22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories. Has the Minister noticed a full-page advertisement in one of the Sydney weekly newspapers inviting investors to subscribe capital to a company which proposes to produce coffee in New Guinea? Will the Minister say whether coffee can now be produced economically and in marketable quantities in New Guinea? In view of the sad experience of small investors in Queensland who subscribed capital to an oil company known as the “ Dim-sim-sink-I-looo “ Company, which claimed to be able to import petrol from Formosa, will the Minister make a statement on the proposals set out by Goroka Coffee Holdings Limited?
– I have not seen the advertisement to which the honorable senator refers. As this is a matter that will need some consideration, I ask the honorable senator to put the question on the notice-paper. I shall then obtain full information for him from the Minister for Territories.
– I address to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior a question concerning the names of buildings in Canberra that are occupied by the Public Service. By way of preface, I mention that the building which houses the Department of External Affairs is called West Block and that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the Prime Minister’s Department are housed in a building known as East Block. The latest addition to Canberra’s administrative buildings is being referred to, I understand, as the Administrative Building. I think it is quite logical that one building should be called East Block, another West Block, and the third one the Administrative Building. In a sense, they are all administrative buildings, but I suggest that none of these names is quite appropriate for a national capital.
Will the Minister submit to the National Capital Development Commission the question of adopting more appropriate names for Canberra’s administrative buildings?
– The honorable senator’s question is an important one. 1 am aware that the building occupied by the Prime Minister’s Department and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is known as East Block and that the Department of External Affairs is housed in West Block. I am not suggesting that it is a case of “ East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet “. If the honorable senator places his question on the noticepaper, I shall refer it to the Minister for the Interior.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral seen a statement in this morning’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “ to the effect that the Constitution Review Committee has made a certain unanimous recommendation regarding the relationships between the House of Representatives and the Senate? Is not the printing of such a statement in relation to a committee of Parliament, whether true or false, a breach of privilege? Will the Attorney-General confirm the fact that no recommendation on the subject, unanimous or otherwise, has been made by the committee?
– I have not read the report referred to by the honorable senator, but I have no hesitation in giving the Senate an assurance that no decision to make such a recommendation has been arrived at, and that the press report is entirely speculative and unauthorized.
– Will the Leader of the Government, when income tax concessions in the forthcoming Budget are being discussed, bring to the notice of the Cabinet the claims of part-time students at universities and technical colleges, whose fees and travelling expenses are not allowable deductions?
– I shall be happy to pass the honorable senator’s request to the Treasurer, but I remind him that he, too, has a direct approach to the Treasurer in this matter.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Army say what steps, if any, are being taken by his department to find out why fed-up men are leaving the Army? Has he seen the reported statement by Colonel Mackay that the private soldier must be recompensed on a par with his civilian counterpart? Does he consider that inadequate pay is the only reason why young men are leaving the Army? Is he also aware that, for the most part, university students who attend for national service are bored stiff with the training that is given them? As it is from this group that we must expect to draw some of our officers, will the Minister see whether something can be done to hold the interest of these students during their training?
– The question covers a wide field. Yesterday, in answer to a similar question, I expressed some doubts as to the accuracy of Colonel Mackay’s alleged statement, as it applied to recruiting. Accordingly, I was very pleased indeed to see in this morning’s press that my colleague, the Minister for the Army, had also challenged its accuracy. The stage has now been reached at which Colonel Mackay himself denies that the report is accurate. Against that background it is rather difficult to answer the honorable senator’s question. However, I would put this view to her: The Army is the Army. There are many people who ought to join the Army, but do not. There are lots of people who go into the Army and come out of it full of complaints. As one who spent a number of his early years in the Army, I say that it would be a rattling good thing for every young Australian to put in at least a bit of time in the Army.
– Has the attention of the Minister for National Development been directed to a statement that a third British shipbuilding group has announced plans to design and build nuclear-powered merchant ships in collaboration with the Nuclear Power Plant Company Limited of London? As the head of the Nuclear Power Plant Company, Sir Claude Gibb, is an Australian, I ask the Minister: What action is being taken to keep Australia in touch with all overseas developments in the use of nuclear power?
-I think that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission is pretty effective in maintaining liaison with scientists overseas, and keeping abreast of advances in scientific knowledge. However, I think it would be premature for us in Australia to be thinking of building atomicpowered ships in the foreseeable future. I understand, no doubt imperfectly, that the use of atomic power for naval vessels is still very much in the experimental or research stage, although I am told that atomic-powered submarines have provedto be very effective indeed. I am told also that they are very costly.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. Yesterday I stated that Colonel Mackay had referred to the numbers of people in the Army. His reference was to members of the Regular Army, not to national service trainees or to members of any other branch of the Army. Colonel Mackay claimed that although the authorized strength of the Australian Regular Army is 26,000, the present strength is 20,800, and that of those 20,800 people, fewer than 8,000 are privates, 8,000 are non-commissioned officers and more than 4,000 are commissioned officers. Those figures indicate that for every ten persons in the Army, four are privates and six are non-commissioned officers or commissioned officers. Colonel Mackay, who holds the important post of Army personnel administration director, should be acquainted with the figures. The Minister for the Army is reported in the press this morning as having said that the colonel’s figures were not quite accurate. That statement does not justify the answer given by his colleague here this morning. Will the Minister ascertain the exact numbers in the Regular Army and let the Senate know?
– There is no secrecy about the exact numbers in the Regular Army.If my recollection serves me correctly, on the occasion of the last Budget debate, and also on the occasion of a debate on defence, the Minister for Defence circulated, for the information of both Houses, a statement showing the actual numbers of people on the strengths of the various branches of the armed forces. Those figures are on record. I do not know what else the honorable senator wants. It seems to me that, instead of asking a question, he embarked on a dissertation or a statement. The facts are that this is a regular army operating under peace-time conditions and a very substantial part of its functions as a regular army is to provide the establishment, or portion of the establishment, for the militia forces and for the national service training scheme. In those circumstances, where we want skilled, experienced members of the profession of arms, we have a greater proportion of experienced noncommissioned officers and officers than we would if it were a regular army in wartime.
– My question to the Minister for National Development relates to the matter of the construction of atomic reactors for the production of power in the States and, in particular, in my own State of Western Australia. By way of preface to this question, I refer to the fact that the Minister has on more than one occasion pointed out that whilst the Commonwealth Government had seen fit to establish the first reactor at Lucas Heights, this is in the nature of an experimental project, and that the responsibility for the establishment of the reactors for power is a matter for the States themselves. My question is: Has the Western Australian Government been in touch with the Australian Atomic Energy Commission or with the Department of National Development in regard to the construction and establishment of an atomic reactor in Western Australia? If it has not been in touch with the Minister, will he be good enough to ensure that the Western Australian Government is advised in very clear terms where its responsibility lies in regard to the establishment of such projects, because the feeling is now growing in my State that it is high time something was done about the preliminary planning for the erection of a reactor, particularly in the gold-fields area?
– On this matter of the coming of atomic power into Australia. I think we need to hold fast to two things.” The first is that Lucas Heights is not a power station. It is a research tool for the use of scientists, to enable Australia to be up to date and to make its contribution to the development of atomic power. The second is that the provision of atomic power will occur as the result of its economic advantages. Atomic power will come about when the stage is reached at which atomic power is economical by contrast with other means of providing power. That means that the electricity authority in each State will have the responsibility of making those decisions. It is to those electricity authorities that the problem is posed, and I am sure that they are aware that the purpose of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and the research establishment at Lucas Heights, amongst other things, is to give the electricity authorities any advice and assistance for which they may ask.
– I address another question to the Minister for National Development. It relates to the current move by this Government to provide funds for the development of the Kimberleys region of Western Australia. I understand that one of the priority projects in connexion with the development of that area, and for which Commonwealth funds are likely to be used, is the construction of a modern, deep water port at Black Rocks, near Derby. Will the Minister ensure that, when the planning of this port is being undertaken and the provision of funds is being considered by the Commonwealth Government, full consideration will be given to the importance of ensuring that the port will be adequate to meet all naval service requirements in the area, in view of the fact that there is no port that can take a naval ship between Darwin and Geraldton?
– The final decision as to what is done at Black Rocks rests, of course, with the Western Australian Government, but I shall ensure that the honorable senator’s suggestion receives consideration when the proposals in connexion with the port come before the Cabinet.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– I now supply the following answer: -
Motion (by Senator Henty) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Customs Tariff 1933-1957, as amended by the Customs Tariff 1958, and for purposes connected therewith.
Motion (by Senator Henty) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Customs Tariff (Primage Duties) 1934-1950, and for purposes connected therewith.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) agreed to -
That Government business take precedence of general business after 8 p.m. this sitting.
.- I move -
That regulation 1 of the Amendments of the Telegraph Regulations, as contained in Statutory Rules 1958, No. 13, and made under the Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1950, be disallowed.
– I second the motion.
– I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that when I gave notice of this motion, it was in terms which included references to regulations 1 and 2 in Statutory Rules 1958, No. 13. Regulation 2 referred to regulation 60. I did so because, on a very quick reference, it was not very obvious that regulation 60 did not have relevance to the matter I wish to raise. Through an abundance of caution, I therefore elected to include regulation 60 in the motion. On further consideration, it was obvious that regulation 60 did not have the necessary relevance, and for that reason I amended the notice of motion, confining it to regulation 1 of the Statutory Rules, and referring only to regulation 57.
As honorable senators know, the power of this and the other place to disallow regulations is an important and jealously guarded power. Provision for it is made in section 48 (4.) and in other places in the Acts Interpretation Act. Sub-section (4.) of section 48 reads -
If either House of Parliament passes a resolution (of which notice has been given at any time within fifteen sitting days after any regulations have been laid before that House) disallowing any of those regulations, the regulation so disallowed shall thereupon cease to have effect.
In the case in question, the regulations are embodied in Statutory Rules 1958, No. 13. They were made by the Governor-General on 11th March, 1958. Notice of their making was published in the “ Gazette “ on 20th March, 1958. They were tabled in the Senate on 25th March, 1958, within the requisite period of fifteen days, and notice of disallowance also was given within the requisite period. Therefore, it is now within the competence of this body to disallow the regulation.
I point out, though, that while section 48 (6.) of the Acts Interpretation Act provides specifically that where a regulation is disallowed, or is deemed to have been disallowed under that section, the disallowance of the regulation shall have the same effect as a repeal of the regulation, my advice is that the disallowance of this regulation would not, by that fact, reinstate regulation 57 which it purports to replace. A blank would be left in the regulation and it would be necessary, therefore, for the Government to re-regulate in such terms as it may chose, no doubt operating in the light of the expressed opinion of this chamber in disallowing the regulation now before us and rejecting the principle it contains.
– In that case there will be no machinery to cover operations in the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– I understand that will be the position until a new regulation is promulgated.
– Does the honorable senator realize the repercussions of such a position?
– The situation would require immediate remedial action which could be taken, probably, within hours. In those circumstances I cannot see that any great dislocation or administrative problem will arise. The history of regulation 57 - honorable senators have been circulated with a copy of the proposed new regulation and the original regulation which is being replaced - is that prior to 1946 a charge was made for the retransmission of telegrams which were lodged at a telegraph office and transmitted from office A to office B, and then, because the addressee had changed his address, were retransmitted from office B to office C. In 1946, regulation 57 was promulgated, and retransmissions were made free of charge. The effect of the regulation now before us for consideration is to re-impose the charge that was imposed prior to 1946 but abandoned in that year. I make the point that the proposed regulation will not apply to telegrams retransmitted outside Australia, or telegrams lodged for transmission outside Australia.
In substance, the effect of the proposed regulation is that the retransmission of telegrams within Australia from the original .address of the addressee or his representative, or made by the department on its own initiative, the fact of a change of address having come to the department’s official notice, shall be subject to a fee which shall be the fee normally charged for transmitting a telegram from the second to the third telegraph office. Further, additional words indicating that the telegram has been retransmitted from telegraph office B to office C, which of necessity are inserted, are now subject to a fee, which shall be the fee normally charged for transmitting a telegram in ordinary circumstances from office B to office C. In addition, the charges prescribed for retransmission shall be paid before delivery of the telegram.
Honorable senators know that when regulations are circulated, explanatory memorandums are kindly and aptly supplied by the department concerned so that we may appreciate readily and easily the significance of the regulation. In accordance with that practice, an explanatory statement was circulated in this instance. I propose to base my submissions to the Senate substantially on the points made, and reasons given for the proposed regulation, in that explanatory memorandum.
In one part, the memorandum refers to the retransmission service as a concession. I cannot conceive that an arrangement of this kind is in any sense a concession. My objection to the regulation propounded is that it arises from a misconception of the functions of the Post Office. As a great public utility the main function of the Post Office is to provide service, and if a service somewhat beyond what would normally be contemplated is provided, I cannot see that such service should be regarded as a concession. After all, if a postal article is sent from point A to point B and the addressee is not at point B, the article is re-directed from point B to point C without further cost to the person who originally despatched the article. That is a valid principle of service in terms of my conception of the functions of the Post Office. I do not regard the retransmission of such an article without charge as in any sense a concession. It is merely a liberal interpretation of the word “ service “ as I conceive it to be appropriately applied to the Postmaster-General’s Department in the operations it conducts in the public interest.
I join issue, therefore, with the department in regard to the reference contained in the explanatory memorandum to the retransmission of telegrams as a concession. Such service is within the province of the department and, at the most, may be regarded as an extension - a worth-while and valuable extension - of the services provided.
– Does the honorable senator know the amount of money involved in providing that service?
– I think the honorable senator is anticipating the point that logically should be made. While I say that the Post Office is a service instrumentality, no person, unless he were cloaked with some sort of garb of complete irresponsibility, would say that lack of interest and disregard for the costs involved should obscure the aspect of service with which I have dealt. No matter how valuable and how necessary it may be, service must always be related to the overall cost and burden of such charges on the community except, perhaps, in defence matters. Even in that case, cost must be considered.
If the matter is viewed from that aspect, it is appropriate that we should look at the financial operations of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for this year to see exactly how the department has operated. Incidentally, such information is now public property. In making any reference to statistics or data, I refer to the information contained in the “ Financial and Statistical Bulletin for the year ended 30th June, 1 957 “, which was published recently by the department as an accompanying informative document to its annual report. We note from Table 3 that whilst the postal branch incurred a loss of £1,500,000, such loss was a reduction on the loss sustained in the previous year of £2,400,000 - a substantial financial improvement. The telephone branch made a profit of £5,200,000 for the relevant year as compared with £3,100,000 the previous year. The telegraph branch, which is the branch involved in my motion, suffered a substantial loss of £637,000 in round figures. That loss, however, is a substantial reduction on the loss incurred in the previous year of £1,200,000. In other words, the loss has been halved. In the overall trading of the Post Office, a profit of £3,100,000 was earned.
I cannot see that any branch of the Post Office can be completely dissociated from the others. Honorable senators will notice in the statistical trends with which I may deal later that, although there was a falling- off in telegraph revenue, there has been an increase in telephone facilities. It would, therefore, be unreal to point to a loss in one branch and say that each branch should be self-sustaining when, by the nature of the development of the demands on such a public utility, the loss in one branch will be more than offset by the increased payments made to the other.
Commenting on what Senator Vincent had in mind, I say that whilst the accent must be on service, it cannot be unrelated to the economics of the situation. Looking at the position of the Postal Department in this context, it will be seen that the finances of the department were in an extremely healthy condition for this trading year. The overall financial position must be considered rather than the loss incurred by any particular branch although that branch is affected by the terms of the regulation under review.
asked the amount involved. To answer his question, I rely again on the explanatory memorandum circulated by the Postmaster-General. It reads -
The loss in revenue on the basis of the usual rates for telegrams is in the order of £20,000 yearly.
In any one’s computation, an estimated loss of £20,000, regarded against the tremendous throughput of the Post Office in all its fields is infinitesimal.
– Does that relate to telegrams only and not to the retransmission of telegrams?
– It relates to retransmission. I had better read the whole paragraph. It is as follows: -
The position has changed greatly since 1946 and a large number of redirected telegrams are now being dealt with. The loss in revenue on the basis of the usual rates for telegrams is in the order of £20,000 yearly.
I may query the basis of computation of that figure, but accepting it at this stage as being substantially accurate, against the overall financial position of the Post Office and the work that it does, £20,000 cannot be regarded in any sense as being substantial. Even to any one who might have a hypersensitive attitude to the losses of public utilities, that loss could not be regarded as being of a major character. I put that point firmly before the Senate.
If we try to relate this loss of £20,000 to other figures contained in the report of the operations of the Post Office, we note that it represents .3 per cent, of the acknowledged loss of £637,000 incurred by the telegraph branch for the trading year ended in June, 1957, and .005 per cent, of the revenue received from internal telegrams in the same trading period.
– But is the loss not £20,000?
– Of course it is £20,000; but the thesis I am submitting is that, where we are dealing with a public utility that has to provide a service, economic considerations cannot be the sole governing principle. If the acknowledged loss of the Post Office was substantial, I would be the last to submit the motion that I have submitted. Having some regard to service and a considerable regard to the very minor loss that is set out as related to overall trading, on the balance of advantages the Post Office should be able to absorb this comparatively small and even negligible loss, the basis of which I challenge in any case as not accurately representing the situation. I repeat that this sum of £20,000 represents only .3 per cent, of the acknowledged loss of this department, an infinitesimal portion of the total revenue of the Post Office, and only 005 per cent, of the revenue that has been derived from internal telegrams.
– Does the honorable senator agree that these departments might be undertaking much more important improvements on which a profit will be realized?
– There might be something in that suggestion; but I do not know that the Post Office is doing a very good thing when it decides to save, on its computation. £20,000 in this direction. Surely, if the Post Office wants to recoup losses, there are many more substantial ways of recouping even greater losses than £20,000 than by depriving the public of a legitimate service that is within its ambit and responsibility.
I query the basis of computation of the £20,000. I do not know whether the Post Office is entitled to say, “ We have computed this on the basis of lost revenue - that is, on the basis of retransmission from B to C at the ordinary rate for telegraphic transmission “. When all is said and done, an original telegram sent from A to B would involve the costs attendant upon reception and franking, transmission, and delivery. As far as I can see, in the case of a retransmitted telegram there would be no reception of it and none of the clerical costs that are attendant upon reception and franking. Of course, there would still be transmission and delivery; in addition, the Post Office adds words which are charged for.
– Has the honorable senator any reason to suppose that the Post Office, in arriving at its estimate, did not take those matters into account?
– I am just saying that it has estimated the sum of £20,000 on the basis of the usual rates for telegrams. The usual rate for a telegram would contemplate all those things. If I lodge a telegram which costs 4s. 6d., that sum of 4s. 6d. undoubtedly covers reception, transmission and delivery. I acknowledge the validity of the honorable senator’s interjection. However, in the case of retransmitted telegrams, all those elements which go to computing cost would not be involved.
The Postmaster-General’s memorandum further states -
During a recent typical week a total of 2,230 retransmitted telegrams were handled free by the department. . . .
I assume that the expression “ typical week” means an average week. I cannot see, on my computation, how that figure can be accurate. If the expression “ typical week “ is to be regarded as meaning an average week, approximately 115,960 retransmitted telegrams would be despatched each year at a cost of, on the basis of the Post Office’s calculation, £20,000. On my calculation, which I trust is accurate, the cost for each retransmitted telegram, at the ordinary telegraphic rate, would be 3s. 5d. I understand that the present minimum rate is 3s. per telegram and 3d. for each additional word. The rate for urgent telegrams is 6s. and 6d. for each additional word.
As far as I have been able to compute the figures, the average cost of the 19,651,000 internal telegrams, excluding meteorological and similar telegrams, that are despatched annually at a cost of £4,.l’03,000 would be 4s. 2d. If, as I have computed, the average cost of retransmitted telegrams is 3s. 5d. and the national average is in the vicinity of 4s. 2d., I feel that I am entitled to conclude that the despatch of 2,230 retransmitted telegrams may not represent, as has been claimed, a typical week and that the chances are that the number of telegrams that are lodged for retransmission would be considerably less. As a matter of fact, if one bases his calculation on an average rate of 4s. 2d. per telegram, the number lodged over the year would be in the vicinity of only 90,000. 1 trust that my computations are correct. If they are correct, the memorandum accompanying the regulation does not disclose the position as fully as it might and as fully as it should in order to inform honorable senators about such an important matter.
Now T come to the important part of the memorandum, which is the basis of the action proposed by the Government, lt read’s -
The concession is also being exploited by some sections of the community. . . .
I do not think any honorable senator would willingly stand by and see the facilities of a great public service exploited, possibly with a great deal of shrewdness and cunning, by individual sections of the community to such a point that an executive has to step in and deprive ordinary citizens of a service that is freely given while those who have been exploiting it merely become disentitled. I know the Government is faced with a difficult situation, and it has my sympathy in trying to follow a certain course of action. I have discussed the matter with the Postmaster-General and he has indicated certain things to me. Prior to the commencement of the debate, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), who represents the Postmaster-General in this chamber, was kind enough to inform me that T might mention to the Senate what I had been told by the Postmaster-General. Up to that point, I had regarded the information as being confidential between the Minister and myself.
– If the Government were to relent on this occasion, would the honorable senator be prepared to move that the existing provision be re-established in case the Post Office suffered a loss next year?
– I leave it to the good sense of the Government to act in pursuance of any viewpoint that is expressed or any motion that is adopted in this chamber. I shall proceed with my analysis of the figures. Retransmitted telegrams number 115,000, or Only .006 per cent, of the total traffic. We are dealing in minutia - with an infinitesimal proportion of the whole. If that proportion were substantial either as to volume or cost the Senate would undoubtedly say that the existing regulation must go, and that now before us should replace it. However, I repeat, when we are dealing with a public service we may well take into account the fact that the cost involved is only comparatively slight. The memorandum goes on -
The position has greatly changed since 1946 and a large number of re-directed telegrams are now being dealt with.
There has been a fall in the telegraphic traffic over the years. In 1946 there were 32,000,000 paid telegrams. By 1957 the figure had dropped to 20,000,000.
– They became too expensive.
– That may be so. Also, there has been increased use of the telephone. It is extraordinary that, during a period in which the use of the telegram has dropped by 33i per cent., the use of this special service has - according to the inference contained in the Minister’s memorandum - increased. The memorandum does not state this in exact terms, but describes the traffic as “ large “. I should be extremely surprised, if the figures were available, to find that the number of retransmitted telegrams last year was infinitely smaller than it was in 1946. I cannot understand why, in view of the overall financial position of the Commonwealth, an opportunity should now be taken to deprive many members of the public of a worth-while service on which they have come, in all good faith, to place reliance.
I do not wish to protract the debate unduly and I refer now to what the Minister for Repatriation, with his customary courtesy, was good enough to agree to my discussing here. Apparently it is felt necessary to cure unfair exploitation by a section of the community. I, too, would find such a situation intolerable, and feel that it called for some action. It is considered that any charge for retransmitted telegrams should be of general application. It is proposed to exempt from the charge legitimately retransmitted telegrams which cannot be regarded as attempting exploitation. The Government proposes to allow telegraph officers to use their discretion as to which telegrams shall be retransmitted free of charge. I have no doubt that that is an honest attempt to meet a difficult situation. If that emerges as the outcome of my motion, and of my drawing attention to the circumstances surrounding this regulation, I shall have had a measure of success and a great deal of pleasure. On the other hand, I cannot conceive it as being a sound principle. After all, the charge is to be imposed generally, and individual officers are to be asked, on such evidence as they might have in their possession at the time of reception, to decide whether to remit the charge which they might otherwise impose. I do not know whether, administratively, it could succeed. I am sure that if any one wanted to circumvent it that would be very easy to accomplish. It would merely be necessary periodically to change the transmission point, so that an obvious scheme of things would not be obvious to the telegraph officer. Secondly, I do not know whether it is fair to ask postal officers to exercise a discretion of this kind. One can imagine many circumstances in which Brown might complain that he had been required to pay for the retransmission of a telegram though Smith had not. It might be very difficult for an officer to put up a valid case for remitting the charge in one instance and not in another.
– It is almost a kind of censorship.
– That is true. While the principle might spring from the very best motives on the part of the Government, I cannot conceive it as one that the Senate ought to approve. Any charge should be imposed generally, or dispensed with generally. 1 do not know whether the idea of allowing individual postal officers to remit a charge would work in principle.
– Is it not better to give officers some responsibility, instead of regarding them as automatons?
– That is so, and competent officers are certainly not automatons. But this is a major responsibility to place upon a rather humble telegraph officer.
– Surely it would be placed on the postmaster.
– Nevertheless, it is a very discriminatory power, which should be placed in other hands. Postal officers should certainly not be expected to face the complaints which might follow their decisions.
– A postal officer should not have a discretion in a matter affecting the postal revenue.
– That is so. I propose to deal in another context with the importance of this kind of regulation. The Minis”ter indicated that officers asked to exercise this discretion would be sent a most comprehensive administrative instruction, no doubt setting out the procedures and principles which they should follow. Notwithstanding this evidence of good faith on the part of the Government, I doubt whether the idea would work in practice, or be fair to the officers concerned. As Senator McManus has pointed out, it is hardly fair to allow dispensations from Commonwealth charges to be made by individual officers who might subsequently have to face all kinds of criticism.
To sum up, although the concession may have been taken advantage of by certain persons, it should not be withdrawn. Moreover, I believe that the Minister should freely inform the Senate of the manner of exploitation and, within the bounds of secrecy imposed by the Post and Telegraph Act both in law and in honour, tell us just who is taking advantage of the concession. I say that it is really a service rather than a concession. Strangely enough, this has been the most profitable year for the postal department since 1946, the year in which the original regulation was promulgated. This seems to be a most inappropriate time to save the amount involved - the computation of which I query - by removing a measure of public service which is a great consolation to many in the community who have itinerant husbands, moving from one job to another, and who rely on the Post Office to help communicate with them urgently.
– Did the honorable senator say “ errant husbands “?
– I refer only to itinerant husbands. How often do we hear the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the commercial radio stations transmitting urgent messages without charge? That is the kind of service of which some people are now to be deprived. I have cast some doubts on the suggestion that the recitals in the memorandum set out the position completely. I feel that they are not sufficiently explicit to enable the department to arrive at this decision, or enable the Senate to decide what will flow from the application of this regulation. If there has been an abuse, I do not think, in view of the amount involved, that the correct procedure is to deprive everybody of this service. If the cost of the service were very great, I would say, perhaps, that we should have to abandon it and the innocent would have to suffer with the guilty, but as the cost is small I would prefer to see a public service maintained and some attempt made to restrain people from taking undue advantage of it. Let us preserve at all times a service provided for humble people who have come to rely on it.
For the reasons I have given, I submit this motion for the consideration of the Senate. The disallowance of regulations is one of the jealously guarded privileges of the Senate. I trust that the debate will interest honorable senators and that ultimately the motion will receive the support of the Senate. I trust then that the Executive will take notice of the resolution we have carried and that it will re-regulate - if necessary, in the terms of the standing regulation - to restore to the people of Australia, in this year of buoyant post office revenue, a service which they have enjoyed since 1946 and of which they should not be deprived.
– I obtrude upon the Senate a few brief observations only because this procedure to disallow a regulation is a jealously guarded prerogative of the Senate and because 1 am a member of a committee which has an earnest interest in the preservation of the right of this chamber to supervise subordinate legislation. I appreciate the interest of Senator Byrne in a subject like this, firstly, as an individual, and secondly, as an erstwhile fellow member of our committee - from which he resigned of his own accord when certain political events occurred which affected him individually. I think he has done the Senate a service in causing it to give detailed consideration to a regulation to which he thinks there is a justifiable objection.
Having said that, let me go on to say that I disagree with the decision which Senator Byrne asks us to make. I think that in this case the regulation should not be disallowed. I want to add a few words to explain why I, as a member of the committee, thought it not proper that this regulation should be presented to the Senate as one which should be disallowed. With the concurrence of honorable senators, I incorporate in “ Hansard “ the memorandum submitted by the Postmaster-General’s Department to members of the committee in explanation of the regulation. It is as follows: -
Amendments of the Telegraph Regulations.
Approval was given in 1946 for telegrams to be re-directed and re-transmitted free of charge from one office to another within Australia, it being considered, in view of the limited number of redirected telegrams handled, that the small loss in revenue would be more than offset by the goodwill created. Previously, the normal telegraph rates were charged for the re-transmission of a telegram and the cost of the message was collected from the addressee at the time of delivery.
The position has changed greatly since 1946 and a large number of re-directed telegrams are now being dealt with. The loss in revenue, on the basis of the usual rates for telegrams, is in the order of £20,000 yearly.
The concession is also being exploited by some sections of the community to such an extent that, ir. some States, the department is providing a service quite outside the scope originally intended. During a recent typical week a total of 2,230 re-transmitted telegrams were handled free by the department and not only is the department being called upon to handle the additional traffic but, through rising costs, to bear an ever-increasing financial burden.
In the circumstances, it is necessary that Telegraph Regulation 57 should be amended to re-introduce a re-transmission charge at the normal telegraph rates in those cases where telegrams arc re-directed from one office to another for delivery particularly as the reason advanced in 1946 for abolishing the charge does not now apply. The practice of charging for the re-transmission of telegrams is followed in the United Kingdom, United States of America and New Zealand while the International Telegraph Regulations make provision for the charging of the normal international tariff for any telegram re-transmitted from one country to another.
Provision has been made also to amend Telegraph Regulation 63 to provide for the acceptance of television telegrams at press rates under the same general conditions as those which have applied for many years to press and broadcasting telegrams. 1 express my indebtedness to the PostmasterGeneral for that balanced and reasonable statement of the reasons for this regulation, and I applaud the business acumen and recognition of public service that is evident in this branch of the post office. Having ascertained that there was a leakage of public revenue, and having attributed that to some abuse, the department took corrective action to stop the leak. I am one of those who would concern myself with a leakage even of £500, from the point of view of husbanding the public revenue. I would do that, not in the hope that we could open up another avenue of revenue, but in the hope that we could reduce wastage and so leave more money available to the people for them to spend on the things they need.
I see in this regulation a determination to prescribe reasonable charges for retransmitted telegrams. That is a matter that comes properly within the province of the judgment of an administrator. The position of a business manager in the post office would be untenable if we thought flr to reverse his decision to introduce a procedure to prevent a leakage in his department. That is why I think the regulation is proper. This is certainly a charge for a service, but it is not in any sense the imposition of a tax.
The regulation obviously was not drafted perfunctorily, without attention to detail. It goes into the various circumstances. It is a genuine attempt to distribute and adjust costs, according to the circumstances of the retransmission. To my way of thinking, this is an example of a proper regulation made by an administrator, prudent and earnest in the discharge of his duties.
I wish to add only that the committee which the Senate has set up for the supervision of regulations concerns itself only with whether regulations are in accordance with the statute authorizing them; whether they unduly trespass on personal rights and liberties; whether they unduly make the rights and liberties of citizens dependent upon administrative, not judicial, decision; and whether they are concerned with administrative detail or amount to substantive legislation which should be introduced by parliamentary enactment. I do not understand Senator Byrne to suggest that in any of his arguments against this regulation he invokes any of those principles. I think I have the concurrence of the members of the committee in saying that that is why the committee did not think it proper, within the scope of its authority and the criteria that govern it, to submit this regulation for the consideration of the Senate.
– Before you sit down, 1 should like you to canvass a suggestion that I think will come from the Government - namely, that individual officers might dispense in individual cases with the imposition of the retransmission charge. I think that is of some importance in relation to power entrusted to minor officers.
– It is a power entrusted to minor officers in particular cases. I think the position is the same as that where a business manager exercises his discretion to charge 7s. 6d. to mend a pair of boots instead of 5s.
– I agree with Senator Wright’s statement of the reasons why the Regulations and Ordinances Committee did not feel disposed to move on this regulation. Although that has nothing to do with the motion before the Senate, it sets out the position of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee - the functions of which are very often misunderstood. As a member of that committee, I uphold that view. However, I wish to support the disallowance of this regulation because the four principles that have been mentioned govern the actions of the committee, and do not apply to individual senators. Therefore, if an individual senator thinks that the charge should not be imposed on the community, it is his duty to stand up and say so, as Senator Byrne has done.
I support the motion submitted by Senator Byrne for the disallowance of this regulation. I think it is a retrograde step when the Postmaster-General’s Department reintroduces a regulation which was outmoded in 1946. The question of the £20,000 loss of revenue has been mentioned. . 1 emphasize the words “ loss of revenue “, because loss of revenue is not cost. I do not want honorable senators to think that it is costing the telegraph section of the Postal Department £20,000 a year to render this service. It is not. There has been a loss of revenue following a reduction of the number of telegrams lodged. If the provisions regarding fees are to be tightened up, there will be still fewer telegrams to be transmitted. As to the cost, this reminds me somewhat of a man travelling from here to Sydney in his motor car. If he takes a paying passenger with him it does not cost him anything at all, because the petrol and wear and tear are paid for.
– It would depend on the weight of the person.
– A heavy person would naturally increase the wear and tear on the motor car - not 100 per cent., but merely by a small proportion. There is a large amount of expensive machinery in the telegram rooms of Australia and a highly skilled staff handling it. It costs no more to put the machinery into action, and a fair amount of otherwise idle time is utilized. Somebody has to work a little harder and the flow of traffic is increased. In other words, a certain amount of cost is incurred before a telegram is lodged.
The explanatory memorandum could have been more explicit. For instance, it states that this charge is imposed in the United Kingdom, America and New Zealand, and it goes on to say that there is provision for a similar charge to he imposed in relation to the retransmission of international telegrams. As far as I can remember, those countries were making that charge prior to 1946, and are still imposing it. So that argument - the application of that yardstick - falls to the ground. Those countries were making the charge in 1946, and they have not retreated from that position. The retransmission charge in relation to international telegrams was abolished by Australia in 1946. But the question of international telegrams is hardly germane to the issue before us because they represent only 5.55 per cent, of the total number of telegrams lodged. The retransmission of a telegram from England to Argentina, the original telegram having been lodged in Australia, is vastly different from retransmitting a telegram from Goulburn to Canberra. I think that set of circumstances is not in the arena of discussion.
This question of exploitation is one which I find a little hard to follow. No examples have been given. The only one I can imagine is this: Let us say that a business person in Perth continually receives a lot of telegrams from certain welldefined areas in Australia. If he decided to visit Bunbury for six weeks’ holiday, but omitted to advise the telegraph office, many telegrams a day would have to be retransmitted to him. The Minister may correct me if I am wrong, but I think that would be an exploitation of this service. The businessman could have notified the firms in other States that for the next six weeks he would be in Bunbury. I can see difficulties from a business point of view. If he was getting telegrams from multitudes of people, there would not be much he could do about it.
Rather than impose this charge on every person in Australia, would it not be an opportunity for a little bit of salesmanship on the part of the telegraph branch itself? After all, the branch employs publicity officers. Reverting to my example, could not an appropriate officer approach the businessman and say, “ If you give us authority to tell the people in Brisbane from whom you receive telegrams that you will be at Bunbury for the next five or six weeks, we will notify them. Should you come back to Perth, that is a normal thing that we cannot avoid and we will cancel the order. We will assist you to assist us in this regard “? I think that would be a proper business approach and it would create goodwill for the Postal Department. It would be better than the proposed peremptory action by the department.
The position in 1946 regarding costs was vastly different from the position to-day. In 1946, the charge for an ordinary telegram was ls. for fourteen words and Id. for every additional word. So that when a charge for retransmission was made in those days, not nearly the present cost was involved. It is amusing to hear it said that when a telegram is retransmitted the cost inflates, because when a telegram is retransmitted, say, from Perth, the three words “ retransmitted from Perth “ are charged for, “ collect “ is put on the telegram, and that is charged for as well. So it is appreciating as it goes along.
Let us look at the telegram charges to-day. This Government has cut the number of words back to twelve, which does not leave many words for the body of the telegram after taking out the address and signature. The charge has increased from fourteen words for ls. plus Id. for each additional word, to twelve words for 3s. plus 3d. for each additional word. The only increase of charge imposed by the Labour government was an additional 6d. in relation to the first fourteen words.
It is not cheap to send telegrams to-day. Whenever I push a telegram across the counter and ask the clerk what it is going to cost, I imagine when he replies that he is trying to give me the latest Bradman or Lindrum score. It is not peanuts to-day. The present proposal will cause a lot of ill will if it is proceeded with, because it will cut across the principle laid down in all other forms of the Postal Department’s activities. A letter which goes to a place and has to be re-directed is carried free of charge. If you are trying to contact a person by means of a person-to-person telephone call, and the operator says that he is not at such-and-such a place but is elsewhere, you are switched through without additional charge. The Postal Department has extended every consideration in these directions, and I think that that is the way it should remain. One of the greatest improvements that have been made in the last few years has been the installation of the carrier wave system. By this means, one may pick up a phone on one side of Australia and get connexion almost immediately to his people on the other side of the Nullabor Plain. I notice that Senator Tangney is wincing, and I know what she is thinking. Nevertheless, the carrier wave conveys clear speech and permits of the almost immediate connexion. Let us consider the unfairness of this position. Take, for instance, the case of a person in Wyndham who sends a telegram to another person in Cooktown. The telegram is first transmitted to Perth, then to Sydney, then to Brisbane, and from there to Cooktown, where it is finally delivered. That means that the telegram has to be dealt with five times between Wyndham and Cooktown. Now let us take the case of a person in Perth who sends a telegram to a person in Northam, about 80 miles away. Suppose that, when the telegram reaches
Northam, the person to whom it is addressed has gone to Merredin, another 40 miles away. Although that telegram will travel a distance of only 120 miles in all, the department will collect double charges in respect of it; but in the case of a telegram which travels practically all the way round Australia, from Wyndham to Cooktown, only the one charge is made.
The retransmission charge was abolished in 1946 because it was realized that it was unfair that the charge should be imposed on telegrams delivered to a person who had moved a few miles from his previous address, whilst it did not apply to persons who were sending telegrams from one end of Australia to the other, using multitelegrams and getting all the other benefits of the service provided.
I am happy to oppose the regulation for another reason. It seems to me that it is further evidence of the inclination of the Postmaster-General’s Department to proclaim silly, annoying little regulations for the purpose of making a little money - for peanuts, as it were. I am sure that honorable senators have heard me speak about another aspect of this matter on previous occasions, because it is a thorn in my side. I refer to the charge that the department imposes in respect of new telephone installations, so-called. When one person vacates premises and another person moves in, if the telephone happens to be disconnected for a few minutes, a fee of £10 must be paid by the newcomer for taking over the line. I suggest that if the electricity people applied a similar rule, it would cause trouble. If Mr. Smith vacated his house and a lineman removed the fuse from the fuse box on the pole carrying the transmission line, there would be a great outcry from the new occupier of the house if he had to pay £10 to have the fuse re-inserted. There would be a general outcry against such a rule, because nearly everybody uses electricity. Virtually the same position applies in relation to telephone services, but there is no great outcry in that case because, as we know, there is not such a big demand for telephones.
The regulation under discussion is typical of some of the annoying regulations that have been put into operation during the last few years. We are continually encountering these pin-pricking regulations. We are prepared to pay a pretty high price for the services which the Postmaster-General’s Department provides, but I think all honorable senators will agree that these unfair charges give cause for annoyance. It is absurd to think that double charges should be imposed in the case of a person who sends a telegram in good faith to another person, thinking that he will be in his office when, in fact, he is away for the weekend. Such a telegram might have been sent merely to wish the person to whom it was sent many happy returns of the day. I thought that Senator Wright would be prepared to condemn annoying regulations of this kind. In this debate, he is completely out of character. Once again, the honorable senator disappoints me.
For the reasons that I have given, I want to see this regulation disallowed. This charge was found to be outmoded as far back as 1946. It is completely out of character with the kind of friendly service we might reasonably expect from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I sincerely trust that the Minister will see fit to withdraw the regulation. Anticipating Senator Byrne, I ask Senator Wright to comment on the amendment that has been suggested. I have not had much time to consider this matter, but I do not like the idea of discretionary power being given. Returning to my suggestion that salesmanship might be exercised, perhaps it would be possible to apply the regulation only to those who are abusing the services provided, rather than to all, including those who receive a telegram only every Guy Fawkes day.
Could not an appeal be made to the person who is taking a high-handed attitude in this respect, to co-operate with the department? Then, if he resolutely refused to co-operate, the regulation could be applied against him. But first let us have the proviso that he be given the opportunity to co-operate. Let us apply the charge only to the person who is mulcting the department of a certain amount of revenue. For goodness sake, do not let us go back to the pre-1946 position and continue an outmoded and annoying regulation which, even at that time, was causing ill will between the users of postal services and the department. Let us withdraw the regulation now and, perhaps, consider an amended version at some future time.
– I have listened with keen interest to the debate. I think we should be quite clear about what the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) is prepared to do. The regulation that it is proposed should be disallowed provides that the charges for retransmission shall be at the rates prescribed for telegrams from the telegraph office retransmitting the telegrams to the telegraph office to which the telegram is being transmitted. There has been a good deal of discussion in relation to this provision. The amended regulation which the Postmaster-General has put forward reads as follows: -
The charges for re-transmission shall be at the rates prescribed for telegrams from the telegraph office re-transmitting the telegram to the telegraph office to which the telegram is being retransmitted, provided that the department reserves the right to waive the charges for the re-transmission should it consider such action desirable in any particular case.
That proposal does away entirely, I think, with Senator Willesee’s contention that the regulation is outmoded, because the PostmasterGeneral intends to return to the meaning that was intended when the original regulation was proclaimed in 1946. A survey by the department in 1946 showed that only 500 telegrams a week were being retransmitted. The Postmaster-General, by his proposed amendment, is endeavouring to restore the purpose of the original regulation.
– To which amendment is the Minister referring?
– The amendment that? I< read,- which the Postmaster-General is now prepared to make.
– Further to the regulation?
– Who will make the decision - the girl in the post office?
– No. The PostmasterGeneral has informed me that no decision will be made by the office staff. The telegraph offices will receive from the department precise instructions as to the classes of telegrams which may be retransmitted free of charge. Senator Byrne thought that it would be difficult to say what telegrams should be so transmitted. One class of telegram that comes to my mind immediately is that relating to casualties. both civil and military. I should say they would be retransmitted free of charge. There must be others; I cannot mention them offhand; but undoubtedly the instruction given by the Postmaster-General wil! cover telegrams relating to casualties.
The original regulation was introduced at the instigation of Sir Earle Page, its main purpose being to help members of the forces who were being discharged, lt will be remembered that in 1946 a tremendous number of men were being discharged from the forces, and it was thought only fitting that they should not be required to pay fo: the re-direction of telegrams. It was of great benefit to those men.
Senator Byrne also said that the amount involved is only £20,000 at the present time. I agree with Senator Wright that it would not matter if the amount was £100,000, for the important principle is that part of that sum is money that should be paid to the Postal Department for the re-direction of telegrams which do not truly come within the categories the regulation was intended to cover originally. J point out that the sum involved has increased from £2,000 in the first year of operation of the regulation to £20,000. The present figure is ten times greater than the original one, and if the increase were to continue at the same rate for the next twelve years, the amount involved would be £212,000. Tn those circumstances I submit that it is far better to stop this practice before the amount involved reaches an enormously high figure.
Senator Willesee referred to the practice of some business firms. He pointed out that the manager of a firm - big or small - might go away, and, while he was away, his firm might find it necessary to re-direct a number of telegrams to him. If those telegrams related purely to the conduct of his business, their re-direction, surely, would be a legitimate business expense. The public should not be asked to bear that cost.
Let me give another illustration. As honorable senators know, wool firms have their buyers operating all over Australia. They might be attending sales at Sydney, Brisbane. Goulburn - if sales are still held there - Wagga or Melbourne. Cables relating to buying rates and so on may come from overseas. Naturally, it is essential that they be retransmitted to the buyer wherever he happens to be. This is undoubtedly an ordinary business transaction which is a legitimate charge against the firm. The Postal Department should not be expected to retransmit those messages free of charge. There must be many other instances in which the charge rightly should be borne by some one other than the Postal Department, but I mention those two to ‘illustrate my point. There is no doubt that this practice will grow at an increasing rate and, as it is not the type of business which the regulation was intended to cover originally, the Postal Department feels that the practice should be stopped while it is in its infancy. It has been truly said that the practice in the United Kingdom’, the United States of America, and New Zealand is to charge for all re-directed telegrams, irrespective of the matter to which they relate.
– But that is not a very good parallel because those countries do not charge for telephone installations, although we do.
– We are not dealing with telephones; we are dealing with telegrams now. The Postmaster-General has given a great deal of thought to this regulation. Further, he has endeavoured to meet all reasonable requests. I feel that he has gone as far as he possibly can go and, in any case, it would not be right that he, knowing that this practice is growing, should allow it to continue and do nothing to stop it. He has endeavoured to restore the benefit to those whom it was originally intended to cover.
– That is to say, he proposes a further amendment to the regulation?
– Yes. I am dealing now with the whole proposal. He is endeavouring to restore the benefit to those whom it was intended to cover when the regulation was first introduced in 1946.
– That means a further amendment of the regulation now before us. Regulation 57, which is now before us, does not do what the Minister now has in mind. He is taking a further step?
– He is taking a further step in an amendment which he proposes to introduce immediately.
I do not wish to take up any more of the Senate’s time. In view of the explanations which have been given emphasizing the necessity for this regulation, I urge the Senate to allow it. The Postmaster-General will then amend paragraph 3 of the regulation. As we have the Postmaster-General’s definiteassurance that the proposed amendment I have read to the Senate will be promulgated immediately, I ask the Senate not to disallow this regulation.
.- in reply - In the first place, I express my appreciation for the consideration that has been given to this matter following my action in placing the motion on the noticepaper. Obviously, it has persuaded the Government to take a desirable course of action. While the result may not meet all my wishes, we have gone some distance in the matter. The value of having this chamber scrutinize these matters is clearly demonstrated to-day.
The Minister has explained that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) is now returning the position to what was originally contemplated in 1946. It is obvious that that position would not have been restored if I had not raised the matter in this chamber. However, I do not feel that I am prepared to withdraw my motion at this stage. The Minister now contemplates a further amendment to regulation 57 to provide an instruction in the department to remit the imposition of charges in individual cases.
I propose to persist in my opposition to this regulation and to support my motion. When the new amended regulation comes before the Senate, I trust that it will be accompanied by a memorandum from the department indicating the class of telegram which is to be excluded from its operation.
– The regulation itself should specify the reason for waiving charges.
– I suppose it would, but the Minister said that the type of telegram that will not be included will be set out in a list of instructions to be issued to officers. Perhaps a copy of that list will be supplied with the amending regulation.
At this stage, I persist in my opposition to this regulation and shall await with interest the proposed amendment. I am glad that my action has succeeded in persuading the Government to correct this matter.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 872) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 12.50 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 7th May (vide page 864), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Just before I sought leave last night to continue my remarks at a later stage, I said that I had examined the Snowy Mountains scheme for myself, that I had listened to the second-reading speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), that I had conducted considerable research and that, unlike Senator Toohey, I did not expect the Minister or the Premier of South Australia to have to tell me which way I should vote - in other words, whether South Australia’s rights were protected.
I am fully aware of the importance of water to South Australia. Whereas I think that water from the river Murray is of importance to New South Wales and Victoria, I think it is vital to South Australia. Ninety per cent, of the water that is used in South Australia is reticulated, and 90 per cent, of that quantity comes from the Murray. For that reason, I felt I had a responsibility to examine every part of the Snowy Mountains Agreement and to ensure that every “ i “ was dotted and every “ t “ was crossed. I agree that the chances of South Australia being in any difficulty are remote. A period of restriction has not been declared since the River Murray Commission began operations in, I think, 1914. The chances of such a declaration are remote and they will be even more remote when the Snowy Mountains scheme is in full operation; but that is no reason why we should not be absolutely certain that nothing could go wrong and that, perhaps through an oversight of honorable senators, South Australia should not be the victim of not having its rights fully protected.
I said that I was grateful to the Minister for National Development for the amendment he has foreshadowed. It puts into words what I felt to be the case - that there was no fear of South Australia’s rights being affected by the Snowy Mountains Agreement. I also said last night that I thought Senator O’Flaherty was wrong when he assumed that South Australia would be sharing less water should there be a period of restriction in the period between the diversion of the Tooma and the bringing in of the Snowy waters. I propose to spend a few minutes in explaining why I think the honorable senator was wrong. Clause 10 (1.) of the Snowy Mountains Agreement provides -
The States agree that the quantity of water diverted from the Tooma River to the Adaminaby storage and to the Tumut River by the works of the Authority shall -
for the purposes of clause 45 of the River Murray Agreement be deemed to be water diverted by works of the States from a tributary of the River Murray above Albury and to have been so diverted as to one-half of that quantity by each of the States; and-
Not “ or “-
As Senator McKenna pointed out, the agreement is not easy to read; but, if it is read in conjunction with the River Murray Agreement, it becomes quite clear that Senator O’Flaherty’s assumption is wrong.
Clause 45 of the River Murray Agreement reads -
The flow of the River Murray at Albury including the natural or regulated flows of all tributaries of the River Murray above Albury as regulated by the Upper Murray Storage shall be shared equally by New South Wales and Victoria;-
Which is exactly what the Snowy Mountains Agreement provides - subject to deduction from either State’s share at Albury of such volumes as that State may by works divert from time to time from streams above Albury.
In other words, I think the Snowy Mountains Agreement brings the water to the commencement of this clause, which provides that the States shall share it equally subject to deduction of any quantity they may divert. Fromthere on, the River Murray Agreement follows automatically. The clause provides that a deduction must be made, and the River Murray Commission is the right organization to see that South Australia gets her share of water.
Clause 47 of the River Murray Agreement provides -
All rights under clauses forty-five and forty-six of this Agreement shall be subject to provision by each of the said States of New South Wales and Victoria from the flow of its tributaries or from the flow of the River Murray at Albury or both of its contribution towards the share hereby allotted to South Australia . . .
I said yesterday that we in South Australia felt there was just a possibility that we would fall between the two agreements. The River Murray Agreement provides that the States may divert their tributaries. What we in South Australia were concerned about was that, under the Snowy Mountains Agreement, the Commonwealth would be the diverting authority. So we asked for the River Murray Agreement to be amended to provide that the States or the Commonwealth could do the diversion. If that amendment was made, the rights of South Australia would be properly protected under that agreement to which it is a party.
The Minister told us yesterday that he had referred this and other matters to the River Murray Commission and that a report had been received from that body. South Australia has a representative on that commission; so, if the report of the commission is unanimous, obviously the South Australian representative must be satisfied that South Australia’s rights are protected.
The other provision in the River Murray Agreement about which we had some misgivings was clause 51, which provides for the allotment of water in time of drought. It provides, in effect, that the water in the river at Albury shall be divided in the proportions of 5:5:3. There was some doubt about whether water flowing from the Snowy into the Murray would be available for division in those proportions. I am convinced that that is a legal point under the River Murray Agreement and that it could be taken up at any time before the Snowy River came into the Murray, which might be in seven years’ time. I am quite satisfied that, should the Snowy never come in, the amendment which has been foreshadowed will cover any situation in which South Australia could otherwise be at a disadvantage.
Senator Toohey said that the Premier of South Australia had taken rather a long time to put forward his case. I think the Premier was quite right in assuming that South Australia’s rights would be protected. If the order of events that is set out in the preamble to the Snowy Mountains Agreement had been followed, I do not think there would have been any difficulty. It was stated that, first, the Eucumbene River should be dammed, secondly, that there should be a tunnel from the Eucumbene River to the Tumut, that there should be a dam on the Snowy River, that there should be a tunnel from the Snowy River to the river Murray, and, finally, that there should be a diversion to the Tumut River of the Tooma River. It was because that sequence of events was altered that the Premier of South Australia, I think rightly, began to wonder whether, until the Snowy River was brought into the Murray, South Australia could be in difficulty. I am sure that is why, as perhaps it has been thought, he was late in coming into the picture.
As I have said, I am quite satisfied that South Australia’s rights are being attended to and for that reason I am prepared to support the bill. I have before me a copy of an amendment which I understand Senator McKenna proposes to move. I donot see why any South Australian senator should be tempted by such an amendment, because, if we thought that the rights of South Australia were not being protected, we would not be prepared at the moment to support the bill. I certainly see no necessity to support any such amendment..
Undoubtedly South Australia will benefit greatly when the Snowy scheme is completed. A booklet which I have before me contains very interesting figures in regard: to the scheme. When the waters of the Snowy are brought into the Murray, an additional 722,000 acre feet of water will be available. There will be a deduction, from the Tooma River of about 280,000 acre feet which will result in a net gain in the flow of the Murray at Albury, to be shared in time of restriction, of 442,000 acre feet plus 356,000 acre feet attributableto regulation. No one can deny that South. Australia will gain as a result of the scheme-
– Only if the Snowy forms a part of the flow of the Murray.
– Even if it doesnot, additional water must result by way of regulation alone.
– South Australia will bewashed away if it is not careful!
– That brings me to another point. Senator Vincent asked how we could avoid getting this water. In time of flood we cannot - that is our misfortune - and in normal times we are not worried about it. It is the drought periodthat concerns us most. Droughts may be somewhat infrequent, but we must guard against what might happen when they do. come. As I said in speaking to the bill last night, we can develop our State only to the extent permitted by the water available in drought periods. It would be quite useless to develop on the basis of the normal water flow, because we would then be in difficulty during periods of restriction. I also referred to the national value of the electricity that will be generated, both for defence reasons - because the power stations are mostly underground - and because hydro-electricity is the most suitable for peak loads. The amount of fuel that must be dumped in the boilers of thermal stations at the last minute makes peak load production uneconomic in those circumstances.
South Australia is concerned most with the provision of additional water under the scheme. I should like to point out just how dependent our State is on an adequate water supply. That is difficult for people who have not toured our countryside to realize. In time of flood we get the lot, but in normal times we have to service pipelines, extending in cobweb fashion over the whole State, which take their water from the Murray. I have in mind one which goes from Morgan to Port Augusta and from there down the Yorke Peninsula, and also as far north as Woomera, then down the Eyre Peninsula to Whyalla, lt is felt that the projected development of that centre as a result of shipbuilding activity by Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited will demand the duplication of the existing pipe-line. The new pipe-line will also come from the Murray.
In addition, extensive investigations are being conducted into the possibility of taking Murray water to the lower south-east areas of the State. Much fertile land there could be made more productive if only water were available. Perhaps most important of all is the pipe-line from Mannum, which supplies almost the whole of the requirements of Adelaide. Water has been pumped through the line right through the winter, yet we are already suffering the results of the drought period. If the level of the Murray below Waikerie falls below a certain point the water is rendered saline by the percolation of salt through the cliffs there. The effect of that is already being seen in Adelaide suburbs where many trees and shrubs have been lost. We simply must not let the level of the river fall below a certain point because of this salinity. People say, “ You are not using all your water. Plenty is still going out of the Murray mouth “. That is true, but we have to maintain the water at the desirable level. I could mention many other pipelines, extending throughout the State. They are all dependent on Murray water.
– How long would they be?
– Hundreds of miles. The pipe-line to Woomera is 300 to 400 miles long.
– What is the charge for 10,000 gallons of water at Whyalla?
– I have never gone into that. Whatever it is, I would pay and like it. I have every sympathy for the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) in his efforts to have this agreement signed. His duty to the people of Australia is to ensure the future of this asset, which already may be valued at about £110,000,000. Last week we learned that extra contracts had been let. Thus, the scheme is growing in value all the time. I can understand that, until the bill is passed and the constitutional power to proceed is granted to the Commonwealth, he is in a most uncomfortable position. I have weighed the matter carefully with a view to ensuring that before this great national asset proceeds the interests of South Australia will be adequately protected, and I am satisfied on that point.
Once the Minister has assured the future of the scheme he might also consider taking out a kind of insurance in regard to it. I have previously mentioned the need to protect the catchment area. The agreement contains extensive provisions to ensure this but, as I have said previously, the catchment is deteriorating rapidly. If that deterioration continues the value of the scheme must be reduced. I hope that the Minister will give urgent attention to the establishment of a separate commission to undertake the protection of the entire catchment area. At the moment that is the partial responsibility of about seventeen different bodies. That arrangement is quite unworkable. It is gratifying to find that the New South Wales Government proposes restricting grazing in the higher areas. I certainly hope that nothing will prevent that plan from going ahead. The utmost efficiency would be possible if there were a commission, including representatives of New South Wales and Victoria, working to protect the catchment. The hydro-electric authority is certainly doing a tremendous amount to protect its portion of the catchment, but a great deal more must be done in areas outside the control of the Snowy Mountains Authority.
Under the agreement a council will be set up. I should have liked South Australia to be offered membership. I realize that most of the council’s work will be concerned with the electricity side of the scheme, but the agreement does state that the council will report on the nature, order, consequence and rate of construction of works of the authority; and matters affecting the States in respect of the diversion, storage and release of waters by the authority. In both cases South Australia is vitally interested. It would have been a compliment to that State to invite it to send a representative to the council. I hope that the Minister will give some consideration to that. I am happy to support the bill.
.- First, I should like to express my appreciation of the way in which Senator Buttfield has addressed herself to this bill. I disagree with some of the points that she expressed but felt that she did great credit to herself in being able to grasp the details of a scheme of such magnitude. She has seen the potential of the scheme and has kept her sights high. The history of the project reveals that the squabbles have always taken place once the matter has left the hands of the authority, or of the Commonwealth. The bickerings between the States have kept the main issues in the distance. It was not until a federal government took unto itself flimsy authority to initiate this scheme that we could ever get agreement amongst the States. I feel that the control of the destiny of this great project is now falling back into the hands of people with a more limited vision than those who conceived the scheme.
Senator Buttfield has said that she is quite satisfied that the rights of South Australia are protected. If that is so, I wonder what sort of a game the Premier of South Australia is playing. He is not satisfied, but Senator Buttfield is. Sir Thomas Playford is not always wrong. After all, it was his government which appointed the honorable senator to this Parliament, and we must admit that he was right then. I would like to satisfy my mind about the game that Sir Thomas Playford is playing. Judging from Senator Buttfield’s speech, she questions his sincerity.
– That is not so.
– If she does not question his sincerity, she questions his knowledge. She cannot have it both ways.
Either he does not know what he is after, or he is not sincere in declaring what he is after. It must be one or the other, on Senator Buttfield’s argument. In the same way, the statements made by honorable senators on this side, putting forward what they believe to be the rights of South Australia, have been repudiated by Senator Buttfield. She has indicated that our opinions are wrong and hers are right. It looks to me as though the Premier of South Australia is playing a game of political hide and seek, not only with the Minister for National Development, but also with Senator Buttfield, with other South Australian senators opposite, with honorable senators on this side, and with the South Australian people and the people of Australia generally who are so interested in this scheme.
– He is on his own.
– That is what we want to find out. Let us define, if we can, the rights of the States. Perhaps I can do so by making a comparison. What are the rights of the Egyptians living on the lower reaches of the Nile? What are the rights of the Pakistanis living along the upper reaches of the rivers that flow into India? Just as wars between nations have been fought over river rights, so a wordy war is being fought at present over the rights of South Australia in this connexion. I believe the principle is exactly the same.
– Substitute the words “ was being fought “ for “ is being fought “.
– The war is being fought now. I should like to find out why the Minister for National Development also is playing a game of hide and seek. On 6th May, Senator Critchley asked the following questions: -
Senator Spooner could have cleared up the matter immediately by answering those questions either “ Yes “ or “ No “. However, all that he said was, “ Put them on the notice-paper “. Senator Critchley asked his questions in good faith. The question of the definition of the rights of South Australia could have been settled by an answer stating that the River Murray Commission had met and had reached an amicable agreement. Then we would all have been happy.
– He told you that yesterday.
– He has not told us yet. The amendment that will be moved by the Opposition would put the matter on to the parliamentary level, from where the concept first came. South Australia’s rights would be written into the legislation irrevocably and would be defined for posterity. After all, this is not a fly-by-night scheme; it is something that is going to last for many years. Some day, perhaps, there will not be States. There may be 50 regions in Australia, and the States may be cut up into large municipalities or accumulations of municipalities. The point I am making is that the geographical area which is known as South Australia must have its rights defined clearly and irrevocably in legislation at the Commonwealth level affecting the amount of water that will flow along the watercourse into South Australia.
– Does not Senator Spooner’s amendment do that?
– I do not believe it does. As has been said from this side of the Senate, it will lead to a harvest for the lawyers.
The Minister stated in his second-reading speech that 3,000 extra irrigation farms will be brought into existence by this scheme. Say, for instance, that of those 3,000 farms, 750 are brought into existence in South Australia. Some of the South Australian farms may be situated a little way back from the river. If in a time of drought the quantity of water available to irrigate the South Australian farms were reduced, the farmers I have mentioned might be deprived of their normal share of the water. Surely they would have a right to take action through the courts to obtain their share.
– In no State do people have that right. That is not the position in Victoria, New South Wales or South Australia.
– -You are setting yourself up as both judge and jury. If we specify a quota, if we say that South Australia shall have a certain proportion of the water that flows along the Murray, and that New South Wales and Victoria shall be allowed to take certain proportions to allow them to develop their irrigation lands along the river, there can be no argument. Each State will have its share. Any extra water that is available from, say, the seeding of clouds in the catchment area, or other causes, will be shared in the right proportions. Those are things that should be written into this legislation irrevocably at this stage.
I want to leave, for a moment, what Senator Buttfield had to say. I feel that the whole of this debate so far shows that a great tribute is due to the Snowy Mountains Authority. I feel the scheme has been in very safe hands. It has been in the hands of Sir William Hudson and his associate commisioners, Mr. Merigan and Mr. Lang. I could think of no safer hands into which to place a scheme such as this. Throughout this debate, the Snowy Mountains Authority has not been criticized in any way. But the officers of the authority must be now feeling that selfish little interests are creeping in after they have brought the scheme to its present stage. A wonderful picture, of which every Australian can be proud, is appearing on the canvas, but the smutty finger of self-interest and commercialism is starting to smudge the canvas. I put it to Government senators that this scheme is of great national importance affecting, as it does, Tasmania as well as South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. It has been conservatively estimated that the scheme will increase the value of this country’s production by £30,000,000 a year. Excluding the farms along the Mumimbidgee - which I do not think the Minister included in his estimate - 3,000 farms will be irrigated under this scheme, thus enabling them to produce from ten to twenty times as much as they are now producing. Therefore, the whole of Australia will derive great benefit from the scheme.
But what is happening? The smutty finger of commercialism is smudging the canvas. The scheme is expected to take 25 years to complete and its cost will be approximately £420,000,000. Of that amount, £40,000,000 will be represented by interest payment over the 25 years period. Interest at the rate of 4 per cent, will be paid on the money involved over the redemption period of 70 years. Because the Government has allowed the usurers - the 4 per centers - to come in on this scheme, it will cost the people of Australia £1,000,000,000.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the taxpayers?
– Yes. The huge interest bill will be incurred because the Government is not prepared to use interestfree money for the project. Of course, that is a matter for debate. But even if the interest rate were only 1 per cent., which would cover the cost of the book-keeping, or 2 per cent., it would be far too much. I believe that it is bordering on a criminal action to put this tremendous burden on to this grand concept. I think that the sabotaging of this wonderful scheme, which will mean so much to Australia in the future, is a matter that should be given very close thought. It is completely unnecessary to impose on the scheme this tremendous burden of interest.
When Labour regains the reins of government, as it will very soon, I shall press as hard as I can to have this very heavy burden of interest removed from the authority. The Postmaster-General’s Department does not charge interest on the money that it expends on the building of new post offices. Why, then, should the money spent on the Snowy scheme bear interest? One can detect evidence of the mind of private enterprise - the entrepeneurs - behind the scenes. It is the basis of our political philosophy that great projects such as the Snowy Mountains scheme should be utilized for the welfare and the advancement of all our people. But what is happening? Interest charges will add to the costs of production. They will be passed on to the consumers, and increase inflation. There seems to be the little canker in the minds of the people, because they cannot see any virtue in any project unless they can derive interest from money they invest in it. This scheme, instead of costing £420,000,000 or £500,000,000 at the most, will in the long run cost the Australian taxpayers £1,000,000,000. The scheme will be completed in 25 years, but for 50 years after that interest at 4 per cent, will have to be paid on the money involved. Honorable senators may work out for themselves the huge burden of interest to which I have referred.
– How does the honorable senator support his assertion that the taxpayers will have to pay the interest?
– The consumers will have to pay it; they are the taxpayers. The worse feature of the matter is that the taxpayers will have to pay this interest on money that they have already provided. The financing of this scheme shows how the minds of Government senators work. Why could not the scheme have been carried out as it was originally conceived, without this extra burden of interest being added to the cost? I often wonder whether supporters of the Government thought that the scheme should be handicapped so that schemes in other States, such as oil-burning power plants, could compete with it. The burden of interest will depreciate the full value of the scheme.
– Who is getting this interest?
– I compare this position with a dog chasing its tail. Senator Gorton does not know whether the dog is in front of the tail, or the tail is in front of the dog. This is a stupid attitude to adopt. The additional costs will be passed on to the consumers and a proportion will be added to everything that is made by the use of electricity generated by the scheme. If electricity is used to pump free water, the cost of the electricity must be added to the cost of production of the oranges or whatever else is produced. Senator Gorton asked who will get the interest.
– Private investors - private enterprise.
– Senator Cameron has summed up my thoughts in a nutshell. I say to him-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! Senator O’Byrne will address the Chair.
– In effect, the interest will be placed in a vortex, from which the capital comes.
– Is it the vortex of the private investor?
– Senator Cameron was out of’ order when he interjected, so I presume that Senator Gorton also is out of order. The Minister for National Development said during his secondreading speech that complementary legislation has already been passed by the New South Wales and Victorian Parliaments. When he uttered those words, there slipped out the very ideas behind the introduction of this bill in its present form. No complementary legislation has been passed by South Australia. Therefore, the South Australian Parliament has been precluded from discussing, during this formative period, South Australia’s rights in relation to the Snowy scheme. Senator Buttfield has not been able to define South Australia’s rights, nor has Sir Thomas Playford. The bill does not do so clearly, either, because this is complementary legislation which affects only two States.
There is another important matter to which I wish to refer. The £110,000,000 which will have been expended on the scheme by the end of this financial year, will bring it to the stage where water will start to flow down the Murrumbidgee. During the course of the debate, reference has been made to the number of bends that there are in the Murray River. An important matter which has not yet been decided, and in respect of which the views of South Australia have not been clearly stated in this Parliament, is what should be done about the evaporation that is likely to occur because of the long distance that the water will have to travel owing to the countless bends in the river.
– We cannot shorten the river!
– The honorable senator should raise his sights a little. If he did so, he would appreciate that tremendous seepage and evaporation must occur in such a tortuous river. Provision should be made now for a more economical method of reticulation of the water to South Australia in the future. For the time being, nature has provided us with a mountain range and a bounteous rainfall of as much as 100 inches a year in the catchment area. With the assistance of the hand of man, nature has also provided a natural fall, so that the water gravitates to the sea. But the nature of the river itself introduces a wasteful element in the form of seepage and evaporation, particularly during dry seasons and because of the prevailing very low humidity.
For purely economic reasons, we must envisage some means of canalizing this water. We must see that it is ulitized fully. We must adopt a long-range view. If the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) and other honorable senators opposite know anything about the degree of evaporation in rivers in dry areas, such as in the outback in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, during the summer, they will appreciate my point that evaporation may eventually become such a big factor in this scheme that the waters will have to be canalized in the interests of economy. I believe that provision should be made, in legislation of this kind, to permit the Commonwealth to re-enter the scheme later on, even though, by that time, it may be self-supporting, with a view to ensuring its most economical use.
The Minister, during his second-reading speech, said -
The scheme and associated development 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.
It has been estimated that South Australia, in a period of drought, will benefit by an increase of approximately 60,000 acre feet a year. This is a most important aspect. In this respect, the Minister stated -
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.
I suggest that it is not a significant addition, for the simple reason that South Australia’s population at the present time is using 200,000 acre feet per annum. As we know, South Australia has been a most attractive place in the eyes of migrants. Its population has increased considerably in recent years. I am certain that Senator Buttfield is not really satisfied with the additional amount of water which South Australia will receive under this scheme.
I turn now to the Murray Valley, in respect of which the increase is expected to be about 800,000 acre feet per annum, made up of 440,000 acre feet resulting from direct diversion and 360,000 acre feet from regulation. As the Minister has said, that will be an increase of approximately 41 per cent, on the present total supply to the area. He went on to say that the additional water would supply about 3,000 farms and support an increased population of about 150,000 people. On the basis of those figures, the number of new farmers established on the land in South Australia will be rather insignificant. After all, we can only look at this scheme as being in the nature of a drought-time safeguard. During the flush seasons every one will be happy. The extent to which irrigation land will be developed will depend on the bad years norm.
At the moment it is envisaged that the turbines will be used for peak load assistance for the grids of New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, but an arrangement will be made to permit the turbines to work for longer periods in time of drought, so that water may be reticulated to supply the irrigation areas. I do not know whether provision will be made to fix a minimum level for the reservoirs, below which the water will not be allowed to fall. By way of example of what can happen I may say that, in Tasmania, shortly after the war, the Tasmanian Government, in its enthusiasm to attract industries to the State, over-sold electricity. As a consequence, the level of the Great Lake was reduced alarmingly. A lower rainfall at the relevant time also helped to reduce the level. Thank goodness, the period of difficulty was relatively short, and the lake is now at a higher level than ever before. But I suggest that the same kind of thing could happen in relation to the Snowy Mountains scheme.
This scheme provides the basis for relief from drought in the irrigation areas along the Mumimbidgee and Murray rivers in New South Wales and Victoria, and a limited number of farms in South Australia, for possibly two years. It will give them relief in a dry season, but here again it will be necessary to give very careful consideration to the amount of water that can be allowed out of the upper reservoirs, for there will naturally be a great demand for water by the irrigation farmers during a dry season when the ground begins to dry off and the evaporation rate increases. Whether that is covered in the agreements with the States I do not know, but I feel that it is just as well to mention these matters because in great projects such as this opinions offered in sincerity are often of great value.
Every one who has seen the- Snowy Mountains scheme, every one who has had the pleasure of visiting the project, has had his imagination captured, first, by the magnificence of the concept and, next, by the efficiency and dedication of the administration, engineers and all others associated with carrying out the work. I do hope that the standard which has been set for almost nine years now, and the co-operation that has been so readily available between all sections of Commonwealth departments and this Parliament, will continue on the present high level. I hope that this Parliament will see fit to retain authority over the scheme, to maintain it on a national level, and to keep up the vision splendid personified in it. This Parliament should not allow it to fall willy-nilly into the hands of lesser men with lesser interest at heart but should maintain the scheme at its present high level. It is a shining example of what can be accomplished when people combine to achieve a common end.
– When this bill becomes law the Commonwealth Government’s position in connexion with the Snowy Mountains Agreement will be consolidated. The scheme envisages the storing and regulating of the flows of rivers and streams in the Snowy Mountains area and in the branches of the river Murray. It provides for the generation of electric power for New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory at a very cheap rate indeed.
I submit that the harnessing and storage of water is Australia’s No. 1 problem. It has been calculated that if we could conserve all the water flowing in all our rivers and streams we would have only enough water to provide one and a quarter inches of irrigation over the whole of Australia. That is one of the reasons why I welcome this scheme. It is one of the greatest schemes upon which we have as yet been engaged, and strangely enough, some of the views I propose to express may run counter to those of some of my friends, but my friends are just as entitled to their views as, I hope, I am to mine.
We know that prior to 1949 many men and women had given consideration to the amount of water flowing from the Snowy Mountains area. Not a great deal of calculation work had been done, but in July, 1949, the Chifley Government passed the Snowy
Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act. The first employee of the project was appointed in August, 1949. The expenditure by the Labour government was very small, being something less than £.100,000. When we compare that with an expenditure of £112,000,000 by this Government to date, I think it is fair to say that although the Labour government launched the scheme, this Government really carried on the great work. I draw attention to these matters because several important points arise. The first is the method of financing the scheme. I did not propose dealing with finance until Senator O’Byrne gave us his illuminating address on the subject a few moments ago. Another point relates to the allocation of the water conserved under the scheme. Although the Labour party claims to be responsible for this project, it did not settle the very point its members are emphasizing should be settled to-day. The Labour government did not arrive at any definite basis of allocating the water to be conserved. Under those circumstances, it is certainly very late in the day indeed for the Labour party to raise the question now. I shall deal with that later.
As to payment for this project, I have advocated repeatedly that on general principle Australia as a whole should pay for works similar to this out of Consolidated Revenue. 1 am very glad indeed to know that to date the Commonwealth Government has spent £1 10,000,000 out of Consolidated Revenue and that interest is to be charged for the money. The Australian people have invested their money in this scheme, and they are entitled to interest upon their investment. The interest to be paid on this money will go back to the Australian people, and to no one else, and all this poppycock uttered by Senator O’Byrne about the interest going to usurers is too childish for words.
Some may argue that the Commonwealth did not have the constitutional power to begin this vast and useful undertaking. Be that as it may; the bill now before us is designed to give the Commonwealth the necessary constitutional power, and for that reason, the Senate should pass it. I do not think any honorable senator would like to see the work stopped, and I am confident that the bill will be approved. Up to date, the Commonwealth has provided approximately £105,000,000 out of Consolidated Revenue and is committed to the expenditure of a further £300,000,000 to complete the work. As I said before, the taxpayers have provided this money. That being so, it is only fair that they should get some interest on their investment.
I come now to the question of costs. New South Wales and Victoria will pay for this scheme and will meet the interest bill.
– Of course they wilh
– I am glad that Senator Wedgwood agrees with me, and I am certain that honorable senators opposite will agree that New South Wales and Victoria are going to pay for the scheme. Having agreed with me on that point, they must agree on some of the other proposals that I shall be putting forward later. The bill is most important because it establishes the fact that New South Wales and Victoria pay for all the work that is going on. If they are doing so - no honorable senator can deny it - then we can say that the Commonwealth Government is the accredited agent of those States and is carrying out the work on their behalf. On that basis, any diversion of the waters of the Tooma River, or any other tributary of the Murray, must be considered a diversion made by either New South Wales or Victoria both of which are subject to the conditions of the River Murray Waters Agreement or the River Murray Waters Act 1915-1954.
I have believed since 1949 that the Commonwealth has the constitutional power to do the work, and I have strenuously opposed the arguments of the Premier of South Australia that, in the implementation of the scheme, the interests of that State are not being preserved. Perhaps some of the bitterest arguments of my political career have been with the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, the late Mr. Archie Cameron, on the question of the preservation of South Australia’s rights.
No honorable senator can deny that the River Murray Commission implements the agreement to the satisfaction of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The commission believes that the Snowy Mountains Agreement does not override any portion of the River Murray Agreement and is not in conflict with it except, perhaps, that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority is authorised to divert the Tooma into New South Wales whereas the River Murray Agreement authorizes New South Wales to divert water from a tributary upstream from Albury. This is a matter in which the layman’s point of view should be accepted rather than the strictly technical interpretation of the agreement. The commission has suggested that the difficulty can be overcome by New South Wales authorizing the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority to do the work on behalf of that State. In actual fact, that is the present position.
I agree with Senator O’Byrne’s statement that we are all Australians and the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, and the Commonwealth, are not hostile to each other either individually or collectively. Surely after 60 years of federation we should be able to express a national outlook on matters of this kind.
New South Wales and Victoria are the States interested in the terms and conditions under which power will be produced and the charges to be made for it. Those States have reached agreement on that aspect, so it can be assumed that the terms and conditions are satisfactory. The Australian taxpayers and investors in the scheme may rest assured that New South Wales and Victoria will repay to the Commonwealth the cost of the scheme, together with the interest levied.
The scheme will provide many benefits to Australia. New South Wales and Victoria will obtain electric power at a cost less than the cost of power produced by thermal units. In addition, the power may be reticulated over the systems operating in those States, and will be the most economically produced power to meet peak load conditions.
The provisions of this bill seek to conserve and regulate the flow of the water in the great catchment area of the Snowy Mountains. The storage capacity of the Hume reservoir has been increased from 1,000,000 acre feet to 1,500,000 acre feet, and within the next six years, when the Snowy waters reach the Hume reservoir by means of the Jindabyne reservoir, the capacity will be increased still further to 2,000,000 acre feet. By that means the irrigation systems of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia will be supplied with 2,000,000 acre feet of water.
I support the amendment proposed to be moved by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to the effect that nothing in the act shall be taken to affect the rights of South Australia under the agreements, copies of which are set out in the schedules to the River Murray Waters Act 1915-1954. 1 am sorry that this great scheme has been clouded by some issues which are not real. The scheme will confer unlimited benefits on the people of Australia, and 1 hope that it is the forerunner of similar works to be implemented by this Government to solve Australia’s greatest problem, which is the storage of our waters. A grateful Australian public will say “ Thank you “ to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority and to all those who have participated in this work. I have pleasure in supporting the bill.
– I join with Senator Mattner in supporting the bill. From an examination of the position I believe that South Australia’s rights are protected. In the first place, I should like to congratulate Sir William Hudson and his team of workers, including migrants, contractors and scientists employed on the scheme, whether in Sydney, Melbourne, Cooma or any other part of Australia. Of course, those isolated groups of surveyors, who can reach their point of duty only by pack horse, are included in my remarks. We are all proud to acknowledge to-day the part those men are playing. Possibly the crisp mountain air and the cold fast-flowing streams have given an atmosphere to this great project.
To-day an agreement is before the Senate for ratification. Briefly, that agreement sets out the basis upon which the scheme shall be constructed. The agreement is of very great importance to the sovereign State of New South Wales, because it should be remembered that all the work is being done on the soil of that State. So the agreement is of vast importance to the Senate, and particularly to senators from New South Wales. The agreement relates also to arrangements for the purchase of power, New South Wales and Victoria being the purchasers. It further deals with the sharing between New South Wales and Victoria of additional waters that will become available through the diversion of the Snowy River.
I do not think I need to follow other honorable senators in speaking about the great benefit to the nation of this scheme. I can put it simply in this way: For millions of years, fed by snow from the Snowy Mountains, the Snowy River has careered madly towards the sea doing damage practically all the way, gouging the hills, and in certain seasons becoming quite a flood menace. The scheme is to dam and regulate that river, amongst other things, so that its waters will flow gently through a large important part of Australia which is watered by the Murray and the Murrumbidgee. So there is no question that this is a very great scheme. 1 was really disappointed to hear from the Opposition carping criticism of certain aspects of the scheme. As far as I could understand, that criticism was directed mainly to obtaining some political advantage or to creating some disadvantage for South Australian senators and, in particular, the Premier of South Australia. It is highly desirable that we all be brought back to the field to see just what the situation is in regard to the Snowy. An answer which the Minister for National Development gave to a question that I asked yesterday puts the whole thing in its proper perspective. I should like to deal in some detail with the question and answer, because they contain the nub of the whole matter that has caused this storm in the teacup, as it were, which has been generated by members of the Opposition. The question reads -
Will the Minister for National Development inform me whether there is any conflict between the provisions of the Snowy Mountains agreement recently made between New South Wales, Victoria and the Commonwealth, and the River Murray Waters Agreement that was made originally many years ago between New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Commonwealth?
The Minister replied -
There has been a series of conferences over recent weeks, the last of which was held last Monday in Melbourne. It was attended by representatives of the River Murray Commission and there were available for consultation representatives of the Snowy Mountains Authority and also, I understand, the State Electricity Commission of Victoria. Following that meeting, the River Murray Commission-
The commission consists of one representative from each of the States of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, and one from the Commonwealth - made some recommendations to me in my capacity as president of the River Murray Commission. / do not think it would be proper for me to canvass the nature of the recommendations, except to say that they do not contemplate any alteration of the Snowy Mountains Agreement that is at present before the Senate. I have sent these recommendations to the Prime Minister, who has had some conversations and discussions with the Premiers of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, and I am aware that he is endeavouring to arrange a meeting of the Premiers to discuss the recommendations.
That was the first part of the answer to my my question. Then the Minister referred to the amendment that he has circulated and said -
As honorable senators will have noticed, I have circulated a proposed amendment to the Snowy Mountains Authority legislation, and I am hopeful that the recommendations will resolve the difficulties that have arisen. Personally, I have never, at any stage, felt that South Australia would lose any benefits as a result of the Snowy Mountains scheme or the agreement, and that is in accordance with the legal advice tendered to the Commonwealth. On the contrary, I have always felt that South Australia could only obtain benefit, could only be put in a better position, as a result of the scheme.
That is because of the large quantity of additional water that will be regulated and will flow finally into the two rivers, and eventually through South Australia. The Minister continued -
Still, I am hopeful that this discussion with the River Murray Commission and the proposals it has advanced will be to everybody’s benefit and will resolve the difficulty that has occurred. Tims will show. The Prime Minister is endeavouring to get a conference together as soon as he can. What is in contemplation does not mean any amendment of the Snowy Mountains Agreement or the arrangements generally in regard to the scheme, and therefore does not affect the legislation that is before the Senate.
So it is quite obvious that matters which we all believe have been suitably agreed upon by the engineers can now be discussed at the political level. I believe that the engineering or mathematical difficulties that have presented themselves over the last few months can be resolved.
The proposed amendment that the Minister has circulated provides that the rights of South Australia shall not be affected by the ratification of this agreement. That has been fairly obvious the whole way through, because surely South Australia’s rights under the River Murray Waters Agreement, which was negotiated between South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and the Commonwealth, cannot be affected by another agreement negotiated between three of the four parties. I feel that South Australia’s rights have not been affected. I understand that the power of enforcement in the unlikely circumstance of enforcement becoming necessary as a result of division in a year of restriction is being canvassed very closely, and that a formula devised by engineers and mathematicians has been arrived at.
I feel that I should now deal with some of the comments of the Opposition. Senator Toohey charged the Premier of South Australia with having been grandstanding in regard to this matter. 1 suppose that, in the language of Senator Toohey, that means the Premier of South Australia is a person who has been featuring rather prominently in this matter. The honorable senator did not explain what “ grandstanding “ meant. Surely the Premier of South Australia is the proper person to take the lead on behalf of that State. As South Australia is not a party to the agreement, which relates to the supply of electricity and the dealing out of additional waters from the Snowy diversion, T think Sir Thomas Playford was quite properly interested in the mathematical formula that would be applicable to South Australia in a year of restriction. Senator Toohey would have been the first to complain if the Premier of South Australia had been silent or had been in the outer instead of being in the grandstand. That is all I need to say about the criticism of Senator Toohey.
Senator McKenna and Senator O’Byrne made very interesting statements on the whole question of finance. That caused me to study more closely the speech of Mr. Lemmon in moving the second reading of the bill in the House of Representatives on 26th May, 1949 - a few days before the opening ceremony and the shattering by dynamite of the wrong spot in the bed of a creek. Mr. Lemmon made a short speech on this matter. That was to his great credit, but one would have thought that one of the main points raised would have been that emphasized by Senator McKenna and Senator O’Byrne concern ing finance. These gentlemen have suggested that it should not be paid for out of -Consolidated Revenue, and that very little account should be taken in respect of interest on the money involved. I think that Senator O’Byrne was prepared to concede that 1 per cent., or a similar nominal amount, should be paid to meet the cost of bookkeeping, management and so on. I repeat, one would imagine that Mr. Lemmon, a very capable member of the Ministry, would have paid particular attention to the financial side of the .greatest project ever undertaken in this country. He did pay some attention to it. He mentioned what he thought it would cost, but he did not elaborate in the way that both Senator McKenna and Senator O’Byrne have done. He did not give details of the kind suggested by those gentlemen because he knew that that was not the way to undertake such a vast work. Mr. Lemmon said, however - and I quote from page 247 of “ Hansard “ for 26th May, 1949-
Honorable members may be surprised at this statement and may well ask how power can be produced at such a very low cost per unit when confronted by the total capital cost of the proposals, which may be between £170,000,000 and £200,000,000, including transmission.
One might, after hearing Senator McKenna and Senator O’Byrne, have expected him to say, by way of explanation, “We do not have to pay interest”. He did not say that. He said -
The reason why this scheme is so highly economical is that large volumes of water are available at such great heights. One gallon of water per second dropping one thousand feet can produce enough electric power to provide for the needs of 90 Australians at their present average consumption.
Therefore, as far as I can see, it was well within the knowledge of the Labour government of the day that the scheme would be financed precisely in the way it has - by payment of the normal bond rate of interest. I consider it rather flashy at this late stage to propose this risky financial arrangement. It is quite crazy to put forward such a suggestion in a serious manner during this debate. The great thing about the generation of power by the hydro method is that though there is a large initial capital outlay on waterways, machinery and the combating of erosion, ultimately the labour content of the unit charge is extraordinarily low. Then you have, also, all of the water available for irrigation at lower levels. A relatively high capital cost has always been envisaged and, with it, the need to pay interest year by year. Unfortunately, the rate of interest has risen over the last few years and a number of the calculations originally made by the progenitors of the scheme have had to be revised. It is crazy of honorable senators opposite to bring this new financial proposal before the Senate.
I cannot add very much more to the debate, which has covered a very wide field. 1 commend the Government for continuing to push through the scheme, which was brilliantly conceived by engineers and officers of the Labour government. I commend it for giving every encouragement to the men who are doing the job, and hope that the Parliament will pass this bill forthwith. I feel sure that some of the questions which Sir Thomas Playford has raised - and pressed in negotiations involving much travel and the expenditure of much energy - will be disposed of, and that the scheme will eventually be seen as one that will do great things for the development of South Australia.
– I had not intended to speak in the debate because all aspects have been thoroughly canvassed in the last two days - especially by honorable senators from the three States directly concerned in the Scheme. However, as this is a national venture it behoves every one who has even a small contribution to make to speak on the bill. Any criticism that I may level at the bill is not a criticism of the scheme itself. We are very proud of its origins. We are very proud that it was conceived by a Labour government. I pay tribute to that government and to the present Government for pushing on with it. However, I cannot but remember the official opening of the scheme, which was boycotted by every Liberal party and Australian Country party member of the Federal Parliament. Senator Laught, for whom I have the highest regard and concerning whom I have usually very little complaint to make, sought to-day to belittle that occasion.
– Senator Cooper was there. One-third of our members in the Senate attended the ceremony.
– If that is so, I ask the pardon of Government supporters. However, their rank and file members of both Houses failed to attend that function and did everything possible to discredit it. Since then great advances have been made. Senator Mattner referred rather slightingly to the fact that the Labour government of the day had spent only £100,000 on the scheme. To conceive a scheme in August and spend £100,000 on it before December is a real achievement. Usually, these schemes remain in the realm of fantasy for quite a long time. The extent of Labour’s spending on the scheme is better appreciated if one considers the change in money values since those days. One cannot help feeling grateful for the way in which the work has been continued, and pushed ahead by the drive of the Snowy Mountains Authority under Sir William Hudson. We appreciate everything that any one, no matter how humble, has done to enable this scheme to reach its present stage of development. However, it is idle for honorable senators from South Australia to say that all is well with the scheme from their own State’s point of view. Last night, of course, those honorable senators did not have the opportunity to see this morning’s copy of the Adelaide “Advertiser” in which, under the heading “ Amendment Not Acceptable “, it is stated -
The Premier (Sir Thomas Playford) will fly to Canberra to-morrow for talks “ at Ministerial level “ with Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victorian representatives on the Snowy waters dispute.
A dispute really does exist. The “ Advertiser “ continued -
Authoritative State Government sources indicated last night that the amendment to the Snowy legislation now before the Senate, would be totally unacceptable to South Australia, and would not change the present situation regarding the dispute in any way.
Surely that bears out the contention of my colleagues on this side of the chamber that the amendment propounded by Senator Spooner is not in accord with the wishes of the Government of South Australia or of the South Australian people. Any attempts to slight the remarks that have been made by Labour senators are, I think, ill-founded.
Opposition senators are proud of the fact that the scheme was commenced by a Labour government. We do not claim any credit for the fact that it has been continued by this Government. We are pleased that it has been continued and we have supported in every way every attempt that has been made to increase the power of the authority to carry out its work. This is a scheme of great vision. As far as I am aware it is the only major public work that this Government has embarked upon. I hope, however, that some future federal government, Labour or Liberal, will see fit, when the Snowy scheme is completed, to divert its attention to a similar scheme in Western Australia. In the north-west of Western Australia there are rivers that could be dammed and the waters utilized but those projects are far beyond the financial resources of that State. The Snowy Mountains scheme will certainly be so successful that it will repay the money that has been spent on it. I hope that some federal government of the future will treat the north-west of Western Australia in a like manner.
Everything that can be said on this matter has already been said. I really rose to point to the views at present held in South Australia, and to support the remarks that have been made by my colleagues from South Australia. The agreements, even as proposed to be amended by the Minister, are not totally acceptable to South Australia. We are spending a vast amount of money on this huge developmental project. Two States will derive a great deal of benefit from it, but all that is promised to South Australia - and that only after a great deal of questioning and debating of the matter by honorable senators on both sides of this chamber - is that nothing will be done to prejudice its existing rights. T think that State is quite within its rights in asking not only that its present rights be conserved, but also that it shall receive some benefit when the project is completed.
– in reply - If we look back on the history of arrangements which concern the right io use the waters of rivers that flow from one State to another, perhaps we should not be surprised that there has been a good deal of trouble and difficulty in finalizing the agreement that is now before us. We are dealing - I hope in what is almost the final form - with the result of a long series of disputes, discussions and examinations that have gone on over a period of 40 or 50 years. We are dealing with the waters of a river that rises within the boundaries of New South Wales. The State of New South
Wales claims the right to divert, and indeed contemplated diverting the waters of the river within its own territory entirely. We are dealing with a river that rises in New South Wales and flows to the sea in Victoria.
That position of itself is a difficult one, because each of the States has its own rights. Superimposed on the difficulty that arises from the divergent claims of the States was the extraordinary difficulty of arriving at a fair basis for sharing the power to be generated during the process of the scheme, and a fair basis for computing the cost of that power. What we have done as a government is, I think, somewhat analogous to what our predecessors, as a government, did. Each time we have run into a difficulty we have tried to push ahead and record another step forward in the construction of the scheme, and in the removal of the difficulties that arise as a result of divergent interests.
It may be said that in the life of this Government there have been two major crises. The first occurred, I think, in 1953 when the State Governments, which we regarded as beneficiaries of the scheme, challenged its very foundation by alleging that it was not an economic proposition, that it could not produce power as cheaply as power could be produced from other sources. The Commonwealth Government, as the authority providing the money, accepted that challenge. We called upon the States to provide technical officers to examine the data that the Snowy Mountains Authority made available. We were confident that the scheme was an economic proposition. Whilst facing that situation, in which the whole foundation of the scheme was challenged, the Menzies Government, I am very proud now to say, acted courageously and accepted tenders, speaking from memory, to the order of £25,000,000. lt nailed its colours to the mast and said, “ This is the Snowy Mountains scheme. We are going on with it. We have confidence in it, even though others have not “. I think, with respect, that to a minor degree, history has repeated itself in the last few weeks.
– It is the most colourful page in history.
– I take it, from that interjection, that the honorable senator will not support the amendment that has been circulated on behalf of the Opposition. I regard the interjection as a promise on his part.
We now come to the second stage at which, after seven years of hard and bitter negotiating, we reached finality on the agreement. No sooner had we reached finality than we had a challenge from South Australia, against the foundations of the scheme, against its constitutional validity, and against the correctness of its provisions. In those circumstances, the Menzies Government took its courage in both hands and accepted the tenders, saying to all Governments in Australia and to the Australian people, “ The Snowy Mountains scheme is going on. We will find some way to overcome the problems and difficulties that are inherent in it”. That, Mr. President, is the argument that I put to this Senate: You cannot have a scheme of this magnitude without having difficulties inherent in carrying it through to completion.
The agreement before the Senate is an agreement of tremendous consequence. It is an agreement between the Commonwealth Government, the New South Wales Government and the Victorian Government. It is an acknowledgment by the State governments that they underpin any difficulty there may be in the Commonwealth’s constitutional powers. It puts the Commonwealth Government and the people of Australia in the situation in which the legalities of the scheme cannot be attacked successfully in the future. It writes in blackandwhite the various matters that need to be finalized in relation to a scheme the capital cost of which is anticipated to be some £442,000,000, and in respect of which for the years to come the revenue from the sale of power alone will be of the order of £25,000,000 a year.
In a scheme of that magnitude, it is obviously a matter of difficulty to put down concisely and clearly all that is involved. That is done in the agreement which the Senate is this afternoon asked to ratify. I say this: Great as is the Snowy Mountains scheme, it still needs support. It still needs friends. The way I see it, if I may put it in simple terms is that: You are either for the Snowy Mountains scheme or you are against it.
We have done our part as a government. We have pushed forward in every set of circumstances and in every difficulty that has arisen. I hear from expressions by the Opposition of its pride in having launched the scheme and its pride in seeing the scheme go ahead. All right, Mr. President, I challenge the Opposition to show its pride in specific terms and to support this legislation this afternoon, because without this legislation being placed on the statute book, the future of the scheme is imperilled.
It is a difficult task to reply to all the arguments that are advanced in the course of a debate that has been as long and as exhaustive as this one, and I propose, with respect, to deal only with two points that have been raised. The first and major matter is the position of South Australia in relation to the Snowy Mountains scheme. The second is the statements that have been made that the Commonwealth should provide the money for this scheme without charging interest upon it.
I shall Uke the second point first. We start again with the situation that great sums of money are involved. Up to this stage, £115,000,000 has been expended. We have to look at the practical position which may be of more than passing interest to the Senate. The estimates show that, of the total cost of electricity, 85 per cent, is the interest charged upon the capital investment. Eighty-five per cent, of the total cost of electricity produced by the Snowy Mountains scheme is the interest charged on the capital sums invested. In order to provide these great sums of money, taxes have to be collected not merely in the States that are to get the benefit of the electricity - New South Wales and Victoria - but in all six States of the Commonwealth. New South Wales and Victoria are the two most prosperous States. If they did not obtain Snowy power, they would have to supply thermal stations and they would have to pay interest on the cost of building those stations. How can you, in those circumstances, justify to the people of the rest of Australia the proposition that they should be taxed to find money free of interest to provide power for the two richest and most prosperous States in Australia? It is just not reasonable. It is just not common sense that Tasmania should be taxed to provide cheap power for New South Wales and Victoria. The same thing applies to Queensland and to the other States.
Look at the reverse side of the picture. Would it be reasonable to South Australia, Queensland and the other States that manufacturers should be attracted into New South Wales and Victoria because in those States, at the expense of the other States, electricity would be available at 15 per cent, of its cost; in other words, that the manufacturers would get a discount of 85 per cent, on the cost of producing the power. The argument that the money should be provided free of interest is so illogical that it is unfair to the scheme. It is unfair to advance such an argument.
Dealing with the South Australian position, I think we need to start with an examination, not of the provisions of the Snowy Mountains Agreement in relation to South Australia, but of the provisions of the River Murray Waters Agreement. That agreement lays down the conditions under which water is made available, and the Snowy Mountains Agreement says specifically that when water is delivered into the River Murray system at the Hume Weir, it comes under the control of the River Murray Commission, and that when water is delivered into the Blowering Dam, it comes under the control of the State of New South Wales. In other words, there is a clear line of demarcation to show where the authority begins and ends. Nothing in the Snowy Mountains Agreement affects the legal rights of South Australia under the River Murray Waters Agreement. That is implicit in the whole of the arrangement, as it is in the amendment which has been circulated and which, in truth, seeks to make assurance doubly sure. It places on record the whole foundation and basis of the arrangement.
The River Murray Waters Agreement makes provision for the rights of South Australia to be preserved. If I state the provisions of the agreement quickly, I may not do so with complete accuracy, but I think that every one will understand what I mean. The agreement provides that, in a normal year, South Australia is in the nature of a secured creditor or a debenture holder. The first charge on the waters of the river Murray, in the net result, is 1 ,250,000 acre feet flowing into South Australia, and in a dry year or a period of restriction, South Australia is entitled to three-thirteenths of the flow of the river
Murray at Albury. The River Murray Commission is responsible to see that that rate of flow is maintained. South Australia is, of course, represented on the River Murray Commission, and it is of the profoundest consequence to realize that not only is South Australia so represented, but also that the constitution of the commission provides that, before a decision of the commission may be acted upon, it must be a unanimous decision of the commissioners representing the four governments that are parties to the agreement. Nothing in the Snowy Mountains Agreement overrides the provisions of the River Murray Waters Agreement.
South Australian senators have said that their main apprehension is that South Australia will be short of water in a drought period, or a period of restriction, but when we look at the constitution and the records of the River Murray Commission, two things stand out and need to be appreciated from a practical point of view. Since the commission was established in 1914, there never has been a period of restriction, nor has there been a set of circumstances as a result of which the drought formula has operated. There never has been a time when the commission has been called upon to distribute the flow of the river Murray at Albury on the basis of 5:5:3, in accordance with section 51 of the River Murray Waters Act.
– But that does not mean that there may never be such a period.
– That is so, but there has not been one yet, and I think that no South Australian senator will deny that the possibility of such a period has become more remote as a result of the regulation of the waters under the Snowy Mountains Agreement, and as a result of water being added to the Murray in consequence of the diversion. A situation such as that in respect of which fears have been expressed has never arisen. I suggest that it is less likely to arise in the future than it has in the past, because the flow of the river Murray will be augmented. I say again that there has never been a decision of the River Murray Commission which has not been unanimous.
– It boils down almost to a theoretical argument.
– To a State like South Australia, water is its life blood. 1 can sympathize with the point of view of South Australians in this matter, so long as that point of view does not damage the Snowy Mountains scheme.
Great quantities of additional water will be made available under this scheme, which must certainly strengthen South Australia’s position. The estimates are that, quite apart from the diversion of the Snowy River into the Murray, the better regulation of the head waters of the Murray and the increased storage will place an additional 60,000 acre-feet of water per annum at the disposal of South Australia in a period of drought.
– Is it not the fact that that will be done at no cost to South Australia?
– Yes, that is so. I accept the estimates of the Snowy Mountains Authority without any reservation at all.
– And I think that everybody else does, too.
– I have heard them challenged. What is the basis for South Australia’s apprehension? Is it that, in the interregnum, in the period before the Snowy is diverted into the Murray, and while the Tooma is being diverted from the Murray - while the water is being taken out and not replaced - the long shot may come home. The apprehension is that there will be a period of drought, even though there has not been a drought previously.
– Perhaps that apprehension is prompted by South Australia’s increasing reliance on the waters of the Murray.
– The waters of the Murray are of tremendous importance to South Australia. They are also of tremendous importance to New South Wales and Victoria.
I cannot envisage any set of circumstances in which the interests of South Australia, even in the interregnum, would be prejudiced by the Snowy Mountains Agreement. We believe that what the Commonwealth has done has been in accordance with its legal rights. Although we say that that is so, we are not looking for litigation.
We should prefer to see a reasonable settlement rather than that the matter should be litigated. The point I want to make is that in no circumstances can I envisage South Australia’s rights being affected. The formula under which the waters of the Tooma are being diverted from the Murray into the Murrumbidgee fits squarely within the four corners of the River Murray Waters Agreement. The Snowy Mountains Agreement provides that the waters shall be diverted. The two States which receive the benefit of the diverted waters have agreed that their share, in a drought period, will be debited with the water they receive as a result of the diversion, so that the South Australian position will be protected. I have not heard it claimed by South Australia that that proposition is unfair, or that it runs counter to the provisions of the River Murray Waters Agreement. South Australia says, in effect, “ That is not an unfair arrangement, but we are not a party to it. It is being done under the terms of the Snowy Mountains Agreement, to which we are not a party. We are a party only to the River Murray Waters Agreement “.
The first question we must ask at this time is: Is an Australian Parliament to believe that the four governments, being parties to the River Murray Waters Agreement, accepting obligations under the River Murray Waters Agreement, would see a position arise in which three of them would, in another agreement, endeavour to outwit the fourth government by doing something contrary to the agreement to which the four governments are parties? I think that is an unthinkable proposition.
Let us assume that South Australia is not prepared to rely on good faith but needs legal rights. Well, the waters of the river Murray are under the control of the River Murray Commission. The commission takes the waters of the river Murray at Albury. South Australia is a constituent member of the commission. All decisions of the commission must be unanimous. If the members of the commission are not unanimous, the matter must be taken to an arbitrator. If the parties cannot agree upon an arbitrator, the matter is submitted to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Tasmania, who is nominated in the River Murray Waters Agreement as the arbitrator. For South Australia to lose the benefits to which it is entitled, three Australian governments would need to go back on their obligations to the fourth Australian government; then that fourth Australian government, being in a position to veto the decision of the River Murray Commission, again would need to be outwitted in some way and deprived of its right to exercise that veto. That seems to me, as a layman, to be a set of circumstances, which, in practical terms, constitutes the real answer to any apprehension that South Australia may have. I talk primarily in practical terms as a layman.
I am not so well qualified to judge and explain the legal position. Let me start again on a practical basis, ls it to be thought that the Crown Law officers, the legal officers of the three governments, instructed by their governments to prepare a Snowy Mountains Agreement which effectively protects the rights of South Australia, have failed to protect South Australia’s rights? That, again, seems to me to be a proposition that cannot be sustained. At all stages the Commonwealth Government has been advised that this agreement protects the interests of the governments that are signatories to it and at the same time is not against the interests of South Australia.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) proposed -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) speaking in reply for more than thirty minutes.
– There being present an absolute majority of the whole number of senators, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
– I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his courtesy. I hope to complete my speech in a short time.
What has been said in reply to those general propositions is, “ All that you have said may be correct, but in truth the waters of the Tooma River are being diverted by the Snowy Mountains Authority, which is not one of the State governments, and which is not a party to the River Murray Waters Agreement, and, that being so, South Australia may lose its rights.” To that reply, we say, in simple words, “ That is not the legal advice we have. The legal advice we have is to the effect that New South Wales within whose borders this work is being carried out, is a party to this Snowy Mountains Agreement. Its representatives sat at the table when all these arrangements were being hammered out; and took part in the deliberations upon the River Murray Waters Agreement when the consequences of those arrangements were under consideration. By all its acts, New South Wales has legally authorized the Snowy Mountains Authority to do this work for it “. That is the legal advice the Commonwealth has obtained.
We superimpose upon all that a fairly simple statement. The State governments say, “ If there is anything in this technicality, we will set it right because we have said in the Snowy Mountains Agreement that we are going to do these things, and we have said in this agreement that we are doing them within the terms of the River Murray Waters Agreement. We also believe, on our legal advice, that what we are doing is in accordance with our obligations; but, if it means that, in order to make 100 per cent, sure that there will be no doubt about it, you want something in the River Murray Waters Agreement to say that this is being done within the four corners of the River Murray Waters Agreement, we will include it “.
I ask the Senate to accept as being the position the Commonwealth’s view that this Snowy Mountains Agreement is entirely within the spirit of the River Murray Waters Agreement, that it spells out in its records the fact that it passes the water, at a certain stage, to the River Murray Commission. The three governments that signed the agreement explicitly say in that Snowy Mountains Agreement, “ This arrangement is being made along the lines of the River Murray Waters Agreement to which we are parties “. For good measure, so that our South Australian senators may feel no sense of being wronged, the Government proposes to submit an amendment and in it reiterates that we are doing nothing to upset South Australia’s rights under the River Murray Waters Agreement. lt is being done within the spirit and the letter of the River Murray Agreement and in accordance with the advice of the Commonwealth’s legal officers it is not being done to the disadvantage of South Australia. On the point that has been taken that the Snowy Mountains authority is not one of the constituent governments, the State governments have said that if there is any substance in that point - our advice is that there is not - the difficulty will be overcome by making the required alteration in the agreement.
Finally, in a practical way South Australia does not lose its rights in this matter. South Australia is a member of the River Murray Commission which cannot act unless all members are unanimous. If such unthinkable circumstances arose in which three governments went back on their word, the fourth has the right to go to arbitration after discussing the decision of the other three governments at a round table conference.
I have nothing more to say. I conclude on the note on which I started, that one cannot perform a task of this magnitude without encountering difficulties from time to time. We have had our difficulties, and at times reached the stage at which it did not seem possible to resolve them, but we have done so. The agreement was signed in November last with a song of triumph and was to be presented to Parliament. However, at that stage Victoria thought of something that had not been covered in the agreement so it became necessary to draw up a supplemental agreement. The principal agreement and the supplemental agreement have been signed, but now this difficulty with South Australia has arisen. I am supremely confident that we will find a solution to the satisfaction of all concerned, without resort to litigation. I am supremely confident that everything the Commonwealth has done has been done correctly, and that, irrespective of the result of the dispute with South Australia, no alteration in the agreement now before the Senate will be necessary. Upon that foundation I ask the Senate to support the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
This Act shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by Proclamation.
– I move -
That the following sub-clause be inserted: - “ (2.) The Act shall not be proclaimed until after each House of the Parliament shall resolve that in its opinion all rights of the State of South Australia to waters of the River Murray are not adversely affected by the operation of the Act.”.
The Minister, to whom we are indebted for his recent utterances, indicated that the Snowy Mountains scheme still needs friends. I agree with that because at the moment many people who are not friendly to the scheme and all it stands for reside in South Australia. Not only has the Premier of tha t State expressed his unhappiness about the matter, but also the Leader of the Opposition in the State parliament and the executive of the Labour pary, have indicated their fears, misgivings and concern. It is not good for the scheme that such concern should be allowed to remain. Some misunderstanding also exists, which is not surprising having regard to the scope and complexity of the agreements that are in issue in this matter. The Government is faced with that great wall of concern and misunderstanding because, I venture to say, most of the people of South Australia have never read the River Murray Agreement or the agreements in issue in this bill. After listening to the Minister, and from my own study of the bill, it appears that the concern refers to the gap that will exist from the time the waters of the Tooma River are diverted to the Tumut River, and the five, seven or ten years period predicated by honorable senators before the Snowy River flows into the Murray River and replaces the water lost when the Tooma was diverted. In my view South Australia’s concern is justified.
The Minister indicated that on completion of the scheme some 60,000 acre feet of water per annum will be added to the Murray. He very properly pointed to that as a significant contribution. I do not dispute that fact, but, if 60,000 acre feet is a significant contribution, then the subtraction of 165,000 acre feet is even more significant. That amount of water will be lost in the period between the diversion of the Tooma into the Tumut and the diversion of the Snowy into the Murray. That is the period about which the concern exists.
The subtraction of 165,000 acre feet per annum, to which Senator Buttfield referred earlier, arises from the provisions of clause 10, Part III. of the agreement which is the First Schedule to the bill before the chamber. Sub-clause (1.) relates to the agreement between the States of New South Wales and Victoria in relation to the 330,000 acre feet to be diverted from the Tooma River and provides that those States shall divide that water equally and that, for the purposes of the River Murray Agreement, to which they are parties, it shall be deemed that that amount of water is their contribution under the agreement.
– Surely sub-clause (1.) relates also to the obligations of New South Wales and Victoria to South Australia.
– The sub-clause does not go any further than its wording indicates.
– But New South Wales and Victoria have equal obligations.
– They have, though it makes no difference to the position under the agreement.
– South Australia has rights. I suggest that New South Wales and Victoria also would have obligations.
– The rights of South Australia in relation to this clause are not affected, because an agreement entered into by two of the three States that are parties to the River Murray Waters Agreement cannot affect the agreement to which the three are parties, and thus disturb the position of South Australia.
– I am referring to the obligation of the two States vis-a-vis South Australia.
– It does not affect the position of South Australia. It is obvious that pursuant to another clause in the agreement 330,000 acre feet per annum will go into the river Murray when the Tooma is diverted. Clause 10 (2.) (a) provides that Victoria shall be entitled to get back from New South Wales one-half of the total amount of water that is diverted from the Tooma. In other words, New South Wales will say to Victoria, in effect, “ We will put your share back into the river Murray “. The net result of the two transactions to date is that 165,000 acre feet per annum have been removed permanently from the river Murray.
– It is permanently removed if it is used by New South Wales.
– It goes back into the river and, as between New South Wales and Victoria it is for the use of Victoria.
– I am talking about the 165,000 acre feet of water that is debited to New South Wales, which is lost to the Murray only if it is used by New South Wales and does not come back along the Murrumbidgee.
– The intention is that it shall be used very largely for irrigation and other schemes. That is the whole purpose of this diversion after the water has run down through the channel of power stations.
– The primary purpose of the diversion was the provision of powergenerating capacity.
– Perhaps I put them in their wrong order. I think that was the primary purpose, and that the secondary purpose, which is quite an important one, was the irrigation possibilities that would be opened up. There is no doubt that New South Wales is accepting its obligation to build the Blowering Dam with a view to conserving the water, after the electricity people have finished with it, for the purpose of storage and, above all, of reticulation and irrigation schemes.
– I very much doubt whether this circumstance will arise during the period in which this clause will be operating. I cannot see how the Blowering Dam will be finished before the Snowy proposition.
– Perhaps it will not be finished, but the difficulty is that the waters will be diverted whether the Blowering Dam is there or not. When the Tooma is diverted, 330,000 acre- feet of water will be taken out of the Murray. Under the clause that I am pin-pointing, there is a legal obligation on New South Wales to put back 165,000 acre feet. That obviously means, as a provision of the agreement, that the rights exist to subtract 165,000 acre feet per annum from the river Murray.
– It goes through the Murrumbidgee.
– I am coming back to the Murray. If the matter rested there, South Australia would have a genuine grievance. Now let us get to the stage where the Snowy has been diverted into the Murray. We pass to clause 11, which provides clearly that if, when the Snowy is diverted into the Murray, there is a drought period or a period of restriction, the Snowy Mountains Council must do two things. First, it has to make up the total of the water that is diverted from the Tooma during the period of drought or period of restriction. That puts the matter square.
The clause goes one better and requires that throughout the period of restriction an additional 40,000 acre feet of water per month is to be supplied. If the two schemes were operating simultaneously, that would be a complete and adequate replacement, with ample allowance for evaporation and the rest. The supply of 40,000 acre feet per month is limited to a term of seven months, because a limit of 280,000 acre feet is provided. I repeat that, if those two schemes operated together, there would be no difficulty and, in the view I put, nobody could complain. But it is the interim period that is obviously causing the concern. It is true to say that there has never been a period of restriction.
– Will there be one?
– I do not know. If what the Minister says is true, it is quite unlikely. But who should take the risk? We are faced with a subtraction from a river upon which we are told 750,000 people in South Australia are dependent. Why is the water subtracted? It is subtracted for the enormous benefit, in terms of electricity and irrigation projects, of two States only - New South Wales and Victoria. As the whole great scheme is primarily for the benefit of the two States, would it not have been reasonable for those States to say to the third State mr ner, “ Throughout the interregnum, when we are taking a vast quantity of water out of the Murray, we will take the chance of a drought or restriction and will let you get your guarantee “. If, as Senator Spooner says, the risk is a long shot - he may well be right, but he may be wrong - who ought to take the risk? Should it be accepted by the people for whose benefit the diversion is taking place or by a State which is so very dependent upon the Murray for the whole of its water reticulation? Why should South Australia run the risk during that period? There can be no complaint about 330,000 acre feet per annum going out of the Tooma as long as at the other end the Snowy projects pour water into the system in a period of drought, as is contracted for in the agreement.
– Is not the honorable senator ignoring clause 10 (l.)(b)?
– No, I am not.
– The honorable senator is talking about a guarantee for South Australia. A guarantee is provided for in specific terms. The two States favour South Australia.
– My recollection of paragraph (b) is that it is in favour of New South Wales. It has nothing to do with the Murray. If my recollection is correct, it has to do with the diversion of waters into the Tumut. Section 10(1.) (b) contains an agreement between the two States. Let me read it and consider it. It provides -
That is Victoria and New South Wales - agree that the quantity of water diverted from the Tooma River to the Adaminaby storage and to the Tumut River by the works of the Authority shall-
That means no more than this: Under those circumstances, the proportions are to be 5:5:3 - the “ 3 “ being for South Australia. All that section 10 (1.) (b) provides, in reckoning the five parts that New South Wales and Victoria are to take in a period of restriction, is that water diverted from the Tooma shall be deemed to be part of their share - that and no more.
– What more do you want? It is the complete answer.
– They are still governed by the original agreement in respect of the water from the Tooma.
– It will be taken as part of their share.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– The guarantee which Senator McKenna seeks is already in the agreement. New South Wales and Victoria say to South Australia, to put it in a colloquial way, “ We are taking this water at the Tumut River instead of at the bridge at Albury; we are taking it earlier than we would normally take it. So that you will not feel disadvantaged we refer you to clause 45 of the River Murray Agreement which states that that can be done provided there is a deduction at Albury. That we propose to do. It is quite in accord with what we agreed to do and, so that there will be no mistake, we are, under this bill also, accepting statutory responsibility for doing that.” I think that that is the complete answer to South Australia.
– Following the Minister’s observations, I propose to put one or two questions to Senator McKenna. Does the Leader of the Opposition suggest that clause 10(1.) does not affect the operation of the River Murray Agreement to the extent that any deduction from the Tooma River would be deemed to be a taking under that agreement and would therefore attract rights and obligations as between New South Wales and Victoria? He might answer, “ Yes, in those circumstances, but as South Australia does not happen to be a party to the first agreement set out in the schedule it cannot enforce the provisions of clause 10 “. I put it to him that this bill, and the reciprocal legislation of Victoria and New South Wales, when passed into law, will give us three statutes making the agreement Commonwealth law, which will bind the States of Victoria and New South Wales. That being so, the agreement can be enforced against those States by South Australia or any one else. I put it to him as a proposition that it would bind both States, the Commonwealth, and the commission as a matter of law.
– My answer to the honorable senator’s first proposition is that an agreement to which Victoria and
New South Wales, but not South Australia, are parties has no binding effect in relation to South Australia. The honorable senator anticipated what I would say on that point. For the purposes of clause 10 (1) (a) this is merely an agreement between New South Wales and Victoria as to what, in certain circumstances, they will do with the water diverted from the Tooma.
– Do you not think that the Commonwealth is bound by the agreement?
– The honorable senator did not ask me that. Of course it is, but pursuant to this agreement two States only are acquiescing in a certain proposition. I answer the honorable senator’s second question by saying that it is certainly impossible for South Australia - or for any one not a party to the agreement - to enforce this particular provision. It is not expressed, either in fact or in law, to be in favour of South Australia specifically. I repeat what the Minister has said: Nothing in the agreement could, as a matter of law, affect anything that is in the River Murray Agreement, because they are made between different parties. Two of the parties to the River Murray Agreement say, in clause 10, “We agree that when we get back as parties in the other agreement we will do this “. It is perfectly in order for the two States to do so.
– If your contention is correct, what party, as a matter of law, could take action to enforce any of the provisions of section 10 (1), paragraph (a) or (b)?
– The Commonwealth could.
– Could not South Australia?
– No, because it is not a party to the agreement. The honorable senator must appreciate ‘the proposition that a person who is not a party to an agreement cannot claim rights under it. It is as simple as that.
– It is not.
– We differ on that point. I thought that the proposition was quite elementary.
– Do you suggest that no one attracts right or obligations under a statute - regardless of agreements?
– We are talking about the agreement that is before the Senate. 1 suppose that, in criminal law, all kinds of parties can enforce the statute, but this is particular law, not general agreement.
– It happens to be statute law after it is passed.
– If South Australia considered that anything in this agreement infringed the River Murray Agreement it would be entitled to apply for an injunction.
– Of course it would - arising out of a breach of the statute.
– As I understand it, the South Australian Premier believes that that position has arisen. He has done two things. He has attacked the complete validity of the original Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act and has sought an injunction against the Commonwealth, the very course which I have just suggested could be followed to restrain the governments from proceeding with this particular arrangement.
– Are we to knock off work for three years until the legal question has been resolved?
– If the amendment which the Minister will propose presently had been written into the agreement, and been confirmed by statute at the hands of all three parties - not merely the Commonwealth - the ground would have been cut from under any one who cared to take objection. It is of little use for one party to the agreement to make a unilateral declaration such as the Minister proposes unless the other two parties do likewise and take the further step of writing it in as a matter of agreement. That, would have been the proper thing to do. It would have built better relations in this great scheme which we are so anxious to support, which we have supported at the second reading, and which we want to give, above everything else, a better constitutional base. That is one of the major features of the bill. We want to help the advancement of the scheme.
– You have not yet answered this problem concerning the importance of unanimity between the members of the commission.
– There is no question that South Australia, and each of the signatories to the River Murray Agreement, receive a vast measure of protection under that agreement.
– It is an absolute protection.
– There is no question about that, but we are talking about different things when we talk about the agreements under which the River Murray Commission operates and the agreements under which this council operates.
– Clause 10(1.) is vital.
– I agree. I would be happy to hear the honorable senator develop the theme of the application of clause 10(l.)(b). I would be interested to hear something further on that. I am anxious that the agreement shall be satisfactory. I think I indicated at the secondreading stage that I saw very little wrong with it but it is undoubted that there is great disturbance in the South Australian community. I think it is in the interests of everybody that we eliminate that disturbance, if we can. The amendment that I propose would give a little time for consideration. Quite frankly, I know that I could benefit by more consideration of the details of these agreements, and by a study of the scheme from a practical point of view. No doubt we all could. We have all benefited by the present debate and the time we have put into our consideration of this matter.
We propose that the bill should go right through, but should include provision, such as I suggest, that would give a little time for the position of South Australia to be sorted out. I share the belief of the Minister that that can be done. I feel that it will be done when there is a clearer understanding of what is proposed under this bill. The Opposition’s amendment is intended to provide a waiting period, to allow the negotiations to reach a further stage, and to allow what I consider to be the last and final problem in this matter to be solved.
.- Irrespective of other safeguards that may or may not be prescribed in the bill, I can see a good deal of merit in the proposal put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that we should insert an additional safeguard which would give further time for the exact situation to be determined. I make one suggestion. I would like to see included in the proposed amendment, instead of the reference to both Houses, the words, “ The Act shall not be proclaimed until after the Senate shall resolve that in its opinion all rights of South Australia “. 1 think that would give a unique opportunity for the Senate to demonstrate in action, the purpose for which, to a large extent, it was established. The Senate was intended to be die custodian of State rights. Undoubtedly the extent to which the Government has been moved from its original position on this bill is due to the fact that certain honorable senators on the Government side have felt it their duty to make a stand for the rights of South Australia. If Senator McKenna’s amendment included the words I have mentioned, it would give a unique opportunity for the Senate, as a body, to reveal itself as the custodian of State rights - a position which the framers of our Constitution intended that it should occupy. In view of the manner in which the Senate is constituted, it is a particularly appropriate body to make such a determination.
In such circumstances it would, of course, be not merely desirable, but essential that on both sides of the chamber members should be given the opportunity to vote in accordance with their convictions as individuals.
I am sorry that the amendment does not read in that way, but I think that, even as it is framed, it has a good deal of merit. I make my suggestion because there is an increasing tendency, as a distinguished representative of the Government said during the last day or two, to regard the Senate as a party House. We have an opportunity to stress to the people that it was intended to be a House of the States, preventing discrimination against any one State. I think such opportunities should always be embraced.
.- In speaking to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, I wish to move from the discussion of statute law which went on when this matter was previously discussed to a consideration of the prac tical position. The case put forward by the Leader of the Opposition was that there would be, or could be, in the interval between the Tooma diversion and the Snowy coming into the Murray, a net total loss of 165,000 acre feet of water to the Murray.
What is the position? Obviously that water cannot be lost to the Murray unless it is used in the Murrumbidgee by New South Wales during the period between the Tooma diversion and the Snowy waters going into the Murray. It must be used by New South Wales during that period, otherwise it runs back into the Murray at the mouth of the Murrumbidgee. The Adaminaby Dam, one of the largest works to be constructed at the headwaters of the Snowy, is already holding water. The tunnel from the Adaminaby Dam into the Tumut River is already very well advanced. I think the Government of New South Wales has made it clear that it has no intention of building the large Blowering Dam for many years. It would be no advantage to New South Wales to build that dam because it has not the money to build a reticulation system to take care of the water which will be flowing down the Murrumbidgee. So, in practical terms, there is no chance whatever that New South Wales, during this period, will take this water from the Murrumbidgee River. As I said the other night, the worry of New South Wales is rather that it will have too much water in the Murrumbidgee and not enough in the Murray. The fear expressed by the Leader of the Opposition might be realized in fifteen, twenty or twenty-five years’ time, but we are at present discussing the interval between the Tooma diversion and the Snowy running into the Murray.
– There is no guarantee that the Snowy waters will ever come into the picture.
– At the moment I am answering the points raised by the Leader of the Opposition. Let me move on to a consideration of whether the terms of the agreement before us, as they stand and for what they are worth, provide full protection for South Australia. I suggest that when we read clause 10 of the first schedule of this bill in conjunction with Part VI. of the Murray River Waters Agreement, it is incontrovertible that, as they stand, these provisions do provide protection. I want to be perfectly fair and state that they might not be capable of enforcement - I do not know. As they are written, they do provide full protection because clause 10 (I.) (a) provides that for the purposes of clause 45 of the River Murray Agreement this Tooma diversion shall be deemed to have been done half by New South Wales and half by Victoria. Clause 45 of the River Murray Agreement provides - ,
The flow of the River Murray at Albury including the natural or regulated flows of all tributaries of the River Murray above Albury as regulated by the Upper Murray Storage shall be shared equally by New South Wales and Victoria: subject to deduction from either State’s share at Albury of such volumes as that State may by works divert from lime to time from streams above Albury.
In other words, under clause 45 of the River Murray Agreement, which is referred to in clause 10 of the Snowy Mountains Agreement before us, any water diverted by New South Wales and Victoria from the Tooma must be deducted in time of drought from the water that they are otherwise entitled to take from the Murray River. So that provides the protection. For the purposes of clause 10 of the Snowy Mountains Agreement, the water taken from the Tooma will be considered as to one-half for New South Wales and Victoria respectively. In a period of drought, according to the terms of the bill, New South Wales would not get five-thirteenths of the flow of the Murray, but fivethirteenths of the flow of the Murray less the amount so taken above Albury. The same would apply to Victoria. Both in practical terms and in the wording of the clause of the agreement now before us, there can be no question but that South Australia’s rights are protected.
– South Australia will get her full share.
– South Australia is guaranteed, and will get her full share, if this agreement stands up in a court of law. As to the suggestion contained in the proposed amendment that this bill should not be proclaimed until either this chamber or both Houses of Parliament pass a resolution saying that it is a good bill, that must surely be redundant. Having met here, having considered the bill quite carefully, and having by vote expressed the opinion that it is a good bill and that South Australia’s rights are protected, should we say we ate not going to proclaim it until we meet again, discuss it all over again, and then pass a motion saying that what we said last time was right and therefore we will proclaim the bill? It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that if that sort of amendment were allowed we could say that that resolution would not have effect until such time as we met again and resolved that the resolution we passed before was a good resolution and that the bill should be proclaimed. It could go on ad infinitum.
We have had time fully and thoroughly to traverse this document. It was not a private document or a privileged document before it came into this chamber. It was passed in its present form by the Parliaments of New South Wales and Victoria before it came here, and we have had weeks, not minutes, in which thoroughly to consider it. So it cannot be said that the bill is being pushed through hurriedly without examination. Both State parliaments passed this bill in the belief that the Commonwealth Government also would pass it and make it statute law, or whatever sort of law my learned friend, Senator Vincent, says it is - law which would be binding, not binding subject to some resolution for it to come into effect.
Therefore, I cannot agree with Senator McManus that the interests of my State would be served in the least, nor would the interests of Australia be served by holding up the bill. It is open to question whether the interests of South Australia would be served by holding up the bill. I am sure that the interests of Australia as a whole would be very badly served by holding it up.
– I differ very strongly from Senator Gorton on the question as to whether the proclaiming of the bill should be held up. I think it should be held up. The views that Senator Gorton expressed are not shared by the vast majority of the people of South Australia, or the South Australian Government. There is no need for me to elaborate that statement. It is easy for Senator Gorton to dismiss airily any fears that we in South Australia entertain, because he is taking only a passing glance at our position.
The honorable senator said that South Australia is all right and that we have nothing to worry about. That appears satisfactory on the surface, but I think that this agreement, as it applies to South Australia, is based on the assumption of fair weather, that there is an even flow of the rivers of this country, including the Murray. But what is concerning our minds is that such conditions may not always prevail. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said that the River Murray Commission had never been called upon to apportion waters. That is probably true, but none of us in the Senate to-day can say with certainty that a circumstance will not occur in the next two or three years which may require the apportioning of the Murray water at Albury, in accordance with the agreement.
– Shake hands with the devil when you meet him.
– That interjection demonstrates the attitude of the Government in this matter. It is not prepared to take even elementary precautions against a situation that might develop in my State. If Senator Maher wants to interject, he should make more intelligent remarks than that one.
Whilst no apportioning of water has yet been required, there is no certainty that at some time in the future - possibly the not distant future - such a need will not occur. I respectfully submit that that is when South Australia’s troubles will begin under this proposal. The statement of Senator Gorton that the diversion of water from the Tooma will not result in any water being taken away from the main purpose of the scheme, is pure assumption on his part. I want to remind the Senate that it has already been stated that the completion of the section of the project which will enable replacement of water diverted from the Tooma could take a period of up to ten years. Whether or not that is true, I am not able to say, but at least we can say that it will take a considerable period of time. In that period of ten years, a good deal of development could take place along the Murrumbidgee, and there could be a big demand for water along the river for irrigation purposes. That factor must not be overlooked when we are considering this matter. In addition, if a widespread drought occurred in the areas from which the Murrumbidgee springs and runs, it could produce a situation that would disprove Senator Gorton’s views. We are not concerned as to what is happening about the Murray water when normality is the order of the day. We are concerned with the possibility of drought; and drought would bring disaster and chaos to our State if a sufficient degree of understanding and consideration is not given to that possibility. We say that in that eventuality we in South Australia would be in a parlous position indeed.
I suggest that the amendment proposed by Senator McKenna is a practical one and that its acceptance would not in any way disturb the ratification of the agreement. Its purpose is to enable us to be more fully informed on this matter. Although we have before us a document which contains a host of clauses, which have been variously interpreted already in this chamber this afternoon by members of the legal fraternity, I submit that we are not in a position to say with any degree of certainty that we have served either Australia or our respective States in the way that we should. So, I strongly urge honorable senators not only to consider the Opposition amendment, but to support it, in order that we may go back to our States - I say this particularly to honorable senators from South Australia - and consider the matter. I put this suggestion with all sincerity to my colleagues on the Government side. We should have a breathing space that would enable us, after the final wash-up occurs, to say to the people in the State from which we come, “ We have covered every possible angle so far as your interests are concerned “.
– I cannot vote for Senator McKenna’s amendment. As I understand it, the honorable senator is suggesting that on some future occasion we should take steps to see that South Australia’s rights are protected. I think that that is a job to which we should all have faced up before we voted for the second reading of this bill. I say, as a representative of South Australia, that that is one thing about which I have had to be satisfied. I did not cast my vote for the second reading lightly, or because I had been bludgeoned into giving a vote for the Government. I considered, to the utmost of my capacity, the very thing that Senator
McKenna is now suggesting should be considered, namely, protection of the rights of my State. Whether or not those rights had been protected was not an easy matter for me to decide. 1 am thoroughly aware of all the matters that Senator Toohey has brought before the committee. He does not need to tell me about the utter reliance of South Australia on water, both in good times and in drought times. I considered those matters at great length, by night and by day. After mature consideration, I was constrained to vote for the seconding reading of the bill because I had decided that it would not destroy any rights which South Australia enjoys at the present time under the River Murray Agreement.
I have come to the view that South Australia, being a party to the River Murray Agreement, and being represented on the River Murray Commission, is in a position to preclude the commission from coming to any conclusion which would be detrimental to South Australia’s rights. I am satisfied that any resolution carried under the River Murray Agreement must be unanimous. This bill must be read in relation to the River Murray Agreement, as I think my friend Senator Toohey will agree. It is for those reasons, which I have considered very carefully, and which I suggest Senator Toohey also should have considered before he voted for the second reading of the bill, that I am constrained to vote for the passage of the bill without Senator McKenna’s amendment.
There is, perhaps, a lighter consideration, to which my colleague Senator Gorton has referred. If we carry an amendment such as that now put forward by Senator McKenna, what kind of a precedent will we establish? Must we agree to a postponement of the proclamation of legislation merely because somebody, after the second reading of the bill, still has reservations, and gets up and says, “We want more breathing space. We are not going to agree to the third reading until the rights of somebody or other have been satisfactorily covered “? Must we wait, in respect of this bill or any other bill, until people who might object for any reason are completely satisfied? We have heard from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) to-day that he has been informed by the South Australian executive of the Labour party that it is not satisfied, that the Leader of the Opposition in the South Australian Parliament is not satisfied, and that the Premier of South Australia is not satisfied. In heaven’s name, when are we likely to bc informed by those people - political and other considerations entering into this matter, as they do - that this Senate is free to vote on the bill? When is it likely that all those people are going to agree and admit that they agree?
Unless we were to wait until after the general election - which would be unthinkable - the appeal envisaged by Senator McKenna would be from Caesar to Caesar - that is, if we can place ourselves in the proud position of Caesars. Surely we have all considered this matter fully. When I say that, I include Senator Toohey, because I think that he also has considered it. Both the honorable senator and I, a few moments ago, voted for the second reading of the bill. Are we to wait until to-morrow, or until three months’ time, perhaps after an election, before agreeing that it shall be proclaimed?
– Some of us might not be here after the election.
– I agree. Are we to say, in respect of this bill, “ We are wrong to-day but we will be right to-morrow”? I think that it would be very dangerous to agree to Senator McKenna’s proposition.
I do not want to be charged by anybody with having refused to consider the rights of South Australia, and when I say “ anybody “, I mean anybody inside this place or outside it. I have carefully considered the weight of the evidence and have cast my vote according to my own opinion. I do not need to have that opinion endorsed by Senator Critchley, who is interjecting, or by anybody else. I believe that the statements that have been made during the second-reading debate have had some bearing on this matter. I cast my vote for the second reading because I believed that if there were any doubt about South Australia’s rights being affected by this bill, shortly I should be voting for an amendment, which the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) would move, to provide that, notwithstanding anything contained in the bill - nothing could be clearer than that - South Australia’s rights would not be affected. Those rights are stated, for everybody to see, in the River Murray Agreement. If there is any doubt about South Australia’s rights being affected, surely that amendment will make the position clear. It has done so for me, at any rate, and has enabled me to vote for the second reading.
– It will be interesting to see whether the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) will tell us whether the diversion of water from the tributaries of the Murray into the Murrumbidgee has been considered by [the River Murray Commission. Did the commission meet and deal with the matter, in the terms of its constitution? Did it make any recommendation in connexion with it? Did it reach agreement? Was there a minority against agreement? Has this work proceeded despite the River Murray Commission not having made recommendations in respect of it?
I ask those questions because, throughout the history of the River Murray Agreement and the amendments that have been made from time to time, provision has been made that any diversions or works above the Albury Weir by any State or combination of States shall be notified to the commission. It is also provided that the commission shall have authority to construct such works. I want to know whether there has been any protest by the commission in respect of this Snowy Mountains scheme.
– The River Murray Commission is spending millions of pounds in enlarging the Hume Weir. That is all part of this arrangement.
– I am not concerned with that phase of the matter. I am concerned with the diversions that are taking place above that point, particularly the Tooma diversion. There are, of course, other diversions. For instance, I think that the Geehi will be diverted also, but it will still run back into the Murray.
The River Murray Commission has certain powers, by agreement between the four States that are represented on it. The Minister may say, perhaps, that the commission has no authority to consider the diversion of water above the Hume Weir, but I say that it has, because it is specifically laid down that it shall be advised of any diversions, and even may take over such works itself. Of course, the States or the Commonwealth or some body will have to supply the money to the commission, but I am not concerned about that. I am concerned to know whether the commission was consulted in the first place by a representative of the Commonwealth or one of the States in connexion with the proposed work. As South Australia would not know anything about the proposed work, that State would not be making any representations. Only New South Wales, Victoria and the Commonwealth would know what it was proposed to divert. Until the matter was made known, nobody else would have any information about it. I want the Minister to inform me whether the River Murray Commission was made aware of what it was proposed to divert, whether the commission considered the matter, whether any suggestions had been made to one of the three governments which are parties to this particular agreement or whether the work has gone ahead without any reference to the commission.
When the Minister was dealing with the overall question of water that is to go into the Murray, he carefully glossed over the matter of the water that will be diverted from the Tooma River into the Tumut River, and finally into the Murrumbidgee River. Senator McKenna has stated - I think I mentioned it during the second-reading debate - that 330,000 acre feet of water will be diverted from the Tooma River, a tributary of the Murray, into the Tumut River, and eventually into the Murrumbidgee River after it has left the storage reservoir and after it has been utilized for the generation of electricity. Senator Gorton has said the water will go down the stream because New South Wales cannot use it. I understand that New South Wales proposes to build storages, some of which will take six or seven years to complete, so that it does not seem likely that this water will be going down the lower reaches of the Murrumbidgee into the Murray.
– They are being built on the Darling River.
– Then probably the Minister will be able to answer my question. Nowhere in the Snowy Mountains Agreement can I find any provision for the restoration to the Murray of that 330,000 acre feet of water pending the coming in of the Snowy waters. I ask the Minister to answer those two questions.
– I did not intend to take part in this debate, but I feel that each of us has certain responsibilities, as senators, to come to conclusions on the important question that is now under consideration. I welcome the opportunity for a discussion, which, I still venture to hope, will not be conducted upon party lines, of the merits or demerits of the question in issue at the moment.
To the Senate, the rights of South Australia should be just as important as the rights of any other State. Having said that, I think it follows that if the rights of South Australia - by “ rights “ I mean rights enforceable by law, for I do not think we can get away from the legal element in the argument - are likely to suffer in any way at all as indicated by honorable senators on both sides, but in particular by Senator Toohey, there is no merit in Senator McKenna’s amendment. Any person who feels that there is a possibility that the rights of South Australia will be adversely affected should be fighting against this measure. There can be no equivocation about that. If any man thinks, as Senator Toohey has suggested, that South Australia will be adversely affected in respect of its very life blood - its water - neither he nor anybody else should come into this chamber and say, “ I will vote for this measure and then take time off to see whether everything is all right “. If Senator Toohey or any one else thinks there is anything wrong in connexion with a matter of such vital importance to South Australia or any other State, but particularly to South Australia, as this State relies almost exclusively upon the water from the river Murray, I suggest the only honorable way to deal with the matter is to vote against the measure either at the second-reading stage, or even at the thirdreading stage. I submit that no amendment will help that position.
– Including the Minis ter’s proposed amendment.
– I go so far as to say that the Minister’s amendment has no great legal significance. I suggest, with the greatest respect, that the bill protects the rights of South Australia quite adequately and completely without that amendment. I submit that the amendment itself does not help very much. The Minister’s amendment is an expression of goodwill by the Commonwealth and, as such, it means what it says; but I shall be interested to hear Senator McKenna’s observation on its legal significance. Legally speaking, I do not think it affects the rights of South Australia under the existing agreement because, to use Senator McKenna’s own argument, the State of South Australia does not happen to be a party to the agreement.
– But South Australia has rights other than by agreement.
– By statute?
– And by the Constitution.
– Yes, under section 100 of the Constitution; but I do not think that the honorable senator would argue that under that section the present position is affected. I think the only question we must now consider is whether South Australia’s rights, either under section 100, or any other section, of the Constitution, or ex contractu, or by statute are likely to be seriously affected by this legislation. Quite frankly, I cannot see any argument about that proposition. South Australia’s legal rights are not affected one iota. I suggest that clause 10 (1.) of the agreement not only seeks to protect the rights of South Australia but does, in fact, so protect that State’s rights. I tried on one or two occasions by interjection to convey that impression to Senator McKenna. I admit that clause 10, at the moment, is only part of an agreement between the Commonwealth of the first part, New South Wales of the second part, and Victoria of the third part. The Government of each of the States is in the process of making this particular agreement part of a statute. As such, the agreement will carry the rights of a statute. In those circumstances, Senator McKenna’s argument that the rights and obligations of the three States concerned will not be more definite than if the agreement were not made a statute is not tenable. Although South Australia is not a party to the agreement, clause 10 (1.), paragraphs (a) or (b), may be enforced after the ratification of the agreement by statute by the governments concerned.
On the other hand if South Australia, through the normal legal channels, cannot enforce the purport of clause 10 of the agreement through the High Court of Australia, then, as a member of the commission, it may still rely on its powers under the River Murray Agreement, and so prevent any harm from flowing by the implementation of the scheme to divert the Tooma River.
I admit a potential danger would exist to South Australia if the provisions contained in clause 10 were not incorporated in the agreement, but we are really alarming ourselves unnecessarily and unduly because full protection is afforded South Australia by that clause.
I am quite satisfied that the rights of South Australia are amply protected by this bill. I agreed entirely with Senator Pearson, who is one of the most enthusiastic and conscientious South Australians I have met, when he said that he would not support this measure if he were not satisfied that South Australia’s rights were protected.
The Opposition is making political capital out of this matter. I understand, as well as the Opposition, that that is all part of the game. However, we should return to objective discussion. I invite honorable senators opposite, who intend to support Senator McKenna’s proposed amendment, to stand up and argue this matter on its merits. Let us hear some of the Opposition senators discuss the merits of the question, because this Senate is the place where the rights of the States should be argued.
S2nator SPOONER (New South Wales-
Minister for National Development) [5.40]. - During the course of his speech Senator O’Flaherty posed some questions as to the views and position of the River Murray Commission in this matter. Fortunately, the commission, with all its sins and virtues, is removed from the atmosphere in which we have to consider this bill. Basically, it is a group of professional men charged with a specific job. Since 1949 the commission has been drawing plans, clearing its thoughts and doing the foundation work necessary so that the Murray River will be equipped to take the waters of the Snowy when they become available.
The enlargement of the Hume reservoir to a storage capacity of 2,500,000 acre feet bears witness to the planning of the commission. Millions of pounds have been spent on that work. Each alternate month members of the commission meet and inspect all sections of the Murray to see that the necessary work is completed so that the scheme will operate smoothly. The commission proceeded on the assumption that all Australians are decent people and will accept the fact that whatever is taken from the Tooma River will be accounted for when the Hume reservoir is enlarged, and that after the period of restriction, when South Australia’s share is computed, New South Wales and Victoria will replace the water they acquired by the Tooma River diversion.
– That is a fatuous statement to make.
– It is not fatuous but a complete statement of the situation. In the opinion of the Commonwealth Government, South Australia’s position is morally protected and maintained. The State’s legal rights are not affected nor is it being injured legally. From a practical point of view, South Australia has the control and administration of the Murray River.
The Government will propose an amendment wherein that position will be stated. The Opposition amendment can only do harm and lead to a state of indecision in which doubt will arise as to the position of the agreement and the legislation. I ask the Senate not to allow those circumstances to occur. The Government will not accept the Opposition’s amendment.
– Prior to speaking in committee I studied the bill in an endeavour to find a possible base for the objection raised by South Australia, because there is no doubt, whether justified or not, that grave concern exists in that State. I canvassed the matter quite objectively and have come to the conclusion that South Australia’s concern must rest in this interregnum, the period between the diversion of the Tooma and the inflow of the Snowy waters into the Murray.
My amendment seeks to defer the implementation of the bill, not its passage, in order to afford an opportunity for consideration of South Australia’s difficulties and to give the Commonwealth an opportunity to remove South Australia’s fears. Far from doing harm, as suggested by the Minister, the Government will have an opportunity to capture the final citadel.
– Would the honorable -.senator assist him in that task?
– I think I would. [ have learnt a great deal from the discussion in this chamber, even to-day. If the discussion proceeded I am sure I should learn still more. Very many misconceptions have been cleared up and now we have ambassadors who will go out and tell the story. In the interests of good relations and of dissolving the last obstacle to the complete success of the scheme, socially and otherwise, the Government would be gracious if it said, “ We shall not proclaim this bill until we have reviewed it again. We shall allow the Minister and the States to confer further.” I understand there have been meetings of the River Murray Commission. No doubt members of the commission have considered this measure in the interim as indivduals if not as a commission. It may well be that they will bring something to bear on the situation. I suggest that, in these circumstances, the Opposition is, in effect, really giving an opportunity for the promotion of good relations. I think Senator Pearson took up my comment that the Leader of the Opposition in South Australia and the State executive of the Australian Labour party were concerned. I was moving in and out of the chamber at the time, and I thought I heard the honorable senator imply that Labour Senators from South Australia were under some kind of direction or duress.
– I assure the honorable senator that I did not say that.
– I realized that I might be wrong. I only half heard what Senator Pearson said. There has been no duress of any kind. Opposition senators have expressed their concern and the grounds for their concern. One of the great difficulties in this matter is that probably the Premier of South Australia would have got a lot further if he had done what has been done in this chamber. Objections have been stated and have been reduced by argument until we now have the matter within a reasonably small compass. Every one is better informed. When parties are at arm’s length, no agreement can be concluded. The whole purpose of the Opposition’s amendment is to give an opportunity for further consideration in the light of this debate.
Senator Gorton developed the theme that the 165,000 acre feet of water that will be diverted from the Tooma to the use of New South Wales will probably flow straight down the Murrumbidgee into the Murray and into South Australia. I should be grateful for some information on that aspect of the matter. What will happen to the waters when they are first used? Will they collect in the Blowering Dam? Will there be a system of reticulation? Will they be allowed to run straight into the Murrumbidgee? I should like the Minister to say whether there are any plans for storage facilities along the Murrumbidgee.
– Are not they matters that could be more appropriately dealt with when we come to the relevant clause in the agreement?
– I think they are relevant to a consideration of the whole matter, particularly as Senator Gorton has raised the point. Does it matter whether we get the information now or at a later stage? I do not recall seeing anything in the agreement about the establishment of storages on the Murrumbidgee. I think the agreement is carried only to the point where the Tooma and Tumut waters will eventually reach the Murrumbidgee. It would be helpful if we knew with certainty just what is to happen to that 165,000 acre feet of water. It is relevant to a consideration of what we are now discussing to know whether it will go in toto, over the questionable years, to the Murray.
I see a virtue in South Australia’s viewpoint. We had a drought this year, but South Australia was not in any difficulty in regard to water, the reason being that there was a flood last year and her reservoirs were full.
– Which reservoirs?
– I meant Lake Victoria. There was water in too much abundance. It was the plenitude of water accumulated at that time that enabled South Australia to go through the recent drought quite successfully. But naturally a drought drains reserves in reservoirs, and those reserves have to be rebuilt. It could easily be that the drought that was suffered during the recent summer will have the effect of leaving the reservoirs very short of water, and that the real effect of the drought will not be felt until next year.
The effect of a drought is delayed if there are good water reserves in the beginning. In the light of the recent drought, I do not think it is fantastic for South Australia to be concerned, lt is probable that that drought spurred the Premier into his great activity, and that it is responsible for the fears that have arisen.
Again I say that I should like to see this matter resolved with a little generosity on the part of New South Wales and Victoria. The waters of the Tooma are being diverted and the existing arrangements of the River Murray Commission have been disrupted.
– They have not.
– Let me put it this way: What people have become used to in regard to the Murray has been changed. I put it as quietly as that. That is being done with great advantage to New South Wales and Victoria in regard to both power and water. I am suggesting quiety to the committee that it would be generous and graceful on the part of New South Wales and Victoria if they were to say to their sister State, South Australia, “ We realize that you have fears about the interregnum of five years between the diversion of one river and the re-entry of another into the Murray. We will ensure that, during that period, which can be the only cause of your worry, you get your minimum quantities.” I am not satisfied when it is suggested that clause 10 (1.) (b) is the answer, as was done by a number of honorable senators including, I think, the Minister. To take the figures that are referred to in clause 10 (1.) (b) and to apply in equal proportions towards the share of New South Wales and Victoria the quantities that will be taken from the Tooma may go only part of the way towards filling the ratio of 5:5:3 that has to apply when a period of restriction is declared by the River Murray Commission.
– It could be said that that proportion could be enforced under clause 10(l.)(b).
– It is agreed upon between those two States. They have agreed that they will take that on account of their entitlement in a period of diversion. The point I make is that in a period of restriction-
– There has never been one.
– I think I myself said that earlier. Drought conditions would be much closer now than they have been for decades. I imagine that last year presented the first real danger of drought for many years.
– We have reached the stage at which Government supporters are insisting that South Australia’s rights are protected and Opposition members believe that the act should not be proclaimed until both Houses are satisfied that that is so. I have in mind one way in which the Parliament could resolve the misunderstanding. According to to-day’s press Sir Thomas Playford is proceeding to Canberra. It would be most democratic to ask him to appear at the bar of the Senate to put the position as he sees it. He could describe in detail the points on which he disagrees with the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner).
Earlier, an honorable senator said that there, could be no better time for exercising our prerogatives as a States house. I for one am not satisfied. According to to-day’s South Australian press the overwhelming majority of persons in that State are opposed te- w.e present form of the bill and the provision made for safeguarding the State’s rights. This has been a most informative debate, but honorable senators would be interested to learn of South Australia’s plans for the reticulation of water and the State’s likely demands in view of the anticipated growth of population. We should be told what land is available for irrigation and to what use the additional 60,000 acre feet would be put. Senator Buttfield spoke of areas to which water should be reticulated through pipelines and we could well be told of any further plans by the South Australian Government to draw water from the Murray, not so much for irrigation as for the domestic supply of towns at present dependent upon corrugated iron tanks for collecting rain water. Sir Thomas Playford could give us positive information of that kind and make clear the real seat of disagreement. Since he has seen fit to fly to Canberra for a further consultation with the Prime Minister-
– He is probably here now.
– That is quite possible.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the sitting was suspended 1 had suggested that the difficulty with which we are confronted could be resolved by the exercise of our prerogative of calling before the bar of the Senate Sir Thomas Playford who is still very aggrieved about the position of South Australia in relation to the agreement. Extra weight is lent to the contention that he is aggrieved when we recall the statements that were made by Senators Pearson and Vincent. Senator Pearson said that until he saw the Government’s amendment he was not prepared to vote for the bill. A little later, Senator Vincent said that the Government’s amendment was just a gesture to the South Australian Government. Those conflicting statements place the Senate in a difficult position. We should try to get clear in our minds the cause of the discontent and the sense of grievance that evidently is exercising the mind of Sir Thomas Playford.
Both Senator McKenna and Senator Spooner spoke about the complexities of the agreements themselves. Somewhere amongst those complexities must lie the cause of the present disagreement between South Australia and the three parties to the agreements. At one stage of the debate, Senator Pearson spoke of difficulties that could be plainly seen by anybody who had imagination and was prepared to exercise it. Nothing that has been said in this debate has yet got us to the nub of the problem - the disapproval that has been expressed so freely by South Australia. I understand that it is a very important topic at the moment in South Australia. It has been featured extensively to-day by the press of that State. I understand, too, that there have been rather heated discussions in South Australia amongst colleagues of Government members from that State. I understand, further, that Sir Thomas Playford is proceeding to Canberra with a view to further discussions.
If Sir Thomas Playford came before the Senate, we could ask him why he had requested, through his chief secretary, certain members of the Senate to vote against the bill, and to what degree he feels aggrieved for not being consulted on aspects of the agreement. The matter raised by Senator McKenna could also be put to him. He could be asked about South Australia’s willingness to take part in the re-formation of the interstate commission, to bring to light conflicts and. other matters that have not been catered for in the provisions of this bill. How far Sir Thomas Playford would be prepared to compromise on the Tooma diversion and numerous other things would come to light if he put his case to the Senate and the Senate were able to answer questions that have not yet been resolved. I believe that by exercising our rights as a States House and fulfilling the purpose of our existence as a House of the Parliament - that is, to protect South Australia or any other State - we should find a solution of the problems with which we are faced. I believe that only good, could come from adopting that course. We should clear the air, once and for all, on this very contentious matter.
.- I would not normally have intervened in this debate, despite a natural desire to express my view on a matter of such national importance, but, at the committee stage, I feel that I am entitled to a few minutes’ audience to comment on an amendment so ridiculous as this. It is a political gesture - political in its appearance and its superficiality. It makes the pretence of protecting rights of South Australia to the waters of the Murray.
I am prompted to ask: What are the rights of South Australia to the waters of the Murray? South Australia had rights to this water before the River Murray Agreement came into existence. It had rights when we federated, and those rights were to some extent expressed in the Constitution. Section 100 of the Constitution is couched in the ambiguous language which politicians insist on perpetuating. If the politicians had left the drafting to lawyers, the lawyers would have expressed the intention with simplicity and clarity. The language of the politicians has been perpetuated in section 100. I am not claiming for the language used by the combined political sagacity of the 1900’s a perfect and transparent sagacity, even when interpreted by the sagacious elements of our political life, who at present constitute the Senate. Section 100 provides -
The Commonwealth shall not-
Here is the ambiguity - by any law or regulation of trade or commerce, abridge the right of a State-
Not only the right of a State - or of the residents therein-
There is the rub. The Constitution says that the Commonwealth shall not abridge either the rights of a State or of the residents therein, and goes on to say - to the reasonable use of the waters of rivers for conservation or irrigation. “ Reasonable use “ is an expression which possibly represented some limitation of the rights of both a State and the residents at the time of federation. But the prohibition is addressed only to the Commonwealth, and it is addressed to the Commonwealth only in its role of legislating in relation to trade and commerce. Thereby the politicians have weaved a web of confusion that defies clarification except when entrusted to the determinate jurisdiction of a court.
The States of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales were induced in 1915 to come to an agreement with the Commonwealth. That agreement, after various amendments, now takes the form of the River Murray Agreement. It is sanctified by a Commonwealth statute. That is the second source of the rights of South Australia to the waters of the Murray. But 1 suggest that this agreement is possibly ineffectual to abridge any rights of the residents of States which they derive from section 100 of the Constitution. Clause 45 of the River Murray Agreement provides -
The flow of the River Murray at Albury including the natural or regulated flows of all tributaries of the River Murray above Albury-
Remember there the expression “ regulated “. 1 emphasize this - as regulated by the Upper Murray storage shall be shared equally by New South Wales and Victoria; subject to deduction from either State’s share at Albury of such volumes as that State may by works divert from time to time from streams above Albury.
When the present agreement is approved by the Parliament it has the force of the law to the full extent of the authority of the Commonwealth and the two States, Victoria and New South Wales. Clause 10 (1.) of the agreement provides -
The States agree that the quantity of water diverted from the Tooma River to the Adaminaby storage and to the Tumut River by the works of the Authority shall -
for the purposes of clause 45 of the River Murray Agreement be deemed to be water diverted by works of the States-
That is, Victoria and New South Wales - from a tributary of the River Murrayabove Albury and to have been sodiverted as to one-half of that quantity by each of the States; and 1 am informed - I have an insular outlook, on this matter, Mr. Chairman - that the contribution that the Tooma makes to the waters of the Murray at Albury represents, about 12 per cent, of the volume. That is the extent of the diversion. Clause 10 of the Snowy Mountains Agreement providesthat the responsibility for that diversion is, for the purposes of that agreement, accepted, by Victoria and New South Wales in equal shares and that, under these provisions of the River Murray Agreement, carries the consequence that they expressly recognizein the Snowy Mountains Agreement that they shall submit to a deduction when the water of the river Murray has to be shared. in a restricted period in the proportion of 5:5: 3 - a deduction equal to the extent of the diversion of the Tooma. The extent, of that diversion represents 12 per cent, of the total volume of the Murray at Albury, according to my pre-dinner arithmetic. That, in my judgment, permits of an amplemargin to take care of the reasonably foreseeable vicissitudes and variations in the: volume of that long convolvulous, the Murray.
Confining myself strictly to the subject of water, I address myself with particularity to the waters of the Tooma. I suggest that when the two States which, under the Snowy Mountains Agreement, are effecting the diversion of the Tooma and at the same time accepting equal responsibility for the deduction of the water of the Murray to which they are entitled within the plain terms of that agreement, there is no reasonable basis for apprehension about undue deprivation of water to which the State of South Australia or its residents areentitled by virtue of their common law rights, the Constitution, or the River Murray Agreement.
The Government proposes to incorporate in the bill a provision to the effect that nothing in this bill or the agreement shall affect the rights of South Australia to the water to which it is entitled by the River Murray Agreement. Therefore, we have a three-cordoned barrier against the efficacy of any objection based upon the view that South Australia or its residents are to be unreasonably deprived, by this legislation, of their rights. The Opposition has applauded the magnificent conception and the excellence of the execution of the scheme, and has stressed the national importance of it in war and in peace, and has given its blessing to the motion for the second reading. Then, forsooth, the Opposition proposes that we should insert in the bill a provision that the act shall not be proclaimed until after each House of the Parliament resolves that in its opinion the rights of South Australia to river Murray water are not adversely affected by the operation of this measure. In that proposal we have a piece of political parading that is as sinuous and tortuous as the river Murray itself. It would be a satire, a self-disparaging satire, unsurpassed in the history of this Senate, to give one voice of approval to such an unworthy thought - a political veneer.
– I am tempted to rise merely to record the view that I take, that there is no pain so great as that of bringing forth a new idea. Here comes a precedent. 1 admit that there is no precedent for this type of amendment or proposal in relation to a statute, but I have no reverence for precedent. There has to be a beginning for everything. This amendment certainly does not call for, or justify, the term “ ridiculous “, which our good friend, Senator Wright, has applied to it. The honorable senator needs to develop a better argument than mere abuse of the proposition. In regard to his allegation that the amendment is political, I point out that the whole of this issue between South Australia and the Commonwealth is, of course, a political issue. It is in the interests of good relations and a solution of the political difficulties in this matter - they are political difficulties - that the Opposition makes this suggestion. I think that it offers to the Minister a golden opportunity to have the matter brought to finality. I am amazed that, in the interests of the Snowy project, he is not prepared to accept it.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator McKenna’s amendment) be inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . ..11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
After section five of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “5a. - (1.) The Agreement is approved. (2.) The Supplemental Agreement is approved.”
Amendment (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
Leave out “ section is “ and insert “ sections are “.
Amendment (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That, after proposed section 5a, the following section be inserted: - “ ‘ 5b. Nothing in this Act shall be taken to affect the rights of the State of South Australia under the agreements copies of which are set out in the Schedules to the River Murray Waters Act 1915-1954.’.”.
– I do not intend to remain silent on this clause, although I have had quite a few things to say already during the course of the debate. We come now to a proposition that clause 5 be amended to provide that nothing in the act shall be taken to affect the rights of the State of South Australia under the agreement. I want to make it perfectly clear that 1 will be supporting this amendment under protest, not because I believe that it adequately or properly will provide for protection of the interests of South Australia.
– Then vote against it.
– That is a stupid suggestion. I have fought consistently for proper and mature consideration to be given to South Australia’s interests in this matter. I have asked for the whole loaf - for fully guaranteed protection. This Government has refused to give full protection to South Australia. Instead, it proposes to insert in the legislation a nebulous provision which merely suggests that some protection might be given. As a good South Australian, I cannot vote against a proposition that will afford even a slight degree of protection.
– The honorable senator thinks that the amendment is all right, does he?
– I do not think it is all right. On the contrary, I think that it is very bad indeed. I repeat, however, that if the amendment offers even a shadow of protection, I must of necessity support it.
– Does it or does it not afford protection?
– It will have to do at least until such time as we who are watching the interests of South Australia can get something better. That is the answer to Senator Pearson.
– You voted for the second reading without any amendment.
– I voted for the second reading because I was still seeking certain information. I have not received it yet. I hope that even at the eleventh hour the Minister will supply to the chamber information that will satisfy me completely that the interests of South Australia are being protected fully and adequately.
As I said, I am in a position in which it is not possible for me to vote against a provision which even suggests that some measure of protection might be accorded, as this amendment does. For that reason, I am determined to make my position in the matter clear. I do not want any misunderstanding of any kind about it. Regardless of what has happened during the deliberations of the Senate in connexion with this bill, I emphasize that unless we in South Australia can get for South Australia what we believe is consistent with the interests of that State we will continue to be vocal about it even after this bill has been disposed of.
– I wish to add one observation in connexion with this amendment. It derives from a consideration of clause 45 of the River Murray Agreement. I have drawn attention previously to the fact that that clause refers to the flow of the river Murray at Albury including the natural or regulated flows of all tributaries of the river Murray above Albury. The clause then goes on to say - as regulated by the Upper Murray storage shall be shared equally by New South Wales and Victoria.
I have referred to the fact that clause 10 of the Snowy agreement accepts responsibility for the diversion of the Tooma in equal shares, but sub-clause (2.) of the clause provides for the replacing of the Tooma waters until such time as the necessary works have been constructed to enable water diverted from the Tooma River to the Adaminaby storage and to the Tumut River, by water diverted from the Snowy River to a stream feeding or joining the river Murray above Hume reservoir.
Sub-clause (3.) of clause 10 provides that as soon as the necessary works have been constructed to enable water diverted from the Tooma River to the Adaminaby storage and to the Tumut River to be replaced by water diverted from the Murray storage, the provisions of sub-clause (2.) shall cease to have effect. I want to draw the attention of the committee to the possibility of an implication of those two sub-clauses - the view that the only States which are entitled to control the waters of the Snowy River by this scheme to be introduced into the river Murray, are New South Wales and Victoria. The agreement does not definitely say so, but sub-clauses (2.) and (3.) proceed upon the implication that the new waters from the Snowy into the Murray are properly the subject of the exclusive control of New South Wales and Victoria.
It is probable that under clause 5 of the River Murray Agreement, which refers to the flow of the river Murray at Albury, including the natural or regulated flows - the regulated flows being those as regulated by the Upper Murray scheme - that subclauses (2.) and (3.) of clause 10 of the Snowy River Agreement are perfectly in accord with clause 45 of the River Murray Agreement. I say that because it is possible that the proper interpretation of clause 45 of the River Murray Agreement confines its application, in respect to regulated waters, to waters which are regulated above the Upper Murray storage. As I understand the position, that does not include the Snowy River storage. Insofar as subclauses (2.) and (3.) of clause 10 convey that implication, one’s inclination would be to think that it carries into effect the correct interpretation of clause 45 of the River Murray Agreement.
But clause 45 of the River Murray Agreement is open to another interpretation, which has appealed to South Australia’s sagacious and protective Premier, Sir Thomas Playford, who is much more mindful of, and much more earnest and persevering in his efforts to protect the rights of that State and its residents to the flow of the river Murray. He is certainly much more earnest and persevering than are honorable senators opposite who make this belated attempt only after a new amendment has come before the Chamber which satisfies the consciences of honorable senators on the Government side that the rights of the State are not to be prejudiced. Sir Thomas Playford has put forward a contention that under clause 45 of the River Murray Agreement he will be entitled to his proportion of the volume of the river Murray as it flows over the Hume Weir, augmented by the Snowy River addition.
The reason why I rose to speak was to indicate that this amendment, which some inapt representative of the Opposition said yesterday would provide a feast for lawyers, says in careful language that nothing in the act or in the agreement shall affect the rights of South Australia under the agreement, copies of which are set out in the Schedules of the River Murray Waters Act. Even that implication in favour of South Australia which derives from sub-clauses (2.) and (3.) of clause 10 of the Snowy agreement - I have expressed a snap view on it - is preserved under this amendment which says that nothing that we do by virtue of this legislation shall affect the rights of South Australia. I say that, even though I think the implication to which I have referred is contrary to the true interpretation of clause 45 of the River Murray Agreement. That right is preserved to those who in South Australia feel that their rights might but for this amendment, be infringed or qualified.
I have risen to discuss that technical matter solely out of respect for Sir Thomas Playford and his colleagues who sit in this Senate because I rejoice in taking the view that he has most earnestly and jealously guarded the legitimate rights of his State where the residents are unduly dependent upon water. Water is the very life-blood of South Australia and the key to its fertility and prosperity. I am happy that the proposed amendment provides that nothing in the act shall affect the legitimate right of South Australia to the continued flow of the Murray River into that State.
– We have just listened to a very learned discussion on legal technicalities. Perhaps the honorable senator will tell us now why the Snowy Mountains Agreement abrogates section 45 of the River Murray Agreement in connexion with the diversion of the Tooma River. The honorable senator should give us that information instead of telling us that we are mere political experts who are raising this matter for political purposes.
We have been twitted even by Senator Buttfield about not having read section 45 of the River Murray Agreement. In her supercilious, egotistical style she rejects advice from anybody. She makes up her own mind and discards the humble opinion of senators like myself. However, when making those unfounded charges she admits that she does not know anything about the matter because she has not dealt with the particular phase that I have just mentioned, which, in fact, means that the Government is repudiating section 45 of the River Murray Agreement.
Honorable senators on the Government side have told us that the proposed amendment will protect the rights of South Australia. During the course of the debate we have been told that we are expressing fears about the future, and that as no difficulties arose in the past, none will arise in the future. Just as this age lives from day to day and does not take heed of the future, so the Government regards this problem in that light. The attitude of Government supporters reminds me of the words of Henry Lawson, “ Lizarding from day to day, not seeking out to-morrow “. Then we have the biblical quotations, “ Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof “, and “ Put your trust in God and pray “. We want something more than that. We want protection for the people of South Australia who seek water.
The Minister told us that the recommendations of the River Murray Commission are unanimous, but in February of this year the Government received a report from the commission, as mentioned by Senator Gorton and Senator Buttfield, which was not unanimous. That report suggested a way of getting over the difficulty of section 45 of the River Murray Agreement. We know something about that report because South Australia rejected the suggestion it contained. The proposed amendment wilt not remedy the position. Honorable senators opposite have the audacity to give us legal opinions and cast aspersions upon us who, as laymen, are making an effort to overcome difficulties that arise from time to time.
In common with Senator Toohey, I shall not oppose the legislation because it purports to do something for the people of South Australia in connexion with the water that is being diverted from the Tooma River, but I detest senators on the Government side who try to give the impression that they are extraordinarily bright while we of the Opposition are just ordinary men. We are doing our best to live up to the duties imposed upon us by our election to this chamber.
.- Senator O’Flaherty’s speech is based entirely on a false premise. Nothing in this Snowy Mountains Agreement abrogates in any way section 45 of the River Murray Agreement. However, although his speech was based on a misconception, he and Senator Toohey have adopted the same attitude. I understand from Senator Toohey’s speech that he intends to vote for the Government’s amendment under protest. Why will he do that? I gather he thinks the amendment does not provide proper protection for South Australia.
– The proposed amendment does not provide enough protection.
– The honorable senator told us previously that the amendment does not provide proper protection. If the position is to be made clear - and it should be made clear for the benefit of the people of South Australia as a whole - -other matters must also be considered. Senator Toohey and Senator O’Flaherty voted for the second reading of this bill without raising any objection, even before any amendments were proposed. They should either put up or shut up. The third reading of the bill will be moved, and when that stage arrives the degree of protection afforded South Australia will be unchanged. If the honorable senators want to make their position clear, let them vote against the bill and throw away the whole agreement. If they are not prepared to do that, let us have no more of this nonsense of having 2s. each way in an effort to make themselves good fellows with the electors of South Australia.
– Senator Gorton has taken hold of the wrong end of the stick. Opposition senators during their speeches in this debate have clearly stated that no opposition will be raised to the Snowy Mountains scheme for the generation of electricity which is the major portion of the work.
Senator Gorton talks about the second reading and third reading of the bill. Who now is playing politics? Is it the members of the Opposition. No ! It is Senator Gorton who is twitting us about using this debate for the purpose of gaining political capital. He said that we should say whether we intend to vote for the bill or against it. We have already said that we are not going to oppose it because it is a step to provide what might be some protection for South Australia in the future.
Within the last fortnight we have had assurance after assurance that South Australia’s interests will be protected and that there is no need to alter the act or do this or that. But a little while after those assurances were given the Premier of South Australia received from the Prime Minister a telegram in which it was suggested there should be an amendment of clause 45 of the River Murray Agreement. Why was that done? It was suggested because in this bill the Government sought to abrogate
South Australia’s rights. I note there is no comment from Senator Gorton. Now, after we were told there was no need for any amendments, the Minister for National Development moves an amendment. We are not opposing the amendment, which places the Minister in the position of admitting that there was some substance in South Australia’s demand for protection of its rights to water at some time in the future if not now.
– As a South Australian, I am equally as interested in the protection of South Australia’s rights as is Senator O’Flaherty. I made my position very clear this afternoon. Let me ask Senator McKenna, Senator O’Flaherty and other Opposition senators this simple question: If New South Wales had diverted 330,000 acre feet of water from the Tooma River, what would have been South Australia’s position?
– Ask the Minister for National Development.
– The position would have been exactly the same as it will be under this legislation. That quantity of water would have been subtracted from the shares of New South Wales and Victoria at Albury. In what way are South Australia’s rights being infringed because this work is being done by the Commonwealth as an agent for New South Wales and Victoria? The water is to be accounted for at Albury, and that is the point at which it is decided what water South Australia shall get. As Senator Wright said, South Australia will get her share of 100 per cent, of the water that will flow past Albury, but Victoria and New South Wales will get their share of only 88 per cent of that total quantity.
For the life of me, I cannot see how South Australia will be one whit worse off under this agreement than it would have been if the diversion had been carried out by New South Wales. On the contrary, the State will gain considerably from the extra quantity of water that will be available to her. Can Senator Toohey, Senator O’Flaherty or any other honorable senator opposite show me how South Australia will get less water? South Australia will have increased supplies of water. Why should we suffer all this tomfoolery of trying to delay the bill and the building of the Jindabyne dam? When the Jindabyne dam is constructed, South Australia will receive a great benefit. I have been studying this scheme for years and, although I did not see this bill until it was presented, I did see the legislation that was passed by New South Wales and Victoria. Nothing that I can see in the bill detracts from South Australia’s rights.
I am eager to see this measure passed. The Adaminaby dam will be finished ahead of schedule. Let us construct the Jindabyne dam as far as we can, too. If there is any delay in the construction of the Jindabyne dam, I shall lay the responsibility for it at the feet of South Australian members of the Opposition. I support the amendment for the simple reason that it makes the position doubly sure.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Functions of the Authority).
.- There are two matters I wish to raise with regard to this clause, not with a view to producing any amendments now, but in the hope that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) will heed my remarks and possibly improve this legislation later. We in the little island State of Tasmania have had the privilege of developing a hydro-electric system with a degree of efficiency that is the pride of everybody on the island. The Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Commission Act 1944 provides -
In any case where either House of Parliament orders any return to be made relating to the operations, business, and affairs of the Commission, the Minister shall comply with the order of the House.
That, in my judgment, is a very sound provision which should be incorporated in all legislation relating to Crown authorities. As the Minister knows, there has developed in the political and legislative fields a contention as to the degree to which a Crown authority is amenable to Parliament from the viewpoint of providing information about its activities. The Tasmanian legislation, as I indicated, provides specifically and unequivocally that if, as to any matter relating to the operation, business and affairs of the Hydro-Electric Commission, either House of Parliament orders a return to be furnished, the Minister shall comply with the order and get the return for the information of the House.
The second point I wish to make is prompted by my recollection of some remarks of mine last year in regard to the Public Works Act, which, I believe, have gone unheeded. If we are to be informed about public works that are financed by revenue which is voted by the Parliament, it is necessary that there should be legislative machinery to provide a much better liaison between the Parliament and the authority that expends. Year after year, we vote sums of £10,000,000 or £20,000,000 out of revenue for the further development of the Snowy Mountains undertaking, the ultimate commitment of which may oblige us to expend £400,000,000 or £500,000,000. No one can claim any degree of responsibility in the expenditure of that money unless the Parliament is adequately informed stage by stage about the progress made and the product that is produced. The Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Commission Act 1944 further provides -
No new power development shall be undertaken or constructed by the Commission unless and until it has been authorized by Parliament, whether before or after the commencement of this Act. (2.) The Public Works Committee Act 1914 shall not apply to any works of the Commission, but before any proposals for any new power development are submitted to Parliament in accordance with this section the Commission shall furnish the Minister with a report on the new power development, setting out, as far as is practicable -
the opinion of the Commission as to the necessity or desirability of the new power development, together with its recommendations with respect thereto, and the reasons on which those recommendations are based;
the nature of the new power development;
the estimated cost of the new power development;
the Commission’s proposals for the financing of the new power development, showing separately -
the amount required as additional loans from the Treasurer as provided by this Act;
the amount (if any) to be borrowed by the Commission under section thirty-four; and
the amount to be contributed by the Commission from its depreciation account or its reserve fund as provided by this Act;
the annual amount proposed to be set aside by way of sinking fund for the redemption of loans to be raised for the proposed works;
the estimated annual cost of working, maintenance, depreciation, and interest; and
the annual revenue likely to be derived from the new power development.
In other words, the Tasmanian Parliament requires information on these matters, much as a business executive would require information before agreeing to advance £10,000,000 or £20,000,000 of shareholders’ funds for a new power development. I do plead with the Minister - with all his sense of earnestness - that the achievement of the ultimate objective of this grand scheme should be consistent with the responsibility which the representatives of the people must exercise in this Parliament. I urge that, not for the purpose of stimulating criticism but so that there may be regular consultation with the genius who guides this scheme. I refer to Sir William Hudson. In that way the proposed stages can be explained and we can be apprised of the facts which should govern our judgment in these matters. If this legislation contained provision for that it would be much improved and, indeed, worthy of the engineering work being conducted under its authority.
. -I think that I should reply to Senator Wright, if only out of courtesy. However, the suggestions which he makes have such far-reaching consequences that I would not be prepared to accept them at this stage. Nor would I be prepared to say that I had yet formed a decided view concerning them. For instance, there is a great deal to be said against the argument that the statutory authority should be so very much under the control of the Parliament. After all, one of the purposes for which statutory authorities are created is that of freeing them from what is colloquially called “ red tape “ and interference with what they are doing. We have to reconcile two aspects - the obtaining of results in the most efficient way, and the maintenance of the right of Parliament to call for information. I should not like to deal wtih that problem at this stage.
As to the achievement of better liaison between the Parliament, which provides the money, and those who spend it, here also there is a big field for argument. I would plead that in this particular case so much inspection has actually taken place that one is not inclined to fight for the principle involved. Honorable senators are well aware of the way in which members of the Parliament are welcomed on the Snowy project, and the extent to which the work there has been viewed.
.- I do not wish to delay the committee very much longer but I rise to address myself further to the observations of the Minister, for which T am very much indebted to him. One of the greatest deterrents to the effective completion of public works in Australia is the supplying of finance in a handtomouth fashion. In this particular scheme the authority has relied upon its own inherent efficacy and excellence as the justification for expecting, year after year, an appropriation sufficient to meet its current expenditure. However, there may come a day when the next stage is seen to demand a commitment of, say, £40,000,000. The authority may face an adverse Parliament, and the whole programme may be dislocated after, say, £15,000,000 has been spent upon the preliminary stage of this section of it. Parliament controls the finance, and proper consultation with the Parliament, so that it may authorize the financing of the next stage, is still an essential requirement in this country. It would be wise to ensure that financial provision shall be made for the whole of any such stage. If it is not, a spirit of rebellion against Parliament, irresponsibility in the execution of the scheme, or failure to supply the degree of efficiency that has been witnessed so far, may produce a gulf of disagreement between the authority and the Parliament which would be a serious deterrent to its success. It is in a spirit of co-operation and applause that I wish the Parliament to play a role in this matter; to have periodic consultation with the authority on development. Only after such consultation can we, with any sense of responsibility, authorize the expenditure required.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 11 agreed to.
Clause 12 (Reserves). .
– This clause repeals section 30 of the principal act which reads -
The Authority may, with the approval of the Treasurer, set aside, out of its revenue, such sums as it thinks proper for depreciation of assets, insurance or other purposes.
I should like the Minister to explain why that section is being repealed, and whether other provisions, or a change of policy, account for it.
– The answer to that is that there are provisions in the agreement which cover the requirements. Therefore the section is not necessary.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 13 (Price for supply and sale of electricity).
– I desire to ask the same question in regard to section 32. What is the reason for its repeal?
– I think that is self-evident. The section that is to be repealed reads -
The price at which the electricity is supplied shall be such as the Treasurer determines.
That matter is now the subject of a contractual obligation set out in the agreement.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 14 to 17 agreed to.
Clause 18 (Schedules).
– I rise again because the schedules, particularly the first one, deal with the distribution of water from diverted rivers. The schedules provide also for the continuation of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric scheme, but I am not concerned with that. I am concerned only with the distribution of the water once the authority has finished using it for the purpose of generating electricity.
In connexion with the River Murray Agreement, I made the statement a little while ago that clause 45 of that agreement has been abrogated by this agreement. Clause 45 and, I think, clause 51 of the
River Murray Agreement provide for the control of the waters that flow into the Murray, and also for minimum quantities of water from given tributaries of the Murray above Albury. They go further than that and make provision for the River Murray Commission to be notified of any works that are being carried on by a State or a combination of States. I am informed that the commission, by a majority decision, can take over those works. It can do the jobs itself.
We have heard expressed all sorts of opinions about this Tooma diversion. Senator Wright spoke to-night about the amount of water that will go into storage in the upper Murray area and the opinion which has been expressed that that water will belong to New South Wales and Victoria. He said there was some doubt about it. 1 think that is the cause of the trouble.
I am concerned about the Murray River Commission, which is comprised of professional men who, I understand, have not the time to go into these matters. The Murray River Commission has had some questions submitted to it on behalf, I think, of the South Australian Government and Commonwealth Government. For some time I have been trying to persuade the Minister to tell us the results of a submission to the commission in respect of the diversion of the waters of the Tooma River. I have a statement which informs me that the representatives of three of the governments represented in the commission - the South Australian representative disagreed - made certain suggestions to the Commonwealth in connexion wilh clauses 45 and 51 of the Murray River Agreement, so that those provisions could be put into the Snowy Mountains Agreement. One of these suggestions was that diversions from the Murray or any of its tributaries upstream of Albury by the Snowy Mountains Authority shall be considered as diversions as to one-half by New South Wales and one-half by Victoria but only until such time as the waters of the Snowy are diverted to the Murray, and that during this period there shall be an obligation on New South Wales to replace in the Murray from the Murrumbidgee, for use by Victoria, an amount of water equal to one-half of the diversion from the Tooma River. That was one of the recommendations that was made. It is expressed in the schedules we are dealing with now, yet we have not been able to get any information about it from the Minister.
Another suggestion that was made, but which is not expressed in the agreement,, was that after the waters of the Snowy are diverted to the Murray, any water added to the Murray or any tributary of the Murray above Albury by works of the authority shall be regarded as water coming from a tributary of the Murray above Albury. That is a simple suggestion, but it is not included in the schedules. The first suggestion, which removes any doubt that the River Murray Agreement is over-ridden by the Snowy Mountains Agreement, is there, but the other suggestion, which, if put into effect, would protect South Australia and give that State its due right to any water that comes into the channel of the Murray, is not included.
– What is that you are quoting from?
– It is a typewritten document containing suggestions, that might have been made to you.
– By whom?
– My friend over here said that some recommendations had come to you from the River Murray Commission, which, we are told, must be unanimous. I shall go a little further. The suggestion was made that the diversion of the waters of the Tooma shall not thereafter, for the purpose of clauses 45 and 51 of the River Murray Agreement, be deemed to be waters diverted by the works of a State. Is not that an abrogation of clauses 45 and 51?
I have some other opinions in connexion with this matter. Some years back there was an appeal case, “Trustees of Clyde Navigation v. Laird “, which is reported in 1882 Appeal Cases at page 658. That case laid down a principle in regard to the volume of water that runs from a particular watershed into a channel of a river. In this case it was the Clyde river, but the principle would apply to the Murray. This is the opinion that has been given to me -
If the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victoria should now agree that any quantity of water in the River Murray should be treated as a separate allocation to Victoria and New South Wales-
That is what this thing is doing. It is allocating the water to those two States on a 50-50 basis- in the sense that they were entitled to it irrespective of whether South Australia received its specified allocation or not … In law it could be properly described as a repudiation of that agreement.
That, of course, is the River Murray Agreement. That is a solicitor’s opinion, based on a decision given by the Appeal Court in 1882. I am quoting this opinion so that the Minister can look into the matter in an attempt to smooth out the difficulties that are confronting South Australia at the present time. South Australia wants the water to which it is entitled, particularly during the period between the diversion of the Tooma River and the diversion of the Snowy River into the Murray. I hope that the Minister will take my remarks to heart and go into those sections with the Premier of the State and with the commission to see whether it is possible to rectify what we consider to be a wrong that is being done to South Australia, not by the Snowy Mountains Authority, but by the distribution of the flow after the authority has finished wih it.
. -I thinkI should take part in the debate again because I would not like any misapprehension to exist about the present position on this side of the chamber or on the other side. Senator O’Flaherty made a series of quotations from some paper. I do not know what the paper is, and I do not know how he got it. I do not know whether it is supposed to be a report to me. I think it would have been fairer of Senator O’Flaherty, if he intended to quote from a paper such as that, to let me have a copy of it. so that I could see it, comment on it and express an opinion as to whether or not it was an accurate statement. I think it appropriate at this stage to invite the honorable senator to let me have a copy of it so that I may see it. Apparently he is not prepared to supply me with a copy.
– I am not going to give it to you across the table here; I have been asking you about it for a fortnight.
– I say, with respect, that if an honorable senator quotes from a paper in the chamber and is not prepared to make a copy of it available to the Minister who is responsible for the legislation under consideration at the time, the committee should not take due notice of what he says.
Let me make the position clear. I do not want there to be any misunderstanding. I said in reply to a question yesterday - and I repeated it again to-night - that the River Murray Commission has had a special meeting. The commission, being the practical engineer charged with the responsibility of ordering the flow of the river Murray in the interests of all governments that are concerned in the matter, in the interests of all governments that are parties to the River Murray Waters Agreement, has been invited to make suggestions. I said that yesterday. Those suggestions have been received. I said yesterday that I did not think that it was proper to make that information available until the various governments had given consideration to it. I may be wrong on that point, but I think it is right that the four governments that are parties should have an opportunity first to consider this information before others do so. I hope Mr. Chairman, that Senator O’Flaherty is not claiming that the information that he has given to the committee - the paper he quoted from - is in substitution for what I really believe to be the foundation upon which this matter will be settled and upon which all States will be satisfied.
That is the position. I can say no more than that. There is information in my possession. I think it belongs to all governments and I think all governments should be consulted before it is made available.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill gives effect to the Government’s decision to remove from the principal act the restriction on the period of furlough that may be granted to officers of the Commonwealth Public Service. The furlough provisions for permanent officers of the Public Service are contained in the Public Service Act. Similar provisions for temporary employees of the Commonwealth and those who are not employed under the Public Service Act are contained in the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act. An amendment of this act to remove the restriction on the period of furlough that may be granted to such employees is contained in the separate furlough bill.
The maximum period of furlough that may be granted to officers and employees under both acts is restricted to twelve months. An officer or employee is required to complete forty years’ service before he is eligible for the maximum grant of furlough. However, he does not receive any furlough entitlements for service exceeding forty years. The Government has approved the recommendations of the Public Service Board to remove the restrictions on the period of furlough which an officer or employee of the Commonwealth might be granted. In reaching this decision, consideration has been given to the view of the Joint Council constituted under the Public Service Act. The effect of the amendments will be that a Commonwealth officer or employee will be able to acquire an entitlement to furlough in respect of each year of his service. Under the new provisions, an officer or employee may be granted furlough in respect of each year of service in excess of forty years on the same basis as that for which he may be granted furlough in respect of his years of service up to forty years.
The amendments proposed by these bills will bring the Commonwealth provisions into line with comparative legislation operative in the majority of the States. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
– The Opposition supports the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- The members of the Public Service will appreciate the decision of the Government in regard to this matter and will congratulate it on having determined to give a measure of justice to those of its servants who have served it well. The only point that I want to make is that this matter was placed before the Government by the Public Service associations a considerable time ago. I have had a communication from a Commonwealth public servant who has had more than 40 years service and who would have been eligible for furlough at the rate prescribed by this bill had the Government made an earlier decision in the matter. This man feels that he is likely to suffer some loss because of the considerable delay that has occurred in introducing the bill.
I appreciate that there are difficulties and that there must be some date of commencement for the operation of the legislation. I suggest that the Government should consider the matter, having regard to the date on which representations were first made, and that if it feels that some of its servants will be badly treated because of the long delay in introducing the legislation, it might give sympathetic treatment to them. It would be unfortunate if public servants who were completing their service, after years of good work for the Commonwealth, were to feel that, because of the delay that had occurred in relation to this matter, they were being deprived of a benefit that was being given to others.
. -I appreciate the point raised by the honorable senator. It is almost a matter of hard cases making bad law. As the honorable senator himself has pointed out, there must be some date of commencement. If the operation of the legislation were made retrospective for three months, why should it not be made retrospective for three and a half months, or even for four months? It is a matter of setting a time of commencement.
– I was suggesting that the Government might adopt the date when it promised to consider the representations of the Public Service organizations.
– I assure the honorable senator that 1 shall be happy to bring that recommendation to the notice of my colleagues. At the same time, 1 should not like him to think that, in any promise 1 make, there is any real substance or solace for those who might be affected. But 1 shall certainly raise the matter.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’sullivan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Senate will appreciate that this bill calls for no further comments to those T made a short time ago in relation to the Public Service Bill 1958. with which the Senate has just dealt.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill presents several amendments to the machinery provisions of the Customs
Tariff 1933-1957 and is designed to facilitate the work associated with Customs Tariff alterations. It also sets out to correct certain anomalies in the present law. The amendments designed to facilitate the work associated with tariff alterations are concerned with powers which Parliament has traditionally vested in the Executive. The powers and their method of implementation are defined in sections 9 and 9a of the principal act. The Government now seeks Parliamentary approval for a variation in the machinery whereby these powers are exercised.
Sections 9 and 9a of the Customs Tarin provide that the Governor-General may, by proclamation, declare that the rate of duty in the columns headed “ British Preferential Tariff “ and “ Intermediate Tariff “ in the schedule to the tariff shall apply to goods listed in the proclamation when the produce or the manufacture of specified countries. In the case of the majority of tariff alterations proposed in the Parliament, it has been necessary for a British preferential tariff proclamation or an intermediate tariff proclamation to be made and gazetted not later than the day following the introduction of the amendments. This usually requires special meetings of the Federal Executive Council.
The proclamations always give effect to decisions made by the Government which considers that the procedure would be simplified and the need for special meetings of the Executive Council avoided, if the British preferential tariff rates and the intermediate tariff rates were applied to goods by ministerial order instead of by proclamation. This is proposed in clause 3 of the bill. The orders would, of course, be published in the “ Gazette “ as is now done in the case of proclamations. Under the present arrangement, administrative difficulties can arise if a customs tariff alteration is amended at short notice by the Parliament and in consequence it becomes necessary to convene a special meeting of the Federal Executive Council to consider the repeal or variation of proclamations. Further difficulties would arise if His Excellency the Governor-General were away from Canberra at the time.
The present act also fails to provide clear legislative authority for the application of the British preferential tariff or the intermediate tariff to goods specified in Customs Tariff alterations proposed in the Parliament. The existing practice has been to include special provisions in the proposals authorizing the making of proclamations and to validate the proclamations so made in the act which subsequently enacts the provisions in the proposals. The Government’s legal advisers consider that this practice is open to some objection. It is proposed therefore to insert in the Customs Tariff, provisions authorizing the application of the British preferential rates or the intermediate tariff rates to goods covered by new proposed items or existing items under amendment.
Clause 3 of the bill will amend the Customs Tariff to authorize the application of the British preferential tariff and the intermediate tariff to goods contained in a Customs Tariff alteration proposed in the Parliament and to permit this to be done by ministerial order. As is at present the case with proclamations, the orders would only have legislative effect after the Tariff alterations have been passed into law by the Parliament.
The remaining amendments are machinery measures. Clause 2 amends the definition of British non-self-governing colony and defines “ item “ as including part of an item.
The amendment proposed by clause 4 will remove from section 12 of the Customs Tariff provisions which are now redundant following the rearrangement of functions following the establishment of the Department of Trade. The Tariff Board Act which is administered by the Minister for Trade places on him the responsibility to refer to the board for inquiry and report matters relating to deferred rates of duty. Provisions in section 12 of the Customs Tariff place a similar responsibility on the Minister for Customs and Excise. This duty is now being performed by my colleague the Minister for Trade and section 1 2 of the Customs Tariff is being re-drafted to correct this anomally.
I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
Senator HENTY (Tasmania - Minister for Customs and Excise [9.42]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill which I have just introduced amends the schedule to the Customs Tariff (Primage Duties) 1934-1950 to provide for variations in primage duty to be made by ministerial order instead of by proclamation. This bill is complementary to Customs Tariff (No. 2) Bill 1958, now before the Senate, under which it is proposed to apply the British preferential tariff and the intermediate tariff to goods by ministerial order.
Most of the alterations to primage duties are associated with Customs Tariff alterations proposed in the Parliament and the goods on which primage duty rates are varied are usually goods covered by items in the Customs Tariff Proposals. It is necessary, in these instances, for a primage proclamation to be made and gazetted not later than the day following the introduction of the Customs Tariff Proposals.
This procedure may require special meetings of the Executive Council to deal only wilh proclamations which merely give effect to decisions already taken by the Government. Also administrative difficulties arise if His Excellency the Governor-General is absent from Canberra at the time the proposals are tabled in the Parliament. The Government considers that procedure would be simplified if provisions were inserted in the schedule to the act authorizing the Minister to make an order, which will be required to be published in the “ Gazette “, varying the primage duty on goods. This is proposed in clause 2 of the bill. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act 1957.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
That the bill be now read a second time.
This small measure has the purpose of amending section 10 of the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act, 1957. Under that act I am empowered to enter into an agreement to subsidize the cost of holes being drilled to obtain stratigraphical information which will assist in the search for oil. Section 10 of the act deals with those cases where the drilling operations were started after the announcement by the Treasurer on 3rd September of last year of the Government’s intention that a subsidy should be paid and before the commencement of the act which took place on 12th December last. This section provides that, where a drilling operation was commenced between those two dates, application may be made for subsidy and an agreement may be completed for the payment of subsidy, either before the drilling operation is completed, or before the expiration of three months after the commencement of the act, whichever first occurs.
In the programme of drilling operations which I have approved for the period up until 30th June next, there is one company only which is affected by this particular section. This company is the Australasian Petroleum Company and it is at present carrying out an approved drilling operation for the obtaining of stratigraphic information at Puri in Papua. This is one of four holes which the company is drilling in Papua at the present time but it is the only one which is being drilled primarily to obtain stratigraphic information and therefore which qualifies for grant of subsidy. As honorable senators well know the search for oil is costly. The estimated cost of the Puri hole alone is close to £1,000,000. However, the existing provisions of section 10 of the act prevent my completing an agreement with the Australasian Petroleum Company to subsidize this hole. The Puri hole was, in fact, commenced some months after the announcement of the Government’s intention to subsidize stratigraphic drilling, but before the commencement of the act. This is a case, therefore, which is governed by the provisions of section 10.
Although the Australasian Petroleum Company did all that was required of it promptly, and the application for subsidy was made well before the expiration of the three months, the issues involved in the negotiation of the agreement took rather longer than my department expected. In the event, I was unable to complete the the agreement with the company before the expiration of the three months period. In the meantime, the drilling at Puri is continuing, and the information being obtained by the company is being supplied to my department. However, unless an amendment is made to the relative clause of the act, no subsidy can be paid in respect of the Puri hole. This would be an unfortunate development.
There is no point of substance involved. All that the bill proposes is to amend the act so as to lift the restriction on the time within which 1 am required to complete an agreement in the particular circumstances. This is done by proposing the removal from section 10 (1) (b) of all reference to the agreement for payment of subsidy. The effect of this would be to enable me to enter into an agreement with the Australasian Petroleum Company. The amendment would have no other consequences. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
– I rise simply to record, for the benefit of my colleagues, the fact that they may address themselves to the first reading of this measure. I do not propose to address myself to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill and of the associated Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill is to obtain parliamentary authority for certain expenditure for which provision was not made in the 1957-58 Estimates. The various items contained in the bill can be considered in detail in committee.
Some re-allocation has been made within the total defence appropriation of £190,000,000, with consequential increases and decreases in individual votes. Included under the Department of Air is an amount of £3,500,000 for payment of claims for logistic support to the Royal Australian Air Force during the Korean operations.
Additional appropriations are sought for departmental and miscellaneous items of expenditure totalling £2,600,000 including the Royal visit, £85,000; assisted migration, £228,000; United Nations Emergency Force contribution, £98,600; bushfire relief, New South Wales, £20,000 and trade publicity, United Kingdom, £30,000.
The Appropriation Act 1957-58 includes an amount of £1 19,363,000 for payment to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. The final outcome of the year’s transactions cannot be foreseen precisely at this stage and an appropriation has, therefore, been included in the bill to provide for payment to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve should any additional amount become available. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
This measure, which is complementary to the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1957-58 for ordinary services now before the Senate,. seeks parliamentary appropriation of a. further £3,537,000 for capital works and services for the current year.
Major new items which are included ‘ are - Australian Aluminium Production Commission - additional capital, £700,000; Post Office Stores and Services Trust Account - additional advance, £500,000; and rail standardization - AlburyMelbourne, £200,000.
An additional £1,282,000 is being provided for the Canberra works programme. Including these additional amounts and - other relatively small votes, principally rearrangements under the new works and’ acquisition programmes, there is unlikely to be any marked variation in the Budget total of £122,400,000 for capital works. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read’ a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to appropriate- £234,361,000 to carry on the necessary normal services of government, other than capital works and services, during the first five months of the financial year 1958-59. These are services approved by the Parliament in the Appropriation Acts 1957-58. The several amounts provided for ordinary services are -
Those amounts represent, with minor exceptions, approximately five-twelfths of the 1957-58 appropriations.
The amount of £80,603,000 for Defence Services provides for expenditure on the current defence programme, and the amount of £33,927,000 for War and Repatriation Services provides for expenditure on war pensions and repatriation and rehabilitation services. Except in relation to defence, no amounts are included for new services. However, an amount of £16,000,000 is sought for the Advance to the Treasurer to make advances which will be recovered within the financial year, and to make moneys available to meet expenditure, particulars of which will afterwards be submitted to the Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– 1 move -
Thai the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to appropriate £4S,9S6,000 to carry on the necessary normal capital works and services of government for the first five months of the financial year 1958-59.
There will be Commonwealth works in progress at 30th June, 1958, expenditure on which must be continued until after the 1958-59 Budget has been considered by the Parliament. In addition, it is the practice to programme the capital works and services in the major Commonwealth departments, including the Department of Works, the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Department of Civil Aviation. The appropriation will also provide funds to ensure continuous employment and to enable purchases of materials in advance for the carrying out of those programmes of works.
The bill provides for five months’ expenditure at the annual level at which expenditure was approved for the purposes of capital works and services in 1957-58.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 7th May (vide page 865), on motion by Senator O’sullivan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I rise to place on record the fact that the Opposition has decided to oppose this bill. We recognize clearly the principles which underlie the treatment of judges at the hands of this Parliament in the matter of the adequacy of their remuneration, the upholding of their status and dignity before the community, and, above all, the assuring of their independence as judicial officers. That, of course, carries with it our support of the element of pension that is provided for judges on their retirement from their high office.
The Opposition takes credit for the fact that in 1948 the whole matter of pensions was reviewed and progressive measures relating to the subject were placed upon the statute-book. For the first time federal judges were given an opportunity to elect to remain on the then base which provided a pension for themselves only during the remainder of their lives or to accept a new proposition which made some slight reduction in the upset value of the pension to the judges themselves and provided for half of the pension to go to their widows. That was a distinct step forward. It is my recollection that all the judges who had wives exercised the option that was placed before them and went on to the new base of pension. A further progressive step at that time was to provide for a weekly payment to the widow in respect of any children under the age of sixteen years to be continued until those children reached that age.
Great consideration was given to the matter at that time. When the Judges’ Remuneration Bill, which was sponsored by the present Government, was before the Senate in 1955, I addressed myself at considerable length to the question of upholding the independence and status of the judiciary. So, when I announce that we are placing on record our opposition to the bill now before us, I want it to be clearly understood that the Opposition has a due appreciation of the importance of the judiciary in the scheme of things and of the need for assuring the independence and status of judges- The reasons for that are so obvious that I need not recapitulate them. If honorable senators would like to know the views that I expressed on behalf of the Opposition in 1955, they may refer to the report of the speech I then made when I dealt with the subject at considerable length.
The reason for our opposition to this measure is that we feel the Government has made a bad approach to the problem. We think it is wrong and that it is ill-timed to introduce at this moment a measure which provides substantial pension benefits for the judges when many more urgent matters are clamouring for attention. I refer to the fact that we have tens of thousands of unemployed in the community and that many superannuated people and persons on fixed incomes are suffering disabilities. Pensioners and recipients of other social service benefits need attention - an attention which I hope they will get in the preparation of the next Budget. The moneys available for schools, hospitals, roads and things of that kind are inadequate.
We think that the Government has made an administrative blunder in introducing the measure at the moment because people in all categories to which I have referred will resent the proposed increase. Our approach might well have been different if the bill had been introduced at another time, and after consideration had been given to the needs of people in those categories. On the administrative side, the proper approach would have been to start with the lower grades of public servants, adjusting rates, privileges and amenities, if that were thought necessary, until the heads of departments v e reached. At that stage one could have looked at the more senior officials; at people in the category of judges. If that had happened things would have fallen into their proper place. As each grade is changed one runs into anomalies between those at the top of the grade and those at the bottom of the next grade. The anomalies are then adjusted, and thus one moves up the administrative scale until one comes to those right at the top. There is, of course, no one higher in the scale than the judges of the High Court and the federal courts.
We think it wrong to select the judges at this particular time, when such disturbing factors are present in the economy. It appears, too, that the Government’s revenue estimates for the year will not be fulfilled; that there will be a substantial drop in our export income and, in view of the number of unemployed, the figures put before us some months ago will not be realized.
The Minister has not indicated that there is any urgency in this matter; that any of the judges are on the point of retirement and the measure is necessary to meet a situation likely to arise in the near future. Even if that were so, pensions provided for continuing and acting judges would, as always, be granted to retired judges by administrative act later confirmed by the Parliament. Therefore, there appears to be no real urgency. No hardship would be imposed on judges if the proposal were postponed until after the Budget had been brought down and consideration had been given to the claims of the various classes of person which I have described. They are the reasons which actuate us placing on record our opposition to the measure.
What does the measure do? At present the maximum pension which may be paid to a judge upon retirement is 40 per cent, of his salary. Under the measure the proportion will be increased to 50 per cent. The increase is of a very substantial order - 25 per cent. Having regard to the fact that the judiciary has been well looked after in recent legislation, particularly that of 1955 - which we supported - we feel that judges who at present qualify for the maximum pension will be in a very reasonable position upon retirement. The Chief Justice of the High Court is an exception but I point out that, on retirement, even he would receive now £3,200 per annum. It certainly would not make him a rich man, but it would enable him to live in reasonable comfort - assuming that it was his onlysource of income. lt is proposed to increase that sum substantially, by £800, to £4,000. The pensions of other judges of the High Court will be increased from £2,600 to £3,250 per annum - an addition of £650. Those figures do not purport to cover the whole of the federal judiciary, but show that the increases provided in the bill are really substantial. They might well have been deferred until a more opportune time had come along.
Our opposition is not based upon any doubt as to the worth of our judges. We appreciate completely the magnificient work that they do in their judicial capacity. 1 have no complaints to level against them on that ground at all but, for the reasons which I have indicated with brevity - and J hope clarity - must record my opposition to the measure.
.- I have examined the second-reading speech of the Minister (Senator O’sullivan) to see just how sound is the Government’s reason for introducing this measure. I find that it is wholly unjustified. The Minister began by saying that the purpose of the bill was to amend the Judges’ Pensions Act 1948-56, which now contained “ standard provisions “. I am not clear as to what that expression means in this case. Is the standard obtained by comparing the pension rates of judges in the Commonwealth sphere with those of judges in the various States, or is it assessed on a much wider scale? I should like the Minister to enlighten us on that point. Is the standard fixed merely by saying, “ The judges are entitled to substantial pensions “, and amending them accordingly?
We have only to consider the present diminishing national income to realize that this is certainly not the time to introduce legislation of this kind. Not more than a month or two ago we were informed by the Government that there were in Australia 74,000 unemployed. Our own observations have convinced us that that is true. We also know that prices on the world metal markets are falling, and that wool prices are down to the lowest level for ten or twelve years. Moreover, it is becoming more and more difficult every day to dispose of our dairy produce. Those things must weigh with us when we deal with these matters. The Minister may say, “ Only a few people are involved “, and seek to justify the proposed increases on that ground, but I would anticipate that argument by reminding him that a principle is involved. If increases in certain pension payments are to be made the policy must be applied throughout the whole field. I am fully aware of the importance of upholding the high status and prestige of the judiciary and am not one to say that judges, or their widows, should at any period of their lives live in penury. I think that that would be bad for the proper administration of justice, but in these matters we must be matter-of-fact, and consider all aspects.
I note that last year the appropriation for judges’ pensions was £5,716, and that another sum of £3,206 was also provided. Of course, the total sum is not great, but it had to be provided from Consolidated Revenue. Therefore this is something that we must consider carefully. If this legislation is carried, a judge receiving £6,500 per annum will receive £61 per week on retirement. Is that an adequate pension, or is it too much? In view of the economic prospects of Australia, I say that it is too much, particularly when we examine the matter a little further. A man who has practised at the bar up until, say, the age of 50 years develops a very lucrative practice. He is then appointed to the judiciary. We know that appointments to the judiciary are not made from the ordinary run of the mill barristers. A judge is not selected at random from the barristers who appear in the courts. A very careful selection is made. Therefore, the men who are appointed to the judiciary occupy the highest status in their profession before they are appointed. They take an oath of office, and they cannot depart from that to any extent. So the argument that it is necessary to increase pensions to preserve the integrity of the judiciary falls to the ground.
As I said a while ago, a barrister is appointed to the judiciary at about the age of 50 years and then serves as a judge until he is 60. After only ten years service he is to receive a pension of £61 a week. Should he die even a week after he is appointed, his widow will be entitled to £31 a week for the rest of her life. Those are things that the Opposition is not prepared to endorse. We are all members of the community and we all have certain rights. I submit that widows’ pensions generally should be increased before the pensions of judges’ widows are increased to £31 per week, and the pensions of judges themselves are increased to £61 per week. The Minister in his second-reading speech said -
Since the passing of the 1948 act, existing pensions have on occasions been supplemented by administrative action and appropriation. t know that a pension rate cannot be increased by an administrative action. A statute must be passed, and of course, there must be an appropriation. I should like to know how any administrative action could make good any shortcoming that existed in relation to the payment of judges’ pensions or of pensions for their widows.
I am conscious of the taxation which judges must pay on their salaries. For instance, a judge in receipt of £6,500 per annum would pay more than £2,000 in taxes. In effect, the salary which a judge would receive would not be much in excess of £4,000 which is not a high salary, considering the onerous duties a judge is required to perform. I did propose to mention one or two other matters, but as the hours is late I will not do so.
.- The submission that we have heard from the Opposition is a reproach to honorable senators opposite and a saddening note to be sounded in this Parliament. I think this is an occasion for intense sorrow and compassion for a despicable outlook. The record of the judiciary in British countries should excite our admiration. The remarks of Opposition members should be accepted by honorable senators of this side of the chamber as a challenge.
The Opposition is objecting to a measure which increases the superannuation of the judiciary from an amount representing 40 per cent, of their existing salary to an amount representing 50 per cent, of it. Senator Benn informed us that last year’s appropriation for judges’ pensions was about £8,926. That was sufficient to superannuate all retired judges and their widows. and was one item in a budget amounting, to £1,300,000,000. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the unemployed, superannuated persons, age pensioners, the needs of schools and hospitals, and the needs of those on lower incomes. He saidexactly the same when the Judges’ Remuneration Bill 1955 was being debated. He places the appropriation for judges’ pensions into a context quite unworthy of him. One way in which a parliament can obtaincredit and maintain its self-respect is by isolating the remuneration and superannuation of the judiciary from other matters of appropriation. Let us deal with the matter of judges’ remuneration exclusively on the basis of the incalculable value and independence of the judiciary. I take leave toquote to the Senate, as I did on a former occasion, the words of Sir Winston Churchill in evaluating the contribution made, not to one section of the British community only, not to any particular phaseof British life, but to the century-old development of our British life and its traditions, and in particular the tradition of British justice. He said that the chief thing that divides us from the totalitarian and Communist states is the complete independence of our judiciary.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon, Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– The judiciary doesnot adjudicate merely upon differences between subject and subject. To the astonishment of other countries, our judiciary is called upon to assume the responsibility of adjudicating as between the State itself and’ its subjects. When we recall that the complete predominance of all-powerful States over their subjects, undeterred by their judiciaries, has meant the complete obliteration of freedom and liberty, we realize what great values the British judiciary contributes to our British way of life. I think it is appalling in the extreme that with an Opposition led in this chamber by a man who has had the opportunity properly to evaluate these values of the judiciary, and led in another place by an ex-judge of the High Court, a debate on a matter of this sort can be distracted by reference to appropriations which are due to superannuated people, age pensioners and others. I sometimes feel, Mr. President, that this Parliament is not nearly as vigilant as it might be as to the need for being active and alert to preserve these institutions. We are accustomed to take them for granted but their preservation depends upon a parliament elected by the people. If there is a possibility of a majority in the Parliament carrying into effect the opposition that we have heard to-night to this measure, the danger to the country is great and the prospect of the country miserable indeed.
Having said that, I want to indicate that there are two features about the bill which disappoint me. I want you to note, Mr. President, that by proposed new section 6 (2.) a judge’s pension when he retires due to permanent disability or infirmity is granted to him only on the certificate of the Attorney-General. I express the view that a judge’s entitlement to salary or superannuation is not made properly subject to the adjudication of any Minister. It should belong to him by law, subject to no veto or approval of any Minister. I advance that view fortified by a perusal of the provisions with respect to the Supreme Court of the United States, where it is a satisfaction in that democracy to know that a judge who has served ten years on the Supreme Court or any federal court of the United States is entitled on retirement in any circumstances to his full salary which, in the supreme court, is 25,000 dollars a year. Little wonder we accord to that republic the leadership of democracy in this world! And that judge becomes entitled to his superannuation on retirement, not upon the certificate of any member of the Executive, but upon his own certificate accompanied, in trie case of a puisne judge, by the certificate of his chief justice - a perfect recognition of that integrity and independence which applies corporately and individually to the whole of our judiciary. In this community, men do not rise to those places of terrific responsibility and trust unless they need rid certificate from any member of the executive, on retirement, to get their superannuation.
I cannot rest content unless I express my disagreement with clause 4. It provides -
The amendment made by the last preceding section does not apply to, or in relation to, a pension to which a person becomes entitled before the commencement of this Act.
There are judges and widows of judges to whom accrued an entitlement to pension before the commencement of the act. Why any adjustment to future pensions, from a 40 per cent, to a 50 per cent, basis should not be applied to pensions already accrued, I do not know. I think this is creating a confused position, although it is implicit in the Minister’s second-reading speech that the intention is to apply to those pensions administrative measures to be approved of by appropriation bills. I think that is dreadfully unsatisfactory.
The judiciary is such, and its special position is such, that the Parliament depends upon it to interpret the Constitution, deciding rights as between the States and the Commonwealth, between citizens and States, and between subjects and subjects. I submit that it is pusillanimous of the Opposition to oppose a !0 per cent, increase of pensions which last year were represented by a vote of £8,900 in a budget of over £1,300,000,000.
– in reply - I appreciate the reception which, broadly speaking, this measure has been given, although it has been criticized by both sides. Appreciation of the judiciary, at least, has been well expressed. It has been stated that this is not the appropriate time to introduce such legislation, that the time is not ripe. I suggest that the time is never ripe. It is always either green or rotten. It never seems to be the right time to do the correct thing.
I was amazed by the approach of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) to this matter in equating, more or less, the very elevated position of responsibility of the judiciary with that of the average run of public servants, good as they are. He knows, as I am sure we all know, that the judiciary is a part of the authority of the Commonwealth; it is one of the channels through which the Commonwealth exercises its powers. But just in case the honorable senator has overlooked that fact, let me quote the relevant sections of the Constitution. Section 1 provides that -
The legislative power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Federal Parliament, which shall consist of the Queen, a Senate and a House of Representatives . . .
In relation to the executive power of the Commonwealth, section 61 provides that -
The executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercisable by the Governor-General as the Queen’s representative . . .
Then, in relation to the judicial power of the Commonwealth, section 71 provides that -
The judicial power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Federal Supreme Court, to be called the High Court of Australia . . .
I suggest, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that it is taking things rather out of perspective to say that a distinguished arm of our administration should be regarded with the rank and file of the Commonwealth Public Service, devoted as that service is.
Senator Benn inquired about the meaning of the word “ standard “ in the context of the bill. As I understand it, the meaning is that the pension is standard inasmuch as it is related to a proportion of the salary being received at the time of retirement. In regard to the remarks of my colleague, Senator Wright, I think that we have, to some extent, followed the precedent set by the American Constitution in the separation of powers, but we have not by any means done so to the degree that the Americans have. There is much greater jealousy, if I may say so with due respect, between the three branches of administration in America than there is here. For instance, in America the executive, as we know, has no relationship at all to the Parliament. On the contrary, membership of the executive is forbidden to members of both houses of Congress. They cannot be members of either the Senate or the House of Representatives. The executive is very jealous of its independence. On the other hand, the legislature is jealous of its power. From time to time, we read of the very active and very powerful part that is played by the American legislature, particularly the Senate, even in regard to actions of the executive. The third branch of the American administration from time to time has asserted its complete independence of both other branches.
Senator Wright may be correct in his view of clause 4. On the question of whether or not it was a wise piece of draftsmanship, I do not think that he and I would be very far removed in our approach to it. I could, perhaps, be converted to his point of view, but I suggest that there is no special significance in its being framed in that way. It was indicated in the second-reading speech that the purpose would be effected later, first, by administrative act, and then by appropriation. All the facts, figures and circumstances will appear in measures later to come before this chamber and another place.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Parliament House - Exhibits in King’s- Hall.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish briefly to raise a matter, about which I asked a question in the Senate a few days ago, referring to the display at present in King’s Hall. I have been given to understand that this display will be removed to-morrow. Before I make my request, I want to commend Senator Wright. He may think that that is rather strange, but nevertheless I commend him for making the suggestion that details concerning the Snowy Mountains scheme should be made known to members of the Parliament by means of a display in King’s Hall, In consequence of his representations, honorable senators became much better informed on the scheme and were able to adopt a more objective attitude when the Snowy Mountains legislation was before the Senate recently. I do not want the honorable senator to take my commendation of him in any way other than the way in which it is meant. I know that he and I have had some clashes in the past, and perhaps we will have some in the future; but I feel that he has assisted the Senate very materially by his suggestion.
Earlier this week, I asked a question about the possibility of having South Australian canned fruit and fruit juices exhibited as a part of the exhibition at present in King’s Hall. To-day, I received communications from two centres in South Australia, one stating that samples of canned fruit from the Barossa Valley had been forwarded, and the other stating that permission was being sought from the responsible Minister to exhibit fruit juices from the Murray district of South Australia.
I now ask - and I hope that my request will be acceded to - that the display in King’s Hall, including the exhibit dealing with the Snowy Mountains scheme, be continued for another week. This would have a dual effect. First, it would give week-end visitors to Canberra an opportunity to get an idea of the scheme, and secondly, it would give visitors to Canberra next week an opportunity to see it. In addition, it would enable South Australian fruit and fruit juices to be displayed, thereby repairing the previous omission.
– On the question of whether the Snowy Mountains exhibit can be extended for another week, 1 shall get in touch with the Snowy Mountains Authority to-morrow and ascertain whether it has other commitments in relation to the display. If there is no commitment elsewhere, i shall go into the question of continuing it for another week in King’s Hall. Personally, 1 should like to do so, and I shall see whether there is any reason why that should not be done. Honorable senators will realize, of course, that the fruits exhibit is not one from the Department of National Development; it is an exhibit from the Department of Trade. Senator Toohey was good enough to show me to-day some telegrams he had received in connexion with the matter. I have the impression that it was stated that a telegram had been sent to me. Unfortunately, events have weighed heavily on me to-day and I have not been able to catch up with my correspondence, but I shall look into the matter first thing in the morning and then have a talk with Mr. McEwen. I take it that the Department of Trade has samples readily available; but I should think that there would be only a limited time for the display of that exhibit by the Department of Trade in King’s Hall. In any event, I shall look into the matter in the morning and see what can be done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 May 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1958/19580508_senate_22_s12/>.