22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– 1 preface a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral by reminding him that I have frequently referred in this chamber to the fact that radio reception in the north-west of Western Australia is very poor. Can the Minister say whether a survey is being conducted to ascertain the cause of the trouble, with a view to the matter being remedied? When can the people living in this area expect improved radio reception?
– I am informed that an officer of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is making a comprehensive survey in the area to which the honorable senator has referred, and the board is awaiting the receipt of a report from him.
Televising of Opening
– T address a question to you, Mr. President. Will you inform the Senate what person, or body of persons, has granted permission to the Australian Broadcasting Commission to televise the opening of the Twenty-third Parliament in this chamber in 1959? Will you also say what head of power permits such, permission to be given without first ascertaining the personal reactions of senators and members to the proposal, with particular regard to the desirability or otherwise of televising our proceedings? Have senators and members a right to express their desires in this matter? Do you, Sir, believe that the same authority or power under which the decision to permit the opening proceedings of the next Parliament to be televised could be used to permit the televising of parliamentary proceedings other than on the -occasion of the formal opening to which I have referred? If you are of opinion- that such authority or power could be so used, will you inform, the Senate of the procedure that would be followed to ascertain the desires of senators and of members of the House of Representatives prior to a firm arrangement being entered into for the televising of parliamentary proceedings?
– Following the receipt of a request from the Australian Broadcasting Commission for permission to televise the formal opening of the Twentythird Parliament next year, I discussed the matter with Mr. Speaker and with the leaders of the various parties and obtained their approval. I thought that that would be sufficient in relation to this particular request. Their approval has no bearing on any future televising of the parliamentary proceedings. It was thought that, as the formal opening will be a national occasion, it was desirable for the proceedings to be televised. As I have said, I took the precaution of consulting the leaders of the parties about the matter.
– I address my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the grave repercussions which will inevitably follow the action of the United States Government in imposing restrictions on imports of base metals, can he inform the Senate whether measures are already in train to counter the depressing effect that this development will have on the mining centres of Tasmania, particularly Queenstown, and other mining centres throughout Australia, such as Mount Isa?
– I am sure the honorable senator appreciates that we have no control over any policy that the United States Government might see fit to adopt. America is a free country, as we are a free country. I am sure he will appreciate also that we could have overseas no better or more forceful representative to put Australia’s case than my colleague. Mr. McEwen. Australia’s views surely will be put very forcefully before the American authorities.
– I ask the
Minister for National Development a question without notice. When the Government was preparing recently its mentally dull
Budget, and writing paragraphs dealing with the drastic reduction in the export income of Australia, why did it not take action to warn the nation that a new cataclysm was about to overtake us? What benefit is obtained by employing Australian diplomats in the United States and paying them fantastic salaries if they are unable to warn Australia of an impending disaster? In view of this most savage decision of the United States Government to impose import restrictions, would it not be advisable for this Government to recall the Minister for Trade so that he can set his mind to finding new avenues for the sale of Australian commodities in countries which are in proximity to us, a course which would provide an opportunity for broader and more generous economic thinking, in direct contrast to the Government’s present narrow and niggardly outlook?
– I suppose you are referring to red China.
– Perhaps red China, yes.
– I thank the honorable senator for his complimentary remarks about the Budget. I am sure his criticism will be received with the same sympathy as his exaggerated remarks about unemployment are received. I do not know how one can link the restriction on the import of base metals into the United States with the finding of new markets to the north of Australia, because each problem must be dealt with separately. If possible, we have to find new markets for base metals. I am sure the honorable senator would be the first to admit that in the countries north of Australia there is not a sufficient degree of manufacturing activity to form a market for Australia’s base metals. The decision of the United States Government has been long in contemplation. The representations made by the mining industries in the United States - from memory, about twelve months ago - resulted in the United States Tariff Commission report. In order to avoid the import restrictions that were contemplated, the Seaton plan, which suggested subsidies to producers of base metals in America, was evolved. That suggestion was rejected by the American Congress and the President, exercising his own power, brought down these import restrictions. It is unfair to say that those restrictions came as a surprise because we all knew something on those lines was pending, but we did not expect the restrictions to be as severe as they are. It is only fair to say that we have done all that we can do in the circumstances up to this stage. I think it is only fair to say that, while America is the master of its own destiny, it will be a long while before we forget this restriction, and we shall continue to make representations.
– I address a question to you, Mr. President, relating to an article I read recently in a newspaper in Melbourne on the construction of ihe new Parliament House in Canberra. The Canberra correspondent of a Melbourne evening newspaper, in a critical survey dealing with accommodation in the present building, said -
The best accommodation has been taken foi big suites by Ministers, and there is no parallel to this curious form of squatting in any other important Parliament building anywhere. But even while Ministerial squatting continues, Parliament House is overcrowded only because Parliament has adopted the unique policy of providing rooms for private members, in which most spend more of their brief stay during sessions than in the Chamber.
Will you be good enough to inform the Senate under what terms and conditions rooms are allotted to the press, and, in view of the critical concern of this writer, will consideration be given to the question of evicting some of the press so as to relieve the congestion which is worrying this columnist?
– I shall look into the matter and reply to the honorable senator’s question later.
– I address a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport relating to an examination of interstate shipping freights on timber which I understand is being made by the Interdepartmental Committee on Transport. I understand that the case for the Western Australian industry has already been submitted to that committee and that the industry is anxiously awaiting a reply. Can the Minister inform the Senate when it is likely that this question will be dealt with and finality reached in the whole matter?
– I am aware, ot course, that the Western Australian timber industry has submitted certain statements to this committee because, before those statements were submitted, I had the pleasure of discussing the matter with the president of the Western Australian Timber Association. The work of the committee is continuing. This matter has two aspects. The shipping industry itself is vitally interested because it is a peculiarity of shipping that timber freights are very seldom profitable. Some shipowners have submitted - and I believe others will submit - certain evidence to this committee with respect to timber handling. I do not know the point which the matter has reached at the moment, but I do know that evidence is now corning from some shipping operators as to the incidence of timber handling and the possibility of reducing costs in that respect.
– I put it to the Minister for Shipping and Transport that, consequent upon the recent action of the United States of America in restricting the importation of lead and zinc, a difficult situation could develop for a number of South Australian people living, working and engaged in business along the Broken Hill-Port Pirie narrow-gauge railway line and those engaged in the Port Pirie smelters and on wharf work at Port Pirie. Will the Minister consider pushing ahead with surveys and works to standardize the gauge of this railway? If he does so, some of the difficulties I have mentioned might be relieved.
– Regarding this as a railway proposal, as I have frequently said in the Senate, the Commonwealth Government, having decided to undertake the construction of the Melbourne-Albury line, has said that until the results from that undertaking are available it would prefer to wait before proceeding with any other rail standardization work.
The question of the effect on employment of the American decision to restrict the importation of lead should’, I think, be regarded in a wider context than its influence on the mere building of a railway line, and, if necessary, I do not doubt that it will be so regarded.
– Is the Minister for National Development aware that deposits of high-grade red granite exist at Coles Bay in Tasmania, but that lack of orders for government contracts is hampering the development of this industry? Will he, in his capacity as Minister for National Development, urge his colleagues to stipulate the use’ of Tasmanian red granite - when price and availability of supplies are competitive - in all Commonwealth Government building contracts which might otherwise use imported1 granite? Would not the use of Tasmanian granite, in such circumstances, in preference to imported granite, assist us to deal with our balance of payments problem?
– I am all for the proposal that we should use our indigenous resources before turning to imports. 1 have no experience of the Tasmanian red granite to which the honorable senator refers. I will have a look at the question that he asks and consider how best to assist him to obtain the result at which he aims. I will write him a note and tell him whether I can make any useful suggestions to him.
– The Minister for National Development has been speaking in a rather low voice and I could not catch every word that he said. It may be that he has already answered the question I am now going to ask him. I wish to refer to the action of the United States of America in reducing the importation of lead and zinc. Can the Minister inform me of that country’s production of lead and zinc? Does the United States obtain lead and zinc from a number of other countries? Has it reduced imports from those countries in the same proportion as it has reduced imports from Australia, or has it a special set on Australia, cutting us down more than other countries? If there is over-production of lead and zinc, the United States is naturally looking after its own interests. Could the Minister give us any idea of the future for the production of these minerals?
What attitude will the Australian Government take up, and what action will it take to offset the effect of these restrictions?
– Senator Brown has virtually asked me to deliver a policy speech. In brief, the United States of America does not produce enough lead and zinc for its own requirements; it has to import these minerals. Australia provides the largest share of lead imports of the United States. The American decision is, therefore, a matter of great consequence to Australia. The United States of America is our biggest market for lead exports. What the President of that country has done is to issue a decree saying that those who have enjoyed the trade with America in the past will in the future be entitled to sell to it only 80 per cent. of the amount which they sold, on the average, in the years 1953-1957. We have to examine that in detail because trade varies. It may be that those particular years give an advantage to one country and a disadvantage to another country. That is being examined at the moment. I do not think that I can usefully say more than that.
– I preface my question to the Minister for National Development by slating that recently the Commonwealth Government, as a gift, gave to the State Government of Western Australia, for the purpose of developing the area north of the 20th parallel commonly known as the Kimberleys, a sum of £2.500,000, to be spent at the rate of £500,000 a year. Have any projects been started by the State Government? Has any application been received by the Commonwealth involving the spending of this money? Have the House of Representatives and the Senate to give their approval to the spending of the £500,000 that is to be spent each year?
– As I understand it, the present position is that the Western Australian Government has asked, and the Commonwealth Government has agreed, that three works be put in hand. The first work is the construction of the Black Rocks port, the second is the extension of the Wyndham jetty, and the third involves sounding surveys for a suggested new port in the north - I think Napier Bay is the name. The Commonwealth Government has told the State Government that it approves of that programme. The next move is for the State Government to commence the works.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has submitted the following answer -
Motion (by Senator O’SuIlivan) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Marriage (Overseas) Act 1955, and for other purposes.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act 1933-1957, 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.
The purpose of this bill is to alter the present provisions in the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act for carrying on the work of that court during the absence of the judge. The present need for the amendment arises from the fact that the judge of the court, on medical advice, is taking a few months’ leave of absence.
As the act reads at present - sub-section (2.) of section 8 - it authorizes the GovernorGeneral, in the event of any absence of the judge, to appoint as an acting judge any of the judges of the following courts - namely, Federal Court of Bankruptcy, the Commonwealth Industrial Court or the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, to hold office, of course, only during the absence of the regular judge.
The rigidity of the provisions of the Constitution in regard to courts exercising judicial powers has been demonstrated ‘in many cases and, as the authorities now stand, it may perhaps be doubtful whether a valid provision can be made for the temporary appointment of an acting judge of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court to hold office only during the absence of the regular judge, even if the person so appointed already holds an appointment for life as the judge of another court created by Parliament.
It would not be fair to any other judge who was prepared to undertake the duties of the judge of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court during the absence of the regular judge to leave the statutory position in such a state that there could be any doubt whatsoever as to the validity of the acting appointment.
It is proposed, therefore, to amend the act by providing that the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory shall consist of one regular judge and one or more additional judges, the additional judges to be persons who already hold commissions as judges of other courts created by the Parliament. Instead of being given temporary acting appointments to the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court, the additional judges will be given commissions for life as judges of that court. No additional remuneration will be paid.
The bill provides that the jurisdiction of the court is to be exercised by one judge only, as at present. It is contemplated, of course, that the regular judge will normally exercise the jurisdiction of the court. In effect, the bill leaves it to the good sense of the judges themselves, when additional judges are appointed, to make the necessary arrangements as to the judge who is to exercise the jurisdiction of the court from time to time.
The rest of the bill contains machinery provisions into which 1 do not think it is necessary to go. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 23rd September (vide page 553).
Department of Civil Aviation.
Proposed vote, £11,389,000.
– 1 refer to Division No. 76 - Development of Civil Aviation. I should like to have from the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) information about some of the items in that division. Item 1 is “ Aero and gliding clubs- Grants, £180,000”. The item suggests, of course, that the Government proposes to make grants totalling £180,000 to aero and gliding clubs in the Commonwealth for the purpose, no doubt, of assisting inexperienced youths and others to learn something of flying operations. Item 2 is “ International Civil Aviation Organization - Contribution, £50,000 “. Honorable senators who know something of the work of that organization will appreciate how necessary it is for the Commonwealth, if not to be a member of the organization, to contribute as much as possible towards its work, because the more efficient the organization becomes, the safer flying will be, both here and overseas. Item 3 relates to a proposed contribution of £22,000 for North Atlantic air navigation facilities. That item, I suggest, speaks for itself. Australia, as a developing nation, must contribute to international organizations which work for the betterment of aviation throughout the world.
I come now to item 5. “ Air services - Subsidy, £500,000”. I should like the Minister to supply details in relation to that matter. I cannot imagine that any one air service in the Commonwealth would receive a subsidy from the Government of £500,000; evidently, the amount is to be distributed to various air services. In addition, can the Minister inform me whether that is the only subsidy that is paid to air services in the Commonwealth?
Item 6 reads, “ Aerodromes - Development grant, £600,000”. That is to be a grant from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Commonwealth, not a subsidy or a contribution. I should like to know whether the aerodromes in respect of which the grant is to be made are owned by the Commonwealth. If they are not, I want to know where they are situated, whether they are operated by local government authorities, and whether they are being developed for the purpose of handing them over to the Department of Civil Aviation at some time in the future. Item 7 relates to a proposed grant of £70,000 for aerodrome maintenance. My understanding is that the grant is not for the purpose of maintaining governmentowned aerodromes, but is to be made in respect of aerodromes that have not yet been fully developed and taken over by the Commonwealth. If the Minister has not at his finger tips the information that I desire, will he obtain it and supply me with it?
Senator MARRIOTT (Tasmania) [3.35J. - I take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), and through him, the Department of Civil Aviation, on its efficiency, which is recognized throughout the world. 1 think that Australia is a very lucky country in that the reputation of our airline operators is not equalled - or at least not bettered - by that of airline companies in other parts of the world. In a large measure, this standard is due to the enthusiasm, not only of the Minister himself, but of the department and of the several airline operators.
I am sure that all Tasmanian senators are most grateful for the wonderful new terminal building that has been erected’ at the Hobart airport. It is fitting that such an excellent building should grace the southern terminal of our aerial services, and we were most pleased recently to welcome the Minister to Hobart to declare the building open. We are grateful, also, for other things that have been done by the Department of Civil Aviation during the Minister’s tenure of office, such as the extension of the runway of the Launceston airport, the taking over of the Smithton aerodrome on the far north-west coast and the provision of night landing facilities at small airports like that on the north-east coast at Bridport. All of these things are most important to the island State of Tasmania, and the extra safeguards that have been provided have increased the confidence of the people of that State.
I now wish to direct the attention of the Minister to another matter, although I know that he is quite conscious of it. I refer to the necessity to lengthen the runway at Wynyard Airport, and I ask the Minister to keep this matter in the forefront of his department’s planning. All I ask at the moment is that the Minister keep the matter in mind, because when that work is carried out, better services can be provided more economically to the airlines. They will be of benefit to passengers and to both exporters and importers who airfreight goods between the north-west coast and the mainland States.
I also ask the Minister to direct his attention to the necessity for the provision of night landing facilities, and the lighting of the airport, at either Devonport or Wynyard - whichever airport the Minister considers should have those facilities.
There is a slightly increased provision this year for aero clubs. I think that the Government has done a wonderful job from year to year in voting money to assist these clubs which, in effect, are training grounds for pilots not only for the commercial air services but also, to a small degree, for the Royal Australian Air Force. I hope that the Government will continue to assist these clubs. In Tasmania, the aero clubs are not only training centres for pilots for the civil airlines and for the Royal Australian Air Force; they also render amazing community service. There have been many instances in which aero club pilots have flown to the small islands in the Bass Strait and off southern Tasmania and brought sick or injured people to Launceston or Hobart. This is a very efficient and valuable service that is rendered by the two aero clubs of which we can boast in Tasmania, and which are continually expanding their activities. I believe that grants to aero clubs represent money well spent because of the great service that they render to the community.
I have one final comment to make, and in making it I shall play a strange role by agreeing with something that Senator Benn has said’. I cannot recall having agreed previously with anything that Senator Benn has said in this chamber, particularly during recent weeks. On this occasion, I am equally as inquisitive as he is about the proposed vote of £600,000 for development grants for aerodromes, under Division No. 76, and I shall be interested to hear from the Minister how it is proposed to distribute that amount.
– 1 think this is the appropriate time for me to ask the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) whether any provision has been made for works in connexion with extending the Guildford airport. Doubtless, the Minister will recollect that he promised some time ago to look into this matter. Extensions to the Guildford airport are contingent on road development through Guildford and Bayswater. Is the Minister able to say whether the work will be proceeded with, and whether provision for the work has been made under Division No. 74 or Division No. 76?
I should also like the Minister to inform me whether provision has been made under these divisions for improved landing facilities in the north and in the north-west of Western Australia. I have no doubt that the Minister will recall that during his recent tour of those areas, which was organized by a Western Australian newspaper - it was a very pleasant tour and the company was good - many requests were received in this connexion from people in those areas for whom no transport facilities other than by air are provided. There are relatively few places in Australia where other means of transport, by road, by sea, and by rail do not exist. I am sure that when we visited the areas to which I refer the Minister had as keen an appreciation as I did of the need to provide improved landing facilities there, so that the residents would be able to get the best out of the only means of transport available to them. I feel sure that the Minister has given consideration to this matter, and that he will be able to relate a happy story to honorable senators.
– I desire to address myself to the last item of the proposed vote. I shall mention three separate matters, on which
I should like the Minister to comment if he so chooses. The first aspect of aviation to which I wish to refer is the very valuable work performed by the Royal Flying Doctor Service. I feel that.it is quite illogical that the Department of Civil Aviation has not control over aspects of governmental activity related to this service. I do not need to dilate on the importance of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, other than to comment that provision has been made for it, not in the votes for the Department of Health or the Department of Civil Aviation, but in the vote for the Prime Minister’s Department. I suggest to the Minister for his consideration that he should add to his ministerial burdens by arranging for the vote relating to the Royal Flying Doctor Service to be administered by his capable and efficient department. I do so for this reason: Without a doubt, up to date the magnificent people who have raised funds in an honorary, or in a quasihonorary, capacity for the work of the service, have accepted a great deal of responsibility in this regard. I am afraid that those days are fast passing. Most of the aircraft used by the Royal Flying Doctor Service require renewal, the cost of which will be astronomical when one has regard to the resources available to this magnificent service. I think that before very long the Commonwealth will have to accept the total responsibility for the re-equipment of the service. I invite the Minister to inform us of his views on this matter. When the time does arrive when the Commonwealth must accept full responsibility for the renewal of the aircraft, I suggest that the service be placed under the capable administration of the Minister for Civil Aviation.
I now wish to refer to Kalgoorlie airport. Can the Minister inform the Senate when completion of the additions to the airport is expected? Will such additions place this very important airport in the category of an international airport as outlined in the international agreement?
Finally, I make reference to the pioneer air service of Australia, MacRobertsonMiller Airlines Limited, which serves onethird of the total area of Australia, from Albany to Darwin. I am sure the Minister, and Senator Tangney, who is now smiling, will agree with me when I say that the airline is doing a magnificent job for the people in the outback. In addition to being 9 pioneer service, it is now reduced to flying pioneer aircraft, having regard to the new types being introduced by other airline companies. Very shortly it will be the only civil airline flying DC3 aircraft. While 1 do not wish to disparage the tremendous work performed by aircraft of that type, not only in Australia but in other parts of the world, the time has now arrived when they must be replaced.
I invite the Minister to give us such information as he can on the re-equipping of the MacRobertson-Miller air fleet with more modern aircraft.
.- Can the Minister give us any definite information regarding the future of the Essendon airport in Victoria? I am personally interested in this matter, first, because 1 live at Essendon, and secondly, because suggestions have been rife in the area for some considerable time that the future of the airport is in doubt. Suggestions have been made - I do not know with what truth - that some of the more modern types of aircraft will be diverted to other airports because Essendon is not entirely suitable to handle them. I know that some people living in the area would be quite happy to see these airliners operated from another locality.
In view of the reports which are occasioning some degree of discussion, can the Minister state whether there is any truth in the reports that I have mentioned? If there is, has any definite decision been made? If not, can he say when a definite decision will be announced?
– I was interested to hear Senator Marriott’s remarks regarding the airport terminal building in Tasmania to which he referred. All South Australians commend the Department of Civil Aviation for the splendid building that has been erected at West Beach.
Senator Vincent referred to the MacRobertson.Miller airline company as being one of the pioneers still operating in Australia with DC3 aircraft. I remind honorable senators of another pioneer company, Guinea Airways Limited, which also still flies DC3’s. That company has a magnificent record extending over at least 25 years since it first began its famous New
Guinea flights. Guinea Airways is confronted with the problem of the type of aircraft to replace the DC3’s. I shall be interested to hear the Minister’s reply to Senator Vincent’s question on those lines. Is an aircraft of a suitable type available? The larger aircraft are not suitable for the short hops made by intrastate services. The passenger loading is not great, and aircraft capable of carrying about 25 passengers are most suitable. I do not know the type of aircraft to which we can look to replace the DC3’s, which have been really phenomenal in their performance - dependable, reliable and occasioning very little risk or inconvenience to the people who have used them.
The third matter to which I wish to refer relates to the scheme recently announced by the Minister, which he referred to as the local-ownership scheme, whereby the Government proposes to hand over to local government authorities, as a free gift, airports which exist in their particular areas. There is no compulsion about it - the authorities may act at their discretion. It is simply an offer made in good faith. I understand also that if the offer is accepted, all assets and improvements on the airfields will be included in the title to the land given to the authorities. In addition, should any future development occur, the Government will be prepared to assist the local government authorities in any expenditure involved on the basis of ?1 for ?1. This is a magnificent gesture which will assist both the Government and the local authorities, which would otherwise be saddled with the total expenditure involved in future development of the airfields.
I commend the scheme. I believe a fair offer is being made to the local government authorities, and I shall be interested to hear any further remarks the Minister may make about it. I hope the scheme meets with the success it deserves.
– I should like to make some reference to the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Western Australia. We in Western Australia owe a great debt of gratitude to the people of the eastern States who have contributed to the cost of that service. It has made a tremendous difference to settlement in the remote areas of the north-west of our State. To the women in particular, and their families, it has brought a certain amount of security, a sense of security that they did not have before, lt has made all the difference to them in their daily lives and is, in fact, one of the greatest amenities to come their way in the last 50 or 60 years.
This service is something more than a flying doctor service. It does all kinds of jobs for the people on outback stations. In his ordinary rounds, the flying doctor, if he is not on an emergency case, takes the family shopping list with him and drops the required goods in the next time he goes that way. He is a family friend. Actually, one would need to be in the north to appreciate how much a part of their everyday life this Flying Doctor Service is to the people of the remote areas.
I was interested to read the other day that the original idea for the Flying Doctor Service came from a Perth doctor. As the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) is a Western Australian, I am sure he will not mind my mentioning this when discussing his department. One of the veteran doctors of Perth, Dr. J. J. Holland, who has had very many years experience, and who is now a very elderly man, was at one time called upon to treat a patient who was in the far north-west. To get to that patient, he had to travel for a fortnight by boat. Before leaving on the journey, he sent instructions to the local hotel-keeper as to how to perform an operation with a pocket knife. He also sent instructions for the care of the patient during the period while he was travelling to see him. Unfortunately, the man died before the doctor arrived.
In conversation with the Reverend John Flynn afterwards, Dr. Holland said that if there had only been some way of getting to the patient more quickly, such as by aeroplane, it was probable that that man’s life would have been saved. The Reverend J. Flynn thought that a flying doctor service would be a grand idea, and he was the person who saw that vision brought to reality. We cannot speak too highly of the Flying Doctor Service in Western Australia.
I was interested in what Senator Vincent said about the Government taking over some responsibility for the Flying Doctor Service. I saw some comments on this proposal a few weeks ago. They were not very favorable to it. The people who have been contributing to the scheme, the people who have undertaken the responsibility, as it were, for the scheme, wanted to carry it through. Whether Senator Vincent’s proposal would mean a more efficient flying doctor service in the years to come - it is obvious that costs must rise - I do not know, but I do know that the matter has already been discussed.
What I say of the Flying Doctor Service applies to a lesser extent to the MacRobertson Miller air service. This airline renders a wonderful regular service to the people of the various stations and townships in the north. For part of the year, it is subsidized for the carriage of such perishables as vegetables, which are a necessity to the people of those regions. Recently, when I was at Roebourne, I found that I would receive no change out of £1 if I bought a stone of potatoes and a pound of butter. That gives honorable senators some idea of what these articles cost when the subsidy is not applicable during the off-season. At the present time, the carriage of goods by air is subsidized by the State government during the hot season. To the people of Canberra, of course, the season would be hot up there now, for the temperature is up in the 90’s. And this is winter time! Honorable senators can imagine what conditions are like there in the summer. T should like the Commonwealth Government to give some assistance by way of extended subsidy for the air freighting of perishables to the north.
As I said last night, I should like the Commonwealth Government to subsidize the carriage of mails by air to and from that district. The people of the north-west are penalized every time they send a letter, for they must send it by airmail if they want it to reach its destination within a reasonable time. Although the State shipping service does a very fine job, it has to contend with the tremendous difficulty of tides. Ships spend almost as much time sitting on the banks outside the ports waiting for the tides to enable them to go in as they do in the ports. This means that voyages in the north are very lengthy and if mail is sent by ship it is delayed greatly. Similarly, the roads in the north-west are at times almost impassable, and to send mail by mail car means long delays in delivery to Perth.
I should like the people of the north to receive a subsidy from the Government so that mail may be carried by air with no extra cost to them. I do not think this help would cost very much, and I am confident that if my friend, the Minister for Civil Aviation, were to put my suggestion before the right quarter, some agreement would be reached on it.
– 1 desire to speak about the administration side of the Department of Civil Aviation and to refer in particular to my friend, the Minister. I should like to thank him and his department for the great assistance afforded to the Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith Memorial Committee which completed this year the erection of a memorial at the Adelaide airport. I particularly commend the Minister and his department for the provision of a suitable surrounding road and lawns there. The Minister may be interested to know that since those splendid lawns have been laid, there have been one or two moves in making memorial tablets on them, so that in the course of time, there could be a very beautiful air centre, as it were, at West Beach airport. After all, airports, as a general rule, look rather bare, but I think that in a short time that particular section of the Adelaide airport will be a thing of great beauty and art.
I pass now to a similar matter at Darwin. As the Senate may well know, those great airmen, Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith, first landed at Darwin, at a point near the gaol, upon the completion of a great prizewinning journey. That landing made them world famous and their names will live for all time because of the journey they completed. There is only one monument there. It is really a cairn. The letters on it have become eroded and worn, some of them being barely legible. I suggest that the Department of Civil Aviation could well take it over, or supervise the care of that Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith memorial cairn at Darwin. It seems wrong that a memorial, put there a number of years ago, should be allowed to get into a state of disrepair.
I want to pay tribute to what is being done at the present time. I understand that the Minister’s department is attending, as best it can, to that memorial, but I feel that a survey should be made of the position to ensure that erosion will not continue.
While I am on the question of this important civil aviation memorial, I point out that a short distance away the actual spot where this famous plane landed is marked. I should like the Minister to consider the adoption of some adequate means of preserving that spot. It is marked already, and there is a small plaque there, but that plaque is not sufficient identification to make it readily discernible to any who may wish to see it. After all, the Department of Civil Aviation has come to stay and I think we have now reached the stage when it should pay great attention to the important historic memorials connected with civil aviation.
While I am dealing with Darwin I should like to pay a tribute to the magnificent airconditioned waiting room that has been provided there in the last year or so by the department, in co-operation with Qantas. That is a splendid welcome to Australia for overseas travellers.
I hope that I have given a sufficient preamble to put the Minister for Civil Aviation in a good frame of mind. I should like now to refer to Division No. 76 - Development of Civil Aviation and ask the Minister for some details of item 3, “ North Atlantic air navigation facilities - Contribution. £22,000”; item 5, “Air services - subsidy, £500,000”; Item 6, “Aerodromes - development grant, £600,000 “; and item 7, “ Aerodromes - maintenance grant, £70,000 “. Those items appear this year for the first time. I should also like some details of item 4, “ Ground facilities in Pacific - contribution towards cost, £650,000 “.
In conclusion, I compliment the Minister and his staff upon negotiating, in a splendid way, the agreement which enables Australian civil aircraft to provide a service right round the world. That is one of the signal things that have occurred in this year of Australia’s aviation history. I understand that the agreement in respect of Qantas was negotiated by the Department of Civil Aviation with great skill. Australia is very well represented by this airline. I was most interested to see the splendid liaison which seemed to exist between the Department of Trade and the Department of Civil Aviation in Honolulu and New York. At the splendid Qantas office in Fifth-avenue there is an excellent Department of Trade exhibit, lt is as good as any that I saw in any airline office throughout the world. Such collaboration and co-operation between the two departments can result only in good.
.- 1 should like to make one or two observations concerning Division No. 75 - Maintenance and Operation of Civil Aviation Facilities. A fact often overlooked in our approach to civil aviation in this country and others is the tremendous level of indirect subsidy which is given to this particular form of transport. I assume that the vote for the maintenance and operation of civil aviation facilities can be construed as being nothing but an indirect subsidy to the operating companies. I do not criticize that at all. I believe that the operation of modern aircraft of the kind to which we are accustomed in Australia makes it necessary that these facilities should be provided from sources other than those of the operating companies. The important thing is, of Course, that the Parliament should scrutinize the extent of subsidy and ensure that it does not proceed beyond the level which we ourselves have contemplated.
Having said that, I look at the expenditure under this general heading and see that in 1957-58 it was £4,907,163. The proposed vote for the current financial year is £5,468,000. As far as I can see, the only charges in this category that are levied against the operating companies are air navigation charges. These are referred to by the Auditor-General in paragraph 64 of his report for the year ended 30th June, 1958. He gives the revenue from this source for 1957-58 as £511,053. This would be a little more than 10 per cent, of the expenditure incurred in the same year under Division No. 75. As this year the expenditure under that division is expected to rise to £5,468,000 it would be interesting to have some information as to the expected revenue from air nagivation charges. Can the Minister give the Senate any indication as to how the new 10 per cent, increase in air navigation charges, under the amended Air Navigation Charges Act 1952- 57, is operating?
– Does the honorable senator wish to know the extent of the increase?
– No. The amendment provided for a 10 per cent, increase in the charge. I take it that that was in expectation of some rise in expenditure. A very considerable rise in expenditure - of some £500,000 - is contemplated this year and I am wondering whether, in order to retain the relativity between expenditure and charges it might be necessary to re-amend the act to increase the charge further. I have forgotten the bases upon which the charges are levelled, or why the particular amendment was brought down. No doubt I should find out if I referred to the report of the debate, but perhaps the Minister would be good enough to refresh my memory on the matter and say whether he expects that the present level of charges will prove adequate, or whether a further amendment of the act will be necessary.
– Both Senator Benn and Senator Laught have inquired as to the expenditure under several items set out in Division No. 76 - Development of Civil Aviation. The first query was in respect of the subsidy grant. Portion of the item was previously included in a vote under the control of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The balance, in accordance with current policy, will be used to extend assistance by way of subsidy to operators of essential air services in rural areas. I think that it is probably more accurate to speak of “ rural and isolated areas “.
asked whether I could let him have the names of the operators who could receive the subsidy, and also the respective amounts. I regret that I have not the break-up, but I can give him the names and approximately the areas in which they operate. That will indicate the kind of service which may be subsidized. These services are Ansett-A.N.A., for its Sydney to Lord Howe Island service and for services to King Island and to the Gulf country in Queensland; Trans-Australia Airlines for its services - presumably in the Channel country; Bush Pilots Airways, a company which operates, as Senator Benn will know, in Queensland; Butler Air Transport Limited, for its far-western services in New
South Wales; Connellan Airways Limited, for a magnificent service in the Northern Territory; and MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited, for the service which it gives to ihe north-western Kimberleys and across to Darwin. The latter should satisfy my friend from Western Australia, Senator Tangney, who seeks an increased subsidy to this end. The only other operator is Queensland Air Lines. As honorable senators will appreciate, all these air lines operate in isolated areas.
The next question asked was about the developmental grant of £600,000. Senator Pearson referred to this matter in connexion with what we have come to call the local ownership plan. In this connexion, a question was asked by Senator Benn, who has been for some time interested in the South Johnstone Shire aerodrome, which is to benefit under this plan. Actually, the basis of the plan is that local authorities will be given an opportunity to retain ownership of those aerodromes which were developed under promise, or implied promise, of take-over by the Commonwealth, and the amount which the shires have spent on those aerodromes will be reimbursed. Other local authorities will be given the opportunity of taking over, free of charge, Commonwealth aerodromes. If they do so, the Commonwealth, as in the case of the first-class aerodromes, will join with them in developing their aerodromes on a £l-for-£l subsidy basis. I might say that the department and myself are delighted with the reaction to this plan by all those local authorities which have been approached. It is a plan which, in part, has been implemented in New Zealand and in other countries, and we believe that it will be highly successful in Australia.
– Does the plan apply to all aerodromes?
– Not to all aerodromes. It does not apply to capital city aerodromes, alternate aerodromes and those aerodromes which play a major part in the civil aviation network and aerodromes held on joint ownership or joint lease with the Royal Australian Air Force.
– Will each local authority have to strike a rate for its area?
– I do not know how the local authorities will finance the plan; that is for them to work out. The point is that they get the aerodrome and develop it and they can have full use of the aerodrome to grant concessions and the like. Of the £600,000, approximately £450,000 will be devoted to the reimbursement of local authorities which have developed aerodromes and approximately £150,000 to aid future development.
asked questions relating to the maintenance grant. This item previously came under Division No. 75. It includes provision to cover the payment of grants based on a more realistic relationship to present-day costs. A number of aerodromes, particularly station aerodromes in the north-west of Western Australia, receive maintenance grants each year from the department. This item of £70,000, because we have increased the level of maintenance to a more realistic figure, appears under Division No. 76 for the first time.
asked a number of questions about Western Australian aerodromes. Although this matter really comes under the capital vote, I shall take this opportunity to give him the information that I have available. At Perth aerodrome there is a project for the strengthening and the extension of runways, with associated earthworks, drainage, &c. It will also entail approach clearing and the strengthening of taxi-ways. The cost is estimated at £450,000. It is anticipated that about £100,000 will be spent on that project this year. Also at Perth, there is a project for the erection of an international transmitter station at a cost of £49,000, the extension of aprons and taxiways for an overseas terminal at a cost of £55,000, and the erection of a power house and the installation of a generating set at a cost of £32,000. At Geraldton, £39,000 is to be expended on the construction of aprons, taxi-ways, &c. In the north-west of the State - I cannot name the airports on which the money is to be expended - a total of £75,000 is to be expended on a number of airports.
Senator Vincent spoke of the Flying Doctor Service and expressed some regret that that service comes under the administration of the Department of Health. This is one of the things in public administration, which, like Topsy, has just grown up. It started in that way and, presumably, that is where it will stop. I agree with Senator Vincent, and also with Senator Tangney, that the Flying Doctor Service is doing a remarkable job. The Government, of course, supports it by a subsidy, through the Department of Health, for both maintenance and capital equipment. I cannot give any definite information about Kalgoorlie airport, which again is a capital vote item, but I can assure the honorable senator that the Kalgoorlie airport is an alternative airport to Perth for international operations.
With regard to the re-equipment of our own air line in Western Australia - MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited - the managing director has recently been overseas, having a look at various types of aircraft which may be suitable to replace the DC3’s, which have done, and are doing, such a good job in that service. It is a matter of coincidence that, having returned from his overseas trip, he was in Canberra this morning to see me. I imagine that quite early he will be submitting to me certain proposals in connexion with reequipment.
– Do you know the nature of the aircraft that might be substituted?
– I am not prepared to give that information at the moment. However, if his current plans are capable of implementation, I imagine the honorable senator will not be disappointed when he travels in the north-west.
asked about plans for the Melbourne airport. I cannot tell him anything about them at the moment. As he said, a lot of newspaper publicity has been given to the establishment of a new Melbourne airport, but the project is so vast and will cost such a tremendous amount of money that it will require the closest examination by the Government. No decision has been reached, but as soon as a decision is reached, an announcement will be made.
Senator Pearson spoke in praise ; I thank him for it ; of the local ownership plan, and also asked what types of aircraft might replace the DC3’s. There are two. One is the Fokker Friendship, an aircraft which is coming into service on Australian runs with T.A.A. and Ansett-A.N.A., and the other is an English aircraft, the HandleyPage Herald, which is attracting a good deal of attention.
asked a question about the appearance for the first time of Division No. 76, Item 3 - “ North Atlantic air navigation facilities - Contribution, ?22,000 “. This expenditure is a result of the establishment of the Qantas round-the-world service. As we now have an operator on the round-the-world route, this country is contributing to the maintenance of facilities.
– Is that the annual fee or is it for only part of the year?
– I do not know whether it is the annual fee or is for part of the year. Item 4 - “ Ground facilities in Pacific - Contribution towards cost, ?650,000” relates to the establishment at Nandi in Fiji of an international airport that will be used by aircraft belonging to Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand, the governments of which countries are contributing towards the cost.
I particularly thank Senator Laught for his reference to the successful conclusion of the negotiations in America which led to Australia securing trans-American rights and becoming the first airline to operate a round-the-world service. The DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation, Mr. Anderson, headed the mission which conducted the negotiations. It is gratifying to me to be able to tell honorable senators that, because of his success and the grand manner ‘in which he conducted the negotiations, he has received an award from an aeronautical body.
Senator Byrne expressed some concern about the proposed expenditure under Division No. 75. 1 hasten to tell him that it is a concern which I share. Although I believe that the greatest economies should be exersised, this is one of the forms of expenditure that is inseparable from the development of modern civil aviation. It is impossible accurately to assess the demands of civil aviation from period to period. That is indicated by the fact that this afternoon Senator McManus referred to the establishment of an airport at Melbourne to take jet aircraft. That kind of development is going on all the time, and we must pay if we desire to maintain the standard of civil aviation to which we have become accustomed.
As was pointed out, last year we raised air navigation charges by 10 per cent. That will mean an increase in revenue this year of about £45,000. That will not nearly cover the added expenditure; but I remind the honorable senator that, in addition to raising air navigation charges, which we had restricted because of the condition of the airline industry and the troubles through which it was passing, we imposed an aviation kerosene tax which together with the petrol tax brought in about £1,200,000 in 1957-58.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Air.
Proposed vote, £59,302,000.
– The Department of Air does not seem to have such a good record as has the Department of Civil Aviation, and its accounts are not as capable of clear analysis. This is one of the service departments that have come under very severe criticism by the Auditor-General in relation to accounting and the surplus and deficiencies of Stores. Although I have not risen quickly enough on other occasions to deal with the matter I am about to raise, I now have an opportunity to ask for some explanation about it. I am fully mindful of the fact that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), who is handling this section of the Estimates in this chamber, is not responsible for the administration of the Department of Air, but I hope he will be able to give me the information that I desire.
The report of the Auditor-General for the year ended 30th June last contains the following passage -
Reference to excess stockholdings at stores depots and units was made in the Reports for the years 1955-1956 and 1956-57. Notwithstanding further substantial reductions in holdings during the year, some establishments are still retaining stocks in excess of current or foreseeable requirements.
The report further states -
As in previous years, the reasons advanced by the Department for the continued large discrepancies were incorrect identification and documentation, errors in previous stocktakings and inaccurate stores recording-.
Arising, inter alia, from critical comment by the Minister regarding the large-scale stocktaking discrepancies and a resultant departmental report thereon, the Department now proposes to set up a working party under the chairmanship of the First Assistant Secretary to investigate at top level the various factors contributing to the unsatisfactory store accounting and storekeeping in the Royal Australian Air Force.
That sounds very grand, but it is a decade too late. This sort of thing has been going on and on, and now a high level inquiry is promised. I should like to see something a little more definite at this stage than what the Auditor-General has been able to report in his observations.
The Auditor-General further reported -
Complete physical stocktakings have not been carried out at the Royal Australian Air Force Station at Edinburgh, South Australia, since the unit was established in 1955. In the past, this was attributed to the acute storage problem, but as adequate storage facilities have now been provided, accurate stock records should be established, based on a complete physical check of stores. This matter achieves greater importance because of the Station’s responsibility for the control and custody of large quantities of stores and equipment on behalf of United Kingdom and Commonwealth supply and service organizations associated with the Weapons Research Establishment.
In regard to the Royal Australian Air Force airfield construction squadrons, the report states -
The Darwin project, which was commenced in 1955, covers the construction of a new runway, buildings and other facilities at an estimated cost of £3,132,000, including £1,370,000 for materials. To 30th June, 1958, materials to the value of £743,978 had been purchased. Expenditure on pay and allowances of officers and other ranks engaged on the project is not segregated in departmental records.
Losses of engineering stores and materials have occurred. It was stated that adequate physical control and security are handicapped by the extensive area of construction and dispersal of stores and materials.
Neither of the projects is being costed, e.g., the costs of rations, quartering, medical supplies, petrol, oil and lubricants, overhaul and maintenance of plant and equipment, spare parts, depreciation, &c. are not separately recorded against each project.
This comment is not critical of the Air Force practice as the Airfield Construction Squadrons are an integral part of the permanent Royal Australian Air Force and it is the responsibility of the Service to ensure that they are profitably employed in peacetime. The fact is mentioned in order to indicate that the stated “ cost “ of the abovementioned projects is not valid for comparison with an estimate of the cost of the work if it were carried out by an authority such as the Department of Works.
Because of the unusual nature of the transactions between the Departments of Air and Works, there has been some confusion regarding the control over stores issued on this and comparable projects. This aspect was resolved in principle by the issue, in October, 1957, of an Air Board Order defining responsibility for control and accounting. However, the provisions of this Order have not been applied to stores supplied by the Department of Works to the Darwin project.
That is a most unsatisfactory position as far as the Parliament is concerned, and it certainly appears to the Auditor-General to be unsatisfactory. There is always a certain amount of criticism, based on ignorance, from supporters of the Government in relation to the carrying out of construction works by government departments. They often refer to the huge amounts that are expended on development or maintenance of public works when the task is undertaken by government departments. Comments of the Auditor-General, such as those to which I have just referred, are often made the basis for such criticisms. The Department of Air asked for certain works to be done, but we cannot find out what the actual cost was. There certainly have been great deficiencies in stores and materials. Apparently, the accounting system is haywire. However, in Western Australia, as a result of criticism of the way in which certain construction work was performed by departmental agencies, contracts we’re let to private contractors, but it was found, as a result of keen accounting and costing, that the letting of contracts was not such a good proposition after all, having regard to the standards of construction required to meet the demands of jet aircraft, and so on.
I do not think that a satisfactory explanation has yet been given as to why these deficiencies have been allowed to go on for so long. Of course, from time to time, excuses have been made about the inadequacy of staff, lack of space, and so on, but then we come to a year when all those things are available. Yet all that is said is that there will be a pow-wow on a high level regarding the deficiencies. So far as we know, nothing definite has been done to put things in order.
I make these comments, being mindful of the huge surpluses of equipment that have accumulated because of the changed policy of the Government regarding national service training. If we consider the provision for the pay and allowances of the
Citizen Air Force and national service trainees, we see that the proposed vote this year is £70,000, whereas last year’s appropriation was £143,000. I take it that the £70,000 to be appropriated this year will be used to provide for the pay of the nucleus of trained officers remaining, because the Air Force has largely been relieved of the responsibility of training young men in the Citizen Air Force,’ under the National Service Training Scheme. Huge quantities of equipment, such as unit stores, blankets and bedding, have gone to “ disposals “ and are being sold to the community at prices probably comparable with those which the Government paid for them, but very much higher than those which the “ disposals “ people paid for them. Wittingly or unwittingly, it is becoming the practice of the services to build up huge stocks of valuable materials - well-made articles, which are readily saleable to the public - and then to say, “ We have a surplus; we are in excess of requirements “. Nobody is ever blamed for allowing those surpluses to accumulate. The Government has known for years that that is happening but has done nothing about it. This policy has brought into being one of the most lucrative trades that has sprung up in Australia since the last war - the selling of service equipment to the public by “ disposals “ people at prices comparable with the value, but not at all comparable with the prices paid by them. It is pretty clear that there is good bunce in this business for somebody. Certainly, there are mighty profits, of which the people do not get the benefit.
If there are to be disposals of this kind, let them be arranged in such a way that the people will get the benefit of the material that is disposed of. It should be possible to keep such disposals to a minimum, but the report of the Auditor-General indicates that that has not been the case. Although there has been a large volume of disposals, the Auditor-General is of the opinion that there are still surplus stores in almost every department. Stores are missing from many departments and cannot be accounted for. It seems that there is no system in operation to make it possible for any effective check of the stores to be made. I hope that, after several years of criticism of this kind at Budget time, a reasonable explanation wilT be forthcoming.
– Are there any requests?
– Yes, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I request an assurance that when honorable senators ask for information they will be given a reply by the Minister concerned. Otherwise, I request permission to retire from the chamber without incurring the ire of the Chair, or slighting the committee.
– I am sorry that I did not get to my feet quite as fast as I should have done. I shall see that Senator Cooke receives a reply regarding the matters that he has raised.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Department of Supply, £21,757,000- agreed to.
Department of Shipping and Transport.
Proposed vote, £1,189,000.
.- I wish to refer to Division No. 115 - Ship Construction, because the ship-construction industry in Queensland is causing concern to many people at the moment. I am sure that the Minister is fully aware of the circumstances of the industry. In Queensland, it is a comparatively new industry, although ships of various sizes, types and tonnage have been constructed there during the past 70 or 80 years. The industry was really organized in Queensland during World War II., when frigates, freighters, corvettes, lighters, diesel tugs and a floating dock were constructed. Subsequently, cargo vessels of various tonnages also were built. There are two centres of the industry in Queensland, one, of major importance, being at Brisbane, and the other at Maryborough. Shipbuilding has been of great advantage to the economy of the State.
At the present time, the shipbuilding yards of Evans Deakin and Company Limited in Brisbane employ approximately 1,000 people, while at the yards of Walkers Limited, at Maryborough, between 200 and 300 men are employed. However, the number of employees has been considerably reduced during the last few months. The industry at Maryborough is in such a bad state at the present time that it is feared that the ship-construction yards may have to close entirely within a month or two.
Nobody wishes that to happen, but if it does happen, it will be a serious thing for the city of Maryborough, from more than one aspect. There are in Maryborough youths who are serving apprenticeships in the important trades associated with ship construction. If no orders come into the yards, those young men may have to give up their apprenticeships and seek labouring jobs elsewhere, as the tradesmen who have been employed at the yards for a number of years are doing at the present time. The shipbuilding industry was established by the Commonwealth Government during the war years because of the number of orders there were in hand to be executed by the two shipbuilding yards. I understand that at the end of the war there was a serious shortage of coastal ships and that at that stage the shipbuilding yards had what one might term a rosy future. But time has gone on and now, in 1958, the shipbuilding industry is in difficulties, although it has been heavily subsidized by the Government. A subsidy of up to 33 per cent. has been paid, not to an isolated company, but to all engaged in shipbuilding. The Minister explained to me quite recently how the subsidy has been paid.
I think that you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, will appreciate that it is necessary in the shipbuilding industry for orders to flow in fairly regularly. A keel is not laid down every week, nor is a ship fitted out every day. In the industry, things are done in an organized manner. After a tender of a shipbuilding firm has been accepted, the draftsmen go to work, and sometimes their drawings take several months to complete. Then the keel is laid, the hull constructed, and ultimately the ship is launched. It is then taken to the fitting-out yards, where boilermakers and others carry out their part of the work and, in due course, the ship is ready to be placed in service. It will be understood that balance must be preserved all the time in relation to the tradesmen employed. There must be a certain proportion of boilermakers, fitters and turners, shipwrights and others, in order to maintain an even flow of work throughout the yard. If there is an interruption in the flow of orders to the yards, and if the work is not constant, the whole industry becomes disorganized. It is necessary to lay off many men if the work is not done progressively. Once they leave the industry, or leave the district in which they reside, it is difficult to recruit them again when more work becomes available. In this way, experienced hands drift into employment in other industries.
I have pointed out that there is a dearth of orders on hand in the shipbuilding industry. There is no new work in sight for the constructors of ships after they have completed the work in hand. That is the picture as I see it at the present time. But there is in existence legislation under which the Australian Shipbuilding Board can keep under review the whole field of shipbuilding in Australia. The board can notify the Minister that insufficient work is offering in the shipbuilding industry to maintain an even Tate of production and the Minister may then serve a notice on the shipping companies - those who use the ships - informing them of the situation and asking them to place orders with the constructors of ships, presumably through the board. If the companies do not comply with this requirement within a period of six months they have the right of appeal to the Tariff Board - I understand that would be the independent authority to hear an appeal - and if the decision is against them the Minister has the right, really, to order them to place orders when he is satisfied that the tonnage is insufficient to meet the requirements of the coastal trade. I am stating the position as I see it, and I may not be strictly correct.
A very serious stage has now been reached in Queensland. As I have pointed out, there are 1,000 men employed in the shipbuilding yards of Evans Deakin and Company Limited. That company has some work in hand but cannot see anything ahead beyond I960. Walkers Limited are certainly in a worse plight than Evans Deakin and Company Limited, because they can only see a few months ahead.
The time has arrived when we should have a look at these things, and I hope that the Minister will be able to give us a general picture of the shipbuilding industry. He may be able to tell us that the scene will be brighter in the future, that over the next few months orders will be placed and that once more the shipbuilding industry will flourish in Queensland. It may be that the lag in the shipbuilding industry is attributable to a falling off in sea transport around the coast and elsewhere. I know that that can occur very easily, but I should like to hear anything the Minister has to say on this very important matter.
– I wish to mention a matter that has been raised by the Federated Marine Stewards and Pantrymen’s Association, and I hope that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) will be able to give me some information that I can pass on to the association. The union is very concerned about the employment of foreign crews on Australian owned and controlled oil tankers, that is, those operated by H. C. Sleigh Limited and by Ampol Petroleum Limited. 1 should like to refer, also, to a matter that was mentioned by Senator Benn. The unions are very concerned about the fact that a subsidy of 33i per cent, is being paid on the building at Whyalla of a new oil tanker for Ampol Petroleum Limited, because it is understood that the company intends to register the vessel in the United Kingdom. The union believes that this will be done to enable the company to employ cheaper labour. I should be glad if the Minister will comment on this matter, because the union is very concerned about the unemployment that is developing on the Australian coast. The union points out that, if Australian seamen are employed on these vessels, unemployment will be relieved and certain advantages will flow to the Government by way of wages tax and the payroll tax.
– At the outset, I want to say something about the present state of the shipbuilding industry, because the Government has paid particular attention to its establishment and expansion. One of the first things this Government did when it became apparent that the immediate post-war demand for ships was falling off, was to increase the subsidy to 334- per cent. About three years ago, I laid down a policy, which was widely circulated to all shipowners, on the procedure which must be followed before permission would be granted for a ship t-> be built outside Australia. Up till that time, permits had been given. The United Kingdom yards: could* beat us in relation to prices and delivery dates. There was; a genuine demand foc ships to take, up the slack on the coast that had developed as a result of the war. However, when the subsidy was increased and when a falling off in demand became apparent, there was a general stiffening in the attitude of the Government towards granting permits for construction of ships overseas. It is now a matter of record that no such permit has been given for the last two and a half years. During its eight or nine years of office, this Government has seen 32 vessels of standard types, as well as some of new type, built in Australian shipyards. We have built colliers and ore carriers. We are building a tanker, about which I shall speak in a moment. Only a year or two ago a new company was established at Adelaide to build hydroconic tugs for the first time in Australia. For the information of honorable senators, that is a. form of construction in which flat plates instead of rounded plates are used.
I am aware of the particular situation in which Walkers Limited, of Maryborough, finds itself. I have paid particular attention to the problem that confronts that firm, but the plain fact is - we cannot escape it - that Walkers Limited, because of its situation on the Mary River, because of the silting of the river and the problem of flooding, is very restricted in the type of vessel it can build. The firm has built good vessels and has done good work in the past, but the fact remains that we cannot place orders with it for the type of ship which it can build in the quantities I desire. However, I can tell Senator Benn that I am extremely hopeful that within the next few days we may be able to produce an order which will go to a Queensland yard. That order will relieve the position greatly in that area.
At present we are building in Australia vessels totalling 127,500 tons, at a cost of £21,000,000. Since this Government has been in office the tonnage of vessels constructed has trebled. The Government, ever aware of the necessity for forward orders, has taken the initiative and has again nominated this industry for examination by the Tariff Board’. That examination will commence on 11th November.
Yesterday I received a deputation from the shipbuilding committee of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. I advised the committee to give evidence to the Tariff Board. I believe it will accept my advice. I told the committee that the position is not quite so bleak as it may appear to be. In addition to the vessels. I have just mentioned, I am hopeful that an order for a vehicle-deck ship for the Tasmanian trade will be lodged with a yard within a week or two. Tenders have been called for construction of two coasters, one of 500 tons and the other of 300 tons, as well as for two cargo vessels ranging from 9,000 tons to 6,000 tons. One private company has under consideration designs for two 14,000-ton bulk carriers, and another private company is designing a roll on-roll off vessel for employment on the coast. I should1 not like to mislead honorable senators. All of these orders may not materialize, but I mention them to indicate the activity that is going on and which, if I may say so, is being encouraged and hastened by this Government.
Senator Ormonde referred to the construction of the Ampol tanker at Whyalla, and mentioned a complaint that he had received from a union as to the intention to register the tanker in a port other than an Australian port. Mr. Chairman, we are discussing now the need for ship construction in Australia. As negotiations proceeded with Ampol for this very attractive order for an Australian yard, it became obvious that if the vessel were registered in an Australian port and employed an Australian crew on Australian conditions and standards of accommodation, Ampol’s annual costs would be in excess of those incurred by other tanker operators to the extent of not less than £40,000. The choice that confronted the Government was either to accept the order for construction in an Australian yard or lose it because we would not allow Ampol to register the ship outside Australia. I say to Senator Ormonde, as I say to all honorable senators, that I want the Tariff Board to consider again a matter on which it deferred consideration at its last examination, namely the question of whether we should not investigate the possibility of subsidizing construction of ships for registration in ports other than Australian ports, as is done in so many other countries of the world. I have no qualms of conscience at all about the registration of the Ampol tanker in London. I say to the Senate that if we could secure more orders on the same basis, I should be most happy to accept them.
.- I thank the Minister for Shipping and Transport for his survey of the shipbuilding situation. I think Senator Benn has dealt with it fully and completely from the Opposition point of view, and I shall not detain honorable senators much further on that matter. I support Senator Benn. I think that the truth should be told to the people of Maryborough so that they will know how far the Government will go in its shipbuilding programme there. Shipbuilding has been used for political purposes on many occasions, and now that an election is pending the Minister is holding out hope that something will be done for Walkers Limited in the course of a few weeks. I do not blame the Minister for that. I believe the time has arrived when the Government should state definitely whether certain ships can, and will, be built at Maryborough. I should like to know what transpired at the conference that was held when the deputation came to Canberra some weeks ago. I do not blame the Minister for putting up a good case. There is no doubt about his ability, and we on this side recognize him as an outstanding Minister. We recognize in him a man who always does his best to give us information, but, as I listened to him, I questioned why we should play the game of politics and wondered why we should not be frank. In these days, it is necessary that we be frank. The Government should make a definite statement; it should let the people of Maryborough know that orders for the building of these ships cannot be given to them. If that is done, the men who are now waiting around Maryborough in the hope of receiving employment will go elsewhere. And there are many men in Maryborough to-day who are unemployed, who worked for Walkers Limited for many years and who are waiting around Maryborough in the hope that they will receive a call from the old firm to return to their vocations in the shipyard.
T should like to have a definite statement of the real position; I should like to hear the facts concerning Maryborough. I should like to know definitely whether there is any hope for the future. If there is not, then let the men know where they stand. It would be better not only for Maryborough but for Queensland in general if we knew all the facts.
– There can certainly be no doubt in Senator Brown’s mind about anything I have said on this or former occasions with respect to Walkers Limited. I have outlined the particular difficulties of that shipyard. Walkers Limited cannot build all types of ships; that shipyard can build only restricted classes of ships.
– Up to what tonnage?
– I would not know, but perhaps up to 3,000 tons. As the honorable senator probably knows, Walkers Limited built two wheat ships to go into the Bass Strait run. The difficulties confronting that shipyard arise from the factors to which I have referred earlier this afternoon and on other occasions. Only restricted classes of ships can be built there. It is our problem, and the problem of Walkers Limited - the manager of Walkers Limited knows this as well as 1 do, because I have discussed it with him on many occasions - to find orders for that class of ship such as tugs, pilot vessels, lighters and so on.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Miscellaneous Services - Department- of Shipping and Transport, £1,973,000; Defence Services - Other Services - Construction of jetty for handling of explosives, £550,000 - agreed to.
Proposed vote, £3,993.000.
– I take this opportunity to compliment the Commonwealth Railways upon the efficient manner in which they handle the transport of goods between Western Australia and the eastern States. Although there can be no doubt that the administration and supervision of the system are excellent, I submit that a little more consideration should be given to track maintenance and ballasting, for it will be remembered that on at least one occasion there was a very serious accident on the transcontinental section.
When the standardization of rail gauges is completed, and when the present difficulties in respect of gauges in Western Australia are overcome, heavy stress will be laid upon the Commonwealth railway system. I do not know what attention has been given to the matter, but it is certainly deserving of some consideration, although the appropriation for this year is £400,000 less than that provided last year.
Another matter to which I direct attention is the Government’s indifference to the welfare of the State systems which serve the Commonwealth railways. The Commonwealth railways are run in an efficient and businesslike manner. They are bringing to themselves the maximum amount of freight and are handling it so efficiently that road transport operators avail themselves of the opportunities provided by the Commonwealth railways for reducing costs between the eastern States and Western Australia. Taking advantage of the Commonwealth railways pick-a-back facilities, road transport operators have their vehicles conveyed over the most desolate part of the journey, thus saving heavy operating costs and wear and tear on vehicles, while at the same time reducing travelling time between the east and west by three days. Further, the drivers have an opportunity for resting for three or four days while travelling with their vehicles on the transcontinental railway.
All that is very commendable, but, as transport is an important national matter, and as railways do so much for development, I submit that the Commonwealth should adopt some means of granting concessions to the State systems, thereby enabling them not only to increase revenues but also to decrease deficiencies. I draw attention to the Commonwealth Government’s action in contracting with private hauliers for the transport of goods which could be carried equally as efficiently by the State railway systems. By its action, the Commonwealth Government has deprived the State systems of opportunities for earning revenues which would do much to reduce their deficits.
A further suggestion I offer is that if the pick-a-back system is to be continued, then both Commonwealth and State railway systems should construct vehicles with movable containers which could be lifted by crane from Commonwealth rolling-stock to State rolling-stock, and vice versa. This would make for greater efficiency in the handling of goods during the intervening period before the standardization of rail gauges is completed.
Another matter concerning the Commonwealth Government is the question of defence. One of the greatest bars to efficient defence during the war was the inability to transport speedily an armoured division from the eastern States to Western Australia, and vice versa; it was a hopeless undertaking. It would have been calamitous if the enemy had landed on our shores and we had had to move armaments quickly. The war has been over for some years now but, though the conversion to broad gauge is progressing slowly, the situation has not been met. The other day the Minister foi National Development (Senator Spooner) said that the Commonwealth Railways made possible cheap freight; that that was the sole consideration so far as the Commonwealth was concerned. It provides cheap freight for people who use the rail service, a public utility, between the South Australian and Western Australian systems over the most expensive part of the trip.
An endeavour should be made to ensure that any Commonwealth freight which is transported interstate goes by rail. The Government should do all that it can to ensure that the State railways obtain the absolute maximum share of freight going interstate. It might be another story altogether when the standard gauge has been completed, but we do not know when that will be.
I do hope that the re-ballasting and1 reconditioning of the Trans-Australian Railway will be brought up to a safe standard and that everything possible will be done to help the State railways, and that the Western Australian railways, the Cinderella of the broad-gauge proposal, gets an adequate share of interstate freight - a maximum of back loading to the eastern States and vice versa.
– I am well aware of Senator Cooke’s continuing interest in railways and railway operation. 1 think that he knows, probably better than 1 do, the history of the Trans-Australian Railway and the significant fact that for many years after its construction little - and in some places nothing - was done in the way of ballasting. Other essential work over a period of years did delay the provision of ballasting, but I am very pleased to be able to tell the honorable senator that over the last couple of years there has been a most vigorous programme for completing the ballasting of the line. This year alone the Commonwealth Railways will be spending not less than £500,000 on this work.
I was interested to hear what the honorable senator had to say about the operation of the pick-a-back system. One does not have to look beyond the Commonwealth Railways to see the potential success of the system. I would hope - and I gather that Senator Cooke also would hope - that more railway systems will use the pick-a-back method and that it will become possible to devise means of transferring, from one system to another, freight going over long stretches and even broken gauges. It has proved eminently successful in the Commonwealth Railways, and I know of no reason why, properly applied, it should not be equally successful on State systems.
The honorable senator spoke of the need to step up the sending of freight by the Western Australian railways. As he doubtless realizes, I am interested in that matter also. Although the Western Australian railways probably do not get the amount of freight that he would like, there has been in recent years a most significant increase in west-east freight over the Trans-Australian line. Indeed, in a matter of just four years it has increased from 8,000 tons to 40,000 tons. I am sure that Senator Cooke will join me in the hope that that movement will continue.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Primary Industry.
Proposed vote, £1,593,000.
.- I should like to refer very briefly to wool promotion and wool research. Earlier in this debate I referred to the value to the industry of research, but since I did so another problem, completely novel in my experience, has been brought to my notice. I am indebted to my colleague, Senator Wordsworth, one of the distinguished representatives from Tasmania, for bringing it to my attention. The honorable senator, realizing his obligation to the wool industry, which is facing great difficulties, decided that his best contribution to it would be to increase and improve his flocks. Accordingly - though I have no confirmation of this - his sons hied themselves forthwith to the State of Victoria, the home of the most successful stud sheep breeders of Australia. With great foresight and wisdom they chose the comparatively small number of fifteen ewes, selecting them for both type and conformation, and received an assurance that they were well and faithfully joined.
They returned to Tasmania full of hope, with the determination that the name of Wordsworth would take its rightful place in the annals of stud breeding. There they awaited the great day. Can honorable senators imagine their consternation when a count revealed that there were thirteen ram lambs and two ewe lambs! The anticlimax was that one ewe lamb later died. I am not suggesting that this is a matter for research, but merely that it is one of those quaint things which are typical of Tasmania. I want now to pass to a more serious aspect of the subject.
– It is a very serious matter.
– It is indeed. Wool promotion is our greatest weapon in the fight against synthetics. The high quality that has become typical of Australian wool is the one thing that is keeping synthetics at bay. What I am concerned about is that those who sponsor synthetics are prepared to spend countless sums in perfecting their fibre. We, on the other hand, are inclined to rely on the fact that we have the best quality wool in the world. We think that, because of this, there is no need to take immediate and drastic action to meet the threat posed by synthetics. From the maze of present thinking and talking on the part of informed and uninformed people there is emerging a tendency to suggest a floor price for wool. This gives me some concern. I believe that the auction system, under which, except for the war years, Australian wool has been sold, has done more to produce a high-quality product than any other factor. The stud breeder, through the auctions, secures the result of his labours. He gains a reputation for a quality product, and that spurs him on to even greater efforts. I suggest that if you take the auction system away from the wool industry you will rob the breeder of the incentive that has prompted him to produce a better quality article. Knowing full well that the synthetics manufacturers are determined to capture our wool markets if they can, we talk of a floor price-
– Are synthetics sold on an auction system.
– No. There can be no comparison of the ways in which the two fibres are produced, and I think Senator Scott should know that. If you adopt a floor price as a minimum, that price could well become the maximum. That would be the death knell of an industry that produces 50 per cent, of our overseas credits. The floor price system poses the question: Who is to finance the retention of the wool thai is not sold? Do honorable senators suggest that the wool industry is in a position to provide the finance?
– No. That is probably because we are selling our wool under the auction system.
– My Western Australian friends are somewhat prominent amongst those who propose the floor price plan. Had they been sincere in their determination to have an orderly system of marketing which would eliminate auctions, I suggest they would have done what the wheat-growers have done so successfully. When prices were very high, they would have been prepared to create a fund to stabilize their industry. To-day their industry, I suggest to them, is not in a position to make any contribution to a stabilization scheme. It would be a brave person who would saddle any government with the responsibility of financing the Australian wool clip at the present time. 1 wish to make another reference to that other island - New Zealand - and tell honorable senators of New Zealand’s experience of the floor price system. When the Joint Organization scheme was wound up in New Zealand, the government of the day retained all the profits that had been made under that scheme; none were returned to the growers. Because of that, the Government had the nucleus of a fund to maintain a floor price. Without being in any way critical or derogatory of the scheme implemented by New Zealand, I invite honorable senators to do a little research into the floor price scheme in that country. I suggest that the scheme to-day is . the greatest headache of either the growers or the New Zealand Government.
I repeat that the production of quality wool is the greatest weapon that Australia has to defeat the competition of synthetic fibres. The Government would be well advised to watch the position very closely. It may well be that we will have to step up sales promotion activities in our traditional markets and give consideration to acquiring new markets, even if that necessitates providing extended credits. This industry is so important to Australia and Australians that it warrants nothing but the best from this Government to keep it in the position it should maintain.
Finally, I should like to make it abundantly clear to those who advocate a floor price scheme for the disposal of our wool that I would never agree to the implementation of such a scheme unless and until the growers, by a poll, make their own decision on the matter.
.- I admit that I have not studied the floor price scheme, and that I am not competent to come to a conclusion regarding it. It must be admitted that honorable senators on both sides of the chamber want to find some system or method whereby we can get the best price for our wool, because the price of wool means a lot to the economy of Australia. During the discussion of the Budget we have found that the moneys accruing from the sale of wool and other commodities overseas have gone down by millions of pounds and that, naturally, the people of Australia have had to suffer. The reason why I have risen is that to-day I noticed in that highly respectable newspaper, the “ Canberra Times “ - the busy man’s newspaper that can be read in five minutes - a statement that is very interesting to every honorable senator, and indeed to every member of the Parliament. Under the caption “Says Combines ‘fleecing’ Woolgrowers “, the following statement appears: -
International combines are “fleecing” Australian woolgrowers, a member of the Australian Wheat Board, Mr. C. Everett, said to-day. 1 notice that this seems to be amusing to our friend Senator Wade. I do not know Mr. Everett. I do not know whether he is competent to speak on this matter, but evidently the press think he is, because they are quoting him. Certainly we should take notice of the “ Canberra Times “. The article continues -
Speaking at Horsham, Mr. Everett said that every penny by which these combines and cartels dropped the price cost Australia £5 million.
I do not know whether Senator Wade believes that we would lose that amount by adopting a floor price. The article goes on -
Every 21- drop in the price cost £120 million, he said.
Mr. Everett, who is also a member of the executive of the Victorian Wheat and Woolgrowers’ Association, added-
He must be a man of substance and intelligence to be a member of that body - “ This is a calamity which could and should have been stopped by the Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, at the start of the wool-selling season.”
– How was Mr.
Menzies to know the price was going to fall?
– Mr. Menzies is a highly intelligent gentleman. He certainly should know. If he could attempt to solve the problem of Suez, and if he is keeping in close association with others to deal with our troubles in the Far East, surely he has the intelligence to know whether the statement of Mr. Everett is true or not. Is it a fact that the international combines are “ fleecing “ the Australian woolgrowers?
– No, it is not a fact.
– Mr. Everett says it is; Senator Wade says it is not.
– I agree with Senator Wade.
– Senator Mattner, a farmer of great intelligence and probity agrees with Senator Wade.
– I do not care who knows it; I agree with Senator Wade.
– That is a matter of world importance. It will have a shattering effect on Mr. Everett when he hears about it. It is necessary, if we are not to go crazy in the Senate, that we should have a laugh now and then, but I think this is a very serious matter. I for one would like to know from the cognoscenti and the intelligentsia who deal with these questions whether there is any truth in this statement. If it is true that every drop of 2s. in the price of wool will cost us £120,000,000, then it is a very serious statement and one that should be studied. If the combines are doing this to Australia, we should take steps to remedy the position. We have read in the press reports about what has happened regarding the wool sales at Goulburn. I do not know what progress has been made in that matter, but it was reported that woolbuyers intended to boycott that centre.
– As a wool-selling centre; that is all.
– Yes. It shows that certain activity is going on amongst the wool-buyers, who thought they were strong enough to boycott Goulburn as a woolselling centre. That being so, Mr. Everett may not be far wrong when he says that combines are trying to use their power to reduce the price of wool and rob Australia of hundreds of millions of pounds.
– It is quite on the cards.
– It is quite on the cards, as Senator Courtice says. Why should not we discuss this matter? Because the article mentions the name of Mr. Menzies, probably it will not be used by honorable senators opposite. I shall not attack Mr. Menzies. I do not intend to say that he has such intelligence that he should know all things. I am reminded of a story I heard over the radio the other night, but perhaps I had better not repeat it.
– Was it a re-broadcast of what you said?
– No, it was not a rebroadcast. It is a very good story, and is apropos of what I am speaking about. But I shall not bother relating it.
To return to the point, the selling of wool, falling prices and floor prices are all matters which call for the deepest cogitation of honorable senators and members of the House of Representatives, because within the next few years - indeed, sooner than that - we will be in a good deal of trouble in regard to our primary products. I should like to refer to another matter, but I shall leave it until we deal with the question of subsidies.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Miscellaneous Services -
Department of Primary Industry, £736,000 - agreed to.
Bounties and Subsidies.
Proposed vote, £13,500,000.
.- I should like to ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) whether the proposed vote for Division No. 233 is the only provision for the payment of bounties or subsidies to the Australian dairying industry. Not only are the producers of wool feeling the effects of competition from those who are producing synthetic products, and from the various cartels and combines, but also the producers of other primary products are feeling the effects of competition overseas. We know that the price of butter has fallen. The story is a sad one for the farming community. 1 have recently paid several visits to the country districts of Queensland, and I can tell honorable senators that farmers generally throughout Queensland are very much upset about Australia’s economy and are wondering what the future holds for them.
On the question of subsidies, we know that different countries are subsidising their products not only internally but also externally. We know that the Japanese, for example, in order to capture markets, have subsidized their exports. It is quite possible that within the next few years we will be called upon to do likewise. We have read reports that in the not too distant future Russia will be placing various commodities on the world’s markets in an effort to carry on what is described as the cold war. If the Russians are sensible people, they will want to avoid a nuclear war. If they can destroy our modern society by competitive methods, they will do so.
I wish to direct the attention of honorable senators to the leading article in today’s “ Canberra Times “. I pay tribute to the intelligence of the editor of that newspaper. I often do him the honour of reading his leading articles. Although I do not agree with much of what he writes, he evidently is a man of intelligence. The heading he has given to to-day’s leading article is “ America Sets Back the Economic Clock “. He refers to the restriction of American imports of lead and zinc. I realize that this is off the line of discussion, but I am leading up to the following passage in the article -
The timing is bad in this case, seeing that it followed not many days after the United Kingdom announced the removal of dollar import restrictions
This is the point - but it followed also the plea of the Australian Minister for Trade, Mr. McEwen, for the inclusion of Russia in trade and commodity agreements.
– Unity tickets!
– A unity agreement. We have been led to believe that the Government is bitterly opposed to trade with Russia, yet in this statement-
– Order! We are not dealing with the proposed vote for the Department of Trade. We are dealing with bounties and subsidies.
– You are right, Mr. Chairman. I shall resume my seat.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of Territories, £293,000; Northern Territory, £4,938,000; Norfolk Island, £31,000- agreed to.
Papua and New Guinea.
Proposed vote, £12,136,000.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Minister to certain matters affecting New Guinea. First, may I say how delighted I am to find that the proposed appropriation this year is more than it was last year. I do not know of people anywhere who are doing a more marvellous job in trying to raise the standards of living of the people as fast as possible as are the administration authorities in New Guinea, and they are doing so virtually On the sme of an oil rag. Theirs is a colossal undertaking. They are stifled1 through want of money.
– Perhaps oil will be found there.
– I hope that oil will be found there, because if it is, its discovery certainly will help the people of New Guinea. 1 know that most government departments suffer from lack of money, but I suggest that the administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea provides a perfect example of people trying to do their job under difficulties.
In the field of horticulture, there are people in New Guinea who are trying to propagate orchids for export, which would assist in bringing into the Territory a little more revenue. However, they are unable to obtain permits to export the orchids. Would it be possible for the Minister to look into this matter and see whether permits could be made available? I admit that control is necessary, because it is not desirable for all the orchids to leave the country, but so far as I know, there is no fear of that happening.
Another section of the community which is in need of some assistance is comprised of those people, particularly government officers, who live inland and who have to pay exorbitant freight on some of the items that they purchase to improve their living conditions. People who live on the coast do not have to pay such freights, and a good deal of ill feeling exists because of the difference in the cost of living between those living on the coast and those living inland. However, perhaps the biggest bone of contention is the remote control of the Department of Works. There are some glaring examples of the bad mistakes that have been made because the designing is done here in Canberra. Apparently the people who have to live in the places that are planned in Canberra are not consulted. For instance, I saw, in a hospital that was being built, a verandah five feet wide - for a climate which has extremes of rainfall and heat. If patients are put out oh a verandah that is five feet wide, it means that the nursing staff cannot get past them, and if there is heavy rain, the verandah cannot be used at all. That is a ridiculous situation in such a climate.
– Where would that be?
– In New Guinea. The young girls in New Guinea have to be guarded and cared for perhaps even more than some of our own children in their earlier stages. However, I saw under construction a badly designed boarding school for girls, in that the ablution blocks were separated1 from the dormitories.
Sitting suspended from 5.48 to 8 p.m.
– I pointed out, prior to the suspension of the sitting, some of the difficulties in relation to New Guinea. The Department of Works in Canberra designs buildings for New Guinea without fully understanding the conditions that exist there. After all, New Guinea is a considerable distance from this place. I mentioned some of the mistakes that have been made because somebody down here who is not familiar with the conditions in New Guinea has designed buildings for that territory. In one instance, a verandah has been built on to a hospital. Thi* verandah is altogether too narrow for a locality that is subject to excessive heat and heavy rains. If patients are on the verandah, which is only five feet wide, it is most difficult to pass them, and when it is raining the verandah cannot be used at all.
Some elementary mistakes have been made in the new Port Moresby hospital, mistakes which, if the designing had been done in New Guinea itself, would probably have been avoided. For instance, the scrubbing-up facilities have been placed outside the operating theatre and the doctors, after scrubbing-up for an operation, have to go through two doors. This is an elementary mistake. In the labour ward, due to the shortage of staff - which is unavoidable^ - one sister has to look after the obstetric room as well as the nursing room. As the respective rooms are at the extreme ends of the ward, it is very difficult for the sister to keep in touch with what is going on in both rooms; obviously, she cannot be in both places at once. With better planning, things could have been simplified for the nurses, who are trying to do a good job.
I urge the Minister to bring this matter to the notice of the Government to see whether it is practicable to allow the Administration to plan its own buildings and, having done so, to let the tenders to private enterprise in New Guinea, instead of our continuing to exercise remote control. The present practice is extremely frustrating to the people who are trying to carry out their duties in New Guinea under difficult conditions. They are doing a magnificent job, and f think that arrangements should be made whereby they can express their views to the designers. In this way, the present difficulties due to the people who design buildings for New Guinea being so far away from the territory could be overcome. Conditions are hard enough for the people who are working in New Guinea,, and they feel that they are out on a limb. If my suggestion is adopted, I feel sure that the position will be improved.
– I refer to the item Advances for loans to ex-servicemen, under Division No. 67K, for which the proposed vote is £250,000. I take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) for the help that he is giving to people - particularly exservicemen - to engage in farming pursuits in Papua and New Guinea. I remind the committee that there was no appropriation for this purpose in the last financial year, and I understand that provision is being made this year pursuant to the Government’s policy to encourage land settlement.
We know from many reports that have been furnished that the soil texture in Papua and New Guinea is very rich and, of course, there is a high annual rainfall in this tropical territory. Recently, a wellknown Western Australian farmer went to Papua and New Guinea to see whether he could locate land suitable for growing kenaf grass, which is used to manufacture wool bales. I understand that it is believed that kenaf grass can be grown satisfactorily in New Guinea. This grass, as I have said, can be used as a substitute for jute in the manufacture of wool bales, the importation of which has involved an expenditure of about £7,500,000 a year. Of course, there are also rubber plantations in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I believe that, in time to come, the revenue that we shall derive from rubber, kenaf grass, and other commodities grown in Papua and New Guinea will far exceed our present expenditure on the Territory.
The Territory of Papua and New Guinea is supposedly very rich in minerals. For a number of years, the Bulolo Gold Dredging Company paid good dividends to its shareholders, but eventually the area where it was operating was dredged out. The company and the Commonwealth Government then formed a joint venture to mill timber from the rich forests in the area. The klinkii pine grown in this area is unsurpassed in the world. The milling venture has been a great success and has produced a favorable return on the capital investment. Large quantities of timber from the mill are imported into Australia, and considerable income is derived from sales of it to other countries. As I have said, New Guinea is supposedly very rich in minerals. We know that deposits of manganese and copper have been found there, and the way is open for private companies to exploit the minerals that exist in abundance. Honorable senators, should congratulate the Minister, and the Government, for the progress that is taking place within the area under the present Administration.
I should like the Minister to tell me how many ex-servicemen it is proposed to settle on the land. An amount of £250,000 is allotted for that purpose. Is it the intention of the Government, if returned to office at the forthcoming election, to continue with the programme of settlement of returned soldiers in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea?
– In reply to the query raised by Senator Scott as to the proposed expenditure of £250,000 for the settlement of ex-servicemen in Papua and New Guinea, I inform honorable senators that the Government has approved the establishment of a credit scheme for ex-servicemen settlers in the Territory. It is expected that the necessary legislation will be passed by the Legislative Council of the Territory, and the administrative machinery will be set up early in 1959. Under the scheme, loans of up to £25,000 may be made to eligible ex-servicemen to assist in the development of agricultural properties. The amount of £250,000, which has been budgeted for in this financial year, indicates that in the first year of the scheme’s implementation about ten ex-servicemen will be settled.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Cocos (Keeling) Islands, £33,000 - agreed to.
Second Schedule agreed to.
Postponed clauses 3 to 5 agreed to.
Postponed First Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16th September <vide page 325), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Mr. President, the measure now before the Senate proposes the appropriation of £79,500,000 to cover expenditure on capital works and services for the remaining seven months of the financial year for which supply has not been granted. Honorable senators will recall that only five months supply was granted in the latter part of the last financial year, and for that reason the Government requires this extra amount to cover its whole programme providing for an estimated expenditure of £128,500,000.
My sense of the fitness of things is always offended when I address myself to the annual measure of this kind because I am reminded of the absurdity that is perpetuated year by year for this reason. If items of capital works and services are included in an appropriation bill with items covering the ordinary annual services of the Commonwealth, amendments may be made by the Senate. But when they are presented in a bill of this nature those items may not be amended by the Senate. Some honorable senators may remember a vote that was taken some considerable time ago in which there was a photo-finish of 30-all with the parties splitting in all directions. That vote followed a completely objective debate which was directed to the purely constitutional end of curing the absurdity to which I have referred.
When I look at the items covered by the amount I have mentioned, all of which will come from revenue collected during the year, I am compelled again to advert to the statement that this Government has imposed an enormous burden upon the taxpayers of Australia. Year by year, during Its term of office, this Government has per formed capital works to the order of nearly £100,000,000 a year, that amount being raised by taxes. Looking at the list before me I find that the lowest amount that was so applied was in the year 1950-51 when an amount of £73,500,000, collected by taxes, was used to carry out Commonwealth capital works. The amount of £128,500,000 proposed for this year is the highest of all. During its term of office this Government has taken £938,800,000 from the amounts raised by taxes and expended it upon capital works that will endure, not only for generations, but, in some cases, for centuries.
– Would you not say that that is an anti-inflationary measure?
– The honorable senator’s point is well taken. It has become an anti-inflationary measure of necessity for the reason that the Government, of which the honorable senator is a supporter, in the first three years of its rule completely dropped the reins and allowed inflation to run riot. The honorable senator is attempting to interject again, but he has asked a question and must listen to the answer. I repeat, this Government dropped the reins in its first three years of office, and thus did incalculable harm to Australia’s economy. During that period the basic wage rose by £4 7s. for no reason other than to meet the increased cost of living. The outlook of the Government was put in 1950 by the Minister in this chamber who represented the Treasurer when we, of the Labour Opposition, carried a bill directed to forcing the Government to do something about rising prices. We passed a bill providing for a referendum on prices. The Minister representing the Treasurer - speaking, of course, for the Government - said that the bill was futile, and that inflation was a matter for the people themselves to counter provided, of course, that anything at all could be done about it. I am indicating to the honorable senator that his Government, having seen the basic wage rise by 13s. a week in its first year of office, by 38s. a week in its second year of office, and by 31s. a week in its third year of office, was then forced into the position of halting the trend that it had allowed to develop. And this Government must accept responsibility for all the ills that flowed from the inflation that raged down the intervening years!
The honorable senator is quite right. This Government was then forced into devices of this type, because of the inflation that was allowed to run - credit restrictions, import restrictions, capital issues and other restrictions of the type that it had completely forsworn when it was wooing the electors in 1949 and which it said would be abolished. That inflation was also one of the major factors that ruined the loan market of this country, one of the major reasons why people and institutions were not prepared to contribute money of sound value in the expectation that, with unhalted inflation, they would get back ultimately money of far less purchasing power.
SenatorScott. - But your party was not in favour of borrowing money overseas for essential equipment.
– The honorable senator is seeking to divert me from the theme, but I will go with him on this one occasion. We are opposed to the proposals the Government has before Parliament at the moment for borrowing American dollars to buy American equipment when British equipment is available. And we shall certainly voice our continued protest against borrowing of that type under those circumstances. I am referring to other legislation that will shortly be before us, and the honorable senator can rest assured that we are opposed to it. It piles up difficulties for the future.
Now I advert to the fact that that colossal burden of £938,000,000 has been placed upon the people of Australia by way of taxation, year by year, for no other ultimate reason than that the Government was forced by facts and circumstances to do something about inflation. But its action came too late, of course, and now it has to apply drastic remedies. The Government let the trouble run in the early years, and can never hope to overtake it. Further, the harm that was done then will never be cured. I have said repeatedly that if the Government had held the controls or asked the people for authority, where it was lacking in those earlier years, Australia would unquestionably be the soundest and wealthiest country in the world to-day. The Government had the pattern of controls that we laid for it during the war and postwar years. The people should remember - they should be reminded of it if they do not - that this Government indicated very plainly that it would put value back in the £1, that it would increase the purchasing value of money. Of course, the Government showed its complete ignorance, or its deceit, in so propounding that proposition, because the basic wage has more than doubled, due mainly to increases in the cost of living, during its term of office.
The unfairness of devoting large tax collections to capital works is obvious. These were really capital levies for capital purposes, for works that will last, as I said, for generations, in many instances. If the Government had been fair in its approach to the problem, it would have considered the question of giving the taxpayers the benefit of deferred credit in respect of these colossal sums for Commonwealth capital works which average over £100,000,000 a year. Would it not have been the fairer thing, in the circumstances that I have outlined, if the Government felt obliged to take this drastic step in taxation in order to halt the inflation which it had allowed to run, to say, “ Well, there will be deferred credit in respect of a quota of that taxation “? Would it not have been the fairer thing to give the taxpayers of to-day some hope of taking up credit perhaps at the end of a seven-year or ten-year period, or earlier death? I suggest very strongly to the Senate that that would have been fairer dealing. In short, what has happened has been that this Government, without declaring it a capital levy, has put its hands in the pockets of the taxpayers of this country and actually made a capital levy upon them.
– Why do you say that? The rate of taxation in the £1 was higher under your government than it is now.
– The honorable senator would very much like to get me off this theme.Let me reply to him that his Government,having promised to reduce taxation, has unquestionably increased it over the whole period.
– The rate in the £1?
– I am talking of the burden of taxation. This Government has increased it by a vast sum. I remind the honorable senator of two things. I remind him of the “ horror “ Budget of 1951-52, another measure that had to be taken as a piece of anti-inflationary action to halt the inflation that this Government had allowed to run. The amount of additional taxation imposed in that year was £205,000,000. That money has never been restored.
I remind him also of the “ little “ Budget of March, 1956, a budget that was sneaked upon the people of Australia without a word of warning at the election held only three months earlier. There was no foreshadowing of that Budget, which, in March, 1956, extracted a further £115.500,000 from the people of Australia. That action was taken overnight, as it were. There was no word of warning, no foreshadowing of that action, at the election held only three months prior to that date. Upon whom was that taxation imposed? Was it upon all the major companies, or all the people on higher incomes who were enjoying the false prosperity which this exhilaration of inflation, like intoxication, brings to some? Some people get quite a kick out of it; some people make money out of it; but the great mass suffers from it. On whom was the £115,500,000 imposed? It was imposed on all those who drink liquor, on all those who smoke tobacco, on all those who buy cars, and on all those who use petrol. In other words, this Government made sure that it puts its hands into the pockets of every person in Australia.
The only relief that the Government has since given from that £115,500,000 has been a reduction of 6d. in the £1 to companies. An extra ls. in the £1 was imposed upon companies by that “ little “ Budget, and the one remission that has been given by the Government with respect to that Budget up to date has been 6d. in the £1, or £14,500,000 to the companies. Here let me say, to the shame of the Government, that that £14,500,000 would have given to the pensioners of Australia an extra 10s. a week for a year. Instead, the Government preferred to give 6d. in the £1 to companies! Senator Scott should not divert me like that from time to time into fields that I am not immediately pursuing.
I indicate that there is that terrific burden on the people. Let us now look at the fairness or otherwise of that imposition. Let us look at the burden borne by the taxpayers over the past nine years. What have they done in addition to bearing this terrific capital levy made upon them? They have been paying off the debts of past decades. To-day, the national debt, State and Federal, is approximately £4,000,000,000. The taxpayers of Australia are paying their share off that debt of the past. They are bearing their share of all the works that were done for the benefit of this nation. They are bearing the burden of all the works being done now for the benefit of future generations. So that I sum it up by saying that this Government has asked the taxpayers to bear their share of the debt that has accumulated in Australia down the decades, to pay the whole of the cost of capital works done in Australia over the last nine years by the Federal Government, and to relieve future generations of all liability with respect to those works. I say that that is not fair dealing with the people of Australia - with the taxpayers during those years. It is an intolerable burden and I am completely correct when I say that, in effect, this Government has made a capital levy.
Of course, that is not the whole story. The loan market has failed. One of the prime causes of that has been the inflation which this Government has let run riot. As a consequence, the Government has had to tax the federal taxpayer in order to make up the deficiency. It has had to do that to get the money that the loan market could not supply. Again this Government, pretending that it is wonderfully benevolent to the States, hands over certain revenues which it collects and also gives them all the loan moneys that it attracts this year. The loan market is expected to yield £115,500,000. It all goes to the States, which must immediately commence repaying principal and interest. This Government, year after year, finances its capital works interest free out of the taxpayer’s money. It does not finance them from money raised on the loan market. That burden is thrown on the States, which then repay principal and interest upon it.
When the Government claims generously that it comes further to the aid of the States by drawing upon its surplus revenues from taxation, what happens? Does this Government hand that interest-free money over to the States? It does not. The money is paid into a trust fund and from there is invested in a special loan account, being passed over to the States at an interest rate of approximately 5 per cent. - which the States have immediately to begin paying.
The other night I made the point that the effect of that down the last nine years had been truly startling. During that period the Commonwealth public debt has gone down by £83,000,000 while the State public debt has more than doubled, rising from £1,008,000,000 in 1949 when Labour vacated office to £2,247,000,000 to-day. That is a terrific burden, involving principal and interest repayments year after year.
Let me now advert to the further effect of this supposedly generous treatment by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth’s interest bill rose by £2,000,000 a year only between 1949 and June, 1958. The States’ interest bill rose by £56,000,000 a year. In 1949 the States were paying £32,000,000, but to-day they are paying interest amounting to £88,000,000 annually. That is a terrific burden to impose upon State Budgets. One can quite understand the difficulties in which the States find themselves. This year the Commonwealth has to face total capital commitments, including the £128,000,000 that we are talking about in this bill, for its own works, £210,000,000 for the States, £7,000,000 for war service land settlement, £80,000,000 for loan redemptions to people who will not convert loans falling due - in all, a total’ of £429,000,000. What does the loan market of Australia yield to this Government, with its high interest rates, its fear of inflation and the terrific competition that it allows to develop from outside interests drawing money away from the loan market? It yields £115,000,000 towards the required amount of £429,000,000, in which I have included the sum of £128,000,000 which we are discussing at the moment.
To make up the difference the Commonwealth draws upon taxation to the tune of £156,000,000. It draws upon trust funds to the tune of £48,000,000 and finallyand for the first time on any large scale - it uses £110,000,000 of central bank credit. Could anything indicate more plainly the complete and utter failure of the loan market of this country as a result of mishandling by this Government? That market provides but a quarter of the money required for Commonwealth and State capital works, but Government supporters are apparently proud of that effort. What, is done to cure the ills of the loan market?” The Government shows no imagination. It. makes no appeal to the small investor,, though there are many things that it could do in that direction. I have mentioned, some of them here on many occasions.
– Things are really crook,, aren’t they?
– Some little time ago the honorable senator said in this place that the main feature of this Budget was. the use of central bank credit. I repeat, there are circumstances in which it is most proper and essential that central bank credit should be used. In the present circumstances it is called for because, in the building industry especially, there is not only an over-supply of materials but also an oversupply of labour. There is unemployment running at the order of some 60,000. According to the Government’s own figures, it has never been less than that all through the year.
– Not in the housing trades surely?
– There is an oversupply of labour in the building trades. 1 was told only to-day by some one who is close to this particular field that of 500 persons unemployed in Launceston 400 are building workers.
– Tell them to go over to Victoria. Victoria is very short of them.
– The position varies as between the States, but the honorable senator cannot deny that ever since the little Budget hit the Australian community in March, 1956, there has been a continuous slide into unemployment of major proportions. That Budget played a major role in starting that unfortunate trend. It looks now as if unemployment has settled down - even on the Government’s own figures - at something over 60,000. That is the number of men out of work! It is a very serious position indeed. It is one that ought to be tackled with vigour. I give the Government credit for not hesitating to go to the bank and borrow an additional £110,000,000 at 1 per cent. However, it will lend most of it to the States at 5 per cent., or thereabouts. The States will get it, certainly not at 1 per cent, but rather at something between 4j and 5 per cent. But it is necessary in order to keep the capital works of this country moving. They are an integral part of this country’s development. It is right that central bank credit should be used when there is something in the nature of a recession; when we have facing us depressed overseas markets, lower production in the important primary production field and difficulties of that kind. When we have balance of payments problems it is time to use central bank credit to promote activity. The right time to use it is when materials are in ample supply, when they are not absorbed, when the capacity for production has almost been exhausted, and when we have unemployment of the present proportions.
I should not have spoken at such length but for the helpful interjections of Government supporters. I should like, in conclusion, to quote some of the main items upon which this sum of £128,000,000 is to be spent. Of the taxpayers’ money, collected this year, £6,000,000 is to be spent on permanent civil aviation works - sites, acquiring land and buildings, technical equipment - providing capital for Qantas, and Trans-Australia Airlines. These are all necessary. No one decries any one of them. There are capital works; for instance, war service homes to cost £35,000,000 which, when built and no doubt they will be built in the course of the year will immediately become revenue earning. The occupants of the war service homes will be paying interest and rent, and in particular instalments of principal.
Large amounts will be coming in. The Government had no hesitation to use central bank credit for an item like that, which is so highly reproductive. This year £18,000,000 will be going into the Snowy Mountains scheme out of taxation; and1 £2,600,000 will go to the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Just on £35,000,000 will be spent on new post offices and necessary capital equipment for the postal department. These are colossal things that will endure for generations, and in some cases even for centuries. In the Australian Capital Territory, £8,300,000 is to be spent on development, and £3,300,000 in the Northern Territory.
The Opposition does not begrudge this expenditure. I am merely pointing to the terrific burden that the taxpayers are asked to carry. They should understand what is going on. They are carrying the operations of past years and of to-day. They are relieving future generations of the burden they would have to bear if this money were borrowed1 under the terms of the Financial Agreement and were repayable over the next 53 years. The cost of building all these useful, indeed vitally necessary, works is being borne by the taxpayers in this one year. We do not oppose the bill. The works are necessary, and we shall let the bill go through with the comments I have proffered.
– in reply - I feel that I should make some rejoinder to the remarks that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has made. As he said, the purpose of the bill is to ask the Parliament to approve and validate the capital works programme for the ensuing year. We start upon the basis that it is always a difficult matter to decide what level of expenditure is proper and reasonable, particularly in a country that is growing and developing. There is always room for argument about whether the works programme is adequate, inadequate or over-generous. In this debate, we have the situation that the Leader of the Opposition has said that he does not begrudge the expenditure, which, I think, is close enough to saying that he has no quarrel with the quantum or the level of the works programme.
What he does say, in addition, if I understand him correctly, is something like this: He is opposed to the way in which the Government proposes to finance its works programme. He objects to the Government looking to revenue to provide the necessary fund’s. He made quite a point of the fac; that he objected to the works programme being financed from revenue. He said that we were asking this generation to pay for benefits that posterity will enjoy. He went on from there to say that he is opposed to the Commonwealth borrowing from overseas, that the party to which he belongs does not agree that Australia should borrow funds overseas to do works that are necessary.
If I might recapitulate, the Leader of the Opposition says that the works programme is reasonable and necessary, but he objects to that programme being financed from revenue and from borrowings overseas. From there he goes on to take the next logical step. If his party were in power, apparently it would wave a magic wand and would borrow on the local market all the money that it required. That is fantastic nonsense. It would be quite impracticable for the Labour party to do that. It is utter nonsense for the leader of the Labour party in the Senate to make the claim that his party would be able to do so. The Labour party lost power because it completely destroyed confidence in financial circles throughout Australia with its programme of nationalization of the banking system. That programme so disturbed the electors of Australia that they threw the Labour government out of office neck and crop. The Labour party has not learned the lesson that it is only by confidence and co-operative effort that we can develop Australia. Only recently, a prominent member of the party went on record as advocating the nationalization, not only of the banking system, but also of land and of other industries. That, I think, illustrates the hollowness of the alternative proposals that are put forward.
I want to deal with the next argument. If we believe the Leader of the Opposition, this is a land of gloom, a land in which there has been no progress. He says, in effect, that if the Labour party were in power we would see real progress in Australia. I should like to deal with that proposition by reminding the Leader of the Opposition that during the nine or ten years this Government has been in office we have witnessed a 25 per cent, increase in the population of Australia. If the people of Australia are not proud of progress such as that. I shall be very surprised indeed. When they see such progress, they must automatically have confidence in a Government that brings about such a result and must also have confidence in the way in which that government finances the requirements of Australia.
Not only have we seen an increase of 25 per cent, in the population of Australia, but we have also seen an increase in the number of the people employed in manufacturing industries. There are now 1 ,000,000 people employed in our factories. I remind the Opposition that since this Government has been in office one-quarter of the houses now standing in Australia have been built. I also remind the Opposition, that during the period of office of this. Government we have witnessed an improvement in the conditions of the man on the land, to the extent that to-day the sheeppopulation of Australia has reached the alltime record of 150,000,000. I make noattempt to do more than point to those figures in order to show that the foundation upon which we have built since we have been in office has been sound and solid - the best foundation possible for thedevelopment and progress of Australia. Theprogress and development that has occurred during the period in which this Government has been in office has reached an alltime record level.
May I add that not only have we seen, this progress within Australia, but that confidence in Australia overseas is reflected by the tremendous sums of overseas capital that have come into this country for investment. At no time in our history have greater sums been invested in Australianmanufacturing and mining industries and in Australian pastoral companies than during the life of this Government. When, such progress and development are evident, what nonsense it is for the Opposition toattempt to establish that we have not put our finances on a sound and solid basis!
The Leader of the Opposition attempted to establish that there was unemployment and distress in Australia, that things had gone wrong. I have not the relevant figures, with me because I did not anticipate having to take part in the debate, but may I remind honorable senators opposite of the figures that I quoted in reply to a question that was asked within the last week or so. Those figures showed that the level of unemployment in Australia was lower than that of any other country. What kind of political party is it which, in such circumstances, endeavours to capitalize upon misery and to create the impression that the economy is not in a prosperous and stable condition?
Not only is our level of employment better than that of other countries, but in the last eight or nine years our standards of living have risen to an unparalleled degree. Does any one in this chamber dispute the fact that there are more washing machines and other domestic appliances, and motor cars, in use in Australia, that people have more leisure and that the standard of living to-day is higher than those of us who are advancing in years ever dreamt of when we were younger? As Australians, we are entitled to take credit for the progress that we have made and for the fact that our prosperity has been equitably distributed over the community, as is evidenced by the way in which social service benefits, including pensions, have been increased and by the national health scheme, which is working satisfactorily.
I have no intention to speak at length, but there are occasions on which the arguments advanced are so hollow that, if one wishes to retain his self-respect, one must answer them. What has been said by the Leader of the Opposition to-night is incorrect and cannot stand up to the test. What I have said illustrates the fact that not only has the period of office of the MenziesFadden Administration been the most prosperous in the history of Australia but also that the Government has laid a good solid foundation so that, when it is re-elected at the end of November, it will be able to maintain the present rate of development.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I do not know whether I am in order in discussing the matters I am about to raise, but I refer to Division No. 38K, Item 2 - “ Commonwealth Hostels Limited - Equipment, minor works, furniture and fittings, £80,000 “. Last year, the appropriation was £80,000 and the expenditure was £79,708. I am wondering whether that sum of £80,000 is to be a fixed sum in the same way that we have come to regard the annual appropriation of £190,000,000 for defence as being a fixed sum.
I refer also to the item, hostels for migrant workers, under Division No. 40. Here there seems to have been a magician at work, or somebody with a marvellous amount of inside information, because in 1957-58 the sum appropriated was £87,609 and the expenditure was £87,609. For any man to be able to budget to the exact penny twelve months in advance is indeed marvellous. It is a pity that the person who was responsible for that estimate is not in England, because he would make a fortune out of the football pools.
I turn now to the item, reception, training and holding centres for accommodation of migrants. I have a few complaints to make under this heading. I have in mind, in particular, the case of a migrant worker who came to this country three years ago. He was a tanner, and had a good position in England. He was bound for Melbourne, but five days before his ship berthed at Fremantle he received a radiogram telling him to disembark at Fremantle, where a job and accommodation were awaiting him and his family. Against his better judgment - he had come out as an assisted migrant - he left the ship at Fremantle, but from that day to this he has never had a job as a tanner and has had no home provided for himself and his family.
The family went to a migrant camp and on the following day he was sent to a certain place to get a job, but there was no job available. Since then he has had only casual work. One of his two children, a baby, had a weak heart and had to have special attention. But for the 21 months during which he was at the hostel he had employment for only twelve months. It was more or less casual employment, and he had to move around the country and leave his wife and family at the hostel. But his expenses mounted, and he eventually found himself in the position of owing £192 for accommodation. As soon as he got suitable work he started to reduce that sum, and eventually he managed to reduce it to £96.
Then he was out of work again for some months. He moved from the hostel because it was too expensive to stay there and because he had to provide special food for the sick baby. He went into a nearby house for which he paid £3 a week in rent, and he managed to get some furniture on time payment. Migrants, whether they be British or non-British, do not know the intricacies of our hire-purchase system. That is a matter which the Department of Immigration should investigate. This man had to buy a refrigerator in order to keep the food for his children at an even temperature. He was not able to buy second-hand furniture on terms. He had only casual work, and eventually he fell behind in his payments on the refrigerator. The upshot was that the firm which sold him the refrigerator repossessed it. He had paid £120 on it, but he discovered that, instead of his indebtedness having been reduced by £120, it had been increased by £125.
He owed £5 more than he had paid and, in addition, had this terrific debt to Commonwealth Hostels Limited. He managed to get work for a few weeks on a job that finishes this week, but no sooner did he commence work than he got a summons from Commonwealth Hostels Limited to appear in court on 14th August, in connexion with this debt. Then, he had to pay £3 or £4 for the service of the notice. He started work on the Tuesday and received the notice to appear on the following day, served on him on the job. Naturally, his boss would wonder what kind of a man he was employing.
This migrant came to me in a bad way, because he could not afford to take a day off to appear in court. He could not do anything about the £96 that he had to pay to Commonwealth Hostels Limited. He told me that if he had been allowed to go to Melbourne, his original destination, he would not have had to incur this big liability to Commonwealth Hostels Limited, because there was a job waiting for him in Melbourne. In the meantime, of course, that job had gone. The Commonwealth is really responsible for this man’s plight, because it took him off the ship at Fremantle, although there was neither work nor accommodation awaiting him. We are spending all this money in connexion with Commonwealth Hostels Limited, for the provision of equipment, minor works, furniture and fittings, but I should like to know exactly what is being done and where the work is being carried out. We know that there are now not so many migrants coming to Australia as there were previously, so that there are not so many in the holding camps as there used to be. Many of those who have come are now in employment or have obtained homes.
In Division No. 39, reference is made to the acquisition of sites and buildings in connexion with the accommodation of migrants. Apparently, in this respect, the genius to whom I referred earlier was not at work, because last year £1,000 was appropriated for this purpose and all that was spent was £27. I do ‘not know how much land could be bought for £27. Perhaps enough could be bought to allow for the erection of a fowl-house, but not very much else. I note that under Division No.. 40, £10,000 was allocated last year for building works, fittings and furniture for hostels, but only £6,562 was spent. This year, it is proposed to allocate £19,000. These figures seem somewhat peculiar, in the light of the more accurate forecasting of receipts and expenditure to which I have referred, and also in the light of the fact that we are not now receiving as many migrants at the holding centres as in previous years. I should like the Minister to explain to me the necessity for this increased expenditure, since there is a decreasing number of migrants.
– The item “ Commonwealth Hostels Limited - Equipment, minor works, furniture and fittings, £80.000,” in Division No. 38K. is a capita item. It refers, not to continuous expenditure, but to the purchase of equipment for the hostels. The sum of £25,000 is required for the purchase of items of modern equipment, the use of which, as demonstrated by tests, will lead to economies in hostel operations. The amount of £55,000 is required for hostel site improvements, including levelling, grading, drainage, the construction of footpaths, and other works of a similar character.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 23rd September (vide page 514), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The measure before the Senate concerns the alteration of the River Murray Agreement to provide for the control of the distribution of water that flows into the Murray River, either before or after the water has been dammed or used for the purpose of generating hydro-electric power in the upper or lower reaches of the tributaries of the Murray. I have no intention, Mr. President, to say, “ I told you so “, or anything of that kind, and I do not want to embarrass the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who is in charge of the bill, but there are one or two things that I have to say. One of them is that I am very pleased indeed that a higher authority than the Minister took this matter in hand.
I want to say, too, that no thanks are due to the Liberal members of the Senate, except Senator Pearson, because they gave no assistance at all in having this agreement brought before the chamber. So far as Senator Pearson is concerned, I am of the opinion - it may be only my opinion - that he went out of his way to do what he could, and that he was more concerned than were the other Liberal senators to try to ensure justice and equity in the distribution of the waters, as a result of the Snowy Mountains scheme. ] know that the honorable senator was terribly upset about the matter in this chamber, and even when the bill to amend the Snowy Mountains Agreement was moved, he was very much concerned about it. Although he agreed to the amendment, 1 think that he did so conscientiously believing that the continuous pressure might make some difference. He probably had the idea, too, that some authority other than the Minister for National Development might take charge of the matter. All the other Liberal senators from South Australia made their position clear and said that they thought that the Snowy Mountains Agreement would meet the position that is now to be met by the proposed amendment of the River Murray Agreement.
– It is only putting an extra and unnecessary bolt in an already barred door; it was quite safe before.
– Of course it was, but the Minister told us it was not. He told us that South Australia was .safeguarded under the conditions of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. All that we were quarrelling about at that time - I include Senator Pearson, but not the other Liberal Senators from South Australia - was the distribution of the water after it had passed through the hydro-electric scheme.
The ratifying bill that is now before us bears out every word that was said by Senator Pearson, Senator Toohey and myself that an additional safeguard was needed to ensure that South Australia’s interests would be protected in times of drought, and that the State would receive a share of the water that was diverted into the Murray. Our third point was that restitution should be made for the water that was taken away from the Murray. This agreement covers those three phases, notwithstanding the fact that we were told that such provisions were not necessary.
When the legislation for the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric undertaking was before this chamber, one Liberal senator informed me that section 45 of the agreement covered the points I have mentioned, and that sections 47 to 51 of the River Murray agreement protected the rights of South Australia. At the time, I questioned that assurance. Now I find that section 45 is being amended, section 51 is being amended, and1 the whole of the clauses thai were supposed to protect South Australia are now contained in the ratifying measure before us. Of course, I am very pleased that they are included, and I emphasize that I am glad that the matter was taken up by an authority higher than the Minister who had control of it at that time.
– I rise, of course, to support the bill, and compliment the Government on introducing this measure to ratify the agreement. I was amused by the very pleasant remarks of Senator O’Flaherty, for it is really not possible for him accurately to evaluate action that was taken in the matter by honorable senators on this side. T assure the Senate that the South Australian Liberal senators worked throughout as a team. Now that this ratifying measure has been brought before the Parliament, I hope that the High Court writ that was issued by South Australia will be withdrawn.
This bill has become necessary because in 1915 it was not contemplated that large quantities of water would be diverted to the Murray catchment from other rivers or that quantities of water would be diverted to other catchments from the Murray. The old agreement of 1915 is now completely out of balance. Tn addition, due to the remarkable progress that has been made with the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, it is now necessary to legislate because of the new entity that has come suddenly into the picture - the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. The particular point at issue, of course, was the sharing of water in times of drought. Thanks to the good offices of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) a solution was arrived at in which the States of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia were involved, but in which the Commonwealth was not directly involved. I should like to express my appreciation to both the Prime Minister and the Minister for National Development for assisting to settle the question of distribution as between the three contracting States.
I just want to say, briefly, that this is a good agreement; I am very pleased to see the words “ Signed, sealed and delivered “ and the signature of Sir Thomas Playford on it. I hope that the three States concerned will ratify the agreement in the near future. 1 assure the Senate that South Australia will make very good use of the water that is made available to it. The security that this agreement gives - it really reinforces what we already knew to be the position - is very welcome to South Australia.
– I should like to join with Senator Laught in saying how pleased I am and the other South Australian Liberal senators are that the agreement has come to a fruitful conclusion. We have gone through very difficult and very worrying times. As Senator Laught said, we have worked throughout as a team. Our thanks are due to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) who encouraged us in our labours. He was ever ready to discuss various aspects of the matter with us, and he was most co-operative. I express my thanks to him and to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) for the time they put in with us and with the Premiers of the respective States in order to bring the matter to a satisfactory conclusion.
It was ridiculous of Senator O’Flaherty to say that we stated that the agreement we have in front of us was not necessary. When we spoke on the Snowy Mountains matter, we said there was no need to delay the passage of the legislation, because the
River Murray Agreement controls the distribution of the water. Furthermore, we were given an assurance that an appropriate measure would be brought before the Senate as soon as possible.
I take this opportunity to congratulate the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria for the statesmanlike approach they made to South Australia’s problem. They treated it as an Australian problem, which they approached fairly in order to allow South Australia to share in the benefits of this national scheme. Admittedly, South Australia cannot share in the distribution of the electricity that will be generated by the scheme. However, water is vital to South Australia, particularly in times of drought. Throughout the discussions we were concerned primarily with the quantity of water that South Ausftralia would receive in dry seasons. As we pointed out, unless South Australia were assured of receiving more water during droughts, that State’s development would be stifled.
I shall not discuss the provisions of the agreement. As I have said, South Australia is completely dependent on water from the River Murray. We have pipelines going throughout the State. But apart from that, it is vital that we do not allow the level of water to go down below Waikerie because the salinity that develops in the water from the cliffs at Waikerie - as happened last year - has a detrimental effect; the salinity tends to kill all the herbage.
South Australia has agreed that a drought period will be declared when the water in the Hume Dam and Lake Victoria reaches the low level of 1,000,000 acre feet. It is satisfactory that South Australia now has a figure to determine when a drought period will be declared. The agreement provides that South Australia will now receive threethirteenths of the water in the Murray River at Albury, whether it comes from the natural flow of the river or from the diverted water coming from the Snowy Mountains. That was the big problem that faced us. We in South Australia felt that all the water flowing in the channel at Albury was water from the Murray River. That was how the big difference of opinion arose, but the other States have treated this matter in a statesmanlike way and are now prepared to allow South Australia a share of the extra water that will be available.
This agreement also provides that New South Wales will be allowed to replace the water, which is being diverted through the Tooma River, through whichever source is convenient to that State. While that will be a great advantage to New South Wales, the other States will not be very much concerned so long as the water is replaced and we all receive our fair share. A similar concession will be extended to Victoria in that it will be allowed to replace, from the Eildon Weir, water that is used in a period of drought.
The three States concerned are quite satisfied with the proposals, and it is greatly to the credit of the Minister that he has been able to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion. The old slogan. “The Murray divides “. will no longer apply because we all are united. I am pleased to support this agreement.
– It seems rather unusual that we should hear to-night a government supporter from South Australia, in discussing the amendment of the River Murray Agreement, attempting to pose as a crusader in the cause of South Australia. Let me remind the Senate, and in particular, South Australian senators opposite, of what happened on a previous occasion when a bill providing for the ratification of the Snowy Mountains Agreement was before this chamber. Quite a few of them on that occasion expressed themselves as completely satisfied-
– With the Snowy Mountains Agreement, yes.
– They expressed themselves as completely satisfied with the state of affairs existing at that time.
– With the Snowy Mountains Agreement.
– Not with the Snowy Mountains Agreement at all. They expressed themselves as completely satisfied with the state of affairs that existed at that time. When we on this side of the chamber, particularly those of us from South Australia, said that we viewed with grave concern the fact that the ratification of the agreement was proposed without the position of South Australia being fully protected, honorable senators opposite from that State expressed themselves as satisfied with the position. There is no escape from that fact. Honorable senators will recall that I had a rather heated exchange with the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) on the matter when he also sought to convey to the Senate that South Australia was satisfied, from a parliamentary point of view, with the agreement as it then stood, despite the fact that the Premier of that State continued to say that South Australia’s interests were not adequately protected.
– The matter has now reached a satisfactory conclusion. Does that not prove that we were satisfied?
– Let us be realistic about it. In my view, Government senators from South Australia were not prepared, in the face of a decision of the Liberal party, taken on a federal basis, to protect the interests of South Australia by supporting the amendment put forward by the Labour party to the effect that ratification of the agreement should be delayed for a period of six months so that some consideration could be given to South Australia’s position with a view to that State’s interests being adequately protected.
– We were prepared to accept the assurance of the State Premiers that South Australia’s interests would be protected. We said that.
– I am stating the actual position, because we were convinced that South Australia’s interests were not protected by the then existing provisions of the agreement. We were very vocal about the matter and, if honorable senators opposite want to verify my statements, they have only to look up “ Hansard “. I prophesied that this matter would return to the Senate and yet, in the face of that prophecy, South Australian senators opposite voted for the ratification of the agreement because, apparently, they were satisfied with the position then existing. If the decision to ratify the agreement was taken on a federal basis, probably the honorable senators opposite’ were tied by the decision, and I do not hold it against them. From time to time we on this side of the chamber vote for a party decision, but I object strongly to honorablesenators voting for a party decision and then at a later date attempting to convey the impression that they did not do anything- of the sort and, in fact, did everything possible to protect the interests of the State they are supposed to represent.
– Would you not be prepared to accept the written assurance of Mr. Cahill, the Premier of New South Wales?
– Apparently Mr. Playford, the Premier of South Australia, was not prepared to accept the decision which you supported in this chamber.
– Of course, he accepted it.
– He did not accept it, and as a result of his refusal to do so we now see these amendments before us, clear and conclusive proof that honorable senators on this side of the chamber were right when they asked Government senators from South Australia to support the amendment proposing that the proclamation and ratification of the agreement be delayed for a period of six months. Any person with a logical mind must admit that the ratification of the agreement should have been delayed as we suggested, because we find ourselves to-night discussing amendments to an agreement which Government supporters, lock, stock and barrel, said a few months ago was iron-bound, water-tight and catered for the needs of everybody concerned. Now we have this volte face. The Government has been forced to propose these amendments because it is clear now that South Australia’s position was not protected under the previous agreement.
I know that honorable senators opposite are sneering at my statements, but they cannot be laughed off because they are true. The amendment now before us proves that we were right. If my memory serves me, Senator O’Flaherty forecast almost word for word the terms of the amendment that would be needed to protect adequately South Australia’s interests regarding a share of the River Murray waters.
– I was told I did not know anything about it.
– That is right. I think Senator Pearson was rather critical of Senator O’Flaherty. Mr. President, I am not displeased because these amendments have been proposed. On the occasion when the agreement was last before us I, and my colleagues, were prepared to fight to the last ditch to protect the interests of South Australia. However, in view of the proposed amendments, we are now satisfied that South Australia has nothing to worry about in the future with regard to its share of the River Murray waters.
Be that as it may, I do not think an occasion such as this should be allowed to pass without indicating in some way our displeasure with supporters of the Liberal party opposite who were prepared, in carrying out a party decision, to sacrifice the interests of their State. When Senator O’Flaherty discussed the River Murray Waters Bill a few months ago, he dealt at length with the dangers to South Australia inherent in the diversion of the waters from the Tooma. If my memory serves me aright, members on the Government side stated quite bluntly and emphatically that there would be no need to worry about South Australia’s position as a result of the diversion of waters from the Tooma, yet. in these amendments which are now before us, we find provision for the replacement of water which will be diverted from the Tooma for irrigation purposes. The public should be reminded of the fact that those honorable senators on the Government side who represent South Australia, and who come here supposedly to watch jealously the interests of the State that returns them, voted on purely party lines on a question which so drastically affected South Australia.
– Why did you vote in favour of the agreement?
– Any one would think you voted against the previous bill. You voted for it. Explain that!
– I voted for an amendment on the last occasion.
– You voted for the bill.
– I voted for an amendment.
– You voted for the bill.
– I voted for an amendment which sought to delay the proclamation of the bill for a period of six months, and you voted against that. You were satisfied with the position as it existed at that time. You are proving now that you were completely wrong on that occasion because you are now voting for the amendments before us to-night.
– And which we forecast at that time.
– 1 do not remember your forecasting any such amendments.
– I will read to you what I said.
– I do not remember your forecasting any amendments. I forecast that an amendment would come before us.
– We said we had the Minister’s assurance that it would come before us.
– I forecast that the matter would come aap again because, in a speech which I made in this chamber seeking to delay the proclamation of the agreement, I said that if it was not delayed at least for the period we suggested, the matter would be brought before the Senate again.
– Show me that in “ Hansard “. It is not in my copy.
– I can understand1 the position in which Senator Pearson finds himself and because of which he interjects repeatedly, but I am not going to be diverted because I feel very strongly on this matter. I state emphatically that honorable senators on the Government side who come from South Australia, having let their side down on a former occasion, are now trying to wriggle out of a situation which they helped to bring about themselves.
I believe that the amendments before us will finally protect South Australia’s position in relation to the Murray River waters, but I want to go on record as saying that if the proposal which the Labour party put before the Senate on a previous occasion had been carried, not only would a great deal of heartburning have been dissipated, but we would have been able to come back to this Senate and arrive at a decision after having had an opportunity of considering every aspect of the situation. Because that proposal was not agreed to, we are now faced with the necessity for re-discussing a matter which ought to have been concluded satisfactorily some considerable time ago. I repeat that, irrespective of what members of the Liberal party on the Government side who come from South Australia say, they are merely trying now to wriggle out of the very difficult situation in which they find themselves as a result of deciding to serve the interests of their party instead of the interests of their State.
– First, let me say how I appreciate Senator O’Flaherty’s remarks about me. 1 must say that Senator Toohey could not have been listening to what his colleague, Senator O’Flaherty, had to say just now, and that what Senator O’Flaherty said could be said with equal truth about all honorable senators on this side. But 1 do express my personal appreciation of Senator O’Flaherty’s remarks, and do point out that when the Senate was discussing the previous bill, Senator O’Flaherty did make some real contribution to the debate.
I also feel that Senator O’Flaherty was rather unfair in singling me out for some praise at his hands. I assure him that the South Australian senators on this side did work, as a team, as my colleagues, Senator Buttfield and Senator Laught have pointed out, in all our discussions. I do not think there was one single instance when we did not have discussions together. That, of course, includes my colleagues, Senator Hannaford and Senator Mattner. Included at those discussions also, I think without exception, were South Australian members of the House of Representatives - Mr. Downer, who was then a private member, Dr. Forbes, and Mr. Keith Wilson. While appreciating Senator O’Flaherty’s praise, 1 want to assure him that credit is not due solely to me, that it is due to the whole of the South Australian team on this side. I say that advisedly, knowing it to be true.
As for Senator Toohey, I must say that we have had a typical Toohey speech. I am tired of listening to that type of speech from Senator Toohey in this chamber.
– You do not appear to like it.
– And I do not think anybody else does, least of all the people in South Australia, whom he has tried to impress to-night, and the people who read the “ River News “. Senator Toohey rushed into print on this matter, and I am going to have something to say about that presently.
– You let the side down.
– I want to deny categorically that the South Australian members of the Liberal party in this Senate let the side down at any stage. We did not. We did not abide by any party decision at all, because none was made. I made my position quite clear when I spoke to the previous bill. Unlike Senator Toohey, I have “ Hansard “ here to show what 1 said. He claimed he said many things, but did not bother to refer to “ Hansard “. I could not find any record of them in my copy.
– You have the wrong copy!
– I could not find in my copy any record of many of the things he claimed he said. His speech followed mine. It is in the same edition. To-night, I am following him, for a change. I say emphatically now that the Minister in charge of that bill, Senator Spooner, knew very well that my colleagues and I would not have voted for the bill - I repeat now that we would not have voted for the bill - had not certain assurances been given. That is what we said. Those assurances were given. That is why I and my colleagues, Senator Buttfield and Senator Laught, supported the bill. We supported the bill because of the assurances that were given, not because we let the side down at all. We fought South Australia’s case and we claim to-night that, because of the stand we have taken, we were largely responsible for things that happened later.
During the whole of his speech, on the last occasion. Senator Toohey did nothing but criticize the Premier of South Australia for “ grandstanding round South Australia, conducting a sham fight “. Does he say that to-night? I ask him whether he says that to-night, because if anybody has had a victory in this matter, it is Sir Thomas Playford, the Premier of South Australia. Senator Toohey’s criticism of Sir Thomas Playford when we were discussing the previous bill takes up three pages of “ Hansard “. Sir Thomas Playford, whom Senator Toohey criticized and accused of doing nothing for South Australia, the man whose efforts Senator Toohey sought to belittle, has had the victory. Senator Toohey said he was grandstanding round South Australia.
– And he was!
– You said three times that he was grandstanding. It was grandstanding to some effect, if I might say so.
Senator Toohey went into the press on this matter. He made a statement in a paper called the “ River News “, printed at Waikerie, describing the allegedly terrific fight we had in this Senate. There was no fight at all. Senator Toohey voted for the bill, as did every other senator on the Labour party side, including all the South Australians. I always imagine that if there is any political fight in this place we have it on the floor of the chamber. Actions speak louder than words and if we have a difference of opinion we prove it by voting one way or another. Senator Toohey did not even call for a division; nor did his leader; nor did any other South Australian. The honorable senator voted calmly and meekly for the bill, which apparently he approved - without the assurances that we had. Every one of us said in our speeches that we believed certain things would be done. We had every reason to believe that they would be done.
– Why have they not been done?
– They have been done. If they had not, this bill would not be before us to-night. It proves that our understanding of the matter at that time was correct. What we then prophesied has come to pass.
– You were lucky.
– You can say we were lucky if you like, but the fact remains that it has happened. That is why there was no reason to vote for the amendment that Toohey put up as political propaganda.
– I would not even take exception to your saying that.
– You would if you could.
– I would not even take exception to your referring to me as “ Toohey “.
– I am really very sorry that I did not refer to the honorable gentleman as Senator Toohey; it was an oversight. I remind the Senate again that Senator Toohey did not vote against the bill which he said did all these terrible things.
We made our stand quite clear. We supported the bill because of assurances that we had received that certain things would happen.
– You were given them by a leader whom you trusted.
– We had received those assurances from our leader. We were given them by the Prime Minister and the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) as well. We believed that the Premiers of the States were to be trusted - including one of Senator Toohey’s own colleagues, the Premier of New South Wales. Mr. Cahill.
– Those assurances did not satisfy your Premier in South Australia.
– How does Senator Toohey know that? They had to be implemented, of course.
– He has only recently withdrawn his injunction proceeding from the High Court.
– The reason for the court action was that the assurances upon which we relied had no legislative backing at that stage.
– And Sir Thomas did not trust you!
– He wanted to see the legislation put through the parliaments, as any reasonable man would do. It is all very well for Senator Toohey to say that the Premier of South Australia did not trust the assurances that he had been given. He is a wise man, and there is many a slip twixt the cup and the lip. In any event, now that legislative backing has been given to the assurances the Premier of South Australia may withdraw his action. Senator Toohey can have it whichever way he likes. No one in South Australia will believe him when he says that the Liberal party senators on this side of the chamber let South Australia down. Not one of the people who read “ River Murray News “, in which he referred to this “ sham “ fight, will believe his assertion. I say to the people of South Australia to-night that there never was any “ sham “ fight on this side of the chamber. Such shamming as there was came from Senator Toohey and his party. They pretended that there was a fight in this place. There could only have been a fight if the pretended differences had been carried to their logical conclusion and they had voted against this bill.
I have the greatest pleasure in supporting this bill because it gives effect to the things which we confidently believed would happen. It proves that there was no necessity for Senator Toohey to move his amendment; and that we have a leader in whom we can trust. The last chapter has been written in this matter, and I believe that every one, not only in South Australia but in the States of Victoria and New South Wales also, will be pleased with the result.
– in reply - I should like to commence what I have to say by repeating what I said at the conclusion of the debate upon the Snowy Mountains Agreement. Honorable senators will remember that at the time there was some argument about the rights of South Australia; about its position under the Snowy Mountains scheme. 1 concluded in this way -
I conclude on the note on which I started, that one cannot perform a task of this magnitude without encountering difficulties from time to time. We have had our difficulties, and at times reached the stage at which it did not seem possible to resolve them, but we have dons so. The agreement was signed in November last-
I was referring to the main Snowy Mountains Agreement - with a song of triumph and was to be presented to Parliament. However, at that stage Victoria thought of something that had not been covered in the agreement, so it became necessary to draw up a supplemental agreement. The principal agreement and the supplemental agreement have been signed, but now this difficulty with South Australia has arisen. J am supremely confident that we will find a solution to the satisfaction of all concerned without resort to litigation. I am supremely confident that everything the Commonwealth has done has been dons correctly, and that, irrespective of the result of the dispute with South Australia, no alteration in the agreement now before the Senate will be necessary. Upon that foundation I ask the Senate to support the Bill.
Subsequent events have proved that prophecy correct. The agreement that is now before the Senate, as I said in the course of the debate last May, represents an amendment of the River Murray Waters Act. The Snowy Mountains Agreement, as signed between the Governments of New South Wales, Victoria and the Commonwealth, has stood the test of this argument and discussion and does not need alteration, lt is a complete vindication of the stand that we took, and the views that we put before the Parliament last March, and a complete vindication of the view that I then expressed and which I now repeat, that it would have been a dangerous procedure to have adopted the amendment then moved by the Australian Labour party and to have attempted to defer ratification of the Snowy Mountains Agreement.
– lt was just a political move.
– Of course it was. Labour did not mean it. It was just the same old political trick of trying to gain votes in South Australia. It was a move to defer, as a result of fear and trembling, the operation of the Snowy Mountains Agreement. All that Labour wanted to do was clap itself on the back and try to prove to the people of Australia that it, and not the Government, was their friend. Having struck that attitude, Labour voted for the passage of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Power Bill. What was then forecast by Government supporters has now become reality.
Senator Toohey tonight made some statements about the diversion of the Tooma, which, above all else, showed his utter lack of knowledge of the problem and of its complexities. How foolish it was of him to stand up here and say that alterations had to be made in. regard to the diversion of the Tooma river! As I said in my second-reading speech, this bill merely heals a technicality - if such a technicality does in fact exist. The Snowy Mountains Agreement makes direct and explicit provision under which the sharing of the waters of the Tooma is to be charged against the States of New South Wales and Victoria, and the interests of South Australia are most effectively protected.
South Australia, in the course of an argument, in an endeavour to get benefits in other directions, took the technical point that the Tooma River had been diverted by the Snowy Mountains authority, which was neither the State of Victoria nor the State of New South Wales. Nobody made any bones about that. Sir Thomas Playford, in the course of all the discussions, said that it was a technical point and that he would take advantage of it until the major matters were finalized. For Senator
Toohey to talk as though there were anything at stake in this matter of the Tooma waters is sheer nonsense. If he is going to make statements like that it is only fair that he should go back and read the agreement, study the history of the River Murray, see what happens to the waters of that river, and find out what he is talking about instead of uttering such completely unjustified’ nonsense.
The position now is that the Snowy Mountains Agreement has been completed. The Premier of South Australia took certainpoints which he thought were in the interests of South Australia. The position has been discussed with New South Wales and Victoria, and there has been an exchange of benefits. Each party has agreed to give something to the other parties, with the result that all parties have finished up quite happy in the view that the new River Murray Waters Agreement, which is before the Senate to-night, is a better agreement, one which is in the interests of all of the three States - not only South Australia, but Victoria and New South Wales as well.
Some one has said that the River Murray is Australia’s greatest asset, and I believethat might well be so. It is a very good thing indeed that all of the governments that share in the waters of the Murray were ableto meet around a table and say, “ Here are variations to this most important document,, variations which suit us all and with which we are also satisfied. We are gladly signing the agreement in that spirit.” In that atmosphere, I ask the Senate to support the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed (vide page 565).
– This measurehas the support of the Opposition. We regret to learn of the circumstance which makesthe measure necessary, namely the illness, for a period of about two months, of thejudge of the Supreme Court of this territory. The position is simply explained by indicating that the law at the moment is that if the sole judge of the- court is not available, a-. judge of another named federal court is deputed to act in his stead. The difficulty has arisen, as was explained by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator O’sullivan), that there is a doubt as to whether a judge appointed for life to another court can come into the Territory and act temporarily as a judge Of the Supreme Court here, when the Constitution requires that the judge be appointed for life.
There is a real constitutional doubt as to whether the substitute judge can function validly in those circumstances. This bill is introduced to cure that position by providing that, in addition to the sole judge of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court, other judges can be appointed to act by the Governor-General by commission. They will, of course, be judges of other federal courts and they will, when the need arises through the absence, illness or death of the judge of the Supreme Court of the Territory, take his place temporarily.
The bill is designed to remove any possible doubt about the validity of the actions of such a judge. The Opposition is co-operating with the Government in putting this measure through quickly, and with little debate, for the reason that matters needing attention are pending in the court.
– in reply. - I thank the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) for the generous treatment he has given to this bill. Mr. Justice Simpson is a friend of his and of mine. Senator McKenna has acted as Attorney-General in years gone by. The circumstances requiring this amendment of the law are rather unfortunate. I am quite sure that Mr. Justice Simpson will be very happy with the kind remarks that have been made by Senator McKenna.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 17th September (vide page 372), on motion by Senator O’sullivan-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill seeks to amend the Repatriation Act to bring into effect certain alterations in the rates of war pensions, as outlined in the Budget speech. Although the alterations in the rates will be welcomed by many ex-servicemen and their dependants, I feel that the Government has been very apologetic about the presentation of this bill because of the fact that it does not really do what it purports to do. The bill will increase the special-rate pension of some totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, but it will not increase their total income per week. I think that the bill would have been far more effective, and far more widely acclaimed, if some provision had been made in other legislation for the full benefit of these increases to accrue to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen.
We, as a parliament, have a responsibility that we cannot evade. We have a responsibility to see that the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen are provided with pensions which will enable them to enjoy at least the minimum standard of living which they could have achieved had they not suffered the incapacities for which they are pensionable. We must ensure also, not only that justice will appear to be done to them, but that it is done. Many of the advantages that legislation of this kind has sought to effect, and which could have provided a measure of improvement in the standard of living of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, have not been achieved.
Provision is made in the bill for an increase of 10s. a week in the allowances of certain classes of double amputees, for children of men whose death has been the result of war service, for allowances to war widows, and for increases in allowances payable under the education scheme for the children of ex-servicemen. However, the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan), who was representing the Minister for Repatriation, said in his second-reading speech -
There has been some misunderstanding regarding the extent to which T.P.I, pensioners, who are married, will benefit from the increase of 10s. a week in the T.P.I. rate, and some disappointment has been expressed because the Budget did not include an increase in the general rate war pension for incapacity, and in the pensions of wives and children of incapacitated members.
It is a masterpiece of understatement to say that some disappointment has been expressed. There is widespread disappointment, for the simple reason that the proposed increase is not an increase in the real value of the pension, and because of the fact that only in regard to one section of the whole pension field is an attempt being made to raise pensions to meet the increase in the cost of living. The result of the granting of this 10s. increase is that the T.P.I, pensioner will be taken off his ordinary service pension. If he is a married man, he will not be allowed to receive any more than £15 15s. a week.
It is interesting to note that 131,751 war pensions - not T.P.I, pensions - are being paid as an outcome of the First World War. A man who enlisted at the age of sixteen years or who was twenty years of age when discharged after the First World War would now be 60 years of age. I would go so far as to say that there would not be very many T.P.I, pensioners of that war who do not come into that category. Any increase that they will receive under this legislation, particularly if they are married men, will be reflected in a corresponding reduction of their ordinary service pension when they reach the age of 60 years. It is cold comfort for these people, who were told by the Treasurer that they would get an increase, to find that no supporting legislation has been introduced to raise the ceiling limit.
I am disappointed at the fact that this measure does not cover many aspects of repatriation which have been the subject of representations to the Minister. Various ex-servicemen’s bodies and individuals have stressed the growing toll that is being taken of First World War veterans. As I said earlier, most of them are around the age of 60 years.
– Do not stress that too much.
– Although the honorable senator looks very youthful, he falls within that category. The United States of America has gone so far as to provide free hospital treatment, in its equivalent of our repatriation hospitals, for all veterans of the First World War. We as a Parliament will have to face up to the fact that all First World War veterans, or burnt-out diggers as they are called, are entitled to hospitalization in repatriation hospitals or, if such hospitals are not available, in local hospitals. It is my firm belief, and it is the belief of the Australian Labour party, that veterans of the First World War, and for that matter other burnt-out exservicemen who may not be totally and permanently incapacitated, should receive treatment in repatriation hospitals.
I also wish to make a plea on behalf of nurses of the First World War. No provision is made for hospital and medical treatment for those people.
– There is provision in this bill.
– There is no provision for hospitalization.
– Yes, there is.
– There is no such provision in this bill for people in that category. 1 refer now to provision that was made in 1955 for the wives of T.P.I, exservicemen. They were given a very short period of time within which to apply for eligibility for hospital treatment. If they did not apply within that time, they became ineligible for such treatment. There is a very pressing need for that aspect of the Government’s policy to be reviewed. Numbers of men are being accepted annually by the various tribunals as being eligible for the T.P.I, pension, and applications from their wives for hospital treatment should be accepted automatically.
We must keep the whole field of service pensions before us constantly. Each year one section of pensioners is given a small increase, but that increase always lags behind the rise in cost of the commodities purchased by those people. In the following year, we see a different section of pensioners being helped. I believe that the time has arrived for the whole field of pensions to be reviewed, in the light of presentday costs and circumstances.
This is a subject that should never be made a matter of party politics, but the point that the Opposition makes is that what appears to be an increase of pension for totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen, in a great number of cases will not result in any increase of their total income. Therefore, we on this side of the chamber object to the aspect of the social service legislation which results in totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen being deprived of their just rights. If we think that the pension of such people should be increased by 10s. a week, we should see to it that their actual income is increased by that amount.
The Minister said that the Government made no apology for the fact that the combined pensions would remain at £15 15s. a week, but I suggest that the Government should apologize for having promised, in the Budget, that certain pensions woud be increased by 10s. a week and then not making sure that all those entitled to the increase actually received it. We of the Opposition believe that it is unjust to lead people to understand that there will be an increase in their weekly income, and for no increase to occur. The Opposition believes that the social service legislation requires adjustment in the way that I have suggested. We hope that earnest consideration will be given to the correction of these anomalies which are constantly cropping up and which, in fairness to ex-servicemen, should be corrected. Otherwise, we support the bill.
– Senator O’Byrne stated that the improved conditions referred to in the measure before the Senate would not apply to nurses of the 1914-18 war. I rise merely to correct that statement, and for no other purpose. The regulations made under the Repatriation Act - the honorable senator will not find them in the bill before us, if he is looking for them there - provide for the conditions covered by this measure to be applied to nurses of World War I. I have risen to point out that fact to the honorable senator, because the kind of mis-statement that he made is apt to be most damaging. His comment was without foundation.
– I welcome the opportunity to have something to say about repatriation, a matter that comes before us every year, because usually the legislation with which we deal aims to improve the conditions of exservicemen, in keeping with the state of the economy. We still owe to the ex-service personnel of both world wars much that we have not yet conceded to them. I wish to take the minds of honorable senators back to a very specific promise that was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his 1949 policy speech. Under the heading of repatriation, the right honorable gentleman said -
Repatriation remains a great and proud responsibility.
With that, we all agree.
The Opposition parties-
He was then Leader of the Opposition - contain a majority of Members and an overwhelming majority of new candidates who are ex-servicemen. We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems. Current legislation will be promptly overhauled and anomalies adjusted. We will sympathetically review financial allowances, particularly those related te disability or widowhood, in the light of all circumstances, including the fall in the value of money. For advice in relation to them and other repatriation matters, we shall establish exservicemen’s committees of Cabinet and of Parliament, to confer with representatives of ex-service organizations.
The subject of repatriation, Mr. President, is a hardy annual. Although the Government, in this instance, proposes to grant an additional 10s. a week to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, the position is anomalous, because more than 47 per cent, of such ex-servicemen will not receive even one penny increase.
– That is untrue.
– That is an irrefutable fact.
– It is untrue.
– It is not untrue, as I shall prove. The pension for the single T.P.I, ex-serviceman is at present £11 a week. The proposed increase will take it to £11 10s. a week. If he is married, the allowance for his wife will take the pension to something over £13 a week. An ex-serviceman who is in receipt of the T.P.I, pension is entitled to social service benefits to make the total benefits £15 15s. a week, which is the ceiling limit, so that the increase that is proposed under this bill will result in a reduction of the social service benefits that he receives. Honorable senators opposite cannot deny that that is so. Surely they will not be so imbecilic as to argue against the facts.
– Did the honorable senator say that such an ex-serviceman would receive no increased benefit?
– I said that at least 47 per cent, of them would not do so and would not benefit from the proposed increase of 10s. a week.
– But they would still .be getting ?15 15s. a week.
– Yes, but the Government told the Parliament and the people that such ex-servicemen would be given an increase in their pensions of 10s. a week. In fact, their ceiling rate of ?15 15s. will remain the same. At least 47 per cent, of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen will have the amount of the increase deducted’ from the social service benefits that they received. 1 suggest, for the consideration of the Government, that the whole of these benefits should be consolidated into one payment. That would save not only a lot of headaches for the recipients, but also an enormous amount of money by way of administration costs. Instead of paying a T.P.I, pensioner ?11 or ?11 10s. a week as a repatriation pension and then giving him social service benefits to bring his combined pension up to ?15 15s. a week, why not consolidate the benefits into one T.P.I. pension rate?
Senator O’Byrne referred to burntout diggers. I suggest that we have a great responsibility to such exservicemen. I shall not dwell too much on the matter of cash payments to the diggers. I want to concentrate mainly on matters of hospital and medical treatment that are now more urgently required by ex-service personnel than ever before.
We must realize that with each passing year the position of ex-service personnel becomes more serious. I suggest to the Government that it give consideration to making hospitalisation and medical treatment available to all ex-service personnel. What would be wrong with that? There is an acute shortage of general hospital accommodation in every State, while repatriation hospitals are only half full. I am continually visited by ex-service personnel who have been driven almost to desperation in their efforts to obtain medical or hospital treatment, which has been denied to them unless they can establish a repatriation entitlement. It is generally known that the main concern of a big percentage of the service personnel at the end of each of the world wars was to get out of the armed services and to forget all about military discipline.
Many of those ex-servicemen are now in the evening of their lives, and illness and disabilities of all kinds are catching up with them. Who will deny that in 99.9 per cent, of cases the afflictions that are overtaking these people are attributable to war service? Take my own case, for instance. When I enlisted for service in the first world war, I was quite a few years below the required age. At the end of the war in 1919 I was keen to get out of the Army; I wanted to get right way from everything connected with it. I have never since darkened the doorway of the Repatriation Department. I have never received one penny piece from the Repatriation Department. If I became ill at the present time, I would not even be able to get a bed in the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital because I could not show a repatriation entitlement.
– You could present yourself to the Repatriation Department for diagnosis and report.
– As Senator Anderson says, I could go to the department for diagnosis and report, but we must not forget the merry-go-round associated with appeals. What happens after diagnosis and report? The ex-serviceman has to appeal to the Repatriation Department. If the appeal is rejected, he makes a further appeal to an appeals board. If that appeal is rejected, he may appeal to an appeals assesment tribunal. Some time ago, I asked the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to give me some idea of the period of time that elapses between an original application for repatriation benefits and the final appeal. He informed me that the average period of time involved was about six months. I know from my own experience in interviewing quite a number of people who have been driven almost to desperation in this matter that they are awestricken at the idea of having to go before an appeals tribunal. Some time ago I received a letter from the Minister for Repatriation in reply to the question 1 had asked him on 1st May last. The letter reads -
I refer to your question without notice of 1st May, 1.958, concerning the number of appeals that were lodged by ex-servicemen in 1957, how many of these were heard, how many heard were successful, and the average time lag between the lodging of an appeal and the hearing. You will recall that I promised to obtain the information and let you know the position. The answers to your questions are as follows: -
And here follows some revealing information: -
That is the final appeal. That made a total number of 24,741 appeals lodged by exservicemen in 1957 -
That made a total number of 22,355 appeals decided -
That made a total number of 6,322 successful appeals -
That is the average time, mind you! -
Again, that is the average time -
That is the final appeal, and again thirteen weeks was the average time lag. In many instances, I believe that that time lag is double that period.
Although I do not want to detain the Senate unduly, I think that it is necesary to remind honorable senators of these matters from time to time because I believe that we are falling down in our obligation to the ex-service personnel of this country. Why should they be submitted to what is almost a third degree interrogation when they appear before the appeals tribunals? All they are asking for is a bed in a hospital, and medical attention. If one were to suggest that interest payments to bondholders be withheld, I can imagine the hue and cry that would be raised throughout the country to the effect that we were repudiating payment. I maintain that we are repudiating our obligations to the ex-service personnel who sacrifiiced their health in the defence of this country. But one reads almost daily in the newspapers that the profits of huge monopolies and big business undertakings are now running into millions of pounds. The Government says that that is a healthy sign. As I have said, as the years pass, the situation of ex-service personnel is becoming worse. When they say that they want hospital accommodation and proper medical treatment, we say that we cannot give it to them. I shall mention to honorable senators one or two cases which, in my own experience, can be multiplied many times. Obviously, I do not wish to mention names. I shall refer first to the case of the widow of a man who enlisted in the first Australian Imperial Force when he was eighteen years of age, served abroad for 1,236 days and was discharged on 19th August, 1919. He re-enlisted during the Second World War and was on active service for a period of 200 days.
– During what years? Was not the Labour party in office then? Why did the government of the day not do something about this case?
– He enlisted on 20th September, 1940. That was just prior to the time when the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) ran out on the country.
– And the Labour Government did nothing about it? Shame on you!
– This man reenlisted twelve months prior to Mr. Menzies repudiating Australia.
– That is rather cheap, is it not?
– No. It is true. You tried to throw the matter back at me by saying that we were in power.
– Were you not in power for eight years? You did nothing about it for eight years.
– Conditions became worse for this ex-serviceman each succeeding year. The honorable senator is getting older, as is everybody else, and he should know that each succeeding year the condition of these ex-servicemen becomes progressively worse. I want to present this man’s story because even the honorable senator’s concrete heart might soften a little. This man enlisted in the first Australian Imperial Force at the age of eighteen years and served for a periodof 1,236 days. He re-enlisted during the Second World War- on 20th September, 1940 - and served for a period of 200 days, being discharged in 1942. He was a glutton and had two bites at the cherry.
– Which Government was in power then?
– When he enlisted? The Menzies Government!
– Not when he enlisted, when he was discharged in 1942?
– Do not try to cloud the issue.I am trying to be serious about this matter. I know it is very difficult for the honorable senator to be serious at any time.
– Which government was in power in 1942?
– The honorable senator always reminds me of the fellow about whom it was said, “ If you were to be hanged for being intelligent, you would die as innocent as a new-born babe “. The ex-serviceman’s medical history shows that he was wounded in the head during the First World War. He diedon 7th November, 1956, from a depressed tumour of the brain. Prior to his death he had applied for a service pension and, towards the end of his life, efforts were made to have him admitted into Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, but without success. Yet that hospital has empty beds and empty wards. Because this man had not had any assistance from the Repatriation Department; because he had more or less looked after himself in the intervening years after his discharge; and because he did not have a repatriation entitlement; he was refused admission to a repatriation hospital. The story becomes a more damning indictment of the Government.I shall now read a letter addressed to me following the widow’s application for a war widow’s pension.
– What is the date of the letter?
– The present Government was in office then.
– What is the date of the letter?
– The date does not matter.
– The date does matter. What is the date of the letter?
– The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) has the file. If the honorable senator will only listen he might learn something, if he is capable of learning anything. The letter reads-
– What is the date of the letter?
– The letter is from the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation, Victoria, and is dated 10th January, 1958. It reads -
Following your personal representations to-day on behalf of Mrs.- widow of the late- , 1 have looked into the details of the case. I find . . that the Repatriation Board on 12th April, 1957, after careful consideration of all the evidence, was unable to connect the cause of death with war service, and declined the application accordingly. Mrs.- subsequently appealed to the Repatriation Commission which, on 6th June, 1957, disallowed the appeal. Melbourne Legacy presented a further appeal to a War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal on this lady’s behalf, but this appeal was disallowed by the Tribunal on 1 1th November, 1957. The position is now thather case can be re-opened only by the production of further evidence, in writing, which is admitted to be material to and have substantial bearing upon the claim. If Mrs.- is able to obtain further evidence, I shall be pleased to refer it to the Repatriation Commission for consideration under Section 64 (7) of the Repatriation Act.
That is the position set out by the Repatriation Department to this widow of an exserviceman who enlisted in the First World War when he was only eighteen years of age, who was wounded in the head, and who died of a depressed tumour of the brain. Can any honorable senator say that a doubt does not exist in this case. Irrespective of the medical evidence, common sense dictates that a doubt must exist. I shall now quote to honorable senators the nature of the further evidence that this widow should obtain -
Honorable senators must remember that this man was discharged 40 years ago -
Apparently if medicines were bought from a cash and carry store, receipts should have been kept over all those years - lt is important to bear in mind that the nearer the evidence is to the war period the more useful it will be in support of the claim. 1 put it to you, Mr. Deputy President, and to the members of the Government, as reasonable men, that such a requirement is ridiculous. How in the name of Goodness could the widow of a man who served his country more than 40 years ago, and who had been denied even a bed in a repatriation hospital, despite the fact that beds were available, find people who served in the same unit as he had? It would be almost impossible for her to obtain statutory evidence under those circumstances. I repeat that just as there would be a hue and cry about repudiation if, at any time, we were unable to meet our interest payments on Commonwealth bonds bought during the First World War, so are we guilty of repudiation when we do not do something for the dependents of those who fought for their country. We have the hospitals and the medical services; all that is lacking is courage on the part of the Government in respect of the provision of finance.
The first and only concern of the members of the tribunals before which these applicants appear is to reject as many applications as possible. Here let me emphasize that, in saying that, I do not speak in any derogatory way of the peronnel of these tribunals. They are simply carrying out government policy. I know, from speaking to the people for whom I am pleading, that they live in fear and trembling at the idea of having to appear before these tribunals because of the third degree interrogation to which they will be subjected. Every ruse in the book is used by these appeal tribunals in an endeavour to trick an applicant into making an unguarded statement. For instance, one of the first questions the tribunals invariably ask is, “ Who mows the lawn?”
– Do you say they commit acts of violence?
– The honorable senator reminds me of the song, “ You’d Be Far Better Off in a Home.” I ask the Chair for protection.
– You want it, too, I think.
– I need the Chair to protect me from inane remarks. I know, from experience, that applicants are subjected to third degree interrogation. I repeat that almost invariably the first stock question is, “ Who mows the lawn?” If, in an unguarded moment, the applicant says, “ I do,” the application is refused.
On one occasion when the wife of a totally and permanently incapacitated exserviceman - and this is the Gospel truth - made an application, she was told by an official of the tribunal to whom she applied, “ After all, Mrs.- , you married your husband for better or for worse “. Other applicants to these tribunals have been asked, “ Do you use your own toilet paper? “ That kind of questioning is despicable and unnecessary, yet it goes on. Every year conditions for these exservicemen are getting worse. We owe it to these people not only to increase the T.P.I, pension by 10s. a week, but also to give their wives at least an attendant’s allowance. It must be remembered that these women have no easy task in looking after these totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. These ex-servicemen are a dwindling race. In Victoria, there are only 4,000 of them, and the death rate is ten a week. The wives of these totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen are going through a living hell in their endeavours to look after their husbands. This country owes it to them to see that they, in their turn, are properly provided for.
I have no desire to delay the Senate any longer. We do not oppose the bill, but I do emphasize that we owe it to these ex-service personnel to give them the best possible hospital and medical treatment. We also have an obligation to provide for those brave women, the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. In conclusion, I trust that the Government will take some notice of the criticism I have offered. Because the bill proposes to do something for ex-servicemen, we do not oppose it.
– in reply - First, I should like to congratulate Senator O’Byrne for the way in which he received this bill on behalf of the Opposition. It was quite in keeping with the gallant personal record he has as one who has worn, with great pride and great credit to himself, our country’s uniform.
But I have never heard such nonsense in all my life as the suggestion put forward by Senator Sandford. I have never heard such humbug or such hypocrisy. I remind the honorable senator that of the nineteen members of the first Menzies Cabinet, sixteen were ex-servicemen. We are quite conscious of our obligations to those who served and fought with us. The story the honorable senator tells to-night was of a matter that his own Prime Minister could well have rectified. I think he told us about what happened during World War I. and World War II. I have never heard such aching hypocrisy as I heard from Senator Sandford to-night.
– That is all we can expect from you.
– We are quite conscious of our responsibilities to those who have worn our country’s uniform.
– You are an idiot.
– I was just saying, Mr. President - you were fortunate in being out of the chamber, and I am quite sure Senator Sandford’s own colleagues are ashamed of him - that I have never heard such arrant humbug in all my life as I have heard from Senator Sandford tonight. We are quite conscious of our responsibilities and our obligations to our returned service personnel, because sixteen out of the nineteen members of the first Menzies Cabinet were returned servicemen.
– We have a lot of them over here, too, you know.
– Of course you have, but why do you dishonour them7 Senator O’Byrne made a good speech, but you dishonour them. I congratulate Senator O’Byrne upon his speech and deplore the. remarks of Senator Sandford. I am delighted at the reception which the Senate has given the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I cannot find the particular reference in the bill, but the Leader of the Government (Senator O’sullivan) referred in his second-reading speech to the fact thai children would be able to work during their Christmas holidays without deduction from their educational allowance. I have brought this matter before the notice of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) on several occasions, and I am pleased to see that at last it has been rectified. It cried out for attention.
– The concession has been made following your raising of it.
– I am glad that the anomaly has been rectified.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted’.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17th September (vide page 373), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition raises no objection to this bill, which simply brings the pensions payable to children of deceased Australian mariners in line with those paid to recipients of pensions under the Repatriation Act, which also covers mariners.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henry) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 23rd September (vide page 517), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Before directing myself to this bill. I should like to pay a tribute to the late Director-General of Social Services and to say how much this country has lost by his passing. I refer to the late Mr. Rowe who, during the whole of his service, did a marvellous job for the pensioners of Australia. I also regret very much that the person appointed in his place was chosen, not from those who had worked with him for so long, but from the officials of the Treasury. I have no quarrel with the person who was appointed, as he is a personal friend of mine and a graduate of the same university. However, this is a job which does not come within the category of ordinary civil service jobs. It is more than just a job. The Director-General of Social Services must have a sense of vocation in order to carry out his job properly, because he comes in touch with the most human of all problems, which cannot be considered only from a Treasury point of view.
I would say that, because of the work put into this department by Mr. Rowe over many years, the outstanding feature of the department, is its humanitarianism. I therefore regret very much that one of those who had been working with Mr. Rowe, one of those who knew the underlying principles that inspired him in his great work, one of those who had helped him to bring it to such fruition, was not chosen to carry on in his place. I am pleased, however, that those advisers remain to assist the new head of the department in the work that he has to carry out - work which is extremely important. I think that this is one of the most important government departments, because, as I said before it deals with human problems - problems which cannot be dealt with in terms of pounds, shillings and pence.
Reverting to the bill, let me say that it contains some things which are very acceptable to the members of the Opposition, but, like Oliver Twist, we want more. 1 venture to suggest that there will be many more people disappointed as the result of the passing of this bill than there will be people who will receive assistance from it. Because this is the last social service bill to be brought down by this Government, I think it is pertinent to refer to some of the social service benefits of this country. I shall refer, not to a Labour publication written from the Labour point of view, but to a departmental publication which has been published during the lifetime of the present ministry.
Honorable senators will find that, in the main, Commonwealth social services have been instituted by Labour governments. There have been three exceptions. The age pension was instituted by an antiLabour government. The invalid pension was instituted by the Fisher Labour Government in 1910. The maternity allowance was instituted by a Labour government, as were unemployment and sickness benefits. Widows’ pensions were introduced by a Labour government, and the same can be said of wives’ and children’s allowances in connexion with the various pensions. The funeral benefit - which has not been increased since it was established - was introduced by a Labour government in 1943. Rehabilitation benefits, about which so much has been said, were also instituted by a Labour government, and subsequently extended and developed by the present government. I give the present government credit for what it has done in retaining so many of the features of the social service structure which Labour built. I give this Government credit for introducing the homes for the aged legislation, and I give previous governments of the some political complexion credit for the institution of child endowment and the age pension. Those are the three benefits which the Liberal party can say it initiated in the Parliament in this country.
– What about medical benefits?
– I am talking about social service payments at the present moment. I shall come to medical benefits later, and the honorable senator will be sorry when I do, because I shall tell the Senate the story behind the medical benefits that the Labour government tried to give, not only to the pensioners, but also to the community as a whole. I can tell the story of the machinations that took place in 1944, because I was on the committee that conferred with the British Medical Association at that time. You will hear a little more about that later, but it does not come within the ambit of this bill.
The age pension was introduced by an anti-Labour government in 1909. I am being generous in saying that, because it was introduced with the co-operation of Labour members of Parliament. Child endowment was introduced in 1941. There was a big gap there. I am not terribly good at mathematics, but it looks to me as though 32 years passed before the Liberal conscience was awakened again to the social needs of the community. During that time, of course, the Liberal party, as it is now called, passed through many vicissitudes. It was first called the Nationalist party, then the United Australia party and finally the Liberal party. In 1941, I think it was the United Australia party.
– There was a Labour government intervening, though.
– Definitely so. I shall say something about that presently. The first child endowment legislation in this country was passed by a Labour government in New South Wales. In 1928, a commission was set up by the Federal Government to inquire into child endowment. A minority report was brought down by the late Mr. John Curtin, afterwards the Prime Minister of this country, and by Mrs. Musico, in which they suggested the introduction of child endowment at that time. However, the majority report expressed a contrary view, so the country had to wait for thirteen years before it got child endowment. After 1941 we had to wait until,I think it was, 1955 - it might have been 1954, but I would not like to do the Government an injustice in this matter - for a major advance in social service policy, when the homes for the aged legislation was introduced. At least the intervals between these measures are getting shorter, which is something to be thankful for.
I can remember quite well my early days here in this Parliament - that is going back fifteen years - when we tried to introduce social service legislation, at a time when the nation was at war. I remember some of the things that took place in this chamber when we were trying to get legislation to establish the sickness and unemployment benefit through the Parliament. The then Leaders of the Opposition - the present government parties were in opposition in those days - said that to pay sickness and unemployment benefits would encourage laziness and malingering. We had to wait until one of the Liberal senators who had a grudge against another senator and was not game to travel on the same train left on the 4.10 train one Thursday afternoon, before we could get some of that legislation through. If honorable senators do not believe me, they should look up the records. They will see that most of our social service legislation was passed on Thursday afternoons. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 11.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 September 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1958/19580924_senate_22_s13/>.