the honorable senator asks me what the alternative is, I say that it is to rely on the good sense and loyalty of your fellow creatures. When we are not prepared to do that, we imply that they are not to be trusted, that they have to be forced to fight for us, whether they like it or not. That is the implication of conscription.
Who constitutes the State under existing conditions? For all practical purposes, the leading owners of capital constitute the
State. The policy of this Government is the policy of the leading monopoly owners of the capital resources of the country. They constitute the State. Compulsory military training is needed by them, because it is a cheaper proposition than the voluntary system, and for no other reason. 1 well remember how I volunteered long before the 1914-18 war. I wore kilts in the Victorian Scottish Regiment, because it was said in those days that we were facing a danger in common. What happened? All the Scotsmen, and the near-Scotsmen, joined the Victorian Scottish Regiment, because we were influenced by a feeling that it was necessary for the preservation of the country.
But as time went on, and particularly after the two world wars, the truth of what the late Mr. William Morris Hughes said in 1936 became more and more apparent. These were trade wars. Let us consider the position in the East. Why do they want to fight there? It is not against a declared enemy. They want the military forces to fight in Suez for private interests, for the Suez Canal Users Association, and for the oil resources that are so abundant and so cheaply worked in the Middle East. It is not because England or Australia is in danger, but because private investments are in danger. That is the real cause that is operating when honorable senators opposite condemn conscription. I am concerned about conscription from another point of view. It leads to intellectual, moral and industrial conscription, or in other words, military slavery similar to what was operating in Germany, France and other European countries before the war where men and women were reduced to the level of mere cattle instead of being men and women.
Women have come into the fighting forces now for the first time. The objective is for the forces to become as all-embracing as possible, and to take in the young person who has no idea of what is intended, who has had no experience of war and who accepts in good faith, unfortunately, what those who speak in the name of the State say. That person is only disillusioned as times goes on by his actual experience.
Senator Mattner spoke about returned soldiers. During the 1914-18 war I took a prominent part in the anti-conscription campaign that was launched in Perth. Who were our best supporters? Returned soldiers. In Victoria, Jacka, Victoria Cross, was one of the leaders. Our best supporters were those who had seen for themselves what had taken place and had returned; so much so that when the mobs attempted to break up our meetings it was the returned soldiers who helped to protect us. Senator Mattner said that the returned soldiers believe in conscription. There is also a very strong force of returned men who do not believe in conscription. Among those who are bitterly hostile are the men who have returned and have been denied adequate food, clothing and housing, particularly housing. They say, “ I accepted in good faith the promises made to me when 1 enlisted. I fought. Now I have to live in a hovel “. That is happening in Australia.
It is, therefore, the economic conditions that determine the outlook of these men, and the law of self-preservation which is making them as hostile and uncompromising as they are. Senator McCallum said that the moral effect of military training was all to the good. It is quite the reverse; it is not all to the good. Social morality is not worth anything where men are the subordinates of their fellowmen, where they are classed and treated as inferiors by those who think they are superior, whether they be in Parliament, the military forces or anywhere else. That is the morality that Senator McCallum would have. All such movements naturally and inevitably create the elements of their own negation. Negation means the implementation or attempted implementation of the law of selfpreservation. What right has the Government, to say to me that I must go and fight without my being consulted? What right has it to say that I shall be subordinated in times of peace to military officers? It has no right at all! If I volunteer, that is quite a different matter. But when the Government uses force as it has done and is attempting to do, it will find that to the extent it uses that force - particularly when it is used by men who are in high places but who are ignorant and dictatorial - the reaction will bring into being a force stronger than that which is being used. The Government will find that it cannot suppress people to the extent it desires to do.
Let us take the illustration of trade unionism. The politicians in England, and also here in Australia, years ago regarded as unlawful any organization of men and women seeking to improve their conditions of employment. I can remember an occasion in Broken Hill when Ferguson and Sleath were put in leg-irons because they took a prominent and active part in demanding the recognition which men are entitled to demand from their fellow-men. The point I wish to make is that the force of trade unionism, when it became so strong that it could no longer be suppressed, was given legal recognition and was accepted. A virtue was made of a necessity. The next step honorable senators opposite attempted to take was to control the trade unions through the medium of coercive legislation and arbitration courts. They will not succeed. They must realize that they cannot suppress, subordinate and treat men like cattle to the same extent as was done in the past.
Senator O’Flaherty made the point that as industrial opposition develops and men and women organize more effectively - as they will - an attempt will be made to suppress them by military force. That has been done in the past and it will be done again. It has been done overseas. Senator O’Flaherty, like myself, could give facts and figures that would convince the most sceptical that such is the case. We were told by Senator Mattner that what is proposed is the only fair method. It is a fair method from his point of view and from the point of view of the dominant class who control the situation. When they are not allowed to control the situation, they declare that it is not fair and should be condemned.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin). - 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.
– I speak not as one who has merely read books on this subject, but as one who has had years of experience, especially during the period of World War II. when the ruling forces became more vindictively disposed towards us. I speak as one who experienced the happenings at the time when the late William Morris Hughes and the late Sir George Pearce, a man whom I helped to enter the Federal Parliament in 1900, were imprisoned for their actions against the conscription campaign.
Honorable senators on the Government side are not as qualified to speak as they would be if they had that experience. Only those who have practical experience plus theoretical knowledge are qualified to speak on this subject with any authority. Those who are without experience speak unwisely, while those who are without theoretical knowledge speak futilely. It is for those reasons that we have had an unbalanced presentation of the position by the Minister and his followers on the Government side. We can never hope to have a civilization worthy of the name until men and women everywhere live on equal terms with one another. So long as we have a dominating political or military caste, as we have to-day, we shall not have a civilization worthy of the name. As a matter of fact what we call civilization here and in other countries is only semi-civilization.
For the reasons I have given, such people as Senator O’Flaherty and others on this side are not influenced by what the Government is pleased to call logical arguments. We are influenced by our knowledge of social science and of the relationship that should exist, not the master and man relationship, not the employer and employee relationship, not the expropriator and expropriated relationship, not the ruler and ruled relationship, but the relationship whereby people live together and associate with one another on” an equal footing. Until that relationship is established and maintained, we shall never have a civilization worthy of the name. While the Government attempts to coerce men into military or industrial service, it can rest assured that it is forging a double-edged weapon that will be used just as effectively against it as it can be used against us. I appeal to honorable senators on the Government side to think of Australia’s position as it is and to avoid the tragic mistakes of their predecessors.
.- I am tempted to participate in the debate by the remarks of certain honorable senators opposite about the attitude of the Australian Labour movement to compulsory military training. I regret very much that even in this day it is necessary to remind some honorable senators on the Government side of the attitude of the Australian Labour party towards this matter.
Traditionally, one may say that the Labour movement, not only in Australia, but throughout the world, has been opposed to militarism simply because of the unfairness with which it is applied in many countries. Usually, the workers were the ones who had to do all the hard slogging, and the nobility of the land were in the favoured position. That is very strongly exemplified in the British Army, where almost all the officers are drawn from the upper strata and where it would be quite impossible for the ordinary person to obtain a commission. That has been the history of militarism through the ages, and, therefore, it is not hard to understand why, traditionally, the Australian Labour movement has been opposed to militarism, and the element of compulsion that accompanies it.
When danger appeared we saw another side of that section of the people who make up the great Australian Labour movement. Senator Cameron spoke of the days when he went forth as a member of the Scottish Regiment, and it is true that a number of the young men of this country volunteered to join the military regiments of the day. Later, the Labour movement became a vital force in the political life of. this country, and Labour gained office in 1910. It was thought that Australia was in danger of attack from our neighbours in the East and, despite the tradition of the Labour movement, that Labour government set about creating an Australian army, and compulsory military training was introduced into this country. That action was taken by the second Fisher Government, which was in office between 1910 and 1913. At that lime, in complete contradiction of the tradition of the movement, the Labour government, because it was thought that Australia was in danger, applied itself to organizing the defences of this country. Under those circumstances, honorable senators on the Government side should agree that the Australian Labour movement has played a very important part indeed in the defence of this country. As 1 have said, immediately the Labour government of those days came to office, it set about organizing this country efficiently. Not only did it place the Army on a firm organizational basis, but also it ensured that facilities would be available to assist the Army to put up a decent fight if called upon.
Senator Mattner has referred to the munitions factories that were established in Australia during the period of World War II. I remind honorable senators that, long before then, Labour administrations established munitions factories. Labour placed the Lithgow Small Arms Factory in operation, and it brought the Maribyrnong factory into full swing. In those days, of course, the horse was the principal means of transport. Labour established a remount depot and ensured an adequate supply of remounts, lt also established clothing factories to make uniforms, and ensured that enough woollen materials were produced for that purpose. That is the history of the Labour movement as far as the defence of this country is concerned.
I am reminded that long ago. Mr. Curtin suggested that Australia could be best served by the establishment of an air force. But the anti-Labour government of the day said that that would be contrary to Australia’s best interests and that it was ridiculous to talk about establishing an air force, because the good old British Navy would protect us. However, when Labour gained office it set about providing adequately for Australia’s defence. It is true that a Labour government, figuratively speaking, placed the compulsory military training scheme in mothballs. The reason for that step is, of course, well known.
There was a succession of anti-Labour governments following the defeat of the Fisher Government on the conscription issue, and the finances of Australia were noi in such a condition as would enable a continuance of the scheme. In the interests of economy, the Scullin Government was forced to abandon the compulsory military training scheme.
As Senator Cameron has pointed out. when the young men of this country realized, shortly after the outbreak of World War H., that Australia’s safety was endangered, they volunteered readily for military service and an expeditionary force of sizeable proportions was soon raised. When it became apparent that additional large numbers of men were required for the armed services, the Labour government of the day did not hesitate to introduce compulsory military service. Therefore, ii is grossly unfair for supporters of the Government to make the assertions that we have heard from the other side to-night.
We have now reached a stage at which the Menzies Government finds - us the Scullin Government found in former years - that it is unable, because of the tremendous cost involved, to continue to maintain the armed forces at their present level. Great Britain and other countries are reducing the numerical strength of their armed forces simply because of the colossal expenditure involved. Ail those countries realize that, if there is to be sufficient money available for development, expenditure on defence must be cut. The Opposition is opposed to the Government’s proposal, which, if implemented, will reduce the defence forces of this country to such insignificant proportions that they might as well be scrapped altogether, and the money thus saved applied to other aspects of defence.
In addition to reducing the size of the Army, the Government proposes that there shall be no recruitment of national service trainees for the Navy and the Air Force. Further, it proposes to scrap the great aircraft production factories that were established to meet a dire necessity, and to depend, not upon Great Britain and other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, but upon countries outside the
Commonwealth for the supply of aircraft and aircraft components for defence purposes.
The wonderful solution that has been evolved by the Government to overcome the problem created by the proposed limitation of the call-up to 12,000 youths is that a birthday ballot shall be held. It is apparent from the Minister’s second-reading speech that the Government has not gone out of its way to make service in the Army attractive and is not doing anything to encourage young men to volunteer for service, lt is provided that any young man who desires to volunteer for service, having been unsuccessful in a ballot, may do so. On the one hand, the Government says that eligible young men who are unsuccessful in a ballot may receive training, but, on the other hand, it is doing practically nothing to encourage them to enlist. The Government’s attitude to this matter will cause resentment amongst the youths of this country. It acknowledges that, in the past, military call-ups have adversely affected apprentices. It is now proposed to exempt from military service young men who are working in the pastoral industry. I concede readily that young men who are engaged in primary production can serve their country better by continuing that activity than by engaging in army manoeuvres for relatively short periods.
I should like to direct attention to one of the features of compulsory military training in World War II. The Labour Government sent out into the country certain persons known as “ national service officers “. It was their job to meet the young men who were to be registered and to determine who would go into the Army or stay out of it. Any honorable senator who recalls that period will know how harshly some of those men, dressed with a little brief authority and possessed of the power to direct men into the services, drew from the farms and workshops young men who would have served the nation better in their jobs.
The Government proposes to say to the apprentices that the old legislation is too harsh. The time they have served in the military was not counted in the apprenticeship. The Government proposes to tell those young men that it will be a little more lenient about the first 70 days of their training. But when does the Government propose to call the apprentices into camp? lt will do so in the early part of the year when the workshops are closed and the young men, who have been working hard for twelve months, will be looking forward to their recreation leave. That is a nice inducement indeed to offer to apprentices. 1 can imagine the feelings of the young apprentices whose birth date has been drawn out of the ballot and who will be put into camp at the time when the factories have closed down for the holidays. That is the inducement that this Government proposes to hold out to the young men to undergo military training. Even in present conditions, when the Government proposes to relax the enlistment of young men, it cannot get away from the idea that the young fellows must serve in the forces despite any inconvenience.
Why are the young men antagonistic to Army service in peace-time? I read in the press recently about a young man who was charged with having been absent from his unit. He appeared before his commanding officer and although he had a just claim for leave on compassionate grounds, what was the attitude of the big shot, the brass hat, who had this young man in his power? It did not matter to him what was happening at the young man’s home. The commanding officer said that the Army would accept no excuses. What will be the reaction of young men when such cases are publicized?
In Victoria, young men are put into camp at Puckapunyal. When they apply for leave on Saturday afternoon to engage in sport or some other activity, they are told that they cannot have leave. If representations are made on their behalf, we are told that the men are wanted in camp. Later, if a man is asked what he did on Saturday afternoon he will reply that he was sitting down doing nothing. There was no training. Some fellow who was blessed with brief authority, and was able to say whether a man could go or stay, had enjoyed the exercise of his power to refuse the man leave.
If we want to make the Army attractive we must consider modern conditions.
Honorable senators talk about delinquency. They should not encourage delinquency by forcing Army trainees to jump over the fence. They should be treated as human beings and as young men full of life who want to enjoy themselves in their spare time just as the officers do. The officers can leave camp on Saturday afternoon.
– They are no better off than are the rank and tile.
– There is a select few - the commissioned officers - who can arrange matters between themselves.
– You are talking nonsense.
– I am not, and Senator Kendall knows it. His class has all the privileges. They have been able to say what they will do and will not do. If they want the young men to go into the Army, they should make conditions attractive. It is impossible to make this Government realize that a new phase has developed. Something new is needed and the Government might as well scrap its national service training scheme. It should exempt apprentices and those who are essential for the development of the country.
The Australian Labour party is justified in opposing this measure. It will contribute nothing to Australia’s defence. We have a long coastline and a vast area, and effective measures are needed to defend this country. Governments of a similar political colour to that of the present Government were ineffective during both world wars. Senator Mattner has said that blue prints were prepared at the beginning of World War II., but a Labour government had to build the structure on the basis of the blue prints and make the defence of Australia effective. Supporters of this Government have very little ground for attacking the Labour party upon its defence record.
The proposed national service training scheme merely begs the question. The Government seems to be incapable of devising an effective defence force. It was found wanting in World War II., and it is wanting ‘to-day in the new crisis that faces every country in the world. We are sitting down and are depending upon help from an outside country which, although it is an ally or friend to-day, may be in the opposite camp to-morrow. If before the last war we had sat down and had said that we would utilize the industrial potential of our former friend and ally, Japan, in the event of attack, we would have been in a nice mess, lt seems to me that it is impossible for anti-Labour governments to formulate a defence scheme that will be of benefit to Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
– I refer to clause 7, which reads -
Section seventeen of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-sections: - “ (3.) A person who is deemed to have been enlisted … and move -
That before proposed sub-section (3.) the following sub-section be inserted: - “ (2a.) Sub-section (1.) of this section does not apply to a person included in a prescribed class of persons.”.
At present, the Minister has no power to relieve any classes of persons of their liability to notify a change of address within 30 days. This applies to persons who are exempt, and to those who have been pronounced by a medical board to be medically unfit for service. The amendment is designed to give the Minister power to prescribe by regulation classes of persons who would not be required to notify a change of address. Let me say, by way of illustration only, that such classes might include certain categories of exempt persons or those who are medically unfit.
The amendment arises out of an undertaking that was given by the Minister for
Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) to the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes) during the debate in the House of Representatives on the bill in the committee stage.
Amendment agreed to.
Remainder of bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Repre.senatives
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is mainly administrative in character, and some of the amendments which it proposes are simply drafting improvements. However, the proposals contain several important changes to the existing provisions of the act. The exigencies of the service require officers or employees to be located at posts outside the Commonwealth. Some doubt has been expressed as to whether the provisions of the Public Service Act and Regulations apply to such officers and employees. It is proposed in this bill to erase any doubts that the act does so apply by expressing the act to have extraterritorial operation. The related sections have also been amended where necessary.
Pursuant to its powers under the act the board has prescribed the hours of business for officers and employees, and all officers and employees are required to observe these hours of business unless specifically exempted therefrom. If an officer or employee fails to observe these hours of business no deduction can be made from his salary or wage. The action that may be taken in respect of such a breach of duty under the existing provisions comprises the dispensing of the employee’s services or the presenting of a charge under the disciplinary provisions of the act against an officer. Both these methods are considered to be too cumbersome for the majority of cases that arise, for example, late attendances and unauthorized absences of infrequent occurrence. It has been determined that the act should be amended to enable deductions to be made from the salary or wage of an officer or employee in respect of the time during which he is not performing duty. That is, the board will have power to determine by regulation that an officer or employee shall be paid only in respect of the time that he actually performs duty.
The provisions relating to the employment of temporary staff have been reviewed, and it has been decided to make alterations to these provisions in the light of the employment situation as it exists at present. The act provides that the board may authorize the engagement of a temporary employee for a period not exceeding three months, and if sanctioned by the board, his engagement may be extended for one further period, not exceeding three months. This provision was dispensed with by national security legislation during the last war but the legislation was repealed in 1946. Since this time the board has endeavoured to comply with the provisions of the act, but the present employment situation renders this course extremely difficult.
Clause 21 of the bill amends the temporary employment provisions of the act to allow the board to authorize the engagement of temporary employees for initial periods of up to twelve months, and if the board considers necessary, reengage.ment for a further period of up to twelve months at each annual review.
Clause 8 effects an amendment to section 29 of the act, which will enable the board to reclassify an office which is the only one of its designation and classification in the service, without causing a vacancy in the position, following a general review of salaries.
The monetary penalties that may be imposed on an officer upon the commission of an offence have been increased from 5s. to 10s. as the maximum fine for a minor offence and from £5 to £20 for other than a minor offence. This action will lessen the gap between the monetary penalty that may be imposed and the more drastic punishments of reduction in salary or status or dismissal. The amendment does not affect the right of appeal to the tribunal, on which officers are represented; such right may be availed of where the penalty is in excess of £2.
The provisions for the entry of returned soldiers into the Commonwealth service have been extended so that returned soldiers who have passed a required number of subjects at a public examination, but are not entitled to the award of a State education certificate, may be appointed to the service. T. commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill is short, and its purpose is plain. It increases the stevedoring industry charge from ls. 7d. to 2s. a man-hour. As honorable senators will be aware from earlier legislation relating to the charge, it finances the operations of what is now the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. The operations of the authority go very much farther than its own administrative activities. It attends to the payment of attendance money, and it makes - in effect on behalf of all employers in the stevedoring industry - payments on account of sick leave and statutory holidays.
The charge is a levy on man-hours worked, and is additional to the hourly working rate of pay awarded by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to waterside workers. It is paid by the employers in the industry, and is received by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority to form a fund covering a number of purposes, including those I have mentioned. The charge was increased in October last, principally to meet the 50 per cent, increase in the attendance money rate and the payments on account of sick leave and statutory holidays, which had just previously been awarded by Mr. Justice Ashburner of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. There were also additional costs flowing, for example, from the extension of the press and radio system of allocating labour.
The rate of charge which had operated prior to October had been insufficient to sustain the authority’s working funds, and these had, for some time, been running down at a rapid rate. The action taken in October was considered necessary to arrest this trend and restore the funds to a safe level for future operations. It should be made clear that the authority’s revenue varies according to the number of man-hours actually worked. The effect on the authority’s finances of a decrease in man-hours worked operates adversely in two directions, because, first, its revenue decreases, and, secondly, unemployment increases, with a consequential increase in the number of attendance money payments. lt had become evident in January that the October increase was not likely to produce the desired improvement in the authority’s finances, and pending a determination whether the financial position would be held or deteriorate, arrangements were made with the authority’s bank - the Commonwealth Trading Bank - for temporary accommodation, while trends in the industry could be further studied. This review has been made, and has disclosed a further deterioration in the authority’s finances.
The rate of ls. 7d. was fixed in October on the best estimate that could be made at that time of the man-hours likely to be worked in 1956-57. It was then thought that 36,500,000 hours would be so worked. lt now appears that the figure will be nearer 34,000,000, which is 2,500,000 manhours below the estimate, and 4,500,000 below the hours actually worked in 1955-56.
The principal reasons can be briefly stated. First, the volume of imports has been lower than anticipated, and the easing of import restrictions has not so far resulted in increased cargoes. Goods to a value of £823,000,000 were imported in 1955-56. The figure for this year is likely to be of the order of £700,000,000, and the Government has planned on a permitted level of imports to a value of £775,000,000 in 1957-58. This increase in imports is expected to influence the volume of tonnage handled throughout ports from June onwards. The Suez crisis has also had some influence on the rate at which imports have arrived.
Secondly, there has been a progressive decline in the tonnage of general cargoes handled by our interstate shipping. Bulk cargoes have not lost ground in the same way, but it is general cargo that requires (he larger labour force. In 1956, the tonnage of general cargo carried interstate declined by more than 20 per cent, in comparison with that of the previous year.
A third factor which has affected the authority’s finances is the unusually dry weather in many ports. This has meant, overall, a significant reduction in the time lost due to rain, and, although there has been no great effect from this on the total man-hours worked, there have been more men on attendance money.
Fourthly, there has been a welcome improvement in stevedoring performance. The increase in sling loads and the smaller gangs which have resulted from Mr. Justice Ashburner’s award are bearing fruit. Palletization of cargoes and mechanization of handling arrangements, including extension of bulk loading facilities, are also making a contribution.
All ‘these factors have meant a smaller number of hours worked, and, while in regard to the latter category mentioned they have been a reflection of improved efficiency, they have contributed to increased attendance money payments and reduced revenue for the authority. The fewer man-hours worked have had two effects on the authority’s finances. Its income in 1956-57 is expected to be £200,000 less than anticipated. On the other hand, its expenditure on attendance money is expected to be approximately £600,000 more. So that, overall, on these two items, the authority will find itself, at the close of this year, £800,000 woree off than was anticipated.
Looking to the future, some increase in the volume of stevedoring work can be expected in 1957-58. This will require a smaller labour force to handle the same tonnage than would have been the case, say, twelve months ago. Assuming this improvement continues in the longer term stevedoring operations may require a smaller work force than the current level. This is receiving the close attention of the authority and port quotas are being reduced as the occasion demands. Recruitment has been suspended, and the labour forces are being reduced by wastage.
However, more immediately, the levy has to be adjusted because the current trend in the authority’s finances cannot be allowed to continue. The Government has no intention of increasing the levy more than is needed. However, it is abundantly clear that the new levy must be adequate to enable the authority to meet its current commitments, including increases flowing from the recent basic wage rise, to pay off the overdraft it has incurred; and thereafter to build up some modest reserves against the inevitable and constantly recurring fluctuations in the volume of business in this industry. An increase of 5d. should enable that.
Honorable senators are aware of the efforts which the Government is making to reduce costs, including transport costs which represent such a relatively high proportion of our total. I am hopeful that this increase of 5d. will not have to remain for very long, and that, in roughly a year’s time when the authority’s overdraft should have been discharged, it will be possible to reduce the levy. The improved waterfront performance should enable shipowners to absorb all or most of the increased charge. Given reasonable prospects of a continued improvement in waterfront performance, I should hope to see, not merely an absorption by shipowners of this charge, but, as the charge becomes reduced, corresponding steps taken by them in the direction of a reduction in their shipping freights. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn til] Monday next at 3 p.m.
Senate adjourned at 11.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 May 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1957/19570516_senate_22_s10/>.