23rd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
Address-in-Reply - Presentation to the Governor-General.
– I desire to inform the Senate that yesterday, accompanied by honorable senators, I waited on the Governor-General and presented to him the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech on the occasion of the opening of the Twenty-third Parliament, agreed to on 12th March. His Excellency was pleased to make (he following reply: -
Thank you for your Address-in-Reply, which you have just presented to me. It will afford me much pleasure to convey to Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen the message of loyalty from the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, to which the Address gives expression.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. 1 have it on good authority that a promising molybdenite prospect has been discovered near Scottsdale, on the north-east coast of Tasmania. By way of explanation, may I state that, on survey to date, it is estimated that it would produce 20,000,000 tons. Samples submitted to interested bodies on the mainland have assayed .39 per cent., and I understand that 25 per cent, is considered a fair commercial assay. The prospect will, of course, have to be proved and it will require several bores, some perhaps to a depth of 800 feet, in order to establish it as a commercial proposition. In view of the great national importance of molybdenite in the production of steel, molybdate superphosphate, and many other commodities, I ask the Minister, first, whether this matter has been brought to his notice, or to that of the Bureau of Mineral Resources; secondly, in view of the importance of the finding of a worthwhile molybdenite deposit in commercial quantities, whether it will be possible to send a topline geologist to investigate and report at an early date; and thirdly, whether it will be necessary for a report and a request to be received from the Tasmanian Mines Department before such an investigation can be made.
– Mr. President, I am aware that there are deposits of molybdenite in the area, but 1 am not aware of any new discovery there. My information is that there are deposits there the existence of which has been known for some considerable time. That being the position, the initiation or the commencement of any arrangements must be made by the person who owns the title. Somebody has probably got a mining lease, or the right to prospect, whatever the appropriate title is. That person, whoever he may be - and I do not know who he is - has to make the first move to get any government activity upon the deposit, and it would be necessary for him to approach the Mines Department in Tasmania.
There is a clear line of demarcation in respect of responsibility. The Bureau of Mineral Resources, with all its special equipment and specially trained officers, is particularly careful not to encroach upon the activities of the State mines departments and other State authorities. So the method of approach is this: Whoever has the title must go to the Mines Department in Tasmania, and the department, in its wisdom, will decide whether there is a special case to be put to the Bureau of Mineral Resources. When the matter comes to the bureau, that body will look at the information that is available and reach a decision as to what action, if any, it should take. I hardly need to say that it is the desire of the bureau always to be as helpful as possible in these matters, even though its resources are not inexhaustible. The great task of the bureau is to get properly trained and equipped professional officers.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization by saying that a chemical additive now on the market justifies all claims made by the makers as a wetting agent for rural fire suppression but because of two unsatisfactory features the fire authorities are reluctant to recommend its use. Will the Minister undertake to discuss with the C.S.T.R.O. what action may be taken to produce an effective additive that will not corrode equipment and be harmless to humans who happen to consume it?
– The honorable senator asks, in effect, that an investigation be undertaken into a technical field of activities. 1 can only say to him, in reply, that I will ensure that his request goes before my colleague, Mr. Casey, who is in charge of the C.S.I. R.O., and knowing Mr. Casey as I do, I am sure he will give it adequate and proper consideration. I shall ask him to convey the decision of the C.S.I.R.O. to Senator Wade direct.
– I desire to ask a series of questions of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. Is it a fact that a tariff duty of 100 per cent, is imposed on Australian wool imported into the United States of America, which makes woollen goods manufactured in Australia extremely dear in America, and curtails considerably the sale of our wool? Is it a fact that synthetic fibre, wool’s greatest competitor, is allowed into Australia duty free? Is it a fact that the synthetic fibre imported from the United States is paid for by loan money raised in that country on which interest is paid by the Australian taxpayer? Has the Minister seen a statement by the chairman of the Victorian Wheat and Wool-growers Association to the effect that the Government is out of touch and is failing to grapple with the great problems facing the wool industry?
– I saw the statement in this morning’s press to which the honorable senator has referred, and I read it with a great deal of interest. However, I was sorry to see that the person who made the statement is so far off the target as to suggest that the Government is out of touch. Apart from that aspect, which rather disturbed my confidence in the remainder of the statement, I think the honorable senator should put his question on the notice-paper because I am certain that the statement received such publicity that my colleague, the Minister for Trade, probably will be asked a question about it in another place. In those circumstances, as he is the responsible Minister, he should expresss an opinion on the contents of the statement.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Has the Minister seen a report which states that the Commissioner for Main Roads in New South Wales will soon try to organize an Australian roads research board which will arrange for universities, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, traffic study groups and road safety authorities to study overseas developments in road construction and design, and to hold annual and bi-annual conferences on road research? Is the Minister aware of the suggestion that any such research board would be financed out of Commonwealth allocations to the States to meet road requirements to the extent of one-half per cent, of the allocation? Will the Minister advise the Senate whether any engineers are being sent overseas at present to study modern road construction and design methods? If so, how many engineers are being sponsored by private enterprise and how many by State road authorities? From what States are the engineers being drawn? Are they being paid sufficiently high salaries on their return to Australia to ensure that their services are retained for the benefit of our road construction work? Does the International Roads Federation incorporate a research section? Would it not be cheaper to send more engineers overseas to study traffic control and traffic engineering, in addition to road construction methods, rather than set up an Australian research board which may be promoting only study of out-dated or inefficient local methods or, at best, second-hand reports of overseas developments? Will the Federal Government consider sponsoring the travel overseas of more engineers rather than allow portion of the present allocation to the States, limited as it is, to be diverted from urgent construction work in order to set up what appears to be an uneconomic and impractical Australian road research board?
– The honorable senator’s question is somewhat lengthy but I shall endeavour to answer those portions which I was able to note. I have not seen the statement to which she has referred although I am not surprised that such a plan is envisaged. Some State road constructing authorities have felt for a long time that a central co-ordinating committee should be set up to conduct research on road development and disseminate the results of that research among the various State authorities. 1 am aware that the New South Wales University of Technology, as well as road constructing authorities, has taken a leading part in developing and expanding research. 1 am aware also that various State authorities have, from time to time, sent men overseas to undertake research into road construction and road engineering, and that private enterprise groups in Australia which are interested in road construction have made a continuing practice of keeping their engineers up to date with present trends per medium of those men whom they send overseas to study developments in other countries. The Commonwealth Government, for its part, has always regarded its commitments with respect to roads as extending only to the provision of finance. The honorable senator will know that, with the exception of those roadworks constructed in the Territories and by the Department of the Interior, which are relatively minor roadworks, we are not, in the broad sense, a roadconstructing authority. For that reason, our contribution to roadworks and road improvement by research, and by investigation of new engineering methods, has been limited solely to the provision of finance to the States by way of road grants.
DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS WiTH RUSSIA.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the decision of the Australian Government to invite the Soviet Government to re-open its embassy in Australia in order to try to increase the sale of Australian wool, will he now admit that the Government’s claim that it is strongly anti-Communist is not, and never has been valid? Furthermore, were the Australian Democratic Labour party representatives in the Senate, Senators Cole and McManus, consulted regarding the re-opening of the Russian Embassy which they once claimed was the head-quarters of Communist espionage and the haunt of red spies in Australia, and is it a fact that one of those honorable sena tors may be nominated as Australian ambassador to Russia under the CaseyFirubin agreement?
– I shall do my best to answer what, frankly, I think is a very silly sort of question to ask in the Senate. These are great matters between the two countries and what has happened is th; result of consultation between responsible Ministers. The public statements that are made are in very restrained terms. 1 have no doubt at all - no possible doubt whatever - that Mr. Casey, in finalizing these arrangements, has taken every precaution to secure the interests of Australia.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration noted the objections by the Scottish Patriot Movement to the opening of an Australian migration office in Edinburgh? Has he noted that the leader of the movement said it was a conspiracy by the English to send skilled workmen out of Scotland so that the English could peacefully invade Scotland and fill the vacancies caused by the emigration of young Scotsmen? As the son of a Scot, can I be assured that this demonstration will not hinder the drive of the department to encourage Scotsmen to emigrate to Australia in view of the great contribution made to Australia by Scots?
– T did read in the Sunday press an account of a demonstration by the Scottish Patriot Movement in St. Andrew’s-square, Edinburgh, outside our new migration office. I feel that the objection of that movement is a little displaced because the facts are that young Scotsmen and Scotswomen have been emigrating to countries all over the world for generations.
– They own most of it, do they not?
– That is right; they own most it. The purpose of our office in Edinburgh is to point out the advantages possessed by Australia compared with other parts of the world to which they may be casting an eye. I join with the honorable senator in hoping that this demonstration will in no way stem the flow of young Scotsmen and Scotswomen to Australia because I am mindful of the fact that they have played a very great part in the history of Australia.
As the honorable senator reminds me that he is the son of a Scot, 1 remind the Senate that the grandson of a Scotsman who emigrated to Australia two generations ago became the greatest of Australian Prime Ministers. His name is Menzies.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for the Navy, concerns the American submarine “ Polaris “ which, as honorable senators know, has guns carrying atomic warheads capable of blasting any coastal city. Can the Minister inform the Senate and the people whether this submarine has yet been placed in commission? Has the Minister any knowledge of a similar weapon being produced by Russia? What is the firing range of the weapon carried by the “ Polaris “? Would not defenders have the greatest difficulty in circumventing such a deadly weapon of destruction?
– The submarine in question has not guns with atomic warheads. It has facilities for discharging an atomic missile. It is not within my province to say whether the Russians have a submarine of the same kind, and with the same capabilities. The range of the missile discharged from the “ Polaris “ is in excess of 700 miles. It would be difficult to counter, but not impossible.
– My question, which is supplementary to that asked by Senator Sandford and, unlike his, is a sensible question, is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to press reports stating that, upon the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Russia, the movement of the Russians in Canberra will be limited to the same 30 miles radius that is imposed on our diplomats in Moscow? Does the Minister recall that the Petrov royal commission found that an embassy of 53 was far greater than could be employed on embassy business, and that its members engaged in espionage? If, unhappily, this reported re-establishment does in fact take place, will the Minister give the Senate an assurance that the num ber of members permitted the embassy shall be restricted to that necessary to discharge its proper function, bearing in mind the Petrov report and the fact that Russia already possesses, in the Communist party, an active fifth column in this country?
– I can only repeat what I said to Senator Sandford: The arrangements that have been made between the two governments through their respective Ministers have been made carefully and in a way with which the Australian Ministers are completely satisfied.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade: ls it a fact that Japan will import 1,200,000 tons of heavy coking coal from Australia, of which 160,000 tons will be imported during the twelve months commencing April. 1959, the figure rising to 250,000 tons in 1960 and 273,000 tons thereafter? Is it a fact that eight River class ships owned by the Australian National Line and suitable for carrying this type of cargo are laid up in Australian ports for lack of cargo? Have arrangements already been made to carry these exports in Australian ships? If not, will the Minister arrange for the River class vessels to be used to carry this coal overseas, thereby ensuring profitable employment both for unemployed seamen and idle Commonwealth ships?
– I know that fiveyear contracts for the sale of coking coal from the south coast of New South Wales have been made with Japan, the total amount of coal involved being, to my recollection, approximately 1,500,000 tons, which is close enough to the 1,200,000 tons the honorable senator mentioned. I am sorry that I do not know what the exact shipping arrangements are. My recollection is that the buyer is responsible for providing the shipping facilities. In. other words, the buyer nominates the ship and takes responsibility for freight charges between Australia and Japan. If my recollection is correct, then no opportunity exists for the Australian vendor of coal to do anything about shipping. He is bound to provide the coal for the ship that the purchaser nominates, and the purchaser makes his own arrangements for freight each way. The purchaser accepts the most economical freight conditions available. The nomination of the ship does not rest with the vendor of coal in Australia.
– The coal is sold free on board?
– It is sold free on board. If 1 am wrong in that statement, I shall let the honorable senator know.
– I desire to ask the Leader of the Government, in his capacity as the Minister representing the Prime Minister, a question concerning the Commonwealth Public Service. Is it not a fact that the Menzies Government, through the Department of Social Services, has established very successful rehabilitation centres where people who have been injured or crippled are trained and thus are able later to obtain suitable employment? Has it not been found by employers of these people that many of them show a degree of ability and attention to duty at least equal to the standard of physically fit employees? In view of these facts, can the Minister explain why it is the practice of the Commonwealth Public Service - the largest single employing agency in Australia - not to engage suitable but physically handicapped people on its permanent staff? Will he ask the Prime Minister to order a sympathetic and careful review of this practice?
– I have a note on this matter which I think I had better read. It is as follows: -
The policy of the Public Service Board is to encourage the employment of physically handicapped persons as far as is within its powers and having regard to the needs of departments to have their work competently done.
In respect of permanent employment in the Commonwealth service no specific restrictions or conditions are imposed on the permanent employment of physically handicapped persons. However, under the terms of the Public Service Act the board fs compelled to impose a requirement of physical fitness on all applicants for appointment. The standard, which is determined by the board on the recommendation of its medical advisers, is applied in a reasonably flexible and sympathetic manner towards the physically handicapped. Each case is judged on its merits, having regard to capacity to discharge the full duties of the position applied for, without excessive sick leave, and the probability of maintaining efficiency until retirement.
For temporary employment, the above obligations do not apply in their entirety and compliance with a pre-determined medical standard is not imposed by law. Consequently, considerable numbers of physically handicapped persons are employed in this category in the Commonwealth service.
Having read that, I say to the honorable senator that I shall be glad to bring the view he expressed in his question before the notice of the Prime Minister.
– I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General the following question without notice: In view of the fact that diplomatic relations between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Australia have now been resumed, will the Government give further and immediate consideration to the matter of strengthening the laws relating to espionage, either along the lines recommended in the Petrov report, or otherwise?
– I shall bring the remarks of the honorable senator to the attention of the Attorney-General and request him to furnish an answer direct.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, by pointing out that a new development in home ownership, known as home units, has come into being. People buy units, but have not a title in the sense that an ordinary home-owner has a real estate title. Some concern has been expressed as to whether the Department of Social Services is exempting home units in assessing qualifications for pensions. I should be obliged if the Minister could advise me on this point, in order to clear up any misunderstanding on the part of possible applicants for pensions who may be living in and own a home unit.
– I am speaking from memory, but I think I had a case a little while ago which touched on this aspect of the matter and that the Department of Social Services said it would treat home units in the same way as it treated permanent residences for the purpose of considering social service payments. Furthermore, I understand that, if a case does not fall within that category, the DirectorGeneral of Social Services has power to deal with it. But I am fairly confident that such cases come within that category and that the department treats home units in that way.
– Further to my question about the use of our idle ships to carry coking coal to Japan, 1 now ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade whether he will confer with his colleague in an effort to see that such vessels are used so that a number of seamen who are out of work may be placed in temporary employment.
– I shall ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport to answer the question. The matter really falls between the two of us.
– The question deals with the positive use in overseas trade of idle tonnage in Australian ports. Let me say at once that the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission has been unceasing in its attempts to find employment for those vessels. Transport arrangements for many of the cargoes that are lifted for shipment overseas are made by the consignees, and an opportunity is not presented to the commission even to approach the overseas purchasers. Of course, a more serious obstacle in ‘the way of the employment of these ships is the simple fact, as I have explained in this chamber on a number of occasions, that our shipping costs are such that they cannot compare with the rates that are available with ships registered overseas. Only a day or two ago, in pursuit of information regarding the same matter that Senator Kennelly has raised, I looked at comparable figures and found that the shipment of a cargo of wheat to Japan in Australian vessels would cost some £24,000 in excess of the cost of shipment in vessels chartered elsewhere. I found that the shipment of such a cargo would cost £52,000 or more.
– Is that because of the high capital value of the ships?
– The high capital value of the ships is not a factor. I am sure that the honorable senator will remember, as I remind him, that when the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission took over the ships of this fleet it took them over at values settled on the Baltic exchange, which, at that time, were not high. So that capital cost is not involved; it is operating cost, more than anything else.
I want to let the Senate know that the commission is seeking every opportunity to use its shipping, and I am extremely happy to announce that only recently it was able to arrange a charter with the Christmas Island Phosphate Commission for employment in the Christmas Island trade, and that it is pursuing further inquiries along these lines.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport relating to the recent announcement that two Australian-owned and Australianmanned passenger vessels are being withdrawn from the Australian coastal trade. Will the Minister confer with his colleague, the Minister for Immigration, with a view to seeing whether such vessels could be used to bring migrants to Australia, instead of having to charter vessels from other countries for that purpose?
– I think that 1 can answer that question quite quickly. These vessels are going out of commission for rather different reasons from those which apply to Australian tonnage in overseas trade. As Senator Mattner reminds me, these vessels have reached the end of their economic life. For instance, I think that “ Westralia “ is 27 years old and that the other one is within a few months of reaching the age of 25 years. The costs of survey would be quite prohibitive. The ships cannot be made an economic proposition on the Australian coast. For the same reasons, they would not be anything like an economic proposition in the overseas trade, bringing migrants here.
– The Minister has referred to the arrangement of a charter with the Christmas Island Phosphate Commission. Will he inform the Senate whether that charter will be a losing proposition for the Australian National Line?
– The Australian National Line has accepted a loss on the charter in order to employ the ship concerned.
– Might T trouble the Minister by asking a supplementary question? What portion of the fleet of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission is at present tied up, and for how long has it been tied up?
– I gave a comprehensive answer to a question on those lines on 11th March. From memory, I think that ten of the 48 ships are now tied up. I should explain that of the ten vessels, eight are of the “ River “ class, to which Senator Kennelly referred, and four of those are due for survey. Because they were built during the war and undertook, because of war-time conditions, a type of trade which they had not been built to handle, they became uneconomic rather before their time. Apart altogether from the question of operational cost, the ships have reached the end of their economic life because they have done work for which they were not built and because they did not have the benefit of the continual survey that most ships have.
– In view of the fact that so many ships are tied up, if the Minister were to receive an offer from Australian operators to purchase the ships at book value, would he be interested in selling any of them?
– The question, Mr. President, is a hypothetical one. If I received such an offer it would be considered in the light of all the circumstances regarding the trade on the Australian coast.
– I wish to ask a further question of the Minister in connexion with the ships of the Australian National Line which are at present laid up. Would it be an economic proposition for any of those ships to be engaged in trade between the eastern States and Darwin? Recently, when I was in Darwin there was quite an outcry from the people there for more shipping facilities between Darwin and the eastern States, because the only regular shipping service bringing supplies to that area was provided by the ships of the Western Australian shipping service. Many goods that came from the eastern States were highly priced because of lack of shipping facilities between those States and Darwin.
– I fear that the honorable senator must have been in Darwin at a time when there was one of the temporary lulls in shipping, because shipping up the east coast to Darwin has been very considerably stepped up in recent months. I see the returns weekly - in fact, almost daily - of cargoes awaiting shipment at the various ports in Australia, and 1 am not aware of any shortage of tannage to lift cargoes to Darwin from any of the ports on the eastern sea-board.
The commission has gone to some trouble to cater for the Darwin trade by developing refrigerated cargo containers. The honorable senator no doubt will be delighted to know that some months ago the commission was able to announce a reduction of £1 a ton in freight to Darwin. While I am on my feet, Mr. President, may I, with the greatest goodwill in the world towards my fellow senator from Western Australia, warn her that she should not get herself into the position, in which I unfortunately find myself, of being criticized for providing too much shipping to Darwin up the east coast, in opposition to the Western Australian shipping line.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. By way of preface, I refer to a full-page advertisement in the Australian press, inserted to-day by a prominent overseas shipping company, alleging that it is operating at a loss or a near loss. Does this advertisement herald an attempt to increase overseas freights affecting Australia? Has the Minister any information on approaches or overtures for this purpose? On the other hand, is the advertisement designed to offset campaigns for a reduction in freights?
– Not having seen the advertisement in this morning’s newspapers, I am unfitted to answer the question.
– I wish to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate, as the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, whether, in view of the fact that diplomatic relations with Russia have now been resumed, it is the intention of the Government to negotiate with China with a view to bringing about satisfactory diplomatic relations with that country.
– I know of no such intention on the part of the Government.
– I address a further question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In view of the fact that the agents for the Australian National Line are people who own ships themselves, so that naturally they would ensure that their own ships were kept employed, would it not be better if we had our own agents and engaged in ordinary shipping practices right through? Does the Minister agree that if we were to do that, our ships might spend more time on the seas than they spend idle in port?
– The honorable senator may recall that there is a specific provision in the relevant act providing for a proper oversight of the agencies exercised by those firms which control the booking and the scheduling of various ships of the Australian fleet. I can assure him that the Australian Shipping Commission is most assiduous in looking after its own commercial interests, and any occurrence of the type of thing that the honorable senator implies would be, I am sure, immediately reported to me.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answer: -
I understand that a statement was made recently by Sir Robert Watson-Watt, well known for his pioneer work on radar, to the effect that quite a small amount of botulinus toxin would be sufficient to wipe out the population of the world.
The Minister of Supply in the United Kingdom stated on 25th February last that the substance had been well known for many years, but that it could not be easily disseminated and that it was not self-propagating.
I have nothing to add to the statement by the United Kingdom Minister of Supply on that particular threat, but I should like to say that here in Australia this type of warfare is kept under review by highly appropriately qualified officers so that we may be in a position to assess various forms of the threat and to plan defence against them.
The attitude of the Government is not one of complacency, but I should emphasize that this is not a new threat and that I am not aware of any major developments in this field having occurred recently.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That Government business take precedence of general business after 8 p.m. this sitting.
In Committee: Consideration resumed from 18th March (vide page 460).
Clause 37. (As amended) -
Nothing in this Part shall be deemed to exclude any liability of a carrier -
to indemnify an employer of a passenger in respect of liability of that employer under a law of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth providing for compensation to workmen or employees in respect of accident arising out of or in the course of their employment; or
to pay contribution to a tort-feasor who is liable in respect of the death of, or injury to, the passenger, but this section does not operate so as to increase the limit of liability of a carrier in respect of a passenger beyond the amount fixed by or in accordance with this Part.
Upon which Senator Wright moved by way of amendment -
At the end of the clause add the following subclause: - “ (2.) Nothing in this part shall exclude or limit the liability of a carrier or his servants or agents, for damage resulting from negligence.”.
– A few observations were made last night before the consideration of this clause was interrupted, to which I should like to reply. Senator Sir Neil O’Sullivan said that shipping companies contract out of their liability in this respect. I am not familiar with the extent to which shipping companies contract out of their liability for passengers, but we know that the Sea Carriage of Goods Act placed important restrictions on their right to contract out of liability for goods. When you invoke the principle that is incorporated in this bill - not the principle of prohibition of contracting out but the limited liability provisions of shipping - I want to emphasize that the shipping companies are entitled to limit their liability under the relevant law, the Merchant Shipping Act, only if they prove that the injury or death was caused without the fault or privity of the shipowner. I would have thought that the significance of the introduction of that provision into the law a century ago - although I cannot affirm that - would be apparent. At all events, it was introduced into the law in 1 894. Considering the crusty old conservatism that prevailed at that time, I would have thought that the significance was very important that the legislature of that day, before it conceded to shipowners the right to limit their liability, made it a condition that the shipowner should be free from fault, that is to say, not guilty of negligence. I shall take one minute to explain that he was nevertheless entitled to limit his liability if the fault was the fault of his servants or agents.
The next matter that I want to refer to is the argument that it is possible for individual passengers to take out insurance. If an individual is apprehensive that the amount of £7,500 is an insufficient cover for his death by the negligence, wilful misconduct or gross recklessness of the aircraft undertaking or its servants, the individual, for his comfort, may take out his own insurance at - T think Sir Neil O’sullivan said - a very small cost. True it is that this is available, I think, at fairly reasonable rates. But although we members of parliament become seasoned air travellers, I must confess that it had not dawned on my legal mind until this debate commenced that one air company had introduced into its passenger tickets a restriction excluding any liability on its part for my dependants if I am killed by its negligence. I was horrified when I saw that condition in an Ansett-A.N.A. ticket. If I can go on innumerable air flights for ten years without the time or the inquisitive inclination to read the conditions on the ticket, what of my country brethren or the ordinary folk in the street who would not understand such a legal form if they read it? Ours is a public duty.
– Why not make them endorse the ticket?
– I am saying in all mercy that the individual passenger, with the hum-drum and the excitement of modern life, and especially the excitement of air travel, cannot be expected to think of his dependants when setting out on a holiday journey. What we want to do is to make the most efficacious law that is possible for the protection of people who may become the victims of such a happening. The most efficacious law would be to preserve the liability on the air carrier for his negligence. That would have this consequence: He would almost certainly insure himself against that liability; and then the point comes up that if his accident rate in the twelve months were excessive, he would be required to pay a loading on his insurance next year. To the extent to which that loading, reduces his profits, he would be failing as against his competitor. By that means, liability is placed on the company for fault, on its own part or on the part of its servants.
I plead with the Senate not to absolve a commercial undertaking from full liability for any injury or death that has been caused by negligence on its own part or on the part of its servants without the gravest consideration. Every person engaged in business must carry that liability and it is not sufficient quid pro quo to say that the bill favours another class of person who cannot prove that death or injury has been caused by negligence on the part of the carrier.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, 1 was under the impression that I had the call in this debate when it was interrupted in accordance with the sessional order last evening. I was endeavouring to put forward my views on the proposed amendment and was making some observations on the problem facing the Government on this very complicated question of adequate compensation to persons injured in aircraft accidents. I had suggested that the Government, by means of a very simple measure, could adopt the proposals of Senator McKenna and Senator Wright and prevent companies from contracting out of civil liability by re-asserting the right of the individual to bring an action for unlimited damages provided he can prove negligence. We need only re-affirm our common law as to the statutory prohibition relating to the right of a carrier to contract out of his obligations. Of course, the solution is not as simple as that. A great deal more thinking is required on a subject such as this because the proposal requires every litigant to prove negligence. As I have said, that becomes a very difficult problem at times.
Towards the close of my speech last evening Senator McKenna, by way of interjection, referred to the observation I had made regarding the obtaining of the necessary evidence. I had said that the necessity could arise for a litigant to obtain witnesses from the other side of the world. That is quite possible. One day an aircraft could be travelling between Perth and Sydney, and the next day that same aircraft, manned by the same crew, could be engaged on a charter flight to Hong Kong. In those circumstances honorable senators can imagine the problem facing the solicitor in his endeavour to collect evidence on behalf of the unfortunate injured party. He cannot rely exclusively upon the evidence of any public inquiry as proof of civil negligence or damage. Quite rightly, the Government absolves the litigant from the obligation to prove negligence up to a statutory amount. The travelling public should feel a great relief at that provision, having regard to the heavy cost of litigation, the difficulty of proving negligence and the unfortunate consequences of a series of border-line cases.
That brings me to the stage at which we should consider the desirability of abolishing the obligation to prove negligence. We have made a start along the road. Now we must ask ourselves this question: If we abolish the obligation to prove negligence. r.’~ould we then provide for unlimited liability in respect of all claims for damage arising out of accidents? Of course, that proposal must be limited in its application. It would be palpably unfair to impose upon an airline company unlimited liability in respect of any accident.
– What is the position in the case of mining accidents?
– Negligence must be proved in those cases.
– But mining companies are faced with unlimited liability.
– But only on proof of negligence. However, if the honorable senator wishes to include mining companies in the proposal, the same reasoning would apply as in the case of airline companies. If a mine worker is absolved from the obligation to prove negligence, an upper limit must be set so that the company knows where it stands should an accident occur.
– What about the workmen’s compensation acts?
– Do not the provisions of the workmen’s compensation acts apply?
– I digress from my argument to answer the interjections of my learned colleagues. Workers’ compensation has nothing to do with this case. Compensation is a social and economic measure and does not apply in cases of damage. The workmen’s compensation acts were introduced for two reasons, first, because we could not have a vast work force tied up as a result of injury without rendering assistance to the dependants of that work force, and secondly, because workers’ compensation on an equitable scale would prevent absenteeism, thereby assisting the economic trends of industry. Workers’ compensation is an economic and social measure and has no application in the case of injury as the result of an aircraft accident. Honorable senators should not draw the red herring of workers’ compensation across the trail of injury as the result of an aircraft accident for the simple reason that most air travellers are not employees of the airline companies. The workers’ compensation legislation applies only to employees.
I return now to the upper limit on damages which I suggest must be considered if the obligation to prove negligence is removed. I have given two broad grounds on which I suggest that a limit must be set in that respect. If one wants to bring in an argument regarding workers’ compensation. T point out that we have an upper limit there, too. There is no unlimited liability in respect of workers’ compensation. But that is in answer to my friends if they insist that I am wrong in saying that the workers’ compensation analogy is irrelevant.
I suggest it is necessary to have an upper limit here, otherwise it would be palpably unfair to the airline company. Further, one must look at the reality of this question. The cost of insurance with respect to unlimited liability would, T suggest, be something that the airlines could not possibly be expected to carry. No other carrier, whether it be the railways, a shipping company or road transport operator, accepts it, without proof of negligence. There may be an argument which my friends wish to pursue to eliminate the present principle and to revert to the old common law principle of proving negligence. That might reduce the cost to companies, but it certainly would not be beneficial to the travelling public. Probably one of the main reasons why the negligence factor was abandoned in this instance and why a limit was set was that it does, to a large extent, popularize air travel.
– Is anybody suggesting that the level of absolute liability should be unlimited in this debate? There is no doubt that the level of absolute liability should be limited.
– The proposed amendment suggests that there should be unlimited liability for negligence.
– But not unlimited absolute liability.
– No, but surely it is relevant to this discussion. If you accept my argument that it is desirable to abandon the necessity for proving negligence, then you get to the stage where you must ask yourself whether it is essential or desirable to have an upper limit in relation to absolute liability.
– I think there is common ground on absolute liability.
– If we are all agreed on that, I shall not pursue the matter further. Having got that far, 1 then come to the provisions of the bill. Having agreed that it is essential to have an upper limit with respect to absolute liability, what is the next question to pose? Surely it is necessary to look at Senator Wright’s proposed amendment and at Senator McKenna’s suggestion and to ask ourselves whether it is desirable to have limited liability with respect to absolute liability and unlimited liability with regard to all other claims, provided negligence is proved. That is the point we have reached now in considering Senator Wright’s proposed amendment.
I cannot agree with Senator Wright’s proposal, for several reasons. In the first place, I suggest that the bill goes one better than Senator Wright’s proposal. If honorable senators will turn to clause 31 (1 .) they will see that the passenger is given the right to contract with the carrier to have that limit of £7,500 increased to any amount he likes.
That is not the same situation as arises in the case of a passenger who insures his life with a company against the aircraft crashing. I suggest that the bill provides for a much better arrangement because, under clause 31 (1.) the company, not the passenger, has to do the insuring. The company is forced to pay it, and the dependants of the deceased passenger are not forced to have a row with the insurance company by establishing certain things that may arise out of that contract of insurance. This bill contains provision for increasing the amount, as Senator Wright wants it increased, from £7,500, without the obligation to prove negligence.
Surely that is a better arrangement than the one proposed by Senator Wright. Senator Wright wants unlimited compensation on proof of negligence, whereas clause 31 (1.) gives the passenger, on payment of a consideration - surely that is reasonable - the right to unlimited compensation without proof of negligence.
– You are talking in terms of contract while Senator Wright spoke in terms of tort.
– I know that, but I suggest that the provisions of clause 31 (1.) are better than Senator Wright’s proposal because they give the passenger the right to go to the company and increase his cover, and the need to prove negligence does not exist. It has the virtues of the unlimited liability, if necessary, or a limit, if the passenger wishes to nominate one, without the difficulty and expense of proving negligence. 1 think that embodies the virtues of Senator McKenna’s proposal, without the difficulties. It is a much better arrangement than having unlimited liability with respect to damage provided one can prove negligence.
The provision will make air travel attractive to everybody. Surely it is an inducement to people who are flying to know that they have got a statutory limit of £7,500 irrespective of the negligence factor, and the right to go to the airline carrier and say, “ I want that doubled, trebled or quadrupled in my case because I will be worth a lot more dead than I am alive, and therefore I want that upper limit increased “. I hope we have all agreed that you could not have unlimited liability without proof of negligence.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– The Opposition very cordially supports the amendment that has been proposed by Senator Wright. I take the opportunity to say that the Opposition regards the proposed amendment as the pivotal point in the whole bill. I made that plain, on behalf of the Opposition, from the outset, because the committee will recall that, on the motion for the second reading of the bill, I proposed that the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to incorporate, in relation to Australian domestic air services within Commonwealth competence, the general principles of unlimited liability at law for negligence on the part of airline operators in respect of passengers, cargo and baggage.
We did not have the support of Senator Wright for that proposal, quite obviously for the reason that my motion provided for the withdrawal of the bill, and his mind did not flow with that. It is completely clear, though, by the proposal that he has now submitted, that he is in complete accord with the principle enunciated in the amendment moved by the Opposition on the motion for the second reading of the bill.
I devoted the greater proportion of my speech on the second reading to a consideration of this particular principle. I emphasize all that I then said, and I say that the Opposition regards this as the most important principle involved in the bill.
I should like to say a word or two about some observations that have been made. Senator Vincent claims, I think, that it would be difficult to prove negligence. We are concerned at the moment solely with the domestic operations of airlines in Australia. At the minute, on this clause, we are not dealing with the overseas position. 1 would cross swords with the honorable senator on that matter and say two things: If he is right and it will be exceedingly difficult to prove negligence, why fear the extensive use of actions for negligence? One hesitates before embarking upon an action for negligence. One must consider the penalty of meeting costs if one loses. That can certainly operate as a prohibition. On the other hand, I point out again that there are not only coronial inquiries into any death in this country, but also air courts of inquiry, whose proceedings are made public. In other words, the whole of the evidence is available to a prospective litigant and his lawyers and, accordingly, a very cool and calm assessment can be made of the chances of succeeding in an action for negligence. I repeat, if the honorable senator’s contention that negligence will be difficult to prove - which I do not accept - is right, he need not fear the amendment proposed by Senator Wright and so cordially supported by the Opposition.
I think that the honorable senator was straining when he pointed to the alleged difficulty of getting crew members to appear, and suggested that they might be abroad. I point out that these actions are begun at the instance of the plaintiff, who need be in no hurry to proceed. He has two years within which to bring the action and investigate the cause of his claim. What does it matter, in those circumstances, if a crew is away for a week, a month or several months?
– Suppose all of the crew are killed.
– That is quite likely.
– It is completely possible. That illustrates one of the difficulties of proving negligence. The plaintiff has to depend upon, first, the evidence of eye witnesses and, secondly, that of technical experts. Both classes of witness are immediately available (o the prospective litigant and his lawyers. On that point, ho makes an assessment as to whether he has enough evidence to enable him to prove negligence. If he decides that he has, why should he be debarred from proceeding and recovering full dam’ages? If he decides that he has not, he derives the benefit of the improvement given under this bill and merely proves the damage, death or inqury receiving in compensation therefor up to £7,500.
– What increase in fares would result from the giving of unlimited liability?
– I have previously addressed an argument on that position to the Senate, but I shall repeat it. The Minister himself has indicated that the lifting of the limit of voluntary insurance from £2,000 to £7,500 involves an added cost of £68,000 - from £42,000 per annum to £110,000 per annum - for- the whole of the airline services of Australia. 1 do not knowthe total number of passengers carried byall airlines, but in the last financial year Trans-Australia Airlines carried 841,000 persons. It is simple to work out that if the whole of the additional burden were borne by Trans-Australia Airline passengers it would cost them ls. 9d. a head, lt is safe to say that, taking all the other airlines into account, something like 2,000,000 passengers would be carried per annum. Therefore, it would be safe to estimate that the cost per passenger would be about lOd. a trip.
– That would work out at about ls. for every increase of £5,000 in the limit, and unlimited liability would involve damages of up to £30,000.
– A verdict of that order for death or damage would be rather rare. I invite honorable senators to controvert my argument, and put me right if I am wrong, but 1 think that I am making a fair assessment when I say that trebling, and almost quadrupling; the present figure would involve an additional payment of something like lOd. a passenger. The cost would decrease with the provision, of increased liability; it does not follow any regular pattern of ascendency. As the amount of liability increased I would expect a proportionate decrease in the rate of charged: premium. It is- not a matter of mere arithmetical progression. Would there be any- grave difficulty for the airlines in bearing another lOd. or ls. a head? Would anyone be prevented from travelling by air if he were asked to pay an additional 2s., 3s. or 4s. in return for extra insurance cover and protection for his dependants? Does any one think that such a change would divert passengers from air travel to road, railway or ship travel? It would be a very incidental consideration in the mind of a passenger.
There is an alternative to the proposals in the bill, and even to that contained in this amendment. Air transport is in a very different category from other forms of transport. Fortunately, in Australia, it is easily the safest form, but as Senator Wright has pointed out its potential for damage is colossal. It is this that puts it in a special class. One could consider the approach of
F.V,iD/59.- 5.- fl91 airlines other than T.A.A. to this matter. They voluntarily insure every passenger that they carry to the extent of £2,000. It is a gift, a voluntary provision intended to attract passengers. The Government might well have considered the alternative course of imposing on every airline operator the obligation to insure up to £7,500 in respect of each passenger. Then, in the event of death or injury., only the death or injury need be established. There would be no need to prove damages or negligence.
– You would have to prove damages in regard to personal injury.
– Unquestionably. 1 perhaps should confine what I am putting to death, 1 db not recommend that approach at the moment,, but say that it is an alternative that might well have been considered and canvassed in the course of the debate. It would be eminently satisfactory for the millions who travel by air, and for the millions of other, people who are dependent upon, them, to know that in the event of death the dependant would receive £7,500. That would add very little to the costs imposed, upon the passenger and would be a tremendous- comfort to the pas. senger and his dependants. It is completely unreal for Senator Vincent to direct atten-tion to clause 3 1 and point out that although there is a limit of £7,500 on the airline operators in the case of injury or death the passenger is free to enter into a contract with the airline operator to accept a higher limit. It has never happened.
– What is the purpose of the clause, if it does not mean what I say it means?
– It means that the parties can agree in that way if they wish. I am merely saying that they never have and never would.
– They have, on occasions.
– They have not, because this- is a new provision.
– I say that they never will. Can any one imagine a passenger who, as Senator Wright has pointed out, would be completely ignorant of the provisions of this bill, saying, “ Under section 31 of the act you have limited liability. I want to negotiate with you to accept a liability of £15,000 in my case. What are your rates? Let us arrange it “?
That is a completely unreal position. I think every honorable senator realizes that type of contract, following negotiations for a variation of the £7,500 limit, would, in the view that I present, simply never take place.
I indicated that I did not want to delay the committee, and I am serious in that. 1 have addressed a long and a strong argument on this matter already to honorable senators. I repeat that argument to the committee on behalf of every member of the Opposition. I most strongly support the amendment that has been proposed by Senator Wright.
Senator Sir NEIL O’SULLIVAN (Queensland) [12.26]. - I should like to deal with two points, one raised by Senator McKenna and one raised by Senator Wright. Senator McKenna said that it was most unlikely that an airline operator would enter into negotiations for an increased amount. That might be one of the values of clause 40, which provides that the regulations may make provision relating to passenger tickets, &c. It would be a very simple matter for a regulation to be made compelling an airline operator to give quotes at standard rates for extra cover. That could be expressed on the ticket in large and suitable printing.
– Are you advocating price-fixing?
– That would not be price-fixing. The insurance company would fix the price, not the Government. At the present time, a passenger can get £10,000 extra cover for £1. That is the prevailing rate. The Government does not fix that rate, the competitive insurance companies do that. There are two alternatives. A passenger can make his own arrangements for cover and get an extra £10,000 cover by payment of a premium of £1, or regulations can be made compelling the airline operator, at the time the ticket is issued, to give the extra cover at the then prevailing rate. That would not be very difficult. That might be one of the advantages of clause 40.
I am sorry that Senator Wright is not in the chamber at present. I understood him to say that shipping companies could not contract themselves out of their liability where they were guilty of negligence. That is what 1 understood him to say in answer to my proposition that this will be a considerable improvement on the prevailing arrangement whereby operators may contract themselves out of liability. I said that shipping companies have frequently done that and may do it. I understood Senator Wright to say that shipping companies could not do that. I have some authorities here which support my proposition. I quote from “ Temperley’s Merchant Shipping Act “, 3rd edition, page 316, a passage which deals with sections relating to contracting out. It reads -
This section does not prevent owners from relieving themselves by their contract from all liability for negligence, or from contracting to be liable for an amount exceeding their statutory liability.
Another authority, “ Marsden’s Collisions at Sea “, 10th edition, at page 194, states -
The liability of shipowners is limited in respect of damages recoverable in an action upon the contract to carry as well as in respect of a mere lort. So carriers by sea, or partly by sea and partly by land, may limit their liability as against passengers or cargo owners.
That appears to be the position now. If this bill is passed, the airline carriers will be precluded from contracting themselves out of their liabilities.
– I enter this debate with some trepidation, but I am looking at the matter from the point of view of a normal person.
– You mean a layman?
– No, from the point of view of a normal person, because at times I believe, as a result of arguments advanced here and elsewhere, that the people who practice certain professions are not normal. It was commonly understood by an ordinary person that when he travelled by air he was covered for £2,000 per trip, but, in fact, that position operated in regard to only one airline. If a person travels by Ansett-A.N.A. at the present time, and is killed, his dependants, in order to receive the sum of £2,000, would not have to prove anything except that the passenger had been killed.
– You said AnsettA.N.A., but you mean T.A.A.?
– No, I mean Ansett-A.N.A. If this bill is passed, the ordinary person will have very little cover, if any at all. The Minister can shake his head, but that is so. Let us face the facts as they apply to an ordinary person. His dependants could get £7,500 damages only if he did not leave anything to them. Consider the ordinary person who owns a home to-day. Owing to inflated values, the home of the average person to-day would have a market value of up to £6,000 or £7,000, particularly if it could be sold with vacant possession. If the deceased passenger were a husband and left such property to his wife, the amount of £7,500 would automatically be cut down very appreciably. Taking all things into consideration, it could be cut down by well over one-half.
A common-sense approach to the problem from the point of view of the ordinary man in the street would be to make him pay an extra ls. for his ticket, and then, if an unfortunate accident occurred those dependent on him would receive some money. I should say that the average person who uses air transport will receive very little, if anything at all, from this bill. Senator McKenna quoted the number of people carried by one Australian airline. Everybody knows that the other airlines combined carry a greater number of passengers. I do not think any one would dispute that overall about 2,250,000 people travel by air in Australia in one year.
Would it not be better to increase the price of the ticket and to take away from the operator the need for him to bear the extra £68,000 that it is suggested an increase of cover from £2,000 to £7,500 would cost? That would give to the dependants of an unfortunate traveller who was killed a claim without any argument. To my mind, that is what the average person desires.
So many words have been imported into this measure that it is almost impossible for the average layman to understand it, but T am certain that the average air traveller would readily understand the position if an extra 1 s. was added to the cost of his ticket. I am referring, of course, only to travel within Australia. Would it not be better to increase the price of the ticket than to include in the legislation a provision that would lead the ordinary person to infer that, if anything happened, his dependants would get a certain sum whereas in fact they would not get anywhere near it? 1 should say that a person would be exceedingly lucky if he got any cover at all.
I note that Senator Vincent is smiling. 1 hope he will not feel uneasy when I invite him to consider how much of the £7,500 his dependants would get if, unfortunately, he was killed in a plane accident. Having listened to all the legal argument that has been advanced, most of which has been very interesting, let us all ask ourselves how much our dependants would get. As I have suggested, why not put the matter into a form so that every one will understand it? An air traveller would have to pay a little extra for his ticket, but I believe he would be much more satisfied than he will be under this legislation. I ask the Minister to draft the legislation so that the ordinary person will understand as he runs. I am doubtful whether the ordinary person will understand this measure, even if he sits and reads it..
– I think we ought to pause at this stage and ask ourselves just where we are going. We have listened to a very valuable contribution by Senator Kennelly, but it was a repetition of some of the arguments that were very powerfully adduced yesterday in regard to the quantum of damage that an unfortunate passenger’s relatives could expect in the event of a fatal accident. The honorable senator posed the question that was posed yesterday when we were debating clauses 12, 13, 14 and 15. With a gloomy tone in his voice, he sought to prove to himself that, if any honorable senator died in these circumstances, his relatives would not get very much of the slice of cake, namely the £7,500.
To-day, we are not arguing along those lines. We are arguing that the limit should be extended because the relatives will not get enough. Yesterday it was quite satisfactorily established that, having regard to the laws relating to the assessment of damage, no one would get £7,500. To-day, some of us want to say that £7,500 is not enough and that we should make the limit higher. We cannot have our cake and eat it, too.
– He was suggesting a compulsory insurance.
– No. Senators Wright and McKenna both supported an amendment which sought to give a passenger’s relatives the right to claim unlimited damage.
– In the case of negligence.
– Yes, in the case of negligence.
– 1 was referring to Senator Kennelly.
– Whether you prove negligence or not, you are on common ground in relation to the requisite proof relating to damage. It does not matter whether you prove negligence or not.
Yesterday, everybody was bemoaning the fact that, because of the laws relating to assessment of damage, no one would get the £7,500. There was some merit in that, too. But to-day, Senator Wright’s amendment, which followed Senator McKenna’s amendment, says, in effect, “ The upper limit is not enough. Let us have the right to prove more.” Let us see just where we are going. We cannot have it both ways. If it is .a fact that no one will ever be able to prove damages up to £7,500, with or without negligence, it is not of much use our arguing in favour of an amendment to raise the limit to an unlimited amount, with proof of negligence. No one will ever get it, so why bother? There is a fallacy in the argument, of course. But I do not think we should go further than to say that not very many widows would be able to prove damage in excess of £7,500. I suggest that that is why the upper limit of £7,500 has been provided in the bill. I should think that the very big majority of unfortunate widows or relatives would not be able to get very much beyond £7,500 in proving damage, with or without negligence.
The bill makes a very realistic approach in fixing a sum like £7,500. Personally, I should have preferred it to be £10,000. Other honorable senators may have wanted it to be £5,000. But I should think that, by and large, the sum of £7,500 will cover the majority of cases. Therefore, so far as that majority is concerned, without proof of negligence, everybody is happy.
Now we are discussing the position of those who can establish damage, with or without negligence, beyond the sum of £7,500. As I have said before, I think the bill gives ample protection, in clause 31, to that small body of people. I want to join issue with Senator McKenna when he says that it would not be possible to arrange extra cover. Let me suggest what I think should, and what I hope will, happen in these cases. The ticket should have legibly printed on it a statement to the effect that the upward limit of responsibility of the airline in the event of damage is £7,500. That could be understood by anybody. I believe that, in pursuance of the regulations, something to that effect will be very prominently displayed.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I do not want to speak at great length on this clause, because in fact most of the arguments which were traversed this morning were covered a day or two ago when Senator McKenna moved his first amendment of the bill. I gave reasons when I spoke to Senator McKenna’s motion why that amendment would not be accepted by the Government, and I now formally state that the Government is equally unable to accept the amendment moved by Senator Wright, or the alternative amendment which appears on the same sheet circulated in his name. What this bill does, Mr. Chairman, is to provide a careful balancing of the interests of both carrier and passenger. Senator Wright’s amendment, as did Senator McKenna’s, sought to combine two different principles, under which the passenger would receive the best of both worlds. I dealt at some length with that aspect the other day. I merely want to refer now to some of the more general considerations which the Government has always had in mind when considering the shape of this legislation.
I have said that there is a careful balancing between the conflicting interests of passenger and carrier. First, the carrier loses his right to contract out of liability. I suggest that, from the passenger’s point of view, that represents a very real and a very material improvement. Both in my secondreading speech and since then, I have referred to the unfortunate happening in Queensland of a few years ago which demonstrated, as well as anything could demonstrate, the desirability of having a system in which the carrier could not contract out of liability. Under this legislation, the carrier is now liable without proof of negligence. That is, the rule of absolute liability replaces liability only if negligence is proved or there has been no contracting out.
I want to say something about this question of proof of negligence and the value to the passenger of not having to prove negligence. It is a vastly difficult thing in any circumstances of an air disaster to prove negligence. If a passenger were left in the position that, in order to get damages, he had to prove negligence, I believe that that would be most unfortunate. I was impressed by the case which Senator Willesee put in his characteristically forceful style in connexion with an accident which occurred at Guildford, in Western Australia, back in 1949. The report of the court which investigated that accident, as Senator Willesee recounted, stated that there was a suggestion that the employee who loaded the plane was at fault, that the pilot had deficiencies in his technical skills, and that there were other and probably more serious aspects of the matter. After canvassing all the factors which Senator Willesee suggested created prima facie evidence of negligence, the report stated -
The same rules as are applicable to liability in tort for injuries sustained by passengers in land vehicles on account of the negligence of the driver of the vehicle or the negligence of the owner of the vehicle, are applicable to injuries sustained by passengers in aircraft, but it is obvious that the nature of an aircraft is such that it is often extremely difficult, if not impossible, when an accident happens to prove negligence.
And the report says, “ This is such a case “. Senator Willesee, on two occasions during this debate, indicated that the report was prima facie evidence of negligence and that a clever lawyer could convince a court that there was in fact negligence, but the report states, after canvassing all the culpability of the various people involved, “ This is such a case in which it is difficult, if not impossible, to prove negligence “.
– But the court took the next step and recommended that there should be action in connexion with it, did it not?
– I am not canvassing the court’s recommendation as to what might happen. 1 am merely addressing my mind to the difficulty of proving negligence. I well realize that the recommendation referred to by Senator Willesee was in fact made.
– To what effect?
– That there might be a system of damages without proof of negligence, upon which would be superimposed another system.
– Unlimited liability.
– On proof of negligence; but the report does refer to the difficulty of proving negligence. I merely mention this matter because I believe that it is overwhelmingly in favour of the passenger by air that he be in a position where he does not have to prove negligence, and that he may be compensated for damages without the necessity for such proof.
As a quid pro quo, and I suggest a reasonable and fair quid pro quo, the liability of the carrier is limited to £7,500, or sufficient to satisfy average claims, and his insurance, as a result, is kept within manageable limits. I have listened with interest to-day, and previously, to the comments of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in his attempt to introduce some actuarial basis for the cost of the insurance. But in an earlier part of this debate he himself said - and said very truly indeed - that insurance rates for air accidents are about the most sensitive thing in any aspect of commerce. Indeed, he agreed with me when I suggested that they may be compared only with ships charter rates.
I am indebted to my friend, Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan, who referred last night to the East River accident of recent vintage, which cost insurers £500,000. The immediate result was to skyrocket insurance rates in order to enable insurance companies to make a quick recovery of the liability that they had incurred. So I say with respect to the Leader of the Opposition that, however much you try to apply arithmetic to this problem, you cannot do so. A system of absolute liability with limits renders recovery by victims of the accident fairly certain and avoids much litigation with heavy legal costs. I think that is a fair statement on the matter, which was discussed by a number of honorable senators this morning, with particular reference to the difficulty of proving damages and of obtaining an award for damages from a court. Much as the idea is unpalatable, I would think, I do not dismiss from my calculations of this situation the fact that the passenger can readily obtain insurance for himself in excess of £7,500 to any amount. 1 was interested, as no doubt we all were, to hear that Senator Wright who, for ten years, has been a constant traveller on aircraft, had not availed himself of the opportunity to obtain additional insurance.
– I did not say that. I have additional insurance but I did not also have insurance from Ansett-A.N.A. I did not know that the company was not obliged to pay.
– The fact is that most consistent air travellers to-day - and this applies with more particularity to members of Parliament - are aware of the condition. Even people who travel by air only occasionally are aw.are that they can obtain additional insurance and they do, in fact, take it. I suggest that the activities of the various insurance companies in that particular field would give support to my argument.
I am indebted to Senator Vincent who, as I mentioned before, at an earlier stage dealt with the provision in clause 3 1 under which a passenger and a carrier can by agreement increase the limits of responsibility. Sir. I merely want to repeat that the proposal which is embodied in this measure is one which provides a careful balancing of the interests of both carrier and passenger. That is the best arrangement that can be evolved, and certainly it is a vast improvement on the existing method. For that reason, it should be approved by this chamber.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Wright’s amendment) be added.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
At the end of the clause add the following subclause: - “ (2.) Nothing in this part shall exclude or limit the liability of a carrier for an act or omission of the carrier or his servants or agents done -
with intent to cause damage, or
recklessly and with knowledge that damage would probably result.”.
The committee has negatived my proposed amendment regarding unlimited liability in the case of ordinary negligence. My alternative amendment seeks to retain liability for gross negligence, that is to say. an act or omission done with intent to cause damage, or an act or omission which is not merely negligent but which is recklessly done and with the knowledge that damage will probably result. Despite the vote that has just been taken, the committee should give earnest consideration to this proposed amendment for the reason that we are now dealing with the portion of the bill that governs interstate carriage in Australia. I do not need to refer to that portion of the Warsaw Convention and the Hague Protocol that deal with international carriage except to remind honorable senators of Article 25 of the convention as amended by the protocol, which is shown on page 37 of the bill. It is quite clear that we should achieve, with interstate carriage, the same result as is achieved in relation to international carriage if my proposed amendment is adopted. Article 25 as amended reads -
The limits of liability specified in Article 12 shall not apply if it is proved that the damage resulted from an act or omission of the carrier, his servants or agents, done with intent to cause damage or recklessly and with knowledge that damage would probably result ….
There is not a vestige of reason or excuse. Mr. Chairman, for prescribing a lower standard of liability within the confines of Australia than that which is prescribed for international carriage. If that proposal is adopted, it will be a blot on the statute book of this country, but that will be the result if this committee is unwilling to retain, as the liability of a carrier, unlimited liability in a case in which damage has been caused, first, by the carrier or his servants with intent to cause damage, or secondly, recklessly and with knowledge that damage would probably result. I venture to suggest that the statute book does not contain one instance in which a person, having any degree of business responsibility, is absolved by Parliament from the liability to pay civil compensation where the damage or injury has been caused by him with intent to cause damage, or indeed, where the damage has been caused recklessly with knowledge that damage would probably result. I have taken that language directly from that part of the bill which applies to international carriage and have adopted it reluctantly because it introduces elements that are discordant with some of the conceptions of Australian law. However, so that the issue will be four-square as to whether the standard that we have applied to international carriage is applicable to interstate carriage, 1 have adopted the language of the bill.
If my proposed amendment is negatived, it will be an indication that the legislature’s intention is to acquit a carrier, who has been guilty of criminal negligence, of liability to pay civil compensation, and to acquit a carrier who has been guilty of recklessness of liability to pay civil compensation over and above £7,500 where the facts prove recklessness. That proposition, to my mind, is of much greater weight than the proposition contained in the amendment which the committee has just negatived.
To absolve of liability to pay a full indemnity to an injured person a carrier who has caused damage with intent to do so, or has caused damage by his recklessness, will mean that not only tort-feasors guilty of ordinary negligence, but also those who come within the scope of criminal law, will enjoy immunity from liability to pay civil compensation over and above £7,500. That proposition should shock the conscience of any Australian legislature.
I shall not re-state the arguments that were used when my first amendment regarding liability in the lesser case was before the committee, but shall merely submit that in the public interest it is most important that a proper appreciation of the consequences of reckless or intentional conduct should be preserved in this proposed legislation. A proper standard of liability must be observed, particularly in the business of carrying travellers by air where the slightest departure from the proper standards of care could result in terrific damage. Reference has been made to one case in which the passengers on an aircraft that was involved in an accident collectively sustained damage amounting to £500,000. I assume, from the fact that the insurance companies had to pay that amount, that negligence was proved in that case. Whether it was or not is immaterial to my argument; the point is that it is a case which emphasizes the importance of our recognizing the extent to which one act of recklessness, or one act with intention to cause damage can create a holocaust which is terrifying from the point of view of standards by which human conduct and just compensation for departure from proper standards should be observed. So, in the public interest, there would be no State legislature that would not put the man who came within this clause up for trial on a criminal charge and put him in prison for the appropriate time, whether it be simply a case of intention to do damage or of recklessly doing damage, because recklessly doing damage would be culpable negligence that would bring him within the category of the criminal code if the jury thought the facts were proved. It is heinous, primitive and barbaric to suggest that the commercial undertaking should be immune from liability to the full extent to which the court awards damages to the injured person when most of us have standards that would put him in prison as a punishment for an offence against the public interest.
The other aspect to which I refer is the argument that is based upon what is called cost. I have listened to the vehemence of my friend the Minister and noted the enthusiasm, vigour and zeal with which he submits the opposing argument can be put. He has asked the committee to reject preserving this liability on the carrier because of the cost. That argument comes from the same advocate who tells us that it is difficult, indeed well-nigh impossible, to prove negligence in air cases. If the cases are few or negligible where you can prove negligence, or intentional damage, or recklessness - ofcourse, a fortiori - I ask the committee to consider the influence that such will have on insurance rates. How negligible is that going to be as an influence in increasing costs?
We all know that insurance companies - marine, fire, accident, whether air, land or sea, take into account their last period of experience, see what their premiums have brought in in relation to the claims paid, establish a ratio, and, with as good an insight into the future as possible, strike their premium. If it is a fact that there will be few persons who can prove this negligence, it follows that there will be few cases in which the insurance companies will be called upon to pay. I hate to think that any excessive idea as to the cost factor in the matter is unduly occupying the attention of a government which is in this business as an operator. Where a government goes into business, one of the great problems with which you are always confronted is that the commercial interests of the government participating in the business will influence the policy that the government would otherwise adopt in the public interest. That was so in State legislatures with regard to railways, and it is a wholly repulsive idea that it operates to-day in the case of a government operating a commercial aviation business in this country and whose costs, therefore, on the argument of the Minister, would increase if this liability were retained against it.
The only other matter with which I wish to deal is the suggestion put by Senator Vincent, and which was adopted by the Minister, that you cannot introduce workers’ compensation as an argument in this matter.
I submit that the analogy is answerable. The principle of absolute liability for workers’ compensation was introduced for the industrial worker who suffered injury by accident, or for his dependants if he was killed by industrial accident without fault on the part of his employer. There was no thought at that time that, simply because employers were made absolutely liable for unlimited amounts, they should be absolved from their liability for negligence.
– They are not, either.
– They are not.
– Order! The honorable senator’s- time has expired.
– I rise to say that I am so impressed by what Senator Wright has been addressing to the committee that I should like to hear him continue. [Extension of time granted.]
– I have never been so embarrassed as I am now; but I had almost finished what I wished to say and I am obliged to the committee: for its courtesy. What I wanted, to. say. was that this unlimited absolute liability which was introduced: about 1898, timidly and therefore altogether inadequate at first, but graduallystepped up as the expansiveness of industrialists grew until now it is of* quite sizeable proportions, is a perfect analogy to the sort of social, economic legislation that we fire dealing with here.
The only point is that, instead of having the relationship of an employee in industry injured by accident, you have the relationship of a person who has put his whole trust in the commercial aviation carrier engaged by that company and, therefore, I should think, could expect a measure of absolute liability but with preservation of the right to ask the company to pay full compensation if the company, by its servants or agents, had caused the damage with intent to cause damage, or had- caused it recklessly with knowledge that the damage would probably result.
– It is not my intention to go over this ground again. I think this is the third time I have risen to speak to this point. I merely point out that to write into the legislation the amendment which Senator Wright suggests would be to provide the hole in the roof which would entice litigants to pursue claims and which would lead to costly litigation when the other provision to which I have referred is already in the bill. The effect on the general scheme would be the same as that resulting from the first amendment, and for the reasons which I put rather fully at the time this amendment also is not acceptable to the Government.
– 1 am shocked by the reply of the Minister because, in effect, he is saying to the committee, “ We will not let an overseas airline operator get away with murder or manslaughter. We will impose unlimited civil liability upon him in addition to criminal liability. However, the local operator may commit murder or manslaughter and need not worry about the civil liability for we will keep it down to £7,500.” That is the proposition. If the Minister had said, “ We are not prepared to accept the international proposition as to unlimited liability on the part of an airline operator whose actions really amount to murder or manslaughter, or something approximating those offences, and therefore will not apply them in Australia “, it would have been a different matter.
Senator Wright’s amendment provides that there shall be no limit to the liability of the carrier if he or his servants act with intent to cause damage. The type of thing contemplated is this: An airline operator might feel that his plane is obsolescent but is insured for a very large sum. He may want to replace it and may deliberately bring about its destruction while in the air, or while passengers are in it, or are embarking or disembarking. To put no fine point upon it, it would be a plain case of murder. On the second proposition, if he does something recklessly and with knowledge that damage would probably result he is guilty of the degree of criminal negligence that would constitute manslaughter. Senator Wright is asking the committee to say, “ We are not prepared to accept unlimited liability if he is merely negligent, but if he is guilty of conduct which amounts substantially to murder or to manslaughter his civil liability to passengers should be unlimited “. It shocks me that the Government could, for a moment, contemplate applying the principle for which Senator Wright is contending in the international field and yet deny it in the Australian field. I feel that the case on that matter is completely unanswerable. There is no logic in the approach of the Government, nor has the Minister addressed himself to the proposition that Senator Wright put. Why apply the principle - and agree to be bound by it - in respect of Australia’s overseas activity and deny it in our own sphere, where we have, insofar as airline activities are within our competence, unlimited jurisdiction? At the moment we are legislating only in respect of the field that is within Commonwealth jurisdiction.
I am very eager to help the Minister get his bill through. There is nothing to be said from my point of view, other than the simple proposition: Why agree to it in the international field and deny it in the Australian field? Secondly, what is wrong with visiting upon the miscreant, who is really guilty of criminal conduct, not only the consequences attaching from the criminal side but also those attaching from the civil side? An occasion upon which such a provision would be invoked would be the rarest in the world. Probably it would never be invoked. 1 could not imagine an Australian airline operator even thinking of taking deliberate action under the two heads that I have mentioned. One involves complete deliberation and the other involves a high degree of deliberation. It may never happen and we might well have disregarded the possibility had not the Government, in confirming the Warsaw Convention and The Hague Protocol embodied the principle in the law affecting its relations with other countries. Senator Wright’s case is completely unanswerable and I hope that the committee will not sit idly by and refuse to write the principle into local legislation while we combine to write it into international legislation.
– I join issue with Senator McKenna on one or two aspects of his remarks. The first thought that occurs to me is that the mere fact that a principle is set out in the convention and protocol is not sufficient justification for our adopting it in respect of interstate travel. The honorable senator would apparently argue that everything in the convention is good and that we therefore should adopt it in ‘toto.
– That is not my argument.
– 1 suggest that that is where the honorable senator begins.
– Do not attribute that argument, in broad terms, to me.
– There was at least the slight implication that here we had something in the protocol - I think I am using the honorable senator’s expression - that we had not adopted in our own local legislation relating to interstate travel. I submit that we ought not automatically to accept as suitable for our own interstate travel principles, which may or may not be desirable, embodied in the protocol.
– The point is - how desirable is it, whether it is international or national?
– That is so. I think Senator McKenna’s argument can be answered in about one minute. There is every reason why, in an international agreement, there should be machinery which is in some way related to what we call “ criminal negligence “. There should be some right in civil law to curb criminal activity by way of gross negligence or recklessness. There does not happen to be an international criminal code under which malefactors may be punished. There is the rub. Australia has her own criminal law, and acts of gross negligence, criminal negligence or recklessness can be adequately punished under our air regulations and so on. So far as interstate travel is concerned the criminal remedy lies there. That machinery is simply not available in the international sphere. That is why it would be quite proper to have some form of civil liability attaching to criminal negligence with respect to overseas travel but at home, thank goodness, we have a very good criminal code which adequately protects us.
– I enter this debate because I feel, with my leader, that irrespective of what Senator Vincent has had to say, there is a need to write into this legislation governing interstate air travel conditions which, in the case of negligence, criminal negligence, or culpable negligence would permit an air traveller unlimited scope to claim the damages to which he felt entitled. We know that the Hague protocol and the Warsaw convention represent the lowest common denominator for some 40 nations, but we are entering an era in which there is a different approach to the liability of carriers by air.
– It would be better to say that a general common denominator was found.
– I repeat, it is the lowest common denominator. The nations achieve a standard that is acceptable to all. lt is certainly not the most superior standard possible. Some of the nations are advanced and some are not, but all have to ratify the agreement. I say therefore that it is the lowest common denominator.
We come then to consider interstate travel and the protection of the Australian people. I think the Government was thoroughly wrong in refusing to accept the amendment just defeated. Irrespective of what has been said in this chamber and irrespective of the puerile submission of Senator Vincent that workers’ compensation is a social measure, let me say that workers’ compensation legislation was introduced in Western Australia by Alec McCallum in the face of the sort of argument that is being put up now. It was got through the upper House only by the assistance of Dr. Saw, who convinced some of the medical and legal men in that House that they would be paid for dealing with compensation cases. There need be no misapprehension as to how that legislation was passed. The argument is that it should be a charge against industry to provide adequate compensation for the dependants of a man who is injured or killed in industry.
Now we come to the question of compensation of air travellers. This is a polyglot bill having international and Australian applications. Under the workers’ compensation acts, a man is entitled to receive workers’ compensation, but if he rejects that and applies for compensation under the employers’ liability legislation, the liability of the employer is unlimited, irrespective of whether negligence is proved or whether the accident was due to causes outside the control of the employer. An injured workman or the dependants of a workman who is killed can resort to common law, where liability is unlimited. I have handled two cases in Western Australia and the damages received were double those that would have been allowed under the workers’ compensation acts. One case was “ Western Australian Railways v. Gidney “. lt concerned a young fellow who was killed on a train coming from Fremantle. The brakes of the train were deficient and the young fellow jumped to save the life of the driver and crashed on to the rocks. There was no question of criminal liability there, but the workers’ compensation legislation did not cover the man adequately, and the court had no difficulty in deciding to grant his dependants twice as much as they would have received by way of workers’ compensation.
When we come to consider gross negligence in regard to an air company, we find that the air company is told, “ Your mere Hat rate of insurance will cover you. You have limited liability in any circumstances.” The delegates to the international convention were not, I think, so much worried about criminal acts such as murder or manslaughter as about international standards of maintenance of aircraft. They were concerned to see that an aircraft did not, as a result of gross neglect, get into such a bad condition that it would be almost a criminal act to carry passengers in it. In order to safeguard against such a thing, they suggested a higher liability than is the case in other means of transport. They suggested a penalty to deter airline companies from putting aeroplanes into the air that had been reported to be in a bad condition. To put such an. aircraft into the air would constitute a criminal act on the part of the operator. There should be some way in which, by law, such operators can be sued for unlimited damages. I think a terrible lot of rot has been spoken about the cost of extending the privilege of unlimited liability, in view of the fact that a very small field is involved.
– I could show you a speech yesterday that would qualify for your description.
– Probably you read your own speech. I have been engaged in the insurance business. I know that Lloyds, for the very smallest premium - an infinitesimal amount - would, if given the whole of the company’s insurance business, insure the company against claims for . damages due to gross negligence. Anybody with a knowledge of insurance will tell you that a man can be covered for £1,000 against death by paying a premium of £30 or £40 a year. In the case of cover against death by accident, he can be covered for double that amount on a premium of ls. 6d. The extra expense involved in a company insuring against liability for £7,500 and an unlimited liability where gross negligence was proven, would be almost infinitesimal if the insurance were taken out with a company of any size. I think we are making a very bad move if, by our legislation, we prevent persons from claiming damages which are right and proper in the circumstances. I think it is very bad to reject an amendment of this kind.
Senator Sir NEIL O’SULLIVAN (Queensland) [3.13]. - The liability contemplated by the section has been made abundantly clear to be a civil liability. That has been established by the amendments which the Minister has accepted. We are dealing with civil liability. Senator Wright’s amendment, as Senator McKenna has said - and I thoroughly agree with him - contemplates elements which would involve criminal responsibility. An example would be the case of a demented or very wicked man who would deliberately destroy an aircraft with passengers aboard.
– Two people were hanged in Canada for that.
– In any event, the amendment contemplates recklessness as a result of which damage would probably result. I agree entirely with Senator McKenna that both circumstances envisage the involvement of criminal responsibility. I think it is clear that if there is recklessness with knowledge that damage will ensue, there is criminal responsibility of a lesser degree, but nevertheless there is criminal responsibility. What is the object of this clause? Is it to act as a deterrent against recklessness and carelessness or is it for the purpose of giving greater protection to passengers? If it is intended to be a deterrent to or a punishment for people who act with intent to cause damage, or act with recklessness and a knowledge that damage will result, will it in fact deter people from acting in the manner contemplated? I submit that the possibility of a criminal charge following such acts’ is likely to be a much greater deterrent than the risk of having to pay a few extra pounds in compensation. On the other hand, is it merely for the purpose of protecting a passenger? Senator Vincent and others have already pointed out that, for the matter of a few shillings, a passenger can get unlimited protection under clause 31 by having his ticket endorsed at the time of embarkation. t repeat that if it is merely to punish wicked people who wilfully or recklessly cause damage, the punishment that would ensue from a criminal prosecution would be a much greater deterrent than the infliction of a pecuniary penalty. But, thanks to the amendments accepted by the Minister, they cannot insure themselves against responsibility for a criminal act. That responsibility is the greatest deterrent of all.
I refer to one final point, which I think Senator Vincent covered in his reply to Senator McKenna. It is this: Why do we agree to it in the international sphere, but not in the national sphere? I think Senator Vincent’s answer was the complete one. Who knows in- what court- or under what system of criminal jurisprudence a malefactor or wrongdoer would be prosecuted in some of’ the 45 or 46 countries that are signatories to the convention? We do not know. We have not the remotest idea. But here, with the constancy and certainty of our criminal law, there is- every reason why we should rely on the criminal law and not on a pecuniary penalty.
.- In view of the importance, gravity and seriousness of the principle in question, and because of the obvious ignorance or confusion as to the reason why this principle which was written into the international agreement is not’ being carried into the national sphere, I agree with Senator McKenna -that the Minister for Civil Aviation has not directed his mind to informing the committee why the principle should be embodied in- legislation covering the international sphere but- not in legislation affecting the national sphere. Perhaps the Minister will be good enough, before a vote is taken, to inform the committee of the background” for the inclusion of that principle in> the international agreement but its exclusion here. Senator Vincent may be correct in saying that, in the absence of ordinary criminal jurisdiction in other parts off the world, . the civil liability has- been inserted as the only, available, and practicable deterrent;
Senator- Vincent. - Perhaps the converse would be truer, in my proposition.
– Yes. That may be the reason. Nevertheless, in the absence of accurate information,, it is impossible for the committee to come, to a valid conclusion on such, a vital matter. I prefer, before I enter the debate to discuss the general issue, to see. the Minister, to use Senator McKenna’s term, direct his mind to informing the committee on that point.
– Mr. Chairman,. Lam- not. speaking to this- amendment for. the first time; but if I can throw any light: on the. matter,. I shall endeavour to. do . so. I ask the committee to consider the scope of the international convention. It- covers a. number of nations. In point of fact, we in Australia do not: know intimately the kind of airline that is. operating in many of these , other countries. We do not know the. standards they adopt or even the. standard of morality of the: people; those airlines employ. We do not’ know, as Senator Sir. Neil O’sullivan has- pointed, out, the varying standards of jurisprudence in those countries.
Here in Australia airline operation is restricted to three or four large corporations, which all of us know intimately. I use the term “ intimately “ in the sense that all these corporations have almost become part of the fabric of the Australian way of life. I think it is reasonable to suggest that, knowing these corporations, there would be no warrant to apply to them the form that we have applied to the many airlines which operate in the countries that are parties to the convention.
A lot has been said about criminal liability. I can merely repeat what has been said already in this debate. We in Australia have a criminal code to deal with crime. If crime is committed, that code is applied.
– Do you mean- the intention is that it- is a deterrent? Is that’ the inference I am to draw?
– In the international’ sphere.
– No, in the national sphere.
– It is not included in the national sphere; it is taken right out.
– I mean: The existence of criminal liability is the only deterrent?
– Yes, against the possibility of a man deliberately destroying a plane carrying a load of passengers. That is the only deterrent that is provided in the Australian domestic scene. I suggest that, according to the normal standards of Australian morality and the Australian way of life, that is a sufficient deterrent to apply.
.-I am obliged to reply to the observation of the Minister for Civil Aviation that we know the commercial companies. The honorable senator forgets or fails to give any weight to the fact that it is against the negligence of the staffs of those companies, which total thousands-
– Against their recklessness.
– It is against the recklessness of or intentional damage by any one of those thousands of persons that we are seeking to preserve other people’s rights. It is a hopeless argument to say that we have confidence in Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A. when you are trying to justify a barbarous immunity from civil liability and to deny compensation to widows and children whose breadwinner has been killed by criminal negligence on the part of any one of those persons. Also, 1 want to answer the argument advanced by Senator Neil O’Sullivan-
– Senator Sir Neil O’Sullivan.
– I am sorry, I mean Senator Sir Neil O’Sullivan. I have not become used to the title yet, but it comes most acceptably to the tongue. Honorable senators are smiling. It is not often that I pay a compliment, so I pause to enjoy it myself. The honorable senator said, in effect, “This conduct certainly is criminal. There is sufficient punishment awaiting this wrongdoer. There is no need for us to preserve full civil liability for the damage that he inflicts.” I have only to state the proposition, and I am sure the exAttorneyGeneral will accept the force of it. In. civil proceedings the onus of proof is much more likely to dispose a jury to visit the defendant with liability for civil damages, whereas the higher onus of proof in the criminal jurisdiction, thanks to the generosity and the outlook of British law against penal consequences, disposes a jury to acquit unless it is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt as to every element of criminal negligence in the case. When we are considering that gap between the onus of civil proof and the onus of criminal proof, we should remember the argument of the Minister in charge of the bill as to the difficulty of proving negligence, even to satisfy the civil standard. I submit that, on any basis of logic, of reason or of civilized justice, a Senate committee could do itself nothing but discredit in accepting either argument or opposing the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Wright’s amendment)’ be added.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 38 -
In assessing damages in respect of liability under this, Part there shall not be taken into account by way of reduction of the damages -
– I move -
At the end of the clause add the following paragraphs: - “ (d) any sum paid or payable by way of pension or allowance in relation thereto under -
the Repatriation Act 1919-1958; or
the Social Services Act 1947-1958, or under any Act amending or replacing any such Act; “(e) the value of such portion of the estate of a deceased passenger as passes to a dependant or to a member of his family.”.
This clause deals with the assessment of damages. It provides that in assessing damages in respect of liability under the relevant part of the bill, which applies to the domestic scene, there shall not be taken into account by way of reduction of damages certain elements. The first element is amounts paid under a contract of insurance, and the next is amounts paid or payable out of a superannuation, provident or like fund. The third element is a premium that otherwise might be due under a contract of insurance. The proposal that I put on behalf of the Opposition is contained in the amendment that I have circulated.
The thoughts embodied in the amendment were first put to the committee by Senator Wright. He indicated that amendments of this type had appeared in the Tasmanian legislation. I have not followed the wording of the Tasmanian legislation, for sundry reasons. I have confined the exemption from consideration in relation to the measure of damages to a sum paid or payable by way of pension or allowance in relation to pension. I have not sought to exclude all the provisions, for instance, of the Social Services Act. I have in mind section 115 of that act which provides, in relation to sickness benefit, that if the beneficiary recovers, in an action for damages of this type, an amount to compensate him for his injuries, he is obliged to repay the amount collected from the Department of Social Services to the department. That is completely reasonable. If he collects damages for hospital and other expenses by way of special damage, and he has already received sickness benefit from the department, it is perfectly reasonable that it is the department that needs to be recouped and not him.
– Nobody has yet passed an act to relieve the tort-feasor of the damage.
– No. Accordingly, what I have done is to ask that there be exempted pensions or allowances in relation to pensions. Let us take the case of a widow receiving a repatriation pension or a civil pension who receives certain allowances in respect of her children, such as a housekeeper allowance. I do not want those elements to be taken into account in reduction of damages. What really happens in relation to the assessment of a pension of this nature is that the expectation of the life of the beneficiary is looked at, together with the quantum of the pension, and the present value is actuarily determined. Normally that is the figure that would be applied in reduction of the proved damages. I pause at that point to return to the explanation given by the Minister. Proved damages will be the damages that one may prove without limit, and then these offsets against damages are deducted from the proved damages. If the result of the subtraction leaves the amount higher that £7.500, the amount of liability for this would be limited, as set under the bill, at £7.500. I hope I have made that clear, although I have put the explanation in one sentence. It is not necessarily a deduction from the £7,500 itself. It is a deduction from the proved damages in the first case. If the deduction brings that below the £7,500 limit, the lesser amount is paid and the operator does not have to pay the £7,500.
The second element that I suggest should be disregarded in computing damages is where the portion of the estate of a deceased passenger - a man has been killed, he is the breadwinner - passes to his widow or other dependants. There is a varying practice in the matter in Australia, but the normal procedure is for the estate or part of the estate to be calculated in reduction of damages. The amendment that I propose will exclude that process in the future, if the committee adopts it.
– May I suggest that you ask to have them put separately?
– I am happy to do so. I think it would be quite suitable. I adopt Senator Wright’s suggestion that the two be put separately. I think you would have done that in any case, Mr. Chairman, without a request from me.
– But taken together for the purpose of debate?
– Yes, and put separately. Mr. Chairman, I have been very good to-day. This morning I indicated that 1 did not want to delay the committee. J think I have addressed myself to the matter on one occasion only. I propose to content myself by saying that in my view the principles for which the Opposition stands in this matter have been fairly well canvassed in committee to-day, and I rest upon the statements that have been already made in support of the amendments I have proposed.
– Senator McKenna makes two proposals here, which we debated at some length previously. He has proposed that repatriation and social service pensions - for example, widows’ pensions - should be added to the matters not to be taken into account. J have already explained that the Government has these questions under examination in a wider context than this. For that reason, the Government is not prepared to include such a provision in the bill now. If any general policy decision of general application is taken by the Government, I assure the Leader of the Opposition that this measure will be amended at the first opportunity.
As to the other proposal, I remind the committee that I spoke about that matter yesterday. Generally speaking, the rights enforceable under the legislation and other similar laws are for the purpose of compensating the victim and his dependants for an actual pecuniary loss suffered as the result of death or injury. It has now been eloquently urged, especially in relation to widows, that in the assessment of damages the value of such portion of the deceased’s estate as passes to members of his family shall not be taken into consideration.
I fully appreciate why the proposal is made. I fully appreciate that it is made for the purpose of alleviating a hardship, but we must consider the extent, if any, of the hardship which has to be alleviated. As I have pointed out, the bill already provides that in assessing damages the court or jury is not limited to the financial loss suffered as a result of the death. This is surely intended to meet cases of hardship in such manner as the courts themselves think just and reasonable.
I have referred earlier to cases to show that the position is far from being as serious as some honorable senators have urged. 1 refer again to the case of which I spoke yesterday. In the High Court, Mr. Justice Dixon stated that the position might well be that where the widow had been living in the house with her husband she had enjoyed some of the advantages of ownership before his death, and therefore, on ownership passing to the widow the full value of the house was not taken into account when assessing damages. The British Court of Appeal went further and in a typical case held that the house in which the widow and her family were living was not to be taken into account at all.
– That alters the principle.
– I cannot see that it does. Other authoritative Australian decisions show a similar trend. I have already pointed out that apart from Tasmania, no Australian State, nor the United Kingdom, has any provision in any legislation relating to the assessment of damages comparable to the one proposed in the amendment, lt would hardly be appropriate to make sweeping changes in the law relating to the assessment of damages in air transport cases when these cases represent an infinitesimal portion of all cases involving claims for damages arising out of death or injury. And I make the point again, that it is a fraction - the merest fraction - of the total number of cases of this type that occur, lt seems, therefore, that having regard to the provisions already in the bill and to the clear trend of judicial decisions, there is no real case for inserting the proposed provision. If a case of hardship arises, the courts will be in a position to deal with it satisfactorily under the measure as it is.
.- One would like not to delay this matter, but if an argument is advanced and a view is held, it is one’s duty here to speak or to go home. When I heard the Minister say that the Government has in hand the genera) question of the relationship of social service benefits to compensation paid on verdicts of courts, and suggest that this should await a policy decision, an individual member in the chamber is placed in an awkward position, because 1 believe that the Government is inviting my decision on this bill insofar as social service benefits may be a material factor in the assessment of damages, lt is pushing this bill to the decision, and a decision on that item of the bill must be made to satisfy the judgment of each senator. Now, the sad fact is that those who drafted this bill should have looked at the fatal accidents legislation of States other than Tasmania. 1 have before me the Victorian act that was printed in 1928. If there are amendments of it, 1 will be informed. My researches have not been such as to enable me to trace it through. I point out that paragraphs (a) and part of (b) of the clause before us are copied from that act. Section 18 of the Victorian act is in these terms -
In assessing damages in any action under this Part whether commenced before or after the passing of this Act there shall not be taken into account any sum paid or payable on the death of the deceased under any contract of assurance or insurance (including a contract made with a friendly or other benefit society or association or trade union) whether made before or after the passing of this Act.
To my mind that section of the Victorian act is the source from which paragraph (b) of the clause has been derived, and it is significant that the words, “ of a superannuation, provident or like fund “ have injected into the clause language most apt to cover the position of a superannuated member of the Commonwealth Public Service or a member of the Commonwealth Parliament. I am daunted to think that we can go out of our way deliberately to extend the advantage to those people and deny it to persons in receipt of an allowance or pension payable under our social service legislation. I have not objected to payments from a superannuation fund being excluded from damages. I think a similar provision is included in the Tasmanian legislation although it is not in the 1928 copy of the Victorian act which I have consulted. The Minister told us last night that the subsequent proposed amendment is a result of a careful study of the Tasmanian legislation because a bookseller’s footnote to the provision was referred to as the reason for paragraph (iii). Notwithstanding that study of the Tasmanian legis- lation, social service benefits have been excluded deliberately in the computation of damages.
In its present form, the second portion of the clause with which we are dealing overstates the claim. The phrase, “ The value of such portion of the estate of a deceased passenger as passes to a dependant or to a member of his family in a form that the value of such portion of the estate exceeds £5,000 “, expresses my conception of what is right. I shall make that point clear at a subsequent stage when the second portion of the clause is being dealt with.
Senator Sir NEIL O’SULLIVAN (Queensland) [3.48]. - I do not think any honorable senator in this chamber can claim to have greater sympathy with, or concern for, the welfare of beneficiaries or prospective beneficiaries under our social service legislation or the Repatriation Act than I have. But a vast distinction exists between those who benefit from a superannuation or like fund, a friendly or benefit society or a trade union - from which payments are made as a result of an antecedent contract - and those who receive benefits under our social service and repatriation legislation which are payable by virtue of a certain set of circumstances arising which give the applicant the right to receive such benefits.
– Those who receive benefits under the repatriation legislation do so through their effort, blood and tears.
– I am not referring to that aspect. Every person who served in our armed forces is not entitled automatically to receive a pension. Similarly, every person who attains a certain age is not entitled automatically to receive benefits under the social service legislation, but a person is entitled to payment from a superannuation fund by virtue of a contract antecedently entered into by him. That is ex contractu. Under the Repatriation Act, should a certain set of circumstances arise, such as the results of a war injury becoming manifest, the person concerned, or his widow, is entitled to benefits. In the case of the breadwinner of a family whose financial circumstances preclude him from receiving a pension should an accident occur and his widow falls into the pensionable group, the proposed amendment is such that prospective widows should arrange to be widows as the result of an aircraft accident because they will be in a specially favoured category as distinct from those who become widows as .a result of any other form of accident to the breadwinner. The cases 1 have mentioned emphasize the fact that the bill we are discussing does not need amendment. If any amendment is necessary, it is in the social service and repatriation legislation. If Senator Wright’s proposed amendments are carried, we will be faced with legislative chaos.
The Minister has indicated that the Government is looking at the broad features of the matter, and has said that not only this particular measure but also all other corresponding or cognate measures will be brought into line so that all dependants experiencing financial difficulties as a result of an accident to the breadwinner, whether on the roads, in the air, or by falling down a lift well, will be in a corresponding position. The Government does not want to place a special premium on husbands so that prospective widows may say, “ Please widow us as the result of an air accident “. But that would be the position if we accepted the amendment instead of going to the root of the problem and reviewing our social service and repatriation legislation.
– I gather that the Minister is sympathetic towards proposed new paragraph (d). However, he says he is awaiting an opportunity to bring the whole matter in its broader sphere before his ministerial colleagues. I may be wrong in the impression I have gathered, but I obtained that impression from the tone of the Minister’s remarks. Senator Wright has indicated that now, while we are discussing this legislation, is the time to face the problem.
If the Minister is in a position to do so, will he inform us whether it is proposed to present this matter to Cabinet for consideration? Is that likely to be done during the forthcoming Easter recess? If so, and if Cabinet gave its approval, the necessary amendments could be made when this bill is in another place for consideration. Is this matter on the list of items to be dealt with “ in due course “? That could well mean a very long time.
Senator Wright has pinpointed one of the objections that will be raised to the Government’s proposal, namely, that the widow of a parliamentarian will, on the death of her husband, have the capital value of her pension completely disregarded in assessing damages, whereas the widow of any other deceased person, who will receive less than half the pension received by the widow of a parliamentarian, will have her pension capitalized in the assessment of damages. That is one of the objections to allowing the matter to stand as it is.
On the second matter, Senator Wright has indicated that he is not prepared to go as far as my amendment proposes. He wants the portion of the estate that is to be disregarded, and which passes to a member of the family, or dependant of the deceased person, to be limited to ?5,000. I know that is the very reasonable proposal in the Tasmanian legislation, but I prefer the more liberal approach that is made to this matter by the judges in New South Wales who direct juries not to take into account any assets of that nature that so devolve. When I face the proposition of that limit of ?5.000 and the attitude of the judges of New South Wales, I prefer the more liberal approach which the New South Wales judges have made in the matter. I would adhere to my proposal in paragraph (e). If it is defeated, and Senator Wright cares to move an amendment which would have a limit of ?5,000, I would support that.
What happens in the courts of New South Wales and under the legislation of Tasmania is a decided change in what has been the common law position down very many years, and when one sees a reform coming I suggest that it is unwise to take the less favorable reform and not the major. Therefore, I have made a deliberate selection of the New South Wales court approach in preference to the approach made by the legislature of Tasmania.
.- I wish to reply to Senator Sir Neil O’Sullivan’s submission that it would be inappropriate to include the provision, of a social services and repatriation benefit in an air carriage bill, and that it would be better to include it in the repatriation legislation and in the social services legislation. Unfortunately for that argument, when I approached this Government some two or three years ago to take the very course that he suggests is the proper course, I was met with the reply that the view held by the Attorney-General’s Department was that this Parliament had no constitutional power incidental to social services that would enable it to direct the quantification of damages in a civil suit in a State matter. Therefore, I went to the Tasmanian legislature and had the experience unique for a Liberal senator, and which he enjoys, of finding that my representations made a greater impact on a Labour government in a State Parliament than on a Liberal government in Canberra.
– I shall reply to Senator McKenna’s query as to when the matter is likely to be considered. I am sure that this review will not be completed in time to enable us to incorporate the amendment in the clause when the bill is in another place. I am equally sure that this is not just one of the things set down for consideration, but that the Attorney-General has it in mind to give the matter early consideration.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator McKenna’s amendment - paragraph (d)) be added.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator McKenna’s amendment - paragraph (e)) be added.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Postponed clauses 15 and 24 agreed to.
Clause 39 agreed to.
The regulations may make provision relating to passenger tickets and baggage checks in respect of passengers or baggage in relation to whom or which this Part applies, including provision for -
the circumstances in which such tickets and checks must be issued by carriers;
matters to be included in such tickets and checks; and
the non-application or modification of any of the provisions of section thirty-one of this Act where the regulations relating to the issue, form and contents of such tickets or checks have not been complied with.
– I move -
Leave out “ including “, insert “ being “.
In paragraph (c) leave out “ the non-application or modification of any of the provisions of section thirty-one of this Act where “, insert “ the nonapplication of a provision of section thirty-one of this Act (except in cases where the limit of liability under that provision is a sum specified in the contract of carriage) where specified provisions of.
I previously indicated my agreement to an amendment which Senator McKenna had circulated. As a result of additional discussions yesterday with Senator Wood, the chairman of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, and of my renewed consideration of the clause, I have been able, in meeting the wishes of the committee, to take Senator McKenna’s amendment a little further. The proposed amendments will have the effect of ensuring that regulations affecting passenger tickets and baggage checks shall be limited to matters relating to their issue, or contents, or to the result of failing to comply with provisions relating thereto. Usually failure to comply will be the result of an omission by a ticket clerk. Therefore penal sanctions, such as a fine or imprisonment, would not be appropriate or effective, and would be small comfort to a passenger or his dependant where he has failed to take out extra insurance because, lor example, the ticket did not, by appropriate endorsement, draw attention to the limitation of the carrier’s liability. Omission of the words “ including provision “ will, therefore, narrow the regulationmaking power quite considerably.
The second proposal, to omit the words “ or modification “, will mean that at this point the power-to-make regulation will be limited to depriving the carrier of the limits of liability in appropriate circumstances - for example, by providing for their non.application. The regulations will not permian increase or a reduction of the figures of £7,500 for death or injury, £100 for baggage, or £10 for hand baggage in the three sub-clauses of clause 31. They may merely provide that failure to comply with a specified regulation relating to the issue of the contents of a ticket will result in nonapplication of limitation of the carrier’s liability. In other words, it will lift the limit altogether.
The expression “ in all the provisions of section 31 “ is also unnecessarily wide. For example, that clause also covers contractual arrangements for higher limits. I therefore propose to limit further the power to make regulations. I propose that regulations relating to non-application should be limited to non-application of the provisions of clause 31, fixing specified limits instead of any of the provisions of clause 31.
Finally, I propose to amend clause 40 (c) so that the regulations may provide which omissions of the carrier result in depriving him of the benefits of limited liability, lt would not be proper, for example, to take away the limits because of a clerical inconsequential error by the booking clerk such as failure to list intermediate stopping places, or a wrong date on the ticket. On the other hand, failure to have printed a warning in prescribed form on the ticket advising that liability is limited would be a proper case for depriving the carrier of the limit.
– I had circulated an amendment in relation to this clause, inspired by the word “ modification “. Clause 40 purports to be a regulation authorizing power enabling the regulations to provide for the non-application or modification of the limits set out in clause 3 1 . Modification, of course, means a toning down. That was a word that alarmed me.
The amendment moved by the Minister - I have been able to peruse it only rapidly - goes further even than I proposed to go. lt alters the opening, introductory words of clause 40 so as to enable the regulations to be restricted to particular matters. Their scope is severely limited by substituting the word “ being “ for “ including “. As for the rest, he has had regard to the fact that contracts for higher limits - something I expect to be a rare thing - may be made between the airline operator and the passenger. He has preserved that position.
His amendment will meet the objection that I had. In fact, it tends lo restrict the regulation-making power more than I had proposed. I indicate accordingly that I am pleased that the Minister has accepted the thought that underlay my proposed amendment and has seen fit to go further, no doubt to meet objections raised by other honorable senators.
– I wish to express the gratitude I feel to the Minister for the amendment he has indicated. It certainly will narrow the scope of the authority for regulations that the clause, as printed, expresses. I think, however, we should remind ourselves that in relation to international carriage, as is indicated on page 25 of the bill, when. Warsaw is amended by the Hague, the provision operating is that if, with the consent of the carrier, a passenger embarks without a passenger ticket having been delivered, or if the ticket does not include the notice required by paragraph 1 (e) of Article 3 - that is as to limitation of liability - the carrier shall not be entitled to avail himself of the provisions of Article 22, which limits his liability to £7,400.
In the application of that idea to the interstate sphere, the provision is not written into the bill but is left to be expressed in regulations. The regulations are confined to providing that clause 31 shall not apply where specified provisions of the regulations relating to the issue, form and contents of such tickets have not been complied with-. I wish to point out to the committee that considerable scope still exists for. substantive, legislation under that power: The clause gives power to make regulations for the non-application of clause 31 where specified provisions of the regulations relating to the issue, form and contents of such, tickets or checks have not been complied with. That is illustrated by what the Minister has said.
If the regulations take the form of saying that a ticket shall be issued to every passenger who embarks and shall be signed by an officer of the company, and if the required signature is: not on the ticket - bearing in mind that the regulation says that if the ticket does not comply in that respect clause 31 shall not apply - you have an instance where failure to append the signature to a ticket can expose the carrier, under the regulations, to unlimited liability. Well, Mr. Chairman, when we get such a hurdy-gurdy I must say that I feel Mr. Wirth is in charge of it.
– The greatest show on earth!
-Yes. In a case where criminal negligence has occurred and caused damage, the carrier must be protected from unlimited’ liability, but where, in the opinion of some official of the regulation process, a ticket has not been issued’ in the form re- quired by the regulations, the carrier is ex-posed to unlimited liability. AH I am saying is that there is a very wide scope for overriding the provisions of the act, not in the direction that- Senator McKenna feared and which most of us would deplore - that is, by reducing the limit of strict liability - but in the sense that it is for the Parliament to say whether or not clause 31 shall apply in particular cases to the form of tickets. It seems to me that the whole clause is quite unnecessary unless that scope for substantive legislation is intended, because clause 43 gives the ordinary regulation power in a very ample form and I know of no objection to it having been voiced by anybody. Clause 43 reads -
The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters which by this Act are required or permitted to.be prescribed, or. which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this Act, the Warsaw Convention or the Warsaw Convention as affected by the Hague Protocol.
Under that clause, there is ample scope for legitimate regulations to be made. I am only voicing my objection to the retention by the Minister of scope within clause 40 whereby a regulation-making person may declare that the key provision of this act shall not apply if some particular part of the form of a ticket does not come up to the requirements of the regulations.
When you can get a- carrier exposed to unlimited liability for a trivial or substantial non-compliance - whether, it will be trivial or substantial will depend upon the person making the regulations - and’, you fail to make him liable for. unlimited liability for negligence, criminal or otherwise, I must say that I am in a realm of ratiocination the processes of which are completely discordant with my experience.
– I compliment the Minister for Civil Aviation upon his having given consideration, to a large degree,, to the complaint put forward by the Regulations, and- Ordinances Committee in regard to this clause-. I join with Senator Wright in inviting the Minister to direct his attention again to clause 43 and in asking him point-blank what is the reason for the inclusion of clause 40 when we already have clause 43. Clause 43 reads -
The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters which by this Act are required or permitted to be prescribed . . .
That is the omnibus form to which we in the Parliament are used. We realize that there should be a regulation-making power. Clause 3 contains the wise limit provided by the words “ not inconsistent with this Act “. In clause 40, even with the Minister’s amendment, there is a harking back to clause 31, lo which the committee has agreed after long deliberation. I may be putting it a little ridiculously - I do so for emphasis - when I say that a clerk in the Minister’s office can- erode the effect of clause 31, even though it not be with the horrible effect with which it could have been eroded without the intervention of the amendment proposed by the Minister.
I ask the Minister to be good enough to explain why we should have clause 40 at all when we have the omnibus effect of clause 43. We are all used to the form of words employed in clause 43, which commences by stating -
The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act . . .
That provision is in every act. Why should there be this special power for one of the Minister’s delegates to put before him regulations that would have an eroding effect, although only slightly eroding, on clause 31? 1 am grateful for small mercies, or perhaps I should say for the large mercies that have flowed from the enlightened way in which the Minister has got over the main difficulty; but I still ask him why we should include clause 40.
– The answer is that clause 43 is, as Senator Laught has described it, the usual omnibus clause that provides for the making of regulations, but clause 43 cannot authorize regulations altering the limits prescribed in clause 31.
– Clause 43 contains the words “ not inconsistent with this act “.
– Yes. Clause 40 authorizes the making- of regulations in connexion with clause 31, which clause 43’ could not authorize.
– It imposes a severer penalty.
-. - That is quite right; it imposes a severer penalty. That’ is why clause 40 is” required.
– Why is not that a matter for the Parliament?
– We have been sweating blood over clause 31. Why should somebody alter it?
– If the limit goes to £12,500, is not that a matter for the Parliament?
– The answer to the question is that, whereas the international operators have decided upon the form and content of their tickets, in the domestic sphere the operators have not yet reached a decision. That is why I want to retain clause 4.0.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed clause 31 (Limitation of liability).
– I wish to- address a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. This clause limits the liability in relation to registered baggage to £100 and, in the case of personal baggage, to £10. Those figures were fixed away back in 1929 and have not been varied in the international agreement. They now apply to Australia.. Was thought given: to increasing those limits, having regard to the great changes in money values in the interim? Having regard to the costs of clothing and equipment with which one travels nowadays, they seem to me to be unreal.
Senator PALTRIDGE (Western Australia - Minister for Civil Aviation) [4.35J. - The matter was considered in its domestic application, but as- the figures were not changed internationally, it was decided that it would be preferable to adhere to the international figures, despite the fact that they were fixed, a long time ago.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4.1 -
The regulations- may provide for applying, with such exceptions, adaptations, and modifications as are prescribed, the provisions of the Warsaw Convention and the Hague Protocol and any of the provisions of. this, Act to and- in relation to the carnage of cargo,, being carriage in relation to which, if it were the carriage of passengers, this Part- would’ apply.
– I move -
At the end of the clause add “, but so that no exception, adaptation or modification shall reduce tin; sum to which any liability of the carrier is limited “.
The committee will note that this clause provides for the making of regulations to apply the legislation with such exceptions, adaptations and modifications as are prescribed. It confers a regulation-making power generally in relation to cargo. As it is expressed, it would enable the Government to reduce the limits, even of £100 and £10, to which a carrier is committed. My amendment is directed at the word “ modifications “ and is designed to ensure that the very low limits that have been fixed shall not be reduced. The amendment is in line with the amendment that I have circulated in relation to clause 40 and deals with the same objection. I thought that the Minister might have, in line with his amendment of clause 40, a similar amendment of clause 41.
What I am concerned about is the making of regulations which would adversely affect the position of passengers by altering the limits fixed by the act. This is an unusual provision. I appreciate what the Minister has said regarding the difficulty, at short notice, of getting airline operators to agree on uniform tickets, uniform conditions and uniform endorsements on tickets, and that there will be a period during which it will be necessary to bed down, as it were, and then to provide penalties for failure to comply with the provisions. The international convention provides, of course, that unless there is strict compliance with the requirement that an indication that the liability is limited shall be endorsed upon the ticket, the liability of the airline operator is to be unlimited. The idea was to impose a penalty on a man who did not comply with the requirement about the tickets, but the thing that alarmed me was the use of the word “ modification “. Accordingly, I feared that the very low limits already fixed might be reduced by regulation, and that prompted me to move the amendment that I have now floated before the committee.
– I am prepared to accept the amendment in its present form. I am advised that study of the amendment possibly will lead to some drafting alteration. If that is necessary, it can be done in another place.
.- 1 proposed to speak before the Minister rose, but when I saw him rise, naturally 1 retained my seat. I think there must be a complete misunderstanding of the position in relation to this amendment. I advance that view, of course, with my usual temerity. Let me ask the Minister to dredge the whole of Part IV. and to show me any provision in that Part which limits the liability of the carrier in respect of cargo. Clause 31, which expresses limits of liability, deals only with liability in respect of passengers and their baggage. Clause 31 ( 1 .) deals with passengers, and clause 31 (2.) with baggage, as does clause 31 (3.) I ask to be referred to a single provision in Part IV. to which Senator McKenna’s amendment can be attached, because I suggest that there is no provision in that Part which limits the liability of a carrier of cargo to any sum.
I should be quite willing to remain silent if the committee were being offered information. If I am’ proceeding on a misconception, I do not want to waste the time of the committee and am willing to resume my seat. I point out, however, that as I have perused Part IV., there is no provision, in relation to cargo, limiting liability. That is why clause 41 is expressed in the bold, unblushing form of a complete substitution for parliamentary authority in dealing with cargo. Look at it! It states -
The regulations may provide for applying, wilh such exceptions, adaptations and modifications as are prescribed, the provisions of the Warsaw Convention and the Hague Protocol and any of the provisions of this Act to and in relation to the carriage of cargo, being carriage in relation to which, if it were the carriage of passengers, this Part would apply.
Note the lines - “ the carriage of cargo, being carriage in relation to which, if it were the carriage of passengers, this Part would apply “. That seems to reinforce my first perusal and to suggest that any provision in Part IV. relating to the carriage of cargo is purely hypothetical. Therefore, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I suggest that Senator McKenna’s amendment does not cue with clause 41, a clause that is an unblushing attempt to take power by regulation, to do what the Executive thinks fit in relation to limiting or removing the limit of liability in regard to cargo, although we in this place, as one arm of the legislature, have deemed fit to spend two full days in trying to put into effect these provisions in relation to passengers and baggage.
There has been laid on the table of the Senate, although not yet printed, a report from the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, not for the purpose of trying to control or restrict the Senate in its deliberations, but solely in the spirit of doing some work, feebly perhaps, and with the thought that it might assist the consideration of honorable senators. That committee has gone on record as saying that the clause does not concern itself with the power to make regulations dealing with administrative details, but gives power to enact regulations that amount to substantive legislation appropriate to the Parliament. I feel disposed, unless a much more suitable modification of the clause than that suggested is put forward, to oppose strongly any such clause; and if the fact be that the Government has not yet had time to arrange provisions appropriate in the public interest to the carriage of cargo, and acceptable to the carriers as such, I suggest it should just await the time when a decision can be reached for the submission of that legislation to this chamber.
– Senator Wright asked to be directed to any provision in Part IV. which imposes a limit upon cargo. I certainly cannot comply with that request. No limit is laid down there, but I do submit for his consideration that a limit is incorporated by virtue of Article 22 as amended by the Hague Protocol. Clause 41 provides -
The regulations may provide for applying, with such exceptions, adaptations and modifications as are prescribed, the provisions of the Warsaw Convention ….
In other words, that is a power by regulation to incorporate any of the provisions of the Warsaw Convention and the Hague Protocol.
If the honorable senator will refer to Article 22, he will find regulations in regard to cargo laid down there as amended by the Hague Protocol. If the honorable senator will refer to Article XI., he will see that, by paragraph 2 (a), in the carriage of registered baggage and of cargo the liability of the carrier is limited to a sum of 250 francs per kilogramme, a kilogramme being equivalent, I understand, to 2.27 lb. So there is in contemplation under the clause we are looking at the incorporation of Article 22, which does fix a limit for cargo and which then purports, not only to import that limit, but to make such exceptions, adaptations and modifications of the limit in relation to cargo as is seen fit. Therefore, the amendment I have proposed is completely relevant to the question of limits on cargo.
– If it were addedI would agree.
– I think that Senator Wright’s objection to the clause goes very much further than mine. The first point I make is that the amendment I have proposed is completely relevant to the clause that we are considering, because the clause does permit the incorporation of Article 22 of the Warsaw Convention. That does impose a limit on cargo, and this clause purports to authorize those who make the regulations to vary that limit. I find it necessary from an Opposition viewpoint to prevent anything by way of reduction of those limits. My amendment is directed to that purpose. The Minister has indicated that he understands the purpose of my amendment, and that it is not the desire that power shall be given to make regulations to reduce the limit in relation to cargo, and he asks me to withdraw my amendment in order to see whether some other form of words will achieve the purpose better. I am perfectly happy to meet the Minister in that position, if he assures me that something along those lines will be provided in another place.
– I am perfectly happy to accept that assurance.
.- I could understand Senator McKenna’s amendment if it were to say, “ shall reduce the sum by which any liability of the carrier would be limited if the Warsaw Convention were applicable thereto “; but it assumes that in regard to interstate carriage there is a limitation, and the Warsaw Convention applies the limitation only to international carriage. I hope that the committee will not be concerned with that. I had not conceived that that was what the Leader of the Opposition was directing his amendment to before he last spoke, but with the aid of his explanation I can see what is intended, and the addition of those words would be needed to express the meaning. But surely we will not leave it to regulations entirely to spell out the law with regard to interstate carriage of cargo by air. Valuable cargoes, including pedigreed stock and large parts of machinery, are carried by air. The law with regard to that subject should not be made by regulation.
– I should like to take the opportunity to explain the background of this clause and the manner in which the carriage of cargo has been regulated. I commence by pointing out that ever since 1935 this power has been available by regulation, as provided in the act of that year. The power has never been used, for the reason that the carrier and the consignor have always regulated, by contract, this carriage. The purpose of carrying that provision into this measure is not with the idea of making immediate regulations to control the carriage of cargo, but to have it there in the same way as it has existed over the last twenty years or so, so that it can be invoked should an occasion arise when it is necessary to regulate because of the development of some malpractice in this connexion.
I say to Senator Wright - whose interest in regulations I fully appreciate - that that is how the power has existed and that is its purpose. The power has never been used, and there is no immediate prospect of it being so used. For my own part, I do not care whether the clause comes out of the measure or not, but I should prefer to leave it there for use in case of need. A situation might arise when the Government would need to move quickly, and by regulation, to right some malpractice. If the committee does not want the clause, I assure honorable senators that in view of all the circumstances I am not going to shed any blood about it at all.
– In view of the assurance that the Minister has given, I ask for leave to withdraw the amendment I have proposed.
– There being no dissentient voice, leave is granted.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
– The question is -
That the clause as printed be agreed to.
– No! I thought that the spirit in which the clause was amended was that-
The amendment has been withdrawn.
– I thought that the clause would disappear.
– I do not care one way or the other. The clause may be deleted, but I shall require a division on it.
– I withdrew my proposed amendment on the assurance given by the Minister. I have no objection to the Executive being vested with regulationmaking power. I have lived in government for quite a number of years and I have a complete appreciation of what the Minister has said regarding the need for regulation-making power in matters such as this. I do not begrudge that power. Unless the Minister really wants to give the clause away and dispose of it altogether, I shall not oppose it. So long as the possibility of lowering the standard set in the Hague Protocol does not exist, I am quite happy to allow the clause to remain.
The Executive comes under constant review in the Parliament and, in any event, regulations that are made sooner or later are subject to disallowance, certainly to scrutiny by the Senate committee for which I have the greatest respect. That committee, incidentally, is a great salve to my conscience. I rest content in the knowledge that keen and competent people appointed by the Senate review such matters and, in the light of past practical experience, I am not prepared to cut down the regulation-making power of the Executive because, quite frankly, if -I were in government again I should be seeking the same power, knowing that it is essential to efficient administration.
.- When the Minister made bis generous announcement and Senator McKenna withdrew his proposed amendment, I thought that we were reaching the sweet end of a lengthy debate on a bill and that the viewpoint of the committee was to be accepted. I make a plea that that be done. I know that difficulties may arise and that the Minister may need powers to correct the position immediately by legislation, but this Parliament sits frequently enough during the year to cope with any impropriety in the carriage of cargo by air that may arise. After all, the necessity to make regulations has- not arisen during the past 24 years. I say. to honorable senators, and particularly to the Minister and to my colleagues on this side of the chamber, that we are reducing the authority of Parliament by giving- to the- Executive the power to make exceptions, adaptations or modifications to the convention- to which we have given the force of : law, or to- any of the provisions of this legislation- in- relation to cargo.
– Such exceptions or modifications are subject, to disallowance by Parliament.
– Yes. None of us needs to be reminded that each House of Parliament has the. right to disallow amending regulations but, in the meantime, contractual obligations have been incurred and injustice could be done if regulations that have intervened in the meantime dislocate the carriage of cargo by air. However, I do not want, to enter into a spirit of contention in view of the Minister’s announcement, and I ask him to agree to the deletion of this clause.
– I regret very much that the honorable senator misunderstood my last comment. I went to some trouble to describe the circumstances in which this clause existed and in which the regulation-making power had continued, unused, for the last 24 years. I then said that I would not lose a drop of blood if the clause was removed from the bill. That is the position, but I do not” intend to take it out. If the members of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee move to take it out, I shall vote against the motion. Although the power has not been used for 24 years, and may not be used in the future, the possibility still exists of administrative necessity to move quickly. If the members of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee wish to stand on this regulationmaking power as an article of faith and seek to remove this clause from the bill, thereby depriving the Government of the power to move if the necessity arises, they can do so.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 42 and 43 agreed to.
First and Second Schedules agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 25th. February (vide page 195), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a, second lime.
.- It is interesting to note that, this is the ninth, airlines bill to be introduced since 1952. In that time, we have had three Australian national airlines bills - one in 1,952, one in 1956 and the one under consideration. There have been two civil aviation agreement bills, one in 1952 and one in 1957. There was one airline equipment bill and there have been two air navigation charges bills as well as one aviation kerosene tax bill: I wonder when the Department of Civil Aviation will have another thought and require an amendment to another act? When moving the second reading of the bill, the- Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) stated -
The primary purpose of the bill is to amend numerous outmoded provisions of the Australian National Airlines Act. 1945-1958 and to make certain changes in the constitution and responsibilities of the commission which recognize its role as a commercial undertaking in direct competition with private enterprise.
If that were the only purpose of the bill, the Opposition would not oppose itv but, like all: the other earlier measures to which I have referred, this bill seeks to give the
Government a further opportunity to hinder Trans-Australia Airlines and hand out a few more favours to Ansett-A.N.A., as I shall prove.
The Government’s record in this con- .nexion is interesting. Almost every one of the measures introduced since 1952 has hindered the Government airline and helped its competitor. And the Government is pleased to describe this action as being in keeping with the Government’s philosophy of free enterprise and free competition!
Let us look at what has been done in the earlier measures. The 1952 airlines agreement bill cut the route charges owing by Australian National Airways by two-thirds, reduced subsequent charges by 50 per cent., and froze them for fifteen years. Furthermore, £3,000,000 was loaned to A.N. A. by the Commonwealth Bank, to be repaid over fifteen years. The Government also guaranteed loans to the competitor of T.A.A. up to £4,000,000. It gave half the air mail business to A.N.A. It also gave that company the right of equal access to Government business. Further, it introduced rationalization of air routes, timetables, fares and freights where the two companies were operating in competition.
But even with all that, A.N.A. went out of existence because T.A.A. had superior aircraft types and services and because the Ansett airline was undercutting both T.A.A. and A.N.A. on the main routes. It will be seen, therefore, that the Government’s record in the guise of free enterprise and free competition is one of continually hindering its own airline.
Then, the 1957 act enabled Ansett to buy out A.N.A. and the benefits enjoyed by that company under previous legislation were transferred to Ansett-A.N.A. The Government also extended the rationalization provisions to all routes on which the two lines were competing, or proposed to compete. In fact, the Government set limits on the total number of aircraft which each company could use on the competitive routes. lt increased primage and excise on aviation kerosene to 31 per cent, compared to 25 per cent, on petrol. This cost T.A.A. £400,000 a year and, of course, compelled that organization to fall in with Ansett’s wishes to increase fares. I wonder just how long T.A.A. can remain in the sky under this Government’s policy of so-called free enterprise and free competition.
I feel quite confident that this bill is not the last slap in the eye which the Government will be giving to its own airline. I believe it is only a matter of time when something new will be thought of to hinder the Government’s own airline and when honorable senators will be called upon to consider another bill. Mr. Ansett himself admits that the tax on aviation kerosene was of great benefit to him. It certainly was. He wanted to increase fares and T.A.A. did not want them to be increased. Of course, when this extra tax was imposed on T.A.A. that airline was compelled to agree to the increase.
Let us look now at what happened in 1958 when both airlines wanted new aircraft. This is a rather interesting story. T.A.A. wanted to buy Caravelles and Fokker-Friendships while Ansett-A.N.A. wanted to buy Lockheed Electras. The Minister published statements all over the nation in which he refused to allow the government airline to buy the Caravelles and Fokker-Friendships and in which he refused to allow Ansett-A.N.A. to buy the Lockheed Electras. According to other published statements, Mr. Ansett saw the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). I know that Ministers may have to do what the boss tells them. I have had to do that in my lifetime. I do not know whether the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) complied with any great pleasure. Sometimes when we disagree with the boss, we tell him so in ways that he quite understands. The fact remains that Ansett got what he wanted. This Government denied both airlines the planes that they wanted and said that they had to get Viscounts, but what do we find now? Ansett-A.N.A. is getting two of the new planes, before TransAustralia Airlines gets one. You may say, “ When Ansett wanted the Lockheed Electra he put in an order.” However, the Government said that he could not get them. Now that it has changed its mind and fitted in with what Ansett wanted, each of the operators ought to get planes in turn. It has worked out, doubtless with the Government’s connivance, that Ansett-A.N.A. will be getting the first two Lockheed Electras to come to this country. Any fair-minded per- son, even in the breezy arena of free competition advocated by Government supporters, would agree that that was wrong. I do not think that any one could say that the Government has acted fairly towards its own airline. The same sort of thing is evident in all the Government’s legislation.
What worries me is that, under the reequipment legislation, the Government has to put up the guarantee for most of the money. 11 does not take into account in the numerous acts that it has passed - I mentioned the number - since 1952 the advantage on the money market that Ansett possesses as compared with our own airline. On 1 1 th February, I read an advertisement in the Melbourne press by A.N. A. appealing for money at 8 per cent. The secured liabilities of the company were stated as being worth £9,300,000, and the unsecured liabilities as being worth £6,200,000. Together, they come to £15,500,000. The company borrowed, in round figures, £3,000,000 overseas to buy the new aircraft. That takes its capital up to £18,500,000. If we can assume that the company was able to raise £500,000 it can be regarded as having capital - some secured and some not - amounting to £19,000.000 or £20,000.000 in all.
It may soon be necessary for the Government to take at least a look at the finances of this company. I have no desire to see it crash - and 1 mean that - but 1 think that at least the Government ought to get from it a separate balance sheet as to its airline operations. The Government tries to excuse its sabotage of Trans-Australia Airlines by claiming that the measures which it has brought in have been aimed at upholding its philosophy of free enterprise and free competition.
– Are you against that?
– The honorable senator apparently does not realize how much his own government is against it. It is the same old story, but I shall not be hard on the honorable senator because he has had a heavy day. What did the Government do in regard to Butler Air Transport Limited? Ansett has swallowed up Butler Air Transport Limited, Queensland Airlines Limited and Southern Airlines Limited. Mr. Butler wants to carry on in the industry but the Government will not give him permission to buy the planes that he needs. How does that accord with the Government’s avowed championship of free competition and free enterprise? Personally, I do not mind the Government refusing Mr. Butler, for, to be quite candid, I do not believe in free enterprise. I never hide my views. Any one can learn of them. Government supporters claim to foster the glorious free enterprise system, and in the same breath tell a man who wants to operate in the air transport field that he cannot do so.
– We do not advocate unbridled free enterprise.
– Every time Government supporters have backhanded their own airline, or hindered it, or taken something from it, they have claimed that they are acting in the name of glorious free competition. Honorable senators will know how much free competition there is in big industry to-day. They should ask the Minister for Supply (Mr. Hulme) what competition exists in the petrol and oil industry. He will know that the contract price for supplying the Government with petrol and oil is the same from all members of the industry. The same sort of thing happens in a much smaller way in many other directions. Government supporters say to the people, “ Labour would have you tied to a state monopoly “. I do not mind what they say, for I believe in monopolies owned by the nation. Honorable senators may laugh, but I warn them that it is only a matter of time before that will happen. The fact that the Government will not allow Mr. Butler to buy the planes that he needs shows how much it really believes in free enterprise. It reveals that what it says on that score is simply rubbish and a sham.
Let us look now at another matter that came to notice recently. The Government makes laws and then breaks them. That was proved the other day when it was revealed as having given its friends television licences. Let us look now at how the Government has broken its own law even in the civil aviation field. Clause 6 of the schedule to the Civil Aviation Agreement Act 1952 states -
The Commonwealth agrees to take all steps necessary to ensure that during the continuance of this agreement business transacted on Commonwealth Government warrant in respect of the carriage, whether of passengers or of freight, is freely available to both the Commission and the Company, and that the holder of a Government warrant has a free option as to the service he will use.
If the Government were to carry out that provision, it would not be a bad thing. But what did the ‘Department of Immigration, which my friend the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) represents in this chamber, do in regard to the recent Citizenship Convention held in Canberra? Some of us wonder what the nation gets out of such a convention, but the fact is that the Government invites people to attend it and .pays their fares. Did the Department of Immigration carry out the provision I have just read? The department bought tickets for the people coming to the conference, buying a half of the tickets from each airline company, although it is known that the majority of people who travel by air desire to travel by T.A.A. Figures -show that T.A.A. carries a greater number of people than are carried by any other airline; yet, instead of carrying out the agreement, the ‘Government - in order to make -sure that its friends got a half of what was going - bought the tickets in equal numbers from both airlines. If regulations exist, the Government should carry them out.
The Minister has said that the primary purpose of this bill is to amend the numerous outmoded sections of past acts. We find that the Government proposes to add to the number of commissioners. I do not believe in part-time commissioners. I recognize that part-time commissioners were provided for in the 1945 act, but I think it is foolish to run an undertaking like this with part-time men. Before the debate is finished, I hope the Minister will be kind enough to supply the Senate with a list showing .the people who have been part-time commissioners during the last three years, the number of meetings they have attended, the total number of meetings that have been held, and the pay the part-time commissioners have received. Let us know to what extent these part-time men attend to the affairs of the airline. As I have said, I do not believe in part-time commissioners. I would rather have full-time men.
– You always fought an amendment to allow Cabinet to fix the salaries.
– I am not up to that point yet. Just be patient. I admit you have had a hard day, and I have enjoyed it. Do not jump yet. I have your name marked here.
– I shall relax and wait.
– The Minister says that the bill proposes to increase the number of commissioners to six because three commissioners are needed to form a quorum and sometimes some of the commissioners are away. Let me remind the Senate that this is a big undertaking. I long to see the Government run it on the lines on which I believe it should be run. 1 do not believe in part-time commissioners. I am not doubting the integrity or honesty of the men at all, but I think this show is worthy of being administered as it ought to be administered.
My friend, Senator Wright, will, 1 am certain, be interested in the clause which provides -
A Commissioner shall be paid such remuneration and allowances as the Governor-General determines.
I see nothing wrong with that.
– That is why you never know what a commissioner is being paid.
– We can find out at the correct time. I do not know whether Senator Wright has any better knowledge than I have of what they are being paid now. They were not paid under these conditions in the last act. I will be quite candid, and say that I do not know what they are being paid. I do not know whether my friend knows. It does not matter to Senator Wright or to myself who determines the salaries, because even when they were being determined by act of Parliament, neither of us could say off-hand what they were. I do not see any reason why Senator Wright should get so upset about the .matter.
It is provided that the Minister may grant leave of absence to a commissioner. Another provision states that when the chairman is absent the vice-chairman takes his place, and that when the vice-chairman is not there the commissioners can agree to appoint one of their number to preside at the meeting. Then we get down to what 1 believe is the rather farcical position that the Minister can grant leave of absence to a commissioner .upon such terms and conditions as to remuneration or otherwise as the Minister .determines. A commissioner can ask for leave of absence and the Minister can agree to his request. There may be good reasons why he should do so. But then the Minister can chew the matter over in his mind and decide whether he is going to cut something off the £400, £500 or whatever it is that the commissioner gets for a part-time job. lt seems to me to be remarkable that an industry such as this can be Tun under those conditions. Looking into the matter we find the following provision: -
The ‘Commission shall hold such meetings as, in the ‘opinion of the chairman, are necessary . . .
It is further provided .that the Minister may convene .a meeting of the commission, and also that on a written request signed by two commissioners - a third of the number that the Minister wants - a meeting can be held. The commission has capital at its disposal amounting to £8,000,000. Surely we should expect that a commission controlling an industry .as large as that should meet at regular .intervals. Surely there should be a meeting of the commission at least once a month. If the chairman wants a meeting, he can call it. If the Minister gets anxious about things, he can call a meeting. If two members of the commission desire a meeting, they can call one. That seems to me to be an extremely haphazard way of doing things.
The bill provides that the general manager shall, as far as practicable, attend all meetings of the -commission, but if the commission so directs he shall retire. That means that if some one does not want him to hear something about the running of this airline, the commissioners - politely, no doubt - ask him to leave the room. I ask honorable senators opposite who represent, as they no doubt are pleased to think, the captains of industry whether those captains of industry would run on those lines a show that could spend up to £8,000,000. Of course, they would not! Even if the Government does not want to kill the undertaking, it is not helping, by running it on those lines, ‘to keep it alive.
I now direct attention to clause 8 (2.), which provides -
A .determination under section nine of the Principal Act, as amended by this Act, may have effect on or from a date not earlier than the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-seven.
That provision relates to remuneration. I do not know what went wrong here. Why is the determination to be hack-dated? I have never known ‘die Arbitration Court to back-date a determination in respect of the wages of waterside workers. ‘Oh, no! Somebody would say that they do not work enough!
Then we come to clause 9 - a very important clause - which seeks to do away with the competitive examination for entry to the service. What will that permit? It will permit only one thing - favouritism. This provision is inserted just about the time that the Boyer report, or the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Public Service Recruitment, becomes available. This is what the Boyer report states -
The basic principle of open competition for permanent appointment to the Commonwealth service should be re-affirmed in the Public Service Act and maintained in recruitment practice.
– But they could be taking the public examination as the standard.
– That is quite right, but how is administrative staff recruited nowadays? As a rule, students who are studying for their leaving certificate or matriculation examination at schools and colleges are asked to fill in a form if they desire to sit for the competitive examination. The papers are examined, and persons acting on behalf of the Commonwealth Public Service place them in order of merit. One student may have an average pass of 95 per cent, and another a pass of 65 per cent. Possibly it will be suggested that a clerk will be required at Mount Isa or at some other remote place where students have not sat for the competitive examination. But I suggest that that principle does not lie behind this legislation. Every boy or girl who wants to enter the administrative section of the Public Service should have to do so by competitive examination. Then every one would be taken on his or her merits. I do not think any one could object to that.
– It is the Victorian Education Department that is wrong, if it has got rid of the competitive examination.
– The Victorian Education Department is not wrong. When 1 went to school - it was more than a year ago - one sat for an examination for the Junior Certificate and then, if one wanted to enter the State of Federal Public Service, one sat for a separate examination. Nowadays, students sit for papers to get their Leaving or Matriculation Certificate, as the case may be, and then they are taken in. order of merit. I am not saying, and 1 never have said, that people without academic qualifications are being taken into the Service. What I am saying - and the Government cannot deny it - is that it is leaving the way open for favouritism to be extended to somebody’s son whom somebody else knows. In the main, the Government cannot growl about the qualifications of members of the administrative section of the Public Service. 1 suppose that, with the exception of the heads of the various departments, they have all entered by competitive examination. Let us keep the system fair and above board.
– What is the use of having the examination, if you have not the recruits?
– Has the honorable senator any proof of the suggestion that we cannot get recruits, or is that just another of the wild statements that so often emanate from him?
– Would the honorable senator keep out a university graduate if he had not passed the prescribed examination?
– I am speaking about the administrative staff. Such a person is obliged to pass a competitive examination. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table reports of the Tariff Board on the follow ing subjects: -
Hammers and mallets.
Insulating parts for sparking plugs.
Sitting suspended from 5.43 to 8 p.m.
.- Prior to the suspension of the sitting, I had been dealing with clause 9, which seeks to amend the principal act, in the first place by omitting sub-section (4.) of section 17. Subsection (4.) provides that -
Appointments to positions which are open only to persons who have passed the prescribed entrance examination shall be made in order of merit
For the life of me, I cannot see why that section should be changed. Queensland is the only State where Trans-Australia Airlines has intra-state service rights, and some people may raise the point that difficulty may arise in respect of appointments for some of the outlying feeder routes, but in regard to the administration of T.A.A. generally, I cannot see why the Government proposes to depart from the recognized administrative practices in this service. I reiterate that it is rather unfortunate for the Government that the Boyer report on public service recruitment that has just been submitted to the Parliament is against the proposition contained in this bill.
– What about letting us have a debate on the Boyer report?
– That is a matter for you people. You have the numbers. I can assure the honorable senator that if I had the numbers on my side, I would do what I wanted to do. I would not ask for permission; I would just do it. If you people want to discuss the Boyer report, it is up to you to arrange for that to be done.
I think that the proposal of the Government to amend section 17 of the principal act, as I have indicated, is bad and should not be approved. If it is adopted, there will be room for favouritism. Recruitment to the Public Service is by order of merit, and I believe that that principle also should apply to T.A.A. After all, the main administrative offices of the airline are in the big cities, and there should be no lack of people wanting to pursue an administrative career in its service. Therefore, I hope that some valid reason will be given for the proposed change, although at the moment it is difficult for me to conjecture just what that reason could be. I am not saying for one moment that there will not be an examination prior to appointment, or that educational standards will not be prescribed, so that lads, in Victoria, for instance, seeking appointment will have to attain either intermediate or leaving certificate standard. I do not suggest that there will be no academic qualifications; my point is that appointment should be by merit. If appointments were made on that basis there would be no fear, to put it quite bluntly, of favouritism. For that reason, the Opposition is strongly opposed to the proposed amendment.
All that clause 10 of the bill seeks to do is to validate the position that obtains in Queensland at the present time. The Queensland Parliament, I think very early in the existence of T.A.A., passed legislation to permit that airline to operate within the State, and if I remember correctly, the Commonwealth Government of the day passed complementary legislation. Five or six years ago - I am not certain of the exact date at the moment - the Tasmanian Parliament passed legislation to permit T.A.A. to operate intra-state in Tasmania, but this Government has not passed complementary legislation, which means that, should there be a change of government in Tasmania, the government of the day could repeal the act, or could say that T.A.A. would no longer be permitted to operate intra-state in Tasmania.
The big question in relation to intra-state travel arises in connexion with the position in New South Wales. In that State. Butler Transport Industries Limited, now an Ansett-A.N.A. subsidiary, carries more than 200,000 passengers a year, against an Ansett-A.N.A. Australia-wide total of 800,000. If the Government wants to be fair and to see free and open competition, as it claims it does, why does it not ensure that T.A.A. may operate intra-state alongside Ansett-A.N.A.? As the Minister knows, in connexion with a bill with which the Senate has already dealt, I spoke to the Honorable Reg Downing, the Leader of the Government in the New South Wales Legislative Council. He told me that if the New South Wales Government received a letter from T.A.A. requesting intrastate arrangements for the airline, backed by the Federal Government, the New South
Wales Parliament would pass the necessary legislation. But of course, this free competition and free enterprise that the Government always professes to want is a one-sided affair.
What is happening to-day in Queensland in regard to Ansett-A.N.A.? Every one knows that the company is operating services between Sydney, Brisbane and Mount Isa, and claiming that they are part of an interstate flight, although every one in the airline business knows that they are not. The company will pick the eyes out of the business that is offering. Later on, no doubt, and as I shall show by reference to this bill, the Government will amend the legislation to give Ansett-A.N.A. the right to operate in the Northern Territory. It will then operate nights to Darwin, to Mount Isa, and to Brisbane. What will happen to the feeder routes? Who is going to carry on then? If the Government wants to kill T.A.A. why does it not come straight out at it, instead of clipping the organization’s wings every year or so? As I have mentioned before, this is the ninth measure that this Government has brought down since 1952 to take something away from T.A.A. If honorable senators opposite want to destroy that organization, why have they not the courage to get up and say so?
– What I say is true, and the honorable senator cannot gainsay it.
– I shall do so.
– If Senator Scott refers to the relevant measures that have been passed since 1952 he will see that they bear out my contention. It is evident from clause 10 that the Government has taken no action to pass complementary legislation to ratify the law passed by the Tasmanian Government even though it has been asked to do so. As we know, T.A.A. is not permitted to operate intra-state in New South Wales. The Government is leaving the intra-state field to its friends. The Government will not give T.A.A. a licence to enable it to obtain a share of the feeder routes traffic. I invite the Minister, when replying, to say whether or not it is true that Ansett-A.N.A. is operating the Brisbane-Mount lsa service, while T.A.A. cannot operate in the New South Wales intra-state traffic.
– They were exchanged a few years ago for the Riverina routes.
– In due course, when dealing with another clause, I shall show what is going to happen to the feeder routes in other territories when the Government gives Ansett-A.N.A. licences to operate in areas where Qantas is at present operating but T.A.A. is not. I indicate, on behalf of the Opposition, that at the committee stage I shall move an amendment to clause 10 (i) and section 19a, as proposed to be amended by the Government and by the Opposition will read - 19a. - (U) Where the Parliament of any State has, prior to the commencement of section 10 of the Australian National Airlines Act 1959, by any State act, referred, or at any time thereafter refers power to the Parliament of the Commonwealth . . .
Then,, if any. State government in a year or so- refers the power or passes an act permitting T.A.A. to operate in that State we will not have a repetition of the Tasmanian position. Although T.A.A. is operating limited services within that State at present, it can be stopped from doing so. If there is a. change of government in Tasmania in the near future, the incoming Premier could stop that practice. T.A.A. might be permitted to operate a service from Melbourne to Launceston, or Melbourne to Hobart, but it could not operate a Melbourne-Launceston-Hobart service. If the Government wants to bring about the wonderful freedom that honorable senators opposite talk about, at least it should make appropriate legislative provisions.
– The honorable senator does not know the Tasmanian set-up.
– The honorable senator can explain it to us afterwards. T say that if there is a change of government in Tasmania in the. near future-
– There will be still more freedom.
– The fact of the matter is that the Tasmanian Government could prevent T.A.A. from engaging in intra-state traffic in that State because the
Commonwealth has not passed’ the necessary complementary legislation. As: I have said, four, five or six years ago the Tasmanian Government passed certain legislation concerning this matter, but the present Commonwealth Government has not seen fit to attend to its part of the bargain. I contend that if a State refers the necessary powers to the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth Government should enable the Australian National Airlines Commission to take advantage of the opportunity, thus- presented if it wishes to do so.
The provisions of clause 11 show clearly that, this Government has allowed inflation to run riot. Under the principal act, tha commission may purchase any land for a consideration, not exceeding £5,000, without, the approval of the Minister. Proposed new section 21 (2.). (a) provides for a- fourfold increase, up to £20,000.
The other matter of importance to which I want to refer is the fact that clause 17 provides that Parts IIP., IV. and V: of the principal act shall- be repealed. Part HF. provides that the commission may acquire any aircraft belonging to any person or company. Part V. provides for compensation to be paid: Part IV. removed” the prohibition on A”nsett-A.N.A. operations- in the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory, and- New Guinea if T.A.A’. is operating a satisfactory service. Although I. understand’ that T.A.A. is not at present operating in Papua, the measure before us will enable the Government to issue, a licence to enable it to do so. I am concerned about the feeder services in New Guinea. If, after this measure becomes law, licences are issued to Ansett-A.N’.A. to operate in the territories, what will happen to the feeder routes? I suppose if I were a commercial entrepreneur I would not worry about the feeder routes at all. I should be more concerned about getting my cut out of the business. Therefore, it seems likely that, where subsidies are at present payable, the amounts will have to be increased. If the Government wants to give effect to the principles that it has loudly voiced, I have no objection to that course being followed provided’ both airlines are accorded equal opportunities. The Government has rationalized’ services to such an- extent that eventually- both airlines will be carrying practically the same number of passengers. The Government will see to that. I know that at the moment T.A.A. is carrying the greater number of passengers, but the Government has not mentioned one word about freight because Ansett-A.N.A. - the original A.N.A. being owned, to a large extent, by shipping companies which naturally diverted their merchandise to their own airline - is carrying more freight than T.A.A. is carrying. The freight ton miles carried by AnsettA.N.A. is greater than the combined passenger and freight ton miles carried by T.A.A.
This bill is just another step along the path the Government has been following since 1952 of clipping the wings of T.A.A. If the Government wishes to get rid of the airline, it should do so instead of, year by year, clipping just a little more off T.A.A.’s wings. The people elected this Government to office; let it take positive action instead of dilly-dallying to such an extent that eventually T.A.A. will not be able to meet its commitments. The Opposition opposes the bill and, in the committee stage, will propose the amendments that have been circulated.
, - I rise to support this bill. It is high time that the Government took some action to bring the Australian National Airlines Act up to date by amending some sections and deleting others that were introduced by the Labour Government in 1945. I listened with great interest to the attempt made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) to state the case that this Government is anxious to kill TransAustralia Airlines and sponsor private airlines operating within Australia. Without question, the Government’s intention is to use every endeavour to keep two airlines operat-ing so that they may function in competition with each other on a rationalized basis, and thus give a service to the passengers.
A great deal of negotiation took place between the parties concerned - the Government, T.A.A., A.N.A. and AnsettA.N.A. - and, to indicate to honorable senators opposite that the Government has no intention of killing T.A.A., I shall quote part of the preamble to the Civil Aviation Agreement 1957. It is in these terms -
And whereas by the Civil Aviation Agreement Act 1952, the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia approved the Civil Aviation Agreement and provided that the Commission should do all such things as the Civil Aviation Agreement provided that the Commission would do:
And whereas Ansett Transport Industries Limited has purchased all the issued shares in Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and has the controlling interest in Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited:
And whereas one of the objects of the parties to this agreement is to secure and maintain a position in which there are two, and not more than two, operators of trunk route airline services, one being the Commission, each capable of effective competition with the other, and the parties intend that this agreement shall be construed having regard to that object:
Does that agreement contain any suggestion that the Government intends to eliminate T.A.A.? In fact, the Government, as one of the parties to the agreement, agrees to keep the commission or, in other words, T.A.A., operating. In that case, AnsettA.N.A. could become bankrupt but the Government would ensure that we would have at least one airline, T.A.A., operating.
T.A.A. is indeed fortunate that Australia had a change of government in 1949 because, if one refers to the figures which Senator Kennelly did not quote, one will see that when the Labour Government was in office T.A.A. suffered considerable losses. I shall quote the figures for the benefit of honorable senators opposite. For the four years of its operation under Labour, T.A.A. showed combined losses amounting to £715.899. When we came to office we were faced with the task of turning into profit the terrific losses amounting to some £6,000,000 in one year that were being sustained by T.A.A. and other socialized industries such as the shipping industry. We succeeded in our task and have given the Opposition an example of the way to administer the utilities provided for the use of our people. We have turned T.A.A.’s loss of some £715,000 into a profit, since the inception of the service, of £1,254,000. Those are the results obtained by competent Ministers in charge of departments.
No business can carry on indefinitely while it is losing money. If an outside industry suffers continual losses it goes out of business. But any government instrumentality can carry on because the government simply increases taxes to meet its losses. Had the Labour Government continued in office, no doubt T.A.A. would have continued showing loss after loss until eventually its assets would have been sold. However, as I have said, T.A.A. is running at a substantial profit, and will continue to do so while the present administration continues.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition mentioned the introduction of new aircraft and the desire of T.A.A. to purchase French Caravelles to be used on our interstate routes. The honorable senator said that the Government would not permit the airline to go ahead with its plans. We must be very careful how we react when requests are made to provide money for the supply of new types of aircraft for use in Australia. If we have a situation in which one company has already got planes that will do 400 miles an hour the other will want to buy faster planes - the Caravelles do about 450 miles an hour - and you get competition among the companies for passengers by the use of speed. This would lead to applications from the airline operators of Australia to the Commonwealth Government for more money to buy new, better and faster aeroplanes. I suppose it could be said that a competing operator would go one step better than the Caravelle. If T.A.A. got Caravelles, Ansett-A.N.A. would not be satisfied until it had the Comet or something much faster than the Caravelle. After the Caravelles had been run for a couple of years T.A.A. probably would be losing passengers from the slower service and would then ask the Government for new and faster aircraft to enable it to regain the passenger traffic. There would be no end to the applications made by the two parties concerned to the Commonwealth Government for finance.
– Why not keep to your original decision and tell both companies that they must get Viscounts? That was your first decision, but then the pressure went on.
– I understand that was the first decision, but. that after further consultation with the parties concerned, the Minister arranged that the two organizations within Australia would standardize on Electras. That was a very wise decision, because any one who travels west will find that the Viscounts-
– Give you good service.
– It is so good that they have to stop half way over in order to get more fuel - if you want it that way! Frankly, I like the Viscounts. I think they are good, but frequently, when there is a high wind, the Viscounts have to call in at Kalgoorlie or Forrest to take on more fuel. In case the honorable senator does not know - I do not suppose he does - I point out that the Viscount has a range of 1,800 miles, and the distance from Adelaide to Perth is 1,500. If strong headwinds are encountered on the way, these planes have to drop down and take on extra fuel I understand that the Electras have a much greater range and are also a little faster. Having standardized as to the plane - and I do think the Electra is the better plane, particularly for long distance services - I think the Government and Minister are very wise to say that it shall be the only type of plane these operators can use during the next few years. We are to have Fokker-Friendships for the feeder services that are to be introduced.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition went on to say that the Government is restricting T.A.A.’s service in Queensland.
– No, I did not.
– I thought the honorable senator did say that we were restricting T.A.A.’s service in Queensland.
– It has allowed the services to be duplicated.
– That is right. I distinctly remember travelling by T.A.A. in Queensland on routes on which Australian National Airways planes were not allowed to fly. I refer to the Darwin-Brisbane service. I do not know whether A.N.A. is yet operating a service on that route which comes down the centre from Darwin to Mount Isa, through Cloncurry, down to Longreach and on to Brisbane. I understand that at present T.A.A. has no competition from Ansett-A.N.A. on that route. But the point is that there must be rationalization of services for the two operators, and I think that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will find a definite provision in the agreement under which T.A.A. is to be kept in operation at all costs while on the other hand there is nothing in the agreement to say that AnsettA.N.A. will be kept functioning at all costs. For that reason, I think the bill has merit.
I should like to take the Senate back a long way now to 1945 when the socialists were in power. Or shall I go back a little further than that to 1943? It was in August, 1943, that the then Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Curtin. said this at a meeting in Perth -
They talk about Socialism-
This is good election stuff - i have this to say: That the Commonwealth
Parliament has no power to socialize any industry.I say that my Government has not socialized any industry.I say further that my Government will not, during the war, socialize any industry.
I emphasize that he said, “ not during the war “. He went on to say -
The reason is that all the physical things requisite for war can, under the National Security Act, be directed for the purposes of war.
Then, on 18th July, 1945, while the war was still on, the first bill to nationalize the airlines within Australia was introduced. That is one of the measures which the bill now before us proposes to repeal. Clause 17 reads -
Parts III., IV. and V. of the Principal Act are repealed.
Let us look at the principal act and see what the Labour party had in it. The relevant part reads -
PartIII. - Compulsory Acquisition of Aircraft and other Property.
The Commission may for the purposes of this
Act, by notice served on the owner or published in the Gazette, acquire any aircraft or other property (not being land) required for the purposes of the Commission.
Upon the service of the notice on the owner or the publication of the notice in the “ Gazette “ the aircraft or property described in the notice shall, by force of this Act -
become the absolute property of the Commission; and
be freed and discharged from all trusts, obligations, interests, contracts, charges, liens and pledges affecting the aircraft or property.
Then, section 44, which is to be repealed, provides -
Where any property is acquired under section forty-two of this Act, the person from whom the property is acquired, and every person in whose possession or custody or under whose control the property may be, shall deliver up the property in accordance with the terms of the notice by which the acquisition is made.
Penalty: One hundred pounds or imprisonment for six months.
So, by the 1945 act, the socialists came out to grab another enterprise and to nationalize the airlines industry of Australia. I repeat that we are deleting those provisions from the legislation.
– It took you from 1949 to 1959 to find out how bad they were.
– The people have known for the last ten years how bad you are, and that is why you are still sitting over there in the Opposition.
So we find that the Labour government of those years, anxious to have a monopoly - Senator Kennelly spoke against monopolies to-night - sought to establish one. We have agreed that there is room for two airlines in Australia. We intend to see that the two main airlines continue to operate. We are not monopolists. Members of the Australian Labour party favour monopoly. Senator Kennelly stood up in the Senate and spoke of what we were doing to the little airlines. I remind him that if his party had been in office those airlines would have been gobbled up years ago.
– You have allowed that to happen. You have not lifted a finger to prevent it.
– If Labour had been in office there would have been only one socialized airline, doubtless running at a terrific loss and subsidized by the taxpayers.
– The honorable senator would say anything at all that suited him.
– I can support whatI say with figures. Will Senator Kennelly show me an occasion when Labour was in office on which T.A.A. made a profit? Will he give me an instance of the people’s shipping line making a profit during that period? We can show him that Labour lost £6.000,000 on shipping in one year alone. The honorable senator cannot point to anything of the kind at the hands of this Government. The socialist approach is now outmoded in Australia. The people get much better service with two airlines than they would if there were only one.
– That is not so.
– Apparently the honorable senator does not agree with me, despite the keen competition that obviously exists. One of the airlines operating on the eastwest run will even give passengers a glass of sherry before dinner. The best of Western Australia’s excellent sherry is provided, but the other airline offers no such service. That is the essence of competition, which undoubtedly produces better service. When there was no competition out of Canberra, what happened to the people travelling to the west? For years we had to travel to Melbourne, then across to Adelaide and then to Perth - without benefit of sherry. Leaving Canberra at nine in the morning, one arrived at Perth at 10 p.m. eastern standard time. When Ansett purchased A.N.A. we saw real competition. Ansett put on a west-bound plane from Sydney which called at Canberra. Trans-Australia Airlines had described that as impossible. I know that that is so because I asked about it myself - it seemed to me that it would be very convenient. Ansett put on a D.C. 6B on the Sydney-Adelaide run which dropped in at Canberra to pick up passengers for Adelaide and Perth. The result is that today, instead of leaving Canberra at 9 a.m., one may leave at 1.15 p.m., and still arrive in Perth at the same time. One flies direct from Canberra to Adelaide and then on to Perth. It is not so much a matter of miles saved, as time saved - eight or nine hours as against fourteen formerly. That sort of service prompted T.A.A. to say, “ If Ansett can do it we can also drop a plane in at Canberra “, but it took from 1949, when I was elected, until last year for that to happen. I hope that that sort of beneficial competition continues.
Some of the alterations affected by the bill are important - for instance, the appointment of a sixth commisisoner, who may be called upon to form a quorum and help the good work to continue. The term of commissioners is to be for periods of up to five years and. to ensure continuity of service, they will be eligible for re-appointment. Tn keeping with modern practice, the commissioners are to be paid such remuneration and allowances as the GovernorGeneral shall determine.
The requirement that officers of the commission shall pass a prescribed entrance examination is to be eased. The practice of business houses generally will be followed and candidates will be accepted if they have passed such examinations as the intermediate, the junior or the leaving certificate. Experience has shown that applicants for a junior position, having obtained the intermediate or the leaving certificate are disinclined to submit themselves to further examination. It is thought that the amendment will stimulate recruitment.
The procedure for purchasing and disposing of assets has been brought up to date. The commission will be able to purchase land costing up to £20,000 - instead of £5,000 - enter into a lease of land for a period exceeding ten years - instead of five years - and dispose of property, right or privilege of a value up to £50,000. Beyond those limits, the commission must seek the approval of the Minister. The matter of interstate services has been fully covered, and problems raised by the Queensland Government having given the Commonwealth power to operate intra-state services will be cleared up.
The remainder of the bill has been covered thoroughly, except for the last part, which was discussed here under other legislation. I refer to the raising of the commission’s liability in respect of death or injury of passengers from £2,000 to £7,500. I may say that, despite arguments to the contrary, I cannot see anything wrong with that at all. In the event of a plane crashing and death occurring, the commission will be liable to pay up to £7,500 by way of damages. Honorable senators opposite have asked that the liability be unlimited, but if that were done the operators would not know where they were. They would have to cover their passengers for amounts of up to £30.000 and £40,000. If there were a crash involving 65 or 70 passengers - a number frequently carried on aircraft to-day - damages could well be in the vicinity of £250,000. The insurance rateswould have to go up, of course, which would mean that the cost of travel would be increased. At the present time, the insurance rate per passenger is 10d., but it would have to be increased to somewhere in the vicinity of 4s. per passenger.
– Apparently we did not convince you.
– No, you did not convince me. Before I close, let me refer to services that are operating in Western Australia. The two big airline companies are providing fast and comfortable services between Perth and the other capital cities, but the service between Perth and Darwin that is operated by the MacRobertsonMiller Aviation Company is the only service between capital cities that is still run by DC3 aircraft. They are outmoded. This is proved by the fact that people travelling from Europe who wish to come to Perth, do not fly from Darwin to Perth but go through the centre to Adelaide and then cross to Perth on more comfortable aircraft. I know that this service is run by a private company, but I sincerely hope that the Minister will endeavour to persuade the company, particularly on the Perth-Darwin run, to provide a better service. 1 have much pleasure in supporting this bill. 1 think it brings the legislation up to date, as the setting up of a commission for the shipping services brought the legislation dealing with those services up to date. At last we are repealing the legislation that was passed by a socialist Labour government in 1945 - legislation which went very much against the grain of honorable senators on this side of the chamber.
.- lt is quite true, as Senator Scott stated, that the Australian National Airlines Commission was established under legislation passed by a Labour government back in the year 1945, which was a war year. The commission was clothed with certain powers, but they were not absolute powers. I may state here that since the commission was established and clothed with those powers, this Government has whittled away some of the powers. Fortunately for the citizens of the Commonwealth, the commission is not entirely subject to the policy of the Government. It may carry out its duties, and perform its functions, without full regard to Government policy, because it is statutorily empowered to perform certain functions. The main function, of course, is to establish suitable air services in various parts of the Commonwealth.
At this stage T am perhaps in order in referring briefly to the functions of the commission. It had, as I said, to establish air services, maintain them and, where necessary, expand them to keep pace with modern times. It had to do everything which the travelling public expected a commission in charge of air services to do. The Government has stated that the commission is expected to fill the role of a commercial undertaking in direct competition with private enterprise. That statement makes clear what the commission’s role is. As I stated a while ago, it had to progressively establish adequate air services for the transport of persons, goods and mails between any place in a State and any place in another State. The responsibility of the commission is to carry out its functions in a vigorous manner. It is in direct competition with a branch of private enterprise, as was stated by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) in his second-reading speech. If it did not do all the things that its opposition is doing, then its life would be very brief.
The term private enterprise does not have very much meaning to me, and I very often wonder whether members of the Liberal party understand the meaning of the term. What are the functions of private enterprise? How does private enterprise flourish, or how does it exist at all? When we look at what has been done for private enterprise in the airlines sphere by the Department of Civil Aviation, we realize that it just could not function at all without that assistance. No private air services could exist in the Commonwealth unless public moneys were spent on certain facilities which the private airlines have to use. The private airlines own their aircraft, but they do not own the airports. Who owns the airports? Who established them, at great cost, from public funds?
– Do private car owners own the roads, or do householders own the water systems? Try to talk sense.
– That is not a parallel case, because the users of the roads do not travel for reward in most cases. Some do, but they pay licences. However, we will allow that argument to stand for a moment or two. The roads are provided with money taken from the pockets of the people. Are the roads socialized? Are the roads, shall I say, a branch of private enterprise? Who owns the meteorological service? Who pays for that service? The people pay for it. It would be absolutely impossible for any air company to carry on its services unless some public sector provided the means for it to do so. Then there are the telecommunication services. They, too, are provided.
As the subject has been raised, I will tell the Senate what the Treasurer had to say about this matter. I have not raised this question; Government members raised it. On page 6 of the Treasurer’s statement, I find that in the last financial year the revenue of the Department of Civil Aviation included air navigation charges amounting to £511,000, and from the Australian National Airlines Commission, as a payment in the nature of a dividend, £218,500. From where did that money come? It came from the profits made by T.A.A. Will honorable senators opposite deny that?
– As a result of good administration.
– You admit that. From Qantas Empire Airways the Commonwealth Government got a dividend of £378,000.
– Not when you were in power.
– The figure I quoted was for the last financial year, lt has been said that Labour was not in office at the time and that this Government was responsible for the success of T.A. A. If honorable senators opposite examine the .evidence, they will find that the Government had very little to do with the administration of T.A.A. and that if credit is due to any one for the profit made by that organization it is due entirely to the Australian National Airlines Commission.
Senator Scott said a while ago that between the years 1945 and 1949 T.A.A. was run at a loss by the Labour government. In those years, the air service was merely cutting its teeth; it was in the same position as many other businesses in the community. If you were to launch a brewery business, you would find that it would be run at a loss for the first three or four years. Similarly, if you were to open a newspaper business, it would operate at a loss for several years. Let me point out how the airline services in the Commonwealth - I am not speaking of T.A.A. alone - increased their business during those years. Until 1945 there was very little civil aviation in Australia. We had several years of war, and the aircraft that were then available were used for war purposes. In 1945-46, the route miles covered by all civil airlines in the Commonwealth totalled 28,945. By 1953-54, that figure had risen to 85,793 miles, an increase of 196 per cent. In 1945-46, 509,190 passengers were carried. By 1953-54 the number had risen to 1,814,778, an increase of 257 per cent. The passenger miles flown in 1945-46 totalled 224,000,000, but by 1953-54 the figure had risen to 734,000,000 miles, an increase of 226 per cent. The freight carried in 1945-46 amounted to 5.603 short tons. By 1953-54, it had risen to 70.000 short tons, an increase in seven years of 1,167 per cent. Unfortunately, I have not been able to obtain figures for the years since 1953-54, but I am satisfied that progress is still being made by all the air services in the Commonwealth.
It was quite unfair of Senator Scott to point to a meagre loss sustained .’by T.A.A. in its years of infancy. That organization is not making a loss now, because it has been allowed to develop its air services. During last year, the revenue received by T.A.A. was £11,581.000. It made a net profit of £282,000 and, as I said a while ago, it paid £218,500 to the Government in the form of a dividend. In addition to that, it paid £4,308,000 in pay-roll tax. Trans-Australia Airlines is a very important employing authority, particularly from the defence viewpoint. The number of employees engaged last year was 3,812.
– What was the amount of pay-roll tax paid?
– I find, on reference to my notes, that the total payroll of T.A.A. last year was £4,308,000. As a result of legislation introduced by Labour in 1945, the Government now has a commercial undertaking which is capable of paying a very substantial dividend to the Commonwealth.
– Trans-Australia Airlines did not pay any dividend during Labour’s administration. You made no provision for it.
– I will deal with your points later. Last year, the Department of Civil Aviation spent the sum of £754.000 on the development of civil aviation. Where does private enterprise fit into that? Can a private company, or even a public company, conduct air services in the Commonwealth without huge expenditure by the Commonwealth Government? Last year, meteorological services cost the taxpayers of Australia the sum of £564,000. It is absolutely impossible for any air service to be conducted without the assistance of the meteorological organization. Public expenditure on the Sydney airport alone amounted to £8,500,000, and probably similar sums were spent at Essendon and on the Brisbane airport. In the other capital cities, too, huge sums from public revenue and loan funds have been spent on capital improvements. Why has that money been expended? It has been expended to make it possible for private enterprise to operate airline services.
T propose to deal with the policy of this Government, but before I do so I shall refer to another point that was made by Senator Scott. He referred to the monopoly provisions of the 1945 act. The honorable senator forgot that that legislation was drafted in the light of the experience of the war years when the Commonwealth Government had to assume control over the Australian rail services. If the Government wants to eliminate what the honorable senator was happy to refer to as the monopoly provisions of that earlier legislation, let me remind it that the day may come when it will have to reenact those provisions. Just let us think what would happen if Australia was again threatened with an invasion. The Commonwealth Government would have to control all air services within the country. This Government may be in office when circumstances make it necessary to re-enact those provisions.
The Government’s policy on T.A.A. is not publicized, but when it introduces legislation affecting that organization the people are very suspicious. I said that the Government’s policy is not publicized; but there are tongues in trees, books in the running brooks and sermons in stones, and the Government’s policy in regard to T.A.A. is widely known. Its policy is to pick the bones of that organization. We know that (he Government has not been happy about the progress made by T.A.A. It has introduced what wis termed rationalization legislation. The Government terminated the period during which T.A.A. was regarded as a public authority for all purposes. It has made the airline pay sales tax, income tax and other taxes.
– Ground rents, too.
– And ground rents. When the Government introduced legislation to do that, it forgot that there was a time when it conveniently waived the payment of sales tax by one company operating an air service. If I remember rightly, the sum involved was approximately £250.000.
Some of the supporters of the Liberal party are afraid to travel in T.A.A. aircraft. They fear that if they travel twice in succession between Canberra and Melbourne, or between Canberra and Sydney, by T.A.A., when next their nominations are received they may not be endorsed as Liberal party candidates.
– We know that you are watched and reported upon in regard to the way that you travel, and you cannot run away from that fact.
– Who keeps the dossiers?
– The members of your own party, and they are very conservative about them. Everybody knows that the Government is not solicitous of the future welfare of T.A.A., that secretly it wants T.A.A. to collapse entirely and go out of existence. On the other hand, so far as another company is concerned, namely Ansett-A.N.A., the Government makes available to that service all the facilities within its power.
I propose to read to the Senate some news from the Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “ of 4th February last.
– I thought that the honorable senator did not believe in the capitalist press.
– Well, some readers do, and on this occasion there is some truth in what has been printed. It is just too bad if other honorable senators choose not to believe it. The “Courier-Mail” stated, under the headline “ Submerged reef could be airstrip “ -
Hayman Island, which Princess Alexandra will probably visit next August, may get a £250,000. coral airstrip.
Hayman Island is a little island off the coast of Queensland. It is a tourist resort. 1 am not opposed to tourism in any way, but I could name many airports in Queensland in respect of which that ?250,000 could be spent to great advantage.
– Is the honorable senator suggesting that the Commonwealth is going to pay for that airstrip?
– That is the question. 1 suggest that the Minister wait until I read the rest of the article, lt continued -
The Civil Aviation Director-General (Mr. Donald Anderson) yesterday inspected the Barrier Reef island following moves by the Ansett group for an airstrip.
Ansett Transport Industries control Royal Hayman Hotel -
With Mr. Anderson were senior Civil Aviation officials, including the Queensland Regional Director (Mr. John Arthur) and Mr. R. R. Walker, who is assistant to Ansett-A.N.A.’s managing director (Mr. R. M. Ansett).
The proposal is to build a coral runway on a reef on the eastern side of the island which at high tide is now covered by ten feet of water.
There is ample coral available and it is one of the best natural runway materials. The strip would be at least 5,000 feet long, to handle Convair metropolitan and Lockheed Electra air liners.
At present, tourists bound for Hayman Island are flown to Prosperpine. From there they travel 25 miles by ‘bus to Canonvale jetty for an 18-mile launch trip to the island.
The Prosperpine-Hayman trip takes nearly three hours.
Mr. Anderson will reach Brisbane tonight after a fortnight’s tour of New Guinea and North Queensland.
That article leaves me wondering whether government expenditure will be involved in the preparation of the airstrip.
– Who built the Lindeman Island airstrip?
– I do not know, but more than 50 per cent, of the people of the Commonwealth are suspicious of this Government when it comes to doing anything at all in respect of T.A.A. The people do not trust the Government because of its actions in respect of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, the Glen Davis shale oil refinery, and other matters that I could mention. Those are things that the Government has to live down. When bills of this kind are placed before the Parliament, I think we are entitled to be suspicious.
We see here a peculiar situation, Mr. Acting Deputy President. We know what the secret policy of the Government is in regard to T.A.A. It wants the airline to collapse financially and to become bankrupt, but on the other hand, the Government wants to make a showing by pretending that it is doing the very best for the airline services. Fortunately, back in 1945, the Labour Government fixed the commission by creating its powers in such a way that it is not entirely subject to government policy. That is the sole reason that we have a Trans-Australia Airlines service to-day.
The Government now requires more detailed information regarding the revenue and expenditure of T.A.A. Why? That is a simple question. Is it because the Government also proposes to do the same thing in respect of a private airline company? Let me tell the Government that because T.A.A. is a government instrumentality, it is subject to the Audit Act. The Auditor-General has the right to examine its books and records. Furthermore, the Treasury has the power, under the Audit Act, to issue regulations and instructions to every government instrumentality in the Commonwealth. Therefore, anything that the Government required in respect of the accounts of T.A.A. could be acquired by means of such regulations. But the Government wants something further. We on this side are very suspicious of that part of the bill. The government airline services have operated since 1945, and now, in 1959, the Government comes along and says. “ We want something different.” Why? Surely to goodness the Government has the power to introduce a bill setting out clearly the information that it requires from the commission.
It gives me great pleasure to read the last annual report of T.A.A. and to notice there what it is doing in regard to the training of its staff. It is doing that in a very efficient way. We know that it engages apprentices. It is one of the companies in the Commonwealth that should be commended for what it is doing in the training of its staff. The airline took on 38 apprentices last year. Here, we have an organization that is doing great good for the Commonwealth, and it seems to me that, unfortunately, we have a Commonwealth Government that is doing its utmost to destroy the organization, although it is not doing so blatantly or openly. The Government is always preaching the advantages of private enterprise for every industry. But what is it trying to do, in respect of a public authority of which it is in charge, an authority which, the Government admits, is in conflict or competition with private enterprise? 1 suggest that if ever T.A.A. collapsed a State ball would be given, and the members of the Liberal party and their wives would dance a hula-hula in King’s Hall and sing, “ At last T.A.A. has collapsed! “
– And we would fly you there by Ansett-A.N.A.
– I am not narrowminded. When Ansett-A.N.A. services are convenient for me, I use them. If 1 use the services of T.A.A. more than those of Ansett-A.N.A., it is because they are more convenient for me. As we on this side of the Senate represent more than 50 per cent, of the people of the Commonwealth of Australia, I am entitled to say that more than 50 per cent, of the people are suspicious of this Government when it introduces legislation of any nature concerning the future conduct of T.A.A.
– First, 1 should like to refer briefly to the vitriolic stupidity of Senator Benn. 1 remind him and the other socialists opposite that every penny the Government spends on aerodromes, roads, sewerage, drainage and housing comes from private enterprise. Not a penny is owned by the Government until it has been collected from private enterprise. Since this Government has been in office during the last nine years, private enterprise has been prosperous and it has literally poured money into the Treasury, thus enabling the Treasury to give Australia the most modern and efficient civil airlines that the world has known. There is not one fairminded citizen of Australia who would1 deny the truth of that assertion. Yet the socialists decry at every opportunity everything that this Government does and say filthy things about the Government’s interest in private enterprise. In their stupidity and silly narrow-mindedness, they say that we are crippling the nationallyowned Australian National Airlines Commission.
What are the facts? The commission has grown, from strength to strength, lt has achieved efficiency because this Government, which has decided to retain a nationally-owned airline, sees that it gets a fair deal and enjoys a certain amount of the freedom that it requires. The Government also keeps a watchful eye on it to see that its efficiency is maintained. This, of course, is in accordance with the basic principles that the electors of Australia have re-endorsed at every election since 1949, principles that demand that private enterprise shall be given a fair deal. I do not wish to be thought to be acting in the role of a lecturer when I say that I believe that both major airlines in this country should be given a fair deal. They should not be handicapped by any action of this Parliament. I say to the Opposition, as a statement of fact, that every time a bill concerning the airlines of Australia is passed by this Parliament, the privatelyowned airline companies gain more friends. Everyone who has any knowledge of the Australian mind and the Australian character knows that the average Australian - I am not referring to bigoted socialists - believes that everyone should1 be given a fair deal. I tell the Senate straight that I have met many people who have said to me “Well, bother T.A.A. If the Labour party wants be so bitter and filthy and damaging and libellous to private enterprise we shall see that we travel by AnsettA.N.A. in future “.
I say to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) that it is not a bad idea to introduce airlines legislation into this National Parliament while the socialists are in their present disintegrated state. As a member of a political party in the national sphere of politics, I am pleased that the Government has introduced this measure to improve still further the conditions of the civil airlines in Australia which, in turn, will confer an advantage on more than 2.000,000 passengers who are privileged to travel by air each year. The introduction of this legislation will give great pleasure to many people who have travelled by air during the last twelve years.
Turning to the details of the bill, I think that the Government has made a wise decision to increase from five to six the number of members of the Australian National Airlines Commission. I am astounded that it has taken the Government almost ten years to introduce a measure to wipe out some of the socialistic provisions of the 1945 act, although as a private member of one of the Government parties, I realize that I share the culpability. What a shocking thing it would have been if we had been defeated at the last general election! Our friends and supporters throughout Australia could have said to us, “ Although you were in office for over eight years, you did not remove some of the shocking socialistic provisions of the Australian National Airlines Act 1945 “. However, I am glad that we are now doing so. 1 think it is right for the bill to grant to the commission greater discretion in relation to everyday items of administration, such as the recruitment of staff, the purchase or leasing of land and buildings, and other matters which confront a governmental concern that is ever growing in importance.
I am very pleased that the bill repeals some of the dangerous socialistic provisions of the principal act. I doubt whether many people in Australia realize that section 42 in Part III. of the 1945 act is still operative It provides -
The Commission may for the purposes of this Act, by notice served on the owner or published in the “ Gazette “, acquire any aircraft or other property (not being land) required for the purposes of the Commission.
Any person who fails to deliver up an aircraft or property in accordance with the terms set out in the notice is liable to a fine of £100 or six months’ imprisonment, or both. This measure was enacted fourteen years ago. Despite the fact that this Government has been in office for over nine years, it has allowed that provision to remain in the statute. A representative of a government business undertaking could go along to a privately-owned company and say, “ That aircraft will be taken over by us as from to-day “. If a responsible officer of the company who owned the aircraft said that it was needed by the company for its own purposes, for its own scheduled services, or for any national emergency, he could be, upon conviction, imprisoned for six months. I should hate to be accused of being a member of a political party, let alone a government, that put into legislative form such communistic-
– That is what the Corns, do. The honorable senator’s exclamation does not surprise me. He knows them only too well and he hates to be reminded that it was a government of which he was a supporter - if he was not here it was lucky for the Parliament - that placed that provision in the 1945 legislation. I am glad that this legislation eliminates that provision, and I am certain that the people of Australia, who love freedom and fair play, are happy in the knowledge that no longer will such a provision besmirch the statute-book of our country.
Part IV. of the original act introduced by a Labour government gave a monopoly to the government airline to operate the only interstate or territorial service in an area if, in the opinion of the airline, one service was adequate to meet requirements. It had a monopoly with no competition: no fair play; no private enterprise or initiative, and no choice of travel for the paying passengers. However, the High Court - great honour to it - decided that the provisions of the act regarding interstate travel were invalid and, with bowed heads, the Labour Government repealed the act. I hope that before we adjourn, even if we remain here until breakfast time, we shall do our share to repeal the section of the act relative to territories. So much for the bill, to which I give my wholehearted support.
Within the ambit of discussion allowed on a measure such as this, I shall now refer to two aspects of civil aviation within Australia. The first deals with rationalization. We have two great airlines operating in this country and, with a little common sense, a little give and take, and by personal contact by the leaders of those companies, great benefit could follow to the travelling public. I understand that the two airlines recently issued new timetables to be effective as from this week, but I assume that the existing services will not be altered to any great extent.
On a previous occasion I have spoken in this chamber about rationalization, and I shall continue to speak about it until we achieve some improvement in the airline services or until I am silenced. I speak as a senator from Tasmania. The position now is that two modern aircraft take off from Llanherne airport between 7.30 a.m. and 8 a.m., fly to Launceston and then on to Melbourne and places east and west. Between 10.30 a.m. and 11 a.m. two more nights leave Hobart, and about 4.30 p.m. a further two flights depart. So, three times a day, two giant modern aircraft leave Hobart, affording Tasmanian passengers, and visitors to Tasmania returning to the larger island, a choice of three different departure times and two airlines by which to travel. Tasmania would benefit greatly if, through understanding and agreement, one early morning flight travelled to Melbourne via the north-west coast. Any airline operating that fight would do a great service to Tasmania by linking, as an intrastate service, the prosperous and growing north-west coastal districts. The other operator then, if fair play and reason prevailed, could divert the evening service from Melbourne to the north-west coast and then on to the capital.
Unfortunately, I was called from the chamber during that portion of Senator Kennelly’s speech dealing with intra-state services in Tasmania, but from my understanding of the portion of his speech that I heard, he said that Tasmania does not have intra-state services. In fact, we do have intra-state services but at the moment only Hobart and Launceston, and Launceston and certain towns on the north-west coast, are linked. I understand that AnsettA.N.A. is obtaining the bulk of the traffic because the services of that organization are advertised daily in the press. T.A.A. does not advertise its intra-state services because, I understand, the former Premier of Tasmania - and I presume his successor now in office, Mr. Reece - said to T.A.A., “Do not advertise those intra-state services because you will be running in opposition to our Green Line coaches and our oldfashioned trains. If you defy us and advertise your services, we may decide to apply an intra-state passenger tax “. T.A.A. has fallen into the trap. But Tasmania, like the National Parliament, has an independent, wise and powerful upper chamber. The Tasmanian Legislative Council would not allow such nonsense as a passenger tax on intra-state air travel. I hope that the Minister will use his undoubted influence and ingenuity - I think they will be needed - to get the directors of the two airline companies together and ask them to help to modernize Tasmanian transport still further and to rationalize the services in order to provide a link between the three main areas of the State.
Rationalization should be introduced into the services to Canberra. On each occasion that I arrive at Canberra I am virtually attacked by three other aircraft arriving at about the same time. We often have the aircraft of the two operators arriving at the airport together, one from Sydney and the other from Melbourne, Corowa or Cooma. When more than one aircraft arrives at the same time, our very dingy and inappropriate airline terminal building is crowded. Indeed, if the crews of the aircraft were in the building, even standing room would not be available, but when the passengers from two or more aircraft are milling around in the building, conditions are disgraceful. Because services to Canberra are not rationalized, difficulty is often experienced in obtaining connexions from other States. I have seen workmen scratching around at the Fairbairn Airport terminal. I hope that activity means that the building will be improved.
– Rebuilding is going on now.
– That is good news. I congratulate the Government, the Minister and his department. The existing terminal building is pitiful to see. While on this subject, I ask the Minister to keep in mind that Launceston also needs a building more in keeping with its status. Hobart has been blessed with improved facilities; why not Launceston? After all, although it is not the capital, Launceston is the northern gateway to Tasmania and deserves a better deal in airport buildings.
I reiterate my great pleasure that the socialistic provisions of the existing act are being repealed, and I congratulate the Government on its attitude to all aspects of civil aviation in Australia to-day.
.- The debate on this measure appears to have developed into a general debate upon the merits of the present system under which there are two major airlines operating in this country. I support the principle that there should be more than one airline. While monopolies in some instances are unavoidable, I think that in this instance a monopoly is avoidable. 1 am opposed to State monopoly and to private monopoly. 1 believe that the service you get as a result of there being competition between airlines is worth looking at when you compare it with the kind of service you get when travelling to this capital city on the railways, with which there is no competition.
As I have said, I do not believe in State monopoly, and I am opposed entirely to private monopoly. Therefore, I have supported the Government’s moves to prevent the operation of a State monopoly in air traffic. While I feel that the Government is adequately carrying out its duty to prevent State monopoly in air traffic, I. feel that it could do a little bit more to discourage a trend towards private monopoly in the sense that the large private airline has shown a tendency in the last twelve months or so to take action which, in effect, forces out of business small airlines which have pioneered certain routes. T would appreciate some words from the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) on the powers of the Government to discourage what might almost be termed attacks upon the small men who have pioneered air routes, and as to what is the policy of the Government in regard to this particular matter. After all, if the Government is going to defend Ansett-A.N.A. against unfair competition from Trans-Australia Airlines, surely there is also an obligation, in principle, to try at least to defend the smaller airlines against unfair competition from the Ansett organization.
I know there are some people who say that airways to-day are such big business that probably they can be carried on only by big organizations. I have heard some people say that they do not believe that even the Ansett organization will be big enough to continue in the years to come. That may or may not be so, but I favour giving that organization the opportunity. I do say, however, that there has been a nasty taste in my mouth at times when I have read the statements of some small operators who have been forced out of business. I have thought to myself that those people have been the victims, in a sense, of an organization which we have assisted against what it claimed would have been unfair competition.
There have been some very notable pioneers of airways in Australia. I suppose Mr. Connellan, in the heart of Australia, is a noteworthy example. I think he has been a great Australian. He has set up a wonderful organization, and I, for one, hope that however big the two major airlines may develop, the Government will always see that there is a place in the scheme of things for the magnificent organization he set up to do remarkable pioneering work in the days when the going was tough.
The only other matter to which I wish to refer is that brought forward by Senator Kennelly. I agree entirely with him when he says that the suggestion in regard to recruiting is a very dangerous one. Section 4 of the principal act provides that appointments to positions which are open only to persons who pass the prescribed entrance examination shall be made in order of merit of their passing that examination. I realize that sometimes order of merit in an examination does not entirely provide you with the most suitable candidates, but I do say that it is preferable to the other system where you may get candidates chosen not on their merits in an examination but on the fact that they know somebody in a position of power.
To support my argument, I take the report of the Public Service committee on recruitment. That body says that it remains necessary that the act should continue to incorporate the basic principles of appointment by merit. That is the opinion of an expert committee appointed by this Government and led by Sir Richard Boyer. That expert committee says, after careful examination of the position, that in recruitment for the Commonwealth service - after all, there are organizations in the Commonwealth service parallel to the national airways organizations also running transport services - it is necessary that the act should continue to incorporate the basic principles of appointment by merit, but in this case the Government proposes to destroy appointment by merit.
What are the reasons given for the proposed change? The Minister says experience shows that applicants for junior positions who have obtained Intermediate or Leaving Certificates are disinclined to submit to further examination. That, of course, applies to a period when there are more jobs for young people than there are young people to fill them. But let us consider the position which can arise at any time when there will not be enough jobs - I can recollect many occasions in the history of this country when that has been the case - for young people leaving school. If any one will say to me that the jobs will just be parcelled out and everybody will get a fair deal, I will say that that might happen; but, knowing the weaknesses of human nature, I am prepared to say that people will get appointment on the basis of whom they know.
Appointment by merit is not a perfect system, lt was brought in for one reason - to destroy political patronage which, in some countries, reaches the stage when government appointments go only to supporters of the government parties. We in Australia have chosen a different system. We have said that all young Australian boys and girls shall be put on the same basis, and that if they show they are good enough they will get the jobs for which they apply. Under the system proposed in the bill, those who pass the Intermediate and Leaving Certificate examinations in a period of depression when there are perhaps not enough jobs as attractive as perhaps there will be for the young people leaving school, appointment will merely be by decision of the commission exercised through certain officers. I do not reflect in any way on the officers of the airlines commission, but, as one who has been in the Public Service, I say that people have friends, and people like certain people more than others. I have seen it happen in the past, and that is why the Public Service has always fought for appointment by merit and promotion by merit and a system of appeals.
All these things have been brought in because it has been known that there has been political patronage, and patronage of other sorts. I should say that there must be very grave reasons for suggesting that this system should be altered and that we should introduce a system under which certain officers will merely pick out people, thus doing away with the system of promotion by merit which we have always claimed in the past has prevented appointment by the old school tie and has prevented appointment by patronage.
The Minister must realize that we introduced appointment by merit to deal with these things which happened in the past, and I ask him what safeguards there will be to ensure that under the proposed system there will not be appointment by patronage in times when jobs are not as plentiful as they are now. I believe that there must be some safeguard to replace that which is being removed, but I see no evidence of it in the bill, which simply indicates that the commission will henceforth have control over its staff. I have known many administrators in the Public Service who, upon reaching the top, suddenly changed their minds about the system that had enabled them to get to the top and conceived the notion that the administrative head should have complete control of his staff, with the right to decide who should be promoted, who should be appointed and so on. I can understand administrators wanting such power, but is it desirable that they should have it? After all, one must be diligent in providing safeguards against injustice and political patronage. Whatever one may say about the proposal in the bill, it destroys the existing safeguard, opens the door to patronage - political and otherwise - and puts nothing in its place. If it is to happen in one organization, why not in others? Is this merely the thin edge of the wedge? Is this the heralder system, under which appointments are made at the whim of those in command?
I speak strongly on this matter because I can recollect a period in the early ‘thirties when relations between the Commonwealth Bank and the Labour Government of the day were very bad indeed. A certain fully qualified young man was denied appointment to the bank merely because his father was prominent in the Australian Labour party at the time. Clear-cut instances came under my notice of young people being refused appoinment simply because relations between the Commonwealth Bank and the Labour government were strained. No reasons were given. I do not want to see anything like that occur again. I do not wish to reflect upon the character or fair play of the people who conduct the Commonwealth Bank or the Australian National Airlines Commission at the present time, but we must not put them in the invidious position of having to pick and choose. We should either retain the present system of appointment by merit or provide a safeguard - if any such safeguard is possible - which ensures fair play. I regard this as a very dangerous proposal that is not in the best interests of all concerned. In certain instances it could lead to grave discontent among members of the commission’s staff. In short, 1 feel that the proposal should1 be looked at again.
I close by repeating that I feel gravely Concerned about the Government’s action and by pointing once again, because 1 regard it as important, to the observation of the committee examining recruitment to the Public Service that it is necessary that the act should continue to incorporate the basic principle of appointment by merit. I think that that is a very wise statement and that it is serious if we destroy a safeguard and put in its place nothing except appointment at the whim of the responsible officers.
.- I welcome this bill. It is an airlines bill, but I welcome it for a reason that has nothing whatever to do with airlines. It. is that clause 17 repeals Part III., Part IV., and consequently, Part V. of the Australian National Airlines Act 1947 which was one of the most blatant attempts to set up a government monopoly that this country has witnessed. I propose to say a little more about that later, and will first advert to one or two things that were said by Senator Kennelly and Senator Benn.
Some of their remarks were harsh. However, their innate charity and kindly disposition, their overweening desire to think well of all, prompts me to believe that they were not quite serious in putting these views forward. Let us look, first, at the suggestion of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the Government has been clipping the wings of Trans-Australia Airlines. The truth of the matter is that T.A.A. is stronger now than it ever was. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition should confer with Ansett-A.N.A. He would find not only that T.A.A.’s wings are undipped but that it is a soaring eagle by comparison with what it was when Labour was in office. It is strange that these silly prejudices should be aired in this chamber as late as the year 1959.
The same kind of thing has been said about the Commonwealth Bank for years. I recall that it was said when we came to office in 1949. It was alleged that the 1952 and 1955 banking legislation were aimed at destroying the Commonwealth Bank and getting at the people’s savings. In truth and in fact the Commonwealth Bank has kicked on to higher and better profits. Every gloomy prediction about that institution has been disproved. I venture to predict that the equally gloomy prophecies of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in regard to T.A.A. will turn out to be just as incorrect.
In like vein, Senator Benn referred to the whittling away of the power and effectiveness of T.A.A. One can only judge legislation by its fruits and, as every one knows, T.A.A. is going on from success to success. This country is indeed fortunate in having the best of both worlds. It possesses two first-class and efficient airlines, and is in that happy position because the Government has seen fit to make a success of what Labour initiated and, true to its principles, has removed unfair restrictions from the private enterprise competitor of T.A.A. The Government saw that he was given a fair go in relation to freight and mail and, ultimately, passengers also. I can remember the time when even members of the Federal Parliament were not allowed to fly by the private airline. Now all that sort of nonsense is to be a thing of the past. In practice, it has been a thing of the past for some time, but we are going to remove the idea from those sections of the 1945 and 1947 Airline Commission acts which are still valid.
Honorable senators opposite have complained and asked who is going to provide the country services and feeder services from now on. I remind them that most of the pioneering of air routes in this country was done by private enterprise, before T.A.A. was ever thought of. The magnificent meteorological and radio navigational services provided in this country by the Department of Civil Aviation are provided out of public funds. Nobody will deny that those services are second to none in the world. The new radar and electronic controls installed in Sydney and Melbourne are first-class. J remind honorable senators that the Government has no money of its own at all. It gets its money from taxes. In this country, such money comes predominantly from private enterprise organizations. I can remember one cynical socialist in Britain saying a few years ago, “ We have to keep a fair share of private enterprise running in order to make up for the losses on our nationalized enterprises.” In the same vein, Mr. Herbert Morrison came round to the proposition that the Labour Government in Britain would have to run even nationalized enterprises at a profit. That was a revolutionary idea for him. He said, “ Whatever made us think that we could take the private experts out of industry, replace them with untrained public servants and make a success of it?” Let us forget all that silly nonsense and look to the future here in Australia, where we have the benefit of both worlds.
I come back to a remark made by Senator Benn about T.A.A. making losses when it was cutting its teeth. I think that is partly true. The airline was set up shortly after the war in a time of some difficulty. Naturally, for a year or two, it could have expected to make losses. However, I will tell him why those losses were a little heavier than they might have been. It was because the Australian public resented the Labour Government’s treatment of Australian National Airways. I remember speaking to a Labour member of the Federal Parliament about this matter in about 1948. I said to him, “Why do you think that T.A.A. cannot make a go of it? It has been running for a couple of years “. The Labour man said to me, “ I think the public resents the Government’s attempt to set up a monopoly in airlines, and thinks that it has not given A.N.A. a fair go.” He went on to say, “ Some of them are very fierce when they speak to me about it in my electorate “. As to the remark that Liberals are frightened to fly by T.A.A., that, of course is the height of absurdity. I would be extremely interested to know what gentleman is supposed to be compiling my dossier and telling my State executive when I travel by T.A.A. and when I travel with A.N.A. The suggestion, of course, is the height of absurdity. No reason exists for any honorable senator to be suspicious of the information which the bill requires T.A.A. to render to the Minister. The returns which are sought are given to the Minister and then laid on the table of this Parliament. I cannot see any sign of “ hole in the corner “ procedure or improper methods designed to embarrass the commission in that.
Adverting to the actual machinery provisions of the proposed legislation, clauses 1 to 8 simply re-organize the business administration, which has been substantially unchanged since 1945. As the Minister has pointed out, the commission has five members and requires three to make a quorum. In cases of illness and other factors outside the control of the commissioners, a very heavy and onerous duty can fall on these commissioners who are fit, well and able to get about. The addition of an extra commissioner will facilitate the work of the commission and. in a sense, streamline its administration.
Clause 9 refers to the method of recruitment of new members to the service. For myself, I am prepared to agree in part with what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) said, but I cannot go all the way with him. I think he went to lengths which were rather too great, but 1 think that an open entrance examination would prevent criticism from the mouths of uncharitable persons who would be only too willing to say that so-and-so got a job because he knew the Minister’s uncle, or make some other absurd allegation. In the interests of the commission and of the people concerned, I think that an entrance examination would be preferable. I do not feel strongly enough about it, as do the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Senator McManus, to make an issue of it, but I put that point to the Minister. Perhaps in the committee stage he will find some way of safeguarding the commission from charges of simony, nepotism, patronage, or whatever the word is. Senator McCallum might like to give us the correct word.
Clause 12 repeals the provision which made the commission a common carrier. That has been made necessary because of the legislation which we have been debating here for the last two or three days at great length, which imposes certain specific liabilities and obligations upon airline carriers. That, of course, is strongly related to the present bill under discussion.
I was surprised when the Labour administration, having inserted sections 33 and 36 in the old act - in legislation specifically designed, twelve years ago, to set up an airline monopoly - for some reason best known to itself did not insist on a banking monopoly at the same time. It allowed the commission to bank with the Commonwealth Bank or such other bank or banks as the commission might choose. Naturally this Government is not going to change a provision of that nature. Clause 14 prescribes the method of keeping the accounts and bringing the commission into line with modern business practice.
I come now to what I regard ,as the most interesting provision of this legislation, namely, the repeal of Part III. and Part IV., and the consequential repeal of Part V. of the 1945 and 1947 acts. Senator Marriott referred to some of the provisions whereby the Labour Government set out to establish its monopoly. I wish to direct the attention of the Senate to Commonwealth legislation which that Government deliberately flouted. I have always felt that something which was morally improper if done by a person was doubly so if it was done by a government. In 1906, the Parliament passed the Australian Industries Preservation Act. Section 7 (1.). which appears in Part II. - Repression of Monopolies - provides that any person who monopolizes or who attempts to monopolize, or who combines or conspires with any other person to monopolize, any part of the trade or commerce with other countries or among the States, is guilty of an indictable offence. The penalty prescribed is £500 for each day during which the offence continues or one year’s imprisonment, or both. In the case of a corporation, the penalty is £1,000 for each day during which the offence continues. Sub-section (2.) provides -
Every contract made or entered into in contravention of this section shall be absolutely illegal and void.
– Has there ever been a case under that section?
– There have been three prosecutions that I can recall, none of them being particularly successful. I direct the Senate’s attention to those provisions because the penalty prescribed more than 50 years ago was £1,000 a day in the case of a corporation, or £500 a day in the case of an individual.
The Labour Government that was in office from 1945 to 1947 set out blatantly to establish, not a Crown instrumentality, but a creature of statute, which was a corporation designed and intended to smash that act to pieces. The way in which it was to be done was by the compulsory acquisition of aircraft belonging to competitors, by a system of licensing, and the refusal of a licence in any case where the commission’s aircraft were providing an adequate service. The definition of “ adequate service “ was so strengthened that the Minister simply had to proclaim in the “ Gazette “ that an adequate service was being provided by the commission, and the monopoly rights accrued to that organization. That was the method employed by the socialist government of the time as it set out on its monopolistic course.
I was amused on Sunday last, when listening to the radio, to hear Labour propagandists in Victoria launch an attack, with synthetic emotion, on the evils of monopolies. There was the usual claptrap about how Labour was opposed to monopolies and how it would do all it could to protect the down-trodden and oppressed masses against these capitalist types. Apparently that view did not commend itself to the Labour administration that was in office between 1945 and 1947, because if what it did had been done by a private person - I admit that the analogy is not perfect - it would have been an indictable offence, and any conviction recorded would have been sufficient to prevent that person from taking his place in the Parliament.
Now we propose to change all that. Much of that legislation was invalid. Sections 46 and 47 were thrown out by the High Court on the ground that they were in breach of section 92 of the Constitution. So far as territorial services were concerned, the valid portions of the old Labour legislation remained applicable in theory; but now we propose to remove the last vestige of that contemptible legislation.
I note that clauses 19 and 20 provide for a time limit of two years for the bringing of an action instead of the miserable period of six months for which provision was made in the original act. Clause 20 seeks to repeal a provision with which the lawyers in this chamber will be familiar in other connexions - that is, the requirement to give 30 days’ notice of intention to bring an action before the action is in fact issued. Failure to give that notice is, in most instances, fatal to the proceedings. If honorable senators advert for a moment to the existing provision, they will find that almost a five-month limitation is placed on the bringing of an action. For example, if you are injured or in hospital and you are unable to do anything about the matter for five months, you have one month within which to issue the writ. But before you can do that, you must give one month’s notice. That means you would be out of time, and there is no administrative or procedural machinery whereby that time can be extended. Therefore, I am very glad to see that the time is to be extended to two years, which is a far more just and reasonable provision, and that the annoying requirement to give one month’s notice is to be repealed. It is highly improbable that the commission would be taken by surprise. Therefore, the necessity for notice disappears.
I hesitate, Mr. Deputy President, to make any real reference to clause 21, which states the limit of damages that may be recovered. We have had two or three days’ discussion on that point, and the less I say about it the better. I simply say that it is consequential upon the legislation that the Senate disposed of earlier in the day. 1 congratulate the Minister upon having introduced this legislation. I am pleased about the specific matters with which it deals, but I am doubly pleased to see that a piece of socialist legislation which was in blatant defiance of the law of the Commonwealth against monopolies at the time it was passed is now to be wiped from the statutebook.
Senate HANNAFORD (South Australia) [10.18]. - It is not my desire to traverse this measure from beginning to end. 1 think it has been covered very adequately by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. I simply want to refer to one or two important principles that are involved. I have not gone to the extent of examining the parliamentary records, but I remember quite clearly the debates which took place in the
Parliament on the rather radical legislation that was introduced in 1945 by the Chifley Government. I recall quite clearly a speech that was made by Mr. Curtin. In the first place, Sir, 1 think that it can be conceded, even by the Australian Labour party, that the Labour Government had no mandate from the people to introduce the Australian National Airlines Bill in 1945. It came as a bombshell to the people of Australia that the Labour Government proposed to set up a monopoly with the object of nationalizing the airways of Australia. The speech that Mr. Curtin made in Perth in August, 1943, was mentioned by Senator Scott earlier to-night. In that speech. Mr. Curtin said -
They talk about socialisation. I have this to say: The Commonwealth Parliament has no power to socialise any industry. I say further that my government has not socialised any industry. 1 say further that my government will not try during the war to socialise any industry.
He went on to say that all necessary powers, for the prosecution of the war at any rate, were vested in the Commonwealth Government of the time under the National Security Regulations. I emphasize, too, that the Chifley Government had no mandate from the people to introduce such radical legislation. I do not know whether broadcasting was in vogue at that time, or whether I gleaned my information from the newspapers, but I remember very clearly that the Government of the day made no pretence about the nationalization of airways. It blatantly took the bit between its teeth and decided to nationalize them. That was the purpose of the act that it put into force in 1 945. The Labour Government of that time recognized that it had certain constitutional disabilities in respect of the intra-state services. 1 ask for leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move -
That Standing Order 68 be suspended for this sitting to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
In explanation of the motion, I say that the new business to be introduced is the Export Payments Corporation Bill, the passage of which is necessary to-day. We also propose to take the four banking bills that we have to the first-reading stage in order to have them on the business paper.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sit Alister McMullin). - There being present an absolute majority of the whole number of senators, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
– I had said, Mr. Deputy President, that the Labour government conceded that it had no power to nationalize intra-state airways, but it was pretty confident about its power in respect of interstate airways, and that consequently it went ahead with legislation on that basis.
Looking back over the years, Sir, I remember a certain important referendum proposal. So far as I can recall, it involved some fourteen points. I remember thinking at the time that the government of the day was responsible for one of the greatest confidence tricks ever perpetrated by a government in trying to get the people of Australia to approve a blanket proposal covering those fourteen points. If I remember correctly, power over civil aviation was one of the matters involved in that referendum proposal. The proposal was rejected outright by the people of Australia, because it was an insult to their intelligence to submit to them, in one proposition, fourteen points relating to widely differing matters. When the proposals were rejected, the request for power over civil aviation also was rejected. The government of the day therefore knew pretty well that it did not have power over intra-state airways, but it was still confident that, under section 92 of the Constitution, it had power over interstate airways. Consequently, it proceeded with legislation which could have been very far reaching in its effects.
As we know, Sir, that legislation was passed, and it was only by a subsequent decision of the High Court that sections 46 and 47 of the act were declared invalid because they purported to establish a monopoly of interstate services and therefore contravened section 92 of the Constitution. That was the first spoke in the wheel so far as nationalization of the Australian airways was concerned. That legislation has remained on the statute-book down through the years, as we all know, but there has never been any attempt to put into operation some of its drastic provisions. The legislation gave power of acquisition to the Australian National Airlines Commission. Under the act, the commission was empowered to acquire the assets of any airline operating in Australia, but in view of the shortcomings in regard to section 46 and 47, those drastic provisions were never implemented. It was a good thing for the Australian people that they had the protection of the High Court in that instance.
I wish to compliment the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) on the legislation that we have already passed today. In some respects, it involved tedious debate, but the bill was extremely well handled by the Minister. It was a great compliment to his ability that he was able to handle it in such splendid fashion. The same comment can be made in regard to the legislation that the Senate now has before it. I do not want to take up the time of the Senate unnecessarily, but the bill covers quite a lot of ground. I agree almost entirely with its provisions. I am not altogether in agreement with Senator McManus in regard to the qualifications for entry into the service of the airlines commission. I think that the educational standards that are mentioned in the bill are sufficient, and I believe that it is at the desire of the commission itself that the act is being modified to include certain examination standards and thereby make it possible to recruit a sufficient number of competent people.
Since this Government has been in office we have pursued the idea of improving our air services to such good effect that those services are second to none in the world to-day. I believe that we have the finest system of air services in the world. I am fortified in that belief by the opinions that have been expressed by people who have travelled overseas. I have not had that experience. They have stated unhesitatingly that our system of air services in addition to being the finest in the world, is among the cheapest.
– 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.
– When I was interrupted for the second time, Sir, I was saying that competent judges have expressed the opinion that we have the finest air services in the world. As Senator Kennelly said, this Government has brought down successive legislative measures dealing wilh civil aviation. They have had only one objective, not to destroy T.A.A.. as the Opposition asserts, but to strengthen our internal airlines and enable them to engage in competition, thus increasing their efficiency. It has been the aim of this Government to see that Australia’* airlines play their part in the development of this great country. The legislation that this Government has introduced from time to time has been designed to ensure that our airlines are developed and maintained according to modern standards. Realizing that the transport system as a whole plays an important part in our national life, the Government has made available money for the improvement of meteorological services and airports, as well as ancillary services necessary to the maintenance of efficiency by the airlines. Without a doubt, the Government can be proud of its record in developing the air services of Australia.
We have every reason to be proud of the Department of Civil Aviation, which is constantly on the lookout for means of improving the facilities at all airports, both large and small. Let us consider what has been achieved in this field over the years. When dealing with civil aviation, we talk about the two big airlines, but make only infrequent references to other airlines. As honorable senators know, there are intrastate air services as well as the interstate services.
We should not forget the difficulties that confronted the pioneers of civil aviation. who operated interstate as well as intrastate services. They did a wonderful job indeed. I recall that a service was operated from Adelaide to Western Australia by Western Australian Airways - I think that was the title of the concern - which operated the old type de Haviland three-engine Hercules planes. As far as I know, it was not involved in a single accident during the time it operated over that route. With its cumbersome looking aircraft, which always got through, that concern provided a magnificent service.
When I visited New Guinea about three or four years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Captain Heath, the first man with whom I flew. I understand that he is now employed by a government department which has dealings with air services. He is living at Lae. I assure honorable senators that it gave me very great pleasure indeed to meet again this pioneer of an air service that operated so successfully in Australia. The pioneers in this field, the entrepreneurs who developed our airways in the early days, particularly those that operated between the capital cities on the east coast, did a wonderful job. They had their tragedies and their difficulties, but in the long run they triumphed. They were all private enterprise concerns.
In the course of time, amalgamations took place. By this means, the airline operators attained greater financial power, which enabled them to buy modern aircraft. Some of the smaller airlines amalgamated to form Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which did a remarkable job in the development of this country. It had nothing to be ashamed of. Not so long ago, A.N.A. was purchased by the Ansett organization. The new concern is known as Ansett-A.N.A.. and is headed by the redoubtable Mr. Reg Ansett, who was himself a pioneer of air services in Australia. As we know, legislation to provide financial assistance to the organization was enacted about eighteen months ago, and Mr. Ansett has kept up his payments to the last degree under the agreement.
– And he is well ahead.
– Yes . He is an excellent businessman, and he has kept tohis word. His organization has competed: successfully against T.A.A. and. as 1 have said, he has kept up his payments to the nth degree. I think that we are fortunate that Mr. Ansett and people like him are handling the air services of this country.
The bill before us cancels out the monopoly provisions of the 1945 legislation, which was enacted by a government that was supposed to be opposed to monopolies. The Labour Government of that day was always talking about the monopoly press. Indeed, that is one of Senator Kennelly’s favourite topic. He refers frequently to press and broadcasting monopolies. It was doubtless the hope of the Labour Government of 1945 that the airline operators who had done so much to develop this country would be forced out of existence or taken over by the government airline that was established by the legislation of that year. Sir, I say that it is a good thing for Australia that the Labour party was thwarted in its desire to do so. To-day, in accordance with this Government’s policy, airlines are actively competing with each, other throughout the length and breadth of Australia.
Reference has been made to the enormous amount of money that has been expended on the establishment of aerodromes and terminal buildings. Why should not money be expended on those facilities as well as on roads? Why should not the Government provide funds to ensure the operation of efficient air services throughout Australia? I say that it is utter rot for honorable senators opposite to assert that we are legislating in favour of Ansett-A.N.A. to the exclusion of T.A.A. At the present time, T.A.A. is a strong and efficient airline, one on which I am not ashamed to travel. I know that its aircraft are good aircraft which are maintained to the highest standard. I know, I00 that it will continue to augment its fleet with modern aircraft. T.A.A. shortly will introduce Fokker-Friendships into its feeder services to the main air routes. AnsettA.N.A. is in a similar position. That company has the same facilities to modernize its air fleet, and it is taking full advantage of the opportunity to do so. It has now commenced running the new Lockheed Electras, and shortly T.A.A. will have the same type of aircraft. Both airlines are being brought up-to-date by the introduction of the most modern aircraft available, whether they be Viscounts, Electras or Fokker-Friendships.
The satisfactory position of our internal air services is largely due to the fact that the Government has always adopted the policy that to have efficient air services we must have competition. I support that policy whole- heartedly. I compliment the Minister on bringing down this legislation, and I accord it my hearty support.
– in reply - The second-reading debate on this legislation has wandered far and wide over the whole field of airline operations, lt can be said with fairness and accuracy that the introduction into this chamber of any legislation affecting airlines evokes from the Opposition the cry that we have been hearing for so many years - “ The Government is selling out Trans-Australia Airlines “. To-night we had that cry repeated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) who said. “This is the eighth piece of legislation that the Government has introduced. Eight times the Government has derogated from the power, position and prestige of T.A.A.”. It is amazing that we should still hear the same plaintive wail year in and year out despite the record of the Government, and the success which is slowly but surely attending our efforts to strengthen the airline industry. To-night, I suspected, especially during the course of Senator Benn’s speech, that the attack or what was formerly the attack, on the Government’s airline policy had degenerated into a “ dummy run “, because I have never listened to such arrant nonsense flowing from any member of this chamber as T have heard from Senator Benn to-night.
I do not know, Mr. President, what more the Government can do to make its policy on civil aviation crystal clear. We have made our policy crystal clear just as the Opposition, throughout the years, has made its policy on civil aviation crystal clear. The Opposition’s stated policy. the policy adhered to and the policy followed from vear to vear, is the socialization of the airline industry and the setting-up of a monopolistic government airline. The Labour party is entitled to adhere to that policy just as we are entitled to adhere to our policy which has been stated equally emphatically - that we shall have two airline systems, one a government airline and tha other a major private enterprise airline. We went to the trouble of writing that thought into the preamble to the Civil Aviation Agreement 1957, Our policy, and the policy of the signatories to the agreement, is that there shall be two airlines. It is there for all the world to see. Not only do we write into our legislation that there shall be two airlines, one of which shall be the Australian National Airlines Commission, but also the record of T.A.A. bespeaks loudly and emphatically the Government’s intention that T.A.A. shall continue to operate.
What is the position to-day? T.A.A. is a better airline than it was three years ago, five years ago, ten years ago! It is better equipped with the most modern aircraft in the world, and this year will bring into commission the new Viscount 800’s, the new Lockheed Electras and the new Fokker.Friendships. Is that the action of a government that intends to rub out an airline? T.A.A.’s financial position, in an industry which has been marginal, has steadily improved. We have taken care to see that the airline has been furnished with sufficient capital to engage legitimately in an industry in which it has a proper place. Just as we have done that for the government airline, and just as we will continue to do that for the government airline, so too. in pursuance of our policy, we have endeavoured, with some success which will continue and increase, to re-introduce a private company into the airline business, a company that will take its place in the industry and give to the government airline that measure of effective opposition as will ensure, not one government airline monopoly or, for that matter, one privately controlled monopoly airline, but an airline system that the people of Australia desire most - two operators engaged in competition that ensures a standard of safety and service second to none in the world.
I do not wish to say much more than that. I merely wished to take the opportunity to re-state shortly the Government’s policy because, despite the Opposition’s “ dummy run “, every one in this chamber knows it and every one in Australia knows it. What is more, Mr. President, to the continual discomfort of the Opposition, every one in Australia approves our airline policy. If honorable senators opposite doubt my statement, they have only to cast their minds back to 22nd November last and, in fact, right down the pathway of the years, and consider the results of election campaigns when airlines have been a hot political potato. We know, and the Opposition knows, that the people of Australia accept our policy on airlines and reject the Opposition policy, just as they reject the Opposition policy on almost every other subject on which we are divided.
I wish to make a brief reference to the speech made by Senator McManus, in which he expressed some fear as to the future of the smaller airlines. I do not know which particular airline he had in mind because he did not mention any. If he had in mind Butler Air Transport Limited and Queensland Airlines Limited, I should like him to understand clearly that when Mr. Ansett bought A.N.A. he, in fact, bought the Butler company and Queensland Airlines Limited, in which A.N.A. had a controlling interest, and, indeed, had had a controlling interest for some years. All that Mr. Ansett did was to purchase, with A.N.A., assets which belonged to A.N.A. They naturally came under his control.
I want to assure Senator McManus that this Government is not unaware of the magnificent service rendered to Australia, and to Australia’s development by Mr. Connellan in the Northern Territory, in Queensland, and in the north-west of Western Australia. This Government has continually supported Mr. Connellan by way of subsidy. Each year on our estimates we make provision for the payment of subsidy to the Connellan airlines. Let me assure Senator McManus that his admiration for this airline is shared by the Government, and that we appreciate the magnitude of the contribution Mr. Conellan has made.
It is pertinent to remark at this point, too, that other airlines which are making valuable contributions to Australia’s development are also receiving subsidies from the Commonwealth Government. At the moment, I am thinking of MacRobertson Miller Airline, which operates in the northwest and Kimberleys in Western Australia.
Any one who has had the opportunity of being in that part of the country will realize the tremendous service rendered to Australia in general and to that part in particular by this airline. It is our continuing policy that those airlines shall continue to be subsidized. We have said from time to time that we will do a number of things to support country feeder services. Those things are being done, and, within the next few months, I hope to be able to announce in the Senate further advances which have been made by the smaller airlines. I have in mind East-West Airlines Limited, which operates in New South Wales, and other lines like it.
I do not think there is anything more that I can usefully add to the secondreading debate. I leave it at that.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Sitting suspended from 11 to 11.34 p.m.
– During the second-reading debate I asked the Minister whether he would supply information on the number of meetings of commissioners in the last year or two, as well as the number of commissioners who attended the meetings. That might save me the trouble of getting it later from other sources.
– I very much regret that I am unable to give that information to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition at this stage. He will recall that it was rather late when he sought the information. I directed that an immediate inquiry should be made but it was already too late in the day. I assure him that though I cannot make the information available for use in this debate, I shall certainly pass it to him as soon as possible.
– The first clause concerning which I should like to appeal to the Minister is clause 9. I do not want to traverse all the arguments concerning it that have been submitted by Senator McManus, or the very weak argument by Senator Hannan. In the case of Senator Hannan it was a question of having a bit each way, but of not coming over to our side when the vote was taken. I may say that I think I know why.
A fundamental principle is involved in this proposal. I do not wish to place an impediment in the way of the commission’s efforts to obtain suitable employees but, as Senator McKenna has so ably stated, the proposed change could lead to a lot of unpleasantness and distrust. Whether the commission picks the best applicant or not, there will always be circumstances in which some reason will be found why a certain person who came second did not run first. The practice of appointment on merit applies in the Commonwealth Public Service and in the Commonwealth Bank Service, and the Government has been advised that the practice should be rigidly adhered . to. It seems rather peculiar that it should be departed from now. To be candid, I am afraid of what might happen if such a change is made. It is idle for any one to tell me that some one who knows some one else will not get on to the staff for that very reason, no matter how impartial the commission may wish to be. Situations such as that have a habit of not working out. 1 regret that the Minister is adamant that the bill shall not be altered on this ground. If, as Senator Hannaford has suggested, the provision has been included in response to an appeal by the commission, I greatly regret that also. A case cannot be made out in support of it.
– I merely repeated -what the Minister had said.
– And I am merely quoting what the honorable senator has said, without saying what we were told by the Minister. I cannot see any reason why the commission should be impeded if it carries on as hitherto. The proposal breaks down a tradition and is contrary to the practice in every other service of the Commonwealth. I do not want to labour the question. I do not suppose that my remarks will affect the outcome, but I believe that the Government should not have brought down this proposal, and the Opposition will vote accordingly.
– This provision has been specifically sought by the commission which, over a long period, has made representations to me on the subject. I have made personal inquiries to verify the fact that the commission has been greatly embarrassed by inability to recruit staff. That is attributed to the existence of the requirement at present in the act that a competitive examination shall be held. In the ordinary course of events I would agree that a competitive examination offers great advantages, but the commissioners found that people who had taken their junior and leaving examinations were disinclined to sit for any further exams at all. The commission is faced, not with the choice of appointing A before B, but of getting either A or B to join the service..
Another practical difficulty which I am sure will be appreciated by every honorable senator is that the commission is now an Australia-wide organization. If a competitive examination is held between young lads from, say, Perth or Brisbane, the successful appointee may be required to go - if I may repeat the words of another honorable senator - to Mount Isa. I had some misgiving about breaking away from a practice for which I had some personal regard, but the commission has assured me that the disability under which it suffers can be remedied if the present requirement is removed. The proposal is neither new nor novel. The provision is, in fact, in the terms of the Public Service Act, which was amended in 1954.
Reference has been made to a provision in the banking legislation but that act, as amended in 1954, says that the bank may appoint persons who have not passed a prescribed entrance examination to such positions or to positions of such classes as are prescribed. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will find, if he looks at the record, that during the debate on that occasion the proposal received the warm support of his colleague, Mr. Calwell.
– That does not automatically say that it is right.
– I agree, but it demonstrates that his colleague accepts the situation in certain circumstances. Similarly, the commission has sought the modification of the act to meet its own particular problems, which at present embarrass it greatly.
– I do not want to make this a Kathleen Mavourneen, but I do think that the remarks of the Minister demand an answer. First of all he asked: How can you comply with the act if you want to fill the position of junior administrator at Mount Isa and the candidate selected will not go there? I admit that you cannot compel a person to go from, say, Perth to Mount Isa. That being so, the only thing to do is to appoint a person temporarily until you can find a candidate who will go there.
It is a fallacy to say that you must have a separate examination. That system is not in vogue in Victoria now. If a lad wants to enter the public service in Victoria, before he sits for his intermediate certificate examination and/ or his leaving certificate examination, he fills in a form which he obtains from the Public Service Board in Victoria, stating that he is a candidate for the Public Service. Then his examination papers are examined in order to put him in the appropriate position in the order of merit. There may be 1,000 lads going to Wilson Hall, the place where such examinations used to be held at any rate, and 400 or 500 may have notified their desire to enter the Public Service. Two examinations are not held, only one is held. lt is true that a boy may not be prepared to go to the place to which he is appointed. His parents may not allow him to be sent all over the place, but I regret that the Minister has taken an extreme case. What he said about the Banking Act was true, but J was waiting for him to use the words “ in certain circumstances “. Seemingly, Mr. Chairman, this is a clear case of numbers against logic, so I will not keep on going.
– I should like to ouch upon two matters. The Minister was frank enough to admit that he has misgivings about this change which is to be made at the instance of the commission. One of the arguments addressed to him by the commission is that it is not practicable to appoint a boy who has qualified highly in the examination to an office in Perth or Mount lsa if he happens to live in Brisbane. I agree with the Minister that it would be completely unreasonable to ask such a boy to accept such an appointment, but the obvious remedy would be to amend the clause so as to provide that an applicant will not lose his right of priority if he declines an appointment to a place remote from his place of residence. Even though a boy refuses such an appointment, he can still stay in the queue. A very simple amendment like that would overcome the difficulty. I ask the Minister whether thought was given to that aspect, because it seems to me that a minor drafting amendment could overcome that difficulty.
The second question I address to the Minister is this: Did he or the commission pay any regard to the facts that, although young people to-day are in short supply owing to the war years of 1939-45, after the war the population growth of young people was enormous, for very obvious reasons, and within the next two or three years there will be no dearth of young people leaving school. I suggest to the Minister that whatever difficulty there may be at the moment w’U be overcome within the next two or three years and that it is unwise at this stage to change a system that completely negatives nepotism and favoritism, and to do so because of ephemeral and passing difficulties, one of which 1 indicate can be cured and the other of which certainly will disappear in the near future.
I can well understand the Minister’s misgivings, and I am delighted that he has them, because one of the worst things that can happen, particularly in governmental employment or semi-governmental employment, is for a system of favoritism to creep in. ‘That is the beginning of corruption, suspicion and all the things that are horrible in public life and public administration. I think the Minister should be zealous to guard against that possibility. I suggest that a shortsighted view has been taken in suggesting this amendment, not realizing that the difficulties are passing ones which will resolve themselves in the years immediately ahead, and without making a practical effort to cure the difficulty that a boy who obtains a high pass in a competitive examination may not like to take the next vacancy on the list. A common-sense arrangement could be made for the convenience of T.A.A., and the young fellow and his family. I should like to know from the Minister whether consideration was given to those two aspects.
– I know that a lot of people are very much in favour of examinations for entry to the Public Service and banks. I have been in business for a number of years and have had experience in choosing and dealing with staff. A business such as T.A.A. has many aspects and a considerable proportion of the staff would be, so to speak, salesmen. You will find that in general people who are good salesmen are not of the academic type. My own view is that if an organization is to be run efficiently, it is better to choose people on the basis of their personality and common sense rather than on examination results. Probably, as the commission says, the examination requirement is a deterrent to people who want to go into the employment of T.A.A. No doubt many people would think of joining the Public Service if they did not have to get over the examination hurdle.
The best way for a person managing a concern to choose an employee is to see that person and interview him. From my own experience, I have found that to be the best way. When you talk to a person you know whether he has a reasonable degree of education. I remember that some years ago a business man asked me, “ How do you pick such good staff? I do not seem to get staff like you.” I said, “ You probably ask them whether they have a Junior or Senior examination pass, or something of that nature.” He replied, “ Yes “. 1 said, “ That is why you do not have a good staff. You go on education only, instead of taking into consideration common sense and personality.” If a person has common sense he will be able to learn the average job. I think that personality and common sense are two basic requirements, and that if T.A.A. wants staff to sell its services to the people and help it to develop along the right lines, it will have to select the type of staff I have mentioned. Some time later I went to the office of the business man I have mentioned and I remarked upon the very bright type of people that he had. He said to me “ I have thrown away the idea I used to have of asking people about their educational standards. I have adopted your policy, and since then I have obtained the right type of person.” I am merely stating a case. Any business man knows that a person may have very good academic qualifications, which are revealed when he writes a letter, but when he is interviewed it is immediately apparent that he could not sell a packet of peanuts. The Minister is to be commended on breaking away from a tradition which 1 believe is a hurdle to getting the best employees in the service.
– I feel that Senator Wood has put up an excellent argument for a man who takes the responsibility of his own choice; he may or may not improve his business standing. But this is an entirely different matter. I do not think that Trans-Australia Airlines could complain about the staff that has been engaged under the system of selection that has operated since the inception of the service. This selected staff has built up a most successful airline, the record of which has been commended throughout the world. Yet we are now told that the system is all wrong and must be broken down!
Selecting applicants for their personality is a difficult matter. One interviewing officer may be impressed with a boy, but another officer may think he is poison. This is a big organization and the system of selection now in use has been evolved over very many years. A boy who has the capacity to do the job should not be excluded from consideration simply because he comes from some strata lower than that of the person who interviews him. Under a system of examinations, the boy with the qualifications is given an opportunity to show that he has ability, and the prejudices of the interviewing officer do not matter. One officer might be impressed with Senator Wright, but might not like my appearance at all. Such personal prejudices should not decide whether a person is to be given an opportunity to earn his living in a big organization. An applicant of normal intelligence with the required educational standard should be given a place on a waiting list. Whether he has the personality and the capacity for the job cannot be assessed in an interview of five minutes. I have seen boys in the Children’s Court whose trouble was that they have too much personality. They have so impressed businessmen who should have more sense that they have been able to deceive them. No one could say after an interview lasting for five minutes, and judging merely by an applicant’s personality that he would do an excellent job.
– Background is important.
– Yes. the background and the old school tie all come into it. But some of our most important people have had backgrounds that would not be well regarded by those who adopt a snobbish attitude. A boy should not be denied the initial right to a job merely because he does not impress some interviewing officer. If he has the capacity and the education, he should be given a chance on the system of rotation to prove himself during a period of probation. Having established that he has the ability, he should not be dismissed except for very good reasons. The present system of employment has enabled T.A.A. to engage a most efficient staff, and experience has proved that it is the best system.
Friday, 20 March 1959
– I rise merely to assure the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that both matters raised by him have been most carefully considered. This is not a decision that has been reached hastily; it has been thoroughly examined. The question of putting a boy on a waiting list has been looked at particularly. The commission has shown me case after case where it has suffered materially through not being able to make an immediate appointment. This is not something that has arisen as a matter of convenience; it is a pressing problem in an Organization that is expanding rapidly. 1 assure the Senate that it has been most closely examined.
– I wish to refer to clause 10, which reads, in part - 10, - (1.) Section nineteen A of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words “ prior to the commencement of this section “ and inserting in their stead the words “ prior to the commencement of section ten of the Australian National Airlines Act 19S9 “.
In the principal act, the section proposed to be amended reads, in part - 19a. - (1.) Where the Parliament of any State has. prior to the commencement of this section, by any Slate Act, referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth the matter of air transport
This validates what has been happening in Queensland over the years, and I want to move an amendment which has for its purpose the extension of the provision to other States which refer powers. Therefore, I move -
Insert at the end of sub-clause (1.) - “ and by inserting after the word ‘ referred ‘ the words ‘or at any time thereafter refers ‘ “.
Section 19a, as proposed to be amended by the Government in clause 10 of the bill and by the Opposition amendment, will read - 19,. - (1.) Where the Parliament of any State has. prior to the commencement of section ten of the Australian National Airlines Act 1959, by any Stale Act, referred or at any time thereafter refers to the Parliament of the Commonwealth . . .”.
If what has taken place in Queensland is to be validated, 1 cannot see why the actions of other States should not be validated also, if they are prepared to refer the powers. You have held back pretty well on the position in Tasmania over the years, but f shall leave that for the moment. Surely if it is right in regard to Queensland it cannot be wrong in regard to New South
Wales or South Australia if either of those: States refers the powers. I will be surprised if the Minister says that it is all right for a northern State to refer its powers, but that it is wrong if a southern State doesso. All we are asking, in proposing the amendment, is that what the Government permits to operate in Queensland be permitted to operate in any other State that refers the powers. After next Saturday, New South Wales will refer the powers, if it is asked to do so. I repeat that what the Government permits to operate in a northern State should be allowed to operatein New South Wales or South Australia.
– The Government opposes the amendment, for the following reason: Under the Constitution, the Parliament of the Commonwealth has power to legislate in respect of matters referred by the parliament of a State. The Commonwealth’s power to legislate does not arise in relation to any particular State until after that State has referred the matter to the Commonwealth. The proposed amendment would be clearly ineffective, because it relates to matters to be referred in the future and1 would not avoid the necessity for future legislation if a State were to refer to the Commonwealth power to enable T.A.A. to operate intra-state.
– If that is the Minister’s answer, I accept it; but what is the position in regard to Tasmania, which has already referred the powers?
– Tasmania has not proclaimed its act.
– Is the Minister certain that the Tasmanian act has not been proclaimed?
– I take the minister’s word, but it is a surprise to me, because when the last bill of this kind was before us T telephoned the Premier of Tasmania and T understood that the act had been proclaimed. I regret that I cannot debate the matter with the Minister. I am always prepared to take a man’s word: but when the Minister says that ; the act has not been proclaimed, it surprises me. If the act is proclaimed, will the Government introduce the necessary legislation?
– That is hypothetical.
– You just keep -out of it! Of course, I say that with the greatest of respect. The Minister said that what is allowed to operate in regard to Queensland cannot operate in regard to New South Wales because the necessary legislation had not been passed. But in Tasmania the necessary act has been passed. If Tasmania proclaims its act, will this Government play its part? I have already told the Minister that New South Wales would pass the necessary legislation if the Commonwealth guaranteed to pass complementary legislation; but knowing what the Commonwealth did in regard to Tasmania, New South Wales was not too keen about passing legislation and wasting time. The Minister has said that the Tasmanian act has not been proclaimed, but I have been assured it will be proclaimed if the Government plays its part.
– Before the Minister rises again, I should like to refer to two matters. Will the honorable senator make a statement in regard to the legislation passed by Tasmania, which purports to refer the powers? If the Tasmanian act has not yet been proclaimed, will the Minister indicate whether the Tasmanian Government is waiting for the necessary legislation to be passed by this Parliament before it proclaims its act? If that is not the situation, will he explain what it is?
I completely reject the reason that has been supplied to the Minister for rejecting the amendment proposed by Senator Kennelly. The amendment proposed by the Minister deals with powers already effectively referred prior to the operation of this measure. That net is cast merely to catch Queensland. The proposal submitted by Senator Kennelly is that, if any other State refers powers, certain things should happen - that is, that the Australian National Airlines Commission should be authorized to operate intra-state but that it could not do so until the Premier of the
State gave consent, and that if the consent be given and later withdrawn the commission would discontinue the service.
All that the Parliament is doing is to lay down a set of conditions to operate if the power is referred. 1 say frankly that it is complete nonsense to assert that that is unconstitutional. At the moment, the Parliament is not attemping to legislate for intra-state operation where no power has been referred but in anticipation of power being referred. Senator Kennelly has assured the Minister that the present Government of New South Wales contemplates doing that. Is not this the best opportunity to open the door to New South Wales? Is the real reason why the Government will not accept this amendment the fact that it makes it very easy for any State other than Queensland effectively to refer the power? I certainly am not prepared to accept the reason that has been supplied to the Minister.
The Tasmanian act has just been placed in my hand; I have not refreshed my mind on it for some time. It is dated 28th October, 1952. Section 1 reads - (1.) This Act may be cited as the Commonwealth Powers (Air Transport) Act 1952. (2.) This Act shall commence on a date to be fixed by proclamation.
The Minister states that it has never been proclaimed. Section 2 provides -
The matter of air transport is referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth for a period commencing on the date on which this Act commences and ending on the date fixed, pursuant to section three, as the date on which this Act shall cease to be in force, but no longer.
The Government has had notice served on it that in 1952 Tasmania passed that act, which has not yet been proclaimed. How stupid the position will be, without the amendment proposed by Senator Kennelly, after Tasmania proclaims that act! This Parliament now has the opportunity to say what shall happen after the Tasmanian act becomes effective. To argue that it would be unconstitutional and improper to provide what should happen in respect of a power referred under the Constitution after the circumstances permitting its exercise had arisen is a proposition that T positively refuse to accept. It is not a valid reason. From the practical viewpoint, I put it to the Minister for Civil Aviation: Suppose this bill goes through and the day after it is operative Tasmania makes its proclamation. What will happen? The thing cannot be effective. Trans-Australia Airlines cannot be allowed to operate intra-state in Tasmania until this Parliament puts through another bill especially for the purpose.
– Give them power by regulation.
– That is not a relevant comment, as I think the honorable senator will acknowledge on consideration.
– Let them modify it.
– This is a case where 1 am proposing a substantive provision, and I would expect Senator Wright’s support for it. Surely, it is a matter of good sense and convenience for this Parliament to say what is clearly within its power to say. If a State refers power, as it may do under our Constitution, which we accept then certain consequences follow. There is no attempt to act on a power that has not been referred. You would be merely notifying the State that if it referred a power, that is what would happen. I put that argument most strongly.
– I can only repeat to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) as strongly as he put his arguments to me, that the view held firmly by the Attorney-General’s Department is that the amendment that has been submitted is unconstitutional.
– Do the officers give any reason?
– As I have suggested to the honorable senator, if this were right, it would be possible for this Parliament to make laws in anticipation of a reference of power on anything that might happen within the next ten years.
– If the power were referred.
– Yes. I suggest that that is a completely unreal situation.
– There is no substantive operative law involved in
Senator Kennelly’s amendment. It only applies if a power is referred. The amendment refers to a situation in which a Statemight refer a power. There is nothing operative until such time as the State does in. fact refer the power. What does flow in actual fact from the writing in of these words?
– It is not hypothetical; it is contingent.
– That is so. If a State refers a power certain things happen. Pursuant to that, nothing happens at ail until after the State does refer the power. How can it be claimed that that is an operative law operating on a State power? lt does not come into play until after the power is referred. Senator Kennelly has incorporated the Government’s amendment and his own in re-writing the clause. His amendment reads - 19a. - (1.) Where the Parliament of any State has, prior to the commencement of section tcn of the Australian National Airlines Act 1959, by any State Act, referred or at any time thereafter refers to the Parliament of the Commonwealth . . . . “
What we are saying at present is that if, at any time after the operation of this particular measure that we are considering, a State Parliament refers the power, the power will be exercised in accordance with the conditions. This is not an exercise of a referred power. It is this Parliament laying down the conditions under which it will exercise the power after the power has been referred. It is providing for a contingency that a power is referred and sets nothing whatever into operation until after the power is referred. Surely, it is a matter of convenience, when we are considering a measure of this kind, to prepare for these eventualities. The Parliament knows that one State has already passed an act which is merely awaiting proclamation, and is in possession of advice from the Government to-night that another State is waiting to refer the power. Surely it is a matter of common sense that we prepare for that eventuality now. I reject the suggestion of the Minister that this position is unreal. We would show good sense in preparing to meet an event that is proximate.
Senator PALTRIDGE (Western Australia - Minister for Civil Aviation)
Part V - Powers of the Parliament, Section 51, Placitum (xxxvii) which states -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws . . . with respect to - (xxxvii.) Matters referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth by the Parliament or Parliaments of any State or States, but so that the law shall extend only to States by whose Parliaments the matter is referred, or which afterwards adopt the law.
I think that should make it clear. It refers to Parliaments that have referred a power and not to Parliaments that might at some time in the future refer a power.
– The interest of this matter is completely attractive only to say this: I wonder if the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) will tell the committee whether there has been any decision on this subject. Secondly, when this Parliament has power to make laws on a matter referred to it, perhaps it is a proper view, or at any rate one for consideration, that a law is not made until the final process, and therefore it would provide that this provision shall come into operation only when proclaimed. This power makes that law only pursuant to the proclamation when the proclamation is made. The other interesting experiment, seeing that we are in the field of clause 41 of the earlier bill, is this: Suppose there was a provision that by regulation you shall apply this act to a State if it refers the power. It is interesting to start these Puckish suggestions at the start of a new day.
Senator McKENNA (Tasmania - Leader of the Opposition [12.23 a.m.]. - The Minister for Civil Aviation has read a placitum of the Constitution and one which we know perfectly well, but following that there is another which confers on this Parliament the power to do anything incidental to the exercise of any other power. I think that follows immediately after in placitum (xxxix). The Minister may be faced at any time by a State with this position: The State is prepared to say that it may refer this air transport activity power to the Commonwealth when it knows the conditions under which the Commonwealth will exercise the power. The State may make the condition that the Commonwealth should legislate so that it will know in advance the conditions of the exercise when it is referred. That is a completely real condition. It is quite obvious that Senator Kennelly is endeavouring to open the door without further legislation to the power referred by the State. The answers - which I do not accept, nor do I accept the reasons for them - are furnished with a view to keeping the door closed as tightly as possible. This is a matter of convenience that I thought would be accepted readily by the Minister, so that the gate would be left open for any State that wanted to refer the power to do so.
– ls the Minister prepared to give an assurance that if the act is proclaimed in Tasmania the Commonwealth will pass complementary legislation? I think he will admit that the Tasmanian act would have been proclaimed very soon after it was passed had this Government also passed an act. It seems to me that if complementary legislation is to be passed by the Commonwealth in respect of one State, equal opportunity for such legislation should be given to other States as the occasion arises. Otherwise, there must be a clear indication that the Government does not want to extend to, say, Tasmania or New South Wales, something that it is prepared to extend to Queensland. I think that we are entitled to know whether the Government is prepared to enact complementary legislation in respect of other States. It should be fair.
– No, I will not give the assurance for which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has asked. The question of intrastate operations will be examined from time to time and a decision made in the light of current circumstances, having regard to the conditions of the whole of the airline industry in Australia.
– Not for many years have I heard such a puerile, one-sided statement from a responsible Minister as that to which we have just listened. Obviously, the Minister does not want to do what I have asked him to do. Why does he not want to do it? He has held up for six or seven years the operation of this legislation in respect of one small State. He must have a reason for doing so. Surely that reason must be to bolster the opposition to his own airline. There cannot be any other reason. With the greatest respect, I do not think that the Government is legislating in the interests of the people of this nation, or legislating and administering without fear or favour.
– Or affection.
– Or affection. Twice, some years ago, I took an oath to do that. I suppose that the oath is the same in both the State and Commonwealth spheres. I think that this is a very serious matter. It is plain that the Minister absolutely refuses to do the right and proper thing.
– Is it the right and proper thing to do?
– It is right and proper to give to a particular State conditions that apply to other States.
– Is it not manners to wait till you are asked?
– The Government was asked by the State which the Minister for Customs and Excise is supposed to represent, six or seven years ago.
– Oh, no.
– Yes, you were. The only reason that the act was not proclaimed in Tasmania was that the Tasmanians were waiting for you people to pass legislation. This is not the first time that you have been asked to do so.
– Is it not that the question was put to the lady about six years ago and she has not yet said “ Yes “?
– I do not know anything about that, nor do I know the kind of people that the Minister mixes with. All I am saying is that I never dreamt that a Minisiter, in the National Parliament, would be so blatant as to say, in effect, “ Oh. no. You will not get the power to do it.” I regret that the Minister has adopted that attitude, Mr. Chairman, but it serves to confirm what I have always thought about this Government.
– You cannot do much about it, though, can you?
– Not at the moment, but we will be able to do something one day.
– You will not be here.
– Just give me a chance, with numbers such as the Government has on its side, and I will not hesitate. I will roll you over so hard that you will not know yourselves. We have to take it all the time now, but the day will comewhen we will give it. Mr. Chairman, if the Government’s attitude to this matter indicates the way in which the country is being governed, all that I can say is that it is a poor lookout for the nation.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Kennelly’s amendment) be inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
After clause 11 insert the following new clause: - “ 11a. Section twenty-two of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words ‘ the Ministeron behalf of ‘.”.
Section 22 of the principal act provides that the commission may enter into an agreement or contract with the Minister on behalf of the Commonwealth for the transport of mails by air. “ The Minister “ for these purposes means the Minister for Civil Aviation. Agreements whose sole subject is the carriage of air mail now fall within the administrative responsibility of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. This amendment omits the reference to the Minister, so that the contracts referred to may be made with the Postmaster-General on behalf of the Commonwealth.
Amendment agreed to.
– I am interested in the repeal of Part IV. of the principal act. I understand that that will remove any prohibition that now exists on airlines other than TransAustralia Airlines operating in the Northern Territory, into Canberra, and into the Territory of Papua. May I have some assurance from the Minister that, on a licence being granted to the private airline operator, that operator will not do what he did prior to his absorbing Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited - that is, take the cream of the traffic - but will .have to play some part in the area which he services. I know that to-day - and I think that the Minister knows too, although I am not saying he does - the private operator operates a SydneyBrisbaneMount Isa service. If the repeal of Part IV. means that once you give him a licence to go into the territories he will then go through Darwin-Mount IsaBrisbane, and thence south, I want to know what is expected of the other airlines in carrying out the other services. What is expected of T.A.A. and any other private airline operating in the outback portion, acting as feeders to Mount Isa and Cloncurry and going on to the coastal towns? Does it mean that once you give a licence for Ansett-A.N.A. to operate in the territories, it is up to Ansett to decide what he will do? You may answer, “ Well, there is rationalization of services, and he will have to take on a certain run “. But what I am concerned about is: Is he going to take the cream of the traffic, as he is doing now? The rationalization committee does not seem able to do much to stop him doing it. He is doing it now, on the plea that he is only carrying on an interstate service, which everyone in the game knows is not correct. If he is getting away with it now,
I want to know what he is going to get away with if this provision is passed and he is issued with a licence.
I also want to know what will happen if the Government gives Ansett a licence to operate into Papua, as it will be able to do when this provision is passed. I know that T.A.A. is not operating there, but how about the people who are operating there? What about the feeder services there? Is Ansett going to carry a share of the feeder services? Or is the Government going to compel him, and can it compel him, to take some of the feeder service responsibility in all the territories? Unless that is done, it will be tremendously unfair to the operators who are now running the feeder services. I believe that this problem may extend to other States if, for instance, Western Australia is lucky enough to strike oil or other minerals up around the Kimberleys. If that happens, we will see him trying to take the cream of that traffic too.
– The question of the issuing of licences for routes in the territories other than Papua comes within the purview of the co-ordinating committee, chaired by the co-ordinator. I say to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) that the purpose of that co-ordinating committee, or one of its purposes, is to eliminate excessive and uneconomic competition. In the light of that, the honorable senator will draw the conclusion that if an airline is operating in an area, a permit will not be granted to a second operator if his operations are likely to be uneconomic, or likely to disturb the economic operation of the first operator, making it uneconomic.
With regard to the other service he mentioned - Sydney-Brisbane-Mt. Isa - that is an interstate service which was operated by A.N.A. prior to the merger with Ansett interests.
– May I say, Mr. Chairman, that the facts are that that service could be an interstate service, but also it could be of such a nature as not to be regarded as an interstate service, if you understand what I mean. I doubt whether it is as interested to-day, in actual fact, as it is claimed to be. That is what people in the airline industry believe; otherwise I would not have known. If that is a sample of the coordinator’s work, I am afraid of what will happen in the future. Let us face hard facts. If, after the passage of this measure, a licence to operate in the Northern Territory is given to Ansett-A.N.A., it is clear to me that the run will be Darwin-Mount Isa and possibly the eastern towns along the coast, or Brisbane. It is of no use for Senator Kendall to laugh at that prediction, because that company is doing so now and getting away with it. I do not mind how much any one gets away with it provided every one gets away with it, and every one gets a fair go; but from the Minister’s exhibition to-night, it seems that the Government is determined not to give every one a fair go.
– What is there to stop an operator doing that?
– The Minister said, in effect, that the Government will not allow another operator on an existing route if the second operator would make the operation of the route uneconomic. I do not mind Rafferty’s rules being adopted so long as they apply to all. My word, if the people of this nation could only fit into this chamber and listen, they would give away this system of government pretty quickly!
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 18th March (vide page 434), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Mr. President, when the measure which is now the principal act was before the Senate in 1956, on behalf of the Opposition I gave it the most cordial welcome and I wished the new establishment every success. It really had the cordial support of the Opposition. It is interesting to note what happened. There was a long delay before the Exports Payments Insurance Corporation went into action. The bill was debated in this chamber in May, 1956, and became operative the following month, but no business was written until fifteen months later. It was in September, 1957, that the first policy was written pursuant to the measure.
In the meantime, there was considerable pressure, by means of questions asked in this chamber, for information as to what was happening. Now we have for the first time some real information. The corporation has made its report. I have seen the one made in respect of the year ended 30th June, 1957, in which very little was done. We now have a report which carries us up to 30th June, 1958. Both reports are models of brevity and condensation. A very good explanation is given in the report of the corporation as to the reasons for some of the delay - not the initial delay, because apparently that was due to failure to find the appropriate head.
I can well appreciate that with specialty work of this nature you do not reach out and find the right man in a few minutes; and it does appear that staffing difficulties were not the great difficulty, because at June, 1958, the staff employed by the corporation numbered merely ten. There was certainly the organizational set-up in Australia, where the Department of Trade was used as an agent in certain of the cities of the Common wealth. It is true that lines of communication had to be built with other international bodies and that in many countries a system of supply of information had to be established. We recognize that. Having regard to the volume of business written, it rather surprised me to see how small the order of the premiums obtained last year was - some £18,000. The equivalent income was realized from interest on investments. The £500,000 that was advanced as working capital has all been invested and not used. Very fortunately, there has been no claim under the insurance upon the funds of the corporation. That body points out that it still has a contingent liability against a good deal of the goods insured and represented by those premiums, and that that contingent liability will become more acute as time goes by.
The bill purports to do two things: - to allow the commission to accept a liability of up to £50,000,000, in lieu of £25,000,000 and, to increase the working capital from £500.000 to £1,000,000. The Opposition does not oppose either of those proposals, and because we do not oppose them, I do not propose to discuss them at any length. 1 am interested in finding that the corporation has made a net profit of some £6,000 - £1,500 in its first period, and the balance in the latter period. The profits have gone into a reserve account, and I invite the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who is an accountant, if he feels disposed to embark on this course so late in the event, to glance at page 10 of the latest report of the corporation, where in the course of a statement that purports to be a statement of income and expenditure for the twelve months ended 30th June, 1958, we find an item “Depreciation of Office Furniture and Equipment “. All I say about that item is that this is the first time I have seen a figure for an item of depreciation in a statement of receipts and expenditure. When all is said and done, that is a profit and loss item. The statement of receipts and expenditure is a cash statement and, of course, no cash is involved at all. I think that the Minister will be intrigued. I direct his attention to the second last item on page 10 in the expenditure list. The figure of profit shown is £654, yet when I turn to the statement of assets on the preceding page the figure, by some inexplicable means, has changed to £645. You have exactly the same item.
– Has there been a transposition of the figures?
– No, it is certainly not a transposition. If the honorable senator cares to add the figures, he will find that that is not so. I merely indicate - the Minister will appreciate the force of the argument - that it is an extraordinary item to put into a statement of receipts and expenditure.
– What does it represent?
– I have said it twice, Senator - depreciation on office furniture and equipment.
– Thank you, I did not know that it was the same item.
– It is the same item exactly. Depreciation of office furni ture and equipment is certainly not an item that I have ever seen previously in a statement of receipts and expenditure. It is an amount that is written off the assets and debited eventually to profit and loss. It has nothing whatever to do with receipts and expenditure.
– It is not a receipts and expenditure statement.
– It is an income and expenditure statement. Does one regard depreciation of office furniture and equipment as expenditure in the ordinary sense?
– It is not a cash statement.
– It purports to be that. Amongst income, one item that is not cash appears. What is that other than a receipts and expenditure statement?
– I should have thought that the first item might not necessarily be a cash item. I would not expect it to be a cash item.
– Well, I would. I repeat that it strikes me as unusual to present it in that form. It does call for an explanation to the committee. It is not a major point. I merely direct attention to it.
– I give up, on that.
– Frankly, I did, too. There may be some explanation for it because, after all, the statement is duly certified and audited. But it rather sticks out like a dog’s tail to anybody who is interested and used to looking at figures and tracing items from one account to the other. However, 1 shall not trouble the Minister any further with it. I leave him with the teasing problem and I am sure his mind will be intrigued to follow it up. When he finds the answer, will he tell it to me, even privately? We are supportingthe measure and I see no virtue, at this hour, in pursuing the subject further.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 7th April, at 3 p.m., unless sooner called together by the President by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I will not detain the Senate more than three minutes. I wish to speak on the subject of the National Library. As chairman of the Library Committee I have heard that the National Capital Development Commission, within the next week, will decide its building programme for the next five years. The Library Committee is one which very few people know anything about; yet it is the most important of the standing committees of this Parliament because it deals, not with things for the next six or twelve years or only for this Parliament or the next, but with things which will be used over the next century. We are gradually accumulating a priceless collection of books, archives and films. We have no home for these things, yet we expect people to give us their collections!
On the 25th FebruaryI asked the Ministerrepresenting the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) a question in connexion with a report on the National Library which was made by Dr. Metcalf when he was in Canberra for six months. We had long discussions with Dr. Metcalf. I talked to him personally and I have some idea of what will be in his report. In my question I asked what would happen to the report and who would get it. So far, the Prime Minister has not done me the courtesy of replying although I have since asked what happened to my question.
I do not think any of the Ministers in the Senate have been on the Library Committee. They are all busy in their own departments but I hope that, in speaking to-night, I can induce them to read Dr. Metcalf’s report when it comes through and use that information in Cabinet to get a definite decision in favour of an official home for all those wonderful things that we are keeping and the 30,000 books a year that are coming in. I refer to things such as the Nan Kivell collection. We cannot expect people to give us valuable things if we have nowhere to put them. I ask the Minister to try to take steps in Cabinet to ensure that we get a permanent home - a national library that Australians can be proud of in the centuries to come and which will hold the things that we are collecting and have been collecting for the past 50 years. I wish to make this clear because I do not know what will happen in the fortnight before the Senate resumes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 1.5 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 March 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1959/19590319_senate_23_s14/>.