23rd Parliament · 1st Session
The Senate met at 3 p.m.
– I have received advice that the President (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) is unable to attend the sittings of the Senate to-day. In accordance with Standing Order No. 29, the Chairman of Committees will take the chair as Deputy President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid) thereupon took the chair, and read prayers.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. As it is now four weeks since, on the 22nd September, 1959, the Minister for Labour and National Service stated in another place that he proposed to make a recommendation to the Government on the effects of the decision of the High Court of Australia in the Hursey case, a possible consequence of which the Minister stated could be that a person would be deprived of employment for refusing to pay a political levy, and as the Parliament has only a few weeks left this year in which to consider any proposed legislation, or other action on this vital issue, will the Minister advise the Senate whether the Government has yet made any decision?
– As far as my knowledge goes, the Government has not yet made a decision on this matter; but I shall bring the honorable senator’s remarks to the immediate attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service who may indicate what stage has been reached in his thinking on this matter.
– In view of the allegations and counter-allegations regarding the history of events leading up to the recently announced increase in air fares, can the Minister for Civil Aviation inform the Senate what are the facts in relation to the negotiations between the Government and the airline companies concerned?
– The increased air fares which were announced late last week, and introduced on Friday last, were the result of discussions which had been taking place between the two major airlines - Ansett-A.N.A. and Trans Australia Airlines - for some time past. Both airlines decided that an increase was necessary, and both wrote to me on the same day stating that they had reached agreement as to the extent of the increase and advising me of the date on which the increased fares would be introduced.
The need for increased fares, of course, is quite apparent to any one who gives the matter any thought at all. The costs incidental to the introduction of new aircraft have been large, but, apart from that, the recent basic wage increases will cost the two major airlines £300,000 in a year. In addition, the recent salary awards for air crew will cost a further £150,000 and new awards for clerical and other staff will add about £200,000 to the expenditure of the airlines. In view of those things, I think it would be quite obvious to any one that a rise in revenue through the medium of air fares was necessary. I was rather intrigued to notice the reference to the adequacy of the profit made by T.A.A. last year. It was £254,000, or 2.1 per cent, of the airline’s revenue, and was just sufficient to provide a dividend of 5 per cent. The increases do not change two of the major features that have made air travel so attractive to Australians. These are - rapid, safe, and frequent services, and reasonable charges for airline passages.
– Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to a statement by Mr. Ansett to the effect that AnsettA.N.A. proposed the introduction of a lower fare schedule called an “ economy schedule “? Has he any knowledge of the attitude of T.A.A. to that proposal? If it is the proposal already referred to, did the Government have any part in its rejection?
– The proposal to which the honorable senator refers, and which first came to my notice this morning, is quite apart from the new arrangement as to fares which was made last week. Mr. Ansett has stated that he has made this suggestion to T.A.A. I know that negotiations concerning it are proceeding, but I am not aware of the outcome, or, indeed, when negotiations are likely to conclude.
– I ask the Minister whether the airlines are justified in not only increasing prices for first-class travel by 3£ per cent., and for tourist travel by 10 per cent., but also lowering the standard of service traditionally offered to Australian air travellers by charging for carriage between city office and airport, and by lowering the standard of meals served on aircraft - all at the same time. Does the Minister not consider that the increased air fares impose an undue burden on the cost structure of a State such as Tasmania, which must rely on sea and air transport, and has not available to it the alternative offered to other States?
– I do not agree that the increased fares or the charge for the bus service will impose a hardship on the Australian air traveller. In point of fact, Australia is one of the few countries - if not the only country - which, over a period of years, has given free transport to airports. Any one who travels regularly by air is aware that often the buses are less than half full; that, more and more, passengers are adopting the practice of getting themselves to the airport. The standard of the meals supplied has been under consideration by the airlines for some time. In this connexion also the Australian airlines have perhaps gone to a point which, in many cases, has not been necessary. As I understand it, the operators do not propose to alter the meals provided on the longer flights - they are necessary when people are in the air for a period of hours - but rather to vary the type of meals and refreshment provided on the shorter nights. The honorable senator has referred to the increases. It is interesting to note that air fares in Australia are still among the lowest in the world. Under the new schedule, the fare from Melbourne to Sydney - a distance of 450 miles - will bc £10 16s. first class and £8 5s. tourist class. The fare from London to Paris, a flight of 230 miles, is £13 15s. first class and £11 16s. tourist class. The fare for the 380-miles flight from London to Edinburgh - which surely should be one of the cheapest flights in the world - is £11 2s. 6d. first class and £9 7s. 6d. tourist class.
– I should like to direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is the Minister aware that there is currently showing in South Australia a spate of 24 to 26 films which purport to correct social evils? Is he aware that although many of the social evils so exhibited are not evident, and perhaps are non-existent, in our community, they may be introduced by putting them before young and impressionable minds? Is he aware that one of these films sets out to expose the narcotic drug trade, and shows how the drugs can be injected, the dosages and so on? Is he also aware that the advertisements for these films are, to say the least, provocative and interesting to young and curious minds? Will he use his powers under the Customs Act, particularly the section dealing with undesirable material, to have these films withdrawn immediately from circulation?
– I am unaware of the films to which the honorable senator refers but I am most appreciative of the fact that she has brought this matter to my attention. I shall ask the department to make an immediate investigation and consider whether any action can be taken. I am not sure at the moment that any action can be taken. If a certificate is granted to bring a film into Australia, from then on it is a matter for the State governments. Once films are in the country, I think they pass out of the jurisdiction of the Department of Customs and Excise. I do not wish to bc held to that statement, but I think that that is so. I shall ask the department to make an immediate investigation of the matter which the honorable senator has raised.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation inform the Senate of the approximate date on which the Commonwealth Government anticipates commencing work on the proposed jet airport at Tullamarine, Victoria?
– I am not in a position to give the information that the honorable senator seeks. I am sure she will be aware, from statements that have been made in the past, that the question of airport development to cater for the jet age is under consideration by the Government at the moment. Currently, an expert departmental committee is examining the whole of the Australian requirements for jet airports. The Government will consider that report when it has been received and then will be in a position to make a statement not only as to Melbourne but also as to the other jet airports in Australia.
– I ask a question supplementary to that which has just been answered. Does the Minister realize that some young people have bought land in the Tullamarine area and that the Department of Civil Aviation has frozen the land? These people are now waiting for the Minister to treat with them so that they may do what we all want them to do, namely, buy land elsewhere and build homes for themselves, their wives and young children. I know of one such case, and I think it is about time that the department acted in the matter.
– Yes, I am aware of the situation that exists in relation to people owning land in the Tullamarine area. On the other side, however, I must point out to the Senate that the questions involved in airport development in Australia, in respect of the finance that is required and in many other directions, are extremely substantial ones. It is not the intention of my department, or indeed of the Government, to delay longer than is necessary the formulation of a policy on this matter. I keep in close touch with the subject. Those people at Tullamarine who are affected and whom my department has interviewed - and I assure the honorable senator that there are not many of them - will be provided with the information they require just as soon as it is possible to do so. It is not our intention to embarrass them in any way, but in view of the nature and size of this problem there is necessarily some delay.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the claim made at the week-end by the
Deputy Leader of the Opposition in another place, Mr. Arthur Calwell, that AnsettA.N.A. was responsible for the increase in air fares throughout Australia, I ask the Minister whether it is the usual practice, before such increases are made, for both major airlines to get together, discuss the matter, and agree. If they do not agree, is it possible, for instance, for Ansett-A.N.A. to increase its fares and to compel TransAustralia Airlines to do likewise? In fairness, I ask also whether it is not a fact that when Mr. Ansett conducted his own airline before amalgamating with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, he was responsible for first cutting air fares in Australia. Because of that cut, did not the then two major airlines, Trans-Australia Airways and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, introduce tourist fares? Is it not a fact that Ansett-A.N.A. was the first operator to introduce tourist fares on pressurized planes? Also, is it a fact that Mr. Ansett, through his organization, Ansett-A.N.A., is at the present time trying to secure for the people of Australia economic fares which would be lower than the present tourist fares? I ask these questions in order that the unjust claim that has been made may be answered.
– I do not know whether the honorable senator was in the chamber earlier when I answered a question which covered most of the material contained in his own question.
– No, I was not.
– I shall briefly repeat the position. Consultation invariably occurs between the two major airlines before any fare variation is put into effect. Obviously, in the situation that exists, it would not be a practical proposition for one major airline to charge a higher fare than the other charges for the same service. For that reason, they always keep their fares level. It is true that, as the honorable senator says, years ago Mr. Ansett was the first to introduce reduced fares on the Australian airlines system. He did that, ironically as one looks at it these days, to the embarrassment of the then existing major operators, T.A.A. and the old A.N.A. I think it is true that Mr. Ansett was the first to introduce a tourist configuration with his pressurized aircraft and it is also a fact, as he himself has stated publicly this morning, that he has made a proposal to T.A.A. for the introduction of an economy class fare.
– I direct a question to the Minister arising out of this answer and his answer to a previous similar question. Is the Minister aware that Mr. Warren McDonald, chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, returned to Australia last Monday week and was reported in the press as having said that world trends were to keep fares down, cut out the frills, and bring air transport within the reach of every one? He was reported further as saying that it would be a thousand pities if ever fares were increased, that an increase of fares should be considered only as a last resort, and that some of the frills could be cut out and economies made before increasing fares. Will the Minister comment upon that, report and indicate whether the approach that the Minister indicated - that T.A.A. and AnsettA.N.A. had agreed upon the increases - had the concurrence of Mr. McDonald?
– Yes, Mr. Deputy President, I have seen the statement reported in the press and attributed to Mr. Warren McDonald. As recently as yesterday I had the advantage of quite a long discussion with him concerning his trip and the statement attributed to him in the newspaper report. Mr. McDonald explained that this reference to fares came at that stage of the interview in which he was discussing the introduction of jet airlines in the future - in five or six years’ time. Those who saw the statement will recall that Mr. McDonald was talking of long-range airline development and said in respect of that development that it would be a thousand pities if the introduction of these jet airliners of the future should be accompanied by significant or substantial fare increases. He was not referring to the immediate situation in Australia. Indeed, Mr. McDonald was aware that discussions were taking place between the two airlines. They had commenced before he left Australia. He was kept informed while he was away of the progress that was being made, and he had been told of the extent of the increase which the two airlines had agreed upon.
– And agreed to it?
– And agreed to it. The honorable senator will be aware that a fare increase - a fare variation - is a subject which is considered not by the management, of course, but by the commission as the policy makers responsible for the success of the enterprise. Now, in regard to the reference to overseas fares, let me make it perfectly plain to the Senate that there is a different structure both financially and competition-wise in the overseas airlines set-up. Air fares overseas are far and away in advance of domestic air fares, and overseas airlines for two years past have realized that to meet increasing competition from luxury ships they would have to reduce their fares and they, too, have been taking steps to introduce economy classes and tourist classes on their services. The comparison between an overseas fare and a domestic fare in Australia is not a valid one. I need only refer to some of the domestic fares charged in England and compare them with Australian fares. The overseas fares are, again, much in advance of the English fares.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. How does the Minister aline the answer he has just given with a statement made by the Chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, Mr. Warren McDonald, prior to his departure for overseas, when he said that the commission was opposed to any rise in air fares at that stage? Mr. McDonald also said that there had been a considerable increase in the cost of airline operation in recent months, and that, as a result, the possibility of increasing fares had been canvassed by Ansett-A.N.A. He went on to say that this subject had never been discussed by the commission, which was not satisfied that there was any necessity for an increase of fares. MrMcDonald is reported as having said further that the commission’s policy, in line with its national responsibility, was to keep fares to the minimum level consistent with sound business operations.
Can the Minister inform the Senate of the dates of the letters that came to him jointly from the Australian National Airlines Commission and Ansett-A.N.A., advising that an agreement had been reached to increase fares, vary the standard of meals, and eliminate free transport to ah* terminals? Can he say whether he received the letters after Mr. McDonald left for overseas? Will he say whether any reason was given by the commission for its change of policy, and whether any pressure was exerted by Ansett-A.N.A., or the Government, for Trans-Australia Airlines to fall into line with the request of AnsettA.N.A.?
– I have not seen the statement attributed to Mr. McDonald prior to his departure for overseas, but I noticed that the statement from which the honorable senator quoted referred to Mr. McDonald’s contention that at that time there was no need to increase air fares. 1 noticed also that later in the statement there was a reference to fares being maintained at a level consistent with economic operation. I do not think that Mr. McDonald, who is known to honorable senators as a successful businessman, would controvert the view that a profit of £254,000 on the capital invested in TransAustralia Airlines, and representing only 2.1 per cent, of its revenue, is anything other than a most modest return, merely covering a 5 per cent, dividend. When Mr. McDonald referred to fares consistent with the maintenance of this enterprise on an economic basis he would have had those factors in mind. The letters which I received reached me during Mr. McDonald’s absence abroad, as I thought I had made clear in answer to a previous question. However, I repeat that Mr. McDonald was kept informed of the progress of the negotiations that took place during his absence. No pressure was brought to bear on Trans-Australia Airlines by Ansett-A.N.A. or any one else. These talks extended over a considerable period, and took place for the simple reason that both airlines realized that, because of the increased costs to which I have referred, they would have to take steps, both by way of raising revenue and by cutting out unnecessary and unproductive expenditure to improve their financial returns.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation seen an article, published in the “Daily News” of 15th
October, in. which reference was made to the lack, of State publicity at the Perth international air terminal? Will the Minister consider co-operating with the State Government by making space available in the passenger lounge of the terminal for a display, in the form of a shop window, showing what the State has to offer?
– Yes, I have seen the article which has been referred to, and I know that the honorable senator will be pleased to be told that Mr. Brand took the hint that was contained therein and discussed this matter with me late last week when I was in the west. I have told him that I shall be pleased to have a look at the proposal which seems to me to have a great deal of merit and to be one which would add to the attraction of Perth airport, and indeed all other airports.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether it is a fact that Radio Australia is practically the only radio link that people in the outback districts, particularly in the north-west of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, have with the denselypopulated centres. Also is it a fact that Radio Australia thus gives a very necessary amenity to those people whose work is hard and whose entertainments are few? Is the Minister aware that over recent weeks Radio Australia has discontinued the practice of giving acceptances for race meetings held in the southern States? In view of the events to take place in Melbourne during the first week of November, events considered of sufficient importance to warrant at times the adjournment of the National Parliament and the massing of the fleet in Port Phillip Bay, will the Minister consider restoring to the people of the outback the opportunity to have some foreknowledge of these and other items of sporting interest and the same regular sporting services that are given to the people in the metropolitan areas who already have many avenues of information open to them in the sporting field?
– I think the honorable senator’s request to have these facilities made available for a short period is quite a good one. I shall bring her suggestion before the PostmasterGeneral and see just what can be done.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry by referring to the report of the Australian Wool Bureau for the year ended 30th June, 1959, under the heading, “Wool for Overseas Travellers “. I ask the Minister: What was the total amount of money spent by the bureau on promotional activities by way of gifts and donations of all kinds for the years 1957-58 and 1958-59?
– I do not have in my mind the total amount of money spent on gifts, as such, in those two particular years. 1 was asked, I think, about gifts and other promotional activities. Speaking from memory, I believe that a total of about £140,000 has been spent in Australia this year on promotional activities and something like £300,000 has been spent overseas.
If the question refers to money spent on such things as suit lengths, dress lengths, scarves and ties, such as were taken by the Premier of Victoria on his trip abroad to be given to leading overseas personalities, and to the gift of complete outfits of blazers, slacks and ties - all wool, of course - to the New South Wales tennis team when touring New Zealand, I do not think the figures have been broken down and taken from the general promotion figures. I shall ask if they can be broken down and supplied to the honorable senator.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health received complaints of anomalies or delays in payments of medical benefits to subscribers to the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited? If he has received complaints, what action has been taken to ensure efficient administration of this fund?
– I have not received any complaints of anomalies in connexion with the administration of the Medical
Benefits Fund of Australia Limited. I have had one or two questions about delays on the part of a number of other benefit societies in making payments. There is always some delay in these matters while details are being sorted out. I suggest that if the honorable senator has any specific case in mind, he should give full particulars to the Minister for Health, so that the matter may be taken up by the Minister directly with any society which comes under this heading.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it correct that option of purchase valuations have been completed for soldier settlement properties in the Mawbanna and King Island districts of Tasmania? If so, will the Minister see that these valuations are released to the settlers concerned?
– The honorable senator was good enough to give me advance notice of this question and the following answer has been supplied: -
The answer to the first part of the question is “No “.
The price at which settlers under the war service land settlement scheme in Tasmania can freehold their farms is cost or a reasonable market value as at the date the leasehold valuation was made, whichever is the lower. To this figure is added the cost of any work done subsequently by the settlement authority.
A start was made to determine reasonable market valuations for Mawbanna and King Island farms. However, this work was deferred when the decision was made to carry out a special investigation of the farms. This investigation followed representations that the settlers were in financial difficulties due to causes beyond their control.
It now appears that it will be necessary for the settlement authorities to carry out further work on the farms. The cost of this work, which is of a reconstruction nature, will most likely not equate its value. In the circumstances, it will be fairer to the settlers to defer valuations until such time as the further work has been completed.
However, if any settler wishes to exercise his option immediately, I have no doubt special arrangements can be made to fix the purchase price. If a property is freeholded, no further work will be done on it by the settlement authorities.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answer: -
The 1939-45 war and subsequent experience have emphasized a definite trend towards the closer relation of the services. This has had its counterpart in the operational sphere in the appointment of Commanders-in-Chief commanding naval, land and air forces, and functioning with joint staffs of the three services, for the actual control of operations.
The idea of merging all three services under a single unified command in peace-time has been considered from time to time in various countries, including both the United States of America and the United Kingdom, but has not been adopted. n the United States of America such an appointment is specifically precluded by the National Security Act.
There is broad harmony between the defence organizations of the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Australia, allowing for certain variations arising from local considerations in their development. There is a minister and department of defence in each, with joint service machinery for advice on defence policy, joint service matters and planning for emergency. For each of the services there is a minister and department with a service board or authority responsible for the command and administration of the service. The activities of the three services are coordinated through the joint service machinery which, in Australia, comprises the Defence Committee, the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Joint Planning, Intelligence and Administrative Planning Staffs
The only circumstances in which a CommanderinChief would be necessary under present conditions, would be for the control of operations in a particular theatre in war, similar to the appointments during the last war. This is contemplated in current planning, and is fully compatible with the pattern of the present set-up.
As regards the non-operational, administrative sphere, the Government’s aim is to eliminate overlapping, co-ordinate service activities and develop common services. This is being actively pursued; significant results have already been achieved and investigations are being conducted into further possible fields.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Minister for the Interior has now furnished the following replies: -
Firstly - owing to the sandy nature of the soil on various parts of the area, a number of shells may be buried to a depth which is beyond the capacity of the mine detectors to locate; and
Secondly - although a considerable number of shells have been removed, the total number which failed to explode during training shoots cannot be determined.
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– I now furnish the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
Rates of duty are as follows: -
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
Will the Minister arrange for a statement to be prepared for the Senate regarding the principle of operation of the new electrical power producer known as the “Fuel Cell” and its potential as a power source?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows: -
In the conventional method of producing electricity by the combustion of fuel, the energy of the fuel must first be converted to mechanical energy and then converted again to electrical energy. There are obvious advantages in a process which could convert the energy in the fuel directly to electrical energy in one step. This is a worthwhile prize which has caused a great deal of effort to be expended in many countries.
A fuel cell resembles the usual type of electric cell in that it contains two metallic plates - the electrodes - immersed in a chemical solution. However, in the fuel cell the electrodes and solution are not altered during the production of current. The chemical energy comes from the fuel gases which must be continuously supplied to the cell to maintain the flow of electricity.
Recently demonstrated at Cambridge was a hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell invented by Mr. F. T. Bacon and built for the National Research Development Corporation. The demonstration model produced 5 kilowatts of electricity from an assembly of 40 cells. Bolted together the cells form a cylinder about15 inches in diameter and 30 inches long. The battery provided electricity for a small electrowelding apparatus and for a fork lift truck, but the main future applications of fuel cells appear to lie in the transport field.
Although the Bacon cell itself is notably compact, it needs at present rather complex and bulky equipment for controlling working temperatures and pressures, the dissipation of waste heat, water, &c. It still remains to be seen to what extent the energy output can be stepped up without a prohibitive increase in size and weight. It is, therefore, impossible to assess the practical scope of the invention or to estimate the overall cost of electrical energy from fuel cells as compared with that from conventional sources.
The present type of fuel cell requires supplies of hydrogen and oxygen of high purity, which are expensive and difficult to store, particularlyin mobile vehicles. The hydrogen-oxygen cell is only one of various possibilities under investigation, not only in Britain, but also in the United States of America, Russia and Germany. Cheaper materials would be preferable, and particular attention has lately been given to the possible operation of fuel cells on oil fuels and industrial gases. One of these studies is now in progress at the Sondes Place Research Institute under the auspices of the United Kingdom Ministry of Power, but results of the work are not yet available.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Audit Act - Finance - Supplementary Report of the Auditor-General upon other accounts, for year 1958-59.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table the reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Artificial silk yarns (other than staple fibre yarns).
Diphenylamine and phenothiazine.
I am also tabling two other Tariff Board reports on -
Copper sulphate, and “Unimog” tractor model 30 P.S.; which do not call for any legislative action. The board’s findings have in each instance been adopted by the Government.
– by leave - I wish to inform the Senate that during the absence, through illness, of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) will act as Minister for National Development. Questions in the Senate relating to this portfolio should be directed to myself.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a first time.
The main purpose of this measure is to appropriate from revenue amounts which are required to meet expenditure on the” ordinary services of departments. The bill provides for the appropriation of £339,046,000 for the services of the year 1959-60. £247,228,000 has already beeri granted under the Supply Act No. 36 of 1959, so that the total estimated expenditure from annual appropriations for ordinary services during 1959-60 is £586,274,000. The amounts for the several departments are shown in the second schedule to the bill.
The expenditure proposals of the Government have already been outlined in the Budget speech and further explanations that may be sought by honorable senators will be provided at the committee stage.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Partridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The provision in the 1959-60 Estimates of Expenditure for Capital Works and Services is £141,941,000 representing £141,896,000 from annual appropriations and £45,000 from special appropriations.
This bill, which should be read in conjunction with the Supply (Works and Services) Act No. 37 of 1959, will provide the parliamentary appropriation for expenditure on -
Details of the proposed expenditure are given on pages 230 to 248 of the printed Estimates, in the schedule to the present bill and in the document “ Civil Works Programme 1959-60 “, which was made available to honorable senators with the Budget on 11th August, 1959. The major portion of the proposed appropriation will be spent on works that were in progress at 30th June, 1959. The new works included are those of an urgent and essential nature.
Further details and explanations which may be sought by honorable senators will be given in the committee stage.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1035).
– The appropriation bill is probably the most important financial measure that comes before the Senate in the course of a year. In the debate on the motion for the printing ot the Estimates and Budget Papers 1959-60, which took place some time ago, most members of the Opposition took the opportunity to express their views on the Budget. Some of us will address ourselves to this motion, and, as we are traditionally entitled to do, will advert to matters relevant and non-relevant to the bill.
My own contribution on this occasion will relate to what I believe the Senate has come to regard as major problems affecting the finances of the Commonwealth. I shall deal with some of the major problems of finance and their effect upon individuals in Australia. The theme is not a new one, but I shall bring the figures up to date with what I hope will be reasonable brevity. I entertain the hope - it may be a vain hope - that in respect of some of the matters to which I shall address myself, I shall hear some justification of Government policy. Although I have adverted to the themes I propose to discuss now on many occasions in this place in the course of the last twelve months, I think it is true to say that there has never been an attempt made to answer the cases that I have put forward on behalf of the Opposition, or to justify Government policy in relation to the matters I have mentioned. We have a new Minister representing the Treasurer at the table to-day. I hope that my expectation will not be unfulfilled, and that I shall be met with a more clear answer than I have received hitherto.
I come at once to what I regard as a very important matter. It affects not only the welfare of the federation and of the individual States, but, in a very intimate way, the lives and the fortunes of the people of Australia. I refer to the position that has developed in relation to the public debt of the States, compared with that of the Commonwealth. For the benefit of those honorable senators who care to follow my argument, I propose to refer to the Budget papers for the current year, at pages 93, 95 and 98. I turn first to page 93, to pass a brief comment on the position of Commonwealth debt as against the public debt of the States.
In the past decade, from 1949 to 1959, it appears that the public debt of the Commonwealth has in fact fallen by £168,000,000; in other words, it has declined from £1,817,000,000 at June, 1949, to £1,649,000,000 at June of last year. But there has been a startling variation in the debt of the States. Instead of going down, it has more than doubled. During the same period it has risen from £1,008,000,000 to £2,391,000,000, or an increase over the ten-year period of £1,383,000,000. That, of course, has had a corresponding effect on the commitments of the States in the matter of principal and interest payments.
If we refer to page 98 of the Budget papers we see set out there the position of each of the States. Over the ten-year period, the public debt of New South Wales has grown from £396,000,000 to £832,000,000; that of Victoria, from £202,000,000 to £555,000,000; that of
Queensland, from £144,000,000 to £303,000,000; that of South Australia, from £124,000,000 to £314,000,000; that of Western Australia, from £102,000,000 to £232,00,000; and that of Tasmania, from £37,000,000 to £153,000,000. Those figures show that the debt of every State has at least doubled over that ten-year period. The indebtedness of Tasmania, the smallest of all the States, has increased by more than 300 per cent.
As is shown at page 95 of the Budget papers, that vast increase in the public debt has had an effect upon the interest commitments of the Commonwealth and the States alike. Whereas, over that ten-year period the interest bill for the great Commonwealth has grown by less than £1,000,000 -from £51,000,000 to £51,900,000- the annual interest bill of the States has grown from £32,000,000, as it was in 1949, to £95,000,000, as at June, 1959. In other words, there has been an increase of £63,000,000 per annum in the interest bill of the States on their public debt.
Again at page 98 of the papers to which I am referring there is set out the average rate of interest on the debt of each of the States. The average is £4 0s. 2d. per cent., and the rate varies from £3 17s. 5d. per cent, in the case of Queensland - the lowest rate - to £4 2s. 5d. per cent, in the case of Victoria - the highest rate. If the average rate of £4 0s. 2d. per cent, were applied to the increased capital indebtedness of the various States it would show an interest liability of only £55,000,000, whereas the increase, as shown in the statement on page 95, to which I have just referred, is £63,000,000. The difference between £55,000,000, which would be the amount if the average rate of £4 0s. 2d. per cent, were applied to the States’ public debt, and £63,000,000 as shown, is due to the fact that down the ten year period the interest rate on loans has been well above the average. It has increased substantially. So that we may take it that the average rate of interest in respect of the increased debt of £1,383,000,000 is very substantially in excess of the average of £4 0s. 2d. per cent, over the whole of the public debt of the States.
The Senate, after all, is a States’ House. If ever there were a problem about which this chamber ought to be concerned, it is the parlous position into which the financesof each of the States have been forced under the financial policy pursued by thisGovernment during the ten year period towhich I have referred. That policy hasallowed the Commonwealth to relieve itself of capital commitments and impose them: on the States, with the consequent heavy burden of principal and interest repayments,, the Commonwealth making a relatively in~ significant contribution towards the capitalamortization payable by the States, and making no contribution specifically to the enormous interest bill, totalling £63,000,000, to be paid by the States. That is a commitment that recurs annually. It forces the States to increase charges for the whole of the services that they provide. Those services range over fields that are very intimate to the people in the States - roads, hospitals, schools and the rest.
The Commonwealth does, of course, contribute by way of income tax reimbursement grants to the States, but the whole cycle of events is that the Commonwealth first taxes people in the States to find money which, as I shall show presently, it lends in large amounts to the States at interest; it then has to find more money for the States to enable them to meet their interest commitments and therefore taxes the people again. This chamber should be gravely concerned about what must be the end of this process for the States. They are being forced into a position where high interest commitments, above everything else, constitute the most enormous burden on their budgets, adding to the spiral of costs in the community, which is another grievous economic and social problem. In due course, this will push the Commonwealth into making bigger and better grants by way of income tax reimbursements and special grants, and, in the case of three States, into making bigger grants on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
– What is the proposition - that you should not pay interest on money that is invested in capital works?
– I shall come to that. At the moment, I am dealing solely with the position of the Commonwealth vis-a-vis the States. I shall deal specifically in a moment with the matter mentioned by the honorable senator.
The position of the States is getting worse and worse year by year. Unless some stand is taken and a protest made, presently there will be complete chaos, and in the end we shall see the destruction of anything like a partnership between the States and the Commonwealth in a federation. Instead, there will be complete dependence of the States on the Commonwealth. Federalist as I am, at least while federation lasts I do not think that that will be a desirable state of affairs.
– The honorable senator -means “unificationist as I am”, does he not?
– Yes, that is another interpretation of what I said. I am prepared to accept that as being what I meant. That, of course, is not to be taken in an unexplained sense. I think that the honorable senator appreciates that whilst I am a unificationist at heart and at large, I do not believe in the complete centralization of all authority or administration in one spot. In bowing my head to the honorable senator’s suggestion that I am a unificationist, I want that qualification to be kept in mind. The other point to which he has just directed my attention is the using of revenues collected by the Commonwealth for meeting the capital commitments of the Commonwealth as well as those of the States. That has gone on to a huge extent under this Government in the past ten years. I dealt at length with that topic in a speech that I made on 17th September last year and that I do not attempt to repeat. I then particularized, year by year, how Commonwealth capital works had been serviced from revenue from 1950-51 to 1958-59 to a total then of £938,800,000. That included the figure of £128,500,000 that was then estimated in the 1958-59 Budget. The amount has since turned out to be greater, namely, £132,300,000. To that must be added the estimate of £141,900,000 for capital works this year, in order to bring the position up to date. In the past, ten years the Government has, therefore spent on Commonwealth capital works of all kinds a total of £1,084,400,000.
It is worth taking a moment to discuss the type of thing that is done, pursuant to that practice. We see the details on page 27 of the statement attached to the recent
Budget speech of the Treasurer. I merely pick out the highlights. The capital works for the Department of Civil Aviation, under three items, total £6,100,000; war service homes, £35,000,000; Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, £25,000,000; Post Office, £39,000,000; and Australian Capital Territory, £12,000,000. In short, the taxpayers of this year are asked to provide, out of their earnings for the year, capital works to the tune of £141,900,000, that will serve not only the taxpayers of this year but also the taxpayers of many generations to come. It opens up a new theme, to which I shall come back. I indicate at the moment that this course would not be necessary but for the failure of the loan market. I am pin-pointing at the moment the fact that these capital works are being borne by the taxpayers of this generation, the older ones amongst whom have had the unfortunate experience of having financed, in their lifetime, two world wars, and having been in the throes of a depression. I think it is realistic to say that they, above all, are entitled to some special consideration. Nobody will deny that these works that are being undertaken will exist for perhaps hundreds of years, serving certainly a number of generations of taxpayers. The whole basis of the financial arrangement set up in our Constitution is that where expenditure on capital works is incurred the money shall be borrowed and the taxpayers of 53 succeeding years shall bear their share of capital repayments.
Seater Kendall. - What about all the new works that they will have to have done in turn?
– The cost of those works, in turn, under the broad concept of the Financial Agreement would be shared by succeeding generations.
– The money cannot be borrowed.
– That is a separate theme, to which I shall come particularly before I conclude. The state of the loan market is one of the major problems to which I shall address myself.
– When money is borrowed, it all goes in interest.
– No. The honorable senator must realize that if that amount of £142,000,000, in round figures, were available to be borrowed, the taxpayers would be mulcted only of the interest on it for one year. Instead of finding £142,000,000 they would find about £7,000,000 in interest and about i per cent, by way of principal repayment. The taxpayers of the year would be asked to find, not £142,000,000, but only about £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 to service that debt, and the taxpayers of each succeeding year would be making a contribution.
– But they would have to borrow in turn.
– It looks to me like being a more or less unending process. It is exactly what is designed and is in mind. All I am arguing is that the taxpayers of the present generation, who were subjected to the highest possible taxation throughout the period of the Second World War, are to-day, ten years after that war, being called upon to bear a burden which, in truth and in essence, is a capital levy, and which has run to the most enormous sum of £1,084,000,000 during this Government’s ten years of office. For this, the taxpayers get no bonds, whether interest-bearing or not. The money is taken from them. They are bearing their share of the burden of capital works in past generations. We are to-day still making our contribution to the cost of the First World War, and we are doing the whole of the Commonwealth’s capital works ourselves, freeing all future generations. I say that it is just an undue burden upon the taxpayers of this generation, particularly those in the higher age groups. I have no thought that we should halt development. It is not a matter of waiting for something to turn up. It is a matter of justice and fair dealing while one is alive, It is a bit too late when one is gone. That is the position in relation to the Commonwealth’s levy upon the taxpayers for the purpose of capital works. The Snowy Mountains project will be there for centuries. Post Office works likewise will endure for a similar period.
– The Snowy Mountains scheme is being financed on the basis that those that receive the services will pay interest and sinking fund contributions until the debt is repaid.
– That is so. It will meet the commitment itself. I suggest to the honorable senator that an even better example than that is to be found in the £35,000,000 appropriated for war service homes. That money is immediately reproductive. The interest and a proportion of the capital are repaid year by year. Down the 35-years period the money is coming back all the time to the Commonwealth. It could be built into a revolving fund, ye! the taxpayers of this one year, although repayment is assured within the relatively short term of 35 years, have to find the whole capital amount, and the repayments go not to them but to the Commonwealth. I say that this is an undue and unfair hurden in all the circumstances of the past and the present. Again and again I have put that proposition in this place to the Government. I have had support from some senators on the Government side but never yet has anybody, officially and firmly - to my satisfaction at least - attempted justification of the system or even suggested some kind of compensation that might be made to the taxpayers who are so mulcted. It goes on and on and gets heavier and heavier each year. I merely record that fact in relation to Commonwealth capital works.
In addition, owing to the failure of the loan market, the States are short of money for very vast works programmes, and the Commonwealth again taxes the people of Australia to make that money available, passing it, as a rule, first through trust funds to the States to help their works programme. It is raised without interest, without incurring any responsibility for repayment of principle and the Commonwealth throws upon the States the burden of both capital repayment and interest payment. It raises the money free of interest from the people and then lends it to the States at interest and under an obligation to repay the capital to the Commonwealth. According to page 7 of the statements that accompanied the Budget Speech, the amount ran to the order of £576,000,000. The total shown in the final column on the right-hand side is £575,900,000. That represents, in actual fact, moneys drawn directly from the people. It represents also an unnecessary and an undue burden oh the people in the States. If that money has to be raised as revenue because of the failure of the loan market, and is raised free of interest, why cannot it be passed on to the States without the obligation to repay it and meet interest charges on it? When all is said and done, the money is used for the development of Australia. If the States were relieved merely of paying interest on this amount of nearly £600,000,000 their budgets would be relieved of something like £30,000,000 per annum in. interest alone. That, in turn, would mean that the Commonwealth Government should find it unnecessary to raise quite so much revenue to reimburse them.
– But the Commonwealth pays interest on its bonds. I have a couple of bonds, on which I collect a couple of bob in interest.
– I shall go through it again. If the honorable senator will refer to page 7 of the statements attached to the Budget Speech of the Treasurer, he will find that State works and housing programmes have been helped by the Commonwealth to the tune of nearly £600,000,000 out of revenues collected by the Commonwealth - not loan moneys raised by the Commonwealth at all. My complaint is that money raised without cost to the Commonwealth - except the actual cost of collection by the Taxation Branch - is lent to the States subject to an obligation that they repay the principal and pay interest on it. I am saying that that is unfair to the States. It imposes on them in that respect alone a liability of about £30,000,000 a year in interest from which they could be - and should be - free.
I hope that no member of this chamber will contest the argument I am about to adduce. In a time when loan moneys adequate for both Commonwealth and State purposes cannot be raised and when revenue moneys have to be used, why should the Commonwealth take all the free money for its capital works and throw to the States all the dear money that is raised on the loan market? If there is anything in the argument that the States and the Commonwealth are in a partnership of federation, why is not both the dear money and the free money shared by the Commonwealth and the States proportionately? Does anybody argue against that? Surely that is an eminently fair proposition. But the Commonwealth, because of the shortage of loan funds for both Commonwealth and
State purposes, says, in effect, “We will make the taxpayers of this year pay for our capital works. We will make them support, out of their tax contributions of this year, some of the States’ works programmes.”
– I challenge the fairness of your categories - free and dear money.
– I agree that they are not precise terms. I thought I made it plain that they are not quite precise terms, but I think they convey to the Senate what I mean. I shall re-define them. When I talk of free money, I speak of money raised by the Commonwealth by way of taxation, both direct and indirect, and applied to supporting State works programmes which cost the Commonwealth only whatever was involved in the efforts of the Taxation Branch to collect it, and involves the Commonwealth in no interest payment. So with that understanding, I think it is convenient to stick to my two terms. I consider that it would be fair and reasonable, in view of the deficiency of loan funds, if the Commonwealth were to say to the States, “ Money which we have raised as revenue and which is available for capital purposes will be shared between us without interest charge, and the money that has been raised on the loan market we will share proportionately to our agreed works programmes as well “. I invite the Minister, or any one else on the Government side, to tell me what is wrong with that as a fair proposition and whether it is not in the best interests of this country to give the States some relief, to grant everybody some relief from taxation, and above all to help to get costs down - costs in the States - because the reduction of costs is one of the major problems of the Commonwealth.
– I challenge the contention that it would get costs down, because huge taxation is driving costs up.
– I merely put it to the honorable senator that the indebtedness of our own State, Tasmania, has gone up by £116,000,000. If Tasmania could be relieved of the additional commitment of some £6,000,000 per annum it could do a great deal to reduce hospital charges and transport charges, or, alternatively to provide better facilities. That would be a tremendous relief to that State. I think that such interest charges are one of the elements that have added to costs in this country. The £30,000,000 in interest that the Commonwealth has charged the States has undoubtedly been inflationary. It has led to the States putting up their own charges, thereby ultimately forcing the Commonwealth Government into the dilemma of raising more money to hand over to the States so that they can meet these interest charges that are imposed upon them.
– What system would you suggest in regard to the Commonwealth’s own capital works?
– I thought I had made that plain. I shall re-state my view. At a time when loan moneys are not adequate for the purpose of both Commonwealth and State capital works, I think that whatever revenues are available to the Commonwealth for capital works, both State and Commonwealth, should be shared by the Commonwealth and the States in proportion to the anticipated cost of their agreed works programmes. Whatever money has to be raised on the loan market and is available should be shared in the same proportions. I think that that is eminently reasonable. I ask anybody on the Government side to tell me what is wrong with it.
– You would go on, ad lib, taxing to raise revenues according to capital works programmes, would you?
– If the honorable senator is asking me to project my mind into the future, I am not doing so. At the minute, I am talking about what is happening. The obvious answer to the question about the future is to get the loan market restored.
– That was your initial submission, Mr. Leader.
– Yes; we have made submissions down the years. Many honorable senators will recall that I have said in this chamber again and again that the key to the whole financial problem of the Commonwealth is the restoration of the loan market. We have pressed the Government again and again to do something imaginative about the matter. It is only in the last year or two, I think, that the Government has re-introduced the system of certificates bearing interest in order to attract the small investor back into the field. There is some sign of life in the loan market at the moment, but it is still too low to finance all State public works. All I can say is that it is an infinitely more imaginative approach to raising money locally than has been applied. There are things that could be done. I am not suggesting that the apportionment that I posed to Senator Lillico a moment ago should be the pattern for the whole of the future at all. That is not my thought. I think that in past years, when we faced the position that I have indicated, the fair thing would have been to share both lots of money - revenue for capital works and loan moneys. Anything to the contrary is unfair. As for the future, the problem before the country is to find in the loan markets the moneys necessary to meet the needs of both the Commonwealth and the States. At the moment, it is not for me to make a suggestion that would be imaginative, but I can think of a number of things that would stimulate the loan market. What horrifies me is that the Government does not make an imaginative or a direct approach to this problem. There is the key to the Government’s financial problems.
– Has the honorable senator in mind restricting private investment?
– No; I was not thinking of that at all. At this stage I shall not embark on a discussion of what I think ought to be done in that field, particularly as I do not wish to speak for much longer. I would, however, indicate that if the Government is interested, I shall be pleased to put something before it. The great failure of this Government is that, in addition to its having allowed inflation to run wild, it has not stimulated the loan market. The two things are bracketed. The failure to halt inflation in the first four years, when the basic wage rose each year by an average of 22s. a week, ruined the loan market. One essential requirement for the re-establishment of the loan market is to be sure that the value of money is stabilised. That is the one thing that must be done.
I am afraid that I have taken longer than I intended in dealing with these matters. I wish to refer to only one other matter. 1 said earlier that the restoration of the loan market is largely the key to the problem. There is another matter that can be adjusted in the Budget. We spend approximately £200,000;000 a year on defence. Whenever I see sailors, soldiers or airmen, 1 have a feeling of pride for what they have done, but at the same time 1 feel saddened that so much marvellous material is being wasted. I always think of what could be done for the development of this- country, and for raising its standard of living, if we could get the flower of our youth into civil production-^- if we could free ourselves from the fear that we must defend ourselves, become active against aggressors, and so on. I was, therefore, disappointed, to say the least, when, after the Russian Premier had indicated to the United Nations Organization that he wanted a four-year reduction of armaments, by the end of which time all armies would be disbanded throughout the world, I found the Australian Government, through its Prime Minister, being cynical and describing it as a brilliantly clever proposal, but, so to speak, throwing a brick at it on the ground that it was empty propaganda. I am not out’ to justify what Russia has done in its treatment of other countries, and I have never done so; but here is a proposal, submitted willingly and stated in- express terms, to accept international control and inspections. This is one thing that could make for the salvation of the budgets of the world. Applying this proposal to our own country, the effect of disarmament upon the loan market is something upon which the Government should concentrate attention. If we could lift the major portion of our £200,000,000 a year defence expenditure out of the Budget, we could also add to our revenue by getting our servicemen into active production in the civil field for the development of our country. If that were done, the difficulties we now face financially would readily fall into place and be overcome. I should like to see the Government restore the loan market, and go whole-heartedly into the proposal that the nations of the world should disarm. Disarmament would solve the problem of feeding the hungry and destitute people of the world. At present enormous resources are tied up in the making of armaments. In this way moneys could be freed, and many things could bc done in the world. Disarmament is not impossible under a proper plan of inspection and control, which Russia has indicated its willingness to accept.
– Did Mr. Khrushchev suggest it?
– Yes, at the United Nations Assembly. I ask only that the Government take his statement at face value, because so much depends upon the proposal being prosecuted with earnestness and vigour and some degree of hope. The one great hope of the world is that nations shall disarm. The Australian Prime Minister is reported to have said that armaments did not make for war, but that wars were caused by troubles between nations. To that Dr. Evatt replied that the Prime Minister’s statement was against the teaching of history. He went on to say that that view was contrary to what Mr. Churchill said in 1936 - that the nations had to take each other’s hands in fellowship, because if they kept on building up armaments there would be an explosion, with disaster to the world. That is what happened.
– Is the honorable senator suggesting that Mr. Churchill was advocating a reduction of armaments?
– His argument was that the building up of armaments was almost certain to precipitate a war.
– In the face of the menace from Hitler at that time, he was advocating that the Government was doing too little to build up armaments.
– He put the argument that the building up of armaments would inevitably lead to war. In my opinion, the Australian Prime Minister did not appreciate the tremendous issues that are involved in disarmament, not only for the people of this country but for the peoples of the world.
I have spoken at greater length than I intended. I shall conclude by presenting to the Government these two thoughts, with a view to enabling it to get out of its difficulties^ - first, a restoration of the loan market by an imaginative approach to the subject, and secondly, throwing its weight behind’ proposals for disarmament.
.- I follow the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in this debate by request, and not with any thought that I am equipped to answer the submissions that we have heard from him. I shall, however, make one reference to a subject that he mentioned, namely, the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States, and the growing public debt. The Senate is indebted to the honorable senator for his views on this subject. I suggest that the question requires more examination than the Leader of the Opposition has given to it. We know the great developments that have taken place with the aid of the finance that has so increased the public debt. If that money has been expended profitably to meet the needs of the growing population, it should now be producing an economic revenue that will service that public debt. Fortunate indeed would be the public bodies or private persons who were able to get finance from the public treasuries of 1949 on the terms then available, invest it in either public or private assets, and hold those assets as against the financial values of to-day. The whole fallacy that I see in his proposition is that he thinks the Government has the authority to extract from its taxpayers not merely taxes to finance these proposals on the conventional basis but also taxes to the extent that will finance current revenue requirements and any public works programme that commends itself to a government, State or Commonwealth, and to avalanche the people’s savings into public expenditure.
– I want to do the Leader of the Opposition justice and acknowledge his disclaimer. I am only suggesting, as a preliminary observation, because of my interest in his remarks, that I believe that is the underlying fallacy behind his theme. State public works programmes have not been supported by voluntary loan and have had to be supplemented by revenue from taxation. To the extent to which the taxpayers have contributed that supplementary revenue, they have not been recognized as having an equity in that investment. They have provided, through ordinary taxation, for the purposes of revenue. They have also submitted to taxation of an extraordinary character for capital works. It seems to me that if the Commonwealth Government had taken that extraordinary exaction for capital works and recognized the people’s right to be credited with interest-bearing bonds, no inequity would appear in the Commonwealth Government’s charging the States the proper sinking fund contribution and proper interest rates and the States, in their turn, devoting the moneys to public development, or private housing, and requiring people who benefitted by those assets, to pay the ordinary contribution that was required to service, the capital sinking fund and interest debt.
But I prefer to have, as I hope the Senate will have ere long, a definite proposal by this Government analysing the matter on a rational basis so that the Parliament may settle down and hear the argument that justifies the present financial arrangement. In stating that proposal, I entirely endorse the thought of the Leader of the Opposition that no subject is more worthy of the consideration of this Parliament than that. Before I quit the subject, let me say that with the little experience of finance that one has, one does join with the Leader of the Opposition in stating that these matters affect the people in their individual lives. The sense of justice in relation to taxation and the soundness of the uses to which it is put are all related matters. That is evidenced by the fact that the only budgets in Australia that are anticipated by the people to-day with any degree of interest are those budgets which will make an impact upon the taxpayers’ purse. By and large, the State budgets now are so largely governed and quantified, not by the acts of the State Parliaments but by the acts of this Parliament fixing the amount of reimbursement payments due to the States and of other payments to them which represent such a high proportion of the States budgets, that they have ceased to be matters of reality to the taxpayers. That is a definite threat to the basis of responsible government. And, to exist in a democracy, governments must be made responsible, otherwise there is a tendency to get beyond the reach of the democratic base.
– States governments are responsible for the spending of the money.
– They are not responsible for the spending of the money in any real sense because they back their barrow up to the federal Treasury next year and do not go before their own voters at election time to answer for and justify the expenditure, lt is the Federal Government which imposes taxation which provides the revenue, and it is the State Governments which expend it. Therefore, there is a complete gap in the sequence of responsibility, and State governments are not made responsible in election programmes before their own electors.
We are now taking advantage of the opportunity which the Budget provides of speaking on matters that concern the public interests, whether relevant or irrelevant. If one is attracted to a very wide subject, there is a tendency to become ineffectively discursive, so the opportunity will be taken by me, in the course of the few remarks I propose submitting to the Senate, to advert to some of the activities of the Parliament here in Canberra as an institution, because, having spent ten years in this Parliament, I do not disclaim the experience which should entitle the ordinary person to have some thoughts upon the efficacy and responsibility of parliamentary activity in this place. One cannot escape the conclusion that, in the way in which this Parliament works, there is a great danger of a drift into irresponsibility. There is a growing gap between the appreciation of parliamentary work here and the public to whom we are responsible. I have listed under ten heads some of the aspects of the problem upon which I should like to make some observations.
In the first place, I want to recall the subject of what is rather mistakenly called privilege. Under that head, Parliament has established its own authority to protect itself from undermining challenge and has reserved to itself the right of final adjudication upon anybody who transgresses. My own feeling is that, wise as that was when Parliament was establishing its ascendancy over all challengers - I speak of the period following the revolution - the idea of a popular assemblage administering its own authority against an individual outside is not in consonance with the ideas of individual justice that the public can expect. When we recall that the establishment of the judiciary has been, especially since the Boilermakers case in the federal sphere, based upon such security, and that the division between Parliament, the Executive and the judiciary is now a well accepted concept of our system of responsible government, it does seem that this Parliament ought, early, to take the opportunity of considering appropriate legislation on this subject. Such legislation - I speak from memory not recently refreshed, although I have the documents to hand for the purpose of bringing a definite proposal before the Parliament very soon - was advocated by a committee presided over by Sir John Quick as long ago as 1908. I may be wrong as to the year. Parliament, if equipped with a proper safeguard - a judicial safeguard, I think, in substitution for its own judgment - could be protected from unwarranted accusations, which do it a great disservice as an institution, and undermine the respect in which it ought to be held.
I am reminded of a spectacle that I witnessed in another place. It produced an almost ineffaceable memory - so far did it seem to differ from those judicial processes to which people in Australia are accustomed. On that occasion two persons were imprisoned for three months and a lively interest was taken in the suggestion that 1 now make, that the whole subject of privilege should be considered thoroughly and made the subject of legislation. In that way, it was felt, the integrity and independence of the Parliament would be more effectively safeguarded, and this institution strengthened accordingly. There have been other incidents since. I recall two of them. I shall say no more than that they stemmed from the same calumniator, and that their sequel gave no satisfaction either to the Parliament as a whole, or to the public.
I ask, as a first step, that consideration be given to the desirability of establishing by legislation a judicial proceeding whereby - instead of recourse to a parliamentary committee - complaints of breach of privilege could be investigated and either adjudicated upon or, after judicial proceedings, be made the subject of a recommendation to the Parliament.
The second point that I would make as to parliamentary work is that this institution would gain in strength if much greater use were made of committees. I have referred previously - and I make only passing reference now - to my earnest advocacy of the strengthening of the Public Works
Committee. Under the legislation that has prevailed since 1936 the committee has had the opportunity of scrutinizing capital works projects only when the Minister has submitted them to it. That is a totally misleading and wrong system. I content myself with the simple expression of the hope that legislation will be forthcoming to make it compulsory that no capital works project involving expenditure in excess of £100,000 shall be submitted to Parliament without a report being first made upon it by the Public Works Committee. It is a twoparty committee, and that very element of its composition does much to ensure integrity. It is a committee which hears evidence; it is supported by a skilled secretariat and is, therefore, able to guarantee efficiency. When you have in such a committee efficiency added to integrity, the sum of £4,000, which has been voted tor its maintenance, seems very small indeed and not to be regarded as a proper expression of this Parliament’s value of the work done. I have not repeated this view merely to place it on the record ad nauseam. I have done so because I believe that it is proper, and no more than is due to this subject - which the Senate has debated now for two years, thoughtfully and dispassionately, not once but on several occasions - that we should know the Government’s viewpoint and decision upon that matter before we proceed to the passage of the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill 1959-60.
I would just mention briefly the Public Accounts Committee. The last report of the committee - on Treasury Regulation 52 - is a sufficient reminder of the stimulating work of which parliamentarians are capable when meeting as a committee. Then they can devote intensive thought and consideration to information gathered and knowledge pooled. The in camera proceedings of a committee conduce to this much more attractively than does public debate. I would certainly not advocate dispensing with public parliamentary debates. I simply say that, as a means of providing a reasoned and thoughtful consideration, a committee procedure preliminary to public debates is of great value and provides a constructive element in parliamentary work. In our public debating system we tend, not without service to the public, to be somewhat critical and destructive because that is a process which often makes a sharp edge smooth; which often adds the seasoning to meat which, too sweet, would become nauseous. We could go on and extend the procedure with great advantage, especially here in the Senate, by referring particular bills to committees.
– I think that is done in Tasmania.
– I am sure that my colleague does not make that reference in a disparaging way. It is true that it is done in Tasmania. They are much more informal in the upper House in Tasmania. The House will adjourn so that an ad hoc committee meeting can be held to hear any proposals that may be forthcoming on a project. The Tasmanian Government is about to introduce legislation to grant timber concessions to a paper company that proposes to establish itself in the Geeveston district. In Tasmania we are old-fashioned enough to believe that the public has a right to insist that the Parliament, and not the Executive of the day, shall authorize the signing of a contract for a public asset to be handed over to a new industrial undertaking. The matter goes before Parliament. I will guarantee that when the matter I have mentioned comes before the Tasmanian Legislative Council, the council will adjourn to its committee room, where those members who are interested will hear the promoter, the under-Treasurer and anybody else who wishes to be heard. The members of the committee will spend two or three days considering the matter and then will go back to the chamber and debate it, just as a similar matter would be debated by the directors of a business firm. I see great value in that informal procedure. I see nothing of which one should be ashamed in a procedure so simple, yet so earnest. We are often called upon to consider proposals that could be dealt with in that way. The Post and Telegraph Rates Bill came before the Senate a short while ago.
– That bill provided for legislation mainly by regulation, unfortunately.
– I am coming to that. That is an aspect on which I am glad to hear from the honorable senator. The aspect with which I am dealing at present concerns the rates fixed by the bill and the way in which they are integrated with the Post Office budget. I say without the slightest disrespect, and with the greatest appreciation of the Minister who was in charge of that bill, that the Senate was left without sufficient information upon which to form a responsible judgment. Such matters as that could well be the subject of consideration by a committee. No more than ten days or a fortnight would be required - two sitting weeks. Then the committee, representing both sides of the chamber, could report back to the Senate, having thoroughly analysed the proposal with the assistance of officers from the various departments. The Senate would then be fully satisfied, or fully dissatisfied, that the proposal was justified. If we employed that committee procedure, I believe we would give more reality to our legislative processes.
Thirdly, I consider that the arrangements made for the sittings of the Parliament are destructive of the best effort. Members are sitting in aeroplanes for a full day on Friday - a full working day for most people - and for half a day on Tuesdays. Sometimes it is a matter of only two half-days. That weekly transmigration disrupts the continuity of effort, and adds greatly to the cost of transport. I notice from the Estimates that the cost of transport for members of Parliament is £260,000 per annum. I suggest that the Parliament should sit on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in one week and on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in the following week. I suggest that we should sit in the afternoons, leaving the mornings available for committee and party-room work. On the Friday of the second week members could go to their electorates and have two week-ends and a full week there. If that were done, I am sure that the interest in parliamentary work would increase. There would be continuity of effort. The weekend spent in Canberra would give us an opportunity to get to know the people here who render such splendid service in the departments. It would enable us to understand their outlook by mixing with them socially. Government members would have the opportunity of mixing socially with members of the Opposition, and we should all develop a greater appreciation of each other’s point of view. I believe that the work of this Parliament would be much more purposeful and effective if that were done.
– You mentioned two week-ends and one week in the electorates?
– Yes. You would leave Canberra on the Friday and come back on the following Monday week.
– Precisely the recess we have just had.
– Yes, but we would sit here until Thursday week, including sittings on Friday and Monday, reserving the mornings for committee and partyroom work. This is not a new suggestion, but it is a procedure which is overdue. I mention it in the hope that we will give consideration to it and reach a decision to put it into effect next year.
The fourth matter that I have listed is, I think, an obstruction to the implementation of my last suggestion. I refer to the arrangements made for meetings of the Cabinet. I am most gratified to see that it is possible for three Ministers to be in the chamber at the present time, but there are many occasions when a parliamentary sitting is made the occasion for a Cabinet meeting. I feel that that is quite wrong. Except in cases of emergency. Cabinet meetings should be held at times when the Parliament is not sitting. The people’s representatives come here chiefly to have audience from the Ministers, so that the Ministers can be informed - not only in parliamentary debate, but chiefly in parliamentary debate - of the mood of the country. The country has a justification, you know, for taking an interest in what is done here. I say these things dispassionately, but in other parliaments to which I have been accustomed - I mention with pride the Tasmanian Parliament - it is unheard of for Cabinet to meet during a sitting of the Parliament. It is almost unknown in Tasmania for a Minister to be absent during a parliamentary debate. He might be absent on an occasion when his public duty required him to honour an engagement elsewhere or to meet a special deputation for a matter of half an hour, but his absence would not normally extend throughout the whole of the parliamentary afternoon. I ask, therefore, that some thought be given to the idea - old-fashioned’ as it may be - that when the Parliament is sitting all members, including those who are responsible Ministers, should be present.
Fifthly, what is taking place in this edifice, Parliament House, more and more gives one the feeling that the bureaux are advancing on us. This place as being occupied more and more by secretariats of the Executive. Deny it as we will, that establishes within this place the feeling that it is the departments and the Executive that manage the Parliament. Until we regain the feeling that Parliament is managed by the members, I believe there will continue to be doubt as to whether this building is really Parliament House.
Sixthly, Mr. Deputy President, we in this Senate have an obligation to recognize that not only is this a. States’ House, but also that it is a house of review. I have heard this contention questioned, but I have taken the trouble to fortify myself by some research. It is undoubtedly the situation that this Senate has the dual role of protecting the States from undue invasion by federal power, and responsibility to review legislation. I believe that it is fundamental to the Liberal outlook that organizations which assist the election of honorable senators to this side of the chamber do not expect those senators to be - in fact, they charge them with the duty to guard against being - mere echoes of the Executive.
– Do they observe that obligation?
– I think so. I can cite instances.
– Do they vote that way?
– They have done so several times.
– It is rare.
– Well, rarer than I would wish. I agree with the honorable senator there. I am only saying that that is my political philosophy. The responsibility imposed on me by the party to which I belong and from which I accept endorsement, means that I am to be, not an echo of the Executive but, within the limits of my capacity and as far as one can do so independently and honorably, a critic of and, if need be, a deterrent to illadvised Cabinet proposals.
I hope that there is still time for this chamber to develop its usefulness in that category. We should not take the view that we are omniscient and do not err on some occasions. As we are so far south of the East, it should not be a matter of saving face. If an improvement, even of legislative proposals, is suggested, we should accept it and let the proposal go forward with either the blemish or the improvement made by an amendment moved in the Parliament. But amendments are becoming very rare in this Parliament. The fact that amendments are very rare might give the sceptic basis for thinking that consideration by the Senate is only machinery procedure, instead of which the Parliament consists of a deliberative assembly and a reviewing assembly.
Seventhly, Mr. Deputy President, we must be alert to the possibility of Parliament being by-passed by executive legislation in the form of regulations. A Minister at his desk, with the services of the Government printery a mile or two away, can produce a gazette, and without any- public debate, a regulation may take the place of law. That can happen without debate in either House of the Parliament necessarily having occurred.
– You have a committee to look after that, have you not?
– We have most thoughtfully provided in this chamber - and it is one of the great contributions that the Senate has made to the legislation of the Commonwealth - for the appointment of a Regulations and Ordinances Committee which watches such matters, on behalf of this chamber, in a special way. We have made it quite clear that we recognize handicaps and limitations in that work. We limit ourselves to a certain category of objections to regulations, none of which would dare to extend to policy. It is in the policy-making regulation and the fiscal regulation that the danger of the subversion of Parliament is particularly potent. That is why I was pleased to have the reference from my colleague, Senator Laught, in relation to postal charges. Honorable senators will remember that during the debate on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill a question that I addressed to the responsible Minister drew the statement that the raising of about £11,000,000, of the £17,000,000 or £18,000,000 proposed increases in postal charges, would be by regulation. I found such regulations on my desk when I arrived at Canberra to-day. I put them aside for special scrutiny, not because they concern the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, of which I am a member, although I am not sure that in some aspects they do not come within the scope of that committee, but because from the point of view of the individual member of the Parliament it is alarming to find that £11,000,000 of the proposed £17,000,000 or £18,000,000 is to be levied by the signature of a Minister to a regulation and is not to be based on a statute of the Parliament. The time to correct this practice is overdue. Nobody who was sensible of the responsibility of Parliament in fiscal matters would attempt to justify a procedure whereby regulations were made to bear the responsibility of such a heavy fiscal load.
It may seem that this is an immaterial matter. To me, it is not. I believe that the distinction between the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill and the regulations that vary postal rates is a mere matter of history, but it is an undesirable development of history. We all are here to secure the soundness of the parliamentary machine. I hope that we shall take the earliest opportunity to bring the whole legislation under review so as to make such proposals on future occasions the subject of acts of Parliament and not of regulations. The example I have given is but an instance, but it is a current instance, the significance of which will alert all of us. I urge that matters of that sort should come before the Parliament instead of being made the subject of regulations.
The same thing is true in the Public Service sphere. The extent to which Public Service salaries and allowances are altered by regulations, and the impost upon the Budget of alterations of a significant character, are altogether beyond the scope of matters that were intended to be dealt with by regulation. It will be said that the statute-book would otherwise be cluttered up with a whole lot of detail, but let us consider the manner in which tariff changes are made at the present time. Because, when the tariff was first promulgated, the Parliament was jealous of its authority and used to argue on each item of tariff, in an informed way and as a matter of debate, tariff proposals as now presented are full of details. If a duty is to be altered by 2id., in most cases it involves the passing of a statute, although I know there have been variations from that practice. So it cannot be said that because these huge financial proposals involve matters of detail they are appropriate to regulation rather than to legislation.
My eighth point is more debatable. It is this: We are now taking up the consideration of a huge bill for the voting of supply of £586,000,000, which affects ever so many departments. I suggest that the field of scrutiny provided is such that not one of us will, at the conclusion of the debate on this bill, go away with a feeling of individual satisfaction. Another place has been engaged upon the consideration of the proposed votes in this measure for some three or four weeks. We awaited the final passage of the complete measure before we commenced consideration of it. I know that there is great value to the impregnability of Cabinet proposals, to getting them all in one ship and, if one wants to let off a little “ Tom Thumb “ on the deck, he can make no effect unless he is prepared to sink the ship, and that few thoughtful people would be prepared to do when they were aboard. It would lead to greater reality of consideration of these matters if the proposed votes, department by department, were passed in the first chamber and sent to the second, and greater scope, both in time and opportunity, would be provided for consideration of the Estimates.
Ninthly, there is an item of even more interest and contention - the imperative need to devise a system for the consideration of parliamentary allowances and retiring allowances that will give integrity to the parliamentary system and maintain that degree of respect for the Parliament that is essential to the proper, fruitful working of parliamentary government. Payment of members was engaged in right down, I think, to the time of the revolution, and there is a case, I believe, almost as late as that date, of two members refusing to go to Parliament unless their constituencies provided the wherewithal. It is a matter of most interesting history that on the day on which the Parliament Act of England of 1911 was assented to, the House of Commons for the first time passed a Payment of Members Bill. So payment of members has grown as an inveterate system, but ad hoc committees to make recommendations on this subject have proved to be quite unsatisfactory. Well-intentioned in their actual operation they have been false guides, and ad hoc committees of this nature throughout history have had parallel experiences. I am at a loss to suggest an improvement, but I throw out the thought that the initiation of any such recommendation should be a matter for an independent standing committee, not of parliamentarians.
– Payment by results would be all right.
– Yes. I would be quite willing to have the interjector assessed by any independent tribunal and I do not think I would cavil at the vote that would be recommended, particularly as I am not so modest as to believe that the tribunal would not make an adequate discrimination in favour of some others. But I suggest, without levity, that once an initiation of the proposal were recommended, the question as to whether or not it was followed should go to another independent committee to recommend, of course, not to fix, because Parliament would retain that right. If to that were added the proposal that was advocated here in April - not for the first time, as it was advocated here in 1951 by myself - that no alteration in the allowances of members of a Parliament should become operative until after the next general election, members who had the responsibility for voting on such subjects would be divorced from the imputation that they had a financial interest in them. If that proposal were adopted, I believe it would do much to infuse into the whole problem an element of disinterestedness which would be of itself a guarantee of independent and objective viewpoint, and therefore integrity.
In the next place - I say this now, although I have muffled my voice on the subject for the last eight or nine years - Parliament can be made most ineffective unless there is a channel of information between the real activity of Parliament and the people. The broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings has done much to permit those in the electorate who are interested to know something of what goes on in Parliament. At least, they know what individual people say, but they do not get a comprehensive view of the working of Parliament and so on. We still depend upon the press for that link which I consider is an essential link in a democracy. The press has been accorded the opportunity of reporting parliamentary debates. It reports them in snippets, usually restricted to some personal abnormality or some exchange in the House that causes a flare-up. These are no doubt of popular interest, but it is imperative in a press of responsibility that there should be carried such a degree of information on parliamentary proceedings, of responsibility, and of purposeful viewpoint, as to allow those electors who are interested - and a great number is interested - to understand what goes on. I believe a chamber which is so consistently ignored in the press should revise the opportunities given to newspapers to have their representatives in the press gallery and only those people should be permitted to take their places in the press gallery of a parliament who undertake to furnish adequate as well as fair and accurate reports.
– You would not have any one there at all.
– I would sooner have that than complete disregard of the proceedings of a chamber. You have no idea how alert people are to discover what goes on in a secret session. Once it was found out that through the cracks of the door, there emanated some interesting matters - and they would be interesting to a person who did not give an undertaking to publish adequate reports and therefore was excluded - you would find, I believe, a rapid development of interest.
– The publication of an adequate report is not the responsibility of the man who reports us.
– I am not reflecting on any persons, although I must say that you do not often see in the press gallery many senior representatives of the journalist profession. I am not making any reflections on any particular persons. I am discussing the question of the electors being informed through the medium of the press of what takes place in Parliament.
– You have missed my point. The management determines the length of the report that is published.
– That is right, and the management would give an undertaking as to the adequacy of the report if its representative were permitted to occupy a seat in the gallery. I want to make it quite clear that I am the first to concede to the press the right to criticize Parliament. I believe that the press representatives have a special function to be zealously critical of a proposal concerning members’ salaries, as every member has a financial interest in such a matter. Therefore,, a very special responsibility devolves upon the press. But my point is that it is weakening the parliamentary institution to make information about our proceedings a matter simply of casual reporting. I do not think that anybody should be obliged to fill his newspaper with the tedious propaganda churned out here; I know that our party system has led to that trend, and that has contributed greatly to the tendency of the press to ignore us. But my theme is that through the good sense of the Parliament itself and through the sense of responsibility of the press itself some improvement should be made, if not along the lines I have mentioned, then in some other direction. This is not for the publicity of individual members - Lord only knows how some of us suffer from that, Mr. Deputy President - but for the purpose of giving to the electorate a more adequate understanding of what Parliament is, how it works, and how the representatives here perform.
In concluding my observations on the few matters to which I wished to direct attention, I should like to say that I believe there is a special need in this Parliament to watch our trends and to revitalize purposes so that we may regain the idea that we are here representing a great people and we have real work to do. I only want to add one footnote, and I apologize for giving it the imprint of a footnote. I do believe that in. a federal system when the institution of a Premiers’ Conference - a gathering of heads of governments - comes to an agreement, and that agreement takes the form of an act of the federal parliament, you have a process which in itself diverts Parliament from its real responsibility. I remind honorable senators that a Premiers’
Conference is a gathering of- heads of executives. Later in the- session there will be a biB before us- dealing with the reimbursement grants which, 1 believe, will require the most careful1 scrutiny and re*examination, despite the: fact that the six Premiers and the representatives- of theFederal Government at the last PremiersConference were unanimous regarding the: proposals. That does- not,. I believe, relieve this chamber of its responsibility to- examine the soundness of the agreement on which a terrific financial avalanche over the next six years is proposed to be based. 5 indicate no critical viewpoint. I indicate simply an unsatisfied interest in the subject at the moment. The development of a Premiers’ Conference as a substitute for Parliament is a trend to which we would do well to alert ourselves, because it will add weight to the idea that Parliament as such is relieved of responsibility not because seven cabinets, but because seven heads of cabinets have been able to come to an agreement upon Federal-State proposals which are properly the prerogative of parliaments.
Sitting suspended from 5.43 to 8 p.m.
.- I am inclined to support some of the suggestions made in this debate with respect to reforms relating to the Parliament as a whole, the Senate in particular, certain parliamentary procedures, and public administration in general. I am inclined to support the suggestions because I think they contain some merit.
The purpose of the Parliament, of course, is to make laws and to appoint authorities to carry out its will. We have the judiciary as one authority; but there are also boards, commissions and various- authorities appointed to carry out the will of Parliament. In traversing the actions of some of these authorities we find it necessary to consider the publication, the “ Quarterly Summary of Australian Statistics “, and I propose to refer to some of the details contained in that production. We all know that the office of the Commonwealth Statistician is very efficiently conducted and that the information it supplies is unchallengeable. The matter to which I propose to refer appearsregularly on page 33 of that publication under the heading “ Class XII. - Metals,.
Metal Manufactures and Machinery “. 1 have certain reasons for being interested in the information which appears so regularly under that heading, and I feel that the majority of honorable senators are also interested in it.
Let me say at the outset that although the reference is to the importation into Australia of metals, metal manufactures and machinery, it has nothing to do with import licensing, but we know that, to import the goods into Australia, it is necessary for people, firms or companies first to hold an import licence. If I were to make a suggestion with respect to the whole of the ramifications of import licensing, I should recommend that no licence be granted unless the name of the holder of the licence, together with the value of the goods to be imported annually under that licence and the country from which the goods would be imported were published in the Commonwealth “ Gazette “. That information should appear in the “ Gazette “ regularly, or as licences are issued. It cannot be argued that such a transaction between the Commonwealth and any party with respect to the issuing of an import licence is of a private nature. It is public business, and In the interests of public administration, the whole of the information relating to the licence and the value of the goods to be imported under it should be public property. My main reason for making that statement is that the goods are intended to be sold on the Australian market and therefore must, to some degree, affect the economy of the Commonwealth. I do not want to labour that point. I mention it only as my private view on import licensing.
Let me refer briefly now to some of the information which appears on page 33 of the “ Quarterly Summary of Australian Statistics” under the heading “Class XII. - Metals, Metal Manufactures and Machinery “. The information contained there refers to certain items of goods which, to my knowledge, have been imported from other countries regularly over the last eight or nine years. When I examine the items listed there, I ask myself, “ Why do we continue to import goods such as these from other countries when here in Australia we produce ores, we produce minerals, we manufacture metals and we do export to other countries certain minerals such as zircon and rutile? “ In Australia, we are able to produce our own tin, our own iron, our own steel, our own brass and our own copper. When I examine the goods listed under this heading I say to myself, “Why do we not manufacture at least some of the goods entirety and eliminate them from this category of imported goods? “
Listed in Class -XII. in the “ Quarterly Summary of Australian Statistics “, I see “ Aluminium and aluminium-base alloys (excluding wire and cable) “. The value of the goods imported into Australia under that heading for the last nine months only was £3,432,000. That does not seem to be a huge amount by comparison, but when I look further down the list I see that cutlery to the value of over £1,000,000 was imported in the same period. I see also that bolts, nuts, rivets and washers were imported. The value of them was not so very high; it was only £311,000; but the point is that I believe these goods could be manufactured in the Commonwealth.
When I look at the bottom of the list I find that for a period of nine months the total value of goods imported under Class XII. was £100,000,000. If the total value for nine months was £100,000,000, it is reasonable to assume that for twelve months the value of this class of goods imported into Australia would be £125,000,000. And the list of goods continues. As a matter of fact, the Commonwealth Statistician has the goods so grouped that he is able to place them under categories, such as (a), (b), (c) and <d). On examining the list further, I find that for the nine months ended March last goods to the value of £7,000,000-odd were imported under the heading “ Communication equipment, including radio and television “. The total value of the goods in group (b) imported for the nine months was £26,000,000. Looking at the list of goods under class (c) we find that the .total value of imports for .the brief period of nine months was £84,000,000. In short, during a period of nine months metal manufactures and machinery to the value of £212,000,000 have been imported. I am sure that many Australians feel bound to .ask themselves why we continue to import to such an extent each year. Surely we can establish factories that will produce some of these articles. Of course, one can very easily get into trouble in analysing this field, and I do not pose as an authority on it at all. I merely look at the list of goods imported and see there that kitchenware, cutlery and other simple products to the value of thousands of pounds are imported each year. It suggests that Australia is not doing the right thing by itself. One looks in vain for a diminution of the trend. Any change that may be occurring is in the direction of an increase.
One admits that certain types of machinery must be imported. I refer to equipment such as is installed at the Snowy Mountains project. They might be used only once or twice in 20 years, and it would pay no one to embark upon their manufacture. When I say these things I am conscious of the fact that we must rely upon privatelycontrolled industries for the employment of 70 per cent, of our work force ot 4,000,000. Therefore, it is of the greatest importance that we should constantly consider the possibility of expanding private industry and thus absorbing more workers.
As honorable senators know, I come from Queensland. Some 270,000 children attend our schools. Each year a proportion leaves and seeks employment. We must face that hard fact. I cannot help wondering - just as many others are wondering - how all those who will leave at the end of this year will be placed in suitable employment. That is a problem which concerns not only the individual but the Government also. That is why I am anxious about the huge quantity of goods being imported each year. If we are to enhance the employment opportunities of our young people and keep our work force of 4,000,000 in constant employment we must be conscious of the need to expand secondary industry. This is both an economic and a social problem. We do not want to see the hopes of our young people, leaving school blighted by an absence of employment of any kind.
– The honorable senator must remember that a lot of people are going out at the other end each year - people like ourselves.
– The honorable senator should speak for himself. I am still a young man. I do not know how many children are attending the schools in more industrialized States, such as New South Wales and Victoria, but they certainly have better employment prospects. Having some knowledge of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania I can say that those States would have a problem as great as our own. The scarcity of secondary industries would make it difficult for young people to find employment.
As I said earlier, Queensland can be regarded as a rural State. Its area is 667,000 square miles, and its population is 1,500,000. Of that number 500,000 reside in Brisbane and 1,000,000 are spread over the remainder of Queensland. Some of our rural industries are of a seasonal nature. Our unfortunate employment position was underlined only yesterday by the figures released by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon). They indicated that throughout the Commonwealth approximately 52,000 persons were unemployed. The Minister added that some secondary industries had been rejuvenated recently, and that approximately 7,000 men had been employed in these. That is good news for the Commonwealth generally but in Queensland the position is worsening.
Our rural industries provide a good deal of employment when they are in full operation. For instance, the sugar industry employs approximately 8,000 hands for six months of the year. The harvesting season is half over now, and will have been completed by 25th December. Then some 8,000 or 10,000 workers will be relieved of employment. We have had, over a period of years now, the experience of bringing migrants from Italy, seeing them do quite well for themselves out of the sugar harvest and then losing them to Victoria or New South Wales. They do not return, for Queensland is not attractive to immigrants. No immigrants were brought in this year, but we must accept responsibility - which up to a point is a governmental responsibility - for providing for the 8,000 or 10,000 workers who will be looking for employment by early January. We must do our utmost to relieve that situation. In addition to that body of men, others will be out of work because of the cessation of operations in the various meatworks. I think it is well known to honorable senators that Queensland’s cattle population is approximately 7,000,000, and that we export a large quantity of meat. Slaughtering operations will terminate at any time now. The prospect this year is different from what it was last year, when cows and what is known as cracker-beef were being killed for export to the United States.
– The unemployment figure is only 1.5 per cent.
– I thank you for raising that point. Is it 1.5 per cent, of the population, or is it 1.5 per cent, of the work force of 4,000,000 people? I should like you to be sure of your facts when you make such an interjection. The total number of unemployed is more than 52,000. That is sufficiently serious so far as I am concerned. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber believe that it is far too great a number. I think that before I have finished this brief address Senator McKellar will agree with me. I know that he personally does not wish to see one single man out of work, and I would say that that is true of all honorable senators in this chamber. They do not want to see one single man out of a job, but, unfortunately, the situation is as I have stated it.
Because of the operations carried out in the pastoral industry at this time of the year approximately 7,000 or 8,000 men are employed temporarily in the industry, but they will be on the employment market at any time now. From my knowledge of the industries of Queensland, I would say that we will have at least 21,000 unemployed workers in that State by 1st January. I raised this matter the other day by way of a question, but I did not get a sympathetic reply. I do not think the National Government should engage in any buck-passing to the States in the matter of employment and unemployment.
May I say that I have never been satisfied with the information that has come from the Department of Labour and National Service on unemployment. I should like to see a Senate select committee appointed for the purpose of investigating problems relating to employment and unemployment. One of the things that the committee could investigate first would be the method that has been adopted by the Department of Labour and National Service in regard to the registration of unemployed workers. For instance, I should like to know how the New South Wales branch of the department records the number of unemployed in places like Canberra, Queanbeyan, Yass, Goulburn and other outlying districts. I should like the organization of the department to be examined to find out whether it has a comprehensive system which permits it to collect the necessary information, tabulate it in a proper way, and supply accurate figures.
In dealing with this question I do not wish to raise the hypertension of any honorable senator, but I say that it is necessary that the Department of Labour and National Service should have a system which will allow it to know immediately and accurately the number of unemployed workers in any particular district or locality. I do not think that the figure purporting to show the total number ot unemployed workers in the Commonwealth should be the figure showing the total number of those who are receiving the unemployment benefit. Thousands of workers are searching for work and do not bother to remain idle in a town in order to receive the unemployment benefit. That is one of the things that a committee such as I have suggested could investigate.
It could also investigate avenues of employment. It could devote a good deal of its time to the information which appears at page 33 of the publication from which I quoted in the early part of my speech. Those are things that are worthwhile, and things to which a Senate select committee could devote no end of time. The committee could function indefinitely, because the problem is a constant one.
I mentioned previously that migrants had been brought to Queensland over several years to engage in sugar-harvesting operations. I am sorry to say that although the Commonwealth has maintained a vigorous immigration policy over a number of years, Queensland’s net gain is infinitesimal and very disappointing. I believe that migrants who come to Queensland find that there is a shortage of secondary industries there and that the nature of the work in the seasonal industries does not appeal to them. If they consider taking up farming, they find that more capital is required to commence farming operations in Queensland than is required in some of the other States. The result is that they leave Queensland and go to the more industrialized States in the south. That state of affairs probably will continue, to the detriment of Queensland. If you have a large population, naturally you have a market for your goods. You can establish secondary industries which will function profitably almost from their inception.
I return now to the statement by Senator McKellar that we have only 1.5 of unemployment. I think he meant 1.5 per cent, of the work force. What I am about to tell the Senate reflects the unemployment position or the results of unemployment. The Queensland Housing Commission has been functioning for a number of years. It has built homes for, and let them to, a number of people. At the present time it is owed £90,000 in rent. That is not a small sum for any State authority to be owed. I have a fair knowledge of how these authorities act in respect of debts of that nature. I know that they never let up and that they use all their powers to collect moneys due to them. Notwithstanding the efforts of the Queensland Housing Commission, it has been unable to reduce that outstanding sum of £90,000. That tells me the story that many people in Queensland, if not totally unemployed, are partly unemployed and are unable to meet their basic commitments. That is not a very satisfactory situation for a State to be in at the present time. As I said a while ago, the present situation, coupled with the increasing unemployment in the offing early in the new year, calls for some action beyond providing public works. Works may be commenced, but when they have been completed there will be little opportunity for employment. I am strongly in favour of the appointment of a Senate select committee to deal constantly with the problem of employment and unemployment. In performing its functions, it could consider the matters that I mentioned a while ago, such as the importation of metals and metal goods. That is something that requires constant attention. Such a committee surely could consider means by which goods ot that kind might be manufactured in Australia.
I look at this matter in a simple light and say to myself, “If oil is brought to Australia, no doubt it is because we cannot produce oil here “. I fully endorse the policy of the Government to subsidize oilboring operations in the Commonwealth. I would go further than that. I would have my own deep boring plant and have it operating at places indicated by officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. We in this country mine all kinds of ores and minerals. We mine or manufacture tin, steel, copper and brass. Nearly every known mineral is to be found in Australia. Yet, we go on importing metal goods from other countries to the tune of £260,000,000 per annum.
The Senate should do work other than dealing with legislation. The items under 4,000 headings with which we shall commence to deal to-morrow should be examined by a select committee of the Senate appointed for the purpose. If it did nothing else but reduce the value of the goods imported by £20,000,000 per annum it would be worth while. I suggest, however, that in addition it could assist with our employment problems.
We have heard recently from various Ministers, including, I think, the Prime Minister, about the volume of overseas investment in Australia during the last twelve months. When we examine this investment we find that it must have been mostly in existing industries. The overseas interests concerned must have done very little more than purchase shares in Australian establishments, because when we look around it is very difficult indeed to find industries that have been established by interests in other countries, such as the United States of America, Great Britain and France. I am inclined to believe that if investment has come to this country from’ overseas it has been in industries already established here. I am forced to that belief by the state of the share market at the present time.
We find that in certain cases £1 shares have increased by £1, £1 10s. and even as much as £2 during the last five or six months. That, of course, is of no benefit to the people as a whole, including those with children who will be seeking employment at the end of the current school year. It is of little value to the men who will be seeking employment at the end of the seasonal operations in Queensland, in another few months. As I have said, we must give some attention to our secondary industries, and we must recognize that 70 per cent, of our work force looks to private industries for employment. We could do more as a Senate if we broke ourselves up into committees. I cannot think of a more worthwhile purpose for a committee to devote its time to than searching for employment for the workless forces in Australia at the present time.
– In supporting the motion for the first reading of the bill, I wish to discuss a number of departments which have particular reference to my own State of Queensland. When I consider proposed votes for the Department of National Development and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, I think of the possibilities in Queensland for the activities of those organizations. Senator Benn, who preceded me, is also a Queenslander. As honorable senators are aware, Queensland is a large State with much variety within its borders. There is great opportunity for development. Queensland is unique in certain ways, so far as development is concerned. A considerable proportion of the State is either tropical or sub-tropical. This poses problems which, I believe, are a challenge both to our way of thinking and our way of living.
Contrary to the opinion that might be derived from previous speeches, Queensland is not a difficult State to live in. During the war, the sons of many people in the south lived in northern regions. Many of those with whom I came in contact indicated that, from a climatic point of view, they quite enjoyed living in the north.
– Hear, hear!
– Senator Wright speaks from practical experience of the war years. We know, of course, that people are not so concerned about such things in war-time as much as they are in time of peace, but my conversations with servicemen during the war indicated to me that they believed there were possibilities in the north. Many American servicemen who were stationed in the northern part of Queensland during the war hoped to come back after the war ended, because they saw possibilities in the area.
It is- well known that it is the unaccustomed eye that sees possibilities which people who live in a place do not always see. Those who live in a place are not as alert to the opportunities that exist there as are other people who see the place for the first time. A person who visits a town or a small city may see an opportunity for a business venture that those who live there have not seen. I remember a story by Somerset Maugham, about a verger who was discharged from his work at a church. He walked down the street in a disconsolate manner and thought that he would buy some tobacco. He walked the full length of the street but could not find a tobacconist’s shop. That gave him the idea to open a shop. He did so and became very successful. Eventually, so the story went, he had a chain of tobacconist shops. As I have said, very often we live in places without realizing their possibilities until something jolts us into realization.
It always gives me great pleasure to see money being voted to the Department of National Development and the C.S.I.R.O., because whether or not those bodies fully utilize the funds that are made available to them, there is always great potentiality in the work that they undertake. In connexion with national development, I have in mind a proposition which the Queensland Government is about to prepare and submit to the Commonwealth Government. It concerns the construction of roads leading from the rail heads at Dajarra, Winton and Quilpie. The proposal is to build roads from those areas through the Channel country. Instead of costly railway lines, roads are envisaged for the use of motor transport, such as road trains, which would serve a very useful purpose in the Queensland cattle country. Yesterday I was reading in the Brisbane “ Sunday-Mail “ of certain types of road vehicles and road trains of French and American design that are capable of carrying loads even greater than those carried by railway trains. No doubt there are other such vehicles of British or Australian manufacture.
To my way of thinking, this proposition opens up vast possibilities. The Queensland Government shows a flexibility of mind in thinking not only of railways but also of a transportation system that is more flexible and probably of greater benefit. The proposition the State Government is putting forward is that the scheme shall be paid for equally, £1 for £1, by the State and Commonwealth Governments. I believe that the proposition will be well worth this Government’s consideration. Queensland is a State of vast area. In proportion to its area, it is lightly populated over all, although it has the very good feature that the population is well spread throughout the State in cities, towns, little country centres, and villages, extending to the western borders and to the northernmost tip. The people living in those remote areas should be encouraged, because at present living conditions there are not as congenial as those in cities where many amenities can be found. The State Government has for some time been trying to take amenities to these people in remote areas. Only on Saturday electricity was turned on in the little township of Jundah by the Minister for Development, Mines and Main Roads, the Honorable Ernest Evans. The township’s population of 150 or 160 persons was swollen to about 600 for this gala function. It was a very happy event for those people in that western area to have the amenity of electricity made available to them. The more that we can give to country people the amenities to make life worth living the more we will encourage people to go to remote areas.
When this scheme for the development of the Channel country in this way is put forward by Mr. Evans, who is so keen about it and has the backing of his Government, I hope that it will receive very favorable consideration from the Commonwealth Government. I think it is the type of scheme which would intensify the development of the area. Not only will it enable further development, but also it will aid in the preservation of the national asset that is there now. It was estimated that last year in the Channel country, because of drought conditions, over 200,000 head of cattle were lost. When we consider the value of cattle to-day we realize that that was a very substantial loss not only to the individuals who owned the cattle but also to the nation, because whatever belongs to individual people is collectively a national asset.
– How could those 200,000 cattle have been saved?
– With the building of roads such as the State Government now proposes - the honorable senator will be pleased to know that the scheme come3 within the jurisdiction of a Country Party Minister in the State - cattle could be moved by road train in drought years to areas where feed is available and as a consequence loss would be avoided.
– Why was that not done before?
– In this instance, it is not a matter of politics. At present cattle have to be moved from this area by droving, and as a result they lose condition badly under drought conditions en route, and many are lost. The building of roads would enable quick transporation to the coast or elsewhere where feed was available. There would be a big saving. We all know the prices prevailing for cattle to-day. The cattle industry is an important industry to Australia and it is of very great significance to Queensland, which I think is the largest cattle producer in the Commonwealth. Honorable senators know as well as I do that the industry is important to the people and to credits within the country, and that in addition it has played an increasingly important part in raising the country’s external earnings - during the past year or so because of the great demand by the United States of America for meat. It has not only helped to build external credits but also, very importantly, it is earning more dollars for this country. I think that every honorable senator, irrespective of party, would agree that the implementation of this scheme would make a very worthy contribution to the national welfare. The loss of 200,000 cattle in one year is substantial. With the current demand for meat, those cattle could have been turned into quite a considerable sum for this country.
This morning’s issue of the “CourierMail “ had a very fine leading article on this proposition that Mr. Evans will be submitting on behalf of the Queensland Government. It stated that the total cost of the scheme was estimated at approximately £4,000,000. To give honorable senators an idea of the size of Queensland - Senator Wade might be interested in this - the area which would be tapped by these proposed roads from railheads is as large as Victoria.
– Are you suggesting that you should get more help from Victoria in the form of petrol tax moneys?
– I am letting the honorable senator know that the little bit of Queensland that these roads would tap is the size of his State of Victoria.
– When you have developed it to the extent to which Victoria is developed, you may stand up and boast about it.
– The honorable senator now knows the size of the area concerned. Honorable senators generally will recognize the importance of doing something in this respect. As the “ Courier-Mail “ pointed out in its leading article, implementation of the scheme could increase the value of cattle bred in Queensland by between £5,000,000 and £10,0000,000 a year. That is no mean contribution. The Commonwealth Government will be asked to provide, over a period of years, £2,000,000 of the £4,000,000 required. This would be a very fine investment. If all the moneys expended by the Commonwealth returned as much to the national income, we would be much happier.
– What is the average rainfall of the area to which you refer?
– I cannot say, offhand. This is an area that responds very quickly. The Channel country is considered to be an excellent area for cattle. The State is prepared to subscribe this year, on a £l-for- £1 basis, an amount of £500,000 to commence this scheme.
– The State gets money from the petrol tax for roads. Is this to be over and above that?
– This is a scheme for development over and above that. Seeing that Victoria jinked Queensland of £1,600,000 of road moneys, for which Victorians should hang their heads in shame, and as the Commonwealth Government has supported many propositions for the development of other States, the Queensland Government considers it only right that at last Queensland should get something worth while. Therefore if honorable senators from other States have the right national outlook, and if they have a sense of shame from a recognition of what has been done by the Commonwealth Government in their States, and not done in Queensland, they will gladly urge the Commonwealth to give us this amount in order to compensate
Queensland for some of the disabilities it has suffered in the past. We should not consider the cattle industry only from the point of view of selling beef overseas. I believe that we should have regard to the possibility of developing these areas by increasing our output of packaged meats and by other means. We must pay attention continually to the employment situation. I think that the intensification of the development of industries in these areas depends to a degree upon the expansion of this industry.
I turn now to the sugar industry, which is the number one industry in my State. It has surpassed the woollen industry and that, I think, is a very meritorious achievement. If I remember rightly, Queensland is the only place in the world where sugar is grown by white labour in tropical areas. This is a tribute to what has been accomplished by the sugar-growers in Queensland over a period of years. It has been proved conclusively by people who have given a lot of thought to this matter that sugar can be grown in the tropics by white men just as well - if not better than - as by anybody else. I think it is fair to say that the Queensland sugar industry has been assisted by scientific developments more than has the sugar industry in any other part of the world.
– It is the most protected, anyway.
– I think, perhaps, that things like that are often said in the jocular vein.
– Then I will say it seriously.
– As Senator Wade has seriously repeated the assertion, I should like to point out that the Queensland sugar industry receives no more protection than is accorded to many secondary industries in the south, as a result of which the people of Queensland have to pay much more for these goods that are produced in Australia.
– Then why do not the Queensland people show a little initiative and start manufacturing these commodities in that State?
– As I have said, the people of Queensland have to pay more for these goods because of the high tariff. However, having a broad national outlook, we do not mind doing that because we recognize, as Australians, that it is only right that this country should be developed to the utmost degree. I do not think that anybody would hear a complaint when travelling through Queensland’s sugar areas that the people there could buy overseas goods cheaper than they pay for those produced in Australia. They take a broad view of the matter. I think it is true to say that if the sugar industry in Queensland were wiped out to-morrow, the reaction on the secondary industries in the southern cities would be such as to cause a depression. It is just as well for us to remember, as Australians, that it is to our advantage to keep our money circulating in this country. It should be the aim of all of us to see that our people, whether residing in the southern regions or on the northern-most tip of this continent are happy, prosperous and successful; by this means we will have a happy and prosperous Australia because, collectively, the people make the nation.
At present, the sugar industry is confronted with certain difficulties, and I think that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization - our great institution that has achieved wonderful scientific developments in the wool industry over the years - may be able to assist in overcoming them. We all know the effect that a fall in the price of wool has on the economy of this country. The C.S.I.R.O. has developed a process for the permanent creasing of woollen goods. It has also overcome the problem of shrinkage of woollen fabrics. Due to the combined efforts of the organization and the wool industry, a cloth has been developed possessing features which will enable it to withstand, I think successfully, the competition from synthetics. Australia should be very grateful to the scientists of the C.S.I.R.O. for the advances that they have made in this field. Likewise, it has evolved scientific means of assisting the secondary industries. I believe that the scientists could apply their energies to the solution of the problems that now confront the sugar industry. Possibly their efforts are already being directed to that industry.
This year, it will be necessary to plough into the ground about 1,500,000 tons of sugar cane, because of over-production.
Strange to relate, to a very great degree this problem has been brought about by scientific investigation in the sugar industry. The story is a very interesting one, and it shows that sometimes science can catch up with you and create problems. Over a number of years, scientific experiments in the sugar industry have resulted in new varieties of cane, including a sweeter cane, being grown. Scientific developments have resulted also in a greater tonnage of sugar per acre, and a greater yield per ton of cane, being achieved. As a result of the application of science to milling, a much higher degree of efficiency has been attained by the mills. Sweeter cane is being grown and greater tonnages are being achieved. Sugar growing has now become a scientific industry. To-day, the sugar crops are of a much better standard than ever before.
– Why cannot the surplus of sugar be exported?
– That is a very interesting question, which I shall deal with directly. As I have said, there is now a surplus of production in the sugar industry. In my area last year, about 500,000 tons of cane was either stood over or ploughed in; it was mostly ploughed in, because some types of tall cane do not stand over very well from one year to another. If a cyclone comes along they get twisted, which makes cutting difficult. This year, as I have said, about 1,500,000 tons of cane will be ploughed in. The mills could handle this surplus cane, but the matter of sale has to be considered. Under the International Sugar Agreement, the quantity of sugar that may be sold by each country that subscribes to the agreement is limited. It was necessary to impose this limitation because so many tropical countries produce sugar, and it is necessary for us to retain our market.
In the Queensland Parliament recently, two members - one of them has been in the industry and should have known better - engaged in a game of politics and spoke of finding new markets for our sugar. If we tried to obtain new markets the sugar that was previously bought by that market would have to be taken up by somebody else. It is a matter of world production meeting world consumption. I noticed a statement to the effect’ that a year or two ago we had sold 100,000 tons of sugar to
Japan, and some one got the idea that we had increased our exports by that quantity. That was not so. We did not sell that 100,000 tons to another market. There is a good reason for the maintenance of the International Sugar Agreement. It would be a tragedy for us if the agreement failed. There was a time when it was feared that Cuba might break away from the agreement. Such a breakaway would have caused havoc in the industry, and Australia would have been seriously affected. It may be said that the industry in Australia is conducted on sounder scientific lines than in Cuba, but, on the other hand, labour is cheaper there than in this country, thus enabling the industry in Cuba to sell its product more cheaply than we in Australia can. afford to do. In addition to the higher costs of production with white labour, the added freight from Australia to many of the world’s markets would place this country at a disadvantage. It is most important that Australia should do what it can to ensure that nothing is done to endanger the International Sugar Agreement. I, therefore, deplore the fact that a member of an Australian State Parliament has indulged in thoughtless and dangerous statements by advocating a greater production of sugar, because that would mean breaking an agreement to which Australia is a signatory.
I am sorry that the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is not in the chamber, because I wished to ask him some questions about the over-production of sugar. In my opinion, that body may be able to play an important part in the development of the sugar industry. I do not necessarily mean that surplus sugar cane should be turned into sugar, but that it might be used in other ways. For instance, there is a proposal in Queensland to establish a paper factory in which the pith from the cane stalks would be turned into paper. Whether that is a practical proposition I do not know, but the State Government is investigating the matter. Already sugar cane has been used to produce power alcohol in a factory at Sarina, in Queensland. The Kraft cheese people are now using this factory for a processed product, but I do not know what processes they employ. However, it is known that sugar cane can be converted into power alcohol and, as I have said, proposals are in hand to manufacture paper from the pith of the cane. It may be that the C.S.I.R.O. could find other usages for sugar; at least it seems to me that there are possibilities in that direction. The point I make is that the production of sugar for human consumption is not necessarily the only way to utilize the cane; it could probably be used extensively in other forms in various industries. It is for that reason that I suggest that investigations as to other possible uses of sugar cane should be undertaken. If liquid sugar, or sugar in crystallized form, could be used in industry it could lead to a great development of our sugar industry.
I have already mentioned the Channel country. This region, the Gulf country, and all the far northern parts of Queensland should be examined from the developmental point of view. Probably not many Queenslanders know a great deal about these areas of their State. In my opinion, they possess great possibilities. Already in the far north and far west of Queensland considerable development has taken place. On a number of occasions I have spoken of the Mount Isa mine as an outstanding example of what can be done in those regions. My colleague, Senator Maher, has also spoken along similar lines. Mount Isa is known not only as a great mine, but also as a place where a wise employer has set an example to other employers in the treatment of its employees. It has provided houses, swimming pools and other amenities, and done much to beautify the town’s surroundings. Mount Isa is situated approximately 600 miles west of Townsville, and about 900 miles north-west of Brisbane, yet life there has been made pleasant for its inhabitants. People who invested their money in the undertaking had to wait a long time before receiving any returns in the way of profit. Much the same can be said of the Mary Kathleen area, where uranium is mined. I think we shall find that in time Mary Kathleen will, like Mount Isa, turn to the production of copper. North Queensland also contains valuable deposits of bauxite. Anything that can be done to develop industries in these areas will be a major contribution to Australia’s development and will also tend to people these empty spaces. This is a matter of importance to Australia, as we realized some years ago in a time of national emergency. In the interests of the development of Australia these areas should be investigated. This is a matter in which both Commonwealth and State governments, working together, may do a great deal.
I am not one who thinks that the Government should do everything for the people. The success that I have mentioned at Mount Isa was the result of the action of private enterprise. The same is true of Mary Kathleen and of the development of the bauxite deposits to which I have referred. Nevertheless, governments can assist in many ways, such as by constructing roads, and generally opening up lines of communications. Private enterprise can do much by taking the initiative.
Reference has been made to the subject of unemployment. It is our duty to plan for the development of the Commonwealth, thus providing employment for its people. Persons engaged in primary industries are not always mindful of the importance of secondary industries, but it is amazing how quickly some industries have grown. I recall that during the term of office of the Chifley Government, when overseas credits presented considerable difficulty, an effort was made to earn more credits for Australia, particularly dollar credits. The crayfish industry was fostered, and to-day it has become an important industry, of value not only to one State but to the Commonwealth as a whole. It is earning some millions of dollars for Australia each year. That industry started in a small way, but it is now well established as a profitable revenue-producing industry. Collectively, these small industries are worth a great deal. Furthermore, they can build up to something big over a period, so that when we speak of the development of industry we should not think always of size; we should remember that very often small industries grow into quite big undertakings. Especially should we remember this when speaking of the development of a State like Queensland where there is a heavy call for labour at certain times of the year and at other times the call falls off. That is one of Queensland’s big problems and for that reason it is necessary to think of industries that will give employment to people for at least a good part, if not the whole, of the year.
In recent times I have followed the development of the cultured pearl industry which is as yet quite small in the most northern part of Australia. I have noticed also that an effort is to be made to establish a cultured pearl industry in the northern parts of Queensland. The fashion jewellery industry could become something of importance to this country. I well remember that before the war the fashion jewellery industry was very important to the small country of Czechoslovakia. It returned to that country a few million pounds a year. I should say that to-day, because of the change in the value of money, it would be worth considerably more a year to that country. I also remember reading of the development of the cultured pearl industry in Japan, an industry which is of no mean importance there to-day. Mikimoto, the man who started it has become very wealthy, and that industry has brought a great deal of money into Japan. Although fashion jewellery is not a topic about which parliamentarians speak a great deal, it is an industry, and every encouragement should be given to it with a view to increasing employment and bringing more wealth to the country.
Because of the warmer waters of the northern regions of Queensland, I understand, cultured pearls will grow more quickly there than in some of the other waters where they are being grown now. At least, results so far seem to show that. Fashion jewellery could be manufactured. For intance, manufacturers could develop such motifs as tropical flowers, coloured foliage, replicas of the Barrier Reef, the fish and other life about it. I feel that to a person with imagination and the knowledge, there is scope for the development of an industry which would manufacture fashion jewellery not only for sale in the Commonwealth but for export overseas.
To support that view I mention Hawaii and other tourist areas where people with initiative and a realization of the value of developing these things have adopted surprising methods of attracting a nimble shilling or two from the pockets of tourists and others. Friends of mine who returned recently from a world tour spent about a week in Hawaii and I was amazed at the ingenuity of some of the things they brought back, things made by the people there with a view to attracting money from the tourists and other visitors.
For instance, I point out that one fruit growing wild in north Queensland is the guava. It is a fruit with a yellow skin, red flesh and many seeds, lt may be eaten as a fruit, it may be preserved or stewed, and from it may be made possibly one of the most tasty jellies imaginable. Many people balk at eating it because of the number of seeds contained in it, but my friends brought back from Hawaii jewellery made from compressed guava seeds. I mention that as an example of the ingenuity of the people there and as an illustration of what can be done to develop trade and win money from people’s pockets. After all, trade is only a means of attracting money from the pockets of other people to one’s own pockets, and these examples I have mentioned indicate to me that we need inventiveness and to think not always of developing big industries but of beginning with small things which can grow into big undertakings.
When speaking of tourist centres such as Hawaii, 1 am reminded of the tourist industry in my own district, round the Whitsunday Islands and on the Great Barrier Reef. In that area they are conducting a festival. It started last Friday and will finish next Sunday. It has a vast tourist area, and 1 should like to tell honor* able senators the story of the development of the industry there to illustrate what can be done. It started with a small organization which had a capital of only £250. Tho people interested converted shearing sheds and a woolshed. They installed canvas bunks - no inner spring mattresses - and ran a launch across to the islands from the mainland once a week. Sometimes it had three or four people aboard; some weeks it took across only one or two. Now, after 28 years, from that small beginning, people are conducting a tourist festival to celebrate the fact that the industry has now grown into one capable of providing 700 beds on the islands alone. That is an excellent illustration of what can be done.
What is of the utmost importance from our point of view is the fact that the industry now employs 500 people in the Mackay-
Whitsunday-Great Barrier Reef section of Queensland. In the Mackay-Proserpine area there would be between 45,000 and 50,000 people, so that an industry that employs 500 out of that number is employing a considerable proportion of the population. And this industry started from a very small beginning! Within a few years, instead of employing 500, it may employ 1,000 people because the industry is expanding at a tremendous rate. I thought it fitting to mention that section of the tourist industry which is now conducting a celebration.
A very important feature of the development of the industry is that some resorts stay open for the full twelve months and others for ten months of the year. Launches plying between the mainland and the islands convey between 80 and 100 people each week, which indicates what can be done by the concentration of enthusiasm, interest and investment of a few people. I repeat that from a small beginning 28 years ago there has developed an industry which is now very important to that part of the State.
I believe that eventually the Great Barrier Reef will become a great international attraction because it is something unique, something outstanding, something which people from all ends of the earth will visit because it has many striking features.
There is always a possibility that people who visit an area as tourists will develop a liking for it and will want to invest money there. In fact, that has happened. If I cared to disclose details, I could mention a number of instances in which investment in the area is likely to take place. And the investment involves not small propositions worth just a few pounds but big undertakings worth some hundreds of thousands of pounds. This indicates the increasing interest that is being taken by tourists in the area. People who have seen the attractions are prepared to invest money there.
Another great advantage is that not only do people invest in the tourist industry, but if they like a particular place after having seen it as tourists, they will probably live there in retirement. They will probably buy houses and some of them will start new industries. An example of that is to be found on the south coast of Queensland, in the area now known as the Gold Coast. There we have seen tremendous development of a strip of beach area. Because of some peculiar appeal possessed by it, there has been extensive investment by people who in the main are not Queenslanders. The investment has been made by people from other States, by people from Victoria in particular. They like our State so much, once they have seen it, that they decide to stay. It is interesting to note how many millions have been poured into that area by people who first went there as tourists. Whether or not is is your favorite spot, or mine, the fact remains that the money has been invested by people who went there as tourists in the first place. It has been invested not only in homes and tourist resorts but also in industry. Clearly, it pays to have people come into these areas.
A similar trend can be noted in other areas of Queensland, such as Cairns and the wonderful district which lies behind it. One sees development proceeding apace because people have gone there and have liked what they saw. Such industries are of great value to my State of Queensland, and their value cannot fail to increase as the years go by. I have always felt that the development of secondary industry is dependent upon getting people into an area by encouraging primary industry, tourists, and domestic industry. The existence of a population of a certain size automatically leads to the growth of secondary industry, for the new arrivals must be supplied with goods and services. Transportation costs are lower if goods are manufactured close to the point of consumption. Therefore, population leads, in turn, to the development of industry. The whole process cannot fail to snowball. Because of this population factor, Queensland’s secondary industry is forging ahead, especially in the southern region. That is indicated by the figures that were put out recently
The Government of Queensland is very keen to foster the development of other industries also. The enthusiasm and drive of the Queensland Minister for Labour and Industry, Mr. Ken Morris, who is also deputy Premier, and the government led by the Honorable Frank Nicklin, must put that State on the road to an era of development in both primary industry - where that is possible - and secondary industry.
Queensland is unique in many respects and, as a result, has its own special problems. I am confident that, in the long run, those problems will be tackled and solved; that when Queensland reaches full development it will be a State of which every Australian will be proud. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has a part to play in solving the over-production problem of the sugar industry. It may be able to find other uses for the sugar which could be manufactured from the 1,500,000 tons of cane that will be ploughed in to the land this year. I commend this venture and hope that the C.S.I.R.O. and the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) will see the bright prospects for our State; that this Government will continually give Queensland every consideration and help in the attainment of full development.
.- Senator Wood has described some very interesting developments in Queensland, though at times he appeared to have a very firm hold on the parish pump, for he worked it most vigorously. On other occasions he touched on very important matters which affect not only Queensland but the whole of Australia. He referred especially to the sugar industry and, implicit in his plea for assistance in the direction of marketing-
– I asked not for finance but for assistance in devising new uses for sugar.
– That is so, but the honorable senator failed to stress one of the most important factors in the solution of the sugar problem. I refer to exportation. We are witnessing a general decline in the level of exports. Various people go abroad in an attempt to sell Australia. They go abroad as members of trade delegations, as ambassadors, or as visiting Premiers, but it is a question of whether they are selling Australia’s products or its birthright. I am afraid that industry after industry will, like the sugar industry, experience difficulty in disposing of its products - unless this Government changes its policy.
Senior Ministers are constantly assuring the public that Australia is experiencing great prosperity. They tell of the boom on the stock exchange; of the great prosperity that this portends. We read, in the “ Financial Times “ of the big dividends that are being paid to companies. The fact remains that in 1957-58 we imported goods to the value of £957,000,000 and exported goods to the value of £843,000,000- leaving a deficit of £114,000,000. In the current year, we imported goods to the value of £996,000,000 and exported goods to the value of £809,000,000. For the second year in succession there was a deficit- in this case of £187,000,000.
Government members claim that there is a great need to attract overseas capital, but this policy of selling Australia is having its effect. It is attracting overseas capital, but that capital is being invested in industries of that kind mentioned by Senator Wood. A tremendous proportion of the investment in the Mount Isa organization is held by overseas shareholders. The Mary Kathleen, Mount Morgan and Weipa organizations, as well as companies in other parts of Queensland, also have a high proportion of overseas capital. The same applies to companies in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia. Last year Australian companies paid £42,000,000 in dividends to overseas investors. In the current financial year that sum will increase to £43,000,000. The public companies, which publish their balance sheets - the proprietary companies do not have to reveal their balance sheets, and their profits are unknown to the general public of Australia - are paying very high dividend rates and are providing very lucrative investment opportunities for overseas investors.
– We borrow money from them.
– As Senator Courtice has said, we are borrowing money from them, and the rate of interest on some of the money, as every one knows, is of a very high order. In three or four years the amount of the capital we have borrowed will have been paid in interest payments. In additon, we have granted concessions to the people who have invested in this country.
– You are not suggesting that the people pay 25 per cent, interest, are you?
– If I might digress for a few moments, I should like to tell the honorable senator a story that has often been told in this chamber, but which will always bear reiteration. It is the story of General Motors-Holden’s Limited.
– Are you talking about interest or dividends?
– He would not know.
– I am talking about both. Senator Mattner is one of those illinformed people who is ready to make interjections, but when he is on his feet he never gives any facts or information. I shall inform him of a few facts which are irrefutable- If he listens carefully, he will be a little better informed. General MotorsHolden’s Limited, as Senator Mattner knows, was set up in the 1930’s. As he also knows, Holden’s was a South Australian organization building motor bodies for General Motors of America, which supplied the chassis. General Motors established branches in Australia in 1926 to distribute its products.
– Get your figures right.
– General Motors’ total investment in Australia at that time was £200,000.
– When did you say the company started?
– In 1926. I repeat that General Motors’ total investment at that time was £200,000. The money came from the profits on the sale of its cars here in Australia. The Australian tariff policy in the late 1920’s and 1930’s made it more profitable for General Motors to use car bodies manufactured in Australia. Accordingly, the American organization contracted with Holden’s, as motor body builders, to supply car bodies. At the end of World War II., the Chifley Labour Government was anxious to establish a local car industry. Australia wanted a vastly expanded secondary industry to provide employment for demobilized personnel, to reduce Australia’s dependence on the exports of her primary products, and to help our trading position by building import replacement industries.
Now we come to the financing of General Motors-Holden’s Limited. As part of that plan, the Chifley Government invited overseas car manufacturers to set up in Australia, and undertook to grant concessions during the initial stage of development. General Motors eventually agreed to establish a project here, but would not make the necessary funds available. Mr. Chifley instructed the Commonwealth Bank to grant General MotorsHolden’s Limited a £3,000,000 credit. The Bank of Adelaide subsequently asked for the right to provide £1,000,000 of that credit. With that credit, General MotorsHolden’s Limited began production of the Australian-made car. In the ten years since production commenced General MotorsHolden’s Limited has repaid the initial credit granted by the Commonwealth, has paid dividends to United States shareholders of more than £25,000,000, and has built up assets in Australia amounting to £70,000,000. During its last year of operation, it made a record profit of £15,500,000. An infinitesimal amount of American capital was involved in the original investment, but the company is now paying out the biggest proportion of the £15,500,000 profit to American investors. During the ten years of operation it has paid out £25,000,000. This is the policy of “Sell Australia”.
– How much more have American investors invested in Australia during that time?
– They have not invested anything. They are salting back their profits.
– What is the value of wages paid to Australian wage earners?
– The wage earners built the cars. They created all this wealth, and they are entitled to their full share. Let me say that the Australian employee to-day, because of the high cost of living, due to inflation, is not getting a fair share of the products of his labour. Relatively speaking, General Motors-Holden’s Limited is paying its employees well, but, on the face of it, some one is suffering. Either the consumer is being jinked and is paying too much for his car, or the employee is being underpaid. The absentee shareholders, who never invested any of their money in this country, are collecting at the rate of £25,000,000 over a ten-year period. Last year they received the major proportion of the profit of £15,500,000. This is the story of General MotorsHolden’s Limited.
– Did you not say that the Chifley Government was responsible for establishing it?
– Yes, we established it.
– You were responsible for it, yet you are chastising it?
– We commenced it for the purpose of establishing a car industry, not a monopoly organization. We did not want to set up an exploiting organization, and we did not believe that it would ever become-
– So successful.
– Success is relative. Success can be achieved by producing a car and selling it to the Australian people at a fair price, but this is nothing more or less than a scandalous racket. The consumers are paying much more than they need to pay for their transportation. In addition, this Government has seen fit to impose sales tax at the rate of 33^ per cent, on the price of the car. On top of that, under the heading of hire purchase we have the General Motors Acceptance Corporation, another racket. We thus find another imposition on the Australian consumer. He must pay sales tax to the Government based on highly inflated prices and contribute to the making of a high rate of profit, sufficient to provide £25,000,000 for the American share-holders. In addition, he must contribute to the profits made by contractors and other people in Australia who are doing very well out of this industry. The distributors throughout the Commonwealth also enjoy a substantially higher mark-up than they should be receiving. Finally, the charges involved in hire purchase are nothing short of a scandal. All this framework has been built up on the reputation of General Motors in America, not on investment of its funds.
We now find that overseas companies are entering Australian primary and secondary industries. In mining industries and in manufacturing industries profits, both disclosed and undisclosed, are being filched from the Australian economy. For the year 1958-59, the value of our imports exceeded that of our exports by £185,000,000. We are therefore showing a deficit in our ordinary trade balance. We shall have to pay the piper eventually for this, for the simple reason that the apparent prosperity about which supporters of the Government are so jubilant has been achieved at a very great cost. It is time that the attention of the people of Australia, as well as that of supporters of the Government, was directed to this matter. It is all very well for honorable senators opposite to be temporarily jubilant, but there will come a day when the policy of this Government will catch up with it.
– The honorable senator has been saying that since 1951.
– I have been saying it and I will continue to say it. Let us consider the position of an Australian who is trying to start a home. First, there is the inflated cost of land. Honorable senators opposite may think that it is good business to sell to an ordinary man working in an office or a factory a block of land for £1,000. They may think it good business then to charge him £3,000 to put a house on that land, making his commitment £4,000.
– You would be lucky to get a house for that.
– Very lucky. It would be a shoddy, jerry-built place for that, and we know that there are many racketeers about. As I have said, this ordinary Australian would be up for £4,000. If he succeeded in borrowing money at 6 per cent., he would have to pay £240 a year in interest. He would be committed to that extent whether he obtained a loan from his parents or from a bank. He would be fortunate if he were able to get his first mortgage finance at 6 per cent.; second mortgage finance could cost him up to 8 per cent. So, for a start, the interest on his capital investment would amount to £240 a year, or a little under £5 a week. “ The next problem that would arise would be in respect of local authority charges. As every one knows, municipal councils are up against it. They are finding it very difficult indeed to meet their commitments, due to the demand for development and the increasing population as a result of the immigration programme and natural increase, and they are increasing their charges and rates to the maximum. They are also humiliating themselves by having to go to insurance companies and loan companies to borrow money in order to keep their municipalities afloat. The same is true of State governments. In their efforts to continue their education services, health services, agriculture extension services, forestry development schemes, mineral development schemes and so. on, State governments also are exploring every avenue to find revenue. The increased costs involved in the provision of these services are reflected in the cost of a home to the Australian of whom I have been speaking. In addition to his interest bill of £240 a year, he also has to pay rates and taxes. By the time the ordinary man houses himself to-day he has used up approximately half his salary. Surely, it is not wrong to complain about this matter continuously, particularly if, as Senator McKenna has said, we have seen the thief inflation putting his hand into the pockets of the ordinary person who cannot do anything about it.
– Is the honorable senator suggesting that a man with a house worth £5,000 pays £250 a year in rates and taxes?
– In rent.
– That is £4 or £5 a week?
– No. His rent is 10 per cent, of the value of the house. If a person builds a house for £4,000 or £5,000 he wants 10 per cent, of that amount each year in rent, which is £500 a year for a house costing £5,000. That is £10 a week for a man who rents a house, but if he borrows money to build a house he saddles himself for the next 20, 30, 40 or 50 years with nearly £5 a week in interest and possibly another £1 or £1 5s. a week for rates and taxes.
– To which State do those charges apply?
– They are general.
– What about the war service homes scheme?
– I shall continue to make the point that I was making when I was so rudely interrupted: That unless some one continually stresses the fact that year after year there is increasing inflation, with nothing at all being done about it except to borrow from overseas, we shall continue to borrow to pay our interest and to sell our birthright. In addition, we shall be disposing of some of the great assets of the people of this country, assets that were bulwarks against many of the forms of exploitation that we see in business to-day.
We see these things happening, but we are chided if we continue to remind the Senate and the people of Australia that they are happening. The honeymoon is pleasant enough while it lasts, but as I have said consistently, there must be a day of retribution. The fact that our overseas balances are going downhill by £185,000,000 a year, together with the fact that we are paying a high and rising interest bill overseas, with no sign of improvement in the position, calls for comment. Senator Mattner, who professes to understand the needs of the primary producer, must know that the situation, from the point of view of the primary producer, is very uncertain; and that is putting the position at its best. Perhaps some of the grape-growers of South Australia are enjoying an increased income as a result of a change of habits, but generally speaking the primary producer, not only of South Australia but also of other parts of Australia, is very uncertain about the future of his industry. To-day we see a big wool promotion drive because throughout the world potential markets for wool are receding. The natural places for us to sell our wool are the countries with low standards of living that are expanding and looking for improvement. I refer to the countries to the north of us that have been living in poverty for hundreds of years under the yoke of people similar to those who are to-day putting Australia under a yoke and into economic bondage, although our people have been able to maintain a higher level than have the less fortunate people to the north. Our traditional markets in Europe and the American continent are drying up. Competition is becoming greater as a result of the use of synthetics and printed cotton materials. Our products are being pushed out, in many instances, by competition from cheap-labour countries. Japan, for instance, has been able to expand with modern equipment and the support of the American capital introduced after the war to rehabilitate that country. It can put on our markets and other markets cotton goods against which the Australian commodity cannot compete.
– Japan is buying our wool, too.
– The Japanese buy it because it is essential to them. Our job should be to expand the use of wool in new areas. I hope that the wool use promotion organization will be able to break through the Government’s cobwebby view that it cannot go into certain countries. Let these wool use promotion people go into the highways and byways, to Russia, China and any other country where they can sell wool. If necessary, let them float loans in those countries to enable them to finance the purchase of our wool. If it is good business to do this in one country, it should be good business to do it anywhere in the world. There must come a time when the countries I have mentioned will produce commodities that we need and we can import from them. We are reaching the stage where we must have a look at these iron curtains and trade barriers that prevent us from dealing with many countries.
I now want to touch on the matter of the recent visit to Australia of Mr. Funston of the New York stock exchange. If it were not so serious, it would be humourous for Mr. Funston to come to Australia to introduce to us what is known as the people’s capitalism.
– It is a new technique.
– Yes, it is a new technique. It is really like those side-show tricks that used to be called the thimbleandpea trick or the three-card trick but are getting a bit out of date now. Monopoly capitalism is being fostered under a different name. It is now called the people’s capitalism. Throughout the Western world to-day monopoly capitalism is on the march. The primary producers and the great protagonists of private enterprise will have a different story to tell as the technique of the people’s capitalism unfolds. On every hand to-day we are seeing the trend towards larger financial units, tied into intricate combinations and management networks, and becoming far more centralized than they ever were before.
– You should support what Mr. Funston said.
– The technique, which has been overlooked, perhaps, by Senator Wedgwood, is to get the small investor to place his money in one of these vast financial networks in the belief that he is sharing in the organization.
– Is he not?
– He is sharing in it to the extent that he is paid so much interest - the minimum possible - on his investment.
– And has a vote at the annual meeting of the company.
– If these networks were followed up it would be found that small investors had as much chance as they ever had before of getting a majority of the shares and the control of any of the big organizations. Mr. Funston is advocating in Australia the same conditions as exist in the United States, with monopolistic control of capital and industry rather than the democracy to which honorable senators opposite are supposed to subscribe. There is a trend away from democracy towards monopoly.
– Nobody will believe you.
– Mr. Funston will teach this lesson to the honorable senator in a quick and lively manner. At present we can see in the United States a powerful superstructure of industrial, commercial, political and financial tie-ups, the control of which is held by one-fifth of 1 per cent, of the total adult population. That is the result of the plan that Mr. Funston has been lavishly advertising. As a matter of fact, many of the steel workers who are being sent back to work to-day in America under the Taft-Hartley act, after 97 days on strike, are shareholders under this scheme. When the waterside workers, the longshoremen, went on strike, all the goods began to pile up on the wharfs and the Taft-Hartley act was invoked in the steel industry within a few days. The steel, like the sugar about which Senator Wood was speaking, had been carefully distributed throughout the consumer sections of industry. A huge surplus of steel accumulated because war scares were not having as good an effect as formerly, and it was desired to disperse them. So there was a disagreement on wages and on terms and conditions of employment. The managements of the steel organizations, despite the fact that many of these men are shareholders, could say to them if they voted amongst themselves to settle, “ Outski! On the scrap heap, boys! We do not want your services at your price or at any agreed price, but only at our price.” For 97 days, many of these shareholders have been deprived of the fundamental rights that any democrats should have, not only to participate in the industry for which they have been trained but also to vote on the question of whether they will be thrown on to the industrial scrap heap. Now Mr. Funston comes here and tries to sell the: same guff to the people of Australia. It has been hawked around, and many of the: financial journals and the daily press have stated that it is a good thing. Yet the consequences of this practice show that it aids and abets the creation of a new form of monopoly capitalism that is reckless in its outlook regarding the welfare of men. The only purpose for which it exists is the accumulation of power through profits.
– Do you think it is a bad thing for a worker to save and to invest?
– No, except when his own investment is used as a lever against him. Let us see what happens. When the little man invests, it undermines his power to engage in collective bargaining. It undermines his ability to bargain collectively, for the simple reason that he has a personal interest in the organization with which his trade union leader is collectively bargaining.
– What an argument!
– It is not only an argument; it is a fact.
– It is a new look.
– My word it is! At one time, a man might have said, “ I will stick to my principles; I will fight for the principles that I believe to be right”. But now, he may go home and say to his wife, “ We are talking about cutting up rough on the job “. She will probably say, “ For God’s sake don’t. Look at what we have to pay at the end of the week. There is time payment to be met and the rent man is against us all right.” It is a pure fact.
– It is pure hearsay!
– It is not hearsay at all. That is exactly the position that is facing the ordinary employee in industry to-day. He cannot afford to stand up for his rights because he and his wife are so deeply involved in hire purchase and other commitments. The men who were prepared to fight for their industrial rights are fading away. If the secretary of a union takes the initiative he may be penalized because of this Government’s amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act; he can be gaoled and the union fined. The position to-day is that the working man is having a millstone tied well and truly around his neck.
– He still votes for this Government.
– I say that this Government is aiding and abetting the putting of a millstone around his neck. There is another thing, too. It is the question of the responsibility of people who are investors in these organizations. Look at the price monopoly in relation to electrical goods. Any one wanting to go into the electrical trade finds that the association fixes prices. If a trader does not display in his window the hire-purchase charges and interest payable on, say, television sets, he does not get any more sets. That means to say that there are monopolies and price rings growing up. If the small people are investors in the companies producing television sets, they feel inclined not to say anything about the matter because they might receive dividends at the end of the year. Therefore, they do not feel disposed to pinpoint these trade rings and organizations. This practice is sapping the fighting energy of the great race of people to whom we have the honour to belong.
– They are better off.
– They are better off on figures only. Some one has told the story - Senator Gorton will appreciate this - about a man in an asylum who was running backwards and forwards bashing his head against the wall. The superintendent said to him, “ Why are you doing that? “ The man replied, “ I like it when I stop “. That is typical of what a lot of people are doing to-day, and the Government tells them, in effect, that they should go on doing it be cause it will be much nicer for them later when they stop, as there is prosperity in the country.
I have endeavoured to outline what I consider to be the background of Mr. Funston’s visit to Australia to sell the guff to Australian people about people’s capitalism. If we are stupid enough, as a race, to swallow that, we deserve everything we will get.
– I intend to make any serious criticism I have of the Estimates when we are debating them in detail. I think I shall follow the admirable example of several speakers before me by devoting my speech to describing what we can do to make Parliament a more effective body. I am not one of those who think that it has become completely ineffective, but there are certain tendencies which, if they arc not checked, may make it so.
The palmy days of parliament were >n Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, which did not exist until 1803, when responsible government grew up and there were powerful prime ministers and other people with great power. There were also a considerable number of independent members - not independent always in the sense that they were not allied with any other group. Very often they were members of parties. Probably the greatest of them - I think he was the greatest parliamentarian that ever lived - was Edmund Burke. If honorable senators read the speeches and the writings of Burke they will understand fully what parliamentary government is.
Burke was a member of the Whig Party. He justified the party and he laid down what I think are the eternal principles of party government. They were simply these: That you support your party because your party consists of a number of like-minded men, men who have agreed on principles and who are ready to compromise on details and on non-essentials but who will, if duty calls them to do so, not only vote against their party, but leave it. And, of course, that is ultimately what Burke did. He was the great Whig of the eighteenth century and when, on principle, he could no longer support what was called the Whig Party he left it and joined what was known as the Tory Party. I think that, in history, the men who have changed from party to party have often played a much more honorable part than those who have been slavishly obedient to a party. That does not mean, Sir, that party does not matter, nor that one should not be, in general, loyal to the party.
I do not want to bring into this debate - it is a fairly general one, as far as I am concerned - a minute discussion about how parties manage their affairs. When someone on this side earlier made a reference to a party, somebody on the other side became very indignant and the implication of what followed was that one party was better than another, and so forth. We will never get anywhere if we debate on that level. It may be that the Opposition’s way of managing party affairs is, for its members, a good way. I do not like it. I belonged to that party and I left it because I did not like it. I prefer the way things are managed on our side.
– There might have been a little reciprocal feeling.
– Let us hear Senator Cooke’s interjection and then I can reply. I hate to give a snap reply because often I do not hear what is said.
– I said that there might have been a little reciprocal feeling.
– I am glad to know there was - very glad. But that is not the point. The point is that I am not talking on which is the better from the party or any other point of view; I am simply saying that there are different ways of doing things. Some people prefer one way and some another way. I prefer the way things are done by the party to which I belong at the present moment.
The great point about Parliament in those days was that individual members could exercise a great deal of influence. In the eighteenth century, there were powerful Prime Ministers, but there were also men like Fox and Wilberforce who played a tremendous part simply because of their personal influence and their great capacity. There were people like that right through the nineteenth century. One of the men who played a very great part in the development of freedom in Great Britain was a very bad man - John Wilkes.
I do not think any one would give him a certificate for good conduct on any score* but he did play a very great part in. developing liberty, and in preventing either parliament or any other body from oppressing the individual. It was said at. one stage that if Wilkes had been a good man and George III. had not been, Wilkes could have led a republican movement and upset him.
Another great individualist was Wilberforce, who destroyed the slave trade. His personal influence was sufficient to induce a powerful government to bring down laws which destroyed not slavery - that was not achieved until years later - but the slave trade.
And in the nineteenth century there was a very great man - Plimsoll - a pure individualist, a man who was convinced that the shipowners of the day were being unjust and were making profits out of what were called coffin ships. By his persistence against both parties, he brought about the Plimsoll Line, which, as honorable senators know, makes a ship a safe thing to-day.
We know that the growth of parties has made that sort of thing impossible, but we are not going to improve that by a stupid exhibition of individualism, by saying, “ We will have no parties “ because we know perfectly well that we cannot govern a country without parties. Parliamentary government has never succeeded except where there have been strong parties - not necessarily two only but certainly either two or a combination of parties which could give effective government.
I want to say - and here I am apparently taking the opposite course to that taken by Senator Wright, although I agree with a great deal of what he said-
– He is the modern John Wilkes.
– Not exactly. I do not think Senator Wright would be guilty of some of the things John Wilkes was guilty of, but certainly he is a great individualist, and I give him credit for that. I began to say that the worst type of government is one in which you try to put all the power in a popular assembly. That was tried, fortunately enough tor us, three centuries ago in England when the Parliament got rid of King Charles I. and tried to govern with a popular assembly. It failed completely. The monarchy was restored, and gradually we evolved this system of responsible government which has been the best type of democratic government the world has ever known.
The great mistake of the French - I will not say “ mistake “; it is something the French have not learned by experience - is that they have continually tried to rule by a single assembly. They tried it after the revolution, they tried it again after Napoleon III. disappeared in 1870, and they tried it again after the last war.
– People are going to try it again in New South Wales.
– If they do, it will he a failure there also.
– It was not a failure in Queensland.
– It has been a failure in Queensland. Certainly they carried on the government, but the Queensland Government has suffered from certain defects which would not have been there if there had been a competent upper house. Queensland is the only Australian State that has tried it, and I am sure New South Wales will not.
When the interjection came from Senator Ormonde, I was speaking not about Queensland but about France. The French are to-day, and have been during the last year, attempting - I hope they will succeed; I think they will - to do what the British people have done during the last two centuries. They are trying to bring about a strong executive and at the same time have two bodies where debate is free and where the parliamentarian is doing something quite good. It was my privilege to listen to debates in the French National Assembly, and in the Senate, a few months ago. The debates were of a very high order. I was pleased to find that, despite what many people think, and what has been published there, there is certainly no dictatorship in France. There is a strong government, a stronger government than the French have had for many, many years. But it is not a dictatorship, and I see no indication of its becoming one.
I heard magnificent debates in which the sort of principles that Senator Wright talked about this afternoon were discussed, in which the government was freely criticized, and in which, I thought, one or two members really took very serious risks. In fact, this morning I read in one of the newspapers that one of them has had to be given police protection because certain right-wing fanatics are threatening his life. I refer to Monsieur Mitterand, whose speech was, I thought, a magnificent declaration of what we would all consider the principles of liberal government.
That is just in introduction. I am coming now to what I think we could do in order to improve Parliament. I think that the first thing is to get as high a standard of debate as we can. By that statement, I do not mean that we should all try to be eloquent, or polished, or anything else; I mean simply that we should know our facts and that we should attempt to support our arguments by evidence. Of course, that is often done. I think the standard of debate in this Senate has risen, is rising and will continue to rise further. I am sorry to say that when 1 first came here some of the honorable senators - some of them have disappeared - always seemed to me to be giving their hustings speeches on almost every subject that they spoke on, and possibly I did the same thing. But we have learned that it is necessary to know our facts, and, before we reply to a person, to give evidence.
I think that we could get help in that matter. Certainly we do get it at the moment. I have found the library very good indeed. But one of the things the Library Committee has been considering is what we call a legislative reference section. I believe - and I am sure Senator Wright said this in a somewhat different way - that we should have a secretariat with officers giving us information which would enable all of us, or any of us, to argue with a Minister who has the whole of his departmental officers behind him. Perhaps the ministers will not desire that; I do not think the departments will; but I think it is necessary.
In the long debates that went on in the British Parliament during the 1930’s, when the British Defence Services were sinking and the Ministry was simply apologetic and was always wrong, Winston Churchill and several others were able to get the information by which they could show that the ministers were either misled, or were misquoting or were deceiving the House.
– It could not happen here.
– It could happen anywhere, I think. The end came when the Chamberlain Government was destroyed, not by the Opposition alone - there were two parties in opposition, the Liberals and the Labour Party - although it played a big part, but largely by some 60 Conservative members who stood up and said finally, “ You are finished, party or not. We are not going to support you “. The man who brought down the Chamberlain Ministry was, I suppose, one who could be described as an imperialist, a tory - all the things that some people consider undesirable. Honorable senators will remember his final message to the Ministry - “ You have been here too long for any good you have done. In the name of God, go.” That was one of the great moments of parliamentary history. Because it does not happen constantly, because we do not continually vote against our party, it does not mean that we should be regarded as mere automatons - party slaves and the like. What is necessary is that members should be well informed, that they should be industrious, that they should have a grasp of principle.
In the party room they should be able to say to their colleagues, “ This is what we- think ought to be done”. If controversial matters can be settled in a party meeting, without the public being aware of them, so much the better. As a result of the way in which the press reports us, there is a great deal of misconception about the function of a member. But the press, of course, scarcely reports us at all. I know that the gentlemen in the press gallery do their best, but it is of little avail. One of the few reasons why I am in favour of parliamentary broadcasts is that they give the ordinary citizen an opportunity to judge what his representatives in Parliament are doing, Before I came here I listened to the parliamentary broadcasts continually. I think that I knew something of the character of every member of both Houses. While perhaps only a minority of the people do listen in, I am sure that they are intelligent people who probably have an influence over others that is far beyond their numbers.
If we want tq make. Parliament a better place we must have, well-informed debates in which we do npt simply use idle rhetoric or party slogans, but bring forward facts and evidence in order to establish our case. This afternoon. I was greatly interested in the speech of Senator McKenna. I listened to him very attentively - as I always do - when he spoke of the Commonwealth’s habit of paying for its own public works out of revenue while making loans for the same purpose to the States. I think that there is something in his argument. I shall not attempt to refute it, because I cannot. I want, first, to know a great deal more about the position; for instance, how much capital is going into private investment and how much is going into public investment. I want to know a great deal about the demands of industry and what can be done to assist development in both State and Federal spheres. However, it was a point well taken. It should be discussed in an informative way. It is a subject on which we should obtain all the information that is available.
I was also interested in the smaller point raised by Senator Wright as to parliamentary privilege. He said that while, at a time when Parliament had to contend with .the Crown, and perhaps also with the press and other forces, it was quite all right for each House to be the judge of its own business, and be able to bring people to the bar, conditions had now changed and it might be better to give that duty to a judicial body. I recall what the honorable senator said about the Browne case. I had a very interesting experience on the hustings as a result of that case. A gentleman in the audience, who may have been Mr. Browne himself for all I know, asked, “ How do you justify Parliament’s action in sending Browne and Fitzpatrick to jail without a trial? “ I said: “ I do not have to justify it. I had no part in it. It was an act of the House of Representatives; the Senate did nothing in the matter. The candidate that I am supporting was not a member of the House of Representatives. You should ask your sitting Labour member, because he at least voted for the resolution which made it possible.”
– That was a little cowardly on your part.
– I think I was quite justified in giving that reply. It is not for us to say what the other House shall do, but perhaps the judicial process would be best able to deal with such matters. We should consider the matter fully, as a Senate, before surrendering any power which we possess. I am a little conservative in this respect and am prepared to retain any power that we possess unless it can be clearly shown that it should be conceded to some one else.
My next point concerns parliamentary committees. I believe that committees are extremely valuable for informing members’ minds, and for enabling them to inform the Parliament. I think that we should all give a great deal of thought to what can be done to promote the committee system. That system provides for committees of each House as well as for joint committees of the two Houses. Some committees have been very valuable indeed. However, 1 am not prepared to say that we should rush quickly into any new development of the system. I should like to see the whole matter overhauled. There should be greater equality between the committees. Through custom, some have sitting fees while others have not. I am sorry to confess that it is always easier to obtain a quorum in a committee which has a sitting fee. That is perhaps the best argument in favour of the fee. The value of the work done by the committees bears no relationship to the accidental way in which they have grown up. The whole committee system should be considered jointly by the two Houses and re-organized in such a way as to be able to cover some of the major branches of legislation, because it is on legislation - the actual laws to be made - that we need support, particularly in the matter of delegated authority, such as the right to make regulations.
I am not suggesting that a committee should be associated with each Minister. That would be a very simple way of making a beginning but it would, in some ways, be open to objection. Also, I am not sure that it would work well, because the responsibility must remain with the Minister. It has been said, for instance, that the committees in the United States of
America, and in France, have, in the past, usurped the functions of Ministers of State. I do not think that that has happened. Probably the Ministers were incompetent, or the liaison between the legislature and the Executive was too slight and the committees stepped into a vacuum. I think that we could devise a system by which the major subjects of legislation, and some of the great aspects of administration, could be covered by committees. It would all have to be very carefully worked out because, naturally, a Minister cannot divulge his mind. He would have to display great caution. Nevertheless, I believe that the adoption of such a course would improve the calibre of members, and would raise the standard of debates, of legislation and of administration generally.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– On the last night that the Senate sat, Senator Maher, speaking on the adjournment, referred to some remarks attributed to me which had been published in the press, and which constituted a criticism of the Australian Country Party membership of the Senate. The remarks in question arose from, and referred to, a discussion which had taken place in the Government party room relative to the establishment of a Senate select committee on tourism.
The Senate, of course, will be aware that, for a lengthy period, I have warmly and enthusiastically supported the establishment of such a committee, believing that international tourism could be made a matter of great importance to Australian trade and international relations. As is natural, there were differences of view expressed when the matter was discussed. It so happened that the press apparently became aware of the discussion, and my local paper, the Adelaide “ News “, invited me to comment on an article which had appeared in the Melbourne “ Herald “ the previous day and which had alluded to certain happenings in the party room.
In a conversation which was conducted with the reporter over the telephone. I was asked who had opposed the scheme. I made the statement that the scheme was opposed by a number of senators on various grounds. The suggestion was put to me that members of the Country Party had opposed the scheme. I said “Yes, among others”. My comment should not have been interpreted to mean that the Country Party exclusively, as a political entity, was in opposition. In fact, I repeat that the article indicates that others besides members of the Country Party were in opposition.
Subsequently in the telephone conversation reference was made to the attitude of those who had opposed the scheme. What ever words I may or may not have used to describe the attitude of those who differed from me were not levelled at the Country Party as such, and if the subsequent head lines of the article have created the impression that my remarks were so directed I take this first opportunity of removing that impression.
May I just add this thought? I regard the creation of a Senate select committee on tourism, for which I have worked for so long, as of major importance. The question of personalities should not obtrude itself, in my view, into a consideration of the merits or demerits of the scheme. I am not prepared to allow clashes of personalities, or differences of opinion on side-issues, to obscure the real object of my endeavours. If, therefore, it is considered by any one that I have given offence, I can only repeat that I had no such intention, and offer an apology to those who might feel themselves aggrieved at the manner in which my statement was reported.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.33 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 October 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1959/19591020_senate_23_s15/>.