23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– Mr. Deputy President, I desire to ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question consequent upon the conflicting reports that are appearing in the press in connexion with Electras. I preface it with a reference to a reported decision by the United States federal aviation investigator to order structural improvements for Lockheed Electra turboprop aircraft, and also to a proposal of the Civil Aeronautics Board of the United States to ground Electras until such structural improvements have been made. I am wondering whether the improvements may be necessary to correct a possible fault in the main spar of the Electra’s wing, reference to which is reported to be contained in a warning in a bulletin issued by the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. Will the Minister say whether he has any definite information on these structural improvements and the seriousness of the need for them? Will he give an immediate instruction for the grounding of Electras, in the interests of safety in the air, until such time as these improvements have been made?
– I am grateful to Senator 0’Flaherty for having asked this question because it gives me an opportunity to put the matter in factual perspective. There have been a number of reports published in recent days, and some of them, as the honorable senator has pointed out, have been in complete conflict with others. I should like to say that neither the Department of Civil Aviation, the operating companies, nor the Lockheed people in Australia have heard anything of the decision of the United States Civil Aeronautics Board, which has been referred to in the articles mentioned by Senator 0’Flaherty. In fact, if such a decision were made, we would be immediately notified officially of it by our own Australian civil aviation liaison representative in the United States who, as the honorable senator is aware, is sitting in on the investigations that are at present being carried out.
If the technical and safety experts of the Department of Civil Aviation thought for a moment that the Electras were being operated in an unsafe manner or in a condition that was not completely satisfactory, they would have no hesitation at all in immediately grounding the machines. Yesterday’s inspection that has been reported in the press was purely a precautionary inspection carried out on the advice of the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation as given in a service bulletin. Precautionary inspections such as this are carried out from time to time on all aircraft, not only Electratype aircraft, usually on the advice of the manufacturer. They are aimed at ensuring the complete safety of airways operations.
As to whether I would contemplate grounding these machines, I can only give an assurance to the Senate, and particularly to Senator 0’Flaherty. that the technical officers of my department, whose competence and skill are unmatched and, indeed, are not in question here - certainly not in question by Senator O’Flaherty - would take immediately every necessary step to look after the safety of the Australian travelling public. Technical advice is that no need exists to ground these machines. I assure the Senate, particularly Senator 0’Flaherty, that this matter is under the closest possible surveillance and that every measure to protect the safety of the Australian travelling public will be taken.
– I ask the Minister for National Development a question without notice. Would it be possible for some government agency or department to collate facts and figures concerning the growth and development of certain companies by means of elimination of competition, takeovers and other financial methods, as practised by the L. J. Hooker corporation, to show clearly how anti-social monopolies are growing in Australia? If so, will the Minister prevail upon his Government to set such an activity in motion so that a true and clear picture of this modern development may be presented to Parliament and the people, thus avoiding false, misleading and exaggerated statements and conceptions?
– I think that the relevant information is at present available. I believe that it is clearly portrayed in the number of companies registered on the stock exchange. I recollect reading some statistics a few days ago, which I cannot remember in detail now, giving an analysis of the number of new companies that had been registered and the number of old or continuing companies that were registered on the stock exchange. That analysis showed some reduction in the number of companies operating as a result of take-over procedures. I do not think that we can do much better than turn to the statistics of companies registered. I do not altogether share the apprehensions that Senator Brown expresses. These take-over bids are a modern development. We are in a new era in financial matters and, of course, some grounds do exist for criticizing this new practice. A change in management of a company that is conservative and is not developing its assets, and the taking over by new blood of those assets, may develop the business, thus providing more employment and more national wealth. That is the other side of the picture. I do not think we can be dogmatic in matters such as this. T think it is noted, for instance, that the stock exchanges have laid down rules and conditions for the guidance of their members and the protection of investors. I would not care to answer without notice all the arguments that are involved in this matter except to say that I would not subscribe to any view that this trend is a bad development. In time it may in truth result in greater industrial development following the introduction of additional capital and new managerial skills, which might be a good thing for us.
– I should like to ask a supplementary question. Has the Minister any information about the source of the capital for the latest vast transaction, involving extensive pastoral areas of the Northern Territory? The press has stated the sum involved to be £9,000,000. Will the capital be foreign capital or Australian capital?
– I am at a disadvantage in that events pressed heavily upon me this morning and I did not read this newspaper report in detail. The machinery of these moves varies. On some occasions, the purchasing company completes the transaction by a transfer of its own shares, and no cash passes. In other words, it pays for the company it is acquiring by a transfer of some of its shares to the shareholders in that company. On other occasions, the purchasing company pays the purchase price in cash. I noticed what was to me a rather interesting development in Sydney recently. In that case, the transaction is a composite one. The purchasers have supplied the purchase money by issuing shares in their own company to shareholders in the other company, and apparently they contemplate providing also overseas capital for the development of the project which is the centre of the transaction.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. Did he see in this morning’s Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ a statement, attributed to Mr. Gordon Churchill, the Canadian Trade Minister, that it is doubtful whether financial assistance from the Australian Government will enable Australian uranium to compete with the Canadian product? I understand that Mr. Churchill was commenting, in the Canadian House of Commons, on an Australian proposal to give Australian uranium producers a subsidy or aid through Government stockpiling of uranium. He said that the high cost of production in Australia was probably one of the factors responsible for the Australian product not being able to compete with the Canadian product. I ask the Minister: Does the Government intend in the near future, because of the expected overproduction of uranium during the next five or six years, to pay a subsidy to uranium miners until consumption catches up with production? If so, how much does he think the payment of such a subsidy will cost the Australian Government? Is it a fact that the cost of production of uranium, in Australia is higher than the cost of production in Canada? Also is it a fact that the Canadian uranium mines are of a much lower standard than the Australian mines that are operating at present?
– I do not know that I can cover all of the points that have been raised by Senator Scott. At the present time the Australian Government is not giving financial assistance to any uraniumproducing mine. No mine is being subsidized or assisted by the Government. I am not aware that any proposal that we should do so is being considered. There is no reason why we should do so, because all the uranium mines in Australia - they are located at Radium Hill, Rum Jungle, South Alligator and Mary Kathleen - are selling their uranium under long-term contracts either to the Combined Development Agency, for defence purposes, or to the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Commission, for industrial purposes.
What we might do in the future can only be decided in the future. The present producers have a secure market for their output. As to the future, the uranium mines in Australia are mining a good grade of ore. In my opinion, they are very efficiently conducted concerns. They have contracts for their output for a few years to come. At the end of the contract periods they will have depreciated the cost of their capital structures. They will have recovered the outlay by means of the sales under the existing contracts; so that when they come to the end of the contract periods they will not have heavy depreciation charges. Advice that I have received indicates that always, in any mining industry, there are marginal mines. The advice that I received also indicates that there is confidence that a substantial proportion of the uranium mines in Australia will be able to produce ore and concentrates on competitive terms with mines in other parts of the world.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. Having in mind the Government’s stated intention to consider legislating against monopolies, will the Minister arrange for the Trade Services and Industries Branch of the Department of Trade to prepare a booklet showing the extent to which industry in Australia is monopolized or dominated by price-fixing or other cartel arrangements?
– I can only say that I shall refer the suggestion to my colleague, Mr. McEwen, to see whether it is practicable to do as the honorable senator suggests.
I remind him that the arrangements to which he has referred are not always readily discernible. One of the problems that the Attorney-General is facing, I think, is to define the conditions that are to be analysed, examined and prohibited.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, who represents the Prime Minister. It relates to a press notice in to-day’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “ concerning the future of Woomera. I notice that Lord Carrington made a very interesting speech in the House of Lords yesterday, in which he is reported to have said that Woomera had been a triumph for those concerned. He said that he was glad to think that Woomera, with its tradition of Anglo-Australian co-operation, would continue to have much important work for many years to come. Can the Minister indicate the nature of the work to which Lord Carrington referred, and whether it is a fact that there are long-term plans for Woomera, as indicated by him?
– I was interested to read Lord Carrington’s friendly references to us. That friendly feeling, I am sure, is reciprocated. In regard to the substance of the question, I am sorry to say that I am not as familiar with this matter as I perhaps should be. I know that my colleague, Mr. Hulme, is devoting a lot of his time to the problems that have been created by the United Kingdom decision to abandon the Blue Streak project, and I can do no more than say that I shall speak to him regarding Senator Vincent’s question. Perhaps I should add that, as I understand the position, although this particular activity will be discontinued, there will still be a substantial volume of work carried on at Woomera in the terms of the planned programme of the two governments.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. What are the circumstances of the somewhat unusual action under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which the Government has taken on the present dispute between the Waterside Workers Federation and the shipowners? Was the Government asked to take this action in representations from the union’s federal secretary, Mr. J. Healy, through the Australian Council of Trade Unions?
– 1 do not know the answer to the second part of the question. In general, the circumstances surrounding the Government’s endeavour to prevent a distinct, head-on collision and continual fighting in this industry are that the Minister has used a section of the act in an effort to find out whether there is any way in which the two parties to the dispute can settle their differences in the public interest and without detriment to either party. This is one of the functions of the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate in possession of information that the former incumbent of the Treasury portfolio, Sir Arthur Fadden, whose ability and business acuity are unquestioned, has overcome his disappointment at not having been appointed chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation by becoming governorgeneral of the latest Australian empire, the L. J. Hooker empire?
– I cannot answer for the feelings of my former colleague and very dear friend, Sir Arthur Fadden, in relation to various matters. I do not find anything unusual in the situation that his services are sought by a large Australian company. 1 should think that he would have been in the fortunate position of being able to make a choice in a number of directions as to what he did commercially after his retirement from the Parliament.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport in relation to the transport of coal on the Commonwealth Railways from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta. Has the Minister read the report of a statement made last Tuesday in the South Australian Parliament by the Premier, Sir Thomas Playford, to the effect that the Commonwealth Government had agreed to pay to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner any losses incurred on these operations, but in the past three years had refused to do so because the commissioner was unable to provide figures showing that there had been a loss; further, that it could be shown that the freight was highly profitable because a freight train could earn £2,300 in a seventeen-hour run; and, finally, that he thought South Australia would have a justifiable claim to a further reduction in freight when higher tonnages were moved? Is this not tantamount to saying that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner has not established that a loss of some £2,000,000 was made on the carriage of coal from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta, and that the evidence given by him to the Public Accounts Committee could not be sustained?
– I have not seen the statement that was made, 1 understand, by the Premier of South Australia to the South Australian Parliament a few days ago. I would be reluctant to comment on it in any case, because, with the greatest respect to Sir Thomas Playford and with a profound knowledge of the interest that he has always shown in this problem, I think there are some phases of the matter about which the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner on the one hand, and1 the Treasury on the other, may know something more than does Sir Thomas. I say that, I repeat, with great respect. The fixing of a rate which the Railways Commissioner should be paid for the carriage of coal from Leigh Creek has been the subject of consultation between him and the Treasurer for a long time. I think I mentioned the other day that I have been informed that they are now closer to agreement on that point than they have ever been in the past.
I do not know anything of the possibilities mentioned by Sir Thomas as justification for a further reduction in the price of hauling coal from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta. I have had the general impression that the South Australian Government enjoyed on that line the cheapest coal freight rate in Australia and, I think, one of the cheapest coal freights in the world’.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. Has the Minister yet been informed of any decision arrived at between the two major airlines regarding the request of AnsettA.N.A. for an increase in fares?
– No, but I expect to hear quite soon of any decision that is reached.
– 1 desire to direct a question to ohe Minister representing th: Postmaster-General. When do the television licences of channels ATN7 and TCN9 in Sydney and channels HSV7 and GTV9 in Melbourne expire? What procedures are adopted by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in connexion with renewal of those licences? In the light of Australian experience of television programmes during the past five years, is it contemplated that, before fresh licences are issued, there shall be a review of the document “ Television Programme Standards “, which contained the basis for programming prior to the issue of the original licences?
– Senator Anderson was good enough to tell me a few days ago that he proposed to ask this question and I have obtained a reply from the PostmasterGeneral, as follows -
The licences for commercial television stations in Sydney and Melbourne expire on 30th June, 1960, Procedure to be adopted in connexion with the renewal of the licences will be in accordance with the provisions of section 85 of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1956, which requires an application for the first renewal of the licence to be made not less than six months before the expiration of the licence. The application is referred by the Minister to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for a report and recommendation. The PostmasterGeneral does not consider it to be necessary that the television programme standards should be reviewed before the licences for the Sydney and Melbourne stations are renewed. The standards which were determined by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board before the commencement of television are, in the Minister’s view, on the whole achieving the purpose for which they were designed, namely, to ensure the provision of wholesome entertainment to the Australian people. The programmes are regularly monitored and appropriate action is taken when any breaches of standards are observed.
– I desire to ask a supplementary question of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Is the Minister aware that television sets in Tasmania can at various times receive Victorian television programmes very clearly? Is it a fact that when Tasmanian television stations commence operating in the near future, one of them will broadcast on the same frequency as a Melbourne station? In these circumstances, is it expected that Tasmanian viewers will not be able to continue to receive certain Victorian programmes, and that programmes emanating from the two stations operating on the same frequency will interfere with each other?
– It seems most unlikely that the technical arrangements could be such that two stations would interfere with each other. However, I think I will go quietly and ask for the question to be placed on the notice-paper, so that the Postmaster-General may furnish a reply.
– Question No. 4 on to-day’s notice-paper, directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, was asked by me on 29th March, more than five weeks ago. There seems to be a growing tendency for Ministers to allow questions to remain unanswered for almost an interminable period. No answers were given yesterday to questions on notice, and I believe that none will be given to-day. The reason why I direct attention particularly to this question is that part of it refers to the release of surplus army blankets for pensioners and other persons in need. If the question remains unanswered much longer, the winter will be over.
– I will ask the Minister to try to hot it up a bit.
– Can the Leader of the Government say whether any advance payments have yet been made by the Commonwealth Government to Tasmania for the purpose of flood relief? Can he also tell us the terms and conditions on which assistance will be given to Tasmania? I understand that the Cabinet has already decided to make a grant for the purpose of flood relief in Tasmania.
– I do not know whether any payments have actually been made. I think that at the time the announcement was made concerning grants for flood relief there was a further announcement to the effect that the Commonwealth was willing and prepared to make payments immediately. I think an arrangement was made for the Commonwealth to send an officer to Tasmania to work out the details if the Tasmanian Government so decided. As to the terms and conditions, the grant falls into two parts. The first part is for the relief of personal distress. This part of the grant by the Commonwealth is matched £1 for £1 by the Tasmanian Government. I cannot give the Senate a definition of the nature or extent of the personal distress envisaged, but these things are well established and both Governments have an understanding of them. The second part of the grant, which also will be matched £1 for £1 by the Tasmanian Government, is to help Tasmania if it is found necessary to make substantial capital expenditure because of damage to or destruction of public utilities.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In view of the fact that that Minister is to have investigated the failure of the s.s. “ Wanaka “ to lift 2,000 sacks of potatoes from Devonport on 23 rd April, will he also take cognizance of the action of the Devonport waterside workers who, according to a member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly, were responsible, because they walked off the job with some trifling excuse, for the failure to lift 6,500 bags of potatoes? Can anything be done to correct this state of affairs? Should the introduction of “ Bass Trader “ meet with the success that is expected, will the Minister consider the possibility of extending its operations, or the operations of a similar ship, to the Tasmanian potato industry?
– I shall be very pleased to bring this important question to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, with whom I had a discussion quite recently about certain aspects of shipping as affecting the northwest coast of Tasmania, and also the evergreen subject - if that is the correct way to describe it - of potatoes. I can say that the Minister for Shipping and Transport is very much aware of the particular needs of this area and I am sure he will be most interested in some aspects of the honorable senator’s question.
I shall refer to the Minister for Labour and National Service the honorable senator’s allegation that the watersiders walked off the job for some trifling reason and that in consequence 6,500 bags of potatoes were not lifted, and ask him to inform me what action can be taken to prevent a repetition of the occurrence.
The other part of the honorable senator’s question concerning the provision of a special ship for the potato trade is, of course, one which involves the expenditure of a large amount of money. There is no doubt that current experience of maritime affairs shows beyond doubt that ships designed for special purposes frequently are the answer to our problems, and it may well be that a ship of this sort might very much suit the potato trade. 1 shall be pleased to direct the attention of my colleague to the suggestion.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General inform me of the number of programmes broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission during the last six months which have been repeats of earlier programmes? What is the reason for a large number of repeat programmes being shown on national television? Will the Minister express to the A.B.C. his concern that this practice should be so prevalent in an organization which should be leading the way in television?
– I think, Mr. Deputy President, that the best thing for me to do would be, not to attempt to answer Senator Kennelly’s question, but to ask him to put it on the notice-paper. That would give the Postmaster-General an opportunity to consult the Australian Broadcasting Commission and enable the commission to reply to the comment.
– I desire to address a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Has he noticed the statement in the press that the Federal Labour Party is supporting the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ boycott on South African exports to Australia? What are the main imports into Australia from South Africa? Will this boycott have any effect upon customs revenue?
– I did notice the statement in the press this morning that the Federal Labour Party is supporting the Australian Council of Trade Unions in this matter. I do not think that the boycott on South African exports to Australia will have any significant effect on customs revenue although, of course, it will have some effect. Fish has been the principal commodity exported from South Africa to Australia. I think that rather queer reasoning has been applied to this matter. Supposedly, the boycott is designed to assist the native peoples of South Africa. The Australian Council of Trade Unions is saying, in effect, “The native people of South Africa engage in catching fish. We will refuse to buy their fish, and so put them out of a job.”
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the very high prices that cattle are bringing in the southern States and also in view of the high prices being obtained overseas, will the Minister give consideration to preparing a statement and reading it to the Senate, giving the information that is now available on dry farming methods in the northern areas which have resulted in the introduction of new types of pastures and a very great increase of the potential of these areas?I believe that this type of publicity is necessary in order to enlighten southern peoples on the potentiality of the north and so encourage the investment of southern capital to develop the northern areas.
– I think the end which the honorable senator has in mind was covered by the Cattle and Beef Research Bill 1960 that the Senate passed on Tuesday of this week. Provision is made for the levy money to be spent by the Australian Cattle and Beef Research Committee, which is to be set up to disseminate exactly the type of information for which the honorable senator has asked. There was no limiting provision to the effect that that information should go only to the cattle-growers in the north; it will go to them, of course, but it will also be available for general distribution and it may attract some more capital. I shall bring the suggestion of the honorable senator to the notice of the responsible Minister, adding to it, if I may, the suggestions not only that such publicity should be given by reading a statement in the Senate, which might not go far enough, but also that efforts should be made to ensure that everybody knows the existing opportunities for cattleraising in the north.
– I preface my question to the Minister for National Development by saying that about a week ago I asked him whether a graph had been prepared of the cores taken from the bores in connexion with the search for oil. I have heard nothing more about the matter. Can the Minister inform me whether such a graph is being prepared by his department and, if it is, whether I may have a look at it in order to study the position?
– I apologize to Senator O’Flaherty; the need to make the inquiry for him quite slipped my memory. I shall try to remember to do so before lunch.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Would he care to comment on the statement made a week or so ago by the Swedish Minister to Australia, Mr. Nils Eric Ekblad, that a treaty on double taxation between Australia and Sweden would be a sure way of attracting Swedish capital to Australia? Mr. Ekblad claimed that Canada had benefited from an improved flow of capital since signing such a treaty with Sweden some years ago. Will the Minister discuss with his Cabinet colleague the possibility of examining the statement made by this distinguished representative of Sweden?
– I will be pleased to bring the question to the notice of my colleague, the Treasurer.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Railways during the year 1958-59 showed a profit over working expenses of almost £2,000,000? Was this result achieved notwithstanding the fact that freights and fares have not been increased since September, 1951? Is it a fact that over the same period wages paid to railway employees have increased, on an average, by about 50 per cent.? Does not the Minister agree that this is a very satisfactory result?
– I most heartily agree that the Commonwealth Railways is a well-equipped, well-managed and efficiently conducted organization. I think the figures quoted by Senator Pearson are correct. He referred to a profit, but I think that in respect of railway finances it would be more accurate to call it a surplus of revenue over expenses, always taking into account the fact that in respect of the Commonwealth Railways, as in most other railway systems, there is an unknown or unrevealed amount in respect of interest on capital and, in some cases, other items. But in a comparison of the various railway systems the Commonwealth Railways’ result must be considered very satisfactory indeed. Wages have advanced, I think, to the point indicated by the honorable senator, which adds weight to the tribute, very rightly paid, that this is an efficient railway system, particularly having regard to the fact that freights have not been increased since September, 1951. I think we would have to look in many places in the world to find a result similar to the one achieved by the Commonwealth Railways.
– I wish to ask the Minister a question supplementary to the one he has just answered. Did the Minister use the words “ surplus of revenue “ in lieu of the word “ profit “ because no interest is charged to the Commonwealth Railways for any funds invested and no capital expenditure is provided for replacement of rolling stock?
– I used the term “ surplus of revenue over expenses “ for the reason as stated. Anybody who gives two minutes’ consideration to the subject of railway finance immediately becomes aware of the peculiarities that attach to it. It cannot be said, and I have never attempted to say, that railway accounts can be regarded as commercial accounts in any sense.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) - agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Air Navigation Act 1920-1950, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The present Air Navigation Act 1920-1950, which is less than two printed pages, authorizes the Governor-General to make regulations to carry out the Chicago convention of 1944 and to make other regulations in the field of air navigation. In pursuance of the power contained in section 5 of the act, more than 300 regulations have been promulgated covering a wide and complex range of safety and technical matters affecting almost every phase of civil aviation.
The Joint Committee of Public Accounts in its twenty-fourth report to Parliament invited attention to the wide powers over civil aviation which the act vests in the Executive and went on to say -
We consider it undesirable to continue to vest such wide regulation making powers in the Executive Council and recommend that the basic principles should be incorporated in legislation enacted by the Parliament.
As a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts at the time it investigated the accounts of the Department of Civil Aviation, it is a matter of considerable personal gratification that I now introduce legislation which is designed primarily to carry out, as far as practicable, that recommendation. In place of the two printed pages of the existing act I now introduce for the consideration of honorable senators a bill which, including schedules, comprises almost 40 pages and defines in detail for the first time the powers of the Executive over air navigation.
The federal regulation of civil aviation in this country is rendered unusually complex because of constitutional limitations and to appreciate the measures proposed in this bill it is, therefore, necessary to outline the powers of this Parliament to regulate air navigation and air transport.
As aviation was in its infancy at the time of federation it is not surprising that there is no direct reference to civil aviation or air navigation in any of the provisions of the Commonwealth Constitution. The first Commonwealth act applying to civil aviation was the Air Navigation Act 1920, which authorized regulations to give effect to the Paris convention - since superseded by the Chicago convention - and for the control of air navigation generally. In 1936, the validity of the act and the Air Navigation Regulations was successfully challenged in the High Court in the first Goya Henry case- 55 C.L.R. 608 (1936). The High Court held first, that Parliament could, under the external affairs power, authorize the making of regulations to give effect to the Paris convention but that as the regulations then in force included substantial deviations from the convention, they could not be sustained under that power. The High Court also held that the Commonwealth did not have power to exercise general control over all classes of air navigation and, in particular, over intra-State air navigation, and that, since the expression “ control of air navigation “ used in the act was not severable, this part of the regulationmaking power was invalid.
Shortly after the Goya Henry decision the Commonwealth amended the Air Navigation Act1920 by the Air Navigation Act 1936. The amendment authorized regulations for the purpose of giving effect to the Paris convention and for the purpose of providing for the control of air navigation -
The practical result was that the Commonwealth regulations no longer purported to extend to intra-State air navigation, except to the limited extent necessary to give effect to the Paris convention. The validity of the act as amended and the new regulations was subsequently upheld in the second Goya Henry case- 61 C.L.R. 634 (1939).
The Commonwealth then sought a constitutional amendment to give the federal legislature power to make laws with respect to air navigation and aircraft. This was unsuccessful and in April, 1937, the Com monwealth convened the historic aviation conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers presided over by our Prime Minister in his capacity at that time of Attorney-General to consider means to ensure that uniform rules would apply to all classes of air navigation. As a result of the conference, all States agreed to enact in uniform terms State air navigation acts, which would in effect adopt certain Commonwealth Air Navigation Regulations as State law.
Before the end of 1937 all States had enacted uniform legislation providing in substance that -
The regulations from time to time in force applicable to and in relation to air navigation within the territories apply mutatis mutandis to and in relation to air navigation within the State;
The administration of the regulations in their application to intra-State air navigation by virtue of the State act vests in the Commonwealth authority responsible for administration of the regulations in their application as federal law; and
All fees payable under the regulations in their application to intra-State air navigation by virtue of the State act are payable to the Commonwealth.
The practical result is that for almost a quarter of a century the Commonwealth Air Navigation Regulations have applied uniformly to all classes of air navigation, and their administration, whether as Federal or State law, is vested exclusively in the federal aviation authority.
There are two most important considerations which must be taken into account in determining the extent to which air navigation can be controlled by substantive provisions in the act. Because the uniform State air navigation acts attract only Commonwealth regulations it is necessary in order to carry out our part of the long standing and highly successful arrangements with State Governments and to act on the delegation by State governments of their responsibility for the safety of intra-State air navigation, that many technical and safety rules which might otherwise be included in the act should be prescribed by regulation. The second consideration is that many of the regulations relate to detailed safety standards which by their very nature clearly are, by any test, appropriate subject-matters for inclusion in regulations.
Furthermore, Australia by becoming a party to the convention on international civil aviation, has undertaken the obligation of bringing its law into line with the international standards and practices as altered and added to from time to time in the technical annexes to the convention. These annexes have been amended on more than sixty occasions and this explains why the Air Navigation Regulations have been amended so frequently and extensively. If the safety and technical provisions of the regulations were to be transferred to the act, it might prove difficult in practice to amend the act as frequently and as quickly as our international obligations require, and certainly of no less importance, the safety of air navigation demands. It is interesting to note, in passing, that all countries adopt the procedure of giving effect to the annexes to the Chicago convention by means of subordinate legislation.
Despite the difficulties I have mentioned, the Government now proposes four major steps which take account of the recommendation of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts -
First, the present act authorizes regulations to give effect to the Chicago convention and the Air Transit Agreement but the text of that convention and agreement have never been formally presented to Parliament. This bill cures this important omission and sets out the text of the international agreements involved so that the scope of the regulations being authorized is readily ascertainable. I should point out that section 5 of the existing act also authorizes regulations giving effect to any future agreement affecting air navigation to which the Commonwealth becomes a party. The bill withdraws this blank cheque.
Secondly, the regulations have been carefully scrutinized and where they deal with subject-matters of sufficient importance which do not have infraState implications or can be applied by virtue of Commonwealth powers to intra-State air navigation - for example under the external affairs power - the subject-matter by virtue of this bill will be transferred from the regulations to the act.
Thirdly, it is proposed to place upon the responsible Minister a statutory obligation to report annually to Parliament, commencing at the end of the next financial year, on the administration of the Air Navigation Act and regulations and any other matters relating to air navigation which should be brought to the notice of Parliament. This will ensure that each year Parliament has the opportunity of reviewing the relatively wide executive powers, which for the cogent reasons I have just previously mentioned, are unavoidable.
Finally, the Government will introduce almost immediately a separate bill dealing in detail with the control of surface traffic at airports. This subjectmatter is currently covered by regulations made under the Air Navigation Act.
Before considering these matters in further detail, I should mention that the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, in paragraph 507 of its report, has recommended that an additional paragraph be added to section 51 of the Constitution to vest the Commonwealth Parliament with a concurrent legislative power over all classes of aviation.
Clause 5 of the bill recognizes that the International Civil Aviation Organization - usually referred to as I.C.A.O. - possesses legal capacity and is entitled to privileges and immunities necessary for the independent exercise of its powers and the performance of its functions in Australian territory. It also recognizes that the archives of this organization and all documents belonging to it are inviolable. This clause transfers to the act provisions which have been included in the Air Navigation Regulations since 1947. The International Civil Aviation Organization is the organization formed pursuant to Article 43 of the Chicago convention and is a specialized agency of the United Nations. The principal organs of I.C.A.O. are an assembly and a council and two other subsidiary bodies, namely, the Air Navigation Commission and the Air Transport Committee.
The aims and objectives of I.C.A.O. are set out in Article 44 of the Chicago convention and represent ideals which the countries of the world would like to see achieved in international civil aviation. They are to develop the principles and techniques of international air navigation and to foster the planning and development of international air transport so as to -
Ensure the safe and orderly growth of international civil aviation throughout the world;
Encourage the arts of aircraft design and operation for peaceful purposes;
Encourage the development of airways, airports, and air navigation facilities for international civil aviation;
Meet the needs of the peoples of the world for safe, regular, efficient and economical air transport;
Prevent economic waste caused by unreasonable competition;
Ensure that the rights of contracting States are fully respected and that every contracting State has a fair opportunity to operate international airlines;
Avoid discrimination between contracting States;
Promote safety of flight in international air navigation; and
Promote generally the development of all aspects of international civil aeronautics.
The permanent seat of the organization is in Montreal, Canada, where the 21-mem- ber council has regular sessions. The supreme body of I.C.A.O. is the assembly which all contracting States now numbering 74 may attend. The assembly has an obligation to meet not less than once every three years but, of course, the council has several long sessions each year. I might mention that Australia has been elected a member of this council at each election since it was established in 1947. Council elections are held every three years and on the last two occasions Australia had the honour of being elected1 as one of the eight States elected to the council in the category of States of chief importance in international air transport, and at the general assembly held in June, 1959, was elected in fifth position. I think this is a significant achievement for a country with such a small population as ours but one which is not sur prising in view of our aviation tradition and the volume of our air transport activity. In this regard, I might mention that in 1959 Australian airlines carried about 2,500,000 passengers and Australian airlines were second in the world only to the United States in terms of ton miles performed1 per head of population.
The council has specific functions conferred upon it by Article 54 of the Chicago convention, including responsibility for the adoption of international standards on technical and operational aspects of international civil aviation such as personnel licensing, rules of the air, meteorology, airworthiness of aircraft, facilitation, aeronautical telecommunications and air traffic control services. In the years that have elapsed since it was established in 1947, I.C.A.O. has succeeded in adopting international standards which provide for completely uniform treatment of almost every international aircraft which flies in the free world to-day. Experts from the Australian Department of Civil Aviation have played a very active role in the drafting of these international standards and have attended some 100 technical meetings in various parts of the world for this purpose. Apart from the drafting of technical standards, the I.C.A.O. council, through the division of the world into eight air navigation regions and the preparation at regular regional conferences of plans for air navigation facilities, aerodromes, communications and air traffic control services, in those regions has assisted in putting into practical effect the international standards.
I would like to give the Parliament some brief background information concerning the Chicago convention. In 1944, on the initiative of the United States Government, a conference on international civil aviation was convened at Chicago. It was attended by 52 allied and neutral States. Australia was represented. This conference developed and adopted the Chicago convention, and Australian ratification was approved by Parliament in the Air Navigation Act 1947. The convention came into force in 1947 after ratification by 26 States. It has now been ratified by 74 States and the International Civil Aviation Organization, formed by Article 43 of the convention, has been functioning since 1947.
Prior to the adoption of the Chicago convention there were two conventions dealing with international civil aviation, namely, the convention relating to the regulation of aerial navigation, signed at Paris in 1919, and the Pan-American convention on commercial aviation, signed at Havana in 1928. These conventions have been superseded by the Chicago convention. At the same time as it adopted the convention on international civil aviation, the Chicago conference also adopted an agreement known as the International Air Services Transit Agreement. Under this agreement each contracting State grants to scheduled international air services operated by airlines of other contracting States the first two freedoms of the air, namely, the privilege to fly across its territory without landing and the privilege to land for non-traffic purposes. This agreement has been ratified by 51 States and is of considerable value to the Australian international airline Qantas Empire Airways Limited which, in operating its scheduled air services around the world, flies over the territory of very many States which are parties to the Air Transit Agreement. In the absence of this agreement, it would be necessary to negotiate transit facilities separately with every State concerned.
Since the Chicago convention came into force, two protocols amending the convention have also come into force. The texts of these protocols are included as schedules to the bill and are described in clause 2 of the bill. These protocols have been ratified by Australia for a number of years and the purpose of their inclusion in the bill is to enable Parliament to know what regulations, if any, are being authorized. The protocol which amends Article 45 of the convention permits the permanent seat of I.C.A.O. which, as I mentioned previously, is established at Montreal, in Canada, to be transferred by an assembly decision, provided that not less than three-fifths of the total number of contracting States - at present 74 - vote in favour of it. I want to place on record that Australia is perfectly satisfied with Montreal as the permanent seat of the organization and grateful for the hospitality of the Canadian Government. We have no wish to see the organization move its head-quarters from there. However, any assembly decision taken to move the permanent seat of I.C.A.O. could not be taken lightly because of the requirement of a three-fifths majority and the Government, therefore, decided to authorize ratification of the protocol. I should perhaps add that the protocol was fully supported by Canada, the host State.
The purpose of the protocol amending Articles 48 (a), 49 (e) and 61 was to permit the assembly of I.C.A.O. to meet less frequently than once a year. The convention, as originally drafted, provided for annual assemblies, and in the early years of I.C.A.O. ‘s existence, annual assemblies were necessary to settle the many problems which had to be dealt with. After nine years of annual assembly meetings, it became apparent that there was no longer the need to meet annually and the convention, as amended by the protocol, now requires assembly meetings at least once every three years. As I indicated, both these protocols have been ratified by the required number of States and are now in force as part of the convention. Fifty States have ratified the protocol amending Article 45 and 54 have ratified the protocol amending Articles 48 (a), 49 (e) and 61.
It is appropriate when reviewing the history of the Chicago convention to pay tribute to the work of the late Hon. Arthur S. Drakeford who, in his capacity as Minister for Civil Aviation, led the Australian delegation to Chicago in 1944 and subsequently had the honour of being elected unanimously as the president of the first general assembly of I.C.A.O. in 1947.
There is one important matter at present dealt with in the regulations which will now be transferred by this bill to the act. This is the right to conduct non-scheduled flights or charter flights, as they are more commonly described, under Article 5 of the Chicago convention. Under this article, each contracting State agrees that all aircraft of other contracting States not engaged in regular international air services shall have the right to make flights into or in transit non-stop across its territory and to make stops for non-traffic purposes without the -necessity of obtaining prior permission. This obligation is given effect to in subclause 1 of clause 15 of the bill.
Article 5 of the convention goes on to provide that, if such aircraft is engaged in the carriage of passengers, cargo or mail, for remuneration or hire, it may take on and discharge passengers, cargo or mail subject to the right of a State to impose such “ regulations, conditions or limitations as it may consider desirable “. In practice, all contracting States impose limitations and restrictions on the conduct of charter nights.
Australian requirements are at present imposed in pursuance of Part XIV. of the Air Navigation Regulations and an examination of that part discloses that at present the Director-General has virtually an unlimited discretion to impose such conditions as he considers desirable. I have recently had occasion to review the administration of these regulations in some detail and 1 have made several policy statements concerning their administration. The bill will transfer from the regulations to the act all matters relating to charter flights and, in addition, specifies the matters which must be taken into account in granting or refusing approval. In particular, regard must be had to the public interest, the need to provide reasonable protection for the operators of regular public air transport services between Australia and other countries so as to maintain regular air transport services for the carriage of passengers, cargo and mail between Australia and other countries; and, finally, any resolution or decision of the International Civil Aviation Organization or of the International Air Transport Association that has been approved by the Minister and is relevant to the matter. In addition, there is an express power to require approval of the charges made in respect of passengers or cargo discharged in Australian territory but otherwise the general power that exists in the present regulations to impose any other conditions considered necessary or desirable is withdrawn.
I should emphasize that it has been, and is, the Government’s policy, as it is that of all overseas governments with which we have air transport agreements, to foster the development of regular international air services between our respective countries which are adequate to meet the needs of the travelling public and the requirements of commerce and industry. For this reason, the Government has given great financial support and in every other way promoted the development of a strong Australian international airline. The Government has negotiated with overseas countries in many parts of the world an extensive series of air agreements which guarantee traffic rights for Qantas in those countries. Naturally, these agreements authorize the designated airlines of such countries to operate regular services to Australia on a reciprocal basis and at the present time there are no less than eight international airlines, in addition to Qantas, operating between Australia and other countries, namely, K.L.M., Pan American, Air India, B.O.A.C., South Africa Airways, Tasman Empire Airways Limited, Cathay Pacific and T.A.I. As a result, the Australian public has been provided with facilities for air travel by the most modern aircraft available on regular Australian and foreign air services to all parts of the world.
It will be appreciated that any extensive intrusion of the charter operator into the legitimate business of the operators of regular services on a sporadic and uneconomic basis could be most injurious to the maintenance of these services in a healthy economic condition and is, therefore, not in the public interest.
As I indicated earlier, there are a number of regulations which are not intended to apply to intra-State air navigation and others which can be expressed to apply to intra-State navigation in reliance on federal powers such as the external affairs power. Accordingly, it is not necessary to retain these provisions in the form of regulations in order to attract the uniform State air navigation acts. Where any such regulation is sufficiently important, the subject matter is, by this bill, transferred to the act. It will be appropriate to consider these matters in detail at a later stage in the reading of this bill.
For the present, a brief indication of the subject matters in question will be gained by reference to the marginal notes of the corresponding regulations: - Civil air ensign - regulation 11; legal capacity of I.C.A.O. - regulation 12; archives of I.C.A.O. - regulation 13; arrangements for use of military aerodromes by civil aircraft - regulation 86; establishment and conduct of the aeronautical information service - regulation 104; publication of aeronautical information publications and notices to airmen - regulation 105; operation of foreign aircraft within Australian territory - regulation 110; international aircraft to land and take off from designated airports - regulations 114 and 115; carriage of munitions by civil aircraft - regulation 119; freedoms of the air - regulation 262; international airline licences - regulation 255; decisions of I.C.A.O. affecting international airlines - regulation 256; suspension or cancellation of international airline licences - regulation 258; international charterflights - regulations 261, 261a and 262; gazettal of contracting parties to the convention - regulation 320a; and powers of the pilot in command - regulation 330.
The present Air Navigation Regulations authorize the Director-General to suspend or cancel a licence or certificate issued under the regulations on a number of grounds namely -
That the holder of the licence or certificate on re-examination or test fails to reach the required standard; or
In the interest of public safety; or
To ensure compliance with the provi sions of the regulations.
Since the cancellation or suspension of a licence or certificate has a direct bearing on the capacity of a holder to earn a living, provision is made for appeal to a board of review by an aggrieved holder of a certificate or a licence. The regulations provide that a board of review shall be appointed by the Minister and shall consist of a chairman and two other members, the chairman to be a person nominated by the Solicitor-General who is either an officer of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, of the Crown Law Department of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea or a qualified barrister or solicitor of the High Court or the Supreme Court of a State or Territory. The other two members of the board of review are to be nominated by the Director-General and must possess aeronautical or engineering knowledge or experience or other special knowledge or experience of air navigation, and the practice is to nominate as members of the board persons qualified to hold the same licence as the appellant. For example, in the case of a commercial pilot, the Airline Pilots Association nominates a short list of pilots having similar qualifications, at least one of whom is invariably appointed as a member of the board.
Over the years, boards of review have been found to work well in practice, and there are clear indications that most interested employee organizations find the functioning of boards of review to be satisfactory for their members. However, from time to time, there has been a good deal of criticism on the ground that an aggrieved holder of a licence or certificate has no recourse to the ordinary courts of the land. By way of comparison, it is interesting to note that the Air Navigation Regulations dealing with suspensions and cancellations and appeals to boards of review go a good deal further than other Commonwealth countries have yet done. For example, in the United Kingdom, the relevant orders provide that the Minister may “ on sufficient ground being shown to his satisfaction after due investigation by him cancel or suspend any certificate licence or other document issued under the order”. There is no provision whatsoever for appeal. The relevant regulations in New Zealand and the Union of South Africa are very similar to the United Kingdom orders and do not make provision for any sort of appeal. Under the Canadian Air Regulations, a pilot licence may be suspended at any time by the Minister for any reason that to him seems sufficient. Once again, there is no provision for appeal. It is clear, therefore, that Australia, in the existing Air Navigation Regulations, gives more consideration to the interests of the licence-holder than do other Commonwealth countries.
The board of review has the following attractive features: It ensures a speedy determination of appeals; it is less expensive to licence and certificate holders than a reference to the ordinary courts; it has the very great advantage of ensuring that the issue is considered by an administrative board having a majority of members possessing similar qualifications to the appellant and in effect affords the holder a hearing by his professional peers; boards of review are not bound by legal forms and technicalities, but have prescribed procedural safeguards which ensure natural justice; finally, boards of review as at present constituted have special technical knowledge and experience.
For these reasons, this Government considers that the existing board of review procedure should be retained, subject to one or two improvements it has under consideration. Nevertheless, it is now proposed by this bill to give an aggrieved licence or certificate holder the right to elect to have the suspension or cancellation of his licence or certificate referred either to a board of review, as at present, or to the ordinary courts. These two procedures will be mutually exclusive, because final determination of an issue would be unduly protracted if an aggrieved licence holder could have resort to both procedures. In. practice, we believe it is likely that boards of review will be preferred in most cases, but the existence of a right of recourse to the courts, at the option of the aggrieved person, will, we think, fully meet former criticisms on this score.
Compared with other professions and trades in Australia in which anything in the nature of a licence or certificate to practice is required, licence holders under the Air Navigation Act will now be in a relatively favorable position. For example, a lawyer, doctor or plumber who has his right to practice or engage in his occupation cancelled by the equivalent of a licensing authority, does have a right of appeal, but only to the courts. Pilots and other personnel engaged in the aircraft or air transport industry will now have not only this right but, in addition, the right to elect to have their appeal heard instead by a board of review which, as we have seen, is so constituted as to have possible advantages from a particular appellant’s point of view.
As I indicated earlier, many of the Air Navigation Regulations apply to purely intra-state aspects of air navigation solely by virtue of the fact that the uniform State air navigation acts adopt them as State law and that it is only provisions which appear in the regulations which are so adopted. For this reason, the detailed provisions relating to appeal procedures in cases of suspension and cancellation of licences and certificates will be included in the regulations in pursuance of the express authority provided for in this bill.
With the rapid growth of industry in metropolitan areas, electrical and other interference with the civil aviation communications system and network of navigational aids is becoming an increasingly serious problem which could lead to situa tions which, if not handled expeditiously, might endanger the safety of aircraft. Serious interference can come from faulty electrical appliances, faulty radio receivers, faulty industrial equipment, faulty transformers, X-ray and diathermy units and a large variety of other sources. It is essential to ensure the safety of aircraft, therefore, to have express statutory authority to prohibit or remedy these sources of interference as the case requires.
Although the proposed powers in the case where a person fails to comply with a direction, are quite drastic, it is believed that this is justified when the safety of aircraft may be endangered and it should be noted that, in any event, the owner or user is entitled to fair and just compensation provided the equipment has been installed and is being used and operated in accordance with all applicable laws.
The proposed new section 26 of the act contains the power to make regulations. The form of this section, which to some extent follows the existing act, is dictated by a number of important legal considerations. Although the Commonwealth Constitution contains no express powers relating to aviation, there are quite a number of matters of federal competence which include power to make laws with respect to certain aspects of air navigation. I have already referred in some detail to the external affairs power which enables this Parliament to make laws giving effect to international conventions and other bona fide international obligations. In addition, it has been held by the courts that interstate air transport is a necessary part of interstate trade and commerce so that the Commonwealth can, subject to section 92 of the Constitution, regulate interstate air navigation and transport. It has, of course, very wide power with respect to the Territories and it was, no doubt, for this reason that the uniform State air navigation acts were settled on the basis of adopting federal regulations applying with respect to air navigation in the Territories. Other sources of federal competence arise from the incidental power, the power to make laws with respect to places acquired by the Commonwealth for public purposes and with respect to any matter referred by a State Parliament.
The regulation making power has been drafted1 to take advantage of these sources of power and in a matter of such vital importance as the safety and development of air transport - provided that there are proper safeguards - there can be no valid objection to defining these powers in the manner proposed. Such safeguards have been carefully considered and provided for.
Firstly, the succeeding provisions of the bill set out details of the more important subject matters on which regulations are proposed and where necessary place proper limitations on the power. These can be examined at a later stage but 1 mention now, by way of example, the requirement that the regulations must provide for just compensation when they require the marking or removal of obstructions to safe air navigation. In this way, the “ basic principles “ of the regulations have been incorporated, as the Joint Committee of Public Accounts suggested, in legislation enacted by Parliament. Secondly, as I indicated at the outset, the responsible Minister will now be required to report annually to both Houses of Parliament on the administration of the act and regulations, and henceforth, there will, therefore, be full opportunity to bring the regulations, if necessary, under critical review. Finally, the regulations under the Air Navigation Act. like all Commonwealth regulations, are subject to disallowance by either House.
In the past 40 years, civil aviation has grown from an infant undertaking into an industry of great and growing importance to Australia. To-day, aviation plays a major role in the business and social life of millions of Australians. This bill is a milestone in the history of the industry. It presents for the approval of this Parliament for the first time a large number of important matters affecting the safe and efficient operation of every facet of civil aviation activity in Australia. The bill also ensures that these matters are subject to proper Parliamentary safeguards. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
– by leave - I wish to inform the Senate that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) has requested His Excellency, the GovernorGeneral, to forward the following message to Her Royal Highness, Princess Margaret, and to Mr. Antony Armstrong-Jones: -
On behalf of the Government and (lie people of Australia, 1 offer sincere good wishes on the happy occasion of your marriage.
I am sure that the Senate will join me in this expression of good wishes.
I also desire to inform the Senate that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has presented an antique silver punch-bowl to Princess Margaret as Australia’s wedding gift.
– by leave - On behalf of the Opposition I very cordially join with the Government and the Leader of the Government in this place in this expression of good wishes. We of the Opposition wish the couple every possible happiness for the future.
– by leave - The Government has reached a number of conclusions upon the future of the National Library, about which I should like to inform the Senate. As honorable senators will know, the National Library has grown directly from the Library of the Commonwealth Parliament. The Parliamentary Library Committee under the leadership of the President of the Senate and the Speaker has been the main source of advice in the Parliamentary and national libraries, and I should like to acknowledge the value of its work over the years. The advice of the present committee and of its chairman, Senator Sir Alister McMullin, has been most helpful to the Government in considering the future of the National Library. It has been clear for some time that the National Library has outgrown the scope of the Parliamentary Library and has become a research and reference institution with nation-wide responsibilities. It is generally recognized that a different form of control has become desirable.
In 1956, therefore, the Government set up a committee with Sir George Paton, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, as chairman, to study the matter.
The committee included three members of the Parliament representing all parties and both Houses. The report of the committee was tabled in Parliament and we are all greatly indebted to the committee for its work. Last year, the Government set up an interdepartmental committee to advise on the detailed measures which were necessary to make effective the main recommendations of the Paton committee. This committee worked last year in the closest association with the Presiding Officers and the Parliamentary Library Committee.
The Government’s conclusions can be summarized as follows: -
The Government intends that there should be the closest co-operation between the Parliamentary Library and the National Library in order to avoid overlapping wherever possible and to ensure economies in administration. This co-operation, will, of course, be especially close in the early stages because we do not have, as yet, a building to house the National Library adequately. The Government has agreed that design and planning work for a new National Library building should begin. Naturally, the timing of construction will have to be considered in relation to requirements for other public works.
The Parliamentary Library will have its own stock of books, periodicals, newspapers and so on for the use of members of Parliament. It will have access to the resources of the National Library by arrangement between the Parliamentary Library Committee and the council of the National Library - an arrangement which will strengthen the reference and reading services available to Parliament itself.
The Government has given special attention to the future of government archives and has reached the conclusion that government archives should be under government control, as they are essentially a collection of the Government’s own confidential papers, records and files, many of which for a number of reasons should not be made public at least until a certain period of time has elapsed. This is the normal practice in countries overseas.
The Government proposes to take early action to give effect to the conclusions it has reached. The first step will be to appoint a National Library Council and its chairman on an interim basis.
I should perhaps emphasize that we are not in essence establishing new institutions, but are rather introducing new methods of control and divisions of responsibilities which are more suitable for the present needs and which are similar to those operating in many countries in the British Commonwealth and elsewhere. I am confident that the Government’s legislation which, it is hoped, will be brought down in the next session of Parliament, will command a large measure of support, both in this Parliament and the Australian community.
Debate resumed from 4th May (vide page 748), on motion by Senator Sir Walter Cooper -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I was very interested in the remarks made by the Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth), when introducing this measure in another place, concerning the activities of the Public Works Committee. I listened also with interest to the comments of Senator Anderson last night concerning the powers of the committee. Much has been said as to the kind of works that should be investigated by the committee, and a desire has been expressed that the scope of the committee’s activities should be widened. After many years of recommendations, it now appears that some minor alterations are to be made to the legislation under which the committee operates.
The Minister stated that the Public Works Committee is intended to be a watchdog over major public works, from the point of view of design and conception, and that it has a responsibility to ensure that works are undertaken only in the general public interest. Senator Anderson also directed attention to certain functions of the committee. If the Public Works Committee is to be a watch-dog over major public works, why is it intended that it should remain on a chain, so that its activities shall be limited according to the length of the chain?
– The old dog will have some bark in him, nevertheless.
– I believe the dog certainly has some bark; but I, like the members of the committee, would like to see the area over which he may patrol extended considerably.
There has been some controversy as to the powers of the committee. The Acts Interpretation Act has been brought into the discussion, and argument has centred around whether a particular work may be considered in or of the Commonwealth. Certain kinds of buildings have been mentioned that fall into one or another category. Mention has been made of the Snowy Mountains scheme and of the works undertaken by the National Capital Development Commission. It has been suggested that because Parliament has voted certain amounts of money for these works, allowing those in charge to spend the money as they see fit, such works should not be subject to the scrutiny of the committee. I do not know of any project in this country that has been the subject of more scrutiny, investigation and so on than the Snowy Mountains scheme. There has been a tremendous number of reports from engineers and other experts as to the suitability of the scheme, methods of construction, and so on. I would agree that a project of such magnitude, having undergone such intensive examination, might be excluded from investigation by the Public Works Committee, because investigations of the kind that would be undertaken by the committee have already been made. But even in the case of that project it has been found necessary to make some alterations, although I would agree that those are minor alterations when considered in relation to the overall scheme.
I believe, however, that the National Capital Development Commission is in an entirely different position. Those of us who have been in Canberra for some time, and also those who have not been here very long but have taken an interest in the development of the capital city, know that the old practice of erecting buildings here, there and everywhere has undergone considerable change. We have now entrusted the commission with the task of supervising the development of the city. The commission is given a certain amount of money each year, but I am not at all sure that the Parliament should not have some effective control over its activities, through the Public Works Committee. I believe that the committee should be given the job of examining proposals for the erection of buildings and the undertaking of other works. We are all familiar with the big office building, called the Administrative Block, which is situated in close proximity to Parliament House. For weeks and weeks a body of men was engaged in blasting out and removing foundations that had been laid years ago for that building.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– My speech having been interrupted on three occasions, I shall now endeavour to complete it. Before the suspension of the sitting I referred to the fact that the activities of the National Capital Development Commission are not open to the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee. As in this year an amount of at least £12,000,000 will be spent on projects in Canberra by the commission, I think that those projects should be scrutinized by the Public Works Committee, particularly when it is remembered that about 27 per cent, of the amount of £44,000,000 authorized by the last Budget to be expended on public works in this financial year will be applied to projects here. i feel that at least the activities of this commission should be investigated. That does not mean that the Public Works Committee would prevent the commission from proceeding with its plans to develop the National Capital. But, after all, as I have mentioned before, the foundations for a large government building not far from Parliament House which were laid many years ago had to be pulled up and the work had to be redone. I suppose we must assume that the original foundations did not meet the requirements of the engineers to-day. That is the kind of thing that might happen at any time. In the instance to which I have referred, although it could be reasonably assumed that the men who laid the original foundations knew all there was to be known about that work, evidently they made a mistake; or the reason for pulling up the original foundations could have been that it was found they were inadequate to support a building to meet present-day conditions. If the Public Works Committee were empowered to scrutinize the plans and specifications of proposed commission projects in Canberra, it might be able to prevent similar mistakes from occurring in the future. I cannot understand why the Government, having decided to review the constitution of the Public Works Committee, did not go thoroughly into the matter and extend the committee’s powers in every possible direction.
I have referred previously to the buildings being constructed at Russell Hill for the Services. For the life of me, Mr. Acting Deputy President and honorable senators, 1 cannot understand why office buildings that are being erected to house defence staff should be regarded as defence projects. If these buildings are regarded as defence projects, the Department of Defence could regard the construction of similar buildings in the capital cities as defence projects and they would not be subject to the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee. I appreciate the fact that defence security precautions must be observed in relation to a completed building in which files and documents are stored, but I cannot understand why the building, during the construction stage, should be termed a defence project.
I believe that some honorable senators are not altogether pleased with the type of housing that is being provided in Canberra. When we remember the very fine buildings that were established here at the inception of the national capital and observe what is going on to-day, we find it hard to resist the thought that it would be to the advantage of the national capital itself, and the Government, if an investigation were made into this aspect of development with a view to achieving uniformity of construction.
Reference has been made during this debate to the question of the power of the Public Works Committee to investigate projects outside Australia. I for one do not advocate that the committee should have power to perambulate around the world inspecting Australian embassy buildings under construction, and so on. If it were necessary to consider certain aspects of such projects, some members of the relevant staffs could be brought back to Australia to give evidence before the committee.
I feel that the committee should have power to investigate proposed works in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, because doubtless much development will be taking place there in the very near future. After all, the Territory is not very far away and not much expense would be incurred by the committee in visiting the Territory to investigate proposed projects.
Last night, Senator Anderson referred to the relatively small amount of money that is provided for the purposes of the committee. We all know that the members of the committee do not make anything out of the travelling allowance they are paid when visiting various parts of Australia in the performance of their duties. Indeed, the allowance could prove to be an encumbrance to them rather than an asset because the amount is taken into consideration by the Taxation Branch when assessing the members’ returns. Accommodation charges in the various capital cities are very high.
– We paid £50 a week in Darwin.
– I have had some experience myself of the high cost of accommodation in the capital cities which I have recently visited as a member of the
Senate Select Committee on Road Safety. I say that the amount of the travelling allowance paid to members of parliamentary committees is inadequate to defray the cost of board and lodgings and out-of-pocket expenses. In suggesting that further facilities should be placed at the disposal of the Public Works Committee, I do not want it to be thought that the committee proceeds on jaunts at the expense of the taxpayers. 1 think it is one of the most valuable committees in our midst. Despite all of the eloquent remarks that we make now, I suppose we cannot expect the Government to introduce an amending bill during this session. However, I hope that the members of the Public Works Committee will continue to agitate for increased power to be given to the committee. While we appreciate the fact that, by this measure, the Government is granting increased power to the committee, I hope that eventually the Government will agree to give to the committee all the power that we feel should be given to it in order that it may play a more important part in ensuring that the community’s money is expended in the most effective manner.
.- Mr. Acting Deputy President, the bill under discussion is a step forward although it lacks some provisions that are considered by the Public Works Committee to be of value. The principle of establishing a public works committee, as was mentioned by other speakers in this debate, was first adopted in 1913 when the Public Works Committee was established by act of Parliament. That act contains a section providing that any public works estimated to cost £25,000 or more must be referred to the committee for consideration and report. Both Senator O’Byrne and Senator Anderson, who spoke yesterday on this bill, reminded us that when Sir Joseph Cook introduced the measure into the Parliament in 1913 he said that the committee was being set up because the matter of conducting public works policy was inadequate to secure the taxpayers against loss and waste. If Sir Joseph Cook, who, I think, was Prime Minister at that time, felt constrained to introduce a measure to set up the Public Works Committee, there must have been considerations and reasons why the government of the day felt compelled to move in that direction. If the government of that time felt the urgency for a close examination of public works projects with the limited revenues of that time, how much more does the need exist to-day in view of the enormous outgoings on public works, which have been a feature of the post-war period?
In 1953 the Public Accounts Committee recommended that the Public Works Committee should have an unfettered power of review of major works and that the committee - the Public Works Committee - should have power to take the initiative when it felt that circumstances warranted such a review. That was an important recommendation by a very capable body of men then led by Professor Bland as chairman. In the course of reviewing public accounts of the day the committee considered that the Public Works Committee should not be cramped for want of power to deal with plans, specifications and costs of public works that were being undertaken by the government.
This bill does not go that far. lt does, however, provide that the Public Works Committee shall be entitled to review its own decisions up to the point of the acceptance of a tender. That is a considerable advance on what previously operated and is, of course, one of the powers that the committee has been seeking for some time. I am sure that that provision in the bill is completely acceptable to every member of the Public Works Committee, but I, together with other honorable senators, regret that the committee was not consulted in the drafting of the bill to enable the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee to be more fully explored. If the Public Works Committee had been consulted its advice could have been obtained and1 the Government could have drawn upon the experience of the members of the committee. In the drafting of a bill giving certain powers to the Public Works Committee I do not think the Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) could have approached a more experienced or knowledgeable team of men than those who have served on the Public Works Committee over a number of years. Even if the Minister, or the Government behind him, did not find the opinions of the members of the committee desirable, at least those opinions could have cleared the air and may have been helpful. Although the Government may not have been able to agree with everything that the committee said, at least some advantages could have been gained. It is regrettable that the committee was not consulted with a view to assisting the Minister in the drafting of the bill.
I believe that any major expenditure from Commonwealth funds, no matter where it takes place, should come under the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee. That applies with particular force to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I take the view that any money raised by taxation from the people of Papua and New Guinea is a matter of their own concern and its expenditure would have no need for oversight by the Public Works Committee, but, generally, public works in the Territory are financed from Commonwealth sources. The major portion of public expenditure in that Territory is financed from Commonwealth sources here in Canberra. The money that is being expended in the Territory is money that is being provided by the Australian taxpayers. Whether or not a legislative council exists in the Territory, the Commonwealth should have some scrutiny over the way in which that money is spent. It may not be practical to send all members of the committee to the Territory in order to investigate these matters, but it is desirable that in the case of major works involving the expenditure of £250,000 or more, all the particulars should be sent to the committee so that it can scrutinize them. The committee could, if considered desirable, take evidence and call to account the officers of the Department of Works. If necessary the committee could summon an officer of the department from Port Moresby to meet the committee here in Canberra and thrash out any debatable point. The committee could even send a small representation to Port Moresby to go into any matter of major expenditure. That is something that should be favorably considered.
When I visited the Territory of Papua and New Guinea about six or seven years ago I found that the cost of erecting homes by the Department of Works was shockingly high having regard to the fact that the homes I saw in the course of erection were of timber construction. There is no lack of building timber in the Territory. A number of very fine saw-mills operate there, so the timber factor was not considerable in the cost of the homes.
– How could the cost be reduced?
– I have no precise knowledge on that point. The delegation of which I was a member - Senator Sheehan was also a member - went to the Bulolo saw-milling company and the Bulolo gold-mining company. The manager of the saw-milling company told us, if my memory serves me aright, that the homes being built by the company for its workmen were being built at approximately half the cost of homes being erected in the Territory by the Department of Works. It was difficult to understand why there should be such a big variation between the cost of a home erected by the department and the cost of a similar home erected by the sawmilling or gold-mining company. I just raise that point as a flash-back, as it were, from six or seven years ago. If what I have said is not exactly right, it is not far off the target.
– It is pretty general all over the Territory.
– Senator Kendall, a man well experienced in the work of the Territory, assures me that what I have said applies generally throughout Papua and New Guinea. That strengthens my argument in favour of a close oversight of the expenditure in New Guinea of Commonwealth moneys raised by taxation. We should be able to bring to account, if necessary, the officers of the Commonwealth who are responsible for the erection of public buildings and houses in Papua and New Guinea. I think it would be practicable, without going to great expense, to bring to Canberra a responsible officer from Port Moresby, or to send some representatives of the committee to Port Moresby to take evidence and make recommendations to the committee, which could report to the Parliament in due course. I think that all major proposed public works in Papua and New Guinea should be very carefully examined by the Public Works Committee before the expenditure is approved. To do that, would of course, involve an amendment of the acts which govern the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. It could not be done by amending the bill which is now before the Senate.
Earlier speakers have referred to the necessity to scrutinize expenditure on buildings erected abroad for the benefit of the Australia diplomatic service. I agree that there is a call for the erection of embassy and legation offices as well as residences in many parts of the world, lt would not be practicable for members of the committee - I do not advocate it at all - to visit overseas countries. However, I think it would be practicable for evidence in favour of certain types of buildings, as well as the plans and specifications and details of costs, to be put before the committee by officers of the Department of Works in this country. If there were any suggestion of extravagance or of expenditure going beyond what was fair, having regard to the standards that prevail overseas, the committee could report the circumstances to either the Prime Minister or the Minister for the Interior and Works, or to both of them. In that way, the committee could perhaps prevent unwarranted expenditure in other parts of the world. The power to do that will not be conferred by this bill. I am merely emphasizing the point that no opportunity should be lost to tighten up the conditions governing such expenditure of public money.
Honorable senators will, I am sure, welcome the return of the mandatory provision to the Public Works Committee Act after the absence of such a provision for a long period. Senator Sheehan has complained that only minor amendments are being made to the act now, but I have no hesitation in saying that the most important request made by the committee to the Government was the request for the restoration of the mandatory provision in the act. The committee thought it necessary that it should be mandatory for the Minister to submit to the committee all public works which involved the expenditure of a certain sum, and the Government has stated the sum as £250,000. Personally I should have liked a lesser sum - anything between £100,000 and £200,000- to have been specified, but we have to accept what the
Government considers is desirable. The Minister, of course, will have the power to refer to the committee public works which will cost less than the amount stated in the bill. The exercise of that power lies entirely within the discretion of the Minister. He may never exercise it, but I hope he will, and that we shall have references of works estimated to cost less than £250,000.
One of the virtues of the present legislation is that the committee will have the right to review its recommendations, and thereby ascertain the reason for any undue delay in putting urgent works in hand in remote parts of Australia, far removed from the seat of government. I think it was generally conceded for many years past that defence works were entitled to be excluded from investigation by the Public Works Committee. However, I join with Senator Sheehan in expressing the opinion that it is difficult to see any justification for such an attitude in times of peace, particularly when expensive building projects are concerned. The Parliament has been voting for some years past about £200,000,000 per annum for the equipment and for the establishment of our defence forces. Much of this expenditure would necessarily be on projects which are on the secret list, and which would be matters for the decision of the Governor-General in council. However, I am sure that the specialized experience of the Public Works Committee would be of great help to the Minister for Defence in the case of undertakings not on the secret list. I think that many honorable senators might have revised their previous ideas of what is hush-hush and of what should come under the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee and, through that committee, under the scrutiny of this Parliament.
An important matter was raised by the chairman of the committee, Mr. Fairhall, in another place. It related to the possible attitude of the National Capital Development Commission to public works sponsored by that body in Canberra. Mr. Fairhall expressed the hope that no attempt would be made, under the plea of urgency, to remove public works under the control of the commission from the oversight of the Public Works Committee. I should like to emphasize strongly the importance of the chairman’s views in this respect. The city of Canberra, in recent years, has been receiving the lion’s share of money for public works, compared with the sums available to the various States. It is rather staggering to find that up to 40 per cent, of the moneys allocated for public works throughout the Commonwealth over the past year or so has been expended in the city of Canberra. I understand that the current proportion of public works expenditure at Canberra is 27 per cent.
There is, therefore, a fluctuating percentage, but, as I have said, the percentage expended on works in Canberra has ranged as high as 40 per cent.; so that almost half of the total amount allocated for public works for the whole of Australia has been channelled into the National Capital Development Commission for projects in the National Capital. That suggests that Canberra is receiving a measure of preference, in relation to other places which have an urgent need of public works, to which it is not at all entitled. I raise the question whether so much money, being spent so quickly, will produce hot-house effects, to the ultimate detriment of the capital city. The development of Canberra is capable of being forced along at an unhealthy rate. That could cause, and probably is causing, excessive costs in constructional work.
– But has not that been due to the large-scale transfer of public servants, which was overdue?
– To an extent, but I do not see that we are entitled to use, in the city of Canberra, in one year, up to 40 per cent, of the total moneys allocated for public works throughout Australia.
– Even for the transfer of civil servants.
– Yes. There could be a more orderly and progressive way of bringing them here. There has been an unhealthy forcing of expenditure in this city. It is all very well to speak of the need to develop Canberra, but what of the other parts of Australia that urgently need public works? In some instances, they have been waiting for years for the funds with which to commence those works. We must not become, in this environment, too Canberra-minded. We must think of the far-away places, such as areas in Western
Australia, northern Queensland, and in other remote parts of the States, many of which have a need for public works. As I have said, some of them have been waiting for years for the funds with which to undertake those works.
– Is it conceded that the works here in Canberra are within the jurisdiction of the committee?
– It is not conceded by any means. In the past, the National Capital Development Commission has made a plea of urgency to the Minister and has asked for priority for Canberra projects, and no doubt it will do so again.
– But that was only because the Minister had discretion in the matter. Under the mandatory clause in the bill before us, will not works estimated to cost more than £250,000 be referred to the committee?
– As I understand it, no.
– There is nothing in the act which says that.
– That is what I say. The commission can plead urgency. That is the important point, even if the act is sufficiently wide as to say that it should submit such projects to the Public Works Committee. The commission may say, as it has in the past, “We are developing a big city, and this is an urgent requirement “. The matter will be in the hands of the Minister. The commission has got away before with pleas of that kind, and as I see it, there is nothing to stop it from getting away with them again.
If the commission attempted to overstate the urgency of Canberra projects, it could come into head-on collision with the elected representatives of this Parliament who have responsibilities to the States that they represent. There is in those States an equally important need for works, many of which are of a more urgent character than the projects planned for the development of Canberra. We have to think of the development of Australia as well as the development of Canberra. Honorable senators should not lose sight of the words, used by Professor Bland, a distinguished member of the House of Representatives and until recently chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, when addressing a meeting of the Australian Society of Accountants in Sydney last month. According to a press report, Professor Bland said that -
Parliament was no longer able to control what was being done in the name of the Government. There was so much to be done and such a multiplicity of public servants occupied in doing it. lt is the duty of members of the Parliament to see that proper curbs and safeguards operate to protect the taxpayer from loss and waste.
Major public works in Canberra, such as the Lyneham High School and the Mount Russell offices, have been undertaken by the National Capital Development Commission without the projects being subjected to the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee. I think that honorable senators will agree that that is entirely wrong. There is nothing to stop the commission from submitting such proposals to the Public Works Committee. However, on the ground of urgency, the commission has been able to erect those structures without any scrutiny by the committee. I say, Sir, that what is sauce for the goose should also be sauce for the gander. The conditions that apply to public works elsewhere in Australia should also apply to public works sponsored by the National Capital Development Commission.
Several years ago, the Public Works Committee recommended the erection of new administrative offices, which were very urgently required, in Darwin, and also a Supreme Court building in Darwin to replace the old court buildings which, in the view of members of the committee who inspected them, had the appearance of a dog house rather than a court of justice. Last year, the Public Works Committee recommended to the Parliament the urgent erection of a high school at Darwin, a building that is badly needed. It is a really important requirement of that city and is a far more urgent project than anything being undertaken in Canberra at the present time. 1 should be surprised, however, to hear that something had been done about commencing those works.
I invite the attention of honorable senators to a very truthfully worded passage in the second-reading speech of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper). It is as follows: -
In some cases, before the Government is able to find funds to commence a project, some years elapse.
There is the naked truth in relation to public works projects in other parts of Australia. That is why I am stressing to-day that this influential and privileged commission, which is right at the heart of government, is able to make a plea of urgency and have jobs done ahead of important works that are urgently needed in the outback areas of Australia. I take this opportunity to lodge a protest about the way in which this matter has been handled in the past. With the passage of this bill, I hope that the National Capital Development Commission will see the light and that it will in future submit its projects to the Public Works Committee and have them scrutinized and approved by the committee.
I ask: Should the National Capital Development Commission be allowed to stand apart from the laws which govern the rest of Australia? This anomalous and disagreeable situation should not be allowed to continue. The act which governs the functioning of the commission should be amended with a view to making the works that it proposes to undertake subject to the requirements of the Public Works Committee Act. The committee has been doing a very valuable job. It has exercised vigilance over needs and costs and has saved the Commonwealth Treasury very large sums of money through its oversight of public works projects over the years. The annual cost to the Treasury of the maintenance of the committee is a mere bagatelle in comparison with the advantages which derive to the Treasury and to the taxpayer. Over many years it has averaged about £3,000. The principal act limits the committee to an expenditure of £5,000 per annum. The committee has never exhausted the funds made available to it from year to year. The extra work that will come before the committee in consequence of the mandatory provisions of this bill may render it necessary a little later to seek an increase in the amount of money that is allotted for the committee’s work.
An amount of £5,000 a year may not cover that work. The Minister, of course, has stated that any request for an increase, if the committee were running short of funds, would be promptly met. That assurance appears to cover that contingency.
Very able, practical and common-sense men have served and are serving on the Public Works Committee. Several former members of the committee have graduated to the Menzies Ministry during its ten years of office. Members of the committee have always worked in perfect harmony, although they are derived from both sides of the Parliament, and within the committee there has never been a division on party lines. All members of the committee, irrespective of party affiliations, are dedicated to the task of protecting the Australian taxpayer from unwarranted expenditure or, to use the words of Sir Joseph Cook in 1913, “loss and waste “.
Finally, 1 should like to add that the committee has recently lost, through retirement, a very fine personality and capable public officer in the person of Mr. Wilfred Blackman, who acted as its secretary for a number of years. In his kindly and friendly way, he was a great help in the tendering of advice and good counsel to every new member of the committee. I take this opportunity of wishing him good health and good fortune in his retirement, and I welcome his successor, Mr. Marshall, to the arduous secretarial tasks. I have pleasure in supporting the bill.
– I also support the bill. I should like to congratulate Senator Maher on the good fighting speech that he made. Any bill which strengthens, as this bill does, the methods by which Parliament may scrutinize or control any of the major public works or functions of the Commonwealth deserves the support of the committee. I join Senator Maher in praising the efforts of the present committee and previous committees and their nonpartypolitical approach to their tasks. When speaking as individuals in the Senate, members of the committee have from time to time stressed the need for such a bill as this. I can well remember Senator Henty, when he was chairman of the committee, stressing this point, as also did Senator Anderson. I believe that over the years Senator Maher also has stressed this need. I should like to refer also to what Senator Wright has said over the years in debates relating to public finance, when inviting our attention to the urgency of making it mandatory for matters to be referred to the committee instead of leaving references, as heretofore, in the discretion of the Minister of State at the particular time.
I shall not traverse all the remarks made by Senator Anderson and Senator Maher. I agree entirely on the importance of scrutinizing the development proceeding in the Australian Capital Territory and I also hope that some day the committee will scrutinize works in the Territories. A new phase in relation to public buildings appears to be developing. There appears to be a tendency for the Commonwealth to hire rather than to construct buildings. This is evident in matters other than building. The other day I was very interested to read in the “ Economist “ of Great Britain that there could well be developing a tendency, in regard to civil aviation fleets, to hire from the manufacturers, whether they be the Douglas, Vickers or De Havilland organizations, rather than to own aircraft. In Mount Gambier, a small country city of South Australia, the Postmaster-General’s Department, instead of constructing a building for its technicians, is arranging for a land-owner to construct on his own land a building which the department will lease for a long term as a working place for its telephone technicians. In directing the Senate’s attention to this tendency that seems to be developing, I point out that while considering the question of making it mandatory for building projects to be submitted to the committee, the Senate might well think that the time is arriving when Parliament should consider passing an act to make it mandatory for larger hirings to be subjected to the scrutiny of a committee of the Parliament.
I now invite the Senate’s attention to a question on notice that was answered for me earlier this week. I asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior -
When did the Commonwealth Public Works Committee last visit South Australia to report on a Commonwealth building project within the city of Adelaide?
The answer was, “In 1925”. I also asked -
Is there not a project for examination, within the foreseeable future, for the erection of a building on one of the many areas of land the Commonwealth holds in the city for governmental purposes?
The answer to that question - despite the fact that the committee had not been near Adelaide for 35 years - was -
In view of the pressing need for large-scale expenditure in other capital cities and the fact that suitable accommodation has been found in fairly modern buildings in Adelaide, there are no positive plans in hand for the construction of large-scale Commonwealth offices in Adelaide.
So one can read between the lines that the tendency has been to engage in a largescale series of hirings in Adelaide in the last 35 years, because no project of any significance in that city has been referred to the committee. I believe that it is wrong that this should have happened and that the Parliament should be on its guard. If it is sound for the Commonwealth to engage in mass hiring of office accommodation, there should be an amendment to this bill or a completely new bill should be introduced to establish power to scrutinize hirings. I could illustrate this point to show how large hirings can become if I refer to “ Hansard “ of 26th February, 1959, when the Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) made a statement by leave in the House of Representatives, as recorded in volume 22 at page 323. He gave an undertaking to examine a question that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) had asked with regard to the leasing of accommodation in Adelaide from Advertiser Newspapers Limited. I have examined this position. I have been through the building - I know it well - and at the outset I want to make it quite clear that I believe the Commonwealth did quite well in hiring it. However, what I wish to illustrate is the way the hiring was done, without any scrutiny of the Commonwealth Parliament, and also the magnitude of the hiring. In the course of his answer, Mr. Freeth said -
Office accommodation totalling 61,330 square feet is being rented in the Advertiser building, in Adelaide, at a cost of £90,000 per annum. That is made up of £66,100 for rent, £14,700 for rates and taxes and £9,200 for cleaning. The building is supplied with linoleum andvenetian blinds. The overall rental amounts to approximately 29s. 6d. a square foot, and this is slightly below the rental originally sought by the owners. I find that the owners had appointed real estate agents as their agents, and had accepted their advice as to appropriate rents. On this basis, the accommodation was offered to the public. The Taxation Branch entered into negotiations and in fact obtained a slight reduction in rent because it was taking over a bulk area. Other tenants will be charged the rents originally fixed.
I understand that the lease was for either ten or twelve years, and for the sake of argument let us assume it was for ten years. Some civil servant, with a stroke of the pen, put the Commonwealth up for almost £1,000,000. Such an event as that, the largest hiring in Adelaide, has not been scrutinized in any way other than the scrutiny that it could receive after a question in the House and a ministerial statement. In answer to a question in the House of Representatives, on 15th September last, the Minister, as recorded at page 1030 of “ Hansard “, revealed that rent of £87,241 15s. was paid by the Commonwealth for some other office accommodation, in Adelaide, in the Da Costa building, and £29,000 for accommodation in the Richards building, and that lesser amounts were paid in other buildings.
Incidentally, Commonwealth offices are spread over the whole square mile of Adelaide - here, there and everywhere. It is the most distressing event in one’s life to endeavour to transact Commonwealth business in the city of Adelaide, especially when the temperature is over the hundred degrees mark and one has to visit departments. I want to illustrate my point that if we are going to write into the law of this country the desirability of Parliamentary scrutiny, public works are not the only matters that should be examined. Public hirings, especially of the long-term variety, should be scrutinized also and I suggest that the hiring of a public building where the rent is over, say, £25,000 a year for a period in excess of, say, five years, should definitely be a matter for scrutiny by the Public Works Committee. You might have to alter its name to the Public Properties Committee, but in any event, such a hiring should be the subject of some scrutiny.
The Public Works Committee has a very interesting charter. Section 14, which was written away back in 1913, is as true to-day as it was then. It provides -
In considering and reporting on any work, the Committee shall have regard to -
the stated purpose thereof;
the necessity or advisability of carrying it out; and where the work purports to be of a reproductive or revenueproducing character, the amount of revenue which it may reasonably be expected to produce; and
the present and prospective public value of the work; and generally-
And this is important - the committee shall in all cases take such measures and procure such information as may enable them to inform or satisfy the Parliament as to the expedience of carrying out the work.
Honorable senators can see therefore, that with very little adaptation this whole question of hirings, which seems to have been ruling the roost in Adelaide for the past 35 years, is of great importance in the housing of the vast body of civil servants that the Commonwealth has established. This matter could be brought within the scope of the committee. South Australia has expanded at a far greater rate than any other State, I understand, and consequently the Commonwealth functions there have increased possibly to a greater extent than in other States. Therefore, this question is of prime importance. Honorable senators must understand that I am not actually criticizing the rental figures. I am not competent, perhaps, to say whether an annual rental of £87,000 for the Da Costa building is right, too high or too low. However, I believe that this and others are excellent sites and that the development of Adelaide will go ahead. If the leases are long-term, as I understand they are, they will be satisfactory in every way. These are matters that should have undergone the scrutiny of some distinguished committee such as the Public Works Committee.
To give some idea of what one faces in Adelaide when one endeavours to find the local Commonwealth offices, I think it will interest the Senate to know that the employment recruiting and customs office is at 97 Currie-street. The office of the Attorney-General is in the “ Advertiser “ building and, the audit office is in the Da Costa building. Only a telephone number is given for the security office. No address is given, which is quite right. One of the courts is in the Norwich Union building, another section of the federal courts is in Flinders-street, and yet another in King William-street. The immigration office - this provides a great anomaly - is in North
Terrace, right out of the centre of the city. It is possibly the busiest office in Adelaide. The Department of Health, another busy office, is in one part of King William-street and the social services office is down another street.
There is a further anomaly which affects us closely as members of the Parliament. In Adelaide nineteen federal members have their offices, and they are located in three different buildings. Have you ever heard of anything so ridiculous? In Sydney, Melbourne or Perth, I believe all federal members are accommodated in the same building. This is an indication of what happens when the Public Works Committee does not visit a city for 35 years. There has been no parliamentary investigation during that time of the housing problems, if I may use that term, of the public servants. I am not concerned so much at this stage with the comfort of the public servants, but rather with their efficiency. But I am even more concerned with the comfort of the public, the taxpayers who have to do business with Commonwealth departments. Imagine the confusion that must be engendered in the minds of those of the 500,000 people of Adelaide who have to approach a Commonwealth department on a matter concerning, health, immigration, taxation, census or what have you, when the various departments are spread throughout the city in different tenanted buildings.
Some kind of vague intention has been expressed by the Commonwealth over the years to construct a government building in Adelaide. Good gracious, Sir, there are blocks all over the city that are owned by the Commonwealth, much to the annoyance of the City Council, because it is not paid rates for those blocks. Recently two splendid blocks in Currie-street were acquired by the Commonwealth, after which an exchange was negotiated. A most sensible arrangement was entered into to exchange one of the blocks for a property owned by Dalgety and Company Limited, so that as a result the two blocks owned by the Commonwealth are situated side by side. Nothing more has happened, however, and according to a reply I received the other day from the Minister, apparently nothing will happen in the foreseeable future in the way of building construction on any of the many blocks of land owned by the
Commonwealth, because, in the words of the Minister, “ of the pressing need for large-scale expenditure in other capital cities “.
This brings me to another point I wanted to mention. On the same day on which the Minister gave me that reply, Senator Wright received an answer to a question on notice. He had asked -
How much money has been spent on works in the Australian Capital Territory in the last twelve months?
The reply was -
Between 1st April, 1959, and 31st March, 1960- £12,055,350.
He further asked -
What proportion of Commonwealth capital expenditure in the last twelve months is represented by works in the Australian Capital Territory?
He was told that the proportion was 27 per cent. In this Australian Capital Territory, 27 per cent, of the money laid out for all Commonwealth public works is spent.
The Public Works Committee has not been to Adelaide for 35 years. I suggest to the Government that it is being seriously negligent in not doing more about adequate accommodation for its public instrumentalities in the capital of South Australia. Honorable senators will pardon me for referring continually to South Australia, but I know something of the position in that State, and I have very strong views about that position. Similar remarks could apply, however, in other capital cities. At the same time, we find that in this hydraheaded monster, Canberra, expenditure on public works represents 27 per cent, of the total amount spent on such works throughout the Commonwealth, and possibly the proportion will increase. That figure of 27 per cent, does not, of course, include money spent by instrumentalities other than the National Capital Development Commission.
It appears that the State capital cities are being starved for capital expenditure. The Commonwealth is providing the accommodation it requires in those cities in the easy way, by renting accommodation. The result is that there is no physical embodiment of Commonwealth functions, in the form of a public building worthy of note, in any of the capital cities. At least this has been the case until recently. 1 understand that buildings are now being erected in other cities, but this is certainly not so in Adelaide.
For these reasons 1 commend to the Senate the suggestion that at a later date it should seriously consider widening the powers and functions of the Public Works Committee. We should not leave the insurance offices, the banks and the oil companies to provide the only physical manifestations of corporate life in our cities. I believe that in Adelaide - and I speak mainly for Adelaide - we should have an appropriate Commonwealth public building. 1 do not envisage a building in which every Commonwealth public servant in the city shall work, but a head-quarters building in which members of the public who have to do business with Commonwealth agencies may find the department they are looking for.
– All the departments.
– All departments could be represented in the building. I believe we could in this way ensure for the citizens and business people of the State, who, after all, were in business long before Canberra was in business, greater convenience and proper treatment at the hands of the Commonwealth. I commend these ideas to the Senate. I congratulate the Government on taking this step, but I hope it will be only the first of many steps towards the provision of proper Commonwealth buildings, particularly in Adelaide.
– The consideration of this bill affords a certain amount of pleasure. We should feel a certain amount of gratification at the introduction of a measure which will result in our having a greater amount of information available when we are considering the allocation of funds for various works. I take some pleasure in discussing this bill, because I know that it has resulted not only from the efforts of members of the Public Works Committee, but also from representations made by all Senate Ministers for the strengthening of that committee. Speaking from my own personal conviction, and being influenced in no way by the views of others, I believe that this measure has been largely due to the efforts of the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, to the confidence that the Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) no doubt has in him, and to the special experience gained by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) during his period of office as chairman of the Public Works Committee. It is therefore a matter of gratification that parliamentary methods have now fructified in the bill we are considering. I take pleasure in remembering that the Ministers had their attention drawn to this matter in 1957 and again in May, 1 959, with a warning that the capital works programme would need to be subjected to some jurisdiction such as this. In the Budget session last year Ministers were good enough to announce that an amendment to this effect would be forthcoming. It is significant, as honorable senators will see if they look to the record, that that announcement was made appropriately some few days before the presentation of the capital works programme to this chamber. I pay my tribute to the development of parliamentary methods and to the fact that they have resulted in a measure that I believe gives general satisfaction notwithstanding its shortcomings.
Throughout the tedious years when the Public Works Committee has been withering for want of work and the Minister’s discretion in respect of initiating work has prevailed, it should have been quite obvious that the Parliament was being bypassed in this important matter due to a loophole that was introduced into the legislation in 1936. It was then completely within the discretion of the Minister to refer a work of any sort to the committee or not to refer a public work to the committee for consideration. It seems to me that the introduction of that loophole was an evasion of the Parliament of the first order. When you set up a parliamentary committee to scrutinize public expenditure, if those responsible for promoting the work know that by prevailing upon a Minister they can evade the committee, you develop a very considerable route to by-pass Parliament, and all sorts of considerations influence those who seek to escape the scrutiny of a parliamentary committee. Sometimes, it is negligence, at other times it is fraud, and sometimes it is merely ambition, petty or otherwise. But the principle that has been insisted on and which is now accepted is that an unvarying rule shall be introduced by the provision in the statute that no work estimated to cost more than £250,000 shall be commenced unless the proposed work has been referred to the Public Works Committee, in pursuance of this section.
That is a rule of law, but I shall ask the Senate directly to consider whether a loophole is provided in the bill. However, I hesitate to refer to these matters because in my view the establishment of the principle by statute that no proposed public work costing a quarter of a million pounds or more shall be commenced unless it has been referred to the committee is a notable advance in the strengthening of this Parliament. The fact that it has taken twenty years to close the loop-hole is a reflection on the capacity of the Parliament that we should1 not forget in the exhilaration of passing this measure. The fact that public works could be undertaken and simply given the cursory consideration that they were given when an Appropriation Works and Services Bill was under consideration in the chamber and when honorable senators were without information about far-flung projects, is a somewhat humiliating reflection on anybody who has been in this Parliament, as I have, for some ten years. But at the end of ten years, the establishment of this foundation of parliamentary strength gives a measure of satisfaction.
Mr. Acting Deputy President, I believe that during a period when the economy is fluctuating, and when it is difficult even for the cursory student of finance to comprehend changes in monetary values, it is much more essential than at other times to have a strong committee before which the public servants who prepare these projects must appear and to which they must justify their proposals. They must supply to the committee all the information which section 15 (3.) of the act requires. A reference to that provision shows that the submission to the committee must be accompanied by- . . such plans and specifications or other descriptions as the Minister deems proper together with the prescribed reports on the probable cost of construction and maintenance, and estimates of the probable revenue (if any) to be derived therefrom, such estimates, plans, specifications, descriptions, and reports to be authenticated or verified in the prescribed manner.
My inquiry from the secretary of the Public Works Committee to-day has elicited the information that no regulations have been made prescribing those matters. I trust that this committee will be sufficiently purposeful to see that if regulations are not put through making clear to everybody the type of information that must accompany a submission, at any rate the spread of that subsection will not be neglected by the committee, and that it will insist that with each submission it is provided with reports on the probable cost of construction and maintenance and estimates of probable revenue - not merely estimates, but reports. If this is insisted upon, the purpose of economy will be served, the purpose of integrity will be served, and the purpose of efficiency will be strengthened.
Having said that, I do not want it to be thought that it has escaped my notice that with the fixation of the level at £250,000 the road to by-pass the committee is still not broad1 enough to enable many to travel on it. Two hundred and fifty thousand ducats, as Shylock might say, is still a sizable sum, and if projects are broken: up into a few segments it is possible by ingenuity to escape the committee. These things do not develop from the illicit malice of my mind. I heard my colleague, Senator Anderson, one who is completely free of any reputation of that sort, give expression to a few thoughts that I suggest may be entertained on some odd occasions by us. In my opinion the amount of £250,000 is too high, but for peace and progress in parliamentary development I will accept that figure.
Honorable senators will note that proposed new sub-section (6b.) of section 15 of the act provides that no public work estimated to cost more than £250,000 shall be commenced unless it has been referred to the committee or, alternatively, unless the House of Representatives has resolved that it is expedient that the proposed work shall be carried out without having been referred to the committee. The authority to by-pass the committee is the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives has confidence in a Ministry to-day in which I, too, have confidence, but ministries come and go and Houses of Representatives are becoming increasingly subservient to ministries. Ministries will administer that proposed new sub-section and the Senate will be deprived of any authority to countervail a resolution of the House of Representatives to that effect I will say more as to the distinction in the bill between the House of Representatives and the Senate in a moment.
With regard to the clause that has been referred to as the mandatory clause, 1 believe that it will not only improve the efficiency of public works and improve the cause of integrity, but also by ensuring a uniform rule, ensure a more balanced uniformity in the type and programmes of public works that will be submitted to the Parliament. That is important. You will not have one department persuading a Minister at one interview that a certain work should be proceeded with and then, a couple of months later, in another interview seeking approval to proceed with another undertaking. If all public works estimated to cost more than £250,000 must come under the scrutiny of one committee, with all the experience at its command, you will get a balanced and uniform outlook that will tend to correct the state of affairs referred to by Senator Laught - capital construction in some capital cities and hirings only in others. So, with those misgivings, the mandatory clause stirs in me a great deal of satisfaction.
The next thing to which I will refer is the exemption in the mandatory clause of defence projects. I listened to the anxiety expressed about this clause by some speakers in this debate but I suggest that they have not examined the clause as closely as they might have done. The clause does not permit a government to by-pass the committee in respect of work such as that being undertaken at present near the American War Memorial. Before a defence project may legitimately escape the consideration of the committee, the Governor-General, by order, must declare that it is for defence purposes and that its reference to the committee would be contrary to the public interest. That would be done in cases where secrecy was essential to security. It could not be done in relation to a project such as the St. Mary’s filling factory unless the project were undertaken not three years after the outbreak, for example, of the Korean war, but urgently and in preparation for an expansion or development of such a local war as the Korean war. Public confidence in the committee would be destroyed if the committee were by-passed in relation to defence projects without any regard to whether consideration by the committee would be contrary to public interest. 1 am not concerned with the exemption from the committee’s scrutiny. I think the paragraph providing for that exemption is most appropriately worded because the ultimate and supreme responsibility of any executive government is provision for defence. A government must have the right to say that certain defence projects cannot properly come under public consideration by a public committee.
Various speakers in the debate have mentioned works outside the Commonwealth. 1 think most of us have been inclined to dismiss such works as unimportant, but I was impressed by a recent speech delivered by the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) in another place. I have in mind countries where we have embassies, and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, Antarctica and other places, when I say that the further a work is from the seat of government, the greater is the need to send emissaries to look over that work. They need not inspect the work physically but all the papers in connexion with it should be before them. The further the proposed work is located from the seat of government, the more essential it is for the Parliament to have the advantage of the committee’s scrutiny. I was inclined to pass this matter over as unimportant, and at midnight last night my frame of mind was that we should be content to do efficient work within the Commonwealth. But further consideration of the matter has led me to change my view, particularly having regard to the most unimpressive and completely unappealing reasons given to Senator Anderson why the committee’s scrutiny should not be extended. When the bill is in the committee stage I propose to ask whether the Public Works Committee should not be responsible for scrutinizing projects in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and the erection of embassies abroad, the cost of which exceeds £250,000. I am certainly not inviting members of the committee to travel internationally. However, if you would like to adopt Senator Matter’s suggestion, authority is already given by the legislation for a sub-committee of the committee to inspect a project in, say, New
Guinea. I would certainly not disapprove of that course because I think that a iittle more scrutiny of the expenditure of money on that tropical country could result in great economies for the taxpayers, even if it involved trips by a few parliamentarians. However, quite apart from that, the committee could be furnished with photographic information and with reports by independent people on, say, the need for an embassy building in New Delhi, or the purchase of land there for the purpose of erecting an embassy building. The mere fact that the law of this country required the submission of such projects for examination by seven, eight or nine people representing all parties in the Parliament - not only people politically affiliated with the government of the day- - would be a deterrent which, I believe, would produce a better sense of responsibility.
I come now to something that disturbs, me. Some members of the Senate seem to be disposed to concede that works which are the responsibility of the National Capital Development Commission are outside the jurisdiction of the Public Works. Committee. That view is based only upon the fact that when the National Capital Development Commission was constituted in 1957 its functions were described in section 1 1 of the relevant act to be - . . to undertake and carry out the planning,, development and construction of the city of Canberra as the National Capital of the Commonwealth.
Sub-section (2.) of section 11 stated -
For that purpose, the Commission is empowered to provide, or arrange for the provision of, within the Australian Capital Territory, buildings, roads, bridges, works for the supply of water or electricity, sewerage or drainage works and other matters and things for, or incidental to, that purpose.
I do not pretend to have given full consideration to this matter on any legal basis, but it strikes me as quite surprising that it could be said that that section of the act enables the commission to proceed with works without complying with a general statute such as the Public Works Committee Act. Senator McCallum is asking me to look at sub-section (3.) of section 11, which states -
The Commission has power to do all things necessary or convenient to be done for or in connexion with, or incidental to, the performance of its functions and the exercise of its powers.
That section adds not a whit, in my view, to the powers of the commission, nor does it detract from the submission I have made. Whether my submission be right or wrong, the figures given in answer to a question which I asked recently disclose that the Government is spending in the Australian Capital Territory in one year 27 per cent, of the capital works vote for that year. That indicates to me that if the Public Works Committee does not have the power to review these works, we ought to see that ere long it does get that power. If you allow a great congestion of expenditure here, right near the bakehouse, as it were, it will mean that the provinces will be starved. I still have some interest in the provinces.
I come now to something in the act which this bill seeks to amend which I find it difficult to accept, namely, the differentiation between the House of Representatives and the Senate in these matters. Honorable senators will notice that section 15 of the act provides that the Minister - not any Minister - or any member of the House of Representatives may move for a matter to be referred to the committee. Subsection (2.) provides that upon the moving of the motion a Minister of State shall furnish to the House an explanation of the proposed work. Sub-section (6.) provides -
After the receipt of the report of the Committee, the House of Representatives shall by resolution declare, either that it is expedient to carry out the proposed work, or that it is not expedient to carry it out.
Sub-section (6a.) provides that the report of the committee shall be to the House of Representatives. Sub-section (7.) states -
A proposed public work which is referred to the Committee in pursuance of this section shall not be commenced unless and until the House of Representatives by resolution declares that it is expedient to carry out the proposed work.
There is a clear discrimination between the two Houses of Parliament in respect of the work of this committee. I seek to find a reason for that. I go to the Constitution, and I find that it provides that a proposed law - not a resolution for the construction of a work - for the appropriation of revenue or money shall not originate in the Senate. However, dealing with the amendment or rejection of what we call a money bill or an appropriation measure, the Constitution most carefully gave to the Senate complete equality of power in relation to the amendment or rejection of a proposed law for the appropriation of revenue or moneys for capital works. The Senate is denied the right of amending an appropriation bill only if it is a bill for the appropriation of moneys for the ordinary annual services of government. In former days, the Senate, with a vigilance that is now to be envied, insisted that appropriation measures should take the form of two bills - an ordinary revenue appropriation bill, which is not amendable, and an appropriation for capital works and services, which is just as freely amendable by this House as by another place.
I find in the provision that prohibits a proposed law for the appropriation of revenue or moneys from originating in the Senate, nothing that justifies a discrimination between the Senate and the House of Representatives in regard to conferring on a committee such as this power to scrutinize a proposed work before construction is commenced. I am not making an issue of that matter to-day. I shall be content with a grateful acceptance of this bill. It represents a strengthening of the Parliament. We will take it while we can get it. But let us remain purposeful and pursuing in our efforts to maintain the authority and responsibilities of this Senate in regard to such an important matter as the appropriation of money for public works.
If our views regarding works outside Australia, or works within the scope of the National Capital Development Commission, or the authority of the Senate, do not prevail by act of Parliament, we shall always have the responsibility, under the Constitution, to scrutinize lists showing proposed expenditure on capital works. Rather than let such lists go through in the perfunctory, unconsidered way of recent years, it will be proper, in reference to many works estimated to cost less than £250,000, and also in reference to other works estimated to cost more than that figure, to delay the passage of the appropriation measure until a committee of the Senate, which has been specially appointed to consider the matter, has obtained from the department concerned all the information that is necessary to justify the proposed expenditure.
If that awkward procedure is the only procedure whereby the Senate’s responsibility can be properly discharged, we shall have to submit to it, with all its inconvenience. On the same subject, I invite consideration of the problem in relation to hirings, referred to by Senator Laught. I invite the honorable senator to consider whether it might be advisable to adopt a course similar to that which I have just mentioned, if hirings continue to escape scrutiny by the Public Works Committee. As we know, long-continued hirings at extravagant rates can be much more wasteful of public money than the purposeful construction or purchase of public assets in the first place. Therefore, I am very interested in the honorable senator’s reference to hirings.
The next matter to which I wish to refer is the proposal to give the committee power to review its own reports. I listened with great attention and some degree of approval to what Senator Anderson had to say last night, but I cannot go all the way with him in imputing to officers the ingenuity to prevent the review of a report by starting on demolition work, in order to forestall the committee. I say that because I think that if the committee has had an opportunity to consider a matter, we as a Parliament have much less right to complain than if there has been no consideration at all by the committee. I do not see any great need to get excited over the fact that the committee has been given the right to review its reports. I should far rather see in the bill a provision that no report of the committee shall be relied on as justification for the commencement of a work unless it has been commenced within a period of three years from the date of the committee’s report. I do not think that a report which is more than three years old is sufficient justification for the department concerned in acting on it. But again, that matter is not in issue so far as T am concerned. I am simply expressing a point of view.
Lastly, I come to the argument that the provision in the bill which has the effect of limiting the expenditure by the committee to £5,000 a year, should be removed. I am sorry that that matter was ever considered as appropriate for discussion during the debate on this bill. I deplore it. I would not support the excision of the limit. I also wish to say that I think that the whole of the authority of a committee such as this should be exercised on days when the Parliament is not sitting. I leave the matter there, having expressed a firm point of view on it, without any animadversion as to what has been the experience of the past.
Having said that, Mr. Deputy President, I conclude by saying that I believe the bill is a notable step forward in the strengthening of the Federal Parliament in an important sphere of its responsibilities. I express my particular gratification to the Senate Ministers who, I have the conviction, have been in great measure responsible for the promotion of the bill.
.- Like other honorable senators who have spoken, I am pleased that this bill has been introduced. I congratulate the Government on its introduction. It is interesting to note that it has taken from 1936, when the provision regarding mandatory references to the committee was removed from the act, until 1960, for the provision to be restored. I do not know who had the pull that enabled that to be done, but I congratulate whoever was responsible for giving the committee what it wanted. After all, the committee must have had a very good reason for thinking that such provision was necessary. Those in charge of the Department of Works must be very strong-minded men. I do not mind strongminded men. In fact, I like them. It seems, however, that until now bureaucracy has won the day.
As other honorable senators have said, this bill contains three main features. The principal feature, of course, is the proposal to make it mandatory that public works which are estimated to cost more than £250,000 must first be referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation. The bill also proposes to give the committee power to review its reports, on condition that no tender has been received for the works with which the reports are concerned. I rose primarily for the purpose of referring to a matter about which I am extremely disappointed. In referring to it, I do not speak from a party political point of view. In Melbourne, on a site of about ten acres - I have not stepped it out - the Commonwealth is erecting a magnificent centre which will eventually house all of its departments in that city. When my friend Senator Henty was a member of the Public Works Committee I said to him, “ Before there is any construction, surely some thought will be given to putting some parking space underneath “. I pass the building fairly often and I do not know what parking arrangements are made. I have never had occasion to find out. Melbourne is a city of 1,500,000 people. The latest records show that there is one registered vehicle for every three, or just fewer than three, persons. The Melbourne City Council and other interested authorities are crying out for parking space. We are pulling down old buildings, as they should be pulled down, and building something that will be a credit to the Commonwealth and give great pleasure to the people of Melbourne. These new offices will be something worth while.
Eventually, the Commonwealth will cease to pay the Albert Park Trust a lot of money in rent and will cease wasting money by renting accommodation in the city at so much a square foot. Speaking from experience in a limited sphere some years ago, I say that it is rather remarkable how departments always want magnificent offices. When a person becomes head of a department, his main object appears to be to make it twice as big, and his next object is to have the floor carpeted. That is all very well when a person is using some one else’s money and not his own. I see nothing wrong in the big Commonwealth project in Melbourne. Great credit should be given to those who had the foresight to acquire the land, but the Commonwealth should consult with the Melbourne City Council so see whether it is not possible to provide parking space not only for the Commonwealth-owned vehicles but also, if the council will come to the party in the matter of expense, for other vehicles.
– We took evidence from the city council in Melbourne. We consulted the council.
– I am delighted to hear it. In this modern age I suppose the first thing a boy or girl, upon becoming eighteen years of age, thinks about is a motor car. It all depends on how the parents are placed whether the car is to be a bomb or an M.G. Where are all these vehicles to go? Many people will have to go to the Department of Social Services and other departments in the new building. Every consideration ought to be given to the parking of their vehicles. It is true that the matter of finance enters into the question. Let us think of the position in other countries. There is a garage of four stories under the gardens in the centre of San Francisco. Why can we not provide something like that here? Why can we not have imagination and look to the future? The Commonwealth needs parking space for its vehicles in the city. It has just bought a building out of the city, in West Melbourne, for the use of its transport. It would save time and expense, and wear on vehicles, if accommodation were available right in the city, and it would be well worth while. I suggest that when the second or third part of the great Commonwealth centre in Melbourne is being examined, the committee should look into the matter and1 consult the people. I do not want the Commonwealth to spend money on a gift to the City of Melbourne, which is wealthy enough. I understand that the area involved is eight or ten acres. Senator Henty may be able to say exactly what it is. The site is bounded by Spring, Exhibition, Latrobe and Lonsdale streets. It is in a wonderful position. I hope that the construction will be expedited and that the Commonwealth will be magnanimous enough to give the little State of Victoria a couple of Commonwealth buildings beyond the Premier’s office in Treasury-place. I was amazed during one budget session to learn the amount of rent that the Commonwealth paid. An equivalent amount in interest and sinking fund payments would provide a tremendous amount of capital. I say with the greatest respect that it seems as though some people are not as careful as I would desire them to be in spending the people’s money. I have no reason to suggest that they are wasteful, but I think that they could be much more careful. I have no doubt that similar conditions apply in every State of the Commonwealth.
The bill contemplates three main alterations of the act. I suppose that, taking all things into consideration, the most important is the provision that it shall be mandatory to investigate projects costing £250,000. I listened with great pleasure to Senator Wright, but I disagreed with him on one small matter. I am not worried about whether the committee spends over £5,000 a year, as long as the Commonwealth is getting service for the expenditure. I would be as keen as is Senator Wright to put my foot down if the committee spent £1,000 and the Commonwealth did not get equivalent service.
The bill is something of which the Minister and the Government have a right to be proud. 1 was amazed when I read it. Certainly the people who wanted1 these amendments had a long run, and I am pleased that it has come to an end. I am not altogether happy with the department. I have had some dealings with it in relation to another property in which I am interested. It is the first department that I have ever known to attempt to make water run up a hill. I suggested that a decent gutter should be laid at Albert Park, to be left when the Commonwealth vacated the park. During my lifetime I have dealt with many engineers, all excellent fellows and1 some of them good engineers, but in my view they always seem to leave something for the future. It seems that, in the majority of cases, they always do a job in such a way that after they leave it they can come back again later. All I hope is that in practice the bill turns out as the majority of honorable senators expect. I am a great believer in the principle that Parliament, through its representatives, should have the right to investigate these matters. When this committee has finished its deliberations it should submit its report to this House, which should be given the opportunity at all times to discuss it. Therefore, I believe that the nation’s money is being well spent on the activities of the committee, as far as that is practicable. No one objects to spending money in any sphere so long as value is being obtained.
It certainly annoys every one to learn - I was amazed when I was told - that there is one storey underneath the new Commonwealth building in Melbourne. Let us hope that you will build about six before you are finished. The building should have at least four underground stories. I appreciate that it is necessary to consider the economic angle.
– It would whack up the costs.
– Yes, but it whacks up the costs when you buy buildings a couple of miles out of the city and your cars are driving through all the impediments of heavy traffic. I should be surprised if the Melbourne City Council would not have some great interest in the matter. If you do not want the parking space, invite the Melbourne City Council to say whether it is interested. No more vehicles can be parked in the streets of Melbourne, and the council cannot put in more parking meters anywhere. So traffic authorities have to go underground for space because cars cannot be parked in the air unless they have something on which to rest. If we are to keep the city of Melbourne as prosperous as it is more parking space must be obtained. I hope that when this committee investigates further projects in the big Commonwealth square in Melbourne, it will take the opportunity, even on its own initiative, to begin inquiries to ascertain whether the area can be used. To my mind it was an economic disaster to lose the space.
This bill gives the Public Works Committee more opportunity to serve than it has had in the past, and I hope that it will do so in a manner that will do credit to the members and great service to the nation.
[4.20]. - in reply - Having listened to the contributions to the debate from both sides of the chamber, I believe that the bill is welcomed by all honorable senators. Endeavours have been made to amend the act to bring in the mandatory provision that was included in the original act but has been withdrawn for quite a number of years. I stated in moving the second reading of the bill that honorable senators should perceive that any proposed public work estimated to cost more than £250,000 would, in a normal course of events, be considered by the Public Works Committee. Although some honorable senators prefer a lower figure, the fact is that costs over the past ten, fifteen or twenty years have increased very considerably beyond what they were when the mandatory provision appeared in the original act. I consider that the amount of £250,000 is adequate. Of course, the cost of many buildings constructed by the Department of Works exceeds that amount.
There has been quite a discussion about capital works in the Australian Capital Territory, and one project that has been brought to the notice of the Senate is that being undertaken at Russell Hill. I point out that it is not because this is a defence work that it is not referred to the Public Works Committee for examination. The project is being built by the National Capital Development Commission, which, as a statutory authority, may authorize such works without first referring them to the Public Works Committee. There are other statutory bodies of the same type such as the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electricity Authority. Parliament provides each of them with a lump sum each year which the body may use in the way that it thinks is to the best advantage.
The Department of Works obtained an opinion from the Attorney-General’s Department in regard to its authority in dealing with such statutory bodies as the National Capital Development Commission; and I think that it is only fair to read an extract from the opinion given in this matter -
The Public Works CommitteeAct does not permit either the Minister or the House to refer to the Committee works proposed to be constructed by a Statutory Authority of the Commonwealth.
Where Parliament creates a Statutory Authority, the Constituent Act will usually invest in the Authority itself the power to decide what works it will require to carry out. The Statute will usually authorize the construction of these works, subject, of course, where appropriate, to the necessary funds being available.
Section 15 of the Act refers to Public Works which are, broadly, those works in the control of, or at least in the initiative, of the Executive Council. Statutory Authorities set up by the Commonwealth are not, in general, included in the expression “the Commonwealth”.
If a work decided upon by a Statutory Authority pursuant to its special Act were referred to the Committee, a veto would in substance be given to the House of Representatives upon the exercise by the Statutory Authority of the powers which had been conferred upon it by the Parliament.
For the reasons outlined, therefore, works provided from funds under the control of the National Capital Development Commission are not subject to the Pubic Works Committee Act.
That gives authority for these statutory bodies, and particularly the National Capital Development Commission, to go on with these works without their being referred to the Public Works Committee.
Mention has also been made of the fact that the Public Works Committee has no power to investigate works in Territories of the Commonwealth, particularly in Papua and New Guinea. A decision was obtained from the Attorney-General’s Department on this question also. The decision reads as follows: -
As the Act at present stands I think that only public works “ in and of the Commonwealth “ may be referred to the Committee, and works to be carried out in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea do not, in my opinion, answer this description.
Section 21 of the Acts Interpretation Act, so far as it is relevant, provides as follows: - “ In any Act, unless the contrary intention appears -
references to localities jurisdictions and other matters and things shall be construed as references to such localities jurisdictions and other matters and things in and of the Commonwealth.”
In my opinion, no intention is indicated in the Public Works Committee Act that section 21 (b) of the Acts Interpretation Act is not to apply. It follows that it is necessary to interpret the function given to the Committee by Section 14 of the Public Works Committee Act to “ consider any report upon any public work “ as limited to public works “ in and of the Commonwealth “. A public work proposed to be carried out in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea may perhaps be a public work “ of “ the Commonwealth but not “ in “ the Commonwealth. The expression “ Commonwealth “ does not, unless specially defined, include external Territories.
Further section 35(1.) of the Papua and New Guinea Act, 1947-57 provides as follows: -
An Act or provision of an Act (whether passed before or after the commencement of this Act) shall not, except as otherwise provided by that Act or any other Act, be in force as such in the Territory or any part thereof unless expressed to extend thereto.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works is established under the Public Works Committee Act 1913-53 and its powers and functions are set out in Part III. of that Act. The Act is not expressed to extend to Papua and New Guinea, and it is clear, in my view, that by virtue of section 33 (1 .) of the Papua and New Guinea Act it is not in force in that Territory. It follows, therefore, that the Committee could not exercise its powers and functions in relation to works in Papua or New Guinea.
In my view, therefore, public works to be carried out in Papua and New Guinea, whether for the Administration or for a Commonwealth Department, are outside the scope of the Committee’s powers and functions, as the Act at present stands.
It appears, therefore, that the Public Works Committee has no power to go to Papua or New Guinea to investigate public works, or to report upon any works proposed to be undertaken in those Territories.
Reference was also made during the debate to the amounts of money available for the administration of the committee. It was suggested that £5,000 was not enough for the committee to carry on its work. The Minister has informed me that the amount of £5,000 has so far been quite sufficient but that if it is found that this amount is not enough to carry on the work of the committee, favorable consideration will be given to any request for an increase. The Minister does not desire to obstruct the work of the committee in any way. He realizes the value of its work, as do other members of the Government. I myself was a member of the Public Works Committee when it was disbanded during the depression, and again when it was reformed in 1936, and I know of the valuable work that the committee has done in the past, and what a great step forward is represented by the introduction of this bill. I know that the Minister wishes to work in close co-operation with the committee and is out to help it in every way possible. This bill incorporates practically all the suggestions that the committee put before the Minister and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). I think there is one suggestion that has not been adopted, but, by and large, all the committee’s requests have been acceded to. I believe that much good will result from this measure. The committee will be able to tackle much more work than it has done in the past, and if it requires any help or advice I am quite sure that the Minister for the Interior will be only too glad to do what he can to assist.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Conditions precedent to commencement of public works).
.- This clause seeks to amend section 1 5 (8.) of the Principal Act, which defines “ public work “.
I move -
At end of clause, add the following new paragraph:
by inserting at the end of sub-section (8.) the following words “ and includes any public work whether within or without the Commonwealth “.
The whole purpose of clause 6 (b) of the bill is to provide what has been referred to as the mandatory provision, to prevent the commencement of works estimated to cost more than £250,000 until they have been referred to the committee. As the Minister has said, section 21 of the Acts Interpretation Act has been relied upon to restrict the meaning of the words “ public works “ to works in and of the Commonwealth. It is certainly worth while to spend a minute or two in examining these things most thoroughly.
Section 21 (b) of the Acts Interpretation Act provides that in any act, unless the contrary intention appears, references to matters and things shall be construed as references to matters and things in and of the Commonwealth. Therefore, unless the contrary intention appears, it is said - and I do not dispute it - that “ public works “ here, prima facie, means public works in the Commonwealth.
I should like honorable senators to follow the sequence here. Section 15 (6a.) of the Public Works Committee Act - the principal act - provides that the Public Works Committee shall report to the House of Representatives. Section 15 (7.) provides -
A proposed public work which is referred to the Committee in pursuance of this section shall not be commenced unless and until the House of Representatives by resolution declares that it is expedient to carry out the proposed work.
Proposed new sub-section (6b) reads -
A proposed public work the estimated cost of which exceeds Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds shall not be commenced unless -
the proposed work has been referred to the Committee in pursuance of this section:
Therefore, sub-sections (6a.) and (7.) and proposed new sub-section (6b.) are the substance of the original section 15 of the act. Sub-section (8.) provides -
For the purpose of this section “ public work” includes any work which is a continuation, completion, repair, re-construction or extension of a public work.
My amendment, which has been circulated, seeks to add the words “and includes any public work whether within or without the Commonwealth “. However, in view of the information that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) has just given us, I shall ask for leave to amend my amendment in a minute or two
The acceptance of my amendment in its present form would indicate in the Public Works Committee Act an intention contrary to section 21 of the Acts Interpretation Act which will not have to be amended but simply yields to any other legislation that indicates a contrary intention. lt seems to me to be appropriate to amend the definition of “ public work “ in section 15 (8.) of the principal act, which includes a continuation, completion, repair, re-construction, or extension of a public work, if honorable senators desire the Public Works Committee to scrutinize works outside the Commonwealth, by adding, as in my amendment, the words “ and includes any public work whether within or without the Commonwealth “. That, I venture to suggest, would cover an embassy in India or a project in Antarctica. But in view of the provision that the Minister has read from the Papua and New Guinea Act, when he reminded us that none of our statutes would thenceforth extend to Papua and New Guinea unless there was an express extension to the Territory, I ask for leave to amend my amendment so as to read -
At end of clause, add the following new paragraph: -
by inserting at the end of sub-section 8 the following words “ and includes any public work in Papua or New Guinea or within or without the Commonwealth.”.
Amendment - by leave - amended.
– That expressly brings in Papua and New Guinea.
– Yes, it is necessary expressly to refer to them if the purpose is to extend the powers of the Public Works Committee to Papua and New Guinea, in view of the provision in the Papua and New Guinea Act that the Minister read to us when replying to the second-reading debate. I need not canvass the merits of the matter - they were referred to sufficiently by various honorable senators during the second-reading debate - but it does seem to me to be particularly important in relation to Papua and New Guinea that a committee of this Parliament should have authority to scrutinize a project there, because the Commonwealth provides money for the development of that Territory. It was pointed out to us when the income tax legislation was before us a little while ago that a new scheme of income tax has been introduced in respect of New Guinea by this Parliament through the Legislative Council of New Guinea. It was brought home to us, I think, that the measure of legislative authority that has been conceded to the Territory leaves a very loose constitutional connexion between this Parliament and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. One thing that has been exercising the minds of many members of the Parliament, both here and in another place, is the fact that, by reason of the qualified measure of legislative authority that has been given to a predominantly nominated legislature in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, and an administration that is responsible only to the Minister for Territories, this Parliament, which votes between £9,000,000 and £11,000,000 annually for the development of the Territory, has, in effect, no control over the expenditure of that money. In matters such as the alteration of company law or income tax law this Parliament, as such, is not consulted, but the Minister for Territories is hearkened to by the Legislative Council for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea in relation to matters concerning amendments of the laws of the Territory. We have a situation where, in relation to legislation, this Parliament has only that single ministerial link with the Legislative Council for the Territory. I wish merely to express my anxiety in a constitutional sense at the weakness of our position as a parliament. At this time, when we are dealing with the power of a parliamentary committee to scrutinize public works, it is appropriate that we should extend the authority of the committee to scrutinize proposed public works in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
I ask the committee to consider my proposal.
– Senator Wright’s amendment is an interesting one. I have not previously spoken to this bill although I was a member of the Public Works Committee for a long time and for a while had the honour of being chairman of the committee. I am fully aware of the value of the work done by the committee, the responsibility that it carries and the responsible attitude adopted by members of the committee towards their deliberations. At any time I am prepared to pay a tribute to the work of the committee. i want to refer first to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. We must be careful that we do not intrude into the jurisdiction of another parliament. The Territory has, of course, its own Legislative Council, upon which are elected members and nominated members. As Senator Wright pointed out, at present the Council is predominantly a nominated body, but we must not overlook the fact that included in its membership are the elected representatives of the indigenous peoples of the Territory, in whom we are endeavouring to inculcate the art of self-government. Each year this Parliament votes a sum of money to the Territory. That sum is open to scrutiny by this Parliament when the measure to appropriate it is before us. The money having’ been voted to the Territory, the Legislative Council for the Territory then has jurisdiction to allocate that money to the public works programme of the Territory. The Council allocates not only the money voted by this Parliament but also that derived from revenue raised within the Territory itself by way of taxes and, at present, from the interesting experiment now being conducted of raising a loan in the Territory for capital works.
Much as I admire the work of the Public Works Committee, I would approach with caution any attempt to allow it to intrude upon the work of another parliament. That point of view should be taken into account because we are striving to bring about as soon as possible selfgovernment of the Territory - though accomplishment of that ideal may be a long way off yet. The eyes of the world are upon us in our dealings with our Territories. It would not be wise to write this amendment into the act because existing conditions may change. In fact, the legislature of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is at present actively considering setting up a works committee similar to our own. I believe that we would be better advised from every point of view to reject this amendment insofar as it applies to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Let the Territory handle work that is within the jurisdiction of its own parliament, in the hope that before long that parliament will cease to be predominantly an appointed parliament and will become an elected parliament as the Territory grows and attains self-government, and as the concept of responsibility in the native population develops. We should give our blessing to the Legislative Council’s proposal to set up its own public works committee. We should express the hope that that proposal will soon come to fruition, because we know the worth of our own committee and how useful a similar committee in the Territory could be.
I do not think we would willingly intrude on the work of another parliament in a Territory beyond the Commonwealth. I am fully aware that each year the Commonwealth votes a sum of money to this Territory. The way in which that money is expended is open to our scrutiny at the time we vote it.
– Can the Minister tell us when this Parliament exercised1 any say in the capital works involved in the money so voted?
– My understanding is that it is a block sum.
– And we do not have any say in the allocation of the money to particular projects?
– We have a say in the amount that is made available.
– Have we any say in the work to which it will be applied?
– No, that falls within the jurisdiction of the Legislative Council for the Territory. We vote a block amount to the Territory. If we wish we may reduce the amount in any year. Having voted the money, its expenditure on particular works should be left in the hand’s of the Legislative Council for the Territory. We should strongly support the efforts of the Papua and New Guinea Administration to set up its own public works committee because all of us know the value of the work that is done by our own committee.
– Through you, Mr. Chairman, I should like to ask the mover of the amendment why he has segregated Papua and New Guinea - why he has not included Nauru, Ocean Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and other Territories.
.- The reason is that before a statute of this Parliament can apply to Papua and New Guinea, express provision for that must be made in the statute. That is provided for in the Papua and New Guinea Act. The words “ within or without the Commonwealth “ would apply to those other places that Senator Kendall has mentioned if we were proposing to commence public works there.
– Open confession is good for the soul. I find myself in a position of some embarrassment. When I spoke during the second-reading debate, following the speech by Senator O’Byrne, I supported the views that he had expressed and I said that I thought there was a case for a review of works expenditure in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
I know that Senator Henty will agree with me when I say that that has always been a matter for discussion by the committee itself. However, whilst members of the committee have agreed that it would be desirable, in the interests of the taxpayers, that some review should be made of certain projects in that Territory from time to time, the advice of the Attorney-General’s Department has been that section 21 of the Acts Interpretation Act precludes the committee from carrying out any such review. I find now that Senator Wright, with his great legal knowledge and skill, has presented us with an amendment which, if accepted, would enable the committee to review works in that Territory. So far nobody on the Government side has said that what the Public Works Committee was led to believe previously was true, and that Senator Wright’s amendment is unconstitutional. In the absence of any such statement by the Government, I accept the position that if this amendment is carried and be incorporated in the legislation, it will be effective. That is my first point.
Senator Henty, however, has put forward the view - I do not think there is any reason for me to be inhibited about this and not disclose that I have discussed the matter with the appropriate Minister - that the Territory has a government which has the power to levy taxes, that the money which we in this Parliament vote for the Territory is consolidated with the money which the residents of the Territory pay in taxation, and that some of that money finds its way into capital expenditure. Further, we are told that the governing body in the Territory - no matter whether it is a completely nominated body or not - is contemplating setting up a Public Works Committee. Then we are told that in any case it is the government of the Territory that decides how the money shall be spent on public works.
I find myself in the embarrassing position of having supported during the secondreading stage something that cannot stand the test now being applied to it. I do not propose to walk out when the vote on this amendment is taken. I admit that my contention during the second-reading speech has not been sustained. Therefore, in the circumstances I shall have to vote against the amendment. I should have liked to hear some comments from the Opposition before I rose to speak on this occasion and before I made up my mind. I have great faith in the judgment of Senator McKenna when he speaks during the committee stage of a non-party measure. In the absence of such comments, and as the vote is about to be taken, I feel I must accept the views expressed by Senator Henty. Therefore, I will have to vote against the amendment.
.- I have followed Senator Wright’s argument very closely. I have had discussions on this matter with many people during the past ten years. I have been to Papua and New Guinea on three occasions and I have seen the construction of quite substantial public works in that area. I have heard opinions expressed, similar to those expressed by Senator Kendall, on the high costs in Papua and New Guinea. I assume that works such as aerodromes, airport facilities, wharf installations and postal facilities will not necessarily come under the jurisdiction of the Administration in Papua and New Guinea. They will be done by the Commonwealth; they are works for Commonwealth Government instrumentalities that cannot be duplicated by the Administration in New Guinea.
The committee over the years has felt that there should be some check on the expenditure of Commonwealth funds in the Territory. The amendment that has been moved by Senator Wright gives effect to the spirit of the request of the committee for an extension of its activities and its authority. This matter was referred to the Crown Solicitor’s Office, and the advice given was that the only reason why the committee could not have references of public works in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea was that the Acts Interpretation Act specifically said that a work submitted must be in or of the Commonwealth, and public works in Papua and New Guinea were not in or of the Commonwealth.
No suggestion was ever made to the committee that it would be duplicating local government work, or that it would be intruding on local government authority. If the governing body of the Territory were to appoint a public works committee, that committee could play an important role, and this Parliament could receive reports from it. However, the bulk of the money expended in New Guinea is being supplied by the Australian taxpayers. The purpose of the Public Works Committee, acting within its jurisdiction, is to protect the taxpayers in relation to the expenditure of their money. The amendment, if accepted, would give the Public Works Committee authority - which it would use with great discretion - to report to the Parliament on the expenditure of large amounts of Commonwealth funds in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. For that reason, I intend to support the amendment.
.- When the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) replies, will he tell the committee who will be responsible in years to come for the actual construction of the works mentioned by Senator O’Byrne - airfields and other public works for the Commonwealth Government? Will it be the Commonwealth of Australia or the Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea?
– I have a degree of sympathy with the amendment proposed by Senator Wright. Unfortunately, the amendment is before us at a time when one cannot give it the full consideration that one would like to give to it. At the moment, I am awaiting the receipt of papers which would convey to my mind the order of the advance that we make to the New Guinea Administration. My recollection is that it is in the neighbourhood of £10,000,000 a year.
– It is £13,000,000, and the Administration raises between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000.
– I take it that this Parliament does not make available a sum of that size without at least knowing the general purpose to which it is to be directed. I. take it, also, that there would be an approach by the New Guinea Administration to the Parliament, in the course of which it would be stated that money was required for the ordinary purposes of government and for particular capital works.
Can I be informed as to whether, in the £13,000,000 that we provide, there is a separate allocation for capital works? That matter is relevant to my understanding of the position. I assume that we do not blindly pluck an amount out of the air and appropriate it, but that the Treasury carefully scrutinizes some kind of estimates that are submitted. Because I lack information in that respect, and also as to whether the amount that we provide specifically includes an allocation for public works, I am hesitant about the matter. I certainly was impressed by the argument that Senator Henty addressed to the committee. My instinct is not to interfere with the jurisdiction of another legislature, no matter how embryonic it may be. I accept the view that the honorable senator put, that the Administration should be encouraged to assume, as speedily as possible, all the proper responsibilities of self-government, and that as it develops it will increasingly resent dictation from outside. I think that there is a degree of delicacy in this matter and that we need to handle it carefully. I hesitate to make up my mind until I have received more information. If we are forced to a vote on the amendment instanter, since I am in doubt about it, I am afraid I shall not be able to support it. I hope I shall receive more information before we proceed to a vote.
What I have said so far has been related to New Guinea. The amendment proposed by Senator Wright goes further and proposes to include public works, whether they are within or without the Commonwealth. As I understand the position, the Minister or the Parliament may refer to the committee a work of any estimated cost. It is mandatory that a work be referred if it is estimated to cost more than £250,000. It may well be desirable to look at what we are doing in regard to the construction of embassies, in particular, throughout the world. Big sums of money come into the picture. Our country likes to preserve its prestige in the eyes of other nations, and the tendency is to expend very substantial amounts on our embassies, trade missions and so on. I should be happier to think that the door was open to the Public Works Committee to have a look at such projects. I take it that the intention is not necessarily that the committee should travel round the world to look at sites and buildings. I assume that a project of that kind could be examined in Australia without a visit to the actual site.
– That would depend on the committee, would it not?
– I assume that that would be a matter for the committee to determine and that the committee also would have to determine the funds that could be made available for that purpose.
I should like information regarding the extent to which funds would be available to the committee to enable it to travel to, say, India, Russia or some other country. I do not think that the committee would act irresponsibly, but one hardly likes to open the door to enable it, or a subcommittee, to proceed to visit projects all over the world. I should like information, if it can be given to me, to indicate how the travel scope of the committee is to be controlled, and whether that is to be done by means of the amount that is provided, or in other ways.
The committee will appreciate that the Australian Labour Party as a body has had no opportunity to consider this matter, which has arisen only this afternoon. It may be that I shall have to take the responsibility, on behalf of the party, to determine what we shall do about the matter, but at this stage I indicate that I should like more information and an opportunity to look at more of the facts of the situation before 1 express a final opinion.
– When I dealt earlier this afternoon with the points that are the subject of Senator Wright’s amendment, I had no idea in my mind that an amendment would be submitted to resolve those points. Rather, 1 was anxious to emphasize to the Senate my regret, as a member of the committee, that although those matters could have been the subject of fruitful discussion between the Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) and the committee, no such consultation had taken place. I raised the matters to show that there was a prima facie case for scrutiny of expenditure of Commonwealth tax money by the New Guinea authorities, and also a prima facie case for the examination of plans and specifications, and costs and conditions related to the erection of Commonwealth buildings in other countries in which, as our foreign affairs activities expand, new embassies, legations and residences have to be built. Of course, I promptly ruled out, as completely impracticable, the idea that the Public Works Committee should be sent to various parts of the world to determine such matters, but I thought there was room for preliminary examination by public works officers here, which could help us, and also the Minister for External Affairs, in respect of such building projects.
I raised those matters with the object of gently chiding the Minister for Works for not having come down and had a talk with the members of the committee, or for not having asked us to go to his office and have a talk with him, since we are experienced in such matters. If he had been able to present, against our advocacy, arguments that were effective, there the matter would have ended. I had no intention of pushing it to the extent of an amendment, or of supporting an amendment on the subject. Of course, I would not be prepared to support an amendment of that kind, because I take into account that, whatever are the rights and the wrongs of the matter, the Commonwealth Government has determined it and there it stands.
I do not want to fool around with this bill. I assure honorable senators that the committee has battled hard to have the measure introduced. If the bill had to go back to the House of Representatives because of an amendment that had been carried in this chamber, its passage might be delayed and a considerable period might elapse before it became operative. The Public Works Committee sees in the bill as it stands great opportunities for lessening waste, loss and extravagance, and 1 shall not take the risk of non-return of the bill for a lengthy period in order to give a direction to the House of Representatives in accordance with with the amendment. In those circumstances, I regret that I am unable to support the amendment.
.- I always enjoy references by Senator Maher to any matter, especially in committee, but we, with his spirit, have not got to the stage where we have to speak with bated breath, saying, “ Please may I submit an amendment? If I do, will it cause Minister to be in a huff, and will he huff and puff and blow the house down? “ If Senator Maher had been in the chamber during my speech at the second-reading stage, he would have known what my attitude to the bill was.
– You were a big help in the first place in getting it.
– I am grateful for the credit given by the Minister. While he was not here I paid due credit to the contribution that he, out of his experience, made. I hope that the Senate will not heed the suggestion that if we put forward an amendment it will give rise to a spirit of reprisal on the part of a responsible Minister, with the result that even if he rejects the amendment he will deprive the Parliament of the benefits of the bill. To my dear colleague, Senator Maher, as well as to others who sit around, I say in the kindliest and friendliest spirit that those views are not worthy of our purpose.
I rise also to acknowledge that on an occasion like this, on a Thursday afternoon, an amendment can attract the attention of perhaps a few more than are usually present at such a time in the Senate. I am not here to sit dumb and silent and to accept whatever is the product of the government of the day. We shall debate it. 1 am one of those who acknowledge the manner in which the debate upon this amendment has increased the knowledge, first, of the members of the Public Works Committee who have, I should think, a peculiar responsibility to be adequately informed upon this matter. I am glad that the amendment has produced knowledge for the members of the committee, because we heard last night that the sole reason for denying the committee authority to scrutinize the votes for Papua and New Guinea was this rather smooth section 21 of the Acts Interpretation Act.
When a member of the committee in debate in the Senate was satisfied with that argument as denying the purpose of the committee in relation to Papua and New Guinea, I thought it was needful to look into it, and I did so. I thought it was a most flimsy answer. Before we had the advantage of Senator Sir Walter Cooper’s reminder of the specific terms of the Papua and New Guinea Act, I expressed my intention of introducing an amendment to this effect. Since it was brought forward, we have heard from Senator Henty quite thoughtful observations, of a factual kind, as to the way in which the public finance of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is supplied. I have sent for the Budget papers but they are not yet to hand. In the papers before me I have the civil list programme that accompanied the Appropriation (Capital Works and Services) Bill last year. To my surprise, there are in that list only two items for Papua and New Guinea. There are works in progress for the Department of Shipping and Transport, to cost £25,188, and proposed new works to cost £12,000. The total cost of the programme is £37,188, and the estimated expenditure is £35,000. The Department of Shipping and Transport is to erect in Madang a coast-watchers’ memorial light to cost £21.500, and sundry works are to cost £24,400, making a total of £45,900.
Those matters are mere midgets and entirely different in significance from matters that were mentioned to me in conversation by members of the Public Works Committee, who gave me to understand that hospitals were to be undertaken at Lae to the tune of £1,500,000 each. But if the position is, as I have no doubt it is, in view of Senator Henty’s statement, that we vote a block sum and the appropriation of that sum is the function of the New Guinea parliament, there is a lot of force in his submission that we should leave the scrutiny of that appropriation to the responsibility of that parliament. Unless we have additional information, that leaves me in such a state of doubt as to the wisdom of extending the jurisdiction of the committee to Papua and New Guinea that I would prefer not to assert that principle in relation to that Territory. Therefore, I ask for leave to withdraw from my amendment the words “ in Papua and New Guinea “.
Amendment - by leave - further amended.
– I now submit my amendment in its original form, that is, with application to works within or without the Commonwealth. I have indicated that this is a matter deserving of consideration. I doubt whether there are any projects outside the Commonwealth, otherwise than in Papua and New Guinea - there are certainly not many - exceeding £250,000 in cost. So the mandatory provision would have little application externally, but inasmuch as the clause enables a reference to be made to the committee by resolution of the House of Representatives of a work to cost less than £250,000, the amendment to extend authority outside Australia, other than to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, still deserves consideration, because I believe that we have a prime example of irresponsible waste in many of our embassies that are erected abroad, if a sample of those which other countries erect in Canberra can be taken as a guide.
– Does this amendment bring in the Australian Capital Territory?
– This amendment would not have any effect upon the argument vis-a-vis the Australian Capital Territory.
– The withdrawal of part of the amendment seems to have been influenced by the argument put forward by Senator Henty that we must leave jurisdiction over the expenditure of moneys in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea to the Legislative Council for that Territory. I am still of the opinion that this authority should reside in the Public Works Committee. The Northern Territory has a legislative council - a similar administrative body - some members of which are elected and others selected. Over the past years the Public Works Committee has had referred to it such works in Darwin as the supreme court building, the high school, the wharf installations, the electricity generating station and the administrative block, to mention just a few. I have not heard any argument put forward by the Government that the Public Works Committee should not extend its inquiries into the Northern Territory, which is being encouraged to have local government and to establish local autonomy. Therefore, the argument that the Territory of Papua, in particular, which forms part of the Commonwealth, is sacrosanct and yet the Northern Territory itself is an open go, is drawing a fine line of distinction between one Territory and another. If the public works expenditure in the Northern Territory is subject to report to Parliament by the Public Works Committee, the same principles should apply to public works in the Territory of Papua and the Trust Territory of New Guinea, if necessary.
This is the point I want to make: Is the Senate afraid to face up to a report that is made in all good faith to assist the Parliament, to assure the Parliament? Is the Senate afraid of a report of the committee which it has helped to create? Does the Senate distrust its committee? If the committee had power to select or if special works were to be referred to it, that would be all that would be needed. At present the committee is precluded from reporting to the Parliament on the expenditure of public money in these Territories. If it were a power that was to be misused, if the Public Works Committee were an untrustworthy instrumentality, if the Commonwealth had anything to hide in the expenditure of public money in those areas I could understand the denial of the authority to the Public Works Committee.
I must say that all these arguments would have been avoided if the committee had had the opportunity to discuss these matters with the Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth). Who is more competent than the committee itself to know what it has been doing over the past 20 or 30 years? The Minister is on the job only for a few - a very few - years. This seems to be the department to which there is a Sputnik approach. Ministers for Works are going one way and the other and being projected into space. But the committee is like Old Man River - it just keeps rolling along, come Ministers and Parliaments, and in time it learns a bit about its own activities. Therefore, I consider that many of these arguments would have been avoided if the Minister had paid the members of the committee the courtesy of discussing the matter with that very able gentleman, the chairman of the Public Works Committee, who was formerly the Minister for Works, or had asked some of them about matters that had been exercising their minds. I am not criticizing this particular Senate, but the fact that 24 years elapsed before the committee was able to persuade a Minister to implement at least one of its long-felt desires reflects no credit on the public servants who have advised the Minister along the way or on the persons responsible for the delay that occurred between the making of the suggestion and its implementation.
Like Senator Kennelly I think that this Minister has had a great victory in breaking through the barrier, as it were, of the reticence of his public service advisers on this matter. It is a rare distinction because over the years not one but three Prime Ministers have promised the committee that they would implement this suggestion. Yet each time it went into limbo, into the old pigeonhole and the committee kept on trying to find some way to end the delay. We had deputations. We went to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) who was kind enough, after hearing our representations, to say that our suggestion was a good idea. We had a drink after the discussion. We received the best of palsy-walsy treatment from the Prime Minister. That was three years ago. Now the present Minister has done it and I compliment him on his achievements.
When the members of the committee heard about the amendment that has been put forward we talked about it. We wanted to have a look at the hospital that has been built at Port Moresby, at a cost, I understand, of between £500,000 and £750,000, but we found that it was not “ in or of the Commonwealth “. I understand there is a proposal for a substantial hospital to be built at Lae. Almost certainly, installations are to be erected in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea directly by Commonwealth departments and not by the local administration. Authority should reside in the Public Works Committee to scrutinize those works. I should like some one with the initiative to move that progress be reported so that the Minister could have about an hour with the Public Works Committee. The members could straighten out all these difficulties with him and there would be an opportunity to introduce a little co-operation between the Minister for Works and Minister for the Interior on the one hand and this very important Parliamentary institution, the Public Works Committee, on the other hand. This attempt should have been made before, but the time is not too late for it to be made now.
.- I have now obtained the Budget papers which disclose, in the section relating to Capital Works and Services, that a substantial appropriation of £400,000 was made this year to the Administration of Papua and New Guinea for loans to ex-servicemen in agricultural enterprises. The only other item of a capital works nature was an appropriation of £39,500 for lighthouse services. The total amount appropriated this financial year for Capital Works and Services in Papua and New Guinea was £439,000. In the Budget papers the vote for this year for the ordinary services in those Territories appears in these terms -
Grant to Administration towards expenses, including native welfare, development, war damage and reconstruction, £12,000,000.
Six subsidiary items amount, at a glance, to about £250,000. That does confirm the suggestion that the Parliament makes a sum available to the Administration of Papua and New Guinea, which then has the direct responsibility for its expenditure.
– Section 15 of the act provides that the Minister or any member of the House of Representatives may move that a proposed public work be referred by that House to the committee for a report. I invite Senator Wright to say, merely looking at that provision, whether it would not. refer to public works within or without the Commonwealth. Tt seems to me that it might well do so. I take it that it would constitute a public work if we constructed a building in Russia or in the United Kingdom. It is a public work carried out at the instance of the Parliament. It occurs to me, having given the matter such limited thought as 1 have been able to give it, that the term “ public work “ - which is defined in sub-section (8.) of section IS of the act as including a work which is a continuation, completion, repair, reconstruction, or extension of a public work - is probably wide enough, once there has been an appropriation for a public work such as, let us say, the construction of an embassy or something else abroad, to include such a work. If this is so, I would suggest that there may not then be a need for this amendment. I would like to have the need for it demonstrated.
Let me refer for a moment to the appropriation for the Department of External Affairs under capital works and services. The actual expenditure in 1958-59 was £166.010, while the estimated expenditure for the current year is £205,000. Even less money is involved, from a consideration of both past expenditure and current estimates, than in the case of Papua and New Guinea, where the actual expenditure last year was £187,000, and the contemplated expenditure for this year, on capital works, £439,000. This implies that some thought has been given, in the preparation of the estimates, to the particular projects. I would be interested to know whether Senator Wright thinks, on further consideration, that there is any need to define public works as being works within or without the Commonwealth, or whether this concept is not already covered in the section.
.- The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) directed attention to section 21 of the Acts Interpretation Act, which reads, omitting the irrelevant portions -
Tn any act. unless the contrary intention appears . . references to . . . matters and things shall be construed as references to such . . . matters and things in and of the Commonwealth.
On that ground the view is taken that section 15 of the Public Works Committee Act must bc interpreted as relating only to public works within the Commonwealth.
– I would not subscribe to that view, because of the presence of the word “ of “ - “ in and of the Commonwealth “.
– And especially when other terms are included in the Acts Interpretation Act with “ matters and things “. The sub-paragraph contains these words -
References to localities jurisdictions and other matters and things shall be construed as references to such localities jurisdictions and other matters and things in and of the Commonwealth.
But with a natural reticence 1 am disinclined to dispute interpretations that come to me from above. Once I am confronted with them, I prefer the process of correction; hence the amendment. But even that is unimportant when considering in perspective the prime object of the bill. If we consider the position outside Papua and New Guinea, it is unlikely that we will be building an embassy in Egypt. As to London, if there is any gross extravagance in public works there, perhaps it will be thought preferable to send a special representative of the Senate to investigate rather than to trust the Public Works Committee. I suggest, therefore, that, as the matter has received extensive consideration, I be given leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 (Review of reports).
– I do not now propose to move the amendment that has been circulated in my name. The amendment sprang from the hypothetical situation to which I referred in my second-reading speech, in which an investigation by the committee could be prevented because a tender for part of a proposed work had already been accepted. I suggested that on some occasions a good deal of time could elapse between the investigation by the Public Works Committee and the approval of the work by Parliament, and the commencement of the work itself. We all know that in a big project involving more than £250,000 many substantial contracts could be let, not necessarily all to the one tenderer. There could be a tender for the clearing of the site and another for certain excavation work, both of these projects being quite separate from the tender for the main construction job.
However, I do not want to send the bill back to another place for agreement to an unimportant amendment if that will in any way delay the passage of the bill. Like other members of the Senate, I am delighted to see the inclusion of the mandatory provision. For this reason I will refrain from moving the amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 10 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Wright) agreed to -
That Notice of Motion No. 1 - General Business - be postponed until the next day of sitting.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That further consideration of General Business be postponed until after the consideration of Government business.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to alter the number of judges, in addition to the chief judge, who may be appointed to the Commonwealth Industrial Court. The alteration is to increase the number of judges from two to three, making, with the chief judge, four judges in all.
The Conciliation and Arbitration Act at present provides, in respect of many matters, for a quorum of two judges to exercise the jurisdiction of the court. The Constitution requires judges of the court to be appointed for life; consequently, it is not possible to appoint to the court an acting judge when one or more of the judges of the court are unable to act or when the work of the court is, at any given time, more than three judges can deal with.
Mr Justice Dunphy, a member of the Industrial Court, proceeded on six months’ extended leave of absence on 1st May. Only two judges are, therefore, now available to do the work of the court. This is an unsatisfactory situation as, in the event of the illness of one judge, or some other call on his time, a quorum of two judges would not be available to constitute the court.
There is, however, a further complication. For some time, some of the judges of the Commonwealth Industrial Court have been performing the functions of the judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory during the illness of the “regular” judge of that court, Mr. Justice Simpson. Owing to the fact that Mr. Justice Simpson’s health has not improved sufficiently to enable him to resume his place on the Supreme Court Bench, His Honour has now resigned from office.
Until another appointment is made to the Supreme Court, the judges of the Industrial Court will be asked to exercise the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in Canberra. While, under the amendments made in 1958 to the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act, a judge of the Industrial Court can be given a commission as a judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, a judge of the Supreme Court cannot be appointed to perform the functions of the Commonwealth Industrial Court.
The present situation is, therefore, that there are at present only two judges to perform the work of the Commonwealth Industrial Court and the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. As I have indicated, experience has shown that there should always be three judges of the Industrial Court available, even apart from the work of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. This bill, therefore, proposes to provide for an additional judge of the Industrial Court. However, as on Mr. Justice Dunphy’s return there will be four judges available, it is not proposed at the moment to replace Mr. Justice Simpson. On Mr. Justice Dunphy’s return the position will be the same as when the
Commonwealth Industrial Court was set up and Mr. Justice Simpson was exercising the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory - that is, there will be four judges doing the work usually done by four judges.
The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) has had under consideration the question of what further jurisdiction of a general character as distinct from an industrial character could be conveniently and appropriately added to the jurisdiction now vested in the Industrial Court. If and when any such jurisdiction is added, the question of the number of judges necessary to perform the court’s work as thus enlarged can be reconsidered. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That further consideration of Government business be postponed until after the consideration of General Business, Order of the Day No. 2.
Debate resumed from 16th March (vide page 165), on motion by Senator Laught -
That the following paper: -
River Murray Waters Act - Annual Report of the River Murray Commission, together with statements of gaugings and diversions, for year 1958-59- be printed.
– Mr. Deputy President, this matter comes before the Senate this evening as a result of my friend, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) presenting to the Senate some weeks ago the annual report of the River Murray Commission for the year 1958-59. We in this Senate are interested in this report because the Commonwealth Government is one of the contracting governments under clause 9 of the River Murray Agreement. My colleagues from South Australia and I are intensely interested in this report, because the Government of the State that we have the honour to represent in this Senate is also one of the contracting parties to the agreement. I am sure that all South Australian senators will be interested in a study of the report for the year 1958-59. The reports for the years 1959-60 and 1960-61 will also be of immense interest to them, for the reasons that I will give shortly.
I can be very brief in summarizing this report. First, I should like to compliment the Government Printer in Melbourne on the physical presentation of this report. It was printed in Victoria, and it is interesting to recall that the Victorian Government is a contracting party to the agreement. The report is beautifully printed. The photographs embodied in the report have been well taken and well reproduced, and the statistical tables at the back of the report are easy to follow and understand. Generally, the report is one of the most creditable documents that have been laid on the table of the Senate.
The main features of the year under review were the getting into shape of the River Murray Commission after some very important amendments were made to the River Murray Waters Agreement by this Parliament and the Parliaments of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.
The Senate will remember that South Australian senators, in particular, on both sides of the chamber, were intensely interested in the disputes that took place about the waters of the Murray about two years ago. Apparently everything is now settling down. A most encouraging statement appears on page 4 of the report. That statement reads -
South Australia will benefit from the amendment to this clause-
That is, clause 51 of the agreement - as it provides that, in a period of restriction, the net additional diversion from the Snowy River to the River Murray will be shared between the three States in the same proportions as in the distribution of the natural flow of the River Murray.
So, more power to the elbow, as it were, of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. Another very interesting statement appears at the foot of page 4. It reads -
A new part of the Agreement ensures that, if there is any conflict between the provisions of the Snowy Mountains Agreement and the River Murray Agreement regarding the sharing of water between the States, the latter shall prevail.
We are pleased that the River Murray Waters Agreement was amended in this way. The agreement, to which the Commonwealth is a major contracting party, shall prevail. That is interesting, because South Australia is not a contracting party to the Snowy Mountains Agreement and I invite the attention of the Senate, and of South Australian senators in particular, to that portion of the report that I have just read.
I pass very quickly over the report. Work is proceeding on the various weirs. The level of the Hume Dam is being raised. Pages 12 and 13 of the report show interesting photographs of the work that is going on in that area. Further on in the report we come to some interesting smaller points. One hundred years ago the river Murray was the scene of great commercial activity. It was the lifeline from all the stations in the Riverina. The far northern stations of New South Wales and even, I believe, some of the Queensland stations used the river Murray and its tributaries. On the subject of tolls the report states -
Tolls are levied only on cargo vessels passing through Lock 1 (Blanchetown), the question of tolls at other locks having been deferred pending an improvement in river traffic. No cargo was passed through Lock 1 during the year and consequently no tolls were collected.
So the bell has tolled, as it were, for shipping trade on the river Murray. Another interesting feature at the moment is revenue from the sale of electricity. I will deal with that aspect shortly when I am discussing some propositions that are coming forward from South Australia. In regard to the sale of electricity the report states -
Revenue received from the sale of electricity generated by the 300 kw. turbo generator at Hume Dam to the State Electricity Commission of Victoria amounted to £605 12s. during the year, and this revenue was distributed equally between the three State Contracting Governments.
So the report says very little about tolls or generation of electricity, but that is just by the way. The important thing, as I see it, is that the Murray River is the only great river in Australia. Just how bereft we are of rivers in Australia was impressed upon me when I had the good fortune to go overseas about eighteen months ago. I travelled through Brazil in South America. Running through Brazil is the great Amazon River, which seemed to have hundreds of tributaries, each of which appeared to be greater than our own river Murray. Flying over Brazil one would see every few minutes a new river greater in grandeur than the Murray River. We have just this one stream and it is wonderful to think that such great work is being done with it. Although Brazil has a population of 70,000,000 people, I was told that there is so much water and such stability in the soil that some day the population could well be 400,000,000 people.
I shall discuss in particular a proposal which I think and hope will be considered by the commission, which has shown itself, by the report we are now examining, to be most competent in relation to the conservation of water and in dealing with problems such as flooding and irrigation. No doubt honorable senators from States other than South Australia are aware that great things are afoot in South Australia in relation to the river Murray. Sir Thomas Playford, Premier of South Australia, recently put forward a most imaginative scheme. I propose to refer briefly to that scheme, which is at the moment only in its formative stage. Honorable senators must appreciate that when Sir Thomas Playford puts forward a scheme he does so after considerable practical thought. Sir Thomas is renowned for the parts that he has played in some of the great conservation schemes that have been undertaken in South Australia in the last 25 years. The scheme put forward by Sir Thomas Playford is important because in twenty years’ time the very existence of South Australia will depend on the magnitude of its water resources. Virtually every hill and valley in the Mount Lofty ranges, adjoining the metropolitan area, has been tapped and graded in such a way that the water runs into the existing reservoirs.
It should be realized that during the very dry year that has just passed, it would not have been possible to engage in any gardening or industrial activity in South Australia had it not been for the water available from the pipelines coming from the river Murray. That shows the magnitude of South Australia’s problems. There is no more catchment area available in the Adelaide Hills that could be used for the purposes of reservoirs to any marked extent. Therefore, the whole of the future development of South Australia depends on what can be done with the waters of this one river. It is a river of which South Australia gets the use after it has traversed the whole length of Victoria and nearly the whole length of New South Wales. I am including, of course, the tributaries, the Darling and the Murrumbidgee. The waters of the Darling rise in Queensland. South Australia has one-third of this river.
The scheme which Sir Thomas Playford has put forward, and to which I propose to address myself in my remarks to the Senate, is of fundamental importance to the State. The River Murray Waters Agreement assures to South Australia certain quantities of water monthly in normal years and a fixed proportion of the limited supplies available in drought years. So far, these quantities have been sufficient to meet South Australia’s requirements, but the demand for water for domestic, irrigation and industrial purposes is growing at such a rapid rate that it is quickly overtaking the assured supply. I give just two instances of development in South Australia within the foreseeable future. A large oil refining works is to be established near Adelaide, and I understand that millions of gallons of water a week will be required for the various processes associated with the refinery. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited intends to spend, within the next five years or so, £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 on additional steelworks, pig iron works and rolling mills at Whyalla. Honorable senators will remember that Whyalla is situated in a 7-in. rainfall area.
The water from the river Murray is taken by pipeline as far as Woomera, almost halfway to the Western Australian border. It is also taken by pipeline to Whyalla and to Port Augusta. The Commonwealth Government is interested in the water supply for Port Augusta, where it has major railway workshops. Honorable senators will realize that, merely with normal development, apart from the extraordinary developments that are taking place in South Australia, the State will be severely tested in regard to its water supplies. Sir Thomas Playford made an astounding statement. He said -
On present indications South Australia’s development would come to a standstill within ten years unless additional supplies of Murray water were assured.
It should not be forgotten by the Senate that the rainfall in South Australia during the last year for about 95 per cent, of the people was 10 inches and under. In other words, only about 5 per cent, of the people of South Australia lived during the last twelve months in an area with a rainfall of more than 10 inches. These people desire to enjoy, and do enjoy, a standard of living equal possibly to the highest standards of living in the world.
– What is the average rainfall?
– The average rainfall in a normal year in the Adelaide area is 20 inches.
– What is the average rainfall for the 95 per cent, of the people to whom you referred?
– For 95 per cent, of the people, I would say the average rainfall would be 17 inches to 18 inches.
– It is very little.
– It is very little. The important point to remember is that the standard of living of these people is such that they own their own homes. Very few people in South Australia live in flats, or similar types of dwellings. Every one has his own home, with a small fruit garden, lawns and so on. Unless the mode of living of the South Australian people is to change materially, the question ot water conservation will become of very great importance. Admittedly bores have been put down in the Adelaide area and every effort is being made to raise water into the mains from these bores.
The question of obtaining water from the Murray River is vital as also is the question of the storage of water. I appreciate that in Lake Eucumbene a vast area of water will be stored, as it were, at such a height that it could be used for the generation of electricity, and later for irrigation as it flowed through the normal channels of the river down into South Australia. However, Sir Thomas Playford approaches the problem from a different angle. He feels that the right time to capture and store the water is when it is in plentiful supply, and that the right place is in an area which can be safely flooded without causing any damage to existing habitations. A number of small proposals have been investigated. 1 understand that Lake Bonney in South Australia was investigated, and also the small lagoons near the river, but Sir Thomas Playford considers that bold action is necessary, involving the construction of the largest reservoir that can possibly be built without inundating towns and closely settled areas. The only part of the Murray in which these conditions can be satisfied is between Renmark and Wentworth, and three possible sites for dams have been tentatively examined on this part of the river.
– Where is that in relation to the South Australian border?
– Renmark is approximately, as the crow flies, 50 miles from the South Australian border. Wentworth is in New South Wales, about 40 or 50 miles on the New South Wales side of the border. In that rather limited area of about 80 miles, as the crow flies, there is as yet little or no population.
From discussions I have had with Sir Thomas Playford I believe that a site in the Hundred of Murtho, 37 miles above
Renmark - possibly only about 20 miles as the crow flies - would prove the most suitable site. Already, Sir Thomas Playford and his Cabinet have set aside a very modest sum, and preliminary estimates have been prepared for a dam at this site. It may be interesting to the Senate to know that this proposed dam would consist of a concrete section about 1,000 feet in length, built in a new channel excavated across a bend in the river. This part of the structure would incorporate a shipping lock and eighteen flood gates, each about 41 feet high and 40 feet wide. The gates would be supported by piers and operated by lifting gear capable of raising them above maximum flood level. The remainder of the dam would consist of an earth bank 3i miles long, with an average height of 41 feet. This bank would require 3,750,000 cubic yards of earth fill. The dam would raise the level in the river Murray by 35 ft. 6 in. and would hold back the water for 123 miles up the river to lock No. 10, at Wentworth. That would be a distance of only about 40 miles as the crow flies.
The actual length of the lake, measured in a straight line, would be 60 miles, and its average width would be about 7 miles. The area of the water spread would be 400 square miles. Its limits would be close to those reached by the 1956 flood - a disastrous flood, as a result of which the Commonwealth made generous financial assistance available to South Australia - as far as Lake Victoria, but from there to Wentworth the limits would be below the 1956 level. The reservoir would entirely submerge Lake Victoria, which is an existing storage of very small capacity at the moment. Of the 400 square miles flooded, 195 square miles would be in New South Wales, 160 in Victoria and 45 in South Australia. The capacity would be not less than 4,750,000 acre feet, by far the largest in Australia. The three other large reservoirs in Australia are Lake Eucumbene, in the Snowy Mountains area, which has a capacity of 3,860,000 acre feet, the Eildon reservoir in Victoria, with a capacity of 2,750,000 acre feet, and the Hume reservoir on the river Murray, with a capacity of 2,500,000 acre feet.
The cost of such an undertaking is, of course, a most important matter. Preliminary estimates show that the cost of the undertaking would be approximately £9,000,000. Sir Thomas Playford appreciated that courtesy demanded that the matter should first of all be discussed with the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria, because those are sovereign States, and a part of their territory would be inundated. 1 understand that a courteous, friendly reception has been given to the proposition. Those States realize that they probably will gain if it is put into effect. They could be saved the embarrassment of having to make water available at an inconvenient time, because the water would have already gone down, having been caught during the swifter flow of the river. I presume they realize, too, that advantages could ensue because of the increased tourist activity which would result from the existence of a lake on their boundaries. The part of the lake in Victoria would be in a fairly thickly populated area, near Mildura. So, to date, there has been a friendly and ready interest by New South Wales and Victoria in this matter.
In accordance with the law, the proposition must be placed before the River Murray Commission. We are this evening discussing the report of the commission. We must appreciate that the contracting parties to the River Murray Waters Agreement cannot start willy-nilly to undertake works on the Murray River until a full report has been obtained from the commission and it approves. Therefore, I earnestly commend to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who is in charge of the operations of the commission and who, I think, has already spent a good deal of time on this proposition, that the commission be asked to consider the matter speedily, after the appropriate preliminary approaches have been made.
I think it will interest honorable senators to know that during the last 21 years the average annual flow to South Australia has been more than 9,000,000 acre feet. Of course, the factor that determines whether or not the State will be able to continue steady development is not the average flow but the minimum flow, when water is at a premium. In the last 21 years, the annual flow has been as high as 39,000,000 acre feet in one of the years, or more than four times the average flow.
Unfortunately, Sir, the flow has been as low as 760,000 acre feet. It is all very well to speak of an average flow, but it is the year in which the flow is only 760,000 acre feet that the people in South Australia are concerned1 about.
I am sure that honorable senators will agree that this scheme, which envisages water converging and being stored on the borders of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, has a lot to commend it. South Australia is haunted by the thought that when all the diversions from the Snowy to the Murray have been completed, the the State might well be left short of water, with steel works worth £40,000,000 at Whyalla, in an 8-in. or 9-in. rainfall area, a vast oil refinery twenty miles from Adelaide, near Port Noarlunga, and a population in the metropolitan area which, by 1970, could be as high as 1,000,000. South Australia would then be in difficulties that would not be faced by any other part of Australia. It is unthinkable that our vast industrialized capital should be placed in such a position, with its great provincial steel works, shipyards, railway installations, and so on. I am sure there is no need for me to labour that point. As I have said, there is no room for additional reservoirs in the metropolitan area.
I thought that I would take the liberty this evening to explain to the Senate some of the immediate problems of South Australia in regard to water supplies. I hope that the River Murray Commission will grapple with those problems in the next year or so, and I hope, too, that the commission will continue the good work that it has done in the past. I think the Minister is extremely fortunate to be the ministerial head of such a competent body. For the sake of the record, I intend to mention the names of the members of the commission. They are - Dr. Loder, representing the Commonwealth; Mr. Corbett, representing New South Wales; Mr. East, representing Victoria; and Mr. Dridan, from South Australia. All are fully seised of the importance of the office they hold and of the responsibilities to Australia that are involved in it.
– I support the motion that the paper be printed and join with Senator Laught in congratulating those responsible for its compilation. I agree that it is both interesting and easy to follow. I would go further and say that not only senators from South Australia but also every other thinking South Australian who had any interest whatsoever in the future development of the State was fully aware of the importance of river Murray waters to South Australia.
– Do you not think you might say “ every thinking Australian “?
– That may be a better expression, but possibly there are more people in South Australia thinking about it than there are in other States because of the drought this year. I do not think that Senator Laught mentioned that it has been computed that 75 per cent, of all the water used for domestic purposes, irrigation and industrial purposes in South Australia comes from the river Murray. Some publicity has been given to that fact. Therefore, very few people in South Australia are not thinking about the river Murray, because South Australians are dependent upon it for water for drinking and other purposes. For that reason, if for no other, I read the report of the River Murray Commission with considerable interest. I shall read to the Senate those portions that I found most interesting. At page 3, under the heading “ General “ the report states -
Tn view of the proposed diversions by the Snowy Mountains Authority to and from the River Murray and for other reasons, amendments to those sections of the River Murray Waters Agreement dealing with the distribution of the waters of the Murray were considered desirable. Following Ministerial conferences, agreement was reached and the amendments were subsequently ratified by the four Parliaments concerned. A brief description of the effect of the new provisions is contained later in the Report.
The following passage appears at page 4: -
On the 1 1th September, 1958, an Agreement incorporating amendments to Clauses 45, 47, 51, 60a and 61 of the River Murray Waters Agreement 1915-54 was signed by the four Contracting Governments, and subsequently ratified.
Then follow some remarks in relation to those amendments. Senator Laught quoted the following passage, which appears later in the report: -
South Australia will benefit from the amendment to this clause as it provides that, in a period of restriction, the net additional diversion from the Snowy River to the River Murray will be shared between the three States in the same proportions as in the distribution of the natural flow of the River Murray.
The contents of the intervening part of the report, which I have not read, are well known to the Senate. They relate to the procedure to be adopted for distribution of waters in periods of restriction. The following passage appears at the bottom of page 4: -
A new part of the Agreement ensures that, if there is any conflict between the provisions of the Snowy Mountains Agreement and the River Murray Agreement regarding the sharing of water between the States, the latter shall prevail.
As you know, Mr. Acting Deputy President, I was not a member of the Senate at the time of the making of the amendments referred to. I do not think that anybody who was present at that time would require any reminder by me of the intense debate that took place and of the completely conflicting opinions of senators on opposite sides of the chamber. In relation to the proposal quoted extensively by Senator Laught, which dealt with the storage of water for the future, it is my view that only the threat of a writ from the Premier of South Australia, who was supported by the South Australian Parliament, finally forced this Parliament to make the amendments referred to in the report, with their consequential benefits to South Australia.
– That is hardly correct.
– Apparently there is still some conflict of opinion about it. I can speak with knowledge of the attitude of the people of South Australia. When the proposal for the Tooma diversion was first published in the newspapers, the Premier of South Australia claimed that it would be prejudicial to South Australia’s interests in river Murray waters, especially in a drought year. It is true to say, I think, that some people, who had come to accept the fact that the Premier of South Australia was not backward in doing a little political grandstanding if the occasion presented itself, required greater support for that argument. Senator Laught paid tribute to Mr. Dridan. The South Australian branch of the Australian Labour Party, before accepting outright that the fears of Sir Thomas Playford were justified, checked with other people. I think it would be true to say that finally all those people in South Australia who had any interest in the future of their State were in one of two frames of mind. One section accepted that the diversion would be prejudicial to South Australia’s rights; the other section was doubtful but believed that this was possible.
During the earlier debate, Senator Vincent said that a South Australian who had any doubt whatsoever would not be a true representative of his State if he did not do something to ensure that its rights were legally safeguarded. It is true that Senator Vincent went on to say that South Australia’s rights were completely and legally safeguarded. Sir Thomas Playford did not accept that point of view, and it was not until about six months later, after the threat of court action or the actual issue of a writ, that this Government put into motion the machinery that brought about the agreement referred to. There can be no doubt whatsoever that there were two conflicting points of view at the time when the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act was amended. I read carefully through “ Hansard “ and I could not find a record of any senator on the opposite side having suggested that any action in addition to that amendment was necessary. That amendment provided that nothing in that bill would override the rights of South Australia under the River Murray Waters Agreement.
However, six months later, following the threat of court action, some senators claimed that they had known all the time that this amendment was necessary and that they had received assurances from the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) that everything in the garden would be lovely at some time in the future. Senator Laught was one of these senators, and to-night he quoted an extract from this report in relation to the amendment that was, I say, forced by the action of the South Australian Government. They were forced into acceding to an amendment that conferred those benefits on South Australia.
The report mentions that in a restricted year South Australia would obtain more water as a result of this amendment than il would under the normal flow of the Murray River. I think that in a question to the Minister a fortnight ago I quoted a report in a South Australian newspaper that no water whatever was running into the State from the waters being put into the Murray River from the Hume Weir in Victoria. If South Australians were getting more than what they would normally get, according to the report, and in fact at that time were not getting any at all, I do not know how much water they would have received without that water from’ the Murray into the Hume Weir! Senator Drury will have more to say on this aspect later. It is not only a question of the lack of flow of the water from the Murray into South Australia; it is also the problem that in the drought years the salt content of the Murray is so high that in South Australia it is not only detrimental to crops but in some instances kills them, lt is most certainly not pleasant to have to drink the water.
I have mentioned earlier that some people in South Australia want to look twice at Sir Thomas Playford’s propositions. His broadcasts, from one of which Senator Laught quoted extensively, are made on each Wednesday or Thursday night, and it is a common saying in the State that that is always the bright day of the week because, according to Sir Thomas, everything in the garden is lovely. In one of his broadcasts Sir Thomas suggested that some storage be built at Lake Bonney, Barmera. It was well known that the water there, because of its salt content, would be completely useless for agricultural purposes.
– It is no use storing water of high salinity.
– No. The point I was making was that when there is a low flow in the Murray the saline content increases, as it has done this year. As I have already said, Senator Drury will be touching on that subject more fully later. My point - and it leads up to the point mentioned by Senator Laught - is that if the scheme that has now been proposed and is now being considered by the River Murray Commission is to come to fruition one thing is certain - it has to be by agreement with the New South Wales and Victorian Governments. If interstate jealousies creep in at all, and if one State thinks it has been slighted, it could be prejudicial to the scheme.
Following the opinions that I mentioned when the amendment to the legislation for the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric undertaking was under consideration some interesting comments were made by honorable senators opposite and they had to make what on the surface and most certainly from a reading of the “ Hansard “ report was a complete about-face. When support for the amendment of the River Murray Waters Agreement was sought they retreated from the position that they had taken earlier. They had claimed that this action was not necessary at the time the Labour Party attempted to have the whole matter satisfactorily resolved, in the case of the three States concerned, before the amendment to the hydro-electric bill came into operation. I can remember at that stage one comment from Senator McCallum which crystallized the opinion of the majority of senators opposite. By interjection he stated that it was only padlocking a door that was already padlocked. In other words, he said that the amendment was not necessary. I can quote his words, and 1 think Senator McCallum can remember them. They appear at page 595 of “Hansard” of 24th September, 1958. Senator O’Flaherty was speaking and Senator McCallum interjected -
It is only putting an extra and unnecessary bolt in an already barred door; it was quite safe before.
It would be true to say that that was the opinion of the majority of senators opposite. Senator Buttfield, I recall, complimented the former Premier of New South Wales, the late Mr. Cahill, and the Premier of Victoria for their statesmanship in agreeing to the amendment of the River Murray Waters agreement as requested by the South Australian Government. Obviously, Senator Buttfield was appreciative of the fact that the representatives of those other States could see the South Australian point of view and had agreed to the amendment. That brings me to Senator Spooner’s opinion on whether the amendment was necessary.
– Be careful!
– I am quoting from “Hansard”, of 24th September, 1948, at page 602. Senator Spooner was chiding Senator Toohey and he said -
South Australia, in the course of an argument, in an endeavour to get benefits in other directions, took the technical point that the Tooma river had been diverted by the Snowy Mountains Authority, which was neither the State of Victoria nor the State of New South Wales. Nobody made any bones about that. Sir Thomas Playford, in the course of all the discussions, said that it was a technical point and that he would take advantage of it until the major matters were finalized.
I do not know how any one else would interpret those words, but to me they mean that during all those months of controversy when Sir Thomas Playford was telling the people of South Australia that their interests were threatened by this proposal in respect of the Snowy Mountains scheme he was hoodwinking not only the other States but also the public of South Australia. If he was taking advantage of a technical point to gain advantages in other directions, it meant that he tried to get more than the share to which he would normally have been entitled from the Murray River. He was taking a sharp point and putting one over the representatives from the other States. It cannot mean anything else. It seems ironical that Senator Buttfield could congratulate the representatives from Victoria and New South Wales on their statesmanship, though some little time later Senator Spooner told the Senate that Sir Thomas Playford put one over them, that he blackmailed them in relation to the Snowy Mountains scheme so that he could get something extra out of another agreement.
– I thought you were a friend of mine.
– The point I was endeavouring to make in all sincerity is that if your opinion was right, the Labour Party was wrong at that time when they believed, along with the Premier of South Australia, that in a drought year or a year of restricted flow of the Murray, water that was diverted would be prejudicial to South Australia. If Sir Thomas Playford put one over the representatives of Victoria and New South Wales he put one over the Labour Party also. If that were the case, I should not be very pleased with Sir Thomas Playford in respect of that matter. But I do not think that was the case, and I most certainly do not agree that he put one over the late Mr. Cahill. I think Mr. Cahill was at least as astute a negotiator as Sir Thomas Playford could claim to be. In any case, even if Senator Spooner’s expressed opinion was correct, I do not think it was a matter of the other States having one put over them. I think it was rather a matter of them giving way to blackmail.
However, even if Senator Spooner was correct, the fact is that the South Australian Government now has to come capinhand to the representatives of Victoria and New South Wales. It now says, “ While I used the extreme importance of the Snowy Mountains scheme to you in order to obtain some extra river Murray water, I want you now to play ball with me”, and then South Australia asks the other two States to agree to a plan which will mean, as Senator Laught has said, the inundation of a good deal more property in Victoria and New South Wales than in South Australia.
But I prefer not to think that Senator Spooner’s is the correct interpretation. I still hope that South Australia will be able to reach some agreement with the other States and the Commonwealth in respect of this scheme, which we all agree is of extreme importance to South Australia. I would prefer to believe that the government of the day made a mistake in not finalizing this River Murray Waters Agreement at the time it was first raised. I believe that there were some problems, although not as great as have been suggested, and that there was a possibility that the diversion as planned would have been prejudicial to South Australia in drought years. I suggest that even at this late stage the Government should be big enough to say, “Yes, it might have been better if we had agreed in the first place to the finalization of the River Murray Waters Agreement “, because I believe that if the agreement had been finalized we would not have seen all the acrimony and threats of legal proceedings that have ensued, and which have not been conducive to agreement among the States.
– I think the Senate should be grateful for the opportunity of discussing this report, and I heartily support the motion for the printing of the paper. I wish first to refer to some remarks made by Senator Ridley. The honorable senator mentioned certain difficulties that occurred at the time when there was disagreement between the South Australian Government and the Commonwealth Government. I am very glad that Senator Ridley was not able to quote me in that connexion. I do not think I took part in the debate at any stage. It may be thought that I was sitting on the fence, but it was not my intention to do so. I believed that there were difficulties associated with this matter, and I was torn between loyalty to the Government of South Australia, recognizing the great ability of Sir Thomas Playford, and a realization of the sound common sense of our Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). I do not mind admitting now that I was very glad when a solution was ultimately reached and matters were satisfactorily resolved between South Australia and the Commonwealth.
I will not go into the pros and cons of the matter in the way that Senator Ridley has done, because this aspect covers only a very small portion of the report, which is referred to mainly on page 4, where the River Murray Waters Agreement is mentioned. This agreement has proved quite satisfactory to all concerned and has assured South Australia a satisfactory permanent supply, at least for the immediate future. It has also proved satisfactory to the River Murray Commission.
I must remind Senator Ridley that the attitude of Government senators on this question was not one of vacillation at all. We were very seriously concerned about it. We had quite prolonged negotiations with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and Senator Spooner in an endeavour to resolve the question, and finally we did resolve it. It was at the instigation of the Prime Minister that Mr. Bolte and, I think, Mr. Heffron - Mr. Cahill being abroad at the time - agreed to a conference on this scheme. The officers of the commission, representing South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria, came together, in company with representatives of the Commonwealth, to try to hammer out a satisfactory solution. That was done, and an amendment was later passed through this Parliament. I am happy to say that the placid waters of the River Murray Commission have flowed quietly ever since.
– Was there not a particular Minister who proved very stubborn?
– It is just as well to dig one’s toes in sometimes. I do not criticize any Minister for sticking to his guns if he has an honest opinion.
Whether I agree with him or not is an entirely different matter. At the same time, I give due credit to Senator Spooner for holding an honest opinion and expressing himself honestly. In any case, that is all in the past. I may say that I considered the attempt of the Labour Party, particularly the South Australian members, to make political capital out of the situation, not quite ethical. However, I suppose that is a game we all indulge in at times. I remember some of the speeches made by Opposition senators, and I remember I thought they were hitting a little below the belt. But I hold nothing against them now. As I said, the matter has been resolved and I believe that honour has been satisfied on both sides. 1 am interested in this question, Mr. Deputy President, as are all Australians. I think we all appreciate the fact, or if we do not we should, that the river Murray is the greatest single asset that we have in Australia. Until we are able to convert sea water into fresh water, perhaps by the use of atomic energy, the great river Murray will remain the greatest single asset we have in Australia. It has the greatest potential of any of our natural features for the future development of this great Commonwealth.
– Old Man River!
– Yes, Old Man River! During his speech Senator Laught said that the Murray may not compare with the Amazon and other great rivers of the world, but it is a magnificent stream, and is, as it were, the lifeblood of a vast part of the Commonwealth in an economic sense.
I have extracted some figures from the “ Year Book “ in relation to the vast area over which the Murray River system extends. It has a catchment of 414,000 square miles. It comprises one-seventh of the area of the Australian continent, including five-sixths of New South Wales, over one-half of Victoria and one-sixth of Queensland, as well as one-fortieth of South Australia. But do not forget that in that one-fortieth the Murray River passes through Renmark to Morgan and down to Lake Alexandrina where it enters the sea. I do not suggest that the Murray is more im portant to South Australia than to the other States, but I do say that it is the lifeline of South Australia.
– The Darling and the Murrumbidgee are tributaries.
– I am counting the whole Murray watershed - the Murray, the Darling, the Warrego and the Culgoa. I refer to the whole area, otherwise the system would not extend into Queensland. The Darling, the Murrumbidgee and the Goulburn are big tributaries. The Darling flows for 1,700 miles, the Murrumbidgee for 980 miles, and the Goulburn for 250 miles. This big river system covers a vast area of the Commonwealth. The average annual flow of each of the tributaries, including the Upper Murray, the Mitta and the Kiewa rivers is set out in the “ Year Book “. The total flow of these streams is in the vicinity of 11,681,000 acre feet. 1 shall not go into the details of the flow of the individual rivers, but from the information I have furnished honorable senators can see what an enormous quantity of water flows annually through that river system extending into three States. Sir, we must take every advantage of this wonderful asset. We know that in the irrigation areas of the Murray River in South Australia and Victoria and of the Darling and Murrumbidgee rivers in New South Wales there are produced wine, dried fruits, fresh fruits, rice, dairy products, wool, beef, fat lambs, poultry, eggs, pigs - indeed, practically the whole range of primary products that the availability of water makes possible. So I say, Sir, that the people of this country should appreciate the fact that they possess in the Murray River system a magnificent asset, of which advantage should be taken in every possible way. It is the function of the River Murray Commission to do so.
I think that this commission is a splendid example of magnificent co-operation between three States of the Commonwealth. Not always is such co-operation evident. It is to be regretted that a certain amount of internecine difficulty constantly arises in the States and sometimes between the States and the Commonwealth. Early in the century it was realized that we should do what we could to utilize this great water system to the best possible advantage. A royal commission was appointed and ultimately, after negotiations extending over a number of years, the River Murray Commission was established in 1914 or 1915 and it has been functioning most satisfactorily ever since. Three States are represented on the commission. Senator Laught has mentioned the names of the representatives of the States and of the Commonwealth on that body. I cannot speak too highly of Mr. Dridan, the representative of South Australia. He is a far-sighted man of great ability, and a first-class engineer; he has an intimate knowledge of the subjects of water storage and water reticulation. Without a doubt, the River Murray Commission has achieved a great deal since it was established.
T have in my possession a book from the library entitled, “ The Murray Valley “, which is a most interesting volume. Although I have not read it from cover to cover, I have read a good deal of it. The book contains a number of very interesting features, including maps. I have always had a liking for maps. I was tremendously interested to look at the map of this river system, particularly in relation to what has been achieved on the Murray River and its tributaries. There is a system of locks extending almost from where the river runs into the sea at Goolwa to a considerable distance east of Mildura where lock No. 15 has been built. There are fifteen locks on this river. People who have not seen a lock in a river the size of the Murray can scarcely comprehend the amount of work involved in building such locks. The fifteen locks that have been established on the river are of tremendous benefit and, indeed, they are absolutely essential to maintain the level of the river. As we all know, Australia is a relatively dry country in which very high temperatures and periodical droughts are experienced. I believe from discussions I have heard concerning the early days in this country that, before this system of locks was established, there were times when one could almost walk across the Murray; indeed, at times it was almost a dry river. This was in bad seasons when there was a falling off of rain over the eastern highlands. Honorable senators can well imagine the conditions that might now prevail in Australia if that state of affairs had been allowed to continue.
The commission, when it was established, set about the establishment of the locks to which I have referred in the area east of Mildura. The establishment of fifteen locks in the Murray is acknowledged to be a great engineering feat. Since their establishment, the level of the river has been kept at an even height. Unfortunately, the locks do not control floods. In fact, I think at times they aggravate floods a bit. Once or twice we have had great difficulty in controlling floods there. Honorable senators will recall the flood conditions that prevailed a few years ago and the damage that was caused at that time. I do not say that the locks were responsible for the floods - far from it - but they may have aggravated the situation to a degree. However, any such difficulties are offset 100 times by the river being kept constantly at a regular level.
In addition to the locks, there is the Yarrawonga weir on the Murray, and the great Hume system. The Burrinjuck dam is on the Murrumbidgee River. I take it that the Burrinjuck system was built by New South Wales. I do not know whether the River Murray Commission had anything to do with that project but 1 do not doubt that the commission worked on it in conjunction with the government of New South Wales. Whether or not the Burrinjuck Dam was built by a New South Wales government it has made possible irrigation and reticulation of water through a vast area of New South Wales - through the Leeton and Griffith areas where large quantities of rice are grown and where there is a prosperous fruit growing industry. That experience has been repeated all along the river since the establishment of the weirs and locks. We have the huge Hume system - the huge Hume Dam, to which this report refers. The storage capacity of the Hume Dam has been increased from 2,000,000 acre feet to 2,500,000 acre feet. I do not know whether the work has been completed yet but that increased storage capacity gives a continuity of water which will be available for people along the entire length of the Murray River almost from its source in the region of the Snowy Mountains.
All in all we have a magnificent system of water control brought about through the operations of the River Murray Commission. I think the Commonwealth can be proud of its foresight in putting this work in hand early in the century. The work is still far from completion but what has already been done has enabled great development to take place along the river settlements from Albury down to the mouth of the Murray at Goolwa.
– Should not the worK be completed as a matter of urgency?
– Undoubtedly it should. We have far from completed the scheme. There is an urgent need to develop it further. That point was stressed by Senator Laught who said that we have a far-seeing Premier in South Australia and far-seeing people in the Commonwealth who are determined that it shall be completed as quickly as possible. 1 believe that the people of New South Wales and Victoria realize that the project for the construction of this great dam, a project that has been brought into the forefront of public affairs by the Premier of South Australia, deserves very careful consideration. Whenever questions about this matter have been asked in the Senate, Senator Spooner has given undertakings that they will be referred to the River Murray Commission for a report. After conversations with Mr. Dridan, the Engineer-in-Chief in South Australia, I am convinced that the final conclusions reached will be favorable to the construction of this great dam. South Australia needs it badly. We are assured of water supplies for the immediate future, but we are making great progress, and to ensure the continuance of that progress we must have adequate water. Our present facilities for obtaining water may be quite adequate but in ten or fifteen years time they could well be inadequate. So I say that no government worthy of the name would neglect to investigate a proposal for the further storage and reticulation of water.
In my conversation with Mr. Dridan he gave me some very interesting facts regarding water requirements and sources. He said that the water consumed in South Australia for domestic, rural, commercial and industrial purposes this year - the drought year of 1959-60 - will amount to 35,000,000 gallons daily. Of this quantity. 21,000,000 gallons will be pumped from the river Murray, comprising 14,000,000 gallons in the Mannum-Adelaide pipeline. 4,000,000 gallons in the Merkweil pipeline and 3,000,000 gallons in similar schemes. In other words, he said that the river Murray will supply 60 per cent, of South Australia’s requirements this year, the remaining 40 per cent, coming from reservoirs, bores, lakes, &c. When we consider what has been achieved in the last few years in the supply of water to the metropolitan area of South Australia and the consequences that could flow from lack of water, remembering the severe drought that we experienced this year and having in mind the fact that the. level of the catchment dams in the Adelaide Hills this year was extremely low, we realize that the greatest tragedy would have befallen our State had we not connected the Murray River with Adelaide by the MannumAdelaide pipeline, which has been in existence for only a few short years, lt was purely providential that that scheme was in operation, lt would have been nothing short of a tragedy if we had been forced, during this time of drought, to rely on the reserves of water that we had at our disposal only a few years ago. The provision of facilities to enable us to pump some 50,000,000 gallons of water daily over the Adelaide hills was a great engineering feat. The water had to be lifted more than 1,000 feet - probably 1,500 feet - and carried 40 or 50 miles through a big pipeline which not only supplies the Adelaide system but is also interconnected with a vast system of water storage throughout the State. Practically all the reservoirs in South Australia are now connected with this scheme. The Warren, Baratta, and other reservoirs are established in the northern part of our State - in the Flinders Range area. During our last drought, those reservoirs would have been dry but for this great project to which I have referred. It was always understood that in a dry season those reservoirs were not to be relied on. Now the whole system is interconnected. As Senator Laught has said, we take the water all the way to Whyalla and farther on to Woomera. Water is reticulated over the whole of our State. In South Australia we have as good a reticulation system as has any other State of the Commonwealth. We have other systems, of course, operating in the area of South Australia known as Eyre Peninsula, but the great system that supplies the main part of South Australia is now almost entirely dependent on the Murray River system.
If we did not have an interconnected water scheme tragedy would have faced our industries and our domestic consumers alike. The Government of South Australia can take credit for the fact that over these difficult years of low rainfall we have not experienced water restrictions. We have been able to water our gardens and provide water for commercial use without restriction. That has been a tremendous benefit to us, and enabled us to maintain our progress and continue our industrial expansion.
We in Australia must recognize the water system of the Murray River to be of very great national importance. I give due credit to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) for his very great interest in this matter. I appreciate the fact that he has other important responsibilities in the sphere of national development. I believe he recognizes that the provision of life-giving water is the first responsibility of the holder of his portfolio. He fully realizes the great advantages that must come from the storage and distribution of water.
One could go on at great length on the subject of water storage and reticulation. This question does not affect South Australia alone, but there is an enormous opportunity for development in the areas of South Australia through which the river Murray flows. We in South Australia have this source of an assured supply of water, and we intend to make increasing use of it, as Victoria and New South Wales have done. Large irrigation settlements are to be found all along the river. In the area almost adjacent to Adelaide, on the eastern side of the Mount Lofty Range, the lakes system through which the river Murray flows into the sea is now a freshwater system, because of the erection of the barrage at the mouth of the river. There are vast areas of fertile land there, where great development can take place at some future date in primary production, and, if necessary, in the establishment of secondary industries.
I know that the problem of cost enters into the question of water reticulation. We cannot ignore that. It is much more satisfactory if water can flow by gravitation to the areas where it is to be used, but that is not always possible. However, with the means we have at our disposal to-day for pumping water, we are able to make a much greater use of land adjacent to rivers. Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert are the two lakes into which the river Murray flows before its dispersal into the sea. There are large areas of very fertile land around those lakes which could be irrigated, even if it means lifting the water to a considerable height. Fortunately, this land is not very elevated, and to lift the water from the lakes would not be very costly. I can envisage a much greater use of water pumped from the river to supply that rich, fertile area. I do not know what the acreage would be, but I know it would be very considerable. The use of this water would greatly increase primary industry in the area adjacent to the lakes, and also in the area which extends along the river.
Along the river we have some remarkably fertile areas, particularly the swamp lands which have been reclaimed. Land which was formerly waterlogged has been reclaimed by the erection of levees, and enormous production is now taking place there. I do not know where we would be in South Australia without this reclaimed swamp land, because a great deal of our milk for the metropolitan area is produced there.
This great scheme by Sir Thomas Playford has an enormous potential value. I heartily endorse every word that Senator Laught has said about it. I give Sir Thomas due credit, because he is the one who envisaged this scheme, although he worked in cooperation with the officers of the Engineering and Water Supply Department. He is a man of great foresight. I believe that eventually, when the scheme is completely investigated by the River Murray Commission, general agreement will be reached between South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, with, of course, the cooperation of the Commonwealth Government. This scheme will not be put into effect without the expenditure of a considerable amount of money, and it will be necessary to approach the Commonwealth Government for assistance. It is a scheme of great magnitude, and worthy of a country which realizes the vital importance of the supply of water provided by the great river Murray.
– There is no doubt that South Australia is having a gala night so far as speakers in this debate are concerned. At the outset, Mr. Deputy President, I should like to express my concurrence with what Senator Laught and Senator Ridley have said about the report of the River Murray Commission. It is a report which should commend itself to every one of us. Senator Laught and Senator Ridley have dealt with it very fully, and there is not much left for me to say on that subject.
I should like now to quote from the speech of His Excellency, Sir John Mellis Napier, at the opening of the South Australian Parliament at the end of March last. His Excellency said -
By the end of June last it became apparent that steps to safeguard the metropolitan water supply would be necessary and full capacity pumping commenced on the Mannum-Adelaide pipeline in that month. Other emergency measures, including the installation of additional pumps and pumping stations, were also adopted. Far-sighted planning and speedy execution of these measures enabled my Government to provide sufficient water to meet all needs in spite of depleted reserves and practically no intake from natural catchment for almost twelve months. Approximately 85 per cent, of the water supplied throughout the whole State during the last nine months has been delivered through pumping schemes either from the river Murray or from underground sources.
Senator Hannaford made mention of those two sources of water. His Excellency continued -
Works on the Mannum-Adelaide pipeline and South Para Reservoir are almost completed. Progress is being made on construction of the Onkaparinga Valley system and Myponga Reservoir and pipeline as well as the pipelines in adjoining districts.
I should like the Senate to realize that there are only three or four sites left in South Australia where we could establish additional reservoirs. The maximum capacity of the reservoirs we have at present is 14,000,000,000 gallons. Those who are aware of the great expansion that has occurred throughout South Australia in recent years will appreciate what an important factor water is for the State and how necessary it is for us to obtain as much water as possible. It has been estimated that within ten years South Australia will be using all the water that it can safely depend upon receiving under the River Murray Waters Agreement.
Our Premier, Sir Thomas Playford, has launched the dam construction proposal to which Senator Laught referred earlier.
Although South Australia would not receive more water under the River Murray Agreement, if the proposed dam were constructed it would mean that we would be able to store some of the water that is now running to waste in the peak periods and have it for use in drought periods. Because industrial and rural development is increasing, we need more and more water. As has been pointed out earlier in the debate, South Australia does not enjoy a very large rainfall. In fact, there are periods, such as the last twelve months, when our rainfall falls below the average. I understand that during drought periods the rainfall has dropped to as low as half the normal rainfall, which I understand is about 9 or 10 inches a year. My colleague, Senator Ridley, reminds me that last year’s readings were the lowest since the keeping of rainfall records began in South Australia. If we are to alleviate conditions such as those through which we passed recently, we must store more water. I give credit where credit is due, and I say that the dam proposed by Sir Thomas Playford would greatly relieve, and perhaps solve, the problem of water conservation in South Australia.
I wish to refer to statements of Sir Thomas Playford in the South Australian Parliament, on 31st March last, in answer to a question by Mr. Bywaters, the honorable member for Murray, regarding the proposed new dam across the river Murray. Mr. Bywaters asked the following question: -
A matter referred to in His Excellency’s Speech this morning, and one which has been the subject of press reports recently, concerns the proposed dam across the upper reaches of the River Murray. Can the Premier tell the House the approximate location of the proposed dam? Can he say whether this scheme will entirely supersede the suggestion previously made regarding Lake Bonney and whether any further assistance has been promised by the Federal Government in carrying out this scheme?
Sir Thomas Playford replied ;
There are three possible sites for the dam, and the various proposals are still being closely examined by the Engineer-in-Chief. For practical purposes the requirement of the dam would be that it would be below the junction of the Murray and the Darling, so that we would have the advantage of getting water from either of those sources into the storage. The scheme previously suggested for Lake Bonney would give a very limited amount of water, and upon investigation it was shown that the cost of that scheme would be very heavy in relation to the total amount of storage available there. This is becoming a serious and very urgent matter for South Australia. By 1970 we shall be using continuously all the water that we can safely depend upon receiving under the River Murray Waters Agreement. As there is no possibility, in my opinion, of getting the eastern States to agree to a larger water allocation for South Australia, the only alternative, if we are to get extra water, is to take steps to store it in a peak period against a lean period, and it would not want to be limited. Under those circumstances the Lake Bonney scheme would not, I’ believe, measure up, because of its limited capacity and the heavy cost. The cost of the proposal in mind would be about £9,000,000 or £10,000,000. I have told the Commonwealth Government that South Australia would be prepared to take the responsibility for half the expenditure if the Commonwealth Government took the responsibility for the other half. If we were to ask the other States to come into the proposal it would become a River Murray Waters Commission scheme, and that would not ensure us another gallon of water, because under the agreement we are limited to 600,000 acre feet for our use, so it is to our advantage not to bring it into the general scheme.
The Premier went on to say that he had seen the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and other Commonwealth Ministers about the matter and thought that the reception he had received had been very fair, although no actual decision has been given. I think we all realize that no decision could be given until the site of the proposed dam had been surveyed.
The Premier also stated that he had seen Mr. Bolte, the Premier of Victoria, and Mr. Heffron, the Premier of New South Wales, and again he thought that the reception had been fair. He did not expect any grave objection from the Premiers of those two States. They would not be called on to contribute to the scheme, and he thought there would be some advantages for them in South Australia proceeding with the scheme. He said that, in fact, they would gain water. He went on to say -
We would be able to take our allotment of water at any time of the year suitable to them. At present they are obliged to send us so much water every month. The fact that they send down surplus water during May and June does not relieve them of their obligation in January and February, so we can offer a working arrangement that would be beneficial to them also. In my opinion it would be the real way to solve this problem for South Australia on a permanent basis.
Water, as I have said, is vitally necessary for the expansion of South Australia. The Mannum-Adelaide pipe-line and the pipe line to Whyalla are heavily taxed. Whyalla is fast developing into one of the major shipbuilding towns in Australia and it is said that the pipe-line to it will have to be duplicated in the very near future as also will the Mannum-Adelaide pipe-line. Had it not been for the latter line, as Senator Hannaford pointed out, Adelaide would have been in a very serious position during the past twelve months. We who live in the western districts of Adelaide have had bore water pumped into the mains. Although that has relieved the water shortage to a considerable degree, bore water is not very pleasant to use and it is not cheap, because it has an adverse effect on such electrical appliances as bath heaters, storage heaters and sink heaters. The salts in the water passing through the heaters produce a coating upon the elements that places a heavy strain on the electricity supply and fuses are continually blowing. The water is not satisfactory for gardening or culinary purposes because it is too hard. The people are using more and more detergents to soften the water for use. My family never uses bore water for tea making. We are among the fortunate ones who have rain water tanks installed, and we are using rain water for cooking and drinking.
With the increasing expansion of South Australia, we find that more water reticulation has to be undertaken. There are vast areas of quite fertile land which is virtually lying idle through lack of rainfall. This land could be used quite profitably for primary production if water were available. The only way that a water supply can be assured is by reticulation. Each scheme that is put into operation lessens the amount of water being used for irrigation, for the production of fruit and vegetables, and for the vineyards. The vegetable growers of South Australia are being forced out into the country because of the high price of land in and around the metropolitan area. The natural places for them to establish new market gardens are adjacent to water supplies, and the nearest water supply is the river Murray. We must remember that, for South Australia at any rate, the river Murray has not an inexhaustible supply of water. As Senator Hannaford said, its watershed and tributary streams cover oneseventh of the eastern part of the continent, which is subject to drought, and under drought conditions the flow of water drops to about one-tenth of the normal flow. Another danger, as Senator Ridley said, is that of salt in the water when the flow is low. 1 was pleased to read the following passage at page eleven of the River Murray Commission’s report, which shows that the commission has in mind the matter of salinity -
The results of salinity tests made in the lower Murray are supplied to the Commission by the Constructing Authority for South Australia. A statement (Appendix IV.) showing the average monthly river heights at Murray Bridge, and average monthly salinity reading at Waikerie, Milang, Point McLeay, Berri, Lake Victoria, Rufus River, and Lock 9 is attached to this Report.
So we are concerned not only with the lack of water coming down the Murray but also with the river levels. I understand that just below Renmark there are salt cliffs through which the river Murray passes, and when the river is low the water passing through the salt cliffs absorbs the salines, and water with a high degree of salinity is carried down the river. In those conditions the primary producers along the Murray have found that the water has not done their vines or trees any good whatsoever. In fact, in some instances it has killed them.
At this stage, I ask for leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 9.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 May 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1960/19600505_senate_23_s17/>.