22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– Last week, I asked the Minister for National Development a question relating to the progress made in research into obtaining oil from coal. The Minister was good enough to say that he had a report but at that time had not had the opportunity of reading it. He said he would study it during the week-end and let me have some information. Is the Minister now in a position to give me some information on this subject?
– Yes, I told the honorable senator that I would look at the report. On Monday, I presided oyer a meeting of the Coal Mining Industry Committee, and I have had some notes prepared for me by the Joint Coal Board because, as honorable senators will realize, this is a technical rather than straight-out business matter.
The first point which the committee engaged on this problem would like to make is that there is a good deal of misunderstanding and misconception about the term, “ oil and chemicals from coal “. The committee wishes to point out that there is already well established in Australia a fairly extensive oil-and-chemicals-from-coal industry which deals with by-products from the carbonization of coal to produce coke and town gas. The problem the committee is now considering is the extension of that industry in other directions. It is proceeding mainly along the lines of extending the by-products principle to the coal used for the generation of electric power in which activity, as honorable senators will readily appreciate, vast quantities of coal are used.
The track upon which the committee is proceeding is what is known as the low temperature carbonization process and is aimed at drawing the tar off the coal and using that tar as a starting point for the production of chemicals and liquid fuel. The important thing to keep in mind, of course, is that the sales value of the tar drawn off is the key to whether -the process can be an economic success. A good deal of preliminary work has been done. It is referred to in a report which makes some proposals to the two governments concerned. As that report has not yet been considered by the two governments, I do not think I should say what is in it until they have had a look at it. Suffice it to say that I can give an assurance that the task is being approached in an orderly, systematic, and, I think, satisfactory way.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade by stating that there is a grave shortage of molybdate superphosphate in Tasmania, which will have a bad effect on the productive capacity of primary industry in that State. The reason, apparently, is a shortage of molybdenum. Various reasons are given for the shortage, but the main one put forward is the difficulty of obtaining import licences for this mineral. I am under the impression that molybdenum is produced in Australia. Because of the importance that molybdate superphosphate plays in primary industry, will the Minister make a statement to clear up the situation? If import restrictions are the main reason for the shortage, will he see to it that the position is rectified as quickly as possible?
– This is another question of which I had some prior knowledge and in respect of which I made some inquiries. I have been told that the molybdate component of molybdate superphosphate is composed of molybdic and molybdenite, both of which are imported under the administrative system of licensing. The policy is to make licences available to meet all requirements, and licences are in fact available to meet all requirements. During the past year or so, import licences have been issued for approximately 53 tons of the chemicals, from .both dollar and nondollar sources. The real position is that any shortage of this type of superphosphate would appear to be caused, not by import restrictions, because import licences are readily granted, but by a general worldwide shortage of these chemicals.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Customs and Excise four questions. Is it a fact that at one time any’ honorable senator could, if he so desired, obtain a copy of any banned book from the Parliamentary Library? Is it also a fact that this cannot be done to-day? Does the Minister think it desirable that members of the Parliament should have the right, through their Library, to obtain and read any banned book? Finally, does he think that to do so might corrupt their moral outlook?
– I understand that the Library has a certain number of books for restricted reading. I cannot say whether there is a full complement of these books in the Library, but I shall obtain that information for the honorable senator. In answer to the last part of his question, from what I have seen of books of the kind to which he has referred, I do not think that, at his age, they would do him much harm.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade whether it is a fact that, under the guise of import restrictions, the New Zealand Labour government has placed a complete embargo on the importation of Australian frozen foods into New Zealand. As in the past very friendly trade relations, which have been of benefit to both countries, have existed, and because the embargo on frozen foods is a serious threat to Australian producers, is any action being taken by the Australian Government to have the embargo lifted?
– I saw the newspaper report to which the honorable senator refers, but I am sorry to say that I did not check whether it was accurate. If the report is accurate, I do not know that any remedy would be available to the Australian Government. If my recollection is correct, the report stated that the embargo was imposed to improve the balance of payments, and this, traditionally, is a right that every country enjoys.
– I do not know which Minister would be interested in my question, but I suggest that either the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry or the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization might answer it. Has the attention of the appropriate Minister been directed to a report that Australia has been denied large contracts for beef because of the allegation that pleuro-pneumonia is prevalent in our herds? Press reports indicate that a statement to that effect has been made by the American agricultural attache at Canberra, and that a contract to the value of £300,000 which had been concluded between New Zealand and the United States had been prejudiced because of the alleged condition of Australian herds. Will the Minister have a full investigation of this statement made and, if the allegation is not true, say so? If the allegation is true, will the Minister in charge of the C.S.I.R.O., through that organization, have a survey made immediately and take the necessary action to correct the position, or will the Minister for Primary Industry take such action as is available to him to have the position corrected or have the statement denied?
– So far as the question concerns my colleague the Minister for Primary Industry, and so far as it lies within his competence to do anything about the quite serious situation to which the honorable senator refers, I shall raise the matter with him. I am not familiar with the detail, and I ask that the question be placed on the notice-paper. I am certain that my colleague will also ensure that any action which the C.S.I.R.O. can take will be taken.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether it is a fact that the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act was amended recently to compel the States to supply an audited statement showing that the money granted by the Commonwealth had been spent in accordance with the conditions laid down in the act. Can the Minister inform me whether such statements have been received from the State auditors? If so, have all the moneys granted to the States been spent in accordance with the amended act?
– I cannot remember how long ago the act was amended, but it is a fact that the act provides that a statement by the State Auditor shall be furnished to the Commonwealth authorities each year.
I know of no case in which a certificate has been furnished indicating that the moneys provided by the Commonwealth have not been spent in accordance with the act.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of the great losses suffered annually by Australians as a result of bushfires, floods and cyclones, will the Minister consider the establishment of a national insurance fund similar to the war damage fund established during the war as, in those cases where insurance cover is available through the normal channels, the premium payments are generally so high as to be beyond the means of many people with small businesses or rural interests in areas subject to such disasters?
– My recollection is that the proposal advanced by the honorable senator has been considered on a number of occasions previously. I would not undertake to give all the reasons offhand why the proposal was rejected, but I remember, for instance, that the matter was considered upon the possibility as to whether it should be inaugurated to cover loss and damage by flood. The point was taken that people who purchase properties liable to flood damage do so with the knowledge that the properties are in flood areas, and that is taken into account in the transaction. People who have properties in areas that are not liable to flooding would be loath to come into a sort of all-round general insurance plan. I am sorry if this is not an adequate answer. I know that the matter has been given a lot of consideration-
– What about the cyclone areas in the north of Australia?
– I have no particular knowledge in that regard. Of course, one can get cover for a lot of those risks in the ordinary way.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that a ceremony to mark the opening of the John Curtin School of Medical Research has been arranged to take place this afternoon? Will he say whether it is the intention of the Government so to arrange the business of the Senate as to enable honorable senators to attend that important function?
– I am aware of the very important function that is to take place this afternoon in tribute to the memory of a great Australian. Unfortunately, the sittings of the Senate were arranged long before the Government or I had any information as to the precise date that was being fixed for the ceremony. Had the Opposition debated certain legislation with greater accuracy and not been so prolix, perhaps we could have finished that business. After all the arrant nonsense that honorable senators opposite have been talking for days and days, it is now entirely a matter for themselves.
– The question that I direct to the Minister for Shipping and Transport has reference to an announcement that I saw a few days ago arising out of the rejection by the Australian Transport Advisory Council of a national roads plan put forward by the Australian Automobile Association. I understood the Minister to say yesterday that the basis on which the plan was rejected was its proposed administration. Will he say in what sense a national plan for road development is under the aegis of the transport council, and from what sources it is proposed that the revenues for the plan shall be derived? If they are to be derived from State sources, I want to know in what sense there are means for co-ordination or planning on the part of the centralized authority.
– The view of the Australian Transport Advisory Council in respect of the proposal for the establishment of a national body to implement a national roads plan is that such a body is not necessary, nor is such a plan necessary, because in fact the individual road plan.nings of the various States are-
– Quite adequate!
– They do, in fact, comprise a plan which is in every sense a national roads plan that is believed by State Ministers to be a quite adequate plan. Indeed, the interjection reminds me of the fact that the integrated plan of the various State bodies provides a system of national roads far in excess both as to mileage and areas served of any plan yet advanced by any body interested in national roads planning. The provision of finance, of course, is a matter which concerns both the Federal and the State Parliaments - the Federal Parliament through its grants under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, and the State Parliaments through various sources of revenue which come to the States by way of licensing, and the municipal authorities- by way of rating. The Australian Transport Advisory Council, and all the States which comprise it, agree that a new plan is not required. A plan is already in existence and the council does not view favorably any proposal that either another plan should be superimposed upon it, or another body superimposed upon the State road authorities, which have - as every one will agree - done a really good job in the past.
– Some three weeks ago 1 called the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade to the fact that though the Department of Trade had a direct representative in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia there was no such representative in Western Australia. The Minister assured me that he would have the matter brought under notice and would make a statement upon it. Has the Minister taken such action, and is he yet in a position to make a statement?
– I am sorry to say that I have not yet done as the honorable senator has asked. I will see the Minister for Trade during the day and see what can be done.
– My question, which is supplementary to that asked by Senator Wright, relates to national road planning and is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Can the Minister indicate what roads are now accepted by the Government as being strategic roads? Is it contemplated that, ultimately, a road from Perth to Darwin will be constructed as a strategic road? If the answer to my second query is in the affirmative, will the Minister say what the Government has in mind in the matter of its construction - in association, of course, with the State Government? I am fully aware that the substantial responsibility for the construction of the road lies with that Government.
– The subject of strategic and other defence roads is frequently discussed by the Commonwealth transport authorities and the Department of Defence. The defence authorities take the view that the provision of roads is important in the present strategic concept, but that if they are built and maintained to a standard which satisfies the ordinary commercial requirements of the Commonwealth they will also meet our defence and strategic needs. Senator Vincent has referred particularly to the building of a road from Perth to Darwin. Following upon what I have just said, although that road is important, the standard of its construction and maintenance will have to fit into the general picture of commercial use. In other words, it is a State responsibility until circumstances alter and it becomes, in the military concept, a defence or strategic road.
– Has the Minister for National Development read an article in the “ Canberra Times “ stating that Sir William Hudson, when speaking in Canberra last night, said that nuclear power could be used in conjunction with hydro power in the Snowy Mountains for generating electricity? Will the Minister advise me whether the Government is considering the possibility of developing atomic energy power in conjunction with the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme?
– I read the newspaper report of Sir William Hudson’s speech with very great interest indeed, particularly as he was speaking of something that is actually in operation in Wales. No consideration has been given to such a proposal in conjunction with the Snowy Mountains scheme. What we are intent on at present, of course, is carrying to finality as quickly as possible the scheme as it is now designed.
Granting of Pairs
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he shares my view that the Senate could proceed quite satisfactorily this afternoon without our presence. Would he consider pairing with me so as to enable us both to attend an important function that is to be held this afternoon?
– The suggestion of the honorable senator moves me quite a lot, but I am afraid that my first duty is here as Leader of the Government in the Senate.
– I wonder whether the Minister for Shipping and Transport would permit me to ask another question on transport. 1 assure him that it will be asked in an uncritical spirit. Is the main road from Melbourne to Sydney, which, during a winter two years ago, was quite unnegotiable for transport, now considered to be an all-weather road, capable of meeting all the demands of transport? Is the Australian Transport Advisory Council satisfied that the road is being developed so as to cope with the potential demand?
– I understand that the two State road authorities directly concerned in the maintenance of this road have, since the unfortunate occurrence to which Senator Wright referred, given considerable attention to the maintenance and upkeep of the road. They believe that the increased revenue which will be made available to the various State authorities by virtue of a recent legal decision will enable them to pay greater attention to that road and to other roads which come under their jurisdiction.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Can he indicate what progress has been made in the proposed installation of rearwardfacing seats in passenger aircraft used on Australian civil aviation routes?
– Coincidentally, I answered a question along the same lines that was asked in the House of Representatives a day or two ago. The question of the installation of rearward-facing seats in the new types of aircraft coming into Australia has been deferred until such time as this practice has found more general acceptance among the other countries of the world. As Senator Anderson is probably well aware, the question has been discussed at international conferences of civil aviation authorities, but no unanimity has been reached; indeed, at the moment, a minority of the countries represented at these conferences is in favour of the adoption of rearward-facing seats, and it is felt that until further discussions have taken place, and until a greater degree of unanimity has been achieved, the question should be deferred.
– A question in my name about the export of scrap metals has stood on the notice-paper since 27th February. It is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, and I should think it would be a simple question to answer. I have waited patiently for a reply, and as the Senate will be rising for a fortnight, I am wondering whether I would be in order in asking whether the Minister representing the Minister for Trade could give me an assurance that this question will be answered prior to the adjournment of the Senate to-day.
– I am sorry to say I cannot give any such assurance. I do not know why the question has not been answered earlier. All I can say is that I shall make special representations to the Minister for Trade and see whether anything can be done.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
Chapter 17, Verses 17-19, wherein it is stated that Sarah was 90 years of age when Isaac was born?
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister for
Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
The cost of construction including the subsidy element of vessels built prior to 31st December, 1956, for the Australian Shipping Board was borne wholly by the Commonwealth, the Board taking them on charge on completion at cost less the amount of subsidy which was written off. When the National Line was established on 1st January, 1957, it was required to make progress payments in the same way as private companies. The twelve A.N.L. vessels shown as receiving subsidy benefits in 1956- 57 are vessels now under construction on which the line has made progress payments and in respect of which there has been a pro rata subsidy allocation.
– On the 11th March,
asked me the following question: -
In view of the fact that during the Queen Mother’s visit to Canberra we read much of a direct telecast between Canberra and Sydney, can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General tell the Senate if the Government is contemplating the adoption of any methods for making possible the reception of television in Canberra? If so, will he explain to the Senate just what steps are being taken to make the reception of television possible in Canberra?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply: -
The Government’s policy is that television should be introduced gradually and the second stage of development recently approved will include services in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart. Extension of television to other important centres, including country districts, will form the third stage of the plan which will be embarked upon when circumstances, including financial considerations, permit. In this regard the claims of Canberra will not be overlooked. The honorable senator may be assured that all technical methods which may facilitate the development of television services in the Commonwealth are being investigated closely.
– On 27th February, Senator Sandford asked me the following question: -
Can the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral inform the Senate -
The cost of publishing the booklet “A.B.C. Weekly”?
What useful purpose does that booklet serve?
Is it a fact that only Sydney programmes are published in that journal?
The Postmaster-General has. now furnished me with the following information in reply:-
– There is no publication in the other States?
– I lay on the table of the Senate the following paper: -
River Murray Commission - Report on River Murray Flood Problems.
I ask for leave of the Senate to make a statement relating to the report.
– Due to the damage caused by the 1955 and 1956 floods, the River Murray Commission decided to prepare a comprehensive report on the River Murray flood problem. Whilst the preparation of that report, and the floodquestion generally, is not the specific responsibility of the commission, it is perhaps the only authority that has ready access to the comprehensive information required for a detailed analysis of the flood problem in the Murray Valley.
Opinions have been expressed that certain measures of flood mitigation used in other countries would be equally effective on the Murray. The commission’s flood report shows clearly that conditions on the Murray are not comparable with conditions in other countries and that, in those circumstances, similar measures would not satisfactorily mitigate floods of the severity of that of 1956. Contrary to the general belief, the commission’s investigations have indicated that the damage resulting from the flood of 1956 was comparatively small when compared with the cost of mitigation, and when it is remembered that floods of this magnitude are so rare.. In the lower reaches of the Murray, where the recent flood caused the greatest havoc, it is possible to give many weeks of warning, thus allowing a complete evacuation of stock and personnel. It is expected that, with the information gained during the 1956 floods, the system of flood prediction and warning in the case of a similar flood will be considerably improved, thus providing more time to organize local stock evacuation and so on, and to take localized effective action.
While not all will agree with the conclusions reached, the commission has nevertheless produced a report which is an authoritative analysis of many schemes of flood control and mitigation, which have been widely publicized, and of their application to the River Murray. The report will, I feel, be of considerable value not only to governments but also to local authorities and land-owners generally in their assessment of flood problems and of practical ways of dealing wth them.
Motion (by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) proposed -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Navigation Act 1912-1956, and for other purpose*.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill for a general amendment of trie; Navigation Act re-introduces what was once, in the earlier years of this Commonwealth Parliament, an old friend of senators and members. The original act was subjected to many years of consideration before it became law. It was first submitted to Parliament in 1904, but the bill did not get beyond the stage of infancy. A royal commission of which the late Right Honorable W. M. Hughes was chairman, sat in the years 1904 to 1906, and it was largely on its recommendations that the proposed bill was remodelled. It was again introduced in 1907, and again dropped. The same thing happened in 1908, and it was not until 1910 that, after further alteration, it was introduced for the last time. Discussion went on over several sessions, until in 1912 the bill passed both Houses. At that time it was necessary to reserve the act for royal assent, and this was given in 1913.
Even then the act did not become law, because it contained a provision that it was not to come into operation until a day to be fixed by proclamation and after the King’s approval had been made known.
Before the administrative machinery could be made ready, World War I. occurred, and then in 1919 a further provision was made that “It shall not be necessary to proclaim that the whole act shall commence on the one date but the several Parts, &c, may be proclaimed to commence on such dates as are respectively fixed by proclamation “. Under this new provision the first instalment of the act was brought into operation in 1921. That was the coasting trade part of the act.
In the meantime, an amending bill was passed in 1920. This contained a number of important amendments to bring the act abreast with the then latest developments in respect of life-saving appliances and other matters, on the lines recommended by the first International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea. This convention had been adopted following on the report of the royal commission which investigated the tragic sinking of “ Titanic “ with appalling loss of life in April, 1912. From time to time since then - in 1925, 1926, 1934., 1935 and 1942 - amending bills were passed to effect certain particular, but not far-reaching, ends.
In 1952, another series, of amendments was necessary to enable the work of the war-time Maritime Industry Commission to be continued. Arbitration machinery was provided within the framework of the act, an Accommodation Committee was set .up, and certain disciplinary measures introduced, very much on the lines of the Maritime Industry Commission’s orders. The arbitration provisions, however, were repealed in 1956 when the Arbitration Court was reconstituted as the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. All these amending bills so far referred to had some definite and particular objects in view. They were like running repairs. The present bill is more in the nature of a general overhaul, though some new matter is also introduced.
Since the first Navigation Act was passed more than 40 years ago, there has been no general revision to correct anomalies that have arisen or have been .discovered, or to bring the legislation into line with the developing shipping practices of other maritime nations, particularly the merchant shipping law of the United Kingdom. There are also two factors which influence shipping law in Australia which were, in the one case not clear, and in the other nonexistent, when the earlier legislation which I have mentioned was under review. These are -
Still another factor is the work of the International Labour Office, set up under the auspices of the League of Nations after the 1914-18 war, but now an independent organization. This organization has had a number of special maritime sessions, and has adopted numerous conventions and recommendations. Some of these have been ratified by the Commonwealth, because our law either already complied with the terms of the convention or was amended to comply with them. Others cannot be ratified because they apply to intrastate as well as other ships, and State legislation is insufficient to enable them to be ratified. Some others will be ratified as soon as possible after this bill is passed. The three matters just mentioned have been given close consideration in settling the terms of the bill now introduced and will be more particularly dealt with when the relative clauses are being considered in committee.
Some honorable senators might think that the ‘Parliament has done reasonably well in regard to shipping, since it has passed nine amending bills since the original act was passed in 1912. In the United Kingdom, however, after the great consolidation and revision of merchant shipping laws in 1894 no less than 33 merchant shipping acts have been passed - an average of one every second year. Some of the provisions of these were incorporated in the various bills 1 have mentioned. It always has been, and still is, regarded as sound practice .to keep merchant shipping law throughout the British .Commonwealth of Nations as nearly uniform as is possible.
Some -brief explanatory remarks may now be offered on some of the more important amendments. More detailed information will be supplied in respect of them when the bill is passing through committee. First of all, the application of some provisions of the act to naval ships is proposed. The Department of the Navy and other government departments will be placed in the same position as private persons in regard to salvage matters, division of loss in the case of collision, and limitation of liability. Similar legislation has been passed in recent years in the United Kingdom and some other Commonwealth countries.
There will be a definition of “ Commonwealth country “ in keeping with the relations which exist between all those countries which recognize the Crown as the symbol of unity amongst them, and with special reference to the Republic of Ireland. It will give particular pleasure to all Australians to see the names of Ghana and the Federation of Malaya appearing in this act as Commonwealth countries. The restrictions on migrants serving as officers on ships will be eased in respect of new Australians domi-tiled here but not naturalized.
A few alterations will be made to remove from Courts of Marine Inquiry certain functions which are of a judicial character. This will remove the possibility of an adv.erse court decision on the grounds of constitutional invalidity. Many penalties will be increased, some being on shipowners and masters, some on seamen. Many of the increases are made because of changes in money values, but some others are being substantially increased on principle. The procedures of logging seamen for offences will be clarified and in some respects modified.
The sec.tions regarding the shipowner’s liability for medical expenses and for wages in case of a seaman’s sickness or injury are being extended in some respects and modified in others. The shipowner will be required to look after a man suffering from venereal disease. Some seamen will benefit by a liberalizing .of the procedures in respect of treatment when sick or injured in the home port, and provision will be made for stopping wages when a man away from home is fit to ‘travel but refuses to proceed to the -home port. A new provision will be that a deserter’s wages must be paid to the department. This is already done in practice, but there ;is no compulsion on the ship* owner to hand them over.
Provision will also be made in the bill for the relief and repatriation of distressed Australian seamen abroad. At present,
United Kingdom regulations govern the matter, but they are not completely suitable for our purposes. Also, we now have sufficient Australian officers stationed abroad to enable a scheme to be applied without relying on British consuls and other officials to act for us in all places. lt is also proposed to simplify the procedures by which a foreign ship is allowed to engage in coasting trade. At present a British ship gets a permit, a foreign ship an exemption. It is proposed that in either case the document be a permit and also that where the tourist traffic is being injured or retarded, a general permit may be issued to enable foreign as well as British passenger ships to engage in the tourist traffic over a period. This may prove useful in assisting Tasmania, north Queensland or other parts of the Commonwealth to a greater extent than is possible under existing law.
This brief summary of a few of the clauses will indicate the very comprehensive nature of this bill. The Government has consulted shipowners and maritime unions on many of the matters covered, and is indebted to both for helpful advice and suggestions. It has not been found possible, however, to agree wholly with either side on a number of matters. I am confident that the passage of the bill will do very much towards removing anomalies, and generally bringing our shipping legislation into line with modern thought and practice. I am also confident that this very comprehensive bill will remove the necessity for the introduction of further measures of anything like the same length in future. I am, however, not unmindful of the fact that our navigation law needs to remain under continual surveillance.
To that end, the Department of Shipping and Transport will keep the Navigation Act under continual review so that in future anomalies will be removed as soon as they become apparent, and so that any amendments made necessary by changing circumstances can be introduced without delay. In one sense, the bill now submitted creates a new starting point, and I commend it to honorable senators. I might add that, for the convenience of honorable senators, I have arranged for copies of the Navigation Act to be circulated.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’sullivan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Diplomatic Immunities Act 1952 to ensure that the representatives in Australia of the Federation of Malaya and of Ghana, together with the families and staffs of such representatives, are accorded by law all the immunities to which diplomatic personnel from other countries are entitled. Honorable senators will be aware that both the Federation of Malaya and Ghana have recently acquired independent status within the Commonwealth of Nations and that high commissioners have been exchanged between Kuala Lumpur and Canberra. While an Australian high commissioner has been appointed to Accra, there is not yet a representative from Ghana established in Canberra, but when the Government of Ghana feels able to make such an appointment it will be welcomed.
The immunities which the bill will confer are as defined in the 1952 act, namely, immunity from suit and legal process, inviolability of residence, official premises and official archives. Foreign diplomatic personnel have these immunities by the operation of long-established rules of international law which have been absorbed into the general law of Australia, but legal doubt existed prior to the 1952 act as to whether representatives of Commonwealth countries could claim these immunities.
Honorable senators will recall that the motivating need for the 1952 legislation was that the constitutional developments within the Commonwealth of Nations and the increased number of independent members thereof, had made it clear that high commissioners should enjoy similar privileges and immunities to the diplomatic representatives of other countries. On this basis the United Kingdom Parliament - after other
Commonwealth members, including Australia, had been consulted - passed an act to extend to high commissioners the same immunity from suit and legal process, the inviolability of residence, official premises and archives as were accorded to foreign envoys. Other member countries of the Commonwealth of Nations did likewise. A major feature of such legislation was that there should be reciprocity between the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth members. Malaya has already taken action to grant the immunities mentioned above to the Australian High Commissioner, members of his staff and their families in Kuala Lumpur, and it is now necessary for Australia to take reciprocal action to ensure that Malayan representatives in Australia are similarly covered. This requires an amendment of the act.
As it stands, the principal act is capable of being extended by regulation to cover the representatives of countries which form part of the Queen’s dominions. The Federation of Malaya however is a monarchical system and is not a part of the Queen’s dominions, although it has remained within the Commonwealth of Nations with the warm agreement of other members. Since it is not technically part of the Queen’s dominions, representatives of the Federation of Malaya in Australia cannot therefore be covered by the act unless it is amended, lt would technically be possible to extend the act by regulation to cover the representatives of Ghana since that country is a part of the Queen’s dominions, but insofar as an amendment is necessary in respect of Malaya it is thought fitting specifically to mention Ghana as well as Malaya in the bill.
It will be obvious to honorable senators, from what I have said, that the development and growth of the Commonwealth of Nations have extended not only to an increase in the number of independent member countries, but also to the constitutional forms of government of such members. India and Pakistan are republics and Malaya a monarchy, all with their own Heads of State. Although these three countries are members of the Commonwealth of Nations, they do not recognize Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second, as Head of State, and therefore do not legally form part of the Queen’s- dominions. It is impossible to foresee how far this constitutional development will continue and, accordingly, in order to avoid the need for the passage of legislation in any future case where a Commonwealth member is not a “ part of the Queen’s dominions “, the bill will enable the extension of the act by regulation to cover any future representatives of newly independent member countries of the Commonwealth of Nations, no matter what their particular form of constitutional government may be.
The main provisions of the bill will be found in clause 4 (c). The other clauses of the bill are essentially concerned with questions of drafting. In short, the present bill confirms the provisions of the principal act and merely amends it to bring it into conformity with present-day conditions. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Debate resumed from 26th March (vide page 411), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– When the debate was interrupted last night I was dealing with the matter of hire-purchase transactions, and had stated that the situation in Australia had reached the proportions of a national scandal. I have not in any way over-stated the position. Senator McManus, in his contribution to the debate, submitted figures regarding the ramifications of hire-purchase transactions which, to say the least, were astonishing and disquieting. I was pointing out the action the Government could take to control the very dangerous situation that has arisen.
In the United States of America, if my information is correct, private enterprise has an almost free and unrestricted rein. But even there, the government found it necessary some time ago to impose a limitation on the rate of interest charged on hire-purchase transactions, beyond which it is an offence for the finance corporations to go. I do not know whether the legislative machinery of the United States of America is identical with that of Australia, but I do know that America is composed of a certain number of States, upon which is superimposed a federal government, a governmental structure similar to the structure in this country. I should be very interested to know, because I do not claim to have any knowledge of the legal aspects concerned with the constitutional angle, whether we could do the same on a federal level as America has done. Failing that, I suggest that immediate action ought to be instituted by this Government in conjunction with the States to see whether we can do something about this matter.
Senator Wright tried to reassure Senator McManus in relation to the hire-purchase problem by saying that the Constitution Review Committee was examining the position. 1 very much doubt whether that satisfied Senator McManus, and it certainly did not satisfy me. Without wishing to speak in a derogatory manner about the Constitution Review Committee - it has a very important task to carry out - I feel that any consideration that might be given to the hire-purchase problem by that body would be only a tiny thread, as it were, in a very large pattern to be considered. I think that if we have to wait for a report from the committee on the way in which the activities of some of the people concerned with the financing of hire purchase in this country can be curbed, we shall have to wait for a very long time indeed. Evidently Senator McManus saw the force of that argument and was not very much impressed with Senator Wright’s submission that some consideration was being given to this matter by the Constitution Review Committee. I believe that action should be instituted now.
– Hear, hear!
– As a first step towards that end, I suggest that the Commonwealth Government should initiate a conference between its representatives and the representatives of the States.
– The matter was discussed at a Premiers Conference.
– No detailed report has been given to this Parliament, as far as I am aware, in relation to the fate of the discussion. That leads one to believe that the Government may be engaged in windowdressing, merely to be able to say that it has initiated a discussion. I want to know what was discussed, and the result of the discussion. Whatever grounds for disagreement we may have on the basic issues of the banking legislation, 1 am sure no supporter of the Government will say’ that he is not extremely disquieted by the existing situation in the hire-purchase field in Australia. Does any honorable senator opposite ask us to believe that he is not gravely concerned about this matter? We should intensify the action that has been initiated by the Government in order to see whether we can arrive at an understanding with the States whereby, if they feel that there are limitations within their own borders in the matter of controlling this vicious evil, they will by some means or another hand over to the Commonwealth power to legislate to curb the activities of these people who are bleeding the nation white. I am sure that neither Senator McManus nor I will rest until some concrete evidence is placed before us to satisfy our minds that the Government will not by-pass this important issue and bend the knee to the vested interests of this country.
It might be of interest to the Senate to know that so concerned was the trade union movement in South Australia about the exploitation - I use that word advisedly - of the people of this Commonwealth by the usurers of Australia that it recently formed a trade union hire-purchase co-operative of its own. It is the intention of the South Australian trade union movement, if the co-operative can become established in this particular field, to cut the interest rates by half. Our advisers have told us that we can do that and still show a small profit on the operations of the co-operative concern. This will give honorable senators some idea of what is happening in the hire-purchase field. Immediately we initiated this scheme in South Australia which, I am proud to say, I had some directive influence in forming, we came up against the no-deposit aspect that was high-lighted by Senator McManus. The hire-purchase concerns, which have tremendous reserves, can permit the people, without paying a penny deposit, to commit themselves to acquire articles for their homes which they may or may not be able to pay for, according to their economic circumstances. One of the grave difficulties confronting the growth of the hire-purchase co-operative in South Australia to which I have referred is that it is not prepared - u> the, interests of the people whom it is trying to serve - to engage in that form of transaction. As there is no legislation in existence to compel the hire-purchase barons of this country to insist on at least some practical deposit, the operations of any co-operative that starts on the basis that was adopted by the South Australian cooperative will be seriously impeded. Therefore, I contend that an essential ingredient in hire-purchase transactions should be insistence on a deposit. I think that Senator McManus made his point in this connexion extremely well.
Before I get on to some of the comments made by the Minister in his second-reading speeches on this bill and the related banking bills, I feel impelled, now that Senator Wright has returned to the chamber, to make one or two references to matters that he dealt with in the course of his speech. One of the most unfair things, I think, that Senator Wright said, amongst many unfair things, was that the attitude of the Opposition was dictated by outside organizations. To make the position worse, he referred to a rigidly regimented Labour caucus, in order to give the impression that honorable senators on this side would be virtually in fear of their lives if they went against a caucus decision. One could gain the impression from what Senator Wright said that he is one of those rugged individuals who, regardless of his own party’s considerations, invariably does what he wants to do; but I can recall very vividly an occasion in this chamber not long ago when, in connexion with a measure about which Senator Wright appeared to entertain strong feelings, he said that he would speak against, and vote against the measure. Subsequently, if my memory serves me well, a division was called for. As I hurried towards this chamber in response to the ringing of the division bells, I passed Senator Wright, who was lurking miserably in the lobby. He was not game to come into the chamber and make good his boast; while the division was being counted, he waited outside the chamber like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz, whose roar was remarkable but whose courage was open to question.
I should like to. know what moved Senator Wright - who had earlier been so definite in both attitude and statement - to fail to do what he had told this Senate he would do. I suggest that the senior members of his party said, “ It is all right for you to get up in the Senate and make statements like that, but don’t be silly enough to carry out your threats “. Senator Wright thus became a victim of the very thing that he accuses Opposition members of accepting. I suggest that, in making such statements, he should have some regard for what has happened in the past. Passing now to a less personal question - his attitude to this legislation - I recall that he said he had the faculty of changing his mind. I think Senator Byrne pointed out that his attitude in 1953 was vastly different from what it is to-day.
– I was not referring to my attitude.
– You took pride in the fact that you moved with the times.
– You are misrepresenting me.
– Doubtless the honorable senator would have surrounded himself with an equal display of rectitude if he were pleading consistency of attitude.
One of the dangers inherent in this legislation is exposed at a very early stage in the second-reading speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). He said -
The chief purpose of the Reserve Bank Bill 1957 is to establish the central bank for the -Australian monetary and banking system as an institution which will not be directly associated with the conduct of banking business in competition with the private banks.
In those few words - “ competition with the private banks “ - we have the whole kernel of the situation. A little later the Minister said -
There is one main reason why the Government has decided that the central bank should be separated from the rest of the Commonwealth Bank group - and it is entirely a practical reason. Experience has shown that there cannot be full harmony within the Australian banking system, nor that close co-operation which ought to sub? sist between the central bank and the trading banks, unless and until this separation is effected.
Those few sentences expose the whole intent of the legislation. These bills represent what the private banking institutions require, for the Government is prepared to fall into line with them. They want the act altered so that they can work “ in harmony “ and attain their objective of a complete monopoly of the Australian banking field.
The Minister, in describing the functions of the central bank, sets out the attitude of the private institutions, in this way -
But what is the private banks’ definition of “ fair competition “? The history of Australian banking reveals that it amounts to having everything their own way. That opens up the question of fair competition on the part of the Commonwealth Bank. I agree with Senator Byrne that it would not have been difficult to establish - if it were indeed the case - that the Commonwealth Bank had been acting oppressively against the private banks. There might then have been some validity in the arguments advanced in favour of this change in the Australian banking structure. As Senator Byrne has said - and as the Government has admttied - there is not the slightest evidence of unfair competition on the part of the Commonwealth Bank. On that important point alone this legislation condemns itself. The Minister went on to deal with the steps that had been taken from time to time by this Government in respect of the Commonwealth Bank. He said -
Considerations such as these have become clearer and more insistent as time has gone on. In our 1953 legislation we went part of the way towards separating the Trading Bank from the central bank-
That is very significant - but it became evident that this had not removed all the difficulties created by the association.
The difficulties are not described in detail. The Minister continued -
By degrees we have come round to the belief that only by completely separating the central bank from the rest of the Commonwealth Bank group win the source of friction be eliminated and the way opened for a lasting settlement of the issue.
We do not know what the “ source of friction “ is. Undoubtedly there is some friction on the part of the private trading banks, but we have not heard the Commonwealth Bank complain of any friction from its side. Therefore, such friction as does exist appears to be one-sided - on the side of the private trading banks only.
– What does the friction, amount to?
– The Government will not tell us that. I believe that it is. merely irritation on the part of the privatebanks at having a competitor at all. TheMinister went on -
To do this, however, is far from easy.
There the Government is right. As the vote, will show, it is not going to be at all easy.
The Minister continued -
It is far from being a simple matter of taking, one bank away from a number of other banks and setting it up on its own.
I submit that the Government’s intention is to make it even more difficult for any subsequent government to restore the banking system to its proper state. 1 come now to the question of the Development Bank, which is an important aspect of this legislation. The members of both the Australian Democratic Labour party and the Queensland Labour party have indicated that if the Government had brought down a simple amendment of the existing act for the purpose of setting up a development bank, it would have had their warm support. I have not the slightest doubt that if the Government, instead of bringing down this legislation - which has for its purpose the destruction of the Commonwealth Bank - had suggested a simple amendment along those lines it would have won the support of all Opposition senators. However, I cannot help feeling that it was a mere bait - put into the bill in an attempt to make it acceptable to certain people on this side of the chamber. With respect, I am afraid that Senator Wade and his fellow members of the Australian Country party have been taken for a ride. Obviously, this is an attempt to make the bill more palatable. As Senator Kennelly and other Opposition senators have said, if Senator Wade and his colleagues were voting according to their real convictions they would be over here when the vote was taken. I do not think that they want a bar of the proposed banking structure. If they do, they no longer have the right to say that they really represent the people on the land.
I now come to the constitution of the proposed new Banking Corporation Board. There will be no representation on it, at the managerial level, of the various sections of the Commonwealth Bank. In future, if this legislation is passed, eleven men will control the operations of the Commonwealth banks, subject only to this Parliament. The legislation clearly states that those men must not be in any way associated, on the employment level at least, with the Commonwealth banks. The effect of that, of course, will be to take away from the people who have every right to it, some part in the direction of the operations of the banks. Those people have the knowledge necessary to protect the interests of the banks’ functions, but this legislation will take away from them the right to do so and make them mere office boys and stamp lickers. It will superimpose on them a group of people who may know little or nothing about banking.
There is one very interesting point associated with the composition of this proposed board. I would be very interested indeed to know just how much the board is going to cost per annum. I notice that no assessment of the cost was mentioned in the speeches made by the Treasurer in another place and by the Minister for National Development in this chamber. No estimate has been given of how much it would cost to have this board, which, I suppose, would be obliging in some respects to certain people. We have not been told how much the members of the board would receive for doing what the ordinary managers of the banks ought to do in any event. That raises in my mind a very grave suspicion that one of the means the Government proposes to adopt to destroy the Commonwealth banking structure in this country is to strangle it at the managerial level. Once you take away from the managers of the various banks their right to participate in policy-making and decisions, you have no control over the situation. I view that section of the legislation with the gravest of suspicion.
Statements were made in the press and by members of the Government on the last occasion these measures came before this chamber to the effect that Labour was afraid to debate the measures. I think it has been clearly demonstrated by the speeches of honorable senators on this side that the claim is completely and absolutely false. I think it would be said by any impartial observer that the Labour party has more than held its own in this debate. We would be very happy to continue the debate, because we feel that we have got honorable senators opposite on the run on every point.
I now come to my final point. It has been stated by honorable senators on the Government side that there is a degree of fanaticism on the part of the Labour party in its attitude towards the Commonwealth Bank. I am prepared to say that that is partly true, because it was from the minds of Labour men and the actions of Labour men that this great national institution was brought into existence. I can assure honorable senators opposite that, whatever attacks they may make against the Commonwealth Bank, either now or in the future, they can rely on us to resist them to the utmost.
– I rise to join in this debate in support of the legislation that is before the Parliament. I have enjoyed listening to the debate which, on the whole, has been of a high standard. It has been vigorous and has brought out a number of very important points involved in the legislation, but there is a suspicion abroad that the debate wilt not continue for very long and that the important part of it - the committee stage - just will not happen. If that occurs, the responsibility for it will always stand to the discredit of the section of the Senate which brought it about. The Senate could do a wonderful job in the careful consideration, line by line, of the hundreds of clauses in the legislation. I am no prophet, but I believe the debate will just fade out without the clauses having been considered In detail.
I am indebted to Senator Wright for the remarks he made. I feel that Senator Wright’s speech on this important legislation will be regarded a classic. We had also some splendid contributions from the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) - who took part in the debate with great verve - from Senator Gorton and, on the Country-party side, Senator Wade. I was particularly interested in the details which Senator Wade gave of the vast developmental horizons that are opening up for Australia. Senator Wade, of course, lives in the heart of the country and has an intimate knowledge of the country. It makes me sad to think that in all probability this nation will be denied one of the great things that the Government has conceived to help rural development. Great discredit will always stand at the door of those who deny the benefits of this legislation to the nation.
I turn for a moment to the remarks made by the Opposition. I compliment the members of the Opposition in this chamber for one thing, and for one thing only. They did deal with banking in the main, but that could not be said of the members of the Opposition in another place, who dealt with everything else but banking when this matter came before them. The Opposition here did deal with banking, but it dealt with it in the wrong way.
I feel that this legislation has been introduced at a most opportune moment in Australia’s history, because it can be fairly said that at the present time it is a case of “Australia Unlimited”, Since 1949 Australia’s population has increased by 22 per cent. Since 1939 the number of factories has increased from 27,000 to 52,000. The number of factory workers is now well over 1,000,000 and is increasing at the rate of 60,000 a year. Wherever we go throughout the country, we find a tremendous rate of development, whether it be in the national capital, where many shops and houses are being built, or in the far north of Queensland, where exciting finds of bauxite have been made. Then there is the position that is unfolding in South Australia.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was dealing with the tremendous development taking place in Australia at the present time, and although I feel that I could go on indefinitely describing this development in detail, I ask the Senate to take it as read. I do wish, however, to make the point that in such an expanding and developing era it is absolutely essential that we have business confidence, indeed confidence in every walk of life, and it is for the purpose of cementing that confidence, and making it real, that this legislation is brought before the Senate. I subscribe to every word other honorable senators on this side have uttered about the excellent progress and development made in all departments of the Commonwealth Bank under this Government. This
Government has not in any way sabotaged the bank or done anything to detract from its efficiency or hamper it expansion.
Let me give one illustration of how the bank has developed during our term of office. I refer in particular to the expansion of the accommodation of the Commonwealth Bank. I choose that illustration because it is outward and visible evidence of internal expansion. Wherever one goes, whether it be in the country or in any of our great cities, one sees either rebuilt or extended Commonwealth Bank buildings. Before the doors of those institutions open, one also sees queues of people waiting to go in and transact business with the various sections of the Commonwealth Bank. I admit that this occurs outside the doors of other banks too, but I merely mention what takes place outside the Commonwealth Bank’s branches and agencies as being an outward sign of the expansion of that organization. The figures we have heard relating to holdings and the deposits of depositors are further evidence of the great expansion of the Commonwealth Bank. There can be no doubt that confidence in our banking structure is of tremendous importance not only now but also in the future.
I think I can best put the position .simply by saying that before this Government attained office there was great peril connected with the banking business. I feel that this Government has a duty to the customers of the banks, both Commonwealth and private, to do something by this legislation to avert a recurrence of the peril that confronted the system. The Government is doing so, although the peril perhaps is not so obvious to-day as it was when other banking proposals were before us ten years ago.
At this stage, I invite the attention of the Senate to what I think is one of the most important banking cases ever heard by the High Court of Australia. It is not often publicized, but it is the first of the banking cases heard by the High Court. I refer to the case of the Corporation of the City of Melbourne against the Commonwealth, heard in 1947. The circumstances in that case were rather amazing. It should be remembered that the Chifley Government had passed the Banking Act of 1945, in section 48 of which appear these remarkable words -
Except with the consent in writing of the Treasurer, a bank shall not conduct any banking business for a State, or for any authority of a State, including a local governing authority.
Here I think I should relate how this case came to be heard. The Treasurer of the day, Mr. Chifley, wrote to the Corporation of the City of Melbourne on 1st May, 1947. He chose May Day for this rather significant intrusion into Australian life. It is a short letter, and I understand that all the small district councils, boroughs and corporations throughout Australia, the hundreds of thousands of groups of men who were giving their services honorably, willingly and freely, received similar letters. The letter to the Corporation of the City of Melbourne read -
Under section 48 of the Banking Act 1945, it is provided that, except with the consent in writing of the Treasurer, a bank shall not conduct any banking business for a State, or for any authority of a State, including a local governing authority. It is further provided by that section that, until a date fixed by the Treasurer by notice published in the “ Gazette “ that section shall apply only in relation to banking business conducted for a State, or for any authority of a State specified by the Treasurer by notice in writing.
A date has not yet been so fixed and I propose to specify, on or about 1st August, 1947, certain authorities of a State or local governing authorities, including the City of Melbourne, to be authorities in relation to which section 48 of the Banking Act 1945 shall apply. In effect this will mean that as from the date on which this specification was made a private bank will not be able legally to conduct business on behalf of any local governing authority specified in the notice.
Within a few days, the Corporation of the City of Melbourne replied in a very courteous way objecting to this. Then, on 23rd May, the Treasurer of the day wrote in these cold ruthless terms-*
I acknowledge receipt of your letter of 13th May, 1947, protesting against, and requesting the exemption of your Council from, the operation of section 48 o’f the Banking Act. Full consideration was given to this matter before it was decided to specify your Council as an authority to which section 48 of the Banking Act shall apply. I-
This is the Treasurer of the Commonwealth - am satisfied that the Commonwealth Bank-
There was -no question of choice - is in :a position to provide full ‘banking facilities to ,your Council and -I cannot see my way clear to exempt the Council from compliance with the terms of the order which I propose to issue on 1st August, 1947, under that section.
Let us examine for a minute what that bombshell hurled into Australian life actually meant. Here, I feel I cannot do better than quote Sir John Latham, Chief Justice of the High Court at that time. He said -
The Council cannot compel the Commonwealth Bank to accept its business.
Just imagine the predicament in which the council found itself! Sir John Latham continued -
The effect of the specification made by the Treasurer is, therefore, that the Melbourne City Council will be compelled to do its banking business with the Commonwealth Bank upon terms which are acceptable to the Commonwealth Bank or, alternatively, that it cannot conduct general banking business with any bank at all, there being no State bank in Victoria doing general banking business.
That was the predicament in which every district council, corporation and local government body, large or small, in the Commonwealth found itself. It amounted to intimidation of possibly the finest groups of citizens we have in this nation - those who serve their municipalities. I must say that, thanks to the fearless High Court, that section of the act was declared invalid. But the most important thing is that that was the small spark which started the fire that consumed the Labour party at the polls in 1949.
Therefore, the Opposition has that stupid, ruthless, socialistic action to blame for its defeat - an action that would have denied f reedom of choice, even to the great corporation of the City of Melbourne, as to a place in which to deposit its funds. Although State laws required such organizations to bank their funds where the auditors required, the party that is now in Opposition in this Parliament attempted to deny them that right. As I say, the effect of section 48 was to deny to every corporation and (district council in Australia the right to decide where it would bank its money. What an effect such an action must have had on the confidence of a nation that hopes to be great! As I have said, that action of the Labour party was the spark that ‘started the fire. That is so, despite all the twaddle that the members of the Opposition ‘have .been speaking about bank clerks going about and trying to .promote enthusiasm for the present Government parties, then in opposition. I think that the Senate should be reminded that that kind of ruthless action might happen again if this Government did not do all in its power to make this important function of banking safe and sound.
I feel that 1 should answer some of the statements that were made by Senator Toohey during the debate. The honorable senator made a part of his speech last night, while the proceedings were being broadcast, and the remainder this morning. I take singular exception to some of the remarks he made last night. I refer particularly to his comments about young men and others - obviously bank clerks; indeed, he said they were - who went about doing certain things in 1949. The honorable senator referred to them as “ genteel gangsters “. I think that that statement should be considered by the Senate. After all, what was the position of the bank officers who supported the Opposition parties, now the Government parties, at that time? They were men who were defending their livelihood, men who were employed by the private banks. Many of them, I am proud to say, were ex-servicemen who, only a few years before, had been discharged from the services and had resumed their occupations with the banks.
– Is the honorable senator admitting that they did that?
– I am taking the honorable gentleman’s statement. In addition, those men were unionists, and very fine types of unionists, too. Yet Senator Toohey calls them “ genteel gangsters “, amongst other things.
– And mercenaries.
– Yes, the honorable -senator called them mercenaries also. Here we have the example of the vice-president of the Australian Labour party referring to a group of men who were working in the interests of their livelihood - let us put it on that basis - as “ genteel gangsters “. He referred to them as genteel, I suppose, because they were wearing collars and ties. In my opinion, such remarks from the vicepresident of the Labour party of Australia do not sound very well in this Senate.
– Perhaps he is a good judge of gangsters.
– I shall not develop that argument. No doubt the men to whom the honorable senator referred in that way have, in the ensuing six, seven or eight years, become branch managers and are fine citizens who are prepared at all times to work long hours in the interests of their customers who need banking accommodation and financial assistance.
Dealing generally with the matters covered by the bill, so far as I can see there is really not much that I can say that has not been already stated by my colleagues. I think that the speech of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), as read to the Senate by his colleague, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), states the position in very clear language. I am concerned, however, to think that an adverse vote in this chamber will prevent all those objectives from being attained. I feel that the members of the Australian Democratic Labour party, and my friend of the Queensland Labour party, Senator Byrne, must stand up and be counted if and when they aline themselves, on the vote on this legislation, with the Evatt Labour party. By so doing they will deny regulation by act of parliament of the activities of the savings banks which have been established by the private banks. At the present time, I understand that the activities of those savings banks are governed by regulation, or by order of the central bank. If the honorable senators to whom I have referred vote against the legislation they will be preventing that regulation from being given legislative form. In addition, they will be preventing the utilization of the tremendous housing potential which is envisaged in the new structure of the Commonwealth banking system. They will be preventing the proposed Commonwealth Development Bank from being established. As well, they will be preventing hire-purchase expansion on improved lines, through recognized banking sources, in respect of goods of a very useful kind. Finally, they will be preventing the central bank from acting as an umpire, as it were.
I suggest that the function of the central bank is to act as an umpire. Do not honorable senators opposite appreciate that even in the smallest places, when the east team is playing the west team the umpire is not a member of either team? This legislation represents an attempt by the Government to establish a completely separate central bank, instead of something which is regarded as being associated with one of the competing trading banks. The Opposition wants to deny to the people the benefit of an independent umpire in banking matters. If the vote of honorable senators opposite is against the legislation, it seems to me that it will deny the right of this Parliament to restore, as far as that is possible, complete confidence in the banking laws of the Commonwealth.
– I should like to say something, first of all, about what Senator Laught has said. Apparently, it does not matter what we on this side of the chamber do - it will be wrong. The honorable senator objected to there being no discussion here on the last occasion, but he said that in another place they just talked and talked. He reminds me of a very wealthy Jew who was a stockbroker in London. When he had made a good deal, his co-religionists used to beg him to give them largesse. One day he gave one of them 10s., which was quite a lot of money at that time. A few hours afterwards he was in a rather aristocratic restaurant and this man to whom he had given the money happened to be sitting in front of him, eating some smoked salmon. The stockbroker said to him, “ You are eating smoked salmon? “ The other replied, “ Of course I am “. The stockbroker said, “ Are you not the man who got 10s. from me some time ago because you said you were destitute? “ The Other answered, “ Yes, but what sort of a man are you? I cannot eat smoked salmon when I have no money, and I cannot eat it when I have money. Just when can I eat smoked salmon ?” That is the position here. Honorable senators opposite say that if we talk too much we are wrong and that we are wrong when we do not talk at all.
– That is not red salmon; that is red herring.
– I suppose everything is red to you, even red herrings. I intend to say something soon which might strike your conscience, if you have any. I had intended to speak at some length if I had the opportunity yesterday when the proceedings of the Senate were being broadcast, but as time is running out and as I do not wish to detain the Senate unduly-
– Hear, hear!
– I know you do not want to hear me, because I talk a little bit above you. What you need is some mental exercise. You have been so stupid for so long that it is such a terrific strain to follow an intelligent man that you suffer from a severe headache for quite a long time afterwards. I should like to make a couple of comments about the bill, and particularly about time payment. As you know, Mr. President, at one time the prestige of a banker, particularly in a country town, was very great. He was looked upon as a leading man. I do not wish to say anything against him personally, but what is a banker now? He is nothing more than a cross between a second-hand dealer and a pawn broker. Everything a client has will be taken at about a quarter of its value to offset the cost of a television set. The amount of interest that is paid on such transactions is simply disgraceful. It averages about 36 per cent.
But the reason for which I really rose was to clear my character. I do not think it will be out of order for me to refer to it, because it is related to the bill how before us. I do not wish to trespass on your tolerance, Mr. President. In the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 25th February there is an article which occupies nearly a full page and which is headed “ What Dangers Face the Government in Coming Session?”
– None whatever!
– You have the worry. In addition, the newspaper published a photograph of Mr. Monk and myself.
– That is not a very great danger.
– What is not?
– Your photograph.
– I will “grant” that. If these gentlemen opposite who are so much concerned about freedom, justice,, fairness, our way of life, and how they shall beat the Communists because their system, is better than ours, try to beat the Communists with such stuff as this, they have another guess coming. I do not know the gentleman who wrote this article, but I presume he is a member of the Australian Journalists Association. I should like tothank my colleagues for the attitude they have adopted; not one of them believes this story about me any more than I would believe a similar story about them. That has been a very great source of comfort to me. I do not care what other people say about me, as long as my colleagues do not talk about me and believe things like that. I can recall reading about a great Irishman named Michael Davitt who said, “ When you read the capitalist press, it does not matter whether you understand it or not. Get somebody to read it and tell you what it is about. Do the reverse of what they advocate and you will not be far wrong.” And that is as true to-day as it was when Michael Davitt said it.
I was going to describe the person who wrote this article as being a mongrel, but I know that would be unparliamentary. I have quite a high regard for the mongrel. He is a fairly intelligent animal for the simple reason that he has to struggle hard for a living, as do many of the workers. Naturally, he becomes more intelligent than the other animals, and he is very faithful. So I do not want to insult the mongrel. I shall say that the pusillanimous cur who wrote this article had not the decency to come to me and ask, “What have you to say about it?” He discusses the possible issue at the next general election and says that some members of the Australian Labour party would like to fight the election on the question of unemployment and others on the question of the banking legislation. He states -
And looking to the success which the Labour party had during the last session in whipping up feeling oyer the issue-
That is, the banking issue - they feel that for the time being - with unemployment likely to give the Opposition more than enough ammunition - it is better to let sleeping dogs lie.
Against this view is the assessment which seems to emerge principally from N.S.W., where fervour for the proposed “ reform “ has always been strongest.
This is that at least one N.S.W. Senator - the name of Senator Donald Grant, who has failed to achieve pre-selection, for the next poll, is the most frequently mentioned - will find it convenient not- to turn up for the crucial Senate vote.
Therefore, says this faction, let us have another try.
That is a. lie. I- do not believe that any of my- colleagues ever discussed it with any one. It isi an insult not only to me, but also to them and, more importantly, to the Senate. I greatly appreciate the fact that I am a member of the Senate. To say that any honorable senator, whether he belongs to the Labour party or any other party would sell his birthright for a mess of pottage is very offensive. When this man picked on me as being likely to rat, as they call it, he picked on the wrong man.
– Why do you not issue a writ?
– That is a fair question. I am prepared to answer any question, provided it is difficult. If I were to issue a writ against the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, which has lost all the prestige it had, what would happen? If I were to win the case, these people would appeal to the High Court or even go right through to the Privy Council-. Their legal expenses would not be charged to them. The cost of the litigation would be charged to general expenses and would be deducted for income* tax purposes. Where would I be then? If the honorable senator can get anybody to put up the finance, I will issue a writ quick and lively.
Perhaps I am a bit sentimental about this matter, but I have good reason to be sentimental. To me, the Labour movement is above everything else in the world. I had to leave school when I was twelve years of age. I saw the spectacle, as- 1 suppose did’ my friend Dan Minogue and others in. Ireland, of brothers and- sisters going overseas to bed brothers of the earth to get the- opportunity to toil which they could not. get in. their own land. But I did not know, what the struggle was. about. I knew about Jordan, Job, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and the Song of Solomon; but I was not told about crofters’ cottages being burned and about people being pushed on to barges at the point of the bayonet and in their thousands crossing the Atlantic and dying as a result of frostbite. I knew nothing about that, so when I came into the world I had to find out about it. And, I found out about it nearly 40 years ago. If I had wanted to sell out in the days of Holman, I could have, done so. But I wanted to find out what all, this, was about and, with my meagre intelligence, I burned the candle at both ends to find out what it was all about. I began to learn about the Chartist movement, the trade union movement, the anti-combination laws and so forth. Like my friend Gordon
Brown and my dear friend Don Cameron, I did find out. In the process of learning these things, some of us suffered a great deal. How the author of this article could be so mean, low and vile to think that I. would walk out after all I have been through,. I do not know. I have been through a lot, and when I read the article I thought of some of the boys I knew and wondered what they would think if I did what other so-called Labourites, have done in the. past, and sold, my birthright for amess of pottage. I feel that they are. saying now, “ What is it. all about? “ Some people have. said to me.” You did not get the selection. I. know what I . would do if L were inyour position.” Only two nights ago one of the. leading, political figures in this Parliament asked me. how I was. and then said,. “ What is going to happen about the banking legislation?” I replied, “It. will meet thesamefate as it did, on the last occasion it was before, us”. He said, “Here is a chancer for, you to make a name for yourself “, to which I replied, “ The name I made for myself would not last as long as has the name of Judas Iscariot “.
People do, not know the lifethat I have had because I. have never publicized my experiences’, and if I have ever had an argument with the Labour party or its philosophies as- a whole, even that would not encourage me to be. a traitor. Ever since I have been in this chamber the. press has put the boot into me. The “ Bulletin”, which used to be one of the great journals of the world prints some article about me in almost every issue, but that does not worry me. In the words of the poet -
Who never ate his bread in sorrow,
Who never spent the midnight hours
Weeping and waiting forthe morrow,
He. knows ye not, ye heavenly powers.
There is not enough money in the British Empire to buy me. No person sells anybody but himself or double-crosses anybody but himself. I was taken across the country wearing leg irons and was sentenced to a total of 45 years imprisonment and spent hundreds of hours on bread and water. I have read a lot and ascertained why some people do not have enough to eat while others have too much, why some are evicted from their homes while others live in luxury. My search for knowledge became a religion with me, and yet this man, this mental prostitute, who, no doubt, is a member of the Australian Journalists Association and of its ethics committee, writes these things about me. And this Government has the nerve to say “ We do not do those things. We believe in fairness! “
In an earlier speech, Senator Laughtr said” Look at the prestige, of Mr. Menzies. throughout the world. Read what the Premier of South Africa has to- say about, him “ but the Premier of South Africa, believes in what is. perhaps one of the worst: forms of slavery in the world. I do not believe any honorable senator can beloyal to his party unless the. loyalty comes from his heart. I am not one of. those per1 sons who abuses another simply for: the sake of using abuse.
No doubt honorable senators have heard of those two great English poets, Browning and Wordsworth. Wordsworth was a radical when he was young but sold out his principles when he became older. Robert Browning’s poems are very difficult to understand. On one occasion he was asked, regarding one poem he had written, “What is it about?” Browning- replied, “When I wrote it, only God and I knew, and I have forgotten “. When Wordsworth sold out, Browning said in “ The Lost Leader “ -
Just for a handful of silver he left us,
Just for a riband to stick in his coat,
Found the one gift of which fortune bereft us,
Lost . all the others she. lets us devote
To associations . . .
There is no doubt about what Browning meant here. If members of the Labour movement. have, sold themselves in the past,, “ just for a. ribbon to stick in their coat “, not one of my colleagues on this side of the chamber would do the same thing to-day. I am pleased that we are so solid in our reaction to this legislation.
I remember the days when Jack Lang was. in office. He and I had many arguments but, at least, he tried to do the best he could. I was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council during the time of crisis that brought about his downfall. Money was flowing everywhere. At that time a party comprised of three men held the balance of power. It was I who called, it the. “ cash and carry party “ because, it, favoured, the. side which offered the most money. However, I would not be bought. then, and now, that I am older does any honorable senator think that I can be bought?
Regarding this legislation, I am not at all concerned about my future; I am concerned about the Australian people who want to get rid of this Government. I want my colleagues to come to power and I would not do anything to harm the Labour movement. I am pleased to be able to exercise my vote, with my colleagues, to prevent this legislation becoming law. The result will be the same as before. I think that the defeat of this legislation will bring about a renaissance in the Labour movement. After all, only one party stands for the benefit of the people, the Labour party. The Government stands for the boodlers bankers and exploiters. Throughout my life I have made only one complaint about the Australian Labour party - it is not moving fast enough for me.
– The party is moving too fast for the honorable senator and he is being left behind.
– The honorable senator does not know anything about that. If I gave him something to read he would not understand it. After the set-backs the Labour movement has had, I believe that this legislation will be the instrument that will weld the Labour movement into a force to be reckoned with. We shall take on a new lease of life and go forward to eject this Government that has fooled the people for the last eight years.
.- I remember listening to Senator Grant many years ago in Brisbane when he was connected with a political body long since defunct. His tune has not changed over the past forty years and he still talks the same kind of political drivel as he did in those far off days.
Opposition speakers have had a lot to say about what they term “ the peoples’ bank “. They have all jumped on the Commonwealth Bank bandwaggon in its heyday of success. However, the same degree of political harmony was not to be found in Labour-socialist circles during the years when the late King O’Malley sponsored and fought for the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank. It took years of strenuous effort before he was able to convince the
Parliamentary Labour party of the wisdom of such an establishment and to swing thevote of the Labour caucus in support of the Commonwealth Bank proposals. He finally went to the Labour convention in Brisbane in 1908, where he triumphed and got a resolution through which read -
That a Commonwealth bank be a plank of the; fighting platform and that it should be a bank of issue, deposit, exchange and reserve.
The Federal Labour party was victorious, in the subsequent election held in November, 1908. King O’Malley, following that election, although a keen advocate for the; establishment of a Commonwealth bank, or a national bank as he termed it, was not elected to the Ministry. He was told plainly at that time by the majority of his Labour colleagues to keep his mouth shut on thematter of a Commonwealth bank. Therewas a general chorus from the majorityof his colleagues in the Federal Parliamentary Labour caucus to the effect that the Brisbane resolution must be shelved immediately.
– How do you knowthat?
– This is the history of : the time; I have delved into the past and ascertained the facts. Such notable Labourprime ministers as the late Andrew Fisher, and the late Mr. W. M. Hughes, were ascold as cod fish on the bank proposal and’ they spiked King O’Malley’s efforts at every stage to get a Commonwealth bank goingAccording to contemporary accounts, when the Parliamentary Labour caucus carried: the motion for the establishment of a Commonwealth bank by a majority of one only,, a good deal of bitterness was engendered in, the Federal Labour caucus. Times havechanged a good deal since then. There wasvery acrimonious division in the ranks of” the Federal Labour party caucus on thewisdom or otherwise of establishing a Com- monwealth bank.
The bill for the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank was introduced in; this Federal Parliament by the late Mr. Andrew Fisher on 25th October, 1911. It was stated at that time that although Mr. King O’Malley was the sponsor of theidea and its chief advocate, because he was - disliked within the Federal Labour party caucus, members of the party did not want, him to have the honour of introducing the– bill into the Federal Parliament. In this atmosphere of division and bitterness within the Labour party, the Commonwealth Bank came into existence and was opened for business on 18th July, 1912. At that time, many people regarded King O’Malley as a showman, an adventurer, and even a mountebank. No matter what names were conferred upon him, nor how many people disliked him, the fact remained that he undoubtedly had the fire of genius. On this matter of national banking he was unquestionably a man dedicated to a cause.
It will be clear from what I have said that the Commonwealth Bank barely survived a bitter battle among the Labour men in the Federal Parliament nearly 50 years ago. So there has not always been the same unanimity for the people’s bank, as it is now called, as honorable senators -opposite claim exists to-day. King O’Malley, when speaking in the Federal Parliament on 11th June, 1915, is reported in “ Hansard “ to have said -
For fourteen years I was the only man in this House who made a speech on banking. “That was the measure of the support which he secured from his colleagues. For fourteen years, he was the only member of the Parliament who espoused the cause of a national bank.
Now that the Commonwealth Bank has been a great success, the Opposition and its supporters all over Australia have come to regard this bank, the people’s bank as they say, as their very own. But it was not always so. The Federal Labour party has been in power on a number of occasions since the Commonwealth Bank was established, but what has that party done? I should like to hear what Senator Brown has to say on this matter, because he is apparently a great admirer of the late King O’Malley.
– I am a great admirer of him. I have a photograph of King O’Malley together with the people that were against him.
– The party whom Senator Brown and those who think like him support has been in power on quite a number of occasions since the Commonwealth Bank was established. What did the party do to honour the man whose persistence and strength brought this great bank into existence? It is no credit to
Labour that, arising from personal bitterness against King O’Malley, his name was omitted from the foundation stone of the first Commonwealth Bank. It does not appear there to-day, and his friends of the Labour party have taken no step at any time to give him the honour that was his due. I want to say that if there had been no King O’Malley, there would never have been a Commonwealth bank. That is the position. Labour has let down its hero to that extent.
Now, let us look back down the years. Thirty years after the first settlement, the rapidly developing colony of New South Wales was feeling the need for a better currency than rum and other kinds of barter, in order to meet the needs of commerce and to facilitate the payment for goods and services. Since the Bank of New South Wales was founded in 1817, there has been amazing progress in banking activities. The expansion of banking since that time reflects the amazing energy of the early pioneers and the graziers who opened up the virgin scrub and forests and produced from year to year the great wealth on which we have prospered. The competitive banking system which kept pace with our national development ranks to-day amongst the best conducted and soundest systems of banking in the world. The private trading banks have faithfully served the needs of the primary and secondary industries. They helped in the financing of two world wars in which this country was involved, and they have been a source of enormous strength to governments, both Commonwealth and State.
The major service provided by the trading banks has been that of fund raising for government spending. The combined budgets of the Commonwealth and State Governments now run to the order of £1,600,000,000 per annum. It is the practice of the trading banks to keep about 20 per cent of their depositors’ funds as a reserve than can be promptly converted into cash. Most of this reserve is invested in government securities, the present total running to the order of £286,000,000. The central bank, through the special account, absorbs another 20 per cent of trading banks’ deposits. The Commonwealth Government is greatly helped by an investment of over £200,000,000 in Commonwealth and State government securities.
The savings :banks, also, give strength and stability to -government .funds. Licences granted to the private savings banks provide that not less than 70 per cent, of customers’ -deposits must be invested in government securities. Recent banking figures show that savings banks have no less than £904,000,000 invested in this way. The central bank, the Trading Bank, and the Savings Bank together are holding an aggregate of £1*400,000,000 in government securities - equal to 37 per cent, of ‘the total of Commonwealth and State public debt. At first these figures appeared to me to be incredible, but I found that they were correct. This is a very good record of service to the community - a record not generally known to the public. The trading banks have been subjected to much criticism, both in and outside of the Parliament, because overdraft accommodation has not always been readily available to clients. Senator McManus said during this debate, “The institutions which have let the people down in these fields have been the private banks “. In saying that he joined the chorus of criticism against those institutions. Senator Toohey told us of a grazier who had suffered as a result of not being able to obtain overdraft accommodation at a reasonable rate.
I propose to give some of the reasons why the trading banks have been placed in this unhappy position. Since 1953, bank loans have increased by £207,000,000, or 31 per cent., while hire-purchase loans have increased by £150,000,000, or 178 per cent. What has caused hire-purchase loans to outstrip trading bank loans and thus force the private banks into that field? As all honorable senators know, trading bank deposits are rigidly controlled by the central bank, which determines the minimum amount of cash and liquid assets that the private institutions must hold in reserve. I am not quarrelling with that requirement, which is right and proper and in the interests of depositors. However, the central bank also fixes the rate of interest that the banks may offer upon fixed deposits, and upon money lent by way of overdraft. Therefore, the private trading banks have no option in the matter. At present trading bank deposits total £1,616,000,000, of which 55 per cent, has been lent on overdraft. The central bank has called up approximately 21 per cent., and holds it in -the special accounts. The banks hold the balance -in cash and liquid assets. Perhaps I may give an illustration for -the information of Senator .’McManus, Senator Toohey and other honorable senators who are searching for some light on this subject. If Senator McManus had, say, £100 in his pocket and loaned £55 to some one who seeded it, he would be left with £45. -If he then handed £21 - or 21 per cent. - to his wife for housekeeping expenses, he would have £24. That would not leave him much to lend, especially after his own needs had been met. The trading banks must obey the law and, as I have shown, are at present left with a negligible amount of cash and other liquid assets for their day-to-day requirements.
A few years ago the public were accustomed to investing large sums of money on a safe, short-term, basis known as fixed deposit. The system was widely availed of and gave the private banks a strong fund with which to cover advances for all purposes. Where are those fixed deposits to-day? Any bank manager will tell you that very little money finds its way into fixed deposits now. The development of the hire-purchase companies has virtually killed the fixed deposit side of banking. But for the prosperity of the last few years the banks’ capacity to lend would have been greatly restricted. Since 1956 the liquid assets of the trading banks have been swelled by income from the sale of exports. That gave the banks a shot in the arm, and enabled them to lend on a larger scale than otherwise would have been possible. We must also take into account the fact that the central bank, in order to counter inflation, made substantial calls upon the banks for the special accounts during this period. As export income mounted, and our general prosperity became more marked, the central bank felt such action to be necessary. This deprived the banks of moneys which could otherwise have been lent to needy borrowers. I am not criticizing the fact that the central bank called up additional funds. I mention it to show why the banks have not been able to keep pace with the demand for credit.
In the good years, when inflationary influences were evident, it became essential for the central .bank to place some restraint on the scale df total bank lending. Those who condemn the banks for having a tight money policy should weigh all these factors carefully. 1 do not believe in a tight money policy towards those who produce the nation’s wealth, and I deplore the refusal to give the farmers cheap money - but I also understand why, in the particular circumstances of this kind, that has happened. I think I have shown that the trading banks are severely limited by the fact that the interest rates which they may charge are fixed below those ruling in the outside market. Approximately 20 per cent, of their funds are frozen, and the availability of money for lending purposes is thus still further restricted.
Senator McManus referred to a report in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ about a Dubbo farmer who was refused an increased overdraft for the purchase of farm plant and equipment, and told by the local bank manager to make inquiries at the hire-purchase department. The farmer, upon seeking the reason, was advised that, owing to the credit squeeze, overdraft money was not available. I find on analysing this on a fair basis - a judicial basis even - that the central bank, the trading banks and the savings banks are holding an aggregate of £1,400,000,000 in government securities. That gives some indication as to how our whole governmental and economic system depends for its stability on the support compulsorily exacted from the Australian banks. If there is a credit squeeze, as has been stated, it is forced on the banks through the needs of governments, whether a Liberal-Australian Country party government is in power or whether it be a government comprised of gentlemen who sit on the Opposition benches. The banks are caught between that situation on one hand and hirepurchase competitive operations on the other. That helps to account for this extraordinary situation.
I am in complete sympathy with the farmer at Dubbo mentioned by Senator McManus, and with many other farmers who have been refused accommodation at normal overdraft rates to acquire plant and have been driven to pay hire-purchase interest rates. It is an intolerable situation which obliges an industrious farmer to pay excessive hire-purchase interest rates on the purchase of tractors and other farming instruments which he uses to produce the real wealth upon which this country depends - the wheat, oats, barley, lucerne and other agricultural crops for home consumption and export abroad. My main point is that this legislation provides an answer to that trouble.
– At the very outset, that is where you are wrong.
– Listen! The trading banks are caught up in the situation that on the one hand money is being compulsorily exacted from them by governments, which need the money to stabilize the economy, and on the other hand that the high interest rates offered to investors by hire-purchase organizations are depriving them of some of their lending power. This legislation, which is being opposed with such determination by members of the Opposition, provides a cure for the troubles of the Dubbo farmer and others similarly placed.
I wish to refer to the provisions dealing with the Commonwealth Development Bank. This is a completely new organization, based on the Industrial Finance Department and the Mortgage Bank Department of the central bank. The new bank will have a capital increase of £5,000,000, provided from the reserves of the central bank, and will take over the present capital and reserves of the Mortgage Bank Department and the Industrial Finance Department. Those reserves amount to £14,300,000. The total capital of the new bank will be of the order of £19,300,000. This large sum of capital and reserves will make the Development Bank one of the really important banks in Australia.
The functions of the bank are set out in clause 72 (A). They are, first, to provide finance for the purposes of primary production. That alone should cover the case of the Dubbo farmer. The clause states that the functions are -
To provide finance for the purposes of Primary Production or in cases where, in the opinion of the Development Bank, the provision of the finance is desirable and the finance would not otherwise be available on reasonable terms and conditions.
Who can object to such a generous provision? It would cover the requirements of the farmer at Dubbo and other farmers throughout Australia. The bank is also designed - you would think that this would appeal especially to members of the Opposition - to assist those who want to establish the smaller types of business undertakings, lt will give a lifting hand to struggling businessmen of honest character, to industrious fellows who are battling, because of lack of assets and securities, to obtain finance to carry on from week to week, lt will open the door for thousands of business people in that field and give them a chance. I am, therefore, surprised at the attitude of the Opposition to a measure which can be of supreme value to a farmer or a businessman who is struggling to finance his undertaking.
The Development Bank is also empowered to expand into the field of hire purchase, not on wild-cat lines, but on good, prudent, sound business lines, as is done by the private trading banks to-day through their hire-purchase affiliates. Another important provision is that, unlike the Commonwealth Trading Bank, the Development Bank will not be subject to income tax. Its profits will go to the credit of its reserve fund.
To make the position of the trading banks worse to-day, hire-purchase companies have been popping up like mushrooms, offering lenders two or three times more interest on their money than the banks are able to offer. As the trading banks cannot offer competitive interest rates for deposits, the hire-purchase companies have been, as everybody knows, dominating the entire monetary field. Faced with this sort of competition, plus the central bank restrictions, it is clear that the trading banks just cannot win. This reminds me of a rebuke administered by a Spanish king to a treasurer who had been overtaxing his subjects. The monarch said, “ My subjects must be shorn, not skinned “. The banks, because of the exercise of various controls - which I cheerfully admit are administered in the public interests - and because of the intense competition for money by the hirepurchase companies, can be described as being well shorn, if not skinned.
Many people have informed me that one of the sweet mysteries of life to them is why it is deemed necessary to hog-tie completely the trading banks in the way to which I have referred without imposing some reasonable restraints on hire-purchase activities. I have always answered that it ia outside the powers of the Commonwealth Government to regulate hire-purchase regulations, that it is a matter rather for State Governments. I have also said that no State could suceed in any restraining action unless all the States acted in unison. It is my guess that that is something well-nigh impossible to achieve. As I understand the position, that is the difficulty the private trading banks are placed in to-day. The same difficulty faces the economy of the country. It appears that the system of hire purchase in Australia cannot without great difficulty, be brought under any form of regulation or reasonable control. The trading banks cannot, therefore, be fairly criticized for desiring, because of these things, to enter tho very profitable field of hire-purchase dealings.
I think I should point out - it is highly important - that the .trading banks do not use their depositors’ funds to finance their hire-purchase affiliates. It is shareholders’ money - that is, capital which has been raised - which is used to finance the hirepurchase affiliates of the trading banks engaged in this field. It will be recollected that a few weeks ago, when the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney decided to enter the field of hire purchase, it decided to call for funds. The shareholders were given first priority, and the balance was to be raised by public subscription. I repeat that the shareholders’ money, not the customers’ deposits, is used by the private trading banks to finance their hire-purchase affiliates.
– But that is the cream of the business. If they were fair to the customers, they would make it part of the bank’s trading and extend it over the whole of their operations.
– They run their own businesses in their own way, and we cannot blame them for that. It might be of interest to honorable senators to know that the Commonwealth Bank is the only banking institution which lends the depositors’ money to its hire-purchase department, the Industrial Finance Department, and I have yet to learn that the Commonwealth Bank gives the cream of the profit to the investors in that department. One man whom I met recently informed me that a private trading bank had declined to make him an advance on a motor car purchase at normal bank rates and had referred him to its hirepurchase subsidiary. To use his own words, he told me that he was “ crooked on the bank “ because it was lending the depositors’ funds at hire-purchase rates. I finally satisfied him that this was not so.
I think I have said enough to show that the trading banks have not linked up with the hire-purchase operatives in order to lend the depositors’ money at hire-purchase rates and so make big profits for the ordinary shareholders of the banks. Let me make it thoroughly clear that hire-purchase capital is derived from shareholders’ investments. In my view, hire purchase is unquestionably here to stay, irrespective of whether we like it, and it can be a great boon to many people whose finances are not sufficient to satisfy their everyday needs. The entry of the private trading banks into this field, 1 am sure, viewing the whole question from the profit angle, will improve the standard of the business and give greater confidence and security to hire-purchase borrowers. Because of their long experience, the banking institutions have developed a way of being able to sort out the right types of people, the dependable people to whom to lend money with a reasonable measure of security. I am certain that the trading banks will not lend themselves to any extravagance which might be quoted as having happened with some companies outside the banking field.
Senator Byrne told the Senate that some of the bigger credit corporations were now acting as bankers without a licence and quoted an instance in which up to £60,000 was offered on loan. Outside the banking hire-purchase operatives, investors are being offered to-day rates of interest which vary from 7i per cent, to 15 per cent, by hirepurchase companies. I can only say that the people who are the recipients of accommodation from these companies must be paying very high prices.
Enormous sums of money are being drawn off from the investment field by these attractive interest rates, and this is the principal reason why the Commonwealth Government has for years past had no option in financing public works requirements of the Commonwealth itself and of the States than to use revenue. The flow of money which used to be subscribed to public loans at 5 per cent, and even less is now cut down to a mere dribble compared to the full, strong stream which occurred at one time. The same thing applies, ot course, to fixed deposits with the trading banks. Money which used to be lent to the trading banks at fixed deposit now goes the same way as the money which used to go into public loans but which is lured away by the highly attractive rates of interest offered by the hire-purchase companies.
In my judgment, we have reached the stage at which any curtailment of hire purchase would react against the manufacturing industries, and large-scale unemployment would result. So long as the hirepurchase operators confine their financing to manufactured goods, it is not so desperately bad, because industry is promoted and strengthened and unemployment remains at a minimum.
If Senator Byrne’s assertion that hirepurchase corporations are beginning to enter the field of unlicensed private lenders at excessively high rates of interest is true, that at once becomes a challenge to the stability of our general banking system, and I have no doubt, if Senator Byrne’s information is accurate, and if this practice is persisted in, that governments will have to look at means of countering it by hook or by crook.
These bills provide for the separation of the central bank from the Commonwealth Bank. The Government party believes that this is desirable and has based the legislation on the principle of banking obtaining in most countries in the world. The Government also believes in a fair and open field of competition between the Commonwealth Bank, and the private trading banks, and that the central bank, or reserve bank, should not be directly associated with the conduct of business in competition with the private banks. That is our belief, and that is the basis of the principles contained in these important bills. The private banks fear that the government bank could gain much by its association with the central bank, and they fear the effects of such a combination of banking power, if a political party pledged to nationalization of banking were elected to office. A danger would lie there, and the private banks have a very genuine fear indeed.
When we speak of the private banks, we must not overlook the fact that our main consideration concerns not the banks, not the directors of the banks, not the institution of the banks but rather the hundreds of thousands of bank depositors whose savings are at stake. The Rural Credits Department, which has been of such valuable aid in the marketing of primary products, will be attached to the Reserve Bank. The department’s capital is to be increased by £2,000,000 from central bank reserves, making a total of £4,714,000. Neither the Government nor the banks believe that this legislation could stop a socialist government, hell-bent on nationalization, from repealing or amending these banking bills with that end in view. These measures will, however, make it more difficult for any socialist government in the future to emasculate or nationalize the private banking system of Australia. The banking edifice contemplated in these bills will definitely block any Bill Sykes take-over methods and will compel any future government drawn from the Opposition side of this chamber to act in the open.
The bills provide, further, for the Commonwealth Trading Bank to be continued in its present form and to have the duty of developing and expanding its banking business. That gives the lie direct to those who suggest that we are out to destroy the Commonwealth Bank. The duty of the bank, as enjoined in these bills, is to develop and expand its banking business. It is also directed that it shall actively compete in the trading bank field.
Senator Spooner has stated that the Commonwealth Trading Bank is to be supplied, from centra] bank reserves, with additional capital amounting to £2,000,000. This transfer will raise the bank’s capital to £7,429,000, with an additional reserve fund of £2,735,000, so that the Commonwealth Trading Bank will commence business with over £10,000,000 in capital and reserves.
The complementary Income Tax Assessment Bill and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1957 makes the Commonwealth Bank liable to pay income tax. This will put the Commonwealth Trading Bank on an equal footing with the private trading banks, and I do not think any honorable senator opposite can quibble about that. It also is provided that the net profits of the Commonwealth Trading Bank, after taxation has been paid, are to be distributed on the basis of one half to the bank’s reserve fund and the other half to the Commonwealth Treasury.
There is one point in this connexion on which I am not too clear. It is possible that, over a period of time, the capital structure of the Commonwealth Trading Bank could gradually diminish and lose strength through large outgoings in respect of income tax. I have not heard the Minister make any reference to such a possibility. I should think that, to meet such a contingency, additional capital should be provided by act of Parliament when the reduced capital of the Commonwealth Trading Bak places the institution at a disadvantage with its competitors. The private trading banks could meet such a situation by introducing new share capital, but the Commonwealth Trading Bank has not that course open to it. I should be glad to have the Minister’s views on this aspect of the matter.
In conclusion, I say that we are living through a period of great change in the social, cultural and economic life of this country. We have a rapidly increasing population, vast industrial development and an expanding economy. This regrouping of the Commonwealth banking system is a recognition of the need to move with the times, to bring our banking methods up to date and to maintain the Commonwealth Bank in harmonious relationship with the private banks. This is a fine objective which can be realized if these bills are approved by the Senate.
– In rising to support this bill I want, first, to refer to some of the comments that have been made during the debate. It is not my intention to traverse the contributions that have been made by the various speakers on a matter that has already been covered adequately, but there are one or two points that I want to make. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), in opening the debate for the Opposition earlier in the week, said some things with which I disagree. I must say that, usually, it is a pleasure to listen to the honorable senator, because on most occasions he has a good speech to make. In this instance, however, I think I am safe in saying that he made the weakest speech 1 have heard him make since I have been in the Parliament.
The Leader of the Opposition said that the central bank, because it is to be divorced from the trading bank, will lose its listening post from which to gauge the economic conditions throughout Australia. That is simply nonsense, because a board of directors will be appointed to assist the central bank in its work. In this connexion, I wish to refer to a statement that Senator McKenna made and which I could hardly believe that he had made. In fact, I had to go and consult “ Hansard “ to make certain that I was correct in what I thought I had heard. The honorable senator said that the board would be composed of ignorant men. I suggest that such a statement does not do credit to the Leader of the Opposition. I know that the men who comprise these boards are picked for their special qualifications. I shall not mention names, but I know of one man who was on the board of the Commonwealth Bank. He was the head of the largest co-operative institution in Western Australia, one of the largest businesses in the State. He was brought over to the eastern States to put into operation the machinery of the Australian Wheat Board, when it was first established. Not only that, but when he took over the business organization with which he was associated, at the end of the depression, it was in a very risky and deplorable state, but to his great credit he made it into a most flourishing concern. He was well versed in economic trends in Western Australia. Surely, no one would call that nian ignorant.
Another man, who succeeded the person about whom I have just been speaking, was an engineer, the attorney and general manager of a railway company and one of the leading businessmen of Western Australia. Again, he was a man who was conversant with the requirements of that State. I do not wish to refer to any of the other members of the board, because I do not know them, but I assume that they too were chosen for the same qualities and qualifications as those men of whom I have spoken. So to say that the Governor of the
Commonwealth Bank would be deprived of the bank’s listening post by the severance of the Trading Bank is simply nonsense.
Senator McKenna also said that it was highly desirable - in fact absolutely necessary - that a totally independent policy should be followed by the central bank, and for that reason it was necessary to preserve the staff as it is at the present day. Of course, there is always the slight inclination, v/hen one organization is taken over by another organization, to cut off abour 5 per cent, of the staff. It may be necessary to apportion to the Reserve Bank a percentage of the staff while the remainder stays with the other bank, but after all, the members of the staff will be working for the same interests; in fact they will be working almost in the same institution. That argument of the Leader of the Opposition, therefore, also does not carry any weight.
Then the honorable senator made an extraordinary statement. He said that th: legislation provided for the Reserve Bank to take over the business of a bank which found itself unable to carry on, and he asked where the Reserve Bank would get the staff to do that, and what would become of the staff of the bank that was being taken over. Does the honorable senator think that the staff of such a bank would have to walk out on to the street and look for jobs? The staff that is required is already there. There is no need for a new staff. All that is required is for the management to direct the staff on the policy that will be followed under the new management. It is simply a waste of time to talk about there being no chance of obtaining the necessary staff.
Senator Toohey, in the course of his speech, said there was no competition between the trading banks. I happen to have had fourteen years’ experience in one of the banks, and I can assure the honorable senator that my experience convinced mc that there is very keen competition between the banks. Of course, I speak of some time ago, but I remember very well that on one occasion, in a town in which I had opened a branch, I had a competitor whose financial structure could not be compared with that of the bank, for which I worked. I knew that the manager of that bank used to go out and tell his customers that what my bank could do his could do, too. Of course, that was nonsense, but nevertheless it went down with some people, and if I remember rightly, one or two of my customers changed their accounts to that other bank.
asked whether, if there were competition between the banks, they would lower their interest rates. Of course they would not! It would not be necessary for them to do so. They could continue to compete by other means. I suggest that what they would do would be to inflate their valuations. If a customer who was rather pressed for money, and had an overdraft against a certain value of security, went to another bank which lifted the valuation of the security by 25 per cent., he could get, say, another £1,000 from that bank. That is the way in which those things are done. I remember a man who, some years ago, was brought over to Western Australia to take charge of a bank. He visited all the branches of the bank and said to the managers, “ Your valuations are too low. You must put them up “. That was in the days when land generally - not top-class land - was valued at about £2 10s. an acre. This man had never been to Western Australia before. Yet, he said that the valuations were too low. The result was that the bank got new business. He put out more than £1,000,000 in a limited area. But what happened then? Two years afterwards, the depression came along, and that bank put more farmers off their properties than the depression did - just because of the stupid policy of bringing in a man who knew nothing about conditions in Western Australia. He simply inflated valuations, and the unfortunate customers had to suffer. So, to say that there is no competition amongst the trading banks is so much nonsense.
We have heard quite a lot about the trading banks. In fact, an honorable senator opposite said that we were the representatives of the private trading banks. I make no secret or pretence about the fact that I am here on their behalf. If the trading banks had not been in existence over the last 100 years, I wonder in what state Australia would be to-day. Australia would not be developed to any more than 30 per cent, of the extent to which it is developed. I am not suggesting, of course, that none of the banks make mistakes. Mistakes are often made in business. I know of a bank which called up its advances and so put the farmers off their properties. That bank adopted the wrong policy. But I know of another bank - it was not an Australian bank, either - which lost hundreds of thousands of pounds by sticking to its clients in the depression years. It went without interest and in some cases reduced overdrafts by 50 per cent, in order to help its clients over the stile.
That is the other side of the picture. So I have no hesitation in saying that I am here to see that the interests of the trading banks are preserved and, at the same time, to endeavour to assure that the interests of the Commonwealth Bank are preserved. The Commonwealth Bank is an institution of which all Australians may be very proud, and anything which would tend to affect the bank adversely would certainly not have my approval. I want to ensure that trading conditions are fair and that the Commonwealth Trading Bank is placed on the same footing as the other trading banks.
I note that in this chamber the Opposition has not adopted the famous declaration that was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Or. Evatt) in another place when this legislation was introduced last year, and which was repeated in that place this year. Dr. Evatt said - the Australian Labour party is irrevocably opposed to the Government’s plan, which is clearly to divide and weaken the Commonwealth Bank, to procure its dismemberment as the supreme financial institution of the Australian people.
Can any one tell me how the separation of the Reserve Bank from the Commonwealth Trading Bank will weaken the Commonwealth Trading Bank? The Reserve Bank will have nothing to do with the Commonwealth Trading Bank. The Reserve Bank is the bank that will determine the economic policy that is to be followed by Australia. It is, as is provided in the bill, to be in close consultation with the Commonwealth Government. In those circumstances, it must be the recipient of confidential information so that it can ensure that the Governor and the bank board act in line with the policy of whatever government is in power.
Rather will the Reserve Bank be strengthened by the separation, because, if the Governor of the bank obtained certain information during his consultation with representatives of the Government and accidentally during the course of conversation with some of his bank colleagues he indicated the nature of that information, it would be possible for the Commonwealth Trading Bank to take action in anticipation and without the private trading banks having the advantage of that information.
That brings to my mind an incident which occurred some years ago when the Commonwealth Government relinquished control over prices. We in Western Australia had to assume that control in relation to certain commodities, and I as a member of the State Government, had the task of distributing motor cars and motor trucks. We appointed a committee of two very reliable men. Cars and trucks were released at the rate of about. 30 a month, but a remarkable feature of the release was that, even before an allottee knew that a vehicle had been allotted to him, an agent of the Commonwealth Bank interviewed him to see whether he wanted financial assistance to purchase the vehicle. I do not say that there was any deliberate leakage of information, but it happened every time, and it was a cause of very great concern to the members of the committee. By the separation of the Commonwealth Trading Bank from the Reserve Bank the possibility of that kind of thing happening will be eliminated. The Commonwealth Trading Bank will be a separate institution and, as the bill suggests, should operate to the best interests of the people of Australia. I am quite confident that it will do so.
If the Commonwealth Trading Bank is not separate from the Reserve Bank, there must exist a lack of confidence on the part of the private trading banks in regard to the impartiality of the Reserve Bank. To make an extreme comparison, I have often heard it said on a football field that although one team has eighteen members the other team has nineteen, because the umpire happens to be associated with that latter team. I venture to suggest that, if members of the Opposition were in business as wholesalers and their conditions of trading were laid down by a representative of one of their competitors, they would naturally feel that that competitor would receive preference. It is only natural that a similar feeling should be aroused in the private trading banks while the Reserve Bank is allied with the Commonwealth Trading Bank.
That brings me to a consideration of what I regard as being the functions of a central bank. I regard the functions of a central bank as being the control of the volume of money that is available in Australia from time to time and also the channelling of that money into particular activities. There was no reserve bank in existence when I was engaged in banking, but if too much money was being channelled into the building of houses, advances for housing were reduced by the bank and the money was directed into primary production or secondary industry. Conversely, if too much money was being channelled into industry, it was diverted to housing. Just recently the Commonwealth Bank released £15,000,000, but the important point is where that money is to go. I hope that none of ‘ it is channelled into hire-purchase finance.
I wish honorable senators opposite would make up their minds on this point, because some of them have complained that provision is not being made for the Commonwealth Bank to engage in hire-purchase activities and others have complained that too much money is being channelled into that activity. Hire purchase, like many other things, has two sides. I saw the unfortunate side of hire purchase in the 1930’s, when machinery, implements and vehicles belonging to farmers were seized because the farmers could not keep up their payments. Even now, I never go into a sale room without seeing up to a dozen refrigerators for sale. They are being offered for sale for no other reason than that the unfortunate owners could not keep up their payments. It is very easy for people to procure such items on hire purchase, because firms almost shove them at people on a very low deposit. But when adversity comes along and a man loses his position or forfeits his pay, he is unable to meet his payments and the article is taken from him.
A further part of Labour’s declaration on the banking legislation reads -
The most vicious feature of the legislation is that the private bankers have combined to cripple the Commonwealth Bank, to aggrandize their own profits, to get a domineering interest in the Reserve Bank and, finally, to destroy the Commonwealth Trading Bank.
Did any one ever hear such nonsense? If, as suggested, profits were so high, all that the trading banks had to do was to reduce their charges and the people would have flocked to them. It must be remembered that bank charges are based on the difference between the price the bank pays for money - that is, on fixed deposit - and the price at which it lends money. If the fixed deposit rate rises, then correspondingly the overdraft rate must rise in order to preserve the difference and afford the bank the means of meeting its management costs.
It is ridiculous to say that the private banks will get a domineering interest in the Reserve Bank. Members elected to the bank board will have no connexion with any other bank, but will be elected for their views on business, and after all, banking is a business carried on in the ordinary way of business.
I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition was joking when he said that under this legislation all the general managers could resign in a day and be apopinted to the Commonwealth Bank Board. Did honorable senators’ ever hear such a stupid remark from a responsible person? I can only conclude that the Leader of the Opposition was not feeling well when he made that statement.
I congratulate the Government on bringing his legislation before the Parliament. It is long overdue; in fact, the Government has been chided for not bringing it before us earlier. An honorable senator opposite read an extract from the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ that the bankers were coming to Canberra to interview senior members of the Government. Is that so extraordinary? Would not the Government be the first to ask the bankers to come to Canberra in order to ensure that the best advice from the trading banks’ point of view was obtained, and that whatever action it took would not affect injuriously the trading banks? The newspaper did not say whether the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank came to Canberra at the same time. Although I do not know whether he did, I am sure he would be consulted by the Government.
– He was in consultation with the Government day after day, week after week.
– I do not know for how long he was in Canberra. For honorable senators opposite to say that representatives of the private banks came to Canberra to obtain a domineering interest in the Reserve Bank or the Commonwealth
Trading Bank is just so much nonsense. I am not in the confidence of the Government, but I assume the bankers came here so that the Government would be completely au fait with any complaints or requests they might wish to advance, and those complaints or requests would no doubt be taken into consideration when the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank expressed his- views.
I welcome the fact that the Commonwealth Trading Bank will be put on the same terms - no better and no worse - as the private banks. Any objection to that proposal by members opposite must be based on the fact that the private banks want the Trading Bank to have some particular advantage. However, if the Trading Bank and the private banks are on the same terms, they will be completely equal.
I remember that when man-power was short during World War II. an effort was made to increase the availability of manpower. To that end the private banks were asked to investigate the possibility of reducing the number of branches in the country towns throughout Australia. 1 speak now with some knowledge of what happened in Western Australia. The banks did as they were requested and in a town in which, say, four banks were located, the number was reduced to three, and in a town in which three banks were located the number was reduced to two. What happened then? The Commonwealth Bank stepped in, took over the vacated premises and established a branch of its own. Thus, no additional man-power was made available. The action taken by the Commonwealth Bank was most despicable.
I regard the proposed establishment of a Development Bank as the greatest of the objectives: of this Government. If this legislation becomes law, the Development Bank will provide a very necessary source of finance for farmers and small business people. During the last six months several returned soldiers have come to me and said they have reached the limit of their resources. They have asked me if I could direct them to some place at which they could get sufficient money to enable them to plant their next crop. They did not take advantage of the soldier land settlement scheme available to them. Being young, ambitious and eager to get on with the job while they have their strength, they took up leases, of properties instead’ of waiting two or three years to be allotted land, under the. scheme.. If the Development Bank is established, a source of finance will be available to them to enable them to carry on their farming pursuits, particularly those farmers who have not got the security to advance for a loan at the present time. The same principle applies to the small businessman. At the present time he is. facing strong competition, particularly from the chain stores which are now selling groceries, tobacco and other lines, and as a’ result small shopkeepers in the suburbs are losing their trade and1 gradually closing down their shops. If some financial assistance were available to them to expand their operations, they would be able to carry on in business.
I welcome the proposal to establish the Development Bank, and I am certain it will be welcomed throughout Australia. I shall have very much pleasure in making the Opposition answer for its rejection of the legislation, if it is rejected, when the next general election is due. I congratulate the Government on having brought this matter forward, and I hope, even at this stage, that reason will prevail on the other side of the chamber and that the legislation will be carried.
– in reply - Believing as I do that this is one of the most important pieces of legislation ever submitted to this Parliament, I feel it incumbent upon me to wind up the debate to the best of ray ability, even though I realize, as a practising politician, that the present indications are that the legislation may not survive the second-reading resolution.
So far as practicable, I shall make my speech for the purposes of the record, setting out the aims of the legislation, the objections taken to it and the replies to those objections. In the time available to me I cannot deal with each objection individually, nor can 1 make acknowledgment to all those who have taken specific points, but I shall try to cover all the ground in a general way. I believe that a reply to a debate relating to the Commonwealth Bank should be commenced by quoting the objectives of the
Commonwealth Bank which are repeated year after year in the bank’s annual report, namely -
It shall be the duty of the Commonwealth Bank, within the limit of its powers, to pursue a monetary and banking policy directed to the greatest advantage of the people of Australia, and to exercise its powers under this- Act and. the Banking Act 1945 in such a manner- as, in the opinion of the bank, will best contribute to the stability of the currency of Australia, the maintenance of full employment in Australia and the- economic prosperity and welfare of the people, of Australia.
Those are. words with which we are all familiar; but our familiarity with them does not detract, from their importance and,, consequently, the importance of the measure now before the Senate. Those words are retained in the constitution of the proposed Reserve Bank of Australia. I direct the attention of honorable senators, in particular to the words “ to exercise its. powers, in such a manner as in the opinion of the bank . . . “. This shows the importance of the banking structure, the central bank and the bank board. I think it is also well to point out that in the eight years this Government has been in office the assets of the Commonwealth Bank, which has been the subject of such criticism and survey, have increased from £1,381,000,000 to £2,054,000,000, whereas the profit of the Commonwealth Bank in the year in which we came to office was £7,700,000, compared with no less than £20,900,000 last year.
I think it is a good thing to set out the objectives of the bank and to state the financial results of the bank’s activities. I do not think it is a bit unfair to claim that the whole tenor of the attack, or the principal attack of the Opposition upon the legislation was not so much to criticize the proposals contained in the legislation. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that comparatively little was said about the merits or demerits of the proposals contained in the legislation. The Opposition’s attack was based on the premise that the Government aimed at weakening or destroying the Commonwealth Bank itself, and it culminated in what I describe, with respect, as the ludicrous suggestion by the Leader of the Opposition that this was a part of a plan on the part of the Government to sell the Commonwealth Bank. Each time there is banking legislation before the Parliament, the Labour party says that the effect of the legislation will be to weaken the powers of the Commonwealth Bank, to weaken the trading results of the Commonwealth Bank, and to weaken the position of the Commonwealth Bank in the community. Despite those allegations, each time we review the affairs of the Commonwealth Bank we find that it is a bigger and a better national institution than it was on the last occasion that v*e reviewed the matter.
The central purpose of this legislation is clear. It is quite understandable, but it is necessary for me to re-state it because it was not given adequate attention during the debate. The central purpose of the legislation is to separate the central banking functions of the Commonwealth Bank from the non-central banking functions. The reason why the Government advanced it is equally as clear and as simple as the purpose itself. The Government realizes the responsibility that it carries in a matter like this, and believes that there will not be a fully harmonious and wholly efficient banking system in Australia unless and until this separation is effected.
It is not good enough for Senator Byrne and Senator McManus to say, as they have said in this debate, that the Government has no right - that is the word I have in my note, but it is not the appropriate word - that the Government is not justified in changing the opinion it held in 1953. It is simply not good enough to quote what Dr. Coombs said in 1954, because that is only the view that was then held by him. I pay Dr. Coombs the compliment of saying that he is too experienced and too good a public administrator to express openly views which differ from the views held by the government of the day.
It is not good enough to quote what was said in 1953 as being unalterable in the way that the laws of the Medes and the Persians are often quoted, because much water has run under the bridges since 1953. We are living in changing times; there have been more changes, perhaps, during recent years than during any other period in history. Great advances have been made in the fields of science and medicine. Atomic power has become a reality. But those changes are no less than the changes that have occurred in fiscal policy, and economic and banking matters, and financial matters generally. The doctrine of full employment is only to-day being tested. As we progress, we= gain knowledge, and what I want to say in simple terms is that the views we expressed in 1953 and 1954 were then honestly held. They were views as good as could be formulated on the professional knowledge that was then available, but they have simply not been substantiated by the experience of succeeding years. Therefore, keeping in mind the objectives of the central bank, the maintenance of full employment, and the stability of the currency, the Opposition will accept a very heavy responsibility indeed if it rejects this legislation. Realizing that, in a democracy, everything a parliament does can be altered by a succeeding parliament, the Opposition will accept a very heavy responsibility indeed if it denies to the Government modern tools of trade - that is what it amounts to - that are needed in order that we may have an efficient and modern central bank and central banking structure. If the Opposition contends, as its rejection of this legislation would imply, that acceptance of the measures would destroy the harmony, trust and confidence that at present exist between the central bank and the trading banks, it ignores the simple realities of the present position.
– That is only the Minister’s opinion.
– I am entitled to my opinion, and history will show whether my opinion was right or wrong. If the three honorable senators who sit on the equivalent of the cross benches in this chamber vote against this legislation, they will not fulfil the belief of many people that they might become a truly independent and virile force in the community. Of course, it is true to say that there is no profit in being a political prophet. If those three honorable senators come in behind the Evatt Labour party on this issue, they will be regarded by the Australian people - quite rightly - merely as appendages of the Evatt Labour party, hurriedly endeavouring to make their peace so that they may get back into the fold.
I shall take the argument a step further. Senator Byrne said, in the course of his speech, that the onus was on the Government to prove the need for this legislation. With respect, I reject that proposition. In important legislation like this, the onus of proof, as it were, should rest with the Opposition, because the Government has a responsibility to maintain full employment and the stability of the economy. When a government asks for powers such as are contained in this legislation, the genuineness of its request should be taken for granted prima facie. The banking system of Australia needs, more than anything else, a harmonious working relationship between the trading banks and the central bank. The trading banks themselves say this - as we pointed out in bringing the legislation down. The trading banks are entitled to express their views and we, as a Parliament, should be acting very wrongly if we did not accept them as the views of patriotic people, expressed in a responsible, patriotic way. I do not hear many interjections at the moment from the opposite side of the chamber.
The trading banks say that this is not a question of personalities. They are not criticizing their confreres in the other banks. They say that, in this modern world, there must be a central bank with wide powers - a central bank which offers leadership and lays down a track for the banking world to follow; that it must have the unqualified respect of the rest of the banking community; that they should feel able to go to the central bank and have completely frank and open discussions upon the things that count; that the Parliament is putting them, not in that situation, but in a situation which requires them to deal with the central bank as an institution which is, at the same time, their master and competitor and lastly, that that system cannot possibly operate smoothly.
Is it to be wondered at that their reservations and inhibitions in such a situation as this are ever strengthened by their recollection of the attempt to nationalize their activities. The fear is always there. The scar of nationalization remains on the banking world. Are the private banks acting other than normally when they feel that if they do as they are required to do and enter into frank and open discussions, the information which they then make available may be used to injure them in vital ways in the future? If the Senate rejects this legislation it accepts the proposition that, so far as the banking world is concerned, one body can properly act as both judge and prosecutor. That is a proposition which can never be accepted upon the banking issue, which we have just debated. I give honorable senators opposite a promise that if this legislation is rejected we shall debate it in the future also, and that we shall all live to see this legislation become the law of this land. Do not make any mistake about that. The utmost that they can do this afternoon, like Canute, is to try to hold back the progress of the waves.
Let me state what I believe are the views of the Australian people on this banking issue. It is all part of the reply to the objections that have been taken to this legislation. I believe that, primarily, Australians object to, and resent, any proposal to nationalize banking, either overtly or covertly. I believe that the public will not agree, in any circumstances, to the destruction or weakening of the private banks. I believe that the Australian public will never forget or forgive the arrogance of the Australian Labour party when it tried to nationalize the banks.
The second thing I believe is that the Australian public will never agree to the Commonwealth Bank being placed under any handicap, or being prevented from expanding or developing in accordance with public demand or requirements. I believe the Australian public will simply not have bank nationalization. It will not permit any impediment to be placed in the way of the development of the Commonwealth Bank.
The third proposition - and it is of tremendous national importance - is that the Australian public is, more and more, realizing the importance of central banking, and the beneficial or ill effects that it can have. In my opinion, the people want both the private banks and the government bank to make a contribution to such a system. The last point of view that I express - and I think it is as important as the others - is that the Australian public expects the opposing political forces to compose their different points of view and produce a banking service which will be efficient and will best serve the interests of Australia. All I have to say on that is that this legislation represents the Government’s honest endeavour to do that verything - to give to the Australian nation a modern, efficient central bank and strong trading banks - both privately and governmentowned. The proposals before the Senate will, without doubt, greatly enhance the authority and prestige -of the central bank and assist >it -in its role of the .greatest financial institution >in the country. Surely we must, as a Parliament, take -notice -of .the fact that, for all practical purposes, Australia is the only country in the world in which a reserve bank carries -on trading activities in competition -with those whose affairs it is told by Parliament to supervise. Earlier I said that it was ludicrous of the Leader of the Opposition to say that the -.Government’s aim was to sell the Commonwealth Bank, and I say now that it is nonsensical when legislation of such farreaching importance is being discussed -to suggest that the structure of the Reserve Bank and the Commonwealth Bank will be weakened .and prejudiced because £9,000,000 is to be taken from their reserves. I quoted earlier figures showing the financial position of the Commonwealth Bank. The bank’s total assets are over £613,000,000. If the note issue assets are taken into account as well, the total assets of the Commonwealth Bank amount to over £1,000,000,000. What a puny, weak, ineffective, insincere argument it is that that bank will be weakened if £9,000,000 is taken and appropriated for ether purposes! The plain fact is that the Opposition is fanatical on the subject of banking. It is either incapable or unwilling - it can have it whichever way it wants - to consider this legislation on its merits. I suppose I have been too long in politics to attempt to be fair, but I do not think that I overstate the position when I say that during the course of this debate no speaker on the Opposition side has been able to point to any individual provision in the bill to support his argument. Opposition senators were unable to establish at any stage in the debate that what is proposed to be done would weaken the Commonwealth banking structure. They were unable to substantiate their argument that what is proposed to be done in the establishment of the Reserve Bank in the form contemplated would do anything other than create a stronger and better Reserve Bank, in the national interest.
So far has the debate wandered, and so little has been said in criticism of the real objects of this legislation, that I believe that the appropriate way for me to finish this speech in the two or three minutes I have left is to restate the purposes of the legis lation, so that perhaps honorable senators opposite will take away with them a recollection of it, against ‘the -time when we again debate -it in -the Senate. Firstly, ‘the purpose of the legislation was to create a reserve bank which would function solely as a central bank, “not conducting any commercial operations. The legislation aimed at bringing Australia’s banking procedures up to date and in line with the procedures in other countries of the world. The Opposition must take the responsibility ‘for denying to the Government modern means of keeping Australia in the forefront of the modern world. Secondly, the purpose of the legislation was to create the Commonwealth Banking Corporation with its various trading activities, and thirdly, to replace the special accounts system by the reserve deposits system, which, of course, is the pith and the essence of central banking. It is the foundation upon which the affairs of private banks are regulated and controlled. I challenge the three gentlemen claiming independence who have said that they intend to vote against the legislation to point to one instance where they have made any examination of these tremendously important functions, which would give the Government modern controls over the banking system.
Let me conclude on this -note. I believe there is a good deal of sincerity on both sides of the chamber, but I also think there has been a good deal of fanatical opposition from the other side of the chamber. The Senate is being presented with the golden opportunity to modernize the banking system of Australia and to put that system on a basis which would be in the best interests of the Australian people. If honorable senators opposite refuse to grant these powers to the Government, it is robbing the people of Australia, and must take the responsibility for doing so.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . 0
ThePRESIDENT-There being 30 “ Ayes” and 30 “Noes”, the question is resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 20th March (vide page 282), on motion by Senator Spooner-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . .0
ThePRESIDENT. - Therebeing 30 “Ayes”and30”Noes”,thequestionis resolvedinthenegative.
Questionput.TheSenatedivided. (The President-Senator the Hon Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . .0
-There being 30 “Ayes”and30”Noes”,thequestionis resolvedinthenegative.
Debate resumed from 20th March (vide page 287), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 0
– There being 30 “ Ayes “ and 30 “ Noes “, the question is resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 20th March (vide page 288), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 20th March (vide page 288), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 20th March (vide page 289), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 20th March (vide page 289), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 20th March (vide page 291), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 20th March, (vide page 291), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 20th March (vide page 291), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 20th March (vide page 292), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 20th March (vide page 292), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 20th March (vide page 293), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed (vide page 425).
– It seems rather pleasant to come into the field of diplomacy after recent events. The Senate now has before it a bill to amend the Diplomatic Immunities Act of 1952. The bill is designed to meet the legal necessity of the Government to extend diplomatic immunity to the representatives of the Federation of Malaya. That becomes necessary for the reason that Malaya, a new Commonwealth country, is not a part of the Queen’s dominions. The Opposition cordially supports that aspect of the bill.
I pay tribute to the Government for its graceful gesture to the new Dominion of Ghana in that, although regulations under the act as it at present exists would permit theGovernment merely to gazette the name of the new Dominion of Ghana and thereby admit its representatives to the various diplomatic immunities, the Government has very gracefully mentioned the name of Ghana and has invited particular attention to its emergence as an independent country, as a part of the Queen’s dominions and as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, formerly called the British Commonwealth of Nations. We applaud the Governments nicety and courtesy towards the new dominion in giving it special and honorable mention in the measure.
The third thing that the bill seeks to do is to prevent the necessity for amending legislation of this type in the future. Power is being sought under the measure to give a regulation-making power for the admission to the Commonwealth of Nations of other countries not forming part of the Queen’s dominions, countries which nevertheless wish to be associated with the group of nations formerly known as the British Commonwealth of Nations. There is no objection from this side of the chamber to that proposal. A similar regulation-making power exists at the moment in relation to countries that are part of the Queen’s dominions. I am very happy, on behalf of the Opposition, to extend a welcome to the diplomatic representatives of the Federation of Malaya, which country has extended reciprocal rights to our representatives. The Dominion of Ghana has not yet appointed diplomatic representatives to Australia, but we shall welcome them in due course.
I see no purpose, Mr. President, in pursuing a discussion on this bill, other than to say that I think the Diplomatic Corps in Australia, and its staff from other countries, has been an influence for good, not only in the international sphere but in our domestic sphere as well. Brilliant representatives come to this country and mix freely and in the most friendly fashion with our nationals. That intercourse is very fine. It breaks down what I regret to say has been the insularity and prejudice of Australians to anything that is non-Australian. We had, by reason of our isolation from other countries, grown up not only in that isolation but also with a good deal of prejudice and ignorance as to the quality, culture, power and wonderful physical attributes of people who were not Australians. It has been very good for us to have had this fine opportunity to meet, throughout the diplomatic service, very splendid representatives of various countries. It has always been a cause of pride to me that so many great countries of the world have seen fit to send to this country the finest men that they could find in their diplomatic service. Those men have been a tower of strength to their countries and have been most forward in promoting good relations between this country and their own countries.
This bill will enable all those representatives, including the representatives of the new Federation of Malaya, to enjoy the diplomatic immunities that are extended throughout the world.
– I do not intend to delay the Senate for very long, but there are two observations that I should like to make at this stage, because it is not very often that we have an opportunity to discuss the matter of diplomatic immunities. One observation is about the very great injustice that is being perpetrated in Canberra at the present time by the non-application of the workers’ compensation provisions to employees in the diplomatic community. For example, there is in the National Capital a woman who was injured while working as a member of the staff of the United Kingdom High Commissioner’s Office, who has been seriously ill for the last two years and who, at a critical stage of her illness, was dismissed from her employment. She is suffering great pain, and has to pay all her own medical expenses.
– Is the honorable senator implying that an injustice is being perpetrated by the diplomatic representatives of other countries?
– Yes, because of the diplomatic immunity that is granted to them.
– Could not the honorable senator leave it to their own governments to deal with such matters?
– I am suggesting that there should not be immunity from the extending of ordinary British justice, which we extend to other workers in the community, or even the Christian justice that should apply to all workers in the community whether they work for members of the diplomatic service or not.
– Why does not the honorable senator get her facts straight before she makes an attack?
– These might be bad tactics, but at the same time -
– I did not say anything about tactics. I asked you why you did not get your facts right before you made an attack.
– I am not really attacking anyone. I want to be quite clear on this point. When people work for the diplomatic corps, they should have extended to them the same workers’ compensation right as are extended to any other person in the community. If the honorable senator can assure me that they are being extended those rights, well and good.
I come now to my second point. We all appreciate very much the influence in the community of members of the diplomatic corps, and I agree with every word that has been spoken by my leader in that regard. But I am sure I am speaking for almost every other honorable senator who is not a member of the Cabinet or of party executives when I say that we are not given sufficient opportunities to mix with members of the diplomatic community. That is something which we should try to have remedied so that all members of the Parliament may have the benefit of meeting these people and perhaps broadening their horizons and their knowledge of these representatives and the countries which they represent.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the following resolution in connexion with the Foreign Affairs Committee: -
That Mr. Downer be discharged from attendance on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and that his place be filled by Mr. Chaney.
That Mr. Graham be a member of the committee in the place of Mr. Chaney.
Debate resumed from 25th March (vide page 315), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Because the Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill 1958 and the Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Bill 1958 are cognate measures, and in view of the explanations that have been given by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), it is possible for us to discuss the measures as one. The Opposition is not opposing either bill. However, I wish to bring one matter to the notice of the Minister.
I understand that, when the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority calls up men to the centre for the afternoon shift, those men receive a ticket which entitles them to work on that shift. We have been informed that, although the men have received a ticket and have been told where to go, the authority still has an advertisement broadcast and another inserted in the afternoon press. There might be some explanation for doing that, but perhaps the Minister could inquire into the matter and ascertain whether expenditure on such advertisement could be avoided. Apart from those remarks we have nothing further to add, except to repeat that a waste of public money is involved in the existing arrangements.
.- At this juncture it is more than ever imperative that the Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill and the Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Bill receive very serious consideration. We have an odd set-up in regard to the control of labour on the waterfront whereby the authority advises the Minister who puts forward proposals which go through the crucible of Cabinet and, so far as they need legislative expression, are submitted to both Houses of Parliament. Then, as in this case, public money is voted for the purpose of enabling the industry to carry on. That odd and loose concatenation of agencies makes the pinpointing of responsibility extremely difficult.
The Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, the executive authority set up and financed by Parliament, does not exercise control over’ activities on the waterfront but simply regulates the processes to be followed - or rather, that is its objective. Its achievement is of a different order.
At the side of the authority we have the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission represented by His Honour, Mr. Justice Ashburner. All this embarrassing apparatus exists to regulate the relationship between employer and employee on the waterfront, but no such overburden exists in any other industry in Australia. It is unique in its conception. It is a hybrid form of nationalization of labour in the industry which does not give the State the right to control and direct that labour, but makes the State, and the people whom we represent, pay for the upkeep of the agencies I have mentioned.
As the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) has stated repeatedly over the past few months, two bodies in Australia, the Waterside Workers Federation and the Australian Seamen’s Union, distinguish themselves beyond comparison with other organizations by the degree of disruption and the number of stoppages in which their members are involved. It would be wrong to impute to the whole body of those unions the objectives of communism, but the fact is that their control stems from one of the most energetic and able Communists in Australia, Mr. Healy. That is the reason why performance on the waterfront is so unsatisfactory, even conceding a very slight improvement over the past two years.
I hope that aspect will be of particular interest to members of the Australian Democratic Labour party. I am anxious to see its attitude towards voting to the authority further funds which will be devoted to a wasteful mass of labour from which efficiency is not forthcoming. Further, the interests of the primary producers should also receive serious consideration. From figures I shall quote it is glaringly obvious that primary producers, who are dependent for their livelihood on the results achieved by the secondary industries, are in receipt of net incomes which appear to be disappearing into a trough while, at the same time, incomes received by those in the secondary industries are still pointing skywards. No person can hide behind the excuse that the responsibility for this state of affairs Tests upon other shoulders.
This chamber is now being asked for a direct appropriation of public money to inflate a wasteful mass of inefficient labour at a time when the primary producers, whose product the waterside workers handle so inefficiently, are receiving diminishing incomes which are becoming indeed critically low.
The Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority in the year 1954-55 collected from taxation an amount of £998,000; in 1955-56 it received £973,000, and in the year 1956-57 the amount was £1,926,000. However, the revenue collected is not nearly as significant as the expenditure incurred, and it is because of the gross deficiency of revenue to meet expenditure that such an exorbitant increase in the charge is being requested, an increase, on the present level of waterfront charges, of 50 per cent, which will correspondingly lift the super pay-roll tax imposed upon stevedoring labour from 2s. to 3s. per manhour.
Delegates to the Victorian Liberal party conference in recent weeks protested against the continuance of the ordinary pay-roll tax which has become somewhat anomalous in its incidence due to the changes in the base wage, and other circumstances in the economy, since it was first imposed in 1942. At that time it was justified as an adjunct to the basic wage, for the special purpose of financing that wonderful social service, child endowment. That grand body of liberal thought represented in the Victorian State council of the party was responsible for the original stimulus given to the banking legislation which has just been so disgracefully rejected. It now voices its opposition to the ordinary pay-roll tax.
To-day, we are asked to approve a super pay-roll tax on waterfront labour, not at the rate of 2i per cent., or 6d. in £1, constant since 1941, but at a rate which will reach 3s. per man-hour if this bill is passed. While the ordinary average hourly rate for waterfront labour at the present time is of the order of 9s. 4d. or 10s. an hour, this super pay-roll tax is at the rate of 30 per cent. This authority that had a revenue increase of just on £1,000,000 in 1957 compared with 1956 also had an expenditure increase in the same period. Let us take administrative expenditure. It is interesting to note that the expenditure on administration in 1949-50 was £190,000. It proceeded annually to £249,000, £321,000, £336,000, £345,000 and £416,000, and in 1956-57 was £476,000.
Those honorable senators who familiarize themselves with the annual reports of this authority will know that the accounts are divided into three sections. The administrative section is a very cogent indicator of the degree to which this authority is making increased demands on the Treasury for administration. The next section is devoted to what the authority chooses to call amenities for the waterfront. It must not be inferred from any of my opposition to the principles of this legislation that I am opposed to increasing and improving the amenities on the waterfront. I think that this was long overdue, and anything that is done on an economical basis to improve the conditions of the men who work on the waterfront will have my support. Suffice it for my purposes to-night to remind the Senate that the appropriations during the last three years increased from £32,000 to £49,000.
I come now to the third section of the authority’s expenditure. It is called, “Payment to Waterside Workers”. Prior to 1954-55 this expenditure was running at the order of £600,000 or £700,000 a year. In 1954-55, it was £394,000. It rose in 1955-56 to £588,000, and in 1956-57, to £1,615,000.
– Including attendance money?
– That includes attendance money. The interjection prompts me to say what is well known, that is, that in October, 1956 - mid-way during that period I am discussing - the attendance money rate was increased by the order of Mr. Justice Ashburner from 16s. to 24s. a day. All this expenditure has to be borne by the producer, the man from whose product all these costs that lie across marketing have to be deducted before he receives his net return. Whether the expenditure has been approved by an Arbitration Court judge, whether it takes place on the exclusive responsibility of a Cabinet Minister, or whether it is just the idea of Mr. Hewitt, the chairman of the authority, our judgment is still demanded from the point of view of imposing the expenditure upon the producers.
– And the consumers.
– Yes, and the consumers. But I do not want my acknowledgment of the truth of the interjection to put the figures out of focus. The whole of the expenditure during the year 1956-57 under the heading “Payment to Waterside Workers “, was £1,615,000. In addition, as the direct result of the Arbitration Court’s award, the item sick leave and holiday pay accounted for no less than £1,014,000. I have heard it said, even by the Minister in his second-reading speech, that these are matters which, in ordinary industry, employers pay individually. This item of £1,014,000 for sick leave and holiday pay appears in the accounts of the authority merely because it is a collecting and distributing authority. Let us consider the farmers of the country and their returns from the sale of their produce. I shall bring this matter prominently before the Senate in a few moments. Are the farmers beneficiaries under an industrial award for sick pay, holiday pay or attendance money? Are we providing a general rule whereby those whose overdrafts are increasing to-day are getting relief? In this waterside industry, unlike many industries, the Parliament of this Commonwealth has more power by virtue of the fact that it enjoys not only the industrial arbitration power but also the interstate trade power. Although sick pay and holiday pay are awarded by an Arbitration Court judge, we have a direct responsibility to transfer that impost from the shipping employers on to the producers of the country, because it follows as night follows day that from the stevedoring arrangements that are now enensconsed in the Australian Coastal Shipping
Commission Act and from the practice as we have known it, these costs are immediately translated into freights.
When there is an expansion under the cloak, or guidance, or protection - choose your own expression - of payments for waterside labour of £394,000 in 1954-55, rising to £2,629,000 in 1956-57, I suggest that a heavy onus lies upon those who attempt to justify an appropriation to meet that. This legislation makes an appropriation to meet a still unspecified but more ghastly figure because the current level of payments will be over and above revenue unless the stevedoring industry charge is increased from 2s. to 3s. That should be placed alongside the situation revealed by the recent review of agricultural incomes undertaken by the Division of Agricultural Economics. With the consent of the Senate I incorporate in “ Hansard “ a table which shows the estimated net farm income in Australia in the period 1948-49 to 1957-58. The table is as follows: -
I shall make reference to but a few figures, which I feel are significant. In 1949-50 our net farm income, excluding wool, was £218,000,000. In 1957-58, according to estimates, it will be £180,000,000. In 1949-50 total farm income, including wool, was £448,000,000. In 1957-58 according to estimates, it will be £373,000,000. The national income over the same period is also set out. In 1949-50 it was £2,307,000,000. It is estimated that this year it will be £4,800,000,000. Then we come to an alarming fact - if we consider the trends in Wall-street in 1929 and the condition of the economy of the United States of America to-day. In 1949-50 farm incomes represented 19.4 per cent, of Australian national income. It is estimated that this year they will represent only 7.8 per cent.
– What was the percentage last year?
– It was 10.9 per cent.
– We had better get rid of the Government quickly.
– I believe that we have’ before us a non-party proposition which is of vital importance to the community. We have here an accentuation of that two-level economy which was in evidence in 1940. We grew out of it between 1945 and 1955, but we are now descending deeply into it once again. That is why I say that when we have on the waterfront a wasteful and inefficient labour mass which, instead of carrying the produce of Australia, really frustrates its movement, the Senate should not pass this bill. We should contemplate passing it only if in committee, after a most searching examination of the financial side, we think that the authority has the potential to create an improvement commensurate with the funds which it seeks. Money is being spent on waterfront labour in increasing shovelfuls out of this super pay-roll tax which we are asked to impose. The expenditure - including sick leave and holiday pay - increased from £394,000 in 1954-55 to £2,629,000 last year. This year it will be of the order of £3,500,000 or £4,000,000.
– What is the cause of it all?
– I am not going to be drawn into that though I shall deal with that matter briefly later in a reference that I shall make in refutation of a grovelling remark made to me from your quarter of the chamber during another debate. At the moment I am concerned not to dissect the causes but rather to point out the fact that if we vote these moneys for this purpose we are bloating this inefficient mass of waterfront labour at a time when the farmer, without benefit of sick pay, , holiday (pay or attendance money, and working many more than 40 hours a week, is having his income reduced - from a quotient of 19.4 per cent, of the national income in 1949-50 to 7.8 per cent, in the present year. I hope, also, to show that one of the reasons for the farmer’s present position is to be found in these costs. Stevedoring charges are an important ingredient of freight costs.
The Minister for Labour and National Service referred in another place to waterfront employment suffering the “death of a thousand cuts “. That fate awaits the agricultural industry. The gross value of rural output has been maintained at a fairly static level for the last three years - £1,021,000,000 in 1954-55, £1,070,000,000 in 1955-56, and £1,181,000,000 in 1956-57 despite the expansion in volume, chiefly in wool, last year. As Senator Wade has reminded us, one may expect the volume to be significantly reduced this year by the effects of drought. Though an expansion of output of the order of 2i per cent, per annum is being maintained, the level of the gross return is fairly constant. However, the net return has eroded so greatly that it now represents not 19 per cent, of the national income, but barely 8 per cent. The waterfront workers have allowed the Communist element to control their industry and place an unprecedented darg upon effort. The farming community pays the price ot this because it is the only section which cannot mark up its prices when production costs increase. It has to compete upon an uncontrolled market both here and abroad.
Let me refer to the Tasmanian timber industry and potato industry. Every Tasmanian senator received this week a memorandum which, I think,, graphically discloses the critical condition of the Tasmanian timber industry. Not the least of the factors contributing to that critical condition is the excessive freights that are imposed on timber. I turn to the Tasmanian potato industry.
– Is that pretty sick?
– It is very sick. Statistics show that the area planted with potatoes in 1956-57 was 19,125 acres. That was 1,717 acres smaller than the area sown in the previous year. It is the lowest figure recorded since 1893.
– Are those figures for Tasmania or for the whole of Australia?
– What was the percentage drop?
– The percentage drop was about 10 per cent. I thought that by making reference to the condition of the Tasmanian timber and potato industries, I could bring home to one-sixth of the Senate, in graphic form, the justification or otherwise for voting against this bill. Let me look at other Australian industries. Since 1954-55, the gross value of the annual wheat crop has fallen from £107,000,000 to £64,000,000. In the case of barley, the gross value has fallen from £18,000,000 to £13,000,000, and in the case of oats from £14,000,000 to £6,000,000. There has been an improvement in the gross value of the sugar crop - a rise from £38,000,000 to £41,000,000. With regard to potatoes, the gross value for 1954-55 was £13,400,000, and in 1955-56, £25,000,000. There were extraordinary conditions in that year. In 1956-57 the value fell to £13,000,000. No figure is yet available for the 1957-58 potato crop.
The gross value of rural output was £1,021,000,000 in 1954-55, £1,070,000,000 in 1955-56 and £1,181,000,000 in 1956-57. The value for this year is not given, but my prediction is that it will be at least £150,000,000 lower than last year. Let us assume that the gross value is constant. The net value is critically diminishing. Are we justified on any of these counts in imposing this extra cost on the marketing of our primary produce?
– You brought the conditions about and now you are growling, lt is your Government’s fault, but you blame the Communists or anybody but yourselves.
– I shall ignore that fatuous interjection, except to say that it punctuates what I have to say on a general basis and enables me to make reference to what has been said here during the last couple of days. I do not wish any one in this country not to know that when the Stevedoring Industry Bill was before this chamber in June, 1956, I fought it bitterly. I fought the principle of it in my party and in this chamber with every bit of energy that I had. I confess that my confidence that the Government’s support for the bill was wrong diminished when I found that the Labour Opposition, under the guidance of Jim Healy, was also advocating its rejection. However, I was not convinced that that justified its rejection. I was in doubt. Without the slightest suggestion or request, much less a threat, from anybody associated with my political party, either outside or within the Parliament, I made my own individual judgment to withdraw my vote- a vote which would have enabled the Labour Opposition, with the assistance of Healy, to reject that measure of which I myself disapproved. Having that degree of doubt, in deference to the combined judgment of the members of the Government, and others who supported the measure, I made my individual judgment and acted accordingly.
– You did not care what harm you caused.
– Of course I did. Let me take an analogy from a field which I hope Senator Hendrickson will never enter, because I want it to remain impartial and judicial. In the judicial sphere, when there are two judges on a bench, and there is a disagreement between them, it is the practice of the judicial mind for the junior judge to withdraw his opinion. Acting on that rule, I satisfied my own conscience. I think it was contemptible for that mountebank, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, to take advantage of the fact that our proceedings were being broadcast last night, knowing that I had already spoken in that debate, to impute to me base political motives for withdrawing my vote. I offer the same rebuke to another Opposition senator by saying, “Et tu, Toohey”.
– Ever since I have been in this chamber I have opposed bills of this kind, and I oppose this one. On a previous occasion the position was somewhat different, because the bill was brought down in the dying hours of the session, and to defeat the bill would have meant that it had to go forward to the new year. On this occasion, the Parliament is going into recess for a fortnight or thereabouts. If this measure is defeated, as I hope it will be, the Government might then be able to give us some information which is vitally necessary in order to bring this matter up to date. The latest information I have is from the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority’s report for the year ending in June, 1957, but we want something more than that in order to give us reasons for granting the increases that are proposed in this bill.
Senator Wright has very ably explained some of the effects of this stevedoring industry charge, and I do not want to waste time by going over the same ground. Before I go any further, I want to refer to what has been said on a previous occasion about me. It has been said that I want to deny the waterside workers decent working conditions.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade has supplied the following information in answer to the question: -
Western Australia - J. Krasnostein and J. L. Cadby.
South Australia - W. Brown and J. N. Goodwin.
Victoria - G. Malouf and K. McGuinness.
New South Wales - S. Hurley and S. Edwards.
Queensland - D. Clugston and E. J. Smith.
Perth - No purchase.
Adelaide - £5 to £6 8s. per ton on wharf according to type.
Melbourne - £7 5s. per ton on wharf.
Sydney - £6 per ton on rail.
Brisbane - £3 10s. per ton on rail.
Prices are subject to increases for specified minimum quantities delivered each week over fixed periods.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - It is with extreme regret that I announce that the death occurred this afternoon of our former esteemed Clerk of the Senate, Mr. J. E. Edwards. It does not seem so long ago - it was only in June, 1955 - when the Senate, on the eve of Mr. Edwards’s retirement, availed itself of the opportunity of placing on record its appreciation of his long, outstanding and most meritorious service to the Commonwealth, and to the Senate in particular.
Mr. Edwards joined the Public Service in 1911, and became a member of the staff of the Senate as long ago as 1915. After 40 years of faithful and meritorious service, he retired in 1955. I do not propose to give the details of that long and meritorious service; they are already enshrined in “ Hansard “; but I am sure that all honorable senators, both Government and Opposition, will join with me in asking you, Mr. President, to convey to his wife and to his relatives our sincere sympathy with them in their bereavement.
– by leave - Speaking for myself, and for all members of the Opposition in the chamber, I receive this news with a great sense of shock and deep regret. It is given to very few men in life to leave a mark on the face of time. It is given to very few men to leave a mark on an institution as important as this National Parliament. Mr. Edwards was one of that select few.
I came into the Senate as a raw recruit in 1944. I was given great responsibilities early in my career and I have a great debt of gratitude to Mr. Edwards for his helpfulness at the outset and throughout the whole of my career. He was helpful to all senators, quite regardless of party. He had a very real affection for his senators on both sides of the chamber, an affection that I say at once was very warmly reciprocated.
His work is a living monument because it still lives on in the traditions of this Senate, in the rulings of Presidents that condition our behaviour from day to day. It lives on in another particular for which we should all be grateful. I refer to the fact that one of his outstanding achievements was his selection and training of the present staff of the Senate to which every one of us is greatly indebted. He selected young men. He trained them. He was wise enough to give them their opportunities, and we are reaping to-day, as we will for many decades please goodness, the reward of his foresight, his efficiency and his concern for the Senate. I think the Senate occupies a much higher place in the National Parliament to-day than it would be occupying had not Mr. Edwards been one of the steerers of the Senate to that happy position.
With Senator O’sullivan, I stood here only two years ago and expressed my regret at Mr. Edwards’ retirement. I wished him then a long life and a very happy sojourn. Unfortunately, that wish was not fulfilled. He has been rather seriously ill almost from the time he left the Senate. I think that his retirement from the Senate was the event that precipitated his illness and his unfortunate and untimely death because, if ever a man had his heart and soul in the institution he served, Mr. Edwards did.
On behalf of the Opposition, I should like to express deep gratitude for all the kindness and help that we have had down the years at the hands of Mr. Edwards. I deplore his passing. A man who was kindly, efficient, thorough and thoughtful has gone from our midst. I say without hesitation that the whole of Australia is the poorer for his passing and the richer for his living and his work amongst us. Mr. President, I join with the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’sullivan) in the request that you convey to his wife and son our deepest regret at the news we have just heard, and express to her our wish that strength will be given to her to bear her burden of sorrow.
– by leave - Having been associated with Mr. Edwards for many years, indeed, since 1928, I feel his passing very deeply indeed. When he vacated his position as Clerk of the Senate, I realized that he was a sick man. Of course, when a man is as sick as he was, one can expect the worst to happen at any time.
My first association with Mr. Edwards was when he occupied a minor position in the Senate. When he attained a higher position, he was always willing to help newcomers who were not certain as to how to go about their work or what to do generally. Mr. Edwards was always ready to come to their assistance. Looking back over those years, I know that he was of tremendous assistance not only in the normal course of his work, but as a friend. I remember how kindly he was when I first came here. He showed me the ropes, as it were, and he was just as kindly at all times to every other member of the Senate. 1 join with the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’sullivan) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in conveying our deepest sympathy to his widow and son.
– by leave - It is with great sorrow that I have heard of the death of the former Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Edwards. I support the sentiments expressed by the previous speakers, and to his sorrowing widow and son my party tenders its deepest sympathy.
– by leave - I share with all honorable senators who knew the late Mr. Edwards the sorrow that has come into this chamber with the news of his death. Mr. Edwards was a man of apparent asceticism of character which, I think, in the main, concealed a high measure of dedication and devotion to the work which was his life. He, perhaps pre-eminently among the officers of the Senate, regarded it as his particular responsibility to care for the traditions which are a part of this establishment, as well as for the traditions of the Parliament itself. As the custodian of the unbroken stream of precedents which are established in this chamber, as in similar parliamentary chambers, Mr. Edwards discharged a job of tremendous national importance. His name must henceforth be inseparably linked with the traditions which have been created in the Senate chamber of the Commonwealth of Australia, with which he was for many years so closely, enthusiastically and efficiently associated. I share the sorrow of all honorable senators, and I ask that my condolences be extended to Mrs. Edwards and to the son who survives him.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - I join with the previous speakers in their sincere expressions of appreciation of the valuable work which Mr. Edwards did during his years on the Senate staff. I shall convey to his widow the expressions of sympathy of the Senate.
Debate resumed (vide page 459).
– When the debate was interrupted before dinner I was about to say that during my farming days 1 worked as hard, and for as long, as any waterside worker has ever worked. A span of hours from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. was nothing unusual. I wish, Sir, to rebut the gibes I have received on other occasions because I have taken objection to the continual raising of the amount of attendance money, and to the increasing costs of stevedoring operations. When I have taken such objection, I have not done so because of any desire to bring down, or to keep down to a low level, the conditions of the waterside worker. On previous occasions I have pleaded that the waterside worker should be given permanent employment, instead of being a casual worker and subject to call up at any time. I still maintain that that should be so. I believe that it is not possible to get good work from anybody unless he has good working conditions and adequate pay to- recompense him for his effort.
– And also security.
– And security of employment. In this regard, some time ago I noticed a report to the effect that more up-to-date handling equipment was to be installed on the wharfs at Newcastle. That, I understand, will be supplied, not by the harbour board, but by the New South Wales Government. I think that a heavy responsibility rests on governments and harbour boards to see that the men who work on the wharfs have the most up-to-date equipment for handling cargo, and good working conditions.
But be that as it may, I object to this piecemeal legislation that we see each year. As I think was pointed out by Senator Wright, the stevedoring industry charge has risen from 6d. a man hour, until it is now proposed that it should be 3s. a man hour. Last year, we agreed to a substantial rise - I think it was approximately ls. 7d. - and we were assured that that would correct the position. Now, however, we find that the authority is approximately £1,000,000 in the red. Consequently, we are being asked to increase the charge again. I should like an assurance that next year we shall not receive another request for it to be increased. There must be some limit. I believe that something must be done to place this matter on a stable and reliable basis. ~
The late Mr. Neville Chamberlain was roundly abused, rightly or wrongly, for his policy of appeasement. I think that a policy of appeasement is operating in connexion with the stevedoring industry. We apparently think that by giving those concerned another few shillings an hour we shall bring about a better state of affairs. In my opinion, that is the wrong way to effect improvement. If we receive a demand and grant it, next year we receive a further demand, and so it goes on. The sooner this matter is taken in hand the better.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, stated that there were still far too many industrial disputes in this industry but that in comparison with previous years, there had been a substantial improvement this year. That may be so, but I wish to point out to the Senate that what I would describe as the motivating instrument in these industrial strikes - the general secretary of the union - was away from Australia during the early part of the year. I think that that might have had something to do with the decrease of industrial troubles, because he was not back in Australia for many weeks before we had another strike. I also indicate that there seems to be a new policy in operation, as a result of which strikes occur in one port but not in another. Later, a strike will occur elsewhere, so that there is a series of little strikes. In support of that contention, I point out that in the last six weeks three ships have come into Fremantle and have left without taking on cargo, simply because there has been a strike on board. That is a very serious matter.
I want to follow up the observations made by my colleague, Senator Wright, on this point, because it is a matter of serious concern to the primary producer and, as I will show later, also to the retail trade in the various States. Of these ships that came to Fremantle, two went back to England and left on the wharf wool, meat and other commodities that were ready for consignment. Those goods had to wait for the arrival of another ship. There can only be one result from that kind of thing. When a woolbuyer goes to the sales and buys wool he expects to be able to ship that wool on a certain date, and that expectation influences the price he is prepared to pay for it; but if his wool is left lying on the wharf for a week or longer, obviously, when he comes to buy wool next year he will not pay such a high price. He will make allowance for the delay in shipping. As I say, this is a serious matter for the primary producer, particularly for the woolgrower. The people who buy the wool expect to be able to get it to those for whom they buy it at the earliest possible moment.
To those who raise fat lambs this kind of thing is of even more consequence. One of the disabilities under which we in Australia labour is the fact that, to a great extent, we cannot get our meat to the other side of the world as chilled meat. It is well known that once meat is frozen it goes down in value. If we are able to get our meat to the market overseas as chilled meat it will bring a better price. In addition, it is desirable to get that meat to the market at a time when other countries are not bringing in their fat lambs, if we want to get the best possible price. If a boat comes in and leaves our meat behind because of a strike, the meat has to be frozen, which reduces the value of it by about Id. a pound, and in addition, it means that the consignors may miss the proper market. The same arguments apply to the sale of apples and, indeed, to all our trade. Those in command of the marketing of these perishable foods plan to get the goods on the market overseas at the proper time, and anything that impedes that objective must affect the prices that are received for them. From that point of view, the primary producer is seriously concerned with the waterfront industry. Do not let it be thought for one moment that woolbuyers and the other people who buy our primary products are going to stand the extra expense caused by delay. Let me assure the Senate that that extra expense will be reflected in the lower prices paid for our products in the following year.
I turn now to the effect on the consumer. Two of the ships that came to Fremantle from England did not unload any cargo. In one case, the ship turned round and went back to England. Let us consider that state of affairs in relation to the position of an importer or wholesale businessman who is importing his winter stock of goods. By the time a boat takes such goods back overseas and returns to Australia, it is altogether too late for the importer’s winter trade. He is forced to make up his loss, and, of course, he does so by increasing the price of other goods, with the result that the consumer is affected. Delays in the turn-round of ships must be overcome, but I do not see how we can possibly overcome them simply by raising the charge by 6d. or ls. each year. If we had any idea that we would be getting to the end of the problem, it would be all right to increase the charge; but we have no such idea. Last year, we thought we had arrived at a solution of the problem, but the loss was £1,000,000 in spite of the fact that, if my memory serves me correctly, £50,000 worth of securities were sold in an effort to meet liabilities. I think it is only fair that, when a bill of this kind is introduced, we should have the latest information that is available and be furnished with full reasons for the need for an increase of the charge.
Senator O’Flaherty provided the answer to a question that I had intended to ask. He pointed out that, although men received a ticket to enable them to work in the afternoon, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority still advertised in the press and over the radio. That brings me to a matter that I had intended to raise - the cost of advertising. In 1955-56 that item cost £19,940, but in 1956-57 it cost £61,505. Surely we are entitled to be furnished with some reasons as to why the cost of that item has risen almost five times. If Senator O’Flaherty was correct, why on earth does the authority need to advertise in the press and on the radio when men already have their tickets to work in the afternoon? This new authority was appointed a little while ago and we were told that everything would then be all right, that Mr. Hewitt knew all about the wiles of the general secretary of the Waterside Workers’ Federation and that he would be able to overcome them. But we do not seem to have got anywhere; in fact, I do not think much improvement has been made at all. I do not see how we can possibly agree to this bill and allow the present state of affairs to continue. A proper investigation of the whole situation is needed. I hope that the Senate will not pass the legislation at this stage so that we will be able to obtain more information.
One matter that should be investigated is the size of the quotas that are engaged at various places. The report of the Stevedoring Industry Authority for the year ended 30th June, 1957, shows that for the year 25.1 per cent, of the waterside workers in Brisbane drew attendance money, in Gladstone 56.9 per cent., in Rockhampton 35.8 per cent., and in Coffs Harbour 49.6 per cent, with only 36 per cent, working full time. In Melbourne, 38.9 per cent, drew attendance money, and in Strahan 60.9 per cent, drew attendance money with 31.7 per cent, working full-time. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), in his second-reading speech, said that shipping was not as plentiful as it was years ago. If that is so, there should be a reduction of the quotas. It is of no use to pay men attendance money and to carry on like that if there is not the work for them. There should be a more radical approach to this problem to ensure that the number of men who are detailed for work is not greater than is required. The Minister also said -
Except for the largely unpredictable factor of attendance money, outgoing expenditure items have been working out much as anticipated.
Later in his speech he said -
The industry has it in its power to help itself. Undoubtedly, it could attract a great deal more business to coastal shipping if cargo rates were favourably competitive with those charged by the various forms of land transport, and if prospective shippers could be assured of promptness and regularity in their deliveries.
Of course, that is at the root of the whole thing. If shippers cannot be assured of promptness of delivery, they cannot be expected to patronize the ships. A ship earns money only when it is on the high seas, not when it is in port. If there have been delays in the turn-round of ships, they have been brought about by hold-ups and strikes. We are driving shipping away from Australia, and the sooner we realize that and tackle the matter in a far more comprehensive way than has been the case in the past the better it will be.
An inquiry costing probably many hundreds of thousands of pounds was made into the waterfront industry, but all that was achieved was a reduction of industrial disputes during the early part of this year. But, as I said before, I think that was due to the absence from Australia of the general secretary of the Waterside Workers’ Federation. The Stevedoring Industry Authority administers the industry, and the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission deals with working conditions. The commission might say that a certain number of men shall be employed in a gang, but the men say they want more and, because the size of the gang is not increased, they go on strike. If the commission is to be disobeyed in that way, remedial action should be taken. It is of no use, when a man goes on strike, to bring him before the Stevedoring Industry Authority and then to send him back to the employer the next morning.
Another factor is the weight that is fixed for each sling. The commission rules what shall be the weight for a sling, but in many cases the men strike against that ruling. What is the use of having a Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and a Stevedoring Industry Authority when such things can be done with impunity? The commission has fixed the weight to be loaded into slings only after examination. If the commission’s ruling is correct, it should be enforced. If there were any danger to the employees, I would be the first to say that the ruling should be varied, because the families of these men are dependent upon them and the breadwinners should not be asked to take any risk. I have noticed that a rope, or a derrick has broken on one or two foreign ships that have called at Fremantle. In a case like that the shipowner should be heavily fined. Men should not be expected to work under such conditions.
We must remember that we are continually receiving complaints from all over the world that our goods are priced out of the market. The only remedy open to us is to reduce our prices. One way in which we can do so is to turn ships round quickly and thus reduce the freight charges and ensure that goods, instead of lying on the wharfs, will be delivered when consignees in other parts of the world expect them to be delivered instead of being one, two, three or four weeks overdue.
For those reasons, I am unable to support the bill.
– The Australian Democratic Labour party supports the bill because it thinks that the measure is necessary. The situation is that the Parliament determined two years ago to establish the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. That authority having been established, it is necessary that it be provided with funds which will enable it to carry on its activities.
It has been suggested that there has been waste or extravagance in the administration of the authority, but I point out that we have had no definite evidence that that is so. There have been assertions to that effect, but if we were furnished with evidence, those assertions could be tested. I know two of the three members of the authority, Mr. Hewitt and Mr. Shortell, for whom I have the highest respect. Their appointment was extremely sound and, as a majority of the authority, they will do everything possible to see its activities are carried on in a proper manner.
The fees to be charged have been considerably increased probably due to three factors. No doubt there has been some industrial trouble on the waterfront, and no honorable senator regrets that more than I do, but it is encouraging to note that this shows a decline. I am not optimistic that the improvement will be maintained because, if my information is correct, the Communist party has decided that it will do everything it can to disrupt the waterfront during the next twelve months. I hope that the good sense of the decent waterside workers - and there are plenty of them - will encourage them to stand up against this attempted disruption and, if possible, prevent it. But the increase is due not merely to industrial troubles. First, the amount of attendance money paid has increased as a result of unemployment on the wharfs over the last twelve months; in fact, the figures covering the last few weeks show a rather serious position. Quite a number of waterside workers, or wharfies, as some of them prefer to be called, have indicated to me during the course of conversation that work on the waterfront has not been a wonderful job during the last twelve months, and that the wages have by no means been as high as they expected when they entered that occupation.
Expenditure has been increased, also, by the action of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority in improving the amenities at a number of ports, particularly some of the smaller ports which urgently require improvement.
– The improved amenities cost a mere £49,000 this year.
– I learned a day or so ago of the conditions under which the waterside workers were expected to work at Devonport, and I was amazed that such conditions should exist in the twentieth century. If the authority intends to spend money on improving conditions at some of the ports, funds ought to be provided to enable it to do so.
Regarding the press and radio pick-up system mentioned by Senator O’Flaherty and Senator Seward, I have no knowledge of the way in which it works in the States they represent, but I know something of its operation in Victoria. The press and radio pick-up is one of the best systems introduced in the interests of the waterside workers over the last twenty or 30 years. Previously the waterside worker had to report for work in the morning without any prior knowledge of the time he would be required and where he would be working. He would perhaps have to hang around for hours when he found he was not required immediately. Under the new system he can hear over the radio or see in the press details as to where his gang is required for work. I see no objection to spending money on a system such as that because it is only reasonable, when one considers that other people go to work knowing when and where their duty lies, and are thus able to plan their home life. The waterside worker, however, is also entitled to have prior information as to where he is required for work so that he also may plan his home life.
– We do not contest that. All we ask is that the money is not wasted.
– I do not think it is, nor have I had any evidence to indicate that it is wasted. The Communist element in the Waterside Workers’ Federation is violently opposed to the press and radio pick-up system. If Jim Healy, an expert Communist, had the power he would wipe out at once the press and radio pick-up because he knows it is a factor which makes the waterside worker more contented. The Communist party would prefer to have all the waterside workers at the pick-up centre at the one time so the party representatives would be able to distribute the party sheets, sell the Communist party newspaper and afford the opportunity to Communist speakers to tell the wharfies all sorts of stories, and by that means use the pick-up as a method of indoctrinating the waterside workers in the principles of the Communist party.
In Melbourne the waterside workers regard the press and radio pick-up as something to be cherished. Even though the federation has elected a majority of Communists to its executive and the Communists have endeavoured to have the press and radio pick-up wiped out, the rank and file members have refused to allow that to be done. Whatever money is spent on the press and radio pick-up system is, to my mind, well spent.
The Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority is no doubt looking for ways and means of saving money by rendering quite a few of these services more efficient. In Sydney recently the authority decided to introduce a mobile ambulance service to cater for employees injured on the job. I understand that previously 25 first-aid posts were dotted round the wharfs. The mobile ambulance service was introduced in Melbourne some time ago and has proved successful, being more efficient in every way than the previous arrangement. In accordance with the policy of the Communist party to cause all the trouble possible this year, some of the Communist leaders suggested to the men that the new mobile service should be declared black. No reason exists why the Communist party should want to adopt that attitude because the proposed system is more efficient than the existing one and has worked with great success on the Melbourne wharfs.
– The success of the scheme would depend on the size of the port.
– That is so, but in a port the size of Sydney the system would be an excellent one. I support the action of the authority in introducing a mobile ambulance service and I hope the authority will stand up to the pressure that may be put on it by those who do not have the interests of the waterside workers at heart.
This industry has had a very unhappy history. Although an improvement has been effected in amenities, 1 do not think it is an industry in which any worker will make his fortune. I have a lot of respect for the waterside worker as a man and I regret very much that in recent years he has been influenced by Communists to the extent of voting Communist union officials into office. I hope the decent waterside workers will withstand the attempts that will be made to involve them in bogus industrial struggles. I admit that some of their grievances have been genuine and the workers were entitled to fight for their rights, but on the other hand, as in the notorious Krespi case, the disturbances were not the result of a genuine grievance.
I regret that the waterside workers are controlled by their present leaders, but the officials were elected in a democratic manner. However, I look forward to the day when the waterside workers will stand up for their rights and not allow themselves to be drawn into unnecessary strikes. That day will arrive when the wharfies vote out of office the Communist officials who wield too much power to-day, and vote into office, in a democratic election, decent men such as Jim Cummings, the president of the Melbourne branch of the Waterside Workers’ Federation.
– My interest in this bill, until this debate ran, was confined to a matter that should be dealt with in committee, and which I reserved for that stage, but Senator Wright is responsible for my participation at the moment. The honorable senator made an interesting and informative speech. I was obliged to miss a few minutes of it only. He declared it to be an objective approach to this question of the waterfront. 1 am sure he believed that, but 1 did not share that opinion because of various statements with which he sprinkled his speech.
He commenced by pointing out that the system of control that operates on the waterfront is unique. 1 quite agree with him in that, but 1 also point out that the industry is unique. There is no other industry of its type in Australia. Until the rationalization scheme was introduced by the Chifley Labour Government, what was the position? Employment went by favour. Men were picked up in the open. The industry had the difficulty that there are no personal relations between the employees and the employers. There were no amenities of any kind. There was no security of tenure, to which Senator Seward referred a little while ago.
Every economic blast in the community had its effect upon the waterfront. For instance, in recent years there have been import cuts and a reduction of exports. There have been droughts and, indeed, every seasonal disability that affects the quantum of goods that is produced; rain above everything else; the wrong delivery of cargo; and inefficient stevedoring equipment. All those things militated against employment on the waterfront.
It was a most progressive move when the Chifley Government took the first real step in Australia to rationalize this work force on the waterfront. Nobody claims that the legislation is perfect, but I think that in an approach to this matter it has always to be borne in mind that, until very recently - a decade or so is not a long time in changing the mentality of a particular industry and its traditions, enabling people to forget the bad old days - there was little or no legislative protection for those engaged in the industry. One has to be tolerant in one’s outlook towards the men engaged in this avocation, having regard to the very experiences that they had - quite recently, in short.
Senator Wright referred on various occasions to the wasteful mass of inefficient labour. I hope that, when talking about inefficient labour, he was not directing that remark solely at the men on the waterfront, because I do not think that comment is justified. I believe, despite the fact that the men have a Communist leader in Healy, that they are as good Australians as anybody in this Senate as a mass of men - thoroughly good Australians. I know many of them quite well, and that is my opinion of them. I am sure it is the truth. With regard to their being led by a Communist secretary, I know why he is elected. He is not elected because he is a Communist; he is elected in spite of that fact.
– For his efficiency.
– Yes, he is elected by men who, rightly or wrongly, believe that he is a good, efficient secretary. That is their interest in him.
– He has got for them all of the amenities they now have.
– It was during his regime that these things came about. He did contend for them, and he gets credit for the fact that improvements were made in conditions on the waterfront when he took over. From a coldly dispassionate viewpoint of serving the best interests of his men, he is efficient. This much is certain, whatever difference of opinion there may be about him, the waterside workers, almost to a man and irrespective of political convictions, will vote for him as secretary. It has nothing to do with favouring communism. I repeat that the men have voted for him as secretary in spite of the fact that he is a Communist.
This union is certainly not Communist. Its executive controlling body is not Communist. It is a body that I am proud to say is affiliated with a party that we on this side have the honour to represent. I would far prefer to see all Communists in their leadership ousted, and so would every honorable senator on this side of the chamber. We believe it would be better with that approach. I think it is wrong to concentrate all the time, as the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) did recently, and as Senator Wright did, incidentally - certainly only to-night - on saying that the labour was inefficient, that it was disruptive. I am not putting these words into the honorable senator’s mouth, but I took him to mean that it was disruptive and turbulent. I agree with him that it is turbulent. The industry has a long way to go.
The honorable senator commented on waste under the new authority. I invite him to consider an aspect when he is comparing the expenditure under various heads in 1949. 1 refer to a factor that has not yet been mentioned in this debate. Between 1949 and now, there has been a roaring inflation. Wages have more than doubled. If I heard the honorable senator accurately - I was interrupted at times while he was speaking - I understood him to say that the administrative cost of the authority had risen from £190,000 in 1949-50 to £476,000 last year. Having regard to the fact that wages and salaries, for instance, have at least doubled over that period, and the cost of all services has more than doubled, I do not think that the increase is in any way alarming. It is not very much more than a 100 per cent, increase, and I think that, in presenting the figures to the Senate, one must have regard to the tremendous effect that inflation down the last eight or nine years has had on the position.
– What figures are you quoting, senator?
– I am using the figures I understood Senator Wright to quote, that the cost of the Australian Stevedoring Commission in 1949-50 was £190,000, and that last year the cost rose to £476,000; and I am saying that having regard to increasing activity and development, and allowing for inflation alone, that seemed to me to be reasonably in line. There was nothing alarming about those figures.
I find that the next lot of figures, instead of being alarming, are particularly disappointing. Over the same period, from 1949-50 to last year, the money expended on amenities rose only from £32,000 to £49,000.
– That was over the last three years, since 1954-55.
– I thought that your figures in relation to attendance money referred to the last three years, but that the earlier figures on amenities mentioned by you referred to the period from 1949-50 up to last year.
– In regard to amenities, I mentioned the figures for the last three years.
– Having regard to what I know and to what I have seen of amenities on the waterfront, I should be very much happier if the expenditure on amenities were greatly increased. Senator McManus has referred to the conditions at Devonport. 1 have referred to them on several occasions in this Senate and I repeat that I would not expect animals to use the amenities provided for the waterside workers at that port, which I have seen. They are positively nauseating.
– The watersiders are treated like dogs.
– The amenities are at that standard. That is all I care to say. I am not alarmed about the expenditure on amenities. As to the great increase in the amount paid to the watersiders, we have to remember, quite frankly, a lot of positions. By order of the court - the industrial tribunal in this matter - sick pay was added in 1 956. This was given by an industrial tribunal, not by the authority. Holiday pay was also given. Sick pay and holiday pay have to be met out of the charge that is imposed under this legislation upon the employers of waterside labour. Obviously, that amount must increase enormously. I thought that the Minister made a very good second-reading speech, and that it was a genuine effort toexplain why the increase was necessary. He went into some detail and made some observations that I consider worth repeating. He pointed out, to begin with, that there had been fewer interruptions of work because of industrial disputes and rain. What more can one ask for, in such a turbulent industry, than improvement? It is not a slight improvement as Senator Wright has< suggested; it is a great improvement. In 1955-56, industrial disputes cost 3,300,000 man-hours. In the same period 2,000,000 man-hours were lost as a result of rain. In the following year, the loss in man-hours owing to industrial disputes fell to 1,250,000 - a tremendous decrease. The figure was less than that for loss as a result of rain, which was 1,500,000 man-hours. This is an amazingly quick drop in the number of man-hours lost as a result of industrial disputes in an industry with such a history of turbulence. Instead of pinpricking the waterside workers, as do the Minister and some honorable senators, we would help the situation immensely if we handed out a word or two of praise for this improved performance.
I have no great knowledge of building and construction, but I refuse to believe that an independent approach to this matter of loss of man-hours as a result of rain by all the authorities concerned, could not produce physical arrangements which would enable ships to be loaded and unloaded when it was raining. If that were possible, performance on the waterfront would undergo a revolutionary change.
– The facilities are there, but they are not used.
– If the honorable senator is right, that makes the position even worse. Having no practical knowledge of these matters, I will not make any suggestion about what might be needed.
– You have to persuade thc waterside workers to wear overcoats.
– What a contribution it would make to our waterfront problem if a really determined effort were made to counteract interruption by rain. Think how it would reduce costs and speed up handling. Some years ago it rained heavily in Sydney almost every day for six months. A fine contribution to the industry could be made by solving the rain problem, but it would have to be done by the authorities, both governmental and Semi-governmental. It cannot be laid at the door of the waterside workers. We all like a little praise when we do a better job. Why not give the waterside workers a little bouquet occasionally instead of talking of trouble in the industry, Communist leadership and so on! Surely, that would be better than trying to push them back into the trough all “the time.
The Minister also intimated that more overtime had been worked. That means, of course, fewer workers and the payment »of more attendance money. He drew attention to the fact that there had been ;a useful increase in stevedoring efficiency, and an improvement in cargo handling rates. There is nothing dismal about that picture. One could even say that the Minister’s remarks about the Waterside Workers’ Federation were cheerful. He said also, that it is a matter of common “knowledge that there are, at present, more men on the waterfront than are actually needed. The prime responsibility for that must be placed upon the body which fixes the quotas. During the last fruit season ‘We had, in Hobart, as the Minister for
Labour and National Service has admitted, an example of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority being given wrong information by the employers. That is referred to in the report. The authority was misled and, quite against the advice of the Waterside Workers’ Federation, fixed a quota which was far too high. That meant the payment of more attendance money but, in fact, the men were earning, overall, far less money than they were entitled to expect.
– On the average they were earning at least £16 or £18 a week.
– There has been much controversy on that point. I realize that those, are the figures suggested by the stevedoring companies but, as there is conflict over them between the two parties in the industry, I shall not argue about them to-night. In fairness I must say that honorable senators from both sides of the chamber met waterside workers and officials in Hobart and endeavoured to sort out their problems. There was complete agreement that the authority had erred because of the employers’ misleading information. The men cannot be blamed for being upset and turbulent in circumstances which disrupt their earnings.
– That is why one says that an inefficient mass of labour is being kept on the waterfront.
– That is implicit in what the Minister says, but when the honorable senator declaims against the present organization in the industry he should be prepared to offer an alternative to it. With what could we replace the present authority?
– You need only do what is done in New Zealand. I have said that in this chamber half a dozen times, but no one will take any notice.
– If the honorable senator repeats his suggestion I will give it the keenest attention, but the people whom he must impress are his colleagues in Cabinet. We are always willing to support any one who produces an idea which seems to us to have merit. I may say that I have seen a lot of merit in suggestions which the honorable senator has made, and I assure him that if he repeats his suggestion we will look at it sympathetically and support it if we can.
Senator Wright gave us some very informative figures regarding the drop in the value of agricultural produce since 1948-49. Those figures are startling and surprising, but I do not want his use of them in this debate to convey to any one the impression that the waterside workers are in any way responsible. I point out that even the lowest figure quoted by the honorable senator for the value of our farm produce, including wool, was of the order of £373,000,000 in a single year. Even if the expenditure of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority does run to £2,000,000 per annum, it will still be a relatively insignificant figure when placed against the lowest figure given by Senator Wright.
– Little by little, irresponsibility grows.
– I realize that, but we must look at this matter in perspective. I should certainly not like any one to conclude that the honorable senator’s very informative figures, which look so threatening for the agricultural industries, are at all attributable to anything that has taken place on the waterfront. After all is said and done, only a portion of farm produce reaches the waterfront.
– If all the damage they did to the primary producers could be measured by those figures, we would not complain about it, but it is when you add the expense caused by their tactics to those figures that you realize they are the. enemies of the primary producers.
– I think the honorable senator puts it far too trenchantly and far too strongly. I should like to see him use his powers of advocacy to bring about a better state of mind on the waterfront. I think he could make a real contribution to that.
– He would have to correct his own state of mind before he could do that.
– That is implicit in it. He would have to give the problem his real attention. The honorable senator, unwisely. I thought, in a speech that he claimed to be objective, talked about the Opposition in this Parliament, when the Stevedoring Industry Bill was before us in 1956, acting under the guidance of Jim
Healy. I think it was completely unfair of the honorable senator to say that. I do> not recall seeing Jim Healy about the place.
– He sat in the other chamber while your leader was delivering his speech.
– I cannot see that far from here. One would have expected Healy to see somebody in the Senate, considering that we had to debate the matter here. I concede very readily that I met officials of the waterside workers federal council and sat in conference with them in my room. They were seated in this chamber during the debate on the bill. They were of substantial help to me in understanding the problems of the industry and presenting a better case on the bill. However, I indicate to the honorable senator that it was completely unfair, and not up to his best standards, for him in a speech that he declared to be objective, to throw in that completely party-political quip. It has had the unfortunate result that I have participated in the debate and taken up so much time.
I need not pursue the matter further now. I rose primarily to take up with Senator Wright some matters that I thought should not be allowed to go unchallenged. Having done that, I indicate that I have an interest in one of the clauses to be discussed in committee. Anything further that I have to say, I reserve for that stage.
– I think I should make clear my attitude to this bill. Under the circumstances, I can see no reason why I should not support the bill. Honorable senators will remember that in 1956 I was one of those who trenchantly opposed a measure of this type. The Stevedoring Industry Bill 1956 would not have been passed had it not been for the absenteeism of one member of the Opposition. I think honorable senators will remember the case.
I have looked at the stevedoring industry legislation to see whether it is doing what the Government said that it would do, but 1 find that it is not coming up to the hopes that the Government had for it. The Minister told us that it would improve conditions on the waterfront, and so on. Recently I asked a question about the
Stevedoring Industry Act. My question was -
Is it a fact that section 44 of the Stevedoring Industry Act makes it an offence for any person lo prevent a registered waterside worker from working?
The answer I received was -
Section 44 embraces a number of offences. One of these is of the character mentioned in the question.
I now ask the Government when it intends to implement that section of the act. As honorable senators know, at present section 44 of the act is being flouted, but no action has been taken by the Commonwealth Government. In other words, the Government is not supporting its own act. I refer, of course, to what is happening in Hobart at the present dme. There we have two men, the Hurseys-
– I rise to a point of order. I do not think it is proper for the honorable senator to refer to this matter, which is the subject of legal proceedings at present.
– The answer to that is that the matter was reported in the newspapers.
– Order! Do I understand that this case is at present before the courts?
– Men bearing the name mentioned by Senator Cole are the plaintiffs in Supreme Court proceedings in the State of Tasmania. If he is referring to that matter, I suggest he is out of order. If he is not, my point of order fails.
– I should say I would not be out of order.
– Are you referring to the present proceedings in Tasmania?
– I am referring to what is happening on the Hobart waterfront in connexion with the Hurseys.
– If that is so, I submit the honorable senator is out of order.
– I do not think I can be out of order.
– Order! The honorable senator will be out of order if he refers to a case that is before a court.
– I do not want my point of order to interfere with what the honorable’ senator is going to say, except insofar as he intends to refer to circumstances that may be litigated. My point of order does not apply to any other circumstances.
– Section 44 of the act is not being operated in the manner which the Senate intended when the bill was passed. In Hobart members of the Waterside Workers’ Federation are not being allowed to continue in their employment. They are being subjected to force, obstruction and ill-treatment. They are being physically prevented from attending to their duties. Yet the Stevedoring Industry Act 1956, explicitly states that it is an offence to take such action against persons who are registered members of the Waterside Workers’ Federation. All I want to do to-night is to try to awaken the Government to its obligation under the Stevedoring Industry Act, so that these men will at least get justice. If a man is prepared to work, he should not be prevented from doing so, but that is what is happening. I think it is time the Government took some action under an act passed by this Parliament.
Other matters such as loss of time through stoppages and rain have been mentioned. I am sure that these difficulties could be overcome by a little judicious thought. It has been stated that rain causes a good deal of trouble and much loss of work on the wharfs. Various implements are available to overcome that difficulty. The great problem on the waterfront when it is raining is caused by the fact that tarpaulins cannot be used to cover derricks, for instance, as they make the working of the derricks awkward. I can mention one instance on the north-west coast of Tasmania, where covering was used to help the men loading potatoes. The potatoes were loaded with a spiral machine. This machine revolved the potatoes slid from the wharf down into the ship. Slings were not required. The great point is that the waterside workers do not look with favour on any of these innovations.
– They feel that the innovations put more men out of work.
– That is one of the reasons why the men do not look with favour on the faster turn-round of ships, but in actual fact a faster . turn-round of ships would lead, to more work for men on the waterfront. The men at Devonport should be especially mindful of this for, with the introduction of the roll-on roll-off ferry on to which the lorries and other vehicles drive with their loads, it is possible that the services of waterside workers could be dispensed with eventually. What could happen there could take place all round Australia. The waterside workers must appreciate that unless more efficiency is introduced on to the waterfront, unless there is a quicker turn-round of ships, the watersideworking industry could virtually disappear.
Another instance of this possibility is to be found in the loading of wheat. At one time, wheat was loaded in bags, five or six gangs of men being employed on a boat for a week at a time. That work is rapidly disappearing with the construction of silos on the waterfront and the introduction of bulk loading by pumping the grain from the silos direct to the ship.
I think this bill is necessary. Now that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority has been established we must give it the wherewithal to enable it to continue in business. Although some may think the price exorbitant, it is necessary. I cannot see where waste of money has occurred, unless it is in the direction mentioned by Senator McKenna who suggested that the quotas on the waterfront have been too large.
– You are not aware of any other way in which there might have been waste?
– Not in the administration of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. I do admit that the quotas could have been kept at a minimum if the union had agreed to the temporary labour system that operated in the olden days. I am confident that this system would have given the waterside workers a better return in the long run, but the Communists who control the unions will not agree to that. They will not allow what they call the dicky-birds to come near the wharf. They adopt that attitude because they have no control over these men. They want on the waterfront only those men over whom they can exercise rigid control.
I- repeat that the bill, is necessary. It is of no use opposing the measure now. A law was established in 1956, and it is our duty to see that law is upheld, and to help wherever possible to make the system successful. If, after one or two years’ further trial, the system is found to be defective in any way, it will be the duty of the Government to find something else that will make for the betterment of conditions on the waterfront.
– I wish to add only a few words to this debate. I am’ concerned to understand the basis on which the charge is being altered to 2s. 6d. or 3s. After all, we altered the rate before, but since that alteration in 1956 the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority has gone substantially into overdraft; indeed it has gone into overdraft to the extent of £341,242, and its liabilities to sundry creditors have increased by £330,000. We are striking a new rate now, and I am wondering whether this is to be some sort of periodic venture by the Parliament on the basis of an imprest account on which the authority will periodically present its deficit with a request that it be recouped from money voted by this Parliament.
Obviously, due to changing circumstances, the amount specified last time was completely inadequate. That inadequacy is not attributable in any way to bad budgeting because certain factors which could not have been foreseen have intervened. But, in view of that, I think we are entitled to ask what is the basis for computing the 2s. 6d. as being an adequate rate for the future. Does it provide for the building up of any type of reserve against which any unanticipated charge can be levied, or is it merely a figure in terms of fractions of a shilling or fractions of £1. Will we find, for one reason or another, that this new charge is either more than adequate, or completely inadequate as month follows month and, when Parliament assembles early next year, will there be a need to increase this charge? The second-reading speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) does not advert to that.
– You are not indicating that you would .find even 6s. a man-hour over the limit?
– No, I am not indicating any view on the adequacy of it; I am merely pointing out that the Senate should be acquainted as to what is the basis used on this occasion to determine the 2s. 6d. or 3s. Does it provide for what is a system of budgeting against the anticipated demand for the next twelve months? Does this merely provide, on a very close budget, for that? Does it provide for something to go into reserve to avoid the condition that we find on this occasion when, not long after the previous vote, we have again to increase the levy? Those are the particulars that 1 think this chamber should be given before we are asked to agree to such a substantial vote from Commonwealth revenue, a vote which, of course, we must now make because of necessity.
– This money is not coming out of Commonwealth revenue.
– lt is being raised by a levy, on the man-hour basis, in the stevedoring industry, but I still think that the Parliament should be told the exact basis on which the levy is now being determined. When we see levies raised, from 66. to ls., then to ls. 6d., and now to 2s. 6d., and when the increases seem to be related purely to fractions of currency and to have no relation to anything else. I feel that the Senate is entitled to ask what is the system of budgeting, what is the anticipated demand for attendance money in the next twelve months, and what factors are being included in the computation which, if they had been taken into account on the previous occasion would have avoided the present situation in which the funds have become so substantially indebted.
If the Minister has an opportunity to obtain the information from his advisors before we are in committee, and if he would be good enough to give that information to us when we are in committee, I think we could vote more intelligently on the measure, although, perforce, we must vote for it in any event.
– In the unavoidable absence of my colleague, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), I shall endeavour, however inadequately, to reply to the matters that have been raised in the debate. As I understand it, the first point raised by Senator Wright was rather one of principle, as to whether there should or should not be a statutory authority controlling stevedoring affairs. That, of course, is a matter of opinion, although the unanimous report of the Tait committee of 1956 was that it favoured the establishment of a statutory authority for the purpose of the regulation of stevedoring work and the relationship between the shipowners and waterside workers.
– I do’ not suppose that a single ‘member of the Senate has read more than two pages of the Tait report.
– I cannot take responsibility for that. As I say, the honorable senator’s point involves a matter of opinion. I do not expect to obtain a unanimous view on the question whether there should or should not be a statutory authority. My personal view is that there should be one, but before we attempt to get even a better establishment on the waterfront - I suppose it will be a long time before we get perfection, if ever we do - whatever basis is adopted must be one that is acceptable to those operating the waterfront, that is, the shipowners and the waterside workers. I do not feel competent to say which is the better way to do it, although it does appeal to me, in the light of the Tait report and from my own general observations, that a statutory authority may be, if not perfect, the best method of operating the waterfront.
Senator Wright also suggested that, in the scheme of things, this increased levy automatically would result in an increase of freights. That sounds all right, and it probably will be so, depending on the amount of the increase.
– Either that, or else too great a margin of profit is allowed.
– If the honorable senator does not mind, before he puts other questions to me I shall endeavour to answer his previous ones. The claim that an increase of the levy automatically would result in an increase of freights has not been borne out in the past. There was an increase of 5d. a man-hour in 1957, and there was an increase of 10s. a week in the basic wage, but despite those increases there has been no increase in the actual freights, either overseas or locally.
– The increases have been absorbed.
– Those increases have been absorbed through greater efficiency and, perhaps, through the provision of better amenities. Anyhow, the fact is that those two increases of 5d. a man-hour and 10s. a week in the basic wage were not reflected in increased freights, either in respect of overseas or interstate shipping. Increases of overseas freights possibly could be explained by the fact that such freights are regulated only every twelve months. I believe that the position in regard to interstate freights is being considered at the present time. It is worth while to bear in mind that increased remuneration to an employee does not necessarily mean an increase in costs. Sometimes, it can mean a reduction in costs, if goodwill and better working conditions go with it.
The statement that the stevedoring industry charge is in the nature of a pay-roll tax is hardly accurate. The pay-roll tax is a payment on earnings. This charge is really a payment on man-hours worked and has no relation, in either proportion or degree, to the amount that is actually earned. The pay-roll tax, of course, affects industry and employment generally, and the receipts from it go into Consolidated Revenue. This charge is levied on a particular industry and is expended in that industry.
As to the growing expenditure of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, it is true that expenditure has gone up very considerably, but there are many explanations for that. Whether they can all be justified to the last Id. or the last £1 is again a matter of opinion, but it must be borne in mind that, as the result of an arbitration court award, the attendance money has increased from 16s. to 24s. In addition, provision has been made for statutory holidays and sick leave, and other considerations have been extended to the employees. Those additional items were responsible for increased expenditure of approximately £1,000,000, which is a substantial item.
Senator Seward stated that the relevant figures were not up to date, but I think that the second-reading speech of the Minister gives a fairly reasonable indication of where we are going in this matter. It indicates that if the current position is not remedied, the deficit for the first half of 1957-58 will be £650,000, and that attendance money payments will account for £879,000 in the first half of this year, compared with £1,625,000 for the full year of 1956-57. The other items of expenditure have not differed materially from the level of 1956-57.
I agree entirely with Senator McManus in relation to one point that he made, and to that extent I disagree with my colleague, Senator Seward. I refer to the advantages of the method of announcing pick-ups by means of a radio call. I think that that method has a tremendous advantage. For instance, it is of great convenience to the men affected. Another very good reason for it is that, although perhaps the Communists are not always wrong-
– I did not disagree with it.
– I thought that the honorable senator disagreed with it because of the expenditure involved in advertising.
– I disagree with it only when the men have been given their tickets to come back.
– I think it is an excellent idea. It obviates the necessity for the men to go along to the pick-up point, where they can be harangued and sometimes influenced by people for whom they have no real or deep sympathy. The fact that the Communists are very keen to have this radio pick-up method abolished commends it to me. As I say, I think it is a very good idea. I agree entirely with Senator McManus that the waterside workers, as a body of Australians, and as a cross-section of the community, probably are as splendid a group of men as one could find in any other industry, avocation or calling, Unfortuntely. they are led by a remarkably able Communist. That, of course, does not mean that they are Communists themselves. I think that their leader has been elected, not because he is a Communist, but in spite of the fact that he is a Communist, and because he is a remarkably able man. The tactics that have been adopted in certain places, to which Senator Cole referred, are such that it is very difficult for an Australian to understand why his fellow Australians allow them to be used. That is remarkable. I repeat that the waterside workers, as a body, represent a decent cross-section of average Australians, but they certainly do not behave like it, and that, perhaps, gives some indication of the intimidation to which they are submitted.
In regard to the point raised by Senator Cole, and without trespassing on the ruling on the point of order which I myself raised, let me say that the Commonwealth is not the only body which can lay any information or take proceedings under section 44 of the Stevedoring Industry Act. It is quite competent for anybody affected or concerned to take proceedings under that section. I understand that in certain circumstances proceedings have been taken other than under the Stevedoring Industry Act, but it is not obligatory for the Commonwealth to take action.
– Senator Cole’s point was that the Commonwealth has the power and may exercise that power if it so chooses, but that it is not obliged to do so.
– Let me reply in this way: In cases of assault, it is common for the police to take action. But it is also competent for the person assaulted to take action. Sometimes the police prefer not to take action; they prefer people to avail themselves of their ordinary remedies. Just because the police may take action it does not follow that the people must take action. Similarly in this case the Commonwealth may take action, but that does not mean that it must do so. It decides to act or not to act, as the case may be, as a matter of wisdom, of public policy, or of correctness. The mere fact that the Commonwealth has not taken action has not left anybody who may be affected without a remedy.
I shall reply now to Senator Byrne’s question. If one studies the Minister’s secondreading speech and the very nature of the expenses that are to be met, one will appreciate how difficult it is to estimate these costs. We cannot estimate the amount of cargo that will enter or leave a port, the number of rainy days, or any improvement that might be effected in the handling of cargo, with a consequent speedier turnround of ships. I should imagine that the various costs can be estimated only in the light of experience gained since the Aus tralian Stevedoring Industry Authority commenced its operatons.
It has been indicated that as at 30th June next there will be an overdraft of £650,000, and a surcharge of 6d. is to be imposed for the purpose of wiping out that overdraft. That surcharge must have been arrived at more or less as the result of an arithmetical calculation. It has been found that the earlier increase that was sought and granted was not sufficient, and it is in the light of that trial and error that the current figure has been struck. It may be too much, or, as one honorable senator suggested, it may be too little. But there are so many imponderables and so many unknowns that I think it would be exceedingly difficult to say that a certain estimate is fairly accurate.
The levy of 2s. 6d. has been fixed as being sufficient to meet anticipated expenditure for 1957-58, and anticipated expenditure in 1958-59 with some margin. It is hoped that, instead of the Authority running on an overdraft, there will be a reserve on which it may operate. If 1 have not replied to any other honorable senator, I regret it.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . 37
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed from 25th March (vide page 315), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 3 of the bill because of the great concern expressed by the Waterside Workers’ Federation in a very lengthy telegram which reads -
Anyone may be registered with the A.S.I.A. and need not be a member of the union, which is a subtle method of undermining the Waterside Workers’ Federation and setting up non-unionists.
I shall refer first to paragraph (a) which provides that the principal act shall be amended by omitting from section 4 (1.) the definition of “ stevedoring operations “. I understand that the definition is to be omitted because the words “ stevedoring operations “ are nowhere used in the Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Act. I should like the Minister to indicate whether I am correct in my understanding of the position.
It is proposed that the present definition of the term “ waterside worker “ in the Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Act shall be substituted by the term provided in this clause. The definition of “ waterside worker “ appearing in the 1 947 act read - “ Waterside worker “ means a person who is registered as a waterside worker under the Stevedoring Industry Act 1947.
The new definition is to read - “ Waterside worker “ means a person who is registered, or deemed to be registered, as a waterside worker under the Stevedoring Industry Act 1956.
– The definition in the 1956 act was different.
– That is so, but the 1956 act is the Stevedoring Industry Act, and we are looking now at the Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Act which, in effect, incorporates the definition in the Stevedoring Industry Act 1 947 which I have already quoted.
The committee will see immediately that the figures “ 1947 “ should have been altered but were not. Part of the amendment now proposed is the substitution of the figures “ 1956 “ for the figures “ 1947 “, to which we have no objection. The concern of the Waterside Workers’ Federation flows from the definition of a waterside worker as a worker who is registered “ or deemed to be registered “. The federation feels that the use of those words opens the door to unregistered waterfront labour.
My understanding is that that interpretation is wrong, but I should like the Minister to inform me whether I am correct or not after I have stated the position as I see it. When the 1956 act was drawn the old commission was abolished and a new authority set up. At that time all those workers registered under the commission, were deemed to be registered thereafter by the new body, the Authority. The draftsman was faced with a problem. He could achieve the objective of the act in either of two ways, first, by providing that it shall be compulsory upon the new authority to register everybody registered under the commission before the changeover was effected. Secondly, he could make another approach - which he did - as is apparent from a scanning of section 6(12.) of the Stevedoring Industry Act which reads -
A person who, immediately before the date of commencement of this Act, was registered at a. port under the Stevedoring Industry Act 1949-54 as an employer or waterside worker shall, upon that date, be deemed to be registered at that port under this Act as an employer or waterside worker, as the case may be.
In effect, “ waterside worker “ under the new authority shall include all those deemed to be registered as waterside workers because they were registered under the commission. The new definition further provides that all those registered by the authority after its establishment shall be regarded also as waterside workers.
The new definition says no more than that the term “ waterside worker “ includes anybody who, after 1946, was registered as a waterside worker by the new Authority, and will include all those who were deemed to be waterside workers by reason of the fact they were so registered by the commission immediately before the Authority was established. If the Minister agrees that the construction placed on the matter is correct, and that no other reason exists for the particular clause, I am certain the fears of the Waterside Workers’ Federation will evaporate. I myself believe that to be the reason for the change, and the effect of change. I would be interested to know whether the Minister agrees with me in the two propositions I have stated in regard to sub-clauses (a) and (b) of the clause.
– I had the opportunity of considering the view that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has put to the committee, and I have the advantage of having had that point of view examined by the Parliamentary Draftsman. I have before me a piece of paper which sets out the views of the Parliamentary Draftsman, and they coincide with the views that have been put before the committee by Senator McKenna.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I present the first report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Debate resumed from 26th March (vide page 364), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– At question time to-day, Senator Cooke directed my attention to the fact that I had not replied to a question he had asked concerning the representation of the Department of Trade in Western Australia. I told him that I would bring the matter to the attention of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and see whether I could obtain some information for him to-day.
I have received a communication from the Minister for Trade which tells me that the matter of adequate representation for the Department of Trade in Western Australia is at present under consideration. The Public Service Board is considering a recommendation which involves the appointment of appropriate staff in Perth so that an office of the department can be established there. Mr. McEwen points out that one of the minor difficulties involved has been the need to supply staff to establish the appeal board, which resulted from action that emanated in the Senate. That placed a strain on the department in that it was necessary to provide experienced officers for that work, but Mr. McEwen expects that an office of the Department of Trade will be established in Perth in the very near future.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday, 16th April, at 3 p.m., unless sooner called together by the President by telegram or letter.
Senate adjourned at 9.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 March 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1958/19580327_senate_22_s12/>.