22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Honorable Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Does he know whether Trans-Australia Airlines has considered providing a third hostess when fully loaded Viscount airliners are engaged on short flights, such as from Tasmania to Melbourne, Melbourne to Canberra and Canberra to Sydney? Does the Minister not agree that because of the short flying time, and in spite of the great efforts made by the air hostesses on such flights, they are not able to provide the full service for passengers advertised by T.A.A. and provided by the air hostesses with amazing efficiency and goodwill on all other occasions?
– I am not aware whether the Australian National Airlines Commission has considered the matter raised by Senator Marriott. I should have imagined that had the need for a third hostess on these flights been brought to the attention of the commission it might have made the appointment. However, now that the matter has been raised, I shall ask the commission to consider the question raised by Senator Marriott, and if the position can be improved by the appointment of a third hostess on an aircraft, and if it is possible so to do, I have no doubt T.A.A. will consider the proposal favorably.
– By way of preface to my question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, I should like to point out that a public statement was made on 2nd May that competition in the potato trade was being stifled. That charge was made by a member of the Tasmanian Potato Marketing Board at a meeting of the board held at Devonport and reported in the Burnie “ Advocate “. It was stated that growers were not free to send their potatoes for sale where they wished. It is claimed that a merchants’ combine, both on the north-west coast of Tasmania and in
Sydney, withholds shipping space from growers who consign through independent merchants. After truck-freighting potatoes up to 30 miles to the port of Burnie, growers have found that they have to take their potatoes home again unless they are prepared to ship them through the merchants’ combine. The growers believe that the shipping companies are cooperating with the merchants’ combine to stifle opposition from independent merchants.
– Order! What is the question?
– As this matter concerns interstate trade and the continuation of this alleged practice could have a very adverse effect on one of the most important Tasmanian industries, and could result in insufficient supplies of potatoes being produced to meet the demand in Sydney and other interstate markets, I ask the Minister whether he will have . immediate inquiries made into the accuracy of the published statement. Will he also discuss this problem with heads of the shipping companies concerned? If he is unsuccessful in reaching a solution of the problem in this way will the Minister use his good offices to obtain alternate shipping to lift the Tasmanian potato growers’ produce, and thus defeat the discrimination that is allegedly being practised at present?
– I am naturally aware - I have been aware ever since I assumed the portfolio of Shipping and Transport - of the close affinity which exists between the potato-growing industry and the shipping industry. I must say, though, that during the last eighteen months I have not received from Tasmania or from any other place any complaint as to the availability of shipping for the lifting of potatoes, and I learn with some surprise of what appears to be the resurrection of an argument in Tasmania between two conflicting segments of the potato-producing industry. As I say, I am completely unaware of the circumstances, and I shall have to ask the honorable senator to give me time to have a look at the whole situation to see whether shipping is in any way contributing to it. I shall look at the matter in the light of the various contractual obligations that may exist between either of the segments of the potato-growing industry which I have mentioned and the shipping industry.
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– I now answer the honorable senator in the following terms: -
” SKAUBRYN “ DISASTER.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– My colleague, the Minister for Immigration, has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The River Murray Commission had a meeting on 5th May to consider the relationship between the River Murray Waters Agreement and the Snowy Mountains Agreement, which includes the question of the proposed diversion of the Tooma River under the Snowy Mountains scheme. I have received some recommendations in my capacity as President of the River Murray Commission. I have sent these recommendations to the Prime Minister, who is endeavouring to arrange a meeting of the Premiers of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia to discuss them. 1 do not feel that it would be proper to make the information contained in these recommendations available until the governments concerned have given it their consideration.
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The Minister for External Affairs has supplied the following answers: -
So far, the Strategic Air Command force has never been launched except in carefully planned and controlled exercises and practices. Should there be a real alert based on a warning of a possible attack, the force would be launched under a procedure which makes certain that no Strategic Air Command aeroplane can pass beyond proper bounds far from the Soviet Union, or “its satellites, without additional unequivocal orders which can come only from the President of the United States. The procedures are in no sense provocative, and could not possibly be the accidental cause of war.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply: -
asked the Minister for
Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
Australian ex-servicemen, i.e., medical examinations, X-rays and specialists’ reports which are carried out to assist in arriving at a diagnosis for the information of the determining authority. The only restriction is that investigation in hospital, considered necessary to arrive at a firm diagnosis, is limited by the British Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance to a period not exceeding four weeks.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Will the Minister make available for the information of senators copies of proposed broadcasts by Mr. F. Thompson, dietician, Brisbane, which were totally censored by the Minister’s department?
– The Minister for Health has advised that it is not the practice of his department to disclose contents of proposed broadcast script submitted for censorship under the Broadcasting and Television Act other than to the supplier of the script or in accordance with the act.
– On 6th May, Senator Robertson asked the following question: -
Is it a fact that the Commonwealth might request the States to take action to restrict or cancel the export of midget and small crayfish, for which Western Australia is famed? Has a careful investigation been made of the effect of this request on the industry in Western Australia, where, during the seven months ended January last, 30 per cent, of that State’s exports were midgets and 37.4 per cent, were small crayfish, making a total of 67.4 per cent., which forms a large part of Western Australia’s exports? Will the Minister give an undertaking that no such drastic curtailment will take place without due consideration of the claims of Western Australia?
The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following reply: -
The are two factors to be considered in any question of limiting the export of small and midget crayfish, one being the need of such action to ensure conservation of the crayfish stocks and the other being the effect that the supply of large quantities of these sizes may have on the overseas marketing of Australian craytails. Both aspects are being carefully investigated and no action will bo taken without full consultation with the Western Australian fisheries authorities.
– On 7th May, Senator Scott asked the following question: -
Is the Japanese fleet fishing in our northern waters to be allowed to fish in areas adjacent to the Western Australian coast? Can the Minister tell me whether the quantity of shell to be fished by the Japanese has been reduced to the same extent as the quantity that may be taken by Australian producers?
The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer: -
The arrangements for 1958 under the provisional regime do not permit the Japanese pearling fleet to operate in the Western Australian division of Australian waters. Approval has been given, however, for the Japanese to operate in specified sub-areas of the Northern Territory division and of the western portion of the Queensland division. Though a limit has been imposed on the take permitted from two of these sub-areas, there is no limit on the overall take. No action is being taken by the Commonwealth to reduce the 1958 take by Australian producers below that of 1957.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
States Grants (Additional Assistance) Bill 1958. Judges’ Pensions Bill 1958. Bills of Exchange Bill 1958.
Formal Motion for Adjournment
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin). - I have received from Senator Brown an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The need for the provision of moneys by the Commonwealth to the State of Queensland to enable that State to place orders with the Commonwealth Engineering Queensland Proprietary Limited so as to avoid the necessity for dismissal by that company of some 400 of its employees.
Senator BROWN (Queensland) [3.351. - I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till to-morrow at 11.30 a.m.
– Is the motion supported? (More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
– I know the Senate is very busy and is anxious to finish its labours. Therefore, I have made up my mind not to detain honorable senators too long. I bring this matter before the Senate more or less formally. Along with all honorable senators I am desirous of obtain^ ing a reply from the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). That reply is eagerly awaited by all those who have art interest in this matter, including the Commonwealth Engineering Company Proprietary Limited and, of course, the trade unionists concerned. We are all anxious that something should be done. I desire to put the matter before the Senate quietly and succinctly and, I hope, without too much circumlocution.
The matter primarily concerns the Commonwealth Engineering Queensland Proprietary Limited, which builds railway carriages and air-conditioned trains, and also repairs wagons and locomotives. Until, I think, last July the company was virtually under the control of the Commonwealth Government, which owned 51 per cent, of the shares and therefore had a ruling interest and control. Of course, the policy of the Commonwealth Government - it is quite open about it and does not go behind the door to tell the people of Australia - is to foster private enterprise. The Government is out to sell Government organizations, and has done so on many occasions. The Commonwealth Engineering Queensland Proprietary Limited is a private company at present, and is in a bad way as far as work is concerned.
Recently, delegations representing sheet metal workers, boilermakers, fitters and turners, vehicle builders, painters and others have interviewed members of my party. I understand they have also interviewed members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. The tradesmen naturally expect that, as the Government is comprised of members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, those members should be able to do something for them. The Labour party, not being in government, cannot do much except to direct public attention to the parlous condition of these men and of the company. We hope, as a result of the publicity, and the good spirit that we can engender by putting this matter without bitterness or heat, that something will be done to prevent the dismissal of these 400 men. I understand, too, that a delegation waited on Mr. Nicklin, the Premier of Queensland. The purpose of the delegation in seeing Mr. Nicklin was, of course, to ask him to give orders to the Commonwealth Engineering Queensland Proprietary Limited so that the men might be kept at work.
Who are the men to be dismissed? From what I can gather, after these dismissals take place, the company will have only a skeleton staff.
– What is the total number of the staff?
– I expected to be asked that question. I attempted to make a telephone call, but I could not get through to the trade unions concerned. However, I believe that only a skeleton staff will be left.
– I understand the company has a staff of about 1,000.
– That may be so. I will be perfectly truthful and say that 1 do not know the number of people employed by the company. However, 400 is a big slice out of the staff, and it is a terrible prospect for the men who are faced with the possibility of unemployment. That is why I desire the goodwill of every one who is listening to the plea I am making, and particularly of every one who can do something to help. I have in my possession a statement giving the dates on which 51 vehicle workers are to be dismissed. Later I shall ask leave of the Senate to have these details incorporated in “ Hansard “. The statement discloses that four vehicle trimmers are to be dismissed, one on each successive week. Thirty-seven vehicle painters are to be dismissed, seven on 11th June and 30 between 9th and 30th July. The sheet metal workers will be particularly hard hit. The dates of their dismissals are shown in this document, which I understand has been prepared by the company. Fifty sheet metal workers are to be dismissed between 21st May and 9th July. In addition, 27 boilermakers, 43 turners and fitters and 48 tradesmen’s assistants are to be dismissed. With the permission of honorable senators I incorporate the detailed figures in “ Hansard “.
The trades affected and the dates are set out hereunder -
Boilermakers. - Commencing from 23.5.58 to 30.7.58 progressively to a total of 27 tradesmen.
Filters and Turners. - Commencing from 12.6.58 to 30.7.58 progressively to a total of 43.
Tradesmen’s Assistants. - Commencing from 23.5.58 to 30.7.58 progressively to a total of 48 tradesmen. Trade Assistants will go off progressively in a ratio with the retrenchment of tradesmen.
Why is this retrenchment to take place? Naturally, the firm does not want to retrench. It is a good firm, has done good work, and is very anxious to continue that good work for Queensland and Australia. Why is it necessary that this retrenchment should take place? The document I have incorporated in “ Hansard “, and which was forwarded to the union, also discloses that -
The retrenchment at these works made necessary by the lack of follow-on contracts after the completion of the V.S. contract we have, for the manufacture of refrigerated rail cars for the N.Z. Government will be done progressively over the next two and a half months.
The retrenchment is to take place because of the absence of follow-on contracts. The document also discloses the interesting fact that other workers are to be dismissed in addition to the tradesmen I have enumerated. I shall read this further extract to the Senate -
The above retrenchments are of mert engaged in direct production. It will be necessary to reduce overhead and service personnel on the basis of 4 indirect for every 10 directs affected. This will mean a total of 104 indirect personnel. They will include clerical draughtsmen, technical planning, storemen, material chasers and handlers. cleaners, etc. The grand total retrenchment willi be between 360 and 400 personnel. The above figures are estimates only but if anything the retrenchment estimates are on the conservative side, and these figures could show the percentageincrease to bring the total to 400 people.
That is a very doleful picture, and it hasstruck dread into the hearts of those 30O or 400 men. What is the answer? Can we solve the problem? We know that unemployment is growing in capitalistdominated countries in the free world to which we belong and to which, naturally, we hope to continue to belong because we do not want to come under the domination of the Communists. I understand that a big sum of money was allocated by the State government to this firm for the building of rolling-stock and for other work. An amount of £800,000 has been mentioned. Of that amount, £50,000 was not spent. Yet, I am informed by the secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering Union that four locomotives and 172 wagons were repaired although that work was not budgeted for. Although £800,000 was allocated, of that sum £50,000 was saved yet more work was done. Of course, some will attribute that result to the introduction of modern methods of automation. It may be that in this instance the workers worked harder, or the administration did a better job.
As I have said, unemployment is increasing in both America and England. At the present time, I understand that about 7,000,000 workers in the United States of America are unemployed. Unemployment is also growing in other countries, lt behoves all men of good will to assist in bringing about the efficient organization of our economic system so that jobs will be available for all men and women who need them. It is for that reason - not on political grounds - that I make this appeal. I do not desire to argue the point politically, neither do I want to engage in recrimination across the floor of the chamber. We must be realistic about this matter. These men are faced with dismissal, and we all know what that means. It is worse to-day for a man to lose his job than it was 20, 30 and 40 years ago, because under the Chifley Government’s policy of full employment, men and women have been enabled to enter into considerable financial commitments. The hire-purchase system has developed and spread its tentacles throughout Australia, When men or women are faced with unemployment, they immediately wonder how they are going to meet their fate. Unemployment has become more -and more serious from a financial point of view. 1 said earlier that a deputation waited on Mr. Nicklin in connexion with this matter. I have no doubt that Mr. Nicklin was worried about the position. When he recently became the first citizen of Queensland he was anxious, I suppose, to see money provided so that these works would not have to reduce their staff. When he was asked about the amount of £50,000 that had been saved on the £800,000 allocation for the last financial year and it was suggested to him that that money should be used to provide essential rolling-stock, he said, “ It is impossible for me to do that, because I have to find money for my own employees “. He was referring to government employees engaged in similar work at Ipswich and at other places. I have not received any further information from Mr. Nicklin, and I do not want to proceed under false colours. I can only repeat what has been told to me by the workers and their representatives who are keenly interested in this matter. Mr. Nicklin stated that the question was one of money. I felt that it was my duty to place the matter before the party to which I belonged, as requested by the unions. I outlined the facts and I expressed the opinion that if the Commonwealth Government, the Queensland Government, the representatives of the trade unions and of the company got together something could be done to overcome the difficulty, even though we live under a system known as financial capitalism and private enterprise.
Any one who has studied this subject knows that, throughout the world, there has been a movement under the capitalist system to increase employment and to see that employment is made available for those who desire it. Only a few years ago, when I was the secretary of the Shop Assistants Union, I frequently encountered considerable antagonism from people who were utterly indifferent to the welfare of the workers; they would sack shop assistants whenever they felt so disposed. I used to point out - I suppose in my inimitable style - that the greater the number of shop assistants employed and the more steadily they were employed at higher wages, the better it would be for the traders because their business would increase. I assure honorable senators that there was bitterness amongst the traders 30 years ago. They did not care a hang about their employees. As soon as an employee became redundant, he was sacked. To-day, it is the considered opinion of many employers of labour, not of my political persuasion, throughout Australia and in other countries of the capitalist world, that every effort should be made to employ all our people and to give them the highest possible standard of living. Of course, we still have to fight that section of stupid employers who live in the past and who, when opportunity offers, do not scruple to sack their employees or to reduce their wages. However, in these modern times, the mass of employers realize that if they do not look after the people, the people will turn from ordinary political parties, that they will turn away from the free world and will seek assistance from the Communists. We do not want that. Downtrodden peoples are leaving the free world and turning their attention to the Soviet and to Communist China.
Before I close, I want to say this: I have been informed that the position will be somewhat better in October. Of course, we are now only half-way through May. I understand that the position will be better in October because by that time this firm will commence work on new contracts. In the meantime, it has a good deal of tooling up to do. Anybody with a knowledge of engineering knows that a contract cannot be started on immediately. As in the motor car industry, many months may elapse in tooling up before production is commenced. However, if these men are dismissed they will scatter throughout the State and difficulty will be experienced in getting them together again. I should like the Minister to inform me whether representations in connexion with the matter have been made to him by other people, whether there has been any contact with the Queensland Government, and whether there is any possibility of resolving the position by a manly effort by all concerned to get together for the purpose of destroying the ogre of unemployment that now haunts these works.
– I listened to Senator Brown with a great deal of interest. Having been forewarned in the usual way, in accordance with the Standing Orders, that this motion would be moved, I endeavoured to get together some information that would put me in a position to discuss the matter in the Senate. The subject of the debate does not refer to the sort of situation in respect of which information is readily available on the Government level. After all, it concerns a company that is operating in Queensland, that runs its affairs within Queensland and makes its arrangements there. So, important and serious as the whole matter may be to the employees of that particular company, it is not a matter’ of the kind on which, as a rule, direct representations are made to the Commonwealth Government.
So I turned, as was natural, to the federal member for that electorate to ask him what he could tell me that would assist me in the debate. As was natural, since the honorable gentleman is a Liberal member of the Parliament, he was well acquainted with the position and had done a good deal of work in an endeavour to alleviate the troubles that would face the employees of the company. I found the position to be that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), in whose electorate the factory concerned lies, has been in very close touch indeed with the employees of the company. I found also that only last Monday Mr. Killen, in company with the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) and the honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury), whose electorates adjoin the electorate of Moreton, met a deputation from the unions representing the men employed at the factory. Having sat around the table with the union representatives and talked the position over with them, these honorable members got into touch with the Queensland Minister for Transport and with the Commonwealth Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt). Indeed, they had already been in touch with these two gentlemen prior to meeting the deputation. Perhaps as important as being in touch with the Ministers concerned, is the fact that the honorable members have also been in touch with the Department of Labour and National Service and have a fairly effective liaison with the Commonwealth Employment Service.
Now, the facts are these: The company has just completed work on a very large contract for, I think, the New Zealand Railways. My information is that, following the completion of that contract, the company has been given a contract by the Queensland Government for the building of what are called “WHS” wagons; but, as Senator Brown said in his speech, having been given that contract the company has to go through its tooling-up process, obtain its steel requirements and put the work in hand. Adding it all together, the company will not be able to start on that contract until towards the end of the year.
So, there are three sets of circumstances. First, the three Liberal members of this Parliament who are concerned have been in touch with this matter fight from the start. Secondly, the company is spreading its dismissal notices over a period in order to reduce, as much as is practicable, hardship to employees. Thirdly, further contracts have been obtained in order to take up the slack, and the honorable members concerned are busy on the task of finding employment in other parts of Brisbane for dismissed employees, through the Department of Labour and National Service. That is about as much as can be done effectively. What is wanted from the point of view of the shop itself is for a good spread of repair work to come in so as to bridge the period between the completion of one contract and the starting of the next. But the shop specializes so much on railway work that it is a natural avenue for repair work for the Queensland railways. However, if the Queensland railways diverted work to this factory the volume of work available in the Queensland railway workshops would be reduced, and the result would be merely that the incidence of the problem would have been moved. So I say, with respect, that, traversing the circumstances, it is only fair to say that a really first-class job has been done by Mr. Killen and his two Liberal colleagues.
Senator Courtice is interjecting. Let us be fair. If members of Parliament go out of their way to do a job like this, should we not give them credit for their work? The facts of this case, as I have them, show that a really good job has been done by the members whom I have mentioned.
The circumstances surrounding the matter are very unfortunate, but a co-operative effort is being made to reduce the trouble.
The next point I want to make is in reply to the general observations of Senator Brown which, I thought, were rather ungenerous in view of the efforts that the Government has made, and is making, to maintain the level of employment.
– I did not attack the Government.
– Oh, yes, the honorable senator was a bit doubtful and sceptical about the success of the Government’s efforts, and he referred to the high level of unemployment in America and other countries under capitalist regimes. To that I want to reply that whatever might be the position overseas, we are a fortunate country indeed in being able to maintain our existing high level of employment.
Having made that point, I want to make the next point, which is that Australia’s high level of employment is not accidental. It is one of the fruits of good government. I refer honorable senators to the situation that prevailed last February, when the States were not lent money - they were given money by the Commonwealth Government. They got an extra £5,000,000 from the Commonwealth to be spent over a period of four months, so as to prevent unemployment. In addition, local government authorities were given authority to borrow another £3,000,000 to be spent over that same period. That is an enlightened, commonsense approach to the maintenance of employment levels. I remind honorable senators from Queensland that part of the arrangement was that that State should get, over and above the amount to which it was entitled under the formula, £500,000 so that it could cope with unemployment. I do not think that I can say much more on the subject. We must surely agree that the Commonwealth Government cannot, from a practical viewpoint, set itself up as an authority to find a solution to all these problems. Queensland is a sovereign State of the Commonwealth, with a responsibility of its own in these matters. One would think that the Senate would surely be the place where that principle would first be acknowledged. All that I can say in reply to Senator Brown is that such difficulty as has been experienced in Queensland is being handled as effectively as possible, having regard to all the circumstances, by the Liberal party members of the Parliament who, quite rightly, are taking an interest in the matter.
– Why does the Minister not acknowledge the efforts of nonsupporters of the Government?
– I have never heard that Senator Courtice has played any part in the matter. He is apt with his interjections but I have yet to learn that he has gone to the factory and met the men, as the Liberal members have done; that he has approached the Queensland Minister for Transport, as Liberal members have done; or that he has been to the Minister for Labour and National Service as Liberal members have.
– 1 will put my record up against yours any day.
– Honour to whom honour is due. I think that a spirit of public service has been displayed by those who have concerned themselves with this matter. On the parliamentary level, the members of the Liberal party have shown a sense of responsibility, and on the government level, the Commonwealth Government has shown a sense of responsibility in providing special funds to cover such a situation. Having regard to the length of the list of business before the Senate, there is not much point in debating the matter further.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the negative.
– On behalf of the committee, I bring up the following report of the Public Accounts Committee: -
Thirty-seventh Report - Northern Territory Administration - Part II.
Two weeks ago, on 29th April, I presented, on behalf of the Public Accounts Committee, Part I. of the committee’s report on the Northern Territory Administration. Part II. deals with the methods and machinery of administration of the Territory - finance, staffing, accounting, accommodation, the works programme and so on. While restricted generally to the Northern Territory Administration, it also examines the activities of some other authorities which play an important part in Territory affairs, particularly the Works and Health departments. The committee’s report discloses that a very serious administrative situation has existed, and still exists to a lesser extent, in the Northern Territory. Because of the responsibility that this Parliament has in respect of the Territory, I suggest that honorable senators might give close attention to the report.
Ordered to be printed.
– On behalf of the committee, I bring up the following report of the Public Accounts Committee: -
Thirty-eighth Report - Index to First to Thirtyfourth Reports.
The many inquiries made from time to time about subjects and topics discussed in the reports of the Public Accounts Committee have indicated a real need for some means of ready reference. Accordingly, the committee has had prepared an index in a form similar to that in which our ordinary reports have been published. The committee thinks that the index will prove to be of considerable assistance to members of the Parliament, and to those other authorities and persons interested in the committee’s reports. The committee intends to add ‘to the index from time to time.
Ordered to be printed.
– by leave - I move -
That Standing Order 68 be suspended up to and including Friday, 16th May, to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
It is customary to move in this way towards the end of a session. I am sure that all honorable senators hope that we will not have too many late nights. That will depend largely, of course, on the debates that ensue when the various measures are brought in. I hope that honorable senators will not, in the final result, be over-fatigued. As honorable senators are aware, it is traditional to put such a motion at this stage of the session.
– As the Leader of the Government (Senator O’sullivan) has said, it is customary to submit a motion of this type at this stage of the session. It is also customary for the Opposition to oppose it. On this occasion I intend to spring a surprise by offering no opposition. 1 do so because, although there are some fifteen measures for us to consider, they are, with one exception, not contentious. We are anxious to clear the way for the introduction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, which is now being considered in another place and feel that it would be possible, without inflicting undue strain on honorable senators, to sit after 10.30 p.m. to consider the measures now on the noticepaper, most of which are quite important and could, with advantage, be discussed. It is in the interest of that discussion of matters that are important, but not contentious, that on this occasion we do not oppose the motion. I want it to be clearly understood that this is not to be taken as a precedent and used against me on any future occasion because, in the circumstances, I doubt that I shall ever take this attitude again.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 8th May (vide page 931), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The bill now before the Senate is one of the noncontentious measures to which I made reference a moment ago. It proposes to amend section 10 of the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act which, the Senate will remember, was passed last year with the support of the Opposition. The principal act provides for a total subsidy of £500,000 as assistance to stratigraphic drilling, which is drilling directed to discovering the nature of the terrain underground and which might lead, not to oil, but to the discovery of basins and areas in which oil might be expected to be found.
The section very properly provided that the subsidy should apply to any drilling of that type which was commenced after the Treasurer made the announcement in his Budget speech, on 3rd September, that the subsidy would be paid, and before the commencement of the act. There was a gap, from the time of the announcement on 3rd September until 12th December last year, before the act came into operation. lt appears that in that period only one company began drilling of the type envisaged in the act. That was the Australasian Petroleum Company Proprietary Limited, which has as its principal shareholders the Vacuum Oil Company Proprietary Limited, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited and Oil Search Limited. I understand that Oil Search Limited is publicly owned. The company began drilling at Puri in Papua, and I understand the estimated cost of the drilling operation will run to approximately £1,000,000 overall.
That brings me to a direct consideration of that part of the act which applies to a company in those circumstances. Section 10 of the principal act states that the application for a subsidy in a case such as this should be made, and an agreement between the Government and the drilling company concluded, either before the drilling is completed, or within three months from the commencement of the act - namely, three months from 12th December, 1957 - whichever period is the shorter. In this case, the shorter period will be the three months. That being so, the requirement under the section is that the Australasian Petroleum Company Proprietary Limited shall apply within three months from 12th December - which it did - and, secondly, an agreement shall be concluded within the same period of three months.
The information supplied to us by the Minister is that although the application is in order it has not been possible to conclude the agreement within the three months’ period. I should like the Minister to complete his information to the Senate by indicating just where the difficulty arose in concluding the agreement. I realize that many complex matters have to be negotiated. They are set out in sections 8 and 9 of the act. Those sections provide for all kinds of things, including the supply to the department of cores from the bores, discussion as to what items shall be included in arriving at the costs, inspections, the supply of samples and the making available of all kinds of data about the drilling operations. I readily understand that all those things cannot be negotiated within just a few days, and I merely express my surprise that the act should ever have prescribed a time within which the agreement should be concluded. That is not done in relation to companies which start operations after 12th December. Certainly those companies must apply and have their projects approved, but the agreements may be negotiated at leisure. There is no such tight time schedule as operates in this special case. Therefore, whilst I attach no blame at this stage to anybody for the failure to conclude the agreement, the Opposition would like the Minister to indicate in just what particulars the difficulty arose. If he is able to do that, it would be appreciated.
The amending bill proposes to eliminate completely that requirement, but in this one case the agreement should be concluded within three months of the commencement of the act. The three months have expired and the Minister and the company are unable to conclude the agreement which the Parliament sought to authorize. On those facts as stated by the Minister in his second-reading speech, the Opposition feels that it is quite just that the Government’s proposals should be implemented and that the company should in fact become eligible for subsidy. I think the Senate will agree that it would be a shame if a company that was first off the mark and which showed real eagerness to proceed were penalized by the failure to correct this obvious flaw in the act.
– in reply - The question the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) asks is a fair one, and I shall do my best to answer it. Recently, I had the interesting experience of going out to this area and seeing the actual drilling operation. When one does that, when one sees the tremendous difficulties to be overcome, such as the physical difficulty of getting to the spot and transporting materials to and from the site, one becomes a little more liberal, compassionate or reasonable in one’s thinking about the time factor that is involved.
This hole at Puri is one of the most interesting of the holes being drilled in Papua and Australia at the present time. The professional advice within my department is that, above all else, it is desirable that testing should take place in this particular part of the world, that there should be a careful survey made and that geological information should be gathered, collated, retained and analysed. It was always contemplated that this hole would be one of the first treated. There was never any doubt about that.
The work proceeded, the company made its application, legislation was brought down, and then, when the company examined that legislation in more detail, it discovered that there was a number of items which it could claim formed part of the cost of this drilling operation but which had not been included in the claim. It thereupon substituted a second claim for the first claim. There had already been agreement between the department and the company about the contents of the first claim. When the second claim was lodged, some of the officers of my department took a rather more analytical view, and there were some discussions. The matter then came to me, and I am afraid I was a little difficult. I thought the claim was reaching a height that was hardly contemplated in the legislation, and I had my say about some of its contents. We then realized that this three months limitation applied, and we got everything finalized and were prepared to complete the agreement. The agreement was actually drawn up but the Crown Law Office said that we could not sign the document and comply with aH requirements of the legislation. The Crown Law Office advised that it would be necessary either to come to Parliament and obtain an amendment of the legislation or forego subsidy on this particular drilling operation. It would be a rather grievous blow to the Government if Parliament did not approve the legislation, because the whole plan and spirit has been to encourage the company to drill the hole. If any blame were to be levelled for the negotiations and the agreement not being completed within the three months, it would be hard to apportion the responsibility between the Government and the company.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 8th May (vide page 930), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill to amend the Customs Tariff Act is the type of amending bill which does not come before the Senate very frequently. Normally, the bills that we receive are those validating tariff proposals, and the general sections of the act are not under consideration.
Two aspects of the bill call for no special attention, namely, that which affects definitions and that which makes alterations in the principal act consequent upon the transfer of Tariff Board functions from the Department of Customs and Excise to the Department of Trade. However, proposals relating to the repeal and re-enactment of sections 9 and 9a of the principal act warrant more consideration. Quite apart from the two substantive changes effected, proposed new sections 9 and 9a are a distinct drafting improvement. If honorable senators refer to the principal act they will find that the same machinery provision in relation to the revocation of proclamations is repeated in respect of both British preferential tariff and intermediate tariff. The bill combines the two provisions in one sub-section having application to both rates. Generally speaking, the drafting of the sections, which have stood for a very long period, has been improved and its provisions amplified.
I should like to deal briefly with the first substantive change to be effected by the bill. Section 9 of the principal act states that the Governor-General in Council may, from time to time by proclamation, declare that the rates of duty set out as the British preferential tariff may be applied either to a British colony or to a selfgoverning part of the Queen’s dominions that formerly was a British colony.
Section 9a deals with the intermediate tariff and provides that, by proclamation, the Governor-General in Council may extend the tariff to any country. That tariff has wider scope than the British preferential tariff. Of course, proclamations, as required by the Customs Act, are published in the “ Commonwealth Gazette “. This bill seeks to abolish the system of proclamation by the Governor-General in Council and to substitute ministerial orders; in other words, orders made by the Minister and published in the “ Gazette “. On the surface and in theory, it would appear that removing this matter from the jurisdiction of the Governor-General in Council and vesting it in a member of the Executive, is a change of substance. But having regard to the way in which the Governor-General in Council functions - the Senate will recall that I have detailed those functions on many occasions following on my own experience - this is, in fact, only a change in form.
It is interesting to pursue for a moment the two grounds upon which the Minister justifies the proposed change. He says that the extension of the British preferential tariff or the intermediate tariff to another country is always a matter of Cabinet decision. I know that to be so, from my own experience. Tariff proposals are invariably approved by Cabinet, and the extension of the British preferential tariff and the intermediate tariff to other countries must be not only simultaneously considered, but also decided. Such matters could have an enormous impact upon the welfare of Australian secondary industry and the important aspect, from the point of view of the business community, is the immediate implementation and notification of the tariff rates to the world at large in the Gazette. Those remarks cover the first ground stated by the Minister.
The second ground is that speed is of the essence in these matters. Tariff schedule items in tariff proposals necessarily become effective almost at once, and consequent changes in the application of the British preferential tariff and the intermediate tariff - they are often required pursuant to international agreement - also must be effected at once otherwise situations could arise in which revenue would be lost, a great deal of trafficking would take place, hardship would be imposed, and there could be even a breach of international trade obligations. No doubt the Senate is familiar with the position that, administratively, these proposals become effective the moment they are tabled although frequently many months elapse before they do in fact receive retrospective parliamentary approval.
As the Minister indicated, it is not always possible to assemble the Governor-General in Council and to have a proclamation printed at short notice. Apart from the fact that the Governor-General’s duties carry him, as at present, to distant parts of Australia, I know from my own experience the difficulty in obtaining two members of the council at short notice to constitute the Governor-General in Council. Again, as the Minister pointed out, Parliament might suddenly amend an item in the tariff list and immediate action must be taken to have the amendment printed, and so on. On this count the Minister bases the proposed change upon the great administrative convenience that will be served. Remembering that, in any event, the Government is responsible for any order made by the Minister, the Opposition sees no objection to the particular proposal.
Now I come to the second major change which the bill seeks to effect. Sections 9 and 9a of the principal act have application only to items in the schedule to the act. They are not expressed to apply to items in tariff proposals which are filed in the Parliament and to which I referred a moment ago. As I indicated, in practice tariff proposals come into effect immediately and are later ratified by the Parliament. The bill takes the important step of confirming the present practice that orders extending the application of the British preferential tariff or the intermediate tariff shall apply to proposals that are lodged in the Parliament as well as to items in the schedule to the act and which in fact form part of the act. The bill gives clear legislative authority to a longstanding practice and at the same time avoids the clumsy procedures that are followed at present and which the Minister described in his second-reading speech.
At this stage, I indicate that the Opposition approves the measure. There is one aspect of it to which I do not wish to advert now, because I do not think this is the appropriate time to do so. The purport of that matter, which has caused the Opposition concern, will be gathered from the amendmentI have caused to be circulated to honorable senators. I do not propose to say anything further on that topic at this stage but to raise it at the committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I direct attention to clause 3, which reads -
Sections nine and nine a of the Principal Act are repealed and the following sections inserted in their stead: -
– (1.) The Minister may, by order . . . declare … the rate of duty . . . 9a. The Minister may, by order . . . declare . . . the rate of duty . . . (3.) The Minister may . . . vary . . . an order . . . (4.) The Minister may . . . revoke . . . an order . . . (5.) The date specified in an order . . . shall be . . . not earlier than the date on which the order is published in the Gazette.
I move -
At the end of proposed section 9b add the following sub-section: - “(6.) An order under either of the last two preceding sections or in sub-section (3.) of this section shall be subject to the provisions of Section 48 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1950 as if it were a regulation made under an act”.
Let me explain at the outset that the reference to the two preceding sections relates to ministerial orders made under proposed section 9 in regard to the British preferential tariff, and to the application of the intermediate tariff under proposed section 9a. The other provision that is brought in by the amendment for consideration is sub-section (3.) of proposed section 9b. That sub-section provides for the variation of orders made under proposed section 9 or proposed section 9a. Those variations become, in effect, new orders. So the whole three are simply in the category of ministerial orders. It is proposed that anything of that kind shall be subject to the condition, first, that it be tabled in the Parliament and, secondly, that either House of the Parliament may have an opportunity to disallow it.
I contend for that provision as an important matter of principle. Although I have no objection to the proposal for a proclamation by the Governor-General in Council of a ministerial order, the Opposition feels that it should take advantage of this opportunity to get these important matters back under the control of the Parliament. That becomes all the more urgent when the orders may be made by a Minister acting alone.
I asked for an opportunity to confer with departmental officers on this matter, and I am indebted to the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) for having readily granted that opportunity. I suggested this amendment to those officers merely to enunciate the principle to which I have referred so that they might have an opportunity to consider it, discuss it with the Minister, and submit it to the Parliamentary Draftsman. I indicated to the Minister and the officers concerned the thought that was in my mind. I wish to express my thanks to them for the great attention they gave to my submission and for their readiness to examine it.
I believe that the principle is quite sound and that it will receive the support of all honorable senators. The Minister has circulated an amendment that he proposes to move. He will have his own comments to make on the matter, and I do not wish to anticipate him at this stage. But I do wish to leave on record my gratitude for the readiness of the Minister and his officers to listen to a new suggestion and to examine it quite objectively.
– The Government is prepared to accept the principle outlined in the amendment. Senator McKenna was good enough to tell me of his intention, and I have asked the Government’s legal advisers to examine the amendment. I have had prepared new draft provisions which express in a legal form consistent with the other provisions of the bill the intention of Senator McKenna’s amendment. I ask the honorable senator whether he is prepared to withdraw his amendment in favour of the amendment which I have circulated.
In approving of the relevant tariff bills, honorable senators give assent to rates of duty under the British preferential, intermediate and general tariffs. They also, in effect, agree to the deferment of operation of the intermediate tariff rates which the Government is empowered to bring into operation at a convenient date, taking into account any international trade negotiations which may be relevant. The amendment will permit the Parliament to look at a specific ministerial order which may be issued in accordance with these arrangements, which have in fact already received the sanction of Parliament as to the rates of duty which are to be brought into operation. lt is, of course, appreciated that there may have been some change in conditions in respect of an individual item since Parliament actually passed the relevant tariff legislation and that an opportunity for the Parliament to consider a particular order may be desired.
Honorable senators will note that the amendment, in addition to applying sections 48 and 49 of the Acts Interpretation Act, also provides that ministerial orders are not to be treated as statutory rules for the purposes of the Rules Publication Act. That act provides for the numbering, printing and sale by the Government Printer of statutory rules. It is under that act that regulations are numbered and printed in an annual volume. By reason of regulations made under the Rules Publication Act, that act does not apply to instruments of an executive character as distinct from instruments of a legislative character. I am advised that the proposed ministerial orders are of an executive character, and that therefore the Rules Publication Act would not apply in relation to them. However, sections 48 and 49 of the Acts Interpretation Act are ordinarily applied only to instruments of a legislative character.
Therefore, in order to avoid any question arising as to the character of the ministerial orders by virtue of the application of the Acts Interpretation Act to them, it has been thought desirable to exclude specifically the application of the Rules Publication Act to them. In case any honorable senators entertain doubts about whether the full text of ministerial orders will be available to the public in view of the exclusion of the application of the Rules Publication Act to them, I wish to point out that, whereas regulations are required to be merely notified in the “ Gazette “, ministerial orders are required to be published in full in the “ Gazette “.
It has been of great assistance to me to have had this amendment furnished to me beforehand, as I have been able to obtain full advice on the proposition advanced in it. It is not easy for a Minister to grasp the full significance of these legal matters without obtaining advice. Having been forewarned that the amendment was to be moved, I had the opportunity to consult with legal advisers, departmental officers and members of the Government. As a consequence, the principle contained in the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition has been accepted.
– I take the opportunity to thank the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) not only for his consideration of the proposal, but also for the very full explanation he has given. The draftsman, at his request, has done to my proposed amendment exactly what I hoped he would do to it. With the permission of the Senate I readily withdraw my motion, and indicate my complete approval of the terms in which the Minister has expressed the principle.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Amendment (by Senator Henry) proposed -
At the end of proposed section 9b, insert the following sub-sections: - “ ‘ (6.) Orders under this Act shall not be deemed to be Statutory Rules within the meaning of the Rules Publication Act 1903-1939. (7.) The previsions of sections forty-eight and forty-nine of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1957 (other than paragraphs (a) and (b) of sub-section (1.), sub-section (2.) and sub-section (6.) of that first-mentioned section) apply, by force of this section, to an order under this Act in like manner as those provisions apply to a regulation. (S.) Where an order under this Act is disallowed or is deemed to have been disallowed, under a provision of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1957 as applied by the last preceding sub-section, the disallowance of the order has effect as if that order had been revoked by an order under sub-section (4.) of this section from the time and the date of the disallowance.’.”.
.- I have had an opportunity of addressing my mind to each of these amendments only since I came into the chamber this afternoon. I am interested in what the Minister said in reply to the Leader of the Opposition. The Minister distinguished between ministerial orders of an executive character and orders of a legislative character, and stated that only those of the latter character usually invoke the disallowance procedure on the part of either House of the Parliament. I am particularly interested in the application of the section of the Acts Interpretation Act which gives either House of the Parliament a right to disallow one of these ministerial orders because, according to my understanding, the ministerial order referred to in the bill has no effect other than to attract the section of the Customs Act which provides that in any executive action taken in the collection of duties as from the date formerly of the GovernorGeneral’s proclamation, but now of the ministerial order, no proceedings shall be taken in a court to impugn the validity of the order in anticipation of the passing of an act of Parliament. I am not certain of the section of the statute.
– Section 226.
– Thank you. That, of course, derives from the fact that it is necessary, once the Government proposes to alter a customs duty, to ensure that nobody should profit from the situation between that date and the date of the customs proposal becoming law.
I rise to make comment that my interest is intensified by the possibility of the ministerial order being disallowed by one House of the Parliament before the proposal has come before the Parliament in the form of a bill for a statute. This is a matter which those interested in these proceedings might desire to discuss. It does raise the possibility of an interesting situation if one House of the Parliament has the right to disallow a ministerial order, the only effect of which is to grant immunity for the collection of taxes by administrative act in anticipation of the passing of a statute. If those concerned do not get, within a certain time, the protection afforded by the ratification of their action in a statute, then the ministerial order gives them no protection. 1 can conceive of the situation where a mischievous House with a majority opposed to the Government could disallow an order of this sort say, a month before the Parliament was ready to proceed to validate the proposal by statute. I speak without full consideration because, as I have said, each of these amendments were brought to my notice only when they were circulated, and that was when we entered the Senate this afternoon. I speak with complete appreciation of all the Minister has done in this connexion and of the gesture he has made in recognition of the right of either House of the Parliament to control subordinate legislative instruments.
Amendment agreed -to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 8th May (vide page 930), on motion by Senator Henry -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This is a measure which has a purpose similar to that of the Customs Tariff (No. 2) Bill 1958 which has just been passed. It has a somewhat different application because it deals only with customs tariff primage duty. Whereas the other bill altered the substantive sections of the act, this bill proposes merely to alter certain clauses of the schedule to the act. The Senate will note that the schedule is divided into four paragraphs - goods exempt from primage duty, and goods subject to primage duty at the rates of 4 per cent., 5 per cent, and 10 per cent. At the foot of each of the tables included in the schedule is a provision, in the one case for the exemption of certain goods by a proclamation made by the Governor-General in Council, and in the others, for the transfer of goods from one rate to another by a similar proclamation. The considerations that actuated the whole debate and the action taken in relation to the Customs Tariff (No. 2) Bill apply equally to this measure. The Opposition accordingly supports the bill. I assume that the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) will take action at the committee stage similar to the action he took at the committee stage of the other bill. I shall not therefore impede the progress of the measure by moving an amendment. I should like the Minister to initiate the amendment at the committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read: a second time.
– This measure is complementary to the Customs Tariff (No. 2) Bill 1958 that has just been passed. I move -
After clause 1, insert the following new clause: - “1a. After section five of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: -
– (l.)’In this section, “order” means an order made by the Minister for the purposes of the Schedule. (2.) Orders shall not be deemed to be Statutory. Rules within the meaning of the Rules Publication Act 1903-1939. (3.) The provisions of sections forty-eight and forty-nine of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901- 1957 (other than paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1.), and sub-section (2.), of that firstmentioned section) apply, by force of this section, to an order in like manner as those provisions apply to a regulation. (4.) An order takes effect from the date of publication in the “ Gazette “ or such later date, if any, as is specified in the order.’.”.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I lay on the table of the Senate the reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Artificial silk piece goods.
Printing of textiles.
Refrigerating appliances and parts thereof.
Metal working drilling machines.
Cutlery - Deferred duties (forged carving steels; forged carving knives and forks).
Iron and steel hoop N.E.I.
Tariff item 136 (f) (3)- Deferred duties.
I ask for leave to make a statement.
These reports cover a wide range of Australian industries, both primary and secondary. Between them the industries give employment to over fifty thousand persons and have an annual output valued at more that £170,000,000. I propose to give a brief outline of the Tariff Board’s findings in respect of each of these industries and then to deal with the Government’s decisions on the recommendations made by the board.
The board finds that the present slackness in the Australian timber industry is due to several factors and that these factors would not be overcome by a general increase in the present levels of tariff protection. In this connexion, the board mentions -
The board’s report also mentions that the demand for local timber is affected to some extent by a preference for oregon in some States. It has concluded, however, that, as this preference persists despite considerably lower prices for Australian hardwoods, increased duties would only increase the price oforegon without any corresponding benefit to local millers. On the subject of imports, the report points out that timber imports have declined in recent years and that increased imports of Pacific maple timbers from British Borneo and Malaya have been offset by reduced imports of timber from North and South America and the Baltic countries.
Whilst the board has found that a general increase in duties is not the answer to the problems of the timber industry, it considers that certain of the industry’s requests in relation to particular forms of timber should be met. It has accordingly recommended that weatherboards should not be admitted at concessional rates of duty under by-law after 30th September next and that two other Items which provide for the admission, at concessional rates of duty, of plywood door panels and undressed timber for use in the manufacture of doors should be deleted from the tariff. Another recommendation concerning by-laws is that other Tariff Items which make specific provision for the by-law admission of timber should be available to importers only after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board.
On plywood and veneers, the board’s conclusions are basically the same as those reached on other forms of timber with the exception that it recommends increased duties on some veneers.
The board’s previous report on copper was in 1954. Since that time there have been significant changes in the Australian industry. The more important of these are the proving of extensive deposits of copper ore and the expansion of production in the Mount Isa area, the decision to erect a refinery at Townsville and the development of the Peko mine at Tennant Creek.
The intervening period has also been marked by extreme fluctuations in world copper prices. From around £300 a ton, towards the end of 1954, the world price rose to approximately £500 a ton in 1956, but commenced to fall shortly thereafter. By the end of March, 1957, when the question of assistance for the local industry was referred to the Tariff Board, the world price was around £330 a ton. Australian producers have held the Australian price at about this level for some time. The world price continued to fall and was about £240 a ton at the time of the board’s inquiry, and just over £200 a ton at the end of February last. It has recovered slightly since then and is now in the region of £220 a ton. All these prices are in Australian currency.
This level of world prices, of course, poses serious problems at the present time for those Australian copper-using industries which must face competition from imported copper products. The problems of the copper industry presented the Tariff Board with most difficult and complex issues. The Australian industry is characterized by wide variations between the costs of production of the various mines. These are in large measure the result of differences in the grades of ore in the deposits worked by the different mining companies. Several of the smaller producers did not present evidence to the board whilst the largest producer, Mount lsa Mines Limited, did not seek assistance. That company did, however, supply the board with confidential information on its operations.
In the light of the information available to it the board concluded that the industry should be assisted and that the most appropriate method of providing assistance would be a tariff which would enable the Australian price to be stabilized at its present level of £330 a ton.
Two of the reports which I have tabled relate to sections of the textile industry. These concern the weaving of artificial silk piece goods and the printing of textiles. The artificial silk weaving industry has received tariff protection since 1950 when protective duties were introduced following an earlier report by the Tariff Board. In that time the industry has extended its output from 10,000,000 to 27,000,000 square yards annually. Its current output is equivalent to some 50 per cent, of Australian requirements. Despite this expansion the industry has experienced difficulties which, the board reports, are due primarily to a fashion trend in favour of cotton materials and to competition from lowpriced imports in what it calls the “ bread and butter “ lines.
A substantial proportion of the raw materials used in the manufacture of rayon piece goods are of local origin, and the Australian cellulose acetate flake and rayon yarn industries are dependent to a considerable degree on the rayon weaving industry for a market.
The board considers that the rayon weaving industry is worthy of assistance and has recommended increased duties on the lower-priced imports. However, partly because it believes that higher duties on the dearer fashion lines could accentuate the swing to cottons, it has not recommended any increase in the duties on woven artificial silk piece goods with a value for duty exceeding 80 pence a square yard.
In respect of the textile printing industry, on the other hand, the board has concluded that tariff protection would not be justified on economic grounds. The textile printing industry differs in a very important respect from the artificial silk weaving industry, in that its main material, cotton cloth, is almost entirely imported. No important chain of industries is dependent on the textile printing industry. Despite the fact that the printing industry’s main material may be imported from the cheapest sources of supply, and pays very little duty, the industry’s costs are such that an extremely high duty on printed textiles would be necessary if the industry were to be protected.
The board’s report suggests that duties of the order necessary to protect the local industry would seriously affect the prosperity of the much larger garment-making industry, and employment in the textile printing industry would, in all probability, be more than offset by the resultant unemployment in garment manufacturing and in the wholesale and retail trades. Another factor which influenced the board’s conclusion was the serious impact which protective duties on printed cotton cloth, which is the chief material handled by the local industry, would have on the cost of living. A further point was the board’s assessment that Australia’s requirements of printed cottons could be imported at very little more than the cost of importing the raw materials needed by the local industry.
The printing of textiles is an industry which operated on a comparatively small scale until balance of payments difficulties necessitated the introduction of import controls. The Tariff Board points out that the industry has expanded considerably in the shelter of those controls despite the Government’s repeated warnings to industry that the controls were not intended for the protection of Australian industry.
Australian production of refrigerating appliances has been protected by relatively high duties since before the war. The industry has expanded considerably in that time, and now supplies the bulk of Australian requirements. In its present report, the Tariff Board has recommended reductions in the British preferential and mostfavourednation duties on domestic refrigerators and the smaller sizes of commercial refrigerators, and in the mostfavoured nation duty on cabinets imported separately. It has also recommended reductions in the general tariff rates on refrigerators generally. These latter rates are of not practical significance. The board considers, however, that there should be no change in the British preferential and most-favoured-nation duties on industrial refrigerators and air-conditioning refrigeration units. I might mention that adoption of the board’s recommendations on this industry would result in a considerably simplified tariff structure for refrigerating appliances.
Although several of the local manufacturers of metal-working drilling machines did not present evidence, and the board was therefore unable to give an over-all picture, this is a relatively small industry. The five manufacturers who did present evidence have approximately £95,000 invested in the production of these machines and employ some 35 persons in this branch of their activities.
The board’s report states that, within the limited range of drilling machines produced, the local products have achieved general acceptance in the engineering trade, but in respect of certain types of machines, are unable to compete on a price basis with machines manufactured in the United Kingdom. It has recommended the introduction of protective duties on certain machines which are not protected in the present tariff.
The production of metal-working drilling machines is, of course, only one of the activities of the Australian machine tool industry. This industry is of considerable importance both strategically and in relation to Australian industrial development. In its current report the Tariff Board has pointed out that the question of tariff protection for the machine tool industry is a very complicated one, and has suggested that it be given the opportunity to review the industry as a whole in about two years time.
The remaining reports relate to the deferred duties on forged carving steels, forged carving knives and forks and certain sizes of iron and steel hoop. As honorable senators are aware, deferred duties are duties provided for in the Customs Tariff which do not operate until the date set down in that tariff. The Minister for Customs and Excise has power to postpone the operation of deferred duties from time to time.
The company at whose request the deferred duties were provided for in relation to the forged cutlery which 1 have just mentioned is no longer interested in their retention and the board, accordingly, recommends their deletion from the tariff.
In the case of iron and steel hoop the board has recommended that the present deferred duties be retained in the tariff, but that their operation be deferred until 1st July, 1960. This is to give the principal Australian manufacturer, Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, time to assess its productive capacity in the light of recent and projected installations of additional equipment.
Except in regard to copper the Government has decided to adopt the recommendations made by the Tariff Board in these reports. In the case of copper it proposes to assist the industry to the extent found necessary by the board but to provide the assistance partly by duty and partly by bounty instead of by duty alone as recommended by the board.
In making its decision on copper, the Government was influenced in large measure by the cost implications, for user industries, of a wide variation between the Australian and overseas prices for copper. It was also mindful of the fact that the overall situation of the Australian industry will be considerably altered when the Townsville refinery comes into operation in the comparatively near future. It therefore intends to reconsider the question of assistance for the production of copper after the Mount Isa refinery has been in operation long enough for the Tariff Board to present a further report on the industry in the light of the changed situation.
The tariff proposals already introduced in another place earlier to-day give effect to Government decisions which require alterations in the Customs Tariff, including the decision to alter the duties on copper. It will not be possible, however, to introduce the copper bounty legislation until next sitting.
Honorable senators will recall that on 27th February last an announcement was made that the importation of printed cotton textiles would be severely restricted to preserve the local textile printing industry pending consideration of its claims for tariff protection. Having decided to adopt the Tariff Board’s recommendation against tariff protection for that industry, it would be inconsistent if the Government were to continue to afford protection through import controls. The Government has therefore decided that, from to-morrow, the issue of import licences for printed cottons will once again be the same as for other textiles.
I do not expect that the recommendations made by the Tariff Board, and the Government’s decisions in respect of the important sections of Australian industry covered by the reports which I have just outlined, will find complete acceptance in all quarters. Determination of protective tariffs is of immense importance to those who enjoy the benefits of such protection but is no less important to the rest of the community and economy upon which any consequent costs may fall. In this difficult and inevitably controversial field the accepted policy of Australian Governments for over a generation has been to act in the light of the advice and impartial studies of the Tariff Board. That is what the Government has done in all of the present instances.
– I move -
That Tariff Board reports on timber, artificial silk piece goods and copper, be printed.
I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 13th May (vide page 984), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The bill before the Senate is important not only for Western Australia but for the development and safety of
Australia generally. As a result of much pleading, many interviews and voluminous correspondence, the Federal Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has at last granted requests by honorable senators and members of the other House that extra assistance be given to help Western Australia in its northern development. I sincerely hope that the sum of £2,500,000 is to be regarded as a token only of the money to be spent in developing the area. Such a task would be tremendous for any State government - Liberal party, Country party or Labour - possessed of limited resources, because the area, represents approximately one-third of the Australian continent. There are huge distances, and the population is sparse. The region can be made attractive for closer settlement only if amenities are provided on a very extensive scale. It is dangerous for the rest of the Commonwealth to leave the area undeveloped. We must not forget that it offers the best approach to our continent from SouthEast Asia, and that it has literally hundreds of miles of heavily indented coastline, much of which has never been thoroughly explored or surveyed. These indentations provide magnificent harbours. I have in mind such places as Doubtful Bay, which has a water area of about 70 square miles with a beautiful entrance, high cliffs on both sides and a wide and deep water channel at the foot of the cliffs. Not far away is Brennock Harbour, a new centre for the culture of pearls, an industry which has developed only in the last few years.
Recently the attention of the Senate was directed, by Senator Wood from Queensland and Senator Buttfield from South Australia, to Australia’s tourist potentialities. I make bold to say that the coastline and landscape of north-west Australia offer scenic attractions second to none in the world. Near Doubtful Bay one finds the lush flats of the Glenelg River fed by many tributaries which rise in the Macdonald Ranges. The Glenelg, which is navigable for 45 miles, has beautiful falls in the upper reaches. I am told by those who have been over the country that there are thousands of acres of the most wonderfully fertile soil, suitable for intensive cultivation and the production of tropical fruit, cotton, tobacco and rice. Only last week we were discussing the development of cottongrowing. I am told that this country is particularly suitable for its cultivation.
The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) will no doubt recall my many questions, and the voluminous correspondence I have addressed to him, on the possibility of establishing hydro-electric power stations in this .part of Western Australia. I have mentioned the feasibility of using the river falls or the tides - which fall and rise some 50 or 60 feet daily.
These wonderful coastline features and fishing grounds offer hide-outs for vessels, and this fact does not pass unnoticed by some of our friends in the islands north of Australia. Honorable senators will recall that in November last I asked a question about the establishment of a coastguard service there. I was told that a boat had been arrested for unlicensed trochus fishing. A charge had been laid under the Western Australian Fisheries Act and the captain was fined £15. I was also told that, in view of the heavy expense involved, the Government did not consider it should establish a coastguard service there. I am inclined to think that no expense should be spared in protecting that part of our coast. I have since received, from some one who understands this matter, an estimate of the cost of establishing a coastguard service, and I suggest that the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Davidson) reconsider the whole question. I suggest that he take into consideration my suggestion that a certain amount should be subtracted from the unspent portion of the defence vote. I am confident that the cost would not be prohibitive, and the adoption of my proposal would make us feel that no expense was being spared in keeping that part of the continent, indeed, the whole of the Commonwealth, safe for future generations.
Many Western Australian people share my view. They remember only too keenly how our enemies in World War II. bombed Broome, the centre of our pearling industry, and came down as far as Exmouth Gulf without let or hindrance. Had Providence not turned them back, it is possible that they might have come further south, and if that had happened, Perth would have been no more. The harbours along that coast offer excellent opportunities for vessels to hide, and extra protection is sorely needed. When I spoke about the matter before, it was suggested that perhaps adequate protection would be afforded if the Royal Australian Air Force patrolled the area. I do not think that such patrols would be as successful as a coastguard service would be in discovering vessels that had taken refuge in some of those harbours.
I turn now to the inland where there is a huge field for mineral research. My colleague, Senator Seward, has often approached the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) in connexion with the iron-ore deposits in the area. I am credibly informed that opposite Cockatoo Island, at Yampi Sound, there are iron-ore deposits which would make Cockatoo Island look like a pimple. Without doubt, there are many other minerals in the area, but until such time as an extensive survey is made and research work is carried out we shall never know what potential wealth lies there. To support my argument, I propose quoting from an article which appeared in the “ West Australian “ of Friday, 2nd May, 1958. lt is based on information supplied by Mr. John Lewis, investigation and design engineer, Hydraulics Branch, Department of Public Works, Western Australia. It has been said at times that the State Government has not done all that it should have done to develop the north-west, that it has preferred to seek aid from the Commonwealth Government. The Stale Government has not been such a laggard in this direction, as the article will prove. Mr. Lewis said -
The rich agricultural potential of the Kimberleys cannot be developed without reservoirs for irrigation and power. Crops which could be produced there from a vast area of fertile land would be worth many millions of pounds annually.
Mr. Lewis was giving this information in an address to the Australian Institute of Engineers in Perth. He went on to say -
Sugar, rice and cotton could be grown successfully in rich black soil in the region. Peanuts, linseed, maize, sorghum, safflower and pastures would do well in rotation with the major crops. Investigations carried out by the Kimberley research station on the Ord River since 1945 had proved that the area was suitable for these products.
He then went on to make other suggestions, and I understand that this is where part of the token payment to be made by the
Commonwealth Government for expenditure over a period of five years will be utilized. He said -
Development of the Kimberleys would involve the construction of:
A main dam power station and diversion dam on the Ord River. The cost of this, together with housing, roads and developmental works, was estimated at £16,000,000.
A Fitzroy River dam almost equal in size to the Ord River project.
Other big dams on the Margaret River and Watery Creek.
Dams, as required later, on a dozen other rivers which flow into the Timor Sea.
The article continues -
Mr. Lewis said that the 1,000,000 square miles of the Kimberleys - larger than Victoria or Great Britain - had about the same water resources as the River Murray, Murrumbidgee and Darling River systems combined. The Ord River dam alone would have a water capacity of six times Sydney Harbour.
The available area to be irrigated could comprise several million acres. Much of this consisted of black soil and alluvial deposits of considerable depth.
It had been formed by decomposition of volcanic rocks such as basalt. It was similar soil to that irrigated in the Sudan and parts of the U.S.
There was also about 1,000,000 acres of red soil suitable for growing crops and pastures that did not thrive well on the black soil because of its nitrogen deficiency.
The dams envisaged on the Ord and Fitzroy Rivers could each produce electrical power equal to that of the South Fremantle power station.
In our discussions this week, we have been talking about the Snowy Mountains scheme and congratulating the Minister on the wonderful success of that project. That is the kind of scheme that is envisaged for the Kimberleys by this engineer.
Here I must not fail to mention the great cattle resources of the Kimberleys and the success of the air-beef scheme. My colleague, Senator Scott, pointed out that a serious condition had developed in the Kimberleys in that there are fewer people, fewer cattle and fewer sheep there than there were ten years ago. That is a very disturbing factor. As he rightly pointed out, the problem is that the leases are far too big for the present holders to develop in the absence of such amenities as power and water, both of which would make for closer settlement of the area with a consequent balanced population in that part of the continent. The Government has helped with the development of the air-beef scheme. It has encouraged it by making small subsidy payments, but great praise indeed is due to the pioneers of that scheme whose persistent efforts in the face of almost insurmountable difficulties have made a success of the venture.
Air-beef schemes have put the Kimberleys on the world map and, if developments planned for the future are successful, this area will more than hold its own in the world beef market. I noticed recently that some one revived the old proposal to build a railway to the Kimberleys from Queensland. I sincerely hope this will never become an accomplished fact, for I do not think there is one railway in Australia that pays its way to-day. Of course, I realize that perhaps railways are not expected to pay their way, that, like the Postal Department, they should be looked upon as a public utility; but the construction of a railway across from Queensland would be exceedingly costly and I doubt that any great benefit would result from it.
I favour the development of the scheme proposed by the air-beef people to-day. They have suggested an abattoir scheme similar to the flying doctor service. That scheme envisages abattoirs scattered all over Australia with the consequent elimination of the need for droving cattle over great distances. It is possible, however, that such a scheme would lead to the ultimate extinction of the drover, but I understand that drovers are scarce to-day, anyway. I have before me another very interesting article relating to the lack of roads in the north Kimberley area. I hope that some of the money which the Federal Government is providing will be used for developing roads because, although air travel is ideal, a good road system is necessary in every part of Australia and should be incorporated in the plan for the development of the Kimberleys.
This grant of £2,500,000 spread over the next five years is welcomed in Western Australia although we feel that the immensity of the problem will be barely affected by such a small amount of money. People in the north have worked and endured hardships for years in the hope that some development will come their way.
I understand that one of the developments that has been suggested to the Federal
Government is the deep water jetty at Derby. If such a jetty is constructed and is adequate for overseas refrigerated vessels, a great deal of benefit will flow to that area. I understand also that the companies concerned in the transport of beef by air in the Kimberleys intend to implement a big building project in the town of Derby. The development of the port and the jetty will be a fine addition to the project they have in mind. In the Drysdale River area there is to be a new harbour. Two Public Works Department engineers are on their way now to survey the harbour and construct a deep sea jetty. The Kimberley area will then be afforded two outlets, and if the inland development continues in the future at the same rate as in the past, the people in that area will be so much nearer to world markets.
Senator Tangney, when referring to the wonderful community service of the Northern Rehabilitation Committee, spoke of how consistently members of the committee have worked for years in an endeavour to improve the conditions of people in the north-west. I should like to add my meed of praise. Over the years members of the committee have been unceasing in their efforts. They have travelled all over the Kimberleys and as far as Canberra at their own expense, beseeching help for the area and conducting surveys of all kinds to back up their argument that the north-west is worthy of consideration. However, at the moment they are rather discouraged because the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has not seen fit to grant the taxation relief they seek. They feel that the Treasurer should review again the matter of freeing residents of the north-west from the obligation of paying income tax, and by this means encourage the closer settlement that will surely follow the development of water and power in the area.
Finally, Western Australians express great pleasure at the proposed visit of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to the north-west. I understand that Mr. Menzies is the first Prime Minister to visit that area. I am sure he will be tremendously impressed by the potentialities of even those portions of the north-west over which he will fly, and with the necessity to protect Australia’s outposts by means of increased developments. 1 am, therefore, very happy to support the bill and, at the same time, repeat the hope that the proposed grant is only a token gesture and that the Government will again come to the rescue of whatever State government is in power in Western Australia in order to continue the development of this wonderful part of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 5.43 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 13th May (vide page 978), on motion by Senator O’sullivan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I might well dispose of this measure by announcing that the Opposition gives it the most cordial support, and let matters rest at that. However, I feel it would not be fitting to do so, because one must have regard to the work of the members of the committee that is responsible for the happy result which is enshrined in this bill. Also, I think it is proper to give some consideration to the very important matters which the committee dealt with.
The hill provides for the giving of financial assistance to Australian universities in all the States. That assistance is to be provided by this Parliament not direct to the universities but through the various State governments. The bill follows the recommendations of what has come to be known as the Murray report. The report is the work of a committee presided over by Sir Keith Murray. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in the course of his announcement in November last, paid tribute to the members of that committee, which consisted of Sir Keith Murray, chairman of the Universities Grants Committee in Great Britain, Sir Ian Clunies-Ross who is chairman ot the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and with whose work we are all familiar, Sir Charles Morris, vice-chancellor of the
University of Leeds, Mr. A. J. Reid, chancellor of the University of Western Australia, and Mr. J. C. Richards, assistant general manager of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited.
Perhaps it is not surprising that those five brilliantly able men, in the very short space of only three months, should have examined and reached conclusions on many of the vital problems that face our universities and should have produced the comprehensive report and recommendations that are now before us. In the view I take, their outstanding achievement was that they breathed into their report such an atmosphere of urgency that within two months of the receipt of their report the Government was galvanized into an announcement indicating acceptance of major recommendations and early consideration of others. The Opposition expresses to Sir Keith Murray and his colleagues the warmest appreciation of their splendid service, and congratulates them upon the striking success of their efforts as seen in the presentation of this bill.
The Murray committee should be long and gratefully remembered by the universities and people of Australia. The Opposition congratulates the Government, too, upon acting so speedily on the recommendations in the committee’s report. We hope the Government will address itself in the near future to the remaining recommendations.
The committee’s conclusions and recommendations are very efficiently summarized at the end of the report. I find it convenient briefly to review those recommendations as an alternative to commenting on the contents of the bill, because in a consideration of the summary and conclusions to which I have referred one finds embodied all the decisions of the Government that are put into effect in the bill itself. 1 do not propose, of course, to read the whole summary, and with diffidence I approach it from the viewpoint of summarizing the summary, as it were.
The first chapter of the committee’s report dealt with the threefold role of the universities in the community. The committee made a very urgent demand for more and more highly educated people in every walk of life and then pointed to two other central aims, the first of which was research or the discovery of new knowledge for the mere sake of new knowledge. It. is interesting to contemplate that that is the road which one pursues in the search for truth and justice. I think it is true to say that, when one embarks on that road, one is engaged in the search for the Creator of the universe, for that is the end of that pursuit. Next, the committee found that the universities are and should be the guardians of intellectual standards and intellectual integrity in the community. I need not stress to the Senate the importance of that role in an age such as the one in which we live.
In the second chapter, the committee proceeded to deal with the general characteristics of the Australian situation and their effect upon problems which affect the universities of Australia. It drew attention to the rapid growth of our population and to its undue concentration in the capital cities of the six States. Side by side with those two aspects of the matter, the committee drew attention to the phenomenal growth of Australian industry in recent years. All those things make terrific demands upon the universities, which are concentrated mainly in the six capital cities. The committee also referred to our external responsibilities and the manner in which they have impacted upon our universities. It directed attention, too, to our international obligation to contribute technicians and qualified people under the Colombo plan. It referred as well to the facilities that we extend to some thousands of Asian students at our own universities. These things necessarily impose strain upon the available facilities. The committee said that the demand in Australia for university graduates in the arts as well as in science and technology was bound to rise. It also pointed out that a major and critical shortage was that of graduates for teaching.
The committee necessarily adverted to the system of primary and secondary education, because that leads ultimately to tertiary education in the universities. Without commenting very fully on the matter in the summary, the committee referred to the vital part that both primary and secondary education play. The committee made no particular recommendations in relation to those two fields of education, but directed attention to the need for ensuring that the ultimate end of education at the highest level - the university or tertiary level - should be kept in mind at all times at both primary and secondary stages. I feel that the step that has been taken by the Commonwealth in the field of tertiary education will force it presently to take some practical interest in primary and secondary education developments.
The committee, in the third chapter of its report, dealt with the problems of the Australian universities to-day and pointed out that the greatest difficulty was the pressure of student numbers, particularly in the first year. It referred to the fact that there were large numbers of part-time and external students as well, which is a very distinctive feature of the Australian system. The committee then proceeded to a very disturbing aspect of the problem. I shall now read a very brief paragraph in the report which poses this problem in all its seriousness and in a very short compass. It is as follows -
The most disturbing aspect of university education in its actual working is the high failure rate. A survey of the records of students enrolled at six universities for the first lime in 1951 showed that of every hundred students only sixty-one passed the first-year examinations; only thirty-five graduated in the minimum period of time; and only fifty-eight have graduated or are expected to graduate at all. Such a high failure rate is a national extravagance and can ill be afforded. Extensive consideration of the problem clearly indicates that there is no one cause and we have discussed various relevant factors such as the previous preparation of students, the gap between school and university, the pressure of curricula, teaching methods, inadequate staffing and the absence of student guidance.
One cannot help but agree with that comment, which indicates a gross wastage in student material. Also, one must agree with the comment that that is an extravagance that Australia can ill afford. The committee then goes on to point to the general weakness of honours work and of post-graduate training and research work in the universities, and concludes that the main difficulty in both of these fields is the financial problem.
In the fourth chapter of the report the committee addresses itself to the problems of the Australian universities to-day. It directs attention to the grievous lack of accommodation. It mentions that lack in every category - classrooms and laboratories, libraries, individual staff teaching and research rooms, common rooms, student unions, sports facilities, residental colleges and hostels, and staff common rooms and amenities. In all these things the universities are deficient. I am sure that if the contents of this report were known to the people of Australia generally they would be really alarmed and would themselves take active steps, had not the Government moved, to ensure that something was done to correct what has now been so widely, so clearly and so well expressed.
The committee points to the need for more residential colleges and university hostels, particularly for students who come from country areas or from overseas. It recommends that the Commonwealth should offer, for the next three years, capital grants to universities. At a later stage of the report the committee develops this theme. At this stage of the report the committee is merely indicating the fact that up to date the Commonwealth has been concerned to contribute only to the costs of the maintenance of universities. But the Murray Committee recommends, for the first time, that the Commonwealth should enter the capital field and assist the universities to finance the extensive capital projects that are required- buildings and facilities of the kind that I have already indicated. I shall come presently to the financial recommendations made by the committee under that heading.
The committee directed attention to the fact that it found in practically every university in Australia inadequate provision for equipment and materials, not only for research but also for teaching. That, too, is a matter that must cause the nation very great concern. People would be troubled to know that our future scientists and professional people were undergoing training without proper accommodation and without adequate equipment and materials with which to work. Such a situation must reflect ultimately on the quality of those turned out by the universities. So it is very good to see that at a later stage of the report the committee makes a recommendation about what should be done in that matter - a recommendation which the Government has adopted.
The committee then turns to the problem of the recruitment of academic staff. It finds that university professors are underpaid, and it recommends an immediate increase of £500 per annum in their salaries, with proportional increases down the range of academic staff salaries. If the Commonwealth were to make a contribution under this head, on the usual basis of £1 from the Commonwealth to every £3 from the State, the provision of only an additional £187,000 a year would be required from the Commonwealth.
Then the committee makes an interesting, but very brief, commentary on the Commonwealth scholarships scheme. This is a scheme which, I think the Senate will realize, was initiated by the Labour Government in 1949 when it provided £1,000,000 per annum for scholarships for bright youths in secondary schools who might make the grade in the professions or in the scientific or technological fields. It appears that some 3,000 youths in Australia to-day derive benefit from that particular provision. In some cases, because of the operation of a means test, only their university fees are met by the scholarship; in other cases, they are paid some allowance, which may be reduced by the application of the means test to the income of the family. The committee here recommends strongly that the number of scholarships be increased. The Opposition very cordially supports that proposal.
The committee next proposes that the working of the means test in relation to Commonwealth scholarships be reviewed. My own experience, which I am sure is the experience of a number of honorable senators, is that there are very many bright, deserving youths whose parents cannot afford to contribute anything in order to send them to a university, but have just enough income to deprive them of a living allowance should they go to a university on a Commonwealth scholarship. I know myself of many bright youths who will never be able to apply fully the best of their ability and talents to the benefit of the nation, because they are debarred, by the means test which operates in relation to Commonwealth scholarships, from receipt of a living allowance.
The third point taken by the Murray Committee in relation to Commonwealth scholarships is that provision should be made for new scholarships in post-graduate studies. Now, the Government has made no decision on that matter, although it has undertaken to examine it. I trust that the Government will address itself to that particular phase of the problem with the same vigour and success as it has shown in relation to some of the other matters arising from the committee’s report, and will make a decision the benefits of which can be extended, in this calendar year, to many young people who will be able either to take their degrees or make a start towards obtaining degrees, as a result of the lifting from their parents of the very severe financial burden involved in keeping students at a university. I am encouraged by reason of the celerity with which it addressed itself to the other recommendations contained in the report, to hope that the Government will move quickly in this matter.
The committee made a survey of the numbers of students likely to be attending universities down the next decade or so. That is a very necessary preliminary to a consideration of the problems, financial and otherwise, that will arise. The committee was driven to the conclusion that university enrolment in ten years’ time may well show an increase of 120 per cent, above the present level; in other words, that it is likely to rise from some 36,500 students in 1957 to about 80,000 students in 1967. That would be an enormous physical growth in the student body. The Senate will readily see that since accommodation facilities and equipment in universities are so deficient to-day, facing the universities with a vast problem, the colossal intake during the next decade will proportionately increase the seriousness of the problem. If the situation is not faced with imagination and vigour now we shall have a dreadful problem on our hands as the years go by. Fortunately, the matter is being treated at this stage with the vigour that we, as a nation, look for; but the Opposition does not see this as any more than the beginning of Commonwealth interest and help in the field of university education.
I can assure the Government on behalf of the Opposition, that if, as the years go by, and the needs of the universities become more apparent, the rate of development increases year by year, it will be with the complete approval of all members of the Opposition in this Parliament. The committee rather interestingly takes something in the nature of a side-swipe at the vice-chancellors of the universities of Australia. It points out that, concerned and overwhelmed as they are with their economic problems, there has not been a sufficiently high national element in their outlook as to the needs of Australian universities, and it suggests, quite correctly, that the vice-chancellors committee might take more responsibility and initiative in the formulation of a national policy for universities than it has done in the past. The committee thinks that they should address themselves to the principles that will be in the minds of governments when they come to consider the needs of universities. Well, I hope that the vice-chancellors committee will pay as much attention to the report of the Murray committee as the Government has done. If it does, we shall have the kind of co-operation that we need, in which the heads of universities and the Commonwealth and State governments will combine to map out the course and then proceed upon it with real vigour and a determination to get somewhere.
Following that recommendation is the interesting one made by the Murray committee that there should he a new body established, to be called the Australian universities grants committee. It would be a body that would be continually assessing’ the needs of universities, their place in the community and, above all, their financial needs. The Prime Minister has not at the moment accepted this particular recommendation of the Murray committee except to say that it is accepted in principle. I think that he was wise to defer setting up the committee at once. It will involve a search for truly qualified personnel in the first place. The right honorable gentleman has wisely pointed to the need for consultation with the States themselves before proceeding with the body. We of the Opposition are happy to think that that recommendation is to be implemented and we trust that its implementation will not be delayed.
That leads me to a consideration of the immediate provisions of the bill that we have before us. The final chapter - chapter 9 - of the committee’s report deals with the immediate financial needs of the universities.
Returning to the point I made about the Commonwealth decision to contribute to the capital cost, it is reported by the committee, and accepted by the Government, that some £12,500,000 will be expended upon capital developments down the next three years. The proposal that is being implemented for the first time in that field is that the Commonwealth will contribute £1 for £1 with the States, in four of the States, and in the case of Western Australia and Tasmania the Commonwealth will contribute 25s. for each £1 contributed by a State government. The matter has been carried into very great detail, because honorable senators will see in the schedule to the bill that in respect of each university affected that may anticipate receiving some portion of the amount of £12,500,000, there is a schedule of works to be performed. The particular works are detailed for execution during the next three years, and the amounts to be allocated for the purpose in each instance are also specified. I suppose this is the first time in the history of the universities in this country where the executives of the universities have been aNe to look with some degree of certainty down a three-year period and embark upon programmes of capital development. That must give great ease and satisfaction to everybody concerned with the universities.
Then there is the other recommendation that the committee has made that there should be better equipment and more materials available. An amount of £1,300.000 is to be provided as a contribution towards the cost of equipping all these new buildings. Even in the field with which we are so familiar in this Senate, a field for which, year by year, we support the appropriation of a sum of money to be paid to the universities through their States towards the cost of their annual maintenance, that amount is to be increased down the next three years by 10 per cent, each year. There will be a steadily mounting sum provided in 1958, 1959 and 1960. I have already adverted to the contribution by the Commonwealth under this bill of £187,500 as a moiety or contribution towards the total cost of £750,000 of increasing professorial salaries and the salaries of other academic staff. Certainly, that is going to impose a substantial additional burden upon State bodies to find the difference between the
Commonwealth’s contribution and the total cost, but it is one that, to the credit of the States, they are prepared to assume. Then we come to the final point in the recommendations for which the bill makes provision. That is, having regard to all the emergency factors in the affairs of universities at the moment, there are to be emergency grants year by year down the next three years: £1,015,000 this year, £1.500,000 next year and £2,030,000 in 1960.
I think that does something near justice in a quick survey of the committee’s report and of the Government’s action in relation to it. Every one of the recommendations and the decisions of the Government has the support of the Opposition. I take a moment merely to advert to the fact that even ten years ago the first steps taken by the Commonwealth in relation to tertiary education were taken by a Labour government - first of all by the Curtin and Chifley Governments in establishing the Australian National University, a development of very great importance, and one for which provision is not made in this bill because the bill merely implements grants to the States. In respect of the National University separate provision is being made in our own appropriation measures to comply with the recommendations of the Murray committee itself. That was the first sign of interest displayed by the Commonwealth in any substantial way in the field of university education. I think it will be conceded that the Australian National University has already found for itself a niche in the proper scheme of universities and holds a place of high esteem in the regard of the Australian people.
The next thing was that in 1946, at the time that the social services referendum was put to the people of Australia, the Labour Government then in office included a head of power providing for benefits to students. This is an exceedingly wide power in the terms in which it is expressed. It is wide enough to enable this Parliament to provide benefits to students, to embrace students of any type at any level - students of anything; and the benefits may take any form - grants of money, financial assistance to institutions, the provision of materials and equipment or facilities. There is unquestionably a. most enormous reservoir of power for this Parliament, and one would anticipate - as I believe the people who granted the power in 1946 will anticipate - that it would be used to benefit educational standards in Australia. I invite the Commonwealth Government to consider not only the fact that it has the power, but also that it has a great responsibility. I trust that the great interest the Government has displayed in this matter will be extended into the primary and secondary fields, in the first instance to see what needs to be done to assure that any boy or girl of quality who has any pretensions to a university education may be given the opportunity to acquire it; to see thai the gap between secondary and university education can be bridged easily, and that the transition from the strict discipline that children undergo at school to the complete freedom they enjoy when they are left to their own resources at a university may be eased. These are all great problems associated with enabling our best and brainiest youth to utilize their talents to the full, not only for their own satisfaction and development, but also for the speeding up of national development and the improvement of standards in Australia.
The third thing that revolutionized universities in Australia was the post-war reconstruction scheme, which enabled exservice men and women to enter those institutions. It involved the erection by the Government of a vast number of temporary buildings, lt involved the provision of opportunities for higher education for thousands upon thousands of our exservice personnel. It really opened the eyes of many of our youth who otherwise might never have considered entering a university. It brought about a profound leavening of thought throughout the community in regard to university education. It was- the post-war reconstruction scheme that stimulated Australian youth into a recognition of the possibility that university training was not unattainable, but was something that could be reached. I point out, as a matter of history and for the record, that those were the first real steps taken by the Commonwealth in this field.
What is being done now might well be a model that will point to a partial solution, if not the ultimate solution, to the more difficult problem of Commonwealth and State financial relations. The Commonwealth in this matter is doing what I conceive to be an ideal thing. It is combining with the States to help the universities. It is helping by providing the expenses of an inquiry into the means of evolving a national plan, by getting the approval of the States - and that is the key to the matter - to that plan, and then joining with the States in providing the finances, but at the same time leaving to the States the actual control and administration of the scheme. Both the National Parliament and the local State parliaments preserve their proper place and make a useful juncture in order to obtain the best for the nation. It is the kind of thing that has been done in the scheme that was evolved to attack the problem of tuberculosis in Australia, the Commonwealth evolving a national plant the States modifying and accepting it finally, the Commonwealth and States legislating on an Australian-wide basis, the States being left free to administer the scheme, but the Commonwealth providing the whole of the extra capital expenditure required and all the additional maintenance involved in implementing the national plan. There, in my view, is a most happy partnership between the Commonwealth and the States, and I think it has developed so well in the attack upon tuberculosis that it promises to work well in relation to the universities. I think the Commonwealth might well give increasing attention to extending the same sort of thing into other fields.
I have taken longer than I thought to deal with a bill that I support. I do not apologize for addressing myself at some length to a matter of so much consequence to the nation and to so many people in it. I have announced on behalf of the Opposition our very cordial support of this measure. We felt that we owed ii to the importance of this undertaking, and to the invaluable work done by so many people, to do more than just make passing reference to the matter.
– I have listened with a great deal of pleasure and interest to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition’ (Senator McKenna), and I agree entirely with what he has said about university education. I wish to express no opinion whatever about secondary and primary education. That is something on which I have definite opinions which I will express at another time. I intend to confine my remarks entirely to the matters with which this bill deals. Why is the Commonwealth called on to take such a large part in the financing of universities? Simply because universities have become more important, and their present means of support have shrunk. To-day, neither the private funds which most of the universities possess, nor the State grants are sufficient for the present needs of those institutions, let alone for their expanding needs.
As the Leader of the Opposition said, the Commonwealth entered the field by granting scholarships and also by establishing the Australian National University. No one will ever attempt to take away the credit for establishing the Australian National University from Mr. Chifley and his Ministers, of whom Senator McKenna was one. I think also that everybody, friend and foes alike, will give the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) the fullest measure of praise for the swiftness with which he has brought down this measure. When the Murray committee was appointed, one worthy journal remarked, “ This is the sort of committee that is appointed when governments intend to do something, not the sort when they intend to do nothing “. The present action was contemplated before the committee was appointed, and has followed swiftly on the heels of the committee’s recommendations.
I shall refer only briefly to the purposes of universities because we have discussed that before. I am one of those who continue to praise what have come to be called the humanities. I confess rather sadly that many wonderful subjects that used to be the main concern of universities seem to be shrinking into a little handful. I by no means deplore the increasing emphasis on science or the necessity to train technically competent people at a high level. However, I emphasize the humanities because I feel that, in the world that is developing to-day, there are few people willing to emphasize them, the tendency being to regard study for its own sake as something that interests only the few. Senator McKenna, I am happy to find, is not among those people. Being brought up in the Scottish tradition, I never thought that education needed any justification. I never thought of saying, “ Education is for life “, because at the back of the minds of the people who brought me up was the thought that life was for education. The subjects that need no justification except that you like studying them, and that they bring in some intangible way an increase to your character and personality, are the subjects most worthy of study. But of course, we as members of Parliament have to appeal to a very wide electorate, and possibly the emphasis on science is a good thing because by that means we can justify this expenditure to even the dullest people. Everybody knows the improvement that has taken place in the whole of the mechanical and scientific side of life in this generation. Every one knows something of the great dangers that beset us because of the provision of increased means of destruction. Every one knows that life, as we live it to-day, would for many people be not worth living if we were deprived of those comforts that flow from the spread of science. Therefore, there is no need to justify, to the ordinary person, expenditure on that ground and I will confine myself to pointing out some of the needs which are satisfied by the production of university graduates of all types.
First come the teachers themselves. Our systems of primary education were developed very rapidly because of a feeling that there was an immediate necessity to teach people to read, to write, and to do some arithmetic. Consequently, the new ministries of education were compelled to go out into the highways and byways and bring in whatever teachers they could find. I remember the story about the little bush school for which the department could not find a teacher who could both read and write. It found one who could read only and had to appoint him to teach the children his limited accomplishment. Some of the people who taught in those early days were not much better than that, but steadily the standard improved. Teachers’ colleges were provided and the requirement that teachers should increase their knowledge by regular study produced, in time, an educated teaching service. However, the standard of teaching cannot be maintained at a high level unless the profession is permeated by large numbers of university graduates. I was appalled to find, on reading a recent report, that of the 48 teachers in one New South Wales high school only eleven were university graduates. 1 am not prepared to say that there are not many people without university training who can teach some secondary subjects competently. As a matter of fact, I was appointed to a high school before I had even begun my university work. However, the minimum standard required of teachers in secondary schools should be university graduation, and that required for primary schools should be at least two years of teacher training beyond the ordinary secondary course. Once you lower the standard of teachers you tend to lower the standard of teaching. One of the most important things to remember about schools is that it is not so much a matter of what you teach as how you teach, and what habits you can inculcate in the pupil. The most important thing that any teacher can do is to impart the habit of learning by all the means that one has available. For these reasons, I put down as the very first demand on our universities the production of educated teachers for the secondary schools, and for some of the primary schools as well.
The other needs are well known. They are written about in the press every day. There is an increasing need for engineers of all types and of the highest standard; for business men who have had a training in economics and similar subjects and who know more than the ordinary affairs of business; and for lawyers, physicians and so on. This demand, which will continue to grow as a result of our expanding population and industry, is not now being satisfied.
I feel that university education is a special responsibility of the Commonwealth because of the need to-day for specialization among the universities. I hope that some of the basic subjects taught in universities throughout the Commonwealth will always be taught, but there are some which are becoming very expensive and simply do not turn out sufficient graduates to justify their existence in every State or region. For instance, while every State should have a medical school to train the ordinary practitioner, there are higher branches of medical research which need not necessarily be provided at every university. There are many subjects in which one Australian university could well specialize. Students from every part of the Commonwealth could then visit that university for the particular phase of training in which they were interested. These are all additional reasons why the National Parliament should accept responsibility in this field.
Having said that, I wish to devote most of my time to a very practical problem. We are to-day voting a great deal of public money yet we do not propose to submit it to the sort of scrutiny to which we submit expenditure in considering the Budget each year. That is the very heart of the problem. We must protect the taxpayer. That is just as essential in this sphere as in any other. We must have a watchdog, some one to see that public money is not wasted. We cannot simply cast our bread upon the waters and hope for a return after many days. Despite this, it would not be wise for the Parliament, or the Ministry, or the Treasury, to use the ordinary methods of checking expenditure employed in government departments, or even in some of the statutory bodies. This is a very special problem. Fortunately, we may look for guidance to what has been done in the United Kingdom, where grants have been made to universities for a good many years - some as long ago as last century. When it became the policy of all governments to make grants at regular periods it was felt that some body should study the problem, make recommendations and provide, as it were, a sort of liaison between the government and the universities. In that way the United Kingdom university grants committee came into existence. It has functioned very well, but not without criticism, and the Public Accounts Committee of the United Kingdom Parliament has continually urged stricter measures for supervising the expenditure of public money. It has even asked that the British equivalent of our Auditor-General should scrutinize university accounts. Curiously enough, the British Treasury has been averse to any change of method. It has accepted its grants committee as the one conceivable way in which the government can give finance to the universities without changing their character.
I think that, in initiating grants in this country the Commonwealth Government was very wise in appointing a special committee of investigation which included two men from the United Kingdom with experience in the work of the United Kingdom grants committee. One of them, Sir Keith Murray, the chairman, had had great experience in that field, and the committee included some Australians with wide knowledge of university work.
The part of the second-reading speech of the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan which I found most welcome was the promise that the Government would set up a grants committee, and on that score I propose to make a few suggestions - some borrowed from the Murray report, others possibly constituting unlicensed borrowing from various people with whom I have spoken, and others still displaying a glimmer of my own thought on the matter. I propose to make them as a positive contribution to the discussion on this subject,
First, I think that the recommendation of the Murray report that there should be a permanent chairman, well versed in university matters, and seven part-time members, is very good indeed. Equally good is the suggestion that five of the part-time men should be people who know universities and university life, and that the remaining two should be people who have little direct contact with universities. I have been a Senate representative on the Australian National University Council for some years, and I can assure honorable senators that the discussions of that council are always well informed and productive of good. Moreover, among those who often contribute most are people who have had no direct experience of university life as students, teachers, or anything else, and whose sole contact with universities is through their membership of the council. For that reason, I think it is a very wise suggestion that there should be this breath from the outside world to mingle with what otherwise might ‘be a too academic atmosphere. 1 come now to the sort of thing that this giants committee can do. Senator McKenna referred to the high failure Tate in universities. That is a matter of the gravest possible concern. I ‘have discussed it with many people who know the facts, and 1 know some .of the facts myself. There is no simple and single remedy. I may say that, among other things, I have been a professional examiner, one of the few ever to exist in this country, and there is one very simple way of reducing the failure rate. That is simply to lower the standard. If the pass mark is 50, and an institution has 50 per cent, of failures, then the pass mark is lowered to 30, or perhaps every mark on the pass list is raised by a certain percentage. I know of an institution in which that has been done. If we were to say to a body conducting examinations, “ Your failure rate is too low; you have to get it up or that will be a bad mark against you “, such a step might not be productive of good results; but I think that the grants committee would be justified in talking to the vicechancellors, the professorial board and the professors of universities and saying, “ Your failure rate is high. You will find it very hard to justify before the Federal Parliament any further expenditure unless some convincing reason can be given for that high failure rate, and unless it can be reduced progressively “.
I think that Senator McKenna did suggest at least part of the answer when he pointed out that the pupils who have left the secondary schools at the ages of sixteen, seventeen and eighteen years have been under close surveillance where the teachers, and especially the headmasters or headmistresses have felt themselves to be in the position of loco parentis in which they nol only acted as the father or mother but sometimes were really better fathers or mothers than the .actual parents. Those children then suddenly become adults. They are thrown into the university atmosphere and are expected to struggle for themselves. The old-fashioned academic teacher has said, and quite rightly, “ I am not here to shepherd or safeguard these people; I am concerned with teaching this one particular subject. If I give them my lectures and -tell them what is to be done and they do not do it. then so much the worse for them “. That sharp remedy must be applied at some time in -everybody’s life. One of the great dangers to-day, with so much being done by States, is that some people will never grow up, stand firmly on their own feet and make their own decisions. They must make them at some stage, and I should say that in university life they must make them fairly rapidly; but I can see that the sudden transition from the carefully guarded atmosphere of the school into the free atmosphere of the university is sometimes dangerous to a student.
There is one thing that money can do. One of the problems of a university is that classes are far too large. I have seen lecturers at the Sydney University lecturing through microphones to a mass meeting. That is not teaching; it is only one element of teaching. The best type of teaching is tutorial. In the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, every student entering a college has a tutor who sees him regularly, discusses his work with them and criticizes his written work. Some element of personal supervision should come into university life. I think all our existing universities would be quite willing to do it but are unable to do it simply because of the expense and shortage of staff. I believe that in the little country university of Armidale, which is one of the bright shining lights in our heavens to-day, a great deal of “that is done, but it can be done there simply because the classes are small. If we could get that type of smaller university, we should be achieving a great deal but, .as the Murray report quite frankly says, we must, in the main, for some time to come at any rate, depend on the large universities in the capital cities, and we must try to make .conditions at them such that some element of the tutorial can come into the teaching.
I would suggest, therefore, that for the present we rely on this unique instrument of government - it has become an instrument of government in Great Britain - the proposed universities grants committee, as the liaison between us and the universities. If we pick well the members of that committee T think we shall be doing far better than if we, as individuals, pry too much into everything that is done. I think that the universities have a right to demand that they direct their own affairs. But, of course, we must not let that claim pass in such undefined terms .as “academic freedom” and so forth. What is the particular freedom that universities have? Obviously, the people who find the money must ;be able to make some requests and some demands, and J think that the demand which we as a parliament should make is that every university -should turn out, every year, a large number of highly educated and highly skilled people. That is what we want. The means by which it is got, we cannot scrutinize too closely, but this high failure rate is an obvious example of something wrong, something not done, or something done wrongly, and I think the proposed universities grants committee would be the right body to approach the universities to discuss the matter on a level on which only those people who understand all the inside workings of such institutions can discuss it. I believe that only in that way can we hope to secure positive results.
That is the main contribution I wish to make at the moment. There are one or two matters to which I should like to refer in committee, and I hope the chairman will give us time to look at one or two of the clauses, busy as we are to-night. I conclude by saying that I welcome this measure. I give full credit to the Government which preceded this one for its original work, just as I give quite as full credit to the Government that I support.
There are two men remembered in history for many reasons, some favorable, and some not. One was the Cardinal Richelieu. He was the man who built up the French despotism, ‘.which has perished. But part of his work stall lives. He established the most important institution in France - the French Academy. The other man is an American, Thomas Jefferson. He was president of the United States of America for two terms. He was the father of the democratic party, which is one of the two great political parties in the United States of America. He purchased Louisiana and made it part of the United States. He had a marvellous record of achievement, yet I think one thing only is recorded as of great importance on his tomb. It is that he was the founder of the University of Virginia. I think all in this Parliament who are associated with university work will have cause to remember this measure as one thing of which they can always be proud.
– J .arn very proud to be associated with Shis debate because for the past eight or mine years I ih ave represented the Senate on the Council :of the Australian National University. The report on Australian universities is a milestone in the history .of Australia. The work done by the Murray committee is most praiseworthy, and I congratulate also those responsible for giving such speedy effect to some of the recommendations of the committee. Very often, when a committee is appointed, it makes recommendations and that is the end of the matter. This committee was appointed in December, 1956, it presented its report before the end of 1957, and here we are in the first part of 1958 giving legislative expression to some of the committee’s most important recommendations.
The task that confronted the committee was fourfold. It had to inquire into -
It is rather difficult to-day to obtain from many people in the community a true appraisement of what a university stands for. Many people think of university students in the light of commemoration week and its accompanying antics, and are prone to criticize universities generally on that account. Very few realize the real work that is done in the universities, and for that reason I should like to see copies of the report of the Murray committee read very extensively throughout the community. Even without taking into account the technical details with which it has had, of necessity, to deal, it is an excellent document which shows the vision of the men who comprised the committee.
I regret that this debate is taking place so late in the session when so many other matters require attention and when one feels every moment one speaks that honorable senators are impatient to deal with other legislation before the sittings conclude. But that is not any excuse for allowing this matter to pass without referring to the points upon which the committee reported.
The function of universities in any modern community is threefold. First, it is to give advanced education to the community up to the graduate level. In a community such as we have in Australia which to-day, as never before, is facing increased responsibility in both the national and international fields, it is necessary that we have trained men and women who can help to carry out the part that this nation must play in national and international affairs. Secondly, the research aspect of university education must be considered. This is an aspect that is not very greatly appreciated because it is not very greatly understood by many people. They cannot see the immediate results of the work. Research is not the actual bread and butter aspect of education; it is the work of those students who seek learning for learning’s sake. It is something that is rather difficult to see because it is not really tangible. On other occasions I have said that the real reason for a good university training is to show us not how much we know, but how much we do not know. One appreciates the vast fields of knowledge still untapped, no matter how many years one may give to their study because the horizons are ever widening in the realm of study, and the true student never finishes studying. Dealing with the research section of universities, the report states -
Able young men and women of 20 and 21 are not just school-children; they do not wish to be just taught. They want to be put into touch with the fountains of knowledge; they want to see and hear and talk with the men who are “ making “ the modern knowledge.
In another section the report refers to the double value of research students in these terms -
In the first place, they are necessary to keep the march of human knowledge on the move; and in the second place they are the men from whom ambitious and energetic students wish to learn, and from whom they should be given the opportunity to learn. Without them human discovery of basic truth would grind to a standstill, and the teaching of the able young would become stale and unprofitable.
That is a very important aspect of university work which is being carried out to its fullest extent in the Australian National University. While that institution does not come within the ambit of the bill now before the chamber, it is a very important factor in education because, prior to its establishment, many of our men and women graduates were forced to travel overseas to obtain research experience. In addition, very little opportunity existed in Australia to enable them to put their research knowledge into practice. The inducements offered here were not as great as those in the older university countries, and therefore the services of those young men and women were lost to Australia. However, the reverse position now obtains. Men and women of high standing in the intellectual fields of other countries are coming to the Australian National Capital to study and to carry out research. 1 am very happy when I look back upon that night thirteen years ago when I was able to speak in this chamber on the bill for the establishment of the Australian National University. I think - and Senator McCallum will probably agree with me - that the establishment of the National University helped to focus the attention of the Government on the needs of other universities, and, in addition, has helped to make other governments much more university conscious.
I could not have attended a university at all if it had not been the University of Western Australia - a free university and the only one of its kind in Australia. I was one of the students whom the members of the Murray committee apparently do not like very much - a part-time student. I had to work all day in employment but I do not think that that was a very great handicap because those of us who were evening students felt we had a great responsibility towards our work. Some of the most brilliant men in Australia to-day did the whole of their undergraduate work as part-time or external students. We had to work hard through economic necessity. That is why I regret very much the great emphasis that is placed to-day, not on the humanities but on the scientific side of university education because it tends to exaggerate the utilitarian aspect of university education which, while it is necessary, is not the be all and end all of the matter. The third function of the university is to act as the guardian.
Another portion of the report of the Murray committee reads -
Finally, in addition to the two aims of education and research, universities have a third function. They are, or they should be, the guardians of intellectual standards and intellectual integrity in the community. Scholars and scientists who spend their lives in the search for knowledge should, at least in their own spheres of inquiry, be proof against the waves of emotion and prejudice which make the ordinary man, and public opinion, subject from time to time to illusion and self-deceit.
I agree with those remarks of the committee because I think they sum up aptly the three phases of university education. When one puts aside the ideals of university education and turns to the practical results, one faces stark realism in the fact that 38.8 per cent, or nearly two out of every five students who commence university courses do not complete them. That is a terrific wastage, not only in student power but also in teaching power and the facilities made available by universities. The failure rate in the first year is very high, particularly in the faculty of science. I cannot understand such a high failure rate in that faculty. I am not a scientist and 1 doff my cap to scientists because I think they are marvellous people, but they have something more definite to go on than people studying other subjects. In the science faculty only 48 per cent, of first-year students passed their examinations. In the faculties of engineering and architecture 63.3 per cent, passed, in the medical and dental faculties 60.8 per cent., in the faculties of agriculture and veterinary science 59.3 per cent., and in the faculty of arts 65 per cent. The average number of students who passed in the first year was 61.2 per cent. So the failure rate was 38.8 per cent., which is much too high. I know from my own experience as a teacher that, in any other realm of education, if a teacher consistently had a failure rate of nearly 40 per cent, he would have to look for another job. However, I do not say that that failure rate is the result of university teaching methods. Only 35 per cent, graduated in the minimum time, which means that at some stage in their course 65 per cent, of the students failed. It is interesting to note that 43 per cent, of students will never graduate. That is a big loss to the community and is an extravagance which Australia cannot afford, because our universities are maintained at a great cost in terms not only of finance but also of man-power.
In the universities of the larger States, where the classes are much larger, the failure rate is higher than in the other universities. That immediately points to the need to have smaller classes. This legislation will enable universities to form smaller classes, because more money will be available to provide for increased staff. The result will be a much closer liaison between students and staff than is possible at present. That is one of the questions which engaged the attention of the Murray committee, and apparently the
Government has seen the need to do something immediately to improve the present situation.
The committee pointed out that more graduates are needed. We are told that within the next ten years our university student population is likely to increase by 120 per cent. That will mean a corresponding increase in staff and staffing costs. But the time has already arrived when many of our universities are far too big. We need to decentralize our universities, and I am glad that is being done in the larger States. Moreover, there is a need for better equipment, particularly in science laboratories. It is necessary, too, to arouse an awareness in the public mind of the role of the universities in the community, and of the responsibility of the community towards the university and of the university towards the community.
I cannot conclude without making a few comments about the situation in Western Australia. At one stage Western Australia badly needed a medical school and applications were made to the Federal Government for assistance. However, the Government was unable to provide assistance for the capital cost of a medical school. So an appeal was made to the people of Western Australia. A marvellous response was had from Darwin in the north and Esperance in the south. WitHin a few months, about £500,000 was subscribed. The little children in the schools donated their pennies, millworkers donated a shilling from their pay, and waterfront workers donated half a day’s pay. Business houses and professional men made bigger donations, but it was the little people, the poorer people, in particular who realized the need. There was aroused in the people of Western Australia an enthusiasm that has never been surpassed, within my knowledge, in any other appeal for public funds. That medical school was opened recently. That indicates what a community can do when it realizes the value of such an institution.
I shall not examine the details of the bill, because that has already ‘been done by the Leader of the Government (Senator O’sullivan), the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and Senator McCallum. Suffice it to say that I am very pleased that this legislation has been introduced. I know it is the beginning of the implementation of the recommendations contained in a very fine report, and I hope that the other recommendations will be adopted in the near future. I am interested particularly in the suggested establishment of a university grants committee, because I know the way in which the Commonwealth Grants Commission has been able to overcome problems’ in other realms. The financial burden upon the people of Australia is so great that it is only fair that a university grants committee should be appointed to investigate the problems that have been presented so clearly to us by the members of the- Murray committee. The members of the Murray committee were not airy fairy philosophers, idle dreamers, or longhaired professors, but were down-to-earth practical people who saw the need for welldeveloped universities that would not be stinted financially.
As both Mr. Curtin and Mr. Chifley used to say, what is physically possible is financially possible. They proved that by making money available for university education. Although the sum that was made available originally is not great when compared with the sum envisaged in this bill, it was a very large sum at the time and became a precedent for this Government to follow. I have very much pleasure in supporting the bill.
.- The university problem in Australia cannot fail to excite interest and challenge one’s judgment when one is saddled with the responsibility of membership of this Parliament. The discussion of the problem in the Parliament is not the prerogative of university graduates, as has been amply demonstrated by the most provoking and interesting statements that we have heard to-night. The university problem is shared as earnestly by the ordinary man as it is by the family of the most earnest professor. We have reached the stage where enlightenment reaches the eye of every one in this country of opportunity.
I feel that one is relieved of the need to discuss the intrinsically interesting facets of the university problem in Australia by reason of the existence of the most exhilarating report of the Murray committee, which was set up by the present Government, I believe, in an instance of rare enlightenment and of earnest determination to remedy the problem. I noticed that some honorable senators smiled when I used the expression “ rare enlightenment “. That expression must not be regarded as being used in any satirical vein. I meant rare in a very superior and elevated degree - an enlightenment that was comprehensive and richly perceived by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who put forward these views as long ago as 1946 but who moved into action in 1956 with the result that the Murray committee produced a report in almost record time. It discusses the university problem, in, I think, a most interesting manner. I shall not attempt to summarize that report, because the time at my disposal does not permit of, and the interests of the chamber, do not warrant, a full discussion of it - however, that committee expresses its conception of the role of the universities in the community. In the first chapter of the report, I think, it provides an occasion when one can justly emphasize its views. In that part of the report, this committee, composed of very high academicians, completely denied the exclusive claim that is made by some university people to an isolated and irresponsible existence in the community while still asserting the right to be sustained by that community. The report says -
In the past a democratic country in considering universities was largely concerned with the rights of individual citizens; . . .
It goes on to say -
It should be said that what the university gives in this way should not be regarded in purely technical terms. The technical and specialist requirements are without doubt in themselves no less than a matter of life and death to the nation; but they are not the end of the affair.
My friend, Senator McCallum, has emphasized the importance of the humanities; but it is significant that the Murray committee first of all emphasized that the existence of specialist and technical requirements in a university was a matter of life and death in a national sense. But the committee did not fail to go on and say that the humanities had their place - and what an inspiring place they have. For those who had even a glimpse of them, what an abiding consolation in life they are.
Then the committee, having- placed its emphasis on the need for education, goes on to say in its report that the second function of a university is research. Having said all that, the committee, to make its views complete, added -
Finally, in addition to the two aims of education and research, universities have a third function. They are, or they should be, the guardians of intellectual standards, and intellectual integrity in the community . . . The preservation of human integrity in facing truth and the demands for justice is the most exacting task which a nation can impose upon itself.
The committee says that that is a special duty which each university man must face individually.
I mention these matters to show the high degree of outlook that this committee set for itself.
With that brief reference to the general and fascinating sphere of the universities I come to what the committee says in the practical sphere and the proposals which, in its judgment, were needed in order to achieve these purposes. In the preface to the report the committee uses the following phrase - we have been so impressed by the need for immediate action-
To redeem the universities from decay, not in a decade, Mr. President, but in the years 1958, 1959, 1960, as the committee says! The full extract that I wish to quote from the preface to the committee’s report reads - we have been so impressed by the need for immediate action in 1958, 1959, and 1960, if the position is not to become catastrophic . . .
It is the Murray committee’s report that uses the term “ catastrophic “! Then, on page 29 of the report, one finds that, in facing up to the problems of Australian universities to-day the committee said -
We believe that the principal single cause of these defects has been financial stringency.
I believe that in an enlightened democracy, as we are pleased to flatter ourselves we live in to-day, two outstanding claims are made upon the legislature. They are, to preserve and promote health and education. Let us remind ourselves that recently mental hospitals in this country had reached such a state of decay that this Government attempted to stimulate the State governments to a sense of responsibility by granting £10,000,000 for expenditure connected with mental hospitals. To-night we are approving, on all hands, a bill to appropriate about £22,000,000 to university expansion and maintenance for the next three years. Neither health nor education is, in itself, a Commonwealth responsibility; yet each of them has drifted into a position causing dismay - a position which, so far as university education is concerned, the Murray committee described as “ catastrophic “. And the principal single cause of that decay, that committee decided, was financial stringency. 1 mention these things in no spirit of criticism against any one, but in a spirit of presenting a challenge to all my colleagues as well as to myself, because ours is the responsibility to control the public finances, lt is up to us to see whether or not the huge enrichment of the Federal Treasury - which has no constitutional responsibility to provide for expenditure on education and health - and the financial stringency imposed, in consequence, on the State Treasuries - which have the direct responsibility to finance education and health - are a challenge which we are meeting in the right way. I am not to-night, in this atmosphere, of a mind to be provocative in any sense. I think that all honorable senators will listen with some degree of meditation to a statement of the problem. I do not pretend to be gifted with the knowledge of any rare solution of the problem; but I do suggest that it is the predominance of a surplus of financial power at the centre, and the poverty of financial power in the States, that has led to the increasing degradation of the health services and university facilities to a degree which the Murray committee described, in relation to the universities, as “ catastrophic “ unless a remedy were applied.
Would you permit me, Mr. President, to remind the Senate that in 1956, when dealing with the States Grants (Universities) Bill I was, under the enlightenment of my adviser, the then Vice-Chancellor of the University of Tasmania, Professor Hytten, and under the inspiration of the present Chancellor of that university, the Honorable H. S. Baker, prompted to say this -
It is true that education is a State matter, but it is questionable whether the States are any longer able to handle the financial problems involved in the proper development of the universities. The development of Australia in this age of rapid scientific and industrial progress must be the concern of the central government. In Australia there is a serious shortage of scientific and technical man-power, and unless this is remedied we are liable to lag behind in indus~ trial progress. We need more engineers anu more scientists and we must look to the universities to provide them. But the matter goes further than that; indeed, it goes right back to thcschools. In other words, it is important that the number of boys and girls reaching matriculation standard should be increased, and (hat, in turn, means that more teachers capable of teaching to that standard will be required. Here again, we must turn to our universities to train these teachers. We must also look to the universities for the men who are to conduct the business of the country, the administrators.
I went on to refer to the need to extend the federal interest in university finance from the recurring administrative and maintenance expenditure to which it was then confined into the building programmes of the universities. It is a matter of rare enjoyment to me individually to find those views, I think in every instance, endorsed emphatically by the Murray committee. Those views were not individual to myself. I acknowledge them as having been imparted to me by others. They were shared by many members of this chamber. But this problem has grown upon us and the delight of to-night is that the Federal Government is remedying this financial stringency by making finance available without which the university problem for the next three years would be catastrophic. To show the rare privilege of the Australian National University as compared with the State universities, for the Australian National University the vote for capital expenditure started in 1948-49 at £4,000. In the next year, it was £141,000 and it grew by votes which ranged between £500,000 and £1,000,000 a year until 1957-58, when it is £510,000. The running expenses of that university have grown from £14,000 in 1946-47 to £771,000 in 1954-55 and this year to £1,234,000. Although treated as an infant member of the university school, the Canberra University College has shown unrestrained expansion of financial assistance starting with a vote under the Department of the Interior in 1945 of £7,856, and rising to £136,500 in 1957’. There are other votes in the Estimates, but I have cited these figures simply to indicate the trend. All I wish to say is that had the State universities had equally facile access to ample moneys during that period their position to-day would have been much stronger than it is.
This bill first of all makes provision for emergency grants to meet urgent deficiencies in university requirements. Secondly, it makes provision for recurring expenditure over a period, not of one year, but of three years. And then it makes provision extending into a new field of assistance in respect of the capital buildings of universities, as shown in the Third Schedule. Taking my own university, the University of Tasmania, and looking at the schedule, the expenditure of moneys to be advanced under this bill is shown in meticulous detail. Take one item - the erection of the building for the Department of Chemistry. The Commonwealth contribution is £250,000 and the State contribution is £200,000. Other items are similarly named. I suppose that this reaches the ultimate in the specification of detailed conditions upon which federal financial assistance has been made available to the States.
That poses an interesting problem which, in itself, provides a paradox. If it were a specified detailed condition in relation to the ordinary functions of a State government, it might be resented as an unwanted intrusion upon the judgment and discretion of the State governments. But as we know, the universities within their own government very jealously regard their traditional outlook of independence so as to preserve their scholarship unaffected by political controls. It may be the paradox of this situation that these conditions having been imposed by a legislature once removed, and therefore an indirect control upon university government, provide scope for the university government to maintain its discretion without any real possibility of intrusion into its public administration by the Commonwealth or State Government which gives the finance. I feel that I have not made myself as clear as I should have liked, but I content myself with that observation.
I wish to say only one further thing. The Murray committee recommended that for the faithful preservation of the purpose to which it drew such pointed attention, there should be established in this country a universities grants committee on the lines of the University Grants Commission of
Great Britain which, of course, was instituted because of the anxiety that the universities had - particularly the old universities^ - about the possibility that if they relied upon government finance they would become subject to government control. Thus was interposed a trusted and practical university commission with an eye not merely to annual budgets, but to that aspect of budgeting to which Senator McKenna referred whereby these people could rely upon a predetermined vote over a period of three or five years. The University Grants Commission in Great Britain was set up to recommend to the political government the finance which the universities would reasonably require over a period of three or five years. One is delighted that the Commonwealth Government has accepted in principle the recommendation of the Murray committee that an instrumentality be created that will guarantee the independence of universities.
That instrumentality is not being implemented by this bill but the Prime Minister has stated that its creation is under consideration and is being thoughtfully worked out in co-operation with the States. The establishment of such a committee in Australia will guarantee that a measure of this sort will not be a spasmodic measure. It will not be the privilege of one government only to introduce such a measure, but under the stimulus of such a committee this Government and succeeding governments will be advised regularly by it and will be able to make university education their special and peculiar interest so that our Australian universities, even though the financial system as I suggested at the outset has not reached the acme of political wisdom in this country, will be prevented under this stimulus from again descending to the position in which the Murray committee found them, that is to say a catastrophic position because of financial stringency. I support the bill.
– in reply - At the outset I express appreciation on behalf of the Government of the very warm and cordial reception accorded to this measure. I should like also to endorse the compliments that have been paid to those responsible for the preparation and presentation of what is really, .and has been so described, a very excellent report. The Leader -of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) during his remarks indicated that he saw in what the Commonwealth Government was now doing the possibility that there would emerge an appreciation by the Government, over the years, of its greater responsibility in the field of primary and secondary education. I see great dangers in that and I hope that the States will not be unmindful of their own responsibilities. 1 hope that they will have the wherewithal to carry out this work. As one other speaker said there is a need, perhaps, for a happier financial relationship between the Commonwealth and the States so that the States can discharge what is after all their responsibility, namely the wise and best expenditure of public money. It would be very unwise for the Commonwealth to intrude too closely into what is essentially a matter of State responsibility and control.
If the Commonwealth did intrude into the education field to any great extent there is always the danger of too much uniformity. There are matters in which it is very wise to have uniformity, but I do not think it is wise to have complete uniformity in education. It would be a very sad day if our educators were turned out on a production line or made to conform to a definite and specific pattern. I think that individuality is very important for both the educators as well as the educated. It would also be very unwise for the Commonwealth to accept a responsibility which it had no power at all to discharge. It is all very well for the Commonwealth to extract taxes from the taxpayer and to hand the money back to the States. All States are not prodigal or wanton; but the Commonwealth Government when it does extract taxes from the taxpayers has a .responsibility to the people from whom the money is taken to see that the -money is expended in a way which warranted the extraction of the money in the first instance.
In conclusion, I acknowledge Senator McKenna’s claim. He said that the conception of this bill did not originate with the present Government. A lot of very good things, both in peace and war, have been performed by governments not associated with members on -this side of the Senate. We recognize that fact completely, and I hope that in the future honorable senators opposite will also be mindful of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 1st May (vide page 761), on motion by Senator Paltridge-
That the bill be now read a second time.
,- This bill will enable funds that have been accumulated in the wheat pools over a period of years to be distributed. Apparently, it is not possible to distribute that money to individual growers who have supplied the wheat from time to time because of what is .known in racecourse parlance as the fractional differences that arise. The Government very wisely is making provision for this money to be used for research work to be carried out by the various States under the jurisdiction of the growers themselves. In the first instance the research will be of great benefit to the people who have actually supplied the money.
Not much can be said about that particular phase of the matter. It is splendid that money will be available to continue research that has been taking place in some of the States over a period of years. This money will help to accelerate that research. During the years this research has been conducted, there has always been a shortage of funds and this contribution will help to overcome that shortage. One could, of course, deal with the subject of wheat-growing generally, but the Opposition does not intend to go outside the actual” provisions of the bill. It raises no opposition to the bill.
.- I rise to support the bill. I commend Senator O’Flaherty upon his contribution to the debate and upon the support which he lias informed us is being given the measure by the Opposition. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) set out the purposes of the bill very clearly in his second-heading speech. It -winds up the operations of- nine pools and diverts, for research- purposes, undistributable fractions which1, as Senator 0’Flaherty has said, cannot possibly be paid to the growers in- any physical sense. In the aggregate they total £284,418 - a. not inconsiderable sum - which will, be placed, in the hands of wheat research, committees throughout the Commonwealth.
Having had a small financial interest in all these pools, I- can speak with some authority when I say that the industry welcomes this legislation. Indeed it is proof, if further proof were needed, of the determination of the industry to improve both its product and its general prosperity. I remind the Senate that during the last session of this Parliament, at the request of the growers, legislation under which one farthing a bushel’ would’ be deducted from all sales of wheat and” devoted to research, was passed. This prompts me to say quite bluntly that far too- many people- are prone to criticize the wheat-grower and declare that he has little or no interest in, improving his- product or the state of his industry. A visit to any field day at an agricultural college would prove the fallacy of that type of thinking. I quote as an example a field day which is held at Longerenong, in my own area, year in and year out. As many as a thousand farmers attend these field days to learn from the research officers any new knowledge that they have gained during the preceding twelve months. That college is a valuable adjunct to the wheat-growing industry.
The grower is determined to acquire knowledge that will help him to meet the changing needs of the industry, and the work of research officers is often not adequately appreciated. To get some indication of the devotion to their cause displayed by research officers, one has only to look at the breeding beds in which every grain of wheat is planted by hand to ensure that it is in the correct place. There are hundreds of experimental plots sown one drill wide. Every grain must be taken from the drill before the next plot is started and the same procedure must be followed of course, at harvest time. All these things indicate that both the growers and the research officers throughout the State departments of agriculture are determined to march with science but the cry is always for more funds. For that reason, the diversion of this sum of money for research purposes- will be of great benefit to the industry.
The wheat industry has two major problems to face. Its economic worth to this country is well known. It has to compete on overseas markets and also to supply a home market. In the buyers’ market which now exists overseas we find a demand for certain types of wheat. Some buyers want hard and some soft.
Recently I had the privilege of visiting Japan as a member of a parliamentary delegation and was interested to learn the Japanese approach to our wheat. My first opportunity to enlighten my mind on the subject was provided when we received an invitation- to inspect the factory of the A. No Moto Seasoning Company. In my innocence I conjured up a vision of a small factory which treated and packed condiments such as we use when we stuff a turkey. I was amazed to find that the factory, covered an area of 142 acres. It is interesting to record in passing that during the war 40. per cent, of the factory was destroyed. Yet it is, to-day, a series of multi-storied concrete buildings and employs 2,200 persons. Most significant of all, the factory treats 23,000,000 bushels of wheat each year - an amount equivalent to half of a good New South Wales crop in one year. I said to the managing director who spoke good English, “ Where do you get your wheat? “ He said, “ From Canada. We require a hard wheat.” I said, “ Have you ever been interested in Australian wheat? “ He said, “ Yes, but we cannot get it in sufficient quantities. We have sampled your Western Australian wheat and your Queensland wheat.” I am bound to confess that he said nothing of Victorian wheat. He added, quite bluntly, that if the company could get in sufficient quantity the type of wheat that he had sampled it would be interested in buying it from us. Surely, in a buyers’ world, where specialized products are being demanded, we can keep abreast of the times only by considering the possibilities of such markets as I have just described.
On the home front there is, of course, an endless cry from a certain section of the community that our bread is inferior, and that the quality of our wheat is really to blame for this. I advise honorable senators not to be persuaded that the allegedly poor quality of our wheat is wholly to blame for the type of bread that we get to-day. I have not time to enlarge on that now and shall content myself with saying that proof can be provided merely by going into any little country town and sampling the bread of a baker who goes to some trouble to blend his wheats and produce his loaf in a scientific manner. Such bakers produce bread that it is a delight to eat. I think the time is coming when science must apply itself to the baking of bread as well as to the improvement of wheat quality.
T should like now to mention three points which I consider paramount in the improvement of our wheat. The first great need is to improve quality without loss of quantity. It is as well to remind ourselves that the buyer countries are no longer buying flour in the same quantities as hitherto. They are buying wheat with a view to profiting from its by-products. That is a new problem on the horizon for the industry and may demand a blend of wheat that will meet the requirements of buyers who wish to make their own flour. The problems which confront the scientist seeking to improve the quality of wheat are different in each State. It is true that rust destroys much wheat in certain parts of New South Wales and Queensland. It is interesting to recall that the United States of America has spent millions of dollars in trying to fight rust. If one considers that some 200 different types of rust are encountered in that country one realizes that scientists there are faced with a mammoth task. The unremitting attention of Australian scientists is demanded if we are to beat this destroyer of Australian wheat. I emphasize that I speak as a Victorian and I do not want to be misunderstood when dealing with this issue. In the wheat-growing areas of Victoria, the crops are suffering seriously from a disease known as dead-heads. It has completely baffled the Victorian Department of Agriculture. When I tell honorable senators that the Department of Agriculture in Victoria estimates that this disease destroys 5 per cent, of the crop each year and that this represents a loss of £1,000,000 in round figures, they will appreciate that the industry cannot afford to carry such a tremendous loss if it is to compete economically on world markets.
I come now to the question of soil fertility. The wheat-growers themselves, realize that they must maintain soil fertility, and as one travels through the State it is most pleasing to see plots set aside by the farmers for experimental purposes. They are seeking to discover, for instance, whether subterranean clover puts more nitrogen into the soil than does barrel clover. Wheat is a crop which demands nitrogen, and science can play a great part in this field. The Shell oil company is now experimenting with a by-product from its refineries, and it has great expectations for it as a means of introducing nitrogen into the soil to restore fertility. Finally, I submit that as citizens of this great country we have an obligation to hand down our lands to posterity in a better condition than we received them, and I support this legislation for I believe that it will play a great part in attaining the objectives to which I have referred and which I believe are of paramount importance to both this industry and the economy of Australia.
– It is gratifying to speak to a bill which has the approval of both sides of the chamber, and this is one measure to which I do not think any honorable senator will object. As Senator Wade has pointed out, the Minister’s second-reading speech sets out the objects of the bill quite clearly. It seeks to make more money available for research work in the wheat-growing industry. It seeks to distribute to the various States a sum of £284,000 which really belongs to the growers but which, legally, belongs to this Government. That money is to be made available to the States as something additional to the farthing a bushel which the growers themselves agreed last year to set aside from their returns for research work. Then, of course, there will be a subsidy paid by this Government on a £l-for-£l basis to augment that voluntary levy. This measure is concrete evidence of the continued interest of this Government in primary industry. It is further proof of the Government’s willingness to support the primary producers of Australia. Wheat is only one of five primary industries to benefit under a scheme similar to the one set out in the bill. The other industries are wool, fruit, barley and tobacco.
The £284,000 mentioned in the schedule is to be distributed among the States according to the proportion of wheat supplied to the wheat pools by those states. New South Wales is to receive £98,776. The poor relation - Tasmania - is to receive only £95. That is because we supplied very little wheat to the relevant pools. We do not produce as much wheat in Tasmania now as we did 40 years ago. I think we have between 7,000 and 8,000 acres under production, and, as the return is about 21 bushels to the acre, Tasmania’s total wheat production is approximately 150,000 bushels a year. We consume about 50,000 bushels locally and the other 100,000 bushels is used for biscuit making, mainly in New South Wales and Victoria. Because of its high moisture content, Tasmanian wheat is not suitable for the manufacture of flour. Most of our wheat is imported from South Australia, and occasionally we have cause to complain about the quality of that product. As we have no silos in Tasmania, we are obliged to buy bagged wheat, and wheat bought in this way varies considerably in quality.
– When will the Tasmanian silos be ready?
– There are three silos being built in Tasmania now, one at Devonport, one at Launceston and one at Hobart. When they are completed, we shall be able to buy our wheat in bulk. This bulk wheat should be of more even quality than bagged wheat, and it should enable us to make a better loaf of bread. As Senator Wade has pointed out, the various State wheat committees will do the actual research work and the wheat council, which is the federal body, will direct the activities of those State committees. The members of the federal council are men of very great ability and long experience, and the success of this scheme will depend largely on their efforts.
I believe that there is need for an improvement in the quality of Australian wheats. The proposed committees will have to deal with such matters as cost structures, marketing arrangements, and the breeding and testing of new varieties. With our wide diversity of soils and climates, Australia is able to produce different types in various parts of the continent, and it is essential that we produce these different types if we are to compete in the highly competitive overseas markets. I look forward to the production of new varieties in different parts of Australia for export to the markets overseas. The present wheat stabilization scheme is to be reviewed in about three months’ time. I am sure that the new scheme will be of much more benefit to the industry because it will be based on experience over the last five years. I believe it is imperative that we maintain a high price for wheat because it has the greatest stabilizing influence of all primary products. It has a greater influence on our economy even than wool, and for that reason I hope that the new stabilized price for wheat will be as high as the economy of the country can afford.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 13th May (vide page 980), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill seeks to extend the period in which the bounty will be paid to the cotton industry. I think it is generally known that the industry which exists only in Queensland is not in a very flourishing condition. For that reason the payment of a bounty has been necessary over the years to keep it alive. Farmers are not concentrating upon the growing of cotton, but instead associate it with other farming pursuits, such as dairying.
– Is cotton-growing regarded only as a sideline?
– Yes, a sideline only. On a previous occasion, I asked whether the cotton industry could be investigated by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization or some other expert authority to see whether the fibre could be improved or whether a type of cotton, more suitable to the climatic conditions of Queensland, could be discovered. I am not asking the Minister to make a lengthy reply now, but I know that if he has any advice that such investigations have been commenced, he will inform us. The Opposition does not object to the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 13th May (vide page 980), on motion by Senator Henry -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill proposes an alteration in the method of collecting excise on beer. This is a subject upon which one could grow lyrical, but I assure the Senate that I intend to deal only with the bill now before us. The existing method of imposing excise is for the brewer to affix duty stamps to the kegs or casks containing the beer and, after delivery to the publican, the responsibility is on him to deface the stamps. The new method is similar to that in operation in respect of excise on spirits and wines, which is collected through a cart-note. If my recollection serves me aright, that system also applies to bottled beer.
From the Government’s point of view, there may be some virtue in the proposed change. I am sure it will be of benefit to the great brewing interests of Australia, and I hope they will take that benefit into consideration and reduce the price of beer to the millions of people who enjoy a glass of beer occasionally.
The only other matter to which I wish to refer is the excise duty itself. I understand that beer carries a duty of 9s. lOd. a gallon. That appears to me to be an extraordinary amount because I have distinct recollections of earlier days when the excise was only 3d. a gallon. When the duty reached 4s. 6d. a gallon, I gave up this beverage altogether. Perhaps the Minister will make some representations to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) with a view to reducing the amount of excise to something more reasonable than it is at present. Although beer is apparently considered a luxury by the powers that be, an excise duty of 9s. lOd. a gallon is exorbitant.
Thousands of people in Australia believe that beer is necessary to enable them to carry on their work. I am not referring to topers or alcoholics, but to people who do extremely heavy work and have been brought up to regard a glass .of beer as a necessity. On one job on which I was working many years ago we were allowed a ten-minutes smoko. The work was rather arduous, and as soon as the smoko period commenced, many of the men ran to the hotel 20 or 30 yards away, swallowed a pint of beer and then returned to the job. It did not seem to do the men any harm. From my observations, they were stimulated by the glass of beer. Quite a number of people in Australia drink beer for the purpose of stimulation to enable them to perform their work. The Government should realize that beer is not the luxury that it has declared it to be, and it ought to consider a reduction of the beer excise.
Having made those comments, I inform the Senate that the Opposition does not raise any objection to the alteration of the method of collecting the excise.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 1st May (vide page 764), on motion by Senator Cooper -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This is another of the series of bills to which we offer no opposition. I congratulate the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) upon the form of presentation of the measure to the Parliament. It was presented with a second-reading speech that dealt with the very broad aspects of the legislation. Accompanying the bill were most comprehensive explanatory notes on each clause and on each article of the complex agreement which is part of the measure. The bill seeks to validate an agreement between Canada and Australia for the elimination of double taxation on income earned in one country which passes to a recipient in the other.
I take advantage of this opportunity to thank the Commissioner of Taxation and his staff for their usual helpfulness in supplying the explanatory notes. The Opposition is most appreciative of their painstaking efforts. I strongly urge every other Minister to send a copy of the bill, the second-reading speech and the explanatory notes to his departmental head and point to them as being a model of the kind of presentation he would like for every bill that originates in his department. It would be a wonderful thing for the Senate if all bills were presented in this form. Any honorable senator who spared the time and expended the necessary effort to study the explanatory notes that accompanied this exceedingly complicated measure could reach a real understanding of its provisions, but I venture to say that, without the notes, not many honorable senators would be able to understand those provisions.
As I indicated, the bill seeks to ratify an agreement between Australia and Canada to eliminate double taxation on income earned in one country which flows to a taxpayer in the other. I quite agree with the following statement made by the Treasurer during his second-reading speech in another place -
Unless the burden of the taxation imposed by two countries is relieved, a serious impediment to international trade and investment may prove detrimental to both countries.
The idea of eliminating double taxation on income flowing between countries is not new. In 1946, the Chifley Labour Government negotiated an agreement of that kind with the United Kingdom. That agreement has operated with success until the present time - a period of some twelve years. The present Government, in 1953, entered into a similar agreement with the United States of America, and the bill which ratified that agreement was passed by the Senate with the full concurrence of the Opposition of the day. It is rather interesting to note that, although after this bill is passed Australia will have three agreements with other countries eliminating the incidence of double taxation, the United Kingdom has 58 such treaties with other countries. One can imagine the free flow of trade and investment that arises from the existence of so many agreements between the United Kingdom and countries that are external to it.
I note that the agreement under consideration was executed on 1st October, 1957. lt was ratified by the Canadian legislature on 31st .January of this year - four months later. Australia is certainly lagging behind Canada in the matter of ratification, but it is still in time for the legislation to apply to income of the current financial year. Because of the different income tax years in the two countries, the agreement will operate, in the case of Canada, on income earned from 1st January this year and, in the case of Australia, on income earned in the year ending on 30th June next. The agreement will run for at least three years. Apart from that minimum period, it will run indefinitely until it is terminated by notice given by one party to the other, the notice being required to be given prior to 31st March in any year. If notice is given, the agreement will terminate in respect of different years of income which correspond to the differences that J have just indicated as operating at the inception of the agreement.
I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to indicate to the Senate, when he is replying to any debate that may take place, what is the estimate of funds that might be expected to accrue or be lost to Australian revenues. I would also like him to give, if possible, some survey of the broad economic effects that are expected to arise in Australia. I should think that the Minister would not have great difficulty in supplying some such data. I know of the existence of a very efficient research and statistics section in the income tax branch. I have had a good deal to do with it, and I know that the people in that section make the closest of estimates of the effects of any such treaty as this on Australia’s finances.
It is indicated on the face of the agreement, and particularly in the notes prepared by the department, that that- very close examination has, in fact, been made. One finds in the notes various estimates, including one that the effect on the revenue in one case will be negligible. So it is apparent that very close consideration has been given to the financial effect on Australia of each clause of the agreement. It would certainly interest the Opposition and, I am sure, everybody in the Senate, if the Minister were to make a statement on the departmental estimate of the loss of revenue to Australia that will result, or the benefit, if any, that Australia may derive, from this reciprocal agreement. Without exact knowledge, I express the view, for what it is worth, that Australia will, in the immediate future, be the loser, for the simple reason that, I think, there is far more Canadian investment in Australia than there is Australian investment in Canada.
In 1953, when we were reviewing a similar agreement with the United States, the Opposition, and I on its behalf at that time, dealt at length with the principles that apply in an agreement of this type. Having reviewed the principles of that agreement, and finding but little change from them in this agreement, I do not feel disposed now to embark on a review of the terms. These are part of the bill, and are exhibited in the schedule. I would say, however, that, having regard to the very close links between Australia and Canada, both in peace and war, and because we regard the agreement as a step forward in our very cordial relations with Canada, the Opposition takes the view that we can say to our Canadian cousins, in relation to a measure of this type, “ lt is a pleasure to do business with you “.
When my mind is directed by this bill to the elimination of double taxation as between ourselves and Canada I am minded to address the Senate very briefly on the complicated effects of overseas investment on Canada itself. I do so because in a consideration of that matter there are lessons for Australia in relation to the investment here of foreign capital. I have in my hand a most comprehensive publication, prepared by the Dominion Bureau of Statistics, which deals with Canada’s international investment position. It contains the most interesting tables, and is of the most comprehensive and complicated nature. I propose to spend a moment or two referring to some of the statistics that are available there. Canada, in fact, is suffering adversely from the inward flow of foreign capital, particularly from the United States. The Senate may be interested to know that the United States has increased its investments and its ownership of industry in Canada from a total of 3,196,000,000 dollars in 1926 to 9,622,000,000 dollars in 1954.
– What percentage is that of the total?
– It is an increase of more than 200 per cent.
– Relative to the total investment?
– The honorable senator has asked two questions, and I shall come back to them. I repeat the figures. In 1926 the total of United States investment and ownership of industry in Canada was 3,196,000,000 dollars; in 1954 it was 9,622,000,000 dollars. In other words, it increased more than threefold. The percentages in that matter were worked out in another article, which I have summarized in a convenient form. Tt states that in 1926 Canada controlled 65 per cent, of its manufacturing; in 1953, the percentage was 53 per cent. The article said that as at August, 1956 - the time of its publication - Canada might have controlled no more than half of its manufacturing. In 1926, according to this document, Canada controlled 62 per cent, of its mining; in 1953 it controlled only 43 per cent. The document says that as at August, 1956, the percentage was probably lower still. The document then makes this comment -
Taking altogether petroleum in all its phases, all mining and semelting, and all other manufacturing, Canada in 1953 was just keeping ahead of the United States in its ownership of these aspects of Canadian business.
That is not necessarily a bad thing. But it has side effects that one would not have expected. If one makes even a cursory study of the document one finds that there are complaints in Canada that that country is being exploited for the production of raw materials for the benefit of the United States. It is found that the introduction to Canada of particular types of machinery from the United States leads to a great increase thereafter in imports of spare parts and in multifarious ways aids the dominant position of the United States in foreign investment in Canada, and sets up all kinds of stresses and strains in the economy of that country. It even goes to the point where it disturbs the relations between the two countries. I have in my hand a commentary on the position. That commentary says that politics enter very largely into this matter, or that this matter stimulates politics that interact on each country. The commentary uses these words -
– Is that not the issue that changed the government of Canada?
– It is one of the issues that did a good deal to change the Canadian Government. I am indicating that these factors play a very prominent part not only in domestic affairs but also in relations between the two countries if the domination of one in the manufacturing, mining and petroleum interests of the other is too grievously felt. One cannot look solely, in considering an agreement of this kind, at the effects on the revenue from income taxation.
– But we have no fortyninth parallel.
– That is true. We are not as close to Canada as the United States and Canada are to each other; but I merely indicate again to the Senate, before I return to that particular political theme, that there is far more Canadian investment in Australia than there is Australian investment in Canada.
The survey to which I have referred indicates that there is a very high degree of investment by Canadians abroad. As a matter of fact the degree of Canadian investment abroad really surprised me when I saw the figures. I would say that one of the main effects of this double taxation agreement will be to stimulate the flow of capital from Canada to Australia. One may say that that is a very good thing; but it is not a simple matter, and it has to be looked at from many aspects. The first question to be considered is: How do we fare in the matter of our own manufacturing in the immediate future as a result of the agreement? I suggest that we shall lose. I have invited the Minister to be so good as to let us know the departmental estimate in that matter. However, assuming - and I believe this to be correct - that this agreement will help the flow of capital from Canada to Australia, that will be a contribution to our development and will help to provide employment for Australians. These two things will lead, in turn, to increased tax revenue. Then we have to consider another field because the matter does not end there. The larger foreign investment grows in this country the higher will be the remittances of income from profits to countries overseas which have invested here. That can be a terrific burden in relation to the balance of payments position.
– It is only a small percentage of the earnings.
– It depends; it could be. Trends in Australia are that as the development aspect gains in prominence a good deal of the profits is ploughed back into the concern by way of capital investment and expansion. But an end comes to that phase, too, and presently bigger and bigger proportions of the dividends and reserves will be remitted abroad.
– It is only a small percentage of the earnings.
– Of the earnings of the company - I agree that it is only a proportion.
– No, the earnings it makes in Australia - 10 per cent, or 12 per cent. The other 80 per cent, is earned here.
– I recognize that. I have acknowledged the contribution that investment makes to development and employment. I now indicate that there is another phase, namely, the question of the balance of payments. Even though the amount remitted is only a small proportion of the total earnings of the company in Australia, it is a very significant matter in the phase with which I am now dealing, the balance of payments position. If any honorable senator cares to pursue that phase, there is a most comprehensive chapter in the official publication “ Canada’s International Investment Position 1926- 1954”. Part III. deals with Canada’s international investment position and the balance of payments. It reviews all of the factors I have mentioned, and more. I should like to put to the Senate just how Canada fares in relation to the balance of payments. I shall quote the figures for 1954 alone. In that year, Canada received interest on its investments abroad amounting to 53.000,000 dollars. The income it received from abroad in dividends amounted to 90,000,000 dollars. Now, when we turn to the payments made by Canada in that same year, as against 57,000,000 dollars received as interest. Canada paid out 1 34,000,000 dollars. As against 90,000,000 dollars received as dividends from abroad, Canada sent abroad 297,000,000 dollars. Overall, there was a deficiency of 288,000,000 dollars on those two transactions - dividends and interest. One can see how that drain could be developed to a dangerous position.
I was diverted from what I was reading a moment ago on the political trend of this type of thing when it is allowed to go too far. In order to complete the quotation I was then making, I shall read this further paragraph -
Critics complain that American concerns have been draining oft Canadian raw materials to feed United States industries instead of processing them in Canada. Canadians have been exhorted “ to declare their economic independence of the United States”, and farmers warned that “we are not going to be hewers of wood, drawers of water,, and diggers of holes for any other country, no matter how friendly that country may be “.
I mention these matters because Canada is one of our partners in this agreement. The facts that are pictured and dealt with so comprehensively in this voluminous publication are of particular interest to us.
I want to indicate that the matter is not simply a question of how much income tax we lose pursuant to this agreement. There are other difficulties, not only the balance of payments position but also the question of dollar remittances abroad. So, I do indicate that the bill is not as simple in its effects as might appear upon the face of it. I do concede that it does justice to a person who is good enough to make an investment in this country. The measure provides that he will not have to pay tax both here where the income is earned and abroad where it is received. The Opposition has no objection to the measure. We have helped to pioneer the way for agreements of this type. We supported the present agreement with the United States of America, and we give our cordial support to this particular measure.
But I just sound a note of warning that we must carefully watch the flow of foreign capital into this country in proportions that may be undue. There are all the side effects - the effects on our imports and exports, upon the balance of payments position, and upon our dollar position, particularly when we are dealing with a country like Canada that is in the dollar area. This can add to our own serious problem. Although it is nothing like the magnitude of Canada’s problem, nevertheless to us it is clearly a serious problem. I think I worked it out for the Senate not long ago that by now we would have to find some 28,000,000 dollars a year merely to service borrowings of dollars we have made down the last few years. Payments of principal were postponed for the first few years, but they have now caught up with us. When one looks at the large figures concerning America and Canada, our commitment of 28,000,000 dollars a year is insignificant, but it does assume really significant proportions in the type of budget that we operate in Australia. It is clear that there is going to be quite a drain on our dollar reserves and on the balance of payments position, adverse as it is in the dollar area.
– How is that related to the productivity that American capital enables in Australia?
– That is a. question which, if I knew the answer, probably would take me some hours to deal with. The productivity is assessible, but not to any degree of certainty, according to authorities that I have looked at upon that point.
– It is cumulative.
– It may be. It all depends on the type of industry it goes into. If it goes into an activity which is dollar earning, it has an immediate and a vastly important significance. If it goes to help our export industries, it is of vast importance; but it is impossible to say until you know where the proceeds of the loan have gone and the effect that it has had on productivity. One can concede at once that it may have a generally beneficial effect upon productivity. When the honorable senator asks me what I say about it, I say quite frankly that I do not know. I say, secondly, that it cannot be assessed with any accuracy; and I further say that if I did know the answer, it would take me much more time than I would want to take to give the answer.
– Twenty-eight million dollars is only a part of the earnings of 280,000,000 dollars; we can afford to pay it.
– Yes, but we must have regard to the fact that it goes on year after year. It keeps on figuring in our outgoings and it can have a very disturbing effect upon our finances and upon our economy generally.
– Does that amount include repayments of principal as well as interest?
– Yes, but as we keep on borrowing - this is the note of warning I sound - and keep on attracting investment from abroad, we cannot overlook many factors, and this is one of them. The repayment of loans and the remittances of dividends abroad must be kept in mind. It is not my purpose to develop those aspects of the bill to any particular length, but I suggest that any honorable senator who may be stimulated to interest himself in this extravagant position will find a wealth of information in the document to which I have referred. With these comments that are strictly germaine to the bill, I indicate that the Opposition accords its cordial support to the measure.
.- I shall intrude upon this debate very briefly to rebut what I believe are misconceived views that have been expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). However, I am indebted to him for introducing into the debate a very thoughtful topic. In an expanding economy such as ours, I believe that any government with the capacity to borrow from abroad money at reasonable terms has a unique opportunity to make a handsome profit for this country. If it is not able to do so it has a very impoverished outlook indeed. Any government in Australia that cannot borrow and show a huge profit for the Australian people is not worthy of the opportunity that Australia presents.
Secondly, one cannot compare Canada with Australia in this regard. Canada is associated, cheek by jowl, with one of the richest economies in the world. The United
States of America teems with millions of dollars, awaiting investment and spilling over and beyond the imaginary boundary that divides Canada from the United States. Canada, of course, faces the problem of intrusion to a degree that may become dangerous to its very independence. How different is Australia’s position, separated as it is from the envisaged source of supply by no less a gulf than the Pacific Ocean! Surely we should try to attract from the United States, Canada and Great Britain sufficient funds to provide for the huge number of immigrants that we are bringing to this country at great expense. If we can only attract to Australia loans, or advances of capital, to enable us to establish these immigrants during the period when they need establishing, this country will be able to absorb that foreign capital without the slightest degree of apprehension and without having to face the conditions that threw St. Laurent and Pearson out of power and replaced them with Diefenbaker. What happened in Canada is a matter of complete insignificance as far as Australia is concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– At the secondreading stage I asked the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) whether he was in .a position to give the Senate any information regarding the Treasury’s estimate of how Australia will fare in the immediate future years as a result of this agreement with Canada. As I indicated before, I arn certain that some such estimate has been made. I see that in the most complete notes, for which I praised the department , ana the .Minister when the bill was presented to- .the Senate, there is no estimate by ;the Government or the department pf the fax position in the immediate future. Even if the Minister can .give the Senate this information only in general terms, I would still like to , have .it.
.- I am not able to give ,the. Leader pf the . Opposition (Senator MeKenna) any .estimate of the loss that there may ,be to this country.
– It may be a loss or it may be a profit. I am really asking for information.
– I am unable to give the honorable senator any figures. In the first place it would be difficult to say what effect this agreement will have during the first twelve months on the economy of either Australia or Canada. It is difficult to say just what investments will be made in this country. It may be that, as the Leader of the Opposition has suggested, Canadian investments in this country will be greater, for the time being at any rate, than Australian investments in Canada. If that is so there may be a temporary loss of revenue to Australia, but just what that loss will be I am not in a position to say. We hope that we will obtain the benefit of further investment by Canadian interests in this country, which naturally should profit Australia. Even though that profit cannot be put into firm figures, it will benefit Australia indirectly. However, until the agreement has been running for some period of time, I am sorry that I will not be able to give the Leader of the Opposition the information he desires.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 7th May (vide page 823), on motion by Senator Cooper -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition is opposed to the bill for several reasons, the chief of which is the general dissatisfaction in the community at the maladministration of the existing legislation. I make that statement advisedly and propose to give honorable senators the reasons why the citizens of the Commonwealth are so dissatisfied with the administration of the existing legislation. It is difficult, of course, to pinpoint the real trouble in the administration, but I have my own way of fathoming the extent of the present dissatisfaction which I propose to outline to the Senate.
The Minister charged with the responsibility of administering the Broadcasting and Television Act is the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) who is also Minister for the Navy. The administration of the Broadcasting and Television Act is not a minor duty. It should be linked with the administration of a department of information and placed under a separate Minister. Later on I shall give my reasons for saying that. The principal act brought into being the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The functions of both those bodies are defined in the act. Very few citizens of the Commonwealth know what it costs to maintain the board and the commission, and most would be surprised to learn that the total cost is about £9,000,000 per annum. The question that naturally arises is whether we are getting value for the money spent.
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.
– A glance at the estimates of expenditure for the Australian Broadcasting Control Board reveals that the taxpayer has had to provide this year, for salaries, the sum of £93,500, for general expenses, £77,300, and for general salaries, expenses and stores a total of £174,000.
Turning now to the costs of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, I find that salaries amount to £238,600, and general expenses to £74,200. The cost of providing music and variety entertainment is set down as £874,700. I appreciate, of course, that the provision of such a service over the national stations must cost a great deal of money. Drama and features are to cost £137,700. I have no clear idea why £84,100 should be spent on public relations and publicity. I note that the cost of publishing the “A.B.C. Weekly” is £63,700, As the magazine is being produced at a loss it should be terminated immediately. There is no need to saddle the people of the Commonwealth with such an expense any longer. “ Other publications “ are to cost £58,400. I should like the Minister to indicate - if he intends to reply to any of my remarks - what comes under that heading. Indeed, I should like to question the members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission on that particular item.
I pass now to the report which, under the act, the commission must submit annually to this Parliament. I produce it as an exhibit for the benefit of honorable senators. It is printed on art paper. One cannot use a more expensive type of paper for such a production. I am sure that no member of the Parliament desires that the report should be provided on such expensive paper. We should all be happy to read a report submitted on paper of an inexpensive type such as is used for departmental reports.
– Is the paper any more expensive than that used for the report of the Commonwealth Bank?
– I should think that it would be. I ask honorable senators to look at the publication and, as well, to see the blatant political propaganda that has been indulged in. I should like the Minister to tell me whether it is proper that political propaganda of any kind should be attempted in an annual report submitted under an act of the Parliament.
– Why do you not substantiate that charge?
– I ask the honorable senator to examine the report and to look especially at the pictures which it contains.
– It is your duty to substantiate the charge.
– The honorable senator cannot cross-examine me. I have only referred him to the document.
– Can you not quote the relevant portion?
– If Government supporters wish I can do so quite easily. I refer them to page 11.
– Why do you not tell us what you are objecting to?
– Quite plainly, Government supporters have not had time to look at the report, notwithstanding the great cost involved in its production.
– You are making this statement over the air. You should verify it by quoting the passage to which you object.
– You are running for cover.
– I am not. I have referred Senator Gorton to the very page. On page 1 1 we have a photograph of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and on page 31 a photograph of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson). This is an annual report, submitted in accordance with the statute! That is just one example and I shall come to others later.
– Your case is very weak.
– lt is substantial. What I have pointed out is in keeping with the line that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has followed for quite a long time. Passing now to other matters, we find that £1,633,000 is to be spent on capital works and services in this financial year, lt is interesting to note that although this is a business undertaking no interest is to be charged on this huge sum. I should like to contrast that situation with the way in which money has been advanced to the Snowy Mountains Authority, which must pay interest on every £1.
The question whether the Australian public is getting value for the money that is spent by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission can perhaps be left unresolved for the moment. These organizations are certainly costly. I realize that the wireless has become an indispensable amenity in the Australian home and that there are now 172 broadcasting stations operating in the Commonwealth. Of these 108 are commercial stations. It certainly appears that commercial broadcasting is very profitable. Only three of the commercial stations showed losses last year.
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board is not an independent body at all. If one examines its functions one finds that it can do very little without the Minister’s approval. At present, the board is hearing evidence concerning the granting of television licences in South Australia and Queensland. The most that the board can do is recommend to the Minister. One can easily understand what goes on. Although the inquiry has not been completed, a great many people already know who are to receive licences. I cannot understand how any one conceived the idea that licences’ should be granted to people who ran newspapers, theatres and broadcasting stations. That is the policy which operates in Australia at present. Neither the administration of the act nor the broadcasting service is considered satisfactory by the listeners of the Comonwealth to-day. When we look for a reason for this dissatisfaction we find that the Ministers who have administered the act over the last nine years have been members of the Australian Country party. That is one of the main reasons why the administration has been poor and why no progress whatever has been made.
– It is well known that the general economic policy of the Australian Country party is to buy goods on the cheapest market irrespective of where they are manufactured, to have low wages operating wherever that party is in government, and to establish the highest possible prices for such primary products as wheat, flour, bacon and meat. That is the policy of the Country party, and, as we have had Country party Ministers administering this act for the last nine years, is it any wonder that we have this general dissatisfaction? The present Minister has simply followed on where he took over from his predecessor. He has made no changes whatsoever. The administration was poor at the time of his taking over, and there has been no improvement since.
Again, no one can deny that there has been a trend towards monopolies in the administration. We all know that this Government can be relied upon at all times to provide grease for the pig. It has certainly done that under the act which this bill seeks to amend. I point out, as a matter of interest, that in Melbourne there is operating a company known as The Herald and Weekly Times Limited. It is registered in Melbourne and publishes the
Melbourne “ Herald “, which has a daily circulation of 447,000 copies. The Herald and Weekly Times Limited also holds 987,620 shares in Advertiser Newspapers Limited of Adelaide, a company which publishes a daily newspaper called “The Advertiser “. The daily circulation of “ The Advertiser “ is 174,000 copies. Again, The Herald and Weekly Times Limited holds 37i per cent, of the shares in Queensland Newspapers Limited, a company which publishes the “ Courier-Mail “, a newspaper with a daily circulation of 220,000 copies. Queensland Newspapers Limited also publishes the “ Sunday Mail “, a weekly newspaper, with a circulation of 282,000 copies. The Melbourne Herald and Weekly Times Limited has a shareholding interest in the Brisbane “ Telegraph “, which has a daily circulation of 150,000 copies. The total number of newspapers circulating daily in the three capital cities of Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane in which The Herald and Weekly Times Limited has a financial interest is 991,000.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid).- Order! What has the circulation of newspapers to do with broadcasting? I have allowed the honorable senator a great deal of latitude. I suggest that it is time he dealt with the principles contained in the bill.
– Let me explain that I am dealing with licences and other matters over which the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Minister have jurisdiction.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - The bill has nothing to do with the circulation of newspapers. We do not want to know anything about that.
– You do not want to hear that?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Not about newspapers. I have read the bill very carefully and I cannot find any reference in it to newspapers.
– I propose to tell the Senate about the grip which these monopolistic newspapers have upon the minds of the people of Australia through the licences which have been granted to them to operate broadcasting and television stations. We are dealing now with the media of public communications.
– This is a television bill, is it not?
– Yes, it deals with television. The Herald and Weekly Times Limited holds licences for broadcasting stations 3DB Melbourne and 3LK Lubeck. lt holds nearly 1,000,000 of the 2,688,000
Ordinary shares in Advertiser Newspapers Limited which controls broadcasting station 5AD Adelaide, 5MV Murray Bridge, 5PI Crystal Brook and 5SE Mount Gambier.
– Where is that covered in the bill?
– I ask the honorable
Senator to read the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I am dealing now with the functions of the board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission, If the honorable senator is unable to see how my remarks are related to the functions of those two bodies, I cannot explain the matter any further. Through its shareholding interest in Queensland Newspapers Proprietary Limited, The Herald and Weekly Times Limited has an interest in broadcasting stations 4AK Oakey and 4BK Brisbane.
– It is all Australian capital.
– Do not be too sure of that. I suggest that the honorable senator read the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board more closely. If he does, he will find that it is not Australian capital in all cases. Queensland Press Limited is also an associate company of Queensland Newspapers Proprietary Limited, and a company called Herald-Sun Proprietary Limited holds the licence for broadcasting station HSV Melbourne. Of the 750,000 ordinary shares in this company, The Herald and Weekly Times Limited holds 637,500, and Associated Newspapers Limited, London, holds 112,000. If I cared to quote further from the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, I could refer to another monopoly - the Macquarie Broadcasting Network. It will be found that wherever a broadcasting company is operating it controls not one or two, but several radio stations.
– But there must be big capital involved in businesses of this kind.
– My point is that the capital involved could be obtained from the district in which the station is operating if an attempt were made to obtain it, but this is such a profitable line of business that it is kept closely associated with the press. A few moments ago, the Deputy President said that he could not see how the circulation of newspapers was relevant to the matter with which I was dealing. I say it is relevant because we are dealing with the communication of information to the public. The press is doing that already, but, not being content to confine its activities to the publication of newspapers, it goes further and obtains a monopoly of the radio broadcasting stations. When television is introduced, this medium, too, will be tied up with press interests. There is no room for any other organization to operate any means of communicating information to the public. There is a definite trend towards monopolies and the Government is approving of them. As I said a moment ago, the Government will always find grease for the pig. It has certainly done that in this case.
We know only too well that there are ways of misrepresenting facts. We know also that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has never hesitated to present facts in a way that suits the Government in office. It is doing that constantly. A moment ago I said that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is not an independent board, and that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is not an independent commission. They are required to carry out the instructions of the Minister.
At the present time the A.B.C. is endeavouring to Americanize the minds of Australians. One may tune in the radio at any hour of the day and hear songs such as “ Peanut Vendor “, “ Sweet Little Sixteen “, #n-al;n’ and Rockin”’, “All the Way”, “Chicago”, “Oh Boy”, “You’ve Got Love”, “Maybe Baby”, “It’s too Late”, “Tell me How”.
– What about that popular number, “ The Country’s in the Very Best of Hands “?
– I am looking forward to the day when that number can justly be played. Others that I have heard are, “I’m Looking for Someone to Love”, “The Empty Cup”, “Send me some Lovin’”, “Last Night”, “Rock me Bye Baby”, “You’re Drivin’ me Crazy”, “Wake up Little Suzie”. Those are American songs produced in America, and the Australian Country party is quite happy about their importation into Australia. Still further importations are predicted for the future. Why not import some British music? Surely there is rock ‘n roll music in Great Britain as well as in America?
– The honorable senator would no doubt enjoy those numbers if he were twenty again.
– I enjoy them now, in fact I enjoy all musical items. These records have come into Australia because they are American songs, produced in America and in keeping with the attempt to Americanize the minds of the Australian people. The same procedure has been followed in television. Programmes made in America are being viewed by the people of Australia. Even the style of the weather information broadcast is copied from the American presentation.
Broadcasting and television undertakings are important because they communicate with the minds of the people, including young Australians, and so form public opinion. But the Government is not concerned in the slightest degree about that. The importation of films and records will continue because it is contrary to Australian Country party policy to establish secondary industry in Australia. If the Government settled down to the task, it could quite easily establish a worthwhile industry here, but it has been blind and has given no encouragement to the industries which should be associated with broadcasting and television.
– The honorable senator should remember what happened in Queensland.
– The cobbler should not stray from his last, and the honorable senator should not stray from wheat-growing because that is all he knows. The Government went headlong into radio without bothering to ensure the broadcasting of Australian or even British programmes. Since 1942 radio stations have been satisfied to broadcast only American programmes. The Government, with great benefit to Australia, could establish the photographic industry and manufacture lenses, films and other items associated generally with photography. The manufacture and repair of musical instruments would also give employment to thousands of workers, but at the present time nothing is being done along those lines. Now that television has been introduced to Australia, the manufacture of costumes could also be an important industry to this country. If the Government settled down to establish an industry to produce decent radio and television programmes in Australia, some 20,000 or 30,000 people would be employed instead of, as at the present time, the small number engaged in the distribution of American films and records.
Although the A.B.C. has been in operation for quite a long time and will always be prepared to spend the public money that is provided on such a lavish scale, it has never done anything to train staff to handle broadcasting and television apparatus. A period of eight or nine years elapses before a radio operator qualifies for a licence. No training facilities are available outside Sydney, and potential radio operators in, say, Brisbane, must take a correspondence course with some institution in Sydney to learn the profession. The A.B.C. should have corrected that state of affairs a long time ago, but it is quite happy to import journeymen from other countries to do radio work. That again is in keeping with the Country party’s policy.
I see no solution of the problems associated with broadcasting and television. Until there is a complete change of government the people will have to put up with the programmes now presented to them. However, when a change of government does take place I can assure honorable senators that the existing act will be scrapped and a new act, which will give effect to the general wishes of the public, will be brought into operation.
– Before referring to the bill, which Senator Benn failed completely to do, I direct attention to some of his remarks which, apart from their irrelevance, constitute an attack upon a government instrumentality which is doing a splendid job and discharging its functions extremely well.
The honorable senator’s attack on the Australian Broadcasting Commission is completely unwarranted. The commission has been established for a period of years and has taken its place among the educational and instructional institutions of the Commonwealth in a way which has brought before the people of Australia the fact that we have the best of two worlds with a national and a commercial broadcasting system. The fact that many overseas visitors have envied our broadcasting and television systems indicates that the commission has faithfully carried out the job it was appointed to do.
The honorable senator spoke of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s weekly journal. The bill makes absolutely no reference whatever to that matter.
Sitting suspended from 11.30 p.m. to 12.15 a.m. (Thursday).
Thursday, 15 May 1958
– Before the sitting was suspended I was discussing Senator Benn’s unwarranted attack on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In support of a charge of political bias, the only evidence tendered by the honorable senator was a statement that in the “A.B.C. Weekly “ the commission had published a photograph of the Prime Minister.
– It was published in the annual report, not in the “A.B.C. Weekly “.
– I am corrected. To complain about such a thing surely is the height of absurdity. Does the honorable senator expect the Australian Broadcasting Commission to put a wart like Oliver Cromwell’s on the nose of the Prime Minister or to do something else to disfigure him so that his handsome lineaments may not be of such value to the Government? Does not Senator Benn realize that the Australian Broadcasting Commission, by providing active competition for the commercial stations, is responsible for our being provided with very good programmes?
The honorable senator said that this Government’s legislation tended towards the establishment of a monopoly. I think I have said enough in this chamber within the past few months to indicate to Senator Benn what I think about monopolies. The counter to this Government’s legislation would be legislation introduced by a party which has declared that it would completely nationalize broadcasting and television services. I had the opportunity of viewing a television programme from a commercial station when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in another place said that the Australian Labour party, if reelected to office, would nationalize broadcasting and television services. The suggestion that a monopoly which at the moment has three channels in the capital cities can be defeated by creating an organization that would have only one channel surely is very strange logic.
I note that one of the so-called monopolies which Senator Benn attacked has been so monopolistic as to provide, on the popular Melbourne programme “ Meet the Press “, a forum for the Prime Minister, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), and a similar forum for the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Dr. Evatt), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and Mr. Monk. Moreover, I am informed that an invitation has been extended to the Communist comrade, Healy, to attend next Sunday night. I make no further comment on that.
The bill is designed to amend the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-56. I think it is important to remember that the measure deals only with commercial television and broadcasting services; it does not deal with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The longest clauses in the bill - clauses 3, 6 and 8 - relate largely to dismissal or vacation of office by personnel. I note that an amendment is to be moved by the Minister for Repatriation (“Senator Cooper) for the purpose of giving protection against capricious suspension. I propose to address my remarks mainly to clause 4, which seeks to amend section 16 of the principal act, and clause 6, which seeks to amend section 28.
Clause 4 seeks to empower the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to provide a plan for the detection of sources of radio and television interference, advice and assistance in connexion therewith, and the prevention of interference in the transmission or reception of programmes. Because of industrial development and the use of a lot more electrical, X-ray and electronic equipment, there is naturally a considerable increase of the sources of interference with radio and television programmes. Many domestic appliances, especially in flats, are also capable of completely ruining reception by radio or television. As the use of those appliances grows, the need for a planned programme for the suppressing of interference becomes more pressing. The provisions of clause 4 are very welcome.
In my view, prevention is better than cure, and I hope that the board will fully exercise its new power to such an extent that manufacturers of appliances will be compelled to use designs that will cut interference to a minimum. Car ignition systems, trains, trams, X-ray equipment and many other forms of equipment present their own problems in the way of interference; but it is heartening to know that a code, or a planned attack on interference, may develop from the provision in clause 4. At present the Postmaster-General’s Department has certain powers to deal with interference, but it is good to see that these are to be properly supplemented by the proposed provisions.
I turn now to clause 6, which states that the Postmaster-General may provide facilities to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Since commercial radio and television play such an important role in Australian entertainment it is highly desirable that the board which is responsible for the conduct of those services should have the benefit of the technical advice and facilities of the Postmaster-General’s Department. As a supporter of private enterprise I think that we are perhaps inclined sometimes to take the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for granted. It is a government department like the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and we overlook the fact that in many ways it has helped to provide radio and television programmes in a system that is as good as any in the world. It does this despite the fact that the amount of money available to it for research activities is much less, proportionately, than the funds available to similar organizations in larger countries. From my personal experience I believe that the research laboratories of the Postmaster-General’s Department have professional staffs of unbounded enthusiasm and great technical skill. Time and again during the war I had cause to note the great respect with which British, American, Dutch and other Allied communications officers regarded the technical services of the Australian Postmaster-General’s Department and the soundness of its research staff. Television has added a great deal to the work of those unsung engineers and technicians who really love their work.
There is one other aspect of clause 6 to which I wish to direct the Government’s attention. I do not know whether the form of reasoning used in this clause has applied in this kind of provision previously. I hope that the Government will bear with me on this matter. The commercial broadcasting and television stations, and associated recording studios covered by this bill are liable for the payment of sales tax on the technical equipment used in the production of their programmes. These stations are in competition with the stations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which is not so handicapped. For example, from inquiries made recently I have ascertained that a reasonably big commercial broadcasting station carries from five to ten highquality tape recorders. I shall not mention the name of the manufacturing company, unless the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), who is in charge of this measure, desires me to do so. These recorders cost the Australian Broadcasting Commission £400 each; but they cost a private enterprise station £450 each because of sales tax. So if we multiply this increase of £50 caused by sales tax by the number of recorders involved we find that the Australian Broadcasting Commission gets an advantage of £500 per station. I think there are about 126 private enterprise stations.
This Government believes in free and active competition - but competition on an equal and fair basis. Sales tax is also payable on high-grade turntables, microphones, cameras and all the range of paraphernalia used in a modern transmitting studio. It even applies to the ordinary 16-millimetre camera which is used for news recording - a piece of equipment on which commercial television stations have to pay sales tax at the rate of 20 per cent. In the cause of private enterprise in the civil aviation field the Government insists that Trans-Australia Airlines, which runs in competition with the Ansett-Australian National Airways interests, pays income tax and also a tax on aviation kerosene. A provision similar in principle will be contained in the Government’s projected banking legislation. By and large, we have sought to establish the principle that where Government enterprise and private enterprise are in competition they shall compete on terms of equality and justice. I ask the Government to apply this established and important principle to broadcasting and television. I do not suggest that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should pay sales tax on its equipment. Far from it! I suggest that the principle of fair competition should be applied to this industry by a process of transpositional inversion - in other words, that the commercial broadcasting and television stations, associated recording studios and the like, be exempt from sales tax on all their studio and transmission equipment which is used to provide services to the public.
I realize that sales tax is primarily a matter for the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden); but I ask the Minister responsible for this measure to consider favorably the suggestion I have made, because his opinion would carry great weight with his colleague and might perhaps bring about this desirable reform in the interests of fair and active competition. I support the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 3, which reads -
Section thirteen of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (2.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-sections: - “ (2.) A member may resign his office by writing under his hand addressed to the Governor-General, but the resignation is not effective unless and until it has been accepted by the GovernorGeneral. “ (3.) If a member -
becomes bankrupt, applies to take the benefit of any law for the relief of bankrupt or insolvent debtors, compounds with his creditors or makes an assignment of his remuneration for their benefit;
becomes a person who would not be qualified to be appointed as a member;
not being a part-time member -
engages in any paid employment outside the duties of his office without the approval of the Minister; or
is absent from duty, except on leave granted by the Minister, for a period of fourteen consecutive days or for twentyeight days in any period of twelve months; or
being a part-time member, is absent, except on leave granted by the Minister, from all meetings of the Board held during two consecutive months, the Governor-General shall, by notice in the “Gazette”, declare that the office of the member is vacant, and thereupon the office shall be deemed to be vacant.”.
I move -
Leave out the clause, insert the following clause: - “ 3. Section thirteen of the Principal Act is repealed and the following sections are inserted in its stead: -
– (1.) The Governor-General may suspend a member for misbehaviour or incapacity and may, subject to the succeeding provisions of this section, remove the suspended member from office. (2.) Where the Governor-General suspends a member under the last preceding sub-section, the Minister shall cause to be laid before each House of the Parliament, within seven sitting days of that House after the suspension, a full statement of the grounds of suspension. (3.) The Governor-General shall not remove the member from office -
if a resolution requesting the GovernorGeneral to revoke the suspension has been passed in each House of the Parliament, being a resolution -
for which, in each House of the Parliament, notice of motion was given within fifteen sitting days of that House after the day on which the statement of the grounds of suspension had been laid before that House in accordance with the last preceding sub-section; and
which, in each House of the Parliament, was passed within fifteen sittings days of that House after the day on which notice of motion for the resolution had been given in that House; or
at any time while it remains possible that such a resolution of each House of the Parliament may be passed. (4.) The Governor-General may, at any time while a member is suspended under this section, revoke the suspension, and he shall revoke the suspension if -
a resolution referred to in the last preceding sub-section has been passed in each House of the Parliament; or
he does not, within fourteen days after it has ceased to be possible for such a resolution to be passed in each House of the Parliament, remove the member from office. (5.) Where-
fifteen sitting days have elapsed after the day, on which notice of motion for a resolution requesting the GovernorGeneral to revoke the suspension of a member was given in a House of the Parliament; and
the notice has not been withdrawn or otherwise disposed of, and the motion, if moved, has not been withdrawn or otherwise disposed of, this section shall operate as if the resolution had been passed within those fifteen sitting days. (6.) The Governor-General may appoint a person to be a member, or a part-time member, of the Board, as the case requires, during the suspension of a member under this section, and may revoke any such appointment. 13a. - (1.) A member may resign his office by writing under his hand addressed to the GovernorGeneral, but the resignation is not effective unless and until it has been accepted by the GovernorGeneral. (2.) If a member -
becomes bankrupt, applies to take the benefit of any law for the relief of bankrupt or insolvent debtors, compounds with his creditors or makes an assignment of his remuneration for their benefit;
becomes a person who would not be qualified to be appointed as a member;
not being a part-time member -
engages in paid employment outside the duties of his office without the approval of the Minister; or
is absent from duty, except on leave granted by the Minister, for a period of fourteen consecutive days or for twentyeight days in any period of twelve months; or
being a part-time member, is absent, except on leave granted by the Minister, from all meetings of the Board held during two consecutive months, the Governor-General shall, by notice in the “ Gazette “, declare that the office of the member is vacant, and thereupon the office shall be deemed to be vacant.’.”.
– I thought the Minister would do a little more than merely move his amendment. He might have indicated to the committee the purpose of an amendment of this character, which is obviously a late thought on the part of the Government. The Opposition has the strongest objection to what the Government is seeking to do. This amendment seems to be an attempt to put one more monstrosity on the statute-book. It is the offspring, by artificial insemination, of the constitutional provision relating to the tenure of office of judges of federal courts, which has been varied, I notice, from time to time as it has been sought to be applied to one office after the other. I am thinking of the office of the Auditor-General, the Tariff Board and the Commonwealth Grants Commission. So far as the Constitution is concerned, if I may deal broadly with the matter at first, judges and justices of the High Court and the other courts created by the Parliament may not be removed from office except by the Governor-General in Council on an address from both Houses of the Parliament in the same session praying for such removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity. It has never been determined, as far as I know, before whom the misbehaviour or incapacity has to be proved, or where it has to be proved and how - whether before the Parliament, or antecedently before the Parliament comes into the matter the misbehaviour or incapacity has to be established before a court. The latter version would seem to be the more likely by reason of the use of the word “ proved “. which seems to imply some formal proof apart from proof before a House of the Parliament. That is the beginning of it, and it is applied by the Constitution in favour only of the judicial tribunals of the Commonwealth. It is completely proper because at no level should independence be guaranteed more securely than at that level. But I take up the subsequent acts and at the moment, I have only addresesd my mind to three of them. I find variations of that particular provision relating to the Auditor-General, the Tariff Board and the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Each one is different from the other in important particulars, and this one, the fourth one - there may be more - differs from them all. I should like to draw the committee’s attention to the differences.
Under section 7 of the Audit Act, the Auditor-General is not to be removed unless an address for his removal by both Houses in the same session is presented seeking his removal. The Governor-General is given power to suspend him and then the Government must lay a statement of the grounds for the suspension before the Parliament within seven days of its first meeting, or if it is meeting, within seven days of the occurrence.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition suggest that there is any AuditorGeneral in Australia who has not the protection of a similar provision?
– I do not. Let me explain my point. I propose to show the different approaches made to the AuditorGeneral, the Tariff Board and others. The Governor-General may suspend the AuditorGeneral and a statement must be laid before the Parliament within seven days, and then the Auditor-General is restored unless each House within 42 days prays for his removal. 1 indicate at the moment that the AuditorGeneral is restored if both Houses do nothing. Complete inaction on the part of the Parliament after the grounds of suspension are laid on the table means his restoration.
– Do you suggest that that is inappropriate?
– No. The honorable senator should let me complete my argument. I am directing the attention of the committee to the variations between the different schemes. I invite the committee to recall that if there is no action on the part of the Parliament, automatically the Auditor-General is restored. That may be delayed for 42 days. When I come to the Commonwealth Grants Commission, again the Governor-General may suspend and within seven days a statement of the grounds of suspension must be laid on the tabic. Then we get the contrary position. The member is restored only if within 60 days both Houses pray for the restoration. If there is no address from the Parliament he may be dismissed. Again, here is a variation from 42 to 60 days, and he is restored only if the two Houses do act positively in the matter. Then we come to the Tariff Board, where we go back to the old position. The Governor-General may suspend and within seven days a statement of the facts must be laid on the table of the Parliament. The member is to be restored to office unless within 40 days each House of the Parliament prays for his removal. We go from 42 to 60 days, and now we go to 40 days. Again he is restored if the Parliament does nothing.
Now we come to the present bill, where it is reversed again. The Governor-General may suspend, according to the amendment that the Minister has proposed, and then we get a variation of the time factor. If the statement is laid on the table and if within fifteen days after it has been laid on the table a resolution is passed by both Houses praying that the suspension he removed, he is, in fact, restored. In other words, the removal is prevented only if the two Houses act. Just look at the variations: 42 days, 40 days, 60 days, two periods of 15 sitting days, which might run into months and months. And again, the officer is sometimes restored if the Parliament acts, and sometimes if it does not act. Now, we get one more variation of this particular theme. When I come to examine it on its merits, I point out first of all that it is time in relation to this type of provision that the Parliament adopted a standard.
– Hear, hear!
– That is the point that I have been all this time leading up to. Furthermore, there should be some shortening of these enormously long periods that must intervene. I regret that there has been so little consideration of this matter in presenting the amendment. It is evident that the matter has not been looked at properly in the first instance. I think that the Minister would be well advised to withdraw the amendment until the whole of the facts of this type of provision in the Constitution are reviewed.
I want now to comment upon the applicability of this type of provision to some of these types of cases. I say first of all that this is a most clumsy procedure and a wrong procedure to apply to bodies like the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I say it is unfair, in the first instance. Let us look at the procedure. The member is suspended. The grounds for the suspension are prepared by the Government and laid on the table of the chamber and then it is for the Government to act or not to act, or for the Parliament to act or not to act in deciding the question of his restoration to office. The first point I make is this: Where is the opportunity for the member to put his case to the Parliament? There is one case put on the table of the Parliament, that prepared by the Government, the body responsible for his suspension or projected dismissal. Who puts the case for the man? What opportunity does he get?
– Cannot the House summon him?
– That still does not answer my question. He can be summoned to appear, and he can be questioned. I presume that that would be a most extraordinary proceeding.
– God forbid that the Opposition should gain office. We will give the man a fair go.
– Senator O’sullivan says that this Government will give a man in that position a fair go. You must give him a fair go according to forms of law as well as in fact. I impress upon the committee the complete unfairness of this procedure. It goes to a man’s good repute to be dismissed or suspended. It is a matter of major import to a public figure. The whole of the grounds on which he has been suspended are ex parte put upon the table of the House. From that point on, he does not meet his accusers. He does not hear them. He has no opportunity to cross-examine. I can imagine no more unfit body than a parliament to pass judgment upon an individual in those circumstances, lt is completely wrong.
– He can be heard before the Parliament.
– He may have the opportunity of being heard, but anybody who is accused wants to have a lot more than just the right to be heard. He wants an opportunity to see who is accusing him, he needs time to know what is alleged against him, and to prepare his case and have it presented either by himself or by his counsel.
– Do you suggest that the employment of the procedure of suspending him and removing him from office would preclude his taking action in a court?
– No. I think the course taken by the Government should have been - I would have had difficulty in opposing it - to provide facilities for an expeditious hearing by a court in the event of a suspension taking place. That would have enabled a rule of law to be properly applied. I did, in fact, contemplate drafting an amendment for that purpose, but I decided not to do so. I am not denying that a man who is improperly removed from office can have an action in damages against the Commonwealth for wrongful removal, and thus have the matter ventilated.
– Unless the Commonwealth can prove incapacity or misbehaviour.
– That is so. That opens up, as the honorable senator will appreciate better than anybody, issues that would take weeks to determine.
– The suspended member still has a right to go to the court.
– He has that right if he cares to exercise it, but I think the present procedure is iniquitous on a number of counts, It may be that a man deserves to be suspended and that his conduct is justifiably called into question, if he knows that action is contemplated against him he may resign because he does not want the facts to be tabled in the Parliament. He may have no opportunity to resign, or he may be content to .let the matter rest. I think the matter is initiated badly for that reason, and above all I think that this Parliament is not the appropriate body under any circumstances to resolve a situation of that kind, unless there has been a finding at law on the facts of his misconduct. That is my objection. The Opposition has a rooted objection to the clause in its application to both the commission and the control board.
. 1 should like to move an amendment to the amendment proposed by ,the Minister for Repatriation.
– Order! Before the honorable senator proceeds, I draw his attention to Standing Order 149. I suggest that the proper procedure is for the committee to deal with the motion which proposes to leave out certain words. When those words have been left out, then the committee will be in a position to deal with any further amendment.
– Might I suggest to the honorable senator, through you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that it might be of advantage to the committee if the honorable senator were to foreshadow the amendment he -proposes to -move.
– 1 think that procedure would be of advantage to the committee.
– The amendment which I propose to .move will be along the following lines: - In paragraph (a) of subsection (3.) of proposed section 13 leave out “ each “ and insert “ either “. In paragraph (b) of sub-section (3.) of proposed section 13 leave out “each” and insert “ either “. In paragraph (a) of sub-section (4.) of proposed section 13 leave out “ each “ and insert “ either “. In paragraph (b) of sub-section (4.) of proposed section 13 leave out “ each “ and insert “ either “.
I understand, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that at this moment I cannot move that particular amendment; but that is the amendment I hope to move later. I ask for a ruling now whether it is appropriate for me to give the reasons which will motivate me to move that amendment, or would you prefer that I wait until such time as the present amendment before the committee has been dealt with.
Order! The standing order is quite clear, and I think it will simplify the debate also if we remove the words that are proposed to be removed and thus clear the deck for the amendment you .have foreshadowed.
– I rise in, the hope that I may be able to clarify the position a little. I profess I am still without an adequate understanding of the actual submission that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) is making. He reviewed the protective clauses that exist in the cases of the Tariff Board, the Auditor-General and the Commonwealth Grants Committee, and justifiably criticized the inconsistency that exists, first in regard to the onus of proof and secondly in regard to the length ,of time. I think we all agree that there should be uniformity in these matters. However, when the Leader of the Opposition came to carry his observations from those clauses to the present amendment, I understood him to suggest to the committee that if we agreed to the amendment moved by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), we would in some way deprive the suspended member of some rights to which he was justly entitled. The committee should remind itself that under the present act the Governor-General may terminate .the appointment of a member for .inability, inefficiency or misbehaviour i and there the matter rests. The purpose of the Minister’s amendment is to prevent that arbitrary injustice being administered by the executive. If both Houses of the Parliament remonstrate to the Government, disagreeing with the suspension, then the suspension terminates and the officer is restored to his position. Senator Cooper’s amendment does go one step towards providing protection for the officer whom I am so jealous of protecting. I understand Senator McKenna to be of the same mind. I agree with everything that he has said concerning ,the inappropriateness of Parliament adjudicating upon . the rights of an officer, but under responsible government our high and important officers are protected from arbitrary suspension by the executive if one or both Houses disapprove. That is a time-honoured protection. If the Government wishes, in such circumstances, to further proceed, it must prove the alleged misbehaviour or incapacity in a court of law, and the officer has his remedy. For that reason, I am not sure that Senator McKenna’s argument can properly be applied to the bill before us.
Having said that, my complaint is that the Minister’s amendment does not go far enough. What is wanted is a protective measure of the kind which Senator McKenna described as not inappropriate, such as we have in the Tariff Board Act. If I interpret Senator Gorton’s intention aright that will be the affect of his amendment: the suspension of an officer will be terminated if either House presents a resolution disagreeing with it. lt seems to me that, under responsible government, such a procedure is properly applicable to the AuditorGeneral and the Tariff Board. It is very significant that last night, when we considered a most contentious bill dealing with that board, there was no attempt to omit the provision giving that measure of protection to members. In the case of the Commonwealth Grants Commission we have the principle - expressed in a somewhat inverted form - of the termination of a suspension by action of the Parliament. If I understand the Leader of the Opposition correctly, he feels that this protective principle is appropriately applied to prevent these officers from becoming victims of arbitrary action. If he has that in mind I would point out that though the Minister’s amendment goes a step in that direction it has its shortcomings. If I understand Senator Gorton’s amendment correctly it supplies the deficiency which one sees in the Minister’s amendment. I hope that what I have said will serve to clarify the mind of the committee.
– I hope that I shall make my position quite clear this time. I might have succeeded in doing so last time had I not been subjected to interjections while I was developing my theme. When I was dealing with the position of the Auditor-General I was asked whether I objected to that procedure being applied to him. I indicated that I did not, but felt that a procedure under which Parliament was authorized to make such a pronouncement was not appropriate for boards of this type or, indeed, for any one other than judges and the Auditor-General. I query its application to a body such as the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I query its application to the Tariff Board and ask why, if it is apropriate to such boards - the Commonwealth Grants Commission especially - it is not also appropriate to the Commonwealth Bank Board. If one considers the relative importance to the country of the functions discharged by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, whose sole purpose is to recommend the distribution to the States of £15,000,000 annually, and the functions of the Commonwealth Bank Board, whose every move may have the most powerful impact on the country’s economy, the application of the principle is seen to be out of proportion. It is applied in the one case and not in the other. Certainly, the members of the Commonwealth Grants Commission are appointed for a fixed term and the members of the Commonwealth Bank Board rotate, retiring on different dates. Thus an opportunity to renew the personnel of the board presents itself over a given period of years somewhat more readily. However, the Auditor-General is in a peculiar relationship to the Parliament. He is the Parliament’s watchdog and I would need a very powerful argument before I felt that these procedures and practices - enshrined in the Constitution for the benefit of judges only, and undoubtedly extending to the Auditor-General also - could be applied in such a general way. The Auditor-General is in a separate compartment altogether, just as are the judges. In other cases, where are we to draw the line? There seems to be no test for determining whether a certain procedure shall apply to a certain board. Rather is there a process of arbitrary selection and a complete disregard for the relative importance of boards. Therefore, I may be understood as saying that I do not approve this type of amendment at all. When Senator Wright indicates that he regards it as a clumsy procedure, and that the Parliament is not an appropriate body to determine a matter of this kind, I should think that our views are not too far apart.
– I regard the Parliament as quite an appropriate body to provide protection, but not to adjudicate that a man is guilty.
– If the Parliament moves ahead of court proceedings, it determines the matter, either restoring the man or depriving him of office, subject to whatever action he may then have. The course followed by the Parliament is effective in depriving him of office, no matter what action for damages, alleging wrongful dismissal, he may take against the government.
– Without protection, he would be deprived of office by executive action.
– Executive action may deprive him of office, but not of his right in a court.
– He is deprived here of office, but not of his right of action, even if the Parliament endorses the Minister’s decision.
– I could not imagine anything more Gilbertian than an attempt to deal justly with a man by invoking the procedures of this Parliament in allegations of misconduct such as I have described. The provisions could not be more inappropriate. I do not like to see this kind of thing applied to these boards. If I had the opportunity I would challenge its present application to quite a number of boards.
– The Australian Broadcasting Commission is a very special case. Independence of the government of the day is essential. No one should recognize that more than should Opposition members. I believe that the protection of both Houses of Parliament should be given to members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Cooper’s amendment) be left out- agreed to.
The question now before the chair is, “ That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted “.
– I move, as an amendment to the amendment -
In paragraph (a) of sub-section (3.) of proposed section 13, leave out “ each House “, first occurring, insert “ either House “.
My reason for moving the amendment is that I believe that it will better carry out the project which the Government seeks to carry out in presenting its amendments to the chamber. It is clear that before the Government’s amendment was introduced there was no protection whatsoever to a member of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board against dismissal by the executive in a completely arbitrary fashion. I believe that the Government introduced the amendment which is now before us to protect a member of such an important commission against arbitrary dismissal, whether by change of government or by personal prejudice on the part of a member of any government. If that is so, then in my opinion the protection which is sought to be provided by the Government’s amendment is not properly provided. At the present time, such a man can be dismissed, and it is perfectly open to an opposition in either House, by one means or other of parliamentary procedure, to force a debate upon his dismissal.
– With great respect, I submit that the present position is that if a member of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, or of any other board, is dismissed by the Government, it is open to the Opposition in either House of Parliament to use the forms of Parliament to object to that dismissal, and to have a debate upon the matter.
– That is so.
– The amendment proposed by the Government puts us very little in advance of the already existing protection. Admittedly it does provide that a full reason for the dismissal of such a man shall be laid before the Houses of Parliament, and that is quite right, but it goes no further than permitting a debate which is entirely without effect unless both Houses of the Parliament actively disagree with the executive’s action.
As has been pointed out, that does not provide to a member of the Broadcasting Control Board the protection which is now provided, for example, to a member of the Tariff Board. At the present time, a member of the Tariff Board who has been suspended shall be restored unless each House of the Parliament passes a resolution praying for his removal on the ground of proven incapacity. That means that a member of the Tariff Board cannot be dismissed if one House of the Parliament thinks he should not be dismissed. Again, the AuditorGeneral cannot be dismissed if one House of the Parliament thinks he should not be dismissed. That protection is not provided by the Governments’ amendment for a member of the Broadcasting Control Board because, under it, a member of the Broadcasting Control Board can be dismissed even if one House, by resolution, says that it thinks he should not be dismissed.
The object pf my amendment is to remedy that situation and to put members of the Broadcasting Control Board under the same protection as is enjoyed by members of the Tariff Board and members of other boards who cannot be dismissed unless both Houses of the Parliament agree they ought to be dismissed. There is nothing new in the proposal. It merely extends what I understand is the Government’s intention tq full protection instead of partial protection.
I should say further that it is of paramount importance that members of the Broadcasting Control Board should be protected from the sort of pressure which could bc brought upon them by executives if they did not have protection against arbitrary dismissal. As we all well know, it is a function of the Broadcasting Control Board to license and de-license commercial radio and television stations, and it must be obvious to us. all that the impact of the activities of broadcasting and television stations in this country upon the minds of the people will be of the utmost moment in forming public opinion. If a board with the authority so to control the formation of public opinion is to be subject to pressure from whoever may be in government at any particular moment, then it is reasonably clear that the members of such a board are less likely to carry out their duties with complete impartiality and complete freedom from fear. A government with power of arbitrary dismissal of a member of a board such as this has in fact some indirect control over the use of television and broadcasting in this country, and for those reasons I believe that the members of the Broadcasting Control Board should be given the same protection as is extended by this Parliament to members of the Tariff
Board and to members of other boards. The amendment I have moved will have that effect, if accepted. I believe that it will carry into proper effect what the Government’s amendment obviously seeks to carry into effect but, I suggest, with insufficient force.
– I do not think we are very far apart in the targets at which we are aiming, although I was rather surprised at the strictures of the Leader of the Opposition, especially when we realize that the present section 13(1.) (a) enables the Governor-General to dismiss members of the commission out of hand, and the dismissed members have no remedy. The Government is seeking to ensure that a person occupying a responsible position on a board or commission such as we are considering now, cannot be dealt with in the dark, as it were. If a member of such a commission is dismissed for alleged incapaCitY or misbehaviour, we are now going at least a step further and imposing upon the Minister an obligation to put before each House of the Parliament a statement of the grounds upon which that action was taken by him. It is then competent for either House to move appropriately in the matter.
One aspect that warrants consideration, and to which I shall direct some attention, is that Parliament should be supreme. Under present circumstances it is quite con. ceivable that a government, elected with an overwhelming superiority in another place, could be frustrated in a course of action it wished to take by a six years’ old majority in this chamber which might not necessarily reflect the wishes of the electors.
I think this measure affords a reasonable protection to anybody likely to be dealt with by a hostile, cruel or arbitrary executive. The person concerned will have his case dealt with. It would be very dangerous to place this, or any other chamber, in a position in which it could openly defy a body much more recently elected and therefore much more representative of the current temper of the electors.
– It is particularly unfortunate that the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan), representing as he does the administration of justice in this Commonwealth, should use an argument to the effect that a popularly elected majority should use the force it derives from a mandate from the electors to validate a suspension made by a Minister. I hope the Government will never ask the electors for a mandate on an administrative matter such as that.
Anybody who has had recent experience of the dreadful things of which popular assemblies are capable when they masquerade as tribunals of justice, will recoil from accepting such arguments. I hope that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) is filled with sufficient apprehension to make him recoil from the idea that an evenly balanced chamber will administer justice. A body that is fortified with an overwhelming majority of the popular vote, is the assembly least calculated to give justice to any individual whose independence and status it is our concern to-night to guarantee.
– After listening to the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan), Senator Gorton and Senator Wright I see a point of difference which perhaps has been overlooked. It has been stated that Parliament should be paramount in this matter. Parliament consists of two Houses. It is not democratic to suggest that, if one House qf Parliament moves for the suspension of an officer, this chamber, perhaps carrying a majority from a previous election, should be in a position, under the proposed amendment, to nullify the direction of the government in another place. Surely that is only one House speaking, not Parliament. In effect, Senator Wright is saying that this chamber is capable of nullifying the wishes of the other House; but that the other House cannot do that to this chamber.
– That is not so.
– At a quarter past one in the morning I should take a lot of convincing that that is not the argument. To allow the position to arise in which a single House of Parliament, with a majority carried over from a previous election, could exercise its functions to embarrass the Government for political purposes only-
– Oh well!
– The honorable senator says, “ Oh well “, but we have seen that happen often enough. I think the suggestion is completely stupid.
– Does the Minister favour the abolition of the Senate?
– I do not think that remark is relevant in the slightest degree. We have seen this chamber misused for political reasons many times.
– The Minister’s argument is based upon the supposition that the majority in the other House would not be misused.
– The other House is at least the voice of the active government of the day - the people who carry the responsibility for the decision that is made.
– Subject to assent by this chamber.
– I do not deny that, but the honorable senator wants to make this chamber paramount.
– I do not.
– In effect, the honorable senator says, “ If this House does not wish it, irrespective of what the government of the day may say, the man cannot be dismissed “.
– This House or the other House.
– No. The honorable senator is saying that Parliament is composed of two Houses, but if the other House dismisses a man and this chamber says it should not have taken that action, then the decision of this chamber is paramount. That is wrong. It is completely untenable to suggest that the Senate will be the sole judge as to whether a man should be dismissed or not, irrespective of what the government of the day may think. If that is democracy, it is a version completely new to me.
Motion (by Senator Cooper) proposed -
That the Chairman do report progress and ask leave to sit again.
– Does that mean, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that we are precluded from replying to the Minister?
The motion is simply to report progress. There can be no debate on the motion.
– But it is a motion. If the motion is carried, will we be precluded from speaking’ again while- the debate is fresh in our minds?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable senator will be at perfect liberty to take part in the debate when we go into committee again. The motion is only that we report progress.
– I want a ruling on this matter.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I have already given a ruling.
– You have not, Mr. Temporary Chairman.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I have given a ruling that the honorable senator cannot proceed to debate the matter now. The motion is to report progress. Honorable senators will be free to speak when we go into committee again.
– I understand that, but I wish to raise another point of order which you have not yet heard and upon which 1 want your ruling. Can you inform me, Mr. Temporary Chairman, whether the decision as to when the Senate again resolves itself into committee rests with the Minister? If it does, I shall oppose the motion.
– Order! I refer the honorable senator to Standing Order 281. The Minister is perfectly in order in moving that progress be reported.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 7th May (vide page 825), on motion by Senator Cooper -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The measure now before the Senate provides for machinery amendments to the existing law. I take advantage of this opportunity to express, on behalf of the Opposition, appreciation of the splendid service rendered by the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. The commission has not been a burden on the revenue. We do not oppose the measure.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), when replying to the Leader of the Opposition, inform me whether this bill includes provisions similar to those of the Broadcasting and Television Bill 1958 that raised such contention and during the consideration of which the Minister moved that progress be reported?
Senator COOPER (Queensland - Minister for Repatriation [1.23 a.m.]. - I understand that this measure is different from the Broadcasting and Television Bill 1958. The Overseas Telecommunications Commission is a trading corporation, and this bill is similar to other measures that deal with trading corporations.
– No amendments to provide protection for members of the commission have been circulated?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’SuIlivan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to make some amendments to the 1956 conciliation and arbitration legislation, the need for which has become apparent over the past few years. That the 1956 act resulted in substantial improvement in the working of our conciliation and arbitration machinery is beyond doubt. In 1957, the first full year following the . 1956 legislation, fewer working days were lost through industrial disputes than in any earlier year since 1942, although the total number of disputes occurring in the year was not significantly less than in other post-war years. It is worth noting in passing that, if the 2 per cent, of the work force engaged in coalmining and stevedoring are excluded, the working time lost in 1957 on the average by employees in the remaining 98 per cent, through industrial disputes was less than one hour in the year.
While the 1956 legislation has worked out very well, the first annual report made by the President of the commission, though commenting favorably on the changes made, suggested some improvements of a minor character. Observations by my colleague the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) and his department of the working of the system have suggested some other improvements. But the principal purpose of this amending bill is to put beyond doubt the structure of the system, that is the division of powers between the court and the commission which were established by the 1956 act.
The fundamental principle underlying the 1956 act was provision for a commission to exercise the functions of conciliation and arbitration, and a court to exercise the judicial and other functions inseparable from our arbitration system. Some of these other functions could not be said to be unquestionably judicial in their nature, and there was some doubt at the time whether they could validly be committed to a court. In the absence of authoritative decisions, it was decided to act on the view that the vesting of these functions in a court would be constitutional. The alternative would have been to vest them in the commission. We did not do this because we felt it most important that the commission should not be burdened with any functions which would prevent it from concentrating on its true function - the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes. Experience has proved the wisdom of this. But the validity of certain of the sections of the act which vested jurisdiction in the Industrial Court has been the subject of adverse pronouncement in the courts, and doubts have been raised about a number of other sections. What we have sought to do is reframe certain sections the validity of which has been brought into quetsion, by either decision or comment by the judges of both the High Court and the Industrial Court. Our object has been to make clear that the powers sought to be conferred are judicial.
Examples of sections which have been recast in this way are section 140 dealing with rules, section 143 dealing with the cancellation of the registration of organizations, and the sections, principally section 165. dealing with inquiries into allegations of irregularities in elections. Reluctantly we have come to the conclusion that in a few cases reframing could not make good what are inherent defects. In these cases, the power formerly given to the court has now been vested in the Registrar. But where powers have been given to the Registrar, their exercise will be subject to review by the commission instead of by the court as previously.
The amending bill aims to retain in the Industrial Court as many of the powers which the 1956 act sought to confer upon it as we believe to be constitutionally possible. Unfortunately, it is impossible to feel complete confidence that the validity of what we are setting out to do will in every case be upheld if challenged. It is quite possible that further judicial decisions may make necessary other examinations of the distribution of functions between the court and the commission, though we hope that this will not be so.
Section 143 dealing with the deregistration of organizations has presented much difficulty to the Draftsman, and the doubts I have expressed apply to it with special force. We have, therefore, included a somewhat novel provision designed to meet the situation which could arise, should the section be declared to be invalid in whole or in part. In that event, upon the issue of a proclamation by the GovernorGeneral the commission will be empowered to deal with applications for deregistration in precisely the same way as was formerly open to the old Arbitration Court. This provision will prevent a situation emerging in which there will be no authority capable of exercising this power.
I do not think there is any point in going laboriously through every one of the provisions made necessary by this legal problem to which I have alluded. While there has necessarily been some redrafting, I think it is true to say that, with one exception, no new principle is introduced. The exception is that, where the court directs a new election in a disputed election case, the election will, in future, be officially conducted.
As I have said certain amendments in the bill were suggested by the President of the commission in his first annual report. One of these was that instead of it being obligatory to summon a conference of members of the commission once every four months, it would suffice if one such conference in each year were required by the act, and the President had power to summon conferences more frequently if he thought it necessary. Frequent conferences involve expense, interrupt the hearing of matters and impose extra travel on the members of the commission, on whom the burden of travel is already heavy. The President also pointed out that presidential members, .in addition to participating in the appellate, reference and other presidential jurisdictions, perform work in connexion with particular industries, and that competing priorities as between the particular industries and the requirements of the Full Bench sittings can place presidential members in the position of -having to choose between .two important duties. While stressing that no difficulty has arisen in regard to -the constitution by him of benches of all types, he suggested it be made clear that he should have the responsibility for arranging which members should constitute Full Benches from time to time. The President also suggested an improvement in the provisions relating to the appointment of an acting deputy president during the absence of a deputy president. All of these suggestions will be carried into effect by the bill. These proposals were, in fact, considered and endorsed by the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council at its February meeting.
The President has also brought to notice that the members of the commission do not, since the commission is not a court, have the same protection and immunity as judges in the performance of their duties. It would seem desirable that they should enjoy this protection in respect, for example, of the law of libel and slander, and provision has been made accordingly.
Of the remaining matters dealt with by -the bill, only four seem to call for express mention at this stage.
The first is to put beyond doubt some questions which Mr. Justice Foster has raised about the definitions of industrial matters and seamen in section 71. The judge has urged that the extent of his powers in relation to seamen should operate as widely as those exercised by commissioners generally. While it has been our view that the range of his powers ,has been the same, the matter is being put beyond -doubt.
The second concerns the question of intervention. The act provides, in section 36, that the Attorney-General may intervene as a matter of right in the major cases relating to the basic wage, standard hours, &c, before the full commission, and on reference and appeals to it, and the same right of intervention exists generally in relation to matters in the Industrial Court. In each case, it is provided that, where the AttorneyGeneral has intervened, the commission or the court may permit persons or organizaions to intervene upon application for leave being made. In a recent matter before the commission doubts were raised as to whether the commission had a discretion to grant leave to the Attorney-General to intervene in a .case in which he was not specifically empowered to do .so. Furthermore, in a recent decision of the Industrial Court, lit was held that there was no discretion to permit persons to intervene before the court except where the Attorney-General had intervened. This bill makes it clear both in respect of the commission and the court that, quite apart from the right of the Attorney-General to intervene, there shall be a discretion to permit persons, who are not parties to proceedings, to be heard, provided the commission or the court is of the opinion that it is desirable that leave should be granted.
Thirdly, cases have been brought to notice in which members have experienced difficulties in obtaining copies of rules of their organizations. Not everybody has the time to go to the registry and peruse the copy which is filed there. Accordingly, the bill requires the secretary or other appropriate official of an organization or of a branch to furnish to a member a copy of its rules when requested so to do. Provision is made for a charge, .not exceeding 2s. Provisions of this kind are usual in company legislation, and there are many precedents for the same thing in the industrial legislation and trade union acts of the States.
Finally, questions have been raised in the Parliament about the audit of the accounts of organizations. When this question was examined it was found that there was no requirement that auditors should be qualified persons. The fact is that many organizations do employ professionally qualified auditors, and it is surely desirable that organizations which have large incomes and expenditure should, for the protection of their members, be required to appoint qualified persons to -be their auditors. I commend the bill to the. Senate.
Debate (on motion by -Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Senate i adjourned at 1.37 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 May 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1958/19580514_senate_22_s12/>.