22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question is addressed to you, Mr. President, and I shall preface it by stating some facts. On 29th October, the Senate discussed the application of Standing Orders 271 and 423. A Temporary Chairman of Committees ruled that neither of those standing orders operated in the circumstances which were the subject of the discussion. You, Sir, heard argument on the question and ruled similarly to the Temporary Chairman of Committees. I ask: Is there a written ruling on the application of Standing Orders 271 and 423 in the records of the Senate? If there is no such ruling, will you have one prepared and submitted to the Senate in due course?
– The matter raised by Senator Benn was the subject of a discussion of considerable interest last night. I intend to make a statement setting out the rulings that have been given on Standing Order 423 and suggesting that it would be advisable for the standing order to be considered carefully. If this standing order were invoked, debate could be prevented and the proceedings of the Senate made to appear foolish. I will have a statement prepared and duly presented to the Senate.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation been drawn to the leading article in to-day’s issue of the “Canberra Times”? It is headed “Forgotten Factor in Airline Costs “ and contains the following statement: -
It is scarcely surprising that airlines contemplate increases in fares when so much of the air bookings are subject to commission of 15 per cent.
I understand that this commission in the main is a payment to travel agencies. Will the Minister inform the Senate what proportion of passenger air booking income is subject to a commission of 15 per cent, and whether he considers that, as civil airlines are now well established, the relatively high rate of 15 per cent, commission for agents is fully justified? Will the Minister study the question of agent’s commission as a component of operational costs when he considers applications now being made to him for the right to increase passenger air fares?
– I have read, with very considerable interest, the article mentioned by Senator Laught. The rate of commission paid to agents is already the subject of departmental consideration and will be referred to the operators, TransAustralia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A. for comment, if in fact it has not already been so referred.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation seen to-day’s issue of the “ Canberra Times “, in which it is stated that the Minister had given an assurance that there would be no drastic dismissals of workers as a result of the merger of Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited? Has the Minister been correctly reported? If so, on what facts did he base his most optimistic assurance? What steps, if any, are being taken to find employment for those workers sacked by Ansett-A.N.A.?
– Apparently, there is some confusion about what I really said with respect to this matter. The only statement that I recall making with respect to the staff of Ansett-A.N.A. referred to pilots. The honorable senator will doubtless have noticed that Mr. Ansett, in his references to dismissals, has said that pilots will not be affected. That statement confirms what I said. The statement that I made referred to pilots.
– Only to pilots?
– Yes. The assurance which is referred to by the “ Canberra Times “ and which I am alleged to have given was not in fact given.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. I understand that the Treasurer has made a statement in Papua to the effect that the Government is investigating the possibility of using the fast-flowing rivers there to generate cheap electric power for the processing of the large bauxite deposits at Weipa, in north Queensland. Can the
Minister inform- me . whether the Government has. considered using nuclear energy as an alternative source of power for the treatment on the spot of the bauxite at Weipa?
– The smelting of alumina requires very great resources of electric power. I noticed, in yesterday’s press, that the Queensland Government has entered into an arrangement with the mining company concerned for the production of alumina from the very great deposits of bauxite found on the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The production of aluminium from alumina is the process that needs so much electric power. I am sure that the mining company will investigate, not only the potential hydro-electric power resources of New Guinea, and the possibilities of atomic power, but also other kinds of power, and I have noticed, with a good deal of interest, that the company is even prospecting for coal deposits on the Cape York Peninsula. Power is so important in the smelting of alumina, and the company concerned is such a big one, that I have not the slightest doubt that the most careful thought and consideration will be given to all the possible alternative means of generating power for the processing of the bauxite obtained from the Weipa deposits.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. What Australian airline companies use aviation kerosene? How much is used by each of those companies? What are the customs and excise duties imposed on this fuel expected to cost each company?
– The companies using aviation kerosene in Australia are Trans-Australia Airlines and Butler Air Transport Limited. I will treat the rest of the question as being on notice, and will give the honorable senator an answer as soon as possible.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation correct the impression given by a very misleading and erroneous leading article in the “ Canberra Times “ this morning, in which it is stated that airline operators pay to agents a commission of IS per cent, in booking fees for travel on both internal and overseas airlines? I am. sure that the Minister knows that 5 per cent, commission is paid in respect of Australian airlines, and 7 per cent, commission in respect of international airlines. 1 ask the Minister to make that correction.
– In answer to a question asked of me earlier by Senator Laught, I indicated that the commission paid by airline operators to agencies was the subject of departmental consideration, and was in fact being referred to the operators for comment. Senator Wood now informs me that the leading article stated inaccurately the rates of commission paid. That opens up a conflict that I am not equipped to enter into at the moment, but I shall make inquiries and inform Senator Wood precisely what the position is. Then, if there is any need to make a correction, I shall do so.
– I direct a question without notice to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that Mr. O’Shea, a soldier settler on King Island, was sold up by auction at the direction of the Closer Settlement Board officers? Is it a fact that part of the debt owing by Mr. O’Shea was for superphosphate, which was spread over the property and left for the benefit of the next settler? Will the Minister ascertain the price paid per head by the Closer Settlement Board officers for the dairy stock bought for Mr. O’Shea when he was going on to the property? Will the Minister ascertain the price per head received for the stock sold at auction at the direction of the Closer Settlement Board officers? Is it a fact, as stated in an affidavit signed by Mr. O’Shea, that Mr. Handley, a Closer Settlement Board officer, and Mr. Burgess;, a district agricultural officer, told buyers, on the day of the sale, that Mr. 0’Shea’s cows were diseased , with mastitis? Is it a fact that Mr. Handley bought most of the stock for a Mr. Lynch, who was a stockman for the Closer Settlement Board? Is it not a fact that Mr. O’Shea has ten in his family, is a repatriation pensioner, and has less than £2 10s. per unit coming into the home each week? Is it not a fact that the Government considers that £4 7s. 6d. a week is the very minimum per unit which should come into a home for age and invalid pensioners? Is it not a fact that if the Minister persists in garnisheeing Mr. O’Shea’s wages, Mr. O’Shea’s children will be deprived of food, even though to-day they are managing on £2 a week less than the Government claims is necessary for age pensioners to live on? Is it not a fact that ‘Mr. O’Shea has offered to pay 15s. a week off the debt, that this offer has been refused by the Minister, and that Mr. O’Shea has been informed that his wages will be garnisheed? Does the Minister consider that this is the freedom that this repatriation pensioner fought for in World War II.?
– I am sure that no member of the Senate would expect me to be able to answer questions of detail, particularly questions of detail such as whether part of this debt was incurred in the purchase of superphosphate, and whether on a certain .date cows on .a certain property had mastitis. I suggest that the only proper thing to do with a .question such as that is to put it on notice.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply a question without notice. I preface my question by saying that the Tasmanian Government is at present embarking on a new hydroelectric undertaking, which will divert the waters of the Great Lake in the central plateau of Tasmania into the South Esk river and so generate a considerable amount of extra electricity. In view of the growing importance of aluminium as a light metal, and the saving of dollars which could be effected by a reduction of our present imports of aluminium, will the Minister consider making early arrangements with the interests controlling the Weipa field in north Queensland in order to make certain that sufficient alumina will be available to make possible an increased output from the Australian Aluminium Production Commission’s works at Bell Bay, in Tasmania?
– I shall be pleased to refer the question to my colleague, the Minister for Supply, .and obtain a considered reply from him.
– I have not the details at hand,’ because this matter is within the ambit of my colleague, the Minister for Immigration, but I shall bring the question to his notice and obtain the details for the honorable senator.
– I ask the
Minister representing the Treasurer whether he heard, or has heard of, a talk given in the Guest of Honour session of the Australian Broadcasting Commission last Sunday evening by Mr. Harold E. Wincott, a financial authority visiting Australia, who is editor of the London “ Investor’s Chronicle “. Mr. Wincott made reference in his remarks to the recent increase of the United Kingdom bank rate and the reason for it. He went on to say that British investors were likely to be less interested in Australian investment prospects as a result, and that the increase of the United Kingdom bank rate might at least slow down Australian industrial expansion. Does the Minister subscribe, in whole or in part, to the views expressed by Mr. Wincott? Will he consider issuing a statement analysing the remarks of this financial authority, particularly as they relate to Australia’s economic prospects?
– I did not hear the talk by Mr. Wincott, so I cannot say whether or not I subscribe to the views he expressed. I would not think it was either necessary or desirable for the Government to make a statement in reply to Mr. Wincott, because there is room for divergences of opinion on matters such as he canvassed. As to whether the increase of the United Kingdom bank rate will result in a slowing down of investment in Australia, I think that if interest rates and returns from investment are higher in Britain, money will be attracted there. Indeed, I understand that the whole purpose of the exercise is to strengthen sterling. It is a passing phase, and I would express my own view that the bank rate will not be maintained at its present high level. It will provide a corrective which will make for a healthier financial position in the whole of the sterling area, from which we will derive benefit in the same way as the other partners in the sterling area will.
– My question to the Minister for Civil Aviation is supplementary to that asked by Senator Brown, and arises from an article published in a newspaper this morning, in which it is reported that the Australian Council of Trade Unions is considering making direct representation to the Minister concerning the sacking of certain employees by AnsettA.N.A. after a questionnaire has been returned to the council. If a private company is endeavouring to protect the investments of shareholders by making itself efficient through reduction of overhead expenditure, is there any reason for interference by this Government? Should not the management of Ansett-A.N.A. be commended for its prompt attempt to improve the financial position of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited?
– In my view it would be most inappropriate for the Government to attempt to interfere with a company which is obviously trying to make adjustments to its internal economy to ensure greater efficiency and service. Honorable senators should not get this matter out of perspective. I suppose it is inevitable that following a merger of this type some dismissals must occur, but I suggest that is insignificant when compared with what might have happened had there been a liquidation of the company with the certain dismissal of 3,500 employees.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Has he noted that the president of the National Roads and Motorists’ Association has stated that the Australian road system is shockingly out of date measured by overseas standards? Are all State transport authorities represented on the Australian Road Safety Council? How often does the full council meet? Is there a constant survey of overseas development on road and pedestrian problems by officers of the council? What action is taken by the Commonwealth to implement the findings of the council?
– Research into overseas practices is undertaken by the Australian Road Safety Council in a way which has regard to the expense involved, and for that reason the council does not maintain, or regularly send, officers overseas. It maintains a continuing correspondence with like bodies in other parts of the world, and as the opportunity offers visits are made by honorary and paid officers of the council. Recently a police commissioners’ conference was held in New Zealand. The chairman of the Australian Road Safety Council, an officer of the Commonwealth, attended that conference for the purpose of studying road safety practices in New Zealand, but he went there during his annual leave which involved no extra cost to the Commonwealth. Research was undertaken also by the chairman of one of the State Road Safety Councils who, during a visit abroad, devoted considerable time to this matter in the United Kingdom and Europe, again at no cost to the Road Safety Council or the Commonwealth. As to the implementation of recommendations of the council, the various State bodies maintain a close and continuing liaison with the relevant State Minister, and at the regular nine-monthly meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council a review is made of the progress by the States in this important work.
– My question should properly be directed, I think, to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, but possibly it should be directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply. I bring to the attention of the Senate an excerpt from the twelfth annual report of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, in which it is stated -
Outstanding import licences which had obviously accumulated during the period of short supply enabled fabricators to import substantial quantities of aluminium into Australia and as a result the Commission was seriously embarrassed with increasingly heavy stocks. To relieve the position. the Commission decided, with considerable reluctance, to sell overseas at a loss some 690 tons of ingot.
In paragraph 40 of the report, the commission states -
The Commission is of the opinion that imports should be restricted to the difference between the total Australian demand and the Commission’s production.
I ask the Minister, first, whether that part of the report has come to his notice; secondly, whether any ‘ action has been taken in connexion with it, and, if so, what action; and thirdly, if he is without information on these matters, whether he will make a statement in the Senate at an early date, particularly in relation to the policy to be adopted to improve the industry.
– I shall bring Senator Wright’s question to the notice of the Minister for Supply, and obtain answers as soon as possible.
– I preface a question, which I address to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, or the appropriate Minister, by referring to statements that have been made in connexion with the trade agreement between the United Kingdom and Australia. Previously, I asked the Minister to present to the Senate the White Paper on the common market agreement made by the United Kingdom with certain European countries. I now ask him whether it is a fact that Dr. Westerman, representing Australia at the recent General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade conference, stated our position by saying that Australia could not see how minimum price controls on agricultural products within the common market could work effectively without internal and external trade restrictions. He went on to say, speaking on behalf of Australia -
In effect the common market treaty holds out the real possibility of an aggregation and intensification of the restrictive and protective practices of the individual members.
I also ask the Minister whether he is prepared to place before the Senate the plan referred to by Dr. Westerman in these terms when, apparently, he was speaking on behalf of the Australian Government. Dr. Westerman went on to say that Australia suggested that, in relation to agriculture, the six common market nations should form their plans in detail and provide safeguards to ensure that the fruits of economic progress within the market could be shared with other contracting parties. Will the Minister make available to the Senate and the Parliament plans envisaged by the Government, so that we shall not be obliged to discuss a fait accompli, as happened in the case of the United Kingdom Trade Agreement which, apparently, is now causing fear in the minds of the Government and its representatives?
– The honorable senator’s question is too complicated to be given a complete answer. In brief, the problem that arises as a result of the establishment of these European organizations is to reconcile the British desire to have access to increased continental markets with the desire to retain preference for the British dominions, particularly in respect of agricultural products. A lot of water will run under the bridges during negotiations at the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade conference and elsewhere. I do not think it is practical to ask for the Government’s plan which covers that aspect. Australian representatives, on both ministerial and departmental levels, will constantly seek to keep the door wide open for the sale of our primary products in Great Britain, in the terms of the existing agreement, which the Government of the United Kingdom has said it will not disturb.
– The question which I address to the Minister for Shipping and” Transport concerns the imposition of road tolls on main highways and has been provoked by a rather interesting statement in this morning’s press to the effect that the Sydney Harbour bridge was now showing a profit from the imposition of a toll. Has any consideration been given by the Commonwealth and State road transport ministries to the imposition of road tolls upon our main highways for the purpose of maintaining those highways? Is the Minister aware that the very high cost of many of the modern highways in the United States of America has been financed through the imposition of road tolls? If no consideration has been given to this matter by the various authorities, will the Minister undertake to originate it at the next conference of transport Ministers so that some consideration can be given to this very important matter of raising adequate finance for the necessary construction of our main highways?
– Road tolls have been imposed in isolated cases in Australia. Senator Vincent referred to one on the Sydney Harbour bridge, which, I suppose, is the most outstanding instance. One or two other examples come to mind. I think there was a road in north Queensland which was paid for by tolls. The matter has been referred to in a general way at meetings of transport Ministers but there has been no enthusiasm by State Ministers for this form of tax. Whilst there might be some merit in raising the matter at a future transport meeting, a course to which I can see no objection, I should think, from the attitude of State Ministers on previous occasions, that it would not be met with any greater enthusiasm than it has in the past.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General by “ stating that it was recently announced that the department would issue two new 54-d. stamps depicting the Australian War Memorial. This proposal has received widespread approval. I ask the Minister when it is expected that these stamps will be available. Are they designed to commemorate or mark some special event or occasion? What type of mail matter is this issue of 5id. stamps intended to cover?
– I have been able to obtain some information on this matter. It is expected that the stamps will be issued on Monday, 10th February, 1958. They will not be issued to mark any special occasion. The stamps will, be a permanent issue to depict the Australian War Memorial. However, it will be particularly appropriate for them- to be issued in that month because, on 14th February, 1958, the conference of the British Empire Services League will be. opened in Canberra by the Queen Mother. The stamps will- be used for second-class, mail known as “ second* weight units “ which covers- such- items, ascommercial, papers and circulars.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, concerns the avenue of trees at the entrance to the Adelaide airport, which was planted under the control and guidance of the Department of Civil Aviation by European immigrants in South Australia as a loyal gesture to Her Majesty the Queen. Is the Minister aware that many of these trees are now dead? Will he take steps to have these trees replaced immediately so that the new trees may have the benefit of this season’s growing period and thus be not too far behind in growth those planted some eighteen months ago?’
– I had not noticed that any of the trees had died. I will have the matter investigated immediately.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether he has noticed a letter in this morning’s “ Canberra Times “, in which a complaint is made about waste of water in Canberra on private gardens. Is there any check on the consumption of water in Canberra?1 What steps are taken by the Department of the Interior to minimize waste?
– I know that some steps were taken recently to increase the water supply of Canberra. Another dam is to be built on the upper reaches of the Cotter river. To provide water for the gardens in the government triangle, a pump has been erected on the Molonglo river so that water for this purpose need not be taken from the domestic supply. The consumption of water in Canberra, per head of population, is by far the highest of any city in Australia. If my memory is correct, it is about 300 gallons a head, without taking into account water used for industrial, requirements. A city such as> Melbourne uses approximately 86 gallons a head.
– Have water meters been installed here?
– I understand that water meters have been installed in” Canberra, but I am not aware whether they have, yet been used to determine charges. I will refer the .question to my colleague, the Minister, for the Interior.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service whether, in view of the calamitous results of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority’s operations for last year, he will ensure that a report on that authority’s operations up to the end of June, 1957, will be made available to the Senate before they are discussed.
– J will make inquiries to see if it is possible to act on the honorable senator’s suggestion.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The Government has applied the gag to restrict the time for discussion of the Estimates, and has limited question time to half an hour. In view of the fact that question, time has exceeded half an hour this, morning, has the gag on questions been lifted? Will the extra time taken for questions be added to the time allowed for discussion of the Estimates?
– The gag has not been applied at all; the “ guillotine “ has been used.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
To what extent has the Australian pound note fallen in value, from one year to another, since 1914, taking’ that year as a base year, with an index of 100?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer:-^-
No accurate comprehensive measure of changes over time in the internal purchasing power of the Australian pound is available, nor for a variety of reasons, both technical and practical, is such a measure attainable. The senator may have in mind changes in the C series retail price index over the period to which, he refers, but that index relates to only a limited number of goods and services. It cannot- be assumed that, changes in the prices of these goods and services as measured by the index, have been reliably indicative of changes in the- prices, of items not covered by the index. Nor can it be assumed that outlay on those goods and services has maintained a constant relationship to outlay on all available objects of purchase.
In committee: Consideration resumed, from 29th October (vide page 946).
– I move -
That, during the time remaining for the consideration of the Appropriation Bill 1957-S8 in committee of the whole, the votes included in each group be taken together within the time allotted for each group.
The motion is intended to improve the procedure followed yesterday when an unduly large proportion of the time available was taken in considering only one item. To-day, the committee will consider several departments for which Senator Cooper is responsible and under the “ guillotine “ procedure the consideration of those departments will last until 6 o’clock. If my suggestion is adopted, a senator may discuss any one of those departments without waiting for the consideration of each to be concluded separately. If a senator wishes to speak on one department, he will have an opportunity to express his views and to ask the Minister for information. At the same time, it can be fairly said that my suggestion does not thwart the wishes of the Senate. If the committee wishes to spend a substantial portion of the time: on one department, then honorable senators will be able to speak on that department in which there may be general interest. At the same time my proposal will not deprive a senator of his rights if he wishes to speak on a department in which there may not be as much interest.
– The Opposition raises no objection to this motion. Yesterday, the committee used all the time from 3 p.m. until 1 1 p.m., except for a. quarter of an hour, in considering one department. The estimates- for that department amounted to about £1,500,000, but the estimates for the other departments in the same group amounted to about £100,000,000. Of course; honorable senators are entitled to seek all the information they wish, but I say with, the- greatest respect that, if fewer second-readings speeches, were made, more information would, be obtained. The
Opposition does not agree with the use of the “ guillotine “. There was no need for it, but we shall abide by the decision of the Senate. We feel that the business of the committee should be conducted in a way that will permit all the departments to be aired. For that reason, the Opposition raises no objection to the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
War and Repatriation Services.
Proposed Vote, £76,937,000.
Department of Health.
Proposed Vote, £1,639,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Health.
Proposed Vote, £1,162,000.
Payments to or for the States.
Proposed Vote, £2,550,000.
Proposed Vote, £94,180,000.
Broadcasting and Television Services.
Proposed Vote, £7,376,000.
Department of Territories.
Proposed Vote, £273,000.
Proposed Vote, £4,625,000.
Proposed Vote, £33,000.
Papua and New Guinea.
Proposed Vote, £11,258,000.
Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
Proposed Vote, £29,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– I suggest that the vote for the Australian Capital “Territory, £3,025,000, be considered in the group now before the committee. This vote includes a provision for health in the Australian Capital Territory, and I would appreciate the committee including it in the group relating to health matters.
– I oppose the suggestion. The committee has been ordered by the Senate to consider certain estimates within given times, and the “ guillotine “ falls on the group now before the committee at 6 p.m. to-day. The Minister now wants to override the order given by the Senate and to include in this group an item which belongs to a group which is to be considered to-morrow. The suggestion contravenes the decision made by the Senate and is out of order.
– 1 withdraw my suggestion.
– I shall follow the lead given by Senator Kennelly and be as brief as I can. I refer to the administrative charges for the Department of Health. Those charges have become excessive because of the medical benefits scheme. A few weeks ago I asked a rather loosely formed question about medical benefits. In it I requested the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to examine the possibility of a scheme whereby the Government would accept responsibility for all medical expenses over a fixed amount in any one year, thus protecting those with heavy expenses and eliminating heavy administrative costs involved in the payment of minor expenses. The Minister replied that the Government did not have any intention of departing from the present scheme. The present scheme is becoming top-heavy day by day and is not achieving the purpose that the Government intended to achieve. The Government is in a cleftstick, because, if it increases the benefits payable in respect of fees paid to doctors, its action can be negatived overnight by the doctors increasing their fees. Surely no one - not even the most stubborn departmental officer - would pretend that these benefits are adequate. The other day, I noticed a report in a newspaper - I am sure that it will be on the files in the office of the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) - to the effect that only about 5 per cent, or 6 per cent, of a considerable bill had been recouped by the patient in benefit.
Apparently, the Government can do nothing to protect people who, after being members of a medical benefits fund for a considerable number of years, allow their contributions to lapse for a year or two, and then incur considerable medical expenses. Those people can claim nothing from the benefit society with which they had been registered, or from the Government. I do not want to belabour the matter. I wish merely to point out the obvious weaknesses that exist. As I have mentioned, the administrative charges of the Department of Health are excessive, and I think a remedy could be found in the action that I suggested in the question that I mentioned a little earlier. I appeal to the Minister for Repatriation to use his influence with the Department of Health, and persuade it to refrain from giving the abrupt answers that it has been in the habit of giving.
The next matter that I wish to mention concerns the Postmaster-General’s Department. I again make a request that is for me a hardy annual, and ask whether there is any further information about the possible use of automatic recording devices, which have been in common use in other countries for about ten years, but are still not in use in Australia. As I have said before, business and professional people with small office staffs - lawyers, for example - find it very convenient to switch on an automatic recording device when they leave the office so that incoming calls may be recorded for attention when the occupant of the office returns. 1 first raised this matter in the days when stenographers and other office workers were at a very high premium. Those days are passing, but, nevertheless, automatic recorders would be a great aid in one-man offices. I cannot understand why Australia lags so badly in the use of such modern aids. Although I have raised the matter on about four or five occasions, 1 have got precisely nowhere. I realize that it would probably be the job, not of the Postmaster-General’s Department, but of private companies selling the recorders, to install them. However, at some stage, the department will have to give permission for the use of these devices, and it is about time we were given information about the departments attitude towards them.
I turn now to a most important matter - the proposed inquiry into the Public Service, which, I understand, is to be undertaken on a departmental level. The inquiry is of some importance in relation to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, which is probably the largest employer of labour in the Public Service. Indeed, it probably employs more labour than is employed by most of the other departments put together. I ask the Minister for Repatriation, who represents in this chamber the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson), to use his influence with the Cabinet and with the department, even at this late stage, in an endeavour to have outside assistance called upon in the making of the inquiry. I make this suggestion in a kindly way, because I do not look upon the proposed committee of inquiry as one that will wreck or criticize unnecessarily. Nevertheless, I think that it would benefit greatly if it were aided by people with modern business ideas and administrative methods at their finger-tips. As I have said before, there are many people giving outstanding service to the community who could assist in the inquiry.
One of the problems to be considered is the question of how we can hold outstanding civil servants in government employment. In addition, I think that some very outmoded methods of administration would be brought to light by an inquiry conducted with the help of men familiar with modern business methods. For example, I think it would be found that the Bureau of Census and Statistics is completely overloaded with many redundant officers in a number of sections. The only way to eliminate that sort of thing is to obtain the assistance of experts outside the Public Service. The necessary ability is available in the community at large. I trust that my request will be passed on to the appropriate authorities, and I should like to hear the comments of other senators about the idea.
As I have already said, I do not want to belabour these matters. We have started off with a “ new look “ this morning. There are many matters that I should like to raise, and I trust that I have given the Minister for Repatriation enough information about the three subjects with which I have dealt specifically.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [11.57]. - I should like information about a number of matters concerning the estimates for the Department of Health. The first relates to health conferences, which are shown as item 4, under General Expenses, Division No. 81, at: page 46 of the bill. I consider that health conferences are of tremendous importance, and I should like to know whether the conferences referred to in this item are conferences held in Australia only, or whether they include also conferences held overseas. Were any of the conferences on which expenditure was made last financial year called to consider any particular health problem affecting Australia?
Item 7, under General Expenses, in the same division states, “ Nutrition of children -Payments to States; £9,600”. This is almost -£2,000 more than was expended last financial year. I presume that it includes payments made for the provision of free .milk to school children. I should like to know whether there is any other form of1 nutrition provided for children in the States, and whether “any one State receives more assistance than another. Mem 6 refers to payments to the States for the administration of “the Tuberculosis Agreement. The .’compaign against tuber- -culosis has been ..an important feature of the community’s health services in recent yeans. It-has shown spectacular results, an’d the community has .derived great benefit from it. .Is- there a. greater. incidence of this disease in .one State than m another, and has any one -State achieved more than .’the others have achieved in ;the fight against tuberculosis?
I refer also to item 6 under General Expenses - Division No. 83 - Health Services - which states, “Purchase and Analysis .of Drugs, -£13,600 “. This is a new item, “-which appears -for the first time. May we have some particulars- of the details with ‘respect to it? -Item 7, under General Expenses, in the same division, reads, “ Publicity, £3,000 “. There is a very great ifield open to -us in health ‘publicity. Much of this work may be a matter for the States, but I consider that there is a great .need ‘for publicity, particularly about ,health risks associated .with the handling lOt large .quantities of -food -by many ‘people at public places and in places where it is served to .large numbers of ^people. We should .do all that we can to make the public .aware .of the risks of disease and illness .present in the handling of food. 1 .turn now :to ‘Division No. 222 - Department of Health - rat page ‘102 of the bill. The ‘first item relates “to -medical “research, which represents one .df .the greatest contributions that -is “being made in the way -of health services. Alarming reports have appeased in the press about ‘mental illness, and .one newspaper in particular mentioned mental illness among young people. I should like to know what research is “being done in this field, and whether Australia is playing its part in world-wide research into the treatment and prevention of the ;dread disease of cancer. I understand that no ‘research is yet being done in geriatrics in “ this country. I have -previously mentioned -the need for such research in this chamber, and T ‘hope that it will receive ‘due consideration in the light of research being undertaken in other countries.
Child health centres, which are provided for in item 2, have done, and continue to do, tremendously important work in promoting the ‘health of children. ‘I see that the vote for the Commonwealth Council for “National “Fitness, under item 3, remains unchanged. There is tremendous scope for improving the “health of our .young .people through national fitness. I hope that consideration will” be. .given to further assisting those -who are active in this very important field by making an increased grant.
In Division No. 222, Department of Health, I notice with great pleasure that the grant- to the States for the Red-Cross blood transfusion service has been increased. I pay a tribute to this -splendid service, which is instrumental in saving many lives. Distancemeans nothing :to the people who do :this splendid work. They are deserving of the highest praise for their -untiring -.efforts, and :I am -pleased ‘to see that the (Government, in recognition of the value of this service, proposes to increase the grant.
In connexion with the vote for the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, can the Minister say whether any other serum is being investigated with a view to using it ;for the prevention of poliomyelitis. ‘I understand that Salk vaccine is still being used and ‘is ‘most successful, but I have read a press report about another serum. I should also like to ‘know what percentage of .children throughout the Commonwealth have received .Salk injections to date.
I commend the Government for granting >a -subsidy ‘to the aerial -medical service. This is a tremendous field of activity, and the service has brought security and comfort to -the people of the outback. This service ‘was commenced with a knowledge at the great need of the people of ‘the outback, and it lias grown beyond the dreams of ‘those who brought it into being. I support the granting of the subsidy, because without the aerial medical service this great Commonwealth of Australia would be a poorer place in which ‘to live.
– I wish to refer to Division No. 288, Tuberculosis Act - Reimbursement of capital expenditure” by State governments. You may notice, Mr. Chairman, that the estimate for this year is- £2,550,000. You may also notice that in respect of the financial year 1956-57, the estimate was £1,925,000 and. the actual expenditure was £2,381,210. 1 have no wish to broaden the debate, but I should like to cite some of the acts administered by the Department of Health. They are -
Acoustic Laboratories- Act 1948.
Australian Institute of Anatomy Agreements Act 1924-1933.
Beaches, Fishing Grounds and Sea- Routes Protection Act 1932 (Section 3).
Hospital Benefits Act 1945-1948.
Medical Research Endowment Act 1937’.
Mental Institutions Benefits Act 1’948.
National Fitness Act 1941.
National Health Services Act 1948-1949.
Pharmaceutical Benefits Act 1947-1950.
Quarantine Act 1908-1950.
States Grants’ (Milt for School’ Children Act) 1950.
Therapeutic Substances Act 1937-1938. Tuberculosis Act 1948.
I do not propose to quote from- the Administrative Order all the functions of- this department. They are many and they are widespread.
Reverting to the proposed vote of £2,550,000 under Division 288, I should like the Minister to break up that amount and inform me just how it. is proposed, to expend, the money, seeing that it is to be provided for reimbursement of capital, expenditure by State, governments.. I. visualize that much of it will be spent on improvements to hospital, buildings, erection of new hospitals, and the installation in hospitals of equipment necessary to deal with persons suffering, from tuberculosis. I should like the Minister to inform, me not. only how the money is- to be spent in the various States, but also where it is to be spent.
Honorable” senators are aware- that, during recent years, there has been an organized campaign! against tuberculosis in: Australia. It is all very well for some of us to say that the results- have been, good, and that we look forward to the time when there will be very little tuberculosis, in Australia. I want to know, from the Minister1 what’ definite results have been obtained, from! the campaign that has been in progress over the last: four or five years. I want to- know how the campaign has been waged.. I know that’ in the States school children attending primary and secondary schools have received X-ray examinations. I also know that adults- who have volunteered, have alsoreceived X-ray examinations-. If those examinations are still being made I can only commend the- scheme, because the resultwill no doubt be beneficial to the general health of the community, but I should like some definite information from the Minister on that particular point.
Hast year, no fewer than 115,000 immigrants came here from various countries-. I should like the Minister to inform me whether they were examined prior to being’ enlisted’ as immigrants to this country, ro see whether they had traces of tuberculosis. I should like to know whether these immigrants have been further examined after their arrival here. I cannot imagine theDepartment of Immigration enlisting any citizen overseas for migration to’ Australia” if he is suffering- even slightly from tuberculosis. Seeing that the proposed expenditure under this division is so large, I should like to know what curative actions the Government is sponsoring at the present time. If a citizen shows positive signs of tuberculosis is any curative treatment provided, apart from placing the sufferer in. a hospital?’ Are. there any modern drugs which will cure tuberculosis? The Minister, might also be pleased to inform me, when he is replying, whether the results are worth while, and, if they are, just how they are benefiting the taxpayers of Australia. I leave that in the lap of the Minister, and I feel sure that he will give me a very satisfactory reply, particularly in view of the’ fact that the sum involved is so large.
I come now to the Canberra abattoir, which is administered1 by the Department of Health, lt is- held- that because the abattoir is a health utility its- administration is properly one of the functions of the- Department of Health. I have had) nothing to do with the compilation of the. relevant administrative order,, but it is- sadly out. of: date. I suggest that the whole of the: administrative’ work associated with: the’ Canberra abattoir be transferred to the control! of’ the. Department’ of Primary Industry. I think that the officers of that department, with their special knowledge, would be more competent to administer the affairs of the abattoir than is the Department of Health.
There are other matters to which I shall refer later when the activities of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department are under review, but as the two previous speakers dealt with the activities of the Department of Health I thought I would be wise to confine my remarks to that department.
.- 1 also address my remarks to the subject of the Department of Health, and specifically to the Canberra abattoir and the restrictions which the Department of Health has thought fit to apply regarding the provision of meat for consumers in the Australian Capital Territory. In spite of requests of mine for information, which have been on the noticepaper for a long time, the Department of Health has persistently refused to explain the restrictions and, to my knowledge, has never given the reasons for them. The restrictions are contained in a regulation issued by the Department of Health, and the situation that they produce is that, generally speaking, all meat consumed in the Australian Capital Territory has to come from beasts slaughtered in the Canberra abattoir. There are exceptions to that rule. It is possible, in certain circumstances, for butchers to bring in meat from outside the Australian Capital Territory, but the conditions under which that meat may be brought in are left entirely to the discretion of the Department of Health and go far beyond what may be regarded as the reasonable requirements of such a department insofar as cleanliness and sanitation in killing, transport and sale are concerned. Indeed, the Department of Health has complete right to refuse to allow meat to be brought into the Australian Capital Territory even when it meets all proper health requirements, and the department may do so without giving any reason for its refusal and without any one being able to question its action effectively.
The results of the situation I have described are what one might expect. The meat consumers of Canberra do not have an opportunity to buy the best meat available, and the retail butchers of Canberra do not have the chance to provide superior quality meat. As a result of this regulation and restriction those who use the Canberra abattoir lay it down - I do not think that the department itself lays this down - that all meat sold in Canberra shall be sold by. weight, and weight alone. So, the customer pays the same price per lb. for meat from the oldest, most drought-stricken, toughest beast that comes into the Canberra abattoir, as he does for the best quality beef.
– How does that follow from the requirements of the department?
– There is no requirement by the department regarding the sale of meat by weight, but the result of the monopoly which is encouraged by the department’s restrictions leads to meat being sold by weight with, to my knowledge - and I am speaking subject to correction here - no price differential for grade.
Another result of the restriction, I fear, is that prices to the consumer in Canberra can be higher than they would be for meat which could be brought in from outside. I think that, at any rate within the last two or three days, the prices of lamb, for instance, charged by wholesale butchers to retail butchers in Canberra, has been laid down as 2s. lOd. per lb. whereas lamb can be bought now in Goulburn and other places outside Canberra for 2s. per lb. wholesale. There again, the market is restricted to those who slaughter in the Canberra abattoir under the control of the Department .of Health. True enough, any butcher may take stock of the abattoir and slaughter it there. But a man who has only his own shop would find it rather difficult to buy, transport to the abattoir and kill stock, while at the same time running his retail business, whereas a chain store or a wholesale butcher with more than one shop would not find that difficult to do. In fact, most of the killing at the abattoir is done by wholesale butchers who have more than one retail shop in Canberra. Some have four or five retail shops. It is natural to suspect wholesale butchers who own retail shops of retaining for their own shops the best of the meat that they kill, while the individual retail butcher has to take what is left.
In my opinion all those results flow from a completely unwarranted restriction which prevents a person who wishes to serve the public and to create a reputation for providing the highest quality goods from being able to do so and which places him, instead, in a position where he has to trade with wholesalers who are, in fact, his retail competitors and who have the opportunity, because they use the abattoir, to reserve for themselves the choicest meat. Perhaps there is some good reason for this interference with the free choice of the consumer and with the enterprise of the individual retail butcher, but, so far, no explanation has been given of it. I should very much like the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) to obtain from the Department of Health the exact reasons for the exercise of this arbitrary power of restriction, so that it will be possible for us to set them off against the very real evils which, I believe, flow from the exercise of the power.
– Is it permissible for me, Mr.
Chairman, under the new procedure which has been adopted here, to discuss an important matter touching the national health scheme? I have had many inquiries from constituents about the operations of the organizations which have so much to do with the health of the nation.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - I can see no reason why you should not ask for any information you wish about the national health scheme, so long as you do not make a second-reading speech on the subject.
– Everybody else has -been making second-reading speeches in committee, and I do not see why I may not do so. In the first place, I should like to know whether any consideration has been given to a reduction of the taxes that were imposed originally to finance the provision of social services and health benefits. I refer to the social services contribution which was imposed in 1946 and was subsequently merged with income tax by the Menzies-Fadden Government when it became alarmed at the extensive surplus that was being built up in the National Welfare Fund. The money was used to finance loans and so forth. The “ Year-Book “ for 1955 discloses that the surplus in this fund at the end of 1953 amounted to £186,836,000. Is this surplus revenue provided by the taxpayers of Australia now being utilized for loans to the States for housing and other purposes? If that is so, does the Government intend to consider either reducing or abolishing the pay-roll tax and that element of the social services contribution that was merged with income tax collections? In 1949-50, collections of social service contribution totalled £100,560,000, compared with individual income tax collections totalling £95,416,000. Every person without dependants and earning the basic wage - I refer particularly to New South Wales where the basic wage is £13 10s. a week - is paying £1 a week social services contribution.
The reduction effected in the combined taxes when they were merged in 1950-51 was so insignificant that in respect of the basic wage earner it amounted to only 7d. a week, or 30s. a year. I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether the social services contribution is to continue. The huge surplus in the National Welfare Fund continues to grow, and on the basis of the last full year of collection of social services contribution it would now amount to approximately £300,000,000. That money is being loaned by the Government to the States at interest rates ranging from 3i per cent, to 5 per cent.
– I refer to Division No. 284. - Miscellaneous Services, Norfolk Island, under which appears the sole item, “ Towards expenses of Administration.. £33,000 “. I have been unable to obtain any details of that item. Some time ago the Parliament passed a bill to empower the Minister to set up a council, and on that occasion I asked whether it was intended that the council should be wholly elected or wholly nominated, or partially elected and partially nominated. The Minister representing the Minister for Territories was unable to give me any information on that matter because of what I feel was an imperfect liaison with his colleague in another place.
– Mr. Chairman, I direct your attention to the state of the committee.
– I have counted the committee and find there is a quorum present. I ask honorable senators not to belittle the proceedings of the committee.
– The information provided on that occasion to which I have referred was very vague; but I discovered half an hour afterwards that full information was available in the department and should have been available in the Senate. I should like’ to know whether that council has been set up. df not, what steps have (been , taken to set -it up? Is it to be .an elective or nominated council? I desire -further information from the .Minister about this rather vague item. -‘Senator CAMERON (Victoria) =[12.26]. - I should like -to know why there is such a long delay in the ‘installation of telephones in Melbourne and suburbs. A gentleman
St (Pascoe Vale who -has been waiting for a telephone for twelve months was recently asked whether :ne -still wanted one. -He ,does, but he will ha.ve to .wait another four months for it. Messrs. Foley and Foley, accountants .in Glen -Iris, have -been waiting for .a telephone for .eighteen months, and the department has -now promised installation -in five weeks, but I would not venture -to say whether it .will materialize -or not. A third case is that of a Mr. Shearer, production manager .of a large manufacturing firm, who applied to have a telephone installed in his home .at Studley Pack and was informed there was no prospect -of .obtaining one. He is at present paying a very high rental for a flat in South Yarra; he has a new home at Studley Park but cannot get .a telephone.
From my knowledge and experience I think the reason for the delay is that the engineering .branch, which should be able to plan at least ten years ahead, is not in a .position to do so. Plans are made years ahead for the installation of electric light, gas or water, but people who are conducting businesses in which a telephone is necessary find it is almost impossible to obtain one. I am not blaming the department itself. I believe the Government is not allotting sufficient money for this purpose, having regard particularly to the increase in population. In my opinion the shortage of telephones to-day is almost as bad as it was just when the war ended.
– I refer to the proposed vote for Miscellaneous Services for the Department of Health, Division No. 222, item 3 - “ Commonwealth Council for National Fitness, £72,500 “. I should like to know’how this money is distributed to the States, because I am reminded that in this morning’s Canberra press it was reported ‘that three youths had been charged with wantonly destroying motor cars, and that one boy had ripped tyres with a knife. I am of the opinion that the sum that is voted for national fit ness, and the work that the National Fitness Council was established to do, -is totally inadequate. It is a reflection on the Parliament that such a meagre amount should be voted for such an important aspect of our community life.
One of the few counters to the destructive trends that are apparent in our society is the pursuit of national fitness. In past years, the Government has been relieved of a great deal of expense in this connexion. The point that I want to make is that the total grant made -by the Commonwealth for this important work to be carried out by the National Fitness Council was £72,500 in 1942, and it has remained at that .amount ever since. Tasmania is allotted the sum .of £5,242 a year for .the work of the council in that State. The Tasmanian Government is assisting in many ways to keep the council going, but I think that the Senate should consider carefully the advisability of increasing the vote because of the growing need for greater discipline to counter the effects of films on the minds of youngsters who are growing up to-day, .the cults that are arising in our community, such .as the bodgie .and widgie cult, and the exhibitionism that we meet daily in the streets of ,our capital cities and towns. If we are to -compete on ,a reasonably equal footing with .other countries of the world, we must pay more attention to training our youth ind encouraging our young people to have Wealthy minds in healthy bodies.
Although it is .perhaps too late for anything to be done under .the Estimates that we are now considering, I suggest that a new approach should be, and must be, made to national fitness. I am certain that if the National Fitness -Council were given sufficient -funds it could expand its activities to the degree that -is -necessary to cope with the .great -problem ‘that faces our community to-day. ‘In Tasmania, -the council has done a tremendous amount of -very effective work with the miserly sum of £5,242 that -has been made available over the years as its =share of the total vote of £72,500. ‘For instance, the council has introduced many forms of amateur sport that have been new to Tasmania, or new to particular areas of the State, and has established organizations to govern -such activities. It -has assisted in establishing coaching classes for beginners, and it has established sports organizations to cater particularly for junior players. The State youth organization has a membership of 370 and operates seventeen youth hostels. In addition to those achievements, the council lends equipment to voluntary organizations and supplies technical advice and facilities in respect of many types of recreation. Generally, it gives service in all fields of recreation.
I ‘think that the council has such a good claim to greater support and recognition that its activities need not be stressed further. Those are the things it has been doing in Tasmania, and I am certain that it has been trying to do similar things in the other States. In view of the reduction of national service training, which is another aspect of national fitness, and of the benefits that the youth of the country derive from such training in the way of improved health, 1 think that we should divert to the National Fitness Council as much as possible of the money saved by the reduction of national service training.
I wish now to refer to payments to the States for the eradication of tuberculosis. The State governments ‘have co-operated very closely with the .Federal Government in this matter, and the combined .effort has resulted in an achievement of the highest order. I think that the :State and Federal governments should :be heartily congratulated on the magnificent work that has been done in the eradication of tuberculosis. My own ‘State of Tasmania once had the highest incidence Of tuberculosis in the Commonwealth, but we were able to build special hospitals where people who ‘had the disease could be treated, and to-day we have the lowest incidence in ‘the ‘Commonwealth. Possibly one of ‘the -most pleasing features of this achievement is that a hospital that was at one time full of sufferers’ from tuberculosis, and which had a waiting list, now has vacant beds. I take this opportunity to throw a bouquet to the Federal -Government, a thing that I rarely do, and “to congratulate the Tasmanian Government on the level of co-ordination that has been attained in tackling this terrible .scourge. I hope that there will be further success and , that the funds that are .being -made .available will help the States :completely ito eradicate tuberculosis. ‘When .that ‘has /been done, it may be possible .to eradicate the twin scourge of cancer.
I hope that the Federal Government will continue to support every ‘activity that is directed towards “the ^establishment of cancer clinics. A lead has been given in Tasmania, where the Peter McCallum clinic has been established and to which people may go voluntarily for cancer tests. The early diagnosis of this scourge is very .conducive to successful treatment. Unfortunately, the amount of money that has been made available to universities and medical schools for research into the disease has been insufficient. I hope that the matter will be approached in a manner similar to that in which the tuberculosis eradication programme was approached. I hope that, from the start, medical students will be encouraged to take up research into the causes of cancer.
I came under the influence of a doctor who wrote to me in a casual way and said that he wished that I could raise in Parliament the .effect of cigarette smoking on lung cancer. . He said, “ Unfortunately, you are such an inveterate smoker yourself that you would not be the right man to do it “. That was such a lesson to me that “! immediately gave up smoking. 1 ‘have not -smoked for five months and I feel much better for it. if there is any .connexion between smoking and lung .cancer, then ‘regardless of vested interests .in the .tobacco industry, or the revenue obtained from it- it was .claimed recently that revenue ‘from tobacco duties was sufficient to .pay for the entire Public Service - the public should be told the truth by the :best authorities. The question is, of course, strongly debated. Some doctors say ‘that smoking has a -direct influence on lung cancer and -others ‘say that there is no definite -proof of that.
– There is overwhelming evidence that smoking is connected with lung cancer.
– I :feel that that is so. Bobby Burns said that “ the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men -gang aft agley “. He did not stipulate exactly what he meant, but he coupled mice and men. So what happens to mice might also happen to men. Tobacco tar .can .cause skin cancer on mice. Nothing is as sensitive as the tissue of the human lung. I think that the proper advice should be given by the medical fraternity on the highest level. People should be told that if they continue smoking they risk getting lung cancer.
I hope that there will be a concerted effort on the Federal and State levels, through the various health departments, to make a frontal attack on the causes of cancer. I hope that clinics will be set up for the early detection of the disease; that hospitals will be suitably equipped with the very latest equipment for diagnosing cancer in the early stages; and that whatever facilities may be necessary for the doctors to have for the treatment of patients will be made readily available. In doing that, not only shall we give an sample of our civilization to other parts of Me world, but we shall do one of the greatest of Christian works of mercy in preventing the sickness and great suffering that many people have to undergo because of the silent, subtle inroads that cancer makes in their bodies. I hope that the Department of Health will be given sufficient funds for this purpose.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I wish to draw attention to the proposed vote for Papua and New Guinea, amounting to £11,258,000. I am pleased that this amount has been raised by almost £2,000,000 above the last year’s appropriation. I feel that any money that is being spent in New Guinea at present is money very well spent by the Australian taxpayer. It is essential that we should carry out the Government’s task of developing the Territory, not for our own economic benefit, but for the benefit of the natives themselves. Tn doing so, we would be establishing a friendly nation at our front door. The Government’s task is two-fold. One part of it is to raise the standard of living of the natives and the other is to assist them to develop the Territory so that they may grow more goods and bring themselves up to the standard of other nations.
Yesterday, Senator O’Byrne asked a question concerning a report that the natives are to pay a tax of £2 a year. He suggested that that would be a hardship for them. I feel, like many other people, that anything that any one gets for nothing is not appreciated. It is not very much to ask these natives to contribute £2 a year towards the cost of the development that is being undertaken in the Territory by the Australian taxpayer. Senator O’Byrne did say that the natives earned only approximately £1 10s. a month. That is true. But they also get their entire living from their employers. They are given housing, food, clothing, medical benefits, and fares to and from their village. They are entirely kept by the employer and the sum of £1 10s. is merely for pocket money.
That may not sound very much but, at present, the native does not know what to do with that money. I was told by bankers in the Territory that the natives are beginning to put money into the banks but that they do not draw it out. They do not know what to spend it on. They have no sense of values. At present, it is far better that this policy should be continued and that the natives should be shown how to feed themselves better by insisting that their employers give them a balanced diet. Because the Administration is looking after their health and living conditions, the natives are being forced to live at a higher standard. Until they have learnt what those standards mean it is far more valuable that their living conditions should be regulated than that they should have more money with which to pay their taxes. It is not a hardship to pay £2 a year out of their savings.
The task of the Australian Government in the Territory is an enormous one. First of all, it has to try to unite these natives. At least 600 languages are spoken in the Territory and generally speaking those who speak one do not understand the others. To teach them a universal language and bring them together as one united nation is of prime importance. It is the first job that the Government has to undertake. Therefore, the first expenditure, obviously, must be on education. With a population of approximately 1,750,000 and the limited budget that the Australian taxpayer is able to provide, the task of educating these people is enormous.
The first objective is the training of a corps of teachers, made up of the natives themselves. With that objective in mind, the Government has set up some secondary schools in two or three of the large towns. Students are brought to live in those schools so that they can be taught to be teachers and, eventually, go back to their villages to teach. The preliminary stages of education are being carried out by the missionaries and it is gratifying that the Government is assisting the missionaries to do their job by paying them a grant. They have wonderful material to work on in these schools and the keenness of the students is amazing. There are absolutely no problems of discipline because the scholars are so keen to learn. But the point I want to stress here and to which I ask the Minister to give attention is the fact that when these natives come down to the coast and get into closer contact with European civilization they appear to lose their spontaneous gaity and cheerfulness of personality. They become what is called up there “ sophisticated “, and their cheerfulness is replaced by a somewhat sullen attitude. To my mind it is a great pity that their natural happy demeanour should be so sacrificed, lt is obvious in the schools that these natives have a gaity and keenness and a tremendous natural talent for their own cultures. They have wonderful rhythm and artistic skills, and their carvings are really good.
From what I saw during my visit to the schools much of this natural ability and culture is being sacrificed because not enough attention is being paid to its development. In some missionary schools which I visited the children were being taught to sing only hymns or possibly some old English folk songs but were never encouraged to sing their own native songs. This, above all, is something that they should be encouraged to maintain. It is something quite unique in the world. Their manner of singing is delightful. I asked what was being done to foster their ability to draw, because, in most schools, I found that all they were being taught was symmetrical drawings of the type taught in our own schools. It is a great pity that that should be done because their own natural art is so original and so well worth preserving.
– The honorable senator would not teach them modern art?
– Yes; it would be much preferable to symmetrical drawing. I see no reason why they should not be encouraged to express themselves in drawing as they feel, which, after all, is the basis of modern art. I would favour having them taught modern art, but I wish that their own natural culture could be fostered. I ask the Minister to examine this matter to see if something more can be done to encourage these people in their own form of art.
I encountered a great deal of criticism in the Territory from people in private enterprise who were trying to buy land to develop. They were very disgusted when they found they were unable to acquire the land they wanted, because it was being kept for the natives. The Government’s policy is extremely wise. We are trying to preserve areas of land for the natives themselves and if we encourage private enterprise to buy land which should be kept for the natives, we will find, when we have completed our task of educating them, that they will be deprived of their land as a means of earning a living, lt is important that we should go through these experimental forms of teaching the natives how to grow more cash crops and follow up what has been done. Only 2 per cent, of the land has been acquired from the natives, and then at their own price. It has not been taken from them arbitrarily; and of that 2 per cent., two-thirds has been retained by the Government for administrative purposes. I congratulate the Government on its farsightedness in standing against those people who wish to buy the land which should be rightfully kept for the natives. If that were allowed to go we would jeopardize our chances of having a friendly native population when we completed our immediate task of training them.
I should like to see more money being spent on the development of roads and bridges. At the moment these are very primitive, and travel in the Territory is very difficult. There is a tremendous scope for attracting people to the Territory as tourists and this would bring more money into that area and possibly augment the £11,000,000 which the Australian taxpayer is contributing annually towards its development. It is a part of Australia which could well be developed for tourism. But to do that we must first of all improve the standard of roads and bridges and, as I said before, airfields. Most of the travel in the Territory is done by air but as yet the travel facilities are not of a standard which would encourage tourists to go there.
I commend the Government also for its policy of encouraging medical students to go to the Territory to train. It is obvious that there is a shortage of trained medical Staff in. the Territory. One of our big jobs iis to improve the standard of medical care there. We have to try to increase the “expectation of life of the natives. Previously their average length of life has been about 40 years. If we are to increase their span of life we must provide more means <of medical care and attention. We must build more hospitals. I am glad to say that this is being, done. I saw two or three very modern, beautiful hospitals, one of which, I believe,, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) officially opened recently. But there seemed to.- be a shortage of trained staff. The policy of encouraging medical students to go to the Territory during their holidays to see if they can fit into the picture, and then giving them scholarships if they are willing to go back to continue their medical studies and service there, is one which I commend and which, I hope, will, be continued.
– I should like the Minister to give some information as to the charges being made by private enterprise for the supply of equipment for automatic telephone exchanges. Will he give the names of the firms concerned and the total amount charged for the hire of equipment, and also indicate the degree to which the Postal Department is involved in transactions of this kind?
:- I refer to the proposed vote for the Commonwealth Council for National. Fitness. Last year, expenditure under this heading equalled the vote, of £72,500, and a similar sum is- being, provided for the current year. I raise this matter because the National Fitness Council is concerned about the financial difficulties which now face this organization throughout Australia. It has apparently placed in the hands of several honorable senators information to support a plea for an increased Commonwealth subsidy. Information outlining their case was sent to me and I propose to place some aspects of it before the committee and the Minister in the course of this debate. Senator McManus has told me that a similar case has been put to him.
– Similar information has been sent to Western Australian representatives also.
– That is so. This is a matter which could perhaps receive the attention and commendation’ of all honorable senators. It is not necessary for me to fell the committee what the functions of the National Fitness Council are.
– I am- never certain of them myself. Could the honorable senator tell us something about them?
– The object of the National Fitness Council is to give assistance, substantially honorary, to promote the welfare of youth by maintaining a high standard of physical fitness among young people of various- ages. The organization has cer-tam, paid officers. One of its aims, also, is> to halt- the. current of’ juvenile delinquency which is spreading, as a result of youth devoting- its increased, leisure to purposes that are by no” means commendable, and which in many cases lead to criminality.
– Does not this organization receive revenue from the States?
– The States- provide some finance, but there is also a Commonwealth subsidy.
– Is its object to promote physical fitness?
– Yes, but- it also’ seeks through, camps- and community effort fo promote- better qualities by getting young people together - traits of character which are so important, as well as physical fitness.
Sitting, suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– At’ the suspension of the sitting- I! was directing some remarks to Division No. 222, item 3; “ Commonwealth Council’ for National Fitness - £72,500 “. At the request of! some honorable senators, I was explaining the activities of the: council. I also said that the council is obviously very- disturbed, by the fact that adequate finance is not available to it. Throughout Australia, not only in’ Queensland, the council feels that its activities are being severely circumscribed, and for that reason it has corresponded with honorable- senators- in various Statesand of all political- parties,- indicating- itsrequirements, setting out. the functions that it is discharging; and asking’ whether: further Commonwealth assistance can be made available. Rather than put the case in my own words, I shall read from the summary of the case, submitted in this instance to myself, which is couched in most restrained language, and emerges, I think, as an extremely modest request for an increase of thegrant by no more than £27,500.
The purpose of the national fitness scheme is to raise the standard of physical fitness of the young people of Australia and to inculcate in themthoseother qualities of mind, of conduct and of character which are important to our young citizens. Whatever may be our views about the value of the national service training scheme in the military sense, it certainly did have a very important value from the point of view of functions which, to a very much lesser extent, are now being discharged by the National Fitness Council, which takes boys of a certain age and brings them to the peak of physical condition, teaching them mateship, discipline, co-ordination and cooperation with their fellow young citizens. The national service training scheme was an extraordinarily expensive scheme, and it has now been largely cut down, but I think that at least £25,000 of the amount previously voted for that scheme could now be used to assist this body which, to some extent at least, is carrying out some of the functions which were performed under the national service training scheme. The submission from the National Fitness Council of Queensland, representing the point of view of the council in that State, is extremely restrained and, as I said before, it emerges as a most modest request. The council says -
The Commonwealth National Fitness Council being representative of the six Australian States and having direct evidence through these representatives of the success of the National Fitness Movement in all ‘States, and of its national value, recommends to theMinister that the Commonwealth direction and support of the Movement be continued.
As was originally intended, the Commonwealth National ‘Fitness Grants have proved a great stimulus in the States in the promotion of the National Fitness Movement, both in the actual carrying out of an active programme of activity and in obtaining co-operation by State Governments.
In some States, the financial and other assistance given by State Governments is now in excess of the Commonwealth Grants.
Merely to lend point to that remark, I shall quote the Queensland council’s annual report under the heading “Finance”. The report says -
Although strong representations havebeen made to the State and Commonwealth for increased financial assistance, all requests however have been refused, and the National Fitness Council has been informed that it must cut its development according to financeavailable.
Grant aid is as follows: -
Commonwealth Grant . . £5,742
State Grant .. £7,000
The State is, therefore, actually providing more than the Commonwealth. The report continues -
The State Government also makes office space and meeting rooms available to the National Fitness Council.
The National Fitness Council of Queensland conducts a number of national fitness camps, to which young people belonging to various social clubs repair for certain periods of the year. At these camps surfing is available, and the young people are trained in judo and wrestling and, generally, in other forms ofphysical activity. In Queensland there are five national fitness camps, from the southern border to Cairns, which is 1,000 miles north of Brisbane. There is accommodation in these camps sufficient for 800 young people at any one time.
The National Fitness Council is performing a tremendous work in Queensland alone. Over the period covered by the annual report of the National Fitness Council of Queensland, 6,417 young people were accommodated in the camps in Queensland, and altogether 37,000 camping days were expended. Obviously, therefore, the council’s activities are worth while, but they are being severely circumscribed. The council’s submission continues -
Over the thirteen years of operation therehas been no increase in the Commonwealth Grant commensurate with the constantly rising costs to maintain even existing services.
The Commonwealth Council therefore considers that there is urgent need to increase the present Government Grants to State National Fitness Councils and that it would be reasonable that they should be restored to the level of their original purchasing power.
If the total Commonwealth Grant of £72,500 to six State National Fitness Councils, six Education Departments and six Universities was adjusted by the C index figure to its 1945 value, it would amount approximately to £155,000.
Apart from being a general stricture onthe Government for the continuing inflation in this country, the statementpoints to the necessity for justice to be done. If the amount granted in 1945 was considered adequate and justifiable, at least some element of parity should be maintained, if the work still receives the blessing of State and Commonwealth Governments and is considered worthy of continuation. The submission continues -
With rigid planning and economy, existing services, meeting the continuing demand for higher salaries and wages and maintenance costs on buildings and equipment, could be maintained With an increase of £27,500, bringing the total grant up to £100,000.
That is for the whole of Australia. The council makes the extremely modest request that an increase of £27,500 be made in the amount available for distribution over the whole of the Commonwealth. The submission continues: -
This would allow an increase of £4,000-£5,000 to each Slate Council, excluding State Education Departments and Universities. lt is therefore recommended that consideration bc given to increasing the Commonwealth Gram by the amount of £27,500.
It is an extremely well-documented submission. It is extremely temperate in its review of the situation, and asks for an extremely modest increase. While I do not feel disposed to move for a request under this item, I do ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) to consider whether, during the next financial year, this very small additional sum should be made available, so that the worthwhile work being discharged by this council may be allowed to continue unimpaired, with the probability that it can be expanded and extended, and so that the council may fill the gap that has arisen because of the cutting back of the national service training scheme.
I trust that other honorable senators who have received similar communications will participate in the debate and support this request, and that the Government, through the Minister, will respond to the request of the National Fitness Council and make provision for the extension and expansion of its activities.
– I wish to refer to Division No. 269, item 1, “Expenditure under the Broadcasting and Television Act. £5.100.000”. Some time ago, when I was speaking during the Budget debate. T questioned the wisdom of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in using a part of its available funds to broadcast a programme called the Goon Show. 1 now want to put matters right by telling the committee that since that time 1 have received letters from all parts of Australia expressing views for and against. Some people like the show; some uo noi. What amazed me was the fact thai the number of letters I received from people who like the show was about the same as the number from people who disliked it or did not understand it. In these circumstances, the A.B.C. quite naturally is within its rights and is doing a very sensible thing in continuing the show. The letters 1 received from those members of the community who liked the Goon Show were very interesting. Most of them were abusive, and the writers denied me the privilege of stating my opinion although they strongly demanded the right to state theirs.
Another interesting point which emerges f. om my reference in this chamber to the Goon Show has been the subject of comment by me ever since I became a member of the Parliament. I am sure that all other parliamentarians will agree with me when 1 say, as I have always said, that the press publishes only the rubbish and does noi rublish the constructive points that we raise in this chamber. That is what happened on this occasion. I spoke at some length, and I am quite sure that honorable senators who were listening to me will agree that 1 put forward two quite constructive suggestions during my speech on the Budget. But what the press in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia published - a Western Australian newspaper published, in addition, a whole page of cartoons and letters to the editor - proved conclusively what I have been saying for a long time and what most of us have thought - that the press publishes the nonsense but does not publish the constructive proposals that are brought forward by members of the Parliament in both chambers. 1 was gratified to see that the Queensland newspaper. “ Courier-Mail “. took no notice whatever of what I said, whether it was good or bad. At least that was an improvement on selecting only the nonsense. I should like the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), who represents the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) in this chamber, to ascertain from the A.B.C. if possible, what it costs the commision to run the Goon Show. 1 should like to congratulate the commission on its excellent coverage of news; 1 do not think I have ever heard better. Its presentation is very much better than that of the press, and in almost every case it is unbiased.
I refer now to the head tax on natives in New Guinea, to which reference was made earlier by Senator O’Byrne and which has been raised again to-day by Senator Buttfield. Before the war, when native labourers commenced work, they received 6s. a month, plus keep. There was imposed on them what was known as a head tax of 10s. a year, the purpose of which, as Senator Buttfield said this morning, was to try to teach them that they did not get everything for nothing. A secondary aspect of it was that some of the natives from each village had to come down and do some work to earn money to pay the tax that was due from the total population of each small village.
Of course, things have changed tremendously since then. To-day. an apprentice labourer who starts work as an unskilled worker on a plantation receives £15 a year. That certainly is a comparatively small sum, but it is considerably greater than he would have received before the war. Over the years, the payment has gradually increased. Now, a mechanic, a clerk or a driver gets approximately £150 a year plus keep, clothing and housing.
– It is not very much.
– The payment is not very much in Australia, but when we remember that it is eight or nine times as great as it was before the last war, we note it as a step in the right direction. I remind Senator O’Byrne that the commission that is set up, annually I think, by the United Nations to report on the conditions in the trust territory of New Guinea, that is, the old mandated territory, so far has not queried the wages that the natives receive. Those wages are rising all the time, and as the natives become moire useful, they receive more pay. Moreover, they are being trained for the time when they will run their own country, which is the ultimate objective of the Government and the Minister fo- Territories (Mr. Hasluck). 1 mention those facts, because there seems to be a rather wrong impression about what is going on in New Guinea.
.- There are one or two matters about which I should like to obtain some information. The first relates to War and Repatriation Services. At page 81 of the AuditorGeneral’s report for the year ended 30th June, 1957, the following comment appears: -
Store Accounting - -Britcom Base Ordnance Depot.
The unsatisfactory position first mentioned in 1953-54 in regard to store accounting, stocktaking and adjustment of discrepancies was noi effectively overcome. Stocktaking conducted during 1955 revealed unsatisfactory results and Treasury approval was again given to adjust, without further investigation, the discrepancies disclosed.
I take it that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) will inform the Senate about what the department proposes to do to overcome this situation. This unsatisfactory position was first mentioned in 1953-54. It should have been rectified by this.
– Has the honorable senator any statement of the amounts involved?
– No. There is no statement in the Auditor-General’s report as to the amount.
– I thought it might have appeared in previous reports.
– That may be so, but I have only the report for the last financial year.
Now I refer to the activities of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and direct attention to the following passage, on page 85 of the Auditor-General’s report, under the heading, “ Concession Rates of Landline Charges to Commercial Broadcasting Stations “: -
In the 1955-56 report mention was made of the concession rate charged for the use of landline facilities by commercial broadcasting stations for intra-state relays of the three principal news sessions daily. The difference between the full charge and the concession rate is being borne by the Broadcasting and Television Services Vote, involving approximately £52,000 annually.
Honorable senators opposite frequently delight themselves by saying how much they support private enterprise. I do not mind their having their own views, but I do not think they believe that the people’s money ought to- be used to- the extent’ that it is being used to bolster the profits of the commercial broadcasting stations. If commercial stations want to relay their news programmes intra-state, the obligation for paying, for those relays should rest upon them just as it rests on any other organization that wants’ to relay a programme from: one part of a State to another. I think, that position ought to be rectified.
I direct attention now to the- AuditorGeneral’s report on the picturegram serviceof the Postmaster-General’s Department. Reference has been made - in previous reports to losses incurred in the operation of this service, and the latest available financial figures - those for the year ended 30th June, 1956, reveal a further loss of ?21,717. In 1954-55, the loss was ?23,385. I can appreciate the Government’s wish to help the newspaper combines, because it is really a matter of quid pro quo, but these charges were fixed in 1948. We do not mind the Government helping its friends a little, but it should- not make a farce of’ public finance. One can. hardly include the, newspaper concerns among the meek and lowly in the; community. To the contrary, there are no more- avaricious business- undertakings in the country. At least the Government should’ charge them a little more’ than it did* in* 1948j when the value, of money was.- vastly different from what, it is. at. present. I. do. not think that any honorable senator would like to* have, to meet present-day. costs- from charges1 related: to 1948 money values.
Later, I shall have something to say about the- Asutralian Broadcasting Commission’s news reporting;. and: also its- televisionprogrammes. For the- moment, I shall give other honorable senators an opportunity to speak.
– Ik might be as well’ if I answered, at- this- stage; some-of thequeries that have already been raised, by honorable senators-. Senator Willesee re:ferred to- the overhead: expenses- of theDepartment of Health. He suggested1 that administrative charges were excessive, and asked that an inquiry into them be made. He also drew attention to the fact that contributors to- medical benefit schemes some times found themselves- unable to obtain benefits because; through sickness, their subscriptions had fallen into arrears.
The. administrative charges of the Department of Health have increased, because of the expanding activities of the various health schemes. I refer to the provision of pharmaceutical benefits, medical benefits, medical benefits for pensioners, pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners, free milk, anti-tuberculosis activity and so on. Salaries have increased by ?98,417, or slightly less than 10 per cent. This has beenbrought about by the need for additional” staff, and by basic wage and incremental increases.
General expenses have increased by ?84,607. I assure Senator Willesee that the: increases were carefully considered and. found to be- necessary. The medical benefits scheme.is based on. a.system. of voluntary medical insurance, which Commonwealth financial assistance is designed to augment. A person who ceases to be a member of such a scheme naturally does not participate in its benefits.
Senator. Willesee also, referred to the fact that, automatic, recording devices, were: being, used overseas, in connexion, with, telephone services. Legal: objections: - related, to the recording, and playing, back, of conversations on the telephone - have prevented, the introduction of these- recording devices . in Australia. The honorable senator also referred to- the proposal to investigate the functions of Commonwealth departments, and suggested that a fresh approach to the matter might, be. made if. those; conducting, the investigation were not public servants* I will certainly bring the honorable senator’s suggestion to the notice of. the PostmasterGeneral.
Senator.Dame Annabelle Rankin referred to costs associated with attendance at’ health conferences! held overseas. I’ am informed’ that the- item’ in question represents fares andi travelling expenses1 of officers’ and advisory personnel! called’ into conference on health matters affecting: the Commonwealth. Mainly, the. expenses, were incurred in attending- meetings of the National Health and. Medical. Research. Council.
Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin also referred to Division No. 222: - Department of Health, and item 1, “ Medical Research -£170,000”. This sum is to be transferred to the Medical Research Endowment Fund, which was established by the Medical Research Endowment Act 1937 to provide assistance to departments of the Commonwealth or States, universities and institutions, or persons engaged in medical research, and’ to assist in training persons in medical: research, subject to1 such conditions as the. Minister, acting upon the advice of the National Health and Medical Research Council; determines.
Item 2- “Child Health Centres - £36,800 “, was also mentioned. Of this sum, £35,300 is for salaries and other functions associated with the Lady Gowrie preschool child centres, established in each capital city to give demonstrations for the’ benefit of bodies engaged in similar work. The balance, £1,500, is set aside for aresearch fellowship in problems of preschool child development. This research will be carried out under the supervision of the Director of the Institute of Child Health, Sydney. A commitment of £1,800 was carried over to the next financial year. Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin mentioned assistance to the Australian Red Cross Society for blood’ transfusion service: The amount involved is £115,000. This item provides for assistance to the Australian. Red Cross Society for its blood transfusion service in order that, it may operate at the same level as it did during the previous year. Under” this arrangement, it is proposed that 30’ per cent, of the certified operating” expenses’ of the service’ be met’ by the” Commonwealth, 60 per cent, by the States, and 10 per cent, by the Red’ Cross’ Society. The increase is due to increased costs incurred by the Red Cross Society for its blood transfusion service.
Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin, and* Senators O’Byrne, Byrne and Benn referred to payments to the States for tuberculosis. Under the Tuberculosis Act, payments are made to reimburse the States on account of approved capital expenditure on projects associated with tuberculosis on and after 1st July, 1948; to reimburse- the States for maintenance expenditure to the extent that it is in excess of the States’ maintenance expenditure recorded’ during the- financial year 1947-48; for epidemiological surveys associated’ with- tuberculosis carried out by the Commonwealth in Commonwealth territory; and for- allowances- to sufferers and’ their’ dependants payable since 13th July, 1-950. Honorable senators, I am sure, are aware of the present rates of allowances.. At 30th June,. 1957, 3,784 sufferers were; receiving allowances and the amounts paid: to the States, for the year 1956-57 were as> follows: -
Those amounts total £1,460,651. Estimated’ expenditure for 1957-58 is £1,570,000. Maintenance expenditure for 1956-57 was< £4i738,765- and the estimate for 1-957-5® is £4,189,000. The expenditure on- epidemiological surveys by the Commonwealth in. Commonwealth territories for 1956-57 was £16,000 and the estimate for 1957-58- is £15,000, a decrease- of £l-,000; The de-“ crease in maintenance expenditure- is dueto a. retrospective payment having been made to Queensland during 1956-57 for £470,000, thus increasing normal expenditure for that year, and to lower maintenance costs anticipated for Victoria and! South Australia for this financial yearAllowances are paid by the Department of Social Services. Rates have been increased, for. this financial year, as I mentioned-, previously.
asked about payments to* the States. This is a capital works estimate. Expenditure in’ 1956-57 was’ £2,381,210 and the estimate for 1957-58-‘ is £2,550,000, an increase of £168,790: This item provides for reimbursement to* State governments for approved expenditure on the provision of capital facilities- in their campaign against tuberculosis. Particulars of expenditure are as- follows: -
asked i about the purchase’ and. analysis of drugs.. This-, item represents- expenditure for thepurchase, and. analysis. of> drugs, under the Therapeutic: Substances* Act: The- increaseis* due- to: at commitment of £1,312 carried forward from- 1:95.6-57 and to increased- activities in the analysis of drugs under the Therapeutic Substances Act. The honorable senator also asked about the provision for advertising and publicity. This item represents expenditure in connexion with advertising and publicity on matters affecting health services.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I have one small request to make to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper). Would the Minister supply information regarding the provision of £2,010,000 for war service land settlement in the estimates for War and Repatriation Services? Is this a payment to all the States? the CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! That item is not included in the group now before the committee.
.- I wish to refer to broadcasting and television services. A sum of £7,376,000 has been allocated for this financial year. The small print notes at the foot of the page show that the sum provided for the Australian Broadcasting Commission for television is £1,435,400. Last year, £889,240 was allocated. That is a tremendous increase, and I should like some information about it. Is this merely for improvements or additions to the existing services in Victoria and New South Wales or is it for extensions of the service, which have been forecast and, I understand, agreed upon by the Government?
I was always sorry that we introduced television when we did. I felt that we were not ready for it, that we had too small a population and that we had developmental work and housing schemes which should have been given priority. Television may be very attractive to some people, but, after all, it is a non-essential luxury. If huge sums of money such as this are spent on television there will immediately be an increase in hire-purchase transactions. Credit will be drained from essential requirements to unessential requirements and, as was the case last year, in many homes less money will be spent on food and clothing because large repayments have to be made on the television set. When less money is spent on food anc! clothing a fall in employment results. I think the Government made a mistake when it introduced television in Victoria and New South Wales. The Government is making a further mistake in extending television to other States. I am sorry to note the big increase in expenditure contemplated by the Government for the extension of television services.
I fully support Senator Byrne’s request for an increased grant for the promotion of national fitness. Some years ago, the grant was fixed at about £75,000. If that grant were increased in proportion to the decreased value of money, the grant would now be in the vicinity of £155,000. The National Fitness Council has said that it would be satisfied with £100,000. I think the council has been very conservative in its estimate. I hope that the Government will do something more to further this work. Of all the things the National Fitness Council is doing, one of the best is training youth leaders. If there is one thing our youth requires to-day it is leadership of the best type. All sorts of agencies are prepared to provide our youth with leadership of the worst type, and when we have an organization such as the National Fitness Council^ which trains youth leaders of the best type, it should be given every assistance by the Government.
I am very pleased to see that the Government has spent a good deal of money in extending the facilities available at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, but I am concerned that there has been no attempt to decentralize the manufacture of serums. At Royal Park, Melbourne, a great deal of money has been spent in extending the existing buildings, but those of us who attended the civil defence school at Mount Macedon will remember being told that a direct hit from one bomb - not necessarily an atomic bomb, but an ordinary bomb - could wipe out all the facilities in Australia for the making of serums so necessary to life and health. Having regard to defence, it seems to me suicidal merely to extend the serum laboratories in their present location. I cannot understand why something is not done to ensure that, if anything were to happen to the present laboratories, alternative facilities for making serums would be available. That seems to me to be elementary, and I want to know whether any action along those lines has been taken or is contemplated. 1 want to say a few words about telephones. At a time when we are hoping for progress in our secondary industries, I agree with Senator Cameron that it is most disheartening to find that the provision of telephones for new industries and new factories is, in many cases, lagging. Many firms are being heavily penalized at the present time because it seems impossible to provide them with adequate telephone services. Like most other honorable senators, 1 am besieged with requests to assist in obtaining telephones. I have no complaint about the courtesy of the telephone authorities themselves. When one makes a request one is treated with the utmost courtesy. I realize that probably the authorities are as disheartened as we are when they have to say that the facilities are not available. This is not something that has happened only in the last few months. This situation has been in existence for several years. Something drastic needs to be done. I should like to know what the Government intends to do about it. It has been suggested, I understand, that private enterprise should be allowed to play a part in the provision of telephone facilities. I do not know to what extent that is being done, but I say that industry is being hampered to a very considerable extent to-day by the lack of effective telephone services. Whatever is delaying the provision of the services will, I hope, be attended to by the Government.
– A few minutes ago, I ruled that Senator Wardlaw could not discuss Division No. 242 - War Service Land Settlement. I have reconsidered my decision, and Senator Wardlaw may speak on that division now.
.- Will the Minister supply particulars of the proposed vote of £2,010,000 under Division No. 242 - War Service Land Settlement? Is this a payment to all the States proportionately by way of rehabilitation allowances to settlers? If not, what does the payment cover, and how and for what purpose is it made? This amount is additional to the £8,000,000 which has already been allotted to the States.
– I desire to make some observations on the proposed vote to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for television. A matter of great concern in connexion with television is the very heavy cost involved in the purchase of a television set. I appreciate that local manufacturers have been involved in heavy initial expense in tooling up and entering into production of television sets. With the introduction of television in the United Kingdom the price of receiving sets was also exorbitant - so much so that buyer resistance developed, and continued until prices were considerably reduced. I have often been asked why sets in the United Kingdom and in America are so very much cheaper than they are in Australia. A set to serve the ordinary person in this country costs something like £250. I have been informed that the parts for such a set can be brought into this country for £60 or £70. 1 should like the Minister to tell me why television sets are so costly to-day. 1 want to refer also to television programmes and the paucity of employment for Australian artists. Licensees of television stations have treated the Government and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board with contempt. One-half of the Australian shows are cooking demonstrations and the remainder comprises trotting events, rockandroll exhibitions and other bits and pieces. In England, none of the ten most popular shows is imported, but the position in Australia is quite the reverse. The majority of Australian programmes are comprised of canned music and imported films depicting murder, robbery and other crimes.
It might be of advantage if those persons in control of television in Australia studied the recent Papal Encyclical “ Miranda Prorsus “, which called for supervision of the kind of entertainment provided on television. Australian television programmes, with their emphasis on sex and on murders, bashings, robberies and other crimes, will encourage juvenile delinquency. The warnings issued by the Pope in this regard are a challenge to those in charge of this new medium of entertainment. They have a great responsibility to ensure that the entertainment provided is fit and proper for display in every home. It would be a sorry state of affairs if the money that the churches have invested in television were to obscure ‘their -moral -responsibility.. I ,am >not suggesting for one moment that it does. 1 appreciate .the fact that television is a :new medium, and that many reforms will be necessary before we can have entertainment that will -be satisfactory to all. An alternative to the course suggested by His Holiness the Pope would be the introduction by the Government of (regulations for censorship of television, which in the long run may not be good, despite, the fact that some television shows -have been quite vulgar, and no credit to the stations sponsoring them.
Not one Australian drama has been televised -since television was introduced into this country. Not one Australian play of even a quarter of an hour’s duration has been shown. We have had newscasts, trotting events, horse races, and interviews with big game celebrities, cranks and character assassins. The Government has not provided, as it promised to ‘provide, a -quota for Australian talent. Its second thoughts an -this matter were that to ido .so would be to interfere with private enterprise :or impede .a monopoly .in .the form of a section of the press. -Dumping .in .Australia of American films is .as bad as .the dumping in Australia °of Japanese textiles. Worse still is the unlimited dumping of foreign ideas on crime. The Australian artists ask for employment on ‘Only a reasonable .percentage of television programmes. Their work will portray the Australian way of life. They ‘believe in -the development of our Australian cultural (heritage. They recognize that television is one of the most powerful forces in the world .for moulding ideas.
I suggest that some .governmental (inquiry be made to discover why Australian artists ha>ve not been given a fair share of television work. When the Government was considering the issue of licences, which are probably worth .from £75,X)00 to £,100,000 each, a fair quota of work was .promised to Australian artists and script writers. Large capital investments have been -made in studios to enable the display of Australian art on television, but -up to date the Government has not seen , nr tto honour its promise in relation to an Austalian quota. I appreciate the difficulties. As ti have said, .this form of entertainment in Australia is new, but T hope that the -Government will take -severe .action to censure that in future our Australian .artists will not :be -neglected .as they are being ‘.neglected to-day.
– I wish to refer to the proposed vote for the Postmaster-General’s Department. Some time ago, I was in the Murchison district of Western Australia, which is a large area of about the size of New South Wales. I stayed at the little town of Yalgoo,, and I was taken by representatives of the local authority there to inspect the post office. Perhaps the committee might be interested to hear just what the Yalgoo post office looks like. It was built before federation, when Yalgoo was a prosperous mining town. To-.day, of course, Yalgoo is an equally prosperous centre for the pastoral industry. It has a small, but quite static, population.
I do not think that the post .office has been touched since the .days of Sir John Forrest. Two crude rooms are somewhat exaggeratedly referred to as the “.residence attached to the post office “.. These are lined inside with metal, and no .doubt honorable senators can imagine how delightful that must be in the climate of Yalgoo! The whole structure is riddled with white ants. The roof leaks rather badly when there is rain. ;Of course, when -there is no rain, there is no need to repair the roof. There is no proper bathroom or laundry. The local authority has long since abandoned any attempts to condemn the building. No married woman will live in the house, and consequently the department is forced to appoint a single man to this post office. Perhaps 1 have been a bit facetious about this building, -but it has an .air .of melancholy, and I suggest that an a few y.ears at would drive mad anybody with a sensitive nature.
– Is that not common in Western Australia?
– We Western Australians are not -touched with so much melancholy as are .other honorable senators. I seriously ask the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson!) to send somebody to Yalgoo to have a -look at this -dreadful place, which -is a disgrace .to the .department. A completely new -building is badly -needed, so that the citizens -of Yalgoo will not ‘ think that they are quite neglected. There appears to be some belief in the department that ‘Yalgoo, having , been a mining -town, ,is -now finished. -Qf course, that is not so; it is quite a (prosperous town
– Where is lt, exactly?
– In the Murchison district. I raise this matter now, because j feel that people -in -isolated places must be given .grounds to believe that we in Canberra are looking .after their interests. I am quite certain that, now that I have brought this matter .to the notice of the Minister, he will take prompt action in regard .to the post office at Yalgoo.
While I am ‘referring to post offices in small country towns, I should like to direct attention to the nature of the construction of some of them in the outback areas. I have seen one or two nice new post offices in remote areas which, for some reason best known to the authorities themselves, have been built of wood. It is quite useless to build in wood in the outback of Western Australia, because of the white ant menace. The post offices that have been built of wood in the outback areas in recent times will not last for long. I make the suggestion to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral that a little more realism is necessary in the planning of -buildings in areas where the white ants are bad. I can call to mind three such buildings that have been erected in Western Australia recently which will not last longer than ten years, or -fifteen years at the most. 1 ‘turn now .to another aspect ,of the work of the Postmaster-General’s .Department - the Royal “Flying Doctor Service and the issue of licences for transceivers in connexion with that service. I have been approached by a number of pastoralists in the north-west of “Western Australia and the northern gold-fields of Western Australia, who have complained about the present policy concerning the granting of licences for these -transceivers. It appears that, under this policy, a permit is not granted to a station to instal a transceiver if the station is connected -to the telephone service. The theory behind this approach is that persons at a station connected with the telephone service can get messages through by that means and .do not need a transceiver, and furthermore, that if a licence .were -issued ‘for >the installation of a transceiver, the Telephone Branch might be deprived of certain revenue.
Many ie/ ‘these stations - I .think this is known .to everybody - are situated ,many miles from a centre .and they -may need the services of the flying .doctor, whether or not they haMe a telephone. During heavy rain, the telephone service might be “ out “ in any case. It is usually when radios .are “out” and the telephone service -is “out” that accidents, unfortunately, occur. T-hen, of course, these places cannot .communicate with .the Flying Doctor Service because they have .no -transceivers.
I do ask the Minister representing -the Postmaster-General to have a look at .this policy. I know that -some pastoralists get round .this problem by applying for a transceiver licence .in respect of one of the outlying cottages on the station that is -not actually .connected with the station homestead; but that is a practice that -is mot favoured by .the honest pastoralists, and I do not feel , that it is fair -to place them in the position .of having to so get round the law. Therefore, I respectfully request the Minister ,to have .another look at .this policy because -a telephone connexion ito .a station does not necessarily enable .the folk .at the station to communicate with civilized centres as readily, perhaps, as the .Postal Department may -think.
Senator SANDFORD (Victoria) [3.191.- I w.ant to make a few observations and .also a few suggestions in connexion with me proposed vote of £76,937,000 for War and Repatriation Services. I do not intend to recapitulate what was said during the second-reading debate on the Repatriation Bill 1957,” but I want .to make a few suggestions to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator .Cooper) and I am .quite .conscious of -the fact ‘that probably he will not be able :to answer some of them. I propose _to submit them morse or less as recommendations and hope that the Minister will -endeavour -to have -them adopted as ‘Government policy.
I think the time has arrived - as a matter of fact -it is overdue - for a comprehensive survey qf the operations of the Repatriation Department. I want to make it perfectly clear from the start that I am not casting any reflections -on ‘the personnel of any section of the department. I have “had extensive experience of ‘the department, and I have ‘received -nothing but courtesy ;and attention from .the personnel .of it, but ‘I .’feel very, very much concerned about -the general policy in regard to this matter.
Let us take first, the application of a person for a war pension and repatriation hospitalization and medical treatment. I suggest to the Minister that there must be some method of streamlining the procedure that is adopted because at the present time it is vexacious, irritating, and distressing to persons when they have to go on this merrygoround of departmental procedure. When a person first makes application for a repatriation pension and/ or medical and hospital treatment, he has to await the decision of the commission. Then he has the right of appeal to various tribunals, and a period of no less than six months can elapse before the final decision is given. I have had people to interview and also letters from various people indicating that they are almost in a state of perplexity in regard to following up claims that they have made. In support of that, let me give to honorable senators an indication of the difficulty that some of these people experience. Here is one case - I will not mention the name of the person, for obvious reasons. He served with the Light Horse in Egypt and contracted enteric fever and was a patient at an Australian General Hospital at Cairo. He made overtures to the Repatriation Department to obtain a pension in 1937, 1939, 1950, and again in 1954. He was informed of the decision of the tribunal in 1950 in relation to coronary sclerosis and osteo-arthritis of both knees in these terms -
The Commission was unable to connect the disabilities referred to as being attributable to war service. You are, therefore, ineligible to receive medical treatment at departmental expense or a war-pension in respect thereof.
The same decision was given again in 1954, and following several breakdowns in health this person was obliged to retire from his employment. He is now an invalid getting about on sticks. This case could be multiplied a thousand times. I have the particulars of several similar cases before me, but I shall not weary the committee with them at the moment. The point is that something has to be done and should be done. It is absolutely futile for the Minister to continually stand up in this chamber and say that the Returned Servicemen’s League is perfectly satisfied with the conditions obtaining. If there is any doubt about this matter, the Minister should refer to the report in yesterday’s Melbourne “ Age “ on the R.S.L. conference in Hobart. This is what no less a person than Mr. Yeo, the president of the New South Wales branch of the R.S.L. - quite a responsible position - had to say -
– Where did he run in the ballot?
– That does not matter. It is quite beside the point. You may be used to ballots and all sorts of ways of cooking them up. I put it to the committee that every honorable senator should interest himself in this matter. What Mr. Yeo said is virtually a denial of the oftrepeated statement by the Minister that the R.S.L. is perfectly well satisfied with the operation of the Repatriation Department. He said -
We believe the Federal executive should have gone to the Commonwealth and said we wanted an increase to the 100 per cent, pension rate commensurate with the basic wage and cost of living adjustments.
He also said that the Federal Government was playing ducks and drakes with the R.S.L. on pensions. He said that pension concessions announced in the Budget were merely a sop and a joke as far as the R.S.L. was concerned, and that 200,000 war pensioners did not receive one penny increase. As I said, I do not intend to recapitulate all that. What I want to impress on the Minister is that there must be some way of overcoming the difficulties that confront applicants for war pensions, hospital treatment and medical treatment. I suggest that the Government should adopt the policy of giving every ex-serviceman and woman free hospital and medical treatment. I know that the Minister will say that we cannot afford to do so. He has said that on more than one occasion in the past and, indeed, that excuse comes very strangely from a government which is prepared to pour millions of pounds down the drain at St. Mary’s, to hand back to wealthy combines more than £40,000,000 in tax concessions, and to waste at least £1,500,000 on refitting an obsolete warship, H.M.A.S. “ Hobart “.
– What combines had more than £40,000,000 handed back to them in tax concessions?
– Broken Hill Proprietary Limited made £10,000,000 declared profit, and in addition to that made provision for depreciation to the extent of about £8,000,000, and set aside a further £4,000,000 for replacement of stock.
– But what £40,000,000 is being given back by way of tax concessions to combines?
– The reduction of company tax by 6d. in the £1 will mean that about £40,000,000 will go back to wealthy companies. Apart from that, we should consider as a national obligation the repair and care of the human wrecks of both World Wars, particularly those from World War I. Would any honorable senator suggest a reduction in the interest rates on the war debts that we incurred in those wars? Do not honorable senators agree that we regard those war debts as sacrosanct and a first charge on the revenue? Is it not only just that we should look after the human wrecks who survived service in these wars? The Minister will say that we have not the facilities to do this. If we have not those facilities I suggest that we get them and make them available. After all, we could kill two birds with one stone by providing these facilities, because, as every honorable senator knows, there is an acute shortage of hospital accommodation in every State.
The provision of medical care and hospitalization for the people who have served this country in war is a national obligation for which we should make funds available. We spare no efforts and no funds in repairing the damage, desolation and destruction caused by war, and in restoring things to normal. Is it not only right that we should devote funds to give medical and hospital treatment free of charge to people who represent the human damage caused by war? It is useless for honorable senators opposite to say that the country cannot afford to do so. The economy can afford it. These people who survived war went through a living hell in the trenches in Flanders in World War I. and in the islands and on the desert in World War II. They are being stricken now in health in the evening of their lives. According to the Minister’s own figures, given at Hobart, there are 616,000 people in receipt of war pensions and allowances, of whom only 256,000 are eligible for treatment at the expense of the Repatriation Department. That means this Government is denying hospital and medical treatment to more than 300,000 people who are apparently suffering from some war-caused disability, since they are receiving some sort of war pension or allowance.
– A great proportion of that total number is made up of wives and children.
– I am suggesting, Mr. Minister, that we pay so much attention to all our other obligations, which are regarded as sacrosanct, that we should also be paying some proper attention to flesh and blood, and should be giving some humane consideration to the problems of ex-service men and women. They are not insoluble problems. This Government can afford to make money available to build sufficient hospitals in every State to cater for any ex-serviceman or ex-servicewoman needing hospital or medical treatment. I know quite well that if the bugle sounded to-morrow all you people, particularly from that side of the chamber, would be on every stump throughout Australia appealing to the youth of this country to defend our cherished freedom. Is it surprising that a lot of ex-servicemen in the evening of their lives, when they have been broken in health and spirit, and are distraught mentally because of their unsuccessful efforts to obtain redress, wonder what freedom they defended? Yet, as I say, if the bugle sounded to-morrow we would find all you people with your host of synthetic patriots who are always prepared to ring bells and wave flags on every ceremonial occasion and at every commemoration service, but too many of whom are always too ready to adopt the policy of laying down somebody else’s life for their country-
– I rise to order. I object, Mr. Temporary Chairman, very strongly to the honorable senator’s references, which would have been heard by people who are listening to the proceedings on the radio. I should like him to withdraw what he said about people on this side of the chamber. People listening on the radio would think from what he had to say that nobody on this side had served in any war, when the fact is that 99 per cent, of us served in either World War I. or World War II. I ask him to stop that nonsense and I ask you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to stop him from talking like that.
– Senator Kendall has taken a point of order in objection to some words that- you, Senator Sandford, used, and. asks that they be withdrawn.
– What are the words?
– “Synthetic patriots” and “ adopting a policy of laying down somebody else’s life “ for us:
The words have.- been repeated, and’ I ask that they be withdrawn by Senator Sandford.
Senator- Sandford: - I am not going to withdraw the words, because they were not used against’ any member on either side of this chamber. If Senator Kendall had listened closely he would have heard that I- said that if the bugle sounded tomorrow most of those honorable senators over there would be on every stump thoughout Australia, together- with their host of synthetic patriots. I am not going- to withdraw that statement because, even if I withdrew it, I would still think it, and nobodycan make me withdraw my thoughts. However; I repeat that these remarks were not directed against any honorable senator.
– On the point of. order,. Mr. Temporary Chairman:-
The- TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN. -
Did you, Senator Sandford, intend- to makeany personal reflection on: any individual, senator on. the- Government side?
– Not’ at’ all!
Then I cannot uphold the point of order in this particular case.
-! want to reassure honorable- senators on the Government, side that” I’ am not casting any. reflection’ on them either as= individuals: or collectively.
– You are frying to crawl1 out from under now.
– I am not! I repeat what r said before; that you. people over there’ would be on every stump throughout- Australia! together- with’ your.synthetic: patriots-
Order! I ask you, Senator Sandford, to confine your remarks to the matter under consideration - the proposed vote for War and Repatriation Services - and to disregard interjections.
– My remarks are very- relevant to the matter we are discussing.
Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I propose, with your indulgence, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to return to the debate on. the Estimates, and not to use this Parliament for the privilege of insulting people. I: want to say,, first of all, that I support the. fair attitude shown, and good cases advanced, by Senator Byrne and Senator McManus regarding the subsidy to the National Fitness . Council. I! believe that when cases such as that for extra. Government funds to be made available to the National Fitness Council, are put in the Senate we do much more, to- help theorganization concerned;, and I hope the: Government will give, sympathetic consideration to the request for an increased, grant to the: National Fitness Council.
The Government has found: it. necessary,, under: its defence: policy, ti* reduce: nationale service- training: considerably: National; service’ training was an: aid. to-national fitness; in; Australia-,, and’ as. the Government has; saved money by reducing, the intake, of. national service trainees, it should be° able! to accede to this- reasonable: request to) increase the grant for: national fitness.
In a debate on the Estimates, one naturally tries to see how the administration- cansave money, how we can reduce controls and’ methods- of getting- at the- people’ too’ much; and” how government services- to thepeople can be improved’. I have several’ suggestions to make in connexion with Australia’s greatest business undertaking - thePostmasterGeneral’s’ Department?. First; I advocate the’ abolition of broadcast- listeners?’’ licence-fees-. There are now 21>07,0Q0licences in> operation1 and’ they return t’o> Consolidated Revenue £4;,865,000’ A greatsaving in administrative costs, printing and stationery could’ be effected by the abolition of wireless licences:
Nearly every home in Australia possesses a radio set because of our high standard of living. Therefore; the- Postmaster-General’s Department has to send out to each home once a year a printed form requesting payment of the licence-fee.. Those forms have to be carried through the Post Office and be checked by clerks. The poor taxpayer feels that once again the Government is taking money from him. He has to write out a cheque or trudge to the post office and pay the licence-fee. The result is a return to- the Government of a mere £5,000,000 in round figures. I say a mere £5,000,000 because when we are talking of national income we have to remember that the total collection of income tax in the last financial year amounted to £590,000,000. That was an increase of about £80,000,000 over the previous year.
My suggestion, is. that we could cut outall the- extra work for the Post Office,, the costs involved and. the worry to the people by a small increase of personal exertion, income tax. charges-. That would return an amount to- Consolidated: Revenue equivalent to- the amount that is now collected in- wireless fees. Such a move would be politically wise because the people would, feel- that this is. a good Government, because it has. removed! one form1 of . taxation . They would’ not realize that they were paying- in-, another, way. I make that suggestion in all. seriousness, because I- believe that, an efficient! government - and this. Government is- emcient - should- do. all iti can, to overcome, costs, reduce administrative overhead: charges, and) worry-‘ the: people as little, as possible.
L have another suggestion which might appear to- be trivial, but’ I have not made, any progress in. Bringing it. to attention elsewhere, and’ so I’ take this opportunity of. raising it in the National Parliament.. I”. refer to the amazing system that is followed by the Postmaster-General’s. Department in connexion with the listing of certain telephone numbers in, the telephone directory.. I obtained’ two or three examples of the. sort of entries which I’ have in mind’ from the Hobart telephone directory to-day
If a subscriber wants to telephone the. office of the Commonwealth AttorneyGeneral’s Department in Hobart”, and looks up the telephone directory under that name,, fie finds that the directory states, “See Commonwealth Investigation Service “’.
Why not publish the number, rather than the cross-reference? That would involve less- printing. There are hundreds of similar examples in-, every telephone directory in Australia1. I thought that I would telephone the Australian” Broadcasting Commission, which is a government- business undertaking. I looked’ up “ Australian Broadcasting Commission” under the Commonwealth Government Departments section- of the- book and found’ the- direction, “ See alphabetical list? under A “. 1’ thought I would ask the Premier of Tasmania what he thought about this matter: I looked under “ State Government Departments “ and found’ the entry “ Premier’s Department “ and the instruction, “ See Chief Secretary’s and Premier’s Department “. The honorable- Alfie White, who is the Chief Secretary in Tasmania, apparently takes, precedence- over the. Premier in- the. telephone, directory.
I have just moved into a. flat in Hobart,, and I> found that the: gas was not connected, to the stove-. I- told my. wife that I would’ telephone the Hobart Gas Company. 1. have nadi dealings with it before and that is its name. Hooked. up’ the entry,. “ Hobart-. Gas. Company “,. in the: telephone directory and it read, “ See- gas., company. “. These: matters appear, to- be trivial, but every time a-, clerk or. a: taxpayer, has- to. look for. one of these numbers - and, I have only cited, four, that came quickly to mind - time is wasted. The publication, of the subscribers’, numbers in. that form- adds, to. printing, and other- costs- o£ the Postmaster-General’s Department. L hope that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson)- will, give- some, consideration, to- these matters.
Tasmania- has’ been promised: television: in a few years’’ time. I’ would’ be somewhat’ perturbed’ about this matter- except for’ the fact that’ the Postmaster-General has* stated* that Tasmania will have television, F think, in1 I960’, and- that there will be a building’ provided for tHe purpose: A- start should be made1 immediately to prepare for the’ new building- and-‘ to erect it. A petrol station’ stands oft the site that has been’ selected; I believe, for a- new broadcasting and”5 television- house iti Hobart.
For too long this. Government and’ its predecessors have vacillated- over this matter. Plans have” been changed’, and rumours- that have come to nothing- have been circulated in Hobart about the pi o vision of adequate broadcasting facilities. For those reasons, and because of the natural growth of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, great inconvenience nas been caused to the staff and technicians, The search for suitable office and studio accommodation has proceeded. I would be so bold as to say that because the Government has not built a new broadcasting house in Hobart, the A.B.C. is paying more than £10,000 a year in rent in Hobart alone. I am not an accountant, but I know that that amount represents the interest on a big capital outlay, lt is most uneconomic for the Government to continue to pay high rents when it has the land and the know-how and a new building is required. I ask the Postmaster-General to keep these matters in mind and to do what he can to fulfil the Government’s promises.
.- 1 wish to speak about the proposed vote for the Postmaster-General’s Department on similar lines to those followed by Senator Vincent. Recently representations were made to me by a very responsible organization at Burnie. Burnie is a town on the north-west coast of Tasmania and that is an important part of Australia. We were told in this chamber last night by the leader of the Santamaria party that enough fodder could be grown on the north-west coast to supply all the drought-stricken areas of Australia. The Burnie post office has been enlarged and renovated recently. The Trades and Labour Council at Burnie asked me whether more private letter boxes could be installed at the post office. They claim that while the renovation and enlargement of the office was going on many people applied for private letter boxes, but their wishes could not be met because sufficient letter boxes were not available. These were new additions to the post office, and it is possible that further additions will not be made for many years. Consequently, the applicants feel that unless they are able to obtain letter boxes now it will be a long time before more will be available. I have no doubt that the information I have received is correct. It appears that some error must have been made. Some time ago I made representations to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) on this matter, but apart from an acknowledgment of my representations I have received no further reply to my request for more letter boxes to be supplied.
I hope that the Minister will bring this matter to the attention of the PostmasterGeneral again so that the needs of these applicants may be met.
A matter which I wish to bring to the notice of the Minister representing the Minister for Health concerns both the Department of Health and the Department of Social Services. It concerns the amounts paid out of hospital and medical benefits funds to doctors and hospitals. According to the figures with which I have been supplied, in the financial year 1955-56 the hospital and medical benefits funds operated by approved societies showed a profit of a cool £4,250,000. That is a handsome profit. I wish to direct particular attention to the fact, however, that of the amounts paid out of the funds, medical practitioners received by far the greatest share. The figures show that doctors received £6,203,776 and payments to hospitals amounted to £4,858,778, a total of £11,062,554. It is probable that the doctors received their proportion because they made certain of getting their own fees before they would issue a certificate to enable a patient to obtain hospital benefit, in respect of hospital fees. I make no apology for making that statement because I have been a victim of this procedure. A person cannot obtain benefit from a hospital fund until he has been contributing for at least two years. The doctor sees that he gets his fees but is not prepared to help the contributor to obtain benefit from the hospital fund. A contributor gets very little benefit from the hospital fund until he has been in it for two years.
Another anomaly is that once a contributor receives treatment in a hospital for a cold, or the ‘flu, he is regarded as suffering from a chronic illness and is, therefore, ineligible for hospital benefit. If he could take the company to court no doubt he could win his claim; but after a person has been in hospital for a couple of weeks he is not in a financial position to do so. He has to meet hospital costs of, say, £40, whereas if he decides to fight the matter in court legal costs would probably exceed one hundred guineas. The doctors know this, perfectly well and so the contributor has to suffer. Very few people gain any benefit from the hospital and medical benefits scheme, but the doctors see that they get their fees. It is most unfair. It is unreasonable that doctors should receive £6,203,766 from medical benefits funds whilst hospitals receive only £4,858,788 from hospital funds, as happened in . the year 1955-56.
Of the total of £ 15,000,000-odd paid into the hospital and medical benefits fund, £4,250,000 represented profit. That sum would not be required to meet administration costs of approved societies. If it did, it would be far better for the Government to administer these funds. The Government could provide the staff and adminster the funds far more efficiently, as it did before the present scheme came into operation. It is time that some of this tremendous profit was returned to contributors and the rate of contribution reduced. The figures I have given are for 1955-56; those for 1956-57 are not yet available.
The present hospital and medical benefits scheme is retrogressive. The people are being fleeced. I agree with Senator Marriott that taxes should be reduced, that the broadcast listener’s licence-fees should be abolished and that loss of revenue should be recouped by increasing tax on higher incomes. Likewise in view of the huge profits being made by approved societies operating hospital and medical benefit funds throughout Australia - probably they are sponsored by doctors - at least some of the £4,858,788 profit, if not the whole of it, should be returned to contributors and the rate of contribution should be reduced.
– Senator Kennelly asked what steps are being taken to overcome the unsatisfactory position of stores accounting and stock-taking in relation to repatriation institutions, first reported in the Auditor-General’s report for the year 1953-54. Such steps include provision in the department, in co-operation with the Public Service Board, of special staff to deal with stores accounting and stock-taking problems. There has also been an allotment of personnel in the Repatriation Department to review existing procedures and to study procedures in other hospitals. This includes visits to major hospitals throughout Australia. Another step has been the undertaking of pilot studies of stores accounting and stock-taking procedures at the largest repatriation institutions. Further, a manual is being prepared, revising existing instructions to cover all aspects of stores accounting and stock-taking procedures in terms of current needs. Action has also been taken to prepare a draft internal audit programme, to consolidate existing checking instructions and to amend them if and where necessary, in accordance with current needs. These manuals are in an advanced stage of preparation and as parts of them are completed they are being made available for implementation in the department and for comment by interested authorities such as the Audit Office, the Department of the Treasury and the Public Service Board.
In regard to news services, about which Senator Kennelly asked, it is a fact that land-lines are made available for the relaying of news services at concession rates, but I point out that the greatest beneficiaries from the concession are the smaller stations in remote areas. The concession ensures the provision of comprehensive news services to people living in the outback, and for this reason the Government considers it to be justified.
asked for information concerning the Canberra abattoir. The honorable senator recently placed on the notice-paper a question dealing with this matter, and I think that perhaps it would be of advantage if I were to answer that question, on the basis of information that has been obtained from the Department of Health. The honorable senator asked -
Is it a fact that a butcher in Canberra, even though he complies with all the departmental regulations as to killing, branding and transport of meat, still has no right to bring meat into the Territory?
I point out that any butcher in Canberra may bring meat into the Australian Capital Territory, provided that that meat complies with all prescribed conditions as to killing, branding, inspection and transport, and provided also that he is issued with a permit to do so.
– He has to have a ‘ permit?
– Yes. Senator Gorton also asked -
What are the reasons advanced by the department to justify the retention of the present regulations?
The regulations are ‘necessary to ,maintain a continuous -meat supply for the Australian Capital Territory, over all periods of seasonal and other fluctuations in supply, by providing facilities at the ‘Canberra abattoir for full production, thus protecting the government investment in the abattoir. The third question asked by the honorable senator was - -ls the department sure that these regulations do not in any -way infringe section 92 of the Commonwealth Constitution?
Although it is not the practice to furnish opinions on matters of law in answer to questions, the Department of .Health has been advised that section 92 of the Constitution applies only to trade among the States and has no relation to trade between a ‘State and a territory of the Commonwealth.
asked whether the council for Norfolk Island had been appointed. The views of the present Advisory Council are awaited on the matter of the .establishment of the Norfolk Island Council. The existing Advisory Council will continue until the new council is established. Meanwhile, the Norfolk Island Act has not been promulgated. However, the Administrator has discussed the new act with the Advisory Council and has given .it full information. The views of the Advisory Council are awaited so that details of ;the necessary ordinance can be determined. The honorable -senator also inquired about the proposed vote for Norfolk Island. I point out that the item of £33,000, appearing in the Estimates, is a grant by the ‘Commonwealth Government towards the cost of administration of the island. The administration has budgeted for total expenditure .of £76,967 during l’957-58, the balance to <be made up from local revenues. The principal .items of expenditure are: Administration, £21,639; education, £7,121; health, £5,361; forestry, £3,870; agriculture, £4,112; maintenance, £9,009; capital works, £8,653; and miscellaneous, £17,202.
Senator Marriott spoke about the extension of television services to Hobart. Approval has already been given for the Department of Works .to igo .ahead with plans for the erection of television studios in Hobart. Senator Kendall asked about the cost of the Goon Show. I point out that .the cost of this programme cannot be assessed because it is only one of many programmes .that are covered by the subscription .paid to the British Broadcasting Corporation for its transcription service. The annual subscription is £10,000 sterling for the whole service.
Senator Ashley commented on the high cost of television sets. I inform the honorable senator that television sets are sold at their commercial value. The .prices for them .eventually should reach their proper level. There is not much that .the PostmasterGeneral’s Department can do about these prices because the sale of television sets is entirely a commercial transaction. Senator Vincent commented on the poor state of the Yalgoo post office. I inform the honorable senator that the condition of this post office has been noted and that the provision of a new building is included in the current three-year building programme.
Senator McManus inquired about the cost of the introduction of television, in view of the fact that the amount shown in the Estimates now before the committee is considerably higher than it was last year. I point out that, during 1956-57, expenditure covered the introduction of television in Sydney and Melbourne only. Furthermore, the transmissions did not commence until November, so that only eight months’ operating costs were incurred, whereas the figure for 1957-58 covers operating costs for a full year.
Senator Ashley inquired about the Australian content of television programmes, and in this connexion I shall quote a statement that was issued recently by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), in the course of which he said -
Over the past twelve months -the Australian Broadcasting Commission produced 26 live television plays of half an hour or one hour .duration, in which a total of 150 professional actors or actresses were engaged.
– Does that include trotting, rock and roll, and so on?
– I am reading the Postmaster-General’s statement. It goes on -
Three of these plays were specially written for television by resident authors. -In the field of light entertainment there -were 883 engagements of Australian artists by the A.B.C. -in -its television programmes. In the Children’s’ Session- the A.B’.C. used 149- live programmes catering especially for children, and in this regard 824 engagements were made. Australian content of A.B.C. television programmes from Sydney over nearly 12 months has been 48 percent, arid from Melbourne 39 ‘per cent. lt must be remembered that television, is an entirely new venture, and- that the Australian Broadcasting Commission arid the holders of commercial licences are the pioneers of this new medium, with all its attendant problems. Nevertheless, in spite of all their difficulties, the commercial stations were able to provide, in the month of August- last, programmes- which had 56 per cent. Australian content. It is- not of much, use to compare Australian television with television in’ the- United. Kingdom and the- United States of America. Our service h’as, been’ going-, for’ twelve, months only, theirs for ma’ny years.
asked; whether private automatic branch exchanges- were being sold and’ installed by private’ contractors-. The position is that various private contractors are’ authorized to do this work. The authorized contractors’ are British Automatic Telephone and Electric Proprietary Limited, British General Electric Company Proprietary Limited, Ericssons Telephones Limited, and’ Standard Telephones and’ Cables Proprietary Limited’. The subscriber may buy the equipment outright from the contractor or secure it for an annual rental”. The Postal Department will continue to maintain the equipment for an annual charge. The outright purchase price or the rental to be paid depends upon the type and size of the unit.
Considerable discussion took place in regard to national fitness.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A*. D.. Reid).– Order! The. Minister’s time has expired.
.- T desire- to direct- the Minister’s attention to a passage in paragraph 127” of the Auditor-General’s report.
Opposition Senators- Why call, a Government senator after -the Minister has spoken?
– Order! I object to that remark’. I gave- the call to’ the’ Minister so- that he could’ reply te certain’ points that had been raised. When the Minister sat’ down, I called the next honorable senator’ who rose.
– Before making reference to the Auditor-General’s report, I should like to be permitted to say how grateful I ant - I am sure all honorable senators will join with me in this - that the Auditor-General has seen fit to make so full a report available to us before the consideration of these Estimates. The best way in which we can show our appreciation of that action, not in any spirit of irresponsible gratitude, but simply in recognition of the discharge of a. duty by the AuditorGeneral, is to take some notice of the report and endeavour to see that Ministers and departments- also take some notice of it. I think it detracts from the value of the reports and’ degrades the status of the Auditor-General if the Parliament does not insist that improprieties to which the Auditor-General’ calls attention shall be rectified before the next Estimates are presented.
I- desire to bring forcibly to the attention of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) paragraph 127 of the AuditorGeneral’s report, which refers to laxity on the part of the Repatriation Department. I would not. have believed that such laxity with regard to compliance with the law could exist in any government department ira Australia. The Repatriation Department has not been singled out for special mention; this is an instance - a rather insignificant instance - of what is happening in that and other departments. The Auditor-General said -
Although benefits prescribed by several repatriation regulations have been increased’ from time to time since’ 1953, with Cabinet approval, and the application of certain other regulations has been varied, amending Statutory Rules have not been promulgated:
Let me say Here’ that f wish’ these references in the Auditor-General’s reports to Cabinet approval would disappear. If- He would take some notice of an” opinion given by the Acting Solicitor-General, which is: set out in the- report at page l’H8, he would see that Cabinet is a body unknown: to the law and’ that Cabinet does not give any approvals with which this Parliament- is concerned. It appears that since 1953 there has been a repeated annual disbursement of public funds by the Repatriation Department to pay increased benefits, without making lawful provision for those increases. If the Parliament acquiesces in actions of that kind, it will have no control of the disbursement of public funds.
I want to make a brief reference to the enormous business done by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I should like to go on record as extending my congratulations to the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) for the efficient and resolute way in which he dealt with the staff problems that emerged in the department in the early part of this year. I think it was a matter of real encouragement to the staff, the management and the Parliament to find that the Postmaster-General was capable of dealing with that threatened crisis and finding a solution satisfactory to all concerned.
So that these matters may be viewed in perspective, let me refer to some of the figures given in the latest available report on the Postmaster-General’s Department. It is the report for the year ended in June, 1956, which, I regret to say, was signed by the Minister only in March, 1957. Although we are dealing now with the Estimates for 1957-58, we have the trading results of the department, not for the year ended on 30th June, 1957, but for the year ended on 30th June, 1956. In that year, the financial turnover was no less than £854,500,000. The number of telephone services installed was 1,479. The report instances other record achievements of the department in that year. So it would be ridiculous to pretend that in a day this Senate, consisting of 60 persons, could give adequate consideration to the whole of the activities of this undertaking.
I mention these facts before turning the searchlight on to one or two matters. At page 84 of his report, in paragraph 128, the Auditor-General made reference to the picturegram service. He pointed out that the latest available figures - those for the year ended on 30th June, 1956 - disclosed a further loss of £21,717, and he noted that in 1954-55 the loss was £23,385. The next sentence in the report reads -
The existing tariffs were fixed in 1948, and their increase is under consideration.
My impression was that those tariffs were being left unduly low and had not been adjusted to meet the increase of costs since 1948. On turning back to the AuditorGeneral’s report for last year, however, I find in paragraph 125, on page 86, the following: -
Mention was made in the 1954-55 Report of losses incurred by the Department in the operation of this service. Despite an alteration as from 1st July, 1954, in the basis of charging the picturegram service for the use of telephone trunk-line channels, which reduced such charges by approximately 45 per cent., the latest financial result discloses a further loss of £23,385.
In all due humility, but nevertheless with sufficient presumption, I offer some rebuke to the Auditor-General in connexion with the terms of his last year’s report because, when he says in his report for the year ended 30th June, 1957, that existing tariffs were fixed in 1948, I get the simple impression that the losses were, in his opinion, attributable to the fact that the charges had not been adjusted since 1948. When I read his report for 1945-56, it appears that an increase was made, but it was too steep for the business, and a reduction of 45 per cent, had to be made to re-attract business.
I simply mention these as impressions, in the hope that the Minister will give us a full explanation of this one particular matter. I know it involves only a mere £23,000 out of a total of £92,000,000, but, nevertheless, if we deal with one item adequately it is much better than dealing confusedly with half a thousand.
Senator ARNOLD (New South Wales) 14.171. - When his time expired, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) was about to deal with national fitness. I am glad of the opportunity to say a few words on this problem before he does reply. The Minister will know that each year when we have been dealing with the Estimates I have referred to this matter. I have done so because it has been my privilege to be the Commonwealth Government’s representative on the National Fitness Council for many years.
I shall relate, briefly, the history of the grant made for physical fitness. After the second world war, the authorities were appalled at the number of young men and women called to the armed services during the conflict who were not physically fit.
The authorities then decided that some campaign should be carried on with a view to increasing the physical fitness of young people in the post-war years. It was finally decided that an amount of £72,000 would be paid each year for five years to finance the work, and that at the end of the period the position would be reviewed. Naturally, it was expected by those concerned with this work that further grants would be made.
In practice, what has happened is that each government from 1946 onwards has continued to include in its Estimates the sum of £72,000, and has left it at that. As a result, the national fitness authorities are now not able to do possibly 50 per cent, of the work they were able to do with £72,000 in the year the grant was first made. We have found over the years that a considerable number of the young people called up for national service training were not physically fit to perform the duties involved. Because of this, we stressed to the defence authorities that it would be worth while spending a good deal more money, on providing, through the national fitness movement, physically fit young people who would be able to stand up to training for the armed services. We pointed out that this could be done only if sufficient playing fields, facilities, organizations and all other things necessary to enable our young people to occupy their time after leaving school and before entering the armed services were made available. The defence authorities stated that they could not afford any money from their vote for the training of our young people in physical fitness.
This year, however, national service training has been cut down considerably. That being so, it follows that a substantia] amount of money will not be needed this year for the national service training scheme, and, therefore, I suggest to the Minister and the department that this is an opportune time to appropriate some of that money for the development of national fitness activities throughout Australia.
It was made perfectly clear to us many years ago that young people have not the resources, that they are not being encouraged to participate in sport, and that too many are watching sport and not enough taking an active part in it. In truth, the position is that the lack of facilities throughout Australia to enable young people to take part in sport is becoming very serious indeed.
Local authorities and State governments have not the money required to set aside playing areas or to resume ground round cities to provide the facilities necessary for young people. I know the Minister has a very difficult job to answer all questions raised by honorable senators, and I hope he will appreciate that I am being in no way critical when I suggest that instead of reading from the script that his advisers will hand to him in connexion with this matter, it will be much better if he offers his personal opinion, as the Minister, representing the Minister for Health, on the question whether it will be possible to provide for a considerable expansion in this vote when the Estimates for next year arc put before us.
One of the greatest problems for both children and adults is to know how best to utilize their leisure time. I suggest that it ought to be the responsibility of this Parliament to devise ways of encouraging them to use to the best possible advantage whatever time they have available for leisure. We ought to be trying to make our people fit to take their places as valuable units of this growing nation. This can be done only if adequate facilities are provided, if proper encouragement is given, if we have enough organizers with the requisite drive for this work. Without these things, our children will be left to find their own avenues for utilizing leisure time, and this, unfortunately, can lead to child delinquency. These young people must be shown how to occupy their lesiure properly and we, as leaders of the nation, should be encouraging them to do that by providing adequate facilities for them.
I emphasize that, in the main, the officers of the national fitness organizations are public-spirited people who offer their services in an honorary capacity. We urgently need more fully paid officials in the big cities and more equipment to help these honorary workers who give their time to the movement. I do ask the Minister and his departmental officers to have a look at this problem with a view to seeing whether they can provide extra money for this work in next year’s Estimates.
– This afternoon, Senator Aylett referred to hospitals contribution funds and medical benefits funds. Quite frankly, I could not understand what points he was trying to make, and I do think I should clarify one aspect of this subject to which he referred. That, of course, is a question of the reserves of these funds. It should be made perfectly clear at :the outset that these funds are non-profit-making. Taking the New South Wales Hospitals Contribution Fund as an example, all the major hospitals in New South Wales are -constituent members. I am a director of a hospital in Sydney, and it has a representative on the committee of that fund. The fact is that the fund was never set up for profit, and indeed before the variation of the act each hospital received a refund out of any surplus that remained. The Government has now said to the directors of the fund, “ Your function is to provide recovery of hospital fees, and quite clearly you require reserves “. In the twenty-fifth annual report of the New South Wales Hospitals Contribution Fund this statement appears -
Although our reserves are substantial, continuing investigations by the Commonwealth Department of -Health still strongly indicate that the reserves are not yet adequate.
That is the whole point. They are like mutual insurance companies. As an example, the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company Limited is a nonprofitmaking company. Obviously it must build up huge reserves against the possibility of serious inroads being made into its funds. Similarly, the hospital benefit fund must build up reserves to meet any contingency that may arise.
– So that they may become strong enough gradually to take over liability for the chronic cases.
– That point is well made. As the reserves of these funds increase, the period in which people may qualify for benefit will be shortened. I refer to Division No. 81b. - Department of Health, General Expenses, item 6, “ Tuberculosis Agreement administration - Payments to States, £73,700, and to Division No. 288. - Tuberculosis Act - Reimbursement of Capital Expenditure by State Governments. I think Senator Byrne referred to the success in Tasmania of the CommonwealthState Tuberculosis Agreement which was entered into by the Chifley Government when Senator MeKenna was the Minister for Health. That agreement came into being because the Commonwealth, lacking adequate constitutional powers, asked the States to -undertake ; certain work. That was partly the genesis of the agreement. Whilst the scheme -was an outstanding success in Tasmania, its success .in -New South Wales was limited due to the reluctance of the Government of .that State .to implement the scheme in .vital .respects. Early diagnosis of tuberculosis .is .most important, and .in New South Wales the Anti-T.B. Association is doing a magnificent job in setting up mobile X-ray units.
– And with great success in Tasmania.
– That is so. However, compulsion, which was an essential part of the scheme as it was originally envisaged, is not being applied. The mobile unit for instance, might visit Ryde and men and women who feel so disposed are screened, receive a clearance and are quite happy; but of the 60,000 people in that municipality only from 45,000 to 50,000 present themselves to be screened. Obviously the purpose of the Anti-T.B. Association is defeated if everybody is not screened. We know that persons who do not have an X-ray examination are usually the most likely tuberculosis suspects. They refuse to be examined because of timidness which makes many reluctant to visit a doctor if they feel they are likely to be told that something is wrong.
The scheme falls short of complete effectiveness in New South Wales because the State .government does not make screening compulsory. It is not sufficient to set up a unit in Randwick, Waverley, Ryde or anywhere else and imagine a complete screening is being obtained, because it is not. Recently during Health Week the Shop Assistants Union made a statement to the effect that everybody handling foodstuffs in Sydney had been screened and that only a very small number was found to be possible tuberculosis suspects. If the scheme were functioning as it is in other States in accordance with the concept of this act, everybody would have been screened before being allowed to handle foodstuffs. As the Commonwealth is providing the money it should say to the States, “ We want you to make this scheme work 100 per- cent. Ninety-eight per cent, is not good enough when there is the prospect of somebody being the unwitting cause of another person being infected “.
Dealing with capital expenditure, I point out to honorable senators that beds provided for tuberculosis cases at the Waterfall Sanatorium, New South Wales, are not being used. As the scheme becomes effective the amount of capital expenditure should decrease, and when the disease is completely exterminated there will not be any necessity to expend moneys for hospitalization. The States are in a perfect position because once a hospital is built it will last for 50 to 100 years. Since this item envisages the expenditure of some millions of pounds on the building of hospitals, the Minister should indicate in detail the requirements of New South Wales for capital for the building of hospitals during the last financial year. I know that certain beds previously used for tuberculosis patients are no longer required.
If that is so, then obviously there should be a reduction in the amount required for capital expenditure on hospitals under this agreement. I appreciate that one cannot turn off the building of hospitals as one turns off a tap. If, under the agreement, a hospital administration has been committed to the building of a hospital for some time and it is in the course of .erection, quite obviously it is necessary to budget for its use. It is a comforting thought that when such hospitals are completed they will not go to waste. It will still be possible to use them while the present shortage of beds lasts.
I now wish to speak about the Australian Broadcasting Commission. For some months, I have been trying to get the call at question time in order to ask a question about the broadcasting of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Saturday night concert. I take the opportunity to raise the matter now. The Australian Broadcasting Commission provides a most magnificent celebrity concert broadcast from 8 o’clock to 9 o’clock on Saturday nights. I can see Senator Vincent glaring at me. I have discussed this with him before. Celebrities are. brought to Australia by the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the purpose of giving these concerts. At 9 o’clock when listeners are thoroughly absorbed in the concert, it is switched off and the announcer say that that completes the broadcast.
Then, invariably, the station broadcasts some sort of canned music of a lesser quality.
I know that the reply of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to this complaint is that if the whole programme were broadcast nobody would go to the concert. They say that it would not be possible to sell the tickets and raise the money .for the celebrity concert. My reply to that is, that the tickets for celebrity concerts could .be sold over and over agan and music lovers have been known to line up at 3 o’clock in the morning or at midnight to buy tickets for -the season of celebrity concerts. There is no difficulty in providing audiences for the concerts. It would be a good thing to have the whole concert broadcast without interruption so that music lovers could get the maximum enjoyment from it.
– I want to draw the attention of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), who is representing the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson), to paragraph 129, at page 84, of the Auditor-General’s report on the Postmaster-General’s Department, which says -
Following a recommendation of the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Public Accounts it was agreed that the Auditor-General should undertake the audit of the commercial accounts of the Postmaster-General’s Department and current transactions have been subject to audit since 1st July, 1955.
It is somewhat disturbing to find that the Auditor-General has to report this -
Discussions between my office, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the Treasury continued during the year but several matters of principle and policy remain to be determined before the financial statements can be certified by me.
I should like the Minister to say what is holding up the certification of the accounts. The commercial accounts of the Postal Department have been subject to audit since 1st July, 1955, yet we still find that the accounts cannot be certified .because several matters are still outstanding. I think that the committee is entitled to an explanation of this position and this is the time at which we should get such an explanation. At question time, of course, Ministers avoid answering awkward questions of this nature by stating that they concern matters of policy. The committee is now examining a huge expenditure which, apparently, has given concern to a very efficient body, the
Public Accounts Committee. That committee made certain recommendations to the Parliament in 1955, yet we are still unable to get a satisfactory explanation of the position. I say that this is serious. Government supporters have boasted that nearly £92,000,000 was spent by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department last year. The magnitude of this expenditure makes the matter even more serious. I think that the Minister for Repatriation should give the committee a full report as to what is causing the delay in the certification of the accounts, particularly in view of the fact that the Public Accounts Committee recommended and are agreed that an audit should take place.
I should also like to ask for some information regarding telephone services in the State of Western Australia. Under the “ guillotine “ system of debating the Estimates it is not possible to examine them in full and honorable senators have to be parochial and refer to their own States when they get a chance to speak. I should like to know the amount of capital expenditure in Western Australia by the Postmaster-General’s Department. What capital works are in hand? What post offices are likely to be built?
– Is the honorable senator referring to capital works for the current financial year?
– Yes. I should like to know also whether the Postmaster-General will take steps to encourage more young men to undertake technical training? There is a host of young, well-educated men who have made application to be accepted as technicians in training, and I know that the administration of the Postal Department is anxious to maintain the efficiency of its technical staff. Yet when one complains of deficiencies in service such as lack of telephones, one is told that it is due to a shortage of technicians, shortage of cable, or shortage of telephone equipment. It is now some years since the war ended. I know that there was a backlog of applications for telephones outstanding at the end of the war. To some degree, that may have ;been taken up but the position is still most unsatisfactory. One has to be a privileged person in order to get a service for which one pays pretty heavily. I think that the Government should give the administration of the Postal Department a sufficiently free hand in these matters to allow it to meet the demands of the public. It is not the officers, engineers, or directors of the Postal Department who are at fault. They are definitely hamstrung by Government policy. If they were given the opportunity to obtain the technicians that they need they would be able to do much better. But there is some restrictive policy the result of which is that the ordinary citizen has little chance of getting a telephone and even if one is allocated a priority on the plea of sickness, old age, or for business reasons, one still has to wait for an indeterminate period for a connexion. In a country such as this there should be no ceiling to the expansion of a department which is getting a good return from its services. The progress of the department should not be restricted to a degree which is less than that which the nation demands. I should like to know what has happened in relation to this matter. How many telephone connexions are waiting to be made in Western Australia and in other States? What reason can the Government give for telephones not having been supplied? After the war the reason given was lack of material; shortly afterwards, it was lack of technicians; shortly after that it was lack of cable. There have always been excuses. Subsequently it was stated that the department could not buy telephones. We have never been given a satisfactory explanation of this position. After having been told that equipment was not available honorable senators have found that it was in full supply. Either the departmental heads must have been told not to estimate teo far in advance, or they have been restricted in some financial manner and so prevented from providing the efficient service which the country needs for its expansion. Telephones are essential in business. I think that after business requirements have been satisfied it should be the ambition of this country to have a telephone in every home that can afford it. I contend, too, that telephone rentals are altogether too high.
– How would the honorable senator reduce them? He says they are too high, but how would be bring them down? Who would pay for the service?
– They can be reduced by efficient management, a wider turnover and greater patronage. I do not think
Senator Vincent has the intelligence to understand that if you increase efficiency in the department, and increase the number of telephone subscribers - the departmental officers are quite capable of providing a wider service - you will reduce charges.
– The department used to canvass for customers before the war.
– That is the point I am trying to make.
– Does the honorable senator say that the departmental employees are inefficient?
– No, I say they are most efficient, but they are being restricted, and that should not happen. I know that departmental estimates have been altered and cut down in a manner that has restricted the advancement of the department. Unfortunately, in this cost-plus kind of business, if you want the service you have to pay. That does not apply, however, to the press; I make that reservation. If a service for the press is too expensive for the press, it is given at a reduced rate, but if a service to the public is expensive, the members of the public have to pay for it or do without. If the problem was tackled efficiently - the demand for telephones, telegrams and other postal services is great - turnover could be increased tremendously by the adoption of a policy which would allow the department to expand in order to meet the requirements of the community. If it does meet the requirements of the community, thus doing extra business and increasing turnover, overhead charges can be reduced, leading, as in every business to the lowering of charges. The Postmaster-General’s Department has most up-to-date machines for the sending of telegrams, but those machines are working at less than one-half of their capacity. Given a reasonable chance, members of the public would use that service and appreciate it. But I know that the airmail is being used in preference to the telegram. That might happen in any case, but if telegram charges were reasonable the service would be used to a much greater extent than it is at present. The sending of congratulations by telegram used to be very popular, and it could be made popular again.
There is a great deal of room for expansion in the Postmaster-General’s Department. There is a great demand for telephones, a demand which is not being met.
The public wishes to use the various services that are provided by the department, but many of those services have become so expensive that most sections of the community cannot afford to use them.
There is one other matter that I should like to mention, and which has been touched on by a number of other honorable senators. I hope that it will be adverted to by the Minister, but, no doubt, when he replies to the comments of honorable senators he will not have sufficient time to mention every matter that has been raised. I refer to Division No. 222, item 3, “ Commonwealth Council for National Fitness, £72,500”. We have been told that this vote has remained at the same figure since 1942. The fact that the National Fitness Council is doing a certain amount of good work is recognized, I think, by both the Government and the Opposition. The tragedy is that the council is carrying on with this inadequate grant and doing only a halfefficient job. The council has projects in every State awaiting development.
There is a growing need for assistance tobe given to our young people. Juvenile delinquency is widely publicized by the press. It makes headlines in our newspapers. Anything connected with juvenile delinquency becomes a glamour news item in the press. In Western Australia we havetwo fully equipped youth camps, one in the hills and one at the seaside. Both are fully occupied except on very rare occasions. They cater anuually for 2,800 young people. There is an excellent area of 300 acres of land at Rockingham waiting to be developed as another camp, but the council has not sufficient funds to do the work. The council has been waiting for a number of years for some encouragement from the Government: in the way of an increased vote.
Another magnificent site is available at. Sorrento Beach. The council is anxiousto develop this site also, but since 1942 it has had no encouragement from the Government, although it has done an. excellent job. It fostered and finally madeselfsupporting the State Youth HostelsAssociation, an excellent organization which now functions strongly with a registered, paying membership of 171. Everybody will agree that satisfactory accommodation should be provided for young people who- come into the towns, and the hostels association has done very good work in this regard, but it is at the end of its tether because of lack of funds. The National Fitness Council has co-ordinated and fostered the activities of voluntary youth organizations, so that there are now 28 head-quarters bodies, with numerous subsidiary clubs, catering for 20,000 adolescents. This is another activity that cannot be expanded because of the shortage of. funds.
I could refer to numerous other activities in> Western Australia, concerned with the assistance of our young, people, but unfortunately my time is limited- in this debate, because the “ guillotine “ is, as usual, in operation. I conclude with the comment that nothing has been done for the national fitness movement in Western Australia. Although it is a very worthy cause, it is now in danger of disintegration. I ask the Government to reconsider the proposed vote.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I should like to mention briefly one or two matters that concern the administration of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The first relates to television. We have no television in South Australia at present, and I do not think we are very anxious to have it. Senator Cooper, who represents the Postmaster-General in this chamber, gave us some information this afternoon regarding the number of Australian artists who have been engaged by the Australian Broadcasting Commission for television programmes, but I remind him that not very long ago Senator Seward gave us some information about television programmes which indicates that those programmes generally should be closely considered. We need only read the daily press to realize the criminal activities that are being indulged in by our young people. I am bold enough to assert that much of the cause can be ascribed, first, to the kind of programmes being shown in our picture theatres, and, secondly, to the television programmes that are being broadcast. The information given to us by Senator Seward was horrifying. Although we have been told that television is good for the people,
I should’ like to join issue with those responsible for the programmes that are being shown. The films that we see give entertainment vastly inferior to that which can be given by our own Australian artists. Surely to goodness we have enough talent in this country to provide decent programmes for our young: people, and also for our older people.
The other matter to which I would’ like to refer was touched upon this afternoon by Senator Sandford. If we exclude his outburst at the end, I think we could say that perhaps we are looking at it in the same way. His claim was in respect of the older digger of the 1914-18 war. I do not want to be misunderstood when I say that the men who won the war were those who came out of it with a substantially clean medical history sheet. I think it is true to say that the men who won the war were those who were fortunate enough to escape serious injury or illness. A sprinkling of them would now be about 60 years of age, but the majority would be between 62 and 70 years of age. As Senator Sandford said, they are now cracking up. They are asking not for pensions but to be allowed to have treatment at repatriation hospitals.
I am glad that Senator Sandford paid awelldeserved tribute to the Minister for Repatriation. I think the honorable senator will agree with me when I say that it is the duty of the Parliament- to make clear to the Repatriation Department what it thinks these ex-servicemen of the first world war are entitled to. I well remember that, when we agreed to the inclusion in the Repatriation Act of the onus-of-proof provision, we thought that we were conferring a great boon on the ex-servicemen, that we were providing for cases that were cropping up every day, that it was not necessary for them to prove that their disability or breakdown of health was due to war service, and that when they reached their present age they would more or less automatically be able to obtain the benefit of hospital treatment. I think that the Parliament should embody in the act a provision that these men shall have free treatment at our repatriation hospitals. The number of men who would be affected is not very great. Irrespective of how good private hospitals are, a digger likes to go to a repatriation hospital to be amongst his’ fellows. To go to a repatriation hospital would perhaps do his health and his morale ever so much more good than to enter a private hospital.
I refer now to a matter that was touched upon by Senator Buttfield this morning - our future role in New Guinea. I should like to thank the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) for giving a number of us the privilege recently of seeing Papua and New Guinea. I publicly acknowledge the courtesy that was extended to us all by the Administration while we were there. I thank the officials for affording us an opportunity to see the Territory and how the Australian taxpayers’ money is being spent.
Some of the questions that are raised in one’s mind are these: What is to be the role of the Australian, shall I say, or the white settler? Will he have any security of tenure? What do we visualize to be the state of New Guinea in 50 years’ time? I was rather struck by the progress - admittedly, it is relatively slow - that is being made in regard to education. I pay tribute to the men and women of the teaching service, who principally were recruited in Australia, for the good work they are doing. I should like more teachers to go to New Guinea. I am not in favour of bringing a student from either Papua or New Guinea to enter an Australian school. To do that means that he loses contact completely with his country and is placed in an environment which it is particularly difficult for him to assimilate.
I shall mention briefly one or two centres in particular, but I hope that the other people who are engaged in the teaching service will realize that what I say applies to all of them. I refer particularly to the wonderful work that is being done at Sogeri. It seems to me that the syllabus that is being followed and the methods that are being employed there to train young lads of from twelve to sixteen years of age to become teachers are on the right line. One is struck also by the penmanship - the art - and the woodwork that is being done in the primary schools. These young people follow example.
In my opinion, if this Territory is to be further developed, it can only be done by way of example. If men are to go to the Territory to develop it agriculturally, they need enormous sums of money. That brings me to a consideration of the availability of land. The Administration has done a remarkable job in mapping out the country and endeavouring to ascertain from each of the hundreds of tribes where its land is and what rights it has had over the past 2,000 years.
If the Territory is to improve agriculturally, modern machines must be imported and modern methods employed. If that is to be done, people must have some security of tenure. We again ask ourselves: What do we visualize New Guinea to be like in 50 years’ time? As I indicated earlier, the only way in which the natives of the Territory can develop and improve the country is for them to apply the know-how that is provided by people who go there from Australia. If that is not done, I cannot see how they will improve the country to any greater degree than they have over the past 2,000 years.
I repeat that, if people are to go to the Territory and improve the land, they must have security of tenure. As I see it, that is one of the most ticklish questions that confronts the Administration. If the lot of the indigenous race is improved, that race will multiply. Then the question arises: Who owns New Guinea?
What the veterinary scientists have done for the cattle-raising industry is really remarkable.’ I should think that, with proper husbandry and good management, it would be possible for the Territory to produce its own beef. One of the most pleasing features of the progress in the Territory has been the formation of co-operatives for the growing and processing of cocoa and coffee. Co-operative stores have been established, too. The progress that has been made by the people who are close to the towns or bigger centres of population has been remarkable. But they are only a handful in comparison with the great numbers who live in the highlands, and especially the Sepik River area, adjoining the Dutch New Guinea frontier. This presents the administration with a real problem.
I should like to pay a tribute to the patrol officers and education officers who go out into those areas, where natives are still living in darkness according to the standards of Western civilization. It is still quite usual for the natives there to have a little party, invite some of their friends, and afterwards dispose of them, I am appalled by the suggestion that such people are ready for selfgovernment. I fear that it will be a very long time before that is achieved in some of the more backward areas.
Senator Cooke and Senator Wade were members of the party, led by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth), which recently visited Papua and New Guinea. I think that we all would like to pay a sincere tribute to the work of the administration. We were given an opportunity to see how the public money was being spent there. Notwithstanding the criticism that one hears, one can say that that money is being well spent. The battle with private enterprise for possession of the land continues.
Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I should like some information from the Postmaster-General concerning the building of an automatic exchange at Mil Lel, near Mount Gambier, in South Australia. About six months ago Senator Cooper, who represents the PostmasterGeneral in this chamber, advised me that work on the exchange would start very soon and would, in any event, be completed by Christmas. I should like now to know what progress has been made towards the completion of this “ important automatic telephone exchange.
Senator Anderson went out of his way to praise the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales. I believe that that fund operates in New South Wales and Queensland, and perhaps other States also, lt is typical of hospital contribution funds throughout Australia, and operates in association with an auxiliary organization called the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited. Since 1951 these organizations have been receiving from the Commonwealth Government what one might call favours. Naturally, they have been going ahead by leaps and bounds. In 1951, the total income of the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales was about £604,000. At June, 1956 - the latest date for which the figures are available to me - the income was £3,031,000. The fund has built up a huge reserve. I do not quarrel with Senator Anderson’s contention that it is quite proper io establish a reserve. When I mentioned the matter on another occasion Senator Wright also said that there was nothing wrong in that practice. But why should the reserve be so huge, and why should such great sums be paid towards the cost of administration? The people who are paying in 4s. a week in order to receive hospital benefits - and the additional 4s. a day provided by the Commonwealth - are being robbed. This is a very serious matter. Salaries and commission for groups and agencies amount to £99,213 annually.
– They are urgers!
– The real urgers are the publicity men and those who go from door to door telling people a grand tale about what they will get if they contribute to the fund. Those urgers are paid, in all, £32,013 annually. The total payment for salaries and commission is £131,226, and administrative costs amount to £320,325 annually!
Those who are running the fund hide huge sums in reserve funds. Now they are contemplating, in association with the organizers of the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited, the building of huge offices in Sydney so that they - especially the doctors amongst them - will gain further concessions at the expense of the contributors. I should not be in order in referring to the medical benefits fund at this stage, but I have the greatest sympathy for the old soldiers, to whom Senator Mattner referred, who cannot obtain hospital accommodation. They are not admitted to repatriation hospitals, and simply have not the money to enter other hospitals. They go round suffering until they collapse and are then put in public wards of general hospitals. The Repatriation Department denies that this happens.
The Government has promised a further increase in the allowance for hospitalization, provided the applicant increases his payment, or is already paying into some hospital contribution fund for a benefit of 16s. a day. Only then will he receive the Commonwealth’s contribution of 6s. a day. Seventy-five per cent, of the people already in hospital contribution funds will have to increase their contributions three-fold if they are to obtain the present Commonwealth payment of 4s. a day. A man with a wife and family, who paid ls. a week to a hospital fund for a benefit of £2 2s., received the additional 4s. from the Commonwealth. If that man wants to receive the extra amount given now, he must pay three times as much as his original contribution.
That is what the Government is offering to the returned soldier. He can receive financial assistance towards the cost of hospital accommodation provided he pays into one of these funds, which are really rackets. Some of them have been formed by doctors who are robbing the people with the aid of the Government. The Government bestows favours on such funds, but withholds them from other organizations which, the Government says, do not maintain the proper ethical standards, or something of that kind. The poor old returned soldier cannot get hospital accommodation because the Government has laid down that he must prove that his injury or illness was caused by war service nearly 40 years ago. Senator Mattner and one or two other honorable senators, for political purposes, have said what ought to be done, but when a vote is taken they change their views. The records of the Senate will show that, when amendments to certain acts have been moved to give redress to these people, honorable senators opposite have voted against them. I do not want to mention names, but there have been one or two exceptions. However, those exceptions do not include the honorable senators who have been speaking on these matters in the last few days.
I ask the Minister whether any arrangements have been made with hospital benefit associations for the collection of contributions so that members of those associations will be able to receive the extra amount now being offered by the Government. Can he say when the Government proposes to pay the extra amount through hospital benefit associations? Does he know that some elderly people have no hope of obtaining any hospital benefits because they are not allowed to contribute to funds? No provision is made for contributions from them because of their age. They are not eligible for age pensions and consequently cannot receive hospital benefits in that way. If they are receiving the age pension, the means test deprives them of hospital benefits because they may have a little bit of extra money. Has any provision been made or are inquiries being made to find out whether hospital benefits can be made available to those people I have mentioned, including the returned soldier of World War I.?
.- I wish to refer to the Postmaster-General’s Department. This department is responsible for the licensing and control of all radio communications in this country. In particular, I refer to the control of amateur radio operators. Part of the function of the department is to keep a watch on the operating frequencies to see that amateurs operate within the prescribed power limit, which is 100 watts in this country. Other countries seem to trust their amateurs more. New Zealand allows them 250 watts and the Unted States allows them 1,000 watts.
The matter on which I seek assistance involves the International Telecommunications Union, which determines the radio frequencies used throughout the world, lt meets about every five years and the next meeting will be at Geneva in 1959. On a governmental and an organizational level - two distinct levels - the nations will allot the frequencies which amateurs and others may use. The Wireless Institute of Australia represents the radio amateurs of this country. The cost of sending a delegate from Australia to the conference at Geneva is estimated to be £1,500. In view of the extraordinary contribution that these men make to the national well-being in peace and in war, will the Minister examine the possibility of providing assistance on a £l-for-£l basis to send a delegate to Geneva? The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), who represents the PostmasterGeneral in this chamber, and indeed the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) himself, have been remarkably sympathetic to this fraternity in the past. I emphasize the need for their good offices at the moment by indicating that at present the 20, 40 and 80 metre bands, which are the normal bands of communication for amateurs, are being used by what are known as intruders or commercial pirates. When a commercial organization infringes frequencies belonging to amateurs, the only redress available to the amateurs is through the government of the country concerned. They have no legal standing to enforce their rights. Therefore, I ,ask the Minister to consider providing assistance to send a delegate to this important conference so that these men may have reasonable protection for their hard-won rights.
The other matter I wish to raise relates to the proposed vote of £4,625,000 for the Northern Territory. I ask the Minister to take urgent action to ensure the completion of a new court house at Darwin. In 1947, three naval huts were adapted for court purposes as a temporary expedient. This was in a town which is in the tropics. The Public Works Committee has recommended that the building of a new court house be proceeded with at speed. When I visited the Territory during the recess as a member of the parliamentary delegation, I had an opportunity to inspect this old building. It is like Senator Vincent’s post office at Yalgoo. It is completely decrepit. I do not think we should underestimate the importance of the legal and judicial work that is done in Darwin. I had an opportunity of conversing with the Chief Justice. Observing the crimson robes in his cupboard, I said to him, “ I don’t suppose you get much opportunity to wear the crimson and ermine robes up here. I don’t suppose there is much serious crime “. The Chief Justice told me that there had been 42 murder trials in Darwin in the past seven years, which is a greater number than any Supreme Court judge in the southern States has heard. Oddly enough, there was a murder in Darwin the night before we left, but there was no proof that it was connected in any way with our delegation.
One other matter that I would like to raise relating to the Northern Territory is the possibility of giving to the coppermining and base metal-mining industriesin the Territory some assistance of the kind that is given to gold-mining. For example, at Tennant Creek the Pekoe copper mines produce approximately £2,000,000 worth of copper a year, and most of the power used in Tennant Creek is produced at this copper mine, but there is a primage duty of approximately £250 a month on the diesel fuel used to work the mine and to provide power for the mine. This mine produces gold only incidentally. If it were primarily a gold mine it would be entitled to a refund of the amount of primage paid, but the provision does not apply to copper mines. This is typical of the assistance which could be given by the Government to the mining industry in this area.
There is an urgent need that the work force in the Northern Territory should be increased and made stable. The best way to do this is to grant income tax concessions on a sliding scale. I suggest, for example, an exemption of £500 a year for employees - not employers - for the first year, increasing, say, by an additional concession of £300 for each additional year until the position was stabilized in the fifth year at about £1,700. That may seem a very large sum of money, but despite all forms of propaganda to the contrary, I think we must concede that living conditions in the Northern Territory are not nearly as attractive as they are in the south. Unless some step of this nature is taken to persuade people to make permanent homes in the Territory, this area, which is important to the defence and economic development of Australia, will be neglected.
.- Over a period of years, any dealings I have had with the Repatriation Department have always been very cordial. The department applies Government policy, and I pay a tribute to the departmental officers. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) has always been very sympathetic and courteous.
I should like to say a few words regarding Senator Mattner’s plea for recognition of the needs of diggers of the first world war. These men are becoming old, and the least that a grateful country could do would be to alter the practice whereby they are excluded automatically from repatriation hospitals unless they are able to establish that their infirmity or incapacity is the result of a war injury. Not only would Senator Mattner’s proposal have the support of the Opposition in both Houses of Parliament, but it would be unanimously acclaimed throughout the length and breadth of Australia. It is the least we can do. I also believe that the means test should be lifted from the first world war ex-serviceman, so that he may obtain the age pension on reaching 60 years of age. That would be a generous gesture, because not all of these men are able to cope fully with the problems of old age, having suffered the early disadvantage of fighting under the conditions that existed during the first world war.
Having said that, I should like to join forces with Senator Sandford. I believe that Senator Sandford touched on a very important matter when he spoke of the recent case that was put forward from this side of the Senate for increased pensions. During the debate on the bill, the Minister said that the Returned Servicemen’s League had submitted a plan to him, which was being considered. He also argued at length that the ex-servicemen were getting the full benefit of the 25s.” a week that was paid, but the Minister would not admit that many of them would be excluded from social service payments by the application of the means test. I think that both old and young diggers throughout the length and breadth of Australia will be very heartened by the stand that is being taken at the present time by the president of the New South Wales branch of the R.S.L., Mr. Yeo. He is breaking through the “ knights’ brigade “, the federal executive of the R.S.L. Over the years quite a number of knighthoods have been conferred on the top brass of the R.S.L., ostensibly because these men have been vigilant in watching the interests of the ex-servicemen. Unfortunately, because of its close liaison with the Government, the R.S.L. is fast becoming a sounding board for the Liberal party, and on many occasions has become a political cell of the Liberal party.
– That is a very disruptive statement to make about a body such as the R.S.L.
– I will expand my statement. I feel that Mr. Yeo has broken through this iron curtain, and rank-and-file ex-servicemen throughout Australia will show their admiration of his stand by taking a greater interest in the R.S.L. from now on. The membership of the R.S.L. is falling off. Attendances at meetings are becoming less for the simple reason that it is felt that the R.S.L. is just a nice, big social organization that is playing kiss-in-the-ring with the Government-
– Order! I ask Senator O’Byrne to keep to the point he is debating.
– 1 am debating the Repatriation Department and the payment of pensions. In 1950, the first year a plan was presented, the service pension was £2 10s., the basic rate was £3 10s., the total and permanent incapacity pension was £7, and the basic wage was £7 2s. At the present time, the service pension has increased by 105.8 per cent., the basic rate by 86 per cent., the total and permanent incapacity pension by 107 per cent., and the basic wage by 100 per cent. The Government has capitalized on the pension for totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen because that is the pension that has the greatest appeal, but 200,000 war pensioners have been completely disregarded in the preparation of the Estimates that we are discussing now. I wish to support Mr. Yeo. I believe that he has got something. I think that the “ Diggers “ of this country are really behind him, and that there should be a big re-organization in the R.S.L. The advice sought by the Minister and given by the R.S.L. federal executive has been just nice, little pansy stuff. Mr. Yeo said -
The N.S.W. Branch felt that for the past few years the Federal Executive had been lacking in its approach. It had been too prone to accept something that had been given by the Government and then apologize.
That is the opinion of the New South Wales branch, the branch with the greatest membership. I have heard this matter discussed in the R.S.L. clubs and round the country. The New South Wales branch has pointed out that 17,000 men are still waiting for war service homes, that the maximum advance of £2,750 for a war service home is too little, and that the total amount that is being made available for war service homes for the current year is too small, although the Minister was able to satisfy a few of the bold knights in Hobart that an extra £5,000,000 would be sufficient.
I believe that over the years the R.S.L. has held the confidence of its members because it has been prepared to fight for them. This “ kiss-in-the-ring “ business is no good. The lead that has been given by Mr. Yeo is an admirable one. As he said, the increases in. war pensions are a joke. That is a rather sweeping statement, but when it is analysed it is found to be true. He said that these increases were merely a sop and a joke so far as the R.S.L. was concerned. We said the very same thing, in effect, during the debate on the amending bill in the Senate recently, but the Minister had his set replies and what purported to be a list of the demands of the R.S.L.
Where did those demands come from? They came from the federal executive, and I have yet to see one member of that executive who has anything but Liberal sympathies.
– They are all elected by the members.
– Their statements are produced as justification for claiming that the needs of all ex-servicemen have been satisfied. Ex-servicemen all along the line are trying to get justice for themselves.
Order! I direct the honorable senator’s attention to the fact that what the R.S.L. does has no relation to the item we are discussing. We are discussing an item of expenditure.
– I want to discuss now the Department of Territories. First, I refer to the completion of a new hospital at Port Moresby. Some years ago, after I had made a visit to the native hospital at Ela Beach, I raised in the Senate the matter of the total inadequacy of hospital services there. I directed the attention of the Senate to the fact that the room that was being used as a morgue was also used as a meat safe. The primitive natives who were brought down from the hills for treatment in the hospital brought all members of their families into the hospital with them. They were crowded in together, and conditions were absolutely appalling. I think It is on record in “ Hansard “ that I said I felt more depressed at the sight of that hospital at Ela Beach than I had felt in some of the Nazi prison camps. Fortunately, those conditions have been improved and the new hospital at Port Moresby has been completed. I hope that the Administration will proceed with the erection of a wing for Europeans.
I also drew attention to the Lae hospital where I saw that the sisters - wonderful women - after bathing people had to empty the bath tubs on the floor and paddle round in their sandals in the bath water. Those conditions still prevail, and I hope that they will be rectified. I trust that the Government will bear these things in mind. The native hospital at Kokopo, near Rabaul, could be described as a real eye-opener. It is in a disgraceful state of disrepair. It keeps standing only because it cannot make up its mind which way to fall. Senator Vincent’s description of the Yalgoo post office in Western Australia certainly applies to this hospital.
I also raise the matter of the head tax in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. As we have a mandate for New Guinea, it is the responsibility of the Senate to watch closely the policy of the Administration. 1 join issue with Dr. Gunther, a man whom I admire and respect very much indeed, who has been one of the pioneers for Papua and New Guinea. He tried to justify the imposition of the poll tax of £2 a head by saying it was an excellent way for census officers to make close contact with the natives when going through the villages.- He said that at present these officers jus counted heads, but if they had the task of collecting £2 a head, the natives would argue and object, and in that way the patrol officers who were taking the census would make closer contact with them. I think that was an appalling thing for Dr. Gunther to say. In the first place, even though it might be economically sound for the Administration to collect £2 a head, it would not be morally or psychologically sound. These natives are used to dealing in so many knives, so many pigs, or so many shiny things. When they get a few pounds, they will not hand them over cheerfully to the Administration on demand. I agree with Bishop Strong, the Bishop of Papua and New Guinea, who said -
We know very well that there are many members of the indigenous race who will be able to afford to pay such a tax as they can afford to pay a higher tax imposed by village councils, but there are many men in villages or on the coast who cannot afford to pay it, and it is no good saying to them, “ You have to pay. Go out and get it and work for it “. These villages are already denuded of their man-power because nearly all the men have gone away to work, and it is the responsibility of the Administration to see that no more men go away from these villages if we are to uphold the sanctity of the village life in this territory.
Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Senator COOPER (Queensland - Minister for Repatriation) 15.441. - I want to reply, in just a few words, to as many honorable senators as possible. Quite a number of honorable senators on both sides mentioned the provision of £72,500 for the National Fitness Council. As Senator Arnold has said, this amount has been granted for some years. I have a very great sympathy and admiration for this national fitness set-up. As a matter of fact, Senator Arnold and 1 were members of the Social Security Committee when the first reasonable grant to the national fitness movement was made by the Commonwealth, and I have followed its activities since that time. I think the movement receives a reasonable grant, in view of the fact that other organizations such as the Boy Scouts, the Girl Guides, church organizations and youth movements have to depend on voluntary helpers and the generosity of the public.
The national fitness movement receives quite a tidy sum, which is allocated equitably between the States. New South Wales and Victoria receive slightly more than the other States. Tasmania gets roughly the same amount as Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. This matter is one for consideration by the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) and the Cabinet, but as there has been so much talk about it during the consideration of the relevant item, I shall bring it to the notice of the Minister for Health.
Senator Cameron, Senator McManus and Senator Mattner have referred to the number of applications for telephone services that is outstanding. It is a fact that a considerable number of applications for telephone services is outstanding, but the lag is being overtaken. Each year the number outstanding is getting less. I am informed that it is expected that the increased provision for this item of expenditure will enable an all-time record number of subscribers to be provided with service during the current year. The department has organized its resources to ensure that the results will be outstanding, and in spite of the greater number of applications for telephone services now being received, it is anticipated that a further substantia] reduction will be made in the number of applicants awaiting service. Special attention will be given to rural areas, where adequate communication services are so vital, and it is expected that 140 new rural automatic exchanges will be brought into service during 1957-58, compared with 75 in 1956-57. .
asked a question concerning the provision of £2,010,000 for war service land settlement under Division
No. 242. This amount will provide (a) the Commonwealth contribution towards writing off the excess costs of the acquisition and development of properties (b) administrative costs of providing credit facilities; (c) interest and rent remission during the period of assistance; (d) living allowances to settlers; (e) costs of operation and maintenance; and (f) the Commonwealth contribution towards the writing off of losses on advances to settlers. The funds provided under Division 242 are used for settlers in all States.
asked a question about the extensions to the Burnie Post Office. I am informed that the extensions are being constructed in stages. One stage has been completed, and the provision of additional letter box facilities has been included in next year’s programme.
asked a question about the picturegram service. The department has carefully reviewed this service, and proposals are in hand to adjust charges in order to bring them into line with present day costs.
Senator Cooke referred to the commercial accounts of the Postmaster-General’s Department. I am informed that those accounts are now being audited by the Auditor-General’s staff. This is the first time for many years that a full audit has been carried out by the Auditor-General.
Senator Anderson pointed out that, in one State, not all persons who should submit themselves to X-ray examinations for tuberculosis are doing so, and he contended that those who are not X-rayed could prove a danger to other persons. The honorable senator stated that, as the Commonwealth is providing the money, it should ensure that the scheme operates 100 per cent. I inform Senator Anderson that the enforcement of compulsory X-rays is a matter for the State concerned. However, I shall direct the attention of the Minister for Health to the honorable senator’s remarks.
The honorable senator also referred to the fact that beds are vacant in the tuberculosis hospital at Waterfall in New South Wales. He inquired about the amount of expenditure in that State in 1956-57, and the estimated expenditure in 1957-58. I inform him that £989,576 was expended on capita] works for tuberculosis hospitals in New South Wales in 1956-57. The estimated cost of such works in the State this year is £822,000, which is a reduction of £167,576 compared with last year. The estimate for 1957-58 is for the programme envisaged by New South Wales, and includes approved projects some of which were not completed during 1956-57.
Senator Mattner criticized the quality of television programmes. I point out to the honorable senator that when we are discussing television programmes we should not lose sight of the fact that our services are only a few months old. In that time, the stations have put up a very creditable performance, but none of us would pretend that there is no room for improvement. As the stations gain in experience and financial resources, better programmes are to be expected. All imported films are subject to censorship by the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board, in accordance with standards determined by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I invite honorable senators to read the board’s comments on television programmes in its annual report for the year ended 30th June, 1957, which I recently tabled in this chamber.
asked when the Commonwealth proposes to pay the additional hospital benefit. It is proposed that the additional benefit of 8s. a day - making a total of 12s. a day - will operate from 1st January, 1958. The increased rate applies to persons contributing for benefits of 16s. a day or more.
– I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that some attention be given to the order of calling honorable senators. Although I do not suggest that I have been intentionally overlooked, I have found myself completely “ snookered “ by the black. I fully appreciate that you, personally, and the Temporary Chairmen, endeavour to give all honorable senators a fair go, but I am in a somewhat difficult position. I have risen several times, but apparently I was not noticed by the then occupant of the chair.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Perhaps I should make it clear that my system of calling is quite definite. I call, alternately, an honorable senator on one side, and an honorable senator on the other side. I refuse to regard the rising of a Minister as a call given to one side, bceause he rises in order to answer questions that have been raised from both sides. When the call is due to be given to one side, I look down the list of names of those who have already spoken, and those who have spoken do not receive another call until others who have not had a call are afforded an opportunity to speak.
– I am only pointing out that I am at somewhat of a disadvantage when seeking the call. I want to make some reference to the matter raised by Senator O’Flaherty - the hospital and medical fund contributions that have to be paid, in addition to taxes, by people who wish to insure themselves against the costs of sickness. I point out that if a person is on the basic wage, without dependants, who now pays more than £1 a week in tax, and wishes to be fully covered for hospital and medical benefits he is compelled to join a medical benefits fund and a hospital benefits fund at a cost of ls. 6d. a week for coverage by each - a total of £7 16s. a year - increasing those contributors’ costs to £60 a year for social services, in the form of tax. I point out that there are many cases in my experience and, doubtless, in the experience of honorable senators on the Government side, in which complaints are made about the treatment received by contributors to such funds in New South Wales and other States after they make their claims for benefit from the funds. My remarks refer particularly to the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia. Often a contributor is informed that, because there is evidence that at the time he joined the fund there were in existence symptoms of the disease or complaint from which he is suffering, his application for benefits - to which he is entitled and for which he has paid by his contributions to the fund - is disallowed. The only benefit he receives is 4s. a day Commonwealth benefit, paid through the fund.
Another matter which has been brought under my notice, and which no doubt has come under the notice of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), the Minister for Health (Dr. Cameron), and other Ministers, concerns a report in the press recently that some doctors are forming themselves into companies in order to avoid taxation. I wonder whether the Government is interested in that matter, and whether any action is being taken to deal with it. Surely some action can be taken to see that doctors, who reap so much revenue as a result of the benevolent attitude of the Menzies-Fadden Government towards medical benefits organizations controlled by the medical profession, pay their just share of taxes. The Government should ensure that doctors do not avoid meeting their tax commitments by forming themselves into companies. 1 wish to revert now to a reference I made in regard to the use of Australian artists on television. The statement of the Minister in reply to my remarks on this subject is completely misleading, as is shown by figures that I have here regarding the percentage of Australian programmes in broadcasts by various television stations during August. The percentages are as follows: - Quiz programmes - ABN, 2.9 per cent.; ABV, 10.1 per cent. Australianproduced drama - ABN, 11 per cent.; ABV, 10.1 per cent.; ARN, . 9 per cent.; TCN, nil; GTB, nil; and HSB, nil.
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes at present before the Chair has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Department of National Development.
Proposed Vote, £1,348,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of
Proposed Vote, £518,000.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed Vote, £9,807,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of the Treasury.
Proposed Vote, £450,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– I wish to direct attention to the proposed vote for the Department of National Development and to the provision that is to be made for the Bureau of Mineral Resources. Last year, the vote for the bureau was £604,500 and actual expenditure was £586,241. The proposed vote for the bureau this year is £812,000. I take this opportunity to direct attention to the valu able part that has been played by the Bureau of Mineral Resources, at the request of the Commonwealth Government, in an intense search for oil in Australia. The Government has made provision in the current Budget for the expenditure of about £500,000 this year to help companies to search for oil on a £l-for-£l basis. 1 believe that that search is absolutely vital to the interests of Australia. 1 congratulate the Government upon making this money available.
After the Budget was introduced, I asked in the Senate what help was to be given by the Bureau of Mineral Resources in the search for oil in Australia. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) informed me that the Government had provided a further amount of £500,000 to be spent by the bureau on that search. I commend the Government for taking these steps, but I remind honorable senators that this matter is most urgent. It is absolutely vital that we find oil in Australia within the next few years because of the tension in the Middle East, and for that reason, I believe that we should take additional steps to assist the companies engaged in the search for oil. That search could be intensified if the Government would encourage the companies by allowing specific tax concessions to those that are searching for oil in Australia and in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
– Tax concessions on their profits?
– There are no profits in the search for oil in Australia.
– Upon what would you impose the tax then?
– If the honorable senator will remain silent, I will develop my argument. Many companies prospecting for oil in Australia have to obtain their capital from Australian residents. Major overseas organizations are searching for oil in Australia and in New Guinea also and they are allowed tax concessions by the country in which they are registered on money that they expend here. Those companies have already found oil in other parts of the world and their incomes vary from a few millions to many millions of pounds. To them, money expended on the search for oil is just another expense out of their profits and is a deductible concession.
The picture is totally different for Australian companies or companies which have a proportion of Australian capital. Under our taxation laws, shareholders are not allowed a tax deduction in respect of moneys paid on application and allotment of shares or on calls made from time to time. I believe that that is where we are wrong. I have known cases in which overseas companies interested in the search for oil have been supported by Australian companies which have subscribed 20 per cent, of the total capital. The Australian capital is subscribed to 20 per cent., and any further calls must be subscribed to the major company in that proportion. After a year or two when further capital is needed, the major company approaches the shareholding company which is financed by Australian capital and asks for another £200,000 as its share of new capital totalling £1,000,000 which it requires. The small company replies that it is unable to raise the money in Australia from its subscribers, and suggests that the major company take a bigger proportion of the returns when oil is found. In that way, I have seen the Australian interest in some companies decline from 20 per cent, to 10 per cent, or less.
A terrific search for oil is proceeding in Western Australia now. A company, named Western Australian Petrol and Oils Limited and known as Wapet, is operating in the search for oil. The subscribers are Ampol Exploration Limited, 70 per cent, of whose capital is owned by Ampol Petroleum Limited, and Texas Oil Limited, which owns some 80 per cent, of the capital of Wapet. We know that when oil was first found in Western Australia at Learmonth, share values in Ampol Exploration rose from 5s. to £8 15s. or £9. Now, because no more oil has been found, the price of the shares has dropped to 8s. 9d. although an intense search is still proceeding. If oil is not found in Western Australia, that particular company will find great difficulty in getting its shareholders to subscribe additional capital. I am not suggesting for a moment that additional capital will be difficult to find this year or, possibly, next year, but if we do not find oil in Western Australia through the efforts of this company within the next two years and additional capital is required by Wapet, we will find that Ampol Exploration Limited, whose capital has been totally subscribed by Australians, will have great difficulty in keeping its equity of 20 per cent, in the company concerned.
The Government could well look into the possibility of giving tax concessions to people who subscribe capital in this risky business of finding oil in Australia. I believe that that is the only way we will be able to keep the interests of Australians in the search for oil in our country. I think it is now three years since oil was found. There is no doubt that we have oil. I have seen oil running out of the bore at Learmonth, but the flow is not sufficient for production in commercial quantity. That is the opinion of the company concerned. Its technicians have drilled eight or nine holes in a circle within a few miles of the original strike, but they have not yet been able to find oil in sufficient quantity. They have been very sincere in their endeavours to find oil; there is no more sincere company operating in Australia.
– Were you sincere, too?
– I would not think that Senator Benn is too sincere, but that does not matter much. This company is sincere in its desire to find oil. Ridiculous statements have been made by honorable senators opposite. One of them said that the oil companies are out to take down the public. Nothing could be more ludicrous. I was so disgusted with that honorable senator that I do not propose to mention his name. We must go ahead with the search for oil in Australia because it is so important to our interests. We are aware of the tension that exists in the Middle East, and we know that if a war should break out in that area our oil supplies could be severely restricted, even to the extent of necessitating rationing again. After the experience of rationing during the regime of the Labour government, which could not get rid of rationing, a similar state of affairs should be avoided. The answer to the problem is that the Government should make the climate right for people in Australia to risk the capital that is needed to help these companies continue their search for oil. They are keen in looking for oil in Australia and wo should encourage them. Therefore, the Government should consider granting a tax exemption for a period of three years in respect of share allotments and calls. 1 have referred to the excellent job that has been done by the Bureau of Mineral Resources and the part it has played in the search for oil in Australia. The Government should make additional finance available to the bureau so that its resources of man-power and technical equipment may be increased.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I refer to the proposed vote for the Department of the Treasury. The total sum needed for the current financial year is estimated at £9,807,000. Last year the sum of £9,276,000 was voted. When we deal with the Treasury in a debate of this kind we invariably think of taxation. The honorable senator who has just spoken has asked for a tax concession for oil companies operating in Western Australia. Perhaps he thinks that only companies in that State should be granted such concessions. We know that every mushroom company in Australia sets out to obtain tax concessions, and leaves to individuals, the ordinary citizens of the Commonwealth, the task of making good through sales tax, excise duty and other taxes the sums which the Treasury requires for all its purposes.
I turn to the subject of uniform taxation, which was introduced during the war years. It has been said that during that period the States yielded to the Commonwealth their rights to collect income tax. Many people in the community will say that it required a war of the magnitude of World War II. to force the States to yield any of their powers to the Commonwealth. Uniform taxation operates in rather a peculiar way in Australia. I invite honorable senators to imagine six or seven governments, each having some sovereign rights at least, and one of them in particular - the National Government - having the sole right to collect income tax. The other governments say, “ Under our sovereign powers, we have the right of collecting income tax also “. Nobody argues that particular point because, as a matter of fact, the States have that right. Now and again a conflict arises between the Commonwealth and the State governments in respect of that right and when it becomes very hot, the Commonwealth says, quite diplomatically, “ Well we are quite prepared to hand you back your taxing rights. You can have them at any time “. But when the Commonwealth says to the State governments, “ Make your offer. What are your suggestions?” we find that some of the States will not advance a solid argument why they should have their taxation rights restored. As a matter of fact, some of the States do not want their taxing rights back. There has been litigation on one point. Only recently, the Victorian Government went to court and obtained a decision on its position in regard to taxation, and some people in the community thought that the decision was favorable to the Victorian Government. But what do we find? Victoria will be no better off, and there is to be no change. A good deal of propaganda is indulged in by the various States when they speak of uniform taxation. I know, of my own knowledge, that if the Queensland Government were to be handed back its taxing rights to-morrow the citizens of Queensland would be required to pay a greater sum in taxes than they are paying now under uniform taxation, and the people of some of the other States would be in a similar position.
I have no doubt that the Victorians will say, “ Why should Victorian taxpayers have to pay more than their due, and thus subscribe to the revenue of other States? “ The point I want to make is that we are dealing with a national problem and that the people who are more favorably situated, such as the people of Victoria, should be prepared to look at this matter from a national viewpoint and to say, “ Well, if that is the situation, we are quite content to remain under this system of uniform taxation “. I know that we shall have uniform taxation while we have a Commonwealth Government. There may be some doubt in the minds of the people about the future of the satellite that has been circling the earth, but there is no doubt in my mind about the future of uniform taxation.
One of the matters associated with uniform taxation is the formula which has been adopted over the years to permit the
States to receive their share of income tax by way of reimbursement. If there is any fault at all in the system of uniform taxation it surely must lie in the formula which has been in operation for a number of years. Perhaps now is the time to have it reviewed. If that were done it might be found that some of the less populous States were entitled to receive more than they are receiving now. I think that the formula should be reviewed from time to time. It is time that the various interests in the States discarded their antagonism to uniform taxation. They should accept the fact that it is permanent and decide to abide by its requirements.
You may recall, Mr. Chairman, that recently an honorable senator asked whether there was anything seriously wrong in the Estimates overstating the requirements of the departments. In other words, he wanted to know whether it was wrong for a department to over-estimate its financial requirements for the year. That was a pertinent question, and it is one that flits through our minds from time to time. However, we need give it little consideration to see what the result would be if all the departments claimed more than the amount to which they were justly entitled, having regard to their expenditure commitments. It is only necessary to increase the Estimates by 1 per cent, to see what a huge sum that would add to the total.
The sum that is covered by these Estimates must come from taxation. There must be some form of taxation to give the various departments of the Commonwealth the money that they require for their legitimate purposes. Let me refer briefly to some of the amounts that will be collected by means of taxation this year. As we know, there are two types of taxation - direct and indirect. By way of indirect taxation, this year the Commonwealth Government will obtain the following sums of money: From customs £74,200,000; from excise, £231,090,000; and from the sales tax, £129,500,000; making a total of £434,790,000. From direct taxation, the Government proposes to collect the following sums; by way of income tax, from individuals, £465,050,000; from public and private companies operating in the Commonwealth, including oil companies, £210,000,000; from pay-roll tax, £50,500,000; from estate duty, £14,200,000; and from death duty, £2,100,000, making a total of £741,850,000.
If we go through the Estimates, we can ascertain where all the money goes. Now and again, of course, we find that an officer who is responsible for preparing the estimates for his department, is very conscientious and solicitous of the welfare of that department. The officers are very loyal to their departments, and sometimes they estimate that they will need more than they in fact require. Then, of course, the Public Accounts Committee comes on the scene and the officer concerned is told just what his estimate should have been. The Estimates have to be as accurate as possible for the reason that, at the end of the financial year, all sums in excess of expenditure have to go back to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. As honorable senators know, the Treasury controls three major funds - the Consolidated Revenue Fund, the Loan Fund and the Trust Fund. If officers of the various departments over-estimate their financial requirements, there will be no end of confusion.
When I was speaking on the Budget: recently, I referred to a certain sum of money that had gone out from the Treasury to the War Services Homes Division for the purpose of constructing war service homes, and an honorable senator said, by way of interjection, “ Surely you are not so naive as to believe that the Government is not paying interest on the sums that it is lending for this purpose? “ I did not stop then to explain the situation, but I take the opportunity to do so now. The Commonwealth does not pay one penny interest on the £35,000,000 that it makes available to the division, for the reason that the £35,000,000 comes from the Consolidated Revenue Fund and goes to the States. No interest is payable, but the Commonwealth gets a return by way of interest on the amounts that are lent for war service homes purposes.
Honorable senators will see that £18,000,000 is shown in the Estimates as the proposed vote for the Snowy Mountains Authority, and other sums approximating that amount have gone to the authority in other years. The Treasury is a business department of the Commonwealth. It does not merely transfer £18,000,000 to the Snowy Mountains Authority and say to it,
*” There you are. Proceed with your developmental work and all will be well “. Not on your life! The Treasury says, “ There is your money. The rate of interest is such-and-such “. Interest is being charged on money provided to the Snowy Mountains Authority; it has been charged ever since money was first made available to the authority, and it will continue to be charged.
I have only about a minute of my time (eft.
Government supporters. - Hear, hear!
– I know that honorable senators opposite do not like the hard facts that I put before them. As I said during my speech on the Budget, there are two things in which the Government excels. One is in the collection of money by way of taxation and in other ways, and the other is in spending the money that it collects. It has a glorious record in both fields.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I refer to Division 48, Taxation Branch, for which a vote of £7,802,000 is sought. I shall voice a word of praise for this branch and also offer some advice. I congratulate the ministerial head of the branch, Sir Arthur Fadden, the present Treasurer. He has done a grand job for Australia. He has brought down a number of successful budgets and has administered the Department of the Treasury as no other Treasurer of recent years has administered it.
I have in my hand the thirty-fifth report of the Commissioner of Taxation. In that report there are some most interesting and revealing statistics. Over the last five years, an average of 140,000 new income tax returns have been lodged each year, but during that period the staff of the Taxation Branch has been reduced from 7,238 to 7,094. That is a great tribute to the efficiency of the branch. I admit that machinery has been introduced, but a considerable co-ordination of procedures has taken place. The report to which I have referred deals with that aspect of the branch’s activities.
Senator Benn said that government departments tend to over-estimate their revenue earnings, but that has not occurred in the Taxation Branch. It may interest the committee to know that in the year 1954-55 an amount of £360,000,000 was collected in income tax on individuals. The amount collected differed from the estimate by only 1.2 per cent. Pay-roll tax collections amounted to £42,000,000, and the variation between the amount collected and the amount estimated was i per cent. The most amazing piece of accurate estimating occurred in the year 1956-57, when the amount of income tax collected was £401,000,000 and the variation between the collection and the estimate was i per cent. Those figures give the lie direct to any charge of inaccurate estimating by the Taxation Branch.
The Auditor-General made some interesting references to the Taxation Branch in his report. One such reference was that the amount of income tax outstanding at 30th June last year was £53,000,000, the arrears having been reduced from £57,000,000 during the year. Five years ago the amount of income tax outstanding at the end of the fiscal year was £186,000,000. There again, I think the Taxation Branch has shown great skill. It has treated as most important the objective that there shall not be a large amount of unpaid taxes at the end of a financial year. It is well known that if taxes have not been collected, a government must make temporary financial arrangements, which is a bad thing for any government to do. From my investigations, I believe that the Taxation Branch is very efficient.
I should like to praise the branch for sending officers to country areas during the months of July and August to help the smaller taxpayers to compile their income tax returns. This service is being extended as the years go by. I praise the branch also for making early refunds, especially to people on salaries.
I wish to criticize one aspect of procedure. In the past, when prosecutions were launched against tax defaulters - I have no complaint about that - the cases were usually heard in a court in the town nearest to where the defendant resided. A tendency has grown up lately to channel such prosecutions of people in South Australia mainly through the police court in Adelaide, with the result that the defaulting taxpayers, if they wish to offer an explanation to the court, have to make a journey lasting sometimes a couple of days. I should like prosecutions to be launched if possible, in the police court nearest to where a defendant resides, so that he will have an opportunity to make a personal explanation to the magistrate without being involved in considerable loss of time and expense due to travelling. I think it has been the practice of most Commonwealth departments, whether it be in the matter of nonpayment of wireless licence-fees or, in days gone by, breaches of the national security regulations, to prosecute in the police court nearest to where the defendant resides. I should like to see that practice resorted to by the Taxation Branch.
Taxation research should be a subject always uppermost in the minds of those controlling the Taxation Branch. It is interesting to note, in passing, that under this year’s budget concessional allowances for dependants have been increased; that parentsinlaw and adopted children may be treated as dependants for this purpose; that the income level of which the age allowance applies has been raised, that the scope of institutions, gifts to which are deductible items, has been widened; that the rate of company taxation has been reduced; and that allowances for depreciation have been liberalized. All those are, I submit, steps in the right direction. However, I feel there is still considerable scope for research at the top level by the Taxation Branch.
The Tariff Board, in 1956, issued a very interesting report in which it devoted great attention to taxation measures which it felt were impairing the commercial health of the country. The first matter to which the board referred was the payroll tax and the second was the need for depreciation allowances for industry. Admittedly, some slight assistance has been given in the present budget in the matter of the pay-roll tax and depreciation allowances, but that was an instance of the Tariff Board conducting research into taxation matters, while, as far as I know, no equivalent research was being undertaken by the Taxation Branch. I should like an assurance from the Minister that taxation research will be conducted by the Taxation Branch and that the reports will be brought to the Parliament where they can be debated. In a great trading country like Australia, taxation research is of tremendous importance.
It is high time that the income tax legislation was overhauled. I have mentioned before, but I shall do so again, that the Income Tax and Social Services Contributions Assessment Act was passed in 1936. Then it had 266 sections which were printed on 81 pages. To-day, the act still contains only 266 sections, but they cover 236 pages. The average section is three times as long as before. Section 221 spreads over 28 pages of print. It will be appreciated, therefore, that we have not an act of which this Parliament may feel proud but a thing of shreds and patches, as it were, a patched up thing three times its original size, and this, of course, with great hurt to the English language in the process. I suggest that the time has arrived for a complete overhaul of this very important act of this Parliament.
I submit that the 1936 act was the result of the Ferguson Royal Commission on Taxation, and here we have, twenty years afterwards, the same act but three times its original size. The time has arrived for a complete review of the structure of the Income Tax Assessment Act by a body outside this Parliament. The whole face of this nation has changed in the last 21 years. From being mainly a primary producing country, Australia is now an industrialized and great trading nation. For that reason I feel that the whole structure of this act should be reviewed. I commend to the committee the vote of £7,802,000 for the Taxation Branch.
– In addressing myself to the proposed vote for the Department of the Treasury I find that the estimated expenditure is approximately £500,000 greater than the amount sought last year. Although Senator Laught has commended the reduction in staff in this department, it does not appear that it is expected that the number will be reduced during the coming year. Let me emphasize that I do not argue that the staff is not necessary but I do point out that whatever temporary reduction has taken place it would seem now that it has been found necessary to budget this year for an increase in staff and certainly for a tremendously increased expenditure.
Take the Budget and Accounting Branch as an example. I notice that the Government is budgeting for two extra Chief
Finance Officers and a Senior Finance Officer and that the amount sought is £32,000 as against £24,000 for last year. So we have an additional £8,000 for what appear to be three extra officers. I suppose there is an explanation for that, and I hope the Minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Spooner, gives it to us.
When we examine the Advertising Division, which seems to have sprung into prominence, we find that the staff has grown from one in 1956-57 to two officers and three typists this year and that the estimated expenditure has increased from £2,544 in 1956-57 to £6,120 for this year. Apparently something is moving there, and I am wondering what it is.
Generally, the increases in the various sections of the departments under review have been comparatively minor, but 1 should like to know something about the two particular sections I have mentioned. I note, also, an estimated increase of 50 in the staff in the Income Tax Sections of both New South Wales and Victoria in the coming year while in Western Australia, where the Government derives substantial revenue, the work has been carried on very efficiently with an almost static staff.
I should like to draw attention to the reference in the Auditor-General’s report to the under-expenditure of appropriation by £34,499,000. In view of the Government’s assertion that what we now know as the “ Little Budget “ was justified during that year, I suggest that the fact that this huge sum has been underspent indicates that there has been some bad estimating of what would be required. I think the Minister should be able to give us some explanation on that point.
I should like an explanation from the Minister also of the reference in the Auditor-General’s report to the expenditure under the heading “ Advance to the Treasurer “. Examination of this vote has been a hardy annual and the explanation given on each occasion has never seemed to be quite satisfactory.
– Order! We are not discussing the Advance to the Treasurer at the moment. That is a separate vote which does not come within the group under discussion.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman; I cannot do otherwise, but I submit that it is part of the administration of the Treasury and I suggest that because the administrative section of the Treasury has agreed to the submission of the estimated expenditures for the coming year it is quite reasonable to discuss what, in my opinion, are certain misappropriations of funds.
– Order! The vote, Advance to the Treasurer, comes in the next group of items to be discussed.
– Then I shall reserve my comments on that matter until then. At this stage, I ask for the information requested by me in connexion with the Treasury. I hope to refer to the Advance to the Treasurer later.
– I rise to refer to the Department of the Treasury and to seek some information in connexion with policy relating to the salaries of senior members of the Public Service. My examination of the estimated expenditure of the departments we have discussed this afternoon discloses differences and ! want some explanation ‘ of them. There might be quite a good explanation for them, but it appears to me that some very senior officers are drawing high salaries and enjoying good increments while others, in my judgment, after examining the staff employed under them and the turnover of the departments they administer, seem to be getting comparatively small salaries.
I refer, first, to the provision for salaries and payments for Division No. 46. lt will be seen that the senior officer of the department is to receive a salary of £6,000, which is an increase of £500 compared with last year. His department employs a staff of 7,625, and the turnover of his department, as shown by the Estimates, is in the vicinity of £10,000,000. I do not say that this salary is too high. I am in no position to judge that because I do not know what his responsibilities are, nor do I know what allowances he receives or what facilities are available to him. But when we examine the details submitted in connexion with the Department of National Development we find that the secretary of that department, who is the senior official, so far- as 1 know, receives a salary of £5,000 a year, which is £500 greater than he was paid last year. That salary might be quite all right, but my examination reveals a staff of 544 and an estimated expenditure of £2,000,000. In the light of government spending to-day, £2,000,000 does not imply a very great responsibility. Earlier we discussed the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department, and learned that the Director for the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales receives a salary of £4,100, which includes an increase of £26 a year or 10s. a week. He controls a staff of 30,084, and the estimated expenditure of that department is £34,000,000. Whilst that officer receives a salary increase of £26 a year and controls a staff of 30,084 and a departmental expenditure of £34,000,000 plus many millions of pounds on capital works, another officer who controls a staff of 544 and departmental turnover of £2,000,000, has his salary increased by £500 to £5,000. I am not implying that one officer is paid too much or another too little. That is a matter for the proper authority within the Public Service to determine; but it indicates that a closer examination is necessary to ensure that officers doing jobs involving heavier responsibilities and requiring greater capabilities than others should be given more consideration by the Government.
.- I agree with Senator Laught that an inquiry is necessary into the whole structure of taxation. Taxation is the very basis of the machinery of government. I think it is perfectly obvious that a national government would be practically helpless without the power to tax in order to give effect to a national policy. In time of war the Government perforce must take the initiative. It is not a question of relying on private enterprise which these days amounts to so much private appropriation of profits created by other people. By taking the initiative the Government can, and does, justify its existence. That was done during World War II., but the Government has never gone far enough. If it is necessary in a time of war for the Government to take the initiative in giving effect to a national policy, obviously in a time of peace the Government should act likewise. Otherwise, it becomes a national government in name only and goes only as far as private interests compel it to go. That has been the experience of governments in Australia and other countries.
We have now reached a stage in national development where something more must be done than has been done in the past. 1 have listened in vain to honorable senators opposite to give any lead at all. Senator Scott, for example, relies entirely on what he calls private enterprise which would be subsidized by a national government to do the job which the Government itself should do. That is the reverse of what should be done. If national development implies anything, it implies national control of national resources. Private enterprise in my view believes in “ catch as catch can “ government. In this country, as in other countries, city areas have become overcrowded and over-built whilst the population in rural areas has been reduced to the minimum. Yesterday Senator Scott pointed out that production in primary industries is being carried on by fewer workers than ever before. We find, therefore, as the cities become over-crowded and over-built, the national economy becomes more unbalanced with the result that national works are neglected.
In 1912, Lord Kitchener was invited to Australia to advise us in connexion with preparations for the possibility of a war. What did he advise? He advised that we should construct a uniform gauge railway from east to west. Nothing was done, and the war came in 1914 with all its inconveniences and extra costs. Then came the 1939-45 war bringing the same state of chaos and lack of national co-operation. When it was rumoured in 1943 that the Japanese were off the Western Australian coast, we had three rail gauges to contend with in moving troops and supplies to Western Australia; but again nothing was done. Now some action is proposed. The National Government should take the initiative in peace as in war. I have in mind the provision of strategic roads. At present all our roads are in chaotic disrepair. In 1939, when war broke out the Government had to organize the Allied Works Council to build roads and carry out work that should have been done years previously. Now, in 1957, we find the same state of affairs. The Government is deliberately standing still, waiting for something to happen, before it does anything.
When Senator Laught referred to the structure of taxation I thought it imperative that I should make some suggestions in that connexion. One of my suggestions is that it is necessary to have national control of banking. Private banking controls the national economy for private purposes, not for national purposes. Then I have in mind that a capital gains levy should be imposed because capital gains are not taxed. Millions of pounds in untaxed profits are being converted into fixed capital in the cities, where it is not necessary. Wages and salaries are taxed, but capital gains are not taxed. The capital takes the form of unnecessary bank buildings, unnecessary petrol stations, unnecessary palatial offices, and unnecessary palatial residences, all of which, in time of war, would be practically a sitting shot for attack from air or sea.
In spite of the experience of the past, in spite of the chaos that has been caused, and in spite of all the lives that have been lost, the Government is just as barren, just as reactionary, and just as lacking in initiative as it ever was. lt would require, again, something in the nature of a war before the Government would be prepared to take the initiative. What happened at the outbreak of the last war? Because the then government comprised men who were lacking in experience, knowledge and initiative, when the war came they were a rabble, working at cross-purposes. They could not get anywhere, with the result that a Labour government came into being with a minority in both Houses. It came into being, not because it had been elected by the people as a government should be elected, but because, in time of crisis, when important national tasks had to be undertaken, the previous government had failed. The Labour government then came into being, and remained from 1941 until 1949. At first, it was a minority government in both Houses, but subsequently it became a majority government in both Houses.
When the Australian Labour party proposed that the Commonwealth Government should control banking for the purposes of national development, not for the purpose of private profit, the scaremongers, the subsidized monopoly press, and the parties now in government said, in effect, that national control of banking would result in chaos. That was also said in the United Kingdom, but the Bank of England is under national control. Between 1910 and 1919 the late V. C. Vickers, who was then Governor of the Bank of England, stated, in effect, what I am now saying. Before the depression of the late 1920’s and early 1930’s he said that it would be necessary to have national control of banking. Subsequently, Vickers resigned from the governorship of the Bank of England. In his book, “ Economic Tribulations “, he referred to private control of banks by men whom he called “ financial gangsters “, who should be removed from that control.
In 1933 there was chaos again, due to lack of national control and lack of initiative. Mr. Montague Norman said, “ The task is beyond me. I cannot advise you “. That is what he said, in effect, at a bankers’ dinner in 1933. He could do nothing. He was honest enough to admit that he lacked the ability and knowledge to do anything. The’ agitation for national control of banking went on and to-day the Bank of England is under national control. This Government proposes to put the whole process in reverse by returning banking to private control.
– Time payment is running the banks now.
– Yes. For all practical purposes, the Government stands idly by.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- While the committee is dealing with the estimates for the Treasury I wish to offer, the view that probably the most imperative duty of the Parliament in regard to public finance is to ensure that, not only the Commonwealth Treasury, but also all State Treasuries, will immediately co-ordinate their views on the re-definition of FederalState financial relationships. The public finances of this Commonwealth are drifting, I submit, into a state of complete irresponsibility. I want to use the few minutes allowed to me to refer to developments in this matter under three heads. I want to refer first to indirect taxation, which is now a very great sum; secondly, to direct taxation, which since the uniform taxation legislation of 1942 has come to be regarded by many people as the chief, or perhaps the only factor, in this problem; and thirdly, to the loan moneys necessary for financing Commonwealth and State governments.
First, with regard to indirect taxation, we should do well to remind ourselves that, at the founding of the Constitution, customs and excise revenue was looked on as almost the exclusive source of government revenue. The founders of the Constitution thought it a sufficient constitutional guarantee to the States that they should provide, in section 87, at the instance of the Tasmanian. Sir Edward Braddon, that no more than a quarter of that revenue should be retained by the Commonwealth and that threequarters of it should be returned to the States. As we know, New South Wales forced a bargain, limiting that provision to ten years. At the end of ten years the States were left dependent upon no constitutional provision, but merely an act of Parliament whereby they were given 25s. per head of their population. But that, too, disappeared ultimately. That amount became of less value as the value of money diminished after the first world war. We found ourselves forced into a situation in which a financial agreement was, first of all, signed, and then, by vote of the people, incorporated in the Constitution. Thereafter, the only return that the States got was an undertaking by the Commonwealth to be responsible for State debts and interest charges on them. If we look at the papers before us, we will see that Commonwealth liability under that head is now of the order of £12,000,000 a year.
When this situation first arose, customs and excise revenue amounted to between £3,000,000 and £10,000,000 a year. It is now about £285,000,000 a year. In 1930 we added to customs and excise revenue, under the heading of indirect taxation, revenue from sales tax, which now amounts to about £125,000,000 a year. The Commonwealth is now collecting, by indirect taxation, about £410,000.000 a year, of which the only reimbursement constitutionally guaranteed to the States is £12,000,000 under the financial agreement. Three-quarters of the amount now raised by indirect taxation represents a much greater sum than the £12,000,000 to which I have referred.
We must, however, keep the picture from being distorted and we must recognize that the Commonwealth has undertaken responsibilities in respect of social services involving about £220,000,000 a year. We have committed ourselves to defence preparation expenditure of the order of £200,000,000 a year, and we have liabilities in the annual budget arising from past wars amounting to about £12,000,000.
So much for my brief review of indirect taxation. I now deal with direct taxation. At the founding of the Commonwealth it was contemplated that the Commonwealth Government would be excessively supplied if it received one-quarter of customs and excise revenue. As the years have gone by, the Commonwealth Parliament has found it necessary to impose income taxation which now yields about £620,000,000 a year, a pay-roll tax which yields about £48,000,000, estate duty which yields about £12,000,000, and gift duty which yields about £2,000,000. The total revenue from these direct taxes is about £680,000,000 a year. The exigencies of the second world war made it necessary for the Commonwealth to take over income taxation and make it uniform throughout Australia, so as to obtain the maximum possible yield. At that time it was found possible to introduce the system of uniform taxation by providing for reimbursement to the States at the rate of about £45,000,000 a year, but the formula that was introduced at the end of the war now gives an amount of about £154,000,000. The States are entitled to this only by virtue of a statute of this Parliament. Everybody recognizes that the amount is insufficient, and it has been the practice during the last seven years to supplement it by an amount determined by the Commonwealth Government. The supplementary grant has been of the order of £20,000,000.
The result of these arrangements is that the States have been practically superseded in respect of their main tax functions. They raise, on their own responsibility, only about one-third of their Budget revenue. The other two-thirds is paid to them by the Commonwealth - not .on the basis of any constitutional provision, but partly on the basis of a Commonwealth statute and partly by decision of the Commonwealth Government. It is not much wonder, therefore, that State political agitation these days consists mainly of blackguarding the Federal
Treasury. Whatever may be the merits of the present system, the fact is that every parliament in Australia, State and Commonwealth, is without denned financial responsibility. Having no direct definition of its responsibility, each government is able to avoid responsibility.
I know that adjustments are made on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and certain amounts are paid to the weaker States, but that is an unimportant item in the consideration of the matter that I am putting before the committee to-night.
The third source of public revenue is loans. We recall that when the increasing indebtedness of the States forced them into the Financial Agreement of 1928, the Commonwealth took over the duty of raising capital moneys by loans, as the agent for the Australian Loan Council, which consisted of representatives of the States and the Commonwealth. This aspect of the agreement would be effective only if voluntary loans raised by the Government could supply the necessary money. Whatever the causes, however, this has not been the case. In addition to providing from revenue over the last six or seven years £100,000,000 a year for its capital works, the Commonwealth has provided, between 1952 and 1957, no less than £458,000,000 for the capital works of the States.
I suggest that this situation, in which the Commonwealth Parliament becomes responsible for providing, out of revenue raised by taxation, the finance not only for its own capital works but, to a large extent, those of the States, is distorting and undermining the basis of the Financial Agreement and the Australian Loan Council. As a result, we have seen such instances of utter irresponsibility as the statement by Sir Thomas Maltby urging expenditure to the last penny, so that he would have an argument to use when he came to Canberra. It should be borne in mind also that the heavier taxes imposed on industry as a result of this policy are reflected in increased costs.
I believe, therefore, that we are faced with an urgent problem of wide scope. This Parliament would do something to solve that problem if it arranged for the Commonwealth Treasury to set up immediately a study bureau to go into the matter with a view to devising, at an early date, a scheme whereby the responsibilities of the States and the Commonwealth as to finance could be defined. The Commonwealth Treasury might confer with the States Treasuries on this subject. Until we define the financial responsibilities of each government, the people will be denied the very elements of proper representative government, because the activities of a government with regard to finance are the matters which are most readily understood by the people, and have the greatest influence on them when they exercise their votes. That is the very basis of our democracy. I therefore ask the Commonwealth Treasury to apply itself to this task, in cooperation with the State Treasuries.
– I should like to take advantage of this opportunity to reply to the points that have been made in the debate up to this stage. I propose to leave until the end of my comments reference to the analysis of the oil search programme that was made by Senator Scott, and his request to the Government to assist in various directions. I should like to deal with that matter in some detail.
Senator Benn gave a dissertation on uniform taxation and certain features of the Budget that were of interest to him. The most interesting aspect of his speech was his analysis and criticism of the Government’s financing of capital works from revenue and charging interest on the advances so made even though it paid no interest on the money. The fact that it pays no interest on moneys that are appropriated from revenue is admitted; but it would not be practicable to advance moneys to the Snowy Mountains Authority, for example, free of interest to the advantage of only two or three States. To take another example, if moneys were advanced to the War Service Homes Division free of interest, some home owners would obtain their homes on more advantageous terms and conditions than would others.
Senator Laught made a plea for the Taxation Branch to- engage in research, and requested a review of the taxation legislation. Research into taxation matters is continually being undertaken by some eighteen or twenty officers of the branch. A review of the taxation legislation would open up a very wide field. I remind Senator Laught that it was only comparatively recently that an independent committee ceased a review of the legislation, and that its work was evidenced by a series of reports that it presented.
Senator Cooke raised certain questions about the staff in sections of the Department of the Treasury. In general terms, the answer to Senator Cooke’s query is that the officers of the Advertising Division have not had a permanent classification, but have been temporary officers. They are now to be classified as permanent officers.
The reply to Senator Marriott’s query is that Cabinet accepts responsibility for fixing the remuneration of permanent heads of departments and of relating the rates to one another.
Senator Cameron supported Senator Laught in his request for an examination of the tax structure, but I think that is where the similarity of their views ended. I doubt whether Senator Laught would support the views of Senator Cameron, which seemed to me to include a suggestion that there should be a tax on capital gains and that banking should be nationalized.
Senator Wright gave a very interesting analysis of Commonwealth and State relations, and finished with a plea for the establishment of a study bureau to define responsibilities and to set the problem down in plain terms that would lead to governmental decision. I think it would be unfair to say that that is a summary of what he said, but that was his final suggestion. As I said, it was a very interesting analysis. I shall refer his remarks to the Treasury, but I shall refrain from expressing any other view on them beyond saying that at one stage, at a meeting of the Australian Loan Council, it was decided to refer to a committee of departmental officials the task of setting out a formula for a return of taxing powers to the States. The honorable senator’s proposals, as I understood them, went further than that. However, I point out that that groundwork was done at one stage, but, as we all know, the move was unsuccessful.
I refer now to Senator Scott’s suggestion that there should be special tax concessions for a period of three years to facilitate the search for oil in Australia, that governmental activity in this direction should be increased, and that the search for oil should be given very high priority in the work, not only of the Bureau of Mineral Resources, but also of all other kindred governmental bodies.
I remind Senator Scott that at the present time real tax incentives are available and that the Commonwealth already allows one-third of all moneys paid on calls by companies engaged in the search for oil as a tax concession. Moreover, the taxation legislation provides that, if the search for oil is successful, all expenses incurred in the search can be deducted from the revenue that flows from that successful search.
– Is it retrospective?
– I believe that to be so, but I should like notice of that question, because I do not know how the usual provision limiting the period in which losses can be carried forward fits into the picture. I think it is true to say that all expenses incurred in the search can be recovered if the search is successful. Of course, the big incentive is the very rich reward that comes if the search is successful. That transcends all tax concessions that may be granted.
The history of the search for oil shows that the tide ebbs and flows. As optimism rises, there is no difficulty in obtaining the money that is required. I think it may reasonably be said that the increased interest that has been evident in recent years, resulting in so many oil search company shares being at a premium, indicates that it may not be difficult to get capital for well-founded oil search programmes in the future.
There is a growing belief that geological conditions indicate that there is every possibility of discovering oil in Australia. There has been a great revival of interest in the search for oil during recent years due mainly, I think, to the basic work that has been done by the Bureau of Mineral Resources. It is estimated that approximately £50,000,000 has been spent in Australia on the search for oil, of which £28,000,000 has been spent in the last three years following a strike in Western Australia.
The possibility of finding oil in Australia turns very largely upon the continued drilling of holes. We are rather prone to overlook the fact that in the final analysis we do not get oil unless we drill the hole that eventually strikes oil. In Australia so far, we have drilled some 385 holes in the search for oil. In the Sahara Desert where recently, as honorable senators know, there was a big oil strike, some 2,000 holes were drilled before oil was found. In Alberta over a period of 30 years, some 3,000 holes were drilled. So we in Australia must not become despondent. We must not cease the search for oil because of any fit of pessimism.
The consensus of opinion is that New Guinea and Western Australia have, to the most marked degree, the sedimentary basins in which oil is likely to be found. “We are fortunate indeed that in both areas Australia has an appreciable stake in the capital of the operating companies. In New Guinea, Oil Search Limited holds 10 per cent, of the capital of the two prospecting companies. The other 90 per cent, is held by Anglo-Iranian and Standard Vacuum. The absolute need for overseas capital is illustrated by the fact that these two companies have so far spent £20,000,000 in the search for oil, and their efforts continue unabated. In Western Australia, 40 per cent, of the capital in the operating company, Western Australian Petroleum Proprietary Limited - to which Senator Scott has already referred - is held by the Texas Oil Company, 40 per cent, by the Standard Oil Company and 20 per cent, by the Australian company, Ampol Exploration Limited. By the end of 1956, Wapet had spent £12,000,000 in the search for oil, and it has appropriated £4,000,000 for its programme this year.
Honorable senators may ask what the Budget provides, and what the Commonwealth is doing this year to assist progress in this important field. I have mentioned the very real taxation incentives that have been offered. The proposed vote for aerial photography - in these days considered the very basis of surveying - is £120,000. We are giving priority to the search for oi] in the sedimentary basins. The aerial photography programme takes in an area of some 48,000 square miles of arid country where the borders of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia meet.
This year the Bureau of Mineral Resources will spend £236,830 on the search for oil -£40,790 on geological work, £79,240 on geophysical work and £116,800 on petroleum technology. The geophysical work takes the form of contract drilling, and the accompanying laboratory investigations. Petroleum technology work will include the drilling of some four or five holes, 1,500 to 2,000 feet deep, in the Canning and Carnarvon basins of Western Australia, in order to obtain geological information. Drilling is proposed in the Wallet and Muderong areas. Five hundred thousand pounds has been appropriated this year for deep stratographic drilling. Three hundred thousand pounds will be spent on subsidizing, £1 for £1, the drilling of these holes -8,000 or 10,000 feet deep - in order to gain geological information. Geologists will then be able to piece together the jigsaw puzzle, and make an estimate of the possibility of obtaining oil in given areas.
– The subsidy is not paid unless the drilling is approved?
– The highest scientific knowledge will be devoted to deciding where these test holes are to be put down. The Bureau of Mineral Resources will obviously try to have a deep hole put down in each sedimentary area. For instance, test holes may be drilled in the Gulf of Carpentaria, in Western Australia, and in every other area where oil is likely to be found.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I wish to direct my remarks to Division No. 228. - Miscellaneous Services, Department of National Development, under which £195,000 is provided for the Joint Coal Board. So that my remarks will be understood, I propose to trace briefly the origin of the Joint Coal Board. Under war-time legislation, the Commonwealth had wide powers to control the production, distribution and price of coal in Australia. After the war those powers had a somewhat limited application and, in order to ensure the maintenance of coal supplies adequate for peace-time needs, it was necessary to augment them. The Governments of the Commonwealth and New South
Wales agreed to create a joint authority with powers similar to, and in some respects wider than, those possessed under war-time legislation.
The functions of the Joint Coal Board, which was established in 1947, were - (a) to ensure that coal was produced in the State in such quantities and with such regularity as would meet requirements throughout Australia, and in trade with other countries; (b) to ensure that the coal resources of the State were conserved, developed, worked and used to the best advantage in the public interest; (c) to ensure that coal produced in the State was distributed and used in such manner, quantities, classes and grades, and at such prices - I emphasize these words - as are calculated best to serve the public interest and secure the economical use of coal and the maintenance of essential services and industrial activities; and (d) to promote the welfare of the workers engaged in the coal industry of the State.
I agree that the board has carried out all its functions except the most important one - if not for the Government then for employees who have recently lost their place in industry - namely, that of preserving the welfare of the workers. Many things have operated to bring about that state of affairs. The coal-owners approached the board seeking higher profits on coal, and when refused, they approached the MenziesFadden Administration - shortly after it had taken office. The Government’s response to their appeal has been largely responsible for bringing about the position in which we find ourselves to-day. Between 1949 and 1953 - a little over three years - the price of coal in Australia increased from 30s. a ton to 61s. a ton. In 1949, Australia had a selling advantage of 17s. a ton over the United Kingdom. An outrageous increase in price was granted by the Menzies-Fadden Administration. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) instructed that a committee be appointed and then nominated two of the three members of the committee. On the report of the committee, the Government, through the Joint Coal Board, increased the selling price net profit on coal from ls. a ton minimum, and an average of ls. 2d. to ls. 3d. a ton maximum, to 6s. a ton. In effect, that was an increase of 450 per cent, to 500 per cent, in the profits from coal.
That increase had a marked effect upon the sale of coal, not only abroad but also interstate. In addition, it contributed to inflation in this country because coal is practically fundamental to all production. Prior to the intervention of the Menzies-Fadden Administration, the Joint Coal Board determined the selling price and profit on coal. It had determined that a fair and just profit was 7i per cent, on the capital invested in the coal industry. That applied to every mine whether the coal was won by shaft, by tunnel or by open cut. In determining the fair and just profit, the board allowed for all expenses incidental to the industry, in-, eluding insurance and the fact that coal was a diminishing asset. During the war, many people responded to an appeal to invest funds in loans. Bonds were issued, but no provision was made for the possibility of a diminishing asset. If the investors had to cash their bonds before the date of maturity, they lost heavily. Yet, in the instance I have mentioned, the coal owners were protected.
By increasing the price of coal, the Government destroyed the overseas and interstate markets. In the estimates for the Joint Coal Board, £60,000 is provided for contribution to welfare fund, £84,000 for contribution to administrative costs, and £45,000 for prospecting research and other expenditure.
The last two items total £129,000. I do not think they are justified. Undoubtedly, Senator Spooner will give the usual answer that the Government got coal. It certainly did that, but it destroyed the markets with the result that over 1,000,000 tons of coal is lying at grass to-day. It will never be sold, but the taxpayers have had to pay for it.
The Joint Coal Board has outlived its usefulness. If so much coal is lying at grass, why is it necessary to expend £45,000 on prospecting and research or to contribute £84,000 to administrative costs? The Joint Coal Board should be abolished. The coalowners have been well and ably assisted by the Government in the provision of finance for mechanization and to improve production in the industry. An abundance of coal is being won to-day. Production is so high that it has had to be curtailed in mines in the north and west of New South Wales.
Many hundreds of miners have lost their employment. That is of very little concern to the Government, particularly to Senator Spooner. He would be concerned only if the profits of the coal owners fell. Many miners, particularly those who are near retiring age, have been trying to continue in the industry. They do not want to lose the rights that will accrue to them on retirement and they have been compelled to move from coal-fields in the north and west to coal-fields in the south of New South Wales. In many instances they have left their familes so that they can carry on in the industry and reap the benefits that accrue on retirement.
I ask the Minister to explain the necessity for the continuance of the Joint Coal Board, lt is obvious to everybody that it should now be abolished because it has outlived its usefulness. There is an abundance of coal and surely private enterprise is capable of continuing after the benevolent attention it has received from the Menzies-Fadden Administration!
– In referring to the proposed vote for the Treasury, I wish to mention briefly payroll tax. I ask the Government to consider either the total abolition of this tax or at least the exemption of local governing authorities. Pay-roll tax is very much like some taxes imposed by King Charles. In those days, men were infuriated by the unjust incidence of certain taxes. They rose in their wrath and blood was spilt. I do not sugest that I am going to lead any bloody revolution against taxation, but 1 feel that the imposition of pay-roll tax on local governing authorities is unjust. An elementary principle of taxation is that there should be no taxation without proper representation; but no local governing authority is represented in the Parliament. Another principle of taxation is being violated by the imposition of pay-roll tax on local governing authorities. That principle is that no person or authority should be asked to pay tax unless he has the means to pay it. A local governing authority has not the means to pay taxation, but must use money belonging to other people. Pay-roll tax, therefore, becomes a tax upon a tax and that is an unjust element in the imposition of this tax on local governing authorities.
I was at a meeting of the council of local governing authorities in Western Australia this year. About 126 local governing authorities were represented. Road boards from Wyndham and Broome in the north to Albany and Esperance in the south were represented. I assure the Minister that of all the unpopular taxes in this country, payroll tax is least accepted as being a just tax. I make a plea on behalf of local government. If the Government is considering a reduction in taxation in the next Budget, as I hope it is, will it give some priority to the exemption of local authorities from pay-roll tax?
I turn now to the proposed vote for the Department of National Development and I wish to say something about the operation of this department, particularly in relation to mining. I notice that the proposed vote for the department is increased. Nothing could please me more than that this very important department should be contemplating an increase in its activities, particularly in the exploration side of mining. It is against that background that I wish to say something with regard to mining policy.
I do not think any of us can be too happy about the present picture presented by the mining industry. I refer mainly to base metal mines and gold mines. The world prices of many minerals are dropping. The prices of copper, lead, tin, rutile, and many other metals have been dropping for some little time. World production of these metals has rapidly caught up with world consumption and base metals sell, generally speaking, at world parity. This does not greatly concern the rich, old-established mines in Australia. It does concern the newer mines that are struggling for existence. There is a big difference between a rich mine, such as Broken Hill North, and a struggling mine that is ploughing back a lot of its profit, if any, into development work and endeavouring to get ahead of the rising costs of production that are a common factor in all mining. Although Senator Spooner’s department has done more than any other department in relation to exploratory work, and although the Minister has done more than any other Minister in any government in respect of mining exploration, I feel that much more is required. There must be a new attitude towards mining in this country. At the moment this Government is prone to look at a mining proposition as something that may eventually peter out, and no consideration is being given to what will happen next.
I spoke at length the other day with regard to iron, but the same arguments apply to other base metals. Mining policy must look a long way ahead. A mine is a wasting asset, and our mining policy should not only cover existing mines but also encourage’ large-scale development mining. This country’s wealth starts from mining, tt is the basic industry of all primary industries. No primary producer can carry on without a healthy, prosperous, and growing mining industry. It is elementary 10 the nation’s economy.
In the short time available to me I wish to make one or two suggestions to the Minister, who, I know, is quite sympathetic to the suggestion that this Government should change and broaden its policy in relation to mining in order not only to assist the large mines, the established industries, but also to give much greater incentive to increase our mineral production. This country in all other respects, in all other fields of economic and industrial endeavour, is expanding rapidly. Our mining industries must expand at the same rate, otherwise we will be in trouble. But our mining industries are not expanding at the proper rate. In fact, many of them will be in trouble in the next financial year, due entirely to the declining prices of commodities. Further assistance is required from this Government.
Briefly, there are four ways whereby this assistance can be given. The first is direct assistance to mines for drilling programmes to discover new ore bodies. The second is financial assistance for capital improvements to established mines where those loans will assist the maintenance of those mines in cases where ore reserves are known to exist. The third suggestion I make is that the Government should consider the granting of awards for new discoveries. Finally this Government must give serious consideration to the taxation question. We must have a permanent depletion allowance in respect of all minerals. I know we have it in respect of most minerals, but I suggest that that allowance must be made permanent, lt is not permanent at the moment, and that is a big. quarrel I have with our taxation policy in relation to mining.
No mining company can plan for the future on a long-term basis if it does not know what taxation policy it has to face. I suggest that our depletion allowance, which is an important one, must be made permanent. It must be at least a 331 per cent, allowance to enable mining companiesto plan for the future on a long-term basis. The whole tenor of my remarks is related to a long-term policy for the purpose not only of assisting the present mining companies but also giving sufficient incentive to increase the production in minerals in a country which, I think all of us will agree, has a very large untapped potential of of minerals.
– It is not often that Opposition senators find themselves in agreement with Senator Vincent, but we really are in accord to-night. It looks as if we shall be making room for him in one of the parties on this side of the Senate before very long.
An important point has been developed on a number of occasions recently. I refer to reduced taxation at the developmental stage of mining. Senator Willesee dealt with this matter in his speech on the Budget and Senator Vincent dealt with it to-night. It is now up to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to give the matter very close consideration, in consulation with the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). Senator Willesee cited the Canadian approach to this subject, which in effect was that in the early stages of the development of a mine no tax is paid. The early expenditure is written off rather rapidly, but once the mine starts to produce, taxation becomes quite onerous. So much developmental work goes for naught, and is lost. That is the stage at which tax exemptions are needed to encourage the industry. If you water the struggling plant at that stage it develops into a strong tree. That is when the Government takes its share of the proceeds by very high taxation.
In Australia we have realized, particularly in the last two or three years, the tremendous importance of the development of our natural resources as an addition to what we used to call our primary production - that is, our famous wool and wheat. To-day, mining is primary production of tremendous importance. In the last few years, overseas companies have shown great interest in Australia and have surveyed this country from end to end. Some of these surveys have been thorough. We can truthfully say that this great continent, the size of the United States of America, has really not been scratched from the standpoint of surveys. I use that term with some hesitation, because in some parts of the country the surveys have been very thorough. Overall, I think we can say that in the field of exploration for minerals a great deal remains to be done, and that every encouragement should be given to people to do it. One of the main ways in which they can be assisted, of course, is by taxation concessions, which will make developmental work as easy as possible for them.
When answering a number of questions a short time ago, the Minister described the Government’s policy for subsidizing the search for oil. That policy is very important and commendable, because although in oil exploration the rewards are great, so much money is lost and there are so many trials and errors before discoveries are made that help should be given. Although the finders reap rich rewards for themselves, let us not forget that the reward to the nation also is great. The discovery of oil in Australia would benefit every Australian man, woman and child. The degree of benefit would vary with the magnitude of the find. Just imagine how much better off we would be if we could eliminate imports of oil! We are worried by the effects of drought, with the prospect of our overseas income from wool dropping by £100,000,000. Wheat production is so poor that there will be virtually no overseas income from it, and we may even have to import wheat, although the rains in the last few days have been of great benefit. If we had not to find overseas credits to finance the importation of over £100,000,000 worth of oil a year, we would be in a much more favorable position. Our great oil refineries : have enabled us to reduce our expenditure on oil imports by £100,000,000 a year, at a conservative estimate, but I imagine that even in this year our oil imports will cost over £125,000,000.
The Government has taken a good step forward by providing this assistance, but I remember other days when the Government apparently had not reached its present stage of education. I remember a very bitter debate some time ago, arising from a report by the Public Accounts Committee, when the Opposition contended that the Government should have used its own drilling equipment to find the oil that was found by the Wapet organization. The Opposition thought that if this Government had proceeded with the developmental programme that the Chifley Government had started, it would have sunk the well from which oil was extracted at Rough Range. That attitude seemed to be reasonable at the time, because it appeared that oil would be found in every other hole that was drilled, but we know now that that was the only drilling operation that resulted in the extraction of oil. We then bemoaned the fact that it was not a government drill that located oil. If it had been a government drill, I wonder what we would be saying now, after 20 or 30 more holes have been sunk without oil being located. Time brings wisdom! At that time, the Opposition’s view was that the Government should engage in oil exploration, because oil is of such tremendous importance to us. I congratulate the Government for taking now a step in the right direction.
The next step that it should take is to assist prospecting for other minerals. I suppose that the next most important mineral would be iron ore. Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited in the last two years has developed a programme of exploration for iron ore which, from all accounts, is giving some results. In the Roper River area, a find that might be important has been reported. I see in reports issued by the Department of National Development that there have been other discoveries which may bear fruit after extensive development. I refer to discoveries in Tasmania and elsewhere.
Without discussing a motion concerning the iron and steel industry that has been on the business-paper of the Senate for some time, I say that we should all realize that an expansion of our iron and steel industry could make almost as much difference to our national economy as the discovery of oil. The value to Australia of another discovery of iron ore deposits like those at Iron Knob and the resulting production of steel for export is beyond our imagination. I suggest that the Government help those people who are trying to discover iron ore in much the same way as it is helping those who are trying to discover oil.
I do not look on the Government as being Father Christmas, but there are certain fundamental activities on which the Government can rightly spend money from the public purse. One of those is exploration for minerals. It is not as though the country had been surveyed completely. Much more can be done, as has been proven in the last few months by the discovery of bauxite at Weipa. When the Chifley Government established the Australian aluminium industry in Tasmania, I was Minister for Supply and in charge of the Bureau of Mineral Resources. I arranged for the bureau to make an Australiawide survey for one purpose - to find bauxite - but the bureau could not find this deposit at that time.
– Bauxite was found in Gippsland.
– The Gippsland deposit was one of the few discoveries made. Relatively speaking, it is not a good deposit. Another deposit was reported on the south coast of New South Wales. Its presence had been known for years, but it is not a rich deposit. I think that some discoveries were made in the Ouse valley in Tasmania, and near Braidwood in New South Wales. However, in the result, we still imported bauxite from Malaya. Although we searched for bauxite in Australia, we did not find it in substantial quantities. That was in about 1948. Now, only ten years later, tremendous deposits of bauxite have been discovered at Gove, in the northern part of Australia. Why our men missed finding the deposits at Gove, 1 cannot understand, because on the spot their presence is so obvious. When the Americans built a big airstrip there during the war, they laid it down on the bauxite. When one flies over it, he can see the deposits of bauxite, running into mil lions of tons. The Gove deposit is different again from the deposit at Weipa on Cape York Peninsula.
– Matthew Flinders mentioned the Weipa deposit.
– Yes. It is nice for one who has been a Minister to look back on the things he did. I should like to be able to look back and be able to reflect that when I sent the “ boys “ out to find bauxite they did in fact find it there. Apparently they had not read what Matthew Flinders had written. But then, when I was a Minister there were a lot of other problems. When the need existed, we could not find the bauxite, but the pressure has been on, and now bauxite is being found in almost unbelievable quantities. I think that the newspapers have stated that the Weipa deposit alone represents a multiplication of all the other known deposits of the world. It is said to be as much as 50 times more extensive than any other deposit.
– The tragedy is thai it has been sold to a private firm.
– If the Government is big enough to develop the deposit, it can do so. I do not know whether it can-
– It should be a national project.
– I am leading up to that point. Last week, I asked the Minister for National Development a question about it. Of course, the main thing is that the deposit be developed. Anything would be better than allowing it to remain idle. I asked the Minister whether an arrangement had been made between the Zinc Corporation and the Queensland Government in relation to the development of the area and, if it had been, whether the requirements of the aluminium industry in South Australia had been taken into account, because it is terribly important to have a source of aluminium here in our own country for our own industries.
That brings me to the next point. 1 must say, in passing, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that it is hard to confine one’s remarks to a certain department, particularly when there is an inter-movement between the Department -of National Development and the Department of Supply all the time.
Some of the matters one mentions naturally have to do with the Department of Supply, while others concern the Department of National Development. However, the next thing to do is to expand our aluminium industry. I put it to the Senate that the last five or six years, when Bell Bay started gradually to come into production, was the time to plan the duplication of that plant. In the development of Weipa, the Government should consider the establishment of an aluminium industry in north Queensland at the source of the bauxite, particularly if power can be obtained in that area. These are some of the thoughts that come to mind when one is considering this matter, because the development of mineral resources is one of the most important functions of the Commonwealth to-day.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Senator HANNAFORD (South Australia) [10. J 3). - I have been intensely interested in the speeches that have been made on this all-important matter of mineral resources. We are indebted to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) for his lucid explanation of the work that has been done by the Department of National Development in connexion with the exploration for oil in Australia. In fact, he gave so much information that a lot of the questions I intended to ask have already been answered and, consequently, I do not need to develop that aspect of mining to any. extent.
I think that in this discussion on mining - we all realize what a valuable industry it is - we have to recognize that there are important agencies working throughout Australia, not under the aegis of the Commonwealth, but under the aegis of the State Governments. We are inclined to forget that State departments of mines have done extremely valuable work down through the years. The fact that the mining industry in Australia has been able to achieve a total annual production of the order of £214,500,000 is due in a large measure to the part that those departments have played. That is a very large amount. I would be the last person to deny to the Minister for National Development the credit to which he is entitled for the part he has played in this1 very fine achievement. However, I do want to emphasize that State governments have performed splendid work in the field of mining.
I should like particularly to refer to what has been done in my own State of South Australia over the years, in close coordination with the Bureau of Mineral Resources. I pay tribute to that bureau for the splendid work it has done in surveying various regions of Australia to discover mineral deposits, and in co-ordinating the work of the departments of mines of the various States. I commend to the Minister the remarks of previous speakers concerning the further discovery of minerals in Australia. We are dependent very largely on our iron ore deposits. Unfortunately, the deposits that have been discovered are being worked out at a very rapid rate. In South Australia, there is a deposit at Iron Knob, or Iron Monarch, which is adjacent to the township of Whyalla. There has been a rapid depletion of that deposit.
The South Australian Government is very much alive to the necessity for locating further iron ore deposits which are thought to exist in the Middleback Range area adjacent to Iron Knob. On its own initiative, is has undertaken to carry out deep drilling in order to ascertain whether there are, in fact, large deposits of high-grade iron ore in that area. We have been given to understand that considerable deposits of high quality iron ore exist there, but that they will be more difficult to work than the old deposits at Iron Knob because they lie at some depth. I understand that a vast deposit of low-grade iron ore exists in that particular area of the Middleback Range, but what we are seeking to establish is whether any further deposits of high-grade ore are available in that locality.
I want to point out that South Australia - I do not want to be parochial on this matter because all States have done work of a similar nature - has carried out extensive work in connexion with the discovery of uranium. At Port Pirie there has been established a uranium treatment plant. As far as I know, it has been entirely successful and has produced uranium oxide which has been exported to Great Britain.
Another point I want to raise in relation to the necessity to discover further mineral resources in. Australia concerns the. (discovery of deposits of phosphate rock.
We all know that primary production in Australia would be hamstrung without superphosphate. We also know that there is a definite limit on the life of the deposits at Nauru and Ocean Island, which are our present sources of supply. I should say that their life is not very great. We should make it our business to seek other deposits of this extremely valuable adjunct to our agriculture, which is so essential to our well-being. For that reason I would like the Minister to inform me whether anything is being done about surveying for possible phosphate rock deposits in this country. We pay prospectors rewards for the discovery of deposits of other minerals. The discovery of phosphate rock deposits in Australia would merit a reward probably as great as that paid for the discovery of any other mineral.
I was extremely interested in the remarks of Senator Scott regarding the search for oil in Western Australia. I had the pleasure of accompanying Senator Scott on a trip through the areas in Western Australia that are at present being prospected for oil, and I found it a most interesting experience. My first experience of oil drilling came to me in New Guinea. I did not realize until I saw the drilling sites, and the work involved under difficult conditions, sometimes in difficult terrain, how extraordinarily hard it is to find oil. Any one who sees the immense amount of geological survey work that has to be undertaken even before a hole is drilled on a site readily realizes that an immense amount of capital is required. I had no conception of the extensive resources that are needed for this work until I went to Western Australia and saw what is being done there by the company that is prospecting for oil. I do not think any of us realize how intense are the geological surveys that have to be made. For that reason one of the features of my visit to Western Australia was my discovery that before a hole is drilled an immense amount of data has to be obtained to make sure that the drilling is not done on a completely hopeless site. Although no oil in commercial quantities has been discovered in Western Australia I am given to understand that the company drilling there, operating on an ingredient of Australian capital, is still optimistic that, commercial oil will eventually be discovered in that
State. Having visited the area and seen for myself what takes place I am just as optimistic as the company is that oil will eventually be found in one of the three great sedimentary basins in Western Australia.
I want to pay a tribute to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) for the very great interest he has displayed in all the mining operations that have been undertaken since this Government took office. We can spend our money no more effectively than on the finding of natural resources, such as oil and those other minerals on which we are so dependent at present to earn us foreign exchange.
.- If I were to speak in this debate for no other purpose than to place on record a number of important facts which might otherwise be discovered only by those interested, or partially interested in the advances that have been made in mining development and mineral discoveries in Queensland, I think my intervention for a few minutes would be warranted. I think that the accent now on mining, and the aura almost of romance that is attaching to the discovery of great new mineral fields, should be opening for the people of Australia, particularly the young people, new national and economic horizons.
– Particularly in Queensland.
– Yes, particularly in Queensland. We must never forget, looking back on our history, that the first great national impetus we received, the thing from which this nation, as a nation, stems, was the discovery of minerals in Australia, coupled with the fortitude, the imagination and the courage of those who had the enterprise to travel thousands of miles from across the ocean, then hundreds of miles into an abandoned, deserted and unknown country to follow the rainbow of their vision and take minerals from the ground. I should say that we are living on the very verge of a similar period in our history, and that perhaps the same horizons that opened before the eyes of the people of those times will now open before the eyes of this generation. The promise which faced that earlier generation, and which has been realized up to this time faces the people of this generation and will allow Australia to proceed to a nationhood even greater than we contemplate at the moment, and certainly much greater than those other men in their time could have contemplated.
Queensland is a vast State, and when we contemplate the plenitude of mineral deposits there, not only those already being worked but also those now being discovered and on which work is still to begin, we find cause- for immense satisfaction and considerable pride. 1 do not think that any one section, or any one group of people, can claim all the credit for what has been done to develop Queensland’s mineral wealth. It has been done as a result of a joint effort by individuals who have worked and by companies which have invested their capital as well as by the public which has followed the companies into the investment field. This development in Queensland is a tribute also to the courage, imagination and co-operation of Queensland governments over the past 30 years. I refer largely to the great mineral field in the north-west, and more particularly to Mount Isa. As honorable senators may know, the Mr Isa interests went into that vast and distant country to develop a rather poor zinc lead lode. It was only after some years that the rise in the prices for minerals enabled the company to mobilize the capital needed to finance further exploration. By wider and deeper drilling the company found that, as well as sitting on a zinc lead lode, it was sitting on a magnificent copper lode. From that discovery the great mining industry at Mount Isa stems.
I am sure that the statement that I am about to make will surprise honorable senators, but my authority for it could not be bettered, because the information came from Dr. Raggatt, the permanent head of the Department of National Development. He said that Mount Isa promised by 1962 to outstrip the total production of mines in the Broken Hill area, and to produce two and a half rimes as much ore as is now produced in the whole of the Broken Hill mines. Of course, such a huge production will not only be a tremendous asset in the whole economic structure of Australia in the purely financial and economic sense, but, will also give us that wider distribution of population which wealth coming to the country, and out of the land, 1,000 or 2,000 miles from Brisbane by rail, must necessarily bring in its train. The Mount Isa interests propose to erect a copper refinery at Townsville and possibly a zinc and lead smelter.
– They are building it now.
– They are building the copper refinery, and they propose to erect, at a later stage, a zinc and lead smelter in the city of Townsville, which is on the seaboard 800 miles from Brisbane, and is already a major city of the Commonwealth. When we look at the whole littoral of Queensland and the extent of its hinterland and see that there are already tremendous cities of 30,000 and 40,000 people spread up the coastline for 1,000 miles, and towns of 8,000, 10,000 and 15,000 people spread out virtually to the western border, we can see that Australia is really developing in depth. That is what we want. It would have been a continuing tragedy for Australia if our great natural resources had continued to be found only along the vast perimeter of this continent. It is providential that with human ingenuity, search and courage we are now finding these resources in areas where we really want them. As Senator Armstrong has said, the Weipa deposit, which has been discovered on the northern peninsula of Australia, will bring in its train a town which Dr. Raggatt hasestimated will have a population of approximately 6,000 persons. That opinion is confirmed by the Minister for Mines in Queensland, Mr. Evans. With that development will come a harbour and all the ancillary’ requirements. Surely this opens up a prospect for young Australians that they might not have thought of fifteen years ago. Personally, I have always been tremendously impatient of those who visualize an optimum population for Australia of 20,000,000 or 30,000,000 people. I never held that opinion even when I was young. I thought that it was the view of people harking back over the years and being unable to contemplate the effect of the application of science to this continent. Any doubts I have had about the judgment of those whoset that limit to our population have been amply justified. He would be a courageous and indeed, a foolish man who would! attempt to prophesy to-day that the optimum population of this continent might be even 150,000,000 or 250,000,000 people.
– That is not bad for a bachelor
– I am speaking purely in an academic sense, and Senator Wright could be right as he often is. Nevertheless, I think the prospect must encourage the young people of this generation to believe that in the years to come we will be able to discharge the international obligation that presses heavily upon all nations to absorb the excess population of other countries. That will be a tremendous world problem in the future. It will be the corroding influence that will make the maintenance of peace increasingly difficult. Nations will have an obligation, not only to themselves, but also to all the peoples of the world, to relieve the strains of population, that are becoming so evident to-day. Undoubtedly, the application of science to all the natural resources of all countries, and the development of every aid will be necessary to -enable the world’s increasing population to live at reasonable standards over the whole area of the globe.
I wish to direct attention to the possibilities of the vast mineral field in the northwest of Queensland. The first nuclear power station in Australia is likely to be erected at Cloncurry. That is an area which is unfortunately remote from coal deposits, “but one which, typically and economically, would be the most suitable for the application of that type of power. It is likely to Toe most helpful in remote areas which are not handy to coal or water or other sources of power. From the hinterland of Cairns, through the Atherton Tableland where the rarer minerals, molybdenite, wolfram, tungsten and minerals of that character are found, through Mount Garnet where dredges work the extensive tin deposits, through the magnificent Cloncurry mineral belt to Mount Isa and Mary Kathleen, where vast uranium deposits are being worked, there is a story of development which reads like a romance. It is a romance that should be read by every young person in Australia because it portrays his future, the future of his country and the contribution that Australia will make in years to come towards the solution of«>the world’s great problems.
If I rise on this occasion merely to place these thoughts before honorable senators, and to collate information that otherwise might be found by interested persons only in technical journals, and place it on the records of this chamber, I do so because I think that we should try to interest Australians in our mineral resources - to make Australians mineral conscious. We must tell them about the deposits that are waiting to be developed and what can be done. This is a matter for joint co-operative effort. For that reason I congratulate the Minister for National Development and the Bureau of Mineral Resources on the interest they are showing in this matter and the progress that has been made. The days are gone, in practice and in economics, when individual prospectors went out and established new mining fields. To-day, it is the application of science to all forms of mineral discovery that is so important. The Queensland Government showed faith in the Mount Isa mine in its struggling days when that Government backed the mining company’s debentures and built a railway when prospects were poor. Courage and co-operation of that type have made the successful development of the Mount Isa field possible. That is what we want. We need a joint national effort by all concerned. In that way, we can achieve in the future even more than has been achieved in the past, and even greater things than the few I have had an opportunity to mention in this address.
– I wish to direct attention to the proposed provision for expenditure on resources and development projects by the Department of National Development, including the Kimberley Research Station. I should like to thank the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) for the work that has been done in that direction. We are a little disappointed that more research work has not been done in connexion with the deposits of iron ore in the Kimberleys. Tremendous deposits are to be found in that area, in addition to the deposits at Cockatoo Island. When Senator Seward made a very eloquent approach to the Minister about research into the iron ore deposits in the Kimberleys, the Minister emphasized that the search for oil, petrol and uranium must have priority. Members of this Parliament from Western Australia ask the Minister to reconsider that viewpoint and see whether some help can be given to Western Australia in the search for minerals.
Senator Byrne spoke very eloquently about the development of Mount Isa and the mineral resources of Queensland. . He said that it was a story everybody should know. In the Kimberleys, we also have an epic story in the fight of the Blythe brothers to establish the cattle industry. The story of the air beef lift of the Kimberleys is worthy of study. It ranks only second to that wonderful story of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia.
Great development has taken place in the Kimberleys, and we thank the Commonwealth Government for assisting with subsidies. Of course, they are not nearly sufficient. Like Oliver Twist, no matter what you give us we ask for a little more. We thank the Government for the gold subsidy, but that also is inadequate. We ask the Government to remember that Western Australia comprises one-third of the area of Australia. Therefore, it is difficult to develop.
I wish to revert now to the air beef lift. The Blythe brothers and other farmers in the north-west have persevered to develop primary production in that area. The work has been hard and the pioneering has been severe, but they are now beginning to reap the reward of the hard labour that they have put into developing this beef cattle industry. They now propose to extend their work to Derby where they will build a large slaughter house and freezing works. They think - and I have every reason to believe that they are right - that their industry will become a challenge to Argentina in the world supply of beef. They, are now branching out into snap frozen packets of meat, packed in cellophane, just ready for the housewife to use.
They have developed, also, a big industry in turkeys. Some of the turkeys that Blythes are raising in the Kimberleys district weigh up to 29 lb. These facts illustrate the very great development that is taking place throughout that area. The port of Derby will become an export centre. Recently, 1 had an interesting letter from the master of the “ Yampi Lass “, which plies between Derby and Cockatoo Island, in which he spoke about the “ Eden “ of Derby.
When Senator Byrne was speaking just now he referred to the beauty of the Atherton Tableland. This writer, who knows the Atherton Tableland, says that Derby compares more than favorably with it. This is what the master of that vessel wrote about the north-west of Western Australia -
During my last week up north I took a party of B.H.P. geologists to Deception Bay which lies just below Brennock Harbour, the centre of the culture pearl farm. From this point I steamed down the coast to Doubtful Bay, a magnificent harbour of something like 70 square miles of water with a beautiful entrance under towering cliffs with deep water to within a few feet of their base. Beyond Doubtful Bay is the lush grass flats of the Glenelg River, a mighty and beautiful waterway fed by many streams and tributaries, many trickling across the country from the McDonald Ranges. The river is navigable for about 45 miles from the mouth to a point where the lower falls are located. At this point the waters could possibly be harnessed for hydroelectric power and also water conserved foi domestic and irrigation purposes. This fertile district covers hundreds of thousands of acres. This, I am sure, could become a real dream garden of Eden. Bananas, pineapples, cane, tobacco and possibly cotton could be grown, to say little of sheep and cattle.
I feel this part of the Kimberleys would be a worthy counterpart of the rich Atherton Tableland were it developed. A few pounds spent and a bit of encouragement and we could accommodate the migrant influx and also solve our unemployment problems. The rugged grandeur of the coastline and the scenery is amazing, a terrific tourist potential, something which wouldn’t be found in any other part of the world of a similar nature.
Then he talks about the port of Derby which, of course, will play a tremendous part in the development that takes place there. He writes -
The development of Derby as a major seaport must be undertaken. This will be a necessity if the Liveringa rice project is a success, as I am sure it will, to say little about Air Beef’s new centre at Derby. It must be assumed that overseas refrigerated ships will need to call at Derby for Air Beef’s products. Derby’s present wharf is in anything but good shape. The present structure should be replaced by a steel and concrete wall.- If it can be done by B.H.P. at Cockatoo where the piles are something like 70 odd feet long then it could be done at Derby. If a two or three berth jetty were built now it would suffice for future immediate development. The approaches, construction and other port facilities would need to be carried out by private contract.
He then goes on to describe the wonderful supplies of fish teeming in the rivers and, as 1 mentioned before, he refers to iron. I should like to repeat what I said in my Budget speech that we would- ‘like the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to look at the Kimberleys, not from Canberra, but on a visit to the area. We should like him to go there to see the wonderful development that has taken place and to observe the possibilities of this area. We are indeed grateful for anything that has been done but, like Oliver Twist, we want more and more. I congratulate the Department of National Development on the work that it has done and also the Minister on the consideration that he has given to this area. The writer of this letter referred to the hydro-electric scheme. The Minister will recall the correspondence that has passed between us on this subject.
In this matter of national development, this part of Australia, which is so important to the rest of the continent both for economic development and national defence, we commend to the Minister and ask him to help by way of research. We ask that some of the capital coming into Australia might be diverted to the development of the Kimberleys and the north-west of Western Australia.
– It is not an easy task to wind up a debate because this usually means replying to criticism that has been levelled at the Government or its work as reflected in the Estimates. But since I last spoke, a couple of hours ago, I now find myself in the rather fortunate position of knowing that the proposals contained in the Estimates have evoked more commendation than criticism.
– The hand-clapping brigade!
– The applause has come from both sides of the chamber, which is somewhat unusual. I shall reply to the criticisms that have been made and then give some running comments in amplification or explanation of what has been said. The criticism of the Joint Coal Board came from Senator Ashley. If my notes are correct he said that the Joint Coal Board had outlived its usefulness and should be abolished. He placed the responsibility upon me to give reasons for its continuance. I am not certain whether Senator Ashley’s statement represented his personal view or that of the Labour party; and if it is the view of the Labour Party I do not know whether it is supported by the New South
Wales Government. However, it is an interesting statement to come from that side of the chamber. It is well to repeat what I have said before: Whatever criticism may be levelled against the Government in its association with the Joint Coal Board, or whatever criticism may be made of the board itself, one fact emerges clearly, and that is that its work has resulted in solving a problem to which there had been so solution for so many years in Australia’s industrial history. It was not until this Government came into power that, in association with the Joint Coal Board, the coal-mining industry in New South Wales was run on the basis of encouraging private enterprise and its problems were solved. The board first pursued the policy laid down by the Labour government of government mining operations - the government digging coalmines and making open cuts and trying to take to itself the task of winning coal instead of leaving it to private enterprise. It was not until that policy was changed by the present Government that the problems in the coal-mining industry were overcome.
– But is not the purpose of this proposition that the new member for Hunter might displace the Joint Coal Board?
– I rather suspect that political history is going to repeat itself. Basically, the weakness of the coalmining industry, on the political level, is that it returns to Parliament so many members of the one political faith. They come into the Parliament obligated to their constituents and, in truth, they become in the Parliament a pretty strong pressure group. They look at coal matters not as a national problem but as a parochial issue that concerns only their electorates, and they are pledged to carry out the wishes of the coal-miners’ federation. There can be no solution of a national problem in that way. If that atmosphere is introduced into the Federal Parliament by the prospective new member for Hunter, in my opinion the wheel will again start turning round and round, as it has in the past.
I am not going to answer the honorable senator’s question whether the Government will continue in association with the Joint Coal Board, because, primarily, the answer turns on whether or not the Joint Coal Board continues to adopt a policy which the Commonwealth Government believes to be acceptable. Will the Joint Coal Board continue the policy of encouraging private enterprise or not? If it is not going to continue that policy, we feel that we shall drift back to the situation that existed in 1949 and prior to that time. There would be no point in the Commonwealth being associated with the board in those circumstances.
– You have destroyed the markets!
– The depth of the problem is illustrated by Senator Ashley’s interjection that we have destroyed the markets. The facts are that, each year, the output of coal is greater than it was in the previous year.
– You have destroyed the markets, both internally and overseas.
– What can one do in the face of an interjection such as that? The fact is that each year the previous year’s record of turn-over is exceeded.
I turn now to other points that were raised during the debate. I should like to devote some little time to joining in the discussion that has taken place on both sides of the chamber to-night. The first thing I want to say is that I subscribe 100 per cent, to the aspirations of the honorable senators from Western Australia. I should like to see the Kimberleys get a break of luck. We have had great luck in other areas of northern Australia, such as Mount Isa, Weipa, Rum Jungle, and Gove. There has been a line of development across the northern part of Australia, from Queensland and the Gulf of Carpentaria into the Northern Territory. I hope that that line will continue into Western Australia, and to the area in which the search for oil is going on. So far, we have not had the turn-up that I believe will some day occur in the Kimberleys area.
The Commonwealth has made its little contribution to this development.
– There has been no contribution in Queensland.
– Senator Courtice interjects most unfairly that we have made no contribution. I think that that is unfair, because the fact is that we have done a great deal. I believe it to be correct that the whole of the oil search in Western Australia is based on activities commenced by this Government, and I believe also that the Liveringa rice development in the Kimberleys has been encouraged by the atmosphere created by this Government. Although the Ord River research station was established before we came to office, we have continued the work there. Senator Robertson has invited me to go to the north-west of Western Australia. I have been there once and I should like to have the time to go there again. There is nothing that I would rather see than the northern part of Western Australia sharing in the development that is occurring in other parts of Western Australia.
– I was not referring to Western Australia.
– The honorable senator was referring to Queensland.
– I think that if Senator Courtice were to go to Queensland and talk to the people there who carry the responsibility for this development he would get from them a full and frank acknowledgment of the worth of the assistance that this Government is giving in standing alongside them. The day has come and gone when great development could go forward without a favorable atmosphere in governmental circles. The feeling that we have of friendship, of co-operation, and of standing behind the people concerned in big enterprises to-day is infinitely more important than are many other things. As I say, the honorable senator will find in Queensland a frank acknowledgment of the value of the assistance that this Government has given, is giving and will continue to give in that area.
– We think that there was a delay of a decade in connexion with such development.
– I do not know what the honorable senator is talking about.
I turn now to the matter of phosphate deposits. There is, at the present time, a joint arrangement between the Australian, New Zealand and United Kingdom Governments to search for new areas of phosphates in the Pacific. The Budget papers include an appropriation of approximately £12,000 as the Australian contribution to that search this year. It is, of course, as yet too early to say what the result of the search will be. We have established the organization and the task has been commenced.
Mr. Chairman, I think that it would not be practicable for me to reply to all the matters that were raised during the debate. That being so, I shall spend the last half minute of my speech in expressing my appreciation to the committee for the smooth passage that has been given the estimates for my department to-night.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Senator CAMERON (Victoria) [11.01.- I have received an answer to a question that I placed on the notice-paper. The question was -
To what extent has the Australian pound note fallen in value from one year to another, since 1914, taking that year as a base year, with an index of 100?
The answer I have received is, in my opinion, a complete evasion of the question. The question was answered in that way either on purpose or because accurate figures have not been kept. A similar question was asked in the House of Commons, and on 1st April, 1956, the right honorable Nigel Birch, Economic Secretary of the Treasury, gave the following reply: -
Those figures indicate that the value of the £1 sterling in 1956, compared with the value in 1914, was about 4s. 4d. That means that the purchasing power of the £1 sterling has been reduced by about 15s. 8d. since 1914. A similar state of affairs exists in Australia, but the Australian Government is afraid to admit that that is so, because if it did so it would leave itself open to criticism which would make its position much more difficult than at present. The point I am making is that this unchecked, unauthorized inflation is virtually robbing the people who can least afford to lose the money, particularly the workers who have put their savings into a savings bank. The £1 notes they draw out now have nowhere near the same purchasing power as the £1 notes they put in some time ago. It is a fraudulent process, similar to counterfeiting, the only difference being that the counterfeiter acts outside the law and, if discovered and found guilty, goes to gaol, while the gentlemen here, in the Parliament, act within the law.
The figures I have given cover every year since 1914, with the exception of the years between 1938 and 1946. A note attached to the answer given in the House of Commons reads -
The calculation is based on changes in the cost of living between 1914 and 1938 and changes in the consumer price index since then. Figures are not available on a comparable basis for the years 1939 to 1945.
I have brought up this matter so that the facts will be on record and so that honorable senators will be able to see how this Government is trying to fool the people of Australia. Under the circumstances, I considered that 1 would be remiss if I did not direct the attention of honorable senators to the reply I received, which, in my opinion, was intended deliberately to mislead people who are supposed not to know any better.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 October 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1957/19571030_senate_22_s11/>.