23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a number of questions to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Is the Australian Government fully informed of the work being undertaken by the Soviet Union at its bases in Australian Antarctic Territory? Is Australian Antarctic Territory the only suitable place where this work can be carried out? Is this work of world-wide interest? ls the world generally, and the Australian Government in particular, advised at regular intervals of the results of this work? Can the Minister inform me whether there is any provision in the Estimates to cover the cost of purchasing or building a vessel suitable for Australia’s requirements in regard to this Territory?
– We are not fully informed of the activities and observations of the Soviet scientists operating in Australian Antarctic Territory, in that we do not get copies of the papers that they prepare, detailed analyses of their observations, and other information of that kind, but facilities are open to us to have people at those bases and, indeed, our next summer expedition will be calling at Mirny. I would not say that the territory in which the Russians are now operating is the only suitable area for the purpose in Antarctica, but it is probably the most suitable because of climatic conditions, lack of ice, and other factors of that kind. We are kept advised in a nonofficial way in that at regular intervals there are meetings of the Special Committee on Antarctic Research, which consists of scientists from all the countries interested in the area, including Australia and Russia, and at those conferences the scientists can freely exchange information about what has been going on. When the treaty now before the Parliament has been ratified, there will be a complete exchange of information between the various countries. There is no provision in the Estimates this year for a ship to go to Antarctica.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade tell the Senate whether there is any truth in reports that increased and uninterrupted oil production overseas has resulted in a surplus and that this has caused overseas petrol prices to fall noticeably? If so can he say whether any action is likely to be taken in Australia to ensure that Australian motorists shall share in the benefits of lower petrol prices?
– I rely only on general reports. Those reports indicate thai there is a world surplus of oil. There has been a fall in tanker freight rates, and consequently a fall in the prices of petroleum products. The prices of petroleum products in Australia are fixed in accordance with a formula which in some States has the approval of price-fixing authorities. I would expect that the overseas prices will be reflected in lower Australian prices. I am not able to say offhand what might be regarded as a fair time within which that may be expected to happen. My recollection is that the formula makes provision for the oil companies to sell off existing stocks before the lower prices become operative.
– Some time ago I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry a question about a new type of steel silo that had been purchased on behalf of Victoria by a Mr. Glowrey. I understand that the Minister now has a reply for me.
– I have been informed by my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, that Mr. Glowrey visited the United States of America about three months ago for the purpose of examining a new type of storage - the Behlen frameless metal storage shed - which is used there for the storage of over 200,000,000 bushels of grain. These buildings are made of 16- gauge specially corrugated galvanized steel. It is so corrugated that when placed in position in conformity with the directions of the Behlen company wheat can be stored on the side walls to a height of 25 feet. The structure can be quickly erected to meet urgent storage needs. It can, if necessary, be made airtight to permit of effective fumigation to control weevil, and when assembled in conformity with instructions be made rainproof. Being made of steel it is not subject to white ant depredation. It can be made in such a way that it permits the handling of grain into and out of storage at low cost, and it requires little maintenance. The quoted cost of the erected Behlen sheds in the United States of America is 29 cents, per bushel for a 30,000-bushel capacity and 18 cents per bushel for a 200,000 bushel capacity.
Mr. Glowrey has intimated that an examination of Australian requirements indicates that the erected cost in Australia will be within reasonable proximity of the American cost. It is understood that the Victorian Grain Elevators Board is going ahead with the erection of some storage of mistype, and no doubt further information on the cost and suitability will be made available in due course.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Can the Minister say how much the Commonwealth Government provides for the maintenance of the Eyre Highway? How much do the governments of South Australia and Western Australia receive respectively? Are any restrictions imposed as to how and where the money provided by the Commonwealth shall be spent? Can the State governments spend this money on the domestic approaches to the highway proper, such as between Port Augusta and Penong?
– The total amount made available by the Commonwealth annually for the maintenance of the Eyre Highway is £25,000. Western Australia and South Australia each receive £12,500. The highway extends from Penong in South Australia to Norseman in Western Australia. 1 do not think that any of the money that is provided by the Commonwealth under this heading is spent other than on the highway between Penong and Norseman.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. A statement appears in this morning’s Melbourne “ Age “ that the sum of £740,000, part of the Government’s subsidy to companies engaged in the search for oil, has not been paid because private companies have not entered claims or because a percentage of their entitlement is being held back pending the receipt of final reports. Will the Minister say whether the statement is correct and, if it is, will he give full information on the matter?
– The statement to which Senator Wood refers relates to evidence that was given by an officer of my department before the Public Accounts Committee yesterday. The statement reflects a situation that is a normal one. What happens is that various propositions are brought forward and a subsidy is approved. A date is fixed upon which it is expected that the subsidy will be paid. The subsidy is not, of course, paid until the work is actually carried out and the results of the work aire made available to the department. A fairly big engineering undertaking is involved in drilling a hole. Events sometimes do not proceed according to plan, and at the time referred to in the statement the payment of subsidies had fallen short of what was expected. No great problem is involved here. The difficulties of the situation were known at the time the financial arrangements were made. Realizing the difficulties of accurately estimating the date upon which payment will be made, a specific arrangement has been entered into between my department and the Treasury whereby any short payment in one year may be carried forward into the next year. If the figure mentioned by Senator Wood is the amount of underpayment for this year, it may well be that payments next year will be increased by that amount.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether any restriction is placed on crop-spraying aircraft carrying hormone weedicides or similar types of spraying materials flying over the vineyards and orchards of the Swan valley in Western Australia. Is the Minister aware of the disastrous results that could be caused to vineyards and orchards if such aircraft had to jettison loads in an emergency, particularly in view of the fact that a large number of aircraft has been involved in accidents in Western Australia in recent months? Do any restrictions apply at present to crop-spraying aircraft in the tomato-growing areas in the Geraldton district? Will the Minister consider imposing restrictions on crop-spraying aircraft carrying herbicides over the vineyards and orchards of the Swan valley?
– The matter of what weedicides or insecticides may be carried by aircraft, and where they may be carried, is within the control of the State governments. I think the honorable senator would be the first to acknowledge that where certain crops were in fact being grown could not be within the knowledge of the Department of Civil Aviation. I do not know what the State Government has done about spraying the grape-vine area in the Swan valley, but I am not aware of any action being taken by the Department of Civil Aviation to impose restrictions. As to the tomato-growing area in the Geraldton district, the Western Australian Government has imposed restrictions under the Noxious Weeds Act, and consequently the Department of Civil Aviation does not carry in that area the weed killers which have been prohibited by the State Government. I can say to the honorable senator that both the Department of Primary Industry and the Department of Civil Aviation will co-operate with, and assist in every way, the State departments of agriculture which seek assistance in this regard.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy: Is it a fact that the naval victualling stores and a big part of the naval stores, which are both located at Port Melbourne, are to be closed and their activities transferred to New South Wales? Is it also a fact that this action will result in the dismissal of 50 members of the Storemen and Packers Union and 130 others who are members of the Federated Clerks Union, the Transport Workers Union and the Miscellaneous Workers Union, or at best the transfer of their employment from Melbourne to Sydney?
– The honorable senator’s question involves a matter of policy, and it is not customary to deal with such a matter in answer to a question.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answer -
Under the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s current procedures the standard used in determining adjustments for expenditure on social services is the simple arithmetical average of the net per capita expenditure on social services in the non-claimant States plus, in the case of Western Australia, an overall allowance of 12 per cent, for special difficulties experienced in that State. The special allowance is designed to cover such factors as relatively greater sparsity of population, relatively greater overhead administrative costs and relatively greater needs arising from the age distribution of the population, including the proportion of children in the population. In recent years Western Australia’s per capita expenditure on social services has exceeded the standard adopted by the commission and, consequently, Western Australia has received unfavorable adjustments in respect of its expenditure on social services. The adjustments relate to the State’s expenditure on all social services, rather than to expenditure on any particular social service.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The following answer is now supplied: -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished the following answer: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
Minister for Territories has supplied the following answer: -
– On 30th
August, I asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General the following question: -
I preface a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General by saying that for some years now the excuse that has been given for delays in telephone installations has been a shortage of cable and of exchanges to which to link the telephones. As these reasons have now been cast aside by the Postmaster-General, can the Minister inform me how long it will take to overcome the lag of some 45,000 applications for telephones? If the Minister cannot answer that one, can he tell me how long it will take to satisfy the 3,000-odd applicants for telephones in the Glenelg, Brighton and Marion areas in South Australia, who have been waiting for telephone installations for upwards of two years?
I understand that the Minister has now received a reply.
– The PostmasterGeneral has now furnished me with the following information: -
The department recognizes the need to meet the heavy demand for new telephone services, and complete engineering programmes which provide for new exchanges, underground and aerial plant, and additions to existing equipment have been prepared to cater for the known demand and further likely development. The great majority of the projects included in these programmes are of a major nature involving very substantial costs. Considerable progress has been made in the provision of telephone services and the planned relief works will be put in hand to the greatest extent practicable having regard to the need for a balanced overall programme and available resources.
In Glenelg, 1,545 telephone services have been connected since January, 1959, another 108 applicants will be given service shortly and there are now 101 applications deferred, only 36 of which have been waiting more than two years. Since January, 1959, 1,084 services have been installed in (he Brighton and Marion districts and a further 216 applicants will be given service in the near future. There are 968 deferred applications, including 432 where the waiting time has exceeded two years. It is expected that, with the exception of some 250 applicants at Seacliff and Merino, all of these will be given service this financial year. Relief works to provide service in the remaining cases are planned for the 1961-62 financial year.
– On 23rd August, Senator Tangney asked me the following questions, without notice. -
In answering the questions I undertook to obtain from the Minister for Labour and National Service the information sought by the honorable senator. The Minister for Labour and National Service has now supplied the following answers: -
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Report from the Select Committee appointed by the Senate to inquire into and report upon Road Safety together with the minutes of evidence -
And move -
That the papers be printed.
So that the report may be circulated as soon as possible,I ask the Senate to agree to the motion I have just moved. Tomorrow, I will give notice of a motion the effect of which will be to put this matter on the business-paper again so that the Senate, if it so desires, may discuss the report.
In the same way as most overseas coun tries, Australia faces the problem that vehicle registrations, car ownership, vehicle mileage travelled and road accidents are increasing in total number every year. Roads which were built to carry the traffic density of 20, 30 or 50 years ago are being used by vehicles at a density level which imposes great strain upon them and the drivers who use them and at speeds beyond the capacity for which they were originally constructed. The transition from the early days of motoring to the present day has been too swift for safety, and society as a whole has not adjusted itself to the dangers of the automobile. Accidents, by definition, will continue to occur. but action to avoid them is not commensurate with the seriousness of the problem.
Since 1947, when the Australian Road Safety Council was created, there has been a drop in the ratio of road deaths to registered vehicles or miles travelled, but the stark facts remain that every year over 2,000 lives are lost on the roads, over 50,000 persons are injured, untold suffering and anguish are caused, and a fantastic financial loss is experienced by the community. This cost is estimated by the committee at a figure of £70,000,000 per annum.
Air and train accidents, fortunately so infrequent in Australia, cause grave concern to the community and are always subject to the most detailed departmental and technical inquiries, but in 1959, 2,321 persons died and 57,246 were injured on Australian roads, and public concern is not noticeably aroused. This is the problem that faces Australia to-day. It becomes a national problem.
The finding of solutions to the problem is a matter of the greatest complexity. There can be no one solution to it, as road accidents occur, in so many instances, as a result of combinations of circumstances inter-acting upon each other and involving that most complicated and so little understood factor, the human element.
Experts in all countries, including Australia, are coming to grips with road safety, but Australia is lagging in its accumulation of data upon accidents and the investigation of them. Successful remedies for any situation are more likely to be produced it their formulation is based upon factual information, adequate investigation and properly conducted tests. Remedies based upon guesswork may prove successful in a. small percentage of cases, but the greatest need in road safety programmes is for opportunities to introduce proven methods of improvement, and for co-ordinated nation-wide action to back programmes aimed at testing remedies suggested as a result of expert investigations.
The evidence received by the committee forms the first major accumulation in Australia of facts and expert opinions in the field of road safety. It makes a significant contribution for consideration by authorities connected with the problem, and the committee believes that its accumulation will prove of value in the task of preventing road accidents. However, the evidence in many instances is of a conflicting nature. Much of it is, of necessity, opinion evidence, and the opinions of experts have differed to varying degrees. This has increased the difficulty of the committee’s task, and has had a direct bearing on the committee’s conclusion that the subject of road safety is one for the greatest possible study and research.
Since the inception of the committee in May, 1959, there has been an obvious awakening of interest in road safety activities. Action has been taken in the States to introduce further accident prevention measures, and the committee noted sincerity and enthusiasm among persons and organizations, governmental and nongovernmental, dealing with the problem, lt is a problem for the whole community, and must be attacked by the whole community.
In a federal system of government, under which individual States have responsibility and sovereignty in respect of most aspects of road safety, difficulties arise in effecting comprehensive programmes of any kind, as they necessitate agreement among the States and, in many instances, with the Commonwealth. Road safety suffers to some extent because of this. Administrative practices, government policies and established community customs have developed in different ways in the separate States. It would be unrealistic to expect all States to conform to uniform practices, but the committee beleive that many aspects of road safety programmes are so necessary, or will prove by research and experiment to be so necessary, that adjustments and sacrifices will have to be made to achieve the greatest possible benefit to the nation as a whole.
The recommendations made by the committee are made with an awareness of CommonwealthState relations in the realm of road safety. They represent decisions of the committee reached after consideration of all the evidence submitted to it, and are listed for the earnest examination of all authorities, State and Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - The subject of compulsory political levies by organizations registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act has been frequently debated in this chamber and elsewhere. It is a subject to which the Government has given a great deal of attention and about which its views have been stated from time to time. In short, the Government is opposed to compulsory political levies; and that unionists should risk loss of employment or be victimized in other ways for failing to pay such a levy is utterly repugnant. We know these views are shared by the general public and, we believe, by the great majority of trade union leaders. Whilst the Government’s views have been made known, I think the time has come when I should restate and develop them.
Attention has been focussed on compulsory political levies and primarily on levies in connexion with parliamentary elections. This is but one aspect of a much broader and more complex problem and I want to say something of this broader problem so that the narrower one may be considered in perspective. Let me mention certain facts relating to our industrial and political life in the light of which the payment of political levies should be considered.
The two Labour parties draw very considerable financial support from funds contributed by trade unions. With odd exceptions, those funds have traditionally come and still come from affiliation fees, contributions from normal union funds and voluntary levies, some of a formal kind, others often quite informal. Provided, such payments are authorized by, and made in accordance with, the rules of the union the Government sees no reason to consider the passing of legislation relating to them. This is an internal problem for the unions, and I suppose it is to be expected that the membership would become pretty critical if extravagant expenditure of union funds were to occur.
Secondly, the degree of unionization in Australia is extremely high. Thirdly, over large fields of employment in Australia - in terms not only of geography as with Queensland and of award provisions but also of industrial custom - union membership is virtually a pre-condition of securing or retaining employment. We all know of the preference to unionists provisions in legislation and awards, and of the closed shop. Fourthly, our trade unionists are not exclusively the supporters of any one political party. In mentioning these facts I am not concerned to argue the rights or wrongs ot any of them. I am merely stating the facts and the background.
To put the problem in perspective 1 emphasize that the striking of compulsory levies for political purposes, particularly for parliamentary elections, has, in recent years, rarely been resorted to and I re-emphasize that the Australian trade union movement taken by and large dislikes compulsory political levies just as much as the Government does. The fact is that some of our unions have provisions in their rules giving effect to the principle that political levies should be voluntary. I mention two, the Australian Workers’ Union and the Electrical Trades Union. The great run of our unions have made it their practice to make calls for political purposes voluntary, for example at election times. Only one union, the Waterside Workers’ Federation, has during the last ten years attracted public attention by imposing compulsory levies and, in doing so, it has been just as much out of step with the sentiments of the trade unions generally as it has been on so many other things.
Our trade unions include within their membership persons of all shades of political opinion, and it is in our view intolerable that a man should, as the price of retaining membership of his union and perhaps his job, be required to pay a contribution levied expressly for the purpose of promoting the interests of a political party to the policy of which he is opposed.
It is easy enough to say that the principle of majority rule might be invoked against what I have just said; that there is nothing undemocratic in the idea that a member of a voluntary organization should be compelled to submit to a decision by the majority as to the payment of political levies or, for that matter, on other questions of policy whether in relation to payments of affiliation fees, or, for example, payments for charitable purposes, on which his views may not coincide with those of the executive of, or the majority of the members of, his union.
There are a number of arguments about this proposition that should be mentioned. While trade unions are, on the face of it, voluntary organizations, and while it is easy enough to say that a man who joins should be prepared to abide by the rules, the truth is that in many instances joining a union is a virtual necessity. Nor, turning to the other side, is it the answer to say that a member who dislikes paying political levies has only to resign. Though it is true that a member of a trade union is free to resign in the manner provided by its rules, to do so may very well result in loss of employment or, at any rate, loss of the preference in employment granted by law or by award to unionists.
Putting all this aside, a man may well fee] some sort of obligation to belong to the union of his calling. Trade unions occupy a special position in the industrial life of this country, which distinguishes them from ordinary voluntary organizations. I illustrate this by mentioning that a man may wish to enjoy the protection it gives to his industrial interests or he may shrink from incurring the ostracism reserved by unionists for those who decline to join. Then, too, the question of compulsory political levies cannot be answered simply by saying that democracy is the rule of the majority. Democracy also implies respect for the rights of minorities, and particularly does this apply to the right of political dissent.
Against the background I have sketched, the Government feels that some regard must be paid to long-standing practices and customs associated with the expenditure of union funds which have some community recognition even though they are not entirely approved. There may be room for wondering about the wisdom of the choice made in selecting the object of a union’s generosity; that is a separate matter.
The problem we are discussing has attracted the minds of people and the activities of legislatures in many countries. Solutions have been sought in a variety of ways. I need not review these in detail but 1 do want to refer to two methods that have been followed. One such method is popularly referred to as “ contracting out “ - that is to say, a member of an organization who files a notice that he objects to making a political contribution is exempt from the obligation to make such a pav.ment. This approach may be contrasted with that of “ contracting in “. under which only those members who have filed notices ageing to pav political contributions are obliged to pay them.
In the Government’s view both these approaches are open to objection, “ contracting out “ in particular. Why should a man who does not wish to pay political levies have to make a formal declaration that he objects? He is required publicly to go on the record as taking a stand contrary to what may well be that of a majority of his fellows. He risks subjecting himself to pressures of the worst kind. Is this the proper way to introduce the principle of voluntary contributions? The Government does not think so. Nor does the Government favour “ contracting in “. Why, for example, should a man be asked to agree in advance to be liable to pay levies for political purposes as yet unknown to him?
If there is to be a political levy for election purposes, the individual member should be completely free, in the ordinary sense of those words, to pay it or not. In other words, we say that political levies should be voluntary. If an individual member does not wish to pay such a levy he should be free simply not to pay it and should not be subjected to any adverse consequences because of not paying it.
Legislation on these lines was prepared by the Government back in 1958. We did not go on with the bill then because of the Hursey litigation which was proceeding, and we could not have proceeded without compromising that litigation. The matter has been kept under review ever since and we have come to the conclusion that in to-day’s circumstances and subject to certain conditions to which I will refer in a moment, legislation is not necessary.
In coming to this conclusion the Government has taken into account the considerations I have referred to. It has given weight to the argument that Parliament ought not to legislate so as to interfere in the internal management or domestic affairs of the trade unions. This argument is not decisive. The Government would legislate if it were shown that an evil existed that called for legislative remedy. The secret ballots legislation of this and the previous Labour Government is an example of legislation protecting the rights of trade union members in what are trade union affairs.
Where we believe, as we do in this case, that the organized trade union movement shares our view and is prepared to prevent abuse, we will test our belief and give the movement the opportunity to put its own house in order. So, we have informed the Australian Council of Trade Unions, which in matters like this has great responsibilities and authority, that it should take action to put a stop to compulsory political levies. In some senses what we have done in this case resembles what happened in the case of the indemnity payments. Then the A.C.T.U. acted and we have had no trouble since.
In this case - that is, of compulsory political levies - the president of the A.C.T.U. has informed us that the following resolution was passed by the interstate executive in its recent meeting -
The A.C.T.U. is of the opinion that a compulsory political election levy should not be applied by affiliated unions.
To be operative, the resolution has to be endorsed by four of the six Trades and Labour Councils in the States.
I now inform the Senate that, if the Government is informed by the A.C.T.U. that the resolution has been properly endorsed, the Government will, in the belief that it will be unnecessary to legislate, defer further consideration of legislation to deal with compulsory political levies. If, however, in spite of the A.C.T.U.’s resolution, there is resort, in future, to compulsory political levies by individual unions, the Government will be forced to reconsider the need for legislation.
Debate resumed from 8th September (vide page 490), on motion by Senator Sir Walter Cooper -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The measure now before the Senate, which is designed to amend the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act, is a corollary to the Repatriation Bill which was discussed by honorable senators recently. When the repatriation legislation was being considered, the Opposition directed attention to a number of anomalies and submitted a number of amendments which were designed to correct those anomalies. The Opposition has no desire to delay the passage of this bill, but it now desires to direct attention to similar anomalies in the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act.
As was pointed out during the debate on the Repatriation Bill, the Opposition believes that many of the adjustments to be made are insufficient. We believe that many people who are eligible for pensions under the repatriation legislation and the seamen’s war pensions and allowances legislation have been overlooked. The bill now before us deals with the payment of pensions to Australian mariners who were incapacitated by war injury, and to dependants of Australian mariners. For years it has been the practice for incapacitated mariners to be paid the same rate of pension as is paid to pensioners under the Repatriation Act. The Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act provides that a totally and permanently incapacitated mariner shall be paid a special pension at the same rate as is specified in the second schedule to the Repatriation Act. Provision is made in that schedule for an increase of 10s. a week, so totally and permanently incapacitated mariners will become entitled to an increase of 10s. a week.
The bill also provides that widows of Australian mariners who at present receive pensions ranging from £5 5s. to £6 3s. a week shall receive an increase of 5s. a week. In other words, those pensions will be increased to sums ranging from £5 10s. to £6 8s. a week. We believe there is an anomaly in the Repatriation Act and in the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act in regard to widows. Regulation 176 under the Repatriation Act provides that the Deputy Commissioner, may, having regard to the circumstances of the case, grant to the widow of a deceased member who has remarried and is again widowed, and who is without adequate means of support, an allowance not exceeding the allowance specified in column two of the table set out. We believe that, if an exserviceman’s widow who marries and again becomes widowed is eligible for a widow’s pension, the widow of a merchant seaman who finds herself in the same position should receive a similar pension.
Provision is made in the Repatriation Act for a parent or parents of a serviceman who loses his life during the war or who dies as a result of war injury to become entitled to a war pension on top of their ordinary social services pension, even though they were never dependent upon him. Special provision is made for a widow who was dependent on her ex-serviceman son. Provision is also made whereby a person who is eligible to receive a pension under the Social Services Act, and whose son was killed while on service, may receive a pension under the Repatriation Act. That provision does not apply to the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act, and we on this side of the Senate think that the bill now before us should be amended to include that provision. Without any desire to delay the passage of this bill, but in order to give the Government an opportunity to consider our proposal, I move -
Leave out all words after “ That “, insert - “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for an appropriate allowance -
to a remarried widow of an Australian mariner whose death has been accepted for purposes of section 12 of the act who is again widowed, and
to the parent or parents of such an Australian mariner.”
Acceptance of the Opposition’s amendment would provide a measure of equality and justice for mariners who served their country under conditions almost identical with those experienced by men who served in the Royal Australian Navy. Our seamen served in the battle areas during the war, and were subjected to the same hazards and dangers as were members of our naval forces. They had family responsibilities and dependants. Their widows are living under a disability in having been deprived of the family bread-winner. We believe that there is a strong case for bringing this legislation into line with the Repatriation Act. We support the increases that are granted under this bill, although we criticize them on the score of inadequacy. We believe also, that the Government has neglected other aspects that should have been covered in the bill.
[3.58]. - I listened with great interest to Senator O’Byrne. As I understood the honorable senator, I think he implied that the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act provides benefits similar to those provided under the Repatriation Act. That is not so. The Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act follows the Repatriation Act in certain respects. For instance, in each act the 100 per cent. rate and the widows’ rate are the same; but the Repatriation Act provides a number of amenities that are not to be found in the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act. For example, the transport allowance is paid solely to ex-service men and women. On the other hand, some of the provisions of the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act are not found in the Repatriation Act. Mariners, for instance, who were prisoners of war, receive a detention allowance. In quite a number of cases they receive lumpsum payments instead of pensions on account of injuries, whereas under the Repatriation Act lump-sum payments are not made. The Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act was originally introduced to deal with the industrial conditions of seamen following their normal occupation, but with the added risk of war. It will be readily conceded, I think, that mariners were paid a far higher rate during the war than were ordinary soldiers or members of the naval forces. Under the Repatriation Act a widow can receive only the small amount of £1 4s. a week provided she can comply with the social services means test. That amount was originally granted to widows who had remarried and had been widowed a second time. There is quite a difference between the Repatriation Act and the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act. I have discussed this matter with the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), and we feel that the Government cannot accept the Opposition’s amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator O’Byrne’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 8th September (vide page 494), on motion by Senator Gorton -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill now before the Senate seeks to give effect to the Antarctic Treaty which was signed in December last by representatives of a number of powers and which now comes before the Senate for the first time. The bill relates to Antarctica, a vast mass of land, iceslopes and sea to the south of the 60th degree, south latitude, which circles the earth to the north of the south pole. The rights of any nation in the world over the high seas in the area are completely unaffected by the treaty. The area of Antarctica, which I have described, is nearly 6,000,000 square miles. It is roughly twice the size of Australia. The Australian
Antarctic Territory, to which we have asserted territorial claims, is almost the same size as Australia. It occupies the major part of the Antarctic land mass and ice-slopes. The Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton), in his second-reading speech, summarized the very long and highly meritorious record of Australians in Antarctic exploration and the area of scientific work which has been conducted by our nationals in Antarctica. I do not propose to repeat that summary, but on behalf of the Opposition I gratefully pay tribute to the great Australians who played a part in building that record.
I come directly to the treaty itself. I deal first with our own Australian Antarctic Territory, consisting of the great mass of which I have already spoken. I should like to advert to the Australian law that has applied there in the past. The Australian Antarctic Territory Acceptance Act of 1933 accepted the Australian Antarctic Territory, with defined boundaries, as a territory of the Commonwealth and it authorized the Governor-General in Council to govern by ordinance. So, the only laws applicable to our Australian Antarctic Territory in the beginning were those promulgated by ordinance in council. Then the matter came under review in 1954 and the act was amended again in 1957. The 1954 Act applied to the Australian Antarctic Territory the laws in force in the Australian Capital Territory, including Canberra, on 31st October, 1954, with a few exceptions. As to the future, it provided two things: That future controls should be exercised first, by legislation of this kind which was specifically expressed to apply to the Australian Antarctic Territory and, apart from that, by ordinances promulgated by the Governor-General in Council; and secondly, that jurisdiction should be conferred on the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory in respect of the Australian Antarctic Territory.
Passing to the treaty, we find that twelve nations are involved at this stage. They comprise: Four Commonwealth countries - Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and the United Kingdom; three American countries - the United States of America, the Argentine and Chile; and two Asian countries - Japan and Russia. The latter might be taken to figure in both the European and Asian continents, but 1 have classified it as Asian for convenience. Then there are three European countries - Belgium, France and Norway. Our interests, and our future interests, have been well detailed in the course of the comprehensive and enlightening second-reading speech of the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton). I shall refer to only one other additional factor, prompted by our geographical proximity to Antarctica. The distance from Hobart to the land mass of Antarctica, at the nearest point, is about 1,450 miles or, in this modern jet age, only three hours’ flying time. Accordingly, we have a vast interest in having the whole of Antarctica immobilized and freed of any military activity, particularly nuclear activity. In the absence of a treaty of this kind, attacks could be made on Australia from many points in that area. The Argentine is in a somewhat similar position, but is in an even more proximate relationship to Antarctica than is Australia. The southern tip of the Argentine is only 500 miles from the nearest point of the land mass of Antarctica.
It is interesting to note that of the twelve nations which are parties to this treaty, seven have made territorial claims in Antarctica. In other words, they have claimed that particular parts of the territory belong to them - that they have proprietary rights in the land mass and ice slopes. Some of the claims have been recognized by some of the countries concerned, but no country’s claim to any portion of Antarctica has received universal recognition. Our own claim has been recognized by the United Kingdom, New Zealand, France, Norway and, by implication, also by Canada and South Africa. The claims of the United Kingdom and New Zealand have been specifically recognized by Australia and New Zealand and, by implication, also by Canada and South Africa. The French and the Norwegian claims are recognized by the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, but no government recognizes the claims of the Argentine and Chile.
– Except the governments of the Argentine and Chile.
– Yes. Both those countries assert rights, and there are conflicting claims between them and the Government of the United Kingdom.
America and other countries have pressed them very hard to refer the dispute to the International Court but neither the Argentine nor Chile has been prepared to do so. One sees, therefore, that although rights have been asserted and, to an extent, enforced by various countries, there is no universal recognition.
Looking at the position of the United Stales of America and of Russia, we find that those countries - the two giants of the world - have made no territorial claims at all, although there is one relatively small and highly inaccessible area that could still be taken up. Neither has recognized the claims of any other country in its territorial aspirations in the area. They have neither made claims nor recognized claims. Both move quite freely throughout Antarctica. This area, by reason of conflicting claims and the assertion of territorial rights, probably has a very high potential for international conflict. The first thing that had to be done was to take steps, if not to resolve the disputes, at least to give them some kind of quietus for a period. Very happily for the formulation of this treaty, all the claims have been frozen for a minimum period of 34 years.
– How appropriate!
– The Minister says that it is appropriate that I should use the word “ frozen “ about anything pertaining to Antarctica, and of course it is, but I was not speaking of the climate.
The treaty provides that the status quo is to be preserved, that any country which asserts a claim is not to have its position prejudiced by its entry into this treaty, and that those who have not made claims but who may do so are in a similar position. Nothing that is done during the period of the treaty by any of the twelve nations can improve its claim or depreciate its claim. That, of course, as a condition precedent to agreeing on less important matters, is the outstanding achievement of the treaty. The twelve nations agree that all territorial claims are for the time being disregarded and, if I may use a boxing term, thrown out of the ring.
The agreement itself is worth a little study. I confess that the Minister has done it ample justice in his description of its provisions, but I am fascinated by the result that has been achieved by this treaty,
I am exceedingly interested in it and I feel like spending a moment or two in discussing it. The first article provides that Antarctica is to be used for peaceful purposes only. It proceeds to provide, inter alia, that any measures of a military nature, such as the establishment of military bases and fortifications, the carrying out of military manoeuvres, as well as the testing of any type of weapons, shall be prohibited. There again is a vast advance internationally, because every form of military activity is, by agreement, outlawed in the area. One element of such activity - the testing of weapons - is referred to in a later provision of the agreement, Article V., dealing with nuclear explosions. 1 propose to come to that in a moment. Articles 11. and III. provide for complete freedom of scientific investigation throughout the whole of Antarctica, for the exchange of personnel in scientific exploration and investigation between expeditions and stations, the handing over of information by the constituent members of the treaty, and generally, for carrying on the marvellous work that was done during the International Geophysical Year by the same twelve nations in this area.
The provision of which I spoke earlier - the preservation of the status quo - is set out in Article IV., and 1 need not say anything further in that respect. Article V. deals with the vastly important question of nuclear energy. It provides that nuclear explosions and the disposal of radioactive waste materials shall be prohibited in Antarctica. The Senate will notice that that is not a prohibition upon the use of nuclear energy. It is a prohibition upon nuclear explosions and the disposing anywhere in Antarctica of radio-active waste. The interest of the nations adjacent to Antarctica was prompted by the knowledge that the genesis of their weather lies in Antarctica, and that the whole basis of their climate might well be disrupted by atomic explosions. The clause will not prevent nuclear activity for peaceful purposes, and I understand that America already is in process of translating to Antarctica an atomic reactor for atomic research purposes, but it will not, pursuant to this treaty, be able to dispose of the waste material anywhere in Antarctica. It must go elsewhere to dispose of whatever waste there may be.
Article VII. deals with the subject of observers. Each of the contracting parties is entitled to appoint observers. 1 see no limit to the number that each party may appoint. Parties are given the most complete freedom to examine stations, airships and ships, and to make the most complete and thorough investigation of what goes on throughout Antarctica. Each nation is free to appoint these people with complete freedom of access at all times to what is going on in the area. Aerial observation is permitted. Here again, Mr. Deputy President, we have a vast advance. One of the things that have been contended for in the disarmament councils of the world is the provision of observers and inspectors to ensure that any disarmament proposals are carried out. Now in this one treaty, agreement has been reached between the twelve interested and contracting parties. A most distinct advance is recorded in the international sphere by that provision.
There are clauses providing for the ratification of the treaty, and for the first meeting of the parites to take place in Canberra. I should say that that would be due very largely to the efforts of Lord Casey, the then Minister for External Affairs, to whom the Minister for the Navy paid a quite proper tribute for his great interest, in this matter and for the part he played in bringing this treaty to consummation. The second point might be that we have such a vital interest in Antarctica as we are so very close to it. I think we have taken the largest bite out of Antarctica. The territorial claim of Australia is easily the greatest of all the territorial claims that have been made.
One slight defect in the agreement is to be found in the clause dealing with disputes. It is provided that if disputes occur between any of the parties they must be settled by conciliation and peaceful means, and with the consent of all parties involved in the dispute, it may be taken to the International Court. It appears that only three of the signatories to the agreement were unwilling to make it obligatory that in the event of a dispute reference should be made to the International Court of Justice. It is unfortunate that that should have happened. Nine of the twelve parties to the agreement were agreeable to be bound to refer to a dispute to the International Court, but three - of whom two, of course, are
Argentina and Chile, to whom I made reference a while ago - were not agreeable. lt is proposed that the agreement should operate for at least 34 years. A term of 30 years is referred to in Article XII. but there is provision for steps to be taken at any time after 30 years, which, if followed, would release a member within the next four years. The effective minimum term of the duration of the treaty is 34 years, lt is, of course, contemplated that it will have indefinite duration.
The treaty is to be subject to ratification by all the twelve signatories. The draft treaty was, in fact, signed by all twelve countries at Washington, but is subject to ratification by their respective States. The Australian Government is on the point of ratifying the treaty. This bill is not to ratify the treaty at all, but merely to give effect to it. Just in passing I wish to comment on that fact, as I have done on occasions when treaties have been brought before the Parliament by the Government recently. The Parliament is not invited to ratify this treaty at all because the Government is proceeding by executive act. i expressed my view on this particular point when the last treaty came before us. I again comment that it reverses the procedure followed by the Labour Government in the post-war period when we had a flood of international treaties, every one of which was brought to the Parliament for specific approval and ratification. I am not suggesting that the treaty, by reason of the fact that it is not expressly ratified by the Parliament, cannot be in full force and effect; but I express my distaste for a procedure which in such a vital matter denies the Parliament the pleasure and the privilege of allowing or disallowing a treaty of this type.
One condition of the treaty coming into operation is that all of the twelve countries must ratify it. Russia has not yet ratified. The United States has. A number of countries awaited ratification by the United States before they themselves ratified the treaty, lt comes down to this: If in the end, despite its preliminary signature to the agreement, Russia decides not to ratify the treaty, the treaty will not come into operation, with the result that the whole position will have to be reviewed. It would not be much use having a treaty that did not in clude Russia in view of the stand that Russia has already taken. It has moved into Antarctica and has conducted extensive exploration, and looks like staying there. No sign exists that it intends to give Antarctica away. There might not be very much virtue in the remaining eleven nations having a pact among themselves while there was among them one nation that could move freely - or would move freely more or less by force majeure - throughout Antarctica and not be bound by any of the obligations that bind the other eleven nations. I would hope that the expectation is that Russia will ratify; I sincerely hope it will. I have no reason to believe that it will not.
I direct the Senate’s attention to a very interesting report on the Antarctic Treaty by Mr. Fulbright of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the American Senate, which is a counterpart to this chamber. The report was made on 23rd June this year, and the committee was completely unanimous in reporting favorably to the American Senate on the treaty. There was no dissentient at all. Some very interesting material appears throughout the report which I am sure would interest many honorable senators. It deals with some of the dissentient voices that were opposed to the treaty. I take the opportunity to read one brief extract relating to arguments that were put to the committee and the way in which the committee dealt with them. I quote -
With regard to the argument that the United States should jettison a treaty which it initiated in favour of making an official territorial claim, proponents of this view not only fail to show any advantages but they ignore its disadvantages. The only territory yet unclaimed is that one-sixth of the continent between 90 degrees and 150 degrees W. longitude, possibly the least accessible and rewarding area of Antarctica.
There already seems to be a tacit understanding among the claimants that this area would be reserved to the United States because of the extensive explorations of Admiral Byrd, his companions and successors. Short of making broader claims which would immediately embroil our relations with friendly countries, this is the one area open to us. If the United States were now to exercise this option, it would logically have to recognize the claims of other countries based on the same considerations of discovery, exploration and sporadic occupation. In return for this fraction, the United States would jeopardize its reserved rights of free access to all of Antarctica. Moreover, such a move would not be recognized by the Soviet
Union, which, possibly along nith other countries, might be stimulated to make official claims also. Many supporters of the present treaty regret that the United States did not make claims many years ago, bw. they recognize that the clock cannot be turned back.
There is one other comment, dealing with the mineral resources of the area, that I should like to mention. Still dealing with objections, the committee stated -
Presumably, one of the main reasons why opponents of the treaty urge the United States to make official claims stems from the supposedly great economic potential of Antarctica. On this point, the noted geologist and Antarctic expert, Dr. Laurence Gould, who was second in command of the first Byrd expedition, not only declared that the continent’s vast, low-grade lignite coal deposits are commercially worthless, but testified as follows: - “ I would not give a nickel for all the mineral resources I know in Antarctica. The point is we don’t know and to predicate .a program or to presume that vast resources are there is nonsense. We haven’t examined 1 per cent, of the area geologically … So that for many, many years to come . . . the most important export of Antarctica is going to be its scientific data. And that is terribly important indeed. There is no single field of geophysics which does not demand for its completion data which can only come from Antarctica …”
I trespass on the Senate’s indulgence to read a paragraph from the conclusions of the committee, lt is in these words -
The arguments presented in opposition to the treaty were carefully considered, but the committee did not find them at all persuasive. In particular, it noted that opponents did not offer any feasible alternative method of preventing disputes and national aggrandizement, and of insuring co-operative access to the scientific data of the entire continent. While the risks of entering into agreements with Communist countries are not discounted, the committee subscribes to the belief that a breakdown in communications between the Communist bloc and the free world is an immeasurably greater risk. It believes it is in the interests of the United States to arrive at an agreement with the U.S.S.R. in an area where mutual interests appear to coincide rather than diverge. The alternative to this course of action seems to entail drawing Antarctica into the arena of global conflict. Furthermore, it is considered that this treaty could set a valuable precedent for dealing with new situations arising in the space age.
I think, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that I have covered the principal provisions of the treaty and made a few excursions to the perimeter of the treaty. I think that one ought to pay a tribute to the United States of America for being the prime motivating power behind this treaty. It was the United States which, by a letter from President Eisenhower in May. 1958. invited the eleven other nations to join with it in seeking to evolve a treaty of this type. The United States was, I should say, the country which put this treaty on the tapis, and the efforts of others have helped to bring it to fruition. The United States Government is to be the depository government - the executive member - for the purposes of the treaty. If the hopes of the treaty members are realized, Antarctica, instead of being an area of potential conflict, will become an international scientific laboratory. There is no question about that. lt is also most interesting to see that this treaty comes about as a result, primarily, of contacts made during the International Geophysical Year, 1958, when the scientists of the world came together in co-operative work for the benefit of mankind generally. The scientists of various nations worked together, pooling their resources. There one sees the virtue of contacts at the personal level in international affairs. It is the type of thing that the Opposition has advocated continuously - free and regular communication and contact, at all levels of society, between peoples where there is any possibility of conflict, particularly military and nuclear conflict. In short, we have advocated meetings at the summit, meetings of scientists, jurists and the rest. Our view is still the same. It is highly desirable that at all levels of activity the peoples of the nations, if there is a possibility of conflict, should meet as individuals and as human beings to find how much there is to reconcile them, instead of staying at arm’s length and determining how much there is to divide them. I would say that the scientists have been the inspiration of this treaty.
I think the whole thing is very much to the credit of all those who have helped to formulate it. It might well be a pattern for the future in international affairs. How ironical it is, really, that twelve of the great nations of the world can come together and resolve, postpone and subjugate their differences in the interests of the peaceful control of a vast area where nobody lives, although it seems to be impossible for them to reach the same happy result where there are vast aggregations of individuals, in the populated areas of the world.
– Penguins are very much easier to handle than people.
– Penguins are indeed very much easier to handle than people. The greatest enemy of man - this has been proved down the centuries - is man himself. He is his own greatest enemy. I have had occasion to remark in this place that in the last 3,000 years he has had 3,000 wars and just as many revolutions. He is a fighting animal as well as a thinking one, and he seems to reserve his greatest intellectual and industrial efforts for devising bigger and better methods for his own annihilation.
We felt that enormous progress had been made when the League of Nations was formed after the First World War, but it failed. It was superseded by the United Nations, for which we have great hopes. However, the Spanish philosopher whom I quoted in the Senate some little time ago put the position very well when he said that we have only the forms of a world government at the moment and that the minds of the nations have not gone with them in setting up the forms. In other words, they have come together objectively in the forms of a world government to regulate affairs on earth, in the interests of peace, but at the same time there has been an intense retreat into nationalism. So the very thing that the United Nations was designed to accomplish has produced a back-tire by the retreat of the constituents of the United Nations into an even more intense form of nationalism and assertion of sovereignty. It is not enough to give lip service to the United Nations or to any other organization established for the preservation of peace on earth. One has to go a lot further. In addition to giving lip service, a sincere heart must go into the activities of the organization. This does involve some abnegation of sovereignty, and some sacrifice of nationalism; but until the nations are prepared to make that relatively small sacrifice in the interests of world peace we shall eternally be faced with the threat of war. It is a matter more of the minds and hearts of men than of the things that are written in words in the United Nations Charter. I think that Paul in the Epistles to the Corinthians put the position correctly -
The letter killeth the sp:r:t quickeneth.
What is wanted in this situation is not so much the beautiful sentiments expressed in the Charter of the United Nations as a spirit in the hearts and minds of those who make their contributions at the United Nations. I have touched very briefly upon the very important principles contained in the bill and outlined by the Minister. These include the outlawing of military activity, the outlawing of atomic explosions, the provision of observers and scientific cooperation and above all the temporary - we hope that it will ultimately be permanent - disposal of conflicting territorial claims in the area.
The Opposition congratulates everybody associated with the production of this treaty. We most cordially support the treaty and the bill to implement it. The bill does not seek to regulate the conduct of people who are not our nationals within the limited area of Australian Antarctic territory; but we do assume the power, under the authority of the treaty, to regulate the conduct of our own nationals not only in our own Antarctic Territory but also elsewhere in Antarctica. Each of the nations privy to this agreement preserves the same right in respect of its own nationals. I suppose that the bill does no more than assert that position. That is what is required to give the treaty operative effect in Antarctica. This is one of the rare occasions upon which the Opposition can without the slightest reservation and with all the goodwill in the world say that it cordially supports a measure.
– I support the bill and hope that the the nations that have yet to ratify the treaty will do so with all convenient speed. I should like to stress how indebted the Senate is to both the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) for the excellence of the debate so far. This is really a great occasion for Australia when the Upper House of this Parliament has before it for ratification a treaty of such significance. Only yesterday the Minister invited our attention to great events in India and Pakistan, where after many years of negotiation the great Indus waters plan has become an accomplished fact. That is a case that Senator McKenna may care to recall, in which a plan affecting the goodwill and good living of many millions of people was evolved. To-day we are assisting to evolve a plan relating to only a few people at present but to large tracts of territory. lt was right that Senator McKenna should pay a tribute to Lord Casey for the part he played as our chief negotiator in connexion with this treaty. I understand that great persistence was required. The negotiations in Washington took many weeks in the latter part of last year, and 1 understand that our Ambassador at Washington, Mr. Beale, assisted Mr. Casey, as he then was, in the negotiations. I am interested also in the fact that the first meeting of the signatory powers after the complete ratification of the treaty is to be held in Canberra. 1 suggest to the Minister and to the President of the Senate that it may be a fine gesture to make this Senate chamber available for the first meeting of the council to be created. Several years ago, when the council of the South-East Asia Treaty Organization met in Canberra, Parliament House was made available to it, and I commend to the Minister the idea that this chamber be made available for such an important meeting as is to take place. I hope that that meeting will be held quite soon. There is provision that it be held within a limited time after the last signatory has ratified the treaty.
It was rather interesting that Senator McKenna should refer to the Fulbright report that was made to the United States Senate. Treaty-making power is vested in the United States Senate, and it was a committee of that Senate that heard important evidence before ratifying the treaty. I understand that some countries ratify by executive action. In the short time at my disposal I have endeavoured to make some research in relation to ratification by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Apart from reference to a White Paper presented in December last, there appears to be no mention of this treaty in the record of proceedings of the Parliament at Westminster, and so I assume that the treaty has been ratified by executive action. The treaty is between Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. All of these twelve important nations played quite considerable parts two years ago in the activities of the International Geophysical Year.
Some of them are very actively concerned with affairs in Antarctica. What does the treaty do? Briefly, it reserves Antartica for peaceful purposes. It provides for international co-operation in scientific investigation and research; and, putting the position broadly, it freezes the status quo with regard to territorial sovereignty.
What will the position be after the treaty is ratified by the remaining nations - Australia, Argentina, Chile, France, New Zealand and Russia? I shall deal first with the subject of territorial sovereignty. It should be remembered that the whole area of Antarctica is twice that of Australia, and that that part of Antarctica which Australia claims is about the size of this continent. It is interesting to note that the day-to-day law of the Australian Capital Territory is the law which operates in Australian Antarctica at the moment. This Parliament made provision for that about four or five years ago. Australia has laid claim to this vast area of land because of the work done by our explorers, geologists and scientists. I recall the great work done by Sir Douglas Mawson between 1911 and 1914, when he led an Australian expedition to Antarctica. Sir Douglas led a famous expedition to that land between 1929 and 1931, but it consisted of British and New Zealand personnel as well as Australians. Since 1947, the Department of External Affairs has, year by year, been actively engaged in operations in Antarctica. Thus there has been laid a great foundation for our territorial claim.
It was interesting to hear Senator McKenna mention a little sector of Antarctica which nobody, particularly the United States of America, seems to want to touch. America feels that if she lays claim to that sector, in some way she will jeopardize the theory that she makes and recognizes no territorial claims. France, of course, has a small piece of Antarctica. When looking at the map, I noted that it was the sector which lies between Portland in Victoria and Port Lincoln in South Australia. It cuts right into Australian Antarctica, which runs from more or less south of New Zealand to approximately south of South Africa. If we take out the small sector that France claims, it will be seen that Australia lays claim to virtually all the land mass to the south of this continent, to the south of New Zealand, and to the south of almost all the
Indian Ocean. So the territorial sovereignty of this land, which is to be in deep freeze for the next 34 years, is quite important to Australia.
If we ratify this treaty, we will do so without prejudice to the original claim of territorial sovereignty that we put forward. Likewise, we will recognize the Norwegians’ claim to Queen Maud Land, France’s claim to Adelie Land, and the rather mixed up claims of the United Kingdom, Argentina and Chile to the portion of Antarctica which lies to the south of South America. That is the question of territorial sovereignty as I see it. The importance of the whole thing is that we can do all this without prejudice to our rights, without prejudice to the rights of other nations that already claim territory, and without prejudice to the attitude of the United States and Russia which, as I have already indicated, do not recognize or claim any rights to any specific area.
The great purpose of the treaty, as I see it, is that it reserves Antarctica for peaceful purposes. It is not important that I should go into the same detail as did the Leader of the Opposition, but I direct the attention of honorable senators to the preamble to the treaty, which, in the way preambles go, reads -
Recognizing that it is in the interest of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord
That object is implemented by Article I., which reads -
Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only. There shall be prohibited, inter alia, any measures of a military nature, such as the establishment of military bases and fortifications, the carrying out of military manoeuvers, as well as the testing of any type of weapons.
The second paragraph of that article provides that -
The present Treaty shall not prevent the use of military personnel or equipment for scientific research or for any other peaceful purpose.
Article V., which deals with nuclear explosions, reads -
Any nuclear explosions in Antarctica and the disposal there of radioactive waste material shall be prohibited.
I believe that the treaty deals with those matters positively.
This question may be asked: What sanction is there to ensure that these provisions shall be observed? That, of course, is the difficult problem. I hope that when the treaty becomes operative it will be recognized that the United Nations should keep an eye on the situation, that that organization will apply a moral sanction, and that any differences will be brought up in that forum. As I see the situation, no other sanction is provided for. It is interesting to note that paragraph 4 of Article VII. implements the open skies idea, which President Eisenhower has been trying for many years to have implemented. Honorable senators will note that provision is made for an aerial observation of happenings in Antarctica.
If the treaty is ratified, what should the Australian nation through the Australian Parliament do? I believe it should immediately think more and more about the importance of Antarctica. Over the years, I have mentioned a certain matter in this chamber a number of times, and I propose to refer to it again without fear of stressing it too much. I refer to the need to provide an Australian ship to travel to and fro between Australia and Antarctica. At present, we hire two small Danish vessels at a cost of approximately £1,000 a day.
– That is a lot of money.
– It is a lot of money. The Auditor-General has reported adversely on that expenditure. The matter has been reported upon in almost every newspaper I have read on the subject. I have actually seen plans which were made available some ten years ago, perhaps by an earlier government, for the building of an Australian ship to go to Antarctica. Those plans were never proceeded with. At present we have nobody trained to go to this vast Territory, which lies only a few hours from the shores of Australia by jet flight.
I was privileged to know slightly the late Sir Douglas Mawson. I had several discussions with him about Antarctic problems. On one occasion he pointed out to me that the Royal Navy has a small section of personnel trained for Arctic service. I wonder whether it would be possible to train a small section of the Royal Australian Navy for service in cold-water areas. In an article in a Sydney newspaper about twelve months ago a Mr. David Burke wrote -
They call the Royal Australian Navy a “hot weather Navy “. It does not practise ice navigation, and it has no modern cold weather equipment. Yet, in any future war, a submarine peril to Australia could easily come from the cold southern seas.
Despite the high principles embodied in this treaty, we must be practical; and I feel that the Navy should be able to proceed to Antarctica. We should train personnel and have them ready to proceed to Antarctica, where they could perform a useful purpose associated with our heavy responsibilities in that area. Possibly £1,000,000 has been spent on charter charges in the last ten of fifteen years, but we have nothing to show for that expenditure. We have no properly trained personnel and if anything untoward were to happen we would be in an awkward fix.
– Do you suggest that the Navy could not go to Antarctica?
– There is no reason why the Navy could not go there.
– The Navy used to go there. It went to Macquarie Island.
– The Navy went to Macquarie Island to take off a person who needed to undergo an operation in Australia. But Macquarie Island is still a long way from the Antarctic mainland.
– It is still very cold on Macquarie Island.
– Yes. An honorable senator opposite pointed out that the Russians regularly go to their territory in the Antarctic. At present the Americans have ice-breakers that can go deep into the Antarctic. When Portland Harbour in Victoria is to be opened an Australian warship and an American ice-breaker proceeding to the Antarctic are to be in the harbour together. At the time I asked the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) whether some arrangements could be made for Australian personnel to proceed to Antarctica on that American ice-breaker.
If we are to do anything practical about the treaty that we are now discussing we must have men who are versed in work in the Antarctic The Antarctic offers untold opportunities to the young men of Australia. At the beginning of this year a small number of Royal Australian Air Force personnel went there; and I understand that the planes used there have done remarkable work. They have rescued people, but more importantly they have been used to train people in communications work in the area. We have trained men to use dogs and sledges there but we should have men trained in ships and aircraft. If the charter ships that We rely on each year were, for some unforeseen reason, unavailable - they may founder or there may be a strike among the Danish seamen - we would be seriously embarassed in the work that we are carrying out in the Antarctic Territory.
I invite the attention of the Senate to some of the real benefits that will flow from peaceful occupation of the Antarctic. Meteorological forecasts for the southern States of Australia could be improved. The flow of air over the Antarctic continent has a very direct bearing on weather conditions in Australia. Accurate weather forecasting is very important to our agriculturalists. The scientific work done in the Antarctic region can be of enormous importance to civil aviation in Australia. Possibly in the future, aircraft may be able to find a shorter route to South America or even South Africa by flying across Antarctica. In the northern hemi sphere the flight between Europe and Tokio has been shortened considerably by using a route over the North Pole. The scientific work carried out in the Antarctic could be of immense value to commercial radio and television interests. That aspect will interest Senator Hannan.
This treaty is so important that we should take great interest in it. Possibly a select committee of the Senate could be formed to study the working of the treaty from the angle of world peace and development that would flow from an exchange of scientific knowledge. The great genius of the treaty is that it provides for the nations undertaking scientific research in the area to exchange knowledge. I do not think it would be inappropriate at this stage for a Senate select committee to make a study of those matters. It was only to-day that Senator Anderson, on behalf of the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety, presented an important report, and it was only two or three years ago that Senator
McCallum presented a report, on the development of Canberra, lt could well be that the development of Antarctica as a result of this treaty could be a matter for surveillance by a select committee of the Senate.
In conclusion I ask honorable senators to listen while I read from a very interesting article which appears in the April, 1960, edition of “ The American Journal of International Law “. The article, entitled “ The Antarctic Settlement of 1959”, was written by Professor Robert D. Hayton, a learned professor of one of the American universities who apparently has made a great deal of research into this matter. In the concluding section of his article he says -
Let it first be said that within the context of current reality the treaty is an unusual example of diplomatic and political service to ‘.he goals of science and the general international interest. The treaty’s high principles do help keep alive a hope for the eventual peaceful accommodation of differences. The document is a worthy, if imperfect, step towards the end.
So, I say that the treaty is a great step forward. lt is by no means perfect because, as I see it, it lacks the means to ensure that it is observed. However, it does put things down in black and white, and there could well be a sanction that could be implemented by the “ moral “ wing of the United Nations Organization if the treaty were not observed. I join with other honorable senators who have preceded me in this debate in complimenting the Government on the step it has taken in bringing this treaty before the Senate. I hope the bill has a speedy passage through the Parliament, that the treaty will receive early ratification by the nations which are parties to it.
– I believe it is more than a favorable coincidence that to-day, when the eyes of the world are turned towards the meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization which is endeavouring to reach a settlement of the difficulties confronting this troubled world, we in this part of the world should be considering his treaty relating to Antarctica, a treaty which itself has all that is necessary to produce the same goodwill which we hope will prevail at the United Nations meeting.
– You could call it a treaty for a cold peace.
– That is right. The words used by the President of the United States of America when this treaty was introduced into the United States Senate on 15th February, 1960, are worthy of being quoted here. He said -
This is a unique and historic treaty. It provides that a large area of the world - an area equal in size to Europe and the United States combined - will be used for peaceful purposes only . . . The Spirit of cooperation and mutual understanding with which representatives of the twelve countries drafted the Antarctic Treaty and signed it for their respective governments is an inspiring example of what can be accomplished by international cooperation in the field of science and in the pursuit of peace.
I believe that sums up the attitude of every honorable senator to this treaty.
Australia has always had very important historical links with the Antarctic. In mediaeval times, when Australia itself was unknown, the scholars of the time thought there was one great southern continent, the boundaries of which they were not able to define. Geologists tell us that at some stage portions of the continent broke off and drifted either south or north. During the last winter I thought it must have been that some parts drifted up from the south and brought the Antarctic weather with them. The little that we knew about the Antarctic up until the last half-century was more or less based on speculation. During the last half-century, through the expeditions of intrepid men such as Shackleton, Scott, Bird and Wilson, and the men who accompanied them on their expeditions, and through the work of the Australian, Sir Douglas Mawson, we have come to know a great deal about Antarctica, relatively speaking. We probably know mors than do the people of any of the other countries of the world. That is why we have laid claim to almost half of Antarctica, which is twice the size of Australia.
During the International Geophysical Year in 1957-58, representatives of no fewer than twelve nations were working in perfect peace and harmony on scientific research. That brings me to what I believe is the crux of this treaty. It is not a treaty under which countries are joining together for important advantages, for territorial aggrandizement or something of that kind. It is a treaty which ensures that all the knowledge which can be gained from the Antarctic regions will be used for the good of alf.
This treaty has three aims. The first is to reserve the Antarctic area for peaceful purposes. The second is to provide for international co-operation in scientific investigation and research. Of course, the real value of all scientific investigation and research is its international quality. Science knows no boundaries; it knows no creeds; it knows no colour barriers. The ratification of this treaty is one way in which we as a Parliament can show that we really believe that to be true. According to the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton), who is at the table, the third avowed purpose of the treaty is to freeze the status quo with regard to territorial sovereignty, rights and claims. I do not know whether that is a very happy choice of language, but the idea that it expresses is important. The rights of countries which have interests in Antarctica at the present time are not to be interfered with in any way. An aim of the treaty is to work 0U a plan whereby all investigations will be conducted with a minimum of interference and without occasioning territorial disputes.
This treaty is unlike any previous treaty. It is not a treaty which is ending a war. I hope it is not a treaty which will start a war, as has happened so often in the past. It is really a treaty in the interests of world peace, because it aims to bring some order into the relationships between the various nations which co-operated so well during the International Geophysical Year. As a matter of fact, that was one of the reasons which led to the United States of America extending an invitation to the twelve participating nations to meet in Washington to discuss a treaty of this kind. The nations felt that they had worked together very well, despite the fact that at that time there was great mistrust, as there is to-day; and despite the fact that the United States and the other Western countries were not able to work in with the Soviet countries or that the Soviet countries would not co-operate. We know that the co-operation of the Soviet countries during the International Geophysical Year was remarked upon by the other participating nations. Indeed, the feeling of mistrust quickly evaporated when those nations realized that the Russians were really in the project for’ scientific purposes only.
There have been some doubting Thomases, in Australia as well as in the United States of America. They consider that Russia’s was the one dissentient voice in this whole proposition, that Russia would perhaps try to wreck the treaty and that there was a danger in the West trying to aline itself with the Communist countries. But, as has been very clearly stated by Senator Fulbright, it is much more important that there should be some means of communcation between East and West in this matter than that we should ignore all negotiations and all avenues that are likely to lead to world peace by turning our back on the Soviet. The scientists who have worked with the Russians during the International Geophysics Year and since then all have been quite enthusiastic about the interest of the Russians in the work being undertaken, purely and simply for the sake of science and not for the sake of territorial ambitions.
Others have said, of course, that it is time that we did something about Antarctica because it is a very rich country owing to its vast mineral potential. We do not know whether there is a vast mineral potential in Antarctica. We have been told by the geologist, Dr. Laurence Gould, who was second in command of the first Bryd expedition, that the continent’s vast, low-grade lignite coal deposits are commercially worthless. He also said -
I would not give a nickel for all the mineral resources I know in Antarctica. The point is we don’t know and … to presume that vast resources are there is nonsense. We haven’t examined 1 per cent of the area geologically . . . so that for many, many years, to come . . . the most important export of Antarctia is going to be its scientific data.
That, of course, cannot be covered by quota or bounty laws, or anything of that kind. It is simply scientific data, and that is all there is to it. Dr. Gould went on to say -
There is no single field of geophysics which does not demand for its completion data which can come only from Antarctica. . .
That is very important, and that is why no one nation should have a sovereign right to the whole of Antarctica or to scientific knowledge which is not manifest to the rest of the world.
As 1 said before, this treaty does not deal with economic considerations, nor does it deal with international problems as we know them. It deals with a method of bringing about, in a peaceful way, the development of this vast mass of land, for the ultimate benefit of the whole of humanity. That, surely, is something completely new in the field of international relationships. That is why we, as an Opposition, are very pleased that this bill has come before the Senate. I regret very much that we have not had more time to study the matter. Speaking for myself, I was not at first especially interested in the Antarctic Treaty because I did not know very much about it, nor did I know when it would come before the Parliament for ratification. I agree with Senator Laught that the Senate could be given a much more useful function if matters of this kind, which are so clearly non-political, could be discussed by committees of the Senate which had power to undertake research work. 1 am certain that such committees could prove of great help to the Government and to the country, particularly if they were able to carry on their work in the spirit of international goodwill that this treaty hopes to create and preserve. 1 have much pleasure, Mr. Deputy President, in supporting the bill and in congratulating the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) and the previous Minister for External Affairs on having brought the treaty before the Parliament of Australia for ratification.
– I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak in support of this bill for an act to give effect to the Antarctic Treaty. I believe that it is an important step forward on the tortuous path leading to the Utopia that we all desire - that of world peace. The bill consists, as Senator McKenna has said, of a preamble and fourteen articles. The preamble sets forth the objectives of the signatories and expresses the conviction that the treaty will further the purposes and principles embodied in the charter of the United Nations. It is, as Senator Tangney has said, most significant that a bill of this kind should be before the Senate at a time when we are watching so closely what is happening in the United Nations.
The first three articles of the treay provide that measures of a military nature, including the use of military personnel and equipment for peaceful purposes, shall be prohibited in Antarctica, that freedom of scientific investigation shall continue as during the International Geophysical Year, and that measures to promote international scientific co-operation shall include exchanges of plans, personnel and data among the contracting parties. Article IV. deals with the difficult and sensitive question of territorial claims and rights. It provides that the claims of the contracting nations are not in any way affected by the treaty, nor is there any change in the position of each nation regarding the claims or rights of others. The question of territorial claims and rights, as has been said, is frozen for 34 years.
Article V. prohibits nuclear explosions and radio-active waste disposal, but does not bar the use of atomic power plants in Antarctica for the production of heat and light. This is particularly interesting, since the Americans have announced that they are about to establish a nuclear power plant in the area. Article VI. states that the treaty covers the area south of 60 degrees S. latitude, but it does not affect the question of the access of nations to the high seas. Articles VII. and VIII. relate to the system of inspection. Each original treaty member shall have the right to name its own national observers who shall have complete freedom of access at any time to all parts of Antarctica. The unrestricted right of aerial observation, which should be especially noted, is consonant with President Eisenhower’s “ open skies “ proposals. It is provided that disputes should be resolved through consultation. If not so resolved, a dispute may be referred to the International Court of Justice, but only with the consent of all parties to the dispute.
I believe that this is a vitally important matter in the realm of foreign affairs. It is particularly vital to Australia and perhaps especially so, for several reasons’, to my own State of South Australia. The first of those reasons relates to the area of this vast continent and its proximity to Australia. It has an area of 5,500,000 square miles, which is nearly twice the size of Australia, and it lies relatively close to us. Australia owns, or claims territorial rights to, about a third of the area, or to an area which is almost equal in size to the continent of Australia. The second reason why I think this matter is vital to Australia is that the Australian record of exploration and scientific activity in Antarctica is well known and certainly is creditable. South Australia has a particular interest in such scientific explorations and activities because two South Australians have played an active part in them. I refer to the late Sir Douglas Mawson and more recently, Mr. John Rymill. The third reason is that it has already been proved that the Australian weather system originates in Antarctica. Being mainly an agricultural and pastoral country, any increase in the study of scientific data concerning meteorology must be of great benefit to us. Oceanographic data which is being collected in the area also must benefit our shipping, especially that in the southern waters.
The fifth reason relates to aviation. Aviation within and from Australia will be greatly affected as more scientific knowledge is made available. New and better air routes to the United Kingdom, South America and South Africa may be opened up by flights over the South Pole. People who have been flying over the North Pole have already found that route vastly superior to the older routes over the warmer continents. In addition, the more stable weather conditions, due to the absence of thermal currents, is a significant factor. It is interesting to note that to fly over the South Pole from Australia to the United Kingdom is only eighteen miles longer than is the present route over the Equator.
The sixth reason - this is vital to Australia - is the banning of nuclear explosions and the dumping of nuclear waste in the area. It is of particular importance to us because of the possibility of contamination affecting Australia, the continent which lies closest to Antarctica. 1 think the seventh reason is significant. In a period of extreme East-West tension this vast continent so close to us will now be neutralized for at least 34 years. With all military activity prohibited it is not likely to become an area of world conflict.
Finally, we hope that the same neutralizing effect could be carried further into outer space, the most recent area to be invaded by man. We certainly live in an amazing era of scientific discovery. Every day brings more startling new phenomena. We have become used to the fact of satellite orbiting the earth, and now we look to the fantastic scientific possibilities for communications, ballistic missiles, or even for spying on each other’s territory which might follow the putting of satellites into orbit around the earth. But in view of the fact, now established, that radio communication in the lower atmosphere - I believe it is called the ionosphere - can be completely disrupted for several hours following an explosion of a nuclear bomb, it is vital that more scientific discovery and knowledge of outer space should be speedily advanced in order to overcome the drastic results which could follow such temporary dislocation.
We are now told that three evenly spaced satellites orbiting the earth, and each in turn covering one-third of the globe, can, by transmitting to each other and then back to earth, send radio messages and television images instantly to any part of the world. Many of us hope that Australia can play a leading part in making this experiment a reality by joining with the British at Woomera in plans to use the Blue Streak missile to carry into orbit the mechanism necessary for so wonderful an achievement, and thus put outer space to greater peaceful use. Following the ratification of this treaty, perhaps it is not too much to hope that outer space may also be neutralized and protected from international military strife as Antarctica is to be.
I do not suppose many people give much thought to this vast land which runs parallel to ours. I was about to say that it is only 2,000 miles from our southern coastline, but Senator McKenna, who comes from Tasmania, pointed out that it is only 1,450 miles from Hobart. I bow to his superior knowledge.
– He has looked at the map.
– He lives in Hobart. The Antarctic continent is the largest unexplored area of the earth’s surface, although in recent years there has been a considerable increase in knowledge of the continent, and the unexplored area is diminishing rapidly, due mainly to the intensive programmes of exploration and scientific research that were carried out during the International Geophysical Year, and the subsequent period of international geophysical co-operation organized by the special committee on Antarctic research. The 5,500,000 square miles of this continent is, for the most part, covered by an ice sheet which in places exceeds 10,000 feet in thickness. The average height of the continent above sea level is 6,000 feet, which makes Antarctica the world’s highest continent. It has extensive mountain ranges with peaks rising to over 13,000 feet. It is the most inaccessible and inhospitable region on the surface of the earth. It has no vegetation other than lichens, moss and algae, and for this reason, and because of its forbidding climate, it has no permanent inhabitants. As Senator McKenna said, it is ironical that the nations can agree to co-operate in an area where no one lives and yet so far have not been able to achieve the same agreement about areas where population is concentrated.
Antarctica has no land animals except a few mites and insects. However, the surrounding seas abound in whales, seals and fish, and the mainland is a haven for penguins, skuas, petrels and albatrosses. Although it has been established that no less than 176 different minerals exist there, not one mineral has yet been found in commercial quantities. However, who knows what the future may hold in store? And it is to the future that we in Australia must look when we consider Antarctica.
The first people to journey to the Antarctic waters were probably the Polynesians whose legends tell of canoe journeys far to the south. Although Captain Cook narrowly missed discovery of Antarctica when he circumnavigated it in 1772, hereported his opinion that there was such a vast ice-covered continent, and that .e had probably seen part of it. However true or not, the Russians claim to have discovered Antarctica in 1819. Since ‘ben many expeditions have been sent there, not the least important of them being led by our own noted South Australian explorer, Sir Douglas Mawson, on two occasions. A later expedition was headed by Mr. John Rymill. So much for the early discoveries of Antarctica.
We have now reached the stage where a treaty has been signed and we are asked to ratify it. But what are the events which led to the signing of this treaty? In May, 1958, the United States of America sent identical notes to the eleven other countries which participated in the Antarctic programme of the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58, inviting them to join in a conference aimed at formulating a treaty on Antarctica. The United States was mindful of the territorial claims of several countries, especially the conflicting and overlapping claims of the United Kingdom, Argentina and Chile, and the refusal of the latter two countries to permit the question to be taken to the International Court of Justice. The United States was also mindful of the failure of the 1948 effort to arrange a conference with the seven claimants to settle their territorial interests. All eleven governments accepted the invitation of the United States, and after six weeks of deliberations, in which Australia, through Lord Casey, played a leading part, the treaty was finally signed on 1st December of last year.
The ratification of the treaty by six countries has already taken place. As Senator McKenna said, it is necessary for all the countries concerned to ratify the treaty, and for that reason I would hope that we will hasten to ratify it, and that the other five remaining nations will ratify it as soon as possible. The purpose of the treaty is clear and is of an extremely peaceful nature. It ensures that nuclear explosions and the dumping of radio active waste will be banned, that no territorial rights are recognized or affected, that freedom of scientific investigation will be maintained, that international co-operation to that end will be promoted, and that complete rights of unilateral inspection shall ensure fulfilment of these objectives.
I have also read the report of the Senate Committee in America from which Senator McKenna quoted, and I support both Senator Laught and Senator Tangney who pointed out that the Australian Senate might well have the same committee set-up to investigate such subjects as this. When I was in Washington I was most impressed by the useful work which Senate committees do in examining bills before they come into the Senate. It seems to me that it is a most valuable procedure which we could well follow in this Parliament. We would be well informed on matters to be discussed and we could make a much more constructive contribution to debates on bills that come before us. I hope that we do come to a stage when the Senate will set up committees to examine bills before they are submitted to the full Senate.
Looking at the American Senate committee’s report, It is interesting to see that evidence was taken both for and against the ratification of the treaty. The case for the treaty was put by Rear Admiral David Tyrel, the Antarctic Project Officer of the Department of Defence, and also by Dr. Laurence Gould of the National Academy of Sciences and Dr. Phillip Jessup, Professor of International Law at Columbia University. Testimony opposed to the treaty was given by Senator Engle, Senator Gruening, a member of the House of Representatives., Mr. John Pillion, Mr. Stackpole, an.d Miss Elizabeth Kendall. The committee concerned itself particularly with two items that had arisen in the testimony which was given against ratification. The first of those was the fact that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was to be among the twelve signatories; and the second was that the United States, despite a notable record of Antarctic exploration, had failed to make official territorial claims. Neither of those matters, on close examination, seemed to offer any valid or substantial reason to the American Senate committee for non-ratification of the treaty, but there was a strong feeling expressed by those opposed to ratification that Russia was being given an open invitation to come into the area.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. Deputy President, when the sitting was suspended I was saying that I felt that this bill to give effect to the Artarctic Treaty was an important step in the direction of world peace. I was pointing out that this treaty is vitally important in the realm of foreign affairs in general and is particularly important to Australia for some eight reasons, which I expressed in detail. I shall re-capitulate them briefly. The first reason is the size of this continent and its proximity to Australia. The area of Antarctica is 5,500,000 square miles and
Australia is laying claim to about one-third of it, or to an area almost equal in size to the whole of Australia. Secondly, the Australian record of exploration and scientific activity in Antarctica has made us particularly interested in the area. South Australia has a special interest in these explorations and scientific activities because two famous Antarctic explorers, the late Sir Douglas Mawson and Mr. John Rymill, came from that State. Thirdly, it has been proved that the Australian weather system originates in Antarctica, and any increase in the volume of scientific data concerning meteorology coming from there must be of great benefit to us. Fourthly, oceanographic data collected in the area must benefit our shipping. Fifthly, in the field of aviation we have a great deal to gain by further information coming from this area. The route from Australia to the United Kingdom over the South Pole is only 18 miles longer than the traditional route used at present.
The sixth reason why the treaty is important is that it bans nuclear explosions and the dumping of nuclear waste in Antarctica. This is particularly important to Australia, due to the possibility of contamination from that area. Seventhly, in a period of extreme East-West tension, this vast continent, which is so close to us, will be neutralized by the treaty for at least 34 years. I expressed the hope that the same neutralizing effect would be carried further into the area most recently invaded by man, that of outer space.
I described this vast continent and mentioned its proximity to Australia. It lies only about 2,000 miles from the south coast of the mainland of Australia, and 1,450 miles from Hobart. For the most part, the Antarctic continent is covered by an ice sheet which in places exceeds 10.000 ft. in thickness. The average height of the continent above sea-level is 6,000 ft., and it has extensive mountain ranges, rising to about 13,000 ft. It is the most inaccessible and inhospitable region on the earth’s surface. It has no land animals and no permanent inhabitants. It seems ironical that in this area men have been able to agree to co-operate, for scientific reasons, but that the same degree of co-operation has not been achieved in areas where men live. The economic potential of the area may be great, because it is known that 176 different minerals exist there, although as yet they have not been found in commercial quantities.
I outlined the events which led up to the signing of the treaty last December. In May, 1958, the United States of America sent identical notes to the eleven other countries which participated in the Antarctic programme during the International Geophysical Year. In sending these invitations to the eleven countries, the United States was mindful of the territorial claims of several countries and also of the failure of the 1948 effort to arrange a conference with the seven claimants to settle their territorial interests. In spite of this, all of the eleven governments accepted the invitation and after six weeks of deliberations, in which Australia, through Lord Casey, played a leading part, the treaty was finally signed. Six countries have already ratified the treaty, and it now remains for the other five natrons to do so.
The purpose of the treaty is to ensure that nuclear explosions and the clumping of radio-active waste will be banned, that no territorial rights will be recognized or affected, that freedom of scientific investigation shall be maintained, that international co-operation to that end shall be prompted, and that complete rights of unilateral inspection shall ensure the fulfilment of these objectives.
When the sitting was suspended, 1 was about to describe some of the findings of the special foreign relations committee of the United States Senate, which took evidence both for and against the signing and ratification of the treaty. The committee, in its report, expressed two major concerns. The first was that the Soviet Union was to be amongst the twelve signatories. The second was that the United States, despite a n’otable record of Antarctic exploration, had failed to make official territorial claims. On close examination, neither of those matters seemed to offer any valid or substantial reason to the Senate committee for non-ratification of the treaty, but there was a strong feeling expressed by those opposed to the ratification that Russia was being given an open invitation to come into the area.
We must remember that this is not so. Russia is there and means to stay. This treaty is merely regularizing the situation. The Soviet Republic engaged in extensive activities in Antarctica during the International Geophysical Year, and, at our invitation and the invitation of other countries, has established bases there which it shows every intention to maintain. If, however, the Russians should break the treaty in the future - and some may be fearful of this, judging by their past record - we would be no worse off. On the other hand - this is on the credit side - it would appear that Russia may bc ahead of the Western world in the field of space research and if this is in fact the case, we would have everything to gain by a free exchange of scientific data in the area.
Russia already has a nuclear-powered ice-breaker operating in the Arctic regions and may be able to teach us a considerable amount. With the unlimited financial and human resources at her disposal, she may be able to forge ahead in any field she may choose to dominate, and I feel that any encouragement to exchange information about her discoveries must be beneficial to all. At all events, we will gain important experience in free international inspection techniques, which, will be valuable in view of the interminable and frustrating negotiations which have jogged on unsuccessfully for years at Geneva while trying to arrive at satisfactory terms of agreement for universal international disarmament and inspection. It is indeed gratifying that at least in this one sphere, and at the initiative of the Western countries - this is important - a legal framework in which scientific exploration and research may advance has been agreed upon by the twelve nations concerned.
That the United States of America has failed to make official territorial claims is praiseworthy, since the American expedition in 1947 under Admiral Byrd did such valuable work in photographing most of the Antarctic coastline from the air in their operation “ High Jump “. But one should remember that the only territory yet unclaimed is the one-sixth of the continent between 93 and 150 degrees west longitude - possibly the least accessible and least rewarding part of Antarctica. There seems to be a tacit understanding among the claimants that this area would be reserved to the United States of America, but should she now wish to exercise this option she would logically have to recognize the claims of other countries and. probably would jeopardize her rights and the rights of all other interested parties to free access to all Antarctica. The alternative to ratifying this treaty would seem to entail drawing Antarctica into the arena of global conflict, which could be disastrous to Australia. It would be better to set a valuable precedent for dealing with new situations arising in this space age. We must recognize that as the importance of the area grows, as national activities continue to develop, the possibilities of disagreement are likely to increase. Only by signing the. treaty can we keep the Antarctic from becoming a breeding ground for suspicion, which is the great corroder and the great destroyer of any hopes for world peace. Lei us hope that science may yet prove to be the medium through which a basis for real peaceful co-existence without subversion will be achieved. Let us hasten to play our part by ratifying the treaty at once. I have pleasure in supporting the bill.
– After hearing the speeches already made in this debate, it is rather difficult to know just where to start and where to finish, because the field has been covered rather effectively and it is not easy at this stage to contribute anything new. However, I am most interested in the bill. I have always been much interested in the history and exploration of Antarctica, and when the bill was introduced 1 decided to take part in the debate.
When I was in America last year, the Antarctica conference was taking place in Washington and I had the opportunity of discussing it with Mr. Casey, who is now Lord Casey. The conference occupied much of the time of some of our people who were attending the meeting of the United Nations. I realized then that the objective could not be achieved in a hurry because there were many implications. The twelve nations which took part in the activities of the international Geophysical Year were parties ti> the conference, and it was difficult to resolve the legal and other considerations. I was delighted when one of our delegates, upon returning from Washington to New York, told me that a satisfactory conclusion had been reached. I refer to Mr. Charles Kevin, who is now Australian High Commissioner in Ceylon. I know that Mr. Casey attended the early part of the conference, but it was left to other delegates to thrash out the details of all the problems involved. It was no mean feat for the nations interested in Antarctica to make a treaty which will benefit the whole world, and which shows that amicable settlements of international affairs can be reached. Instead of being an area of potential conflict, Antarctica will be, as Senator McKenna said, in effect a scientific laboratory. The treaty will operate for 34 years and is designed to eliminate controversy. If this achievement were emulated in other fields it would react to the great benefit of all mankind. 1 have taken the trouble to conduct a little research in relation to Antarctica. The territory is vast. Although this has never been conclusively established we have always assumed it to be a vast land mass covered by a high ice cap. It has taken many hundreds of years to establish what we do know of Antarctica. For more than 2.00 years intrepid men ventured into the icy southern seas with the object of learning whether an Antarctic continent did exist. Sailing ships used southern latitudes to take advantage of prevailing westerly winds, but these did not extend into the extreme south. Consequently, there was some doubt about what existed there. We cannot give too much credit to the explorers for their bravery in travelling into the icy wastes.
Australia is the closest of the other continents to Antarctica. We have been told ?hat Tasmania is less than 1,500 miles away “tom it. South Africa, New Zealand, and the southern part of South America project ato the Antarctic area and are relatively close to the icy continent. The existence of the Antarctic continent was not fully established until fairly recently. Captain Cook circumnavigated Antarctica without being absolutely ‘ sure that a continent existed there. Other explorers, penetrating from the southern part of South America established that land lay to the south. Exploration has been collected through various agencies, including the British Navy and other navies, and finally a foothold was established in the Antarctic continent.
The area directly to the south of Aus-: tralia, between longitudes 45 degrees east and 160 degrees east, intersected by Adelie Land which is claimed by France, comprises a large proportion pf the Antarctic continent. The shape of the continent is rather uninteresting. There appears to be an archipelago extending towards Cape Horn, which I think is known as the South Falklands dependencies. There are very many islands in that archipelago. There are two indentations in the continent of Antarctica, one of which, the Ross Sea, lies to the south of Australia. The Ross Sea dependency, of course, has been chimed by New Zealand. If we were to follow the coastline, which is fairly even, around to the west, we would come to the Weddell Sea on the other side of the continent. Between those two indentations lies the South Pole itself. We have read in the press and in other publications of the exploratory work that has been undertaken in recent years by Sir Vivian Fuchs and the New Zealand explorer, Sir Edmund Hillary. Sir Edmund Hillary journeyed inland from the Ross Sea, which, as I said, is the indentation nearest to Australia, and Sir Vivian Fuchs made his epic journey to the South Pole from the Weddell Sea.
In earlier years there were other expeditions to the South Pole, in some cases with tragic results. I think particularly of Captain Scott and some of his party. Man is an intrepid creature. He will venture into the unknown in an effort to find out what is to be discovered. I often think that some of the expeditions that have been undertaken in Australia can be compared to those that have been undertaken to the South Pole. Of course, the conditions encountered in Australia are quite different from those encountered in Antarctica. Antarctica is an icy waste. Australia, on the other hand, is a dry continent, and an explorer does not know whether he will be able to obtain water at the end of his day’s journey. But the unknown is a challenge to man, and in so very many cases lie has been triumphant.
Although my memory would be tested in regard to one or two of the expeditions that have been made to the South Pole, I can recall almost all of them. I am thinking, of course, of British expeditions. Those expeditions have aroused in us a sense of admiration for the people who have undertaken them. Even as early as the seventeenth century expeditions were undertaken to explore the unknown region of the South Pole. I believe that one of the early expeditions - in the seventeenth century - was financed by a czar of Russia. The French have played their part in opening up the Antarctic. We know that one French expedition discovered the Kerguelen Islands, which lie to the south of South Africa. I mentioned earlier that Cook, the great English naval captain who played an important part in the discovery of the southern hemisphere, took part in the exploration of the region we are considering. He penetrated almost down to the Antarctic Circle. He did not venture further because he thought the dangers were too great and that the equipment of his vessels was inadequate. But Cook did discover some of the islands that are adjacent to the Antarctic continent, and he was firmly of the opinion that the Antarctic continent did exist.
In 1820 the South Shetland islands, which lie just to the south of Cape Horn, were discovered. It is really only a jump from the Shetlands to the archipelago that 1 referred to a little while ago and which really proved to be part of Antarctica.
– They are a continuation of the Andes.
– As Senator Laught reminds me, it is really a continuation of the cordillera of mountains which run down the continent of South America and with which we are all familiar.
Following this work of exploration to which I have referred, people sought to commercialize the assets that were discovered on the islands adjacent to Antarctica. I refer to the seals. The seal colonies were exploited for very many years and to such a degree that they were threatened with extinction. Later still scientific expeditions were undertaken to the Antarctic. The British Admiralty has the honour of having played its part in the discovery of so much of this part of the world. Only just recently in the basement of this building I noticed a small painting depicting two vessels, the “ Erebus “ and the “ Terra “, which were surrounded by icebergs. They took part in an expedition that was undertaken in the very early days. Mount
Erebus, which is one of the highest mountain peaks and I think is the only active volcano in Antarctica, was named after one of those vessels. The captain in charge of those vessels was Captain Clark Ross, after whom the Ross Sea was named.
The first expedition of Captain R. F. Scott, who took down the first “ Discovery “, was in the period 1901 to 1904. The next British expedition was that led by Shackleton in the period from 1907 to 1909. Incidentally, there were noteworthy Australians amongst the personnel of that expedition. One of them was Sir Edgeworth David and another was Sir Douglas Mawson. The ship that conveyed Shackleton on his expedition was the “ Nimrod “. The Australian captain was John K. Davis. Scott’s second expedition was in Antarctica from 1910 to 1913. This was the tragic expedition that some of us can just remember. I was not very old at the time, but I can recall quite clearly the poignancy of that tragic expedition to the South Pole when the gallant Captain Scott and some of his companions lost their lives. Other members of that ill-fated expedition were Oates and Evans. Oates left his tent and went out into a blizzard to his death so that he would not delay his companions. What a gallant gesture on his part!
Sir Douglas Mawson was in charge of an expedition from 1911 to 1914. I knew some of the members of that expedition. One member whom I knew particularly well was Dr. Madigan. He was a scientist and geologist of great fame who has done splendid work for Australia. Australia honours men like Mawson and Madigan. The “ Aurora “ was the ship in which they went to the South Pole on that occasion.
Another great expedition was the second Shackleton expedition. What a wonderful man Shackleton was! That journey was extremely dangerous because of the uncertain conditions of the ice. The ship “ Endurance “ was crushed in the ice and Shackleton made his epic journey to South Georgia by open boat to obtain a relief for the party that was stranded on the ice. The party was ultimately successfully rescued. Wonderful work has ben done in those treacherous and inhospitable regions.
Following on the individual feats of exploration we entered upon a new phase of south polar exploration in which the individual did not play such a highly spectacular part. We entered upon a phase of co-operation. The British-Australian-New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition was in Antarctica from 1929 to 1931. We know, of course, that the First World War interfered with exploration in the Antarctic. The men who were associated with those later joint expeditions are famous. There was Lincoln Ellsworth, who commanded the “Wyatt Earp “. I think the “Wyatt Earp “ was taken over by a South Australian organization. Sir Hubert Wilkins was a South Australian who was famous for his Antarctic exploration. Senator Buttfield omitted to mention Sir Hubert Wilkins. Another famous explorer is John Rymill, who is at present living in South Australia. He commanded the British Graham Land expedition. He did very important work, and was a pioneer of aerial exploration in the south polar regions. We remember clearly Admiral Byrd and his efforts in Little America, particularly his aerial explorations. At the present time Mr. P. G. Law is in charge of the wonderful work that is being done in Antarctica at this stage on Australia’s behalf.
Three senators from South Australia have spoken so far in this debate. They are Senator Laught, Senator Buttfield and myself. Is it any wonder that South Australians are interested in this matter? South Australians have played a very gallant part in south polar exploration. No one can say that we are working the parish pump handle now, because we know that this work is being carried on for the benefit of mankind. We are extremely proud of our association with south polar exploration.
– You cannot claim the Minister in charge of the bill.
– I know that the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton), who is in charge of the bill, is an extremely worthy man. He is a next-door neighbour of South Australia, and I always feel thai South Australian mentality and Victorian mentality are not so very different. We know that Senator Gorton is keenly interested in the work that is being done in the Antarctic. We know that he has visited the south polar region. We know that he has been to the American base at McMurdo
Sound, and if it were not so cold down there I would like to see the place myself. We know what wonderful work is being done in the Antarctic at present. I am sure that this treaty will encourage further great scientific work in the region to the ultimate benefit of the world at large.
Australia at present has a base at Davis, and we have taken over the American Base at Wilkes. The Americans have a base at McMurdo Sound and the Russians have a base at Mirny. We pioneered a meteorological base at Heard Island, which is in the Antarctic area although it is not on the mainland of Antarctica. A meteorological base was established there to assist in predicting weather that might be experienced in Australia. We have a base on Macquarie Island. Macquarie Island is not actually in the Antarctic region. This bill refers to areas that are 60 degrees south, and I understand that Macquarie Island is something like 54 degrees south. So Macquarie Island does not come within the scope of this bill. I think the island is administered from Tasmania. Perhaps the Minister can verify that.
The base on Macquarie Island is an important one, and is associated with our activities in the Antarctic generally. We know that the Antarctic Territory holds vast unkown resources. Senator Buttfield mentioned that numerous minerals have been discovered there, although it has not yet been established whether they are of commercial importance. We do not know whether their commercial importance will be established. We have to remember that there are enormous difficulties associated with the development of the potential resources of Antarctica because living conditions would be extremely hazardous and the vast ice cap extends right to the edge of the mainland. But tremendous scientific work is being done, as was mentioned in the Minister’s second-reading speech. He said -
Subjects now covered include meteorology, cartography, the determination of ice-thickness, geology, seismology, auroral observation, cosmic ray studies, biology, upper atmosphere physics, geomagnetism, radio-physics and glaciology.
All those subjects are in the scientific realm and are quite outside my knowledge. I have just a superficial knowledge of many of them, and I think most honorable senators would be in the same position. However, we know that they are all very important. I do not think that any of us would deny the importance of all those subjects. Scientific work is the most important work that is being undertaken in the south polar region at present. I know it will have a tremendous effect on the future of the world.
One could suggest all the things that could have happened in Antarctica if this amicable arrangement had not been entered into. With the development of transport it could have become an area fraught with danger to some of the adjacent areas from a military point of view; but this treaty precludes any military activity in the area. It provides a basis for sensible negotiation between nations, which is our real desire. In ether words, we have neutralized the whole area. Perhaps we have not actually neutralized it; but we have made it possible for these scientific investigations to be undertaken by the nations concerned. The territorial status quo will be maintained, and there will be a continuation of scientific development by the countries which are unable to work in similar conditions elsewhere. I think this treaty is a great step forward in international relations. Therefore, I believe it is a very worthy treaty for which we can take a certain amount of credit, although America initiated it. Consequently, the least we can do is ratify it, as other countries have already done.
– in reply - In replying to this second-reading debate, first I should like to express my appreciation of the support for this treaty and the bill to give effect to Article VII. of it. I express my appreciation for the support which has come from both sides of the Senate, and in particular I express my appreciation of the congratulations which were offered by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) on the presentation of this bill. As a general rule, I would feel extremely uneasy about being congratulated by the Opposition, but in this case, after considerable soul-searching, I believe we are in accord and I accept those congratulations with great pleasure.
In this debate we are dealing in words with a very strange, remote and withdrawn land. It is a place unlike any other place on the face of the earth. Unlike the Arctic, which is just frozen ice over water, the Antarctic is a quiet, unchanging land which rises to 10,000 feet above sea level and there flattens out to mile upon mile of unchanging, featureless, flat, white ice, where nothing lives and nothing ever will live.
– Is this Victoria or Anarctica?
– This is Antarctica. The Leader of the Opposition said it was ironical that on places such as this the nations of the world could come to an agreement. Possibly it is ironical, but possibly it is logical because as far as we know in Antarctica there are no resources to be exploited and no people to be enslaved, and it may well be that we can hope to see power politics put aside and this be the beginning of an international approach to countries in general, which we hope will spread.
– But uninhabited!
– It is uninhabited and therefore it is a place in which that beginning might be made and a place from which we hope, with varying degrees of hope, the international approach might spread.
The Leader of the Opposition made two or three points to which I wish to refer. He said it was a pity that the treaty, as it is to be ratified, did not provide for automatically taking a dispute between two nations as to the interpretation of the treaty to the International Court of Justice. On that point I entirely agree with him. It is a great pity that two South American countries and the Soviet Union would not agree to that becoming a provision of the treaty. However, as he, I think, would say and as I certainly would say, if we cannot obtain a treaty in which that becomes automatic, at least we have a beginning and we have gone as far as we can hope to go in that the way to the International Court of Justice is open. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned that the Parliament, not the Government, should ratify such treaties as the one which is now before the Senate. On that point 1 do not wish to enter into the question of legality because, as my colleague, Senator Laught, pointed out, I understand that legally the ratification of treaties is an Executive action in the United Kingdom an- other places. I merely say that the text of the treaty is before the Parliament, and if it were a bad text it could be rejected and a vote of no confidence in it could be moved.
Senator Laught suggested that the Senate chamber should be made available for the meeting of the representatives of all the nations which have signed this treaty when they meet in Canberra, as I expect they will, early next year. I know that the possibility of making this chamber available has been considered, but I thank the honorable senator for his suggestion. It may be that if the proper officers agree, this chamber or another might be made available. I point out, however, that the committee meeting of representatives from the various countries will be most difficult to organize. We will have here representatives from Russia, America, Norway, France, Japan, Belgium, Chile and Argentina. Five or six different languages will have to be translated, as they are spoken, through ear-phones to the delegates from the various countries. I should hope that the Houses of the Australian Parliament could be made the place for such a conference to be held, provided, of course, that we were assured that the proceedings would not continue so long as to interfere with the proper function of the Parliament, which is to meet for the benefit of the Australian people.
Senator Laught suggested in his speech that we in Australia should buy a ship of our own and man it ourselves to maintain and service our Antarctic stations. Though no provision is made for that in the Estimates this year, that is a suggestion which I think is under active consideration by the Government. But it is not quite as simple a question as Senator Laught perhaps made it appear. It is true that at the moment we pay nearly £1,000 a day for the hire from Denmark of the ships, “ Kista Dan “ and “ Magga Dan “, for some three months of the year. That amounts to approximately £150,000 a year, which sounds a lot. But, Sir, we are not faced with interest or the cost of a ship and with depreciation, nor are we faced with the necessity to carry out refits of a ship. From my experience in the Navy, I know that a refit can cost up to £100,000. We are not faced with the necessity to carry out ship repairs, to pay a crew, to victual a crew or to insure a crew, nor are we faced with any of the other quite expensive operations which the running of a ship involves.
The economics of this matter are not at all clear-cut. Regarded purely as a matter of economics, it may well be shown that the money spent in hiring ships, from a bookkeeping point of view, is better spent than is money spent on buying ships. But there are other considerations that come into the question, as Senator Laught mentioned, such as, for instance, that the ships we wish to hire may not be available, and other matters of that kind. For those reasons this matter is under active consideration.
– What are all the economics of the situation?
– All I propose to do at the moment is to indicate, as I thought I had, that there is no clear, economic balance in favour of building a ship rather than hiring one. I must say, Sir, that I was cut to the quick when Senator Laught suggested that the Australian Navy would require special training in order to go down to those lands. The Australian Navy would be able to go down now. No doubt, if a ship ever were to be bought, the Australian Navy would man it and take it there.
The Australian Air Force, of course, at present mans the internal flights which take place in Antarctica and is in charge of the aeroplanes there. For other kinds of training, servicemen go to Antarctica with Mr. Law’s expeditions. The next expedition which goes there will be taking from the Navy an expert in signals, a petty officer, who will be seconded and will learn how to do his work under cold conditions in this land where, for six months, the sun never rises and for six months the sun never sets.
Those, I think, are the main points which were raised in the course of this debate. I do not think there are many resources in Antarctica, except that mentioned by Senator Tangney - the scientific knowledge which, in itself, is a resource. I think dividends may well be paid in the future from a pioneering of air routes, as has been mentioned by Senator Buttfield and other honorable senators. More than anything else, I agree with what the Leader of the Opposition has said: That here we have a source of potential dispute over territorial claims which, for 34 years at least, ought to be stopped because of this treaty. Here, we have a place where militarization will not take place because of this treaty and where there will be no disposal of atomic wastes, not only from the kind of installation that the Americans propose to erect to provide heat and power, but from the atomic powered ice-breakers which undoubtedly will in time plough through the pack-ice. Those atomic wastes will not be dissipated, possibly to the danger of Australia.
I do not think that a treaty of any kind has greater final validity than the good faith of those nations which sign it. If a nation which signs a treaty has enough force to be able to break that treaty with impunity and cares to use its force, the treaty must fail. But here I see no reason why nations which have the force to break this treaty with impunity should do so. Here, I see every reason why we may hope for a beginning, in this desolate land, of international co-operation which, given time and given patience, may spread to more temperate climes and to places where people and not penguins live.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 20th September (vide page 547), on motion by Senator McKenna -
That the following paper: -
Bell Bay Aluminium Works - Proposed Sale - Ministerial Statement - be printed.
– To my mind, this is one of the most important matters that we have discussed in the Senate for a very long time. The whole atmosphere in which this sell-out of the Bell Bay aluminium undertaking is being made produces in the minds of people who think a very grave suspicion that the best has not been done for the Australian people. The Minister, in answering Senator McKenna said that the Government had to do the best in the national interest. I want to say this evening that what has been done in Bell Bay is not the best in the national interest, but on the contrary is a sell-out of the Australian people. The Minister said he has done the best, but 0/my 1 mind his approach to the sell-out has been a completely negative one. He has approached this matter, not as a negotiator trying to obtain the best price for an asset, but as a liquidator prepared to take the worst price for something that might perhaps be going broke.
I would say that the questions that the Senate have to look at are briefly these: First, should the Government have sold its asset in the Bell Bay aluminium industry? Secondly, if it had to selL has it sold to the best advantage? Thirdly, having sold, is it laying the foundation of an aluminium industry in Australia that in time to come will be just as powerful a monopoly as the steel industry is to-day? We have a situation in the steel industry where production is in the hands of one company and 85 per cent, of the fabrication section of the industry is in the hands of the same company. At least it has the advantage that it is owned by Australian shareholders with a capital running to £100,000,000, which is a denial of the Minister’s argument that we must get overseas capital to develop the aluminium industry. We have developed the steel industry with Australian capital and there is no reason at all why the aluminium industry could not be so developed.
– You are not praising Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, are you?
– 1 am recognizing a factor as I see it. I can be very critical of the company. The fact that we have to import £5,400,000 worth of steel each month is not any compliment to the company’s capacity to supply the needs of Australia. If the Government sets up a monopoly in the aluminium industry, it will face the same position as it faces in the steel industry. Unless we have competition in these two industries our overseas balance will be frittered away because of the inability of Australia’s base industries to supply Australia’s needs.
Bell Bay started in 1943 with an announcement in Hobart by the then Minister for Supply, Mr. John Beasley. It is interesting to me to recall that Senator McKenna and T were on the platform in
Hobart when Mr. John Beasley made that announcement. But that was only an announcement. From that point the work of setting up the industry was, of course, Iemendous. We were in the midst of the war. The reason we wanted to set this industry up was because private industry would not do it for us. We were suffering from a relic of the old colonial days when producers of aluminium throughout the world had carved up their world, and Australia was a territory to which they were going to export their aluminium at .their own price for the Australian people and the Australian Government to purchase. The Labour Government realized that the aluminium industry was completely fundamental and of absolute importance to the country. So, when others would not establish the industry the Labour Government took this definite step to set up the aluminium industry in Australia.
It was a ‘long time before it was set up because of the war, ‘the difficulties that existed after the war, and -finally the defeat of the Labour Government in 1949. It then became the responsibility of the succeeding government to consolidate the position and finally commence the production of aluminium ingots in Australia. The job was so difficult that it took the present Government almost six years to move .from that stage to the actual production of aluminium. I am not being critical of the Liberal Government for taking so long after the start had been made to finally get into .production. It was too long admittedly, and the same could be said of the Labour Government. Perhaps we took too long to get started with the job that had to be done; but these things are difficult and the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), who is in the chamber now, has admitted the tremendous problems that had to be overcome with patents and other things before production could be finally commenced1.
Then the industry got under way. It began to produce and last year moved into the profit-making field. The profit last year was just under £158,000, representing a profit of 1.4 per cent, on capital. This Government - and this is the criticism I level against it - has not given the impetus to this industry that it should have given to make it a profitable industry in the eyes and measurements of private enterprise. The Opposition pleaded with the Government to extend the plant which was not economically big enough. Ever since this Government has been in power, on the one hand it has been moving the industry along to get it into production, but on the other hand it has hung out the banner indicating that it was a ready and a willing seller. If that is the policy of the Government, well, it has the numbers to put its policy into effect. We cannot argue the rights and wrongs of the matter. We disagree with the selling of the project, but if the Government must sell it under the principle of free enterprise that it talks about, let the Government sell it in the best traditions of free enterprise. If it has to be free enterprise, let free enterprise principles be applied to the sale.
How did the Government sell it? A series of questions have been asked in this chamber and in another place over the last few years about the proposed disposal of this industry. Finally it emerged that the Government was carrying out negotiations to sell this industry to British Aluminium Company Limited. The Opposition pressed the point whether it was fair to offer the project to one company only. After all, the world is a big place and the production of aluminium in Australia, compared with world production, is infinitesimal. There were a lot of people interested in the development of the production of aluminium in Australia, but relatively few compared with the number who are interested in its production in other countries. The Government replied that it was in possession of some letters that had passed between the Labour government and the British Aluminium Company Limited. We were told that there were some confidential letters; but Senator Henty had no scruples about quoting from them. The Attorney-General, in another place had no scruples in quoting from them either, but the Government is not prepared to submit them for examination by the Opposition.
The Government says that it is bound to give the right of first refusal to the British Aluminium Company Limited. That may be all right. It might be quite all right for Ministers to use these confidential documents as they think fit. But in the application of free enterprise principles, what has happened to British Aluminium Company Limited since the time these alleged documents were written? That company has completely lost its identity. It was taken over by Tube Investments Limited and by Reynolds Metals Company of America. The shareholders were all bought out at a price. The identity of the company was completely destroyed, but the Government, for some reason that I have not been able to understand, thought it had an obligation to talk first to the British Aluminium Company about the purchase of the Bell Bay works. If it were a question of the right of first refusal, that should have been a simple matter. The British Aluminium Company could have been given the opportunity to make a bid. It could have said to the Government, “We will give you £11,000,000 for this undertaking “, and the Government could have said, “ That does not suit us “. That would have discharged the obligation to give a right of first refusal.
But look at what we have found out as a result of questions, probings and the leaks that one gets. It is not British Aluminium that is going to buy out Bell Bay, but Comalco, in which British Aluminium has a one-half partnership with Consolidated Zinc Corporation. I believe that the chairman of Consolidated Zinc has the right of a casting vote. In the extraordinarily descriptive words of Senator Spooner, there was a lineal descendency from British Aluminium to Comalco. There might have Deen, but, all of a sudden, Comalco has disappeared, and now we find - this was something that did not emerge from the Minister’s answers or the discussions in this chamber - that the purchaser of the Bell Bay industry is another company, Consolidated Zinc, which was formerly a partner in Comalco. It now emerges as the purchaser. Let us apply this principle of free enterprise that the Government is so proud to talk about when criticizing the socialist policy of the Opposition. If there was any free enterprise connected with this sell-out or liquidation of Bell Bay, would not the simple thing be to ask people in Australia and throughout the world whether they were interested in tendering for the purchase of the undertaking? To ordinary people like me, and like Senator Spooner used to be when he was an accountant and a liquidator in industry, that would have been the natural approach. The obligation on the seller, in the world of free enterprise, is to get the best price.
– That is a requirement of the Audit Act.
– It is an absolute requirement that you must get the best value for what you sell. Our first criticism of the Government in this matter is that it has not received the best value for what it has sold - or given away. Yesterday, for an hour - an hour of fire and anger, but of little argument - Senator Spooner tried to explain the reason for the Government’s action. He said that it was impossible to sell this undertaking without overseas capital being invested in it. That is the first mistake he has made. A telegram was sent to the Premier of Tasmania immediately after this sale was announced, offering to buy the undertaking under the same conditions and with competent know-how. But that was after the event, and perhaps the Minister can be forgiven. But the members of the Cabinet know that before they had finalized this sale they had received many requests from international industries which had promised that Australian capital would be invested if they were given the right to tender for the Bell Bay undertaking. They were not paid the compliment even of having their letters answered. That is an example of private enterprise as it is represented by the Government in this chamber to-night. The fundamental obligation on the Government was, first, to see that it did not lay the basic foundations for a monopoly. Secondly, an obligation rested on the Government to get the best price for the undertaking. Certainly the Government did not get the best price.
– Why did not the
Government obtain the best price?
– Yesterday, for an hour, Senator Spooner spoke in this chamber on this matter and he refused to answer that very important question. He was asked: Did the Government get the best price? He refused to answer that question. He said that he talked to one lot of people only. He admitted that negotiations were conducted only with one lot of people. Who were the people with whom he made this extraordinary deal - a deal providing for payment over a period of sixteen years and for interest not to be chargeable, in certain circumstances, on the payments outstanding? It has been suggested that in four years’ time there will be no tariff protection for aluminium, except in abnormal circumstances. An abnormal circumstance will be, of course, if the company does not make money. It will then get protection.
Let us have a look at this poor, unfortunate public company which is almost pauperized and which has to get this tremendous amount of assistance to allow it to take the responsibility of Bell Bay from the shoulders of the Government. It is a company called Consolidated Zinc Corporation, which has a capital of just under £18,000,000 - £17,767,000 to be precise. This company, which needs such a lot of help from the Government, last year made a profit of £1,600,000. It needs help! Its £1 shares are quoted on the stock exchange as, buyer 97s., and seller 98s. This is the company to which the Government has given a helping hand and has said, in effect, “ Please take this Bell Bay undertaking off our hands. We will make any arrangement for you to buy it. Just put in a deposit of £2,500,000 and pay the rest off over sixteen years. You are a private enterprise concern. We will tell you what we will do. Until you can pay your shareholders a dividend of 6i per cent., do not bother about interest. You have to be helped.” What may be the position in sixteen years’ time, bearing in mind depreciation and all the other things that have to be taken into account? In its generosity, the Government is saying to the company, “ If after sixteen years there is something outstanding - it may be a few hundreds of thousands of pounds - we will not bother to charge interest, on the outstanding amount because you have done a good job in taking the Bell Bay undertaking off our hands “
For £10,700,000, Consolidated Zinc has bought that much worth of assets in the Bell Bay industry. This company plans to develop Weipa. Will there be any benevolent organization like the Tasmanian Government to build access roads and wharfs there, and to provide electricity?
That is an integral and a fundamental part of the development of any great mining industry. When the Rio Tinto concern opened up the Mary Kathleen venture in north Queensland, did the Queensland Government build dams so that water would be available to that town? Did it build houses and shops and provide other amenities for the town of Mary Kathleen? Did the Queensland Government supply electricity to Mary Kathleen? Of course, it did not. in modern mining practice the provision of those facilities is a charge on the company developing a mine, but this company can come to Tasmania, after the years of battle and strain are over, v/hen, in the words of last year’s report of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, “ We now have the knowhow “, and take over the whole of this industry. The Government offered to this one company alone this asset for £10,700,000. As Senator McKenna said last night, although the Tasmanian Government gets credit only for putting £1,500,000 into the industry, when roads, housing and electricity are taken into account, it is seen that Tasmania has contributed £1 for £1 with the Commonwealth Government. That is the fact of the matter, although the Minister may say that those services were provided by arrangement.
It is of no use to talk about an aluminium industry, a uranium industry, or a copper industry, if there is no access. Gold may be in the ground, but without a road to it, houses for miners, and electricity for mining, the gold in the ground is valueless. In the same way, the aluminium industry in Tasmania would have been valueless without the financial assistance given by the Tasmanian Government. But the Consolidated Zinc Corporation gets all those things for nothing, and gets the aluminium plant itself on time payment - not at the time-payment rate of interest of 20 per cent., but at a rate of interest that it might not even have to pay. That will depend on the manner in which its books are presented. To whom they will be presented. I do not know. Will the Commonwealth establish a section within the Treasury to examine the books? We know that in mining ventures the rates of depreciation applied by some companies are far beyond those allowed under the taxation laws.
Free enterprise is a slogan of the Government. Business houses in Sydney are not very happy about the Government’s application of the principle of free enterprise. Since this Government took office in 1949, its dead hand has been on the aluminium industry, lt was forced by circumstances to continue the industry, while we pleaded for a doubling of the output. We are providing only a fraction of Australia’s consumption of aluminium, which per capita is only a fraction of the consumption in Canada and the United States of America. Senator Spooner, who is in charge of the bill, had more experience of public companies than has any other senator.
– You would run him a close second.
– That is a compliment. I hope that 1 apply my knowledge better.
– Share for share, I think that you would knock him rotten.
– 1 hope so.
– You would think that he would listen to this debate.
– He is in Cabinet.
– So you say.
– He has made a successful business in his own name in the city of Sydney. If the Bell Bay undertaking were conducted by a private company, and he was commissioned to sell or liquidate it, he could not do with it what he is now proposing to do. Under the rules of stock exchanges in every State, if an offer is received for a private company being sold or liquidated, the offer must be made public so that the shareholders are protected. In this undertaking, the shareholders are the people of Australia. When an offer for a company is made public, the way is open for any one to make a higher offer. Everybody remembers the attempted take-over by Woolworths Limited of Matthews Thompson and Company Limited in the last few weeks. Woolworths made an offer running into many millions of pounds. This offer was publicized, and G. J. Coles and Company Limited, which thought that the Matthews Thompson undertakings were worth more, made a bigger offer. Woolworths countered with a higher offer, but a still higher offer by G. J. Coles and Company Limited was finally accepted by the shareholders of Matthews Thompson and Company Limited. Those shareholders thus received some millions of pounds more than the original offer made by Woolworths Limited.
So keen and determined are stock exchanges that the rights of shareholders shall be safeguarded that they even took off the stock exchange list the Queensland company, Lennons, which would not reveal the terms of an offer made, even though the incident had closed. The stock exchange suspended trading in the stock of that company until the company published the offer made. That is the fashion of private enterprise. Honorable senators opposite talk about private enterprise, but when dealing with the business of government they do not apply the simple rules of private enterprise that are designed to get the best results for shareholders.
There is no doubt in my mind that more money could have been received for this undertaking. The Minister said that overseas capital was needed to develop the industry, but in reply to Senator McKenna he said that Australia’s interest was 40 per cent. Why cannot Australia’s interest be 100 per cent.? The Government must face up to the problem of overseas capital, which imposes a heavy drain on our overseas reserves in the payment of dividends and remittances.
The third point I make is in relation to monopoly. We are told that the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) has been instructed to bring down a bill directed against monopolies and restrictive trade practices. A fundamental rule is that prevention is better than cure. The Government has established a monopoly in the aluminium industry. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited monopoly, which the company calls a benevolent monopoly, is most difficult to cure. The Consolidated Zinc Corporation has established a monopoly in New Zealand and is on the way towards establishing a monopoly in Australia. It has tremendous bauxite deposits at Weipa. The Minister spoke about other great bauxite deposits, but there are only two great proven deposits in Australia, one at Weipa and the other at Gove. The Minister mentioned the deposits in the Darling Range controlled by the Great Western Mining Corporation. The fact remains that when the Consolidated
Zinc Corporation acquires the Bell Bay undertaking it will have established in Australia a monopoly that will grow rapidly. The Government has promised to introduce legislation to control monopolies and restrictive trade practices. We hope that it will be presented in the near future. It may be to-morrow or it may be never. It may be in line with many other promises that the Government has made.
The plea I make to the Government is that it should prevent the establishment of monopolies rather than try to cure them. The curing process is very difficult indeed. The Government should not have sold the Bell Bay undertaking but should have properly developed it itself. The Consolidated Zinc organization admitted when it took over the undertaking that the situation in regard to manpower and know-how was 100 per cent. The only thing lacking was drive on the part of this Government. In not only this instance .but also in others the Government has displayed its inability to get things done.
My condemnation of the Government has been severe, but it goes to the fundamentals of the matter. The Government has done wrong in taking the action it has taken. We have given away this project for only two-thirds of its value. We have put it into the hands of a very large organization on terms of sale which many other people in Australia would have been happy to accept as a basis for tendering, lt is proven that we did not get the best price for the undertaking. Moreover, we have laid the basis for the establishment of an aluminium monopoly, which will not be in the national interest.
– The agreement that we are debating to-night is of great interest to those of us who represent Tasmania. I was very interested to hear what Senator Armstrong had to say. It was only some three years ago that the Tasmanian Government, which at all times has been a partner in this undertaking, invited an American firm to come to Australia with a view to investing capital in the project in order to extend its capacity.
– Who did you say invited that firm?
– The Tasmanian Government.
– A Labour government?
– Yes, a Labour government.
– What was the firm that was invited?
– I had no hand in inviting that firm out.
– I asked for the name of the firm that the Tasmanian Government invited to come out.
– Just wait a little. I will tell you the story. At the request of the Director of Secondary Industry in Tasmania, I accompanied these people down to Bell Bay so they could look at the project. That was three years ago. The Tasmanian Government has been fully informed at all times and has been fully in agreement with the sale of this undertaking. This is just another case in which federal Labour seems to have got out of step with the Tasmanian Labour Government.
– Reece is ashamed of Federal Labour.
– He used almost those very words in the State House when he was referring to this matter. One of the most interesting statements made by Senator Armstrong - I wrote it down - was his reference to the inability of this Government to get things done. On the last occasion I dealt with this subject I referred to the first annual report of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, which was published in 1946. I should now like to spend a little time browsing through the next three reports, which take us up to the year 1949. The highlight of the 1946 report was the fact that the Honorable N. J. O. Makin had relinquished the portfolio which involved the administration of this undertaking and Senator the Honorable John Armstrong became the responsible Minister. This undertaking, which we are told was of importance to Australia’s defence, had been on the way since 1943. The announcement about it was made in Hobart in 1943. I well remember the election that was held on that occasion.
Let us look at these three succeeding reports and see about this inability to get things done. Even after three years had elapsed, the government of the day had not even chosen the site where the undertaking was to be established. First, the Government considered a site at Trevallyn, 3 miles from Launceston, then at Dilston, IS miles from Launceston, and then at Native Point.- Finally, in 1949, a decision was made. And Senator Armstrong talks about inability to get things done. He was the responsible Minister during those three years. The reports go right through these incidents step by step. If the Labour Party had not been so atrophied by socialist dogma in 1943, it would have gone to an American firm and said, “This industry is important to Australia. Come in with us on a onethird partnership basis and get this thing built.” But what did the Labour Government do?
– It did nothing. It could not even get a site for three years; yet Senator Armstrong talks about inability to get things done. The Labour Government fiddled around with the Dorr company to get advice.
– What did it do with that company?
– The Government got it to prepare some technical advice. It went forward, then backward and forward again and so on, and in 1949 it said, “ We are not going to go on with this technical agreement with the Dorr company. We are going to ditch them altogether.” That was after three years of fiddling around. Yet this great former Minister, Senator Armstrong, criticizes this Government for what he describes as its inability to get things done.
– He sounded pretty good until you took to him.
– I have not told you half the story yet. In the report for the year 1946-47, the commission indicated that it would like to look at some of the German and Japanese reparation plants. In the 1947-48 report it said it had examined them but that they were no good; and it was decided to go on with the Dorr company arrangement. Then in 1948 the commission said, “ We are going to do away with that arrangement. We are going back to these German reparation plants, because we think by doing that we can get the project started more quickly.” I remind the Senate that after the project had been under consideration for three years the Government still had not got a site for it. Talk about inability to get things done. If anybody wants a real treat, let him read the first four annual reports submitted to this Parliament by the Aluminium Production Commission. They will show how things were not done, what waste of time there was, and what muddling and crass stupidity there was because of some socialist dogma. I have never seen a better example of muddling than is revealed in those four annual reports of the commission; and at that time Senator Armstrong was the responsible Minister. Yet he has the audacity to rise in this chamber and say that this Government is unable to get things done.
I can recall when this plant landed at Bell Bay. Half of it was reparations plant. The commission got a second-hand plant from Norway. Some of the plant was part of Britain’s war disposals. It was purchased bit by bit. This great ex-Minister talks about getting things done! The plant lay out in the open rusting for four years. I went down and saw it.
– But this Government was in office for the four years it was rusting.
– We were desperately trying to get things done, and we put in the greatest construction engineer -
– This Government was in office for those four years.
– Some of the plant came in 1947 when you were the responsible Minister, and it lay there for the rest of 1947, 1948 and 1949.
– You uttered one word too many.
– I did not. Those are the facts as disclosed in the annual reports of the commission. Honorable senators opposite do not have to take my word on this. They can read the annual reports, which contain a most interesting story of muddling and inability to get things done. When this Government came into office it appointed one of the greatest constructional engineers that we have ever seen in
Australia - Mr. J. R. Keast. But Senator Armstrong claims the credit for appointing him.
– I was quoting from a confidential document.
– The document was so confidential that you did not know whom you appointed when you were Minister. No wonder the document was kept confidential. It was Mr. Howard Beale who appointed this great construction engineer, who afterwards did an excellent job at Mary Kathleen. When this Government took over it started to get things done.
I have mentioned these matters because it is well to know just what this plant consisted of. The plant came higgledypiggledy, bit by bit from disposals sales, from Norway and elsewhere. In 1949, just before the Labour Government went out of office, everybody in Tasmania felt that the aluminium industry would never start there under the muddling Labour administration. That is one reason why Labour was tossed out. Under Senator Armstrong’s administration bit by bit out came the disposals plant; bit by bit out came the electrical plant that had been bought here, there and everywhere.
– On time payment?
– No, I think it was got as reparations. I do not think the Labour Government had to pay anything for it.
– What was wrong with that?
– I am not criticizing that. We are selling this plant and receiving 20s. for every £1 of its value. I say that it is one of the best deals that has ever been made by any government, particularly bearing in mind that the plant came here higgledy-piggledy from all over the place. When some of the cases arrived at Bell Bay they contained parts that were originally intended by the Germans to go to Norway, but the war ended too soon and the plant was never constructed in Norway. Blueprints came out with the plant, but the Communists had been at work on the assembly line and the cases did not contain the parts that were listed on the blueprints. Everything had to be unpacked. The blueprints were useless. The Communists had been at work in Germany and the Germans would have had great difficulty in trying to erect this plant in Norway. That plant was put into production by Mr. Joe Keast, the construction engineer.
– That plant was never used in Norway.
– I said that. The war ended too soon, but if you had had anything to do with the war, it would never have ended because you would still not have made a decision about it. So please do not refer to your administration during those three years because never have there been three years of greater ineptitude in administration than the three years when Senator Armstrong was the Minister in charge of this industry.
– Are you selling the undertaking at its present-day value?
– I believe that the price we have received for the industry is a better price than could have been obtained from anybody else. I believe it is as good a price as we could possibly get. We have received 20s. for every £1 of our investment in the industry. The industry has been operating since 1956. Do not honorable senators opposite think that a plant depreciates at all? Yet we have got back all of the money that we put into a plant that in the first place was obtained from a variety of sources and eventually put into shape with the technical advice of the British Aluminium Company Limited, with whom the Labour Government entered into a ten-year contract to give technical advice. As the technical agreement is a sore point with Senator Armstrong I will not say any more about it. I have already referred to it. Whoever made the technical agreement, bless their hearts, were the greatest suckers in the world. I will not refer to it because Senator Armstrong is a little tender about it, and Senator McKenna thought that it was unfair to refer to it. One thing that has been overlooked by Senator Armstrong is that within four years £9,000,000 will be expended on the plant to increase production to 28,000 tons annually. Senator Armstrong said that the company that is buying the plant cannot find £11,000,000, but in the next four years it will find £9,000,000 to increase productive capacity.
Senator Armstrong spoke a lot of nonsense about the houses at Georgetown. We have not sold those houses. They belong to the Tasmanian Government. They were built with money provided by the Commonwealth. They are not included in the sale, nor is the power-station. You cannot sell the Great Lake. All that we have sold is the aluminium industry, which has been working for four years, but has never made any money until last year, when it made a profit of 1.4 per cent, on its capital. We have sold the industry for the full amount of our investment in it. The deal is a magnificent one. I am satisfied that it will prove of immense benefit to Tasmania. The Labour Government of Tasmania, which has a bit of nous and cocum- something that seems to be lacking in the Labour Party in the federal sphere - will take a one-third interest in the industry. Tasmania will be fully represented.
– What choice did the Tasmanian Government have?
– I told you a little while ago. Three years ago, the Tasmanian Government invited people to buy the industry. Senator Armstrong would like to know the name of the American firm whose representatives I accompanied to Bell Bay. As I was invited to go there by the Tasmanian Government I suggest that Senator Armstrong should seek his information from the Premier of Tasmania. I will not divulge a confidence. Mr. Reece may tell Senator Armstrong what he wants to know, if he is prepared to have any dealings with him in aluminium, which I doubt, because Mr. Reece thinks that you are the greatest mugs that ever walked as far as the aluminium game is concerned. The deal involves an expenditure by the company of £9,000,000 over the next four years to increase productive capacity to 28,000 tons annually.
– Production will be doubled, will it?
– It will be more than doubled, but the Tasmanian Government has already invested almost £3,000,000 to increase production to 16,000 tons annually. Production will be further increased to 28,000 tons annually in the next four years with an expenditure of £9,000,000.
The people who work in the industry - the employees - are more than satisfied with the arrangement. They have seen the stupidity of government operation of an industry which Senator McKenna said has about 1,675 patents throughout the world on the methods of treatment.
– One thousand nine hundred and twenty-three.
– Well, 1,923. The Labour Government of the day felt that this was an industry which two governments - the Commonwealth Government and the Tasmanian Government - could run; but neither of them knew what a pound of bauxite looked like. They wanted to go into this highly technical industry and because of their socialist dogma they refused to obtain any assistance from those people who had the know-how, who were our allies during the war, and who with the greatest of pleasure would have come to Australia and helped us build this industry. The Labour Government said, “ Never mind about what happened in the war. Don’t have anything to do with the combines of America, Canada or Great Britain. Don’t ask our allies to come here and help us build this industry. We will do without aluminium.” So, Australia was without aluminium produced in Australia when the war finished and we were without it for another three years while the Labour Government could not decide on a site for this industry.
I have spoken about these matters because I believe they are worth recalling. I have referred to early history. I pay tribute to the Labour Government, which, in 1943, followed up the introduction of the aluminium industry by Mr. Menzies in 1939. I am sure Senator McKenna and Senator Armstrong will be men enough to admit that. It was a Labour government which then came into power and put Mr. Menzies’s work in concrete form in 1943.
– What happened in 1939?
– That was when the Australian aluminium industry was started by the Menzies Government. And the Labour Government followed up that work in 1943. I am giving the Labour Government full credit for at least having the idea, but I give it no credit for putting its ideas into practice, because it fiddled around for three years when Senator Armstrong was the Minister responsible for the undertaking, but did nothing about it.
– What happened to the 1939 proposal?
– I know you do not like to hear these things, but it is just as well to have some of the truth brought out.
– I remind you of what happened at the Scoresby by-election last Saturday. The people are waking up. You should be very careful.
– When Senator Hendrickson wants to make a speech on the aluminium industry, I will listen to him with great pleasure. I do not think he could know less about it than Senator Armstrong does, because it is a long time since Senator Armstrong had anything to do with the industry. The last time was in 1949. Nothing was done then. I visited Bell Bay year after year from 1944 to 1948. Two or three times a year I went there to see whether anything was being done, but not a thing was being done. Now I realize why. The Labour Government could not make up its mind which of four sites it would use. Neither could it make up its mind as to who would advise it or what type of plant it would use. It intended to look at the reparations plant, and then it received advice from an oil company; and in 1948 it went back to the reparations plant. Really, I have never seen such a muddle in all my life.
I will now say what I think about the agreement for sale and the development of this industry at Bell Bay.
– What about Queensland?
– An agreement has been made in regard to Queensland; it will not be left out.
– You have about five minutes to tell us about that.
– I will be very happy to do so. I believe this agreement represents a very good deal. I would not have believed that the Government would have got back 20s. in the £1 on plant which has been working for so long. In my opinion the Minister for National Development made a magnificent deal that will be of tremendous benefit to the Labour Government in Tasmania, which is quite happy about it and which has been working side by side with the Commonwealth Government to complete this sale because it knows what it means to Tasmania and knows what the development of this industry means to that Mate. It knows the employment it will give to people in the Tamar River district. Alongside the aluminium plant at Bell Bay, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is now spending £1,500,000 on a special steel works. The Tasmanian Government knows the development that will take place in the Tamar Valley and at Bell Bay. It was a willing party to the sale of Bell Bay because it knows full well that it will be of tremendous advantage to Tasmania.
I am satisfied that the staff at Bell Bay has been adequately cared for. The company which has purchased the plant has publicly stated that it wishes to maintain the staff and wants the staff to increase and enjoy all the promotions that occur as the industry develops. So the staff, as well as the people of Georgetown and Bell Bay, know the value of this industry to Tasmania. Not only will it be developed up to a production of 28,000 tons within four years, but the company also has an objective of development to an annual production of from 40,000 to 50,000 tons. The plant will then provide Australia with approximately the quantity of aluminium which it is estimated this country will require at that stage.
Another very important point is that the company has said that when the production is developed to 28,000 tons within four years, the Government can remove the tariff protection and it will be prepared to supply Australian industry with aluminium at world parity rates as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited supplies steel, except that it does so at less than world parity rates.
– Where will they get their markets? Will they compete against their own company?
– From memory, the last figures I saw were that the present annual Australian consumption is about 32,000 tons. That consumption is continually increasing because aluminium is going to be the second most important metal in the world; only steel will be more important. The Queensland Government knows that, of course, and it knows the value of development of bauxite deposits in that State. It knows the value of this industry which will be established there. There will be a market in Australia. By the time the production at Bell Bay is developed to 28,000 tons in four year’s time, the Australian consumption will have increased to 40,000 tons a year, and by the time the expansion programme is completed the consumption will probably be 50,000 tons or 60,000 tons a year. There is an unlimited market for aluminium.
– Senator Spooner did not say that.
– Senator Spooner did not say that was not so either. He did not say yes or no. He did not comment on it. In my humble opinion, there is an unlimited market for alumina and companies are looking for further uses for it. Just recently in Melbourne a large aluminium foil works was opened. The use of aluminium foil in packaging has only just started in Australia, and as our factories require more and more of this material for aluminium foil packaging, the market will develop.
– Do you not think that that is the reason why the company was anxious to purchase the Bell Bay works?
Senator HENTY__ I do not think the company would have paid such a high price for it if it had not thought it could do something with it; and the Government would not have sold the industry to the company if it could not do something with it. It is because the company intends to develop production to 28,000 tons a year within four years that the Labour Government of Tasmania is happy to see the company do something with the plant.
– Why didn’t the Government put the plant on the world market?
– The honorable senator, with his socialist ideas, says, “Why didn’t the Government do something about it? “ We have seen how two governments fiddled around with this industry for almost ten years before it even got on its feet. We want to see this industry developed and we have called in private enterprise with the technical knowledge and the money to develop it for Australia. I am quite satisfied that the price offered by the company is one which no government would turn down in the circumstances.
– Our government would.
– Yes, of course it would. A Labour government would keep the undertaking as a socialized enterprise and no development would occur in the next twenty years. Incidentally, it does not seem likely that Senator Armstrong will be here by the time Labour gets back into office. However, a Labour government might be able to find a Minister who could get the industry a little distance along the way instead of fiddling while Rome burnt.
Unfortunately, Mr. Deputy President, my time has almost expired. I close on the note that I am fully satisfied with the deal we have made. I believe it is an excellent One and that the price we have obtained is more than any reasonable person could have expected. The Labour Government of Tasmania is aware of the benefits that will flow to Tasmania. In that respect, it is entirely out of step with the Labour Opposition in this Parliament, which is trying to tear this great deal to pieces, although it knows that when Labour was in office it did nothing to develop the industry.
– I know that honorable senators on both sides of the chamber who approach this matter dispassionately will pay a tribute to Senator McKenna for the clear and logic way in which he exposed the activities of the Government in regard to the proposition we are discussing. Before I proceed to develop my argument, may I say that it was interesting to note the reaction of Senator Spooner and his associate Minister, Senator Henty. Senator Spooner, instead of adopting his usual candid attitude, was not particularly gracious to Senator McKenna. I thought he might have paid a more generous tribute to the remarks made by Senator McKenna. I recall that Senator Spooner said - 1 do not think, with respect to Senator McKenna, that there was a great deal of virtue in his going back through history.
Senator Henty has just spent 25 of the 32 minutes for which he spoke in going through history.
– I thought there was great virtue in it.
– Do not worry about our history. It took this Government six years after the enterprise had started to pour the first ingot. The honorable senator knows very well that it took eighteen months to find suitable foundations in the Tamar River. Honorable senators opposite should be fair. We are fair to them. I must admit, though, that it is very infrequently we have reason to pay tribute to them, but when there is occasion to do so we do it in a magnanimous fashion, as Senator Henty, particularly, knows. Let us look at some of the remarks made by Senator Henty. He spoke of an American company that had been invited out here. Why the secrecy that pervades the whole of these transactions?
– Why not go to Mr. Reece, the Labour Premier of Tasmania? He will tell you.
– But Mr. Reece is not here. Senator Henty is here, and he is one of the guilty men who have sold out this undertaking. Senator Henty is here to answer questions, not Mr. Reece. I remind the honorable senator that Mr. Reece and his Government think so much of the proposition that they are prepared to keep in the enterprise, whereas this Government is not. It is following the pattern that is so typical of it. It sells out the people’s enterprises, particularly those that are profitable, but not those that are run at a loss. I ask honorable senators opposite why the Government did not follow the example of Mr. Reece and the Tasmanian Government. Of course, the action of the Government is characteristic. We remember that, in relation to an airlines agreement, a promise was made to Senator Kennelly that certain papers would be tabled. After questioning by Senator Kennelly, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) repudiated the agreement into which he had solemnly entered some few weeks before. But he does not hesitate to make private members of the Senate table documents.
The Tasmanian Government had sufficient interest in this enterprise to spend approximately £10,000,000 on ancillary services. There has been a lot of loose speaking by the two honorable senators opposite. Senator Henty has stated that this is the best deal ever. If it is such a good deal, why did he not devote more of his time to proving that to us? If he thinks we are disbelievers or difficult to convince, why did he not spend more time trying to convince us instead of condemning a previous Minister for Supply?
– I would not waste my time trying to convert socialists. I was talking to the people.
– There was no need for the honorable senator to say anything about Labour’s platform, because Senator Spooner spent sufficient of his time in discussing socialism and unity tickets, although what those matters had to do with this proposal I do not know.
Let me deal with some of the statements made by Senator Spooner. He claimed that Consolidated Zinc had discovered the bauxite deposits at Weipa. That is completely divorced from the truth. It was Shepheard, the Queensland geologist, who first recognized that they were deposits of tremendous potential value. The Nicklin Government entered into an agreement which provided for 6d. a ton royalty to be paid by Consolidated Zinc, and it did the exploratory work. Like this Government, the Nicklin Government went to only one organization. It is of no use Senator Spooner talking about the competitive urge and the competitive spirit as between the Western Mining Corporation and Consolidated Zinc. He knows better than any one in this chamber the association between those companies.
The honorable senator said that there has been no condemnation of the deal in the newspapers. I have not noticed the columns of the “Courier-Mail” brimming with praise of the separation that has taken place, the separation of British Aluminium and Consolidated Zinc, in the course of which they have divided between them the assets of the people of Australia. They have divided the bauxite deposits at Weipa, and those adjoining Weipa, which Consolidated Zinc now has. What will this deal mean to Queensland? I suggest that a few thousand people will be employed while bauxite potentially worth hundreds of millions of pounds is being mined.
– Labour did nothing while it was in office. It sat there for 35 years.
– The deposits were only discovered four years ago, when Shepheard did so. It is futile to speak of 35 years ago and of what should have been done then. There was then no recognition of the tremendous potential. I repeat that all Queensland will get from this deal is a scar on the face of the earth after a number of years and the employment of a few thousand people.
Reverting to what I said previously, there has been a division of the bauxite resources of this country between two organizations.
– The Reynolds people of America got out because they said the undertaking was not worth the price they would have to pay.
– But that company is not getting out altogether. Would the honorable senator like to see the agreement between British Aluminium, which in effect is the Reynolds corporation, and Consolidated Zinc, which has 88 per cent. British capital? I would. The honorable senator knows that the organizations did not part bad friends. They parted under arrangements to suit both parties. They divided the ore resources of Australia between them, and they divided the power resources likely to be available for utilization in the aluminium industry. The Weipa deposits go to Consolidated Zinc. The Western Mining Corporation, which controls deposits in the Darling Range, will be associated with that company, while the deposits at Gove will go to British Aluminium. The franchise for the production of hydro-electric power on the Purari goes to the Reynolds corporation or the British Aluminium Company, and the Blair Athol deposits, if they are worth while, will revert to Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited. Senator Spooner spoke very glibly, without any suggestion of proof, of the establishment of smelters in Queensland. That is not written into the agreement. There is no mention of any assurance of protection to Queensland in this particular set-up. If the Government is so satisfied, as would appear to be the case from the smugness of honorable senators opposite, why does it not produce the documents? Then, if we can recognize, as we are capable of doing, the logic of the Government’s approach to this position - even though we acknowledge that the Government is tied to free enterprise - we will accept the position. We are not stupid, after all.
Senator Armstrong said the Government has been sold out but really the Government has sold the people’s asset out. If the Government was as satisfied as Senator Henty suggested, why did it not induce one of the overseas firms to come in on a onethird partnership basis? The Commonwealth Government and the Tasmanian Government had a one-third partnership, so why did not the Government try to induce a British, Canadian, French or Swiss firm to come in on that basis? We pay a tribute to Mr. Reece for the foresight that he and his colleagues have shown in the matter.
Let us look at the terms of the sale. The company is given sixteen years to pay, and Senator Spooner told us that it will get a return of 6i per cent. Would any of us on either side of the chamber be satisfied with a return of 6i per cent.? Does any one believe that Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited will be satisfied with a return of 6i per cent.? If that is the agreement, we have not been informed of it; what we have been informed is that the company will not pay interest until it has earned 6i per cent, profit. That is how I interpreted the remarks of the Leader of the Government, and I think that is the correct picture. Knowing Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited, I am sure that it would not be satisfied to receive only that return. Government supporters have claimed repeatedly, and have emphasized the fact, that this sale is eminently satisfactory from the point of view of the Government and of the people. If it is so satisfactory it must follow logically that Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited is a fool. It is as simple as that.
– I am sorry, but I cannot follow your argument.
– You could not follow it. It would take a long time to convince you, because after all you must have certain material to work with.
Let us have a look at what the Government has done over the years since it came to office.
– Stick to aluminium.
– I will stick to the pattern of which this transaction is merely a part. We would have a similar happening with Trans-Australia Airlines, if perhaps, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) was not strong enough to resist his colleagues.
– He might fall yet.
– I think there would be too great a public outcry. The sale of Trans-Australia Airlines would affect adversely too many people who are satisfied with the friendly service it now provides. The Government is not game to sell Trans-Australia Airlines. But it has proceeded deliberately and diabolically to divest itself of everything that has been profitable and worth while in socialistic ownership. Senator Spooner said that the capital of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, increased from £709,000 to £2,200,000 after it was sold by the Commonwealth. He did not tell the Senate that the sale only took place when it was inevitable that television would be introduced and it was thought that Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited was going to move in a major way into the field of television. Senator Spooner mentioned the sale of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and said that the sale led to a capital investment of the order of £40,000,000. No one denies the desire on occasions to have overseas capital invested in Australia, but, perhaps, in the course of time the Australian people will realize that they have to pay too big a price for the investment of that overseas capital. Senator Spooner also said that 40 per cent, of the new capital for this enterprise will be raised in Australia. If the people had confidence in the Government, as Government supporters would have us believe, the Government would be able to fill its own loans to carry on essential development work.
No mention was made of selling the Government’s whaling enterprise in Western Australia. It was sold for £830,000 on a deposit of £250,000, and the year following the sale the company which purchased it made a profit of £300,000. We do not find the Government attempting to sell its railways. I was about to say that they are run by the Minister for Civil Aviation, but he ran them so well that the Prime Minister took them out of his hands and handed them over to Mr. Opperman. Honorable senators can see that the Government is merely following a pattern. I do not think the people will be hoodwinked. One thing that stands the Government in good stead is the fact that the great majority of the Australian people hardly know where Bell Bay is; and they do not know the history of the fabrication of aluminium. That is what the Government is counting on in order to get away with this sell-out.
We find too that the terms of sale follow the same old pattern. The Government sells on a minimum deposit and on the longest terms. That seems to be the principle that is observed in this sale, and it is the principle that has operated in previous sales. One would not expect a deposit of much less than £2,500,000. Then for four years the instalments are to be £250,000 annually, and for eleven years they are to be £625,000 each year; and the company is not to pay any interest until it has earned 6t per cent, return on its money. No government worthy of the name and realizing its responsibility to the people, would engage in business practices such as this Government has engaged in in this instance and in the sale of its whaling enterprise in Western Australia.
– It is a shame.
– It is more than a shame, it is scandalous. If you look at the faces of the honorable senators opposite, you can see that they are ashamed. The Minister responsible for negotiating the sale is not even present in the chamber. As a matter of fact the Government did not think that this debate would be on the air to-day. This morning the Government Whip said that there would be no Bell Bay debate to-day because the Government was frightened it would go on the air. It was just unfortunate that the debate on Antarctica finished somewhat prematurely. I bet that Government senators had their thinking caps on trying to think what to do to stop this discussion going on the air. The analysis that has been made bv Senator Armstrong and by myself of the logical and clear case that was put up by Senator McKenna yesterday must have them worried. Senator McKenna spoke so lucidly on the whole subject, outlining the history, the potentiality and the uses of this metal in modern civilization. The potential of this metal is unlimited. Yet we are going to hand over the aluminium industry to one particular group. In effect, that is what we are doing because no one can tell me that there will be any competition between British Aluminium Company Limited and Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited in view of the fact that those two companies, which have been in partnership for some three years, have now parted amicably. Does that suggest that there is going to be competition or a race between them in the production or in the sale of aluminium? What is going to happen is quite apparent. The British Aluminium Company is going to take over, as it now has the right to do, the ore at Gove and the power at Kurabe. It will look for a separate market. British Aluminium will supply the Australian market and perhaps the New Zealand market We will have a recurrence, only on a smaller scale, of what happened many years ago in the sale of explosives throughout the world by the Du Pont and Nobel organizations. They cold-bloodedly divided the world between them and determined prices. The only country in the world where there was competition between the two explosives manufacturing firms was Canada. The American continent, with the exception of Canada, went to Du Pont, and the rest of the world, including Australia, went to Nobel. The prices charged for explosives were terrifically high, having regard to costs of production, because there was a trading agreement or a restrictive practice. Such things never work in the interests of the people. Here we have this division of the sources of raw materials, of the sources of power and of potential markets.
– How did Du Pont beat the American anti-trust legislation?
– By fighting for years and years.
– What was the final result of the United States Supreme Court order?
– I have not seen the result, but I know that the case dragged on for seven years. So influential was the Du Pont concern that the American Government gave that firm a £500,000,000 contract. So 1 would say that Du Pont did not suffer very severely under the American legislation. If the supporters of the Government are sincere, they will honour the promise that was enunciated in the Governor-General’s Speech - it has been frequently repeated - by ensuring that the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) will introduce legislation to curb the monopolistic practices that are now going on, such as take-overs, land tie-ups, and other things. It is up to the Government to honour that promise. That is one worthwhile matter in which the Opposition would support the Government absolutely and enthusiastically.
But let me get back to what honorable senators opposite have said about the Bell Bay aluminium project. As I have said before, Senator Spooner displayed a remarkable absence of courtesy in his assessment of Senator McKenna’s very clear speech. Senator Spooner said -
When we hear Senator McKenna criticizing the people who aim to develop our resources in the best possible way, merely for investigating all the available sources of power that there are in Australia, it shows what a completely unrealistic approach the Opposition is making to this matter.
That was not Senator McKenna’s criticism at all. He was just detailing what had happened. He was not condemning any one for investigating the possibilities of the production of power economically in relation to this industry. Both Senator Henty and Senator Spooner have tried to delude the public and to gull the Opposition, but we are too alert, as they realize now. Senator Spooner even objected to my interjecting when he was putting his case. His heart was not in that case, and he digressed frequently. He knew that he had had a bad brief handed to him - that he had a number of clients who were really guilty as they stood at the bar of public opinion - and he was not prepared to put his heart into the case.
He knew that he had a responsibility to attempt to justify the Government’s action, and so he spoke in terms of free enter prise. He condemned Labour for showing a sense of social responsibility and for advocating social ownership when that is necessary to prevent exploitation. He talked of unity tickets. What have they to do with it? When he was asked to give a specific assurance about protecting the conditions of employment of the staff at Bell Bay and their superannuation rights, he did not give that assurance. I notice that Senator Spooner has just entered the chamber, so I shall repeat my last statement. I was referring to his failure to give an assurance that the conditions of employment and superannuation rights of the employees at Bell Bay will be protected.
– They have assurances up to the hilt.
– An assurance was given that they would be employed at rates of remuneration not less than those they are receiving at the present time. Senator McKenna had mentioned superannuation rights, long service leave rights, and so on, but Senator Spooner made no specific reference to the protection of those rights, which are as important to the employees as their weekly remuneration. We still have not got that assurance.
I say in conclusion that it is disgraceful to sell this enterprise for £10,973,000, payable over sixteen years. It is also disgraceful that the Government is not prepared to table documents for consideration by the elected representatives of the people in a parliamentary democracy. The Government has not yet even determined the terms of the sale. That is typical of the muddling methods of Liberal Party representatives. That is characteristic not only of this Government but also of the present Queensland Government. We have been trying for months to get an answer to a question in regard to the terms of the £20,000,000 loan for the Mount Isa railway. The work has started and the firm of Morison and Bearby is fabricating rails. The job is going on, but the Queensland Government does not know the amount of interest it will have to pay on the loan. It does not know when repayment will commence, or what the terms of repayment will be. The position is not dissimilar to that in relation to Bell Bay. The people are being hoodwinked and kept in the dark and, more particularly, their elected representatives are being kept in the dark. I sympathize with honorable senator opposite who do not sit in the Cabinet and who know nothing about this matter. They are not prepared to use their own ability to bring something worth while into effect. I think they should tell the Cabinet where it gets off. They should tell the Cabinet to be frank with them, with the people and with the Opposition and to protect a national undertaking.
Deputy President, I wish to make a personal explanation.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Very well.
– I cannot understand Senator Dittmer’s statement that I had said that Bell Bay would not be discussed to-day as we did not want it on the air. I want to make it very clear that I did not make any such statement. I have not discussed to-day’s business with Senator Dittmer at any time and I have not said to any one the words that he stated that I used.
– You are under a misapprehension.
– The forms of the Senate permit a debate of this kind by the moving of a motion that a Minister’s statement be printed. It is quite right that we should have in the National Parliament, particularly in the House of review, an opportunity to debate the reasons for the Government’s contemplated sale of £11,000,000 worth of its interest in an important Australian industry. I do not blame the Opposition for taking part in the debate, but what has amazed me has been the great silence of Labour senators from Tasmania since the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) - a Tasmanian - made his speech. The silence of Poke and Aylett will go down in history, and I am willing to bet that in another place there will be the silence of Barnard, Davies and Duthie. Of course, they have their ears to the ground. They know that people in Tasmania in all walks of life are thrilled by the announcement of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). Bell Bay will become the Newcastle of Tasmania.
In order to keep this debate going, the Opposition has had to call in the third r.ian of what I call the K.O.D. team- the Kennelly, Ormonde and Dittmer team. The brilliant and able doctor from Queensland, Senator Dittmer, who knows nothing about Tasmania, has attacked the Government. I shall refer to some of the points that he made, but I do not propose to discuss much of the nonsense that he spoke. I propose to deal with this subject from two points of view. 1 shall deal with it first, as is right in the Senate, from the State’s point of view, and then I shall round off with the Australian point of view, because the aluminium industry will be most important to the economy, prosperity and industrial expansion of Australia. I understand that in 1943, in a lovely black limousine of the Government, the Leader of the Labour Party, the late Mr. J. B. Chifley, and the Labour member for Bass had a conference. The question was: How can we make Bass safe for Labour? We are losing our grip and becoming unpopular. Let us get a big industry in.
That was the great idea. They decided to get an industry in Bass, in the northern part of Tasmania. Then there were six years of wasted money, frustration, and inactivity until the Labour Government was swept out of office. The present Government was faced with this situation: The baby had been born and money had been spent. The baby had to be reared. So we got activity, and from 1949 onwards the industry developed. It was an economic risk all through its career, and still is. No one on the Opposition side or elsewhere in Australia can argue against the truth of this extract from the speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) -
The partner governments and the commission are well aware that on the present scale of operations the plant is not economic; it is therefore no reflection on the commission that the undertaking has not, in fact, proved to be a conspicuously successful venture commercially.
What do people with the interest of Australians at heart think? They study the situation. We have £11,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money invested, and it paid 1.5 per cent. Senator Dittmer said: “ You will be content with 64 per cent. No one would invest money and be content with 64 per cent.” Yet he is going crook at us for getting out because we are receiving only l.S per cent. The honorable .senator wants 6i per cent, or 7 per cent from his investments, but for the taxpayers he wants l.S per cent. We believe that the rights of the taxpayers are the same as those of ordinary investors. So the negotiations went on.
What has happened? There is new expansion and new hope. There are 600 new employees in this industry alone. In addition, many other trade unionists will be employed in building the homes, roads and footpaths, and providing all the amenities for an expanding town. Do honorable senators opposite not think that those people are happy to-day at the prospects? Those people do not want the dead, restraining hand of socialism making their economic future unsafe. They are thrilled and optimistic, as I shall prove a little later. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), who knows far mors about the matter than does any Labour senator, said that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited was moving into Tasmania and that the people were glad that this great colossus was taking an interest in the growth of that State. The Labour Premier, Mr. Reece, a true Tasmanian, is equally thrilled with this opportunity for expansion and progress in an important part of the State which has been stagnating.
The port of Bell Bay is being developed, which is good for waterside workers and ships’ crews. There will be more shipping for the port of Launceston. As the people in the north of Tasmania know, although the Labour Party does not know, the vessel “ Bass Trader “ will be in operation some time next year, bringing more prosperity to northern Tasmania. These opportunities have been born of the prospects of this great aluminium industry. The State Labour Party would like to wash its hands of the Federal Labour Party. The Premier was the federal president of his party a few years ago and he wishes that all honorable senators opposite and members in another place would keep quiet on this question, as Poke, Aylett, Barnard and Duthie will keep quiet. Some honorable senators opposite are trying to undermine the confidence of the workers of Bell Bay, solely because next year’s election is brewing. Those who cry unemployment and unhappiness are trying to tell the workers of Bell Bay, and others who will be brought there, that things are rotten and crook.
Now let us hear what some of their own people say. The Premier of Tasmania, Mr. Reece - I do not want to give him too much publicity - said as reported in the “Examiner” of 1st September, the day that the wonderful announcement by the Minister for National Development appeared in the Tasmanian press -
If the respective Parliaments-
He put the responsibility on us - approve the necessary legislation I can visualize a very sound industrial future, not only for the Bell Bay aluminium works, but also in connexion with possible subsidiary industrial activities which will almost assuredly develop from increased aluminium production.
Just to demonstrate that this was not a one-sided political outlook, the Leader of the State Opposition, Mr. Bethune, said that his party welcomed any proposal which safeguarded the future of the aluminium works and that it would be a relief to Tasmanians to know that the future of the industry in the State was apparently assured. There we have the State political outlook on the matter. The deputy warden of Georgetown, which is near Bell Bay, said -
The whole municipality is thrilled at the news of the sale, because for the past seven or eight weeks, workers, both manual and staff, employed by the Australian Aluminium Production Commission have been worried about their future. This should put their minds at rest and give them a felling of security.
Giving the overall picture, is the following statement: -
There was a feeling of jubilation and relief in George Town yesterday after the announcement of the sale.
Let honorable senators mark those words - “ Announcement of the sale “, not “ of the expansion “. Yet honorable senators opposite have the nerve to condemn the sale, implying that there are irregularities about it, and that we have sold out. They just have not their ears to the ground.
Let me now answer this Labour criticism briefly, because it is not really worth much. I wonder where the Australian Labour Party stands. It, too, is wondering where it stands because a committee has been appointed to inquire into the matter and to find out. The Labour Party knows not where to go. If it says that the Commonwealth Government has no right to sell its shares or interest in a commercial undertaking let me remind the Senate of action that was taken when at least two honorable senators opposite were Ministers. I do not know what the truth is; 1 only know what the allegations are. But I would like some Labour man to rise and tell me why the Labour Government sold its shares in the King Island scheelite project, who was responsible for selling them, at what price they were sold, and whether tenders were called. I would like to be in my room in this building or in my hotel room and read in the press a statement supplying that information. Let me say to members of the Australian Labour Party that, whenever they condemn this Government for selling out its interests in commercial enterprises, such action being an important plank in our platform, I will always dare them to tell me the truth about the King Island scheelite project.
The Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Spooner, when referring to the sale of the Commonwealth’s interests in various undertakings, told us about increased capital investment in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and in Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited. Labour critics have replied to that by saying that that capital should have been put in by the Commonwealth. The Senate knows we are short of money for capital development. We have other interests that we are bound to put money into. We have saved the taxpayers’ money by getting out of these undertakings and by kiting the public invest in them. What honorable sena.ors opposite fail to understand is that there are thousands of workers who are thrilled and who have been given economic security because Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, which has become B.P. Australia Limited, has flourished, because Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited is a much bigger show and because the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited has been able to develop into a most successful firm. Honorable senators opposite forget that the trade unionists who are working in those undertakings honour the Liberal Government for its business-like national outlook in respect of those undertakings.
Let us get back to a consideration of Bell Bay which, because of the great interest and efficiency of a former Minister, for a while was known as Beale Bay. What has happened at Bell Bay? A Liberal government is in office, and the restraining hand of socialism is being taken off the undertaking so that progress and expansion may be speeded up. The people of northern Tasmania now clearly see on a hill a light which has been somewhat clouded. They see ahead of them prosperity and economic security, which is what we want for the people. I propose to read what the “ Examiner “ had to say about the predictions of a renowned Tasmanian public servant who had no political bias but who obviously knew that the Bell Bay undertaking would be expanded because of action taken by the two governments concerned. Let us not honour only one government; let us honour both governments. The editorial reads -
Some months ago the Hydro-Electric Commissioner (Mr. A. W. Knight) predicted that the Tamar Valley would become another Newcastle.
I used that very phrase earlier in my speech. If you mainlanders would read the Tasmanian press, you would find that there is every indication that because of what is happening at Bell Bay the east Tamar and west Tamar areas will rapidly expand.
Turning from the State picture, I now want to say something about the Australian picture. I quote the following passage from a statement made to-day by the Minister for National Development: -
The full development of Australia’s vast bauxite resources in northern Australia will call for the investment of very large capital funds. The active presence in these developments of two separate groups -
Unfortunately for Senator McKenna the announcement was made a day too late; the honorable senator inferred that there would be only one group - should facilitate the raising of the finance required and should enable developments to proceed more rapidly at a higher overall level of capacity.
Is that not what Australia is crying out for? Labour gave as its reason for the establishment of the Bell Bay plant the fact that it was needed for defence purposes. We were then in the throes of war, but three and a half years after the war had finished the Labour Government had done nothing about establishing the plant. If we are to defend this country against aggression, aluminium is still needed for defence purposes. Therefore, forgetting stupid party ideas, we as loyal Australians should be thrilled at the fact that, as a result of the action taken by this Government, the Tasmanian Government and a big commercial enterprise - a wonderful trio - the aluminium industry is being developed.
I congratulate the Government upon the action it has taken. I believe this step will be of untold value to northern Tasmania. I am really disappointed that the Labour Party has not stopped to think about this matter. Perhaps Labour wants to lose the Bass seat. Labour supporters are trying to hurt themselves; they will be accused of having self-inflicted wounds. But Labour’s attitude does not detract from the value of what this Government and the Minister for National Development have done. I believe the Australian nation will be forever grateful to them. I am certain Tasmanians will be grateful. I remind the Opposition that we went to the people at the last general election with the theme “Australia Unlimited “. The Government was returned to office with a slightly greater majority. So often governments have not honoured their election promises, but there is not one Australian who can truthfully say that we are not living in Australia Unlimited and that Australia is not rapidly developing.
Let me say to honorable senators opposite that, if they are prepared to talk about this sum of £11,000,000 coming back into the Treasury and still criticize the Government, I am against them. As an Australian who would like to see more money invested in projects for which the Government is properly responsible, I repeat that I am thrilled to think that over the next few years a sum of £11 000.000 will be put to work for the Australian taxpayers. I again congratulate the Government upon the action it has taken. As a Tasmanian, I am delighted at the opportunity for expansion that the Government’s action will give.
– I am very sorry to have to disappoint Senator Marriott. He may be disappointed for two reasons. Perhaps he is disappointed to see me rise to speak about the Bell Bay undertaking. He certainly will be disappointed when I tell him that the pressure he has applied will not enable the Government to win the Bass seat at the next general election. He will find that Labour will still be able to hold the fort in the Senate and also hold the fort in relation to the Bell Bay project.
The sale of this plant is a disgrace. The aluminium plant which was established at Bell Bay is a vital defence project. That is the way in which we should look at the establishment and expansion of the aluminium industry. The Tasmanian Government could not allow its assets in Bell Bay to be sold because apart from those assets it has other interests in the undertaking, such as housing. We know that the Tasmanian Government has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on housing in northern Tasmania. Because of the Bell Bay industry the Tasmanian Government built the Trevallyn hydro-electric scheme and is now building the Poetina project, which will feed power into the grill and assist industry throughout Tasmania. Road construction has been undertaken in the Tamar valley, involving the State Government in considerable expense. The Tasmanian Government has spent large sums of money in developing port facilities. The State Government could not have got out of Bell Bay even if it had wanted to because of the amount of money that it has tied up in ancillary projects.
I claim that the Commonwealth Government could have expanded Bell Bay more ably than could private enterprise. The undertaking should have remained under the control of the Commonwealth as a defence project, which could be geared for war production if necessary. I do not think that the Commonwealth has any agreement with the new owners of the Bell Bay undertaking whereby the industry can be acquired as a defence project. It is well to remember that the industry was established as a defence project by a Labour government, but it is now receiving the same treatment as has been meted out by this Government to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, the whaling industry, the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited, the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool and the Glen Davis shale oil undertaking. All those undertakings have been disposed of by this Government since it came to office in 1949. The sale of Bell Bay it probably a forerunner to the sale of TransAustralia Airlines. We know that quite recently this Government clipped the wings of T.A.A. Eventually it will do its utmost to get rid of T.A.A., but perhaps it will bide its time because of the public outcry that would ensue.
– That is queer logic.
– It may be queer logic to Senator Wade, but I would not expect him to understand it. Apparently the only government that has any interest in the aluminium industry at Bell Bay is the Tasmanian Government. The Commonwealth Government has failed to develop this industry fully. I join with other honorable senators from this side of the chamber in commending the action of the Tasmanian Labour Government in respect of an industry that is vital to Australia’s economy as a whole, and in particular to Tasmania’s economy. Some time ago fears were held that the industry might be lost to Tasmania. If that had happened Tasmania would have been embarrassed economically, particularly that part of the State in which the industry is situated.
One of the worst features of this sale is that companies outside Australia will hold considerably more than a 50 per cent. interest in Bell Bay. That is most unsatisfactory because the firm that now controls Bell Bay will be able at any time to close down the undertaking. The Commonwealth Government should have ensured that Australia retained more than a 50 per cent. interest in Bell Bay, which would have prevented an outside firm from closing down the industry.
The first offer of Bell Bay was made about two years ago to the British Aluminium Company Limited, which has now been swallowed by Comalco and Reynolds Metals Limited. As the British Aluminium Company Limited has now been taken over by those other companies, I do not think that the Commonwealth was strictly bound by the terms of the correspondence that it had entered into in respect of this matter. The Government claimed that a letter was written by Mr. Chifley, who was then Prime Minister, to the British Aluminium Company Limited giving that company first refusal should the enterprise be offered for sale. In view of the fact that the British Aluminium Company Limited has been swallowed up by Comalco and Reynolds Metals Limited, there was no obligation on the part of this Government to adhere to that arrangement.
I submit that the Government is virtually making a present of Bell Bay to monopoly interests. Certainly the Commonwealth’s capital investment will be repaid, or almost so, but all the knowledge and planning that went into the industry will go for nothing.
The Deputy PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 September 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1960/19600921_senate_23_s18/>.