22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I address my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the Government’s approval of requests by the two major domestic airlines to carry out a programme of fleet re-equipment, will the Minister inform the Senate whether the Government proposes to enter into a financial guarantee to enable Ansett-A.N.A. to purchase aircraft? What will be the nature and extent of the Government’s total commitments to Ansett-A.N.A. by way of loans or guarantees? Has the Government made any recent full investigation of the financial position of Ansett Transport Industries Limited and Ansett-A.N.A.? If not, will the Government have the position examined by an independent auditor before undertaking any further commitments in relation to the purchase of aircraft by the airline? If a proper investigation has been made recently, will the Minister state whether it has been established that the company has the capacity to repay the large sums for which it is, and will be, committed? Is it a fact that the airline is operating at a loss, and that the passenger loading of its competitor has increased considerably in recent months?
– Senator Benn has asked a series of questions concerning the re-equipment of the Australian domestic air fleet which involves both the Australian National Airlines Commission and its private enterprise competitor, Ansett-,A . N.A. The assistance that has been extended to Ansett-A.N.A. in the past is in the form of a guarantee, not a loan. Probably consideration will be given to extending that form of assistance to Ansett-A.N.A. in the future. It is true that the financial affairs of that organization are kept under continual review. It is not a fact that the airline is operating now at a loss. The whole question of fleet re-equipment, and the financial arrangements associated with it, are matters of policy which are being considered. That policy will be revealed at an appropriate time.
– The first part of my question to the Minister for National Development relates to our exports of lead and zinc to the United States of America, and the second part to the overseas price for tin. Is it correct that yesterday the Government of the United States, somewhat ruthlessly, I suggest, decided to cut imports of Australian lead and zinc by 20 per cent.? Is it a fact that the Minister for Trade, Mr. McEwen, who is overseas, is making certain submissions to the United States of America in regard to that decision? It Mr. McEwen is not successful with his submissions, will the Government make the strongest possible protest to the United States in relation to its action which, I suggest, can lead only to a corresponding retaliation by Australia in cutting American exports to this country, with consequential loss to both? If the Government’s submissions fail, can the Minister indicate what action it is likely to take in the circumstances?
Further, is the Minister aware of the serious drop last week in the world price of tin, due to some dislocation in the international tin agreement organization? Can he tell us whether the Australian Tin Producers Association has applied to the Government for assistance in the circumstances? If so, can he outline the nature of the request; and will he undertake that the Government will give urgent consideration to the submissions made by the Australian Tin Producers Association?
– The honorable senator has raised two matters. Either of them, I think, is sufficient substance for a question on its own, without including the two matters in one question. There is no doubt at all that the action of the United States of America in reducing the importation of lead and zinc is one of tremendous consequence and great seriousness, indeed, for Australia. In Australia, we are in a position where it is becoming increasingly apparent that, in order to develop, we have to look to the manufacturing industries to provide employment opportunities. These industries cannot be expected to do that unless we can expand our export income in order to buy the things that our manufacturing industries want.
Unless we can expand our export income, 1 do not know that we can maintain the rate of development that the United States of America and other countries would expect us to maintain in this part of the world in which we are located. One of the main directions to which we have looked to expand our export income has been minerals and metals. We are one of the lowest-cost lead producers in the world. We are the largest supplier of lead to the United States of America. I think our exports of lead to that country last year were worth something like £13,000,000, and the total quantity was something between 130,000 tons and 140,000 tons. In those circumstances, America’s proposal to reduce her imports by 20 per cent, is of very great importance to us, more particularly as 1 do not know where else we can look for a market. The restriction of the imports is designed to maintain in America mines producing at high costs and which cannot compete with the cost at which we can sell lead to America. Obviously, the matter is of great importance to the Government. I am sorry to say that I do not propose to answer the honorable senator’s question concerning what action the Government proposes to take, except to say that 1 am aware that the Government has already acted through Mr. McEwen.
As to the question relating to tin, the facts are that the floor price of tin was fixed at £730 sterling under the International Tin Agreement. Since then, Russia released great quantities of tin on to the international tin market, with the result that the price fell from £730 to £640. It subsequently recovered to £680, and the latest information is that it was selling yesterday at £700 sterling on the international tin market. Yesterday, I saw the representatives of the Australian tin-mining companies and the representatives of the two companies that smelt tin in Australia. Any action at this stage must necessarily be premature. We have yet to receive the decision of the International Tin Council, which will meet in London this Thursday, and we have yet to see what further movement will occur in the market. The International Tin Council may, in its wisdom, have decided to let the market find its own level when the Russian tin was offered for sale. When all that tin is sold, the market may then come more directly under the control of the council. I think that we should await events for a week or so. In the meantime, I am in close touch with the tin mining and smelting companies. They are talking the position over, and in due course will advise me of the views of both sections of the industry.
Televising of Opening
– On Wednesday, 27th August, Senator Marriott asked me a question regarding the televising of the opening of Parliament. I should like to inform Senator Marriott and the Senate that permission has been granted to the Australian Broadcasting Commission to televise the opening of Parliament in this chamber in 1959. However, it is to be understood that any future applications for the televising of similar functions will be considered in the light of the experience gained next year.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services aware that the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association maintains in Adelaide a hostel which provides a permanent home at reasonable tariff for single members and widowers who, possibly, would otherwise be confined in the Repatriation Hospital at Springbank? Is he also aware that this work has been commended by the medical profession, and that the hostel provides many amenities, including a library and a billiards room? The management is striving to maintain and extend the existing services but, because of continually increasing costs, is experiencing great difficulty in doing so. I understand that some time ago an annual grant to each of the State branches of the association was sought, but this was not agreed to. Will the Government, in view of the great service rendered by these hostels, reconsider the position and help them along the lines mentioned in previous requests for assistance?
– I will see that the honorable senator’s request receives consideration.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I preface my question by asking the Minister whether he has seen a press statement, attributed to a leading Australian church authority, to the effect that it is unthinkable that nations should risk a world war for the sake of the Chinese offshore islands, and that the well-being of humanity is more important than the possession of islands off China. That statement contradicts the views of some other world authorities. My question is: In view of the marked differences of opinion on this subject, added to the fact that international relations have deteriorated in the last 4 hours, will the Leader of the Government tell the people of Australia where this Government stands on the matter and whether it agrees with the leader of the British Labour party that it would be criminal folly to risk a third world war over Quemoy?
– I have not seen the newspaper report upon which the honorable senator’s question is based. I do not think it is really a matter of whether a world war is worth a piece of territory, or a piece of territory is worth a world wa: Aggression must be resisted sometime, somewhere and somehow. It is a matter of when. The’ Government’s attitude will be made known at the proper place and at the proper time.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to the decision of the British Government announced last week at Montreal to permit a large degree of sterling convertibility. Is this policy substantially more comprehensive than Australia’s recently announced liberalized policy to permit the importation of dollar equipment for manufacturing purposes? If so, does it mean that sterling currency is now so strong that British consumers, and, therefore Australian consumers as well, may soon be given the benefit of selective categories of dollar goods?
– I think it is obvious that this is evidence of a further strengthen ing of sterling. We ourselves made a move in this direction, and the British have made a further move. I have not yet seen an analysis showing the extent of the further move by the British so I cannot say what its effect will be.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the importance to Australia of the whaling industry - the catching and the treatment of whales to produce oil, fishmeal and other by-products - and the consequent need to train Australians to participate to the fullest extent in the industry, will the Minister inform the Senate how many Norwegian captain-gunners come to Australia annually for the whaling season? Do these Norwegians make an agreement with their government that they will not train others in the art of whale catching? Is it a fact that no Australian captain-gunners are at present operating in the industry? Will the Minister obtain the necessary information to give the Senate a clear picture, showing whether there is an organized plan to prevent Australians from participating fully in this important industry?
– I shall have the question examined by the appropriate Minister, but I can tell the honorable senator, of my own knowledge, that a year ago there were two Australian captaingunners operating in the whaling industry in Australia. My understanding is that they had been trained by Norwegian gunners. The question is far too wide for me to answer it now. I will have it examined and see that an answer is supplied.
– ls the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware of the suggestion made by Sir Macfarlane Burnet on Sunday evening in a broadcast talk that a commission similar to the Murray committee of inquiry on Australian universities be set up to investigate medical research in Australia, particularly biological and medical research in relation to cancer? In view of the increasing death rate from this scourge, will the Government consider the appointment of such a commission?
– I have not read the report referred to by the honorable senator. The matter is one of great importance, and I shall be very happy to take it up with my colleague, the Minister for Health.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs ask his colleague to convey to the Government of the United States of America the appreciation of the business and commercial community of South Australia of the action of the United States Administration in agreeing to re-open its consulate in that State?
– As one who comes from another State where the United States consulate was closed and is now, I understand, to be re-opened, I shall have great pleasure indeed in bringing the request of the honorable senator to the notice of the Minister for External Affairs.
– I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise the following questions: Some days ago, did the Department of Customs and Excise seize a car owned by Mr. Ansett? Why was it seized? What is the name of the person or firm that sold the car to Mr. Ansett? Has the car been returned to Mr. Ansett, or is it still in the possession of the Department of Customs and Excise? Will the Minister be kind enough to give to the Senate full details of this particular seizure?
– As the honorable senator has indicated, the car was seized. In due course, in accordance with the law, it will be sold by public auction in Melbourne. I cannot answer the other questions off the cuff, but I shall obtain the answers in due course.
– Will the Minister for National Development indicate whether the Government has taken any steps or, if it has not, whether it intends to take any steps to ease immediately, and ultimately remedy, the very serious situation that now exists on the New South Wales coal-fields?
– The position on the New South Wales coal-fields is continually under my observation. There is in existence a continuing organization which deals with employment opportunities. The latest information that I have is dated 16th September. It shows that the total number of persons on the New South Wales coal-fields who were registered for unemployment benefit was only 135. I do not pretend for one minute that that is a proper measure of the number of people who are unemployed, because since those figures were compiled two mines have given notice to some 570 men. However, I quote the figures as evidence of the fact that we are doing all we can as quickly as we can, and that we are well aware of the problem.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories. As the Senate knows, Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean, will become part of Australia very soon. When does the Government propose to announce the name of the Australian Commissioner or representative? Applications for this post were invited nearly a year ago. Will Christmas Island be a separate State? If there are Australians living on the island, such as the Commissioner, will they be disfranchised at the forthcoming general election in November?
– I am sure that the honorable senator will be aware that recently the Government introduced legislation dealing with Christmas Island.
– In reply to Senator Sandford’s question regarding unemployment on the coal-fields of northern New South Wales, the Minister for National Development referred to a committee which, he said, was continually dealing with this problem. Will the Minister tell us what activities this committee has undertaken? Has it recommended to him moves for the relief of unemployment? Is the
Minister aware of anything that has been done by the committee to cope with this now serious position?
– The committee to whichI referred consists of representatives of various government departments, and of colliery proprietors and the miners federation. Its task is to keep in touch with the various collieries and to have knowledge of the level of employment - the number of men disengaged or engaged - as well as to keep in touch with industry in the Newcastle districts and elsewhere. As a result of the activities of the committee, men who lose employment on the coal-fields are found employment elsewhere, so far as it is practicable to do so. All that I was attempting to say, in reply to Senator Sandford, was that the activities of the committee have resulted in this situation being handled as efficiently as possible. In all the discussions that have occurred about the position on the New South Wales coal-fields, I think there has been a general admission that this committee is doing effective work. There have been very few practical suggestions as to what we could do, over and above the work that is being done by the committee.
asked the Minister repre senting the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will the Treasurer make available to credit unions formed by administrative and clerical officers’ associations, the same facilities for the deduction of contributions as are accorded to the private banks, insurance companies, hospital benefit funds, &c?
– The acting Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
Additional deductions from the earnings of Commonwealth employees would require the employment of additional staff, and the Government decided, in response to an earlier request for new deductions, that this was not justified. I regret that it is not possible to extend the range of deductions now being made from employees’ earnings.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice: -
– My colleague, the Minister for the Interior, has furnished the following replies: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has furnished the following replies: -
Use of Building Stone
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Willthe Minister, having regard to the fine appearance of stone buildings, their durability, the economy of using a material which requires no painting or similar upkeep and the many new economical ways of cutting stone, ask the National Capital Development Commission to give pre- ference to Australian building stone in constructional work at Canberra?
– The Minister for the Interior has furnished the following reply: -
I shall be glad to refer the question to the National Capital Development Commission, which has indicated that the use of stone for appropriate works, particularly of a monumental nature, will always be given the greatest consideration.
– I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Erection of a Mail Exchange at Redfern, New South Wales.
– I move -
That Standing Order 68 be suspended for the remainder of the session, to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
It is customary, towards the end of a sessional period, for me to submit a motion in these terms, and it is equally customary for the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) to oppose it - just as I used to oppose similar motions moved by him when I was in opposition. I hope that it will not be necessary, to any great extent, to introduce new business after 10.30 p.m., but in order to close the session in an orderly fashion, it is necessary that this motion be agreed to.
– The AttorneyGeneral (Senator O’Sullivan) was quite correct when he said that it is usual for the Opposition to oppose a motion of this nature, permitting the Government to introduce new business after 10.30 p.m. On this occasion, I merely indicate that the Opposition does not support the motion, but that it will not oppose it. We are as anxious as Government senators are to meet them in another forum - before the people; we are very anxious to meet the supporters of the Government before the people. We recognize that there is quite a number of measures on the notice-paper, and a number still has to come from another place, which it will take time to dispose of. The great bulk is not controversial, and consideration of those measures should not impose any undue strain upon honorable senators. However, I point out that sick senators are in the precincts of the chamber, and the Government’s proposal to introduce new business after 10.30 p.m. is, in the circumstances, not right or fair. On Thursday night last, the Minister in charge of the discussion of the Estimates was most anxious to complete the debate on the departments that were under his purview, but at twenty past eleven he desisted because he was exhausted - not because the Opposition was unwilling to continue the discussion. After working throughout the morning, afternoon and night, as we do on one day in the week, a strain is imposed on honorable senators when new business is introduced after 10.30 p.m.
– I think we ought to sit on Friday and Saturday.
– That would be far preferable to the introduction of new business after 10.30 p.m., a procedure that places an obligation upon honorable senators to remain until the discussion is concluded. I join with the Leader of the Government in this chamber in the hope that it will not be necessary to invoke the concession now being given to the Government by the passage of this particular motion, because there can be no doubt that the Opposition has not delayed the passage of measures which are not controversial. On this occasion we do not oppose the motion, but I warn the Government - please do not take this as a precedent for any future occasion.
– You expect to continue in opposition?
– I would make that remark to a government of any colour if the necessity arose. The Minister may have occasion to remind me of that statement in the not too distant future.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to extend the period within which residents of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands may exercise their option of acquiring Australian citizenship.
The Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act 1955, contains a provision that the islands’ inhabitants who were British subjects and normally resident in the islands on the date of hand-over - 23rd November, 1955 - could “ in the prescribed manner and within the prescribed time “ make a declaration that they wished to become Australian citizens. Upon registration of such a declaration the declarant was deemed to have become an Australian citizen upon the date of transfer of the Territory to Australian control, namely 23rd November, 1955.
For reasons arising from the peculiar domestic situation in the island, certain Cocos Malay residents who later expressed a wish to do so did not avail themselves, within the time limit originally provided under the principal act, of the opportunity to become Australian citizens. Some of these have actually submitted declarations since the original date, the 22nd November, 1957, expired, and it is known that some more wish to do so.’ In order to allow those declarations already submitted, and likely to be submitted, to be processed, it is necessary to extend the initial period by amendment of the 1955 act.
It is proposed that the extended date should be three and a half years from the date of transfer, instead of two years. This means that Cocos Malays resident in the island at 23rd November, 1955, will have until March, 1959, in which to exercise the option to become Australian citizens.
Opportunity has also been taken in the bill to include three amendments of a machinery nature. Clause 4 amends section 11 of the principal act by omitting reference to the Post and Telegraph Rates (Defence Forces) Act which is repealed by the Post and Telegraph Act 1958, and brings up to date the citations of the references to the Post and Telegraph Act and the Post and Telegraph Rates Act.
Similarly, clause 6 has been included because the extension of the Public Service Act by its 1957 amendment, to the external territories of the Commonwealth, makes it doubtful whether persons can be employed for the purposes of the government of the Territory except under the Public Service Act. Clause 6 removes this doubt and, at the same time, provides for the preservation of rights enjoyed as a member of the Commonwealth Public Service by any member of that service appointed to the Territory.
Finally, clause 7 brings the Cocos legislation into line with other Territories in respect of the Governor-General’s powers to pardon an accomplice who gives evidence that leads to the conviction of the principal offender; and his powers to act on the advice of the Minister in remitting penalties and granting pardons.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sandford) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Repre sentatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the raising of loan moneys totalling £35,810,000 for financial assistance to the States for housing. In accordance with the requests of the States, the amount of £35,810,000 will be allocated among the States as follows: -
The provision of £35,810,000 in 1958-59, for which approval is now being sought, represents an increase of £2,650,000 over the amount advanced to the States in 1957-58, and an increase of .£3,660,000 over the amount advanced in 1956-57. Advances to the States will be made in accordance with conditions laid down in the Housing Agreement Act 1956. In accordance with the agreement authorized by that act, the amount of £35,810,000 to be advanced to the States in 1958-59 will be used for two separate purposes. It is expected that an amount of £25,057,000 will be used by the States for their own housing programmes. The remaining amount of £10,753,000 will be allocated by the States to building societies and other approved lending institutions for the erection or purchase of homes for private ownership.
The amounts provided in 1957-58 for these two purposes were £26,528,000 and £6,632,000 respectively. In accordance with provisions of the agreement the minimum amount to be made available by the States to building societies and other approved institutions is being increased from 20 per cent, in 1956-57 and 1957-58 to 30 per cent, in 1958-59 and the following two years.
Under the terms of the housing agreement an amount specified by the Commonwealth, but not exceeding in any year 5 per cent, of the moneys made available for State housing programmes, is set aside by the States for the erection of dwellings for allotment to serving members of the forces. The Commonwealth provides supplementary advances of an equal amount for the same purpose. These supplementary advances are met from the respective votes of the service departments and are thus additional to the loan moneys to be raised in pursuance of this bill. The estimated amount to be set aside by the States for the housing of serving members of the forces in 1958- 59 is £1,197,350, as compared with £1,174,932 set aside in 1957-58. The number of houses expected to be provided from these allocations is 753 for 1957-58, and 748 for 1958-59.
The net result is, of course, that the supplementary advances provided by the Commonwealth from revenue funds, to match the appropriation of the States, result in a substantial increase in the number of houses erected by the State housing authorities. In 1957-58, the State authorities commenced 8,923 dwellings with funds made available under the housing agreement, and in the same year 10,046 dwellings were completed. These figures include dwellings built for serving members of the forces.
During 1957-58, 187 institutions received funds from the home builders’ account, and in that year a total of 2,367 new houses were commenced and a total of 2,925 houses were completed or purchased. The latter represents 22.5 per cent, of total completions of dwellings financed from agreement moneys. It is expected that some 242 institutions will participate in the allocation of home builders’ moneys in 1958-59. The increase in the number of institutions participating in this scheme is entirely due to formation of new cooperative terminating building societies. As well as utilizing all moneys available in New South Wales and Victoria in 1958-59, building societies of this type, seventeen in number, are taking up the bulk of the money in Queensland, and ten others newly formed in Western Australia are to receive almost half of the moneys available in that State during this year.
In 1957-58, a total of 74,333 dwellings were completed in Australia compared with 68,438 in 1956-57. This represents an increase of 8.6 per cent. In 1957-58, the estimated total investment in new housing was £234,000,000, compared with £216,000,000 in 1956-57, representing an increase of 8.3 per cent. In 1957-58, the Commonwealth’s direct financial contribution to housing was almost £80,000,000 - an all-time record. The major components of this were war service homes £35,000,000 and housing agreement homes £33,160,000. The financial contribution for the current year, 1958-59, will be a little more than for 1957-58. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Benn) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by (Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for the raising of loan moneys amounting to £7,000,000, which, together with the estimated £4,330,000 repayments of expenditure of previous years, will be advanced to the various States this year for acquiring and developing land’ and for credit facilities to settlers under the war’ service land settlement scheme. The allocation of the £11,330,000 to individual States is estimated as follows: -
Up to 30th June, 1958, funds made available by the Commonwealth to the States for this class of capital expenditure under the war service land settlement scheme totalled nearly £72,000,000. Financial assistance to all States for non-capital expenditure such as living allowances, writing down the cost of holdings, rent and interest remissions, &c, estimated at £2,000,000 for the current financial year, will be provided from Consolidated Revenue. Expenditure to 30th June last for these purposes amounted to more than £9,000,000.
The Commonwealth provides the whole of the capital moneys for the scheme in Western Australia,, South Australia and Tasmania. The financial responsibility of these States, apart from the cost of their administration, is limited to a contribution of two-fifths of the excess of cost of providing holdings over the economic valuations placed on them. Initially, New South Wales and Victoria undertook to provide the necessary capital moneys from their own resources. Over the last three financial years, the Commonwealth, however, in an endeavour to accelerate settlement in those States, has been supplementing State allocations with special advances. The maximum special advance in any one year to each State was £2,000,000. Initially, the basis of the advance was £1 for each £2’ allocated by the States. It was found that under this provision full use was not being made of the available Commonwealth advances, and last year the basis was altered so that the Commonwealth, subject to the same maximum, advanced the difference between the expenditure by the States and the allocation from their own funds. Subject to there being no drift of State funds from war service land1 settlement to other purposes, advances will be made by the Commonwealth on this principle again this financial year. Only £1,000,000 is provided for advancing to New South Wales this year due to the difficulty anticipated by that State in bringing to account by 30th June all expenditure from its projected programme. The balance of £1,000,000 will be made available during next financial year to meet this expenditure.
It is now thirteen years after the cessation of hostilities in the 1939-45 war, and the goal is substantially to complete settlement during this year. The large-scale developmental projects in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, are well advanced, but it will still be a few years before the newly established pastures build up to the carrying capacity necessary for the standards adopted under the scheme. It is estimated that, of these States, only South Australia will have an excess of classified applicants over the number of farms provided.. The. difficulty there, has been toprocure, over the years, sufficient areas of suitable land, but a determined effort is being made this year to see what additional areas can be acquired. Victoria also estimates that farms in sight this year will meet the demand of classified ex-servicemen still awaiting settlement.
Applicants in New South Wales, which normally allots farms by ballot, have had available to them the alternative promotion provisions of the State act, whereby a group of classified applicants can, with the concurrence of the owner of the land, initiate a scheme of sub-division, the farms being allotted to the initiators. That State, however, still has an excess of applicants over the number of farms likely to be made available.
Honorable senators will agree, I am sure, that this scheme has been highly successful. The standard of the farms made available, both as to productivity and structures, ensures, so far as can reasonably be forecast, a good living to those exservicemen whose desires, following war service, were to have farms of their own. Some criticism has been directed at the scheme from time to time on the slow rate at which farms have been provided. Apart from the fact that the development of virgin land to pasture takes some time, 1 would recall to the minds of honorable senators, the results of the emphasis that was placed on speed in the scheme which followed the 1914-18 war. Successful settlement has been the keynote of the present scheme, not the placing of as many men as possible on the land in the minimum time.
Some settlers, too, have been, somewhat critical of the actual net cash returns they receive from their farms during the first few years. They tend to overlook the equity they are building up in stock, equipment, and structures by repayment of loans granted to them for these purposes, and the additional cash that will be available to them each year once their short-term loans have been repaid.
Honorable senators will recall that this Government, when it first came into office, granted to settlers in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, the right to freehold their farms after a specified period under lease. This option can now be exercised for some farms, and several in Tasmania have already been purchased by the settlers. Perhaps the best commendation of the scheme is that its pattern has been paralleled by legislation in two States in respect of normal closer settlement.
Apart from the re-establishment of exservicemen that has been effected, the additional rural production obtained from more intensive land use and the converting of virgin land to productive farms have been, and will continue to be, a national asset. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to ratify and approve an agreement for the further variation of the agreement entered into between the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and the Premiers of the States of New
South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, respecting the River Murray and Lake Victoria and other waters, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill asks Parliament to approve an agreement relating to the sharing between the States of the waters of the Murray and its tributaries and of waters diverted to the Murray by the works of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. The parties to the agreement are the four governments of the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
The development of the river Murray and the use of its waters is provided for in the River Murray Waters Agreement. The agreement was made in 1914, and has been amended on four occasions. It is administered by the River Murray Commission and provides for the construction of works on the river at the joint cost of the four governments, and lays down the procedure by which the River Murray Commission determines the amounts of water which each of the three States is entitled to draw.
When the River Murray Waters Agreement was made, it was not contemplated that large amounts of water would be diverted to the Murray catchment from other rivers: nor was it contemplated that waters would be diverted into other catchments away from the Murray. Similarly, it was assumed that only the States which were partners to the agreement would divert or use Murray waters.
The Showy Mountains scheme involves the diversion by the Snowy Mountains Authority - a Commonwealth instrumentality - of large amounts of water from the catchment of the Snowy River to the Murray and Mumimbidgee River systems. It also involves the diversion of water from the Tooma, a tributary of the Upper Murray, to the Tumut River, which is a tributary of the Murrumbidgee.
The Snowy River rises in New South Wales and flows to the sea through Victoria. The Snowy Mountains Agreement contains, inter alia, the terms upon which
New South Wales and Victoria agreed to share the Snowy River water when it reached the river Murray. That agreement was recently approved by this Parliament.
When the Snowy Mountains Agreement became available to South Australia, that State did not object to the way in which it was proposed to share the additional water in normal years, but claimed that in terms of the River Murray Waters Agreement it was entitled in a year of drought to a share of the added flow in the river Murray due to the diversion of the waters of the Snowy. lt was not disputed that South Australia was entitled in drought years to a share of the added flow due to better regulation by the Snowy scheme of the head waters of the Murray and Mumimbidgee.
Under the River Murray Waters Agreement South Australia in normal times receives a specified quantity of water, but in a year of drought, when the River Murray Commission declares a period of restriction, the water available for distribution by the commission is shared in a stated proportion. The South Australian claim was that in such a period of restriction all the water available for sharing in the Murray, regardless of its source, should be divided in the proportions provided for in the River Murray Waters Agreement.
South Australia also objected to the proposed diversion of the Tooma River by the Snowy Mountains Authority on the ground that the diversion was being made by the Snowy Mountains Authority and not bv New South Wales or Victoria, as provided for in the River Murray Waters Agreement. South Australia did not press this point once agreement was reached on the major question of the method by which the Murray waters were to be shared in drought years. It readily agreed to the arrangements necessary to meet the technical point involved.
The claim of South Australia to share in drought time in the diverted waters of the Snowy was clearly a matter of concern only to the States of New South Wales and Victoria. It was not a matter upon which the Commonwealth could be expected or indeed had any right to adjudicate. All it could do was to bring the parties together and assist in any way it could in their deliberations.
When the South Australian claim to share in drought time in the diverted waters of the Snowy was considered by New South Wales and Victoria, they expressed themselves as prepared to agree, provided that the River Murray Waters Agreement was amended in three ways: Firstly, that in a period of restriction those States should be permitted to use water from the river Murray in excess of the quantity to which they are otherwise entitled and to replace that excess from any tributary of the Murray below Albury in such a way that the rights of the other States are not prejudiced. The significance of this requirement is that New South Wales and Victoria may take water out of the main stream of the Murray, where they need it, and replace it from tributaries. New South Wales, for instance, will be able to replace water taken out of the Murray by water from the Menindee storage on the Darling - an arrangement which New South Wales regards as important. Also Victoria, if it so desires, may replace water taken out of the Murray by water released from the Eildon Dam at the mouth of the Goulburn.
Secondly, New South Wales required the right to cancel the debit for the Tooma diversion by replacement in the Murray from a convenient source. Half the water diverted from the Tooma counts as part of New South Wales’s share of Murray water and half as part of Victoria’s share. Either State may now replace this water in the Murray from any convenient source.
Thirdly, New South Wales and Victoria required as a condition to their meeting the South Australian claim that the River Murray Waters Agreement should be amended to make it mandatory upon the River Murray Commission to declare a period of restriction when the water stored in the Hume reservoir and Lake Victoria falls to 1,000,000 acre feet, unless the commission unanimously agrees that it is not necessary to do so. The significance of the third requirement is that in normal times South Australia receives a fixed quantity of water, whereas in times of drought the three States share the available water in stated proportions. In such circumstances New South Wales and Victoria feared that South Australia might delay in agreeing with them in declaring a period of restriction, which would mean that during the period of delay South Australia could be entitled to a far greater quantity of water than was considered equitable by the other two States.
The agreement whichis ratified by the bill before the Senate resolves the issues to which I have referred in the following manner: -
Firstly, it brings the Tooma diversion within the ambit of the River Murray Waters Agreement and thus removes any grounds for concern that the diversion of this river by the Snowy Mountains Authority may be in breach of that agreement. It does this in normal times by clause 5 which adds an additional sub-clause (2.) (a) to clause 45 of the River Murray Waters Agreement, having the effect that the Tooma diversion will be treated as though it were a diversion by the States of New South Wales and Victoria. It does this for periods of restriction by the addition of subclause (3.) (b) to clause 45 which provides that no State shall receive less water by reason of the Tooma diversion than it would have received had that diversion not been made.
Secondly, sub-clause (2.) (b) of clause 45 allows New South Wales and Victoria to cancel the debit for the Tooma diversion, in whole or in part, by replacement in the Murray from any convenient source.
Thirdly, clause 7 of the new agreement which amends clause 51 of the River Murray Waters Agreement ensures that South Australia receives its appropriate share of the diverted waters during restriction periods. This is effected through the provision of sub-clauses (4.) and (5.) of clause 51. Sub-clause (4.) has the effect that the “ available water “ which is divided in the proportions I have mentioned, is based on the amount of “ Murray water “. Sub-clause (5.) defines “ Murray water “ to include any water coming into the river Murray and its tributaries by reason of the permanent works of the Snowy Mountains Authority. After the Snowy waters are diverted, sub-clause (5) excludes from sharing the amount of water diverted from the Tooma. Hence the final effect is that South Australia, in common with other States, will in times of drought share the net increase in the waters of the Murray which is due to the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
Fourthly, clause 51 of the River Murray Waters Agreement has been redrafted to make itclear that in aperiod of restriction New South Wales and Victoria may use from any portion of the river Murray, water in excess of the quantity to which they are entitled; but if they do so a quantity equal to that excess shall be replaced by them from a tributary or tributaries below Albury. It thus removes any doubt that New South Wales and Victoria may provide South Australia’s share of waters from any convenient source.
Fifthly, clause 51 of the River Murray Waters Agreement is amended by subclause (2.) which states that the commission shall declare a period of restriction when the quantity of water held in reserve in the upper Murray storage and the Lake Victoria storage falls to 1,000,000 acre feet, unless the commission resolves that it is not necessary.
In order to ensure that the provisions of the amended River Murray Waters Agreement with regard to the sharing of water will prevail over those of the Snowy Mountains Agreement, clause 9 adds a new clause 60 (a) which states that the provisionsas to the sharing of water contained in the new agreement shall apply to the exclusion of provisions contained in the Snowy Mountains Agreement.
In addition to the main objectives that I have mentioned, the amending agreement provides a complete redraft of clause 51 of the River Murray Waters Agreement which has been rewritten in the interests of clarity and practical application of the agreement.
This new agreement has been duly completed by the four governments concerned. It provides a formula which those governments accept as being a better method of sharing the waters of the river Murray than the present method. South Australia gets more water in drought years but the other two States may indirectly contribute to South Australia’s share by replacing water used by them from the Murray, by water supplied from tributaries. The only interest of the Commonwealth is to secure agreement so that the Snowy Mountains legislation will be validated. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Flaherty) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill introduces a completely new type of assistance into the field of social services in Australia. Over the last nine years, the Menzies-Fadden Administration has demonstrated its determination that “ freedom from want “ should be not merely an expression of hope but a reality in this country in which we live and work, and in which we serve.
The main import of the bill before the Senate lies in the fact that in it the Government recognizes that there are groups of pensioners who have special needs. Supplementary assistance, at the rate of 10s. a week, will therefore be granted to age, invalid and widow pensioners who are single, and to married couples where the husband or the wife, as the case may be, is not in receipt of a pension or allowance. Those eligible to receive this assistance will be pensioners who pay rent for the accommodation that constitutes their homes, and who have little or no means apart from their pensions. Supplementary assistance is designed to relieve hardship and improve the financial circumstances of pensioners who pay rent and have little or no means apart from their pensions. Its introduction is an historic step. Social services would fail in their purpose if they gave a little to all without recognizing the greater need of some.
In addition, the means test on age, invalid and widow pensions will be liberalized by raising the property limit - that is, the value of property a person may own and still receive a pension - by £500. This is the second increase of £500 to be made by this Government, and the fourth increase since it was called to office. The new property limit will be £2,250 for single persons and £4,500 for married couples. This limit of £2,250 is three times more liberal than the limit of £750 imposed by the Labour party when it last occupied the treasury bench. The result is that persons with property valued at between £1,750 and £2,250 will become eligible to receive age or invalid pensions ranging from £72 10s. to £22 10s. a year.
A widow in class A - that is, a widow with one or more dependent children - will, until the value of her property reaches the new upper limit of £2,250, continue to receive the full rate of pension. Widows in other classes, becoming eligible because of the new provision, will receive pensions ranging from £66 to £16 a year.
In 1954 this Government exempted from the means test income derived from property. Income from that source may now be received, in addition to the £3 10s. per week permissible income, without any reduction in the pension rate. In this bill, the Government is introducing supplementary assistance and is raising the property limit. This illustrates our two-fold approach to social services. Supplementary assistance will improve the financial circumstances of those who have to rely entirely on their pensions, while the lifting of the property limit assists those who by thrift and providence have been able to make some provision for their advanced years.
In keeping with this policy of encouraging people to make provision for themselves is a further amendment that applies to both pensioners and unemployment and sickness beneficiaries. Up to the present, sums received from organizations registered under the National Health Act have been exempt as income only to the extent that they are required to meet hospital, medical or dental treatment actually incurred. They will henceforth be entirely exempt, so that payments received from such organizations will not be taken into account in determining the rate of pension or benefit that will be payable.
Whilst the Government believes that it has a duty to encourage, and indeed create, the economic conditions that make saving and providence possible, it believes that it should do nothing that might deter members of a family from assisting each other if they are able to do so. Our view is that the obligation to give such assistance exists, irrespective of any statutory assistance that may be available to those in need. We accept, however, that the willingness of members of a family to fulfil their obligations will be diminished if the right to some or all of a pension may be lost thereby. Periodical payments or benefits by way of gifts or allowances from a father, mother, son or daughter are already exempt from income for pension purposes. In future, gifts or allowances to pensioners from brothers or sisters will also be exempt. They will thus be able to fulfil their obligations in the knowledge that it will not affect their brother’s or sister’s pension entitlements.
Through the friendly society movement, by small contributions during periods of employment, people have been able to make provision for sick pay during periods of illness or incapacity. The good work done by these societies has been recognized by the fact that, for sickness benefit, £2 a week sick pay received from them is disregarded in applying the means test. The amount of exempt income from other sources is also £2; so that, where sick pay benefit from a friendly society exceeded £4 a week, sickness benefit payable was reduced by the amount of the excess. That limitation will now be completely removed and all sick pay received from friendly societies will be excluded from the means test applied to sickness benefits. As a’ result, these societies will be able to increase, the rates of sick pay for which their members may contribute and, instead of government benefits stifling private effort, we shall find a strengthened partnership of the Government, friendly societies and voluntary agencies.
The Commonwealth rehabilitation service is one of the truly great social services developed by the Government. Through the efforts of this particularly fine branch of the Department of Social Services, some 1.1,000 men and women have been restored to an economically useful and productive life. Either permanently or for a long period, they would have been forced to rely for their subsistence on the efforts of others. To-day they make their contribution not only for themselves and their families but for the nation, which all of us are so proudly building to-day.
In some cases, the work of the service has been impeded because persons could be accepted for treatment and training only if the disability from which they were suffering had existed for thirteen weeks prior to their acceptance for rehabilitation. To be most effective, rehabilitation should begin as soon as the acute treatment phase is over. The thirteen weeks’ waiting period will be abolished and our medical staff, our physiotherapists, our vocational counsellors, and all those others who combine in rehabilitation treatment and training, will be able to get on with the good work as soon as practicable. In removing this restriction, it is not intended to accept short-term cases in which the disability is expected to last less than 26 weeks; but we will be enabled to get off the mark more quickly at the stage where rehabilitation will give the most beneficial results.
In addition, the bill provides that new classes will be eligible for rehabilitation. The scope of the service will therefore be expanded to include widow pensioners, special beneficiaries, or claimants for these benefits. At present, rehabilitation may be provided without charge only to the following classes: - (i) invalid pensioners and claimants for an invalid pension; (ii) sickness or unemployment beneficiaries and claimants for these benefits; (iii) recipients of tuberculosis allowance; (iv) young persons fourteen and fifteen years of age who would otherwise be likely to qualify for an invalid pension on reaching the agc of sixteen years.
Widow pensioners - and I have in mind chiefly those widows over 50 years of age who have no dependent children - frequently find themselves with disabilities that prevent them from resuming the occupations they engaged in before marriage, or from taking up new ones. Sometimes it means a lonely life cut off from workmates and friends. We shall, where possible, endeavour to change this. So with special beneficiaries we shall endeavour to give new opportunities to the daughter who for years has looked after ailing parents and, finally, finds herself with some disability and unable to resume her full place in the world. Amongst other types of special beneficiaries will be migrants awaiting naturalization who remain ineligible for invalid pensions until their certificates of naturalization are granted.
This amending bill represents the Government’s recognition of the fact that rehabilitation is evidence of a new approach to the problems of the sick and the disabled. I have outlined the measures before the Senate. They represent a magnificent contribution towards the solution of social security problems and, indeed, of the personal problems of many.
The present Government has made an outstanding contribution in recognizing the needs of the pensioner who has family responsibilities. We did this in 1956, when we increased the pension rate for invalids and widows by 10s. a week for each child after the first. We liberalized the income means test for pensioners with families. We endeavoured to consolidate the family as the unit in the free society we are determined to preserve. In 1954, we turned our attention to providing homes for the aged. We joined in partnership with the churches, returned servicemen’s organizations and charitable and benevolent organizations in an effort to solve a great modern problem. Our success has been tremendous, and the Aged Persons Homes Act is a triumph in social security legislation.
Increased rates of pensions, allowances and benefits, liberalizations of the means test and other provisions have all been in consonance with our policy of encouraging the individual to make provision for himself and, at the same time, of helping those who, for some cause, have been unable to do so. Australia has to-day, for pensioners and for the whole country, a national health service which has done much to relieve all of us of the financial burdens of ill health. In place of Labour’s unfulfilled promise we, with the collaboration of the medical and allied professions, have founded a working and beneficial service.
Many other subsidies granted by the Government, and direct activities of the Government in the field of health and social welfare, are part of our social security programme and all stand as a tribute to a wise and balanced policy. I shall not enumerate them, since they fall mainly within the province of my colleague, the Minister for Health. I remind honorable senators, however, that measures to ensure public health and income maintenance payments by way of social services, are inextricably bound together. If we neglect health services, then payments on other counts will inevitably rise. This is apart from the personal suffering and unhappiness that cannot be measured in terms of money.
Mr. President, I am proud to say that the Government not only has initiated an effective national health service for the good of the citizens of Australia but also has ensured a healthy economy that has permitted the expansion of pension payments and other cash benefits.
In 1948-49, the last full financial year of a Labour government, expenditure from the National Welfare Fund was less than £81,000,000. In 1958-59, expenditure from the fund is estimated to fall little short of £274,000,000, an increase of some £26,000,000 over the actual expenditure in 1957-58. The bill before the Senate will account for £4,000,000 of this increase. For a full year, the cost will be nearly £6,000,000. Some 4,000,000 people benefit from payments made under the Social Services Act, at a cost approaching £221,000,000. These are gigantic figures; but I hope and believe that the good that flows from them is commensurate with them.
Mr. President, this Government regards social services as a combined effort. The Government joins with the churches, the voluntary agencies and that great, but unorganized, body of men and women who work for social welfare, in attempting to alleviate suffering and to bring happiness into the homes of the people of Australia. I commend the bill to the Senate as an earnest that the Government, in full measure, will do its share.
Debate (on motion by Senator Tangney) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is mainly a machinery measure and not one embodying or foreshadowing any changes in immigration policy. It seeks, in effect, to provide a simpler and clearer basis for the continuance of present immigration policies than is provided by the existing
Immigration Act, and also to introduce adequate safeguards against undue infringements of the liberties of the individual. In the course of preparation of the bill, the Minister for Immigration and his department not only have looked to obvious deficiencies of the existing law, but also have made a comparative study of the laws of other British countries, and have consulted the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council on every aspect of the resultant proposals for change. The council, which is representative of both sides of the Parliament and of diverse sections of the community, has unanimously recommended the changes. lt is not surprising that the present Immigration Act should have deficiencies, when it is remembered that it was originally passed in 1901, and that over the intervening 57 years it h 2s never been completely revised. It has certainly been added to very considerably, but the numerous bits and pieces have been added only to meet particular needs of the time. The original act, then called the Immigration Restriction Act, had nineteen sections. Forty new sections have since been inserted. An example of the kind of thing that has resulted is that original section 8 has had seven sections inserted after it, and they are designated sections 8a, 8aa, 8ab, 8ac, 8b, 8ba and 8c. On the other hand, 24 sections have now fallen into disuse and can be repealed. This results from the development of such modern controls as the vise system, which have made unnecessary some of the controls enacted many years ago. lt is also desired to clear up obscurities and ambiguities in the wording of the present act which have occasioned difficulty in the administration of the act and its interpretation by the courts. Further, it is considered that a new statute relating to migration should absorb the existing Aliens Deportation Act and also the law relating to emigration out of Australia. The latter is badly out of date and I shall have something to say about that later.
The matters which I have described so far could be said to be purely legal or drafting questions. In deciding to seek Parliament’s approval of this kind of legal tidying up, the Government has decided also to take the opportunity to put forward an alternative form of immigration control in place of that much publicized, and criticized, device, the dictation test. There must be many Australians who have at some time wondered why it is that, when sone one has to be kept out, or put out, of Australia he should have to go through a procedure of listening, pen in hand, to fifty words in a language which has been deliberately chosen as one not known to him. The idea of the dictation test originally was that it would provide a polite means of administering the policy relating to non-European immigration, although politeness suffered somewhat when it was set down that the test should be in a European language.
Over the years, the dictation test came to be used as a means of excluding or deporting various kinds of people, Europeans included. It became, in brief, a device for keeping out or deporting people who, although not convicted of serious crime or suffering from serious disease or otherwise prohibited by law, were not eligible to settle in Australia under immigration policy. It has been accepted over the years, here as in other British countries, that it is for the executive government to decide immigration policies, and that the law must provide a sure means of administering such policies, without having to spell those policies out. Always in the background, of course, and sometimes very much in the foreground, is the fact that the executive government has to answer to Parliament for its policies and actions.
The bill proposes that, in place of the dictation test as a means of preventing entry, it should simply be the law that any one who enters Australia without being granted an entry permit at time of arrival will be a prohibited immigrant. This means that when an officer examining incoming passengers finds that one of them is not eligible to enter under policy and instructions approved by the Government or the Minister, the passenger will not have to go through a bewildering dictation test, but will simply be informed that he is not eligible to land, and that if he goes ashore he will be a prohibited immigrant, liable to arrest and deportation. The master and the shipping company will be liable to penalty if they do not keep the person on board.
It has to be emphasized that the new entry permit procedure will not result in any more delays and formalities than exist at present. British people who are eligible to come here under existing policy without vises or other prior authority will have entry permits stamped in their passports, in just the same way as their passports are at present stamped to show date and place of arrival. It will be an instruction to officers that such people are not to be refused permission to land without the Minister’s authority. Aliens who have had vises placed in their passports by overseas posts, showing that they have been approved for entry without immigration restriction, will also receive entry permits by way of stamps in their passports, without delay on arrival.
The entry permit device will also provide a substitute for another piece of existing machinery which has been a source of legal difficulty, namely the “ Certificate of Exemption from the provisions of the Immigration Act restricting entry into or stay in the Commonwealth “. This certificate is used as a means of conditionally admitting, for specific periods, two kinds of people. The first is people who are prohibited1 immigrants under the act but whose admission is justified by special circumstances. Honorable senators will be aware from their own experiences of immigration matters that such circumstances do occur, and one deficiency of the present act is that it really allows the people concerned to be admitted, not as migrants for permanent settlement, but only on certificates of exemption, which have to be extended from time to time, whatever the compassionate circumstances may be. The other people admitted under certificates of exemption are those who, for policy reasons, are not admissible as migrants, but can enter for temporary stay only.
It is contemplated by this bill that the certificate of exemption should be replaced by the entry permits which I have already mentioned. The bill provides that certain classes of people - comparable to the classes who are prohibited immigrants under the present act - shall be prohibited immigrants unless they are given special entry permits; and the permits may be for either temporary or permanent stay. Temporary entry permits will serve the same purpose as the existing certificates of exemption, without the legal complexities which have been found to attach to the latter. Upon the expiration of such permits, or upon their cancellation by the Minister for failure to observe the conditions of admission, the grantees will be deportable in the same way as the holders of expired or cancelled “ certificates of exemption “ issued under the present act.
The existing act permits the use of the dictation test procedure to deport people within five years after their arrival in Australia, even though they were lawfully admitted to settle permanently in Australia in the first place. This is a drastic and arbitrary power in relation to settled residents of Australia who have neither been convicted of crime nor become inmates of asylums or other institutions. This bill accordingly proposes that before the Minister may deport such a person, he shall give the migrant an opportunity to have his case heard by a commissioner appointed by the Governor-General. If the commissioner reports that the immigrant is not a fit and proper person to be allowed to remain in Australia, then deportation may be ordered, but not otherwise. This is a similar kind of limitation of arbitrary power to that which has existed in the Aliens Deportation Act, which was passed in 1948, to deal with aliens who were no longer immigrants in the legal sense. As mentioned earlier, the Aliens Deportation Act is now embodied in this general migration measure.
Alterations to other provisions of the existing law are regarded as necessary. One particular aspect that I should mention is the need for safeguards in relation to powers of arrest and detention of prohibited immigrants and persons whose deportation has been ordered by the Minister. Section 14a of the present act empowers an officer, without warrant, to arrest any person reasonably supposed to be a prohibited immigrant, that is, a person whose case has not yet been considered fully, and whose deportation has not been ordered by the Minister. It is considered that in such circumstances there should be very early consideration, by a judicial officer, of the circumstances of the arrest. Accordingly, clause 38 of the bill provides for a person so arrested to be brought within 48 hours, or as soon as practicable afterwards, before a prescribed authority, who must inquire into whether there are reasonable grounds for supposing the person to be a prohibited immigrant. If the authority finds such grounds, he may order continued detention for a maximum period of seven days pending the Minister’s decision as to deportation. It is intended that the prescribed authorities shall be magistrates.
A change in the law is also proposed concerning the arrest of persons reasonably supposed to be those against whom deportation orders have been issued by the Minister. Section 14c of the present Immigration Act, without qualification, authorizes an officer to arrest such persons. The bill inserts safeguards against possible misuse of this power. Clause 39 provides that individuals so arrested shall be given particulars of the deportation order. If they claim mistaken identity, they may immediately make a statutory declaration to that effect and be taken before an independent authority. If the prescibed authority is not satisfied that reasonable grounds for the arrest exist, the arrested persons are to be released. If the authority considers that there are reasonable grounds for arrest, he must declare this in writing, and the deportees may then be kept in custody. Again, the prescribed authorities will generally be magistrates.
Another safeguard is provided by clause 41 of the bill, lt may be that a person arrested as a deportee will not dispute the question of identity, but will contest the validity of the deportation order. In these circumstances, as legal questions are involved, the matter should be decided by a superior court. Such a hearing can, of course, already be secured by writ of habeas corpus or by injunction. The bill, however, goes further by ensuring that persons arrested must be given all reasonable facilities for obtaining legal advice and taking legal proceedings.
A fifth example of protection of the individual against undue infringement of his liberties is the requirement set out in clause 37 that an officer must hold a search warrant in order to search buildings, premises, or vehicles for a prohibited immigrant or a deportee, or for documents relating to circumstances in which people would become prohibited immigrants. This is in contrast with section 14b of the existing law, whereby an officer can do all these things without a warrant.
As was announced by the responsible Minister in another place, there is to be a departure from present practice concerning the custody of persons awaiting deportation. Clause 39, sub-clause (6.), re-enacts in substance section 8c of the Immigration Act. This provides that a deportee may be kept in such custody as the Minister directs pending deportation. The usual cases falling within this category are seamen deserting from ships. Whenever it has been thought necessary to keep these people in custody, it has been the practice to hold them in the State gaols until arrangements for their embarkation are concluded. Such a procedure is undesirable. Very often there is nothing against the deportee’s character. While in gaol awaiting deportation he might mix with criminals and be subjected to bad influences’ which, particularly if he is young, could affect him for the rest of his life. Accordingly, arrangements are now being made for non-criminal deportees to be accommodated in detention centres, instead of prisons, whilst awaiting deportation. There will be at least two detention centres, one in New South Wales and another in Western Australia. Possibly there will be a third in another State.
I shall mention only one further aspect of the contemplated changes in immigration law. that is, in regard to the responsibilities of shipping and aircraft companies in the matter of providing passages and paying other expenses of the deportation of people being deported who came to Australia on the ships or aircraft of the companies. The law, as it stands, has a number of deficiencies which it is desired to correct. At the present time the Immigration Act provides that when a person is being deported within five years after entry, as a criminal or as an inmate of an institution, or as a person who has failed to pass the dictation test, the department may require the cost of deportation to be paid by the transportation company operating the vessel upon which the deportee originally came to Australia. It is proposed to amend this provision to provide, in effect, that if the deportee originally came to Australia as a migrant with the explicit authority of the department - after undergoing full migration examination - the shipping or aircraft company which brought him here shall not be liable to pay the cost of his deportation. It is considered impossible to justify the continuance of the existing situation. In fact, the previous government agreed in 1949 that the existing law should not be invoked against transportation companies in cases where deportees came to Australia as assisted passage migrants. This bill gives legislative confirmation of that administrative decision, and it extends the principle to cover migrants who came here without financial assistance from the Government but who, nevertheless, were granted migrant vises after exactly the same thorough screening as applies to assisted migrants. The fairness of this is demonstrated by the fact that other great countries of immigration have adopted similar provisions in their law - notably Canada and the United States of America.
In some other respects, the existing act is too loose in its provisions affecting the duties of transportation companies. No penalty, for example, is provided against a company which ignores its obligations under the law to provide a passage for a deportee. The present bill corrects that deficiency. Again, it has happened that a company has sought to escape its obligations by pleading that it cannot effect a person’s return to the country that he originally came from (for example, a seaman who came from a country now under Communist domination, such as the Chinese mainland, and deserted his ship in Australia), lt is the Government’s view, embodied in this bill, that if the deportee concerned entered Australia irregularly, then the shipping company should have an obligation to remove him from Australia - if necessary by taking him on board as a crew member again, so restoring the original position; and that where the person entered regularly, but without prior migration examination, then the shipping or aicraft company should be liable to contribute a reasonable amount towards a passage to a place where he can land, if the person cannot re-enter his place of origin.
Division 6 of the bill revises the law governing immigration agents. The position now is that any one wishing to act as an immigration agent must first be registered with the department; and persons who are registered have to be issued with certificates of registration. The department would prefer not to issue such documents because they can be displayed as evidence of some special standing with the department, and so can be used to impress migrants unduly. Needless to say, careful inquiries are made about all applicants for registration; but it is still possible for unscrupulous people to be registered and to engage in undesirable activities without the department’s knowledge - particularly because settlers in a strange country are more easily duped by plausible agents, and are less ready to report them to the authorities.
The bill proposes to retain all the existing powers of supervision of agents without, however, continuing the issue of credentials in the shape of certificates of registration. It also prohibits agents from advertising themselves as approved by the department in any way.
The bill also repeals the Emigration Act 1910, relating to the emigration of aborigines and children, and proposes to sub.sti tue more suitable provisions. In regard to aborigines, the underlying principle of the bill is that any aboriginal should be free to leave Australia if he is not subject to restrictions in the State or territory in which he lives: or if he is otherwise exempted by the Minister from the need to apply for an emigration permit.
As to children, the bill seeks to supplement existing State laws in the matter of enabling parents to prevent their children being taken out of the Commonwealth without their consent. There have been cases where children of American fathers and Australian mothers were suddenly taken out of Australia by the fathers without the mother’s consent. The bill provides that a parent who has the custody of a child by order of a court, or who is seeking such an order, may notify shipping or aircraft companies not to afford a passage to such a child; and the company, thereupon, is obliged not to grant a passage without the parent’s consent, or the consent of the court. Furthermore, a person other than the parent having custody of the child or instituting proceedings, who knows of the order or proceedings, and who takes the child away, shall also be guilty of an offence. The present Emigration Act’s provisions regarding children are repealed, because it is felt that certain of those provisions are unrealistic and impractical, and others are based on racial considerations.
It would not be possible or desirable that I should at this stage describe all the provisions of this comprehensive measure. In order to inform the Senate more fully regarding the bill, there has been circulated to honorable senators an explanatory memorandum which will, I think, be found to clarify other points which I have not mentioned.
I am confident that this bill represents a very great improvement in the law relating to immigration, deportation and emigration. At no point does it seek greater power for the executive than exists at present. On the contrary, it proposes desirable limitations on some existing powers, without interfering with the effective and necessary powers of the Government to implement a selective immigration policy. It aims to remove ambiguity, to cut out deadwood, and to bring the law into line with present-day conditions and requirements. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill has two principal objectives which I believe will meet with the full approval of the Senate. The first aim is to make provision in the principal act for the recognition as British subjects under our law of the citizens of new nations of the British Commonwealth. The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland has absorbed Southern Rhodesia at present referred to in the principal act. Ghana and the Federation of Malaya have also joined the fellowship of independent nations within the Commonwealth. The bill, in clause 5, proposes therefore that these three nations be named in the list of countries whose citizens are to be treated as British subjects in our law. Furthermore, having in view the progress to independence of other Territories of the British Commonwealth, the clause proposes that it should be possible to make future additions to the act by means of regulations under the act rather than by the introduction of special bills each time. The second main objective is to delete from the Nationality and Citizenship Act those provisions which discriminate between naturalized Australian citizens on the one hand, and Australian-born people on the other, in the matter of loss of citizenship. The Government has decided that such discrimination is undesirable because it is essential to dispel any feeling on the part of our new citizens that they are not fully and wholeheartedly welcomed into our Australian community.
There are three sections of the Nationality and Citizenship Act which provide for the loss of citizenship by naturalized, and registered, citizens in ways which do not apply to the Australian-born citizen. They are sections 20, 21 and 22. Section 20 concerns loss of citizenship by absence for over seven years, without notice of intention to retain citizenship. Section 21 gives the Minister power to deprive a naturalized person of citizenship on grounds of disloyalty, crimes committed after naturalization, bad character at time of naturalization, or acquisition of citizenship through false statements. Section 22 relates to people who have been deprived of citizenship of another British Commonwealth country on grounds similar to those specified in section 21.
The bill, in clauses 6 and 7, proposes to repeal all three of these discriminating sections. The only proposed replacement of them is a provision that a person who is convicted of having made false statements or concealed material circumstances in connexion with his application for naturalization or registration, may be deprived of his citizenship if the Minister decides that this is in the public interest. That is, a man who gains our citizenship by fraud may later be deprived of that status, which he should not have had in the first place. This provision, embodied in clause 8, will become a new section 21 of the principal act. Clause 11 of the bill provides a redraft of section 50 of the act relating to false representations; this is necessary because the existing section 50 makes no reference to concealment of material circumstances, and such concealment could be as misleading as a positive false statement.
The repeal of section 20 of the act means the adoption of the principle that naturalized and registered citizens should not in future lose their citizenship through absence from Australia for over seven years. It is, of course, only just that this principle should be applied retrospectively also, so that persons who have already lost citizenship by reason of section 20 may re-acquire it as a matter of right and by the simplest possible means. Clause 8, therefore, proposes to insert a new section 23a of the act, whereby such persons may make simple declarations of resumption of citizenship which, upon registration, will have the effect of restoring Australian citizenship to the declarants. The remainder of clause 8 does not represent new law. The proposed new section 23 is simply a re-draft in more precise terms of sub-sections (1.) and (2.) of the existing section 23, and the proposed new section 23b is simply a re-statement of the existing sub-section (3.) of section 23.
The remainder of the bill is concerned with other drafting improvements to the existing law on procedural matters, and not with any questions of substance. Clause 4 provides a new definition of the term “ protected person “. The existing definition was found to be too narrow to enable the status of “ protected persons “ to be accorded, as desired, to women who have married natives of our trust territories but who were not themselves born in those territories. Clause 9 is an amendment consequential upon the Migration Bill already considered by Parliament. It is a provision of that bill that the existing “ Certificates of Exemption “, issued to persons being admitted to Australia for temporary stay, are to be replaced by “ temporary entry permits “, and so the reference in section 25 (7.) of the Nationality and Citizenship Act, to persons who arrive in Australia in the future and are issued with “ Certificates of Exemption “ needs to be changed by substituting the term “ temporary entry permit “. Clause 10 proposes a very minor drafting alteration concerning the machinery for making declarations under section 30 of the act.
I have no reason to believe that this bill will be a matter of contention, and I feel, therefore, thatI need make no impassioned or lengthy plea for its acceptance. If there are two subjects on which the Senate is likely to be quite undivided, they are the concept of an expanding British Commonwealth of Nations, and the successful rounding-off of our immigration programme by the swift and happy assimilation of our new settlers. This bill is principally concerned with those two questions, and I commend it to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 18th September (vide page 502).
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That the remainder of the proposed votes in the Second Schedule be considered in the following order: -
Recruiting Campaign, £330,000.
Department of Health, £1,712,000:
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Health, £1,263,000.
Payments to or for the States, £1,750,000.
Department of Customs and Excise, £4,230,000:
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Customs and Excise, £27,700.
Department of the Interior, £4,993,000:
Miscellaneous Services - Department of the Interior, £417,000.
Defence Services - Other Services - Civil Defence, £300,000.
Postmaster-General’s Department, £98,067,000.
Broadcasting and Television Services, £8,475,000.
Australian Capital Territory, £3,559,000.
Department of Immigration, £2,008,000:
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Immigration, £9,615,000.
Department of the Navy, £42,401,000.
Department of Civil Aviation, £11,389,000.
Department of Air, £59,302,000.
Department of Supply, £21,757,000.
Department of Shipping and Transport, £1,189,000:
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Shipping and Transport, £1,973,000.
Construction of Jetty for handling of Explosives, £550,000.
Commonwealth Railways, £3,993,000.
Department of Primary Industry, £1,593,000:
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Primary Industry, £736,000.
Bounties and Subsidies, £13,500,000.
Department of Territories, £293,000.
Northern Territory, £4,938,000.
Norfolk Island, £31,000.
Papua and New Guinea, £12,136,000.
Cocos (Keeling) Islands, £33,000.
Postponed Division No. 86 - Department of Trade, £137,000.
Proposed vote, £330,000.
.- Honorable senators may recall that last year, when the Estimates of the Department of the Army were under discussion, certain comments were made about the accounting systems which operated within that department, and about the attempts that have been made progressively to keep a proper check on stores. It is interesting to note the endeavours which have been made over the years by the Department of the Army to fulfil entirely the requirements of the Auditor-General’ s Department. It is also very interesting to read the following from the Auditor-General’s report for the year ended 30th June, 1958:-
The improvement in accounting for and control of Army stores, referred to in previous reports, continued during the year. There is evidence of departmental action to correct remaining unsatisfactory features which are due, in the main, to one or more of the following causes: -
employment of untrained and inexperienced personnel;
delay in filling vacancies in establishments;
lack of adequate supervision by senior officers;
failure to follow current instructions;
internal checks and surprise stock tests not being carried out regularly;
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! The honorable senator is making a general survey of the Department of the Army and quoting the Auditor-General’s remarks relating to the department in general. The vote for the department has already been agreed to. We are dealing now with Division No. 212 - Recruiting Campaign.
– I respectfully submit that, as this matter comes under the control of the Department of the Army, I am entitled to make a submission. All this relates in a general way to the administrative affairs of the department.
– Order! The honorable senator had the opportuntiy to make his submission when the committee was considering the proposed vote for the Department of the Army. I have listened carefully to ascertain how the honorable senator relates his remarks to the recruiting campaign. He is not in order at this stage in discussing the matter he has raised.
– If you rule that way,. Mr. Chairman, I must submit to your ruling.
– Order! I doso rule.
– I ask the Chair to hear me a little further on the matter. I am not asking for any leniency in connexion with the ruling; I do not wish to avail myself of any privilege at all. Various sums are expended by the department.
– Order! The honorable senator had the opportunity to discuss those matters in relation to a previous item. If he did not avail himself of that opportunity, then I can only say I am sorry. He cannot take the opportunity now.
– Prior to the adjournment of the debate, Senator Byrne had asked for a breakdown of the amount of £240,000 provided for advertising in connexion with the Recruiting Campaign. I should like to make a further request. In addition to that breakdown, I should like the Minister to be good enough to give the Senate some idea of the per unit cost of recruitment.
It is well known that the policy of the Government has deviated considerably from what he have been accustomed to in connexion with not only the permanent services but also the semi-voluntary and partpaid services. It is time we reviewed our policy of recruitment in this connexion and took stock of the position, because there has now developed a haphazard method of recruitment to the semipermanent forces of the Commonwealth. At the moment, young craftsmen, tradesmen, university students and others are drafted to the services. They comprise a big percentage of the military personnel, and, although I admit that the military training is of benefit to these young men, I direct attention to a problem with which this country was confronted in the early stages of World War II. At that time, it was found that many of these highly trained men had to be taken out of the services and put back into essential civil positions. Our highlytrained military, naval and air force personnel had to be denuded to build up the personnel on the civilian side of the defence effort.
The civilian side of defence - the maintenance of essential services, the manufacture of essential goods, munitions and so on - is of greater importance to-day than ever before, and I should like to get from the Minister some idea of what it is costing the department to provide adequate training in our defence services for these young men who, if actual war overtakes us, may be called out of the defence forces and placed in essential callings on the civilian side. 1 should like to know whether the Government is taking cognizance of the fact that we are extremely short of tradesmen, craftsmen and other highly skilled personnel. Ft is certain that, if war should overtake us, these men will not be sent away with the armed forces. Yet, they are still being trained for defence. We should approach this matter logically and ensure that we do not spend the money training men who, on the commencement of hostilities, will be man-powered and withdrawn because they are more urgently needed in a civilian capacity. That kind of thing immediately causes an imbalance in the services. The civilian requirements of the nation must be met at such times, and the withdrawal from the services of essential personnel would certainly take place.
This is about the only opportunity we have to obtain information on these matters from the Government. I respectfully ask the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to tell honorable senators the cost of training the individual serviceman, whether these men are carefully selected, and whether there is any likelihood of their being required for civilian purposes in wartime. Though military training probably has an admirable disciplinary effect it must, if the trainees are’ subsequently withdrawn from the services result in wasteful expenditure and an imbalance in the defence forces at a time when men are most needed.
– I will reply to Senator Cooke as best I can. He really raises matters that go far beyond the vote which is before us. What he really raises is the method of approach to the distribution of man-power in war-time - with all the accompanying implications and complications. I would not argue for one minute against his general thesis that in time of war many young men get into uniform and then have to come out again because they are skilled in some trade and are of more use to the nation out of uniform than in it. However, we are now discussing the vote for recruitment to the armed services. By and large, the aim is to get men into the regular services.
asked how the expenditure was broken up. The answer is that the entire amount will be spent on press advertising. Rightly or wrongly, the service authorities take the view that they get better value for their money by advertising in the press than by using radio, television and so on. The distribution of expenditure as between the various services is subject to a give-and-take arrangement. As the year goes by the emphasis switches from the Army to the Navy, to the Air Force, and so on. About two-thirds of the money is spent on what are called “ general entry “ recruits, and the remaining one-third on specialists such as medical officers, nurses, cadets and apprentices.
I do not wish to shirk making an answer to Senator Cooke’s query on the general man-power position, beyond saying that a consideration of it is hardly applicable to this item. I invite honorable senators to remember that it is aimed substantially at recruiting for the regular armed services. The honorable senator doubtless knows better than I. that a substantial proportion of those who are recruited are taught a trade, or are educated. If their training does not give them the ability to perform as full tradesmen, it at least enables them to do the work that a tradesman is called upon to do in the services. It is a two-way traffic. True it is that in time of war tradesmen have to be taken out of the services and put back into civilian life but, on the other hand, when we are recruiting for the armed services we must keep in mind the fact that we have to train a proportion of the recruits so that they can fulfil the tradesmen requirements of those services.
– I thank the Minister for the information which he has given me, but 1 wish to pursue further this matter of trade training in the armed services.
– I am afraid that I cannot allow the honorable senator to pursue it further. I have been very lenient with him so far.
– The vote before us concerns recruitment.
– That is so, but the honorable senator is going into the working of the services generally. I have been very lenient with him so far. I cannot allow him to pursue the subject further.
– Very well, Mr. Chairman. I will restrict my remarks to the vote before us. The press advertisements for the services set out certain conditions which are designed to encourage young Australians to enlist and to make a career for themselves. The person who enlists is encouraged to do so by being told that a career in, say, the Army, awaits him. He is told that he need have no fears for his future if he enlists under the conditions set out in the advertisement. What I want to say - and I am sure that I am entitled to say it - is that those advertisements are misleading in the extreme. I have of recent date received a number of complaints from young men who have signed up for six years or twelve years in the services expecting, as a result of the newspaper advertisements, to learn a trade and be able eventually to depart from the services as trained personnel. Some of these men did not elect to leave the services. They were told that their contract was terminated. They were not tradesmen. It is dishonest to say, as do the advertisements, that young men, by joining the services, are given a secure future. If we are to spend this money, let us at least spend it honestly.
Young men join the Air Force and are trained as technicians, but when they return to civilian life they possess no training of any real worth. It may be correct, as the Minister for National Development has said, that trade training is given. That training may be sufficient for the purposes of the service in which the young man enlists - though I doubt whether even that would be true in time of war - but it is certainly not sufficient to provide for the civilian future of any young man. He may spend the best years of his life in one of the services, emerge as a married man and still not be equipped with a trade.
There should be some connexion between the training given and the advertisement which encourages young men to undertake that training. If the present method of recruitment continues the Government has a duty to any young man who enlists in good faith, prepared to defend his country, to see that he ends his contract periodproperly trained and ready for absorption into the community. He should be capable of entering his civilian trade fully skilled. A huge amount is spent annually on pressadvertising with a view to fostering recruitment, but all this talk about producing competent tradesmen is nonsense.
I do not, of course, disagree with the expressed aim of that training, but I do not intend to be baulked in my attempt to get from the Government a clear-cut statement on a matter which is of extreme urgency to very many young men who have done their time in the services, have come out married and have found that in civilian life they are virtually regarded as unskilled. That is, indeed, how they are classified amongst civilian tradesmen. I seek from the Government an assurance that it will do more than just spend £247,000 on newspaper advertising to cheat young fellows out of their birthright - the right to become useful citizens of this country. They have the necessary intelligence, health and everything else that the advertisements demand on their side of the contract, but at 28 or 29 years of age, when they leave the services, they find that their country has taken all and has given in return nothing that is recognized as worth while in the labour market. Despite your attitude towards my submission, Mr. Chairman, I state emphatically that the Government is duty bound to make some statement in respect of this matter.
– The statement I make in reply is that I have not heard such arrant nonsense for a long time. I am not a service Minister, and I do not keep all these figures in my mind, but I do remember vividly my own reaction to the recent pay increases. Speaking in general terms, as a result of the recent increases in pay, a young fellow now can enlist in the Army and, within a very short period, can become entitled to a rate of pay substantially in excess of that paid to a skilled tradesman outside. While he is qualifying to become a tradesman, he is paid at a rate equivalent to that which he would have received had he served his apprenticeship outside the services.
The honorable senator spoke about taking away the birthrights of people. The position is that there is a new era in the services as far as conditions are concerned. There has been almost a revolutionary change in that respect. Perhaps I should exaggerate if I said that the present rates of pay for servicemen are equivalent to those enjoyed by skilled tradesmen outside the services. I have not the figures in my mind and I cannot give them accurately, but I am quite certain that the earnings of the men in the services are close to those of skilled tradesmen, especially when we take into consideration all sorts of compensating payments not received by tradesmen outside. The serviceman receives various allowances. He receives allowances for his family and a rental allowance. He is taught his trade under extraordinarily beneficial conditions. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Following the introduction of the new pay code, recruiting has increased. That is not to be wondered at. With all respect to the honorable senator, I say that it is very unfair for him to make such criticism at a time when we are trying to attract people into the services, especially as his criticism is not justified by the facts.
– I thank the Minister for the information he has given me, but it has nothing to do with the subject under consideration. I have no quarrel with the rates of pay and the conditions applicable to servicemen. They are far in advance of anything we have previously experienced. I was simply stressing the fact that when a man finishes his period of Army service he is not fully qualified to take his place as a tradesman outside the service. If he enlists at the age of eighteen years and spends twelve years in the service, he is approximately 30 years of age when he leaves. He is then not qualified as a tradesman in the sense that he can say, “Iama qualified plumber and I want work as a plumber in the civilian community “.
I agree with the present system, and I do not challenge the conditions under which men are trained in the forces. I want some assurance from the Minister to back up the statements made in recruiting advertisements to the effect that when a man leaves the services, he will have a trade. As one who was associated with various trades during the last war and during peacetime, as a union representative, I know that there are required standards for trades. It is up to the services to train men to the required standards so that they will be acceptable as tradesmen when they come out of the services. In view of the promises made in recruiting advertisements, the services should make sure that those who learn trades in the services will be qualified in accordance with the standards laid down in civil life by both unions and employers, so that they can work in those trades when they leave the services. That is all I ask.
– I am interested in Senator Cooke’s remarks. Although I have not had what one might call practical experience of the standards reached by men leaving the Army who are supposed to have been trained in a trade, I have had a lot of experience over many years in that field of endeavour. I am surprised that Senator Cooke at this stage should allege that men trained in the services are not adequately trained. If he had said that twenty years ago, his allegation would have had some substance in it. It is quite true that twenty years ago men in the various trade groups of the three services were not receiving the highly skilled training necessary to enable them to obtain, work as tradesmen in civil life, but I object to the suggestion by Senator Cooke that in these modern times a serviceman who applies himself to the training he can receive in any of the three services cannot obtain a job in civil life when he leaves the service.
What is more, servicemen can be trained in a number of skilled trades in which they would find it impossible to obtain training in civil life. Take the field of electronics, for example. I defy Senator Cooke to tell us that a man can be trained in that field in civil life to the extent to which he can be trained in the Air Force. The suggestion would be preposterous. Men can get much better training in the services, and training in a greater variety of trades, than they could get in civil life. In addition, they are trained as soldiers - a fact that Senator Cooke overlooks.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Health.
Proposed vote, £1,712,000.
.- Many government departments pay subsidies for certain reasons. From this document, I do not think it is possible to assess the total amount that is paid by the various government departments by way of subsidy for some purpose or another. The Department of Health pays a subsidy for the eradication of cattle ticks. It is not generally known that that subsidy is payable only within the State of New South Wales. I should not have risen to mention this matter had it not been that the sum paid last year, on a £1-for-£1 basis, amounted to something like £500,000.
Those who know the habits of cattle ticks will know that it is futile to single out the State of New South Wales, in view of its geographical situation, and say, “ We will eradicate the cattle ticks in that State and leave them in Queensland, to the north “.
– Is not this to stop the ticks from coming into New South Wales from Queensland?
– That is quite right, but the word used here is “ eradication “. I do not interpret the word “ eradication “ as meaning prevention.
There are more cattle men on the other side of the chamber than on this side, and they know the importance of the payment of this subsidy. This sum has been paid for a number of years, and I have not the slightest doubt that, before any payment was made, the whole matter was fully investigated not only by the Commonwealth Department of Health but also by the New South Wales Department of Agriculture-. But to my mind, as I said a while ago, it is just futile to pay out more than £500,000 per annum for the purpose of eradicating the tick in New South Wales if we do not do likewise for Queensland. As the Minister pointed out a while ago, the cattle tick is confined to Queensland. If New South Wales wants a few buffalo flies too, probably we could send some of those down from Queensland.
I return to what I said earlier. Many Commonwealth departments are paying subsidies to State government departments and other authorities, but we do not become aware of them until we examine the Estimates. On some occasion when I have the time at my disposal I shall go through the Estimates and ascertain what is paid out by the various departments in the form of subsidies. The Minister has his experts at hand, so he might inform, me why New South Wales is singled out in respect of this subsidy.
– The short answer is that the cattle in Queensland are riddled with ticks. For the purposes of the exercise, what was done by the Commonwealth and the New South Wales Government was to take action to prevent the tick from entering New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia from Queensland.
.- If the information supplied by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) is correct, the heading in these Estimates is incorrect. The word “ eradication “ is used. If there are ticks in New South Wales, it is the responsibility of the Government of that State to eradicate them.
– But they are Queensland ticks.
– Can the honorable senator distinguish a New South Wales tick from a Queensland tick?
– Yes. They are unique:.
– They all have the tick in Queensland, have they not?
– We have hire purchase and many other forms of tick, of course. On many occasions the Minister presents the views of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), and he just cannot brush aside lightly the tax potential of any State. The Government must build up the economies of the States and make the States as productive as possible because of their tax potential. The fact that thousands of head of cattle die annually because of the tick, red water and foot and mouth disease, is not a matter for mirth. The fact that the sum paid under this heading to New South Wales exceeds £500,000 is evidence that the expenditure is warranted. It is clear that the Commonwealth Government does not want the tick to spread further south. If, as the Minister says, this sum is paid for the purpose of preventing the spread of tick from Queensland to New South Wales, the onus is on the Department of Health to have the heading which appears in these Estimates changed immediately.
– When I rose a little while ago to get the call, several honorable senators opposite thought I was going to deal with the question of ticks. Although that was not my intention, I remember a very good story about ticks. A political candidate who was a Dutchman was talking on one occasion about cattle ticks. After a long and dreary speech he sat down and a young man at the back of the hall rose and asked if the speaker knew the difference between a cattle tick and a bed tick. The speaker said, “ Gentlemen, I do not know da difference between a cattle tick and a bed tick, but I do know da difference between a cattle tick and a blutty lunatic “.
– Order !
-I do not want to be disorderly, Mr. Chairman. I refer to Division No. 83, and desire to ask a question relative to the censorship of broadcast scripts that have to be sent to Canberra for approval. I want to know who the gentlemen were who examined the scripts for certain broadcasts and censored them. On occasions, these gentlemen have cut out the scripts completely and on other occasions they have deleted words and sentences. A script has been sent down and returned untouched to the gentleman who wanted to make the broadcast, and on another occasion the same script has been censored and sentences deleted.
– Order! Will the honorable senator be good enough to tell me what item he is talking about?
– Certainly, I shall be good enough. I am a most amiable senator.
– Order! I should be very pleased to know. I havenot yet been able to find the relevant item under Division No. 83.
– You may be mentally obfuscated, Mr. Chairman.
– Order! To what part of Division No. 83 is the honorable senator referring?
– Provision is made for general expenses and for salaries and payments in the nature of salary. I was asking, Mr. Chairman, whether I was in order in referring to those people who censor broadcast scripts that are sent to the Department of Health. Those scripts have to be sent to Canberra for examination. Let us take the case of a dietician. He may wish to make a broadcast, but before he makes the broadcast he has to submit his script to Canberra for examination. The Department of Health goes through the script, through the medium of some official whose name I do not know and whose initials I cannot decipher, because they are like an Egyptian hieroglyph. However, I have noticed that in respect of two scripts which were similar in every way, there were two different sets of hieroglyphics, and I could not say what the initials were on either of them. Yet, one script was permitted to pass and the other was censored. My simple question, Mr. Chairman, is: Who are these people, and what are their qualifications to examine such scripts?
– What is it costing?
– I am not bothered about what it is costing. 1 want to know who these people are, and what their qualifications are. I want to know why two scripts can be examined by two different gentlemen of the Public Service, and why one of them is censored and the other is uncensored.
.- I refer to Division No. 84.- General Expenses, item 8, Incidental and other expenditure. The proposed vote this year is £278,000. Expenditure last year was £175,873 and the appropriation was £175,874. I must congratulate the department on being able to estimate to within £1 of last year’s expenditure. I should think, Mr. Chairman, that normally an item “ Incidental and other expenditure “ should not need to be split up, but when there is a jump in the appropriation of approximately £103,000, the Senate deserves an explanation, particularly as it was possible, last year, to estimate the likely expenditure to within £1 of the actual expenditure. Could this item be dissected, so that “ Incidental and other expenditure “ will be more in keeping with the general understanding of such an item?
.- The Minister is very good at supplying information, and I therefore refer him to a statement made in the report of the Auditor-General, relating to the Canberra Abattoir. The statement reads -
Financial statements for 1954-55 and 1955-56 were not submitted by the Department for audit.
The Minister has had considerable experience as an auditor, and he will probably want to know why those statements were not sent. The Auditor-General’s report continues -
When this Report was compiled, financial statements for 1957-58 had not been received.
Perhaps the Minister will be good enough to inform me of the present position in regard to this matter.
– The Commonwealth Government subsidizes organizations engaged in providing domiciliary nursing services. I have examined all the votes, but I cannot find where the subsidy for those nursing services is shown. Could the Minister please inform me of the amount of subsidy that has been paid?
– In answer to Senator Wedgwood, the subsidy for district nursing comes under the National Welfare Fund, not under the Department of Health. In regard to the matter raised by Senator Benn, I point out that the Department of Health understood that, under the ordinance, it was not required to submit the accounts to the Auditor-General for audit. However, following the Auditor-General’s comment, the accounts which were available in the Department of Health have now been sent to the Auditor-General. In answer to Senator Cooke, the information that I have been given is that the rise in incidental and other expenditure is due mainly to an increase of £70,000 for works projects and £31,000 for royalty payments.
– I did not raise this matter idly. I was concerned with the method of showing such large incidental expenditure as a lump sum, although in respect of items involving very much smaller amounts details have been given. Would it not be possible for this item of incidental and other expenditure, which now accounts for more than £250,000, to be set out in some detail? After all, the Parliament has a real interest in the Budget and is not concerned only with lump sum figures.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Miscellaneous Services
Department of Health, £1,263,000; Part 4. - Payments to or for the States, £1,750,000- agreed to.
– Mr. Chairman, I call your attention to the speed with which those items were dealt with. You will remember, Sir, that last week objection was taken to the unnecessary haste with which the Estimates were being considered. In less than a minute we have voted the appropriation of several million pounds.
– The question was raised last week, and I said then that if no honorable senator was rising, or on his feet, I would put the question, and I have done so. No honorable senator was either rising or on his feet when I asked, “ Are there any requests?”
– May I ask the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) whether he proposes to deal with Division No. 86, consideration of which was deferred last week?
– I am ready to do so, but I thought that as it was Senator McKenna who had raised the matter, I would wait until he was in the chamber.
– We might as well consider it now and get it over.
– I am happy to do that.
That intervening votes be postponed till after the consideration of postponed Division No. 86.
Department of Trade.
Postponed Division No. 86 - Tariff Board.
Proposed vote, £137,000.
– As requested by Senator McKenna, I have obtained from the Department of Trade an explanation of the matter that was raised last week, and perhaps I may be permitted to read it. In its report on 22nd April last, the Tariff Board informed the department of the disability of the timber industry in Western Australia, and also in Tasmania, due to fluctuations in sea freights from overseas to Australia and high freight rates in Australian waters. It made no recommendation in the matter but expressed the view that the attention of the Government should be directed to the need to find a solution of the problem, which it regarded as one for the interstate shipping industry, rather than for the timber industry - that is, a shipping matter, not a timber matter.
The Government referred the matter to the Inter-departmental Committee on Transport. This committee was set up by the Government some time ago to examine and report to the Cabinet transport committee on transport problems generally. It consists of representatives of the Departments of Shipping and Transport, Treasury, Prime Minister, National Development, Primary Industry and Labour and National Service. Representatives of the Departments of Trade and Customs and Excise, and also of the Forestry and Timber Bureau, were added to the committee for its examination of the freights on timber. Subsequent to the Cabinet decision, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) met representatives of the timber industry in Sydney on 20th June, 1958, and agreed to ask the committee to examine timber freights from north Queensland ports. The committee met only once, in Canberra on 7th August. Prior to mat meeting, the Department of Shipping and Transport - which is the department primarily concerned - made a preliminary examination of the position, so that the committee would be aware of the facts when it considered the application. As I say, the committee met on 7th August, and decided that further information should be sought. The information is still being obtained, but it is expected that it will be available shortly.
The timber industry associations in the States concerned have been given an opportunity of making submissions to the committee. The Western Australian submission was received early this month, and the Tasmanian association’s submission was received only last week. The north Queensland interests have not yet made a submission to the committee.
The Tariff Board made a report in April and the Government then set up a committee. The Government got in touch with the industry and asked whether it wanted to make any representations. Some representations have been received. The committee is still deliberating.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m.
Department of Customs and Excise.
Proposed vote, £4,230,000.
.- -I take this opportunity to bring up, once again, a matter in which I am interested and in which the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) also is interested. I should like to pay a tribute to the Minister, who has been very courteous to me in relation to the matter, and I feel sure that before many months have passed there will be a change of attitude by the department towards certain people. I think that, over the years, a grave injustice has been done to a number of people. Owing to certain flaws in the legislation, second-hand motor cars have been seized from people who have bought them because, forsooth, the vehicles have not been in this country for the prescribed period of two years. I have referred previously in this chamber to the fact that a second-hand motor car purchased by Mr. Ansett had been seized. I am not aware of the details of this seizure, but if the circumstances are similar to those of other cases that have been brought to my notice, possibly a grave injustice has been done to this gentleman.
Of course, I realize that the departmental officers must carry out their duties. If a second-hand motor car which has not been in this country for a period of two years is sold, it is the duty of the officers to seize the vehicle, to hold it, and subsequently to sell it by public auction. However, I understand that over the years a number of vehicles in this category have been seized and then used by the Government, without suitable recompense being made to the victims from whom the cars were seized. I have knowledge of one or two cases of this kind. I cannot speak about the particular case in which I am interested at the moment because legal action has been taken. A writ has been issued to restrain the Government from selling the particular car.
I know of occasions on which innocent people have been persuaded by motor car salesmen to buy certain second-hand cars.
They have been told that the cars had been cleared by the Customs, and documents were produced showing that duty had been assessed and paid on the vehicles. There was even an endorsement to the effect that the cars had been imported on -such and such a date under licence number so and so. It is easy for an ordinary person who buys a motor car only once in a blue moon to be taken in. In one case of which I have knowledge, a person bought a secondhand motor car which remained in his possession for twelve months. After he had re-registered the vehicle, it was seized by the department and sold. The man did not receive a penny piece in compensation, because he happened to be involved in something contrary to the law. Although he himself was innocent, the law provides that a second-hand car imported into this country may not be sold for two years. I think I am right in saying that; and I ask the Minister to correct me if I am wrong. I have known instances in which persons who have bought second-hand cars and subsequently spent money on them have suffered a considerable loss through the vehicles being seized.
The breach to which I am referring is only a technical one. Let us consider the case of a man who pays £3,000 for a secondhand motor car and is subsequently penalized - fined, as it were - because, forsooth, a crook sold him the vehicle. A certain modus operandi is adopted in these matters. After cars are brought into the country - I believe that on occasions quite a number have been brought in - a car dealer pays a few pounds to an individual to act as a go-between. In this capacity, the man who is supposed to own the car sells it to an innocent person, and when the Department of Customs and Excise gets on to it - which may take anything up to three years - the car is seized. Is it right and proper that a person who has himself done no wrong should be mulct in the sum of £3,000, or whatever amount he paid for the vehicle? It is wrong that he should be required to part with his motor car, which is then either sold to the public by auction or used by the department. I understand that there is in existence a Cabinet minute to the effect that cars so seized shall not now be used by the department, but must be sold publicly. Judging from the approach that the Minister has made to the question of banned books, I am confident that he will deal with the matter I have raised in a reasonable way. Conferences have taken place, I believe, between the Minister and his departmental officers, and perhaps, before many moons have waxed and waned, the Government, through the Minister, will take action to safeguard the innocent victims of crooks who are out to rob people.
It has been stated that a person who buys a second-hand imported motor vehicle before it has been in the country for two years is in a position similar to a person who buys stolen goods. I do not think the position is analagous. If a man knowingly buys stolen goods, he must pay the penalty, whereas a victim of crooks such as I have mentioned does not actually break any law; he commits a technical breach by purchasing a car that has not been in the country for two years. I do not know what the position would be if the car had been in the country for just under two years. Does not the Minister think - I have a good idea as to his thoughts - that a grave injustice is done to a person whose motor car is seized in the circumstances I have outlined? Of course. I believe that if such a person had acted in collusion with the person who brought the car to this country, and he knew that the vehicle had not been here for two years, he should be punished. But it is a terrible thing that a motor car for which an innocent person has paid £3,000 should be taken from him and sold by public auction.
My purpose in pursuing this matter is to point out to the Minister the grave injustice that is being done to innocent people. Some time ago, I placed a question on the notice-paper, in which I asked to be informed how many motor cars had been seized and sold during the last few years. I have not yet received a reply. T do not know how many cars have been so seized and sold during the last few years; the number may be 20 or even 30. But even if only one vehicle has been seized in recent years, if an injustice has been done, the Government should see that the innocent victim gets his car back.
– Perhaps I should reply to some of the matters raised by Senator Brown. He is not quite right in saying that if an imported car is sold within two years the car is seized. There are several reasons why a car may be seized. In the case of cars recently seized, import licences for the cars were obtained by the use of forged documents. When the department became aware of those circumstances the law was implemented. However, the honorable senator is quite right in saying that, after seizure, all cars are sold by public auction. In those cases the person who claims ownership may take legal action against the department. It is only after expiry of the time given to the individual to institute such steps that the car becomes the property of the Commonwealth and is then sold by public auction. Three such cars were sold in Sydney to-day, one realizing £5,000, one £4,700 and the third £1,820. That car was a rather older model.
As Senator Brown has said, such cars have sometimes changed hands after being imported, and other people have bought them not knowing at the time that the cars had been imported, and subsequently sold, contrary to the regulations.
– Would that be so in the great majority of cases?
– I would not like to say. I have knowledge of particular cars only when representations are made to me by an individual. It then becomes an administrative matter. The law, as it stands, must be implemented. The owners of the three cars sold by public auction to-day did not dispute that the cars were brought into Australia contrary to the regulations. The particular car mentioned by Senator Brown is the subject of a High Court writ against the Government. The matter, therefore, is sub judice and I cannot discuss it. I am dealing now only with cars in the broad sense.
A great deal of misunderstanding exists. I have made press statement after press statement urging the people of Australia, before buying second-hand luxury American cars, to contact the Department of Customs and Excise, give the engine number and the registered number of the car, and obtain from the department in writing an assurance that the car may be purchased without fear of its being seized later. The racket in second-hand American cars which previously existed was cleared up about two years ago when provision was made in the law that, in addition to the owner of the car having to give a bond to the Department of Customs and Excise to cover the amount of duty and sales tax payable on the car, we have power to assess the amount of profit that would be made if the car were sold outside the terms under which it was brought into Australia. Since that provision has been in existence no difficulties have arisen because there is no longer any profit to be made by the importation of such cars as, if the law is broken - and we do not apply these provisions unless a man deliberately breaks the law - the cash bond is forfeited.
– Does the Government still take the car in those circumstances?
– The Government certainly does. Such cars are prohibited imports. As I have stated, since the system of the cash bond was instituted about two years ago, no trouble has been experienced.
Senator Brown should understand that quite a number of cars come into the country legitimately, and, therefore, may be sold legitimately. A person who has owned a car, and driven it continuously for eighteen months in an overseas country, and is returning to take up permanent residence in Australia, is entitled to bring back a car with him as a personal effect. That car enters the country duty and sales tax free. The owner of the car signs a bond that he will not sell it for two years. The reason for that requirement is that at the expiration of that period the car is then three and one-half years old, and it is reasonable that, after such a lapse of time, no great profit will be made when the car is sold.
Senator Brown mentioned the case of a car that had passed through three or four hands. He asked a question to-day on such a matter and all honorable senators, no doubt, are aware of my reply. In no way was Mr. Ansett involved in bringing the car into the country. He bought it from a dealer, and was unaware of the circumstances surrounding its importation.
People who own cars that have been seized have recourse to the courts to obtain redress from the people from whom the car was purchased. When their civil remedies have been exhausted, if they can demonstrate to my department that the civil action they have taken has produced no results and that they have no other recourse, my department then will give sympathetic consideration to any representations they may make. However, as a prerequisite, they must have exhausted their civil approaches. Honorable senators should appreciate that this particular aspect raises administrative difficulties.
– What kind of representations must be made to the department?
– In the first place, the person concerned must satisfy the department that he is, in effect, an innocent party. He must then satisfy the department that he has taken all the civil action open to him against the person from whom he bought the car. If the person who sold the car is shown to be a man of straw, and the plaintiff’s solicitor certifies that redress is impossible, the owner of the car is then in a position to establish that he is an innocent party.
– Do you suggest that the department will then return the money to him?
– I do not suggest anything. I said that the matter would be given sympathetic consideration. I have tried to give a fair and open explanation of the action of my department in these cases. I think I have pretty well covered the matters raised by Senator Brown, and I have nothing further to add.
– I refer to the proposed vote for the Department of Customs and Excise, and in particular to the statement appearing at the bottom of page 43 of the Estimates reading: “ For statement showing actual cost of Department of Customs and Excise, see Budget Papers 1958-59 “. I should like to make a request of the Minister concerning rebates of the diesel fuel tax. I notice that during the year 1957-58, the sum of £1,314,415 was paid out and that this year it is estimated that the repayment will amount to £886,000. I should like to know whether this scheme is working smoothly so far as the Customs Department is concerned, for this department collects the diesel fuel tax and, under an amending act, pays out the refunds. Despite repeated applications by various industries, the Government has refused to give any concessions to any particular industry. The
Minister will remember that when the diesel fuel tax legislation was first introduced requests came from all sections of industry seeking exemption.
Now that the system appears to be working smoothly, I should say the time is appropriate for the Government to investigate the position of some of the industries which are seriously affected by this tax and to consider how adversely the tax is affecting some parts of the Commonwealth. I refer in particular to the adverse effects it is having on the north-west of Western Australia. Parts of that area are not served by any form of transport other than road vehicles which use diesel fuel. In those particular areas, costs of transport are very high indeed. Some of the stations there have to pay for the carriage of goods and produce necessary for the running of the properties over distances of 500 miles and more. The effect of the legislation introduced by this Government has been to increase those costs considerably. As the people in that part of Australia do not enjoy the benefits of either rail transport or shipping, but have to rely entirely on road transport using diesel fuel, they have been burdened with the extra cost of diesel fuel on the carriage of their goods. I should like to know whether there is any possibility of having their position reviewed. Is it within the Minister’s jurisdiction, as collector of this diesel fuel tax, to review cases such as that? If it is, I ask that he be lenient towards those people who live in remote areas.
Further, as the amount being collected by way of diesel fuel tax this year is approximately 50 per cent, less than that collected last year, are we to take it that there will be no further rebates of this tax? I should like to know also whether the oil companies, which are now operating in conjunction with the Government in collecting this tax, are working in harmony with the Government, or whether the Government sees cause for alarm in the prospect of allowing the companies to continue helping with the administration of this legislation.
– I thank the Minister for his courteous reply, but I should like to make one more point. I learned the other day that the company from which Mr. Ansett bought his car will reimburse him. Let me now put a hypothetical case, the case of a man who buys a car in good faith from a crook company which uses a dummy who, to use the Minister’s words, is a man of straw. Suppose that the department prosecutes the dummy and he is fined £10. Suppose also that the victim bought the motor car for £3,000. The purchaser of the car would only be throwing good money after bad in taking the dummy to court. This dummy might be only an ordinary labourer, or some person who has been used and paid £20 or £30 for acting as a dummy. Suppose that the department knows and admits that the victim would only be wasting his time in taking the dummy to court.
In circumstances such as those, the position now is that the Minister and the department investigate the case and, even though they may be completely satisfied that the man who bought the luxury car for £3,000 was the innocent victim of a ruse adopted by a crook company and a dummy who sold the car illegally, they will merely look at the case sympathetically. That is completely wrong. That would ‘not satisfy me, not would it satisfy any other honorable senator who might happen to be the victim in such circumstances. The law should lay it down definitely that if a person has been (he innocent victim of crooks, and if he has carried out the law as far as he knew it, he should have his car back.
I admit, of course, that if the department has incurred certain debts for storing the car and incurred certain costs in selling it, reimbursement should be forthcoming to the department; but I would submit that the innocent victim in a case such as the one I have mentioned should either have his car back or be paid the value of it. This should be laid down in our legislation, it should not be left to the discretion of the Minister or the department. I feel confident that if the Minister found himself in a position similar to that of the victim, he would admit the justice of my argument. I give the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) credit for wanting to do the right thing. I do not propose to abuse, vilify, or criticize him because, from the bottom of my heart, I believe that he is anxious to do what is correct. Therefore, in cases such as the hypothetical one that I have described, the car in question should be returned, lt should not be a question of treating the matter sympathetically. That is the point that I want to make, and I hope that when such a case comes along in future the Minister will exercise any power he may have to ensure that the innocent victim gets back his car.
.- lt would be as well to inject into this demonstration of near-inanity an element of common sense. What 1 should like to suggest briefly to the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) is that there should be a simple arrangement for cooperation between the Department of Customs and Excise and those State departments charged with the registration of motor vehicles. Under such an arrangement the registrars of motor vehicles in the various States would regard it as their duty, before registering a car, to ascertain from the department that the importation was correct. The public registries of the States could give a bona fide purchaser an assurance that he would not be deceived by a crook. It is a matter for some reflection that my purpose is to prevent deception by crooks, and in this I am in line with those who have previously spoken.
– I refer to Schedule IX.- Department of Customs and Excise - Film Censorship. Last year’s appropriation is set out, but this year’s appropriation is described as being included with Division No. 79. Can the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) say whether the film censorship personnel has been changed or is it merely that the entry has been changed from one section to another? I note that last year the sum of £14,400 was expended on this work. Where can one find details of the staff engaged in film censorship? Is it included, in bulk, in Division 79, or are the details set out in Division 80?
– The details were previously shown separately, but they are now lumped together. The staff has been increased by two since it has had the task of censoring television films. The details of staff are given in Schedule IX. - Administrative - Central Staff. The salary of the Chief Film Censor is given as £2,556. The only other permanent member of the staff is the Film Cutter. The other censors are temporary employees.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Miscellaneous Services - Department of Customs and Excise, £27,700- agreed to.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed vote, £4,993,000.
.- I wish to refer to Division No. 70C - News and Information Bureau - item 2, “ Film production, £60,000 “. I notice that is the same amount as was appropriated and spent last year. I find this a disappointing vote in view of the importance that films are assuming in national and international life. Last year, we spent £60,000 in making films and almost 60 per cent, as much in censoring imported films. The actual expenditure upon censorship was £36,000. I do not dispute the necessity for censorship but I feel that, using the News and Information Department as a nucleus, a very positive lead could be given to the film industry - as is done in Italy.
I think that it is true to say that the film industry has helped the post-war reconstruction of Italy more than has any other single industry. In that country the State encourages the making of Italian films in this way: Exhibitors are obliged to show Italian films - over 2,000 metres - for at least twenty days a quarter. They must also include in their programmes for periods equivalent to at least six months a year Italian short films and newsreels. All films thus shown receive a bonus consisting of a percentage of receipts of the theatre showing them. In the case of long films these bonuses amount to 10 per cent, of the gross receipts of the theatre. The State insists on the production of films of good quality and artistic merit. Although the State provides technical assistance in an endeavour to bring this about the director and producer are entirely free to choose their own subject-matter. Italian legislation also provides that, for the film to qualify for the subsidy, a certain percentage of the technicians and actors must be Italian.
This is the middle of the twentieth century and our own film industry is crying out for national aid. Producers - largely of short films and short features - are doing their very best with the limited facilities at their disposal. I think it is true to say that films, whether televised or shown in a theatre, provide the most important medium of instruction, entertainment or propaganda - using the word in its best sense - that the twentieth century has developed.
– Did the honorable senator say “ entertainment “?
– I did, and I do not think the honorable senator would challenge me on that point. It is a tragedy that our film industry, which got away to such a flourishing start at the beginning of the century, is in danger of extinction unless the Government takes positive measures to save it. Under the Colombo plan the Government gives ready aid to underdeveloped countries of South-East Asia, but I believe that for every Asian who sees an Australian tractor or diesel locomotive, 100 see a Japanese, American or Indian film, and pay for doing so. I believe that the amount of goodwill built up in South-East Asia depends much more upon films than upon the giving of more concrete assistance. I would think that, for example, Gina Lollobrigida is better known in Colombo -than is any Australian diesel locomotive. The point I make is that people in those countries pay to see a film exhibited, whereas under the Colombo plan we give - I am not criticizing the giving - our goods away for the purpose of earning goodwill.
In this country we have a substantial supply of acting, technical and producing talent which, to some extent, is lying fallow because of lack of financial assistance. Australia started to produce films early - in the century, but the coming of the sound film and the depression almost together in the early 30’s had the effect of almost stamping out our industry. That, associated with the tie-up of American and British distributing houses, makes it very difficult for Australian producers to have their films shown. I believe in the virtues of private enterprize, but that does not mean that I do not believe that a government should take a hand in encouraging production of the medium which is now the main expression of culture in the modern world.
Other countries have protected their film industries. I have referred briefly already to Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, France and, to a limited extent, the United Kingdom have all seen fit to recognize the importance of this industry. Instead of spending small amounts like £60,000, as we are doing on our News and Information Service, they give tangible and concrete assistance to their film industries. Japan - a defeated nation, a nation that received the impact of the first atomic bombs, a nation that had two of its cities wiped out - now leads the world in the production of films. Because of that, it has a substantial lead from a propaganda point of view in South-East Asia.
The success of the Elizabethan Theatre Trust is a clear indication that Australians are anxious to have their own productions and that they would support Australian films if some impetus could be given by the Government to overcome the serious inertia which is the blight of this important industry. I know that the making of “ shorts “ for television and the making of feature films involve different technical considerations, but I believe that the showing of films that feature an Australian background is just as important to us as sending our goods overseas. I was about to say it was as important as sending our wheat and our wool overseas, but I will not go as far as that. 1 suppose that, nine times out of ten, when we pick up a thriller or a novel, or watch a television show, the intelligent detective comes from Scotland Yard and the body is found on the Thames embankment. The thriller goes on from that point. 1 am not saying that Australian cultural productions should be based upon the showing of murder thrillers abroad, but I do believe that, for the purpose of overcoming the great ignorance that exists throughout the world in relation to the Australian background and Australian institutions, such stories would lose nothing by being filmed here with the Russell-street police headquarters in Melbourne taking the place of Scotland Yard.
– What about New South Wales?
– I am speaking about a city of which I know something. Perhaps the Yarra bank could take the place of the Thames embankment, and Australian transport, Australian industries and Australian activities could form a background for the adventures and excitement described in the stories.
I ask the Minister, therefore: Will he examine in a sympathetic frame of mind the request that some form of assistance be given to the Australian film industry? I am not specific on the particular method to be adopted, but I ask that some form of assistance be given, whether it be by way of subsidy on footage bounty on films produced, the establishment of a quota for theatres and television programmes, the setting up of a form of entertainment tax or such other method as to the Government might seem good. The main thing, Mr. Chairman, that I ask the Minister, is that he examine the principle involved and submit a recommendation to the Government in the hope that this important Australian industry will not die for lack of support.
– It is extraordinary that I should be supporting Senator Hannan on this matter. If I had made the suggestion before he did. he would have called me a socialist, or said that I am associated with the Commos or something of that nature. The position is that he is now advocating something that we on this side have believed in for years. We believe that Australia should be advertised and that, for the purpose of advertising Australia and building up our industries, assistance should be given by the Government. Honorable senators opposite tell us that they believe in private enterprise, but it is extraordinary how often they get up and say, “ Mr. Minister, will you give us a subsidy for this?” or, “ Mr. Minister, will you arrange for this assistance from the funds of the Government?” They want Government assistance so that private enterprise can do something and make a profit out of it. That is quite extraordinary, I think. It will not be long before a few more honorable senators will be bobbing up from the other side with requests of this kind. That will put another nail in the coffin of the present Government, because they will shift over to this side very soon.
I want to know whether it is possible to assist our entertainment industry, first, by assisting Actors’ Equity, the members of which are involved in the production of plays and films, and secondly, by the Government devising some method whereby there can be produced, other than through the News and Information Service, films depicting Australian life and Australian scenes. We could use such films, not only to show Australia to people overseas, but also to teach some Australians just what Australia is like. Could something be done in that connexion?
– By way of answer to Senator O’Flaherty, let met say that I have never heard members of the Labour party suggest that help should be given to private enterprise. I have heard them suggest that private enterprises should be taken over entirely. We are suggesting that the Government help private enterprise to help itself. In addition to the request made by Senator Hannan - which I support entirely - I should like to ask the Minister whether he would consider some way of assisting private enterprise to provide more suitable films for children. We get children’s films from the British film market, but I believe that only three copies of each film come to Australia, and New South Wales seems to have a prior claim. While they are doing the rounds of New South Wales, other States are starved of suitable films for children. We need more films. I am not suggesting that the Government can produce the films.
– I rise to order. I should like to know, Mr. Chairman, what proposed vote we are discussing now.
– Order! We are considering the proposed vote for the News and Information Bureau. Senator Buttfield is discussing the question of film production.
– That vote has nothing to do with private enterprise.
– Order! Senator Buttfield is in order.
– I was suggesting Mr. Chairman, that, as we have not many films for children - indeed, I believe there are not many such films available in the world - the Government might encourage its film unit to make more suitable documentaries to supplement the few that are already available.
However, I wanted to use most of my time in referring to a matter that is covered by the proposed vote for the Department of Works.
– Order! We have not reached that proposed vote yet.
– I wish to refer to the proposed vote for the Electoral Branch, and to raise the question of the enlistment of officers for the manning of polling booths at election time. This matter has been raised repeatedly for some years. Senator Wade has asked questions about it, but I think that during this debate we should get more satisfactory information on it. The position is that the Commonwealth enlists the services of trained personnel, who hold fairly good positions, to man polling booths. But the remuneration that is offered has dwindled in value to such a degree that it is insufficient to attract efficient personnel.
As a general rule, when the Electoral Branch requires the services of these people, it indicates its desire to them. A considerable number of these people have declined to make their services available, but those who have obliged and have accepted the payment have not been adequately compensated, nor have they been satisfied with it. I think we should consider making the remuneration more comparable with the responsibilities that these people accept, lt is all right to suggest that other people will undertake the work, but we want the most efficient, dependable and honest people for this kind of work. It would be a most serious thing in a democracy if polling offices were not staffed by upright, efficient and knowledgeable persons. But the rate that is at present paid is an insult to that kind of person, and it is high time that it was reviewed.
I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), who is representing the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), whether it is intended to review the rate and whether the position is to be brought more into line with that in the States. A perusal of these estimates does not reveal any provision for an improvement, but I should like the Minister to inform me what the position is.
– I refer to Division No. 71 - Rent of Buildings. The sum that is to be paid this year for the rent of buildings in the various capital cities, and doubtless elsewhere, is £1,003,000. I should say that a substantial proportion of that sum will be paid for the rent of buildings in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia. Probably, the position in South Australia compares unfavorably with that in the other States.
I know this matter has been treated more or less as a hardy annual, but I still feel that I am justified in raising it again. Not only have Senator Laught and I raised it, but I think Senator O’Flaherty also has spoken about it.
The amount of money that the Department of the Interior is paying in rent is quite inordinate, and it could be considerably curtailed if the Government would take the necessary steps to obtain building sites in Adelaide and erect on them buildings commensurate with their importance. Any one who wishes to transact business with various government departments in Adelaide must go to different parts of the city. For example, members of this Parliament are housed, not in one building, but in two buildings. Some of the members are housed in the C.M.L. building in Hindley-street, and others are in the Bank of New South Wales building. The offices are quite good as offices go, but they are separated. I. believe there should be some central place, which would be accessible to the public, to house members of the Parliament.
If, as many of us and as many private citizens wish to do, you want to go to the Department of Social Services, you must go to a somewhat remote building in Gawlerplace. Really, the only way to find one’s way to the various departments is to consult a telephone directory. Another department - I think it is the Department of Works - is located in the Da Costa building. These offices are all quite well fitted out, but they are not easy of access to the general public. It is desirable that Commonwealth departments be housed as near as possible to one another in order to provide for greater efficiency.
The Department of Immigration is somewhere down North-terrace and the Department of Labour and National Service is a long way removed down Currie-street. The fact that some of these offices are considerably removed causes a lot of inconvenience to the public and inefficiency in the departments themselves. The Electoral Branch, too, is in Currie-street. I make a further plea for something to be done in Adelaide, which is the most poorly off of the capital cities in regard to centralized office accommodation for the federal departments. We have some excellent sites available in the centre of the city. For instance, there is a good site available in Victoria-square, where a suitable building or buildings could be constructed. In other cities, we see what is being done in regard to the housing of the government departments. I have always thought that South Australia has been particularly badly off in this respect, and I would like the Government to obtain the necessary site or sites with a view to housing most, at any rate, of the Commonwealth departments in Adelaide in a central position, to enable greater efficiency and to meet the convenience of people who need to consult those departments.
– In reply to Senator Hannaford, may I state that rents paid in Adelaide amount to £166,000, of the £1,003,000 total rentals. That is not to say that Adelaide is not an important city. Of course, it is. It has been the policy of the Government, as I .think honorable senators are aware, to build centralized Commonwealth offices in the various cities of the Commonwealth. Already, one such building has been almost completed in Melbourne - one of five. When I was a member of the Public Works Committee, I had something to do with that particular centre. At that stage, 70 buildings were occupied by Commonwealth Government departments in Melbourne. Most of the buildings were owned by private owners, the majority of whom wanted the buildings back and had been trying to get them back ever since the end of the war. Therefore the Government, I think rightly, made a start in Melbourne, where 70 buildings were occupied by Commonwealth departments. I believe that the Melbourne project will be a tremendous success. Eventually, there will be five buildings, of modern architectural design, the idea being to bring the whole of the activities of the Commonwealth for the State of Victoria into one centre.
We are also doing the same in Sydney Honorable senators may know of the plans for extension of Elizabeth-street and the closing of Phillip-street. We are working in co-operation with the Sydney City Council and the State Government, and we have completed plans for a building in that city. Naturally enough, since Sydney and Melbourne are the two biggest centres of population in Australia, those are the places where the immediate call is, and that is where the first centres will be built. I should think that by far the greater part of the £1,003,000 total rents paid by the Commonwealth at the moment would be payable in Melbourne. Such rents would include the rent of buildings for use as stores for the armed services, and so on.
It is quite true, as Senator Hannaford has said, that all South Australian senators, from both sides of the chamber, have brought this matter before the Government frequently. I think that there is a call for such a building in Adelaide, and no doubt it will be undertaken in line with the policy of the Government to build Commonwealth centres in all cities as soon as possible. But we cannot do everything at the one time. I am sure that the Minister will bear in mind the representations of South Australian senators.
In relation to the matter raised by Senator Cooke, concerning electoral staff, I gave an answer to Senator Sheehan on the same subject only recently. On that occasion, I stated that payments made to polling officials are in the nature of fees rather than wages, and have always been regarded as such. Registration as an electoral official is purely voluntary, and many people seek registration because they feel they are rendering a community service. The fees are in no way related to an official’s normal means of livelihood, but are merely a recognition of the services rendered. The present fees compare favorably with the amounts paid to the officials by both State and municipal authorities for similar services, and are considered reasonable.
I undertake to bring the matter of films, mentioned by several honorable senators, to the notice of the Minister for the Interior.
– I also refer to Division No. 71 - Rent of buildings, the proposed vote for which is £1,003,000. Last year’s appropriation was £1,013,513. Those are considerable sums of money and should receive the close attention of the committee. Senator Hannaford presented the case that I intended to present, by saying nothing had been done towards solving the problem, not only of housing the various government departments, but also of saving the expenditure of that large sum of money. Some one tried to make light of the fact that £166,000 is being paid for the rent of offices occupied by Commonwealth departments in Adelaide, but I suggest that we must look at the Commonwealthwide picture in this respect.
Like Senator Henty, I have been associated with the Public Works Committee in connexion with the Melbourne building. As the Minister said, the construction of the Commonwealth offices in that city is under way. If I were never to be associated with any other achievement in my life, the fact that I was associated with this proposal to replace one of the nastiest slums in Melbourne - the Little Lonsdale-street area, of historic significance - by massive, utilitarian offices to centralize the activities of the Federal Government departments, would be sufficient justification for me to say that my time in the Parliament had been well spent. That building will solve some of the problems in Melbourne.
Senator Henty has said that the Government must start such buildings where the need is greatest, and with that I agree. However, I am afraid that too little notice is taken of the recommendations of the Public Works Committee. Of course, we are always inclined to become wrapped up in our own interests, but the Public Works Committee is supposed to be the watch dog of the Parliament in such matters and to see that the projects that are referred to it are thoroughly investigated, that a suitable order of priority is recognized, and that the estimates of cost are presented in a way that will do justice both to the taxpayers and to the Parliament. The Public Works Committee has recommended the construction of similar buildings in Brisbane, Darwin, Sydney, Hobart, Launceston and Adelaide, where problems similar to those outlined by Senator Hannaford in respect of Adelaide also exist.
One of the very big social problems involved in the building of Commonwealth offices is the displacement of ordinary family life due to the appalling lack of cooperation that exists between the Commonwealth and State and civic instrumentalities. There is no one who will take the responsibility of housing the people who are displaced by the proposed Commonwealth buildings. I believe that there is a pressing responsibility on this Parliament to devise machinery by which a special allocation could be made to the State or civic authority concerned, direct from the Commonwealth Treasury, when it was decided to erect a big block of buildings to centralize Commonwealth activities. I believe that such a grant should be made in addition to the normal grants for housing, so that the people who are to be displaced may be housed suitably in alternative accommodation.
In Sydney, there is a certain amount of buck-passing going on between the City Council, the State Government and the Commonwealth Government, each hoping that ultimately it will be able to carry the project into effect. This buck-passing could be made the amusing subject of a film comedy. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) has referred to the proposed ELizabeth-street extension in Sydney. As we know, Qantas, which is a progressive and civic-minded international organization, has established a very imposing building on the line of the proposed extension to house its head-quarters. But the plans in relation to the old buildings standing in the way of the proposed extension, which have existed for very many years, have not been implemented. In effect, one side of the proposed extension of Elizabeth-street is laughing at the other. On the one hand, the Sydney City Council say that it is unwilling to do anything until the Commonwealth moves in the matter. The Commonwealth says that it wants the State Government to provide alternative accommodation for the people who will be displaced. And lastly, the State Government complains that the Commonwealth will not give it extra money for this purpose.
The concept of the Department of Works to centralize Commonwealth offices in Sydney is being implemented very slowly indeed. Two avenues are open to us in dealing with this question of the expenditure of £1,000,000 a year in the rental of office accommodation. First, closer attention should be given to the recommendations of the Public Works Committee, which performs public service in the highest sense of the term. If the committee’s recommendation is implemented, people who want to do business with government departments will be able to go to the government block instead of chasing around the city. Senator Hannaford has directed attention to this aspect of the matter in relation to Adelaide. But there is another important factor during this period of recession - that is the word that some people like to use. The building trade is slack at present. Everywhere one goes, there are tradesmen who are unable to obtain employment.
Previous generations established some beautiful buildings in this country. If ever there was a time when we should keep our sights high and provide sufficient money to go vigorously ahead in the provision of centralized accommodation for Commonwealth activities, now is that time. It is up to us to do our share in this connexion. Unfortunately, due to wars, and to postwar difficulties, to name some of the excuses, this generation is not doing sufficient to leave its mark. I urge the Government to give the closest consideration to the recommendations of the Public Works Committee. The acceptance and implementation of the committee’s recommendations would go a long way towards solving the problem that has been mentioned by previous speakers and would, at the same time, alleviate the unhappy conditions that exist in the building trade at the present time.
I refer now to item B - General Expenses - “ Postage, telegrams and telephone services, £770.000.” The proposed vote for salaries and allowances for the Electoral Branch is £393,000, compared with a proposed vote of £706,000 for salaries and allowances to officers of the Bureau of Meteorology. These are very large amounts for administrative purposes. The proposed vote for postage, telegrams and telephone services under Division No. 66 - Electoral Branch - is £42,000. It will be seen that the amounts allocated for expenditure on postage, telegrams and telephone services are reaching astronomical proportions. I think that we are reaching a stage at which the various Commonwealth department”! should eliminate this item by means of an internal book-keeping system. Why should it be necessary to raise loans and at the same time include in the Budget provision for the item I have mentioned? After all, the Postal Department is a very successful business undertaking. I have had a lot to do with the department since I have been a member of the Public Works Committee. Its standards are very high.
However, I think the time has arrived when a new approach should be made to the accounting procedure in relation to these activities. It is true that a proportion of the expenditure on postage is applicable to overseas commitments, but nevertheless I think that a better book-keeping arrangement could be introduced. At present, each department is including in its estimates a large amount for postage, telegrams and telephone services. Surely, an accounting procedure could be conceived whereby the various departments could use these public facilities without the necessity for financial provision being made in the Estimates. I contend that where, by the inclusion in the Estimates of large amounts in respect of postage, telegrams and telephone services the Budget shows a deficit, the true picture is not being presented to the general public. I point out that, although 3d. is charged for each call from public telephones, as all of the cables and other equipment are in existence it is necessary only to employ additional staff to handle public service business. I think the position is getting out of hand when such huge amounts are shown in the Estimates and the Budget reveals a prospective deficit.
Before concluding, I should like to reiterate that the Commonwealth Government has a responsibility in relation to the centralization of governmental activities in the major cities. On the one hand, this would reduce the amount of expenditure on rental of office accommodation. On the other hand, I contend that the Commonwealth should take the initiative and say to the State Governments or to the local government bodies, “ We are prepared to help you financially in providing housing for the people who will be displaced “.I think that the Commonwealth Government should be big enough to give a lead in this matter.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I should like to return to the matter of the centralization of government offices. I was very interested to hear the Minister’s Statement that it is government policy to build large blocks of offices in which all Commonwealth Government departments in each city will be lodged. I should like him to tell me why a departure is being made from this policy in Brisbane. In that city we have Anzac-square, on one side of which is a large block of State offices that has recently been completed. On the opposite side of the square, covering one side of the block, is a building housing Commonwealth offices. Also in that area, which includes the Flame of Remembrance and Anzacsquare, there are some dirty little buildings with rotting galvanized iron roofs, housing the staff of Trans-Australia Airlines and a branch of the security service. Next to them is a car park, and at the back is another dirty old shed which houses the Government surveyors. Instead of pulling down that old building, the Commonwealth is building another block of offices some distance away. Within the last month the Department of Social Services, which was located on the ground floor of the existing building, has moved into offices in a new building erected by an insurance company, and another department will move into the offices vacated by the social services staff. The Commonwealth Government should have demolished the old buildings with the rotting galvanized iron roofs and, as the State Government has done, erected a new building on the opposite side of the block. If that were done, Brisbane would have a nice, tidy square with State government buildings on one side, Commonwealth government buildings on the other side and a park in the centre. However, it has chosen to move the Department of Social Services into a suite of offices in an insurance company building although the space there is needed by private companies in Brisbane.
.- I think it is admitted that the Department of the Interior has ramifications throughout the Commonwealth. Although the main centre of administration is in Canberra, the department has branch offices in all States. The speeches of honorable senators to-night have indicated that the department controls a multitude of assets and, since the department controls property which really is the property of the people of Australia, one would think that it would go to no end of trouble to ensure that a proper record of assets was kept. Let us look at the report of the Auditor-General for the year ended 30th June, 1958, and see what he has to say about the department. I notice, as I make that statement, that Grandma Hannaford laughs -
– Mr. Chairman, am I not entitled to my proper title?
– I meant Senator Hannaford. That was a slip of the tongue. This is what the Auditor-General had to say -
Reference was made in my Annual Report I01 1 956-57 to the inadequacy of asset records maintained by the Department, and to departmental action then being taken to correct the position.
The Auditor-General made a two-fold complaint in that statement, first, as to the inadequacy of the asset records maintained by the department, and secondly, to the departmental action being taken to correct it. He continued -
During the year little progress was apparent, and at the date of this Report the position generally was still unsatisfactory. The lack of proper records indicates a pronounced weakness in departmental control over public assets of considerable value, and as previously reported, presents special problems in relation to departmental trading activities where annual financial statements are required.
The report continues in that strain. I do not propose to read all of it, but I desire to mention certain features. The AuditorGeneral continued -
Since early in 1956 when functional weaknesses in the departmental internal audit were reported to the Department my officers have co-operated and assisted, by participation in conferences with senior departmental officers in an endeavour to place the internal audit of this Department on a sound basis.
Every honorable senator knows how important it is to have a thorough audit in all government departments. The AuditorGeneral then stated -
In September, 1957, the Secretary of the Department and his senior officers conferred with my officers on their observations regarding certain defects in the internal audit programme as revised from 1st July, 1957. Arising from these discussions the Department further revised the Internal Audit Programme in November, 1957, and issued instructions for its implementation, and for the furnishing of progress reports. However, at the time of compiling this Report, the programme was seriously in arrears and no progress reports have been made-
A rather serious matter from whichever angle it is viewed. The report continues -
In the meantime, and until satisfactory internal audit arrangements are introduced and put into effective operation, my officers must necessarily carry out a greater measure of detailed auditing than would be required if an efficient internal audit were operating in the Department.
It is common knowledge that most of the houses in Canberra nominally are owned by the Department of the Interior; as a matter of fact, the capital investment of the Commonwealth in housing in the Australian Capital Territory approximates £21,000,000. The Auditor-General then stated -
Housing assistance is provided by the Commonwealth in (a) the construction of dwellings for letting purposes; (b) the sale of Commonwealthowned dwellings to tenants; and (c) the provision of advances for the purchase or construction of dwellings, privately. The only financial statement currently prepared by the Department of the Interior in connexion with these activities is a statement of ledger balances of the Australian Capital Territory Housing Trust Account, through which the advances mentioned in (c) above are financed. This statement is not designed to show the operating profit or loss of the scheme.
Apparently the Government does not know whether the housing scheme in Canberra is showing a profit or a loss because the Auditor-General stated that the method of accounting is not designed to give that information. The Auditor-General continued -
The Department was informed that additional accounting was necessary to enable competent authority to have accurate information regarding profit or loss involved in various categories when rental, sale and advances policy is being reviewed, and that complete audited statements are desirable in the interests of public accountability. The Department replied that for the purposes of departmental management additional financial statements are not required.
There is conflict between the Treasury and the Department of the Interior. The Auditor-General completes that part of his report with these words -
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, the matter has now been referred to the department of the Treasury.
Evidently that is where the matter will rest for a while. I realize that Senator Henty simply represents the Minister for the Interior in this chamber; but, if he were Minister for the Interior, I would suggest that he project this matter into the immediate future and see to it that something satisfactory is done about it. The report is in a similar strain with respect to other matters, but I think I have said enough to indicate how the accounts and records of assets are kept in that department. After all, this is one of the very important departments.
– I wish to refer to Division No. 65 - Administrative. My purpose in doing so is to seek information about an ordinance or regulation relating to the lakes scheme in the development of Canberra. I understand that at some stage during the change-over from the administration of one Minister to that of another, an ordinance or regulation effecting an alteration to the Burley Griffin plan in connexion with the lakes scheme was authorized. From information that I have been able to obtain, there has never been any rescission of that authority to substitute a ribbon of water for the west lake. Seeing that more life is coming into the commission responsible for carrying out the Canberra plan, and as the city is developing at such a high rate, serious consideration should be given to the commencement of the lakes scheme in this city. I should like to know whether any big move is being made at Cabinet level for the reintroduction of the plan for the west lake and the rescission of the ordinance authorizing the ribbon of water.
I understand that pressure was brought to bear on departmental personnel with a view to protecting the Canberra golf course and the race-course. I understand that at one stage negotiations were under way for the granting of a long-term lease to the racing club of the present race-course which is actually on part of the country that will be inundated by the proposed west lake scheme. It is also feared by the university authorities that instead of having a lake vista from the university they will be looking upon a dog track.
I have heard this matter discussed a great deal, but I have never heard that any definite move has been made to rescind the ordinance or regulation which authorizes a ribbon of water in place of the west lake. If the Minister would be good enough to tell me what, has been done along these lines, I shall be grateful because, I suggest that on the decision of the Government depends the whole pattern of the future development of that portion of Canberra.
– Senator O’Byrne referred to the provision of £770,000 for postage, telegrams and telephone services. This item covers charges by the Postmaster-General’s Department for the lease of teletype channels and equipment, fascimile service, the maintenance of fascimile equipment, transmission of weather reports by telegraph and telephone, and normal postal charges. It really has no effect on the defict in the way suggested by Senator O’Byrne because, although it appears. as a debit against the department, it is offset by a credit in the Postal Department. In actual fact, the Post Office revenue is up by £770,000 and the charge against it on the other side is £770,000.
Senator O’Byrne also mentioned the lakes scheme for Canberra. Whether any decision has been made on this subject by the commission, I am not in a position to say, but I shall refer the matter to the Minister and pass on to the honorable senator any information the Minister is able to obtain from the commission.
Senator Benn criticized control of assets. The assets referred to in this instance are plant, tools, machinery, workshops, Parks and Gardens and Forestry depots, equipment in schools, hostels, halls and so on. Action is proceeding to put the matter on a proper basis, and it is expected that by the end of this year a complete internal audit will be in operation.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of
Proposed vote, £417,000.
– I should be grateful if the Minister would give us some information on the activities of the Australian National Travel Association for which a grant of £50,000 was made last year and for which £75,000 is sought this year. I should like to know how that £50,000 was spent last year, who obtained the benefit from that expenditure, and the reasons for wishing to increase the amount by 50 per cent, this year.
– That sum is a grant by the Commonwealth to the Australian National Travel Association towards the cost of services rendered in publicising Australia abroad. Efforts are also being made to develop tourism in Australia. An additional grant of 7,500 dollars will be made for the purpose of an advertising campaign by the Pacific Area Travel Association, of which the Australian
National Travel Association is a member. The further amount of £21,600 has been included to provide for an additional grant of £1 for every £1 of direct contributions from non-Commonwealth sources, up to £50,000 per annum. It is not expected that contributions will reach this figure during 1958-59.
– In effect, this covers subsidies paid by the Government to certain advertising agents?
– Yes, the Australian National Travel Association and the Pacific Area Travel Association.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Defence Services - Other Services - Civil Defence.
Proposed vote, £300,000.
.- I direct attention to the difficult task confronting those people charged with the responsibility of being the spearhead of our civil defence education system. I am referring specifically to the civil defence school at Mount Macedon. Very few details of the proposed expenditure on civil defence are given in the bill, but I assume that most of the vote is intended to be spent on this school, where I have had the good fortune to attend a civil defence course. Not only did I get a first-hand knowledge of the methods that were being used there, but I was deeply impressed by the magnitude of the problem which faces us in the field of civil defence.
The establishment of the school can only be regarded as a gesture on the part of the Government towards meeting the tremendous challenge which confronts us because of our external affairs policy. We are following closely a policy of brinkmanship - coming to the very brink of war and remaining poised on the brink - with all the implications of such a course, and knowing full well that if a war breaks out the whole world will be involved. One of the implications is that thermo-nuclear bombs would be dropped on strategic centres. This could involve the dropping of six decent-sized thermo-nuclear bombs, one on each capital city, within twelve hours of the outbreak of war.
To suggest that by spending £300,000 on civil defence we can feel safe is merely to close our eyes to reality. Those who are responsible for conducting the training school are efficient and dedicated men, but all that they can do is to make people aware of the new problem which faces mankind, that of trying to defend himself against utter annihilation. There is no alternative to that if a thermo-nuclear war should start. Any one who thinks that there may be is just bluffing himself. Any one who preaches that idea is bluffing the people because, as we know, complete obliteration may be expected within a radius of up to 30 miles from the dropping point. A great deal has already been said in the Senate about the extent of radioactive fallout which would follow such an explosion.
These are the problems which face Australia. What I should like to know is whether we are going to face the problem and all that it involves. Are we to have a coordinated plan under which the emergency services - ambulance, hospital and so on - of the various States - can be brought to the aid of any centre that is attacked? How much has been done to help the States obtain uniform equipment - so that, for instance, the hoses of one State fire service can be used in another State?
Has any plan been drawn up for the treatment of casualties? In a thermonuclear war we can expect hundreds of thousands of maimed, torn, blinded, deafened and otherwise mutilated citizens - in addition to those who are completely obliterated. How do we propose to deal with that problem - with an expenditure such as is contemplated in this year’s vote? We are continually on the brink of war. We are playing the game of international politics, which is highly explosive and dangerous, but behind the facade we have absolutely nothing to protect the people of Australia from the consequences of that policy. The men at Mount Macedonare giving full value for the money spent on that school, but it is all to no avail if nothing is done to follow up their work. It would be a very different story if this Government were making provision for organizing civil defence in the States; for co-ordinating defence facilities and the amenities available for handling the problems thatwould arise in the event of a thermo-nuclear attack on any of our major cities. The real position is shown plainly by the proposed vote of £300,000, though this is a big increase on last year’s vote of £95,000, and actual expenditure of £119,000. The proposed vote is a measure of the Government’s conception of Australia’s civil defence need - notwithstanding the growing tensions throughout the world.
I have raised this matter in order to encourage a broader approach to this terrific problem; to help those very worthy men who, though small in number, are ready to do what is asked of them by the Government. They are helpless while they have no more to use than their bare hands, and their minds. Since I did the course at Mount Macedon I have heard of no major plan for the co-ordination of Federal and State civil defence activities - co-ordination such as could not be achieved within twelve hours of the outbreak of war, the moment when this problem might confront us. There might be a sudden explosion over the Quemoy Islands to the north, and an error of judgment or stupid mistake which would result in a world war. Within hours the major cities of this country could come under attack. We are trying to have it both ways. On the one hand we are playing the highly dangerous game of brinkmanship, and on the other we are unprepared for what this may involve. After all, the people of Asia have been asleep for a long time. We might not be able to anticipate what they will do. It is very wrong of the Government to lull the people of Australia into thinking that, by spending £300,000 upon civil defence, adequate precautions are being taken when, in fact, they would have no more than a bolter’s chance of surviving a thermo-nuclear war.
– I rise to speak to Division No. 210. This matter of civil defence has been raised in the debate on the Estimates for the last three years. We have been told that the matter is receiving sympathetic attention by the Minister, who agrees that something should be done about it. The vote has risen from a very small sum in the initial instance to £300,000. That money is to be spent on the general education in civil defence of the people who will be responsible for it, and also on the necessary administration. What I should like to know is whether the Government intends to do anything whereby our industries can be decentralized and removed from areas vulnerable to attack? Does the Government intend to do anything to ensure the quick dispersal of the population on a declaration of war? No doubt any future war will be a nuclear war, and our conception of civil defence will need to be entirely different from what it was previously. Only a toy atomic bomb, so to speak, was dropped on Hiroshima, but there was no possibility on that occasion of using fire-fighting services from other places, because everything essential to their work was destroyed. Water supplies and other essentials just ceased to exist.
Has the Government any plans to bring into being services that will enable the population to be dispersed quickly so that there can be a chance of survival? Has the Government any plans for the decentralization of essential industries and the provision of the water supplies and the other services necessary for them? I think the answer to my question is, “ No “.
I should like to know whether, in addition to this £300,000, any money will be made available from the defence vote or other votes to assist in preparations for civil defence. This money is to be spent on education in civil defence. Is any money provided for schemes for the dispersal of the civil population, the de-centralization of industry and the movement of transport?
– Just briefly, in answer to the last two speakers, let me say that the amount of £300,000 is, of course, almost three times what was previously spent on this work. The Mount Macedon school is a training centre for people from the States. Civil defence services are a State responsibility, and Mount Macedon is the co-ordinating centre where people are trained and sent back to the States. It is at Mount Macedon that co-ordination takes place. I understand that a committee is at present examining the whole subject of civil defence and that within a short time the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) will deal with this matter in a statement.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £98,067,000.
– I wish to speak about trunk line services, which are dealt with in divisions 261 and 258. Division 261 deals with South Australia. The other division has to do with the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales. I have received a number of complaints in recent times from Canberra and Adelaide about trunk line service. Naturally I would receive complaints from Adelaide, because I represent South Australia.
One line is used for many conversations. The complaint has been made that, having obtained your connexion, you can hear other people talking on the line. You cannot understand what they are saying, but you can hear them speaking. Suddenly, when you are half way through your conversation, the other conversations stop and then you find that you have been cut off. It has been suggested to me that there is some fault in the trunk lines which means that when two or three people are using the same line and one is cut off, the others also are automatically cut off. Is there any possibility of rectifying that fault?
I do not know anything about this matter from a technical point of view; I am only stating the complaints I have received. These complaints have become more numerous in recent times in connexion with Canberra and Adelaide. It is very annoying to be cut off half way through a conversation and to have to ring up some other section of the post office to find out why you were cut off. I do not expect that the Minister will be able to give me an answer immediately, but I ask him to pass this complaint on to the officers of the department so that something can be done to obviate these continual interruptions of trunk line calls.
– I have a small query in connexion with division 262, which deals with the Western Australian section of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I should first of all like to congratulate the department for its efficiency and for the courtesy that one receives in post offices and telephone exchanges, no matter how large or how small. Having said that, I should like to direct attention to a matter that has been brought to my notice by many suburban traders in Western Australia. It relates to the closing times for airmails in suburban areas, particularly on Saturday mornings. I understand that if air mail letters and packages are not posted in such areas before, I think, 11 o’clock on Saturday mornings, they are not despatched interstate until the following Monday night, involving a long delay. The post boxes are not cleared in the suburbs early enough on Sundays for the mails to catch the Sunday night plane. In many cases it is difficult for business people, and, I suppose, the general public also, to get their mail away before 11 o’clock on a Saturday morning.
Another point is that in some places the closing times of mails have been altered, without sufficient notice having been given to the public. Sometimes a small handwritten notice is posted that can hardly be seen at night even if you have a torch. If you happen to be getting on in years and have forgotten your glasses, or if you cannot find a box of matches, it makes it even more difficult. If changes are to be made in the closing times of mails - particularly evening mails - the changes should be notified much more publicly than is at present the case.
The second matter I should like to bring to the notice of the Postmaster-General is the disability that is suffered by people in the north-west of Australia in the delivery of mail. Those people must send all mail matter by air and pay air mail rates if it is to be received elsewhere in Australia within a reasonable time. If it is sent by surface mail, it must wait perhaps two or three weeks for the arrival of a ship or, from some places, be sent overland, in which case it is often delayed because of floods and the state of the roads. Some concession ought to be granted to the people in the north-west. I should like to see mail despatched from that area by air without the payment of a surcharge, as I think is done in other parts of Australia. I doubt whether it would cost the department a great deal, but it would mean a lot to the people concerned.
I refer to the proposed vote of £98,067,000 for the Postmaster-General’s Department. I remind honorable senators that this is the biggest business undertaking in Australia.
From my experience over the last six years, I believe there has been a great improvement in the public relations of this mammoth department. In recent years, the people of Australia have been continually told about the provision of new facilities - about increased trunk-line services, improved radio services, teleprinter services, and all the other modern forms of communication with which this country is being blessed.
AsI move around, not only in Tasmania, but also in other States, I find that the department is very popular with the business community and the general public because of the improved facilities that it is providing. Many people realize that, when a fault is pointed out or when a suggestion is made, the department goes out of its way to remedy the fault or to effect the improvement that has been suggested. Senator O’Flaherty made some remark about interference, but we all know that that is caused by some little technical trouble of a temporary nature and that, if it is brought to the notice of the technical officers of the department, it is soon remedied.
One sometimes hears impatient people who probably do not make many trunk line calls growl about delays. What the public must understand is that when services are improved they become more popular and are used more. It has been proved between Hobart and Launceston that in the first few weeks after extra channels have been provided, instantaneous connexions have been effected but that, as business people and others have increasingly used the improved facilities, a time lag has appeared.
WhatI wish to do particularly is to show that the Government should make a thorough examination of its basic policy in regard to the Postmaster-General’s Department. The department has discharged its responsibility, but I do not think that the Parliament or the Government has given enough thought to how the department can be freed from some of the handicaps under which it labours. I believe that the greatest fault -I do not think it would be difficult to remedy it - is that the department is hamstrung, provoked and interfered with by the Department of Works in regard to its construction programme. The very fact that its buildings are erected by the Department of Works is a great handicap. It leads to delays and added costs. Such an undertaking, for which we are asked to appropriate more than £98,000,000 this year, should be free of such interference.
Moreover, in my opinion, the department should be freed from interference from the Public Service Board in relation to staff matters. I do not think that people sitting in Canberra as a Public Service Board should have any say as to whether Tom Jones shall continue in employment with the department or whether he shall be a temporary or permanent employee, be he in Hobart, the Northern Territory or anywhere else in Australia. There are wonderful executive men in charge of the activities of the department in each of the States, and they should have the last say as to whom they employ and as to whom they will forgive some error of commission or omission.
I am thinking of a particular person who drove a vehicle while under the influence of liquor. The Public Service Board said to him. “You are dismissed from the service.” The Postmaster-General’s Department spent quite a long time and quite an amount of money in training that person to be a technician, and his services were wanted. Technicians are in short supply in the department. Except for one slip, he had a fine character and was doing well in the department; but the board, sitting in Canberra, said, “ According to subregulation so-and-so, you must be dismissed “; and out he went. Such action is frustrating and provoking to the department. I would not have raised that matter if I had thought it was only an isolated incident. I believe it happens repeatedly throughout the Commonwealth.
Probably the Government will not have much time between now and 22nd November to review its basic policy in regard to the Postmaster-General’s Department, but from then on until the new Parliament meets, probably in February, and in the following three years, it will have plenty of time to do so. I urge the Government to review its policy and to free the department from the interference, the added expense, the delays and the annoyance that are caused to it by the policy of the Public Service Board in regard to staff matters, and from the interference of the Department of Works in relation to its building programme.
– I would not have risen to agree with some of the remarks that have been made about the Postmaster-General’s Department, and to disagree with others, had it not been for the comments of Senator Marriott towards the end of his speech. I agree with many of the statements made by the honorable senator; I think a lot of what he said was quite true. But, when he deals with the staffing of the department and suggests placing it under the control of a commission or at least taking it away from the influence of the Public Service Board. I issue a very grave warning to him. IfI have one complaint about operation of the Public Service, it is that it has been the policy of the Public Service Board over the last few years to farm out more of its responsibility to Public Service inspectors and departments in the various States. Nothing can strike more quickly at the morale of public servants than for them to feel there is unfairness in promotions and the handling of appeals, and that there is not an appeal board in which they may have the utmost confidence.
I point out to Senator Marriott that we are not dealing exclusively with officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department; we are also concerned with other members of the Commonwealth Public Service who are transferred or who go from one department to another through promotion. I believe that one of the strengths of the Commonwealth Public Service has been the ability to import to the various departments officers who have a wide knowledge of the work of several departments.
I advocate that the Public Service Board should resume many of the functions that it performed in the past, particularly in relation to staffing. There is no doubt that the morale of the service, particularly in the Postmaster-General’s Department, has been deteriorating ever since the report of the Bailey committee on appeals. Such a deterioration is inevitable if more and more power is handed to authorities in the States. I think that the present system of appeals is not a good one.If there is no appeal outside the State branch, there must be a feeling of frustration and a suspicion of unfairness. If the hearing of appeals could be removed from the State sphere, there would be a greater feeling of independence, and there would be more justice.
Senator Marriott intimated that he knew of a case concerning a person who was to be appointed to the Postmaster-General’s Department, in which the Commonwealth Public Service Board had stepped in and said that, because of something in his background, he could not be appointed to the service. Surely the honorable senator will agree that the rules should apply, whether we are concerned with an officer who is joining the Department of Civil Aviation, the much maligned Department of Works, or any other department.
– Who in Australia would employ a person who had made such a slip as the one to which I referred. Should private enterprise take the responsibility? We must be reasonable.
-I agree that we must be reasonable. Surely the honorable senator does not think that such a person, though rejected by the Department of Civil Aviation, should be accepted by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, or though ineligible to work for the Department of Territories in New Guinea, should be eligible to go and work somewhere else for one of the other departments? There must be a standard set of rules that will apply throughout the Public Service.
– Much depends on what the conditions are, of course.
– Naturally,it is necessary to agree on the conditions. The honorable senator has spoken of private enterprise. I suggest that if he, as a businessman, wished to employ a person, he could make his own rules, and so could Senator Henty. But the Commonwealth Public Service must insist on a high degree of integrity, far higher than that which a private employer may require. If that standard is lowered, immediately the Public Service starts to become corrupt. We all know what has happened in other countries of the world. I should be the last to defend corruption or dishonesty in the Public Service. I think I have made my position clear in regard to the case referred to by Senator Marriott. I urge the Government to centralize the promotions and appeals procedure, and to depart from the procedure which the Public Service Board has adopted for a considerable time.I think that comments similar to those made by Senator
Marriott about officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in the various States could also be made about the officers of the Public Service in Canberra.
There is one obvious criticism of the Postmaster-General’s Department that I wish to make. It concerns a matter about which the technical officers of the department have often bamboozled Ministers and departmental heads. Honorable senators need not go outside Canberra to see the building to which I propose to refer. Opposite the Hotel Kurrajong there is probably the most unsightly building that one could imagine. lt is a telephone exchange, to which members of the public are forbidden to go. It is not like a post office. I suggest that the very fact that such buildings are not used by the public should ensure that they may be located away from public streets. In the suburb in which I live, on probably the nicest business site, where there should be a shop of some kind and where there was originally a picture theatre, there is located a telephone exchange building to which the public has no admittance. Talk by departmental experts about the need to locate telephone exchanges near the “ copper centre “ may sound well, but it does not mean very much, although I admit that the availability of supplies of cable is an important consideration. I have always thought that the Minister should instruct the department that in no circumstances should such buildings be placed in business centres. All that is necessary to stop this practice is a firm stand on the part of the Minister.
– I shall transmit to the Postmaster-General’s Department the various matters that have been raised by honorable senators.
– I refer to the unsatisfactory nature of wireless reception in the north of Western Australia, in such places as Mullewa and Geraldton. This matter has been the subject of discussion in both Houses of the Parliament over a considerable period, and from time to time the various Postmaster-Generals have promised that a general survey would be undertaken with a view to improving reception in isolated and remote areas. I think it is true to say that the inspectors of the Postmaster-General’s Department are very attentive to complaints that are made. However, the general standard of reception is poor. This, of course, is not something that has to be proved to the Government, because the Government has already admitted that it is so. I should like to know whether anything has been done to improve reception. I point out that people in those areas are not likely to have television for many years. They pay their listener’s licence-fees, and they are entitled to a reasonable standard of reception.
– I should like to ask the Minister to comment in relation to the contract system for the erection of telephone and telegraph lines. This matter is causing quite a lot of concern to the employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department. As honorable senators know, very efficient schools exist for the training of men for this work. And rightly so, because faulty work can result in the death of linemen. The constructional men must be properly trained in the use of safety belts, wiring and cabling, and they must pay due regard to team work. Generally speaking, public servants are trained for special jobs in the Public Service, and their training is not altogether applicable to work outside the service. The telegraphists and mechanics, while their training is on more general lines, still handle equipment that is peculiar to the Postmaster-General’s Department. By training men to be linemen, line foremen, and supervising foremen they are fitted for a particular section of the department and they are practically tied to the department.
Back in the days when labour was scarce, the department sent these men out into the bush to construct lines, but now that we are getting a bit of unemployment about, the department is reverting to the tender system. Over the years, this has not always turned out for the best in the long run, because it is difficult for the department to insist on the observance of a standard that is insisted upon by the engineers in relation to the department’s own staff. But more important, the men who were trained by the department for this narrow section of work expected to receive promotion as time went on. As the work is now being given to contractors, these men’ are apprehensive of finishing up on the industrial scrapheap. I contend that promotional opportunities should not be denied to men who have devoted many years of their lives to the Commonwealth service and, at the same time, the traditional standard of the department be lowered.
I am sure that the Minister does not realize the feeling of frustration that is being experienced by many of the departmental officers, and I have wondered whether he realizes the seriousness of the position. It is very easy for the department to hand over the job of erecting telegraph and telephone lines to contractors, but over the years the department’s own employees have carried out this work efficiently. I should like to know whether there has been only a temporary reversion to the contract system and whether it is to apply only in certain areas. Does the department honestly believe that it should revert to the contract system? I sincerely hope that this is not the case, because it is grossly unfair to the department’s own staff and is not in the best interests of the department in the long run.
– I agree with Senator Willesee’s opinion that whilst, at first sight, the contract system for the erection of telegraph and telephone lines is cheaper than the system by which the work was carried out by departmental officers, over the years the contract system has proved very costly. Some 30 years ago, quite a lot of constructional work was done by contract labour. It was proved at that time that the standard of work performed by contract labour was inferior to that performed by permanent officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department. When there was a boom in the installation of ‘phones after the First World War, under Postmaster-General Gibson, the line staffs were well-equipped with tools and other equipment necessary for the installation of both underground and overhead telephone lines. Later, in the 1920’s, the contract system was introduced. Many successful tenderers did not have the equipment needed to carry out the work, and the department lent them the necessary gear from its own stores.
Close supervision of this constructional work is needed. I recall a certain job that was done during winter in one of the outer suburbs of Melbourne. In the case of hard ground, the department requires conduits to be laid 1 foot beneath the surface. In the instance to which I refer, this depth was not observed, and after heavy rain the conduits were exposed when the surface soil was washed away. As honorable senators know, in many instances, breakdowns in the telephone system -are attributable to water having leaked into the cables. It is easy for kinks to be caused in black iron or galvanized iron conduit, or for an earthenware pipe to be cracked, and if these defects are not immediately rectified they can lead to subsequent breakdowns in the telephone system.
There is an element of danger associated with the contract system. Back in the 1920’s there were occasions when contractors sunk 26-ft. poles to only half the depth they should have been sunk. Of course, the supervisors did their best. Their practice was to mark the bottom of a pole to be erected to show the depth to which it should be inserted in the ground. In some cases, unscrupulous contractors went round at night-time and sawed a section off the bottom of the marked poles. Although the poles looked all right when erected, there was an element of danger involved subsequently for the linemen. I have seen two linemen working at the top of a 26-ft. pole that was set only 18 inches in the ground.
– Does the honorable senator expect us to believe that statement?
– It is obvious that Senator Wade is ignorant in relation to line construction.
– Did you say that two men were working at the top of a 26-ft. pole that was only 18 inches in the ground? It would be topheavy.
– I venture to say that Senator Wade has very little knowledge of this subject. If a 26-ft. pole is set 18 inches into solid rock-
– But you did not say the pole was set into solid rock.
– I have pointed out that the poles were supposed to be sunk a certain depth. I know what the requirement was, because I was employed by the department.
– You were a practical man?
– Yes, and I am speaking from practical experience. Any man with a humane outlook would not jeopardize the lives of his fellow-workers by failing to put in the poles to the proper depth, in order to save a few shillings. Honorable senators opposite may laugh, but that is what is going on.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– Senator Mattner, who professes to be a supporter of returned soldiers, may laugh when somebody who understands the matter tries to explain it to honorable senators, but it may interest him to know that most of the employees in the Postmaster-General’s Department whose jobs are in jeopardy are returned soldiers from the First and Second World Wars. If the work in question is to be done by contractors, those returned soldiers must surely lose their jobs.
Line work is of a very highly technical nature. People pay large sums of money to have a telephone conversation with persons on the other side of the world. If any honorable senators opposite were unable to carry on a telephone conversation because of faulty line construction, I am sure they would laugh on the other side of their faces. But that is the kind of thing that was happening at the time the contract system went out of existence in the ‘thirties. For example, instead of fixing an arm to a pole in the approved fashion by means of a saw and chisel, so that the wires are held in the correct position, the arms were fitted with the aid of an axe. The contractors did 30 or 40 such jobs in a day - many more than the trained lineman could do by following the regulation method. We have also had experience of the sinking of conduits used for pulling heavy underground cables, with the result that up to 1,000 telephones have been put out of order After the contract system went out of existence, the department had to bear the cost of rectifying all the faults that became apparent.
The staff in the Postmaster-General’s Department is very highly trained. The distribution pillars used with underground cables were previously constructed by the trained men in the department, but to-day the work is being done by contractors and the technicians previously engaged on that work have lost their jobs. If the contract system is allowed to continue, as in Victoria, we shall have to face the problems that we faced at the outbreak of the Second World War, when the telephone installations constructed during the depression years failed.
Work at different exchanges is also being let to private contractors. I point out that any faults that become apparent after completion of the work must be rectified at the expense of the department. That is the reason why a telephone call, which should cost about 2d., now costs 6d. If maintenance continues to cost so much, the cost of telephone calls will rise again.
If the department proposes to continue with the contract system, I hope the Postmaster-General will make some inquiries as to the results of the contract system in the past. If that is done, and if he realizes that the linemen, mechanics and other technicians. 991/2 per cent: of whom are returned soldiers, will suffer,I am sure he will take action to see that the work is done by the trained men of his department.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Broadcasting and Television Services.
Proposed vote, £8,475,000.
.- This proposed vote deals with broadcasting and television services. Whilst television has been in operation for a number of years in other parts of the world, it is a service new to Australia. For that reason, it is not clear on what basis the Australian Broadcasting Control Board recommends to the Government the granting of licences to operate television stations. I feel sure that all honorable senators know that when the board makes a recommendation regarding the granting of a licence, the PostmasterGeneral may require the board to investigate the claims of other applicants for a licence. The board must then investigate the applications thoroughly, call evidence and submit a recommendation to the PostmasterGeneral.
Quite recently, the question of granting television licences in Adelaide and Brisbane was raised. The board called evidence at those places, but to date I have not had an opportunity to read the transcript. It is well known that the newspapers are the principal holders of radio and television licences, so naturally they were interested in the applications before the board. Brisbane has a population of approximately 500,000, and Adelaide cannot be termed a large city. I understand that the board recommended that one commercial television licence be granted in Brisbane and one in Adelaide. On that basis each city would have a national station as well as a commercial station. After receipt of that recommendation, Cabinet decided that two commercial television licences should be granted to both Adelaide and Brisbane.
I have already mentioned the population of Brisbane. Honorable senators can gauge from that small figure just what the advertising potential of the city of Brisbane is. 1 emphasize that Brisbane has a population of not a few million but only 500,000. I point out also that it is well known that television has no other way of making profits than through advertising. We find now that, after the Australian Broadcasting Control Board had submitted its recommendation to the Minister, and apparently after the Minister passed on that recommendation to Cabinet, it has been decided that two commercial television licences shall be granted in each of the cities of Adelaide and Brisbane. Honorable senators can imagine the situation that will develop over the years with two television licences operating in each of those cities. We all know that a good deal of capital is required to establish a television or radio station.
– But will they not create employment?
– I admit that a new industry is being established, but that industry must make profits to be able to continue.
– There will be no Government funds involved. What are you worried about?
– But these things must be done in a proper way. If we ask the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to investigate a matter and furnish a recommendation to the Minister-
– It is only a recommendation.
– But it is a recommendation, nevertheless. After all, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is the proper body of experts to investigate such a matter and to submit recommendations. Further, the honorable senator must realize that advertising comes from the traders in the cities in which the television station operates. The costs incurred at present in advertising through the press and over the radio must be written into the cost structure of the Commonwealth by the business people who have to meet those costs. In the case of these new television stations, the advertising charges extracted from the business people will be written into the cost structures of Brisbane and Adelaide. That is unavoidable; it is the basic economics of the whole matter.
We now have a situation in which the Government has decided that two commercial licences shall be granted in each of those cities. Evidently some applicant was disappointed when it was recommended that only one licence be granted in each of those cities, and, as a sop to that person, it was decided to grant two licences. The Minister probably can clarify the position. He may be able to tell me what the Government proposes to do about granting television licences in Brisbane and Adelaide.
– Mr. Harold Holt made a statement the other day setting out the whole position as it applies to Brisbane and Adelaide. I have a copy of that statement here and I shall send a copy to the honorable senator so that he will know exactly what is being done.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Australian Capital Territory, £3,559,000; Department of Immigration, £2,008,000; Miscellaneous Services, Department of Immigration, £9,615,000; Department of the Navy, £42,401,000 - agreed to.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) pro posed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I wish to occupy the attention of the Senate on this occasion because I notice, from a perusal of “ Hansard “, that a member of this place has put himself on record in terms which I think show a miserable conception of parliamentary duty, and indeed are derogatory to Parliament. I notice that in the course of that debate, Senator Benn gave expression to thoughts so typical of his outlook, which seems to me to be about as wide as that perception of life which a mouse gets from the murkiest corner of the kitchen when it is watching one crumb on the floor and waiting for the family to go to bed at midnight so that it may get it. I believe that epitomizes the mood in which he has come into this place and spoken on a number of occasions.
I express my thanks to those colleagues of mine who referred to this matter at the time when Senator Benn chose to criticize my absence, despite the fact that I was in the chamber the day before to vote against the most vacuous motion that he and his party put before the Senate.
I have noticed, too, that this gentleman has the loftiness of outlook to commit himself to this statement -
If he is a true patriot– referring to me - he will come here and sacrifice his business or profession.
Mr. President, there was an occasion in my life when the public service of this country demanded the entire sacrifice of my business and profession, and I willingly gave it. After that, I regarded the political chaos of this country as such a challenge to all of us who had just made our exodus from the services that I should offer my services for politics, always making it clear to anybody to whom I submitted myself for selection, whether they be committees or electors, that I was going to maintain completely my independence in politics and that I was going to maintain the wherewithal to sustain my family, whose interests I was not prepared to subvert and sacrifice completely. And I rejoice that I come here, not as a pawn of a party caucus but as a representative elected by a quota of Tasmanian people; and I wish to say that, so long as I stay in politics, I shall preserve that independence.
The next thing which I notice is that this lofty member of our chamber refers to the practice of a free profession as dishonorable and immoral on the part of a member of this Senate, if engaged in while the Senate is in session. It is surely a new conception of public life that a parliamentarian should be expected entirely to discontinue his private livelihood and, if he is engaged in a practice demanding personal service, completely to discontinue that practice. I for one want this Senate to know that I declare my intention, according to my judgment, of allocating my time to parliamentary life and private obligations. I discharge private obligations, not because of any estimation that I have betokening my own ability - a somewhat presumptuous suggestion by the person to whose remarks I am paying him the courtesy of referring. It is simply this: That all sorts of clients have all sorts of selections in professional life. On this occasion I have been absent, over a period of five or six weeks, from ten sitting days of this chamber, discharging professional obligations on a professional basis.
It is suggested by the honorable senator that fees are the predominant consideration where professional men are concerned. That betokens the critic’s point of view. One has only to indulge in a moment’s reflection before it becomes quite obvious to one that fees are on a professional basis. I should think that the meanest intellect on the Opposition side would recognize it as impertinent to refer to the conditions of payment. It is sometimes one’s great pleasure to submerge the element of fees in the conception that professional cases give the opportunity to discharge real service to the cause of great principles. It is sometimes the privilege of a professional man to earn fees which, of course, it would be a disrespect to most professional men to think were not disproportionate to the remuneration of which the honorable senator, my critic, would be considered worthy in the ordinary labour market. Having come here from his civil emoluments, which would be about one-third of what he is drawing from this place, I can imagine the acuteness with which he is conscious that he should appear, superficially at any rate, to be earning the increase. But there are other men in this chamber whose loss to come here is double his profit.
When he goes on to say that people are in debt to the taxpayers he should remember that some of us are taxpayers, too, and that it is not for him to estimate the difference between payment drawn and payments made. If this place becomes simply a collection of persons who live by the allowances that are made on uniform scale to parliamentarians - so that every member of this Parliament becomes a professional politician - it will stoop to the level of the critic from Queensland, whose nobility of thought was degraded by the reference which he made to the State that 1 have the honour to represent. You would not think, Mr. President, that any one in this chamber could be so despicable as to refer to the island of Tasmania as a tin-pot State. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) stands in front of this honorable senator as a representative of that State, one elected from it for many years now. I should be surprised if he did not join with me in my complete contempt of Senator Benn who, by the remark to which I have referred, indicates that be comes here from the land of the cactus and the cattle tick as nothing but a beetle-nosed old humbug.
.- Mr. President, it may be recalled that on 11th March I referred to the Constitution Review Committee in these terms -
We should not countenance any member of the Senate or the House of Representatives deliberately absenting himself from a sitting of the Senate or the House of Representatives for the purpose Of engaging in what was his normal occupation prior to his election to the Parliament. This matter could be freely investigated by the Constitution Review Committee. The committee could obtain evidence from the Clerk of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives and investigate the whole question of absenteeism. Then the matter could, and should, be further pursued, because the occupation or profession of each member or senator prior to his election to the Parliament would be known. For a senator or a member to absent himself should be an offence under the provisions of the Constitution. For a man to engage in what was his normal occupation and to receive fees or payment therefor, and at the same time receive a parliamentary allowance, is a low form of robbery.
I reiterate that statement. I reiterate it in the face of my learned friend on the Government side. He came here on 17th September to record a vote or two, and I did not see him after that until to-day. He knew, on 17th September, when he was voting on the Budget papers, that the very next measure to be dealt with in this chamber would be the Appropriation Bill, which included a reference to the estimated expenditure by this Parliament during the coming year. It was on the vote for the Parliament that I addressed myself to the question which he has raised to-night. It will be recalled that I said I would deal with the subject of absenteeism. Then I proceeded to say that those senators who became ill were completely absolved from what I was about to say, and that those senators who had urgent business requiring their attention were also absolved. But I said, and I reiterate it now, that any honorable senator who deliberately absents himself from the Senate on sitting days in order to attend to a profession and earn fees is not playing the game so far as the Australian way of life is concerned.
Senator Wright can look at the matter whichever way he likes, but I put a simple proposition to him. No doubt he has a home in Tasmania. If it is a home of wooden construction, it sometimes requires painting. Would Senator Wright engage a painter to paint the dwelling, pay him the prescribed rate of wages, and permit him, while in his employ as a painter, to go down to the first shop and be engaged as a shop assistant? Would Senator Wright agree that at the end of the week that man should receive his pay from the person conducting the shop and then be able to approach Senator Wright and get the full week’s wages prescribed for a painter?
– Why do you not tell-
– Will you please be quiet, Granny Kendall?
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order!
– Would you endorse that action in his private life? Would you say that the producers of Australia should permit an employee to render them no service whatever, to seek employment with another employer and receive two lots of wages? That is what this amounts to. That is the policy that Senator Wright indicated a while ago he will follow in the future.
This is not an issue between two senators - between the great legal practitioner over there and the humble individual who is on his feet at the present time. This is an issue between Senator Wright and the taxpayers of Australia. It is an issue that will not be settled by any of the “ hifalutin “ phrases that Senator Wright is capable of using on occasions. If the honorable senator can absent himself, as he wishes, to attend to his private business and receive emoluments for attending to that private business, is not that a strong argument for reducing the number of senators who represent Tasmania? If the State can do without him for twelve sitting days, then it can do without him for all of the sitting days. He is really arguing in favour of reducing Tasmania’s Senate representation.
I am not going to rely on oral evidence; I am going to rely upon some documentary evidence. This practice of Senator Wright in absenting himself on sitting days, going into the courts and receiving 50 guineas a day, is not a new practice. During 1957, Senator Wright was absent for four sitting days. Will he get up in the Senate and say that he was ill on those days? Or will he tell the truth and say he was in the courts of Tasmania, receiving 50 guineas a day?
I now come to the other part of the document. Senator Wright, as a man of law, knows there is no better evidence than documentary evidence, because a document will speak for itself. He was absent during this year on twelve sitting days. Let him answer this question: Where was Senator Wright on those twelve sitting days? Was he in the courts, or was he recuperating in some hospital? He has admitted quite openly that he will go into the courts, receive 50 guineas a day, and yet collect the parliamentary allowance provided by the taxpayers of Australia.
Before I finish, I wish to deal with a point or two raised by Senator Wright. When speaking about Tasmania, I did say that, speaking colloquially, it was a tin-pot State. In other words, it is a small State. I went further and said that its Budget is no greater than that of the Brisbane City Council. That happens to be a fact.
I finish on this note: If Senator Wright can stop being so mercenary for a minute or two, if he can dispel his greed for cash - his family will get on all right, I feel sure, without his being in two places at the one time and receiving two sets of payment - let him ask himself, as a political nonconformist, whether what he is doing, and what he proposes to do in the future, is right? I will answer that question. To my mind it is wrong, and I propose to hold that opinion.
– With great respect to Senator Benn, it is not a question of what he thinks, nor of what is in his mind. We are all members of the Senate. There are laws, rules, regulations and standing orders whereunder the proceedings of this chamber are conducted. I cannot quote the Standing Orders offhand, but they provide that if an honorable senator is not in his place and has not obtained leave of absence, he suffers certain penalties. The remedy that Senator Benn has is, not to make a personal attack upon another honorable senator - an attack which, with great respect, I submit is in very bad taste indeed - but, if he believes that that other honorable senator has offended against the Standing Orders of the Senate, to take proper action under the Standing Orders. He should not make statements in the Senate which are not substantiated by facts, nor in accord with good judgment or good taste.
Senator Wright has not offended against any of the arrangements under which the business of the Senate is conducted. Until he does offend in that way, it is not competent for any honorable senator to launch a personal attack against him. That is the position as I see it. From that point I take the matter a stage further. Senator Benn has made some most exaggerated statements about the motives that impel Senator Wright. With very great respect, let me say that we are used to those exaggerated statements from Senator Benn.
– I beg your pardon.
– We are used to those exaggerated statements from Senator Benn. Nobody in the Senate has made :more unjustified attacks upon the public servants of Australia than has Senator Benn. We discount the attacks that he makes. There is the other point of view. I should like Senator Benn, or any other honorable senator, to mention a member of the Senate who works harder, speaks more frequently, or devotes more time and attention to the debates in the Senate and to the discharge of his responsibilities than does Senator Wright. There have been times when I, as a Minister, wished he would not be so enthusiastic in the discharge of his duties. To put the issue at its lowest, it is sad that one of our number who works harder on the average than do the majority of us should be attacked for accepting a professional assignment which he believes he had a responsibility to accept.
The best form of defence is attack. I ask honorable senators opposite tb cast their minds back a little to the time when the Leader of the Opposition in another place had no compunction at all about being absent from that chamber and about accepting a brief which I would have found it very difficult indeed to have accepted. He accepted a brief for the Communist party.
– He did not. He appeared for certain unions.
– I accept the correction, even though the situation was near enough to being as I have described it.
There is another viewpoint to be considered, and it is one to which I hold very strongly. I think a senator is all the better equipped for the discharge of his responsibilities as a senator if he maintains contact with the outside world in the profession, trade or vocation that he followed before he was elected to the Senate. I am sure that Senator Wright is a better senator for remaining in touch with his profession, and that he is a better lawyer for being a senator.
I take strong exception to the criticism of a senator in his private transactions. We have enough to do to fight each other on principles and political issues without taking the battle into private matters. What Senator Wright does and what Senator Benn does is their own business and nobody else’?. They are members of the Senate and, if in the discharge of their responsibilities as senators they observe the Standing Orders, to which we are all subject, the rest of us should be silent.
– I rise, too, because I think this is a most important issue, and that it is one upon which we should express ourselves quite freely and frankly. To my mind, Senator Benn has put himself upon a pedestal above all other senators by endeavouring to prescribe the conduct that all of us on both sides of the chamber shall observe, and by insisting that he has the right to lay down that code of conduct. Having done so, he says, in effect “ If you do not do this, you are not carrying out your task as a senator “. That is a very dangerous, prophet-like attitude for any of us to adopt. I warn Senator Benn that, if he encourages that attitude in the Senate, we all are in for rather a torrid time. That is so of him in particular, because he has started this fight.
I suggest that none of us is entitled to place himself above other senators assembled here by saying, in effect, “ I am going to lay down the course of conduct, the ethical code, that you all shall adopt. If you do not observe that, I will be sufficiently above you all to be able to stand up and criticize “. What an unctuous, hypocritical attitude for any of us in this chamber to adopt! I take great exception to any one telling me what my code of ethics shall be be in this chamber. I invite any one to rise and try to do so. That is not Senator Benn’s job, nor is it mine. The Senate will have descended to a dreadful state if it allows any honorable senator to pose as the great prophet, the great moralist, in this chamber. Let us stick to our jobs.
If Senator Wright has erred, the party of which he is a member will handle him. We are quite capable of doing it. The electors of Tasmania will look after the matter, too. Senator Wright is answerable to us on this side of the chamber, and to the electors of Tasmania. And he is quite adequately equipped to answer us. We do not want prophets from Queensland or anywhere else laying down the code of conduct that we should adopt in assessing Senator Wright’s work. On the day before yesterday, I and a number of brother senators sat on a Senate select committee from just after 9 a.m. until late in the evening - a period of twelve hours. I am not betraying my trust or my oath of secrecy when I say that Senator Wright, as chairman of that committee during those twelve hours, did more good for the Senate and for the country than Senator Benn has done in twelve months.
– Do not be personal.
– I am not being personal; I am making comparisons. If we are to evaluate the work of senators, I should say that Senator Wright would be far more valuable than would Senator Benn. I am not trying to lay down a code of ethical conduct for either party, but I do suggest that, if you wish to evaluate the work of honorable senators, you have to do more than suggest that they should sit here every day on which the Senate meets and do nothing. You must evaluate their real worth. As Senator Spooner said, Senator Wright has spoken more often and has busied himself more than any other senator. In the last 24 hours, he has done a great deal more work than Senator Benn will ever do.
– The censure which Senator Benn has attempted to pass upon Senator Wright this evening is also an implied censure of me. Tt is for that reason that I rise to speak. I want to make it perfectly clear that I assured Senator Wright that, while he was engaged in contributing to the determination of the particular matter that led to his absence, I would pair with him on all votes taken in this chamber. I made that statement to Senator Wright with full knowledge of what was involved. Without trespassing on the issues which led to his absence, let me say that in my estimation they were issues involving fundamental human rights. I felt that, as Senator Wright had a contribution to make to the determination of those fundamental human rights, he was performing a service to his country at least equal to the value of any service he might perform in this chamber. For that reason, I offered him a pair on all votes taken in this chamber, and I considered that in making him that offer I performed a simple act of justice.
If any criticism is offered of his absence to make a contribution to the determination of fundamental human rights, in my estimation such criticism is a little belated. It should have been offered on the occasion that a precedent was created, the precedent which has been referred to by another speaker in the course of this debate. That, was a matter which, at the time, led to considerable discussion and controversy in the ranks of the party of which I was then a member. We were assured on that occasion that the action of the Leader of the Federal Opposition, in absenting himself from the Parliament because he believed he was contributing to the determination of a matter involving fundamental human rights, was in the best traditions of the Australian Labour movement. If it was in the best traditions of the Australian Labour movement for a legal representative to consider that he had a duty to assist in determining fundamental human rights, even at the expense of absence from the Parliament, how can a member of another party be criticized because he takes the same stand?
I had in mind that particular precedent when I told Senator Wright that I would grant him a pair on all votes taken in this chamber, and I was fortified by the fact that in the case of the Victorian Labour party some years ago, the question was raised of the absence of certain legal representatives in the Victorian Upper House, who will be well known to Victorian senators in this chamber. The fact of their absence in order to carry out duties connected with their legal practice was raised in the executive, and we were informed that it was not a matter for criticism.
Bearing in mind those two precedents, 1 felt that the particular issue which caused Senator Wright’s absence was one which justified his absence. I make this statement, therefore, in regard to the matter which led him to stay away from the Senate. I think that he was justified in doing so, and I thank him and congratulate him on having made himself available to help determine an issue which had to be determined and from which very powerful consequences for the future of this country may well flow.
– I wish to refer to the Standing Orders to put this matter in proper perspective. I feel that the conduct of the Senate should follow the lines set by the Standing Orders. If honorable senators turn to Standing Order 49, they will see that it states -
Leave of absence may be given by the Senate to any Senator on Motion, after Notice, stating the cause and period of absence; and such Motion shall have priority over other Motions.
Senator McManus kindly contravened the Standing Orders in order to give Senator Wright a pair, but he might well have complied with the Standing Orders by moving that Senator Wright be granted leave of absence. Standing Order 50 provides that-
A Senator shall be excused from service in the Senate, or on any Committee, so long as he has leave of absence.
Finally, Standing Order 51 states that -
Any Senator, having leave of absence, shall forfeit the same by attending the service of the Senate before the expiration of such leave.
I believe, Mr. President, that those Standing Orders have been provided for a purpose. If their provisions are complied with, there can be no criticism of the conduct of individual senators. I remind honorable senators that there is a further provision in the Standing Orders that if an honorable senator absents himself during the whole of a session, he may forfeit his seat in the Parliament. It is possible that the time will arrive when a session of the Parliament will mean only twelve or four teen days, the period of absence in the case that we are considering at the moment.
I point out, Mr. President, that pairs are notrecognized by the Standing Orders. Simply because an honorable senator has a particular interest in the development of some so-called principle which is said to be involved, although an attack may, at the same time, be made on a much older principle involving the need for unity on the part of the working people to protect their rights, we must not forget that there are two sides to each issue. The issue with which we are concerned is not a one-sided affair. I believe that the Standing Orders have not been followed in this instance. In my opinion, the Standing Orders clearly state what the conduct of honorable senators should be in certain circumstances, and that an honorable senator who departs from that course of conduct is open to criticism. I suggest that honorable senators cannot go far wrong if, when leave is needed, they follow the normal procedure of the Senate and obtain leave.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 September 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1958/19580923_senate_22_s13/>.