22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Atomic Energy Bill 19S8. Diplomatic Immunities Bill 19S8. Life Insurance Bill 1958. Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill 19S8. Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Bill 1958.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for. Trade. By way of brief preface, I remind the Minister that last year the timber industry, which is of great economic importance to Tasmania, suffered a recession which forced ,a number of mills to close and greatly reduced the export of timber to mainland States, and that only at the present time can it be said that a certain recovery has been made. But the future welfare of the industry is in jeopardy because of the importation of timber from Malaya and Borneo, ls the Minister aware that production of timber in Tasmania during. 1955-56 was 150,630,000 super, feet but that it dropped in 1956-57 to 1-34,350,000 super, feet? From the latest figures available, there is every indication that production will fall to 124,000,000 super, feet in the current year, and serious unemployment could occur. In view of the fact that the Tariff Board inquired into and reported on this industry, can the Minister inform the Senate when Cabinet will consider the report and when its decision will be made known?
– I can well understand the honorable senator’s concern about and his interest in the Tasmanian timber industry. I shall make -inquiries and ascertain the position iri relation to the report of the Tariff Board. I do not recollect clearly whether the report has actually been completed and presented to the Government, but I shall find out and let the honorable senator know.
– Senator ROBERTSON.- I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs: Is it a fact that a sixth party of Asian journalists has arrived in Australia for a 25-day tour of the Commonwealth? Is the Minister aware that Western Australia which, after all, is the front door to Australia from Asia, has been omitted from the tour? Will the Minister revise the itinerary of these visitors and have the State of Western Australia included?
– I do not know who arranged the itinerary referred to by the honorable senator, but I shall have great pleasure in bringing the matter to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, and in putting her views before him.
– Can the Minister for Repatriation say whether it is a fact that the decision to cancel Sunday night live artist shows at the Concord Repatriation Hospital, Sydney, was that of an officer at the head-quarters of the department in Melbourne? Why has Mr. Leathart, the deputy commissioner in New South Wales, been selected as the scapegoat when he was not responsible for the cancellation of the concerts? Will the Minister take immediate action to restore these concerts, which have been, provided free of cost by artists and which have been a source of enjoyment to people who, unfortunately, are unable to be entertained otherwise?
– The discontinuance of these live artist shows was considered by the deputy commissioner in New South Wales.- I might say that the deputy commissioner in each State has full authority over domestic repatriation affairs within that State. The deputy commissioner in New South Wales has full authority to deal with this matter of the discontinuance of live artist shows.
– But did he do it?
– I am giving the honorable senator an answer to his question. 1 have now taken the matter up with the head office of the department, and I have asked for a full report from the deputy commissioner and other officers of the department, including medical officers at the hospital. When that report is received we shall know what to do.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade by directing his attention to reports that French governmental subsidies on wheat exports were leading to undercutting of Australian export wheat prices and violating French treaty obligations. It was stated by the Australian delegate to the inter-sessional committee of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade that the French action had caused a “ nullification of benefits “ under the agreement. He further stated that French export subsidies on wheat and wheaten flour were seriously harming Australian exports, particularly in the case of our traditional markets in SouthCast Asian countries, including Singapore, Malaya, Indonesia and Ceylon. Negotiations between Australia and France, which began a year ago, have achieved no results, and the matter has now become urgent. I ask the Minister: Is the Australian Government continuing to make representations to the French Government on this matter? Will it make such representations in the strongest possible terms? Will the department request the Parliamentary UnderSecretary for Trade, who is at present leading a trade delegation to South-East Asia, to make special inquiries as to the position there, and to furnish a report covering all aspects of the situation?
– I did see the newspaper reports to which the honorable senator has referred. France has been mentioned. My recollection is that another country is adopting a similar policy. I am sure that Mr. McEwen is doing all that he can do on behalf of Australian wheat farmers and flour milling interests. Indeed, the reports to which the honorable senator has referred show that the matter was mentioned at the Gatt conference at Geneva, which is evidence of the fact that action is already being taken. In the last part of his question, the honorable senator inquired whether some action could be taken by the trade delegation that Mr. Swartz is leading. I doubt whether that would be wise. After all, the aim of this delegation is to make sales of Australian products abroad. However, I shall certainly bring the suggestion before Mr. McEwen for his consideration.
– This week, Australia’s first nuclear reactor in its £5,500,000 home, which already houses an impressive array of scientists, will be opened by the Prime Minister. This is a big step forward in the atomic age. The question that I shall direct to the Minister for National Development deals with a related matter, namely, the outlook for uranium production. In view of the fact that the leading producers of uranium in the free world are now producing quantities of this commodity considerably in excess of consumption, is the Minister in a position to say whether the civil demands for uranium in Australia are likely to inspire confidence in the industry, and whether uranium is likely to be able successfully to compete against coal and natural gas during the next decade?
– The honorable senator has asked me a question that is pretty hard to answer without notice and without my making a long speech. I shall deal with the second part of the question first, that is, the competition between the two fuels. Whether uranium is likely to be able successfully to compete against coal and natural gas during the next decade is very much a matter of opinion. The subject is engaging a lot of attention at the present time. I think there is only one way to answer the question, and that is to say that those who are charged with the responsibility of providing electricity requirements must, because of the importance of getting adequate and economical prices for electricity, shop on the best market, so that in the final analysis the fuel, or the type of fuel that is most economical will succeed. All the indications are that atomic power will not be cheaper than, nor will it replace thermal power in the eastern parts of Australia for some considerable time to come because those parts have the advantage of large coal deposits that can be worked comparatively cheaply.
It is not possible for me to answer the first part of the question shortly. The honorable senator asked, in effect, what are the prospects of uranium in the future. I think the matter must be divided into two compartments, what is going to be the demand for uranium for defence purposes, and what is going to be the demand for uranium for civil purposes. The only short answer I can give is that the production of uranium has increased throughout the world to an extent that was not contemplated a few years ago, so that at the present time there are large supplies of uranium. From the long-term point of view, countries such as Australia which have large uranium deposits will be in a more fortunate position than other countries, because uranium will be a fuel, perhaps the fuel, of the future.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral agree that the discussion of many matters of great national importance involving Commonwealth powers of legislation is stifled in this Parliament, and in the press, by the issue of legal process, on the ground that the proceedings are sub judice? Does he agree that the time that elapses before the hearing of the legal action is usually so long as to make these matters no longer urgent at the time when we are free to discuss them? Without in any way prejudicing the rights of the individual, will he examine the position to see whether it would be possible to discuss both here and, within reason, in the press, the principles involved in these cases at the time when they are agitating the national conscience?
– I am inclined to agree that the circumstances mentioned by the honorable senator sometimes do arise, and I shall certainly undertake to look into the matter.
– I direct my question to the Minister for National Development. As the Australian copper price is approximately £110 above world parity, can the
Minister advise whether the company known as Ravensthorpe Copper Mines, operating in Western Australia, participates in this benefit? If not, can the Minister advise whether any action can be taken by the Government to help the company sell its production of copper in Australia so that it may receive the higher price?
– I do not pretend to be able to answer questions relating to the trading circumstances of particular companies or particular copper producers. By and large, the position is that coppermining companies are joined together in a copper producers’ association, and the members of that association have agreed among themselves to sell their output at a certain price which is, I think, £330 a ton. That price, as the honorable senator states, is above world parity. I do not know whether the particular company he mentioned is a member of the association and is obtaining that price. I think this is a matter which rests between the particular company and the other members of the association.
– My question to the Minister for Transport concerns the standardization of railway gauges. Has the Premier of South Australia pressed the claims of that State for standardization of the rail gauge from Melbourne, through Adelaide to Port Pirie to synchronize with similar work in other States? This is regarded in South Australia as a vital matter because local business concerns feel that they will lose access to their interstate markets if South Australia lags behind the other States in this work.
– In reply to a question asked before the Senate rose on the last occasion, I stated that I had seen public statements made by the Premier of South Australia which indicated his interest in the standardization of the railway line from Adelaide to Serviceton with the ultimate idea of linking up with the standardized line from Serviceton to Melbourne. I am not aware of any direct approach to the Government, but such approach, which has not yet come to my knowledge, may well have been made on a Premier to Prime Minister basis.
– A few weeks ago, when the Minister for National Development was in New Guinea he announced that exploration for oil in that- area was likely to cease. Can the Minister give any explanation as to why that should happen so soon after we received such optimistic reports of traces of oil having been found in the Territory?
– I cannot answer for the reasons that impelled the oil companies to cease their exploration for oil. They merely made the statement that they were not prepared to invest further sums of money in that direction. I remind the honorable senator that the companies are going to conclude the drilling of three holes, and if oil is discovered in any of those holes the situation will be reviewed. Another company is going to drill a fourth hole. There again, if oil is found in that fourth hole, the whole situation will be reviewed. The companies concerned have asked me not to initiate any move by the Commonwealth Government until such time as they have completed the inquiries they are at present making and which are aimed at getting other companies to come in and continue the search for oil from the stage at which the present companies are retiring. So there is a prospect yet of a strike of oil in the last few holes. There is the further prospect that the companies may be able to get the other oil companies to come in and carry on the search. Finally, if all that fails, it is a matter for the Commonwealth Government to consider what it can do, if there is anything that can be done.
– I understand the Leader of the Government has an answer to a question that I asked on 20th March last. My question concerns the combating of juvenile delinquency on a Commonwealth level. The States have been acting independently in this matter, and the Victorian Juvenile Delinquency Committee, under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Barry, submitted a report on the subject to the Victorian Government in 1956. This is such an important national problem that I ask the Minister whether, in view of the increase in juvenile delinquency through the United States of America and Australia, he will consider following the example of the United States of America and move for the appointment of a special Senate committee to conduct an extensive inquiry into the highly complex problems of this social evil.
– When the honorable senator asked this question, Senator Spooner, on my behalf, undertook to seek the Prime Minister’s views on her suggestion that a special Senate committee be set up to inquire into the problem of juvenile delinquency. This has been done. The problem of juvenile delinquency is an extremely important and complex one, and one on which there are many conflicting views. For example, there are many people who maintain that juvenile delinquency is on the increase in Australia. On the other hand, the recent conference of police commissioners apparently took the view that the problem Of juvenile delinquency is no greater than it has ever been, in relation to the size of the population.
The Prime Minister feels that whatever action needs to be taken should be taken by the States. There is daily evidence that the States, through their various agencies, are in fact tackling this problem vigorously. It is within their field of responsibility and it would seem best to leave them to handle this problem as they themselves see fit. The Prime Minister would not, therefore, favour the setting up of a special Senate committee to study this particular problem.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development relating to the Tariff Board’s inquiry into the copper-mining industry. The Minister will recollect that he stated in the Senate some time ago that the Tariff Board had in fact made its report and that this report was being considered by the Government and the Department of Trade. Can the Minister tell the Senate when the consideration of the report by the Department of Trade will be completed and when it will be possible for the Senate to examine this very important document? If the Minister does not know when the report is to be made available, will he undertake to press the department to do its utmost to complete its consideration before Parliament rises at the end of the current sessional period?
– I well remember giving the answer to which the honorable senator directs my recollection, but I am sorry to say that I have since heard nothing further. I appreciate the importance of this particular report and therefore would ask the honorable senator to put the question on the notice-paper. I will make certain that a reply is obtained from the Minister for Trade.
– Is the Leader of the Government aware that, in Tasmania at least, the official film of the recent visit of Her Majesty the Queen Mother to Australia - “ Welcome Your Majesty “ - has been shown on programmes that included feature films classified as unsuitable for general exhibition? In view of the understandable desire of parents that their children should see this film, can the Government take any action to have it returned to Tasmania and allotted to a theatre circuit on the understanding that it will be shown only on programmes classified as suitable for general exhibition? Will the Minister endeavour to persuade the appropriate Minister to ensure that, in future, official films will’ be released to theatres on the strict understanding that they will be shown with programmes, ail features of which are classified as suitable for general exhibition?
– I am not prepared to say offhand that. Commonwealth censorship powers go so far as to enable the Government to dictate to exhibitors the time, place and circumstances under which films may be shown. However, I shall take the matter up with my colleague, the Minister for Customs and Excise, and see whether anything can be done along the lines suggested by the honorable senator.
– By way of preface to my question, I should like to commend the Postmaster-General upon his endeavour to give career guidance to the sixteenyearold group of postal employees in the Australian Capital Territory and surrounding districts by showing them the opportunities for advancement in the various branches of the service. I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether those facilities are to be extended to all States. If they are, will the Postmaster-General give special attention to the State of Western Australia, with its extensive postal centres?
– I can quite understand the honorable senator bringing for. ward this question. It would no doubt be of great assistance to postal employees if similar guidance were available in all States. If the honorable senator will put the question on. notice I will obtain an early reply from the Postmaster-General. ‘
– I direct my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. When does his department intend to provide adequate facilities for the increasing passenger traffic now using the airport of the National Capital? Does he not con.sider that present facilities .are,- almost totally inadequate? As an interim measure will he have adequate lighting provided in the area used by airways buses and private vehicles, as passengers arriving at night experience great inconvenience in finding their cars and luggage? As some one said to me last night, it is as if one were arriving at an outback Egyptian railway station.
– The plans for the ultimate development of the Canberra airport envisage the removal of the present terminal building and the loading aprons to another site on the airport which could be developed much more cheaply than the present site. That, however, is a major work, which will not be undertaken for some years. Meanwhile, as an interim measure, plans and estimates for the improvement and extension of the present facilities are being proceeded with. That work might be included in the programme for this year. The work to be done on the present site will not be lost because subsequently the buildings will be used for the storage of aircraft and aircraft stores. With regard to lighting, it is appreciated that that is not nearly up to the required standard. Improvements of lighting will be a part of the interim improvements, but, in view of the manner in which my friend, Senator Marriott, has spoken, I shall ask the department whether it can do something about the lighting before the other work is commenced.
– Recently I asked the acting Leader of the Senate a question to which I understand a reply has been obtained. My question was -
Have any plans been made which will permit next-of-kin and representatives of returned servicemen’s associations to attend the unveiling ceremony by Her Majesty the Queen of the Brookwood memorial to the Commonwealth land forces in Brookwood military cemetery near Woking, Surrey, England, on 25th October this year? If no plans have already been made, and in view of the fact that an invitation to attend the ceremony has been sent to the next-of-kin of each man commemorated, will the Government give consideration to ensuring adequate Australian representation at the ceremony?
– As Senator Spooner promised the honorable senator, this matter has been discussed with the Prime Minister, who has informed me that although the next-of-kin of each Australian buried in the Brookwood military cemetery, Surrey, have been invited by the Anzac agency of the Imperial War Graves Commission to attend the ceremony of the unveiling of the memorial by Her Majesty the Queen, they have been advised that the commission cannot contribute towards any expenses. This conforms to Government policy on sponsorship of representatives at this kind of ceremony. In the past the Government has paid expenses of some bereaved relatives, but only in circumstances which involved a large number of war dead.
The memorial to be unveiled at Brookwood military cemetery is in honour of the deceased members of Commonwealth land forces, and the cemetery contains the remains of only eleven former members of the Australian land forces. The Commonwealth will, of course, be officially represented at the unveiling ceremony.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
Is any continuous scientific appraisement or investigation being undertaken by the Department of Immigration in conjunction with any other appropriate authorities such as the Commonwealth Government Statistician, the economic section of the Treasury, or the National University, to establish -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers: -
Yes. The Research Section of the Department of Immigration, in co-operation with the Commowealth Statistician, other government instrumentalities concerned and the Australian National University is, within the limits of its establishment, continuously engaged in the study of such matters as -
economic and related factors in Australia which have a bearing upon the rate at which migrants can be satisfactorily absorbed, or which would call for some variation in the composition of the migrant intake (as between workers and dependants, the proportion of males to females and the occupational categories of migrant workers);
demographic and economic factors in countries of emigration overseas which will affect the availability of migrants for Australia;
the effects of immigration on the Australian economy in general; in particular on housing, education, public utilities, &c., and the capital needs of migrants and capital accumulation by migrants;
the social effects of immigration, including the effects on rate of growth of population, age structure, masculinity, marriage and birth rates, ethnic composition, ratio of skilled to unskilled, distribution of population between and within the States, &c.;
demands made on State services by migrants and contributions to State revenue and resources by migrants;
patterns of settlements of migrants and their implications in regard to assimilation.
The results of research projects of this kind have been published in such documents as the Ministerial White Paper “ What Immigration Means to Australia”, tabled by the then Minister for Immigration on the 30th August, 1956, and in the Government paper, “ 1957 and Beyond - An Economic Survey “, to which the Research Section of the Department of Immigration contributed.
If the honorable senator would like further information on the results to date of the research being carried out into the post-war immigration programme and its effects upon the Australian economy, I shall be happy to furnish them. I should emphasize, however, that the extent to which these projects have been developed has been governed by staffing and other limitations, and that a number of them are still in progress.
I would agree with the honorable senator that the immigration programme is unfairly subject to the charge that it is a cause contributing to prevailing unemployment. On the other hand, it is a fact that in earlier years, when we had more jobs than we had people and inflation was the byword, it was subject to similar criticism as being responsible also for that situation.
The truth is that the immigration programme is making a positive and vital contribution to our welfare and development - and I am happy to see that this basic fact is now receiving more general recognition - and that there is as well an increasing acceptance of the view that fluctuations in our employment situation are matters for correction by internal political and economic action, rather than by undesirable variations in the rate of migrant intake.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade has now furnished me with the following information in reply: -
No printed Tariff Board report has been presented to the Parliament which was not a true copy of the report received by the Minister from the board.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has furnished the following information: - 1. (a) 1955- “ Hawkesbury “, “Shoalhaven”, “ Condamine “, “ Murchison “ (frigates), “ Gladstone “ (minesweeper). 1956 - “ Arunta “ (destroyer). 1957 - “ Quadrant “ (frigate), “ Wagga “, “ Junee “ (minesweepers). “ Koala “, “ Karangi “ (boom-working vessels)). (b) “ Sydney “ (aircraft carrier), “ Warramunga “ (destroyer), “ Kookaburra “ (boom-working vessel), “ Woomera “ (store carrier), “ Sprightly “ (fleet tug).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answer: - 1, 2, 3 and 4. Firemen and deck hands belong ing to the Firemen and Deckhands Union of New South Wales and employed by the Waratah Tug Company in the Port of Newcastle did give notice on the 15th March that they would not handle tugs needed to move the “ Ironmaster “ from the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s wharf. This was reported to the New South Wales Industrial Commission, but before the dispute came to be dealt with by that body the men, as a result of intervention by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, did in fact man a tug and move the vessel.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice - 1, Is it proposed, as suggested in the press, to place a Commonwealth ban on the importation of cud-chewing animals after 31st May, next? 2, If so, is this proposal a consequence of a recommendation by the Australian Agricultural Council to ban the import of bulls, cattle and sheep, because of the world-wide spread of the deadly blue tongue disease? 3, Is it a fact that the blue tongue disease has spread through the United States of America, Africa, Spain, France and other parts of Europe; that it kills sheep within 48 hours; and that while cattle are not affected by the disease, they are carriers of it? 4, If the answer to 3 is in the affirmative, why should Australia be exposed to the ravages of the disease a day longer than necessary, and, if a ban on importation of stock is to be imposed, why wait until the proposed date of 31st May to impose it? 5, Will the Minister make a full statement to the Senate on this matter?
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following information: - 2, The imposition of a ban on imports of livegoats and sheep has been prohibited absolutely after the 31st May, 1958.
asked the Minister representing .the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following information:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following information: - 1 to 6. As per attached schedule. 7 and 8. An earlier proposal to erect a large block of offices for Commonwealth departments in Hobart has been deferred.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
According to the latest information in the hands of the Government, what payments have been made, by whom, to whom and in respect of what ships, by way of indemnity payments or “ standover money “ since June, 1952?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following information: -
With one exception, the Government does not know of any payments having been made other than those listed below: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it a fact that where a person in receipt of workers’ compensation is also in receipt of a social services payment, such as an invalid pension, the amount of the compensation payment is reduced by the amount of any increase in the social services payments?
– The Treasurer has now supplied the following information: -
Pursuant to the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930-1956, there is deducted from the weekly compensation payments any invalid pension that may be payable in respect of the condition for which compensation is being paid. No deduction is made in respect of an age pension or an invalid pension that may be paid in respect of a condition that is not the subject of compensation payments under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act.
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– I now furnish the following answer to the honorable senator’s question: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What is the present strength of the naval, air force and army personnelat Manus Island?
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following information: -
The current strengths of the services at Manus Island during March were as follows: -
Royal Australian Navy - 155 (including72 members of the Papua-New Guinea Division of the Royal Australian Navy).
Australian Military Forces - 127 (including 120 members of the Pacific Islands Regiment).
Royal Australian Air Force - 67.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answers: - 1. (a) No restrictions are imposed on the importation of Australian beef by the United States Government because of the existence of pleuropneumonia in Australia; (b) however, theUnited States Agricultural Attache, Canberra, did say that the existence of pleuro-pneumonia in Australia would prevent the importation of Australian live cattle into the U.S.A., but would not affect beef imports; and (c) it is understood that New Zealand exporters are endeavouring to negotiate a contract for the shipment of 10,000 head of live beef cattle to United States buyers. However, all reports to date indicate that the main difficulties to the deal are costs and objections from New Zealand meatworks and employee organizations. There is no pleuro-pneumonia in New Zealand.
Debate resumed from 13th March (vide page 174), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The measure before the Senate proposes to amend the Re-establishment and Employment Act. It was introduced into the Senate on 13th March, and although the purposes of the bill appear to be quite simple, I preferred to ask the Government to defer consideration of the measure until its full implications were known. The Government was good enough to accede to that request which I made on behalf of the Opposition. I am indebted to the Government for making available officers of the Attorney-General’s Department who were able to assist me materially in an appreciation of the contents of the bill.
The bill has -two purposes. One is to repeal Part X. of the principal act. That part established moratorium provisions in favour of service personnel serving in war areas. The second purpose was, despite the repeal, to enable >the benefit of some, and probably the major portion of the provisions, to we continued in favour .of ,persons entitled to benefit under Part X- I should remark that Part X. .applied not .only in favour of men upon active war service but in favour also of their female dependants. The act, with one exception, provides that the period of protection afforded by the moratorium provisions should, after service ends, be equal to the period of service or one year, whichever is the shorter.
– Did it not afford protection for five years?
– >I will come to the aspect that Senator Vincent has in mind. The limit for the continuance :of the major portion of benefits was a period of one year from the time a man completed his war service. If he had served for six months, the time ran out within six months; if he had served for six years, the time ran out in a year from the time -of completion -of war service. The one exception - the one to which Senator Vincent referred - related to the question .pf the compulsory acquisition of land.
– That is so; I am sorry.
– It was provided that there could be no compulsory acquisition of land belonging to an ex-serviceman without the consent of the AttorneyGeneral. -In a separate section it was provided that the benefit of that provision should be .co-extensive -with the period of service or -the period of five years. So that five years, in that one instance, is the limit during which .the benefit may run. That is the rather extraordinary .exception to the fact that the benefits are tied down to a period of twelve months. It .seems strange that such a long term should have been assigned in relation to a benefit that appeals npt to have had very much substance, and to have been availed of very little. One might have expected it to be extended to .more common matters, such as the continuance and the deferment of instalments, the prevention of legal process, of execution of judgments and that kind of thing.
– Five years would be a little long for those benefits.
– It would, but I think it would he more appropriate to them than this other benefit of apparently very limited use.. (Senator Byrne.-Perhaps more serious in its effect?
– It all depends. The experience, so far as I can gauge, is that very few compulsory acquisitions have taken place. I : th ink it would be true to say that the -provisions of the act in that particular ha>ve probaly been ignored very largely by <the -acquiring authorities. It is not ‘likely that -many -ex-servicemen - the great bulk of them would have individual blocks of land - would own broad acres. Therefore, I think it unlikely that ex-service personnel would be very much affected. Such1 a matter is -more likely to occur in a situation where a municipal council wants to take a part .of a frontage to widen a road. The action would have perhaps .a significance .of value .to the owner of the land. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has informed us that, in -the whole .of the .period this benefit has applied, there has only been one application to the Minister for his consent, and that was a case of merit, apparently, because in fact the consent was given in that case.
I think it -well to spend a moment to consider what the moratorium provisions provided - what benefits were conferred. Probably the principal one was in relation to payments of principal due under a mortgage or an agreement for the purchase of land, due under an agreement giving extended terms of payment, types of things like hirepurchase .agreements. . The benefit applies only in relation to debts that were contracted or agreements of that nature that were entered into before the serviceman went on war service. The moratorium provisions have no application to contracts and engagements that he undertook once he had embarked upon war service. The purpose of the moratorium provision is completely clear, namely, to prevent a man who answers the call for war service and leaves his affairs in hurried fashion from being jeopardized by his patriotic action. His affairs are left to be attended to when his war service is ended and he can pick up their threads again on the resumption of normal living.
Another important aspect of the provisions was that no proceedings were to be taken, or judgments executed against a man on war service in respect of a debt contracted before he began that service. The leave of the court had to be sought before proceedings could be taken or a judgment enforced.
– On judgment debts?
– Either the institution of proceedings in respect of a debt contracted before he entered upon war service, or a judgment recovered and gained. Execution could not proceed without the leave of the court. The benefit of that protection, like the general run of benefits under Part X., was limited to twelve months after he ceased to be on war service. That was the limit to which the protection was extended.
There are also provisions enabling a court, on application, to postpone payment of interest or rates. Although I have mentioned only three of the provisions, the scope of Part X. of the act, was very much wider. Part X. in fact covers many pages of the printed act, from section 106 to section 135. There are necessarily all kinds of incidental provisions, to which I have not adverted, for determining who were the female dependants of the ex-serviceman, and providing generally for the implementation of the broad lines of protection that I have already indicated.
This bill provokes the question as to who will be affected by the repeal. The first great category is members of the permanent military forces, which includes the Navy, Army and Air Force. The position with regard to them is rather strange. Those who were on war service and enlisted for full-time permanent service before 28th April, 1952 - that being the date upon which the Japanese peace treaty was formally concluded - are deemed to be still on war service.
– Only by an idiosyncrasy of our legislation.
– That may well be. I am prepared to concede that an anomaly exists in the case of a man enlisting on 27th April, 1952, being deemed to be on war service to-day, whereas the man who enlisted on 29th April, 1952, is deemed not to be on war service. I admit the position is strange. I cannot give the Senate the figures in relation to the Navy and Air Force, but I understand that of a total of some 20,000 members of our permanent forces approximately 8,500, pursuant to that particular provision, are deemed to be still on war service.
– Does that figure refer only to the Army?
– I am referring only to the Army. I regret that I have been unable to obtain any information regarding the Navy and the Air Force. I admit at once the position seems anomalous that at this stage, some thirteen years after the conclusion of the war, we should be endeavouring to terminate the aftermath of the war, but in a moment I shall put to the Senate two considerations that have to be taken into account. However, I shall first deal with some other categories of service personnel and refer to the troops who were engaged on war service in Korea and were deemed to be so engaged for the purpose of the act we are considering and proposing to amend. Part XI. of the Reestablishment and Employment Act was inserted to cover troops in Korea and Malaya, and section 139 defines “operational area” in these terms - “ Operational area “ means an area outside Australia that is prescribed to be an operational area for the purposes of the war.
The regulation making authority then had the responsibility, pursuant to that section, of determining whether an area was an operational area or not. Statutory Rules 1956 No. 33 (a) excluded Korea as an operational area as from 20th April, 1956. Though the new regulation is expressed in many words, that is its effect. It is interesting to note that a distinction was drawn between the Navy and the Air Force, on the one hand, and the Army on the other hand. If I pick out those portions of the regulation that are relevant to my argument, honorable senators will perhaps see why the distinction was made. Regulation 5 reads -
For the purposes of the war as denned by section 139 of the act, operational areas are -
in relation to the war service of members of the Naval and Air Forces of the Commonwealth . . being service before the twentieth day of April 1956 - the area of Korea, including the waters contiguous to the coast of Korea for a distance of one hundred nautical miles seaward from the coast;
It will be seen that Navy and Air Force personnel serving in Korea, or within 100 miles of the coast, were deemed not to be on active service. There is a somewhat similar provision with regard to the Army, the pertinent portion of which reads - the area of Korea, including the waters contiguous to the coast of Korea for a distance of ten nautical miles seaward from the coast .
Honorable senators will see the distinction of ten nautical miles in the case of the Army and 100 miles in the case of the Navy and the Air Force.
Korea ceased to be an operational area as from 20th April, 1956, but whatever protection was accorded by Part X. of the Re-establishment and Employment Act expired long ago - on 20th April, 1957 - for all service personnel, except that there was a five year carry-over in relation to the compulsory acquisition of land. That is still extant.
– That is not really material.
– I am prepared to concede that it is not really material, but I shall return to that matter after I have dealt with the position in Malaya. By Statutory Rules 1956 No. 100, Malaya was regarded as not being an operational area, not by reference to a date but by the coming into operation of the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act 1956, which turned out to be 1st September, 1957. In other words, troops serving in Malaya after 1st September, 1957, were deemed not to be on war service.
In its application to the bill we are now considering, that decision means that with the one exception of the compulsory acquisition of land, the benefits under Part X. of the act will expire on 1st September, 1958, and will not be available to any service personnel in the Malaya area after that date. This bill is designed, therefore, to be operative only from that date and that is probably the main reason why it was selected for the date of operation of the bill.
Whilst not strictly relevant to the moratorium provisions of the bill, I express my surprise that Malaya has not been regarded as an operational area. Having regard to the nature of our activities in Malaya, I should have thought that the service personnel there were on active service. Being engaged in jungle warfare I should imagine they are involved in a very dangerous kind of activity. Fortunately, the casualties have not been heavy, but there have been casualties, and I query the wisdom of the Government in declaring Malaya a non.operational area as from 1st September last year, thereby cutting off the benefit of the moratorium provisions as from 1st September this year. There may be in Malaya men who enlisted permanently prior to 28th April, 1952, the date of the Japanese peace treaty. If there are, and if they enlisted for full-time service, they will still be regarded as being on war-time service. There could have been repeated in Malaya the same position as I have described as applying to the military forces in Australia. I am unable to ascertain the numbers who may be involved in that, and I do not profess to give any information to the Senate about that matter.
I come now to the men who had war service in Korea and in Malaya. Despite this repeal, the benefit of that five-year provision relating to the compulsory acquisition of land would still endure. That would be the one residue that would be available and which this bill will withdraw.
I agree with Senator Vincent that, on the face of it, and judging from the information that I have been able to obtain, it is not a matter of major importance; but it is well to remember that a benefit which, without the bill, would run on until 1961 in the case of the men who served in Korea, and until 1st September, 1962, in the case of the men who served in Malaya, is to be withdrawn as from 1st. September in this current year.
I have dealt with our current permanent servicemen and the position in Korea and Malaya. I now want to refer briefly to only one other category of ex-servicemen. I refer to the great bulk of the men who served in World War II. and who went back to their civil occupations very promptly after the war ended. That would go for the great bulk of them. The fiveyear provision in relation to compulsory acquisition of their lands would have expired. No matter how long their service, the period of 12 months being the limit for the benefit under the moratorium provisions, that time would also have expired long ago. I think it most unlikely that to-day there would be any of those ex-servicemen who would be troubled by the repeal.
It is conceivable that in long-term contracts there would be postponements of the payment of instalments under mortgages-. For instance, it could apply to credit foncier loans.
– But that would apply only in the case of contracts entered into before war service commenced.
– As the honorable senator says, it would apply only in the case of a loan that was entered into before the war service commenced. Even in a case like that, as I indicated earlier in my speech, this bill still preserves the right to the postponement of those instalments, despite the repeal of the measure. The men will still be protected. I can indicate to the Senate, too, following upon a talk I had this morning with a very senior executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, that the association feels that the repeal of Part X. will not adversely affect anybody in the category I have just been describing. The association thinks it fair and reasonable. I do not mention the gentleman’s name because he expressed his personal opinion, not the view of his organization, but it would seem that there is no great concern in that field.
Boiling these arguments down, it seems to me that the legislation operates in two ways only. It operates against those who have been permanent soldiers since 1952 and who are still serving. In the Army the number affected would be of the order of 8,500. It is proposed that their rights shall terminate on 1st September, 1958. Another category affected would be those few men who- enlisted prior to 1952 and who are serving in Malaya. The third category would be the-, men who served in Korea and Malaya,. and others, who will lose the five-year benefit with respect to the compulsory acquisition of land.
Looking down the whole field I recognize the power of the argument which says that the war is ended, that people are back in their civil occupations for long periods, and that even those who have chosen the permanent, military forces as a career ought to ..be regarded as now being back in normal civilian circulation.
– To the extent that they should pay their debts.
– They have never been relieved of the payment of their debts. All that- has happened is that their liability has been postponed by the legislation under review.
– I mean that.
Senator -McKENNA. - They have never been relieved. As the honorable senator knows, the creditor is not prejudiced by the lapse of time. Time does not run against him when debts are postponed in this way.
– He does not get his money, either.
– That is perfectly true, but when we look at the whole position, we can argue, as I say, that there is virtue in taking up the position that it is administratively convenient to end the present situation. The Government may argue that very few people will be affected, but I emphasize that the other point of view is also legitimate. If so few people will be adversely affected, why bother to disturb the benefit?
– Except that I suggest that the legislation is .not really intended to benefit some.
– I have already put the view that that can be argued.
– For instance, the man at Victoria Barracks,. Melbourne, is not on war service, yet he is entitled to the benefits of the moratorium provisions.
– He is on war service in the legal and technical sense, but not from the practical viewpoint. –1 do- not argue against that; but at the same time it appears that very few people are’ likely to be affected. That being so, what benefit is to be gained by repealing the provision? I suppose one could argue that the authorities which are concerned about compulsory acquisition will not need to spend so much time inquiring whether a .person .from whom it is proposed to acquire .land is a returned soldier.
– It is more a tidying up process, really.
– That is so. I can see that it is a process of convenience. The Minister puts it rather simply.- -To what should we address our minds - the mere tidying up of an administrative process or some rights that might be outstanding to individuals? Government supporters can make their own decision on that, and I will not quarrel with them, but I say that the decision of the Opposition falls down on the side of the human element in the factor and not the convenience of administration. I put it as simply as that.
– Are you talking now of protection against compulsory acquisition of land?
– I refer to whatever rights there may be - all rights. In his second-reading speech, the Minister admits that not many would be affected. It is obvious that the moratorium provisions must have application to the tail-end of the serving field, and I say to the honorable senator that I do not know, nor does he, with any particularity - nor can any of us find out - just what protections are running in many respects in favour of individuals. There could be a number of them. While there is the possibility that hardship may be worked on an individual, the view of the Opposition is that administrative convenience is not nearly as important as the preservation of rights upon which a man has come to rely.
– But that is not the whole argument, surely?
– In my view, the situation comes to that in the finish. I do not blame the Government for trying to do a neat tidying up job. We are not objecting strenuously to the provision, but when we have to decide between the two viewpoints, the Opposition decides against supporting the measure.
– This bill is designed virtually to repeal the moratorium war service provisions of the Re-establishment and Employment Act. I think I should say at the outset that I consider that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) was very fair in his criticism. He brought to the debate an approach which was fair and reasonable. I agree with the view that exservicemen of the 1939-45 war are not likely to be prejudiced by what the Minister has termed this “ tidying up “ bill. After all, the National Security (War Service) Regulations were introduced for the purpose of protecting the rights of men and women who put aside their peaceful pursuits and answered their country’s call. Often, they had to make a quick disposition of their family responsibilities and undertake service at an emolument quite unrelated to the risks or responsibilities involved. I think’ that’ point should be remembered. In common with many other honorable senators “‘I joined up in the very junior ranks - in my own case, as a private. I think T received, at first, 6s. a day. After a month . or so I received an additional ls. a day because I had become a specialist. Like so many others, I rose progressively through the ranks. The point I make is that, quite clearly there had to be a moratorium to preserve the rights of exservicemen who had put all their civilian advantages aside and were receiving an income which, if they lived, would not enable them to meet the civilian commitments into which they had entered. In the circumstances, the emergency, regulations were very proper, and I think that they operated quite effectively for the .period of the war and for the five-year, period after members of the .services were “discharged.
At no stage was it intended that the moratorium should be extended to persons who were’/’in” the ‘services in peace-time. Quite’ obviously, ‘th£’:v’ery–conditions under which one enlists for service in peace-time are entirely different from those which apply during war-time. To all intents and purposes, a man who enlists in peace-time expects to receive an income which is commensurate with what he could earn in private employment. I hope that no honorable senator will argue that, say, a lieutenant should not earn more than a man doing a certain skilled job outside. I am speaking broadly when I say that the man who joins the forces in peace-time obtains an income comparable with what he might expect to earn outside the service. For that reason alone, the moratorium should not be extended to people in the permanent services in peace-time.
For me the war ended on 15th August, 1945, and I got home on 10th October, 1945. A fair amount of time has passed since then, and there has been every opportunity to do as Senator McKenna suggests and clean up the tail end of the problem. From the point of view of most exservicemen there is no need for a cleaning-up period, because they were entitled to the benefits of the legislation for five years after discharge only.
Senator McKenna referred to the position of soldiers fighting in Malaya. I am inclined to agree with him, but Malaya and Korea have already been dealt with - by way of regulation it is true - and do not enter into a consideration of this bill. I think the relevant regulation was brought down in June, 1956. This bill is designed to take effect from 1st September, 1958, on which date a similar provision will apply to Malayan ex-servicemen. Under the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act 1956 the Malayan forces were changed from an operational to a strategic reserve basis, and the moratorium extended to them was deemed to cease as from 1st September, 1958. Therefore, subject to the qualification concerning acquisition, the only people interested are those who are on the peace-time establishment. The provision relating to the acquisition of land was a very good one indeed. I had personal experience of the way in which it worked in an area where a particular council was embarking upon a scheme of compulsory acquisition for a municipal building project. Quite frequently the council sought to acquire parcels of land for subdivisional purposes and then found that it also had to acquire contiguous blocks of land for road purposes or for some other integral part of the scheme. If, as frequently happened, the acquisition of a contiguous block would cut across the rights of an ex-serviceman, then, by virtue of the provisions of the act, council had to try to come to terms with the ex-serviceman, on a basis different from that on which it treated other people under the compulsory resumption provisions of New South Wales. If the council failed to come to such terms, it had to go further afield and make another approach to the problem.
Generally speaking, the moratorium provisions relating to the acquisition of land proved very effective and desirable, but they have gone out of use now. There was a provision, of course, that even after they went out of use an appeal could be made to the Attorney-General in certain cases. They have gone out of use by the effluxion of time, and I think that if we were to leave the provision in the legislation we would only be creating one more problem in the ordinary legal processes of conveyancing in land transactions.
It seems that the only people involved in this matter are those who enlisted in the permanent forces before the date of the signing of the peace treaty with Japan. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that the number would be about 8,500, and I am prepared to accept that figure. The point I make is that when those people enlisted, surely they never envisaged that, as members of the permanent forces in peacetime, they would be able to claim the advantage of moratorium provisions which were introduced as a war-time measure and designed to provide protection for people who were on active service. As I said at the outset, members of the permanent forces are treated now in a way entirely different from that in which their predecessors were treated. They live normal lives as citizens in the community. They follow the normal pursuits of members of a peace-time community. They receive emoluments consistent with the standard of living of the community. I do not think, and I am certain that it was not the intention of the legislature, that these people should be able to use the moratorium provisions. I think we have, so to speak, cleaned up all the exservicemen who may have been involved. Therefore, it is proper that we should synchronize the termination of this provision with the termination, on 1st September, of the benefits which flow to members of our forces in Malaya and Korea. If we do that, we will be able to terminate some of the problems of the last war.
– Whose problems? The soldier’s, or the person to whom he owes a debt?
– I do not think anybody wants to support legislation - I know that Senator Cooke certainly does not - that would enable people to use provisions which it was never intended should be open to them to avoid the payment of a debt. I am not suggesting that any members of the permanent forces would deliberately use these provisions to avoid the payment of a debt.
– It is not a matter of avoidance; it is a matter of protection against pressure.
– The people who will be excluded from the benefit of these provisions will still have the protection that you and I have in our normal civil capacity. It is a case of taking away a provision that was never intended to apply to them when the legislation was introduced. As the Leader of the Opposition has* suggested, this proposal will in no way prejudice the rights of ex-service men or women of the last war. For that reason, I support the bill.
– Senator Anderson has stressed the point that this amendment of the Reestablishment and Employment Act will prevent an ex-serviceman from obtaining protection against the payment of his lawful debts. In putting that proposition forward, Senator Anderson has stressed the negative aspect. When we consider the history of the act, we see that it was passed to honour the promises that were made to the men and women who served in the Australian forces during the 1939-45 war. They were promised that their rights would be protected, not only during the time they were in the services, but also during the period of their rehabilitation and reinstatement in civil life. They were told that their rehabilitation would be the responsibility of the Federal Government. We have seen those promises honoured through the years by the operation of, for example, the reconstruction training scheme.
– And also the war service land settlement scheme.
– That is so. The servicemen were promised that reconstruction training would be carried on for as long as there were people eligible to apply for those benefits. There was no provision that after, say, twelve months following discharge those benefits would not apply. In some cases, men were allowed up to five years after their discharge to take advantage of the benefits of the Re-establishment and Employment Act. Members of the Australian forces who are presently serving in Malaya are engaged in a war, even though the Government has seen fit to give another name to that operation. A rose by any other name smells just the same; there is a war in progress in Malaya. Only to-day, the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) stated that extra squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force were to go to Malaya. Moreover, we have in training in this country a brigade group which we are given to understand is available for service anywhere at any time when the interests of the Commonwealth are threatened.
There is no reason to delete at the present time the moratorium sections of the Re-establishment and Employment Act. Personnel who have served in Malaya or Korea have not had the same period of time in which to re-establish themselves as have men who were discharged in 1945 or 1946. Men who have served in Malaya and Korea have their rights as ex-servicemen. Circumstances and conditions change. For example, we know that during the last five years inflation has occurred at a rate that was unprecedented in this country. We know that all kinds of adjustments in costs and charges have been made, and that a man upon discharge from the services may face responsibilities that he did not anticipate. The period of time that is allotted for the application of the moratorium provisions of the act should not be limited to the degree that is proposed in this amending legislation.
As I said earlier, the Minister described the bill as being more or less a tidying up measure, but the position of people who are or may be concerned about the protection of their property against seizure as a result of inability to meet their obligations presents too serious a problem for the bill to be called a tidying up measure. It is quite true that there are not now involved the vast numbers .of -people who were involved when the original act was passed, in 1945, but those people who are performing their duties in the armed services at the present time are justly entitled to the same protection as were people who were discharged after earlier campaigns.
– The bill has nothing to do with that.
– It has to do with people who are engaged in Malaya, which is not regarded as being an operational area.
– But that is not related to this bill.
– That matter was dealt with last year. This bill has nothing to do with it.
– But it has to do with members of the permanent forces who, as members of the mobile brigade .group, could be sent quickly to some operational area. It is expedient, I suppose, as the Minister indicated, to tidy up the act, but not to do so by restricting the protection that should be afforded to serving personnel and which was afforded to personnel who served in earlier campaigns. This measure seeks to restrict the protection that has been afforded for a number of years.
– Will the honorable senator elaborate his statement? What in section 118 is being restricted?
– Section 11:8, as a moratorium provision, affords protection to the property of a serving member of the forces.
– It prevents his property from being acquired.
– Yes, it is a protection against acquisition.
– A moratorium is a relief from a debt.
– Yes, a relief from a debt; and the same thing could apply if a man had a mortgage on his property. If a man’s property is mortgaged, he should have protection against the seizure of his property in payment of the debt if, during his service, altered charges or other considerations have caused Him to fall behind in his payments or to default in any other way.
There is no >gr,eat need for the proposed amendment. If passed, it would give to people who have no thought for the humanitarian aspect of their actions an opportunity to foreclose.
– Section 118 has nothing to do with mortgages.
– It has to do with the payment pf debts.
– No, it has not.
– And with the acquisition of land.
– It has to do with the acquisition of land only.
– The acquiring authority will pay the ex-serviceman money, not vice versa.
– The point I am making is that the protection that has been given traditionally since 1945 will be removed by this amendment.
– In relation to the compulsory acquisition of land.
– -For what purpose? Why has the Minister for National Development not explained fully to the Senate the reason for taking away that protection?
– Has not the honorable senator read the Minister’s explanation?
– I have read his second-reading speech, but it contains little information. The Minister stated that section 118 was to be amended, but the Senate was furnished with very little detailed information. Much fuller information should be furnished as to the true purpose of the amendment and why there should be any restriction of the protection that is offered to ex-servicemen. I hope that -.later the Minister will give a fuller explanation of the purpose of removing a portion of the act that has been in existence since 1-945 and which was introduced for the protection of ex-servicemen.
.- The purpose of this amending bill, as I understand it, is not to remove protection of any kind from ex-servicemen, but to remove protection from persons who are still serving in any branch of the permanent forces and who enlisted before 28th April, 1952. I say that because Senator O’Byrne mentioned the question of ex-servicemen.
Whatever the legal definition of the term “ ex-servicemen “ may be, in this country it is generally taken to refer to persons who served in the forces during war-time and who have since been discharged from the forces.
– But who may have reenlisted.
– Actually, the term “ ex-servicemen “ .generally refers to persons who enlisted, served in a war and then .were discharged. Such persons will not, as I understand it, lose any protection whatever under this amending bill, but those persons who, before 28th April, -1952, enlisted in a service, and are still serving, will lose the protection that they enjoy under the existing legislation.
– Who enlisted prior to, or after, that date?
– Those who enlisted prior to 28th April, 1952 - which was the technical date of the termination of the war against Japan - are deemed, because of the legal language of the existing legislation, to have enlisted for a period of war service. That period of war service was assumed to go on indefinitely if they enlisted before the termination of the war. So we have persons, perhaps now serving at places like Victoria Barracks - people who enlisted prior to 28th April, 1952, will probably have base jobs - who will Jose a protection giver, by the existing legislation. But only those people will be affected.
– Why should they lose protection?
– I shall try to come to that matter. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), quite fairly, pointed out that they were the people who will lose protection.’ In what way will they be affected? Just what will these people lose in the way of protection? As I understand it, they will lose the present protection they have against the compulsory acquisition of their land by a government authority. As honorable senators know, every citizen of this country is subject to have his land compulsorily acquired by a shire council, a State government, or some other instrumentality which requires that land ‘for government purposes. Under the existing legislation, persons of the kind to whom I have referred have a protection against such action, extending for five years from the termination of their service, or for the period of service, whichever is the less. Let me go over the matter once again, because it is necessary to be quite clear about whom these provisions affect. Persons who enlisted before 28th April, 1952, and are still serving in one of the forces will lose the right to protection against the compulsory acquisition of their land.
– The moratorium provisions will not still apply?
– I have not come to that aspect. At the moment I am dealing with the one right - that of protection against compulsory acquisition of land. I do not myself see any valid reason why persons who enlisted before 28th April, 1952, and are still in the services, should have protection against the compulsory acquisition of their land, when they are carrying out a peace-time service in a country at peace. I do not see why they should have a protection which is not enjoyed by other citizens. I do not believe that the withdrawal of the protection will inflict any hardship on any of those persons, and I do npt believe, as a matter of principle, that they should have that right.
– They were never intended to have it.
– They were not intended to have it, but they did have it legally. .1 do. not see any reason why they should have it.
The next right or protection to which persons who enlisted at that time and are still serving, are entitled is that of the postponement of the. payment of principal payments - not interest payments - on a debt contracted before, not after, their enlistment. That is the sum of the right. It is not forgiveness of a debt, not forgiveness of interest on a debt, not forgiveness of any part of a debt contracted after enlistment, but forgiveness, during their period of service, of the payment of principal on loans, secured by mortgage or otherwise, contracted before their enlistment. Again, I find it difficult to see why persons who enlisted before 28th April, 1952, and who are still in the services, should, because of the legal language, although it was never intended to convey such a benefit, still be relieved of the necessity to pay the .principal owing to persons from whom they “have borrowed money, whereas anybody who enlisted on 29th April, 1952, and is still in the services has to pay, and has no protection whatever. It seems to me that those rights are, in the most narrow and crude sense, purely legal rights which have arisen by accident, and for which no really valid case can be put forward to-day.
So much for those persons in the permanent services. We have heard, again from Senator O’Byrne, about those who are serving in Malaya to-day. As I understand the position - I hope that the AttorneyGeneral (Senator O’sullivan) will confirm that my interpretation is right - this amending bill will not remove from persons serving in Malaya any of the moratorium protection - that is, protection regarding the repayment of the principal of loans. As I understand it, a statutory rule has already removed such protection from those persons.
– As from 1st September, 1958.
– As from the date of operation of this bill. Whether we pass this amending bill or do not pass it, that will make no difference whatsoever to the rights of persons serving in Malaya, as far as the moratorium provisions are concerned.
– That is not a very compelling argument. It would be possible to move for the repeal of the statutory rule.
– That is so, but the vote that we cast to-day on this bill will not be the means of removing any rights.
– And it will not repeal the statutory rule, will it?
– The point I want to make is that this amending bill will not remove rights from persons serving in Malaya, or who have served in Malaya, because those rights were given by statutory declaration and removed by statutory declaration. Consequently, it does not appear to me that the persons who are affected by this legislation have any moral or equitable right to the protection that they are now enjoying. I am quite, certain that 99.9 per cent, of them would not even want that sort of protection against the paying of their bills, and that the passing of the legislation will not affect any ex-serviceman or any person who is serving in Malaya.
For those reasons, and because I think it is right in peace-time that members of the forces, up to the date they enlist, should bear the same burdens as ordinary citizens of this country, I am prepared to support this bill.
– The purpose of the bill seems to be to tidy up the present act. I have listened with great interest to the debate, and although there seems to be a difference of opinion between the Government and the Opposition, all I can say is that I have not heard any fundamental arguments advanced against the passing of the legislation. Nothing was brought forward by the Opposition that has not been answered fully by supporters of the Government. In fact, I have tried to pinpoint the Opposition’s arguments against the bill, but I am afraid I have not been able to find one. The only aspect about which I was really concerned related to Australian servicemen in Malaya. Senator Gorton dealt adequately with that matter a moment ago, and it appears that the position of our servicemen in Malaya will not be affected by the passage of this measure. All I want to say is that I am sorry that the regulation to operate from September, 1958, was promulgated. It is an example of the things that get past the wary eye, shall I say, of the Senate without the full implications being realized.
– Wary eye, or weary eye?
– Both. At the time, we do not always realize the full effects of regulations. I am astonished that this matter has escaped the notice of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. It seems to me that the Government has brought down this measure after the time given the Senate to disallow the regulation has expired. As the purpose of the bill is to tidy up the act, I cannot see any valid argument against it. The measure does not seem to me to affect any ex-serviceman, and I cannot see any need to oppose it.
– I have listened with great interest to this debate, in particular to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), who expressed what I thought was a reasoned and very logical argument against the measure. No argument nearly so good has been advanced by other members of the Opposition. In fact, I have not heard one reasoned objection to the measure, other than those put forward by Senator McKenna. Therefore, I propose to deal only with his remarks opposing the bill.
The first thing I should like to say about the measure is that we should be very clear on the original purpose of the legislation. There can be no doubt that the original purpose of the legislation - I think the only purpose - was to provide protection for men who joined up with the forces and who had seen war service. I use the expression “ war service “ in its ordinary common or garden interpretation. The legislation was never intended to apply to the members of our peace-time services. I shall give reasons in support of that assertion in a moment.
The protection given to our men applied during World War II. and during the periods of war in Malaya and in Korea. I suggest that that protection very properly applied to those men. One or two aspects of protection were mentioned by Senator McKenna, and some were mentioned by Senator Gorton. We should be clear on the whole range of protection afforded, because it is rather far-reaching, particularly when we look at its application to members of a peace-time Army.
The first important protection was the deferment of the payment of principal moneys secured by mortgage or payable under an agreement of sale in respect of land. The second important protection was against the enforcement of processes of execution or other processes to enforce judgments against ex-servicemen or servicemen in respect of any agreement entered into prior to enlistment. Then there was the provision in relation to the compulsory acquisition of land by a government authority, and there were further provisions that I wish to mention.
There was the protection afforded of a prevention of any execution for distress under a bill of sale or hire-purchase agreement made prior to engagement for war service. There was a further protection in relation to the payment of rates on land during the period of service. Would any one suggest that a serviceman pushing a pen in Victoria Barracks or even, perhaps, using his rifle in one of our training camps should not have to pay his rates in times of peace?
Further protections were provided in the legislation. For example, the court could prohibit the issue of proceedings, or suspend any proceedings - any legal proceedings - if the court in its opinion considered those proceedings unduly onerous. I shall leave the interpretation of that to honorable senators, because it has a very wide application if one considers the expressions used. Again, there was the protection afforded by section 123, which gives the court the power to re-open any transaction which, in its opinion, should be re-opened. Under section 125, no bankruptcy petition can be issued without the leave of the court where the judgment is in respect of a debt which arose before the member became engaged on war service.
Two other forms of protection were also included in this legislation and are still provided. Proceedings for dissolution of partnership were restricted in respect of an ex-serviceman under section 126, and finally, the Statute of Limitations was postponed by section 132. Without going into the details of all that long list of protections, I suggest that they were very proper protections to servicemen who had joined up for service and who expected to be on war service for some time. The men could not be expected to give proper service to their country if they were worried or concerned about these important aspects of their private affairs. Of course, many of them could not afford, in material terms, to consider the payment of mortgage or hirepurchase debts during their period of service because, as Senator Anderson mentioned, they were receiving only 6s. a day. Their corresponding numbers in the peacetime forces are receiving a great deal more than that amount, and I do not think they should receive the extensive protection that was intended to apply only to members of the war-time services.
Four classes of servicemen were affected by those provisions. In the first place, the protections related to those who enlisted during World War II., who were the men this legislation was really intended to cover.
The second group consisted of those who fought in Korea, the third the servicemen who served in Malaya, and the fourth- those who enlisted before 28th April, 1952 - that is, prior to the conclusion of the Japanese peace treaty - and remained in the services.
It is quite clear that the protections afforded by the legislation do not now. apply to those who enlisted in World War II. because the majority of them have now ceased to enjoy the protections.
As Senator Gorton has so capably outlined, the men who served in Korea and Malaya, by subordinate legislation have also been taken out of the protection previously afforded, with one very unimportant exception.
– That was done by regulation, not by legislation.
– Senator Cooke is objecting rather audibly, but he should have objected when the legislation was introduced, lt is far too late for him to object to it now. So far as he is concerned, the milk has been spilt. I think it is .reasonable to assume that he agreed with the legislation when it was introduced.
– It was not legislation, it was regulation.
– As I said, it was subordinate legislation. The Senate had sufficient time to consider the legislation, and. if honorable senators opposite objected to it they could have thrown it out, but they did not do that.
The only servicemen to whom this legislation can now apply are those who enlisted before 28th April, 1952, and are still in the services. Senator McKenna argues - and I agree with this proposition up to- a point - that some of those men might be affected in some way. I do not think anybody can disagree with that statement. There is that category pf men in uniform at the moment who, because they are still deemed to be on war service, can properly claim some protection under this legislation. However, the question arises as to whether they should be afforded that protection, lt Senator McKenna suggests that they should continue to receive it, he must necessarily argue that such protection would have to continue indefinitely. If that were so, wartime legislation intended to protect only those who had actually been, or were, on war service, would apply also to those who ha.ve .not seen a- shot fired, even in peace. I think Senator- McKenna, although he put forward a very solid argument as to why the legislation should still apply to those men, overlooked the all-important fact that the legislation was never intended to apply to members of the peace-time services. It is desirable, therefore, to call a halt now to the potential effects of the legislation on members of the peace-time services.
There is a very good reason why that should be done. The- men on war service, serving perhaps far away from their homes; in receipt of very small incomes - six shillings a day-is not a great deal of money - were in no position to look after their private affairs. Surely Senator McKenna is not going to argue that that position applies to our peace-time forces, members of which are. well paid. When they enlisted they were fully aware of the conditions of service and were in a situation, economically and socially, to have regard to the problems with which this legislation deals. We cannot expect that the protections we have mentioned’ should continue indefinitely and apply to members of the peace-time services. When would Senator McKenna cease to afford such protections? That is the problem which will arise if Senator McKenna’s proposition is followed to its logical conclusion. However, as I have said-, the social and economic conditions of the members of the peace-time services must also be considered. They are in a perfectly proper situation to meet their legal obligations. Many of them are earning much more money than men in similar avocations in civil life who do not” receive any protection. Why then should a man in the Army who pushes a pen in Victoria Barracks, or a man who drives, a motor truck at Seymour, be protected from paying his pre-enlistment debts when a man who . does not wear a uniform is obliged to meet them? I do not think any honorable senator opposite can answer that : argument.
There is merit in Senator McKenna’s statement that as the legislation has already applied to some servicemen it should never cease, bat that is not the real question that arises. -The legislation was never intended to apply to members of the peace-time services because they are in as favorable an economic situation to meet their obligations as men in peace-time avocations. I believe, therefore, that now is the time to tidy up, as the Minister had said, the effects of the legislation, otherwise we shall be committed to prolonging it indefinitely. For that reason I support the bill.
.- Listening to this debate, I think that there is an overwhelming body of argument and common sense in favour of the legislation. I regard all legislation of this nature as legislation introduced in a time of war for the purpose of giving unusual protection to the rights of citizens, a protection given in the exigencies of the particular situation and under the demand ‘and pressures of times of urgency when . individuals place the affairs of the nation before their own concern. When individuals do that, somebody else steps in to see they are not gravely prejudiced personally by the choice they have deliberately made. In these things, the very element of urgency is possibly the one above all others which entitles people to protection.
This legislation now applies to a diminishing area, and in the ultimate, apart from section 118 of the act,’ to those who enlisted prior to June, 1952; and I am unable” to see that the people concerned were affected by those considerations which I have mentioned. I can imagine that enlistment in 1952 would be of a more leisurely character and ‘done in circumstances which would enable the person enlisting to make a fair personal and general assessment of his own position, of any sacrifices he was making and of any protection to which he became entitled - considerations which would not occur to a man enlisting in the white heat of a national emergency in time of war.
For those reasons and for the additional reason that there is the prevailing anomaly in the Commonwealth forces between those who enlisted prior to that critical date and those who enlisted afterwards, I support the measure. There is the anomaly that this force, mixed in the sense I have outlined, may be sent to a theatre of war, as Senator O’Byrne has suggested, and, in the absence of any legislative or regulatory action’ to give all the men protection, one group in a regiment or brigade is entitled to this protection while another group in the same regiment or brigade is completely disentitled to any protection. That seems to be an extraordinary anomaly, which it removed by this bill. For those reasons, i propose to give my support to it.
– I want to ‘raise my voice in opposition to this measure. We realize the conditions in the act have to come to an end at some time, but I think the present is an inopportune time for that, especially as the Government has not made a thorough investigation to ascertain the number of people who will be affected and the extent to which they will be affected. Senator Cole said that he had not heard any argument against passing this bill. I need only refer him to the second-reading speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). Throughout that speech, the Minister expresses doubts and fears. For instance, I remind the Senate that the Minister said -
In point of fact, very few of the war service moritorium provisions are still effective and those that remain in force benefit a very small number of servicemen or ex-servicemen.
Then he goes on to create a further doubt and to indicate that the Government has not considered the matter very deeply. He said -
I must add that it is possible-
Be does not say it is a fact - that there are very few, if any, servicemen or ex-servicemen of the Korea or Malaya forces, other than permanent men to whom I shall refer in a moment, who are entitled to any protection under Section 118.
The point we make is that while any doubt exists, while even a very small percentage of servicemen or ex-servicemen may be entitled to the protection accorded by the present legislation, those people are entitled to have that protection continued. We ask the Government to make a thorough investigation of the position and find out the exact number who will be affected and the extent to which they will be affected.
The Minister stated that the original act was passed in a time of emergency. We realize that. We appreciate that it was passed to protect members of the forces who had little or no opportunity to attend to their private affairs after they had enlisted. Even now a few men are serving still in Korea, and some in Malaya, and they are just as incapable of attending properly to their private affairs as were the men for whom this measure was introduced originally and who were fighting overseas during a war emergency. We say the Government should make a thorough investigation. It has been admitted that the Government has not consulted any of the ex-servicemen’s bodies which are in a position to give accurate information concerning any protection that may still be needed for the men of the services.
Senator Gorton said that the protection accorded by the moratorium provisions of the legislation under review was removed from the members of the Korean force by regulation in 1956. Two wrongs do not make a right! Throughout his secondreading speech, the Minister admitted that at least a small percentage of members of the forces would be adversely affected by the passing of this bill. But that is typical of the Government. Because only a small percentage is involved, the Government adopts the same attitude towards these nien as it does towards the unemployed. So long as the percentage is small, the Government does not worry. It is of no use the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) attempting to deny what I say. The Minister for National Development has admitted throughout his second-reading speech that the Government is not in a position to give any accurate information. He admits that the Government has made no investigation to ascertain the number affected and the extent to which they would be affected. I repeat that, because the number likely to be aflected is small, it appears that the Government is prepared to let them fend for themselves.
– Why should they not fend for themselves in times of peace?
– I am speaking of those to whom protection should continue to apply. Senator Vincent said that some men serving in the forces to-day are probably earning much more than many civilians and should stand up to their responsibilities. I agree with that. Such men should shoulder their own responsibilities. But I also say emphatically that any person who is serving with the forces outside Australia is entitled to the protection contained in the legislation under review. Irrespective of what was done by regulation in 1956, the Government should see that the men now serving outside Australia are given the same protection as was accorded to those who served outside Australia in previous years.
The men serving in Korea and Malaya who do not come within the category to receive protection, cease to be engaged on war service as from 20th April, 1956, and 1st September, 1957, respectively. We are reminded by the Minister that on 1st September, 1956, the status of this force was changed from that of an operational force to that of a strategic reserve. In effect, the Government says that because the name of the force has been changed from that of an operational force to that of a strategic reserve the members of the force should be deprived of the protection accorded by the moratorium provisions of the principal act. lt is a fantastically unjust distinction to make. It is possible that some men who are at present serving full time enlisted before 1952 - the technical termination of the 1939-45 war - and are still entitled to a benefit under section 118. Serving beside them are” other men who do not receive such protection. How can that fail to create discontent?
– That is what we say.
– Instead of removing such protection as there is, the Government should extend it to all members of the services. Section 118 is at present retained for men who enlisted before 1952, but it is being denied to men who enlisted at a later date. The Government should make a careful investigation to ascertain how this legislation will affect the men concerned - notwithstanding that they represent only a small percentage of the total forces. The Government should be very sure that no injustice will be done to any person serving in the forces - especially overseas. As matters stand at present, we may expect this Government especially to send forces to some other operational area outside the limits of Australia. As was suggested earlier, additional Air Force squadrons are to be sent to Malaya. If the men serving in Malaya are not on “ active service “, and in an “ operational area “, I should like to know what those terms really mean. From every practical aspect, such men are just as incapable of looking after their private affairs in this country as were those who served overseas during the last war. For that reason, the Government should examine the whole position comprehensively and ensure that, while there remains one man in the forces who needs it, protection will be given from rapacious moneylenders and hire-purchase operators. Men serving overseas do not enjoy the opportunities in this direction possessed by civilians, or fellow members of the services who are stationed in Australia. At any time Australia may send additional forces to Malaya, or to some other country. If the present legislation were to remain unaltered it would do more than offer protection to men who need it. The mere fact that certain protection was removed by way of regulation in 1956 should not prevent us from ensuring that adequate protection is given to all servicemen, irrespective of their enlistment date. It is farcical to discriminate between people who enlisted before 1952 and people who enlisted after that date. Each group is equally entitled to all the protection that we can give.
The Minister began his second-reading speech in this way -
The purpose of this bill is to repeal the war service moratorium provisions of the Reestablishment and Employment Act, subject to certain necessary savings. Those provisions, which are contained in Part X of the act, had their origin in the National Security (War Service Moratorium) Regulations. These regulations were passed at a time of emergency for the benefit of members of the forces who had little, if any, opportunity on enlistment to deal with their private affairs in a proper manner. To-day, very different considerations apply, and it is generally agreed that in peacetime members of the forces should shoulder their civil obligations in the same way as civilians.
– Does the honorable senator not agree?
– I do, but I repeat, for the edification of the honorable senator, that any serviceman who is on a full-time basis may be sent overseas at any time. While there is a likelihood of that, however remote, he should be protected. The Minister said further -
In point of fact, very few of the war service moratorium provisions are still effective, and those that remain in force benefit a very small number of servicemen or ex-servicemen. Indeed, the only servicemen who are still on “ war service “ within the meaning of Part X. of the act are those who enlisted for full-time service in the Defence
Force before the technical end of the 1939-45 war, namely 28th April, 1952, when the peace treaty with Japan came into operation .
That is clear discrimination between men who enlisted before 1952 and men who enlisted after that date. With the passing of this legislation, protection for men in both categories will automatically disappear. The Minister said further -
Any benefits to which the persons who had served in Korea or Malaya might, by reason of that service, still be entitled will, with one exception, cease in the ordinary way under the existing legislation on 1st September, 1958, the proposed date of commencement of this amending legislation. That one exception is a continuing protection, conferred by sections 118 and 120 of the act, for a maximum period of five years against compulsory acquisition of land owned by a member or former member of the forces.
The Minister states that protection continues under sections 118 and 120. The Minister went on -
Even this protection is a qualified one, as section 118 enables the land to be acquired notwithstanding objections by the owner, if the AttorneyGeneral consents to the acquisition. It is significant that only one application for the AttorneyGeneral’s consent has been received in the last five or six years - and in that case consent to acquire was given.
The mere fact that only one application for the Attorney-General’s consent has been received in the last five or six years, does not mean that the whole provision should be wiped out.
– Did not the honorable senator say just now that protection was to be continued?
– That is so, but, according to the Minister, only for those who enlisted before 1952.
– It cannot apply to any one else.
– No, because of the 1956 legislation. But that is no justification for deciding now that protection should not be given to all concerned. The Minister has highlighted the fact that the Government has not made a full investigation of the matter. His second-reading speech was a mass of doubts. Apparently the Government does not care because the percentage of men affected is small. I ask for leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill to amend the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act 1949-1956.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill asks the Parliament to approve two agreements relating to the Snowy Mountains scheme. The parties to the agreements are the three Governments of the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victoria. The main agreement sets out the basis upon which the scheme will be constructed and describes the arrangements under which the power generated will be purchased by the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales and Victoria. It also provides for the sharing between New South Wales and Victoria of the additional irrigation water which will be made available in the Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys by the operation of the scheme. The second, or “ supplemental “ agreement deals with possible damage by flooding due to the scheme in the upper Murray and lower Tumut.
The construction of the scheme has so far proceeded under legislation which was passed by the Commonwealth Parliament in 1949. That legislation was based on the defence power and certain other powers in the Commonwealth Constitution. One of the principal provisions of the main agreement is an undertaking by the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria to bring down legislation giving State legislative authority to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority to do those things which are necessary to carry out the provisions of the agreement. The legislation now before the Senate is, therefore, complementary to legislation by the Parliaments of New South Wales and Victoria. This legislation has already been passed by both these Parliaments.
The Snowy Mountains scheme provides for the diversion of the waters of the
Snowy River to the Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys where they will be used for irrigation instead of running wastefully to the sea. In addition, the volume of irrigation water which will be made available to the Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys during the irrigation season and during drought periods will be further increased by the regulation provided by the scheme’s reservoirs. The headwaters of the Snowy river are up to 6,000 feet above the level of the Murray, some 25 miles to the westward. There is also a drop of nearly 3,000 feet between headwaters of various mountain streams and the lower Tumut. As a result there are opportunities for generating large quantities of hydro-electric power as the water falls to the level of the plains.
Thus in general terms the conception of the scheme is a simple one. It takes the waters of the streams and rivers that rise on the eastern side of the Great Dividing Range at high elevation and transfers them by tunnels and shafts to the rivers at low elevation on the western side of the range. The fall of the waters which occurs in the process enables large quantities of electricity to be generated. Although fundamentally the scheme is simple in concept, it has presented engineering problems of considerable magnitude, which are due mainly to the difficulties of the terrain that have to be overcome. The 3,000 square miles of the Snowy Mountains area, with its range of 40 to 120 inches per annum of rain and snow fall, is one of the roughest and most inaccessible parts of Australia. The nature of the task can perhaps be best illustrated by the simple statement that up to this stage, it has been necessary to build roads and tracks of access of a total length of 400 miles.
The first sod was turned in November, 1949. To date, some £105,000,000 has been invested in the scheme. By the end of this financial year, the total investment will be £110,000,000. The total cost of the scheme is likely to be of the order of £350,000,000 to £450,000,000. It will be seen from these figures that construction is well advanced. Indeed, the Guthega power station, with its generating capacity of 60,000 kilowatts, produced 180,000,000 kW. hours last year at a cost of 0.91d. per kW. hour.
To those who are inclined to think that the Snowy is a scheme for posterity, I would point out that the present programme contemplates -
that T1 power station will produce -
In 1962, less than four years hence - the Snowy Mountains scheme will be delivering power at the rate of 600,000 kilowatts, and water at the rate of 500,000 acre feet per annum. That, I suggest, Mr. President, is the simple reply to those who say that this is a scheme for posterity.
The Snowy Mountains scheme is Australia’s greatest development work. All political parties in Australia take pride in being associated with it. But it has proved a difficult task indeed to negotiate a final arrangement between the three governments upon the terms of the agreements that have now been approved by the two State Parliaments.
Of the fruits of the scheme, the first in order, if not necessarily in importance, is electricity. The total installed capacity of the scheme will be approximately 3,000,000 kilowatts, which is about three-quarters of the present total capacity of all the electricity systems of the Commonwealth. The main agreement provides that after the requirements of the Commonwealth in the Australian Capital Territory and the Snowy Mountains area have been provided for, the States will be sold the balance of the power at the cost of production, and that the water will be made available without charge to the States. Thus the additional cost of providing irrigation water is included in the cost of generating electric power and recovered when the power is sold. Even then the power will be cheaper than if it had been generated at thermal power stations.
The electricity system inherently requires both peak load and base load power. Although base load thermal power stations situated on the coalfields in New South Wales and Victoria are expected to produce power relatively cheaply, the Snowy scheme can provide for peak loads more cheaply than thermal power stations which are less economical under varying peak load conditions. In view of the interest that is now being shown in the prospects of cheap power from nuclear generation, I may add at this point that nuclear power cannot be seen as a threat to the economy of the Snowy scheme. In fact, nuclear generation when it comes will be most efficient as a base load supplier and will, therefore, make an efficient partner to the hydro-electric production from the scheme. There seems little risk that it can compete with the Snowy scheme in the peak load field.
The water resources of Australia are limited. Demographers have expressed the view that it is possible that in the final analysis the extent to which the population of Australia may increase may be determined by the efficiency we show in using the water resources available to us. Posterity may, therefore, well decide that, valuable as may be the power that is produced, yet it is not as valuable nationally as the water conserved and diverted for irrigation. The quantity of water available to the Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys will be increased by the direct diversion of the Snowy River and its tributaries and further by the regulation of the Snowy, Tumut,
Tooma, Geehi and Mumimbidgee rivers in the reservoirs of the scheme. These reservoirs will ensure that water is stored during periods of high river flow, so that losses are minimized and so that approximately the total river flow is available for release at a more uniform rate during both high flow and drought conditions. The water regulated by the main storages of the scheme will then be re-regulated for irrigation purposes by the associated Blowering and Hume reservoirs.
The scheme and associated developments will increase the irrigation water available in the Murrumbidgee valley by about 1,000,000 acre feet per annum, made up of 500,000 acre feet per annum by direct diversion and 500,000 acre feet per annum by regulation. This quantity would increase the total supply at present by 85 per cent. Similarly, the increase in the Murray valley will be about 800,000 acre feet per annum, made up of 440,000 acre feet per annum resulting from direct diversion and 360,000 acre feet per annum gained from regulation. This will be an increase of approximately 41 per cent, in the present total supply to this area. The additional water will supply about 3,000 farms and will support an increased population of about 150,000.
The Snowy River rises in New South Wales and runs into the sea in Victoria. The major benefit from the scheme will therefore naturally accrue to New South Wales and Victoria. South Australia, however, will also obtain a real gain because improved conservation and storage will mean that there will be a greater volume of water in the Murray River in dry periods. Equally importantly, the general flow of the river will also be so improved that the frequency and duration of periods of restriction because of droughts will be appreciably reduced. The estimates indicate that, in a period of drought, South Australia will obtain an increase of some 60,000 acre feet of water per annum. As the amount of water used by South Australia for irrigation and town water supplies does not exceed about 200,000 acre feet per annum, this is a significant addition.
There is a further natural advantage which will result from the scheme. This is its strategic value in producing hydroelectric power, rather than relying entirely on the addition of further coal-burning stations. When Adaminaby reservoir, which is the largest storage of the scheme, is filled up to the normal operating level, we will have in hand a reserve of electrical energy which would be equivalent to about 4,000,000 tons of coal. In a national emergency the power stations which depend on this reservoir could be operated continuously to provide a very large proportion of the present requirements of electricity in New South Wales and Victoria, over a period of nearly two years.
Moreover, most of the power stations will be deep underground in a remote and rugged area and therefore much less vulnerable to enemy action than conventional stations built on the surface near centres of large population. The experience of World War II. has shown that it is difficult to destroy a concrete dam by bombing. It would be even more difficult to destroy the huge earthwork dams of the Snowy scheme. It was these considerations which led the government of the day to rely upon the defence power when it introduced the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Bill 1949.
The bill which is now before the Senate arises from the fact that it is the Commonwealth Government that has taken the lead in developing the scheme. The Commonwealth claims that its constitutional powers are adequate to support the legislation under which the scheme is being carried out. However, State powers are to be used as a second line of defence. The main Commonwealth-States agreement which is annexed to this bill provides that the States will pass legislation which will supplement and confirm existing Commonwealth power to carry out the scheme. They have already carried out this obligation and the legislation only requires proclamation in each case.
Over 40 years ago, proposals for developing the irrigation and hydro-electric resources of the area were examined by the authorities of both States. In 1940 it became clear that proposals by New South Wales to divert some of the headwaters of the Snowy into the Murrumbidgee would affect proposals that had been made in Victoria to develop the hydro-electric resources of the Snowy River. In 1945, the Victorian Premier, the Honorable J. G. B. McDonald,
M.L.A., after receiving protests from Victorian interests, took the matter up with the then Prime Minister, the Right Honorable J. B. Chifley, and suggested that there should be a thorough and immediate inquiry by representatives of the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victoria, covering the future use of the Snowy River for both water supply and power development.
Following a change of government in 1946, the new Victorian Premier, the Honorable J. Cain, M.L.A., wrote to the Prime Minister suggesting that the diversion of the Snowy into the Murray would be a national undertaking of very great benefit and could well be undertaken by the Commonwealth Government as a national work. Consideration of these views at Premiers conferences resulted in a series of investigations by a committee of Commonwealth and State officers. The investigating Commonwealth-State committee reported to ministerial conferences which were constituted by the Premiers conferences. As a result, agreement was reached in principle on the main features of the Snowy scheme at a ministerial conference held in 1949, at which the then Commonwealth Minister for Works, the Honorable Nelson Lemmon, presided.
It is interesting to note that the present Premiers of both New South Wales and Victoria - the Honorable J. J. Cahill and the Honorable H. E. Bolte - were among the Ministers representing their States at that conference, although they had not at that stage reached their present high office. Then followed the change in the Federal Government in December, 1949. Since then, the Right Honorable R. G. Menzies has been Prime Minister. It has been his Government that has laid down the organization which has developed the scheme and provided the great sums of money that have been invested in it. His Government has also been successful in finalizing the agreement between the three governments, which is the subject of this legislation.
The magnitude of the proposals; the engineering difficulties inherent in giving effect to them; the task that confronted the Commonwealth in providing the finance - all these matters have aroused great national interest. And as the scheme has developed and the country has been opened up, its scenic attractions have become more appreciated. As a result, it is fair to claim that the Snowy Mountains scheme has captured the imagination of the Australian public. Visitors to it at the present time total some 30,000 a year, and it requires little imagination to foretell that this number will increase steadily as time goes on. Indeed, the Snowy Mountains area may well prove in the future to be the most popular scenic and holiday resort in Australia.
All political parties in this Parliament take pride in their association with the scheme. It is supported by them all. I have been fortunate to have been the responsible Minister for so long. I hope that if at any future time my successor comes from the other side of the Senate, I will give him the support that I have always received from that side of the Senate. We are all apt to take credit for the part we have played. I hope, however, that when we do so we will not fail to remember the part played by the group of Commonwealth and State officers, under the chairmanship of Dr. Loder, which had the imagination and courage to recommend the scheme, as we know it to-day, to the three governments concerned. Nor should we forget Mr. Olsen, an engineer of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria and later, until his retirement in 1955, the First Chief Investigating Engineer of the Snowy Mountains Authority. It was Mr. Olsen who first pointed out the practicability and value of the diversion of the Snowy waters into the Murray.
The main purpose of the bill is to give approval to the agreements which have been negotiated between the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales and Victoria in relation to the construction of the scheme. In addition, the bill makes certain amendments to the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Power Act which are made necessary by the terms of the agreement. The completion of the agreement has followed a long period of negotiations which have been intensive and difficult. The Commonwealth, acting in the interests of taxpayers, has had to ensure that the full costs of the authority can be recouped from revenue derived from the sale of power.
The States have aimed, naturally, at getting the power as cheaply as possible and at a price no greater than it would cost to generate in their own systems. The
States have also had to arrange the sharing between themselves of the power available after Commonwealth requirements are met, and for the sharing of the irrigation water which the scheme will make available to them. They have also claimed the right to share in the operation of the scheme.
– Does the Minister mean “ in the control of the scheme “?
– Perhaps it will be better stated if I say “ in the management of the scheme “. Because of the diversity of interests and the problems associated with constitutional powers, the agreement is a complex instrument. Its completion after seven years of negotiation is an achievement of the greatest importance.
Owing to the magnitude of the scheme, it may well take another twenty, or more, years to construct. However, it is being developed in progressive stages and the agreement is made more complex by the necessity to provide safeguards for the parties concerned during the various stages of construction. In particular, comprehensive provisions have been included for protecting the water interests of New South Wales and Victoria and the rights of the contracting parties to the River Murray -Waters Agreement.
Under the Snowy Mountains Agreement, the Commonwealth is responsible for the completion of the project, subject only to conditions which permit postponement or modification of construction under certain special circumstances. On the other hand, the States undertake to pass legislation in support of the authority of the Commonwealth for the construction of the necessary works to give effect to the agreement. As I have said, they have already done so.
The extra water made available to the Murrumbidgee River system will be under the control of the State of New South Wales, which is required to construct a reservoir at Blowering for the re-regulation of waters for irrigation purposes. The water diverted to the Murray River from the Snowy River catchment will be divided equally between’ New South Wales and Victoria, whereas the additional water made available to the Murray by regulation in the storages of the scheme and at Hume will be shared under the provisions of the River Murray Waters Agreement, to which South
Australia and the Commonwealth are parties;- as well as New South Wales and -Victoria.
For the purpose of regulating the diverted water before it enters the Hume Reservoir, the authority is required to construct a storage in the Upper Murray area of not less than 250,000 acre feet capacity, which will be operated by the River Murray Commission in the interests of irrigation. As an alternative to this obligation, the authority may elect to contribute half the cost of increasing the capacity of the Hume Reservoir from 2,000,000 acre feet to 2,500,000 acre feet.
Comprehensive provisions are included in the main agreement requiring the authority in constructing its works to take proper measures for protection of the catchment areas and the preservation of natural resources. In addition, the Supplemental Agreement provides that in the design, construction and operation of the scheme, damage by. flooding in the upper Murray and lower Tumut rivers will be avoided as far as possible; and that if such damage does occur compensation will be payable.
In order to ensure that the variable discharges of water from power stations of the scheme operating on peak load can be evened out to avoid ill effects in the Upper Murray, the authority is obliged to construct a daily regulating storage downstream from the point of discharge from its last power station. In the Tumut Valley the necessary regulation will be provided by Blowering Reservoir.
The Commonwealth is to have first call on power supplies for use in the Australian Capital Territory and for Commonwealth establishments in the Snowy Mountains area. The remaining electricity is to be shared between New South Wales and Victoria in the proportions of two to one respectively.
In respect of the Guthega project, which came into operation in April, 1955, there is a special arrangement whereby the power from Guthega is supplied to New South Wales until such time as the major power projects of the Upper Tumut works, at present being constructed, come into’ full operation, about 1962, or until an earlier date if the parties agree. The proportions
I mentioned establish the entitlement of New South Wales and Victoria to receive power.
As a result of the transmission systems and switching stations constructed in the Snowy Mountains area and by the States for transmission of Snowy power to Sydney and Melbourne, the New South Wales and Victorian electricity systems become interconnected. This interconnexion between these two major systems enables very large savings to be made in day by day operation. Snowy power can be used at any time to avoid operating higher cost power stations in either State and furthermore, thermal power can be interchanged between New South Wales and Victoria to effect similar operating economies. In addition, the general reliability of the New South Wales and Victorian systems will be increased because of the pooling of spare plant made possible by the interconnexion. Interconnexion may become even more important in a future age of atomic power stations.
The authority is required to notify details of its plans for the construction of works to the States at least five years in advance of the date when power will be produced from these works. This will allow adequate co-ordination in the development of the States’ own power systems. The power will be supplied to the States at points in or near the Snowy Mountains area to be agreed on, the transmission of the power therefrom being the responsibility of the States. Because of the large amount of money involved in annual power revenues, expected to reach more than £6,000,000 by 1963 and more than £20,000,000 ultimately, the provisions relating to the supply of power, pricing, depreciation and interest charges, and other financial matters, are spelled out in detail in the agreement.
There are two basic conditions. All capital costs will be amortized and included in the cost of production of power- Electricity from the scheme is to be sold to the States at that cost of production.
The basis on which the amortization is calculated is that the cost of the original works of the scheme will be written off in a period of 70 years. Naturally many of the scheme’s assets will last very much longer than this and the result is that after 70 years have elapsed the cost of production of power will fall considerably.
The States are protected by a provision that they will not be required in any one year to pay* more for Snowy power than the cost of an equivalent amount of thermal power. It is unlikely that this will occur. If it does the Commonwealth should not suffer loss. The amount involved would be held in suspense against the State concerned. When the cost of Snowy power to that State in future years fell below the cost of equivalent thermal power then the amount would be recovered.
The Commonwealth has agreed that, until the scheme is about half finished, interest on capital invested in works not yet producing electricity will not be compounded, but simple interest only will be charged. Commonwealth long-term bond rate of interest has been consistently charged since the inception of the scheme. For the purpose of advising and reporting to the three governments concerned on a number of matters relating to the development of the scheme and of carrying out certain executive functions, notably that of the responsibility for the operation and maintenance of completed works, a Snowy Mountains Council is set up. An Interim Council, operating on an advisory basis, has functioned since August, 1953. The council reports to the Minister, who is obliged to forward copies of such reports or advices to the Premiers of the States.
The council consists of two members appointed by the Minister to represent the Commonwealth, one as chairman, the other as deputy chairman, two members appointed by each of the States of New South Wales and Victoria, the Commissioner of the authority and an Associate Commissioner or officer of the authority. In all, there are four members representing the Commonwealth interests and four members representing” State interests, the presiding member, a Commonwealth representa.tive, having a casting vote as well as a deliberative vote. In the exercise of the council’s advisory functions, however, the Associate Commissioner or officer of the authority will not vote.
While the council has the full responsibility for the operation and maintenance: of the scheme,, the generating stations, including the switch-yards, will be manned by officers of the electricity commissions of the States, whereas the remainder of the works will be manned by the authority. This arrangement concedes to the States their desire to participate in the operation of the scheme. It will be seen that the council will have a most important part in the future of the Snowy scheme. As the various sections of the scheme are completed they will be handed over to the council, which will control their operation from that time forward. Whilst in its executive functions the Commonwealth has the controlling vote, the representation of States on the council ensures that they are in a position to influence the operation of the scheme so that the power and water resources are used to the best advantage.
In submitting the bill for the approval of the Senate, it is timely to compliment Sir William Hudson, the commissioner of the Snowy Mountains authority, his associate commissioners, Mr. Lang and Mr. Merigan, and the 5,000 people who work upon the Snowy Mountains scheme. Particular mention should be made of the fact that more than 60 per cent, of the people working on the scheme are new Australians. It has been the policy of the Government and of the commissioners to do as much of the work as possible by contract. As a result, we have had contractors from most parts of the world contributing their special skills and knowledge to the work. The Bureau of Reclamation of the United States of America has made a notable contribution to the technical planning of the scheme.
Due, perhaps, to efficient planning, and to the confidence which the contractors and the work force have had in the Snowy Mountains Authority, the various parties which have combined to build the scheme have worked together happily and efficiently. It is noteworthy that despite the size of the work, the difficulties of the task and the fact that the workers are represented by more than twenty industrial unions, industrial disputes and troubles have been virtually unknown. Progress of works has kept at least up to schedule and in some instances has been spectacular. Construction of Adaminaby Dam is so far advanced that it is likely to be completed some two years ahead of schedule, and the filling of the reservoir has already commenced. Present indications point to the diversion of the Eucumbene River by the 14-mile Eucumbene-Tumut tunnel being completed in about eighteen months, about six months ahead of schedule. This will make available about 300,000 acre feet of irrigation water per annum for the Murrumbidgee valley. The first two units, each of 80,000 kW. capacity, of the TI power station are expected to come into service during the following twelve months.
The programme for the second phase of the upper Tumut works is also being maintained. Tenders have closed for the construction of the Tooma-Tumut diversion, the T2 project, and the MurrumbidgeeEucumbene diversion. These are at present being examined prior to recommendations being made for the letting of these contracts.
The Snowy scheme is an imaginative, comprehensive project which will greatly assist the development of Australia. It will produce large amounts of electricity and involves heavy capital investment of Commonwealth funds. However, it must be remembered that with the demand for power increasing at some 8 per cent, or 9 per cent, per annum, heavy investment in generating capacity is essential to economic progress, whether this investment is in hydro-electric works or in the thermal generating systems of the States.
The scheme will produce peak-load power at a cost which will be lower than the cost of equivalent power from thermal stations. The investment in the scheme is, therefore, sound from the national point of view. In additional to this, large amounts of irrigation water will be provided free of any charge. This water is essential for the full development of primary production in the dry country extending along the Murray and Mumimbidgee valleys. It is the hope of the back country.
The Snowy Mountains scheme will do great things for Australia, and it is with pleasure and pride that I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
– by leave - The statement on international affairs which I shall read is in precisely the same terms as that made by my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), in the House of Representatives last night. The statement reads as follows: -
I propose to confine what I have to say this evening to events in Asia. I will deal with other matters of more global significance on another occasion. It is not necessary to stress the importance of Asia to Australia. The map determines that for us. Honorable members are well aware of it, and I believe increasingly aware, particularly through the opportunities for travel to Asian countries that the Government is making progressively available. Australia’s awareness of Asia is reflected in the fact that nearly half of all our Australian diplomatic posts are in Asia. The same proportion applies to our trade commissioners.
For myself, I believe there was no more fortunate chance than that I had the unusual opportunity to serve in an executive capacity in a typical part of Asia not a great many years ago - and almost the last of such opportunities. This opportunity of living and working in a densely populated Asian area in which I was responsible for the well-being of 65,000,000 people, has left with me a sympathy for and, I believe, some understanding of the people of Asia and their problems. I have endeavoured to maintain and to widen my contacts with Asia in the subsequent years.
Before I speak of particular problems or countries of Asia, let me say that, in general, there are three words that come to mind in varying degree in any consideration of Asian affairs - nationalism, neutralism or non-involvement, and colonialism. The significance of these three words must be understood before any of us can get very far in our relationship with Asia. Let us take “ nationalism “ first. It is not easy for us to appreciate the intensely strong emotional appeal of the concept of nationalism and independence to the people of countries that have only recently emerged from colonial status. They intensely resent anything that they regard as derogating in the slightest degree from their independence and equality with other nations. This results in a degree of what one might call sensitivity that expresses itself in various and sometimes apparently contradictory ways. In some countries nationalist emotion manifests itself in a philosophy of neutralism or non-involvement in the affairs of the principal power blocs. Other Asian countries have been led by the same considerations to precisely the opposite conclusion - that of joining in collective security arrangements with other peaceful non-expansionist powers to defend their independence. It may be that this apparent contradiction stems, in part at least, from considerations of geography.
Extreme expressions of nationalism are fostered by feelings of opposition to colonialism - or even, it might be said, to the memories of colonialism. Colonialism and exploitation, rightly or wrongly, arc linked in some Asian minds. Whether or not this is historically true, the present relationship of the ex-colonial powers to the Asian countries might be said to be the reverse of colonialism, and certainly the reverse of exploitation, in that large-scale economic aid is being provided by the West to the countries of free Asia without any political implications or conditions. This aid is given irrespective of whether they are linked by treaty alliances with the West or choose to remain neutral.
The real threat to-day is of Communist domination which still threatens, to a greater or a lesser degree, all the countries of South and South-East Asia. Since the Geneva Agreements of 1954, which brought to an end the fighting in Indo-China, this threat has taken the form of internal subversion rather than external aggression. However, in Malaya and Burma Communist insurgents are still in open insurrection against the legally constituted and democratically elected governments. But, as a general rule, Communists are concentrating mostly on penetration and undermining in the economic, political, and cultural fields, and within youth and labour organizations. Behind them stands the vast armed force of Russia and Communist China. Last December, the Communists organized a so-called Afro-Asian solidarity conference, which has resulted in the establishment of a permanent secretariat in Cairo. This is an attempt by the Communists to use the Afro-Asian movement for their own purposes.
The pattern of Communist tactics in the free countries of Asia is now quite well known. It varies from one country to another and adapts itself to the local circumstances, which indeed is the global habit of communism. Nothing could be more dangerous than the idea that communism in Asia, or in any individual country in Asia, is different from communism elsewhere in the world. They aim to penetrate and undermine organizations and, if possible, governments, frequently under the guise of non-Communists, until they are strong enough to take over. Once installed as the government of a country, they know they can count on the support of international communism. In Budapest last week, Mr. Krushchev said bluntly that the red army would intervene if ever a Communist government in another country looked like being overthrown. He said that if he fired into a crowd of counter-revolutionaries, his bullets could not discriminate between workers and others. This revelation of Communist philosophy deserves notice in Asia no less than in Europe.
Ministers from the eight Seato countries discussed some of these questions at the Seato meeting in Manila in March. This Seato meeting was, I believe, the most successful yet held. The Seato Council described Communist subversion as “ the most substantial current menace “. Whilst speaking of the work of Seato in identifying and exposing Communist subversion in its many forms in SouthEast Asia, I said that Communist subversion was like a snake in a dark room. Seato is turning on the light. The man in the room still has to kill the snake for himself, but he has a much better chance of doing so if he can see it. The Seato Council discussed the advisability of creating contacts between Seato, Nato and the Baghdad pact. The Secretary-General of Seato was authorized to discuss this with the Secretaries-General of these other two regional security organizations.
The Communist menace is a global one and it cannot be other than useful for each of Nato, Seato and the Baghdad pact to be informed of what is going on in each other’s area. The separate and individual existence of Nato, Seato and the Baghdad pact is a matter of practical regional necessity. But I believe it would be wrong to let these organizations develop in watertight compartments, each ignoring the existence of the others and not co-operating at least to the extent of informing the others of hostile Communist military capacities and techniques of which they become aware and of the means developed to combat them.
As I have said before, I can almost hear a sigh of relief in one part of the world when the Communist heat is lessened in their area and increased in another. This is wrong and ignores the fact that the Communist menace is global and not regional. I spoke strongly at Manila for the creation of practical liaison between Seato, Nato and the Baghdad pact, from the point of view of continuous exchange of relevant information - and not, I may say, for any functional link-up between these regional defensive organizations from the point of view of combining them into one organization to combat communism. On behalf of the Australian Government, I announced at Manila that Australia would make available to the Asian members of Seato a further £1,000,000 for purposes generally related to Seato defence. This is in addition to £2,000,000 which Australia offered at an earlier Seato meeting.
Seato is not an organization for the distribution of economic aid. The United States, as is well known, provides both military and economic aid to any and every democratic country that is menaced by communism and which is in need of such aid to supplement its own resources and to enable it to resist overt and covert Communist aggression. As far as Australia is concerned, we endeavour to provide economic and technical aid to our friends in South and South-East Asia through the Colombo plan, but we do not provide military aid through this source.
The semi-military aid that we are in course of providing to our Asian Seato partners is a contribution to the general military preparedness of the threatened area in South-East Asia. Our semimilitary aid under Seato takes a variety of forms, such as military communications equipment, military vehicles, tarpaulins, material for uniforms and the like - but not shooting weapons or ammunition. The Governments of the Seato countries have been good enough to welcome publicly what we are endeavouring to do in this direction.
At the Manila Seato conference, I had opportunities for contact and discussion with the Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom and the United States and other countries, in addition to consultation with the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. Walter Nash.
An important factor in Asia is the growing conviction among the Asian people that a better way of life than that which they have endured for generations is now within sight. This belief - this hope - in Asia is one in which we in Australia share. But there are great difficulties in the way. These difficulties are a challenge to Asian governments - and to us in Australia - and to many other democratic countries. We have to keep in the forefront of our minds our duty to help. The legitimate aspiration among the peoples of Asia for better living standards offers opportunity to the rest of the democratic world to associate ourselves with the problems of Asia and to help by material assistance.
At the same time, we must recognize that this situation offers an opportunity to the Communists, which they have not ignored, to try to win the allegiance of the economically frustrated masses of Asia. They will try, as they are trying now, to prove by example in Russia and in China that communism offers the only road to a better way of life. It is my sincere belief - and I think that of all of us - that in Asia, as with us, personal democratic freedoms can be reconciled with the need for economic progress and human welfare, and offer the best means to their accomplishment. We in Australia gladly join with our Asian neighbours in an effort to help achieve better living standards, recognition of the dignity and rights of the individual, and expanding opportunities for individual advancement. It would be sterile for any country to base its policy merely on opposition to communism.
Most countries of Asia are faced with the need to grapple with new and complicated problems arising from a rapidly rising population, accompanied by demands for better living standards. The rising population is a reflection of one of the triumphs of this century - better conditions of health and reduced infant mortality. But a rapidly increasing population brings great economic and social problems.
Though other non-Asian countries can give economic and technical aid to Asia, the impetus for economic development and the greater part of the effort and resources have to come from within each Asian country itself. An inspiring example to the whole of Asia, and indeed to other countries as well, has been given by the Government of India with its imaginative and courageous second five-year plan. The plan has been criticized as being too ambitious. But the Indian Government believes that nothing short of such a plan can cope with the needs and demands of a rising population and a developing nation. The progress of the plan can mean a great deal for the future history of the world. India is trying to do by peaceful and democratic means, what Communist countries have tried to force through by bloodshed and dictatorship.
The countries of Asia, no less than we in Australia, are deeply concerned with the solution of the problems of economic and social growth. It is to this end that organizations like Ecafe - the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East - and the Colombo plan have been established, uniting in their membership those who are experiencing these problems - Australia no less than the Asian members - and those who can provide outside help - and I include Australia in this second category as well as the first.
One matter which is always important to Asian countries as well as to Australia is fluctuations in the prices of exported primary products. The countries of South and South-East Asia depend upon a relatively few primary products for the bulk of their foreign exchange earnings. In 1956 for example 76 per cent, of Burma’s export earnings came from rice; 89 per cent, of Ceylon’s earnings came from ‘tea, rubber and coco-nuts; 67 per cent, of ‘Pakistan’s earnings came from jute and cotton; 66 per cent, of -Malaya’s exports were -rubber and tin. This is true of nearly all the countries of free Asia except Japan. In Australia’s case, as honorable members know, over two-thirds of our export earnings come from wool and cereals.
One point that I endeavoured to make strongly at the March meetings of both Ecafe and Seato was that one of the things that needs watching is the trend of prices for basic commodities in the South and South-East Asia region. There has already been some fall in prices. While there is reason for confidence that the pause in economic activity elsewhere in the world will have come to an end before the end of 1958, it is important that political leaders everywhere should be actively conscious of the considerable political consequences that would follow from further serious deterioration of commodity prices in South-East Asia. There is a definite relationship between export prices and political stability. Political stability and general progress in a country could be put under strain if a serious fall in the prices of its exports resulted in a reduction of the national income as a whole and of individual earnings in important sections of economic activity.
Last month I had the honour of leading the Australian delegation to Ecafe - the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East. This year Ecafe met at Kuala Lumpur, where the Government of the new State of Malaya made most effective and hospitable arrangements for the Ecafe conference. Ecafe is an important body which carries out studies in a wide range of economic subjects that are of particular concern to the Asian countries. It does not distribute economic aid.
Ecafe is a regional subsidiary of the United Nations. It has counterpart bodies in Europe and in Latin America. The existence of Ecafe represents recognition of the fact of “ regionalism “. Various areas of the world have special regional problems that do not lend themselves to global treatment. Regionalism is not confined to the economic sphere. It exists also in the fact that mutual regional defensive organizations have come into existence such as Seato.
The annual Ecafe conferences are attended by delegations from something like 35 countries, with a total personnel attending of round about 275 people. Of those, I should say about two-thirds were from Asian countries.
Australia has been a member of Ecafe since its inception over twelve years ago. We attach importance to its work and have contributed what we can to its deliberations and to its expert staff.
One of the striking reports that was contributed by the Ecafe secretariat at the Kuala Lumpur conference was on the serious population problem in many countries of Asia, which I commend to those who wish to study .this most important aspect of Asian affairs.
Ecafe has accepted .an invitation which I was glad to be able to make on behalf of the Government to hold its next .annual meeting in Australia, probably next March. Australia was host to the annual Ecafe conference -in 1947, when a meeting was held at Lapstone. We are glad indeed that we are to be host to Ecafe once again next year.
The maintenance of friendly relations with our neighbours in Asia is a cardinal purpose of Australian policy. The Colombo plan is a most useful and practical instrument in this regard, and one which I hope and believe will be a continuing one over the years ahead. However, in an effort to increase and widen the range of contacts between the Australian and Asian peoples, the Government decided two years ago to initiate a scheme to enable individuals and groups of individuals from Asia to be invited to visit Australia, and to send selected Australians to Asian countries - but with the emphasis on bringing Asian visitors to Australia.
Individuals are invited on the criterion of the extent to which their visits are likely to contribute to better mutual understanding between ourselves and the Asian peoples. Prominent among these are Asian political personalities, journalists and representatives of cultural, trade union, youth, women’s and other bodies.
The number of Asian visitors who have so far visited Australia under this scheme within the last year or so is about 50, from eight different Asian countries. The Australians who have visited Asia include parliamentarians from each side of the Parliament, trade union officials, university people and members of sporting bodies. Although this scheme was established only a short time ago, i believe it has already shown its value as a means of promoting friendly relations between ourselves and neighbouring countries.
Let me now speak about some of the individual countries of South and South-East Asia. The situation in Indonesia is very much in out minds at present. Indonesia has become a scene of active military operations, in which a considerable proportion of the forces of the Centra? Government of Indonesia is involved. Trade between Indonesia and other countries has been seriously affected. The possibility has been increased of international communism extending ils influences as a result .of these troubles, even to the extent of a government -with an appreciable Communist content coming into existence in the Indonesian archipelago, which, on the experience of other countries, could have only one result. Indonesia has been negotiating for arms with several countries of the Soviet bloc, and there are persistent reports that its purchases include substantial numbers of M.I.G. fighters and other modern military aircraft. Attempts are made to inflame Indonesian public opinion by allegations that Seato is trying to intervene, which I needly hardly say is a completely false allegation. All these things must be very much in the minds of other countries, quite apart from the humanitarian feelings naturally aroused by the loss of life and destruction of property. They entitle Indonesia’s neighbours to express some views.
The origins of the present situation in Indonesia are complex. Part of the trouble goes back to differences which have existed inside Indonesia ever since it gained independence, as to the distribution of authority between the Central Government and the outlying islands. A wide body of opinion in Sumatra, Celebes, and other islands believes that it has not had a fair deal from Java. Sumatra, for example, contributes not less than 70 per cent, of Indonesia’s exports, yet, al any rate in the relief of many Sumatrans, Java gets most of the foreign exchange earned by these exports. Many people on other islands also believe that Java has an undue voice in formulating policy and an undue proportion of government appointments. Consequently, there is a widespread demand for greater delegation of authority to the provinces. I express no views on the merits of any of these attitudes. It is something that the Indonesians have to work out for themselves. But we have to recognize these feelings as a factor in the present situation.
Then again, there has been a considerable and rapid deterioration in the economic position throughout Indonesia. The expulsion of Dutch businessmen and the taking over of Dutch assets in Indonesia were, in the opinion of the Australian Government, not in accord with Indonesia’s international obligations, and were carried out in a way contrary to established international usage and to the dictates of humanity. But these actions were more than that: they were against the real interests of the Indonesian people themselves. The Indonesian people are experiencing the consequences in depressed and deteriorating economic conditions. The leaders of the dissidents have stated, as one of the reasons for their stand, the failure of the authorities in Djakarta to get to grips with the economic situation.
Communism is a further ingredient in this cauldron of strife and discontent. Over the last few years there has been a steady increase in the influence and in the electoral representation of the Communist party in Indonesia. At the last national elections, in 1955, the Communist party obtained 23 per cent, of the votes in Java: in the provincial and municipal elections last July the Communist vote there had increased to 35 per cent. Java represents 70 per cent, of the whole Indonesian electorate. There has been continuous pressure, with which President Sukarno himself has been associated, for the Communist party to be included in the principal organs of government, including the Cabinet. While so far the Communist party in Indonesia, as a party, has not secured such representation, some individual Communists and fellow-travellers are in positions of influence, including the Indonesian National Council. The Communists have been prominent among those urging resort to force to suppress the dissidents and rejecting all idea of a peaceful compromise solution. The Communists clearly hope to benefit fi om the suppression of some of their forthright and vigorous opponents and from the economic deterioration which the Communists are doing so much to foster. All this has brought deep distress to many people in Indonesia, including many devout Muslims who see the religious and cultural basis of their nation’s life threatened by atheistic communism. One of the reasons given by the dissident leaders for setting up a rival government in Sumatra has been their desire to keep Indonesia out of Communist control.
It is undeniable that apprehension at the growth of Communist influence is an important element in the present armed conflict in Indonesia. It would, however, be wrong to go a stage further and to say that the fighting represents a clear-cut clash between Communists and anti-Communists. The dissident movement appears to be firmly anti-Communist. But the Central Government is not led by Communists, even though Communists and “fellow travellers” are trying to push themselves forward. Moreover, there are many important anti-Communists who have not ranged themselves on the side of the dissident authorities, but are either standing on the side lines or continuing to support the Central Government.
The best thing for other countries to do is to keep out of the present fighting, and to hope that the Indonesians can settle the dispute between themselves without further bloodshed and without other countries getting involved. As soon as the fighting broke out between the Central Government and the dissidents in Sumatra and North Celebes, I declared publicly that Australia would not intervene. I said on 16th February, that Australia was naturally very much interested in the stability and progress of our closest neighbour, Indonesia. We wanted to see there a government that was based on the will of the people of all Indonesia and representative of democratic opinion. It was greatly to be hoped that, with this as their objective, the Indonesian people would be able to find a solution to the present situation peacefully. How this was to be done was a domestic matter for Indonesia. That remains our policy. Since then, unhappily, fighting and some loss of life has occurred. Nevertheless, we must still hope that policies of moderation will prevail and that a new effort will be made to unite all patriotic Indonesians in the solution of the difficulties of which the present insurrection is but a symptom.
Last week some newspapers published the report of an overseas journalist speculating that Royal Australian Air Force planes were being used to drop supplies to the dissidents in Sumatra. This report appeared once before and was denied by the Australian Government. I take this opportunity once again to deny that R.A.A.F. planes are being used in any way to give assistance of any sort to the dissidents in Sumatra.
The Leader of the Opposition has proposed that Australia should make available its good offices to mediate between the dissidents and the Central Government. As the Prime Minister and I have already said, the Australian Government does not consider that this is a feasible or a desirable course. The Djakarta government has already said that it would not be prepared to accept the right honorable gentleman’s proposal.
The possibility could arise of fighting in Indonesia developing to such an extent or in such a way that it might give rise to fears for international peace. Before deciding this was the case, there would have to be careful examination of the facts and of legal considerations, including domestic jurisdiction.
I hope that all honorable members appreciate the need for restraint in anything we say at the present time on this subject. It would be easy for me to say something much more critical than I have said. I do not believe that such comments by me would contribute to a satisfactory and early solution of Indonesia’s troubles. There are persons in responsible positions in Indonesia who value democratic processes, who understand the menace of the real imperialism of our times - international communism - and who know that a country should respect international obligations and codes of behaviour. It is for Indonesians themselves to see that Indonesia attains a solution of this nature.
I turn now to countries of the British Commonwealth in South-East Asia. The Federation of Malaya, which achieved full independence last August, has been preoccupied with the task of consolidating the foundations of this new nation. The struggle to eliminate the remnants of the Communist terrorists who have preyed on the people of Malaya for the past ten years has been intensified. Australian and New Zealand forces, like those of the United Kingdom, are in Malaya at the request of the Malayan Government and are continuing to assist in these operations against the terrorists. A few months ago the Communist leader, Chin Peng, made a further approach to the Federation Prime Minister, Tengku Abdul Rahman, for a negotiated settlement, but he wanted terms which would permit his Communist followers to emerge from the jungle and undertake subversive activities as a political party. The Prime Minister of Malaya understandably declined to negotiate on terms other than the surrender of the Communists.
Towards the end of 1958 the island of Singapore will receive a new constitution with full responsibility for its own internal affairs. The United Kingdom will retain responsibility only for external affairs and defence. The first elections under the new constitution will probably be held towards the end of 1958 or early in 1959. The outcome of this democratic experiment is naturally of concern to us and our hopes for its success will rest upon the electors or Singapore. The Administration of Singapore must be conscious of the extent to which its future is bound up with those of other countries. The prosperity of Singapore depends on commerce. Commerce and employment depend on confidence. Singapore occupies an important geographical position in relation to the defence of all the countries of this part of the world, and it is essential for Singapore itself that it should continue in close and cordial relations with the Federation of Malaya.
The territories of Sarawak and British North Borneo and the protectorate of Brunei have reached the stage in their political development where consideration has to be given to their future constitutional status. Suggestions for some form of closer association between these three territories are under consideration. This is a matter of interest to Australia and we shall continue to watch further development in these territories with the most sympathetic interest.
Of the other countries of South-East Asia I shall mention only Laos. There, after protracted negotiations, agreement was reached last year for the reintegration into the Kingdom of Laos of the two northern provinces which had been occupied by the Communist Pathet Lao. Under the terms of the agreement two Pathet Lao ministers have joined the Laos Government while the rank and file of the Pathet Lao movement who have returned to their homes have now the right to operate openly as a political party. On 4th May - in a very short time - there will be supplementary elections in Laos to raise the strength of the legislative assembly from 38 to 59. These will be contested by candidates from the former Pathet Lao. Honorable members will appreciate our concern that the opportunity now given to the people of Laos will be wisely used to ensure that the institutions of a free democracy will not be perverted by the return of men intending to use its forms to destroy its spirit in the interests of a different philosophy. It is too early to say how the latest developments in Laos will eventually turn out. If nonCommunists show resolution and discernment and if honest and efficient administration prevails the country should be able to advance on sound and democratic lines.
I would not wish to leave the Asian area without some mention of Japan. We are neighbours in the Pacific and are both learning to co-operate to our mutual benefit. We are involved by geography in common problems and can best cope with these by co-operation. We were glad that the Japanese Prime Minister, Mr. Kishi, was able to visit Australia in December. We welcomed that opportunity to have fruitful discussions with him.
A further feature of our co-operative relations with Japan has been agreement on an exchange of parliamentary delegations. An all-party delegation from this Parliament visited Japan early this year and later in the year a Japanese parliamentary delegation will make a return visit.
While I was away last month I visited bom Australian and Dutch New Guinea. My visit to Biak and Hollandia in Dutch New Guinea gave me an opportunity to see what the Dutch are doing to develop the country and foster the interests of the indigenous inhabitants, and to talk wilh the Governor and leading officials.
I outlined to the House in December the arrangemnts being made by the Australian and Netherlands Governments to strengthen and expand administrative co-operation between the two administrations in New Guinea. Since then further steps have been taken. A conference will take place later this year between officials of the two territories. The Netherlands Ambassador in Canberra is to have a senior official appointed to his staff to deal specifically with the problems affecting New Guinea and to assist in discussion and co-operation with the Department cif Territories and any other relevant Australian departments.
It is not sufficiently known how much cooperation already exists between the two territories. I saw considerable evidence of this when I was in New Guinea. For example, in the last few months, at the request of the Australian authorities, a Dutch doctor went across the border into Australian New Guinea to help handle an outbreak of polio. Quite recently, when the Netherlands Government was faced with an outbreak of some form of disease in cattle and its own veterinary scientists were unavailable, our authorities in Port Moresby were able to send an Australian veterinary scientist into Netherlands
New Guinea. While I was in Hollandia, there was an Australian doctor spending some time in laboratories there helping to isolate a virus that was considered to be of importance. These may seem small things, but they all fit into a pattern which is to the benefit of both territories and of the indigenous inhabitants.
This mutual exchange of visits by specialized officials will continue and expand, to the benefit of the two administrations and of the indigenous inhabitants of New Guinea as a whole. Thus the pattern of mutual co-operation will grow. The Netherlands Government is spending a considerable and increasing amount on its territory. In recent years it has been spending in New Guinea progressively and substantially more than it has been receiving from the territory. For example, in 1950 the deficit of Dutch New Guinea was almost £2,000,000 or its equivalent, which was made good by the Government of the Netherlands. In 1956 the Netherlands Government contributed the equivalent of nearly £8,000,000 towards expenditure in Dutch New Guinea. This is a considerable contribution to the advancement of the territory.
The arrangements for administrative cooperation between Australian and Dutch New Guinea are intended to keep open to the indigenous inhabitants the opportunity to determine their own future and to ensure so far as possible that development in the two parts of New Guinea does not proceed along conflicting lines that could lead to unnecessary barriers between the people on the two sides of the border. We believe Dutch sovereignty, which in any case is a legal fact, preserves for the inhabitants of Dutch New Guinea this future opportunity of selfdetermination.
After visiting Biak and Hollandia, I visited a number of places in Australian New Guinea, including Marius Island, Goroka, Bulolo and Port Moresby. I had not visited New Guinea for many years. One has to visit New Guinea to realize the great advances that have been made and the extent to which the considerable amounts of money provided from Australian revenues have borne fruit, in the shape of greatly improved health, education and living conditions of the local population.
I may say that, as one who has visited New Guinea, I have no anxiety about the periodical visits of delegations from the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations. If any individual has any doubts about the effectiveness or the humanity of the task that Australia is doing in New Guinea, let him visit it. We can face the world with the clearest conscience. This is not colonialism. It is the reverse of colonialism. Our record in New Guinea is that of a country that is doing everything possible to guide and advance a backward people towards a better way of life - to bring something not far from 2,000,000 people from what was only recently a barbaric way of life to something vastly better, and to do it without any semblance of exploitation and indeed at very considerable cost to the taxpayers of Australia.
I have confined what I have had to say to Asia- and very largely to South-East Asia. There is’ too much going on in the world to attempt to cover it all in one address’ of reasonable length. Our geographical situation gives the affairs of our Asian neighbours a high priority of interest for us. Both they and we are equally concerned with the global picture in respect of which I do not believe there is any basic difference - in avoidance of war, our continued ability to live our own lives, and not to be dominated by any ideology that we do not like. I hope before long to have the opportunity to speak to honorable members on these and other matters of high and equal importance to both free Asia and to Australia.
I lay on the table the following paper: -
International Affairs - Statement by the Minister for External Affairs, dated 15th April, 1958- and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 505).
.- Having already spoken to this measure prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner, I have very little time left to complete my speech. I repeat that the bill seeks to repeal the war service moratorium provisions of the Re-establishment and Employment Act. I pointed out earlier that throughout the second-reading speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) there were admissions by him, and therefore by the Government, that at least, some people would be adversely affected by the repeal of those provisions. One or two supporters of the Government stressed the fact that some of the protection had already been withdrawn by regulation, but does such withdrawal justify the infliction now of an injustice on even only one person? Even if only one serviceman will be’ adversely affected by the repeal of the war service moratorium provisions, the Opposition- will be on the side of that person.
The Government has admitted that it has no specific knowledge of the number of men who are likely to be affected nor the extent to which they will be affected. The Minister, in his second>reading speech, said -
I emphasize that - that there are very few, if any, servicemen or exservicemen . . . who are still entitled to any protection . . .
Even if only one person is affected, we of the Opposition suggest that the relevant provisions should not be repealed until the Government has made a very thorough and comprehensive investigation of the situation. The Government has a duty to afford protection, no matter how few people are affected. Does the Government’s belief that only a very small number of people will be adversely affected justify its action in seeking to repeal the relevant provisions and in inflicting hardship on those people?
To afford protection to one man is just as important to that person as was the giving of protection to the many thousands of men who already have enjoyed the protection that is granted by the act. The Minister further said -
I do not think that any person will suffer any hardship by the repeal of these provisions.
I suggest that, where human values and considerations are concerned, the Minister and the Government should ensure that nobody will be affected by the repeal of the provisions. The Minister should make absolutely certain of that, because the protection of one individual is as important to that individual as is the protection of thousands of individuals. I suggest that the Government should make quite sure of the facts in this matter. It should be sure of the number of persons involved and the extent to which they will be affected, before it repudiates their interests simply on the ground that the number affected is small. But, of course, this Government always is ready to repudiate human considerations. As was evidenced here twice within the last six months, it is always ready to dance to the tune of the bankers and the financial interests.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) summed this matter up very well, and what he said conveyed the opinions of the Opposition generally. He put the case very aptly when he said that, naturally, there are pros and cons in this question; that on the one side, there is administrative convenience and, perhaps, the saving of a few pounds, and on the other, human welfare and humane considerations which vitally affect the lives of Australian families.
Although administrative convenience may be achieved and a few pounds may be saved, we of the Opposition come down on the side of humanity. We appeal to the Government, even at this late hour, to consider its duty and the obligation imposed’ on it to ensure that every person who serves in the forces of this country is given every possible protection. The Government, apparently, believes that the number involved is small, but I suggest that it should make a full and comprehensive survey. It should consult service organizations which will be in a position to indicate the extent to which this measure will affect service people. The Government has admitted that it has not given the slightest consideration to that matter. It has not negotiated with service or ex-service organizations, or consulted them in any way. I repeat that, throughout the Minister’s second-reading speech, he admitted that some people will be adversely affected by the measure. Nevertheless, the Government is prepared to repudiate its obligations to servicemen and ex-servicemen.
I ask the Government, through von, Mr. Deputy President, to reconsider this matter and to undertake a comprehensive survey of the position before it .goes ahead with the repeal of the legislation. I personally, and the Opposition generally, oppose this legislation. We suggest that the Government should postpone it until a full investigation has been made.
– The Opposition expected that the Government would supply another speaker on this measure. Apparently, the Government does not consider it worth while to attempt to justify the introduction of the bill. The purpose of the measure is to amend the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945-57. Obviously, the Government puts forward its whole argument when it says that the measure has been introduced in the interests of administrative expediency. Certainly, the passage of this legislation will make it easier for the department, and for the Government, to administer the provisions of the act which afford protection to servicemen who enlisted prior to April, 1952, and those who enlisted subsequently to that date and served in Korea or Malaya.
The Government has declared, by regulation, that Malaya is not a theatre of war and therefore has deprived persons who serve in Malaya of the various protections which previously have been afforded to Australian servicemen. On the finalization of military activity in Korea, and again by regulation, the Government deprived servicemen in Korea, who had enlisted after 28th April, 1952, of similar protection. The Opposition has watched this matter closely. The Minister has said that, at the time this legislation was enacted, Australians were enlisting in haste to defend their country and, therefore, may not have had sufficient opportunity to attend to their personal affairs, and that they could not be expected to look after their personal affairs in preference to safeguarding the interests of their country. In those circumstances, he said, there was a necessity to protect their interests. But the war has ended and the danger has been removed. The number of men serving in the forces may have decreased, but we still have Australian troops serving overseas, either because they enlisted to do so, or because they were sent by direction of the Government. We of the Opposition feel that the act should not be disturbed until each of those servicemen now serving this country has had his contract with the Government honoured in full. We are of the opinion that the terms of that contract should not be broken at any stage, provided that a serviceman has conformed to the contract that he made with the Government, to serve this country.
I contend that this proposal of the Government represents a breaking down of conditions which we have offered to servicemen. That process began when the Government, by regulation, declared that a theatre of war was not a theatre of war. It sent servicemen to Malaya, against good advice to the contrary. Those servicemen were directed by the Government to go to Malaya. The Government now contends that servicemen in Malaya did not experience any serious fighting. There was sporadic fighting and it is likely that fighting may break out again. If there were no possibility of fighting in Malaya, why do not we withdraw our forces? The Government cannot have it both ways. It cannot have servicemen serving in a theatre of war and at the same time deprive them of the protection to which they are entitled.
As the Leader of the Opposition has told the Senate, we are obliged to the Government for deferring this legislation so that it may be more closely scrutinized. At the time the Minister introduced this bill, he admitted openly and frankly that he did not know how many persons would be affected by it. He said that he knew some people would be affected, and he hoped that the number would not be very great, it was obvious that he had made no examination of the effect of the legislation on the individuals in the fighting services and those who claimed, and rightly felt entitled to claim, the protection that the original legislation afforded them. Between the introduction of the bill and the present time, apparently some information has been obtained, because we now have been told that 8,500 men who enlisted before April, 1952, are still serving in the forces and normally would be covered by the act. Of course, we do not know, nor does the Government, how many of those servicemen need the protection of the act. No substitute provision is to be made for those persons who may perhaps have reason to seek protection. We say that the Government should have done something in that direction. No figures have been supplied by the Government to indicate the number of servicemen in the Navy and the Air Force who will be affected. The Opposition is interested in that matter, but the Government, apparently, is not.
It is all very well for Government supporters to say that conditions granted to forces serving overseas in time of war should be watered down and reduced to a minimum in time of peace, but surely Senator Vincent had no right to say that, although there are 8,500 persons, who enlisted before April. 1952, now serving in the Army they are only pukka-wallah soldiers, pen-pushing in some barracks or other. That is not so at all. Those 8,500 soldiers are defending this country as loyally as we are when seeking finance for Western Australia. Of course, if the whole subject is to be recast, that is another matter. The Government laid down conditions to apply to men who enlisted in the forces and who could be required to serve outside Australia. The Government promised to look after them. Why does it now seek by legislation to break down those conditions?
This legislation may be very handy to persons who seek to take advantage of servicemen who should be protected. Obviously certain persons are waiting for the present legislation to be altered in order to get at servicemen who should be protected. If that is so, why is the act being amended? If some of its provisions are redundant, the whole of the legislation should be revised and definite conditions laid down with respect to young men who enlist.
I submit that more consideration should be given to the young men who enlist in the services. As it is, when young men who enlisted and who have been engaged in the maintenance of service aircraft and the like come to the end of their service, they will find that the Government has broken its contract. It is true that a proportion of the young men who have spent the best years of their lives in the defence of this nation have, upon discharge, been able successfully to re-establish themselves in outside employment. On the other hand, men who have served for four, five and six years and have been honorably discharged need assistance to rehabilitate themselves, something more than a provision to enable them to defer payment of their bills. We should have a better system of looking after men who enlist in the services at the end of their period of service in the defence of the nation.
– Does the honorable senator think that the same protection should be afforded to persons who make guns and ammunition?
– If they are thrown out of employment, yes, but as a general rule their employment is continuous. The Government should give more encouragement to young men to become tradesmen by assisting the expansion of industry instead of crushing industry by allowing the importation of goods that could be made in Australia. If Senator Kendall thinks that we have enough tradesmen and apprentices in this country, he is mistaken.
– The bill has nothing to do with apprentices.
– The honorable senator led me into that field. The Government should at least establish a tribunal to ensure that the 8,500 men who are serving in the Army, as well as naval and Air Force personnel, will not be prejudiced in any way by the wiping out of this moratorium provision. The Government would be well advised to adopt this suggestion. Of course, I know very well that this bill will be passed by the Senate and I know that some thousands of Australian soldiers will not be given the protection that has been afforded by the act. I support the contention of my colleagues that the servicemen should get the protection of the contract that was made when they enlisted. Otherwise, the Government should say that there is no need for that protection. Up till now it has not said that.
The Government cheated the men in Korea of their rights by declaring that they were not in a theatre of war. The point I am making is that they are serving outside Australia in a danger area and in the event of a flare-up they could be used immediately under conditions of active service. The Government says that this alteration was made by legislation. I say that it was done by regulation, very surreptitiously. The Opposition, and various authorities, contended that our troops should not be sent to Malaya unless they were granted active service conditions, and we sought a declaration that they would not be sacrificed on the altar. When those men enlisted and went overseas, the Government promised them protection, in the case of the Korea force until 1961, and in the case of the Malaya force until 1962. The Opposition thinks that there may not be much need for protection under the section to which I am referring, but the Govern- ment should investigate the matter. It is the job of the Opposition to urge the Government not to reduce the degree of protection that the men who have gone overseas on active service in the defence of this country were promised by the Government when they enlisted.
– I can add very little in explanation of the bill to what has been said by my colleagues and others who have spoken in favour of it. Those who have spoken against it did not give me anything to answer at all. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) made a very clear exposition of the purposes of the bill, but he really did not state any reasons why it should be opposed. Obviously, Senators O’Byrne, Sandford and Cooke have not read the bill. If they had read it, they would have seen in clauses 5 and 6 and subsequent clauses, that the rights now existing in respect of moratorium and other relief are being continued as though Part X. of the act were not being repealed.
The whole purpose of the measure, as was indicated in the second-reading speech delivered by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), is to prevent an anomaly. It was never intended that officers and soldiers of the permanent forces should enjoy the very special considerations which are given to those who, in the nation’s hour of peril leave their usual avocations and positions to fly the colours and go overseas to fight- They go in a hurry in a moment of peril. They leave their homes and their jobs.
Naturally, an appreciative government and an appreciative country say that the dependants of these men - whether they are volunteers or otherwise - will be protected because the men are protecting the country. At the present time, all the men who enlisted in the permanent army prior to 28th April, 1952, are technically on war service. There is the spectacle in every barracks in the country - Victoria Barracks and other Army, Navy, and Air Force establishments - of men in uniform doing precisely the same type of clerical work as men who are not in uniform. The man who is not in uniform does not get any of those benefits. Why should the man in uniform get them? He is following his chosen profession. He is a civil servant in the broad sense. There are Commonwealth drivers who do not drive for the Army. A man who is a driver in the permanent army, according to the Opposition should be given special privileges; no other Commonwealth driver should get them- This comparison shows the absurdity of the Opposition’s attitude to this bill. Section 118, which is being repealed and which has nothing whatever1 to do with the moratorium, provides - (J.) Where power is. conferred upon any person by or under any law of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth to acquire land compulsorily for any purpose, that person shall not, without the prior consent of the Attorney-General,, exercise the power, in relation to the acquisition of land which is owned by a member of the Forces, for any purpose, other than a purpose in connexion with the defence of the Commonwealth . . .
That is the only material provision which is now being repealed and other rights conferred by Part X. will continue.
There is no reason at all why that provision should now remain because it can seriously hamper local authorities and government undertakings in the pursuit of their normal requirements. As Senator Spooner indicated in his second-reading speech, the real purpose of the provision was to protect those young men who rushed to the colours and did not have time to put their affairs in order. They did not join the Army as a career; they joined it in a sense of patriotic duty and left their normal avocations and went off to fight to preserve our way of life.
Australia has at the present time a very gallant permanent army. Although it is not very large, its members are a credit to the uniform they wear. However, in terms of the payment they receive, for instance, there is no comparison with what the average “ digger “ received when he went off to fight. As I said, the average “ digger “ did not join the Army as a career; he joined it to save his country. The members of the permanent forces have chosen their career - a very honorable career - with their eyes open, just as other men have joined the Public Service or other trades or callings. But there is no reason why they should receive amenities or privileges which other members of the public do not receive. Why should an army driver be given concessions and considerations that a driver in the Department of Customs and Excise or in the transport pool does not get? That is the kind of anomaly which the Opposition, in opposing this amendment, seeks to preserve.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 27th March (vide page 424), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
. This bill affects an industry which is of major importance to Australia. I refer to the maritime industry which, over the past years, has had a very troublesome life. The whole history of the industry shows the struggles that have taken place on two main issues, first, the safety of the men and the conditions under which they have laboured. With the safety of the men also goes the safety of the ships and the cargoes they carry. Those of us who have read a great deal about the shipping industry and the history of the maritime service over the years appreciate the great struggle that took place to have the Plimsoll line placed where it is to-day. That improvement, together with other improvements affecting the men who go down to the sea in ships met with, I think, stronger opposition from the owners in this industry than did any of the improvements in most of the other industries carried on in this nation. Many books have been written about the coffin ships of the past. Thank goodness those days are gone! f. do not believe for one moment that conditions are as bad to-day as they were. Thank goodness they improved as time went on, as have also the ships in which the men go to sea.
But we do find exceptions even to-day. In the Port of Melbourne at the present time there is a ship that was brought from Antwerp by one of the shipping companies in Victoria. I understand that ship has a certificate of seaworthiness that was issued in Antwerp. The court has ordered the seamen to man it. They have manned it in accordance with that court order, but, needless to say, they have not yet taken the ship out of the river, and they are not likely to take it out of the river until it is put in proper order. Because a ship has a certificate of seaworthiness granted by another nation, that does not say it is fit to sail on our coast and I agree wholeheartedly with the men who are determined that this ship will not go to sea in its present condition.
– Where was it registered?
– I understand that it was registered in Antwerp. From what I can gather from certain union officials in Melbourne, there is no possibility of her going to sea until the work that they believe ought to be done on her is. carried out. The work has been started, but it may take some time to complete all that should be done. I am grateful to think that the ships that sail our coast are in better condition than the one to which I have referred.
This bill, which amends the Navigation Act, incorporates measures relating to the important matters about which I have spoken. I refer to the safety of the men at sea and the conditions of employment of the men who sail our ships. One must give due credit to the men in the maritime service. But for the gallantry of those men during the last war, Australia and the Allied nations could not have brought the war to a successful conclusion. I recall only too well the words of a former Prime Minister, the late John Curtin, who spoke of the great part the members of the maritime service played in taking munitions and equipment to the men who were in the islands when this country was passing through the dark days of World War II.
In my opinion, our decision as to whether this bill is good or bad should be based on whether it seeks to improve the safety of the ships at sea and conditions of employment of the men who work those ships. The original act, a copy of which the Minister was kind enough to give to every honorable senator when he delivered his second-reading speech, contains 425 sections, which occupy 162 pages, and seven schedules which take up a further 129 pages. The bill under discussion contains 208 clauses which cover 85 pages. It makes many substantial and complicated amendments to the principal act. Those amendments include provisions for merely redrafting existing sections, for modifying the provisions that come within the Commonwealth’s powers under the Constitution, as revealed by recent clarification of certain points, and for other major and minor alterations to the substance of the existing law.
I point out with respect that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) took only twelve minutes to deliver his explanation of a bill containing 208 clauses. I admit that this is largely a bill for discussion in committee, but I did expect that as it contains so many clauses, the department would provide each honorable senator with a detailed memorandum setting out the effects of the proposed changes and why such changes were considered necessary- We require that information. One honorable senator can speak to the bill from a knowledge gained by experience in the maritime service and if every honorable senator possessed his knowledge we would not need the assistance I have mentioned. Most of us have not been to sea. Some of us may have been on pleasure cruises, but our knowledge of the actual working of the maritime service is very limited indeed.
– That is an honest admission on your part.
– I do not know what experience Senator Marriott has had in the maritime service of this nation. He has served in other spheres, and every one of us gives him ‘great credit for that; but we are now discussing a navigation bill and possibly his experience in the maritime service is similar to mine. Some of the proposed amendments would be very beneficial, but others would be very bad indeed. Some, which ostensibly could be considered desirable might, in certain circumstances, be used to undermine the conditions, and the very safety, of the men while at sea. Indeed, so many of the proposals are detrimental to the welfare of seamen that I sincerely hope the Senate will reject the bill as it stands at present.
Under proposed new section 78 seamen are to receive one extra day’s pay for every day they are kept waiting for their pay. However, the present seamen’s award states that two days’ pay shall be paid for every day they are kept waiting. Therefore, the amendment breaks a court award between the shipowners and the seamen.
Clause 35 eliminates the requirement that the master of the vessel shall sign the agreement with the seamen, and permits the owner to undertake that task. The master is surely best fitted to sign the agreement. He has to go to sea with the men, and certainly has more personal contact with them. Would any honorable senator suggest that the owners of the Peninsular and Orient line, which bought Commonwealth ships after World War I. and did not pay for them - Lord Inchcape was surely not the only one to avoid payment of his lawful dues-
– Those ships were bought by the Aberdeen White Star line.
– I do not care who bought them. I am thinking only of the fact that we were not paid for them. What contact would such owners have with the crews of the vessels?
Clause 155 deletes the requirement that evidence on oath regarding any ship wrecked, stranded or in distress shall be sent to the State Collector of Customs, who shall place it in some conspicuous place for inspection. I cannot see how that could help the maritime industry or have any effect upon shipping or upon the conditions of seamen.
Other clauses, taken together, could permit the garnisheeing of seamen’s wages, including allotments to dependants. In committee I shall refer to those clauses in greater detail.
Proposed new section 115 (4.) provides that any fine levied by a captain for a misdemeanour may be deducted from money currently owing to the seaman instead of, as at present, from money that he would earn subsequently. This is not an easy industry to deal with- Honorable senators will not need to be reminded of the great strike of 1890, the great strike of 1917, or the British seamen’s strike here in 1925. Those of us who wish to keep the industry as happy as possible can only see in many of these changes pin-pricking tactics that will not help to retain peace in the industry. The men who take the ships to sea will certainly regard them in that light.
Clause 206 abolishes Schedule III. to the principal act, which lays down the scale of provisions to be given to the crew.
– It is a waste of time to print it.
– I hope to hear the honorable senator speak on the bill, because he will be able to draw upon personal knowledge of the industry. He has not had to burn the midnight oil, as I have, to understand the bill, which was not accompanied by an explanatory memorandum. Such a memorandum would have saved some honorable senators a great deal of work.
Clause 77 repeals the requirement that owners shall provide mechanically operated refrigerating chambers capable of preserving fresh meat on foreign-going ships. I cannot understand why it is done. Possibly the Minister will have a good answer. As a rule he has good answers, and I hope he will be able to satisfy me on this occasion.
Clause 201 of the amending bill proposes to repeal the obligation on shipowners to furnish the Minister with returns of the gross earnings of their ships. Is there any reason why that should be done? Is it going to make ships go faster at sea? This is a peculiar industry, and when things such as this are proposed I believe we should be given very adequate reasons. Clause 53 proposes to abolish the necessity for a master to post in a public place in his ship the manning tables for the ship, together with a copy of the name of the person filling each position. I cannot understand why that requirement is to be deleted. I am informed that that has been the practice for years. Why should it be abandoned?
To my mind, all of these proposals are in one way or another detrimental either to provisions for safety at sea or to the terms of employment of the seamen. Even at this late hour, I ask the Minister whether it would be possible to supply honorable senators with a memorandum stating the reasons why it is proposed that certain provisions of the act shall be repealed and certain alterations be made in other provisions. I believe that the Senate is entitled to such an explanation. I believe also that the men responsible for taking ships to sea are entitled to it. A bill containing 208 clauses has been presented and the Minister has made only a very short speech of explanation. If I had had more time to go through the bill and the principal act, doubtless I could have related to the Senate many more proposed alterations and asked the reasons for them. It may be that lack of time is the reason why a fuller explanation has not been given, but, after all, we are considering a bill to amend the Navigation Act. Many of us recall the struggle that took place at the beginning of federation even to get such an act on the statutebook at all. Before we pass this bill, I believe that we should be given much more information about the reasons for the proposed amendments of the act. In the committee stage, I shall ask for explanations of many more clauses than those I have referred to in this speech. If I have enough time, I will give to the Minister beforehand the numbers of the clauses on which I shall seek explanations.
I do not think that there is any honorable senator who does not want Australia to have as good a navigation act as possible - one that will provide for the greatest degree of safety at sea and for conditions for the men that the country believes they should have. I do not .propose to deal with the position of the shipowners, because I think they are well able to look after themselves. I am concerned mostly with the men who take the ships to sea and with their conditions of employment. If I had worked under some of the conditions under which seamen work, perhaps more ships might have been held up. Seamen are essential to the prosperity of the nation. We cannot live unless we export our primary products. We must have men to man our ships. Our job ought to be to see that their conditions are made as good as is possible and that their safety is ensured. I believe that, at the moment, the seamen are quite capable of looking after themselves in regard to their conditions of employment.
– As Senator Kennelly has said, this is a very difficult bill. It is obviously a measure which will need to be considered at length in committee. There are so many clauses in it, and so many matters that honorable senators on both the Government and the Opposition side wish to discuss, that it would be foolish for me to attempt to deal in detail with Senator Kennelly’s questions. They will be answered categorically by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) at a later stage.
I should like to point out that the standards of safety prescribed for ships on the Australian coast are known to be higher even than the standards prescribed in the Safety of Life at Sea Convention which we ratified some four years ago, so I do not think that Senator Kennelly need be concerned about that aspect of the running of our ships.
There can be no doubt at all of the importance of our ships. The Australian Merchant Service is of great importance to us. It is very sad to me, after spending some forty years at sea, to observe the gradual disappearance of our ships from the Australian coastal trade, particularly the large passenger ships, which are unable to compete with other lines because of the continual dislocation of their sailings, due mostly to industrial trouble. This industrial trouble has not always ‘been caused by ‘the seamen. In fact, it has been caused very infrequently by the seamen themselves.
Mostly it has been caused by allied unions, such .as the Waterside Workers Federation. But it has held up our ships and made it very difficult for them to compete, not only with the railways and airways, but also with ships from overseas which are allowed, under our Navigation Act, to carry passengers round the Australian coast.
Senator Kennelly mentioned the work of the mercantile marine during the war. I think it is always well for us to remember that in the first world war we lost more than 4,000 British merchant ships, and in the second world war about 2,500. It is well to remember, too, that every one of those ships carried at least 30, probably many more, British seamen. I use the term “ British “ in its broad sense to include Australian seamen. I think that is something that all of us should keep at the hack of our minds when we discuss matters pertaining to the merchant service and perhaps get a little hot under the collar because a ship is held up. We should try to remember that, in view of what these men have been through, they have earned some consideration at the hands of the community.
In my opinion, many of the provisions of the bill have been framed by the Government to assist in improving conditions at sea. There may be one or two contentious clauses, but I have no doubt that when the Minister explains them honorable senators will realize that they will not be detrimental to the seamen themselves and that they have been introduced, in some cases, in an attempt to smooth things out. At a later stage, I propose to go through a few of the more important provisions, but I should now like to say something in a general way, even though, as I said, this is really a committee bill.
Of all man-made creations, the ship probably more than anything else has the power of gaining a place in the innermost recesses of the heart, if I may so express it. Of course, it is possible for a young woman to find her way into those innermost recesses, but of the inanimate objects of wood, steel and what-have-you a ship does grow upon one. The longer a person stays on a ship, particularly if he is in command of her, the more she becomes part and parcel of him. I can recall seeing an old skipper in the old days pat the teakwood rail on the poop and say, “ Up old girl, up old girl “, and she would come over the waves. It was as though he felt she was part and parcel of him. Perhaps it was easier to understand that feeling in the old sailing ship days when masters and crews used to sail for many years in the same ship. I have known masters who sailed in the same ship for 20 or 25 years.
It is a very interesting commentary on shipping that even shipowners who had not a good name among sailors, but who in fact had the reputation of being very stonyhearted, were sentimental enough, towards the end of the sailing ship era, to keep those ships running until long after their economic life had ceased. Indeed, I imagine that in some cases the owners must have been losing money.
I sailed in one of the last of the sailing ships,; she was still running in 1925. There were other ships like “ Garthpool “ and “ William Mitchell “ on which a brother of mine served. There was also the old “ Mount Stewart “ in which the present honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) was born and lived his early childhood. In those days, shipowners were a little more sentimental than they are in these days of steam vessels. But the sailing vessels, which were called by the poets “ the white-winged argosies “, have disappeared, and now we go to sea in floating townships which have lifts, swimming pools, lounges, and .everything else that people have ashore. A modern Atlantic liner generates sufficient electricity to illuminate a large London suburb or a small city. But it does not matter very much what kind a vessel is; if one is in command of her, she is the finest thing that sails the ocean. That attitude of mind will continue as long as we have ships and, as Senator Kennelly said, I suppose we will always have ships.
Like all good stories, the saga of the sea must ‘begin with what happened a long time ago. It is unfortunate that we have no very early records in this regard, but as one looks back one tries to picture the first people on this earth starting to think about crossing the oceans and one imagines how they devised some kind of vessel that would float and carry them from one place to another across a stretch of water - to begin with, probably across a river .or a similar stream. As we have no records of the very early days of sailing, we can only guess at what happened.
Our records of what happened in the world of ships does not begin until about the 14th century. From that time onwards, records were kept of trade in the Indian Ocean where the Phoenicians, the Arabs, the Chinese and other races were very busy carrying cargoes from the spice islands, as they called them, or what we now know as Indonesia, to the Red Sea ports, into the Mediterranean and thence to Europe. The fact that the people of Europe could not do anything about it was very .galling to them. There was a recording a little earlier that Herodotus attempted to and did find a way from the Strait of Gibraltar, as we now know it, down around the Cape of Good Hope. But we have nothing very authentic about that.
The first authentic account we have concerns Henry the Navigator - the Infant Henry of Portugal - a man who studied navigation to the standard that existed in those days. He conceived the idea of sailing -his vessels right down the west coast of Africa, around the cape and up into the Indian Ocean in an effort to break the power of the Arabs, the Indians and the Chinese Who were carrying cargoes across the Indian Ocean. The real reason behind his attempt, of course, was to engage in trade, because if he were able to find such a means of getting into the Indian. Ocean the power of the other traders would be gone. Very many years passed before that happened, because for a long time the ships could only get down as far as what we know to-day as the Gold Coast. Apparently the sailors of those days did -not have enough sense to shoot out from the coast and pick up the trade winds. Instead, they found themselves becalmed or blown back.
In 1510 or 1512 Vasco da Gama made the first trip around the cape but, having got around it, he was not allowed to go on. Had he gone on, he would have discovered India. However, his crew mutinied and he was forced to sail back. But he took back with him the information he had acquired, and that marked the beginning of the opening up of that trade route.
The history of the merchant service from then onwards is most interesting and I should very much like to address myself to it, but time will not permit. I could discuss the period in which there were sailors like Francis Drake, Magellan, Cook, Dampier and all those other people whose names we know so well, and each of whom has his own story.
I now turn to one or two clauses of the bill which, in my opinion, are important. I congratulate the Minister for Shipping and Transport and the department upon the tremendous amount of work they must have put into drafting the measure, into putting matters in their correct categories, and in generally sorting out the legislation so that the unfortunate masters or officers who have to us;: the Navigation Act will be able to find much more readily the provisions for which sometimes they have searched in vain.
The matter I wish to deal with is covered by sections 17 and 26 of the act. Section 17 states quite plainly that no person shall be admitted to examination for a master’s, mate’s or engineer’s certificate unless he can speak the English language and has the necessary qualifications as a British subject. Section 26 is couched in almost identical terms. It provides that no person shall go to sea as an officer in any ship registered in Australia unless he is a British subject and speaks the English language. Clauses 13 and 19 of the bill seek to alter that provision. The bill provides that if a man has been domiciled in Australia for at least a year, speaks and writes English fluently and possesses other necessary qualifications, he may sit for the examination. Under these examinations, a man is allowed to sit only for his second mate’s certificate, which is the lowest grade. He cannot obtain his certificate as first mate, master, extra master, first-class engineer, or extra or chief engineer, until he has been naturalized, although he may obtain a permit to sail which, in effect, is the same thing. I think that the proposed amendment is good, although in actual practice it will not make very much difference. It takes about four and a half years for a man to get through the examinations and to progress from second mate to mate and then to master. In any case, even if the statutory time were not so long, it is most unlikely that, in any shipping company, a man would reach the rank of master or chief engineer in less than five years.
Usually, it takes fifteen or twenty years to do so.
The amendment will give us an opportunty to counter the statement which many migrants have made in the past. They have said, “ You asked us to come here as migrants, and now that we are here you refuse us employment in our trade “. We have had masters from Norway, Holland and Sweden who have held a full master’s certificate in their own country, but when they have come out here they have not been able to get employment because they have not been naturalized. I think that the amendment represents a step in the right direction.
The next matter to which I have given some attention concerns clause 81 of the bill, which refers to seamen left on shore because of sickness or injury, and seeks to repeal sections 130 to 132 of the act. Under the act as it stands at present, a sick seaman left behind in an outport may be left there more or less indefinitely. Proposed new section 132 provides that a seaman left behind sick in an outport may be returned to his home port, not when he is well, but as soon as he is considered fit to travel. I think that, perhaps, the idea at the back of the Minister’s mind was that this would be a more humane way of treating sick seamen, because it means that they will be able to go home to their families where they will be looked after far better than in a hotel or wherever they may happen to be while they are recovering their health. I think that this, too, is a step in the right direction. There may be aspects of the amendment that are arguable, and I should be willing to argue them with any honorable senator.
I come now to some of the minor matters covered by the bill. Clause 123 seeks to amend section 217 of the act in connexion with defective lifesaving gear, a matter to which Senator Kennelly referred. I think that the proposal is a very good one. The penalty is to be raised from £100 to £1,000, in the case of a ship owner who has defective lifesaving gear aboard his ship. I think that is a good thing.
Clause 125 proposes to amend section 219b of the principal act in relation to submersion of load lines. The penalty is to be raised from £100 to £500. As Senator
Kennelly has said, it is very nice to know that the old coffin ships that we used to have running around the world 50 years ago are with us no longer. Some years ago, when 1 was speaking in connexion with the ratification by Australia of the Safety of Life at Sea Convention, I said something of the story of Plimsoll and of his fight in the House of Commons. I described how it took him eleven years to get his bill through and how, when he introduced it as a private member’s bill, the Prime Minister of the day led the move which resulted in it being thrown out. I mention this matter again only because Senator Kennelly referred to coffin ships. That kind of thing, of course, is now many years behind us.
– Plimsoll used to talk on the adjournment every night.
– That is right, and it took him eleven years to get his bill through. That is the only thing that gives me a feeling of hope when I talk about fisheries in this place. I have been doing so for only four years, and it took Plimsoll eleven years to get anywhere.
Another very interesting aspect of the bill relates to the position regarding naval vessels which happen to be involved in a collision. In future, exactly the same laws and rulings will apply as in the case of a collision between two merchant vessels. Clause 173 proposes to repeal section 375b of the act and replace it by other provisions. In my opinion, this amendment is a very good one because it will provide something which has been sadly lacking in our Navigation Act ever since it was introduced in 1912. The new provisions refer to the right of appeal from a court of marine inquiry, in the case of suspension or cancellation of am officer’s certificate- We have never had such provisions as these, and I am well aware that the Company of Master Mariners of Australia and the Officers Guild of Australia are very pleased with this proposal. I am sure that it also will please the Opposition, because I know that honorable senators opposite like to know that there is a right of appeal in such cases. In fact, I have often heard them speaking to that effect, and for that reason I do not think that clause 173 is really contentious.
Clause 202 refers to the Marine Council and committees of advice. The clause seeks to repeal section 424 of the act. The present provision is merely that there shall be nine members of the council. Proposed new section 424 proposes that there shall be a chairman, four representatives of shipowners, one member representative of deck officers, one member representative of engine-room officers, and two members of seafaring unions, so that there will be four representatives of the shipowners and four persons who are actual seagoing people, in addition to the chairman.
As I said at the beginning of my remarks, this is a bill which lends itself almost entirely to committee work. We shall have to go slowly through it clause by clause so that the Minister may be able to explain the intention of the Government. I have found it almost impossible to answer all the questions put by Senator Kennelly, and in any case, I think that to do so is the Minister’s job, not mine. I am sorry that I am not able to give the Senate a long discourse on the matters that I should like to talk about, but of course time does not permit me to do so.
.- We have before the Senate at the moment a bill which proposes many amendments of the Navigation Act. One perhaps can understand the need for so many amendments, having regard to the number of sections that are contained in the act. They number approximately four hundred. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) and the Government, in bringing forward this bill, are attempting to improve the legislation. I have examined the amendments fairly closely and I must say that unless they are designed to bring about an all-round improvement of shipping services and the conditions operating in relation to them, in so far as the employees are concerned, they are worthless.
I have noted that the bill deals with numerous matters only lightly, but since it touches on them, I contend that I am entitled to deal with the whole section of the act covered by the reference in the bill. I notice that the principal act contains some very peculiar wording, and that the same form of phraseology has been used in the bill. We find in this bill words that are not to be found in any other legislation. For instance, we find that, in some cases, misconduct is really tyranny. Later, I shall ask the Minister to define tyranny in terms of this legislation. When dealing with the proposed amendments of the Navigation Act one can, figuratively speaking, smell the sea air and the sailing ships, and can dream of the Spanish Main and Long John Silver and recall the stories about the sea that he read in his childhood. Somehow or other, that theme seems to run through this amending legislation.
Turning to proposed new section 15, I find that the classifications of the engineering staff have been recast. Naturally, when we reach the committee stage, I shall ask the Minister to explain the reason for this. The actual work has not changed so much as to warrant changes of classifications. The question arises whether the proposed classifications coincide with what appears in the award relating to these particular employees. I notice that some of the classifications have been dropped entirely from proposed new section 15. In due course, I shall ask the Minister to explain why that has been done. For his information, I indicate now that the classification “ First class motor engineer “ and “ Second class motor engineer “ have been left out.
I notice, too, that the bill proposes to amend the section relating to apprentices. I feel sure that it is the Government’s intention to improve the sea service, not to whittle down the standards of work on ships that already exist. If the Government is honest in its intention to improve the efficiency of the staff employed in ships it must go further than it has done in the legislation now before us.
A moment ago I mentioned apprentices. I notice that the Government proposes to amend only slightly the relevant section. Reading the principal act, one finds that antiquated conditions have operated in respect of apprentices over the years. When one sees how antiquated are those conditions, he understands why to-day the staff cannot be wholly efficient. There must be a great strain upon the shipowners and the department in trying to maintain an efficient service; it would appear to be almost futile to continue under the present conditions.
I was interested to note, when reading the conditions applicable to apprentices, that only two copies of an indenture are made; one copy goes to the owner of the ship and the other to the superintendent, whether he be in Queensland, New South Wales or another State. What about the legal guardian of the apprentice? Should not he be entitled to a copy of the indenture? I can imagine this situation arising during the course of an apprentice’s term: The apprentice may feel that he is not enjoying the conditions prescribed in the indenture, irrespective of what the award says concerning his employment. If he decides to verify the exact terms of the indenture, he is faced with a great difficulty. He cannot go to the owners and lawfully demand to examine the indenture that was signed by his legal guardian some years previously. He may go to the superintendent who holds the only other copy of the indenture and ask to be permitted to examine it. If the superintendent studies his. legal entitlement, on looking through the act and regulations he finds that he is not required to produce the indenture to the apprentice, and therefore the apprentice remains in the dark about his working conditions. This is one aspect of the matter that the Government should improve immediately.
Because of the nature of the work in the shipping service, it is necessary to employ apprentices not only in the engineering section but also in other divisions. Therefore, I stress the importance of instituting a proper apprenticeship scheme. The Government already has the machinery at hand to introduce an efficient apprenticeship scheme. There is the Department of Labour and National Service, as well as the Commonwealth Office of Education. A syllabus could be prepared very easily, at very little cost and with the expenditure of very little time, which would be suitable for every apprentice employed - first year apprentices, second year apprentices and so forth in the engineering division and in the other divisions. Proper records could be kept by the Department of Labour and National Service showing the progress of each apprentice. Tuition is necessary for all apprentices, whether they are employed on ships or on the land. There must be some means to assist them to qualify not only as journeymen or tradesmen but also as officers in the shipping service. One appreciates the difficulty of apprentices in the shipping service in attending technical college or university lecures, but it is possible to provide them with correspondence courses to prepare them for their examinations. I seriously ask the Government to give consideration to this suggestion.
I also ask the Government to go further than was done ten, twenty, 40 and 50 years ago when provision was made for apprentices in the shipping service. Under the antiquated laws that are operating in respect of apprentices, when an accident overtakes a ship - it may be destroyed by a cyclone or by fire - and it is necessary to terminate the employment of an apprentice, the time that he has served must be considered and a proportionate deduction made from the premium that he has paid. I remind the Government that premiums, insofar as apprentices are concerned, went out 50 years ago. Therefore, the legislation is 50 years behind the times. Premiums were prohibited by State legislation twenty, 30 and 50 years ago. The Commonwealth Government controls the shipping service, and I know that it is beyond reproach in this matter. It does not assist shipowners and others to extract high premiums from apprentices so that they may learn a trade.
– Does the honorable senator know of any company that charges a premium these days in Australia?
– I am referring to the provision of the legislation. It is for you to listen, Senator Kendall. I am one on this side of the chamber who does not accept you as an authority on these matters. Although some persons may be prepared so to accept you, I am prepared to argue this matter with you at any time. I do not accept you as an authority in relation to apprentices employed in the shipping service.
– I am seeking information.
– I suggest that you advise the Minister of your interest in these matters, and he will reply later. I think the Minister supports my view that if we are to have an efficient shipping service we must train our own staff.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir
Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, 1 formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the Senate for a few moments to the serious plight of the timber industry in Tasmania, which is at the present time experiencing its worst trading conditions since the ‘thirties. This state of affairs is brought about by the importation of hardwood timbers from Borneo and Malaya, which are offering such serious competition that not only will more mills be closing down than have already closed down, but also this traditional industry, which is such an important factor in the economy of Tasmania, is facing a very serious threat to its existence.
– What varieties of timber are being imported?
– They are hardwoods of a variety that compete with Tasmanian hardwoods, which are the most popular and sought after timbers for flooring and furniture.
– I have in mind two types of hardwood, but they are superior to the Tasmanian timber, are they not?
– Tasmanian timber has been accepted by expert opinion throughout the world as being of excellent quality, and has enjoyed continuous markets, but the Australian market has brought up this vital matter of national importance which I feel should be placed before the Senate because it brings home to us the fact that, with our wage levels and standards of living, we cannot possibly compete with the low wage levels of Borneo and Malaya.
On 27th March, Senator Wordsworth asked a question concerning the Tariff Board report, to which the Minister replied that he would look into the matter. The Tariff Board met, discussed this matter and completed its sittings in July, 1957. Today, Senator Marriott raised the question again.
– The honorable senator seemed to be rather annoyed about it, too.
– I had previously mentioned my intention of raising the matter and it was only by a whisker that the honorable senator caught the President’s eye and got the call. But that does not get away from the fact that we must obtain some satisfaction from the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who, apparently, does not seem to appreciate the importance of this matter.
On previous occasions the Minister has stated that some import restrictions would be placed on timbers, but those restrictions have covered Oregon only, whereas the hardwood timbers are the ones that most vitally affect the Tasmanian trade.
The industry is in genuine difficulty and I am sure that all honorable senators from Tasmania, on the Government side and the Opposition side alike, are well aware of the position. For some reason or other, the Minister is adopting the attitude that because he has made some concessions in regard to Oregon that should satisfy the requests from the Tasmanian trade. However, because of the serious decline in the demand on the mainland for Tasmanian timbers, and because of our inability to compete with products from the lower wage level countries, we feel that the Minister should give some satisfaction to the trade in the form of presenting the Tariff Board report and taking immediate action to implement the policy which has continued in this country since federation, that is, protecting our vital industries against competition from low wage level countries.
If this were an industry which was recently established and which was not of the utmost importance in the economy of Tasmania, perhaps some argument could be raised, but it would have to be convincing. However, this is an industry on which many Tasmanians from every strata of the community depend for their livelihood. Vast sums of money are involved in the setting up of the timber mills. As a result of requests to the Government in the last four or five years to meet the demands of the building trade, further investments were made in the installation of modern equipment.
Figures reveal that the production of 150,000,000 super, feet of timber in 1955-56 dropped in the last year to 134,000,000 super, feet, a reduction of nearly 17,000,000 super, feet. Incidentally, that figure of reduced production is practically the same as the amount of timber imported from Borneo and Malaya during that period. In addition, a comparison of prices of air-dried timbers produced in Tasmania and imported from Borneo and Malaya indicates a difference of between 10s. and 15s. per 100 super, feet. In the case of kiln-dried timbers, a difference of between 10s. and 13s. exists, and in dressed flooring timber, 3i inches by I inch, there is a difference of 24s. 9d. in the respective prices. That illustrates quite clearly that the Tasmanian timber industry is facing the almost impossible job of competing with imported timber.
For a period of over two years the industry has made repeated representations to the Minister, but on the overall figures that he uses he considers, for some reason or other, that the situation is in hand. We feel that is not good enough and that the Minister must have another look at the position as it exists to-day, and consider the future of the Tasmanian timber industry because of the amount of capital invested and the number of people relying on the industry for their livelihood.
I support all honorable senators who have raised this matter. I feel, as did Mr. Plimsoll in the House of Commons, that the only way to get any action from the Minister is to keep hammering away at him. I hope that he will respond to the combined efforts, not only of the Tasmanian senators but also of the other senators who have industries in their own States that could be theatened by the importation of cheaply produced goods from overseas which could cause a serious decline in State finances. The future of the Tasmanian timber industry depends on a prompt and sympathetic approach to this matter by the Minister.
– I know I can assure Senator O’Byrne that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) is well aware of the importance of this industry to Tasmania, and indeed to the Commonwealth. I understand that the Tariff Board’s report is now being subjected to close departmental study. I do not know whether the Minister has made a statement as to when he expects it can be released, but I shall draw his attention to the honorable senator’s remarks.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 April 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1958/19580416_senate_22_s12/>.