23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Customs and Excise been directed to a statement attributed to Mr. D. L. O’Connor, one of his senior officers, to the effect that Australian manufacturers could import goods at concession rates of duty provided the goods were not readily available in Australia, and further, that the department notified all importers who could claim refunds and that if no claim was made the matter was dropped? Can the Minister tell me who determines the proportion of the full duty, otherwise payable, that is abandoned by the department, and the circumstances and conditions in which that procedure is adopted? Can he also say from which section of his department the notification of such good news to importermanufacfacturers originates? Is there in South Australia a section of his department which deals with such matters, and if so, where is it situated? Within what period of time must application for a refund be made before the right to apply is lost?
– I did read an article in the press concerning a talk to the Rotary Club in Sydney by Mr. D. L. O’Connor, one of the officers of my department, in the interests of public relations. Most of the questions asked by Senator Laught concern matters of importance to Australian industry and commercial activities, and before answering them I should like to consider them with officers of my department. I may say that the head office of the Department of Customs and Excise in South Australia is at 30 North-terrace, Port Adelaide. There is another office at 99 Currie-street, Adelaide, which deals with matters related to the excise section of the department. If the honorable senator will place his question on the notice-paper, I shall have prepared an answer to the other matters raised by him.
– My question also is addressed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. I ask him: -How many item! are included in the customs tariff schedule’ How often is the schedule revised? Or how many occasions have items in the schedule been (a) increased, (b) reduced, and (c) eliminated, during the last ten years?
– There are slightly more than 3,000 items in the customs tariff schedule. These have been reviewed a number of times during the last ten years. They have been the subject of Tariff Board reports and of investigation by the department itself because of alterations in the revenue-collecting procedures. Altogether, more than 1,000 of the 3,000 items have been the subject of review, and in 800 instances duties have been reduced. I think that is important, because so often one hears it said that duties always go up and never come down. The 800 reductions have been largely brought about as the result of trade agreements negotiated by the Australian Government.
Distribution in Schools.
– My question is ad dressed to the Minister for the Navy in his capacity as the Acting Minister for External Affairs, but as some parts of the question relate to security matters, it is also addressed to him in his capacity as the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Has he seen a press report to the effect that security officers have removed from Victorian schools certain literature which had been supplied to those schools by the Soviet Embassy? Is the report correct? Can he inform the Senate whether the literature is offensive from the viewpoint of Australian security? If it is, will he make certain that the Soviet Ambassador will be warned that any further attempts to indoctrinate our school children will be regarded very seriously by the Australian Government? Finally, if this literature is a threat to Australian security, will the Minister invite the attention of the Soviet Ambassador to the fact that very soon this Government will undoubtedly be passing a law relating to espionage and security which will bind members of the Soviet Embassy in this country?
– The honorable senator has asked a number of questions, some of which I do not feel competent to answer. Some of them raise points of considerable difficulty. I know nothing about this matter, except what I have read do a press report. Literature emanating from Communist sources, whether in China, Russia or Communist diplomatic missions overseas, is circulated in all countries. Usually the literature, which is very well produced’ and printed on glossy paper, presents what I believe to be a completely distorted view of life. It presents the Communist philosophy in a disguised form. Just how far a censorship should, or could, be imposed on anything which was not a direct incitement to revolt is a very delicate question, and one which I think we should approach with great caution. I would say that unless there was clear evidence of subversion in the text of literature of this kind, the proper counter to it would be the presentation of true ideas in an equally attractive format.
– I address a supplementary question to the Acting Minister for External Affairs. Have rights been granted to Australia for the distribution of literature to school children in the Soviet Union? If so, is the Australian Government making use of this right to distribute pamphlets about Australia?
– As the honorable senator knows, no Communist country permits the free dissemination of information and views, through the medium of literature, through the medium of broadcasting, or through any other medium. The answer to her question, therefore, is that no Communist country does allow Australia or any other democratic country to put its views forward in that Communist country. Consequently, it is not possible to do what is suggested by the honorable senator.
– What about radio?
– I should like to say that broadcasts of factual news are consistently jammed by Soviet and Chinese jamming stations.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation seen in the press a report that an Electra prop-jet aircraft had suddenly dived into the ocean at Boston, in the United States of America? In view of the safety measures that were taken because of the erratic behaviour of prop-jet aircraft some considerable time ago, I ask the Minister whether he is satisfied that all precautions have been taken to make aircraft of this type that are now being used in Australia safe for the carrying of passengers.
– I am quite satisfied about the safety of the aircraft operating in Australia. I should like to take the opportunity to answer in some detail the question raised by the honorable senator. He will, I am sure, be interested to know that within minutes of the accident at Boston the Australian civil aviation liaison officer in Washington was in touch with the American Federal Aviation Agency. The aircraft involved in the accident had just taken off and was reported to be at an elevation of only 200 feet when it suddenly lost height and disappeared into the sea. It had not been modified1 as the Electras are to be modified. That programme of modification has begun in the United States but the Eastern Airlines aircraft involved in the accident had not been so modified.
As recently as this morning I have received a notification from my department to the effect that Mr. Quesada, who is the head of the Federal Aviation Agency which is responsible for the conduct of investigations into accidents and1 who was in Boston at the time, indicated that in his opinion there was no relationship between this accident and previous accidents involving Electras where structural failure occurred. No action to ground Electras is contemplated, safety aspects not being involved at this time.
I can assure the honorable senator that we took the quickest possible action to learn, and to keep ourselves informed on, the details of this accident. We shall continue to do so. All I can say is that the advice coming from America and from my own officers indicates that Mr. Quesada considers that this accident did not result from any structural failure of the aircraft. It is believed that there was another cause, as yet not announced, but certainly not a structural failure.
– I ask a supplementary question. Can the Minister for Civil Aviation indicate to the Senate when the necessary modifications will be made to the Electra aircraft that are in operation in Australia?
– The Lockheed Corporation and all the operators of Electra aircraft have now agreed upon a programme. The Australian Electras will start to go to America early in January next. In the initial stages of the programme it will take ten days to modify each aircraft. It is thought that, by the time the Australian aircraft are being modified, a reduction of the lime to seven or eight days may be possible.
– I ask the Minister for National Development: Is it a fact that a new atlas of Australian resources has been prepared by the Department of National Development? Does it embody any reference to geology? Does it contain illustrations of Australia’s mineral resources? Is it a fact that the atlas is available for purchase in Sydney and Melbourne from the bookselling firm of Angus & Robertson Limited? Why has the department decided to make the book available in the major cities of Australia but not to give Western Australia, which covers one-third of the continent, and other States such as Tasmania, Queensland and South Australia an opportunity to display and sell it?
– The compilation by my department of the atlas of Australian resources was a major operation. The atlas contains some 30 or 40 maps which deal with all aspects of the Australian economy from primary production to secondary industry and from geology and mining to fishing. It is a really comprehensive work and, if I may say so, is a first-class production.
When we embarked upon the production of this atlas some years ago - it was a rather expensive operation - we wanted to ensure that it would be marketed properly, and as widely and as cheaply as possible. My recollection is that we made an agreement with Angus & Robertson Limited whereby the company undertook to underwrite the exhibiting and selling of a sufficiently large number of copies to justify the big capital expenditure involved. I do not know why it is not available other than in Victoria and
New South Wales. In fact, I take leave to doubt the accuracy of the honorable senator’s statement in that regard, because obviously it would be to the benefit of the underwriters to sell as many copies as possible in order to offload the number of copies taken. In regard to publicity, we have given prominence to what I perhaps incorrectly describe as the underwriting booksellers concerned, leaving it to them to make their own arrangements in the other States. I am sure that, if the publication is not available in the other States, it would be the desire of Angus & Robertson Limited to see that it is. I shall ask the department to check on the position.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry seen a report of the Division of Agricultural Economics which states that there is a plan to increase the sheep population of Russia to more than 100,000,000 by 1965 and that Russia could become the supplier of many markets that are traditionally Australian markets? Is he aware that one of the worst droughts for 50 years has developed over huge areas of Queensland and that many millions of breeding ewes will die this summer unless rains fall or large scale supplementary feeding is carried out? Will the Government declare the drought position in Queensland to be a national emergency and make arrangements to provide the vast quantities of surplus grain, now in silos throughout the Commonwealth, at special starving stock rates, thereby assisting the wool industry at this critical time before it is too late?
– I have not seen the report of the Division of Agricultural Economics to which the honorable senator has referred. I have seen reports of some discussion as to whether Russia’s sheep population will rise considerably, and if so, by how much. I have also seen speculation as to the quality of wool that Russia is likely to produce.
I understand that a considerable area of Queensland is at present suffering from a drought. I do not know whether the drought extends far beyond the Channel country. Certainly the southern States of Australia have had more than sufficient rain. I think that on a previous occasion when the honorable senator asked a similar question relating to the provision of grain the Minister for Primary Industry replied that control over Australian grain - if the honorable senator is referring to wheat - is vested in the Australian Wheat Board by legislation of this Parliament. Consequently it is that board which would decide the quantity of grain which could be supplied for a purpose such as that suggested by the honorable senator, and the price at which it would be supplied. The board would have no control over freight charges. I will bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Primary Industry.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, follows upon a reply given by the Minister recently in which he stated that he understood that the executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions had submitted to the Stale Trades and Labour Councils a recommendation that compulsory political levies should not be made. Can the Minister inform the Senate what attitude the main union concerned - the Waterside Workers Federation - takes in this matter? What action has been taken in respect of this matter by the Waterside Workers Federation?
– I know, as apparently one or two honorable senators opposite know, that it has been reported that the federal council of the Waterside Workers Federation met and considered1 a statement of policy issued by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and decided, by resolution, to abandon political levies. It is also reported that the federation instructed its 50-odd branches not to impose political levies in the future. My understanding of the position is that the federal council of the federation came to this decision under protest. I will endeavour to ascertain for the honorable senator the exact terms of the resolution.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. Is the Minister aware that control of the Waterside Workers
Federation is Communist-dominated? Is it customary to accept assurances from a control such as that?
– I am not sure of the grounds on which this question is based. I do not know what can have given rise to a question that seeks information as to whether it is customary to accept Communist assurances. I have given no indication of acceptance of any assurances. I simply replied to a question that referred to reported happenings at a meeting of the federal council of the Waterside Workers Federation. I am aware that this union is Communist-dominated and I would1 not be prepared to feel confident that assurances give by any Communist-dominated union would be carried out. However, if they were not carried out I would be prepared to take any action that was appropriate to the circumstances.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is it not a fact that by the manufacture of salk vaccine and antibiotics the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories has guaranteed that they are available to the public at a very low cost in which the profit factor is not a consideration? In view of the high cost to the public of hearing aids, will the Minister consult with the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in an endeavour to have research made into the various types of hearing aids with a view to their production so that only the very best will be available to the people, without exploitation of their misfortune?
– Obviously, this question should go on the notice-paper. It is an important question which relates to policy, with which I think the relevant Minister should deal. If the honorable senator will put the question on the noticepaper I will get the answer for her.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether he can give the Senate any information about the stage that has been reached in the investigation by the committee that is inquiring into the taxation laws of the Commonwealth.
– No, I am not aware of the position, but I will make inquiries and let the honorable senator have the information as quickly as possible.
– I refer to a question which I addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation on Tuesday last. I asked him whether he would cause a transcript of the evidence taken by the committee of inquiry into the unfortunate Fokker Friendship accident in Queensland to be laid on the table in the Library. I understand that the Minister now has the answer to my question.
– Yes. I have made some inquiries into this matter and I am pleased to be able to inform the Senate that I can accede to Senator Kennelly’s suggestion. The transcript of the evidence will arrive daily and will be placed on the table in the Library. I expect the first transcript to be available on about Tuesday of next week.
– Has the
Leader of the Government in the Senate noticed an article in this morning’s “ Canberra Times “ in which it is stated that the State of South Australia has the antidote to economic fears and this has been brought about by the outstanding development that has taken place there under a Liberal-Country League Government, working in conjunction with the Commonwealth Government? Does the Minister know that industrial development in South Australia has been such that a shortage of artisans and skilled craftsmen has arisen? Will the Minister confer with the Minister for Immigration in regard to that shortage with a view to directing to South Australia migrants in the skilled and artisan categories?
– Although, unfortunately, I did not read the article in this morning’s “ Canberra Times “ to which the honorable senator refers, I think it is commonly accepted as a fact on both sides of this chamber that South Australia has indeed made remarkable progress under the Liberal-Country League Government that has been in power in that State for so long. I know that the matter of filling the gaps in skilled labour caused by the development that has occurred is a constant preoccupation of the Minister for Immigration, but I will see that Senator Hannaford’s question is brought to his notice.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question in regard to the same newspaper article. Is the Leader of the Government aware that the article also poses the proposition that the South Australian Government, in company with other interested bodies, is seeking a reduction in the basic wage payable in Adelaide to an amount 25 per cent, below the basic wage payable in Sydney and other cities? If that is also true, will the Minister see that the migrant labour which is being sought is not brought to Australia on a cheap basis?
– I am indeed sorry that I did not read the article referred to because I find it difficult to accept the proposition that the South Australian Government is seeking a reduction of 25 per cent, in the basic wage.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. In view of the huge profit made by the Post Office, will the Minister consider making the use of telephones available, free of rental charges, to certain types of pensioners who because of special circumstances are urgently in need of telephone facilities?
– There is always a good deal of popularity to be gained, I suppose, in asking the Government to give somebody something for nothing, but we are growing up politically in Australia and I do not think that honorable senators opposite gain any credit by making such requests. What we intend to do, as a matter of policy, is contained in the Budget each year, and it is by that policy that we stand or fall.
– Will the Minister for Customs and Excise inform me whether it is a fact that under customs duty item 320.C.(2)(c)(4) negative films developed or undeveloped exposed outside Australia by persons or companies domiciled or registered within the Commonwealth are in fact admitted duty free? If this a fact, does it mean that an Australian company now making an Ektachrome film on “They’re a Weird Mob” will be able to shoot certain scenes in Italy, have the film processed in America and then have it brought to Australia duty free, whilst the film of the other scenes, which will be shot in Sydney, will go to America for processing and on its return to Australia will be subject to import duty? If what I have outlined is correct, will the Minister examine the position and ensure that all negative film exposed in Australia and processed overseas will be re-admitted to Australia duty free?
– I suspect that the honorable senator has closely studied customs duty item 320.C.(2)(c)(4). He asks me whether film shots taken outside Australia and developed in America may be imported into Australia duty free whilst shots taken in Australia and sent to America for processing are subject to duty when they are returned to Australia. The honorable senator’s question follows a question which he addressed to me a few days ago on this matter. As I told him then, we are examining this anomaly. I thank him for the additional information he has now given. We will examine it at the same time as we are examining the earlier information.
– I should like to direct to the Minister representing the Acting Treasurer a question that is supplementary to the one asked by Senator Hannaford. Is it true to say that South Australia is described as a beggar State and1 that it receives a grant from the Commonwealth Government? Has South Australia’s prosperity increased to such a degree that the point has been reached at which that State is now independent of the special grant?
– I have never heard of South Australia or in fact any other State being described by responsible people as a beggar State. What I do know about South Australia’s record is that, some twenty years ago, there were relatively few factories in that State. Now, South Australia is one of the manufacturing and indus trial centres of Australia. It is readily conceded by all objective observers that South Australia has made remarkable progress and that that progress has been in a large sense attributable to the State Liberal Government led by Sir Thomas Playford.
– I desire to direct a question to the Leader of the Government in this chamber. I am prompted to do so following the number of questions that he has been asked relating to financial institutions outside the banking system and to hirepurchase interest rates. I am particularly interested to know what effect the charging of high interest rates by hire-purchase companies, combined with the restriction of credit by the banking system, could have on industry, particularly primary industry.
– The question is a good one. It is easier to ask than to answer. However, I shall try to deal with it logically. Let me take hire purchase first. Is it suggested that hire-purchase activities should be either restricted1 or eliminated? I think that if either approach were made, there would be just as much objection from the primary producer as from the city dweller, because the primary producer uses hirepurchase arrangements to buy his motor car and his washing machine in the same way as does the person who lives in a city. I turn to the question of interest rates. First, we have no constitutional power to control interest rates. Secondly, I am not convinced that if we had such power, its use would provide a completely effective answer.
The whole history of economic controls indicates that as controls are instituted black markets begin to function. I am not pretending to give a final answer to this question, because it is such a tremendously big question. If I remember correctly, the honorable senator asked about the effect of banking restrictions. The answer is that banks are required to make deposits to special accounts, in accordance with the general anti-inflationary policy of the Government, but it must not be forgotten that that policy remains unchanged to the extent that inherent in it is the request that banks encourage transactions which will yield additional export income. The primary producer is the greatest of all earners of export income. Therefore, under the policy, the primary producer is given preference now, as always. I think it is correct to say that bank advances to primary producers have fallen in recent years, but I am quite certain that advances to primary producers in total are vastly greater now i nan they were four or five years ago. That is a result of the general banking policy to give preference to businesses which earn export income, and of the very substantial advances, which are on record, to primary producers from the wool-broking and other similar institutions. The problem is not an easy one to solve and1 the question is not an easy one to answer. Human nature is human nature the world over. 1 suspect that in country areas there are times when a bank manager, faced by an applicant who has a proposition with which the bank manager is not entirely in accord, instead of saying, “Well, this is not a banking proposition “, finds it easier to say, “ I cannot find the money because of the policy of banking restrictions “.
– I direct a supplementary question to the Minister. Does he consider that the expansion of the liabilities of farmers, to which he has referred, is due not so much to the encouragement of export earning capacity as to the necessity to meet additional costs in this country?
– Once again, the question is not an easy one to answer. Attempting to answer it off the cuff, I should say that expanding costs would be reflected in the income-earning capacity of farmers and that, as such, they would have only an indirect effect on the level of his liabilities. I should think that the expansion of liabilities, by and large, runs side by side with the expansion of activities.
– I wish to ask the Minister for National Development a question that is consequent on the answers given by him regarding the prosperity of South Australia and the operation, of black markets when controls are applied. Is the Minister aware that under the Liberal Party administration of South Australia there are in operation more socialized enterprises in key industries, and more controls, including partial prices control, than in any other State of the Commonwealth? Is he also aware that, despite those controls, no black market operates there?
– Senator O’Flaherty is a South Australian and is therefore more familiar with activities in that State than I am. However, examples of socialistic enterprise on the part of the South Australian Government do not come readily to my mind. I do not know that the South Australian Government embarks on such enterprises. The only recollection I have in that respect is that South Australia has maintained partial prices control over petroleum products. I do not recollect any greater expansion of socialistic activity than that. If there is no black market in South Australia - and I have yet to see the day when controls have not been accompanied by black markets in some form or other - perhaps it is due to the efficiency of the South Australian Government.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is he aware of the practice, that is apparently developing in the Senate, of questions which are identical with que* tions that have been asked in another place, being asked in this chamber during the same sessional period? For instance, the question asked by my friend Senator Wedgwood this morning was asked in the very same words in another place about half an hour ago. In view of the fact that identical questions are being asked, will the Minister ensure that identical answers are furnished in both chambers?
– This is indeed a Daniel come to judgment. When I have time before I come into the Senate, I listen to the questions asked in the House of Representatives. I am well aware of the fact that the members of the Australian Labour Party ask the same questions, as a matter of policy, in each House of the Parliament.
Distribution in Schools.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General a further question on the subject about which I addressed a question to him earlier this morning. If I have interpreted the Minister’s answer correctly, it was to the effect that he did not consider that the distribution of Communist literature in schools should provoke action on the part of the Government unless the literature being disseminated was in fact advocating open rebellion in this country. If that is a correct interpretation, can the Minister tell us why the security service is seizing the literature?
– When I answered Senator Vincent’s previous question on this subject, I prefaced my answer by saying that I had no accurate information about the matters to which he was referring. I merely endeavoured, on the spur of the moment, to set forth the principles on which I felt I would approach a problem such as this. Quite clearly, if literature has been confiscated there was some reason for the confiscation, but, as I said at the start, 1 have no accurate information as to the facts on which Senator Vincent’s question was based.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
Will the Minister inform the Senate of the result of his inquiries into the making of building bricks from a mixture containing sugar?
– The Minister for Supply has furnished the following reply: -
I understand that as a result of a press statement in the “ Australian Financial Review “ of 14th April, 1960 to the effect that the Westfield Brick Company proposed to manufacture in Sydney a building brick containing sugar, the Building Research Liaison Service of the Department of Works sought information locally from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Sydney Building Information Centre. However, nothing was known to either of these authorities of this brick other than that contained in the above press statement.
As reference had been made to its extensive use overseas, the matter was referred to Bouwcentrum in Holland. In its reply this organization, which amongst other things maintains a building information bureau and is a recognised international authority, advised that a brick corresponding to the description given by Westfield Building Company was not known at their centre.
I also understand that the Master Builders Association of New South Wales has advised that some twenty to thirty years ago building bricks made from a mixture containing sugar were tried in New South Wales, but the mixture proved to be quite unsatisfactory. I regret that further information is not available.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following information: -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished the following reply -
Most overseas countries have adopted the “ all figure “ method of showing automatic telephone numbers; other countries are anxious to do likewise and some of them are moving in this direction because they have found that where several exchanges serve the same area, or where one exchange serves several suburbs with different names, as in capital cities, the letter prefix system has no real meaning and tends to confuse telephone users. It is true that the telephone administrations of London, Paris and New York have retained three-letter and two-letter prefixes to their numbers; it is also true that they have a considerable investment in existing plant and a change to the “all-figure” presentation would be extremely costly. Some United States telephone administrations are examining the possibility of converting to the “ all-figure “ system.
On the other hand, for Australia to adopt a multiple “ letter-figure “ combination would cost more than £2,000,000 merely to change all the dials now in use from the existing ten-letter to a twenty-six-lelter combination, assuming this could be done simultaneously everywhere, as would be necessary.It would also involve an outlay of a further £3,000,000 in Sydney and Melbourne alone for new switching equipment in the telephone exchanges.
The progressive introduction of the “ all-figure “ method in Australia does not involve any fundamental change in the numbers themselves but merely calls for a different way of showing them in telephone directories and on letter-heads, posters, &c. For example, whether a particular number be dialled by a caller, as FJ 7691 or 34 7691, does not affect in any way the actual progress of a call, since the finger hole on the dial opposite the figure “ 3 “ is also opposite the letter “F”, and the hole appropriate to “4” the same as for “ J “. Consequently, industry and business generally can change letterheads and so on at leisure and make use of existing stocks.
Some of the more important advantages which flow from the adoption of the “ all-figure “ presentation of numbers are as follows: -
The automatic processing of trunk line call dockets and the preparation of subscribers’ accounts are facilitated. With the “ letter-figure “ combinations, the sorting of trunk line dockets is made more complicated and demands more in the way of equipment and space for the sorting plant.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following information: -
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Walter Cooper) read a first time.
[11.55]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Papua and New Guinea Act, which this bill proposes to amend, is, in its nature, something like the Constitution of the Territory. This bill, which seeks to amend those divisions of the act which relate to the Legislative Council and the Executive Council, is therefore a proposal for the first major constitutional change in the history of the Territory. It marks an early but very important stage in the advance of the Territory towards self-government.
The proposals contained in this bill are the result of a long period of study culminating in a tour which the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) undertook in the Territory last luly in order to discuss with citizens and representative organizations of all races, the question of reform in the Legislative Council. May I summarize here the main points on which both native and European deputations expressed their views to the Minister.
There was a large measure of agreement by Territory residents that the official majority in the Legislative Council should be retained, but reduced to no more than one or two votes. The number of elected members should be increased. The eventual objective should be a common roll for all voters throughout the Territory, but in the present stage it would be necessary, for practical reasons, for the native people to elect some members and for non-natives to elect non-native members. In the election of the native members use should be made of the local government councils, but the method adopted should also have regard to those advanced communities not within the council system. The total number of elected native members should be the same as the number of elected non-native mem bers. The Government should take , the responsibility of providing additional native members to speak for the people in the backward areas who could not at this stagetake an effective part in any system of election. The number of nominated nonofficial members should be reduced, but there were differences of opinion about the way in which the reductions should be made. The nominee positions, both official and non-official, should be regarded as open to native nominees as well as to non-native. Some deputations asked that elected members as well as official members should be appointed to the Executive Council, but there was some doubt expressed about the functions appropriate to the Executive Council.
This bill gives effect to most of those views. It proposes to increase the membership of the Legislative Council; to reduce the official majority; to increase the proportion of elected members; and to provide, for the first time, for the election of native members by the native people themselves. The body known as the Executive Council will be abolished and replaced by an Administrator’s Council, formed of both official and non-official members and having defined powers in regard to the administration of the Territory.
In introducing those changes we are taking care to set them out in a way that will admit of progressive development. For example, the clauses relating to the Legislative Council will remove any distinction between categories of members and distinguish only the method by which they attained membership, that is, by election or by appointment. This will leave the way clear in future years for a simpler form of amendment under which the number of appointed members can be reduced and the number of elected members increased. We also propose to avoid, as far as is possible, any distinctions between indigenous and nonindigenous members and to leave the way open for persons of any race to be either elected or appointed to any vacancy, thus establishing a course of change which will end with a common roll and the occupancy of official positions by persons of either race. The clauses dealing with the Administrator’s Council have been drafted so that the council may become the starting point for progress towards representative government and, eventually, responsible government.
I shall now describe the proposed amendments in greater detail. The Legislative Council at present consists of 29 members, including the Administrator. The bill proposes a council of 37 members including the Administrator. At present there are seventeen official members, including the Administrator, and there are twelve nonofficial members. In the new council it is proposed that there should be fifteen official member’s and 22 non-official. At present, the twelve non-official members include only three elected members. In the new council it is proposed that there should be twelve elected members and ten nonofficial appointed members.
In the old council all members, except three native members appointed by the Governor-General, were Europeans. In the new council, all appointments, whether of official or non-official members, will be open to natives as well as non-natives, and it is stipulated that not less than a certain number of native members shall fill the vacancies. If this bare minimum is filled there will be eleven native members, that is, five appointed and six elected out of a total of 22 non-official members. That is the stipulated minimum, not the stated maximum. Because of the reduction in the number of official members to a total of fourteen, plus the Administrator, out of a total council of 37, the Administrator in future will not be able to rely upon the cut and dried majority that is supplied to him by the preponderance of official members, but will have to obtain the support of some of the elected members or some of the nonofficial appointed members in order to have a majority in the council.
I shall now turn to the provision of the bill regarding elections. The bill says in clause 8, which amends section 36 of the principal act, that the membership of the council shall include twelve persons elected by electors of the Territory. In proposed new sub-section (3.), it is provided that until a date to be fixed by or under an ordinance as the date on and after which natives are eligible to be enrolled as electors, subject to the same conditions as apply to other persons, six of the twelve will be elected on the electoral roll established by the Legislative Council ordinance of the Territory and six shall be elected by natives.
When honorable senators have studied the bill with care they will see that these provisions in clause 8 make it clear, first, that the separate elections are only a temporary expedient; that a single election and a common roll are the objectives set by this Parliament, and that, in due course, both can be put into effect without further amendment of the Papua and New Guinea Act. In future - one cannot predict with certainty how long it will take - when it is possible for the native electors to go on the normal roll for the Territory without suffering any disadvantage, the way will he open for them to do so. For the time being, in order to meet the conditions al present existing in the Territory and to avoid delaying any reform until such time as single elections could be held, an ordinance of the Territory will provide for one method of election for those on the normal roll, and another temporary method of election of native members will be provided for the native community.
This aspect of our proposals was discussed by the Minister for Territories at some length with leaders of the native people in the Territory last July. Not one of them was in favour of a popular vote at this stage. They said, in effect, that their people did not know much about voting and that as they live in groups isolated from one another they would not know much about any candidates who might offer. They said that some day they should all vote as the Europeans did, but they had no confidence that at present that method would produce good results. For the time being, they favoured a system based on the local government councils.
In addition to this clear expression 61 opinion from the leaders of the native people, the Minister had the advice of the Administration regarding the practical problems of enrolment, taking of votes, and the state of knowledge and interest in village communities. This advice supported the view that the native people themselves had expressed. Therefore, for the present, a method of indirect election will be used to choose the native members, because the visible, immediate, and on-the-spot election- system that works so well with local government councils could not be used for elections for the Legislative Council over wide areas among tens of thousands of village people.
After considering the views expressed by the native leaders in the Territory as well as the comments of Administration officers, the Government proposed that the method of electing native members to the Legislative Council during the transitional period should be as follows: - There will be six electorates, each returning one member. When an election is to be held the chief electoral officer will call for nominations. The nomination of native candidates will be free and open to individuals. The nominations will pass into the keeping of the chief electoral officer, who will have the responsibility of summoning an electoral conference in each of the six electorates at a designated time and place and calling on all local government councils to send delegates to it. The councils entitled to take part in an electoral conference and the number of delegates that each will be entitled to send will be set down in regulations under the relevant Territory ordinance. The chief electoral officer or a divisional returning officer will preside over each electoral conference and, after opportunity has been given for discussion - and that period of discussion will be most important, as 1 am sure will be recognized by any one familiar with the community up there - and after an opportunity has been given for address by the candidates, a vote of the delegates to the conference will be taken by secret ballot, each delegate voting individually. Because in some parts of the Territory there are groups of advanced native people who have no opportunity to form local government councils, provision will be made by regulations under the Territory ordinance for those groups of advanced native people who are not in local government councils to have the right to send a stipulated number of delegates to an electoral conference.
I stress that it is intended that this method should be used only during a transitional period. When the native people gain greater confidence in their own ability to take part in a general election, and some of the other problems of electioneering and of taking and scrutinizing the count have been over come, a change will be made. Having regard to our objective to establish a common roll in the Territory, the Government would1 prefer to see a change direct from this electoral college method to a common roll, rather than to change to another intermediate stage in which we’ would have two rolls for the two races, even for a brief period. I think it is quite logical to say that when the time comes at which native people are found to be competent to carry out the normal processes of enrolment and voting, the need for any special and separate arrangements will end and they will be able to take their place on the normal roll like any one else.
I turn now to the provisions made for the election of six non-native members of the Legislative Council. Very little explanation is required. In place of three elected members, in future there will be six members elected in six separate electorates, each returning one member. The roll of electors will be formed on the same claims for eligibility as are provided in the existing laws of the Territory.
At this stage, and before leaving the question of elections, I should mention that during his inquiries in the Territory in July, the Minister asked every deputation he saw for its opinion on a common roll. Without exception, the Minister was informed by European deputations that they recognized that a common roll was appropriate and they raised no objection to it. The only doubts raised concerned the practical problems set by illiteracy and the question whether, if the native people were placed on a common roll too soon, their votes might be won too easily by extravagant promises or doubtful persuasions from the poorer type of candidate.
I turn now to the provisions of the bill in respect of the ten appointed members other than the official members. The bill provides that not fewer than five shall come from the trust Territory of New Guinea. This repeats a provision in the existing act. It is also stipulated that not fewer than five of them, whe’ther from Papua or from New Guinea, shall be native members. Beyond this, it is not proposed to divide the appointed members into categories. Part of the reason for this is that it was considered logical to designate members according to the method by which they obtained membership - as officers, by election, or by appointment - but not to say whom they were to represent.
Further, as the next step forward will be another increase in the number of elected members at the expense of the number oi appointed members, it would be raising an unnecessary impediment to change if we continued to encourage any section of the community - missions, commerce, planting or mining - in the belief that it had established a right to sectional representation on the council. Hence, the bill simply says that there shall be ten members appointed by the Governor-General on the nomination of the Administrator; that not fewer than five shall come from New Guinea and that not fewer than five shall be natives. 1 should’ add, however, that it is the Government’s intention to instruct the Administrator to use his powers of nomination in this transitional period so as to provide at least two native members who can speak for those people in backward areas who cannot take part in any system of election at this stage. Secondly, he will be instructed to use his power of nomination to assist in giving membership to some of those advanced leaders of the native people who may be debarred from becoming candidates for election because they are in Administration employment. It is a fact that in the Territory to-day, some of the most outstanding of the native people - the best educated, the most articulate and broad-thinking people - are those in government service. Because they are in government service and politics there is not a full-time, fully paid job, but is only parttime, they are debarred from election. It is intended to use the power of appointment to ensure that some of these, at least, will obtain membership of the council as appointed members.
Thirdly, the Administrator will be asked to consider the nomination of two persons from the Christian missions in the Territory, having regard to the fact that since the inauguration of the council, the missions have had three statutory places. Until such time as all the native people are fully represented by their own members, one hopes that the missionaries will be additional spokesmen for them. With all respect to the mission representatives, it is doubtful whether the retention of special seats for missions could be justified for members who were only spokesmen for missions and defenders of the interests of missions; but there is a recognizable case for voices that will be raised for sections of the population whom missions can claim to know more closely and understand more clearly than others do.
The effect of the changes proposed in this bill can be best illustrated by making two comparisons between the present council and the new council. The first comparison is of methods of appointment of members. In both councils, there is provision for one Administrator. In the present council there are sixteen official members and in the proposed council there will be fourteen. There are three elected members in the present council compared with twelve in the proposed council. In the present council, the appointed non-official members number nine in separate categories. In the new council there will be ten appointed nonofficial members without stipulation of categories. The total number of members is 29 in the present council, compared with 37 in the proposed council.
The second comparison illustrates the difference in the representation of races in the council. I take first the non-native members. There are six appointed nonnative members in the present council and in the proposed council there will be a maximum of five. Elected non-native members now number three and in the new council there will be six elected. So far as native members are concerned, in the present council there are only three appointed members and no elected members. In the new council there will be a minimum of five appointed native members and six elected native members. Official places in the new council will be reduced from sixteen to fourteen - exclusive of the Administrator - and will be open to all regardless of race.
I turn now to the proposals in the bill regarding the Administrator’s Council. The act provides at present for an Executive Council for the Territory to advise and assist the Administrator. It consists of officers of the Territory and is presided over by the Administrator who alone submits matters to it and who is not bound to accept its advice. There is no doubt that the Administrator has tried to make the Executive Council as useful and effective a body as he can, but it is certainly not an executive body except in a very limited sense, and its very title is a misnomer. There has been a tendency, too, for its functions to become confused so that at times it appears as nothing more than a meeting of senior officers, at other times as a party meeting and at times as a body formally sharing the Administrator’s functions with him.
The proposal presented in the bill now before the Senate is to repeal the whole of Division 2, thus abolishing the Executive Council, and to create a new body to be known as the Administrator’s Council. This will consist of the Administrator, three official members of the Legislative Council and three other members of the Legislative Council, none of whom shall be an official member, and of whom at least two shall be elected members. This Administrator’s Council will have the function of advising the Administrator on any matter referred to the council by the Administrator, and - this is the more important part - in accordance with an ordinance, of advising on any other matter. That is to say, by an ordinance of the Territory certain functions can be confided to the Administrator’s Council.
Consequential on the passing of this section of the bill, which is almost identical with a similar provision in respect of the Northern Territory to which this Parliament agreed a year ago, legislation will be passed in the Territory to confide to the Administrator’s Council a number of precise administrative functions. The establishment of this council will directly associate the Legislative Council with the daily tasks of administration, for only Legislative Councillors can be members of the Administrator’s Council and, through the membership of elected members of the council, it will introduce the first measure of representative government to the Territory. In the future, one foresees that its functions will grow and its membership become more representative.
For reasons which have already been stated, it is not intended to distinguish between members of the Administrator’s Council on grounds of race. We do not say in the bill that so many members shall be of this race or of that race, lt is intended that the positions on the council shall be open to all, irrespective of race. But, as we recognize the realities of the present position, a direction will be given to the Administrator that at the beginning he should use his power of nomination to ensure the presence on the Administrator’s Council of at least one native member of the Legislative Council. He may appoint more if more are available.
The constitutional reforms which 1 have attempted to describe have been shaped with close attention to the particular circumstances and the prospective needs of the Territory. They are introduced with confidence that they fit the current situation, and - and this is more important - that they will work in practice, and that they can be readily adjusted in the future to keep pace with progressive change.
The passing of this bill by the Parliament will leave the way open for the introduction of associated legislation in the Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea in its October session. After the passing of the Territory ordinances and the making of regulations under them, it will devolve on the Administrator to make arrangements for the first elections under the new system. Our tentative expectation is that these elections can be held next February or March, and that the reformed Legislative Council, with the structure that I have described, will hold its first session shortly thereafter.
It is almost certain that comparisons will be made between what it is proposed to do in the Australian Territory of Papua and New Guinea and what may be proposed elsewhere in territories of a similar kind. In making any such comparisons close attention should be paid to the powers and functions of the bodies which are being compared. The Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea, while subordinate to this Parliament, has full legislative powers and the complete structure of a parliament. It passes its own budget. It makes its own standing orders, has full control of its own business and appoints its own committees on any subject within its competence. For example, it would be within its competence to have a public works committee or a public accounts committee similar to the committees functioning in this Parliament. lt will be directly represented on the proposed Administrator’s Council.
I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Dittmer) adjourned,
Debate resumed from 22nd September (vide page 631), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill before the Senate is designed, as was pointed out by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), to ensure that airline companies make a greater contribution to the cost of aviation facilities than they do at present. An increase in charges to airline companies was foreshadowed in the Budget speech delivered by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) when he said -
After reviewing the position, the Government has therefore decided to adopt a policy of full recovery from the users of the cost of facilities attributable to their operations. This aim will bc achieved over a period of years. Each year there will be a review of the air navigation charges payable by the airlines . . .
I direct the attention of honorable senators to the words “ a policy of full recovery “ and the statement that air navigation charges will be reviewed each year. Recovery of the cost of aviation facilities will not be made in one year. Recovery will fall far short of full recovery. Later in my remarks I will make some suggestions how full recovery may be achieved.
The basis upon which air navigation charges are made was fixed in 1952 under the Air Navigation (Charges) Act. The Government decided that charges should’ not exceed one-half of the charges laid down by the previous Labour Administration, except insofar as they related to increased cost of facilities. The amount of charges determined in 1952 was increased by 10 per cent, in 1957 and the increase proposed under this bill is 60 per cent.
As pointed out by the Treasurer, and reiterated by the Minister for Civil Aviation in his second-reading speech, the system of making an annual review is certainly an improvement on the rather haphazard method of making a review when somebody thinks of it. I think that is a welcome improvement. The Minister also indicated that the Government is limited in its endeavour to reach the stage where the industry is making a total repayment of the cost of facilities, because that would cause increases in air fares, and presumably in air freights. I do not quite know how those two matters are related. There have been increases in fares which were evidently unrelated to increases in air navigation charges. It appears that it is a case of plucking the feathers without killing the goose. The Government is plucking as many feathers as possible, but at the same time it does not want to kill the goose by causing an increase in fares.
– That is right.
– Senator Hannaford says, “That is right”, but I suggest that it is a rather delicate balance which confronts the Administration.
The Australian Labour Party is not opposing this bill. A study of this matter is very interesting. We have not always agreed with the charges that have been laid down by the Government - far from it. We opposed the charges proposed by the Government in 1952. We also opposed the Civil Aviation Agreement Bill in 1952, when a bombshell was thrown into the industry. I do not want to refer to all the matters covered by the Civil Aviation Agreement. I wish to deal only with the charges clause. The agreement was unusual because it was made by two parties - Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and the Government - but bound a third party. I thought that was one thing that was anathema to contract law, but that was the effect of the agreement made at that time. As I say, I wish to deal only with the charges clause of the agreement. The agreement certainly dealt with air route charges to the satisfaction of A.N.A. The agreement resulted from the charges which had been levied under air navigation orders made by a Labour administration.
At the time the agreement was made A.N.A. was being sued by the Commonwealth Government for £1,000,000. The case was pending in the High Court when the agreement was made. I think it would be wise to read some clauses of the agreement in order to make the basis of it quite clear. Clause 4 of the agreement dealt with air route charges and the Writ of Summons in this way - (1.) The Company will pay to the Commonwealth within one year from the date of the commencement of this agreement, and the Commonwealth will accept, the sum of Three hundred and thirty-seven thousand seven hundred and seventeen pounds six shillings (£337,717 6s.) in full satisfaction of all claims by the Commonwealth against the Company l-r air route charges in respect of the period commencing on the first day of August, One thousand nine hundred and forty-seven and ending on the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-two. (2.) Upon the payment by the Company to the Commonwealth of the sum of Three hundred and thirty-seven thousand seven hundred and seventeen pounds six shillings (£337,717 6s.) referred to in sub-clause (1.) of this clause, the Commonwealth will take steps to discontinue the action instituted by the Commonwealth against the Company in the High Court of Australia by Writ of Summons No. 7 of 1948.
That disposed of the disagreement between the Commonwealth Government and A.N.A. It is only fair to say that having waived an amount of about £600,000 which A.N.A. owed the Commonwealth, the Government then reimbursed Trans-Australia Airlines for two-thirds of the amount that it had paid to the Commonwealth in respect of those charges. The reimbursement, amounted to £444,000.
The bill which was introduced following that agreement, setting out the air route charges, is the one which the Government now proposes to amend. The amendments proposed are to cover payments to the Commonwealth for the cost of the facilities it makes available to the airline companies, which are circumscribed in the Civil Aviation Agreement to which I have referred. The relevant clause of the agreement, clause 4 (3.), reads -
In respect of the period commencing from the first day of July One thousand nine hundred and fifty-two and ending on the date of the expiration of this agreement, the air route charges charged to the Company by the Commonwealth shall not, subject to this clause, exceed one-half of the charges set forth in Air Navigation Order Part 99 dated the twenty-seventh day of May One thousand nine hundred and forty-nine, as amended on the first day of August of that year, unless and except to the extent that an increase becomes necessary because of the provision of additional or improved facilities and services or because of higher costs of maintaining and operating facilities and services.
The period of the agreement is set out in clause 16 which reads -
This agreement shall continue in force for fifteen (IS) years from its commencing date.
So, although in dealing with these charges the Government has a certain latitude, it is restricted by the provision that the air route charges shall not exceed one-halt of the charges set out in the air navigation order which was made under a Labour government. Of course, the air navigation order merely set out the formula for making the charges, which has since been amended. As in the cas? of the making of defence financial regulations, in respect of which the Senate recently debated a motion for disallowance, the position is that an act authorizes the making of regulations and the regulations in turn authorize the Minister to make air navigation orders.
Another important point is that under the Civil Aviation Agreement the Commonwealth retained the right to adopt another formula. I doubted the right of the Government to do that when I first read this bill, but there is no doubt that the Government is completely within its rights in making the proposed amendment as a result of the formula it is adopting. The wording of the relevant sub-clause of the agreement is quite clear. Sub-clause (5.) of clause 4 reads -
Nothing in this clause shall prevent the Commonwealth from imposing air route charges by whatever legislative means and on whatever basis of calculation it thinks fit which will produce substantially the same aggregate amount over the period referred to in sub-clause (3.) of this clause as the charges calculated in accordance with that sub-clause, increased if necessary in accordance with that sub-clause, together with the additional amounts charged in respect of new routes in accordance with sub-clause (4.) of this clause, would produce.
Therefore, there is no doubt that the Government is completely within its rights in making an amendment to the formula it adopts. As far as I can see, the formula appears to be a good one. I will raise one query on it before I resume my seat, to give the Minister an opportunity to answer it.
The Minister also pointed out in his second-reading speech that these charges are not the only charges that are made upon the airline operators. He mentioned the fuel tax which is paid by the industry and is running at about £1,200,000. I raise a query on this matter and I trust that the
Minister will make a note of it. Do the overseas companies, like the Australian operators, pay the fuel tax, or what arrangements are made? If they are not paying that tax, 1 imagine that it would not be difficult to tax them because they will not make mushroom growth overnight and the airline industry is a compact industry. I wonder whether it is a good thing to collect over £1,000,000 by way of an indirect tax. I am not very keen on any type of indirect tax. I wonder whether it would not be better to merge that tax into the general charges made upon the operators and so make a direct charge instead of an indirect charge. I believe it would be a good idea to get away from indirect charges. That suggestion may appeal to the collecting authorities. I wonder whether the present method is a good way of charging the operators.
The history of the basis on which the charges are made is interesting, if not peculiar. Looking at the structure, we begin by making an air navigation order which is a sort of lineal descendant from a regulation, which can be altered or completely rescinded overnight because of the power given to the Minister under the regulations. On that basis an agreement was made that the air route charges shall not exceed one-half of the charges set out in the air navigation order. The formula can be altered at any time as long as the alteration conforms to the agreement. The Parliament increased the charges by ten per cent, in 1957. I remember that at the time the Minister commented that it was a mild1 increase because the formula would have allowed him to increase the air navigation charges by 14 per cent. Why that Was not done, I do not know. There may have been very good reasons at the time, because the industry was in the process of development.
– To what formula is the honorable senator referring?
– I am referring to the formula that was agreed upon and incorporated in the 1957 measure, which the bill now before us slightly amends. Now, after a shorter period of time, the air navigation charges are being increased by more than 60 per cent. They were increased after £ve years by 10 per cent, and now, three years later, they are to move up by 60 per cent. So all this can be rescinded or altered without any reference to this Parliament at all. I would like the Minister to explain to me the reason for this unusual jump. As I said1, the charges rose by 10 per cent, over five years and now, after a period of three years has elapsed, they are moving up by 60 per cent.
I come now to the great weakness in these negotiations; that is, the calculation of what the costs are and how much should be charged to the industry. Honorable senators will recall that, in his secondreading speech, the Minister fixed or hit on the figure of £13,000,000. He said-
Using a very strict basis of commercial accounting - which would include an amount of more than £4,000,000 for such “invisible” items as depreciation, interest, superannuation liability and so on - it would, indeed, be correct to say that the airports and air navigational and safety facilities provided by the Department of Civil Aviation and used by civil aircraft in this country are currently costing the Commonwealth about £13,000,000 a year to operate and maintain.
The first query I raise concerns the application of the word “ invisible “ to such items as depreciation, interest and superannuation liability. I would say that normally entries in relation to these items appear in any set of accounts. They would be shown in the accounts of any government or private business. I wonder whether it is correct to apply the word “ invisible “ to these items, particularly in view of the fact that at a future time there must be negotiations with the industry to fix the final rate. I think that the Minister drew a long bow when he described superannuation liability as an invisible item, because by now the amount that must be paid annually into the superannuation fund should be known. If by the word “ liability “ the Minister means the whole of what will be finally paid, it is a mystery to me why superannuation payments are charged in the accounts. I would not call them invisible charges. I would say that they are normal charges. They are not charges which are being directly accrued each year by the physical work of the department, but nevertheless they are completely valid charges. I do not think they should be called invisible charges.
The Minister went on to deal with the questions of air traffic control and meteorological services, and apparently he wondered what amounts should be charged in respect of them. In the first instance, 1 would have thought that the charge in respect of air traffic control would be a direct charge, but it seems that the department has a doubt about that. I think the department should understand that this is a pretty direct charge on the industry. Although the provision of meteorological services is of great benefit to primary producers and facilitates the safe movement of shipping, nevertheless a direct charge in respect thereof should be made to the air transport industry.
– 1 do not want to interrupt the honorable senator other than to say that the point I tried to make was that, not the proportion of the cost, but the actual determination of the proportion was the matter to be considered.
– I agree with what the Minister says. I believe that honorable senators on both sides of this Parliament should finally resolve these things. The point I am trying to make is that we should resolve this matter more quickly than it will be resolved by the present approach. As it is proposed to review air navigation charges annually, this problem will be more prominently before us than it has been in the past. Up till now, the matter has been before the Government only when representations have been made by the industry. Now that the decision has been made to review these charges annually, the problem becomes immediate. I believe that the crux of the matter is that the air transport industry is no longer a juvenile industry. I think it can be said that the troubles of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited came to an end under efficient business management. Trans-Australia Airlines is well established. There is not much doubt that companies will not be growing up all the time. Although the Minister has not the power to stop other companies coming into the field, obviously the Government tends to support the two existing major airlines. The favours and the help that these airlines have received from the Government would give them an advantage over any other airline entering the field.
Surely the time has arrived when we should face up to the question of what exactly are these charges. We should let the department and. the industry know exactly where they stand. It is ridiculous for us to be arguing about costs when we do not know precisely what the costs are. We do not know the costs that we should be applying to this industry. I do not pretend for a moment that this is an easy matter to resolve, as such things as air traffic control and meteorology, defence generally, the necessity for flights over long distances in a sparsely populated country, the air-mindedness of the Australian people, and the assistance that is given to road and rail transport have to be taken into account. It is not easy to determine the proportion of these charges that should be borne by the air transport industry and the proportion that should be carried by the public. Undoubtedly, this is a valid matter for debate. Undoubtedly, the Government would adopt a certain approach to it and the airline companies another approach. I think that, in view of the vastness of this country and the fact that we have a relatively small population, the public should have a say concerning the extent to which the air transport industry should be subsidized. Of course, primary producers also would have their own views on the matter.
I wonder what would be an appropriate body to decide the issue. I suggest, in view of the great work that has been done by select committees of this Senate in the past, that such a committee could probably render some assistance when an inquiry into this matter was being held. Undoubtedly, the companies should be heard, and any other people who would like to appear before an inquiry should be heard.
The Labour Party does not oppose this bill. The matters I have raised have been advanced in a spirit of helpfulness. There are one or two questions on which we would appreciate enlightenment by the Minister. I have mentioned the fact that, over five years, air navigation charges rose by 10 per cent., and now, after three years, they are to rise by 60 per cent. I should also like the Minister to inform us how the increased charges will fall as between the two major airline operators. Were they consulted about the proposed increases and, if so, did they agree that the proposed charges would be fair? Above all, I should like the Minister to inform us, if he can, what steps are contemplated to resolve the existing fluid position. As the Minister has said, it is reasonable to expect the industry to pay its share of the cost of the facilities that the Commonwealth Government has provided, but it seems peculiar - 1 say this quite frankly - that we do not know what we should charge the industry. Until this matter is resolved, this nebulous situation will arise each year. Clearly, if increased charges are to be imposed on the airline operators, a time will come when they will say, “ Hang on a moment. Where are we going with these charges? What is a fair charge to impose upon us?”.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– It gives me great pleasure to support the bill. I am glad that the Opposition has indicated that it too will support the measure. I am sure the Minister will be able to answer adequately the questions raised by Senator Willesee. Personally, 1 am entirely behind the idea of bridging the enormous gap that exists at present between the cost of civil aviation facilities and the receipts that the Government gets from them. As Senator Willesee has pointed out, the airways of Australia have grown up. Within the last two and a half years, it has been my privilege to travel on a number of airlines in other parts of the world. I can say that the internal airlines of Australia are second to none, whether we refer to those of the United States of America or to those of countries such as Italy, Switzerland, Belgium and the South American republics.
We must face the fact that those who use the facilities that are provided should pay a measurable amount towards the cost of providing them. I am not alarmed, as Senator Willesee apparently is, because expenditure this year will be greater than it has been previously. I think that the Government and those who support it should see to it that the enormous gap to which I have referred is bridged. The relevant figures are very interesting. I understand that the provision of civil aviation facilities costs the Government about £13,000,000 a year, and that more than 2,000,000 passengers avail themselves of the services provided. This means that the approximate cost to the nation of each flight is £6 10s. per passenger. Of course, some of the flights are short, such as that between Hobart and Launceston, and some are long, such as that between Melbourne and Darwin. Those who use the airways should be brought face to face with the fact that each flight involves the Government in an expense of £6 10s. per passenger. The bill before the Senate will go a part of the way to meet the cost of the services provided, because the additional charges that are proposed will find their way to the Treasury.
I am interested to note that, for the purposes of this bill, the Government proposes to place aircraft in four categories. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) stated in his second-reading speech -
Aircraft of less than 25,000 lb. all-up weight - and this category includes virtually all aircraft used in the private and small charter fields and may later include aircraft in outback feeder operations - will incur only a nominal increase in charges. Aircraft used mainly on rural services will incur a not very substantial increase. Aircraft which might be described as second-line trunkroute equipment will make a fairly large additional contribution, while the heavy aircraft in the front line domestic category and the heavy international jets will - as is just - make the greatest contribution.
I admit that the figure of £6 10s. per flight, to which 1 have referred, relates only to the passenger aspect of air operations. The freight aspect has not assumed very large proportions so far in Australia. I think the Senate will appreciate that it is just to attempt to reduce this large cost per passenger per flight. I agree with everything said by the Minister in his second-reading speech about the importance of an adequate civil aviation organization in Australia. With such an organization, we have the means to gear the country to meet an emergency, and we also have means whereby to develop the country. I say that the Government is on the right track in making a frontal attack in its efforts to reduce the high cost that I have mentioned.
I wish at this stage to focus attention on the activities of the Government in relation to the Adelaide airport. I think it is fair to commend the Department of Civil Aviation on the lay-out of that airport and on the fact that it is displaying insight and imagination, at no great cost, in planting trees and lawns alongside the road into the airport. As a member of the committee which was responsible for having the Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith memorial placed at the Adelaide airport, I take the opportunity to thank the Government for the excellent attention that that wonderful memorial receives from the department. The lawns around it are always well cut. lt is worthy of note in this debate that the department is paying suitable attention to the aesthetic aspect of airports.
I am of the opinion that the international airports of Australia are of great importance. As will be seen from the Minister’s second-reading speech, the increase of charges is to be greatest for aircraft of an international character. In this respect, the Department of Civil Aviation could do certain things, which I shall outline. The international airports of Australia are in effect Australia’s shop windows. It is at those airports that the majority of people coming to this country gain their first impressions of Australia. I was very pleased to observe, in the issue of the “ Australian Financial Review “ of 29th September, some data relating to the provision of faster services for air passengers, ft is not of much use to spend £13,000,000 on buildings, landing strips, landing facilities and air navigational aids, if there is chaos around the buildings and air strips. I was glad to note that at the sixteenth annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association, which was held at Copenhagen recently and attended by distinguished representatives of our civil aviation organization, the question of improving international airports in this respect was raised. The article in the “ Australian Financial Review” states -
The article in the “ Australian Financial Review “ states -
I.A.T.A. is concerned about the fact that ground-handling problems are often aggravated by surface transport delays on congested roads, poor layout of terminal buildings and inadequate facilities at airports, as well as by excessive Government formalities.
There are excessive government formalities which come not so much within the province of the Department of Civil Aviation as within the province of the Departments of Immigration, Customs and Excise and the Treasury. I submit that the Minister should from time to time confer on these matters with his colleagues who are responsible for departments that deal with the intake of people to Australia. We are proud of the structure of our airports and of the improve ments that are being made constantly, especially in Melbourne and Sydney. Step by step our airports are reaching the standards that one notices when travelling overseas. The recent legislation governing facilities for trading at airports will improve and humanize our airports, but bottle-necks still exist and are commented upon by people coming to Australia. The article to which I have just referred goes on to say -
The present complicated documentation system, which asks passengers many unnecessary questions,, will also have to be considerably pruned down to be in keeping with to-day’s sophisticated air transport system.
Let me give an illustration which is not referable to Australia. When I was travelling through India, I was in New Delhi for just on two hours. The temperature was 98 degrees at midnight. One of the Indian officers asked me to fill in a form which contained a question about the location of the beds in which 1 had slept during the preceding fourteen nights. Documents such as that are still being used in connexion with international travel. Passengers have to fill in a number of documents at airports in other parts of the world, just as international travellers have to fill in documents at airports in Australia. No matter how much we improve the airports, we shall not get the results that we want unless we improve the methods for handling passengers.
The time lag between arrival at the airport and arrival at the city terminal is another matter that needs attention. When the Minister replies, I should like him to give the Senate any information he has about plans to establish heliports to cater for traffic between the major airports and the city terminals. In particular I should like to know whether anything has been planned for Adelaide. I admit readily that the Adelaide airport is very close to the City of Adelaide, but I would be pleased to hear that there was a prospect of helicopter transport from the West Beach airport to some of the newer centres in the vicinity of Adelaide, particularly the big new city that is developing in the Elizabeth area and the centre on the eastern side of Adelaide. I think that in the next five years helicopters will play an important part in transporting passengers from airports to metropolitan areas. The transport of passengers to the city is, of course, a major problem in
Sydney, particularly in the case of passengers wishing to go to the North Shore, because traffic jams cause much delay.
I commend the Government for introducing this legislation. I believe that the public will accept these charges as a part of a progressive and forward move by the Government to improve both the safety of air travel and the standard of airports throughout Australia.
.- The Opposition does not oppose the bill which is now before the Senate. However, reading through the bill and the secondreading speech of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), I am struck by the implications of a measure such as this. I appreciate the difficulties confronting the Minister and the department because of the increasing cost of providing modern facilities at the growing number of airports throughout Australia, but it is a matter of concern that eventually these charges must bc passed on to the people who use the air services. We cannot escape that feature of the legislation. The position is much the same as that of a dog chasing its tail. In the near future these charges will be reflected in increased fares for travel between the capital cities, and the increases will affect both people using the airlines for business and those travelling as tourists.
Business people will, of course, put the extra charges through their accounts, and that will add to costs. The same will applyto freights. This is of great importance to Tasmania, because the people of that State use the domestic airlines to a great extent for the transportation of goods, particularly those of a fragile nature. The service that the people of Tasmania receive from the domestic airlines is of the highest quality, but the effect of freight charges on our cost structure is something which alarms me. The Minister regularly places before the Senate statements on the Government’s policy of rationalization of air services, and we have seen that the charges are being kept down to a fairly reasonable level. I sincerely hope that both TransAustralia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A. will do their very best to absorb the extra charges that will result from the passing of this legislation. However, I think it is inevitable that the taxpayer will eventually pay the extra costs.
It would not be so bad if the taxpayer were asked to pay a straight out charge for the erection and maintenance of aerodromes throughout Australia. Let me quote one instance of what is happening in Tasmania. People send an order for goods to a mainland firm. The firm sends the goods by air and adds the freight charge to the retail cost in Tasmania. Sales tax varying from 12i per cent, to 16 per cent., and even higher, is charged on these goods on the basis of the retail selling price. Although the cost of air freight is higher, a better service is provided, but because of the higher freight paid, the article attracts a higher sales tax. That is one of the natural consequences of the imposition of the charges.
As the Minister pointed out, technological development over the years has been remarkable, and the Department of Civil Aviation deserves the greatest credit. As a result of reading various magazines and other literature on civil aviation in other parts of the world, I believe that we are in the forefront in providing amenities, facilities and aids. Our service is comparable with that in any other part of the world. I compliment the department on the initiative and imagination that it has shown in the past and that it continues to show in implementing the latest developments.
The increased amount that is expected to be collected in a full year is £450,000. Compared with the total appropriation of £12,610,000 for the department, this recovery is only insignificant, but we must bear in mind the cost of provision of facilities for the airlines generally, and the construction, maintenance and extension of runways and hard standing areas. As aircraft types become heavier and more powerful, they will need more of these facilities, and these charges will continue to grow. The cost of other services which are paid for by the Department of Civil Aviation could rightly be shared by other departments. In regard to meteorological services, there is an arrangement between the Department of the Interior and the Department of Civil Aviation. Even so, salaries payable by the Department of Civil Aviation in relation to these services total more than £370,000 a vear and the general expenses met by the Department of the Interior total £413,800. These services are most essential in a modern community. I feel that the Department of Civil Aviation should be relieved of some of the burden and that these charges could quite easily be distributed over a wider field.
– At whose expense?
– The Minister said that it cost about £13,000,000 to run the department. Later, he said that he hoped the time would come when expenses would bc recovered in air navigation charges. The greater the charges that are imposed, the higher air fares and freights will rise. These must eventually be passed on to the taxpayer. Is it not better for the taxpayer to pay in the first place than to have the charges passed through various channels, with other charges being added to them, for the taxpayer, either as air traveller or as consumer, to pay eventually?
– As I understand it, nobody has ascertained the expense of maintaining the facilities.
– I believe that that is right. The Minister said that it was very difficult to ascertain that figure, but he also made a most important point when he said that the value of these facilities throughout the Commonwealth from a defence point of view is such that we cannot overlook that aspect.
– An ordinary business would just charge that amount to the Department of Defence.
– That is true. That is the point I wish to make. Many of these charges could quite easily be shared by the Department of Defence and the charges made on the civil airlines could be reduced. Every effort should be made to keep these charges as stable as possible because they have a cumulative effect, snowballing to the stage where they become a greater charge on the consumer or the user of the service.
– In my second-reading speech, I made the point that there was a defence and developmental element and the point at issue was the cost attributable to that.
– Yes. I remember that the Minister made that point, which struck me as being very important. That element is difficult to assess. One might put any value on those aerodromes and facilities in time of great national emergency, when if we did not have them we could not survive. We must keep them up to the highest level. When it comes to a matter of economics, however, a factor such as this has a disturbing influence. The more the effect can be minimized the better it is for the whole community. The Minister said that at the present time the industry contributed to costs at the rate of £700,000 per annum. He mentioned also that an amount of £1,200,000 was paid in fuel tax. Generally speaking, I would say that the aircraft industry itself was making a splendid contribution to the development of this country. It is creating competition and tending to keep charges for other forms of transport at a reasonable level. Every consideration and encouragement should be given to the further development of air services, not only between capital cities but also further out into country areas. With the airlines at present paying £700,000 in charges and £1,200,000 in fuel tax, which will increase each year as the mileage increases, and having to pay in future an additional £450,000 under this bill, we must be very careful indeed that we do not place too heavy a burden on the industry.
I have made these few points because I think that they should be aired when legislation of this nature comes before the Senate. At the same time, I believe that the Minister and the department are trying to make the best of a bad world. The Minister knows that the cost of installing facilities is very high, and that the more complex they become, the more they cost to install. Being the Minister responsible, he has to face up to that. The Opposition commends the bill and wishes it a speedy passage.
.- Doubtless all honorable senators will recall that not very long ago an effort was made legislatively to close the gap between the revenue and expenditure of the Department of Civil Aviation. I have noticed that there has been an improvement in the situation. When one realizes that the bill we are now discussing has been designed to close the gap still further, one is hopeful that a greater measure of success will be achieved in the future than has been achieved since the last attempt was made.
The Department of Civil Aviation has grown and it can now be classed as being a major department in Commonwealth affairs. The cost of administration in this department last year was £3,410,000; this year it is expected to cost £3,555,000. One can understand that increased staff will be needed and that this department, like other departments, will have to pay increased emoluments, lt will be noted that this year it is proposed to expend a greater sum on the maintenance and operation of civil aviation facilities. Last year £6,192,000 was expended for this purpose, and this year it is anticipated that an expenditure of £6,509,000 will be incurred.
There is one item of expenditure about which I am not clear. I refer to the item “ Development of civil aviation “. My imagination suggests that that may cover the acquisition of new facilities or perhaps new fire fighting equipment. We know that new inventions are being adopted. The item may even have reference to the development of runways in some of the country areas. 1 know of my own knowledge that in Queensland there are many runways which have not a sealed surface but only a gravel surface. In some places the runways are heavily grassed and light aeroplanes can use them.
While speaking about runways, may 1 say that about three or four years ago when I went to Darwin I saw a runway being constructed at the airport there. It was very enlightening to see just how deep it was necessary to go to establish a firm foundation. That work was being performed, I think, by the construction arm of the Air Force, and the object was to lay down a runway that would take pure jet aircraft. I do not know what progress has been made with the work since 1 was there, but I was satisfied that a first-class job was being done.
– We have a very efficient Minister.
– I should say that they had very efficient engineers and that the Minister accepted their advice. I think the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) would say that also. Of course, the Minister mainly concerned in the con struction of that runway would be the Minister for Air. The Darwin airport is used by civil aircraft as well. There is a big difference between the runway I saw in the course of construction at Darwin and the runways I see in country areas in Queensland. At the Eagle Farm airport, which is Brisbane’s principal airport, it was necessary to lay a new runway only a year or two ago.
All these things are expensive and the cost of them has to be met in one way or another. The people have to pay for them. We have an improved air service throughout the Commonwealth, and it is with some pride that I look through the windows when I am waiting at Mascot airport and see aircraft coming and going. I hear people paged so that they may board aircraft leaving for Broken Hill, Darwin, Mount Isa and other country areas. I am speaking like this, Mr. Deputy President, because I can well recall when Mount Isa and its environs were regarded as being in outback Australia. With the air services we have to-day, no longer is any place regarded as being in the outback.
Rent is one of the items for which the Department of Civil Aviation must pay. It must rent some buildings, and I should imagine that the larger sums would be paid to the Department of Territories. Fairly substantial expenditure is incurred in respect of meteorological services. Last year £776,000 was spent on this item, and this year it is proposed to expend £847,000. Apparently those services are provided by another department, because when one looks at the estimates for the Department of Air one notices that its anticipated expenditure on the same item is £137,000. [ believe that money is paid to the Department of the Interior. These are items in respect of which the average person outside the Parliament has no knowledge. We go to an airport and watch aircraft arriving and leaving, but we have very little knowledge of the expenditure that is incurred to provide all the facilities that are needed to allow those planes to continue their flights.
Now let us look at the revenue that is collected by the Department of Civil Aviation. Last year the department collected £706,000 in navigation charges, and this year, in anticipation of the passing of this legislation, it expects to collect £1,022,000. Last year, the dividend received from Qantas Empire Airways Limited was £400,000, but this year the department proposes to collect £582,000. Last year the department received £243,000 as a payment in the nature of a dividend from the Australian National Airlines Commission or, in other words, from Trans-Australia Airlines. This year it is anticipated that the department will receive £292,000, notwithstanding the fact that various additional charges will have to be met by T.A.A.
Any one who follows the economics of the civil aviation industry must know that people who avail themselves of air services must pay the additional costs. The only regret 1 have about the matter is that Australia’s population is so sparse that it is unable to make aviation a business proposition. I quite appreciate that in the future there will still be a substantial gulf between the revenue and expenditure of the Department of Civil Aviation. I do not think any member of the public would wish the situation to be otherwise, because the public wants to retain a good, efficient air service. Evidently the airlines are paying their way, because the dividend received from Tasman Empire Airways Limited last year was £40,000, and this year it is anticipated that £50,000 will be received. Now I come to miscellaneous revenue. This includes rents charged to stallholders and bus fares charged for the transport of passengers between the airports and the city offices. Last year the revenue received amounted to £470,000 and this year it is expected to be £520,000.
About seven or eight years ago DC3 aircraft used to bring us from our respective States to this Parliament and return us to our homes. We were more or less satisfied with that form of flying. We were flown from Canberra to our home city or town and within a minute or two of receiving our luggage we were on a coach. Fifteen or twenty minutes later we were at the airline terminal. Later we flew in Sky.masters. which were slightly faster than the old DC3. The Skymasters used to float and flop about in the air. Then we graduated to Convairs, which were faster than the other aircraft. Now we travel in prop jet aircraft and it is possible to fly from Sydney to Brisbane in about one and a half hours or in comfort in one and three-quarter hours. But sometimes we are told when we arrive at the airport that our aircraft will be delayed for twenty minutes, 30 minutes or even longer. I cannot recall ever having been delayed by the old DC3’s. They were like the old Ford motor cars. They seemed to be able to leave on time and somehow they got to their destination. But to-day, with faster aircraft, we may be delayed at the end of our flight for anything up to 30 minutes waiting to collect our luggage. With the delay in obtaining luggage and in travelling from the airport to the city terminal through the congested streets we are not much better off with to-day’s faster aircraft than we were a few years ago with the old DC3. I do not for a moment suggest that we should return to the old form of flying - I concede that we must advance with the times.
I wish the Minister well with his legislation. I know that he cannot bridge the gulf between expenditure and revenue but I hope that he will be able to do much better in the future.
– in reply - I express the gratification of the Government at the reception given to this measure by the Senate. I will address myself to the comments that have been made and the queries that have been raised during the course of the debate. Senator Willesee, who led for the Opposition, referred to the use of the term “ invisible “ in respect of some charges to which I had referred. I am sorry if the term proved to be misleading in any way. It was not meant to be misleading. The charges that I mentioned are invisible in the sense that they do not appear anywhere in the Estimates. Under the system of government accounting with which all of us have become familiar, and which all of us criticize from time to time, it is not usual to add such items as interest, depreciation and superannuation to the recurrent cash costs as they are presented or to the out-of-pocket expenses as they are presented. Accordingly, they do not appear before the Parliament. They are in fact invisible charges. When I referred to them as invisible charges I meant no more than to direct the Senate’s attention to the fact that on a strict accounting basis - I repeat the term that I used in my second-reading speech - this ?4,000,000 would be added but the charges are invisible inasmuch as no provision is made for them in the cash estimates.
Senator Willesee inquired whether overseas operators paid fuel tax. No, they do not pay fuel tax, and that is one reason why, when this measure was designed, the increase applicable to the bigger aircraft by way of air navigation charges was so calculated as to fall heavily on the users of those heavy aircraft, including overseas operators.
asked me to explain why in 1957 the Government increased charges by 10 per cent., and three years later its action had the effect of increasing collections from this tax by 60 per cent. The answer is a relatively simple one. The increase in 1957 was the first that had been made since 1952. It was a small increase because the airline industry at that time was going through a particularly harrowing time. The Government felt that while it was desirable to indicate to the airlines that payment of this increased tax was their legitimate obligation, it also recognized that the industry was not in a condition to support anything other than what was in fact no more than a token increase. Three years later when we decided to increase the rate we were able to do so to a much more realistic extent because the industry to-day is in a much sounder financial position than it was in 1957. Some honorable senators have pointed out that even now the amount of the collection is small compared with the total expenditure involved. That is so, but I made an endeavour during my second-reading speech to indicate that while the industry was making progress - considerable progress - a number of points had to be watched. I will refer in more detail to those points later.
asked v/hat amount of costs was paid by the various airlines. Last year ?705,000 was collected. Of that amount ?204.000 was paid by the international airline operators and ?501,000 by the domestic airline companies. Of the amount paid by the domestic companies, the greater proportion was paid by Ansett- A.N.A.- ?222,000- and Trans-Australia Airlines paid ?207,000. Various amounts were contributed by East- West Airlines Limited, Airlines of South Australia, Connellan airlines, Airlines of New South Wales Proprietary Limited, MacRobertson Miller Airlines Limited, Queensland Airlines Proprietary Limited and Woods Airways Proprietary Limited in Western Australia. As Senator Willesee expected, the two trunk operators paid almost the same amount of tax.
asked whether the companies were informed of this proposed increase. They were not informed prior tothe announcement made by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in the Budget speech. The Government regarded this proposed increase as an item of budgetary importance and naturally it did not make an announcement before the Budget speech. Since then, however, the Government has had consultations and has corresponded with the various airlines involved. Senator Willesee asked whether the airlines agreed to the increases. I think it is fair to say that of. all the airlines I have mentioned as paying this tax, one has written to me bringing to my notice, not so much an objection to this increase as indicating that a too heavy-handed use of this power could have quite serious effects in the future, particularly on the private enterprise operators. I acknowledge that. Indeed, in my second-reading speech I made particular reference to that factor.
Senator Laught spoke of facilities at airports, and particularly asked bie to comment on the procedures adopted by departments other than my department, such as the departments of Immigration, Health, and Customs and Excise, in order to effect a quick and convenient clearance of passengers. That is a matter which is continually under review. Two years ago a committee, which was known by the rather baffling name of the Facilitation Committee, was set up. It was composed of representatives of all the departments concerned and it worked out procedures which would improve the handling of passengers at airports. I think that committee has done good work. Its activities are continuing and from time to time such improvements as are possible will be effected.
Senator Laught also asked, about the development of heliports. The other day 1 made a statement to him in reply to a question about this matter. An important point, which I might have mentioned but did not, relates to the siting of heliports and the desirability of placing them either on or near rivers. The purpose in doing that is to ensure that the helicopters do not proceed over built-up areas in the initial stages of flights. The departmental thinking on this matter, and indeed the procedures that are being followed when heliports are established, is to put them in areas near rivers so that the helicopters can proceed along the rivers and in the event of an engine failure no damage would be caused by the helicopter crashing in a built-up area. In Australia to date only single-engine helicopters operate.
In regard to the possibilities of helicopter operations at the Adelaide airport, 1 merely say to the honorable senator who raised the matter that the city of Adelaide is possibly the most fortunate city in the world in the situation of the main city airport. I am sure that there is not another city in the world, at least among the cities 1 have visited, that enjoys the advantage Adelaide has in having its airport almost in the centre of the city. Senator Laught also asked about the extension of helicopter services from Adelaide to places such as Elizabeth. Of course, the establishment of a helicopter service by an operator depends entirely upon its commercial possibilities. The commercial possibilities of helicopter services are continually under consideration by at least the two main operators.
– May I ask a question? Does your department anticipate where a heliport may be established and obtain a site?
– That is not considered necessary because the area required is so very small.
– There is a heliport on top of one of the buildings in Adelaide, but it is not allowed to be used.
– That is right. That is bad luck.
– Has a helicopter service from Newcastle to Sydney been prohibited, or will the department grant a licence for that service?
– As far as I for a licence. I know there has been a good deal of talk about the matter, but 1 do not think an application has been lodged. Discussions may well have taken place between the prospective operator and the department and they may now be engaged in an examination of technical and operational details. That examination could well be taking place now, but I have seen nothing on my table in regard to the matter.
In reply to Senator O’Byrne, who spoke of the possible effects of an increase of the kind contemplated on fares and freights merely say that the Government recognizes the care which it will need to exercise in imposing increased charges. I direct his attention to the last part of my secondreading speech. I will read only the part which refers to the matter of which Senator O’Byrne spoke. It reads -
While progressing to this desirable end-
That is the end of recovering from the operators the total cost of the facilities - further increases in charges will be planned with care and discretion, and will take into account the capacity of the industry to bear increased charges, and will also ensure that any such increase does not lead to increases in fares which would unduly retard the growth and development of our air transport system.
With reference to the comments made by Senator Benn, I take this opportunity to inform the Senate that despite the fact that the Department of Civil Aviation is looking after an ever-expanding industry, the staff of the department has now reached a level which is relatively static. A few years ago, we effected a decrease in staff in each of a few years. The present position is that the staff is static despite the expanding nature of the services provided. That has been made possible by technical improvements and developments. Senator Benn’s reference to the developmental vote prompted me to look at the items which are included in that vote. They indicate the type of activity in which the department is interested. That vote includes grants for aero and gliding clubs; the contributions to the International Civil Aviation Organization and to North-Atlantic air navigational facilities - that is a payment which we make for facilities provided for operators in the North-Atlantic - contribution towards cost of ground facilities in the Pacific area, which is a similar payment for our international airlines; subsidy for air services; and development and maintenance grants to local authorities under the local ownership plan. The amounts paid in respect of all those items total £1,948,000. That gives some indication of the variety of activities in which the department is interested.
– You still have votes covering £12,000,000.
– Yes. I am speaking only of the particular vote to which Senator Benn referred. The part of his speech that made the warmest appeal to me was his contention that increased air travel had probably brought some inconvenience to air travellers. I heartily agree with that assertion. I remember a few years ago when Senator Willesee and I boarded an aircraft at night to fly from Perth to Canberra, we enjoyed some sleep. Now, the plane travels so fast - it is only in the air for a few hours - that we are frequently deprived of sleep that we so badly need. I suppose this is one of the sacrifices which individually we make to progress.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 5th October (vide page 929), on motion by Senator Wade -
That consideration be given to the wool industry and particularly to the following matters: -
Whether the wool industry and the Australian economy generally are being endangered by the downward trend in wool prices;
Whether an expanded sales promotion campaign would have a steadying effect on the market;
Whether a more vigorous research programme into credit facilities and production problems would materially assist the industry; and
Whether a competent independent body should be set up to inquire into all the aspects of wool marketing.
– This debate has already occupied a Jot of time, and I shall not detain the Senate for very long. I want to emphasize that I believe the basic cause of the trouble, not only in the wool industry but in all branches of primary industry, is continually increasing costs. This lies at the bottom of what may be called the dearth in primary production and of the parlous state in which primary industry finds itself to-day. I agree entirely with the contention that has been advanced during the course of this debate that a wool promotion campaign - a sales campaign - should be conducted throughout the world. It is evident that trade, in a fairly large measure, comes to those countries which go after it and which condition themselves to securing it. I believe that a sales promotion campaign would help the industry.
I agree, too, with what has been said concerning the desirability of having a full investigation to ascertain whether a different method of wool marketing - such as a change to the floor price system - would be of advantage to the wool-growers. I think it was Senator Branson who pointed out that an increase of the price of wool by 1d. per lb. adds about £7,000,000 to the national income. I say that if a change in the direction mentioned would increase the returns of the wool-growers it would be well worth while adopting. If, after an investigation by people familiar with wool marketing - I do not claim to have a knowledge of that subject - the wool-growers believed that their position would be advantaged by adopting that system of marketing, it should be adopted.
Whilst such a system would help, it would not get to. the real cause of the trouble in primary production - not only wool-growing - in this country. Senator Wright quoted figures to indicate the increases in costs of primary industry that have occurred over a comparatively few years. Senator Drake-Brockman, too, quoted figures showing that the woolgrower had been caught on both sides: the price of wool had dropped, and he was faced with increased charges in the production of wool. The figures that Senator Wright incorporated in “ Hansard “ show that over only a few years costs increased by from 40 per cent. to 80 per cent. The figures showed also that in the five years from 1952 to 1957 the wool-growers in what is known as the pastoral zone received a return of 16.6 per cent. In 1957-58, their return was only 4.3 per cent. and in 1958-59 it dropped to 1 per cent. The only zone in which such a rapid rate of decline did not occur was the wheat-sheep zone. The position was much worse in the high rainfall zone where, in 1958-59, the return to the producers dropped eventually to one-half of 1 per cent.
What should agitate the mind of everybody interested in the wool industry, including, of course, the members of both Houses of this National Parliament, is the question: What will be the position if costs in the industry increase by another 10 per cent, or 20 per cent.? As I have said, the figures that were cited by Senator Wright showed that costs in the industry had increased by 40 per cent, within a comparatively short period. If that trend continues, eventually a stage will be reached when it will be unprofitable to produce wool. This would result in a tremendous decline in our national income. We all know that if there is a further serious decline in our national income, the consequences to the whole of our economy will be disastrous.
I believe that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) is doing all that he can to open up new avenues of trade in the Commonwealth. As has been mentioned many times in this chamber, he has stated that if we are to maintain the rate of development that this country has known over the last few years, and if we are to pay for all the things it is necessary for us to import in order to achieve the expansion we desire, our export income must increase by £50,000,000 a year over the next five years. So far from seeing that increase take place, it is difficult indeed to see how the volume of exports can be maintained if the present trend continues. I do not think, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that the seriousness of the position that confronts not only the primary producer, but also the economy of the Commonwealth, can be stressed too often.
I was interested in the remarks of Senator Ridley yesterday, during which he indicated that because very large profits are being made by some companies it is fair and reasonable to suggest that they should pay higher wages. He went on to say that in his opinion the companies were living on the fat of the land while the wage-earner and the primary producer were having a lean time. I point out that the major part of the increase of about £170,000,000 in the wages bill of the Commonwealth last year undoubtedly was passed on to the consumers; but the primary producer had to pay not only the increases that accrued on that account but also the increased costs that had been piling up for years past because of the tariff policy adopted by the Commonwealth which ensures to the Australian manufactureer favorable terms in competition on the local market. The primary producer has had to pay all those increased costs and has not been able to pass them on. He has had to accept whatever prices he could get for his products on the markets of the world. In addition, the prices for his products on world markets have slumped. Those factors have brought us to the position in which we find ourselves to-day, so far as the export of wool is concerned.
I believe, Sir, that the fundamental remedy for the economic condition of the Commonwealth is to attempt, in some way or other, to strike at the increased costs that I have mentioned. Australia is far removed from the markets we supply. Everything we export has to be sent almost half-way round the world, which of course means that there is an added impost on everything we send out of Australia.
– The freight on goods sent overseas is often cheaper than it is on goods sent between various parts of Tasmania.
– Even if that is so, by comparison with other countries of the world that are much nearer to the consuming populations, Australia labours under a very heavy handicap so far as the export of her primary and other products is concerned. Australian manufacturers have been able to shelter behind the tariff policy. On that foundation we have been able to build up what we call our high standard of living. The manufacturer in this country has the natural protection afforded by the remoteness of Australia from the rest of the world, and on that basis we have built up an edifice of costs which I believe is threatening our primary industries to-day.
Senator Wright has had a good deal to say in recent weeks in regard to our arbitration system. I have said before in this place that increases in wages are detrimental unless they are accompanied by increases in production. l believe the tune has come whin we can no longer arbitrate in isolation on claims lor increased wages. We have certainly to consider the effect that increases of wages will have on the economy of Australia as a whole. I was very interested a few days ago when 1 read of a case, that was being heard by Mr. Justice Gallagher in relation to. the coal industry, lt was an application for a 35-hour week, and the Australian Wool Growers and Graziers Council decided to intervene. His Honour disallowed the intervention and held that there were no grounds for graziers and other employers to appear in the case because the claim of the unions was not an application of a general character.
In seeking to intervene, the council advanced the contention, with which I agree 100 per cent., that any reduction of working hours was a matter of the utmost national importance and had implications and repercussions that went far beyond the industry concerned. It went on to say that working hours in a basic industry such as the coal industry were of even greater significance to the whole economy and should not be looked at in isolation, lt was said that anything that affected the price of coal and its by-products affected all industry. For many years in this country such applications have been looked at in isolation. They have not been considered in the light of their possible effect on the Australian economy, and I believe that that has brought the primary producer to the condition in which he is at present.
I said yesterday that the high prices for most primary products that obtained immediately after the war may well have levelled out, and that the price for wool, with perhaps slight variations, has become stable and will remain stable for many years to come. It was a surprise to me to read in “ Muster “, a publication with which we all have been supplied, that the consumption of wool in ten major countries rose last year by 8i per cent., according to figures compiled by the International Wool Secretariat. That does not indicate a falling off throughout the world in the consumption of wool. On the contrary, it indicates that, despite the competition from substitutes, the consumption of wool the world over may well be increasing. How- ever, because we not take into account the effect of wage determinations on the economy as a whole, we are rapidly placing ourselves in such a position that we will be unable to compete on the markets of the world.
– That is not because of increased wages.
– I am afraid ihe honorable senator did noi follow what I was trying to say. The two wages increases that occurred last year are reputed to have added £170,000,000 to the annual wages bill of Australia. The primary producers, amongst other people, have to meet that additional cost, and they are not in a position to pass it on.
– Some of the increased costs of the Hotel Kurrajong were passed on.
– That is correct. The Hotel Kurrajong had to increase its charges in order to cover costs, but, unlike the Hotel Kurrajong, the primary producer had to take what he can get from his products.
– Do you know how much that wage increase cost the economy overall?
– lt is said that the total increase in Australia’s wages bill, as a result of the basic wage margins rise that took place during the last twelve months, was £170,000,000.
– What was the increased cost of interest during the same time?
– I cannot say offhand, but that in no way affects the argument that I am putting to the Senate. If costs go on increasing as they have done over the last few years, eventually Australia will be priced out of overseas markets.
– Your argument is all one-sided.
– I am making this speech. Although 1 did not propose to bring party politics into this argument, for the benefit of the honorable senators who have so much to say let me inform them that if the Labour Party ever became the government, and Mr. Calwell were to put into operation his ideas on land tax. the primary producers of this country would bc saddled with an additional impost. This is what Mr. Calwell said -
We have always believed that the land is the patrimony of the people and nobody has a complete and absolute title to it. We have always believed in land tax and when happy days come again-
That is when the Labour Party is returned to office - we shall restore the measure imposing that tax to the statute book of this country. if the Labour Party ever came to power, it would, as Mr. Calwell has intimated, impose a land tax on already overburdened people. I cannot see that that would be a solution of the problem that confronts the primary producers. Unless ways and means can be devised to reduce the costs that are impeding primary production, the position of the primary producers will become rapidly worse. I believe we are right on the borderline. Costs have reached the limit to which they can go without causing a catastrophe. If they increase further, they will prevent the primary producer from exporting at all. I believe that the solution of this very difficult problem is to find ways and means to reduce costs. If that is not done, the position will become much worse than it is at present.
.- in reply - The worth of this debate to the Australian people and to the wool industry in general is demonstrated by the splendid contributions that have been made by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. I am sure that the people of Australia are better informed to-day on the problems facing the industry than they were before this debate took place. The industry itself has been stimulated by the interest and the knowledge that has been displayed by those honorable senators who have spoken in the debate. May I pay a special tribute to those who, whilst possessing no practical knowledge of the industry, have been prepared to devote much time to research and study so that they could make a contribution to the welfare of an industry which means so much to Australia.
It has been refreshing to see the independence of thought that has been expressed. I would say that that approach to the problems of the industry is on all fours with the thinking of the industry, which traditionally has maintained a healthy independence. It has always set its face against government assistance or government interference, and 1 am sure that, basically, that is the attitude of the industry to-day. It is true that on this occasion the industry has come to the Government with a proposition, but basically it is a proposition that will permit the industry to put its own house in order and maintain the independence that it cherishes so much.
I was particularly glad that no real effort was made to make a political football of the problems facing the industry, for the good reason that if such had been the case, the last state of the industry would be worse than the first. I commend the Senate for the attitude it has adopted to this motion. I would like to have enough time to comment on the highlights of every speech made, because each senator, sooner or later in his speech, had something worthwhile to contribute. However, as my time is limited, I must confine myself to one or two of the points that made an impression on my mind.
The first question I asked was whether the industry and Australia generally were being endangered by the downward trend in wool prices. The facts and statistics can lead to only one conclusion - namely, that if the downward trend continues both the industry and our economy generally will be endangered. Senator Pearson reminded the Senate that a rise of only Id. per lb. in the average price of a year’s clip means a difference of £6,000,000 in our overseas credits. Our clip last year weighed 1,600,000,000 lb., so it will be seen that a variation of Id. per lb. in price over the whole of the clip must have a significant effect upon the economy generally.
While we were discussing the downward trend in wool prices, a good deal of time was devoted to the costs of producing our clip. That is as it should be, because the costs that are burdening the industry to-day are of such magnitude that they should be closely scrutinized. I want to make reference to one statement because, if I do not challenge it, some people may consider that the producer of wool is an accessory to his own financial difficulties. I refer to the statement by Senator Kennelly that the price of land is fantastic and that . the Government can blame no one but itself for that fact. My province to-day is not to accuse or to defend the Government. That is the solitary stipulation that I make on that score.
As a statement of fact, 1 say that the Commonwealth Government has no control over land prices or any other prices. I for one would not support any government which set out to impose restrictions in relation to land prices. The honorable senator might be confused with land within city boundaries. It could well be said, 1 believe, that land prices in subdivisional estates are fantastic. I have no direct knowledge of comparative values in subdivisional areas in provincial cities and capital cities. Therefore, I am not in a position to analyse the degree implied in the word “ fantastic “, but I do know something of land prices to-day in rural areas, and I want to emphasize that those prices, in the main, are not fantastic. When we talk of wool in the wool industry, we immediately visualize broad acres. I think it was Senator Hendrickson who, last night, in one of his flights of oratory-
– Is that how you describe it?
– With due deference. He said that wheat lands were bringing from £60 to £70 an acre, the implication being, I take it, that the producer, the wheat farmer or the wool-grower, is an irresponsible person who has contributed towards making his own position more difficult because he has no regard to the price that he pays for land. Rural land values to-day are not extraordinarily high in comparison with prices 30 years ago. Consider the position in the Wimmera where, I presume most honorable senators would be gracious enough to concede, we have some of the best wheat land in Australia and probably in the world. Late in the 1920s wheat land in the Wimmera was selling at £32 per acre. The same land to-day is selling at about £40 per acre. It is true that the land is well held and difficult to buy, but the farmer is not the irresponsible businessman that some people would have us believe. When he is buying a property, he is determined to buy it at the best price and to make it pay for itself if he can.
Of course, we can all point to individual cases to show that high prices have been paid for land. Two farmers may come together at a sale, both determined to buy the same piece of land. Both may have families that they want to settle. Both may be well convenienced by the addition of the particular area to be sold. Perhaps each property has been in the family for generations and each farmer is in a position to pay an exorbitant price for the land to be sold without endangering his own financial standing. Each farmer argues with some justification, “ Even if I do pay more than the value of the land, the average cost per acre of my total holding will be still below the cost of this land “. So I suggest it is a fallacy to charge the wool-grower with being responsible for his own cost predicament on the score that he pays excessively high prices for his land.
It is true that the price of what I call first-class grazing land has risen perhaps more than the price of the wheat land to which I have referred. But I remind the Senate that those increased values have been the result of the expenditure of many, many pounds of capital to bring the properties up to their present high point of production. Many people in pastoral areas - I refer to improved areas - apply superphosphate to new areas at the rate of a bag to the acre for five years and thereafter at the rate of half a bag to the acre. That policy has had the result of lifting our production tremendously. It has been said many times during the debate that our sheep population has increased by some 50,000,000 in the last ten years, and that is how it has happened The producer has, with hard cash, improved the carrying capacity of his property and increased the value of the land. Of course, country that carries three sheep to the acre could well be worth three times its value when it carried only one sheep to the acre.
I suggest that what I have said gives the lie direct to the innuendo that the woolgrower can be charged with irresponsibility in his land purchases. All in all, I am quite satisfied that the Senate has drawn a firm conclusion that lower prices for wool and increased costs of production have brought the industry to a stage where it could well be in danger.
I move on to my next question, which is whether an expanded sales promotion campaign would have a steadying effect on the market. Honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have made it abundantly clear that they have a very lively appreciation of the value of wool promotion. Senator Wright made a very worth-while contribution when he suggested that new markets should be explored. He suggested that North America might be a worthy target for that objective. In our thinking about promotion, our minds turn first to those countries which have an extremely cold winter, because there is no substitute for wool when one is looking for an article to provide warmth. His suggestion that the countries of North America be further explored is of great interest.
I have ascertained that to-day even mill wool consumption in the United States of America is second in the world only to consumption in the United Kingdom, but the wool that is used is drawn from Uruguay, the Argentine, New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia, in that order. There are coarser types of wool, and the American public has drawn away from the better type of woollen fabric that is of inherent merino wool quality. The reason for this is quite clear. In 1950 there was a world shortage of wool and the manufacturers of synthetics, quick to realize their opportunity, started to push their products onto the American markets. The American people, by and large, are slaves to novelty. Something that is new, something in the form of a gimmick, appeals to their imagination. That was when the manufacturers of synthetics really made tremendous inroads into the traditional wool markets. To-day, however, there is ample evidence that the trends in America are back to wool blends. Last night Senator Robertson gave to the Senate the benefit of the observations that were made by Mr. Fletcher Jones upon his return to this country. I say in passing that Mr. Fletcher Jones is an authority on the wool manufacturing industry and is a great Australian. Any man who can start in humble circumstances and build up the organization that he controls to-day is making a magnificent contribution to the wealth of Australia. Mr. Fletcher Jones said -
Wool is definitely on the up in America.
Then he used these significant words -
Americans love wool, but it is frightfully dear.
I shall come back to that sentence later.
I pose this question: How can we recapture the American market in an effort to regain for the industry markets which have meant so much to it? I suggest that the first answer to that question would have to do with the duty that is placed on American imports of Australian wool. The rate of duty is 25 cents per lb. clean content of apparel wools. That duty is aimed directly at Australian fine merino wool. The Americans have placed that duty on our wool to protect their own industry. The clip produced by the American wool industry, which the Americans are so eager to develop, is equal to less than one-seventh of our clip. I am of the opinion, Sir, that it may well be that the Americans realize that their attempts to protect their own industry have not been as successful as they might have been if they had been prepared to promote wool as a commodity and had not confined their activities to protecting their own industry.
The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has pressed vigorously in season and out of season for a reduction of this duty on Australian wool and I am hopeful - indeed, I am confident - that the matter will again be raised at the current Gatt conferences. I shall be astonished if Mr. McEwen does not live up to his record, because he has rarely failed to obtain what he has set out to . achieve for Australia. I believe, as Senator Wright has suggested, that a very big field can be explored in America and in the colder countries in that region. Therefore, the promotion of wool should be stepped up and a vigorous policy should be adopted to get the utmost benefit from that area. I believe that, if such a policy is implemented, the growers themselves will realize its worth and will not confine their contributions to the nominal amounts that are paid to-day. I believe that the end result of wool promotion would be of great value to the industry but that it would have little or no effect upon present markets.
The next matter I raised was whether a more vigorous research programme into credit facilities and production problems would materially assist the industry. This matter constitutes an important aspect of our debate, even though it may lack glamour and cannot be backed with statistics and figures which lead to a water-tight conclusion. It was abundantly clear to me, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that honorable senators on both sides of the chamber had a contribution to make to the debate on this issue. Perhaps the most important aspect of the matter is the provision of credit facilities. I have not the time now to make any reference to it beyond saying that the Government and members of the Parliament must closely watch the provision of credit facilities, because the industry has no margin of profit to enable it to maintain itself. The industry must be provided with credit facilities to tide it over what may well be a temporary period of difficulty. Much has been said about research into production problems, and I believe that we as senators can make a contribution to the industry by keeping before the people, before the Parliament, and before the Government, the suggestions that have been made and by seizing every opportunity to advance the proposals that have been put forward.
The last question I posed was whether a competent independent body should be set up to inquire into all aspects of wool marketing. Honorable senators individually devoted much of their time to this matter, and rightly so. To-day, in the rural areas, there is great concern about arrangements for the marketing of wool. I have been cheered greatly by the fact that honorable senators have been almost unanimous in coming to the conclusion that the industry could best be served by setting up an independent body to inquire into wool marketing. It is true that two or three voices were raised in protest, not against a marketing scheme, but against another inquiry on the ground that it would be redundant and would be a waste of time. The honorable senators who adopted that attitude advocated immediate action being taken to place a plan before the growers. They gave as their reason for opposing an inquiry the fact that sufficient information was already available to put into operation a floor-price scheme. They referred to the information that was collated in 1950 when a vote of the growers was taken, and to the fact that the Division of Agricultural Economics housed a wealth of information. They also said that growers’ organizations had conducted extensive inquiries into the possibility of implementing a plan and that they, too, had sufficient information.
Let me refer briefly to the information that was collated in 1950 when the Govern ment presented a plan to the growers and asked for endorsement of it at a referendum. I want to say as bluntly as I can that the information that was gleaned in 1950 may now well be outmoded. In 1950, the wool industry was on top of the world. There was a world shortage of wool and nations were clambering over each other to buy our wool. The manufacturers of synthetic fibres seized that opportunity to take advantage of the vacuum in the commodity market. I repeat that it could well be that the information which was gleaned then has no real value to-day. It must be remembered that such progress has been made by synthetic fibres that to-day they constitute wool’s strongest competitor. That is indisputable. I suggest that, when we talk about producing a plan which may govern the destiny of this great industry for generations to come, nothing but the most complete up-to-date information is of any real value. It has been said, as I have indicated, that the Division of Agricultural Economics is well equipped to supply this information. I pay tribute to the division; it does a magnificent job for primary industry. But has it made any attempt to secure evidence of the effects of such a plan on the wool industry generally? When I refer to the wool industry I include manufacturers and processors of wool. I think that manufacturers of wool to-day find themselves in a very difficult position. They are faced with a choice of two alternatives. They have probably been in the industry for generations and to-day, as in the past, they buy their wool at auction. They do so with the sure and certain knowledge that if the price of wool falls to-morrow, their competitors will buy at a better price than they did. That is a disadvantage which no businessman likes to face. The manufacturer knows that if he buys his wool today, nine or ten months will elapse before the finished article is on the counters of the reseller and before he - the manufacturer - starts to get his money back. The manufacturer knows that if he were making articles from synthetics he would buy on exactly the same market as his competitors. He knows that he would have his product on the resellers’ Counters at exactly the same time as his competitors. He can choose between remaining in the wool industry and seeking the easy way out, that is, entering the synthetics industry. Australia can ill afford to lose the wool manufacturer, because without him our wool industry would have no future.
Information must be obtained about the attitude of manufacturers to the present wool marketing system. I am of the opinion that they probably would appreciate some stability in the market. I think they would be happier if fluctuations did not occur in the market. A stable market would be of great value to the industry as a whole.
The third claim of opponents of an inquiry is that intensive investigations by the federal organizations have produced a wealth of information. That is quite so. Both organizations have gone to a great deal of trouble and have indulged in considerable research in order to secure all the information possible about the merits or demerits of a reserve price plan for wool. One organization has even gone so far as to send its executive officers overseas. No one can do other than acknowledge that each of those organizations has produced a wealth of evidence.
The significant fact is that one organization, with all the evidence it has obtained, has approved of a floor-price plan and supports it. The other organization, which may have done just as much research, opposes the introduction of a floor-price plan. What do the people who oppose the holding of an inquiry want this Government or any other government to do? Do they suggest that a government will ride rough-shod over the findings of either organization or of both organizations? This is still a democratic country and I am delighted to know that the two organizations have come together in a spirit of co-operation for the benefit of the industry and have told the Government that they want it to conduct a competent, independent inquiry into the marketing of our wool. This is the greatest development, in my view, in the marketing of wool that we have seen for a long time.
If any honorable senator has any doubt as to the worth of such an inquiry let him consider what Mr. Howell, the vicepresident of the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association, said. He is a man who enjoys the respect of a very wide section of wool-growers. He is a member of the Australian Wool Bureau. He has always been temperate, knowledgeable and factual and has made a great contribution to the industry. He said -
The wool industry is facing probably the most critical time in its history - and every avenue must be explored and every opportunity pursued with the utmost vigour to re-organize and revitalize the industry. There is no time to lose in wishful thinking and in merely asking the Government to solve our problems for us.
The realistic approach is to get on with some constructive action ourselves and attempt to put our own house in order. It would be a good start to organize ourselves so that we can exercise some control over our auction marketing by having a floor price, as well as by endeavours to improve our product and to cut our cost.
– What newspaper is that from which you have quoted?
– The “ Victorian Wheat and Wool Grower “ of 30th September last.
Mr. Howell’s statement is evidence that the industry is concerned with these problems. His statement indicates that the industry is prepared to do its utmost to resolve those problems. I suggest that the example set by the industry could well be followed by members of this Parliament. As we proceed throughout the length and breadth of the land we should endeavour to bring the growers together in order to expedite the conduct of this hearing and so bring some finality to this vexed problem.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
Debate resumed from 17th August (vide page 40), on motion by Senator Laught -
That the following paper: -
Australian National University - Report of Council for 1959 - be printed.
– At this late hour I am called upon to discuss the report of the Council of the Australian National University for the year ended 31st December, 1959. Honorable senators will have received a copy of this splendid report and it is my privilege to make some comments about that report. As honorable senators may know, Senator
Tangney and I are the representatives of the Senate on the Council of the Australian National University.
The report is a lengthy document. It is very clearly put together but for most of us the technical details are difficult to understand. The report refers to a number of branches of research being undertaken that are not commonly known to people who move in the circles in which members of the Federal Parliament usually move. However, that is no reason why we should not give some attention to the report this afternoon.
I think it is significant that this report is the last full report of the Australian National University as it has existed for the last ten years or more. I invite the attention of honorable senators to a statement on page 4 of the report which indicates that in December, 1959, the university was informed of the Government’s decision that the Canberra University College should be associated with the university. That association became effective about a week ago. Accordingly, this report may be regarded as the last full report of the former research-minded university known as the Australian National University.
The first meeting of the council of the integrated body took place last Thursday. lt was my privilege to be present and to observe the birth, as it were, of a new institution which, over the years - perhaps the centuries - will be of great significance to Australia. The report before the Senate relates to the former institution. I thought it would be interesting for me to make some observations about whether the work envisaged in this report will be materially changed in any way by the integration. I refer particularly to the matter of sites and buildings. The great project in progress at the moment within the grounds of the Australian National University is the erection of the new library. I can assure the Senate that, as I see it. the decision of the Government to integrate the Canberra University College and the Australian National University will not cause any waste or material change in plans. The site originally agreed upon by the former council of the university will be an adequate site and the building planned will be adequate for the purposes of the section of the university which will use that library.
– Should it not lead to economy? Will it not remove the need for the duplication of libraries?
– In answer to Senator Wright’s question, the library referred to in this report is the library for books and publications used particularly by the School of Advanced Studies; it is not the library which would be necessary for a school of general studies or undergraduate studies. I believe that the integration suggested by the Government has not posed a problem of waste in buildings erected or in the course of planning at the time when the Government put forward its requirement of integration.
– Will you permit another question? Does the university intend to start a library that will compete with the Australian National Library, so that Canberra will have two libraries?
– In answer to the honorable senator’s question, I say that there will be no library in direct competition with the Australian National Library. In developing my discussion of this report, I will bear in mind the questions asked by the honorable senator and at a later stage I will discuss the undergraduate section of the library, if I may so term it. The library to which I previously referred was the library for the research section, as I will call it. Incidentally, on the subject of libraries, there is at least one small library in the medical research section of the university. It is a small and highly technical library which could not be correctly referred to as a general library. That library is in the John Curtin School of Medical Research, as it has always been, and as I understand it will continue to be.
Getting back to my ideas on the integration of the Canberra University College and the Australian National University, I invite the attention of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who is at the table, to the important matter of the delineation of the boundaries of the land, the use of which the Australian National University will enjoy for this century and, we hope, the next century. I understand that there has been considerable disputation between the Department of the Interior and the National Capital Development Commission, one of the corporations of the Department of the Interior, and the former
Canberra University College, which has now been taken over by the Australian National University, about the delineation of some very important land. I understand that the facts relating to the ownership and use of that land are contained only in a departmental letter. Of course, it is quite impossible for a university council to plan for the future when the title to land is contained only in the words of a ministerial letter, possibly on one piece of paper. I put it to the Minister, as the representative of the Prime Minister in this chamber, that it is a matter of fundamental importance to the Prime Minister’s Department that the whole matter of land tenure of the university be put in a precise form. It may be that the Parliament will have to pass a bill dedicating the land to university purposes for all time, and not leave the matter in the form of a departmental letter as I understand it is at the present time.
Once upon a time land in Canberra was not of very great value because this was the bush capital; but now an important piece of land near the Civic Centre section of the university grounds is being looked at with envious eyes by the road-making authorities who wish to build an arterial road right through the middle of the under-graduate portion of the university grounds. With all sincerity, I put it to the Minister that this is a matter the consideration of which deserves a high priority, and I hope that it will be dealt with as such.
While I am speaking on the matter of land, may I say that I believe that serious consideration could be given to park lands or scrub lands in the Black Mountain area and even beyond that area, which in the future could be made available for dedication for the purposes of the university. As a graduate of the University of Adelaide I know some of the problems experienced by that university through being jammed between the river Torrens and Northterrace. If more foresight had been shown in the early days, greater dedications of land could have been made and those problems would not have arisen. I hope that in the planning of the lands of the Australian National University the need for future expansion will be kept in mind.
– You should have a look at the University of Queensland.
– I have seen the University of Queensland only from the air, but I believe it is quite good.
– There is no comparison between the grounds of the University of Adelaide and the land of the Australian National University, which covers a large area.
– Senator Hannaford is quite right in saying that the Australian National University has a large area here, but I suggest that the area is a fairly difficult one. Much of it is not very good land upon which buildings can be erected. A lot of it is flooded at times or is on the sides of hills. Areas will be required for playing fields and the erection of buildings. It must be remembered that Canberra could be a very great city within the next 50 years and it could have a very large number of undergraduates who would want to live within the boundaries of the university grounds. I seriously ask the Minister to use his efforts to clear up the dispute over the use of the small section of land to which I have referred, and to ensure that as much park land area as possible is dedicated for university purposes. For the next twenty, 30 or 40 years that area could well remain as park land, but I believe that it should be dedicated for university purposes and should not be taken away from the university by a stroke of the pen of the Minister of the day, as could happen if proper attention is not given to the matter.
T commend to honorable senators who are interested in the type of work being carried on at the Australian National University the annual report for the year ended 31st December, 1959, and I emphasize the fact that this is a report of what is essentially a research university. I believe from discussions I have had with members of the various departments of the John Curtin School of Medical Research, and from my own observations, that much quiet but very useful work is being carried on there.
I pass now to the Research School of Physical Sciences, and I do want to direct the attention of the Senate to the fact that in the Department of Astronomy very interesting and noteworthy developments have occurred. I recall that immediately after the Sputnik first appeared a number of us were privileged to hear an address about it by Professor Bok. Within twentyfour hours of this happening, many members of this Parliament were privileged to learn at first hand about this phenomena from one of the great astronomers of the world. This was an instance of the research university, by reason of its having these highly qualified men available, being able immediately to supply members of this Parliament with authoritative information. I am sure that honorable senators will not criticize me for mentioning only one of the professors at the Australian National University; he is typical of them all. Professor Bok, in television sessions, has delivered talks of great interest to people throughout Australia. I understand that he has appeared on television programmes in Sydney to discuss the importance of astronomy, and that the programmes have been relayed throughout Australia. This is an illustration of the way in which, by the aid of television, the professors of the Australian National University can inspire the people of Australia to think more about profound subjects. I could cite many illustrations of benefits flowing from quiet work commenced at the Australian National University and spreading throughout the length and breadth of this land. Let us look at the Research School of Social Sciences. On page seven of the report, this passage occurs -
A new and important development during the war was the foundation of a “ consortium “ of historians, with a membership drawn from various departments both of the University and Canberra University College. The aim of the consortium is to promote co-operation between historians irrespective of jurisdictional barriers. An experiment in joint lectures was begun and will be continued.
The movement of professors and lecturers from this university to the great universities of the States is continuing. I think that great value will result from this movement.
In this long and interesting report, Sir, there are some matters which distress me. Of course, these ‘ things can happen in respect of any institution that is heavily subsidized by the Government. I notice that very little has been received by way of individual gifts or donations for the purposes of the work of the Australian National University. In the period from 50 to 100 years ago, the great universities of the States were assisted by private benefactors. Considering the immense amount of money - running into millions of pounds - that the Government has placed at the disposal of the Council of the Australian National University over the last ten years, 1 find if5 is rather staggering to learn that there has been so little response from the businesses and industries of Australia by way of gifts or benefactions. However, the work of the university is continuing.
Having inspected the buildings of the School of General Studies - that is, the undergraduate section of the university - I predict that it will be quite a powerful body. The Hall of Residence is almost completed. There is, of course, a School for Arts Studies. Fine lecture theatres have just been completed and opened. At the moment, the science section barely exists. There are plans for a fine building to house the School of General Studies.
I hope that in the time to come undergraduates, as well as fellows and scholars from all Spates of Australia, will come to the Australian National University for training and, subsequently, for research work. We should be very careful to see that this institution does not lose its character as the Australian National University. I hope that it will never come to be known as the Canberra University; it would be a great pity if that came about. I believe that the Government has done a great service to the Australian National University in its selection of the personnel that have been appointed to the new council. It has sought out distinguished people from States which were not previously represented on the council of the university. There is now on the council a gentleman from Brisbane, one from New Norfolk in Tasmania, a South Australian, and I believe a representative from Western Australia. The Government’s objective, Sir, was to make sure that there were included in the council - the governing body of the Australian National University - people who are constantly in touch with and know the requirements of the States that are more distant from Canberra, so that this institution may never become the Canberra University but remain always the Australian National University. I commend the annual report of the Australian National University for 1959 to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Tangney) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 4.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 October 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1960/19601006_senate_23_s18/>.