15 September 1959

23rd Parliament · 1st Session

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.

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Assent reported.

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Senator BENN:

– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether action taken by the Department of Health caused the manufacturers of a patent medicine known as Clement’s Tonic to cease supplying it to grocers and hardware merchants in Queensland who have sold it indiscriminately for many years. Will the Minister cause this patent medicine to be examined at the Commonwealth laboratories to ascertain its ingredients and whether it contains any curative qualities’ Will the Minister advise me whether the cost of similar or superior medicine prepared by a dispensing chemist equals that of the alleged tonic? Have any medical practitioners been known to prescribe the tonic for their patients?

Senator HENTY:
Minister for Customs and Excise · TASMANIA · LP

– As to the first part of the question, I should be very surprised indeed if it was action taken by the Commonwealth Department of Health that caused supplies of this patent medicine to be withheld from grocers and hardware merchants in Queensland. If supplies have been withheld from them, the position is more likely to be the result of action taken by the State Department of Health. I am not aware that any such action was taken. However, if the honorable senator will put his question on the notice-paper, I shall ask the Minister for Health to answer it in full.

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Senator WARDLAW:

– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade been directed to a statement made by the United Kingdom Minister for Agriculture, Mr. John Hare, who is at present visiting Australia? The statement is featured in to-day’s press, and is to the effect that, despite initial market difficulties, Australia should seek to place chilled rather than frozen beef on the United Kingdom market. Mr. Hare emphasized the importance of concentration on chilled in preference to frozen beef and suggested that this was a market that beefproducers in Australia should capture and hold. I ask the Minister: Is Australia doing its utmost to overcome the admitted shipping and storage difficulties in order to cater on an assured basis for this lucrative and important market? Are scientists and research officers co-operating fully with the department to solve these difficulties? Is it expected that a statement setting out the position can be made to the Senate?

Senator SPOONER:
Minister for National Development · NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– I did see the statement, and I thought, in view of its source, that it was an interesting one. I ask the honorable senator to put his question on the notice-paper because it is important, and I should like it to be answered adequately and properly.

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Senator WADE:

– Has the attention of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral been directed to a report in the Melbourne “ Sun-News Pictorial “ which states that a recent ruling of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department prevents switchboard operators from disclosing to telephone inquirers the whereabouts of rural fires? As the Postmaster-General’s Department has established a splendid record of co-operation with rural fire-fighting services, can the Minister say whether that direction was of local origin or whether it was a departmental instruction? If the latter, will the Postmaster-General, in the interests of fire prevention and the protection of life and property, instruct the department to countermand this order and revert to the previous policy of generous co-operation?


– I had an opportunity to read the article to which the honorable senator has referred, and I saw the Postmaster-General and asked him for particulars of this matter. He has informed me that there has been no alteration of the departmental instructions which provide for information regarding rural fires to be given by postmasters to the local fire-fighting authorities, to telephone subscribers and to other residents. If there is any further information that the honorable senator desires, I shall get it for him.

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Senator COOKE:

– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service please furnish me with information in relation to unemployment in Western Australia from January, 1958, to the present time? Giving the figures for each month separately, will he state, first, the numbers of applicants registered for employment in that State, and secondly, the numbers of persons in receipt of unemployment benefit?

Senator GORTON:
Minister for the Navy · VICTORIA · LP

– I shall ask the Minister for Labour and National Service to provide the figures requested by the honorable senator, but I should imagine that a good deal of this information would already have been published in the statistics issued by the department. However, I shall seek to get the figures together and give them to the honorable senator.

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Senator SCOTT:

– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact, as reported by a Melbourne newspaper last week, that the Minister stated that oil would be discovered in Victoria within the next ten years? Will he advise me why he chose Victoria as the location for the discovery of oil, rather than Western Australia or one of the other States?

Senator SPOONER:

– The honorable senator must have misread the newspaper report. I was bold enough to hazard the view that oil would be found in Australia within at least the next decade, and I added that there were possibilities of finding it in Victoria. I did not especially select Victoria. As most honorable senators know, the order of priority, according to the Government’s official advisers, indicates that the prospects are best in Papua and New Guinea. It will gladden the heart of Senator Scott to know that the State next highest on the order of priority is Western Australia.

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Senator BROWN:

– I should like to ask the Minister for the Navy the following questions without notice: - In the event of any submarine attack on the coastal cities of Australia by a foreign power, what would be our Navy’s chance of sinking a modern submarine before it had fired its deadly atomic missile? What success could we expect with our present anti-missile missiles against such an attack? Would a squadron of Australian nuclear-powered submarines, in association with other forces, be sufficient to offset such an attack? Is it contemplated that, in the near future, the Royal Australian Navy will be strengthened by the addition of nuclear-powered submarines?

Senator GORTON:

– Taking the last parts of the question first, I would say that the matter of the equipment of the Royal Australian Navy with atomic submarines 01 other things in the future is entirely one of policy, to which I could not at the moment give an answer. The honorable senator also asked whether a squadron of Australian atomic submarines in conjunction with other forces would be sufficient to provide complete protection against an attack upon our coastal cities by foreign submarines. I do not believe that any country has a navy which could say thai it could provide complete protection against attacks on coastal cities by missiles fired from foreign submarines. If the matter is to come to the point where it is thought that atomic missiles might be fired into Australia or other countries from submarines, then I think the only thing to which we could look, or to which other countries could look, would be the ability to reciprocate in kind; in other words, the deterrent. The honorable senator also asked whether the Royal Australian Navy would be capable of sinking a submarine which attacked the Australian coast. All I can say on that point is that the Royal Australian Navy has ships with the capacity to seek out and sink submarines. It clearly would not be possible for the Navy, with its limited number of ships, to cope with large fleets of submarines attacking Australia, if it were operating alone. However, the Navy has ships capable of finding and sinking submarines and is, therefore, capable of making a contribution to an allied anti-submarine fleet. However, as I indicated to the Senate on a previous occasion, such a fleet can never be regarded as being completely able to dispose of submarines because, at the moment, the advantage in modern warfare rests with the submarine.

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(Senator O’Byrne having addressed a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise) -


– Order! The question is not allowed.

Senator O’Byrne:

– I rise to take a point of order, ls the whole question not allowed because of the inclusion in it of two words to which you have objected?


– You may not take a point of order on my ruling. The question is out of order because of its reference to a member of the Royal Family.

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– My question, which concerns the price of newspapers in Tasmania, is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation because I believe that his pleading on behalf of Tasmania to the newpaper companies concerned would probably be most effective in overcoming an injustice now suffered by Tasmanians. Is the Minister aware that the daily newspapers from Sydney and Melbourne arrive in Canberra by air and are available for purchase at the price paid in the city of origin, whereas a surcharge of 2d. for air delivery is made in Tasmania? Is the Minister also aware that Sunday newspapers printed in Sydney cost 6d. in that city, 9d. in other States and ls. in Tasmania? Will the Minister exert any influence that he can to ensure that a fairer deal is given to Tasmanian readers of these newspapers?

Minister for Civil Aviation · WESTERN AUSTRALIA · LP

– 1 shall be pleased to look at the position and to establish what part, if any, of the price differential is due to air freight. If air freight is the trouble I will ask the airlines concerned to look at the matter and advise me of the reason.

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Senator O’BYRNE:

– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is the Minister aware that a noted songwriter and composer, Tom Lehrer, a gifted satirist who flings his barbs at all sorts of individuals, institutions, groups and cults and is on a par with Noel Coward and Danny Kaye, has come under the scrutiny of the censorship officers of his department and that recently one of his recordings has been banned in Australia? Is the Minister aware that the banned record has been in circulation in all parts of the western world for five years and that recently Tom Lehrer performed in England before dignified personages in aid of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children? Is not the Minister of the opinion that the Department of Customs and Excise has overstepped the mark in suppressing this record perhaps because one group of people might have been nettled by Lehrer’s satire? Will the Minister undertake to hear the banned recording with a view to having the censorship ban lifted?

Senator HENTY:

– The position is that the department under my administration has not overstepped the mark because it has not taken any steps to have the recording banned. Therefore, the honorable senator’s question is based on completely false premises. The recording has been in Australia for some five years. Recently, criticism of the recording from a very wellknown organization was published in the press. One of the officers of the Department of Customs and Excise felt that he should hear the record. Some of the officers heard it and decided that the matter had nothing to do with them. Accordingly, no action has been taken at all by the department. If the persons who control the distribution of the record have withdrawn it, maybe they did so because of the criticism from a public body which was published in the press. It has nothing whatever to do with the Department of Customs and Excise.

Senator HENTY:

– On 25th August. Senator Buttfield asked the following question without notice - o

Is it necessary at present for international newsreels of the type being produced by such reputable sources as the Independent Television News Service in London to be passed by the Commonwealth Film Censor before exhibition in Australia?

If it is necessary, will the Minister consider ways of expediting or even eliminating this retarding formality, since newsreels need to be exhibited within a few days of filming and almost on the day of their being received in Australia if they are not to be out of date when viewed?

In my initial reply to the honorable senator, I indicated that I fully concurred that newsreels should be treated with utmost speed.

I have now been advised by the Chief Film Censor that newsreels for both television and motion picture theatres have not been subjected to the normal censorship procedures for over twelve months. A new system was introduced by the Chief Censor whereby the early release of such films was obtained and the onus placed on the television companies and motion picture distributors to check their own newsreels. A brief synopsis of the various items included in the newsreels is submitted to the Chief Censor, generally after they have been exhibited either on television or in theatres. It has been found that the procedure has worked quite well in practice. In addition to newsreels, some documentary films of an urgent nature, and which obviously have no censorship problems, are also given the same concession as newsreels

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Senator CANT:

– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service by stating that it has been reported in the press that unemployment in Western Australia has decreased from 2.3 per cent, at 31st July to 2 per cent, at 28th August. Will the Minister state at which centres in Western Australia the unemployment figures arc gathered? Are facilities available for registration in that portion of Western Australia north of the 26th parallel and are figures gathered there? If facilities are available and statistics are collected from that portion of the State, will the Minister state the number of persons registered for employment at Carnarvon, Onslow, Point Samson-Roebourne, Port Hedland, Broome, Derby, Wyndham and Wittenoom Gorge?

Senator GORTON:

-e-I shall ask the Minister for Labour and National Service to compile the figures requested and pass them on to the honorable senator.

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Senator LAUGHT:

– I direct to the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question in connexion with the Commonwealth’s aid under the rail standardization agreement towards the extension of the standard-gauge railway system in South Australia. Can the

Minister say whether his department has carried out any investigations into the possibility of bringing the standard-gauge line into Adelaide in the next stage of standardization in South Australia? If so, from which point or points in South Australia is it proposed to extend the standard-gauge line to Adelaide?


– The possibility of extending the standard-gauge railway from Port Pirie to Adelaide has, of course, been examined by both the Commonwealth Railways and the South Australian Railways Commissioner. The honorable senator will probably be aware that that has in fact formed part of the subject-matter of discussions which have occurred recently between myself and the South Australian Premier on the railway standardization project as it applies to South Australia as a whole. One of the matters about which no finality has been reached is the point on the existing line from which the proposed standard-gauge railway will be taken to Adelaide. I hope to have an opportunity to discuss it with the South Australian Premier one day in the near future - at any rate within the next few weeks.

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Senator BENN:

– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister invite General MacArthur to Australia this year so that he may spend several weeks in Queensland, which is celebrating its centenary year and is the State where he had his head-quarters when in command of the Allied forces in the Pacific region during the most vital years of World War II.?

Senator SPOONER:

– I think that arrangements for Queensland’s centenary are in the hands of the State Government. I shall pass Senator Benn’s suggestion on to the Prime Minister to see whether it is practicable to adopt it.

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Senator HANNAN:

– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Treasurer been drawn to the statement in this morning’s press that a full-length film is to be made in Italy with American stars, and to be financed by Australian capital? If the report is correct, in view of the fact that the film will include Raymond Burr, who is known to Australia’s television audiences as Perry Mason, and will therefore be extremely expensive, will the Minister inform the Senate whether this project will involve the transfer abroad of some hundreds of thousands of pounds of Australian currency? Can the Minister advise the Senate whether any dollars are involved? Will the currency deal be under the control of the Commonwealth Bank, and. what are the mechanics involved in the proposed financing? In view of the urgent necessity for assisting Australia’s own film industry, does not the Minister think that the funds involved will be more gainfully employed, from a national viewpoint, if directed to our own film industry?


– I regret that I have not seen the report referred to and that I know nothing at all of the project. The best answer I can give to the honorable senator is to tell him that I shall have a look at the report and take the matter further with the Treasurer, with a view to getting replies to the questions, if that course seems desirable.

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Senator BRANSON:

– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. Because of the importance of population statistics to manufacturing and marketing interests, and because of the effect that population has on federal electoral boundaries, would the Minister inform the Senate of the date of the next Commonwealth census?


– I certainly am not able to inform the Senate of that date at the present time. I will get the information from my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, and let the honorable senator have it.

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– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade inform the Senate whether Great Britain will be purchasing its quota of Australian wheat in accordance with the arrangement made under the International Wheat Agreement?

Senator SPOONER:

– My recollection is that the Right Honorable John Hare, who is at present visiting Australia, has pointed out that it is the intention of Great Britain to do its utmost to take the wheat allocation suggested, but that it is not under a contractual obligation to do so. 1 think the amount in question is 750,000 tons. He has said that the British Government will use its best endeavours to persuade the British flour milling industry to take that quantity of wheat. The Minister has made it clear that it is his intention to see that those representations are made.

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Senator McMANUS:

– I understand that the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry has an answer to a question which I asked relating to a statement by the captain of the ship “ Delfino “, concerning the conditions under which Av. tralian lambs were transported recently to the United States of America?

Senator GORTON:

– The question followed a previous question asked by Senator McManus and referred to the fact that the captain was alleged to have stated that 30.000 sheep were on board the ship and that, in his opinion, not more than 25.000 should have been carried. The Minister for Primary Industry has given the following reply: -

I have seen a press report of comments stated to have been made at Fiji recently by the captain of the ship “ Delfino “ regarding a recent shipment of Iambs to California. I do not think it would be appropriate for me to arrange an approach to the captain for verification or otherwise of the report.

However, on the assumption that the captain of a ship should know the cargo he is carrying, I find it hard to believe that it was a considered statement, since all reports indicate that the “ Delfino “ did not carry anything like 30.000 lambs.

There has been some doubt as to the exact number on board when the ship finally got away from Sydnev on 3rd July last, but I am informed that a well-known insurance company interested in the shipment determined the figure for insurance purposes at 25,652 head. The losses, which ‘n fact exceeded 5 per cent., were not regarded is abnormal for such a voyage, particularly as there is always room for trial and error in an experimental shipment of this nature. I understand that action has been taken to adjust the conditions of future shipments in the light of the experience gained on this occasion.

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asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -

  1. When did Mr. Anton Simon Spanbroek apply for permission to remain in Australia following his first visit as a tourist in October, 19SS?
  2. Did Mr. Spanbroek offend against the Immigration Act by being in possession of a false visa, when he last landed at Darwin?
  3. If so, why has no legal action been taken against Mr. Spanbroek?
  4. What is the penalty for such an offence?
Senator HENTY:

– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers: -

  1. 15lh May, 1956.
  2. Mr. Spanbroek entered Australia before the commencement of the present Migration Act on 1st June, 19S9. Regulations under the Immigration Act 1901-1949, which were in force at the time of his entry, made it an offence for any person to have in his possession any forged or false “passport, certificate, permit, credentials or identification card “. There is room for doubt as to whether possession of a forged visa would have been an offence under this regulation.
  3. Even if possession of a forged visa did constitute an offence under the Immigration Regulations of the time, there would have been very serious difficulty in proving that Mr. Spanbroek did in fact have a forged visa because when he was interrogated - following the report from the British Consul-General at Basra that no visa had been issued - Mr. Spanbroek claimed he had lost his passport.

It was considered in any case that the interests of the Western Australian public could be best protected by deporting Spanbroek at once, rather than by seeking to impose other penalties first.

  1. The maximum penalty for an offence against the Immigration Regulations referred to above was a fine of £50 or imprisonment for three months.

It is to be emphasized that both the Immigration Act, which was repealed with effect from 1st June, and the new Migration Act which then came into force, provided the Minister for Immigration with clear authority to deport Spanbroek. The section of the Migration Act under which the Minister ordered Spanbroek’s deportation was section 16 (1.). This provides that where a person enters Australia who has previously been deported from Australia or any other country, that person becomes a prohibited immigrant. The act authorizes the Minister to deport any person who is a prohibited immigrant (section 18).

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Senator SCOTT:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -

  1. Is it a fact that experiments carried out jointly by the Commonwealth and State governments at the Kimberley Research ‘Station have proved that rice, safflower, cotton and sugar can be grown successfully in that region?
  2. What is the estimated cost per acre of producing each of these commodities?
  3. What is the expected return per acre for each commodity?
  4. What is the Australian demand for each commodity?
  5. What is the present overseas price for each commodity?
  6. Has any assessment been made of future overseas demand, and if so, what is that assessment?
Senator GORTON:

– The following answers have been provided by the Minister for Primary Industry after consultation with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which operates the Kimberley Research Station in conjunction with Western Australian government authorities: -

  1. Experiments conducted so far at the Kimberley Research Station indicate that rice, safflower and sugar can be grown successfully in that region. In regard to cotton, further trials are necessary.
  2. As these crops have been grown only on an experimental basis no attempt has been made so far to estimate the commercial cost of production.
  3. The only measure of the return per acre which can be given at this stage is the yields per acre. The experiments conducted to date indicate that the following farm yields could be expected: Rice: Long grain. During a wet season - 30 cwt. per acre or more. Short grain during a dry season probably more than this amount. Safflower: 1,600 lb. per acre or more. Cotton: Probably 2,000 lb. per acre when current problems are solved. Sugar: 100 tons of cane or fourteen tons of sugar per acre from the combined plant crop and two ratoons.
  4. Rice: Present Australian consumption of milled rice is about 15,500 tons. With population increase and a continuation of active sales promotion Australian requirements in ten years’ time may reach 21,000 tons per annum. Safflower: The Australian market for safflower is at present limited to about 10,000 tons per annum, most of which ls imported. This arises from the present usage of linseed and safflower oils in the paint industry in the ratio of about 5:1. Prices guaranteed by Australian crushers for the coming crop are £70 per ton for linseed and £50 per ton for safflower. Cotton: Australian consumption of ginned cotton is about 60,000,000 lb. annually, of which only a small part is met from domestic production. Sugar: Australian consumption of sugar is around 545,000 tons per annum. Production necessary to meet these requirements, together with Australian quotas under the British Commonwealth and the International Sugar Agreements, is provided by Queensland and New South Wales growers and is administered by the Queensland Sugar Board which regulates production by a system of farm quotas.
  5. Rice: Australian 10 per cent. broken, £59 stg. per ton, c.i.f. London. Safflower oil (kardiseed oil): Indian £139 stg. per long ton, in drums, c.i.f. London. Cotton: Average price middling one inch CCC export sales (United States of America) 28.5 cents per lb. f.o.b. (30.5d. A.C.). Sugar: Raw sugar f.a.s. Cuba 2.95 cents per lb. (£29 10s. per ton A.C.).
  6. Rice: Our present overseas markets - New Guinea and Papua, New Zealand, Pacific Islands and the United Kingdom - are currently well supplied from the present M.I.A. production. There are reasonable prospects of developing new markets in Asia for rice of the hard long grain type. Prices in these markets, however, are less attractive, typical quotes for Burmese rice being £33-£35 stg. per ton f.o.b. Burma. Safflower: The domestic price of £50 per ton has not proved very attractive and it is unlikely that Australian growers could compete with India and other Asiatic countries in overseas markets from which a much lower return could be expected. Cotton: The world market continues to be over-supplied, and the outlook is not favorable. However, there is ample scope for increased efficient Australian production in order to meet the requirements of local spinners. Sugar: The world sugar market is strictly controlled through the operation of the International Sugar Agreement. Any increase in Australian export quotas could be readily met from existing producing areasin Queensland.

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Senator BENN:

asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Territories, upon notice -

  1. Have arrangements been made to provide a new electric power station at Darwin this year at a cost exceeding £1,000,000?
  2. If so, has full consideration been given to the question of using nuclear power in the new station, or will steam engines be used to develop the power?

– The Minister for Territories has now furnished the following replies: -

  1. On a proposal made by the Minister for Territories, Cabinet approved in August, 1958, of the construction of stage 1 of a new power station at Darwin at an estimated cost of £1,850,000. A contract for erection has recently been let.
  2. During the planning of this work full consideration was given to the question of using nuclear power in the new station. The conclusion was reached that an oil-fired steam station was the most suitable at the present time and this conclusion was endorsed by the Parliamentary Committee on Public Works in a report dated 22nd April, 1958. The station has been so planned that nuclear power may be used in future extensions should it become desirable.

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Senator McKELLAR:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -

In view of the conflicting statements regarding the success or otherwise of the floor price schema for wool sales in New Zealand and South Africa, will the Minister inform the Senate of the true position in this matter?

Senator GORTON:

– The Minister lor Primary Industry has supplied the following answer: -

During the seasons 1957-58 and 1958-59 the New Zealand Wool Commission, which administers the Minimum Price Plan for wool in that country, bought in a total of 93,300 bales of wool (about 4 per cent. of total offerings at auction) of which 74,582 bales had been resold prior to 30th August, 1959. This leaves 18,718 bales in stock. The sales of the bought in wool were made at a profit.

The average minimum price made effective by the Commission in each of those two seasons for greasy wool was 33d. (N.Z. currency) per lb. The average minimum price for 1959-60 has Been maintained at the same level. The Commission has stated that, in fixing the prices for individual types of New Zealand wool to achieve the average minimum price level of 33d. (N.Z. currency) per lb. for 1959-60, regard has been paid to market experience during the past two seasons and minor reductions have been made in the floor prices for finer wools and slight increases made for coarser wools.

The New Zealand plan has a capital fund of approximately £N.Z.30m.

Buying in of wool under the South African scheme commenced in March, 1958, and from then until 30th June. 1959, 141,005 bales were bought, of which 116.005 bales had been resold prior to that date, leaving a stock of 25.000 bales. It has been reported that the sales were made at a profit and that the capital fund of the scheme is now larger than the £S.A.6m. with which the scheme commenced in March, 1958.

As in New Zealand, an average reserve price is established each year in South Africa, on which a table of reserve prices for each type of South African wool is based. For the part of the 1957-58 season that the scheme first operated and for the 1958-59 season, the average reserve price was 34d. (S.A. currency) per lb. greasy. It was announced recently that the price would remain unchanged for 1959-60.

In South Africa, also, some adjustments have had to be made to prices of individual types without altering the average reserve price applicable to the whole South African clip, in the light of experience in operating the scheme.

Reports upon the operation of the schemes in both countries indicate that benefits have accrued to wool-growers in those countries from the protection afforded them at the times the schemes operated against falling wool prices.

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Sale of Vessels


asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -

What was the sale price of each of the following National Line vessels which were sold in recent years: - “ Tyalla “; 9,983 tons d.w., sold to Cambay Prince Steamship Co. Ltd., Hong Kong; “ Ransdorp “, 491 tons d.w., sold to Southern Cross Shipping Co., Villa, New Hebrides: and “ River Derwent “, 8,860 tons d.w., sold to Interstate Steamship Co. Pty. Ltd.?


– The sale prices of the vessels concerned were - “ Tyalla “. £A505,000; “Ransdorp”, £A1 5,000; “ River Derwent “, £A375,000.

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asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -

In view of the statement by Mr. Clinton, a specialist scientific officer at the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at the University of Sydney, to the effect that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories had ceased efforts to find a serum antidote to the poison of funnel web spiders and that, so far as he was aware, work in this field was not being carried out by any other authority, will the Minister assure the Senate, because of the risk of death from the poison of these spiders, particularly to young children, that efforts to find an antidote will be continued by Commonwealth health authorities?

Senator HENTY:

– The Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply: -

I have not seen the statement referred to by the honorable senator so I am not aware of the circumstances under which it was made. The statement would appear to be a personal opinion without official backing.

The future programme of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories does, in fact, provide for a continuance of the efforts to produce a serum antidote to the poison of the funnel web spider. I must issue a warning, however, that successis not inevitable nor likely to be easily achieved. Certain inherent peculiarities of the poison, combined with the small amount of venom available for research, renders progress slow and extremely difficult.

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Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -

That leave of absence for one month be granted to Senator Sir Neil O’Sullivan on account of ill health.

Motion (by Senator McKenna) - by leave - agreed to -

That leave of absence for two months be granted to Senator O’Flaherty on account of ill health.

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Second Annual Report

Debate resumed from 3rd September (vide page 509), on motion by Senator Spooner -

That the following paper: -

Second Annual Report to the Prime Minister by the National Radiation Advisory Committee - be printed.

Senator O’BYRNE:

– The Senate is debating the second annual report of the National Radiation Advisory Committee, a document that has stimulated very wide discussion amongst scientists and given rise to a most interesting debate in this chamber. During the earlier part of the debate we had contributions from honorable senators which indicated how important it is that everyone - not only those in this Parliament, and scientists and physicists, but every member of the community - should understand the great hazard that faces mankind in the indiscriminate use of radio-active materials and the indiscriminate dispersal of radio-active elements in the atmosphere.

The history of the splitting of the atom is broadly known to most of us, and we know, too, that the splitting of the atom has accelerated the danger from radioactivity. In the course of the report, the National Radiation Advisory Committee has stressed the fact that the hazards of radiation may perhaps be presented in a form to cause alarm, but being men of science, the members of the committee have dealt with facts and have left to social workers and other public-spirited people the educational processes involved in making the hazards generally known. I should say that in this respect the scientists have a lot more information that has yet to be made known.

We must admit that very great benefits have been conferred on mankind by the use of ionizing radiation. Under that heading comes the X-ray. When we look at medical statistics for this country and see the way in which the scourge of tuberculosis has been tackled and in many cases overcome, we must realize that the X-ray has been a great boon to mankind, it should be the purpose of all responsible people to use ionizing radiation, this great gift that has been given to us by Providence and developed by scientists, so that it will improve our standards of living and our welfare, and so that the possibility of abuse will be minimized. The great decline that has occurred in the incidence of tuberculosis can perhaps be directly traced to mass radiography, to photography of the lungs, the discovery of weak spots, and the subsequent treatment in hospitals of sufferers from this disease.

Only recently, during the opening of a hospital in Brisbane, the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) said that the need for tuberculosis hospitals throughout the Commonwealth had been met, and that there were sufficient beds in such hospitals to cope with the present incidence of tuberculosis. That achievement can be placed on the credit side of the use of X-rays. Throughout the whole field ot medicine they have been of great benefit. In addition, there has been commercial use of X-rays. I am very pleased to find that the scientists and other responsible people have recommended that the indiscriminate use of X-rays for things such as shoe-fitting should be discouraged. After all, the ability of the body to absorb these rays is limited, and we should avoid by every possible means accumulating in our systems more of these rays than is absolutely necessary.

The committee, in its report, states that the medical use of X-rays may be viewed with unnecessary apprehension by the public, and directs attention to the danger to which individual patients may expose themselves through their reluctance or refusal to undergo necessary X-ray examinations. The committee has also stressed the fact that the use of X-rays by the medical profession is essential. By its report, the committee has tried to paint a wide picture of the progress that has been made towards assessing the various aspects of ionizing radiation. Over a number of years we have had this natural accumulation, which has not been sufficiently discouraged. Foi instance, a sceptical physicist may tell a story such as this: Adam and Eve became exposed to natural radiation when they stepped into the Garden of Eden, and ever since the human race has been absorbing it - cosmic radiation from outer space, natural radio-activity in soil, rocks, and the bricks of our houses; radon in the air we breathe, radio-activity from potassium in the body, and carbon 14 in the body. In addition, civilized man has exposed himself to about another 3.2 roentgens over a 30- year period, mainly by the medical use of X-rays, and the atomic fall-out over the same period will achieve about 0.1 roentgens if it continues at the same rate. These scientists point confidently to British and American reports based on world-wide radio-activity levels to minimize the dangers. They say that here in Australia we have one of the world’s lowest strontium 90 fall-out ratings, but there are varying opinions on that particular matter, to which I should like to direct attention.

It is perhaps a consolation to know that Australia’s rating is several times lower than that of the United States and only half the British level. The same applies in Canada and Japan. Australia is tackling this problem at a stage where we are not only being made aware of the great hazards that exist in other parts of the world. The taking of measures to minimize the incidence here is very timely. The committee itself is to be commended for its contribution, in its report, in that direction.

Professor Titterton, of the Australian National University, has applied himself very diligently to this subject, although at times he is at variance with another noted and respected authority, Professor Sir Marcus Oliphant, who is well known and has very strong and well authenticated views. Both are making their contributions to the total sum of knowledge on this previously obscure subject. Tn July, 1956, Professor Titterton said -

The world-wide average strontium-90 content of man was about one-fifth of a micro-micro-curie per gram of calcium. This is one five-thousandth part of the permissible body burden which the International Commission of Radiological Protection regards as safe - that is, it would not produce bone cancers in those who carry it. . . .

I interpose this observation, that there are quite a number of rare cases and cases that are found to be very difficult to diagnose - cases of bone cancer and leukaemia - that are puzzling many of the doctor”! throughout this country. There are many unknown factors at the present time in regard to these things that are befalling men not only in this country but in other parts of the world. Professor Titterton went on to say -

Nature . . . reduces the concentration of stron-tium-90 by a factor of nearly 100 times in passing from soil to human bone via plant and cows’ milk . . .

This knowledge is very comforting, but when we realize that these very carriers, these very agents, of radio-activity and ionising radio-active substances are present in such things as milk and rice that are consumed by youngsters in their formative years and also by so many millions of people who are living to the north of Australia, the problem assumes very great importance. As Professor Titterton says, we must see the bomb fallout in its right perspective. The medical and industrial use of X-rays and isotopes in a vastly more important field to study. There is no doubt that our scientists will apply themselves to this study. The report before us and the report of the United Nations Scientific Committee are excellent contributions that will trigger off and stimulate further research and the application of the minds of our scientists to this great problem.

Professor Titterton has also said that many geneticists and biologists dispute the existence of a “ threshold “. But the mind is liable to error, and it is very difficult for us to be absolutely certain, when dealing with these relatively abstract matters, to get down to a measure of what could be called the “ threshold “. The fact that we have proved as a result of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima that people can completely disintegrate and disappear from the face of the earth as radio-active dust shows the enormous power of the atom when it is used for the purposes of destruction. In addition, the genetic effects will perhaps continue in many future generations. That indicates the field of uncertainty that exists and the difficulty of ascertaining what is the “ threshold “. We have no proof that doses of radioactivity which are below the threshold are harmless to humans, so wc must continually encourage research and the widening of knowledge. This knowledge should, in turn, be made freely available to the public. In the past it has been the custom of scientists and medical research workers to say, “ We can look after these matters and give advice in the correct quarters where necessary “, but this whole matter is of such importance to the people at large that all must be educated in its implications.

The report directs attention to the need for co-ordination on this matter. Emphasis is placed on the fact that at present the State governments are responsible for controlling the use of ionising radiation, providing safeguards and so on, in their own territories. On the advice of the Commonwealth, the States are considering introducing regulations based on a model set prepared by the Industrial Hygiene Committee. This is not a subject that can be confined within State boundaries, lt is national in character and the Commonwealth Government should take early action to devise a uniform way in which both it and the States can work together to handle the problem. The report emphasizes that since 1957 the committee has directed much attention to the need for uniform legislation. The States have brought in regulations, and have amended their health acts in various ways, but we still await a uniform approach - which should be made at the Commonwealth level. Let us hope that at an early stage the Government will see fit to introduce legislation which will give effect to the recommendations of the committee.

The use of ionising radiation in industry cannot fail to develop. We have seen how radioactive isotopes can be used to detect flaws in metals and the like, but their commercial use brings with it the danger of careless handling by people who do not fully understand the consequences. Honorable senators will recall the case of the Victorian worker who picked up a capsule thinking that it was some little bauble which might be of interest only to see, two or three days later, the horrible effects of his action. Eventually that man lost his leg. That will give us some idea of what could happen if ionising radiation were used widely in Australian industry by persons who did not understand its dangers. It is a matter that should be controlled by a federal body. Advice could go out to industry from a section of the Department of Health or from the Commonwealth

Scientific and Industrial Research Organization - making full use of press and radio.

Australian atomic weapon tests also were referred to. We can be thankful that during the tests our meteorological information ran true to form and that, as a consequence, the fall-out over this country is still several times lower than in the United States, and half of that experienced in Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom. However, the total amount of radio-active material which entered the troposphere as a result of our weapon tests has not yet been measured. We are told that such material accumulates outside the earth’s atmosphere but percolates down through it over the years. The “ halflife “ of strontium 90 is known to be 28 years, and during the whole of that period radio-active material could cause damage. No doubt scientists are very well aware of that fact, but many people do not realize that this new-found hazard could have an effect on not only the present generation but generations yet to come. The Australian tests were considered satisfactory and contributed in a negligible degree to the background radiation to which the population is continually subjected, but we must not give way to complacency. I remind honorable senators that the satellites and other missiles which go into orbit around the earth must pass through air in which this ionised, radio-active material is in suspension. While the earth continues to rotate on its axis the whole of its surface must receive an equal share of fall-out material.

The committee itself refers to the fallout over Australia which was investigated by the Atomic Weapons Test Safety Committee in 1956. It mentions that during the period under review, high yield weapon tests were carried out overseas by the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The test conducted by Russia in October and November, 1958, resulted in high yields of radio-active fission products. In the closing months of the year, this caused a considerable increase in the fall-out levels in Europe and subsequently elsewhere in the northern hemisphere. No such increase was observed in Australia.

The tests were carried out in the northern hemisphere, but it is difficult to understand how we can be certain that only that portion of the earth’s surface will be affected when we consider the vast extent of space and the various strata into which radio-active materials from fusion explosion can penetrate above the earth’s surface. It rises even to the limits of gravitational pull. I believe that a very salutary lesson is to be learned from the amazing novel by Nevil Shute, “ On the Beach “. In that book, the author describes graphically the possible ultimate results of nuclear explosion if sufficient ot this radio-active fall-out should contaminate and destroy human and other forms of life on the earth, lt is interesting to note that Mr. Shute in his book made the radio-active fall-out affect the northern hemisphere first. The contamination then gradually crept down until the last refuge for the human species on the earth was southwards across Bass Strait.

The scientific facts that have been obtained from tests by the Atomic Weapons Test Safety Committee and tests conducted overseas show that the greater incidence of fall-out is in the northern hemisphere. However, I repeat my warning that we cannot be too complacent in supposing that the fall-out will stay in the northern hemisphere. The whole of the earth’s surface could easily get its share of the fall-out or dust from the explosions.

The report itself makes an analysis of fall-out in the Australian environment. It refers to the long-lived caesium 137, strontium 90 and possibly carbon 14. A most interesting article headed “ Are We Sure We Are Safe From Fall-out? “ has been written by Ian Moffitt in which he refers to strontium 90 and quotes the head of the School of Chemistry at the University of New South Wales, Professor Mellor, in these words -

Not enough work on strontium 90 is being done in Australia, and the amounts in soil throughout the world are climbing all the time. The stuff also is coming down quicker than anticipated before.

We must discover the effects of extremely small quantities of strontium 90 - effects that may make themselves apparently only after a considerable time. We’ve suddenly begun to inject radio-active materials into the atmosphere, and we don’t know enough about them. We must know exactly how much is entering what we eat and drink.

The bodies of young children contain ten times as much strontium 90 as adults. If we get too much of it. the children will suffer.

This goes further to prove that there is a big gap between the approach of the scientists and the physicists and the approach of those with a sense of civic responsibility who have to look further into the future than present day evidence. Mr. Ian Moffitt stated in his article -

There is the gap, then - the division in the scientific ranks. The need, obviously, is to balance practical considerations (preparedness for war, preparation for nuclear powered peace) against biological dangers - dangers guessed at, largely unknown, but terrible, if some present fears are justified.

Authorities in the United States of America have applied themselves very diligently to a similar series of investigation. The report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation is a most enlightening document. They have followed a pattern similar to that adopted by the Australian National Radiation Advisory Committee. Perhaps they have been even more courageous in trying to anticipate the possibilities of the growing and continuing hazards that face mankind. The committee itself has urged that all steps designed to minimize radiation will act to the benefit of human health. That is a most important point which should be at the back of the minds of everybody associated with this subject. Whatever we hope to gain should be considered in relation to its impact on the community as a whole and the health of the people.

We may think there are great advantage; to be gained by inventing bigger, better and brighter hydrogen bombs and bigger and better guided missiles to take the bombs to another part of the world, but an objective consideration of such a project will show that there is nothing to be gained by pursuing that line of thought. As surely as we send a bomb to one part of the world, we can expect to get one equally as big in return. Many people are of the opinion that the thermo-nuclear bomb will be treated like gas was in the First World War. To see people maimed, their health impaired, with death slowly overtaking them over a period of years, was so frightful that the Geneva Convention after the war acknowledged that no advantage was to be gained from the use of gas. As a consequence, during the 1939-45 war, although supplies of gas were held, of course, on both sides, they were not released. The soldiers in the field, and the people in the cities, too, for that matter, could heave sighs of relief that gas was never used. The attitude to-day of having supplies of thermo-nuclear bombs and encouraging countries to obtain them and develop the technique for their production, can spell the end of man’s existence on this earth. My attitude is that it is up to man himself to make these great decisions. If he decides to take the path of universal destruction, perhaps that is his destiny. In various ways we have been led to believe that man has the power to do just that, that the earth can be destroyed and perhaps will be destroyed, but I have yet to be convinced that that is part of the design of this universe.

The committee, in summing up its conclusions, stressed that the use of X-rays for medical purposes can be of tremendous benefit, but it recommended that this source of radiation exposure should be kept to a minimum consistent with medical needs. It commended the use of mass miniature radiographic surveys, for the control of tuberculosis. It recommended that there be a uniform approach to the subject of legislation so that each State and the Commonwealth can approach the subject on a common level with the same purpose and an economy in costs which would inevitably be increased by duplication of State and Commonwealth activities.

The standards of our testing laboratories have been criticized by quite responsible people. We should have centres in various parts of Australia, administered by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization or some other such authority, to make certain that the radiation hazard is under the closest scrutiny. Tests have shown that the fall-out level is higher in the northern hemisphere than in the southern hemisphere. In the same way it may be found that the atmosphere of the nothern part of Australia, which supplies such a tremendous amount of the beef which forms a great part of our staple diet, has a higher radio-active content in the atmosphere than is present in the south. Stations should be situated strategically around the continent so that the incidence of radio-activity may be regularly tested.

Finally, I should like to compliment the committee on its report. It has made a very valuable contribution in bringing this subject before the Parliament and the people. The more the matter is discussed and the more the angles that are brought to light from every section of the community, the greater will be the benefit to the people. Above all, it is our prime responsebility, having inherited from our parents good health, and strong limbs and bodies, to ensure that the unborn children of tomorrow are not affected by the actions of those who temporarily inhabit the earth to-day. I commend the report and hope that the committee’s efforts will be continued and extended in the future.

South Australia

– I welcome this opportunity to take part in this debate because I feel that we are not only informing ourselves but also, perhaps, putting ourselves in a better position to inform others. I certainly have not, nor do I intend to take, the same pessimistic attitude as has been taken by some Opposition senators. I think it is quite obvious that the general public has confidence in the Government in this respect, and feels that the Government is watching the interests of the public, because the public has repeatedly returned these parties to power.

We must get clear in our minds to begin with the fact that radiation is not something that has burst upon us with the explosion of the atomic bomb. Radiation has been with us since the beginning of time. The sun has been emitting radiation through both light and warmth, and it has been extremely welcome. In fact, it has been essential for the continuance of life. Some few years ago, when the geiger counter was invented, it was found that the sun was also emitting still more radiation in the form of cosmic rays, about which we had known nothing and not worried. We absorbed it and adjusted ourselves to whatever ill-effects might come from radiation. We have taken the warmth and light in the way they should be taken and not looked at them as something dangerous to be avoided.

In addition, about 50 years ago it was discovered that certain materials in the earth, such as uranium, radium and potas sium, contained radio-active substances. We have accustomed ourselves to these. We have lived with them and we have not found that they are in any way damaging. I think that we need to keep a balanced outlook on this sort of thing and not get panicky over it. We must realize that all things have positive as well as negative sides to them. We need, perhaps, to look more at the positive side, while not neglecting the negative side. That is obviously what is being done and what the Government has insisted upon in the case of radiation in establishing the National Radiation Advisory Committee and encouraging it to continue with research and the production of regular reports. We must take the good with the bad and get on cheerfully with the business of living. Why change now and get panicky over something which may or may not be dangerous?

I think that Senator McKenna and Senator O’Byrne have completely confused the issue when they have constantly referred to the effects of fall-out from bombs in warfare, as opposed to the type of global fall-out which is being discussed in this report. This report deals with global fallout as the result of the testing of bombs on occasions. Certainly none of us wants to see nuclear warfare, because we know that it would be dangerous, even disastrous, but that is not what we are discussing. We are discussing the danger arising from the bomb tests which have occurred up to date, and the danger which may arise from any further tests.

I do not think that the ordinary people want to hear a lot of statistics and highsounding phrases from people such as ourselves They want to be assured that their representatives are acting prudently and progressively, watching their interests and doing everything in their power to avoid war. That is what they want to hear from us. Because I felt that that was so, and because I wanted to inform myself of what was going on, when I came into this Parliament I joined the Government Members’ Atomic Energy Committee. My one purpose was to make myself better informed about what was going on. During the two or three years that that committee has been in existence we have had the privilege of being addressed by, I think, every leading nuclear physicist in Australia, and also by some from overseas, as well as by people other than physicists who are working in this field. We have had an address from Sir John Cockcroft. who is the chief of the British Atomic Energy Commission. We have heard from the Chairman of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, Professor Baxter; from the chief scientist at Lucas Heights; from Professor Titterton; and from Sir Marcus Oliphant. We have also heard from Dr. Gregory, who deals with isotopes, and from Professor Messell, who devotes his time to the educational side of atomic physics. I feel that we have had a very good education in what is being done. Some of the people who have addressed the Government members’ committee are members of the committee which produced the report we are debating now, I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that if they tell us that the situation is satisfactory, we have no need to worry and we can get on with our living, assured that they are watching the interests of the people in the most efficient way.

In all things, if there is to be progress some risks must be taken. We cannot avoid all risks, f was brought up in a businessman’s household. and during the course of my life 1 heard of some of the risks that have to be taken in business. Some risky ventures have failed, but 1 am confident that if risks had not been taken by Australian business people we would not have the economic prosperity that we have in this country now, and that many of the people who are now employed in business would’ be in a very sorry state. The taking of risks is essential to progress in business. I should like to draw the attention of the Senate to some remarks which were made by the Governor-General recently, when he had conferred on him an honorary degree of a university in New South Wales. He commenced his speech by saying - opportunities throng upon us - new scholarship, new discoveries, new methods, new power. And Australia, needing them so much, is so well placed to use them. This is a time to be imaginative, to bc bold!

I think the Governor-General would say exactly the same if he were to read a report like the one we are debating. He would say, “ Do not be pessimistic “, as some of the members of the Opposition arc. He would say, “ Go ahead, and bc bold in taking the risks which obviously must bc taken in this field, as in others “. I wonder where some members of the Opposition would have stood if they had been alive when the industrial revolution started many years ago in England. The outcry then was, “Take away these machines. Leave the weavers to do hand-loom weaving in their own homes “, and so on, because people were frightened that the new inventions would work against the man weaving in his own home. But things did not work out in that way. Thank goodness, those who were inventing and building the machines kept going ahead, despite the pressure to halt progress. That is the spirit that we must have to-day. Let us go ahead and see what we can do, how we can use these new inventions.

As I said in my opening remarks, everything has a positive and a negative aspect, but because we seem to have devoted so much time to the negative aspect in this debate, I shall, for a while, address myself to some of the negative aspects of atomic energy and radiation. During the. course of my studies I have learned that there are three types of radiation. One is the natural background radiation with which we have lived all our lives. If members of the Opposition are sincere in saying that they are worrying about that, what do they feel when they read that to live in a brick house exposes one to ten times more radiation - radiation from the bricks - than one is exposed to from all the fall-out from bombs exploded up to date? Would they like to pass a bill to provide that we should not build brick houses because people would be subjected to some radiation from them? That, to me, would be ridiculous. To take a pessimistic outlook on this sort of thing is equally ridiculous.

Senator Ormonde:

– We do not think like that.


– Some honorable senators who have spoken in this debate do. The second form of radiation is that which is used for medical and industrial purposes. We must learn how to benefit from the use of radiation in these fields and how to minimize any dangers that may be involved. That is obviously being done. The third type of radiation is radio-active fall-out from bombs. This, because of its political importance, has, I feel, received far too much, and sometimes exaggerated, publicity.

When Senator O’Byrne was speaking in this debate previously he mentioned reports from other parts of the world which, he suggested, created an element of doubt. He went on to say that the United States scientific committee adopted a much more cautious attitude than did the committee whose report we are now debating. I think that if Senator O’Byrne had read the report thoroughly, he would change his mind. I feel that the American committee takes exactly the same attitude as our committee - that there has been over-emphasis of some aspects, but so long as research continues, all will be well.

Senator McKenna, when dealing with this aspect, referred to some remarks made by Professor Sir Marcus Oliphant. He quoted at length from a speech made by Professor Oliphant, in which the professor suggested, in rather a vague way, that information was being withheld. In reading that speech, it is interesting to note that Professor Oliphant is continually vague about the matter. He does not say by whom or from whom this information is being withheld. From my own investigations, I feel certain that information is not being withheld. I am told by people who know that in the United States all research results are published in the science journals every month, and that there are no results of experiments in Australia that have not been published in Australian science journals. Obviously, the results of experiments that do not prove anything are not published, because it would be foolish to publish them. If Professor Oliphant is suggesting that that is the information that is being withheld, the refusal to publish it shows commendable prudence on the part of those who are experimenting. I should like to know from Professor Oliphant whether he himself has been deprived of any information or whether he has been told that he is not to offer certain information. I am quite convinced that that is not the case.

Senator McKenna made some rather alarming allusions to things which happened in Japan, both during the war, as a result of the explosion of two atomic bombs, and since then, as a result of tests. He spoke of a skin disease which certain Pacific Island natives had developed. He said that a French anthropologist - I think the name was Bertold - had said that it had been proven that the natives had eaten fish and this was the reason why they had developed the disease. Yet Europeans living in the same area did not suffer from the complaint. I think Senator McKenna actually said that the report stated it had been proven that the eating of the fish was the cause of the disease.

But again I find on investigating the matter that there is no scientific proof al all that the skin disease has been caused by the eating of radio-active fish. I think it was Senator Gorton who said that if fish became radio-active, it would be by the absorption of strontium 90 into the bones. That being so, then, since it is not likely that the natives would have eaten the fish bones, it is hardly possible that the disease would have been caused from eating the fish. It is also interesting to note that the same type of disease has been found in Queensland where people are exposing themselves to the cosmic rays of the sun. It is far more likely, therefore, that this disease, which is a form of skin cancer, would have afflicted the natives on the islands of which Senator McKenna spoke because they are exposing themselves to the sun more than are the Europeans who are living in the same vicinity. I think it is quite unrealistic to try to relate strontium 90 to the particular disease which was discovered there.

Senator McKenna spoke also of the fact that when the atomic bomb was exploded in Japan some people had their eyes burnt out. Senator O’Byrne said to-day that people were completely disintegrated by radio-activity from the bomb blast. I consider that to be a complete exaggeration. The heat from the bursting of any powerful bomb will burn a person if he is near enough to it, and it is more likely that people in Hiroshima had their eyes burnt out by the heat from the explosion, not by radio-activity. There again, 1 feel it is misleading to relate normal bombblast damage to radio-activity, which, I think, is most unlikely to be the cause of the trouble.

Many Japanese people have got themselves fussed over the amount of fall-out which is taking place because their country is strategically badly situated. They get the maximum amount of fall-out from bomb tests in the Soviet countries and from tests conducted by the Americans and even by the British in the Pacific, so it is quite refreshing to find the reputable Japanese newspaper, “ Asahi “, in a reference to this rather over-exaggerated and hysterical attitude which has been taken up by some people in Japan, saying that the matter has reached the proportions of a new disease which it calls radio-activity neurosis.

Certainly mankind has to watch the effects of radiation, and there are two forms of damage which are suspected of being caused by it. One form is the somatic effect and the other the genetic effect. The report deals with both of them. As to the somatic effects, mention is made of leukaemia as being probably the most likely result of radio-active fall-out from bombs. But even here it is stated that a maximum of one additional case of leukaemia every two and a half years over the whole of Australia might occur as the result of fall-out as against 1,250 cases which would occur under natural conditions in the same period. I emphasize that it is stated that these additional cases might occur; there is no proof that any radio-active fall-out will cause any addition to the number of leukaemia cases.

The genetic effects are obviously a little more obscure in that they take longer to develop. So far, we have not had time to find out very much about these genetic effects. There are two forms of genetic effects. One is sterilization and the other mutation of the genes. Immediately after the bombing of Hiroshima, it was thought that people who had been close to the explosion had become sterile, but it was found that within a few years this effect passed over completely. It was interesting to me to read in the British Medical Journal last month that a great many of those Japanese women whom it was thought had become sterile have now become pregnant, thus proving that sterilization from radio-activity is not a permanent disability.

Again, in the field of mutations, 1 do not think we ought to be quite so pessimistic. All mutations - and there have been mutations going on since time began - have not been bad ones. Looking to the field of horticulture, I recall that the Granny Smith apple, which to my mind is quite the best of apples, was originally a mutation. The navel orange was a mutation. Humanity, I think, could do with a few more mutations if they mean that we shall have a few more geniuses. Many geniuses are the result of mutations. So we do not need to feel that all mutations are going to be bad. Admittedly, many of them bring unfortunate results, but it has to be remembered that a great number are so weak that they die. And they do not reproduce! So there again it is misleading to take always the pessimistic view of the matter.

We have been living with dangers since the beginning of time and we have not always stopped to consider them. It may interest honorable senators to hear of some of the dangers with which we have been living. The other day, I read a report of a statistical analysis made by Dr. Harland Jones, of the United States of America. He gives his finding in terms of reduction of life expectancy. For instance, he said that being 10 per cent, overfat reduces life expectancy one and a half years; that smoking 25 cigarettes a day reduces life expectancy by nine years; that living in a city rather than in the country reduces life expectancy by five years; that having a sedentary job - some honorable senators need to be careful - reduces life expectancy by five years: that being a man instead of a mere woman reduces life expectancy by three years; and that the rate of killing on our roads indicates a reduction of one year in our life expectancy. But he also says that the effects of radio-active fall-out up to date will reduce life expectancy by only one or two days. So it is quite obvious that we need to have a more balanced outlook in respect of this fear which has arisen. We are living in an atomic age and all we need do is to guarantee the security of future generations.

One of the positive effects of radiation is that it has stopped war. We might easily have been involved in a third world war by now if it had not been that people were frightened of the effects of atomic bombs. That fear has got us to the stage that we have now reached. The risk involved in our testing of atomic weapons is negligible compared with the risk of being left behind in the atomic weapons race. This truth has to be accepted by the Australian people, no less than by the Australian Government.

I hope, that the time is very near when ali weapon tests can be discontinued and when governments and scientists can concentrate on the peaceful uses of atomic energy, but 1 do not believe that we should ban all tests now and seek peace at any price. I think that that would be dangerous and defeatist. If we have to continue testing, or to resume it because of the attitudes of the nations of the world, we will have to accept that fact. I certainly do not believe that peace can be bought regardless.

Senator Scott:

– What if the other side bans tests?


– The other side has not done so to date. The Russians have talked a lot of clap-trap about the dangers of radio-activity to humanity, but as Senator Gorton told us very clearly recently, the day after the discussions began at Geneva between the main world powers - and I believe they are still continuing - the Russians tested one of their biggest high-yield bombs. That could have resulted in the Americans saying, “ All right. We will forget that we have agreed not to test bombs. We will go ahead and test “. Fortunately, up till now, that has not happened.

We cannot put too much trust in what the Russians say on this matter. They are not prepared to face up to the fact that if we agree to do away with bomb tests the agreement has to be controlled properly; that 180 posts have to be set up and internationally controlled. That is one point to which the Russians do not agree. In addition, there have to be mobile units that can move in and find out whether certain effects are the result of tests of small bombs, or whether they are due to earthquakes or other earth movements. The Russians will have to agree to those things if they are sincere in saying that they want the tests to be stopped. So far, they have not agreed, and until they do so wc cannot put any faith in the propaganda that they have put out in regard to the matter. 1 have come to the conclusion that it is not specific weapons of war that must be banned, but warfare in general. I believe that atomic killing is even more humane than being bayoneted, being blown to bits by gunpowder, or being gassed. All of those things have had the most disastrous effects on humanity. If we have to face up to war, I do not think that atomic war is any more inhumane than are the forms of warfare that have been adopted up till now.

Senator Ormonde:

– All war is brutal.


– I agree. We have to go on negotiating, and we have to negotiate from strength. That is the important point. We have to be prepared for war in order to make our negotiations successful. That is perhaps on the government level. We can do much to attain peace by encouraging people to travel, by moving into other countries and getting to know the people, and by developing tolerance and understanding of other peoples. That is happening already, but still more could be done in that respect. That, 1 think, is one of the most effective ways of stopping people from being willing to fight other people.

Senator Ormonde:

– You hit them over the head.


– We on this side of the chamber are just as sincere in not wanting war as are honorable senators opposite. There is no doubt about that.

Social and political groups must change their thinking in order to exercise an influence for good on the future. There can be no return to the past. Over the last twenty years, scientific progress has certainly been phenomenal, but mankind generally has not kept up - I do not mean that the scientists have not kept up, because they have made the pace - with either the findings or the demands of scientific people. We have heard quite a lot of talk from the other side of the chamber to the effect that we need to train more scientists and more technologists. That may be so, but I do not think that that is necessarily our most urgent need. It is of no use training scientists, particularly in Australia - and we are discussing Australia at the moment - until we have establishments to which to attract them, until we have reactors, and until we can guarantee them opportunities for advancement. It is no good training too many technologists and scientists. The margin between too many and too few is very narrow. At the moment, our educational methods in that direction are quite sound.

Perhaps what we have to do is to alter our attitude to our technologists. In the past, we were inclined to think that they had to be specialists who served the managing directors, rather than becoming managing directors themselves. That has been half the trouble. If we train scientists and keep them down, we are going to lose our scientists, because that is not human nature. People want to be able to work out their problems in their own way, and we all are entitled to do that. The danger in specializing and in training people to be specialists is a very real one. When I consult a doctor I c’o not want to be told that; because my throat is not sore, I am quite healthy. I expect a doctor to take an interest in what makes me tick generally and in my particular problems; but more and more one has to go to a specialist to have attention to one’s finger or whatever part of the body may be affected. That, I think, is detracting from the great service which genera] practitioners have rendered in the past. With the type of training that is now being adopted we are in danger that there will not be any general practitioners.

Senator Wedgwood:

– Must not they be general practitioners before they become specialists?


– Not necessarily. They may become specialists straight away and go into specialized fields.

Senator Wedgwood:

– But they would have had basic training.


– They would have had their basic training, but they may go straight from their academic training into specialized training, which means that they do not know how to look at a human being as a human being. Instead, they look at particular parts of the body.

Senator Wedgwood:

– They have to be very good.


– That is the trend. That is the way things are going, and I feel that the same position applies in the case of technologists.

When technologists go into industry, or to whatever field they choose, they need to be able to deal with people and principles, just as much as they do with production processes. There has to be a general form of education. They have to study the humanities along with their particular branch of science. They have to be able to understand the progress of their branch of science, but they must also know something of the humanities. I speak with some experience of this matter because I have a son training in this field. He is doing nothing much but mathematics and mechanics. He is not being encouraged to continue with his reading and to develop his mind into broader channels. That is the point I am trying to make. It is dangerous to make people specialize and not give them a broader outlook.

Some countries of the world are giving their scientists a broader outlook. America is doing so in certain cases, and so is Russia. Those countries are se ing to it that their scientists receive a broad °r education. Switzerland and Holland are also doing that in some degree. That is why 1 say that we have to consider what is proper education and to see whether we can provide it. An honorable senator asked recently in this chamber why a particular scientist had Lft Austral.a and gone to America. 1 say that the reason perhaps is that so far we have not been able to spend enough money on research. That scientist left Australia because he could see no opportunity for research in this country. That is where America is ahead of us. 1 found some figures the other day that are of interest. At Harvard in the United States of America in the next three years some £42,000.000 is to be spent on research facilities. At Princeton, £26,000,000 is to be spent on research. Just by way of comparison. I mention that the University of Adelaide is going to spend £500,000. We are not providing sufficient opportunities for our scientists. Again, I say it is not so much a matter of needing to train more of them as providing facilities for them.

Senator Ormonde:

– We do not give them enough money.


– We have to find the money, and we have also to maintain balance. It is no use saying that we must train more technologists if we cannot offer them the opportunities that will keep them in this country. The Atomic Energy Commission is paying attention to this aspect of education by offering scholarships at Lucas Heights for further training. There is an industrial committee being set up which will go still further by providing short courses for technologists in industries so that they can find out what the latest developments are and keep themselves up to date. That sort of thing is more essential in Australia than the training of more and more students at perhaps leaving school level.

Quite a lot has been said by the Opposition about the disposal of fissionable waste. 1 agree that it is a problem, and it will become an increasing problem. Senator McKenna said that waste was being put into cement blocks and dumped in the sea and that there was definite proof that there was leakage of radio-activity from these blocks. I have checked that statement with scientists and they can tell me of no such detection at all. They say that so far they think the practice is completely safe, but obviously it cannot go on indefinitely. This matter is being inquired into not only in Australia, but in all countries of the world, and I think it will continue to be investigated.

But apart from this, which I call the negative side of the bomb, there are many positive sides. We have heard - 1 think from Senator Scott- of some of the more positive aspects - in the developments for peacetime use through isotopes. Taking primary industry first, I consider that one of the most essential requirements to-day is the production of more food if we are ever going to try to preserve peace in the world and to see that the starving populations are better fed. In order to have more food, we need to preserve more food and perhaps manufacture more food. Though it sounds quite fantastic, I understand that scientists, by a study of photosynthesis, find that foodstuffs can be manufactured that will completely replace green vegetables. The scientists are able chemically to produce the same result as Nature is doing. That is a step in the right direction, and it has been furthered through the use of radio-active isotopes.

To grow more food, we have to find out about soil fertilities, and that is being done through isotopes. We have to find what sort of minerals plants are absorbing and whether they need more or less of them. That is being done by using isotopes. Experiments are being conducted in seed mutation, which has already proved successful in the production of more effective seeds, and experiments are also being conducted with disease-resistant strains of seeds. All of these things for which radio-activity is directly responsible, have been successfully used.

In South Australia we certainly know what it means to the potato grower. One year he may have a tremendous crop and be unable to sell it, and he has to go over the potatoes every two or three weeks and peel the eyes off them in order to keep them, lt has been proved by certain uses of isotopes that this growth can be checked. The effect will be to keep the price of potatoes down and make for better potatoes; and there will be a more orderly marketing of that product, and probably others.

Senator Ormonde:

– And then we will get a lower basic wage.


– You mightyou never know - but if you did it would cost you less to live, so the thing would be evened out.

In the field of secondary industry, isotopes are being used most effectively as tracers and also as gauges and in many other ways that I do not propose to mention. Isotopes are particularly valuable for four reasons: Because they are a selfcontained source of energy; because radiations are easily detected; because performance is unaffected by heat or pressure; and because their properties are easily reproducible.

Obviously this atomic age - undoubtedly it is an atomic age - has brought tremendous benefits to the world. It is an exciting era that we live in, and I would not change with anybody in past or future generations. lt is an era in which these wonderful developments are bringing such benefit to the world. As I say we have to keep optimistic about it. Atomic power has a tremendous future and - shades of Sir Winston Churchill - I say that through radiation we have been able to get so much energy from so little fuel for so many purposes.

That the radio-active atom is hard at work is quite obvious. Its applications are realities already. We have radio-active atoms for peace through which we hope there will be good will to all men. There are radio-active atoms for health which will, through better diagnosis, keep people healthier. There are radio-active atoms for food which, as I have just mentioned, will enable ns to grow more, store more, and manufacture more food. There are radioactive atoms for industry through tracers and gauges. There are radio-active atoms for transportation by means of ships, motor cars and aeroplanes. Atomic power will make travel cheaper for everybody. There are radio-active atoms for homes, and in the near future, I suggest, homes will have their own reactors providing a cheap source of power for air-conditioning and all other domestic conveniences in the home. There are radio-active atoms for development. Salt water will be turned into fresh water and taken into the arid parts of the country. Lastly, there are radio-active atoms for education. We have to teach people how to use them and to live with them and also how to train others. The main things are that we continue to show the care and consideration that have been shown so far, and that we get behind people such as the scientists who are experimenting all the time and who are making us aware of the facts and publishing those facts for the whole world to use. So long as we keep these committees going, so long as we have good Ministers - as we have now - who take their responsibilities seriously, and so long as we have watchful parliamentarians radiating their confidence to the people around them, I feel that we have nothing to worry about. We must have leaders who have courage and who are prepared to go ahead with confidence, taking the risks that are necessary, and if their courage and confidence are wellfounded undoubtedly the world will be a better place for us to live in.

Senator McMANUS:

.- This has been a most valuable and informative debate, particularly for people like myself who have no expert knowledge of atomic energy or radiation. One of the advantages of such a debate is that it induces a number of honorable senators like myself to devote some study to the issues raised so that we can claim to be one of those watchful senators to whom Senator Buttfield referred in her concluding remarks.

Most honorable senators have spoken of radiation from the point of view of atomic tests in war or in peace. Considerable attention has been directed to the matter of fall-out but I propose to devote my remarks rather to the question of radiation as it is affected by the use of radio isotopes in the industry of other countries and, to an increasing extent, in this country also. Recent events must bring to the forefront the need to protect from radiation the people who are to use these devices in industry. A week or two ago we read in the newspapers an account of what could happen as a result of ignorance in these matters. We were told of the death in the United States of America - almost within a week - of two women who years ago had been members of a factory group which had had the task of putting radium paint on watch faces. The girls, having no knowledge of the dangers involved, had been in the habit of occasionally licking the brushes so that the paint could be applied more readily. Every one of the girls employed on this work has since suffered ill health. A number have died and it is said that the remainder will all die before their time.

We had another example of the dangers of exposing people to radiation in the circumstances which led to the decision by the health authorities to prevent the use of X-ray machines which had been installed in a number of footwear shops. This awareness of the dangers of radiation in industry is in its infancy. Little publicity has been given to the fact that already radio isotopes are used to a considerable extent in our factories - though to nowhere near the extent to which they are used in the United States of America. However, statistics made available by the Commonwealth X-ray and Radium Laboratory, the sole agents for the importation of isotopes, show how their use in Australia is increasing. There were 650 shipments in 1957-58 compared with 430 in the previous year, an increase of about 50 per cent.

I have no doubt that the growing interest of Australian manufacturers in the use of radio isotopes was stimulated by the very interesting exhibition which was presented in a number of our cities a year or two ago by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Many of us were greatly impressed by the extent to which radio isotopes could be used in industry. It is interesting, in an age in which we are concerned about production costs, to read in the recent interim report of the United States Atomic Energy Commissioner that the annual saving through the use of isotopes in industry rose last year to 500,000,000 dollars. The report went on to say that in the next year a saving of twice that sum would be effected. That is a remarkable state of affairs, and I am glad to see this growing interest on the part of Australian manufacturers in the use of radio isotopes.

Isotopes are, I am told, ordinary elements such as iodine and phosphorous which are made radioactive in an atomic reactor. They can be used for many purposes in medicine, science, industry and even agriculture. They can be used to find more effective methods of using fertilizers, increasing crop yields and developing new plant strains which will resist disease and produce more abundantly. One can certainly understand the interest of Australian producers, both primary and secondary, in their use.

There is no doubt that the United States is only on the threshold of the full use of radio isotopes in industry. Dr. Aebersold, Director of the United States Atomic Energy Commission Office of Isotopes Development said recently -

Everything that isotopes and radiation can do has not been developed. There is a vast realm of unextended and unborn uses. Thus, although isotopes and radiation and many principles of their use are not new, we believe a “ new look “ is developing - a growing recognition that present uses are only a small part of the enormous potential . . .

The other day we learned that a large gamma sterilization plant is being built in Melbourne. It will be used to sterilize goat hair used in the process of manufacturing carpets. The sterilization will guard against anthrax infection. The Australian Atomic Energy Commission is co-operating with the industry concerned. The commission is also co-operating in Queensland with the Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations in the use of radio-active isotopes in a full-scale test. A radio-active tracer is being used to test the efficiency of a sugar mill subsider which removes solid impurities from raw sugar solution. At Maitland, in New South Wales, radio-active iodine is at present being used to solve some interesting problems in the use of water.

I could give a number of other examples but I believe that it is unnecessary to go further to show that, although Australian industry may not be using isotopes to the extent to which they are used in the most progressive countries abroad, we are already doing a great deal, considering our small population and relatively limited industrial development. If radio isotopes are to be used they must be used safely. There is considerable interest among trade unions in the possible effects upon workers. I visited the Atomic Energy Commission’s display in Melbourne and saw remarkable evidence of the use of isotopes. I was accompanied by some officials of the Manufacturing Grocers Union who were particularly interested because of the extensive use abroad of isotopes to detect whether packages were properly filled and packed. They asked quite a number of questions of the experts who were present representing the Atomic Energy Commission. They wanted to be sure that when these isotopes and other radio-active materials were used in industry, they would be entirely safe for the persons who were employed in those industries.

What impressed them, and impressed me also, was that although these Australian experts assured us that every possible precaution would be taken, when it came to the point they were prepared to go only a certain distance. They said that all this was in its comparative infancy and one could not be dogmatic about what the future results would be. I respected them for taking that attitude. They believed that every precaution would be taken, but they were not prepared to go too far and assure the people that there was complete security.

What they said is confirmed in the report on the sixth item on the agenda of the International Labour Organization conference held this year. The sixth item referred to the protection of workers against the effects of radiation, and it is quite obvious that the I.LX>. experts are not satisfied that complete protection can be assured. They think we can be made secure, but they are not prepared to say definitely that we can be sure. According to the report of our Australian body, the Australian experts are not happy that everything is being done to ensure protection for Australians. I am told that the question is one substantially for State legislation, but we have also been told that there is not complete satisfaction with what the States are doing. Some have passed legislation. Some are endeavouring to ensure safety by regulation only, and in some States - including, it has been suggested, my own State of Victoria - there is some doubt as to the effectiveness of the regulations governing safety from radiation. I agree with other speakers in this debate who believe that this should be a matter for Commonwealth control, particularly in connexion with safety.

Personally, I believe that some valuable information can be obtained from a study of the report on the protection of workers against radiation which was made to the I.L.O. conference. That conference is attended by representatives of governments, employers and trade unions and the report to which I have referred was presented only this year. After listing the various ways in which radio-active isotopes can be used in industry, the report states -

There have been doubts about the wisdom of introducing into ordinary industrial establishments the special potential hazards that go with the use of ionising radiation.

The report states that it has been proved that the use of radiation enables many manufacturing processes to be simplified and that it has undeniable economic advantages. The report points out the hugs savings that have been made in American industry by the use of these radio-active isotopes but it does not indicate by any means that those concerned are satisfied that there is complete protection for the workers in the industries where the isotopes are being used. The report states -

Capable as they are of causing widespread and serious accidents if they get out of control, radiations by their very nature leave no room for any material or human failings, and therefore protection is an essential condition of their use.

We can all agree with that statement. The report then points out that there seems to be no clear and definite opinion as to what is the maximum permissible dose. It slates -

Tt is difficult to predict future changes in the numerical values laid down for such doses, but it is clear that the levels at present are not final and will be subject to revision sooner or later in the light of the constantly accumulating knowledge of the biological effects of radiation.

When I read that statement, which is part of an expert report, I think of all the stories we are told to the effect that this much radiation will not hurt you and that much will not cause any harm, and I cannot help thinking to myself, “ Can we be sure that the figures are as certain as they would have us believe? Is there not something in regard to which they are still experimenting? “

Senator Wright:

– What is the statement to which the honorable senator is referring?

Senator McMANUS:

– I have been referring to the report of the I.L.O. conference of 1959 on the protection of workers against radiation. This matter was referred to an expert committee. Reference was also made to the effects of radiation in industry, particularly in small industries. No doubt there will be adequate protection, so far as it can be gauged, in big industries where atomic reactors are employed, but the experts were obviously in doubt whether we could be sure of such protection in small industries where radio-active isotopes might be used. I make no apology for quoting this particular statement -

In many cases, however, economic or operational considerations have led to the acceptance of a level of irradiation which, although it is kept as far below the maximum permissible level as possible, is nevertheless a long way above that of natural background radiation.

I do not want to be a scaremonger. I suppose the natural background radiation would be considered reasonably safe. 1 suppose many scientists believe that the level they have referred to there would be safe, but I still have the feeling in my mind that even scientists are not prepared to be certain on this issue. The report adds -

It is possible too, with existing exposure monitoring techniques (radiation detectors, counters and dosemeters) to determine anywhere and al any time the dangers of exposure inherent in the work,

I want this noted particularly - though few countries have properly equipped centralized services able to process and interpret film tests on behalf of radiation users. It is important to promote such services in order to be certain that effective radiological protection is provided for workers in the many small and medium-sized undertakings that use radiations but are frequently unable to carry out this monitoring themselves. It should be pointed out that in general all the protective measures that have proved their worth are applied in atomic plants and nuclear centres in order to keep staff exposure down to very low levels, and indeed the workers in these establishments - at least in the leading countries in this field - are so well protected that they receive only a fraction of the maximum permissible dose.

So they say they are sure that in the big undertakings there is reasonable protection, but in the smaller undertakings and industries they are not so sure, and they say that there are, in very few countries, centralized services for monitoring the effects of radiation.

Senator Ormonde:

– Is there an economic advantage?

Senator McMANUS:

– There seems to be a straight-out statement here that, from the economic point of view, there are tremendous savings to be made in the use of radioactive isotopes, but this committee is not satisfied that there is safety in the industry where savings are to be made. Now I come to another matter which should be of particular interest to the trade unions of this country operating in the uranium mining field and notably, I suppose, to the Australian Workers Union which controls this particular activity. The committee’s report on uranium is this -

  1. . there is a special radiation hazard in the mining and processing of radioactive ores; workers in uranium mines are exposed not only to the risk of silicosis and miscellaneous accidents but also to the danger of inhaling radon and radioactive dusts which, together with the risk of external irradiation, constitute a serious menace to their health.

I want honorable .senators to notice these words -

A variety of methods such as ventilation and wet working are employed to counter this menace but the” are not in general use, nor are they fully satisfactory.

I hope that that reference to these methods being not in general use does not include Australia. I hope that in our industry we do attempt to use them. But the report states that even when these protective methods are used they are not fully satisfactory. If the scientists are not satisfied that the workers in the mining industry are being guarded against the danger of unhealthy radiation and radioactive dust, it appears to me that we should have a good look at the matter and do something about it. The report continues -

Sufficient heed is not always paid to the protection of the staff in factories and hospital establishments where ionising radiations are regularly or occasionally applied, despite the strict regulations in various countries governing in particular the supply of radio isotopes. This is all the more inexcusable in that the radiation sources used is a rule in industry (for purposes other than the processing of raw materials) are of low or medium activity, and it is relatively easy to control the external radiation danger inherent in them, lt would seem that often the workers in these establishments, and sometimes the management and supervisors as well, do not realize how serious the danger is, and that sources are some imes entrusted to persons who are not sufficiently informed of the risks or the precautions to be taken . . . Working with unsealed sources of radioactivity entails potential risks of internal irradiation that are generally more serious than those arising from external exposure alone.

Some people may say that what I have quoted from this report is extreme and alarmist. I do not know, because I am not an expert, but the International Labour Organization is known throughout the world as an organization of high repute, supported by governments, employers and unions. If that body issues such a statement as that, I believe that the statement ought to be studied, and that we must do something about it in the interests of people who will be called upon to work in industries where radio-active material is in use. One trade union already - the Manufacturing Grocers Union - has made a call for greater precautions.

Senator Ormonde:

– And the Waterside Workers Federation, too.

Senator McMANUS:

– I notice that the waterside workers are calling for precautions in regard to ships coming from Japan. I suppose many people in Australia might say that the waterside workers are a turbulent group and that when they call for such an examination of ships they are alarmist or induced by agitators to do so, but in view of what I have read in this publication I would not adopt that attitude at all. I think that they are entitled to have every precaution taken on their behalf. The grocers’ organization, as I have said, has carried this resolution -

The use of radio-active material shall be positively prohibited in industry unless used under strictest supervision of experts knowing the dangers of the material used and, further, radioactive material shall be positively banned unless every worker likely to come into contact with such material is fully instructed of the dangers and the precautions needed to prevent injury to health.

That is in accordance with the recommendations in this report. There is included in the report a statement of the precautions that are being taken in various countries. I regret that there is no reference to Australia, but possibly the information has since been supplied. Further, there is included an experts’ report. This experts’ report was made to the International Labour Organization following a resolution calling for such a report, which was carried by the governing body in March, 1957. It is a very complete and full report, and it appears to me that it could well form the basis of legislation in this country. Such legislation to ensure safety in the use of radio-active materials should be of a Commonwealth character. If the States are unwilling to sacrifice their power in that regard, there is an urgent necessity for them to meet at an early date and agree upon the acceptance of uniform principles of protection where radio-active materials are employed. 1 think that that is urgent, otherwise there will always be a possibility of interference with production from unionists who may feel not entirely secure if they are engaged in work in a particular industry. I should not like that to happen. That would be a bad thing. Interruptions to production are always bad for the country, but they are particularly bad when they are caused by doubts in the minds of workers in regard 10 safety.

As I said before, I am not an expert in this matter. I did not say what I said as an alarmist or as one who wanted to cause trouble in industry. But I would regard myself as not carrying out my duties at all if, after having read what is stated in this publication, I did not at least make some demand for bringing into existence in this country a proper code for the protection of ordinary working people against the effects of radiation. We have had many assurances from scientists that there is safety in certain circumstances or in doses of a certain character, but we have also had statements from other scientists that we have not yet reached a stage where can be certain. In those circumstances, we must have caution. We must have a code of protection for the ordinary people of this country and therefore we must ask ourselves where we all stand. It has been suggested already by one speaker that waste from industries where radio-active materials are employed is not being adequately dealt with. Others have cast doubt on that view and said that there is adequate protection. But there is evidence from people who should know that there is not entirely adequate protection. Therefore, I close my remarks by saying once again that without wishing to be an alarmist or to contribute in any way to the alarm that some people may be raising for entirely different purposes, I am not satisfied that legislation or regulations in this country to-day protect workers against the possible effects of radiation from the increasing use of radio-active materials in industry, and I think there is an urgent need for governments to deal with the matter at once.

Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.

Senator McCALLUM:
New South Wales

– I have listened to this debate with the greatest of interest and I have already learned a great deal from it. Let me try to estimate what the debate has yielded to us. First, it has revealed that, as we all knew, there are dangers involved in the explosion of an atomic bomb. Those dangers, according to the report and according to much of the evidence that was given - particularly by my colleague, Senator Buttfield, whose speech was one of the best informed - have not so far been proved to be as formidable as the dangers arising from the ordinary uses of radio-active material. The medical use of radium and the manufacture of such harmless things as wristlet watches have been shown to present- quite considerable dangers.

Like Senator McManus, who spoke immediately before me, I am not at all easy in my mind about the use of these new materials in ordinary commercial processes in industry. I agree with him that we must take every step possible to have a code drawn up so that the most complete safety that can be given to people working in factories with new kinds of material will be given. I think the most significant thing that has come out of the report and out of the debate is that on many of these matters nobody knows very much, and we have to be satisfied with a considerable degree of ignorance. I suppose that for most of the dangerous things used in ordinary industry to-day - steam power, electric power and so forth - safeguards have beeen worked out.

It is only through carelessness, through neglect of well-tried and well-known precautions, that people are electrocuted. I have myself a very considerable fear of all kinds of electric appliances. For a long time I refused to get rid of an old gas refrigerator and install an electric one because of a feeling that I might suddenly put my hand on the door of the electric refrigerator and get a shock of such magnitude that it would be the end- Then it was pointed out to me that a gas refrigerator also was very dangerous and that if I retained it I might be asphyxiated in my sleep. I decided to get an electric refrigerator and so far it has not troubled me. I am still alive.

I think that the ordinary householder has learned to take proper precautions in these matters. But when we come to the use of these new materials, we find that all that the scientists can tell us is that radio-activity existed long before scientists began to find out anything about it, and it is only a question of degree. But exactly what degree of radiation the human frame can endure and thrive on, nobody knows. I am a little less optimistic and a little less, shall we say, sunny-faced and starry-eyed than Senator Buttfield, in that I look at the dangers as well as the advantages of the new world that is coming in. I feel that we must do everythink that is humanly possible, and certainly everything that can be done by a legislature, to ensure that we have the highest degree of safeguard.

With regard to tests of atomic weapons, all I can say is that we must do all we can to avoid war. If we can get international agreements which will be observed, we should try to make them, but I am not very hopeful. That is not due merely to my distrust of what is commonly called the Communist bloc. I believe that this new knowledge will soon be available to every group which might call itself a nation or a group of nations and that the ordinary kind of atomic bomb will soon be at the disposal of all the peoples of the world. How you are going to control it, I do not know.

There are enthusiastic people who believe they have a panacea. They say, “Let us have a world government “. We may evolve a world government. A world government may suddenly develop, but I Can conceive of no world government at the moment that would be anything but a tyranny, and I regard tyranny as a much greater danger than radio-activity or any thing else that comes from outside the mind of man. Of course, we could get a world government if everybody submitted to the Soviet, but we are not prepared to do that. Even if we were, other people are not prepared to do it. Any attempt to get world government by that means would be disastrous and would lead only to the very thing we are trying to avoid. A world government through the development of the United Nations, and ultimate recognition of it by the people who are now our enemies, is something that is a long way off. I am not saying that we should not work towards it, but when you look at the difficulties in the way of establishing a world government, a government which observes the rules of law and which tries to apply law and justice throughout the world, you are, I think, in the world of dreams if you think it can be established soon.

So we must continue with our national and super-national organizations. We must try to get such agreement as we can. However, I am satisfied that the testing of atomic weapons of some kind will go on when other nations learn the secrets which we thought were confined to two nations. We simply have to put up with that. We can only hope that the rulers, the controlling bodies, in all the countries which have the ability to make and test an atomic bomb of any kind will be such that they will try to avoid the things that patently lead to danger. I think this is something that simply has to be accepted as a part of the dangerous world in which we live.

This report is quite definite about the value of the medical uses of radiation. The benefits of radiation are so great that they cannot be sacrificed, and any incidental danger is something that we have to accept. One of the things that perturbs me most - it may be simply my uninformed mind trying to find out - is the disposal of waste. I have discussed that problem with two or three of the leading scientists here, and 1 must say that their answers have not quite satisfied me. What you do with waste radio-active material, apparently, is to seal it in some kind of other material, such as lead, which, as it were, absorbs the radioactivity. The one fact that has burnt into my brain from all this discussion, and from what I have read, is that the scientists have started something that they cannot stop.

There is no way in which you can prevent radiation once you have started the process. Suppose you seal radio-active material in some material which, as it were, absorbs the radiation, then you are converting that dead, inert material back to what it was. That process will go on for a long time. According to the reports that I have read, the radio-activity will go on for thousands of years. If we continually increase the degree of radiation, the possibility is that the world will become so dangerous that life will not be able to accommodate itself to the conditions. Again, however, it is no use crying or wailing about these things. The new processes are here. We have to find out what precautions we can take. We have to find out which of them can be enforced by educating public opinion and which of them can be enforced by legislative action, and then do the best we can, and live on in this dangerous world. After all, the horrors that have been built up are no worse than the horrors we can associate with many other things in life. Life is full of dangerous possibilities. It is quite possible that the danger from germs is far greater than that from radio-activity. It will be remembered that after the First World War there was a great epidemic of influenza which destroyed more people than the war destroyed. That sort of thing has happened again and again in history. Medical science has rapidly caught up with many old diseases; but some new disease breaks out. It almost looks as though there were a battle between germs and mankind, the germs winning sometimes and mankind winning sometimes. After all, that is life, and has been from the beginning. It is a continual struggle, a continual process of one force working against another and we have to take what measures we can and, apart from that, just trust.

International agreement and the cultivation of good-will although a generality, is the only prescription I can offer for the terrible weapons that have been devised. I think that if there are sufficient people of good-will in the world ultimately it will prevail. I am not one of those who believe that there is any group in the world which can permanently hold down a great part of the world’s people in an iron tyranny. I have been bitterly disappointed in the whole development of Russia since the revolution. When the Czar fell, I expected a tyranny because I had read the history of other revolutions but I really hoped that within a few years that phase would pass and that there would now be a tolerable government. But the signs in that respect are all too few.

I am not one of those credulous individuals who believe that we have already reached the point when we can trust any of these governments in the Communist tyranny, but there is one important thing to remember. It is that people develop often in ways quite unexpected by the government that directs them, and it seems to me impossible that inside Russia there are not at work forces which ultimately will alter the government there. I would despair of human nature if I despaired of that. When you have a completely brutal government, with all the resources of censorship and secret police, and with the power to kill people without trial, then you know that you cannot expect much public manifestation of rebellion; but I do not know of any tyranny in the whole world’s history that did not end either by destruction from outside or by some kind of flowering of a spirit of opposition from within. While, as I say, I see no indication of a spir it of opposition to the Soviet form of government, while I see nothing inside except squabbles and trials between individuals, and between groups, it still seems to me impossible that that situation can last indefinitely. If we can only keep the peace, there is great room for hope.

I do not regard the scientific education as a complete education; but the scientific education is the search for truth, and even if a man studies nothing else but science I think that ultimately he must be compelled to face truths that are disagreeable to any kind of tyrannical government. The Marxist theory is supposed to govern the Communist thinking, but physical science is totally opposed to the Marxist theory. The Marxist theory is not scientific in the sense in which the word is used in describing physical science. The laws of chemistry and of physics have nothing to do with Marxism, and any one who is an honest chemist and an honest physicist must, I think, whether he admits it or not. oppose the Marxist theory in his own mind. That is the only safe hone I can hold out for the ultimate redemption of th-se people, lt is a fairly slender hope, certainly, but it is something on which to build. 1 have spoken already of the safeguards for industry, about the use for medicine and other uses of this new knowledge. I agree quite fully with Senator McManus on that matter. But there is one thing about which 1 am very disquieted in all this discussion of atomic energy and all the marvellous success that the people behind the Iron Curtain have had with their scientific experiments. The doctrine is growing up that in order to defeat them we must adopt their methods and that we must make purely scientific education - that is, scientific education in the physical sciences - the main part of our education and that all the old humanities, even the study of history, the study of theology and the study of philosophy of the Greeks and other people are mere trifling because they will not keep us safe and will not allow us to send up bigger and better missiles. In that, I see a very great element of danger to western European civilization.

In the history of the world, we began, I suppose, with the Greeks and the Hebrews and built on them to get the western European civilization which has provided us with our thoughts, our background of culture and our heritage. In my own lifetime, I have seen tremendous changes in the emphasis on various subjects and a growing tendency to accept only what is useful, and useful in the narrower sense. “ Useful “ in this atomic age has come to be used by more and more people to mean useful in the sense that it will enable us to vie with the people who have abandoned completely the greater part of western European civilization. After the revolution, Russia based its whole system on the Marxist doctrine. Insofar as the Russians have been civilized, they have stressed the purely useful. There is a little culture, of course. For instance, there is the Russian ballet, and people still write books, but the censorship prevents too much criticism. Recently, one of their greatest writers was ostracized in his own country, although honoured abroad, simply because he introduced a little element of criticism in his description of a phase of the history of their revolution.

To me, the things that make a people great are the free play of mind and the development of the imagination. If we are going to turn out from our schools and our universities nothing but physical scientists and engineers so specialized that they are not aware of the influences of the mind and the spirit, then I think our civilization will permanently decline. I sometimes look forward, not with the wonderful hope that some people have, to the future and wonder what the life of mankind will be if the people who believe in science and technology and nothing else become supreme. That, I think, is one of the great attractions of the Soviet system. Many people are amazed that men who owed their first loyalty to other countries should have deserted to the Soviet Union, and all kinds of motives are suggested. I can suggest a motive which might appeal to the purely scientific mind. The Russians have said that they have set up in the Soviet an aristocracy of science. The scientist, the engineer, the technician of every type, is given great honour, great distinction and wealth. That wealth does not come in return from investments, from ownership of land or from any of the old methods by which privileged classes held their position. The reward is in the form of extra privileges. Nominally, the scientist is just an ordinary man like other men, but he is given a better house to live in, better hours of work and a better car to ride in. There has grown up a sort of privileged class.

I can understand a man whose mind is purely scientific, who lives for the experiments he conducts and the things he discovers from them, accepting that kind of life and saying: “ Why should I bother about the common herd? What concern of mine are the people who like music or pictures, or having a good time, or going to football matches or bathing at the beach? What are they to me? I am here in a privileged position.” That, I think, is one of the great dangers of this new form of society, directed by an iron tyranny, such as we find in the Soviet Union. I hope that in all our discussion on these matters we will keep a sense of balance; that we will not allow ourselves to be driven into some violent and sudden change of curricula in our schools and universities; that we will not be driven to placing such terrific emphasis on the importance of the chemist, the physicist and the engineer that we will forget the other important elements in our society who need, perhaps, a slightly different type of education. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

page 548



Debate resumed from 19th August (vide page 171), on motion by Senator Sir Walter Cooper -

That the following paper: -

Extension of Television Services - Statement by the Postmaster-General - be printed.

Senator BENN:

.- Prior to the adjournment of the debate I was discussing the important matter of television and the development of mass communication throughout the world over the last 50 or 60 years. I was on the point of explaining, Mr. President, that Queensland is this year celebrating its centenary, and that it would be of interest to look back over the previous 100 years or so and see the form of mass communication that existed in the Commonwealth at that time. We all know that the only forms of mass communication then were the smoke signals sent out by the aborigines. It is rather interesting to make a comparison of the position then with the position after 100 years. Earlier this week Russia was able to strike the man in the moon on the nose. So great has been the development of communications that people in all civilized countries knew of that feat almost within minutes after it had been achieved.

The three major forms of mass communications are, first, the press, secondly, the radio, and thirdly, television. Control of mass communications in the Commonwealth, as in other parts of the world, is falling by degrees into the hands of fewer and fewer people. It is very easy, of course, for one to make that statement and to ask for it to be accepted. However, there is a statutory body operating in the Commonwealth whose duty it is to go into such matters as the issuing of radio licences, and to see who controls those licences, who operates radio stations, who are the applicants for television licences, and who operates television stations. That body is the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and to emphasize my point that mass communication in the Commonwealth is vested in the hands of a few people and that as time goes on the number controlling it will become smaller and smaller, I do not think I can do better than quote from the report of the board.

In paragraph 27 of the board’s annual report for the year ended 30th June, 1957, there is a heading “The Herald and Weekly Times Limited “. The report states -

This company holds the licences for stations 3DB Melbourne and 3LK Lubeck and is the principal shareholder, with 987,620 ordinary shares (in a total of 2,688,000 ordinary and 168,000 preference shares) in Advertiser Newspapers Limited, which controls stations SAD Adelaide, 5MU Murray Bridge, 5PI Crystal Brook and5SE Mount Gambier. During the year there was a substantial change in the company’s interest in stations 4AK Oakey and 4BK. Brisbane, the licences for which are held by Queensland Newspapers Proprietary Limited. The shares in the latter company were previously held by The Herald and Weekly Times Limited (303,876 shares) and C.W.L. Proprietary Limited (264,004 shares), both of which have disposed of their holdings to Queensland Press Limited, a public company in which the shares are held in various proportions.

Herald and Weekly Times Limited holds 37 per cent., C.W.L. Proprietary Limited holds 29 per cent., and public subscribers 33 per cent.

In further support of my point, I turn to the report which was furnished by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for the year 1958. In paragraph 71, reference is made to an applicant for a television licence, and the company making the application is known as Brisbane TV Limited. What 1 am about to say is the truth, because it comes from the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The report states -

This applicant proposed to issue 1,400,000 10s. shares, of which 700,000 (50 per cent.) would be offered for subscription by the general public. The remaining shares would be taken up as follows: -

Queensland Newspapers Pty. Ltd - 240,000 (17.4 per cent.).

Telegraph Newspaper Co. Ltd.- 156,000 (11.14 per cent.).

Other companies, which have minor shareholding interests, are mentioned.

There we have a combination of interests. First, we have the press. 1 have mentioned the radio stations for which the newspapers hold licences and over which they exercise control. Here we have the press very deeply involved in the television business. It is unnecessary for me, I am sure, to mention the interests of the Melbourne “ Herald “ in television. In Queensland we have Queensland Newspapers Proprietary Limited, which is in fact the Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “, and Telegraph Newspaper Company Limited. There is a combination of businesses in the field of mass communication. I am not going over the ground as to how this actually developed; I am concerned with the fact that it does exist at the present time, and I am wondering whether it will be for the welfare of the people of the Commonwealth or for the profit-making propensities of the big combines operating in this particular business. We do expect certain behaviour on the part of the press and radio stations and also the television stations. Whether we are getting that conduct or not, it is not for me to say. I do know that on all occasions the press is not truthful, and when its lies have been pointed out, it has made no attempt to correct them. Certain sections of the press in the Commonwealth, anyway, do not make any attempt to do so. Whether they will carry that into the business of television I am unable to say, but it is a fact that they are doing it in respect of the newspapers at the present time.

I do not think that the importance of mass communication can be stressed too greatly, for the reason that it can be operated for good or for evil. We know that in the community at large many opinions are held. We also know that there is such an intangible thing as public opinion. We know that public opinion can be influenced, and I am fully aware of the fact that with television operating and being extended at the present time throughout the country, a few people in the Commonwealth will be given a greater power to exercise control over public opinion. Whether that control will be exercised for the good of the Commonwealth and the welfare of the people or in the interests of the company, only time will show. We do know this, that over the years any form of information supplied to the public, if it were to be regarded as interesting at all, had to be based upon sensationalism. If we examine the history of the press over the centuries, we find that the press gained strength through reporting sordid cases in New York, London and elsewhere. A murder, of course, the news papers glorified, because it meant greater sales, more advertising and more money. Even to-day, unless news is spiced with some form of sensationalism, it is not approved or welcomed by the controllers of mass communication.

We have been told that with the extension of television Australia will be overwhelmed with some of the old, imported programmes. Again, I am unable to say just how the programmes that have been shown in the Commonwealth compare with those overseas. I would say that the comparison would show that Australia was in no worse position than the other countries.

We listened recently to a very interesting address from Senator Hannan. It is very rarely that honorable senators hear me say anything favorable about a member of the Government side, but I repeat that Senator Hannan gave a very excellent address. As a matter of fact, I have read it three times already and I commend it to every honorable senator, because Senator Hannan stressed the importance of establishing our own film industry in the Commonwealth. He also pointed out the great advantage that would accrue to the Commonwealth if that were done.

Radio was introduced into Australia many years ago, and now we have television. I feel that we have lost an opportunity to establish a very important industry in the Commonwealth. I think that if we had established an industry which would have allowed us to make films and have them shown over the television stations throughout the Commonwealth, the people would have become accustomed to that type of Australian production. I know this to be so, because I have seen it in another way. We grow tobacco in Queensland. When it was first manufactured and put on the market it was not acceptable to the majority of smokers in the Commonwealth. In that case, it was a matter of palate, or taste, but after awhile we found that by blending imported tobaccoes with Queensland leaf we developed a tobacco that was acceptable to all the smokers in the Commonwealth. In another year or two we will be able to have all our smoking requirements manufactured from Queensland leaf and the smoking public will not be aware of that fact.

I think that if we had established a film industry, when we introduced television and really asked the people of Australia to be tolerant as they were looking at an Australian scene, and Australian actors, tolerance would have been shown by the public and they would have been entertained better perhaps than they are at present being entertained by looking at films that have been manufactured overseas.

What I am anxious to see on television shows when they operate in Queensland to a greater extent than at present, are instructional films. We live now in a community where many of us have time on our hands. The 40-hour week is Commonwealth-wide, which means that many of the young people are not even tired at the end of the day. Their working week ceases usually at about 5 p.m. on Fridays, and they have Saturdays and Sundays at their disposal. Therefore, I think that films for instructional purposes should be set aside to be exhibited during certain hours so that young people can learn to do something of benefit to themselves and be taught to create something by working with their hands. I have in mind the teaching of, say, french polishing not only to the young people, but to the aged people also who could take it up as a hobby. Other crafts also, such as wood carving, could be taught over television. That is a craft that is rapidly dying out and T think many people would find it to be a very pleasant hobby. Mechanical work of some nature could be exhibited, and instructional films on needle work and cooking could be shown for the housewives. I hope that when television is being operated in Australia to the maximum degree to which it can be taken, we will have shows that are purely Australian and that a large proportion of them will be designed for the benefit of the youn? people of the Commonwealth to teach them to create something, so that they will perhaps develop a greater interest in life than they have at the present time.

We are frequently told that the modern tendency is to allow material values to override social and human values, but I do not intend to discuss that this evening. The Government may be able to control public opinion on this matter to a certain extent, but unfortunately, it has not a very extensive control of the means of communication. Licences have been granted for the operation of radio and television stations but. strangely enough, although their holders are substantially newspaper enterprises they have never shown any willingness to submit to the licensing of the press. Years ago. when radio was first introduced here, it should have been made plain that if newspapers entered the field they should be required to accept the licensing of their press interest as well. With the advent of television it should have been possible to issue a licence covering television, radio and press so that the Postmaster-General would have control of the means of mass communication. As the power of these combines in the field of mass communication increases so too will their truculence. We may even find it necessary to sort out the press interests and make them go back into their own field, so that radio interests may operate apart from press interests, and television interests apart from both. If there is to be an abuse of the power conferred by the granting of a licence the time will come when some, form of control will have to be exercised.

Some of the newly-formed television companies have done very well indeed out of the Commonwealth Government. I do not propose to traverse the disposal during recent months of shares in television companies, other than to remark that in some cases they were sold at a premium of more than 200 per cent, months before the station was ready to operate. That is surely an example of easy money - in return for a sole asset, a television licence. Nearly all the existing television stations are indebted to the Government for this free gift.

The Minister for Repatriation (Sir Walter Cooper) has told us that this is to be the third phase of television development. I do not know how many phases there are to be. Apparently in Queensland, development is to take place in the Darling Downs area, the Rockhampton area, and the Townsville area. I know the Darling Downs very well. The city with the greatest population is Toowoomba, which has 30,000 or 40,000 citizens. However, already that city is able to view shows transmitted by television stations in Brisbane. Where will the Government authorize the setting up of a station that will transmit shows over the Darling Downs? One of the ironies of television is that the people who are most entitled to benefit from it cannot do so.

Television has already been provided in Sydney and Melbourne, where the populations are large and the centres of amusement are numerous - there is one in almost every street. The same could be said of Brisbane. The people in remote areas will still be denied television. That is one of the ironies of the situation.

The Minister was somewhat ambitious in suggesting that television would reach 75 per cent, of the Australian population. That will certainly not be true so far as Queensland is concerned. He will be lucky if he is able to extend television to 40 per cent, or 50 per cent, of the population, even after the third phase has been completed. I look forward to the day when greater control will be exercised over the holders of television licences and, indeed, radio licences. I look forward to the day when there will be in office a government which will say that the people of Australia are entitled to see programmes that are wholly Australian. I look forward to the day when we shall no longer rely upon imported films for the entertainment of our people, especially the young folk.

Senator BRANSON:
Western Australia

– T have been prompted to enter this debate by the mounting number of protests that I, and doubtless every other member representing Western Australia, have received from local government bodies in that State. The protests have resulted from the fact that Western Australia is not to have television until phase four is reached, or in another two years.

Senator Ormonde:

– It will be out of date then.

Senator BRANSON:

– We all appreciate the natural impatience of every one to participate in an amenity that is new. Inability to do so breeds resentment. That is probably the reason for the rising number of protests that we are receiving. Country people suffer quite enough already. I speak with a certain amount of feeling, for I have lived in country towns most of my life. For instance, one has a telephone like one’s city cousin, but it operates for only a given number of hours each day. It closes down at a certain time during the day, and again at night.

Senator Ormonde:

– And it is dearer now, too.

Senator BRANSON:

– I shall discuss that subject later in the week. Over a large area of Western Australia one cannot even get decent radio reception. The resentment to which I have referred springs from the fact that though television is being brought to a large section of the community the unfortunate country dweller is being even further penalized. We must remember also that these people live a long way from the ordinary amenities which are taken for granted in the cities. I can speak of my own case. Living 16 miles from the nearest centre rearing a young family one can go for as long as four or five years and not even see a picture show. So this is one way in which we can achieve decentralization to which governments too often pay only lip service.

Television is one of the most acceptable amenities that can be provided for country people and particularly for the aged persons in rural areas. In spite of decentralization, elderly persons who have handed over their properties to their sons often make straight for the cities. That is highly undesirable. Frequently, they do not live long after they have broken away from their circle of friends and relatives in the country. I am pleased to see that in my own district many aged persons are retiring to the larger country centres. The absence of television is just another reason why they should go to the cities.

I was interested to note to-day that a school inspector in Victoria, who retired after 40 years’ service, said that television could be one of the greatest factors in education if it were used properly. It would be of special value to country children. The Government should consider seriously the need for introducing phase four before the expiration of another two years, if that is the estimate.

Senator Armstrong:

– This is a very slow moving Government.

Senator BRANSON:

– It is not slowmoving, but there has been a little oversight concerning these worthy people who are being denied the use of television for the next two years. According to a statement at page 61 of the ninth annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, there are four centres in Western Australia which are to receive country television licences. They are Bunbury (39,000 people), Kalgoorlie (24,000), Albany (17,000) and Geraldton (15,000). There is a large section of the central agricultural area of Western Australia which could be missed out completely if that pattern is adopted. I refer to the area lying between York, Narrogin and Cuballing, in which there are 51,000 persons living in 12,181 homes. Residents in that area can get some reception under freak conditions, but they cannot be sure of reception because the Darling Range blankets transmission from the metropolitan area. Unfortunately, the central area has been neglected in phase four.

Senator Armstrong:

– Does anybody live there?

Senator BRANSON:

– As I have said, about 51,000 people live there in 12,181 homes. I ask the Government to examine the needs of the central agricultural area before it decides definitely to provide only for the other four areas. Paragraph 9 of the statement by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) is worth repeating. He said -

The Government has decided that so far as practicable, priority in the granting of such licences will be given to applicants where local independent companies are not associated with metropolitan stations.

I agree with him entirely.

Senator Sheehan:

– What does the Minister mean by “practicable”?

Senator BRANSON:

– Your interpretation of it and mine are probably different from the Minister’s, but I have quoted what he said. I shall cite a case where this is practicable.

Senator Toohey:

– I hope it does not conflict with the Postmaster-General’s interpretation.

Senator BRANSON:

– I hope so, too, because an application has been presented to the Minister to cover the area I have mentioned. I have had a survey made already of the physical features and have checked on the population. As I have said 51,000 people will be served if the Minis1ter grants a licence. For the benefit of my good friends on the Opposition side, I may add that those interested in the application have nothing whatever to do with any newspaper. 1 am led to believe that not even one person who holds a share is interested in a newspaper.

Senator Armstrong:

– What application is this?

Senator BRANSON:

– It is an application for a licence to cover the NarroginCuballingYork area. It is from the Cuballing Road and Vermin Board. I noticed to-day that Senator Cooke had been prompted to ask a question about this matter, so he is interested in it. The letter from the board stated -

My Board has heard that applications are being received for additional television transmitting stations in New South Wales and Victoria but NOT for West Australia.

They are concerned that opportunity is not being taken to add to the number of stations in other States at the same time since it is also understood that no further call for applications will be made for two years.

I do not know whether that is correct, but I am told that the fourth phase is scheduled to begin in two years’ time. There are some optimistic people who believe it may be earlier and I hope they are right. The letter continued -

It is believed that erection and operation has to be entirely financed by the company to whom the licence is granted, and no subsidy or financial assistance is given by the Commonwealth Government. On the contrary, it would appear that receipts from station licence and receiver licences would make it worth while to licence additional stations to cover districts where power is available but distance and topography preclude reception from any station already operating. In Western Australia, as you are aware, the only station commences operations on about 31st August and it is doubtful if the Great Southern region from York to Narrogin will be able to receive because of the blanketing effect of the Darling Ranges.

There is freak reception from time to time now but it cannot be relied upon.

Senator Sheehan:

– Where is the Western Australian station located?

Senator BRANSON:

– On top of Bickley Hill fourteen or fifteen miles from Perth in the Darling Range. At present television is being received as far away as 150 miles but that cannot be relied upon. The board’s letter continued -

South of Narrogin to Albany and east and west of the Great Southern railway it is practically certain that reception will be impossible except under freak conditions. It is believed that Albany has been suggested as a site for a station in the distant future, but my board considers that site ill-chosen because about SO per cent, of the “ certain “ reception circle would be out at sea,

Obviously, they have to go ‘inland to take in Albany which would take reception that much further into the agricultural area - while a site further inland would make reception available to a far greater number .of viewers. Expansion of the State Electricity .Commission power scheme assures ample power being available “throughout this district.

My board ‘has been informed that a company (Perth Television Appliances) has applied for a licence to erect and operate .a transmitting station somewhere along the Great Southern railway and, while not supporting this company in particular, do most emphatically support the proposal and request that you authorise erection of a station -in this area as soon as possible. They do .not know of any sound reason why this district should have to wait two mom years for an amenity which is available to city .people and which someone is prepared to . provide, al no cost to ‘your Government, practically immediately.

That is the point to which J should like a reply. Private enterprise - in this instance a private company which has no interest whatsoever in the press or a radio station - has applied for a licence and is prepared .to .establish this amenity there for the country people.

Senator Armstrong:

– What capital is proposed for the company?

Senator BRANSON:

– That company was floated recently with a capital of a’bout £500,000 as a supplier of television sets. It has no interest whatsoever in other avenues of the dissemination of news. It is prepared to go into that area and erect a transmitting station. Quite obviously, it will have to invite the subscription of more capital, but I am told that this will be invited in the area where the station will toe located. That is highly desirable.

Senator Armstrong:

– What will be the capital of the company that will conduct the station?

Senator BRANSON:

– I could not say. In a few moments I shall refer to some of the .silly figures that have been bandied about on the cost of providing a television station.

Senator Ormonde:

– What about advertising revenue?

Senator BRANSON:

– In regard to radio, it is interesting to note that when most of the advertising was done by national advertisers, upon country stations starting some of the national advertising was withdrawn. lt was found that there was an untapped avenue in country areas for local advertising. I am quite certain that television stations could be established in these areas at a much lower cost than we were led to believe. Various figures have ‘been bandied round. It was said that the establishment of a station could cost £1,000,000. I have never heard anything so silly. The estimate for TVW Perth is £199,000, including the erection of a 475-foot mast. Under certain conditions transmissions are being received in Geraldton, 320 miles away.

Senator Hannan:

– What is the power of the station?

Senator BRANSON:

– I do not know. I am not well versed in the technicalities of television. Transmissions are being received at .Geraldton, although masts .of 4.0 feet in h eight have to be .erected for the purpose. That is 320 miles away. I nawe quoted from .only one letter on the subject ‘.that I have received. I ;am certain that other Western Austalian senators from both sides .of the chamber have (received a number of letters. I have received letters also from the municipality of Narrogin, and from the Great Southern Regional Council.

When the Postmaster-General was speaking on this subject he made a statement which, I .think, is pertinent to this point. He -said -

I do not see any -reason . . . which would debar a country station from acquiring from a metropolitan station a certain programme that it desires to telecast.

I was prompted to refer to that statement by Senator Ormonde’s inquiry about advertising in the country. That brought to my mind the fact that certain doubts were raised as to whether country stations would be able to produce good programmes.

Senator Ormonde:

– You could not have a network.

Senator BRANSON:

– The Minister stated that there was no need for a network. It is interesting to consider certain conditions that apply only to licences for Hobart and Perth. I shall come to that in a moment. The Minister continued -

In my statement of ,30th April, 1959, I mentioned that as far as practicable priority in the granting of television licences would be given to local independent companies not associated with metropolitan stations. In that context the words “ not associated “ mean “ not associated financially “.

He is committed to that quite definitely. He went on -

They would not be debarred from picking and choosing from the programmes available from city stations. I believe that the city stations would be only too glad to make programmes available on that basis.

Honorable members may be interested to learn that the licences granted to Perth and Hobart commercial stations contain a clause which states specifically that the stations may not enter into any exclusive arrangement with any particular metropolitan station for programme procurement. The door is thus left open to the Perth and Hobart stations to acquire programmes from other licencees if they so desire. This ensures that they will not be likely to come under the control of other stations.

That is desirable, because quite obviously the country viewer will have interests outside the programmes presented by city Stations. There will be matters of local interest, including shows and field days, but he cannot be denied the wider field of television entertainment which will be available from the city commercial station because of its larger advertising field. Under this clause to which the Minister referred, that can be made available to country television stations.

Senator Benn mentioned the film industry. I agreed with him entirely, as I did with Senator Hannan. Like Senator Benn, I was most impressed by Senator Hannan’s speech. The Minister made reference to this subject. He said -

We should remember that television in Australia is still relatively in its infancy. Australian films are not yet produced for television in great numbers although local companies are producing practically all the film required- for advertising purposes. There is no reason why the industry should not be built up.

I entirely agree that it should be built up. The Minister then said -

If this were done, country stations would not have so much difficulty in meeting their programme requirements.

As I said, some strange figures have been bandied round hi relation to cost. I have mentioned that £199,000 is the proposed cost of the Perth transmitter. That is not a lot of money for the establishment of a television station. Even in Adelaide the estimated cost was only £218,000, and in Hobart £189,000. So I do not think that the cost of establishing a station will preclude country areas from providing their own.

Senator Ormonde:

– It is dangerous politically for the Australian Country Party, though.

Senator BRANSON:

– That is its worry, not mine, fortunately. I have been asked a question on a number of occasions and I feel the answer ought to appear in “ Hansard “ for those people who do read it

Senator Ormonde:

– Both of them!

Senator BRANSON:

– The three of them. At present I send out three, and I am considering sending out a few more. It will be noticed from the report that privileges have been granted to certain people. One is that blind persons may receive viewers’ licences free. That prompted the question: Why should a viewer’s licence be issued to a blind person? The Minister pointed out that many people come under that heading and receive pensions as blind persons because they cannot earn a living, they cannot see in normal conditions, and to all intents and purposes they are blind. But if these very unfortunate people are close to a correctly tuned television set, the whole world can be brought to them because of the clear picture in light and shade. They can see it. That is the reason, as the Minister explained, why licences are issued free to these approved persons.

If something is repeated frequently, it often registers. I reiterate that a company is prepared to establish a television station in the area I named. The shareholders will take the risk. Whether or not they get advertising to pay for it, and whether or not they get dividends, are their worries. They ask that the fourth phase be brought forward or that they be included in the third phase, so that they will be allowed to establish a station in that part of the southwest of Western Australia. It is a little ironical that they should be denied, when one looks at the places where country television stations are to be established. I speak for South Australia, as well as for Western Australia, although I know that there are many here to speak for South Australia. An examination of the map of Australia will show that all the areas where television is to be extended in the third phase lie east of the 142nd meridian of longitude. That line runs approximately through the tip of Cape York Peninsula and Hamilton in Victoria. No part of the areas to which country television services are to be extended is more than 350 to 400 miles from the eastern coastline. The country areas west of the 142nd meridian will be unprovided for at least for another two years. Not one country television station is proposed for either South Australia or Western Australia, and those States comprise nearly one-half of the Commonwealth.

Senator Ormonde:

– But there are no people there!

Senator BRANSON:

– I hope the honorable senator expects me to take that interjection as intended facetiously. To these people this is vital and important. Just stop and think when I mention to you Bunbury, Kalgoorlie. Albany and Geraldton. I want to see stations in those areas. Kalgoorlie, Albany and Geraldton have some 55,000 people. I have mentioned another area which has 51,000 people.

Senator Ormonde:

– How big is it?

Senator BRANSON:

– The area is large, but you must realize that in Western Australia the country is flat. When you come from the Darling Range you come into flat, agricultural plain country which runs right across to the sandhills on the western side of South Australia. There is not a hilly feature there except for Mount Bakewell, which is 1,500 ft. high. I would say that if a station were erected there, you would get some exceptional reception records. Transmitting from Mount Bakewell, you could probably pick up a programme even at Esperance, which is some 500 miles away, because there would be nothing to interfere with the reception.

That brings this point to my mind. Victoria, in particular, has a problem in that, with ten channels, it can provide only a certain number of stations. I am indebted to Senator Hannan for having explained this to me. However, in Western Australia we have not got that problem. You could have a station in the north and a station in the south using the same channel, and they would not interfere with one another. Our problem in Western Australia is one of population. Kalgoorlie, Albany and Geraldton contain about 55,000 people. T would have a station to serve each of those areas, which contain about 24,000, 17,000 and 15,000 people respectively.

There are 51,000 people in the central agricultural area so far unprovided for. I make a plea to the Minister to ask his department to have a close look at the problem before these people are pushed back into phase four. Indeed, they are not even catered for in phase four at this stage. For the life of me, I cannot see why the Government is not prepared to allow private enterprise to go in there and provide a station, especially as it would not cost the Government any money. The country people often are the scapegoats for all projects.

Senator Kennelly:

– Break it down!

Senator BRANSON:

- Senator Kennelly knows that they have to wait and wait and put up with all sorts of disabilities.

Senator Kennelly:

– They get all sorts of subsidies.

Senator BRANSON:

– I do not want to go into the question of subsidies, because I do not necessarily believe in subsidies. The fact is that country people have to wait even for amenities which Senator Kennelly and I consider - living in capital cities, as we do - to be our right. They have just as much right to these amenities as we have.

Senator ARNOLD:
New South Wales

– I join with Senator Branson in his desire to have the country people participate in the possible benefits - some might say ills - of television. I live in a country area where we receive a fringe reception of television from Sydney. The reception is of a very poor standard, but the people are so eager for this service that you can see a great number of television antennae all around the district. I understand that at the moment some 5,000 people in the Newcastle area are paying five guineas a year for television licences, although they get only a poor reception for most of the week. Therefore, it is quite clear that country people are anxious to have television.

As Senator Branson has said, there is no real reason why they should not participate in this service. The only reason appears to be the policy of the Government, which is to approach this problem as slowly as it possibly can. For the last two years Sydney and Melbourne have had television.

The second’ phase of the programme- is only now being put into- operation- in Brisbane, Adelaide and- Hobart. The- statement we are discussing: deals, with the. third phase;, as it is: Galled,, which,, possibly in. two years? time, will, bring television to some of the? larger towns in Australia.. We shall have to wait for the fourth phase before the people mentioned by Senator Branson will be catered for.

I feel that the approach of the Government to this problem has been the approach of trying, deliberately to suppress a wider spread, television service in Australia. The argument has been advanced that Australia could not afford a quick spreading of television because it would take up too much of the capital’ of the- country to provide the television sets and all else that was required. It has been suggested that we should approach the problem slowly. If the Government has been successful in nothing else, it has been very successful in that slow approach.

I see no reason at all why country people should not be given a service by relaying the programmes of the national stations throughout the greater part of Australia. I was speaking to a television engineer the other day - a very highly placed man who knows the problem very well. He told me that a relay station would cost less than £30,000. He said that the installation necessary to relay a programme from Sydney to Newcastle would cost the Government no more than £30,000 to £35,000. If that were done, the people of Newcastle - about 400,000 people - would be able to receive one programme. They would be able to receive telecasts of sporting events, of important events such as the recent visit of Princess Alexandra to New South Wales, and of other events of national importance that the Australian Broadcasting Commission transmits. People in these fringe areas are paying licence fees for part-time reception. For possibly three-quarters of the time they cannot get anything. I see no reason why the installation of relay stations to serve these areas should not be gone on with immediately. After all, what we are concerned about in the statement we are discussing to-night is, not the national stations, but the granting cif licences- to commercial stations. I agree that’ applicants for licences to conduct commercial television- stations should be investigated’ thoroughly. This medium is a powerful’ means of disseminating news to the people, and the Government should move slowly in the matter. In my opinion, it is essential that every effort be made to guard against the growth of a monopoly in commercial television in Australia. Unfortunately, the evidence so far has been that the Government has issued licences to groups which already have a monopoly in the dissemination of news through the press and over radio stations. I regret that this has been so. It would seem now that a monopoly is to control commercial television.

I agree with Senator Branson that the country people in particular should be given the earliest possible opportunity to view events of national interest and enjoy the amenities now available to so many people in the capital cities. I was interested to read the report of Senator Hannan’s speech about the technical problems associated with television and I felt that what he said supported my case. He has suggested that there is no real problem in the way of extending the national network into the country areas at very small cost.

Associated with the spread of television is the matter of the manufacture and servicing of receiving sets. This calls for highly skilled technicians, and I doubt whether we have in Australia at the moment sufficient highly skilled men to give proper service to the units already in operation. This maintenance problem is aggravated by the erection of commercial stations at Adelaide and Brisbane, and it is my opinion that the extension of the national network by the erection of relay stations would minimize the call for maintenance in that, if some of the national programmes that I have seen are to be taken as a guide, there will not be a great rush immediately for television sets. Judging the matter on the programmes I have seen, one would need to be an ardent viewer indeed to be satisfied with that type of entertainment for the whole evening. The money that the people of Australia have contributed by way of viewers’ licences should be adequate to enable our national stations to provide better programmes.

Recently I read some statistics which indicated that the commercial stations were attracting something like 80 per cent, of the viewers while the coverage enjoyed by the national stations was very limited indeed, lt is wrong that this should be so. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board, when it was established, made some pious resolutions. It stated that it intended to provide not only programmes that would appeal to the public but also programmes that would help to educate our children and to give them cultural entertainment. The board has fallen down on the job when commercial television stations command such a big proportion of the viewing public. By putting on western and crime features, the commercial stations are entertaining the people. The national stations could do much more if there were some initiative in the management of the organization.

Not long ago, the national stations televised two plays. One was “ Hamlet “ and the other was “ Julius Caesar “, both of which were English subjects for the Leaving Certificate examination this year. That was a splendid service to those children who were to sit for this examination. In addition to providing a splendid service, it gave employment to Australian artists whose acting was of the highest standard. The programmes were a credit to those responsible for putting them on. Unfortunately, that was just a spasm. I have not been so pleased with the programmes I have seen from the national stations since then. I think they could do much better.

First I suggest that the board should exercise greater control over the programmes put on by commercial stations. Next, I should like the national stations so to improve their programmes that, instead of attracting only 14 per cent, or 15 per cent, of the viewers, they will command the attention of a big section of the viewing public.

I am appalled at the Government’s policy governing the granting of licences to commercial television stations. I know that a tremendous amount of capital is needed to establish a television station. It would seem that nothing less than £500,000 would be adequate for the purpose, and there are not many people who have that much money. The unfortunate result is that the groups which are now controlling newspapers and radio stations are extending their operations to this new medium of exchanging ideas - television. We are faced with the alarming prospect of a few people in Australia controlling all three media of disseminating news and propaganda.

Again, there is very little prospect of the smaller country centres attracting anything like the capital required to establish a commercial station. Commercial television stations must be a more hazardous venture in country areas than in such places as the city of Sydney where there are perhaps 2,000,000 viewers, and there is all the advertising that goes with such a huge viewing public. The board will need to be extremely careful when granting licences in country areas to commercial’ television stations. Here I must be fair and point out that the board did make specific recommendations with relation to the issue of licences in Adelaide and Brisbane, and the Government rejected them. The Government instructed the board to issue more than the one licence that it had recommended for each city. Instead of there being only one licence in each place, the Government has insisted on there being two. Having heard the evidence in the cases, I wonder whether the Government is prepared to be guided by what I consider to be an unbiased expert body and to accept its recommendations, or whether the Government will itself determine the policy for country areas. In country centres we have newspapers that are owned by substantial groups. Those groups supply the news to many of our country towns. It is likely that those who receive commercial television licences in country areas will be the same people who already control the newspapers and, in the main, have a controlling interest in the radio stations.

With the tendency towards bigger and bigger commercial groupings in our .community, consequent on the takeovers that are occurring in all kinds of industry these days, the possibility is that, as time goes on, the control of television stations will fall into fewer and fewer hands. I know that the Government has inserted in the relevant legislation certain provisos to the effect that no one group of people may own more than one television station.

We now know, of course, that more than one television station may be controlled by the one group of people. I could go through the lists of shareholders and indicate that the Melbourne “ Herald “ people own two television stations, and that the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ controls one station in Sydney and one in Brisbane. It is clear that already that provision of the legislation has been breached. I do not think there is much that the Government can do about this position, but I fear that in the future that kind of thing will happen much more frequently. We shall then have a few people in Australia controlling television, radio and newspapers.

We have seen in other countries what can happen when the avenues of news are controlled by a few people. We had a very vivid example in Germany prior to the war, when the government of that country took over control of news and propaganda and the people slavishly followed what they heard over the air or read in the newspapers. I think that that is largely true of Russia to-day, and I know it is also true of China, but we do not want to see that kind of thing develop in Australia. Therefore, I give the Minister a kindly warning that he should ascertain what safeguards may be adopted to prevent that sort of thing happening to the news centres of Australia. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

page 558


Tariff Board Report

Senator WRIGHT:

– I move -

That the Senate takes note of the Report of the Tariff Board on the Petroleum Refining Industry, tabled in the Senate on 12th August, 1959.

I have taken advantage of the procedure provided by the Standing Orders to ask the Senate to consider, not in a final way but in a preliminary way, especially in view of the fact that we shall have certain legislation within a month, the reasons contained in the Tariff Board report dated 26th March, 1959, for its recommendation of alterations to the tariff in relation to the petroleum refining industry. I wish to make it clear at the outset, Mr. President, that my function in this debate is simply to take note of the report and make a few pre liminary remarks. I say at once that I feel incapable of making any real contribution to the debate. My purpose is to attract debate, and I hope to hear from those better informed, considerations that should guide us to a conclusion on this matter.

Consideration of the report of the Tariff Board is of special value at this juncture, because the Budget has indicated that we will have actual budgetary proposals in this instance to give effect to the report of the board on this industry. As honorable senators will recall, the report recommended a reduction of the actual tariff protection accorded to the petroleum refining industry in Australia from lid. to1d. a gallon. According to information that I have gleaned, a farthing a gallon in this industry represents between £800,000 and £1,000,000 a year. The reduction is therefore about £2,000,000 a year, as I understand it, and the retained tariff protection of1d. a gallon will amount to between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000.

I also have in mind,. Mr. President, thatit would not be premature for the Senate to revise its interest in reports of the Tariff Board on individual industries. Since the establishment of the board, and no doubt because of the splendid exercise of its functions, there has been a tendency to exhibit almost unquestioning confidence in anything that it says. The Parliament has almost abdicated any responsibility for the development of the tariff. On a previous occasion some two years ago, I endeavoured to interest the Government in a general study and assessment of the development of the tariff, somewhat similar to that made in 1929 or 1930 by, I think, Professors Copland, Shann and Giblin, or three authorities of that order, but I received a rather dispiriting reply to my question at that time. With a patience unprecedented in the Senate, I have waited for some degree of initiative on the part of those in control, and I am still expectant.

On this occasion, I want to emphasize the possibility of our taking an interest in reports of the Tariff Board on individual industries. I think there is no individual industry in Australia that is so exciting, from the point of view of watching its progress, as the oil refining industry, and that has been so especially over the last ten years. You will know, Mr. President, of the great interest of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) in this matter, and of the exemplary optimism with which he has preached the doctrine that we are going to discover crude oil in Australia within the next decade. It seems to me that if that ambition is realized we shall indeed be privileged people. We shall see a revolution in the crude oil industry as dynamic as the revolution which we have witnessed during the last ten years in the refining industry. That engenders some excitement in me. If the Senate will look to the 1956 report of the Tariff Board on “ Motor and Aviation Spirits “, it will see that the board referred to some of the salient features of the industry in these terms -

The oil refining industry, conducted on efficient lines, is a great acquisition to Australia. In addition to providing employment for some thousands of persons, it has a defence significance because of its ability to process crude oil from any source, and it also substantially reduces the amounts payable overseas for petroleum products.

In respect of our foreign exchange, various estimates were then made, but I shall show in the few remarks I propose to make that they have been reduced considerably, according to the 1959 report. But undoubtedly in respect of employment, in respect of defence, and in respect of foreign exchange, the developments in our oil refining industry over the last ten years have been of very great importance. When we realize that, on the latest assessment, the capital invested in the industry has grown during that time by more than £100,000,000 to a figure which, in the latest report, is stated at about £115,000,000, we in this National Parliament do the country no disservice by taking into consideration just what effect any particular tariff proposal will have on an industry of such importance.

The next thing that I want to mention is that I understand that at the present time the oil refining industry in Australia is providing about 90 per cent, of the actual requirements - the actual consumption - of this country; and I think it is of interest to note exactly the terms in which the board reported on that aspect in its 1959 report. I refer to the foot of page 6, where it is stated -

The total production of refined petroleum products by Australian refineries from a throughput of 9,200,000 tons of crude oil during 19S7-S8 was 8,847,000 tons. However, when exports of locally refined products, shown by official statistics to be about 1,211,000 tons, are deducted, the volume supplied by local refineries to the home market fell short of total demand by about 10 per cent.

Then, turning back to page 5, I find it is noted that -

Refining operations are at present carried out in seven refineries situated in all States except South Australia and Tasmania, and these refineries supplied 90 per cent, of the total Australian market requirements of refined petroleum products in 1957-58. Only a small proportion of Australia’s requirements was imported and this consisted mainly of the lighter grade oils. The value of sales of refined petroleum products by refining companies during 1957-58 amounted to £146,000,000.

In what I am going to say, Mr. President, I wish to avoid any reference to the subsidiary products of the industry and to confine myself solely to what I consider to be the main product, namely, motor spirit. 1 shall also disregard any impost levied on the industry other than a tariff impost. I shall not attempt to-night to discuss any of the most interesting matters that 1 have been led to read cursorily after I undertook the responsibility of presenting this matter to the Senate - matters, I may say, of great interest and of apparent difficulty, Mr. President.

Reference to the three reports of 1953, 1956 and 1959 shows that the Tariff Board itself has acknowledged that it has fallen into quite substantial error on not only one item. In the course of considering the tariff revision appropriate to this oil refining industry, the board has said in 1959 that it has had to adopt an approach that is not the orthodox method of approach, that is to say, to consider only the possible effect of a very shallow protection duty upon a new Australian industry. The board has come to the conclusion that the actual effect of potential production from imports upon this industry is of little significance, and at page 8 of the 1959 report it has headed a section. “ Unusual Features of This Inquiry “, and proceeds to deal with matters under various sub-headings. Before addressing myself to them, Mr. President, may I ask the Senate to consider the imports and exports position that the board has noted in respect of the industry. These matters will be found at pages 7 and 8 of the 1959 report. Some interesting figures are given there, which I shall just mention in order to sketch some of the cardinal factors of the subject. The board states -

During 1957-58 Australian refining companies imported about 9,000,000 tons of crude feedstock, the f.o.b. value of which was in the vicinity of £68,000,000.

It then deals with the break-up, but I am not concerned at the moment with the various sources of supply. The report goes on -

Imports of refined petroleum products during 1957-58 amounted to approximately 1,200,000 tons, the f.o.b. value of which was about £24,000,000. lt will be seen that in 1957-58, Australia imported about 9,000,000 tons of crude oil, valued at approximately £68,000,000, and about 1,200,000 tons of refined petroleum products, valued at approximately £24,000,000. The report refers to exports which, as we know, are somewhat encouraging but as yet are not of any great significance. I note that imports of petroleum products, with the exception of fuel oil and bitumen have, since 1st August, 1957 enjoyed the blissful immunity of exemption from import licensing.

As I have said, the board thought that, in making a recommendation, it should note the unusual features of this inquiry. It lists them, first of all, under the heading “ Profitability “. From the report it is quite plain that the board has not been supplied with all the details of cost, either capital or operating, abroad or in Australia, and that it needed to make a precise conclusion as to the actual profit-making capacity of these refining companies. It deals with the selling prices of market organizations. I was grateful for the assistance of the departmental officers in interpreting the structure of operating costs. The figures shown gave a break-up of each £100 spent in operating costs. They are as follows: -

Apparently the important words are those in parenthesis - “ other than crude oils “, but even then one is left with a structure of operating costs in which the overheads represent 74 per cent. Therefore, there is either something top-heavy about the operating costs of the industry or the Tariff Board was not supplied with anything like sufficient material to enable it to make a final assessment. The Tariff Board then refers to the landed cost of crude oil and mentions the peculiar difficulty of assessing this because of the intercompany relationships between the Australian refiners and the suppliers of crude oil at source. The suggestion is that the costs shown are really only inter-company entries; that, for instance, it would be immaterial to the Shell group at what price the product was costed out to its subsidiaries in Australia if it were properly offset in the group accounting. For that reason, the board expresses diffidence as to its conclusions on this subsidiary question of the profitability of the industry. However, it is to be noted that the Tariff Board states that the profits of each of the refineries, except one, ranged from 8 per cent, to 22 per cent. It is not able, by reason of certain confidential information, to state publicly which company is in the 22 per cent, bracket and it has not, so far as I recall, indicated in the report what proportion of the industry is in that category. However, as I shall show in a few moments the degree of profitability is certainly beyond the usual range for industries which can successfully approach the Tariff Board and seek protection.

The second sub-heading under this general head of unusual features is “ Efficiency of the Australian Industry “. There is almost a political indefiniteness in the expressed conclusions. We read that independent evidence was presented to show that these refineries were among the most technically efficient in the world. However, as I summarize the conclusions of the board, the efficiency of some units leaves something to be desired.

The third sub-heading is “ Competition from Imports “. I need say no more than that the board was offered no real evidence to substantiate the claim that in the absence of a protective tariff there would be considerable imports of refined petroleum products. Apparently the petroleum refining industry is so well organized throughout the world that the impact by way of third party imports which would follow the withdrawal of the tariff would not be significant, or present real competition to the oil refining companies. To me, that seems to be a very significant conclusion and one which would usually determine the result of a Tariff Board inquiry. I take it to be the overriding consideration governing tariff revision in this country. Under the fourth sub-heading, the board considered the effect of the tariff on the balance of payments problem, to which, as I have said, the oil refining industry makes a significant contribution. The report states -

The Board decided to take a simple approach, while realizing that this was by no means the only or necessarily the best measure of exchange saving. It compared the foreign exchange that would be required to purchase the actual production of the refineries in the year (based on formula prices) with the exchange actually used by the refineries in their operations. The difference showed a saving of about £30,000,000 in 1957-58. However, if various capital transactions including depreciation allowances, undistributed profits, &c, are excluded, the figure could be reduced less than £10,000,000.

There is a very sobering thought with regard to the effect that should be given to that particular aspect. The final sub-head of these “ Unusual Features “ was in relation to the effect of the oil refining industry on the coal industry. The board had before it representatives of the coal industry who were barracking for the imposition of the highest import duty on its competitor, thereby making oil for Australian industries dear; but the board considered that the efficiency of the integral industries such as transport was greatly dependent upon an industry that produced cheap oil, and renounced any interest in the idea of reconciling one industry in Australia with another. Those are what the Tariff Board called the “Unusual Features of This Inquiry “. I have simply noted them and I leave the subject with three inquiries in my mind. These are three matters which I believe would deserve consideration by the Parliament.

First, I wanted to be satisfied that there was nothing in the proposed tariff revision that would in any way displace the understandings or the reasonable expectations upon which the oil refining companies had built their industry in Australia. We know what is the uniform policy of governments, irrespective of party, in this respect. As I understand it, they give no undertakings’ to new industries. They say, “ Our policy ‘ is that the Tariff Board will recommend such tariff protection as you show is needed 1 by your industry in relation to possible competing imports, so long as you are efficient “. If I may touch on it, I was very glad to find specific reference to this matter in the Tariff Board’s Report on “ Petroleum Products “ of 1953 at page 24. In recounting the problems that were then discussed, the board said -

Some of the companies, prior to making a decision to erect a new refinery in Australia, pressed the Commonwealth Government to guarantee the retention of the present protective margins of Customs duty and of Primage duty for a long term. This was rejected by the Government which outlined the usual method of fixing protective duties. The Government’s refusal to give the requested guarantee did not cause the companies to abandon or modify their Australian refinery plans.

I suppose that the refinery industry, certainly in Kwinana, was stimulated in a most dynamic fashion by the political turmoil in the Persian Gulf. I suppose that the oil companies gain an advantage from establishing refineries in Australia because of its potentialities. They prefer to have their refining undertakings here rather than in countries like Indonesia where government is a little less stable than it is in Australia. But it is satisfactory to find that the tariff revision of 1953 did not affect the position that the refining companies expected in establishing their industries here. When the change was made from big custom’s duties to excise duties for budgetary considerations, it did not mean that the proper expectations of these organizations which had invested their capital in Australia had been affected.

The next question I leave for consideration lies rather in the other direction. It is this: I should like argument to satisfy me that the course that is recommended by the board, not for a reduction of the halfpenny a gallon in the tariff protective duty but for the retention of one penny a gallon in the tariff duty, is justified. I say that because at page 15 of its report of 1959 the board is on record as stating -

In view of all the circumstances, the Board considers that it has no alternative but to conclude that tariff protection for the refining industry has not been justified.

This conclusion does not mean, however, that it would be in the best interests of either the refineries or the Australian economy as a whole to abolish the entire protection immediately.

That is a judgment which warrants debate. I am not contesting it. I have no basis on which, to do so. But on the face of it, when the board makes a recommendation for the retention of one penny a gallon - on my arithmetic it represents between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000 at present, not of duty but of ceiling for the refining oil industry in Australia to fill on its retail costs for the next three or four years, on the basis of one penny a gallon protection - that is a matter for debate.

I do not wish to present the matter unfairly. I wish to be instructed on it. I hasten to add at once that, as I understand it, only about 10 per cent, of our consumption of these products will bear this tariff. Therefore, the actual protective tariff that is retained may be no decisive index to the price that the oil-refining companies in Australia will charge for their product, because that is not governed by tariff protection imposed against their competitors so much as by the local economic demand and circumstances. Some gratified surprise has been expressed to me that the companies did see fit to reduce their retail price by a half-penny a gallon, when the Government announced a reduction of their tariff protection by a half-penny a gallon. But one thing does not necessarily govern the other by reason of - shall I be permitted to say - the quantitative relativity of the import and the locally produced refined product.

I leave for consideration the justification for the retention, until the board next reconsiders this industry - which it seeks an opportunity of doing in 1962 - of a tariff of one penny a gallon, which gives to the refining .companies within Australia a ceiling up to which they can put their costs on the Australian market. I submit that the third matter for debate at the appropriate time is the balance of this report, in view of the fact that the Tariff Board itself is conscious of the handicap that it suffered because the question of marketing costs in Australia was not included in its terms of reference. I think that we, as members of this Senate, are probably more closely cognizant of the actual marketing costs in this industry on a retail basis than of these other matters that 1 have been discussing. I myself am under the impression that the economics of the retail oil industry in Australia have been on an inflationary basis of an unwarranted kind. I feel conscious that the approach that the oil industry made to the retail market, and the establishment of its competitive system - again as between the companies - over the last five years, did a great deal to engender an upsurge in prices which will be carried permanently on the retail product. When we consider that that matter has not been before the Tariff Board, by reason of its very terms of reference, whether or not the board’s report is complete and acceptable in its entirety is a subject for consideration. For those reasons I am much obliged to the Senate for giving the attention that it has given to the proposition that we should take note of this report.

Senator Scott:

– I second the motion.

Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.

Senate adjourned at 10.14 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 September 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.