23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister for National Development inform me whether the Tariff Board recently held an inquiry into the petroleum industry. Has any request been made for a further inquiry to be held in the near future? Is it possible that this inquiry may affect the price of petrol and other petroleum products in this country?
– Senator Mattner was good enough to give me notice of this question so that I might obtain correct information. The Tariff Board reported on the petroleum industry on 26th March, 1959. The principal recommendation adopted by the Government provided for a reduction of the protective margin between the customs and excise duties on petrol by one halfpenny per gallon. Following a suggestion by the Tariff Board that a further inquiry should be held, the Government decided to review the position in 1961. In June, 1960, the Minister for Trade therefore referred to the board the question of assistance for the production in Australia of refined petroleum products, apart from mineral lubricating oils. The board intends to commence public inquiries in Sydney on 30th November next.
With regard to the last part of the honorable senator’s question, wherein he seeks to know whether an inquiry will affect the price of petrol in Australia, I can point out only that following the implementation of the 1959 report the price of petrol was reduced by an amount equivalent to the amount of the reduction in import duty.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Navy and it refers to notices of dismissal served on employees of the Byford Naval Armament Depot in Western Australia. The secretary of the union to which most of the employees belong has stated -
On Tuesday, 11th October, I was requested to attend the depot by a civilian officer of the
Fremantle Navy Office so that I would know the position regarding dismissal notices. Our members were surprised to hear the extent of the number who were to receive advice that their services would not be required after 31st January, 1961. The number of members to receive notice was 51 but there are another 7 or 8 who are not members of our union.
Is the Minister in a position to inform the Senate why dismissal notices have been served on employees of the Byford Naval Armament Depot?
– It is true that the number of people employed at the naval armament depot at Byford in Western Australia, which is a depot where ammunition and explosives are stored, is to be reduced from 90 to 27. The naval armament officer called the men together for a meeting a few days ago and informed them that the reduction in staff would be made progressively, to be effective by the end of January, 1961. That was done then so that the men would have plenty of time to look for other work. The Commonwealth Employment Service has been informed of the situation. The men have been told that they will be given three days special leave on any occasion to enable them to consult prospective employers. We shall pay particular attention to any accrued rights which might, on a strict interpretation, be interfered with if a man took other employment a week or a month or so before there was a full entitlement to those rights. We shall do our best to look after the men in the older age groups.
I may say that, from my own inspection of Byford, I do not think there will be any cases of people having to give up their homes because of losing their employment there. Most of them, if not all of them, come out every day from Perth in a special bus. The reason for the reduction in staff is that a great deal of obsolete ammunition which was previously stored at Byford has been progressively disposed of by dumping at sea, and the Naval Staff’s requirements in regard to the outfitting of ships there are not now sufficient for the retention of the present number of employees.
– I direct a supplementary question to the Minister for the Navy. Is Western Australia the only State in which there has been such a reduction of the number of men employed by the services?
– No. A similar reorganization of armament stores has already been made at Maribyrnong in Victoria.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General. In view of the widely publicized fact that the Prime Miniser was in secret conclave in New York for upwards of one hour with Mr. Khrushchev, will the Acting Attorney-General seek the return at once of the Attorney-General so that the Attorney-General may dismiss the Prime Minister from office because he has associated with a leading Communist and is now suspect as a fellow-traveller?
– I have complete faith in the ability of the Prime Minister of Australia to deal with Mr. Khrushchev in or out of the United Nations. I suggest that the honorable senator bring the matter to the attention of the N.K.V.D. so that Mr. Khrushchev may be investigated to see whether he has become a democrat.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. By way of preface, I remind the Minister that on 28th September last I asked him to comment on a statement made by Mr. Fletcher Jones, the managing director of Fletcher Jones and Staff Proprietary Limited and chairman of Warrnambool Woollen Mills Limited, on his return from the United States of America, where he had investigated the possibilities of selling Australian woollen goods. The Minister then said that lie did not know to what extent there would be an available market for Australian woollen goods in the United States, and that he would bring the matter to the attention of the Minister for Trade to see whether there were opportunities in North America that were worth prospecting.
I now invite the Government’s attention to a statement made by Mr. Milton J. Greenebaum, the .president of Kirby Block and Company, a chain of departmental stores throughout the United States of America, Europe, Cuba and Australia. He was reported in the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ of Wednesday last as having said -
United States is still a wide open market for Australian wool. It is a market which has been barely scratched. A new generation has grown up in the United States since the war, used to synthetics, and with very little, if any, knowledge of the unbeatable qualities of wool.
Will the Minister bring these comments to the notice of the Minister for Trade and ask him to investigate them as, despite difficulties with the American tariff policy, it does seem that there is an unexplored market for our woollen goods in North America?
– I can only say that I am interested to hear the further information that Senator Pearson has advanced in support of the view he has previously expressed that there is a market in the United States of America for our woollen manufactures. I will certainly take the matter up with the Minister for Trade.
– Has the Minister for National Development noted the 13th annual report of the Joint Coal Board? It is a most comprehensive document which covers the activities of the great coal industry of Australia for the financial year 1959-60. Has the Minister noted that in paragraph 134 of the report reference is made to the fact that the New South Wales coal industry is entering a new era of growth and development? The report adds - -One thing is clear - a successful outcome for the development of the coal export business is possible only if there is adequate port development at Port Kembla, Balmain and Newcastle.
The board is firmly of the view that development of the :port of Newcastle is of high importance and should be proceeded with as soon> as possible.
Will the Minister, in view of this very forthright comment, make representations to the New South Wales Government, which is responsible for the ports concerned, and ask it to expedite their development? For many years the port of Newcastle has been bedevilled by the fact that it is under the control of five or six different .government authorities.
– I have not yet bad an opportunity to consider the annual report of the Joint Coal .Board. Of course, 1 am very closely in touch with the situation in both New South Wales and Queensland. Personally, I am quite convinced that there is a very large market in Japan for coal from the Queensland and New South Wales fields. I am equally convinced that we will get that market only on competitive terms. Australia is not the only country that is seeking to cater for it.
The difficulty confronting us in both Queensland and New South Wales is the lack of transport facilities. In Queensland a new railway line is needed from Kianga to Gladstone. I do not think New South Wales can expect to obtain the trade unless that State is prepared to provide modern port facilities at Newcastle, Port Kembla and Balmain. The New South Wales Government has said that it intends to deepen the entrance to the port of Newcastle, but the loading facilities there are so old that efficient delivery is not practicable. The jetty at Port Kembla is so old that we cannot expect export trade of any volume to be handled there reasonably well.
To my mind, a great opportunity exists for the New South Wales and Queensland coal-mining industries. It is a matter entirely for the two State governments concerned. There is so little the Commonwealth can do. The problem goes beyond the matter of financial arrangements. Newcastle and Port Kembla are the two great ports concerned in New South Wales, and it is for the New South Wales Government to decide the mechanics of what is to be done. I certainly would like to see greater expedition in the development of those ports than is the case at present. I realize that substantial sums of money and a good deal of work would be involved, but the prize is so rich, so far as the New South Wales coalmining industry is concerned, that it seems to me that the New South Wales Government would be justified in giving a high priority to the provision of funds for the evolution - if that is the right word - of the port arrangements. I am doing what I can to try to help, but I must say that I have a feeling of frustration when, as it seems to me, so little is being done by the New South Wales Government.
– I desire to ask the Minister for National Development a supplementary question. Did he notice a press report in this morning’s “ Daily Telegraph “ to the effect that the average yearly wage of employees in the coal-fields has increased from £1,200 last year to £1,500 this year.
I should like to ask-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator is not asking a supplementary question.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration relates to the United States of America, By way of preface, let me say that I understand that the quota prescribing the number of Australians who may be admitted to the United States of America annually is particularly small in comparison with the quotas allotted to other nations. When and under what circumstances was this quota fixed? Will the Minister for Immigration have conversations with his opposite number in the United States Administration, with a view to increasing the quota? Will the Minister also discuss ways and means whereby United States citizens can come to Australia? I might say that when I was in the United States two years ago I detected a great desire among the people and some officials for an enlarged immigration quota for Australia.
– The question is a very important one. I have recently had brought to my notice the case of an Australian woman who wished to go to America to live there with her only son and his wife and family. However, because of the small Australian quota for immigration to America she was unable to obtain permission to live there. I understand that the quota system discriminates rigidly against people from Australia, in comparison with people from Great Britain and Europe. The quota was promulgated in 1924, and no alteration has been made since that date. In view of the present extensive contact between American and Australian citizens, I feel, as the honorable senator does, that there is room for an extension of the Australian quota and that the matter should be looked into. Every facility is given to American citizens to come to Australia. If I remember correctly, some 1,500 American citizens came to reside in Australia last year. I will discuss this matter with the Minister for Immigration. If it does not come within his jurisdiction I shall ask him to take it up with the Minister for External Affairs, to ascertain whose responsibility it is. The matter is of such importance that I shall see that it is fully investigated.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I preface it by pointing out that recently the warden of Burnie urged the Minister for Shipping and Transport to rectify the unsatisfactory position that obtains in regard to potato shipments from the north-west coast of Tasmania. The action taken was only of a temporary nature. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport ask his colleague to give fresh consideration to the allocation of one ship or more to the freighting of Tasmanian potatoes to mainland markets? Is it not correct that any loss that would accrue to the Australian National Line by the allocation of such ships would be more than offset by the very great advantage that would accrue to the Tasmanian potato industry from the regularity of supplies to mainland markets?
– I will certainly bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Shipping and Transport immediately. I recollect that these potato consignments always pose a shipping problem. I realize the importance of the matter to the north-west coast of Tasmania, and I will ask Mr. Opperman to have a look at it immediately.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise, is further to a question I asked yesterday. Is the Minister aware that large quantities of canned hams have been sold to Australia from overseas? Is it a fact that these hams are sold at subsidized prices which will seriously damage the Australian pig industry? What steps, if any, are being taken to protect that industry from subsidized imports?
– Recently, representatives of the Australian Pig Society and the canners of pig meats waited on me in Canberra in connexion with this problem. On investigation we found that large quantities of these canned hams were being offered to Australia. I referred the matter to the Tariff Board to investigate and report to me on what protection will be necessary if these canned hams are subsidized. That matter is now in the hands of the Tariff Board. In the meantime my department is taking protective measures in respect of any canned hams imported into Australia, until the Tariff Board has reported upon the matter. An additional duty of 4s. per lb. has been imposed until the Tariff Board presents its report.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that an increasing number of business people and tourists wish to travel and are travelling between a place called Sydney and that major capital city, Adelaide? Also is he aware that there used to be an air service between those cities at a convenient hour late in the afternoon, but that it was curtailed during the winter months? Will he take up with TransAustralia Airlines the matter of restoring this service at about 5 o’clock, or 5.45 p.m., so that busy people will find it easier to travel between those two major cities?
– I am sure that the honorable senator would not expect me to be familiar with the details of all airline schedules, particularly of services between the more isolated parts of the Commonwealth. I have no doubt that if there is a demand for such a service, the operators would be most interested in it. I shall direct the attention of Trans-Australia Airlines to the question asked by Senator Buttfield.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Has he seen a reference in the press, attributed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, to the effect that Russia seems intent on robbing the United Nations of its effectiveness in handling world crises, the comment having arisen from a Russian demand for a cut in the United Nations budgets? Is the Minister aware that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, in spite of the fact that the decision to send a United Nations emergency force to the Suez Canal zone was arrived at unanimously, has defaulted in its payment obligations for the maintenance of this force? What is the annual contribution to the United Nations made by Australia as a member nation, and what amounts are paid annually by Australia in support of various United Nations agencies?
– Yes, I saw a reference by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to the effect that Russia, having failed to have the position of SecretaryGeneral abolished and replaced by a triumvirate with a built-in veto, so that the United Nations could not be effective, is now seeking, by a reduction of £7,000,000, I think, in the United Nations budget, to attain her ends in another way. I am not aware whether Russia has defaulted in her payments in connexion with the Suez Canal incident. The amount that Australia contributes to the United Nations as such varies a little according to the United Nations budget, as it is in effect a percentage. I have not in my mind the exact figures relating to Australia’s contributions to the various United Nations authorities to which she belongs, such as the World Health Organization, but I shall let the honorable senator have the precise figures.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. By way of preface, I remind the Minister that yesterday in the Senate I referred to what I might call the lack of cultural endeavour in the city of Canberra. I also mention, as a matter of interest to the Senate, that recently in the city of Copenhagen a very fine statue of Sir Winston Churchill was unveiled. At the moment, the national capital of Australia - I am not going to be dogmatic about this - is probably the only national capital in the world, on the allied side, that has not a memorial to that famous statesman. I therefore ask the Minister whether he will be good enough to invite the Prime Minister to consider the erection of a statue or other memorial in honour of this great man.
– I will certainly bring the honorable senator’s suggestion to the notice of the Prime Minister. I may say that I share his view that Canberra lacks a number of memorials which would grace the National Capital, memorials not only to persons such as Sir Winston Churchill, but also to great Australians who have left their name behind them. I suppose the position is that there is so much urgent work yet to be done in Canberra that these more graceful tributes have not been proceeded with to the extent that we would all like to see.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Navy. My question refers to the hydrographic surveying of the north-west coast. Will the Minister say whether the conference on hydrographic surveys which was to be held in Canberra in October has yet taken place? If it has not, will the Minister have priority given to the consideration of the need for the issue of a new survey chart for that part of the north-west coast from Legendre Island to Bedout Island, covering the approaches to Point Samson and Port Hedland? The only chart of this area available to shipping is an Admiralty chart, published in 1883, of about 500 miles of coastline which is now so cluttered with lines and_ other markings that it is not very accurate, particularly for overseas captains making their initial voyages to Australia. Previously, when this matter was raised by Senator Robertson, the Minister referred to the conference dealing with uncharted waters outside the recognized shipping channels. Will the Minister see that some consideration is given also to waters inside recognized shipping channels, as these are the ones which at present are presenting difficulties and dangers to captains of overseas ships and other captains on the coast?
– The conference to which the honorable senator refers has either begun to sit to-day or it will begin to sit a week from to-day; I am not quite sure of the precise date. The conference was to have begun to-day, but I believe that it has been put off for a week; I am not sure. The conference will consist of representatives of the State governments, who will put to the conference the priorities they attach to the survey of waters around their coasts, representatives of Commonwealth departments, such as the Department of
National Development, who will put a point of view about priorities for the survey, and representative’s of shipping companies such as the ones the honorable senator had in mind. These requirements having been allotted the priorities that the departments interested consider to be necessary, it will be for the Navy to decide which of the surveys the Navy can and should do first; but this decision cannot be made until the conference has been held.
– I desire to ask the Minister for the Navy a supplementary question. Will he inform me whether representatives of the Merchant Service Guild of Australia also have been invited to attend the conference?
– The answer is, “ No “.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade inform the Senate whether the Government has participated in any way in the current negotiations for a review of overseas freights? Can he say to what extent the claim for an increase is governed by increased Australian stevedoring costs?
– I am sorry to say that I am not in possession of the information sought by the honorable senator. I must therefore ask him to place the question on the notice-paper.
– Will the Minister for National Development inform the Senate whether he has yet received the final report from the team from the Petroleum Institute of France which recently carried out investigations in Australia concerning the search for oil? If he has the report, will he say whether he and his department have had an opportunity to examine it? Has the report been made public? If it has not, is the Minister able to say when the report will be released?
– I have received the report, which I am now examining and discussing with my department. I cannot say any more about it until we clarify our views upon the appropriate procedure to adopt.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. Does he know whether it is planned to provide a supply of clean, clear water to the citizens of Canberra throughout the year? Is it known by the departmental authorities whether the very tarnished, dirty water now provided in Canberra affects the health of the residents of this city?
– All I can say is that Canberra’s water is supplied fromthe dam at the Cotter River. I suppose that following the recent heavy rain in this area the water has become slightly discoloured. However, I use Canberra water and I have not noticed anything particularly wrong with it. As a matter of fact, I think that it is excellent both for drinking and washing.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to a report in a Sydney newspaper that the Queen of Thailand hoped shortly to pay a visit to Australia? This information was apparently conveyed by Her Majesty to a lady friend of hers in Australia. I am sure that Her Majesty’s wish will be received with feelings of gladness by the Australian people when the report is confirmed in official quarters, because Thailand is one of our partners in the South-East Asia Treaty Organization. Will the Minister state the official position in regard to this matter?
– The official position is that visits to Australia by heads of state are arranged by the Prime Minister’s Department. The King and Queen of Thailand have been told that they will be welcome in Australia whenever they care to come. However, there are no grounds for the statement that the Queen of Thailand is to come here soon.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is a fact that discussions have taken place recently with the Waterside Workers Federation on the subject of pensions for aged waterside workers. Has the Government been privy to such discussions?
– Speaking for myself, I have not been privy to such discussions, but I must ask that the question be placed on the notice-paper.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army upon notice -
In view of the recent adoption of the FN rifle by the Australian Military Forces, will the Minister consider making available surplus .303 rifles and ammunition to the general public, and in particular to rifle clubs and primary producers?
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answer: -
With the introduction of the FN rifle the stock holdings of .303 rifles will be progressively examined with a view to their disposal as the changeover to the FN rifle is effected. It was possible recently to release 100,000 .303 in. rifles for disposal through the Department of Supply. It will be some time before our total requirements of the FN rifle can be met from local manufacture but additional quantities of .303 in. rifles will be released for disposal as production of the FN rifle permits. Any rifles surplus to army requirement will be declared to the Department of Supply, the disposal agency for all stores and equipment not required by Commonwealth departments. The question of how disposal is effected, and to whom is one for determination by that department. As far as rifle clubs are concerned, the Army for many years has supplied the clubs with rifles at a concession price and will continue to do so for the next five years. Ammunition is supplied up to approved levels, either as a free issue or at a price considerably below the cost of production. No ammunition is available for disposal to the general public.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The Acting Attorney-General has replied as follows: -
All the above fines were imposed for contempt of court.
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– I now furnish the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: - 1 and 2. The portion of Mr. O’Connor’s address referred to by the honorable senator covered the provisions for the admission of goods under customs by-law. Unfortunately some of his remarks were quoted out of context, while others were reported in an abbreviated form, with the usual result that the report is capable of an interpretation wide of the mark.
Perhaps the best way I can answer the honorable senator’s first and second questions is to explain that the customs tariff has in it several items which, provided certain specified conditions are satisfied, allow the admission of goods at lower rates of duty than would otherwise obtain.
These items provide for customs by-laws to be made, and the conditions which need to be satisfied before a by-law is issued are generally that the goods are required for manufacture in Australia, for the development of an Australian industry or for some essential purpose, and that suitably equivalent goods are not reasonably available from Australian sources.
In some cases by-laws operate for an indefinite period and these may be used whenever applicable, In other cases importers need to make application to the department in order that individual determinations may be made. The latter often need inquiries from Australian industry, and since these may take time in some cases, they may not be completed by the time of importation of the goods. Then the importer pays the normal duty and, if subsequently the decision is favorable, he applies for a refund of the duty.
Similarly, if goods are not reasonably available from the United Kingdom, the margin of preference accorded the United Kingdom may be waived m the same manner.
Because it is desirable that by-law applications should if possible be settled one way or the other before the goods arrive, and because handling these applications is a cost to the Commonwealth, there are a couple of firm rules about them. One is that the application will not be accepted if more than one month has passed since the goods were ordered overseas. The other is that applications are not considered where the amount of duty involved in the concession would be less than £20.
The answers to parts 3, 4 and 5 of the question are as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
How much money has been made available by the Commonwealth Government to Swanleigh, Fairbridge Farm and other similar institutions in Western Australia for the erection and furnishing of accommodation for migrant children since the post-war migration schemes commenced?
– The Minister for Immigration has furnished the following reply: -
The Commonwealth Government has made available a total amount of £75,602 9s. Id. towards the erection and furnishing of accommodation for migrant children in Western Australia since the post-war migration schemes commenced. The amounts expended by the Commonwealth Government on individual homes in Western Australia are -
The Western Australian Government has contributed on the same basis.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works, upon notice -
What was the cost of the recent reflooring of King’s Hall in Parliament House?
– The Minister for Works has furnished the following reply: -
The accepted price for the contract which is not yet completed was £5,614 6s. 2d.
– I bring up the following report from the Printing Committee: -
The Printing Committee have the honour to report that they met in conference with the Printing Committee of the House of Representatives. The Joint Committee having considered Parliamentary printing generally recommends for consideration that a Joint Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the printing and distribution of Parliamentary papers generally and, in particular -
Rationalization of printing;
Standardization of printing; and
Availability of Parliamentary papers throughout the Commonwealth.
Motion (by Senator Buttfield) - by leave - proposed -
That consideration be given to the report on the next day of sitting.
– I second the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That Government business take precedence of general business after 8 p.m. this sitting.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 19th October (vide page 1197.)
Department of National Development.
Proposed Vote, £2,158,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of National Development.
Proposed Vote, £1,604,700.
War Service Homes Division.
Proposed Vote, £1,170,000.
Australian Atomic Energy Commission.
Proposed Vote, £2,393,000.
– I direct some remarks to the proposed vote for the Department of National Development. The first matter concerns a statement made by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) on 16th March last, when he announced the appointment of the Petroleum Institute of France to make a review of the petroleum possibilities of Australia. At that time, on behalf of the Opposition, I warmly welcomed the engagement of that institute. I remind the Minister that he said then -
This review will be made in two stages. The first stage will consist of a general survey of the Australian sedimentary basins; the second, of more detailed examination of selected areas. . .
The institute has had some striking successes in its petroleum investigation. These investigations are of two kinds. The first consists of a review of the petroleum geology of areas where a considerable amount of geological information has accumulated and where drilling has been done. The institute describes this kind of investigation as synthesis. The second kind of investigation consists of the reconnaissance of sedimentary basins about which only limited information is available and where little drilling has been done.
I recall that in August last the Minister intimated that a report had been received from the institute. I personally was surprised at the speed with which the institute had proceeded. The Minister then indicated, as he did again to-day, that he was not in a position to release the institute’s report. I appreciate that one must make available a report of that nature only after very full consideration, having regard to the swirls and events that might be set in motion. I should like the Minister to say later in the debate, if he would, which type of investigation has been made by the institute, whether it is some kind of general survey of the sedimentary basins, or whether it falls into the category of synthesis, as described by him in his statement of 16th March.
I should like him also, if he is able, to say when he thinks a decision is likely to be made regarding publication of the whole of the report or some of it. I am sure that he will appreciate that there is vast interest in the subject; the discovery of oil being a matter of the greatest moment to the nation. I should appreciate it if, in the couse of this debate, he gives some indication of the general type of investigation now concluded and says when he may be in a position to make some other information available.
The other matter to which I wish to refer has also been the subject of comment by the Minister this morning, namely, the market for coal. He said that he considered as good the prospect for exports to Japan. He said also that three ports were involved - Newcastle, Balmain and Port Kembla. They are situated on the east coast of Australia, from which the coal would need to be despatched. The Minister directed attention to the lack of adequate facilities and handling apparatus at those three ports. He further indicated that attention to these particular aspects of trade was primarily a matter for the State governments.
I should like him to consider the fact that these facilities are used primarily for interstate trade and, in the case of exports of coal to Japan, for overseas trade, and that their use for intra-state trade may be regarded as being only one phase of their purpose. Having regard to the need to develop an export trade in coal and to the fact that the Commonwealth has constitutional power in relation to interstate and overseas activities, does the Minister not think that a responsibility Tests upon the Commonwealth, that it might give some leadership in a matter that is so important to our overseas trade position, and that it might give some encouragement to the States instead of saying that they should get together and determine this work as a matter of urgency? I suggest to the Minister very earnestly that the Commonwealth could render a real service by acknowledging its constitutional power and, above all, its responsibility for the development of interstate and overseas trade. I suggest that it should take an active hand in stimulating New South Wales into greater activity.
The Minister pleaded guilty to a feeling of frustration at delay in the development he obviously considers to be urgent. The greatest stimulus to State activity that I have noted in quite a large number of years here has been to give the States some financial help. I think the Minister could, as a phase of national development, take up with New
South Wales the matter of providing adequate facilities at the three ports concerned for the very purpose at which he is aiming. That may well entail the Commonwealth in some ad hoc financial assistance. I should like to feel that the Minister and the department were considering those aspects of the matter.
, - I refer to Division No. 412 - Division of National Mapping. The proposed appropriation for this year is £489,000 as against an appropriation last year of £577,271, of which only £415,213 was spent. I note that the proposed appropriation for map printing is £14,500, and that the sum we are asked to allocate for the hire of aircraft for aerial surveys is £4,500. I ask the Minister for National Development whether he is aware of the conditions under which the Division of National Mapping works. The division is quartered in buildings which are situated in the suburb of Acton in Canberra. Those buildings are quite inadequate. It seems to me that they were built as a temporary measure and that something much better should be provided for this section of the Department of National Development.
The mapping of Australia has been undertaken by the Department of National Development, which seeks the services of the States and hires aircraft for the purpose of taking aerial photographs. I understand that the aircraft that are used fly at approximately 5,000 feet, and that great difficulty is experienced in getting the right type of aeroplane. I understand that a camera is available which is capable of taking photographs at a height of more than 20,000 feet with the result that a much larger strip of country can be photographed during each run that the aircraft makes. I presume that would enable the work to be done much more quickly. I ask the Minister whether he will assure me, in view of the importance of the work done by the division, that he will examine the matter of accommodation with the object of providing better working facilities for the officers concerned.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, are we considering the proposed appropriation for the Department of National Development under the heading “ Miscellaneous Services “?
– I refer to Division No. 650 - Advance to the Treasurer. It will be noted that at the bottom of page 104 of the bill there appears explanatory note (b), which shows under what heads expenditure for the financial year 1959-60 is to be found. It will be noted that there also appears explanatory note (a), but there is no reference to it in the column in which the proposed appropriation of £16,000,000 for 1960-61 appears.
– That has to do with the Advance to the Treasurer. That is not a Department of National Development item.
– It comes under the heading “ Department of National Development “ in the proposed appropriation for Miscellaneous Services.
– Division No. 644 is the only division on that page which has anything to do with the Department of National Development. The next division relates to the proposed appropriation for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, with which I am not concerned. The same remark applies to Division No. 649 and Division No. 650.
– I direct the Minister’s attention to Division No. 411, item, 03, “Water Resources Investigation “. I notice that last year the appropriation was £25 and that £7 was spent. The estimated expenditure for this year is £100. I should be obliged if the Minister would tell me what work is involved in those investigations.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [12.6]. - I refer to Division No. 644, item 03, which has to do with prospecting and research by the Joint Coal Board. I notice that the appropriation last year was £39,000 and that this year the proposed vote is £37,000. I should like to know a little about the actual work that is being done. Is research being carried out to discover means of utilizing the byproducts of coal or to find cheaper ways of mining coal?
.- I refer the committee to Divisions Nos. 411, 412 and 413. I take it that the extra duty pay mentioned in those divisions arises from overtime worked in the Department of National Development. In Division No. 411 there is item 03, “Extra duty pay, £5,300 “. Admittedly the amount provided for extra duty pay is small when compared with the total of £214,000, but in Division No. 412 the proportion is much greater. Under item 03, the extra duty pay amounts to £19,000, compared with a total of £179,000. In Division No. 413, dealing with the Bureau of Mineral Resources, the extra duty pay is estimated at £20,000. There is also an item, “ Incidental and other expenditure, £11,000”. There are other items of expenditure as well.
In Division No. 411 there is item 01, “ Temporary and casual employees, £50,000 “, and in Division No. 412 there is item 02, “ Temporary and casual employees, £90,000”. For the Bureau of Mineral Resources - dealt with in Division No. 413 - an amount of £350,000 is sought to cover the salaries and allowances of permanent employees, and an amount of £290,000 to provide for temporary and casual employees. This sort of thing happens year after year. I consider it is a bad thing to keep employees on a string, so to speak. I know that the Minister will argue that the department has to employ highly technical men whose services are required for only certain periods.
– There are also university students on vacation.
– That argument may sound all right, but I do not think it convinces even the Minister, in view of the large amount of money that is involved. In one case an amount of £158,700 is to be appropriated to cover salaries and allowances and in the next line an amount of £50,000 is estimated as the amount necessary to cater for temporary and casual employees. It would appear that an amount equal to one-third of the amount to be spent on the permanent staff is to be spent on providing for casual and temporary employees.
I have always been concerned about this matter. I think it is wrong to keep a man on a hook - not to let him know from year to year for how long he will be employed. In the Commonwealth sphere and in the State sphere there is an expression “ permanent temporary employees “.
We must remember that in these days young fellows have to look after themselves, without any help from their people. They have to buy a home, and possibly it will take 30 or 40 years to pay for it. I think the matter that 1 have raised should be looked into and that the department should attempt to give at least a proportion of these temporary employees the security of permanent employment. The men of the present generation are in the position that they have incurred liabilities which would have caused their fathers to suffer many nights of anguish if they had had similar liabilities.
I make a plea to the Minister to do something in this matter, not only in relation to the department which he administers, but also in relation to other departments. 1 ask him to take the matter up with the Public Service Board. I am not asking that people be kept in employment if a department is not getting value for the money it spends on employing them. I believe that a Minister should conduct his department as he would conduct his own home or his own business, but feel also - to use a term that comes to my mind - that he should also adopt the Christian outlook. I suppose the position is that if a temporary employee does his duty, he will remain in the department until he is 65, but the matter of superannuation must also be considered. I understand that some temporary employees can participate in superannuation schemes. I do not know how they do it, but I know that in the State Public Services that can be arranged. I have been informed to that effect by some one who is very close to me. On the other hand, there are men who may enter a department at the age of 20 and remain there until they are 65 but not be able to join the permanent staff. They may be debarred from participating in the superannuation scheme, as the wise person does in order to provide for his wife and children. I am not saying that this is the fault of this Government alone; it is a fault of governments in all spheres. I believe that every effort should be made to safeguard the interests of these employees.
I am not asking the Government to retain surplus personnel. It cannot be thought that T am asking the Government to do that. The Government is employing these people and honorable senators oppo site know as well as I do that not one honorable senator desires to see even the slightest sign of a depression. But if that does happen to come, these people will be put out on bare ground without grass in the worst of times. I prefer the Government to look into the position now and tell any such young man that he cannot join the Service permanently, for some reason which I do not know, and therefore he should try to secure employment outside the Public Service. To be quite candid, I am very gratified by the present employment position. I make that plea to the Government and I hope that it will be considered and a satisfactory answer will be given stating the reasons for the present position.
I turn now to Division No. 413, subdivision 2. Item 06 is “ Incidental and other expenditure, £11,000”. I have no quarrel with the previous items - “Travelling and subsistence, £45,000 “, and “ Office requisites, equipment, stationery and printing, £9,500”. That is a small amount. The appropriation of £14,700 for postage, telegrams and telephone services is pretty substantial. The appropriation for freight and cartage, including removal expenses, is £3,800, and the appropriation for office services is £12,000. Then the appropriation for “ Incidental and other expenditure” is £11,000. I agree that the amount is small, but it is just as well for us to know what is actually happening.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [12.18].- I should like to inquire about the appropriation of £39,000 under Division No. 413, sub-division 3, item 02, Publications. Last year the appropriation was £24,000 and the expenditure was £16,575. This year the appropriation is being increased very considerably to £39,000. Does this increase mean that there will be a lot of new publications, or is there some particular planning in respect of this item, which accounts for such a very large increase in this year’s appropriation, when last year the expenditure was £16,575?
Senator KENNELLY (Victoria) [12.191. - I should like to refer to the War Service Homes Division. Will the Minister inform me, if he can, how many applications there are at the moment which have not yet been satisfied?
– 1 take a point of order. However, I hope that it will be regarded, not as a point of order, but rather as an explanation of my departmental estimates. They are in two parts. There is the capital works expenditure and the departmental expenditure. Under the capital works expenditure comes the £35,000,000 appropriated for the War Service Homes Division, the appropriation for the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority and the appropriation for the River Murray Commission. None of those three items is before the Senate in this debate. They come under a subsequent bill. Therefore, I ask honorable senators not to refer to the War Service Homes Division, the Snowy Mountains Authority and the River Murray Commission at this stage, but to let those matters wait until those appropriations are before the Senate next week.
– I accept that explanation very willingly.
.- Following the remarks of the Minister, I submit that 1 am quite in order in dealing with Division No. 644 on page 104 of the bill. Honorable senators will notice that under sub-division 2, Miscellaneous, item 01 is Search for oil - Subsidy. I submit that that item is now under discussion. I have not anything in particular to say on that matter, but I wish to address myself to the Department of National Development generally. Honorable senators will notice that the appropriation sought this year amounts to £2.158,000.
When we use the words “ national development”, Mr. Temporary Chairman, we visualize some form of development for the benefit of the nation. The appropriation that I am now discussing does not indicate clearly or otherwise what the activities of the department are. I know of my own knowledge that some of the activities which are the province of this department could, if successful, considerably improve the nation’s development. I am speaking this way because I am aware that the Minister does not wish us to refer to the Snowy Mountians project at this stage.
I want to refer to the drought that Queensland is experiencing at present. I think it is well known to everybody in Australia that there is a severe drought tn
Queensland, which will have serious consequences not only to the Queensland economy but also to the national economy. A drought in Queensland is unlike a drought in the Canberra area or other areas ot the Commonwealth because the majority of holdings in that State are large and when there are stock losses they are high. I recall that some years ago a property in western Queensland was grazing about 66,000 sheep. A drought occurred for about twelve months or so and at the conclusion of that drought the owners of the property were able to muster only 6,000 sheep. The bones of about 60,000 sheep were left bleaching on the property. That is nol a singular case; it is a common occurrence when a drought is experienced.
Surely in this year 1960 there must be an answer to the droughts which occur in Queensland and other parts of Australia. I am refraining from referring to the Snowy Mountains project because it is a project not only to harness the streams of the Snowy Mountains area and generate electric power but also to conserve water so that irrigation can be carried out on a large scale. In Queensland the great majority of the rivers that are of real value to the State flow in the coastal region towards the coast. Some years ago publicity was given to an idea of one of Queensland’s leading engineers that some endeavour should be made to control those rivers and divert them towards the western areas of the State. No scheme was evolved to carry out that proposal, and probably no scheme will ever be evolved. I suggest that something could be done on a national scale to produce stock fodder with the aid of the water of the rivers which flow towards the coast. The problem is too great for the State Government to handle alone, with all the other projects that it has on hand and the demands on its loan funds. It is time for the Commonwealth Government to step in and say, “ We will develop the State in the interests of the nation “.
Having dealt with the arid areas of Queensland which are subject to droughts for which no remedy is being provided at the present time, I turn to a consideration of our balance of payments position. As the years go by, we see our overseas balances diminish and increase. We know that for several years deficits have been, recorded and we are told that that is injurious to the economy of the Commonwealth. However, nothing much is done io improve the situation. We have reached the stage where we must develop commercial and productive versatility. We have seen over the years an almost entire dependence by Australia on primary products. We have also witnessed the growth of mineral production in various parts ot Queensland. That has helped considerably in maintaining Australia’s overseas funds because of the demand by other countries which are highly industrialized for more and more minerals.
While I am speaking, I have in mind an area that has not so far been developed but which is capable of yielding many tons of pig iron. I refer to the Constance Range, north-west of Mount Isa, out towards the Gulf of Carpentaria. I think that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has some knowledge of the area. There is in that region a mineral field which has so far been untapped and is unexploited. I know that a mining company holds a lease of the area and that certain developmental measures have been taken to ascertain the value of the minerals. According to information, a low grade ore has been discovered, but there has never been any confirmation. We have never been told precisely that deposits exist there. I think that such information should come from the Bureau of Mineral Resources, which should state what it believes the area to contain.
I know that it is quite impossible for the bureau to say positively what minerals are to be found there, because as I have said, the area has never been explored. Once exploration work commences, the nature of the mineral deposits will be revealed. At the present time, nobody can say what minerals are to be found there. I am sure that the Minister will find it appropriate to say something about the Constance Range during the debate. My information is that the region is very rugged, that it is not easy of access, and that considerable expense will be incurred in exploration work. I have other matters to raise later, but having mentioned those two matters, T resume my seat.
– I refer to the subsidy for oil search under Division No. 644. It is estimated that the amount of the subsidy this year will be £1,400,000. I ask the Minister whether I am right in assuming that if oil is found in a State the State concerned has the right to the royalties from the sale of the oil. I should also like to know the rights of the Commonwealth once oil has been found. I know that the Commonwealth derives revenue from the £120,000,000 worth of oil which is imported, but has it any other prospects in relation to oil discoveries?
– Replying first to Senator Kennedy’s question, I point out that the States have all the rights in relation to royalties on oil discovered within their borders. The short answer to the question of Commonwealth rights is that the Commonwealth would have all the rights to which it would be entitled in respect of normal business activities. It could impose excise duties, sales tax and other charges which were applicable. I have never thought deeply about the matter, but I think that that is the right answer in principle.
– It is not the one 1 want. I want to know whether, if we put in £1,000,000, we would get anything out of it. I take it that there would be just the ordinary result.
– Yes. I believe that I have given a fair answer to the question.
I do not propose to answer Senator Benn’s question about the Constance Range and iron ore deposits. I try to adopt the principle, during the Appropriation Bill debate, of dealing with items referred to in the bill and not with general questions that arise - at least so far as I can resist the temptation to do so. I put to the honorable senator that it would be unwise for me to discuss this matter. The Constance Range area is of tremendous importance and significance. I have no notes on the subject and if I attempted to reply off the cuff to the honorable senator’s question I might easily make an error of judgment or of fact which, as Senator Benn, a Queenslander, will appreciate, could have wide ramifications. So far as I can, I try to keep to the facts and figures in the bill.
Senator Scott referred to the subject of office accommodation for the Division of National Mapping, for which I thank him.
This has been a matter of difficulty for a long time. I have been trying to obtain better accommodation for that section of my department, and I am happy to say that we have now reached the stage where the Minister for the Interior proposes to erect better accommodation for the division, I think in Civic Centre.
Senator Branson referred to water resources investigation. My recollection is that the nominal amount of £100 is portion of an amount which we are paying for investigations being made overseas by certain Dutch people. We have not within the Department of National Development a staff which has this work as a specific project. The work that is done in this field from time to time comes under a variety of headings. The geologists may make a contribution, and so too may the Division of National Mapping. We draw on the resources of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority and the River Murray Commission. I think it is fair to say that the department is the reservoir of knowledge on the subject. Because of the inherent characteristics of the department, it either has the requisite knowledge within its organization or is in a position to obtain the knowledge.
Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin referred to the variation in the cost of publications. This matter is somewhat out of control. Two influences operate to cause variations from year to year. The first is whether the Government Printer is up to date with his work and has printed the work that has been sent to him, and the second is the output from the technical officers. This printing is almost exclusively the printing of technical reports of the Bureau of Mineral Resources on the results of surveys. It does not come out in an even flow. Frequently, a good deal of final work has to be done before a report is finished. Secondly, there is a spillover from year to year of the work that the Government Printer does and the way in which he is paid.
Senator Kennelly discussed the question of permanent and temporary employees and extra duty pay. My department is a bit unusual in this respect. From time to time it is necessary to have specific or special staffs - professional men - to do a particular work. For something relating to the search for uranium or the search for oil, or in a matter relating to a mineral deposit, it is necessary to bring in somebody with special qualifications to do that work within a short time. It is necessary also to bring in tradesmen and craftsmen - people of that kind - to assist in the field work.
– How many temporary clerks are there?
– 1 was dealing with the professional side which, I think, was the main clause of the variation, due, largely, to the nature of the work. I think I have over-emphasized the position in relation to the university students. That Is one aspect of the matter that occurred to me. The cost of £10,000 is quite a proportion of the total cost. There is continual negotiation or co-operation between the Public Service Board and the department aimed at getting as good a numerical relationship between temporary employees and permanent employees as possible. Extra duty pay is involved because these people are away in the field working on research projects. It is necessary for them to work irregular hours by reason of the nature of the work. I think there is general acceptance of this position by both sides. In outback places, these professional men do not mind putting in extra time on their work.
Senator McKenna raised two important matters, one relating to the report by the Petroleum Institute of France, and the other to coal facilities. The report from the institute has been in my hands for some time. I think that it covers both of the phases that Senator McKenna mentioned.
– You think it does?
– Yes, I think it does.
– You are not sure?
– I think it is a fair statement for me to make because there are both geological and synthetic approaches to the matter. With great respect to Senator Armstrong, I say to him that he may not be any better able to draw the line of demarcation than I am. In other words, what the institute did-
– You have the report in your hands, but you only think it covers both phases?
– I do not understand what the honorable senator means.
– You said that you have the report but you only think it covers both phases; you are not sure.
– I have no doubt th.;t Senator Armstrong is a much more capable man than I am and that he would be able to do things better than I can. I am trying to give the committee an informative description of what the present situation is, because this is a very important matter. What the experts from Petroleum Institute of France did was to have a look at the basic records we have and they then went on to the areas and had a look at the actual drilling tests, as we understand them. The synthetic part is the adding together of information they get from the actual drilling results and the basic surveys. They did that in some parts of Australia but not in others. The institute has recommended that its team should carry out further work in detailed programmes, and we are giving that suggestion some thought. I think it is fair to say that we are experiencing some difficulty as to how we should treat the report. It expresses opinions. It is based on information which was supplied to us by people who are vitally concerned in the conclusions that we draw from that information. The people who supplied the information have not been informed of the conclusions that the French people have drawn from it. I just ask for a little patience to be shown in regard to the matter. I am well aware of the importance of it, and I want to be particularly careful that what I finally do with it commands what I might call the respect of both sides of politics and the industry as a whole. I can only say that I will bring it to finality as soon as I can possibly do so.
Senator McKenna said that the Commonwealth has some responsibility to display leadership in relation to the market for coal. That is easier to say than to do. I would be very willing to do this if I could see the track through, because of the imporance of the matter. Let us consider leadership first in terms of the actual work of reconstructing the ports. Shortly after I returned from Japan, I had a look at the ports. Even as a layman, one can see that a variety of approaches could be made in this matter. Questions such as these arise:
Where are the marshalling yards at Newcastle to be located? Should storage facilities be built? Should new cranes and loading plant be put in the basin or on the long wall outside? I say with respect that no Commonwealth Minister could intrude into that field which is so much a State matter. All that a Commonwealth Minister can do is to form an appreciation of how much work remains to be done. It is for the State people to take the responsibility, bearing in mind the divergent views of the various State authorities, the coal people, the steel people and the commercial community.
The same applies at Port Kembla, where ships have to be moored ten feet or twelve feet away from the present jetty. A big ship heavily laden with cargo and moored alongside the jetty gave the jetty a bump, and there was trouble with the loading plant on the jetty. What I should like to see the New South Wales Government do - 1 cannot originate this - would be to bring in an overseas expert to sort out all the varying conditions and make a recommendation. I should then like to see the New South Wales. ‘Government call for the submission of tenders from all parts of the world to carry out the work, and have all the work put in hand at the one time.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
.- I wish to refer to Division No. 412 - Division of National Mapping - and Division No. 413 - Bureau of Mineral Resources. According to the bill now before us the amount sought to be appropriated this year for the Division of National Mapping is approximately £74,000 more than the amount that was spent in this connexion last year. The amount sought to be appropriated for the Bureau of Mineral Resources is approximately £325,000 more than was spent on that organization last year. The additional amounts are sought in order to carry out work associated with the search for oil in Australia/ I wonder whether the activities of the Division of National Mapping and the Bureau of Mineral Resources are at present confined exclusively to the search for oil or whether they are devoted in any way to the search for other important natural resources. I do not know whether those organizations have ceased to be interested in the discovery of new gold deposits in this country. As far as I can see, the only assistance that has been given to the gold-mining industry has been by way of subsidy to cover the difference between the price of gold and the cost of production. I. do not know what is being done to assist the gold-mining industry and the documents before me do not tell me anything. I feel that we should continue to search for gold. Most gold mining is at present done in Western Australia, but Victoria has been very rich in gold and I believe that vast quantities of payable ore still exist in Victoria and could be exploited, thereby increasing the quantity of gold produced in this country.
I know that a factor to be considered by the Government is the international price of gold. I do not know what action the Government is taking to obtain an increase in the price of gold. Possibly some negotiations are taking place at present between Australia and other countries. Perhaps the Minister for National Development will give me some information on this matter. The largest gold producing company in Victoria is situated at Chewton. The company employs quite a large number of men, and its operations are an asset to the town of Castlemaine and the surrounding district. The company has achieved considerable success. It has installed up-to-date machinery at great cost in order to exploit the low-grade ore, but it is now facing difficulties. The employees of the company have voluntarily accepted a reduction in wages so that it may continue operations and to enable further developmental work to be undertaken in the hope of striking a lode at deeper levels. I should like to see the Bureau of Mineral Resources do something to assist companies such as the one I have referred to, which are prospecting for gold. I should like the Minister for National Development to tell me what activities the Bureau of Mineral Resources is engaged in other than the search for oil. I do not in any way detract from the importance of the great efforts that have been made to discover oil in this country. I readily agree that the discovery of oil in Australia in commercial quantities will be of tremendous benefit to our economy. But we should not place all our eggs in one basket. Gold played a very important part in the development of Australia and I feel sure that if we can develop our gold resources, gold will play an important part in our future development. I ask the Minister to give me some information about the matters I have raised.
.- I rise to refer briefly to Division No. 644 - Department of National Development. I want to refer particularly to the item that relates to the subsidy for the search for oil. I express appreciation of the fact that this year the Government is seeking an amount of money considerably in excess of the amount spent last year on the search for this liquid gold. Last year the amount paid in subsidies was considerably less than the amount appropriated for the purpose, but I am happy to see that this year the proposed vote is £300,000 in excess of last year’s appropriation. That is a very fair indication of the importance which the Government, and the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) in particular, place on the quest for this most valuable of all commodities. Associated with subsidies for oil search is the item that relates to the expenses of the Coal Utilization Research Advisory Committee. This year a sum of £2,500 is sought to be appropriated for this purpose. I should like the Minister for National Development to tell honorable senators, if the information is available to him, what progress has been made by that committee, upon which I understand are some of Australia’s leading research engineers, chemical engineers and scientists. As a Victorian I believe that the production of synthetic fuel from coal is worthy of very close study and I am sure that the researches of the very learned members of the Coal Utilization Research Advisory Committee would be of considerable interest to all honorable senators.
In Victoria we have a large gas generating plant at Morwell. The gas generated at that plant meets 75 per cent, of the cost of producing petrol from coal. I should be very interested to know whether the advisory committee has made any recommendations to the Government on this most important project.
.- I direct the attention of the committee to
Division No. 413, sub-division 3, item 01, “ Operational Expenses - £641,000 “. I pay a tribute to the Department of National Development for the work that it is doing in the search for oil. The department is also doing great work to assist the search for important minerals, including uranium. The department’s engineering, geology and geophysics sections are doing wonderful work. I am looking forward to further reports on the returns that we shall get from the subsidy paid to various oil-drilling companies - returns in the way of geological and geophysical information ‘for the common good. I should like from the Minister some information as to the use of drill holes after it has been shown that no prospects of finding oil exist. Is there any possibility of converting these holes for the supply of underground water? 1 understand that in nearly all cases the drills penetrate sub-artesian basins or the main artesian basin and that water has to be sealed off in order to keep the well dry for the purpose of drilling to bedrock, and past it, in the search for oil. Th§. number of these holes is now quite substantial and they are dotted over naturally arid areas of the Commonwealth. Is the department taking any measures to make it possible to use those holes that show evidence of artesian water to provide stock watering facilities either now or in the future? Does the department hold any rights over the holes that prove to be of no further use to oildrilling companies, with- a view to the provision later on of bore casings and the tapping of water supplies?
Drilling for artesian water is expensive. When a basin has been tapped, it seems a pity to allow the hole to fall in or depreciate to the stage, where it would be costly to restorer it for the purpose of providing artesian water supplies. This is a matter of national, development and national importance. Will the Minister be good enough to give the committee any information that he has available as to whether the department has any large-scale plan for, as it were, killing two birds with the one stone - by testing for the presence of oil and so getting geological and geophysical data of immense value, and by making use of any water that is tapped in the process of drilling for Oil?
– I shall reply first to Senator O’Byrne. To this extent there is a twoway plan: All the geological information that is obtained from holes that are drilled for oil is kept on record. Conversely, in a great number of cases of drilling for artesian water, tests are made by the bureau to get geological information for use in connexion with oil search. There is correlation of effort in that way. There is also an organization, comprising Commonwealth and State officers, which makes general surveys and collates information about underground water generally. There is a fairly good liaison. It is very seldom that a hole drilled for the purpose of obtaining geological information or for finding oil is of the right type or in a suitable position to provide an artesian water supply. It is the information that is obtained that is of most value, rather than the possibility of using the hole for an alternative purpose. We must also keep in mind that artesian basins and underground water generally are under the control of the States rather than the Commonwealth. The answer to the question is that there are good practical co-operation, cohesion, exchange of information, and access to each other’s activities.
The honorable senator also raised the question of operational expenses. By giving some information on that subject, I shall also answer Senator Sheehan, who asked what we were doing in other fields than oil search - for instance, in the search for gold. The function of the bureau, by and large, is to do only basic surveys. It is not a prospecting organization. It also prepares geological maps and issues results of geophysical surveys, so that those who want to prospect will have information available to them. The bureau does occasionally do some drilling or further exploratory work, when the information it obtains from a basic survey relates to an area to which prospectors might not ordinarily go, or if for some other reason it wants to check by practical drilling tests the conclusions it reaches from a geological or geophysical survey.
Of the amount of £641,000, £353,000 is for oil search. The remainder is spread over numerous other activities relating to metals, uranium, engineering, geology and laboratory investigation. That shows that although the search for oil and uranium receives great prominence, there is a big field of other activities. These do not exclude the search for gold, but by and large I do not think there is a great deal of activity by the bureau in that direction, because gold-bearing areas are fairly well held and fairly well known. I am quite certain that if the existence of gold deposits was indicated, the bureau would look further into the position, just as it would in the case of any other metal.
Senator Hannan mentioned the newly appointed Coal Utilization Research Advisory Committee. It has almost completed its preliminarytask, which is to have a look at the research that is proceeding throughout Australia in relation to coal. A great deal more research on coal is done than is generally appreciated. There is a very big programme, taking into consideration what is being done in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, by the various universities, and by the Department of Supply. The first thing I asked the committee to do was to have a look at the existing programme, to see whether it is well co-ordinated and covering all avenues of research, paying attention in particular to whether there are opportunities for research that might in the short-term yield prospects for increased uses of coal. I hope to make some further announcement about the committee’s work in the near future.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Department of Defence.
Proposed Vote, £1,342,000.
Proposed Vote, £486,000.
Ordered to be considered together.
– I remind the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) that over on the hill near the American War Memorial here in Canberra a lot of buildings are being erected which I understand are for the use of the Department of Defence. I do not know whether the Minister has had a look at them. I think it was Senator Vincent who said that there was no culture in Canberra, that there were no statues or monuments here. There can be no question about the fact that these buildings to which I refer are a monument in themselves - a monument that will live for a long time. They are built in much the same style as were the old barracks that were built when I was a little child. The style is exactly the same as that of the barracks that are to be seen in some parts of Tasmania and some of which are probably known to Senator Wright. These buildings that are to be used by the Department of Defence are a wonderful monument to the people of this day, who have no idea of artistic architecture.
The worst feature of the buildings is that they are an absolute death trap. As far as I can see, they have only one entrance. I have seen buildings that were supposed to be fire-proof burnt to the ground, with a consequent loss of life. I have in mind a building in Sydney and another in Adelaide in which provision was made for fire escapes. But the fire escapes on the building in Adelaide to which I refer are being removed, because it is said that the building is more or less fire-proof. Apparently these buildings over near the American War Memorial are to be fireproof, but it is of no use saying that there is nothing in such buildings that will burn. Files and other papers are housed in such offices, and I understand that a great quantity of files and documents is to be moved from other places to the buildings I am now discussing. So there is always a danger of fire and a danger of loss of life. Somebody should be taken to task over the erection of such awful buildings. Recently the press published a statement to the effect that these buildings were to be floodlit. I suppose the idea behind that is that the enemy may be prevented from approaching the building or from engaging in some form of sabotage.
Yesterday the Minister said that there was only one intelligence organization in Australia. But I note that under Division No. 452 we are asked to appropriate the sum of £294,300 for the Joint Intelligence Bureau. I was wondering whether that organization has something to do with the floodlighting of the offices of the Department of Defence to ensure that no one approaches the buildings for the purpose of engaging in sabotage, or whether it has been established for the purpose of gathering together all the intelligence that is gained by all- the other intelligence organizations that are scattered throughout the various departments. I repeat that the Minister said yesterday that there is only one Australian Security Intelligence Organization. That is true, as far as the name is concerned. But I point out that associated with the Department of Trade is the Commercial Intelligence Service, and now under Division No. 452 we are asked to appropriate a certain sum for the Joint Intelligence Bureau.
I ask the Minister whether the Joint Intelligence Bureau is actively engaged in the gathering of intelligence or whether it is an organization that has been established to file the intelligence that is gathered by other investigation services associated with the defence of Australia for security purposes. I leave the matter there, because, like other honorable senators, I want to see this section of the proposed votes disposed of to-day.
– I shall deal with the last part of the honorable senator’s comments first. I endorse the sentiments he expressed when he said that he wanted to see this section of the proposed votes disposed of to-day.
There is only one security organization in Australia. Confusion is caused by the use of the word “ intelligence “; it seems to be used in relation to both commercial and defence activities. There is no connexion between intelligence and security; they are not allied. I have been informed that the Joint Intelligence Bureau was set up by a Cabinet committee decision of November, 1947, to collate, evaluate and distribute those aspects of factual intelligence which are of direct interest to more than one of the three Services. This intelligence, mainly in the geographical and economic fields, was previously processed in varying degrees of detail by the intelligence units of all three Services. The establishment of the bureau removed considerable duplication of effort. Each of the three Services continues to collate, evaluate and distribute intelligence of primary concern to its own arm. For example the Army collects army order of battle intel ligence and calls upon me Joint Intelligence Bureau to meet its specific requirements in these subjects assigned to the bureau.
Let me attempt to translate that into colloquial terms. I should imagine that it means that the Army would want information to place on record about the conditions of areas within Australia which it would have to defend in certain contingencies or would have to travel across in certain contingencies. I should imagine that the Army would have information about the rivers, roads and railways in other countries in which conceivably it could be called upon to operate. The same thing would apply to the Navy and the Air Force. All that is in the nature of the bread and butter information which any one of the Defence Forces would need in order to be able to decide the methods by which to operate most efficiently. In the same way, ti. Department of Trade, in its intelligence bureau, would have on record all sorts of information about possible markets for various types of goods. It would have information about imports and exports to and from the various countries in which Australia is seeking business. All this is vastly different from the work of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, which comes under a different category.
– What does the Government intend to do about the fire trap here in Canberra?
– I suppose we all have our own views about the architectural beauty or otherwise of a particular building, but I cannot subscribe to the view that proper precautions have not been taken to avoid fire risks. I say that knowing nothing about the arrangements. I believe there are regulations in Canberra, as elsewhere, which govern the precautions to be taken in regard to exits, entrances, fire sprinklers, lifts and that sort of thing. I am quite certain that, whatever requirements are laid down, they have been observed by the Department of Works in the construction of the building.
.- I wish to refer to a matter concerning the Defence Services which I mentioned in a question the other day. I do this now so that the matter can have mature and complete consideration before the individual votes for the Army, Navy and Air Force come before us. If the matter is not adjusted, I feel that the Senate will have a duty to do something to force the Ministry to meet the requirements for the proper guardianship of expenditure.. Paragraph 121 of the Auditor-General’s report reads as follows:- -
Since 1942-43, Annual Reports by successive Auditors-General have referred to the need to introduce uniform conditions into the regulations of the three Services to provide, in certain circumstances, for recovery from servicemen of the value of losses of public moneys and stores. Past efforts to achieve this objective are set out at paragraph 117 of my Report for 1957-58.
During the year further discussions took place between the Treasury and the Service Departments. However, the necessary legislation had not been enacted when this report was compiled despite Treasury representations as to the urgency of the matter.
Anybody who has even a nodding acquaintance with the armed services knows that in the Services there is a disposition towards loss, damage and waste of public property. That is due to the nature of the activities of the Services. Even with the greatest of goodwill, there will be a disproportionate amount of loss due to this factor.
I remind the Minister that in 1955, I think, the Air Force issued a regulation that gave commanding officers the right to fix the amount that should be debited against a serviceman in the event of a loss. The regulation provided no limit to the amount that could be fined, nor did it provide for the hearing of an explanation by the person concerned or for a right of appeal. It was, in the opinion of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, a most arbitrary procedure. When the Regulations and Ordinances Committee directed attention to the matter, the Minister for Air recognized the validity of the criticism and withdrew the regulation. The Navy, which had made a similar regulation, withdrew its regulation. The Army had not reached the stage of propounding a regulation. That is five years ago. I think it is a reflection on every individual senator that the delay in promulgating new regulations is now one of five years.
The report of the Auditor-General is, in many ways, insufficient to alert individual senators to the deficiencies of public accounting. Due to an economy of words and an obliqueness of reference, his report startled only the most suspicious. In the paragraph to which I referred, he said -
However, the necessary legislation had not been enacted when this report was compiled despite Treasury representation as to the urgency of the matter.
This case is not the same as that involved in the regulations which the Senate disallowed two weeks ago. That was a case where legal authority was lacking for the allocation of individual entitlements to servicemen. The recipients of the payments were each, according to informal records entitled to their payments, although the proper legal authority in the form of regulations had not been provided. Nobody could claim that there was a leakage of Treasury money going on or that money was paid to persons who were not entitled to it.
This is a case that involves the loss of public money and damage to property. I should have thought that the matter having been mentioned in a report of the AuditorGeneral, the Ministers concerned would have required compliance with the AuditorGeneral’s request within two months. It is now five years since the Senate committee stated that the previous regulations were arbitrary and unacceptable. The Minister acquiesced in that view, but no effective steps have been taken to bring in proper legislation to prevent the waste that is continuing to occur in Army, Navy and Air Force stores. I mention this matter now with the full knowledge that the Army, Navy and Air Force estimates will be before us shortly. I believe that the Senate is entitled to a full explanation in respect of the officers responsible for this continuing delay, why no officer has been surcharged for the loss, and the loss that has accrued over the period of delay. I hope that all honorable senators will take an interest in this matter.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Proposed Vote, £109,688,000.
Broadcasting and Television Services.
Proposed Vote, £11,346,000.
Ordered to be considered together.
– I wish to refer to a matter in connexion with the appropriation for the Postmaster-General’s Department. For a number of years, apparently, the Telephone Branch has had a priority system for the installation of telephones. I understand from officers of the department with whom [ have discussed this matter - I have not seen the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) personally about it - that there is a rigid set of conditions for the installation of telephones. The department has a priority system and nobody seems to be able to get past that priority system adopted by the department. I am not entirely blaming the officers; generally they do a jolly good job. In South Australia there is a tremendous lag in telephone installations, /here is a large number of outstanding applications for telephones from all sorts of people including private and business people and sick people. The department does not seem able to catch up with the number of applications and never seems to be able to make a proper allocation of priorities. 1 could tell honorable senators about quite a number of people who have had telephones installed in their premises before they moved into them, whilst people next door, a couple of doors away, or perhaps in the next street, have had to wait for a considerable period of time for the service. I do not know whether the Minister can offer any explanation of that circumstance. If he can, I would certainly like to hear it.
– I wish to make a brief reference to a subject to which I have referred in this chamber on other’ occasions. I refer to the radio programmes of the Australian Broadcasting Commission regional stations in Western Australia, particularly the programmes in my own neck of the woods, Kalgoorlie. I have particularly in mind the Saturday programmes. On several occasions I have made a plea that the Australian Broadcasting Commission have a little more elasticity in its Saturday programme which now contains, and has always contained, an unnecessarily large amount of racing information throughout the day and in the evening. In fact, it would be true to say that all day Saturday and on Saturday evening, on every Saturday in the year, news of anything of any consequence that occurs in Australia is held up by broadcasts of racing information. I would say that during the whole day no more than five or ten minutes are devoted to any particular item without interruption by some reference to a race meeting somewhere in Australia. 1 have made that statement before and I have incurred the righteous wrath of the Australian Broadcasting Commission which insists that the people in the country districts of Western Australia prefer that type of programme. I very heartily join issue with the commission on that proposition. The people do not require, nor do they appreciate, such a large proportion of racing information on Saturdays.
– In Kalgoorlie?
– In Kalgoorlie or elsewhere. In fact, I do not think anybody other than the starting price bookmakers and their clients listen to those programmes on Saturday. Most people could not listen to the programme because it is nothing but a long catalogue of racing information presented expressly for the purpose of encouraging gambling. There can be no other reason for it. I would not object if the racing information was of a sporting nature, but it is not. It is presented for the sole purpose of assisting the starting price bookmakers and their unfortunate clients, who are in a very small minority in most Western Australian towns, to carry on their Saturday avocation.
Once again I make a plea to the Australian Broadcasting Commission to introduce on Saturdays some form of entertainment which is of a more popular nature than the racing information that we hear constantly. I can assure the commission that the majority of listeners in the country districts of Western Australia do not want that racing information.
.- 1 am delighted that Senator Vincent does not live in Victoria. If he did, he certainly would not have advanced the argument that he has just advanced. I do not agree with him. A station, in order to have >an audience, must have programmes with high ratings. I believe that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has the right to present programmes for which it can receive a high rating, and if the programme includes a description of the big event at Flemington on 1st November, what is wrong with that?
– What race is that?
– If Queenslanders do not know what will happen on 1st November, I know why they cause trouble. So 1 say that I believe that this is a specialist job. Sometimes I become annoyed when I am listening to the radio on Saturday afternoon and a race description cuts into the programme, but the fact is that the commission knows, apart altogether from the gambling aspect, what the ratings are.
Before the Government decides who is to receive the country television licences, I should like it to let us have a look at the report so that we may debate the matter.
– When are we going to get that information?
– I do not know. I do not want to imply that there is anything wrong, but I am sure that there will be some pulling for the shore. The fact is that we will get the information when the job is finished and honorable senators know what that means.
– The report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will be made available in this case, will it not?
– The report of the board has been presented, but once the decision is made, it is made and that is the end of it. I am concerned that the control should be widened. I know what the act provides and that people are supposed to hold no more than a certain number of shares in television stations. I know too, that television is a most powerful medium by which to spread the views that the television companies want to spread. I think that visual education is a wonderful thing and I hope that it extends into the schools in the future. I have no doubt that it will do so rapidly.
I am concerned about the position with regard to telephone installations, particularly in my own State. I should like to see a list of priorities drawn up. No doubt I will be told that priorities have already been allocated, but are they always adhered to? We all know that the department tries to blind us with science by saying, “ We have no cable “. I do not want to have in this chamber the kind of private fight that I had with the Director of Posts and Telegraphs in my own State. I suggest, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the department goes to foolish extremes. For instance, one cannot have a temporary telephone in a building moved even a distance of less than 50 yards in under a month. That is stupid.
I like a fight and I never bear malice. I shall forget about the fight that I had on that occasion over the telephone. I threatened all kinds of things, but finally I said, “ Oh well, what’s the use? “ I refer to the subject only in the hope that a list of priorities will be made known. I point out, Sir, that people are not always satisfied with the old story that there is no cable. You get to know things. You get to know, for instance, that Jim Brown has had a telephone installed. You learn as you grow older. You do not write a formal letter if you want a telephone in a hurry. You ask some one who knows the person who is the foreman on the job in the area in which you want the telephone installed. What is the good of our hiding our light under a bushel? If you know the foreman, without doing anything wrong, you just go and ask him a few simple questions.
I should like to know, Mr. Temporary Chairman, whether it is possible to find out the number of outstanding applications at the moment in Victoria. If there were a list of priorities, and if we knew the areas in which there was no cable, it would be of great assistance. I know that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is a tremendous undertaking. I appreciate that it is a most efficient organization; but nevertheless its attempts to blind one with science are most annoying. I do not want to go into the cost of postal services, because that can be done on other occasions. But let us lay down a list of priorities that the people will know about. It is of little use to say that there is such a list in the Postal Department. Not all the people who want telephones go to the department. Instead, they approach their federal members, as they are entitled to do, to see whether they can help them. There is nothing wrong in that. We are here to do the greatest good for the greatest number. I think that the publication of a list of priorities would save the department many headaches.
Perhaps it would save the members of another place more headaches than it would save honorable senators, but, nevertheless, we in this chamber receive requests from time to time for assistance to obtain telephones. We are sometimes confronted by the old story of “ No cable “, and we know that that may or may not be true. I do not want to go any further than to say that sometimes where there is no cable, telephones are installed. How it is worked, I do not know.
– Look at it from the other point of view - that of the public.
– I know that we are living in an age when the young people in the community have ,a tremendous amount of money to spend. They want things that their fathers and mothers never dreamed of having. We know that to-day the son or daughter of the household spends hours on the telephone. Perhaps if we had had that facility when we were younger, we should have done the same thing. Neverthless, the young people of to-day want to have telephone services. A wise father capitulates early. If he does not, he will have to do so later. And so it is that telephone services have to be provided for the use of young people. I think that if the department published the list I have mentioned it would experience little trouble in its administration. I am delighted that the Postmaster-General’s department is in the hands of those who administer its functions at present and I am also delighted that we have the system that operates here instead of that which operates in some other countries. I admit that the Postmaster-General’s Department could well say: “You do not think that we would not install telephones if we could. Look at the revenue we get from telephones.” It is true that the provision of telephone services is a tremendously profitable enterprise. Nevertheless, I do not think there should be any harm in the department telling us that in certain areas no cable was available. Then, all we would have to do when people came to see us about having telephones installed, would be to say: “ I do not know when the cable will be laid in that area. I suppose the work will be done as soon as the department can arrange to do it.” I believe that that would be a forward step. I am not worried about whether starting price bookmakers or other people have telephones. I do not intend to go into that aspect. Since my annoyance of some months ago, my attitude has been, “Why wake up the dead?”
– The matters to which I wish to refer are covered by Divisions Nos. 731, 732 and 733, relating to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and Technical and Other Services respectively. I refer to that aspect of the Postmaster-General’s responsibilities which relates to the provision of radio frequencies for the various users in the Commonwealth. I want at the outset to congratulate the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) on the appointment of the ad hoc committee which is at present, with a great array of “technical brass, reviewing the question of frequency allocation as argued out at the recent Geneva conference.
– What is the nature of the committee’s work?
– The committee is at present investigating the radio frequency requirements of all users in the Commonwealth. My recollection is that there are eight separate divisions, including the Department of Civil Aviation and the Postmaster-General’s Department.
I wish particularly to record my appreciation of the fact that the radio amateurs of Australia, who have shown themselves to be a very worthwhile body, scientifically and from the point of view of public spirit, are now officially represented and have an official vote on the ad hoc committee. That, I think, is a step in the right direction. We are travelling in the footsteps of Great Britain and the United States of America, where respect for this section of the community has perhaps been greater than it has been in our own country. I want to refer to what I regard as the need for new radio transmitters of a commercial nature in our capital cities. In Melbourne, for example, no fresh commercial licence has been issued for almost 30 years. During that time, the population has nearly doubled. I know that it is perhaps a peculiar way to approach a problem when you say you are already having frequency allocation difficulties and now you demand more stations, but that is not nearly so silly as it sounds, because in the interim there have been vast strides in technical engineering. The engineers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department who are engaged in radio engineering in Australia are, on the observations I have made and the opinions I have received from people abroad, in world class. In Australia, we have some of the best radio engineers in the world. This is not just the boast of a small country trying to sound big.
In the frequency spectrum that we use there are nearly 150 stations, both commercial and national. That is all. In the same band of frequencies in the United States of America there are almost 4,000 stations. I think it is absurd to suggest that the American engineers are nearly 40 times as good as our own engineers. There has been a distinct boom in wireless despite the popularity of television. In the last three years gross takings from advertising the greatest commercial successes - if 1 may use that word in relation to the articles - has gone up very substantially. Last year, as shown in the report of the Australian Broadcasting Board, the takings by commercial stations were in excess of £10,000,000 gross, and the net profit was, I think, £2,300,000. That was shared by approximately 110 commercial stations.
I think it is entirely wrong to have the view that television has killed radio. It has done nothing of the sort. As I have said, the graph for the last three years shows that the revenue of commercial broadcasting stations is increasing. Radio manufacturers, in the United States particularly and also in our own country, have had va.it fields opened up to them. People now have two or three radio sets. Many of them are portable, they are relatively cheap and they have a good range. So radio has some advantages over its more glamorous competitor, television.
I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral to investigate the possibility, when we put more stations on the air, of adopting the engineering device used in the United States of reducing the power of transmitters at night time. At present, in any of the eastern cities of Australia, the normal radio receiver becomes almost useless at night for high-quality musical reproduction because of the interference from heterodyne whistles created by powerful interstate transmitters which cause disturbance in the local receivers. I do not want to become technical. This refers to a function of the local oscillator, and it can be minimized by a reduction in power. By this means, an adequate service could be provided and the interference in interstate receivers could be greatly abated.
Through you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I should also like to ask the Minister to examine the question of stepping up the introduction of frequency modulation transmitters in the Commonwealth. They have limited range. They have a “ line of sight “ roughly like the range of a television transmitter since they operate on a similar wavelength, although they take up a far smaller band of frequencies. It is not expensive but it is capable of giving over the area it serves the highest possible quality of musical production. I feel that this is a matter that interests very many people, particularly those who live in the capital cities, whose enjoyment of music is greatly interfered with by the present state of the ether.
Another matter I wish to raise refers to Australian radio programme producers. In this chamber we recently debated at some length the difficulties that confront the Australian film producers and television producers, and I have no intention of traversing that ground again. It may not be generally known that because of the prosperity of the commercial radio industry as such, Australian producers are going out of business right, left and centre. I was of the opinion, until evidence was provided to me recently, that the vast bulk of the programme material on national and commercial stations was Australian in origin. I find that I have been entirely mistaken and that now the vast bulk of programme material is of imported origin.
– Does that apply to the programmes of the Australian Broadcasting Commission?
– I have not examined the commission’s figures; I am speaking primarily of the commercial stations. You might say, “ Well, most of the Australian material which had such a vogue here a few years ago was Australian transcription material - plays and dramatic material “. But now the broadcasting stations - I am speaking now exclusively of the commercial stations - have found it to be much easier and cheaper to give programme material predominantly musical. You might say, “ That is all right because Australian musicians will get their share of the work this creates “. But it does not work out that way. The licensees receive imported pressings or a pressing may be made by an overseas artist. The pressing may be made in Australia. But the artist who derives the benefit is the overseas artist. If you look at the top 40 or top 60 tunes you will find that they have from two to two and a half times the advertising content of a straight dramatic programme. For example, subject to the oversight of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, scatter ads may be splashed throughout a programme and a considerably greater amount of revenue thereby obtained. I do not suggest, in relation to the licensees, that there is any malice at all in this. It is simply that this material is sold in the best market, where it is acceptable to the people, and as a result Australian producers are going out of business.
Last week I met two gentlemen to whom I wish to refer. One had just closed his studio. The other had been producing, two years ago, 55 quarter-hour episodes for transmission on Australian radio each week. Last week his studio was producing only four. This drop is due to the way in which increased advertising has been permitted in musical programmes, and to the particularly high quality of imported transcriptions. I would be the last to cavil at the quality of British Broadcasting Corporation transcriptions; but transcriptions are now being made here in Australia not only for the national stations but also for the commercial stations. This is related, of course, to Australia’s appreciation of music and culture. I took time off to write down the following titles that appear amongst the top 40 and top 60 tunes.- “ Alley O-op “, “Good Timin’ “ “Clap Your Hands”, “Hippy Hippy Shake “, “ Kookie, Kookie, Lend me your Comb”, “Muleskinner Blues”, “ Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini “, “ Hot Rod Lincoln “ and “ That’s all you gotta’ do “. I make no criticism of the swing and tune of those numbers but I submit to honorable senators who are interested in this matter that by laying too much emphasis on numbers of the kind that
I have mentioned we are in danger of losing our appreciation of good music. We are striking a blow against Australian composers, of whom we have very few even now.
– Do you want more of “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport”?
– I express no view on that classic. I should like to see some protection afforded to Australian composers who are few enough in number. Australian artists and musicians are renowned the world over. Hardly a week goes by without some Australian singer or musician appearing in Milan, London or New York. The radio has been such a tremendous influence in developing musical appreciation - appreciation of the music of symphony orchestras in Australia and abroad - that we would be foolish to allow the present trend to continue indefinitely. The Government has clearly expressed its attitude in this matter, as in so many other matters, by strongly supporting the local product. It has done its utmost to encourage local industries. 1 suggest, with respect, that the Postmaster-General might feel disposed to send to the commercial boadcasting stations a letter couched in similar terms to the letter that he sent to the commercial television stations, asking them to devote a minimum period of time each day to Australian talent and Australian material.
– The Australian Broadcasting Commission could decide what was a reasonable time.
– I do not suggest any period of time or any percentage of programmes. All I wish to do is establish the principle. I do not know whether Australian material should represent 5 per cent., 10 per cent, or 40 per cent, of material used. I want the Government merely to establish the principle that some attempt should be made to assist local talent. Let me issue a warning. When all of our musicians are driving taxis or are engaged in other forms of employment it will be very difficult to resurrect their industry in this country.
.- Let me begin by saying that the money that is spent on the Australian Broadcasting Commission is well spent. I admire the quality of the commission’s programmes. They may not be as popular in the ordinary sense as are programmes broadcast by some of the commercial stations, but they have a quality that one must admire if one is fair. There must be room for a station that will broadcast good material. 1 believe that most of the material used by the Australian Broadcasting Commission is of high standard,, even though it is perhaps not as popular as it should be. In particular, I pay a tribute to the commission’s news services. They are very good and contain very fair comment. 1 stress that point because of something that 1 shall say later. The commission’s news services provide good coverage of happenings in the community. The news is not slanted, and the service is such that one would expect from a commission with a high sense of public responsibility.
Having said that I want to say that in two respects I am. not altogether satisfied with the operations of the commission. The commission gives an opportunity at various times to parliamentarians and public men to take part in talks and discussions over its television and radio services. I noticed some weeks prior to the La Trobe by-election that the commission provided half an hour to the leader of one of the parties participating in the by-election, during which time he took the opportunity to express his oft-repeated views of the party to which I belong and to comment on the issues in the by-election. The secretary of my party wrote to the commission’s Melbourne office seeking the same facilities for my party, as it was also contesting the by-election. He received a reply stating that this matter was so important that it would have to be referred to the commission’s head-quarters in Sydney. I saw the secretary of my party a couple of weeks ago and at that time he was still waiting a reply from the commission in Sydney. As it is now several months since the La Trobe by-election was held, I do not think that he will ever get a reply.
Recently, in the Senate, I sought details of the television programmes on which parliamentarians of the various parties had been asked to speak. I admire the wide range from which the commission chose its speakers, except in one respect: Nobody was chosen from the party to which I belong. It may be suggested that representation by my party in these talks is not worth while. In reply to such a suggestion I can only say that that view is apparently not held by the commercial television stations, which avail themselves of the services of members of my party. Apparently the commercial stations consider that on occasions we may have a story to tell. I regret that the A.B.C. did not. give representatives of my party an opportunity to speak on at least one occasion- during the year, although representatives of all other parties were given a number of opportunities to do so.
That leads me to another matter relating to the coverage that the commission freely gives to political parties during elections. I have raised this matter before. I realize the difficulty with which the commission is confronted in this respect. In this country we have two large parties - I suppose one might say we have three reasonably large parties^ - and one party that is small. I have obtained, information from countries throughout the British. Commonwealth and I cannot find any country comparable to Australia where so much free time is given to political parties during elections. The United Kingdom, with a population of about 49,000,000, affords political parties nothing like as much free time as is afforded to political parties, in Australia during elections. The same remarks apply to other countries in the British Commonwealth. The money that is spent on the national stations is public money. We are told that in an election all candidates are equal before the people. But my party, which contests most of the seats, and which is represented in the Parliament, is not allotted even enough radio time to broadcast its full policy speech, whereas the other parties are not only given sufficient time to cover their full policy speeches but are also given additional hours of broadcasting time which they utilize in a very clever way. Between 5.45 p.m. and 7 p.m. - the No. 1 period for political broadcasts - one of the parties which is opposed to mine makes a political broadcast for five minutes early in the period and another for five minutes later in the period. The result is that not one family in Australia does not receive that party’s message every night for a fortnight prior to the elections. I unhesitatingly suggest that that is unjust. To single out certain candidates and give them special privileges at a time that is most valuable to them is most unjust and is a scandalous way to employ public money. I will be campaigning next year and I do not expect that my party will be afforded sufficient time by the A.B.C., under the present system, even to broadcast its policy speech. If I am at home on some night between 5.45 p.m. and 7 p.m. and I hear candidates of the other parties make one, two or even three short speeches to the electors when they are sitting around the family tea table, and I reflect that candidates of my party are not afforded the same privilege, I assure honorable senators that the experience will have a very bad effect on my blood pressure.
Some people will ask, “ What is the solution? “ I ask the commission to consider this solution. In this country we have a public broadcasting body and commercial bodies. Why does not the commission say to every significant party which has representation in the Parliament, and which is contesting two-thirds or more of the seats and has shown its bona fides, “We shall give each party time to broadcast its policy speech in full, and then let it pay for the extra time it wants from commercial broadcasting stations “. What is wrong with that? That is justice. The returning officer in an election would not be permitted to give privileges to the Liberal Party, the Country Party or the Australian Labour Party as against another party. He would not be told that he could spend money on giving a party special privileges at a polling booth. Why should the Australian Broadcasting Commission be able to take the stand that it does take? I ask that the commission consider the situation, look at what is done in Great Britain and other Commonwealth countries and then give us a better deal than we have had on previous occasions.
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board states that if a commercial station gives time to one party it must give time to other parties. That is an extremely noble aspiration. Let any one who represents a small party, and who hears one of the big parties get a very good session at 8 p.m., try to get a session also at 8 p.m. The station will certainly give his party the same amount of time as it gives to others, but the big party will be offered time at 8 p.m. while the small party will be told that it can have time at 11.10 p.m. I say quite definitely that there is discrimination by stations in favour of big parties.
The only other thing I want to say - I got into trouble once for saying it - is that some stations have been leased to people for up to 30 years. In Victoria one such station, I think, is leased by the Liberal Party, and one by the Australian Labour Party. I think 30 years is long enough for a station to be leased. If people have been given a station, they ought to run it themselves. I believe th nt that would be of benefit to the Australian Labour Party, because one thing is certain. If it were to run itself the station that it leases in Melbourne, it would have a national hook-up with stations owned by the Australian Workers Union and by other trade unions all over Australia. With that national hook-up, all of these stations would make a lot more money. When I had something to do with these matters, I wanted that to be done, but a gentleman whom I mentioned last night, Mr. J. V. Stout, who is a master of frustration, has seen to it that it cannot be done. I think that the Liberal Party ought to run its own station and that the Labour Pary ought to run its own station. I see no reason why a licence should be treated as something that can be bought and sold or leased to other people for periods of up to 30 years. That is a matter that ought to be given some consideration.
I hope that the matters I have referred to in relation to fair play at election times will be given some consideration by the commission. We have all heard the expression that God is on the side of the big battalions. I hope that it will not be said that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is also.
– I want to refer to some matters that come under the control of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, particularly accommodation for postal workers in the north-west of Western Australia. As the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) and, no doubt, Senator Spooner, who represents him in the Senate, know, a new post office is to be built at Derby. I do not know whether construction has yet started, but the contracts have been let. The post office will be erected away from the centre of the town, but I do not want to argue that aspect at the moment. A residence for the postmaster will be erected adjacent to the post office and his present residence will become vacant. There is no suitable accommodation in Derby for single postal workers, and the Postal Workers Union has asked that the old residence be converted to single men’s quarters. The department has refused to consider the matter at all. It proposes to renovate the old residence for use as a residence for a line foreman, who is at present housed in a State Housing Commission home. If the department wants to provide accommodation for the line foreman, it could purchase the home in which he is living, which would then become the property of the department, [f the department uses the old residence as a residence for the line foreman single postal workers of the area will have no suitable accommodation and will have to continue to live in hotels where the tariff is about £14 a week. I do not know how young single men can be expected to live under those conditions in that area.
I also direct attention to the fact that neither the new post office nor the postmaster’s residence at Derby will be airconditioned. Although in the south-eastern corner of Australia post offices are airconditioned air-conditioning in the tropical climate of the north is not even considered. A similar position arises at Broome, where a new post office also has been built. I have spoken about it previously in this chamber. It is a very fine building, but it is almost impossible to work in it during the summer months. Behind that new post office are the old post office and residence. The Postal Workers Union has asked for that building to be converted into a dormitory or residence for single postal workers, but the department has refused to consider the request. It proposes to demolish the old building and not even convert it for some other use.
There is no proposal to build a new post office at Port Hedland, although one is urgently needed. The department has built a new telephone exchange there. There is no suitable accommodation in this town for single workers. It is interesting to note that other departments that operate there have provided accommodation for their workers. The State Department of Public Works and various commercial interests have found it necessary to provide proper accommodation for their employees, who are not expected to live in hotels and pay high tariffs. However, the Postal Department has not provided such accommodation. At Port Hedland the PostmasterGeneral’s Department owns three blocks of land out at what is called the One Mile. Those blocks of land are lying there idle. I did notice, though, the last time I was there that a bulldozer was levelling the ground. But I have not been able to learn of any proposal to provide accommodation for single workers at Port Hedland. The single workers employed by the Postal Department at these three places constitute a big percentage of the population, but there is no accommodation for them.
The Postal Workers Union has directed my attention to the lack of reasonable accommodation in country areas throughout the State, but I am emphasizing that lack in the three places of which I have personal knowledge. I ask the Minister for National Development whether he will have a talk to the Postmaster-General about the old residence and the old post office at both Derby and Broome, and whether the erection of single men’s quarters at Port Hedland will be considered.
– I feel that, in fairness to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, I should refute some of the statements that were made a short time ago by Senator Vincent, particularly in relation to the quality of the programmes that are broadcast on Saturdays. I have just looked at the programmes for Saturdays during the last month. It is interesting to note that station 6WF broadcasts a really cultural programme. It is so highbrow that quite a number of people have complained about it. A few years ago the A.B.C. decided not to broadcast in Western Australia the running of races in the eastern States, but to broadcast only the results. In view of that, the charge that the alternative national station does nothing but record races on Saturdays is ridiculous. It broadcasts only the Western Australian events and the results of races in the eastern
States as they come to hand. An exception is made when a national event such as that which will occur on Tuesday week takes place; that is broadcast in full.
Despite what Senator Vincent has to say, there is a big public demand for the kind of sports programme that is broadcast. Without exception, the commercial stations in Western Australian broadcast programmes which sponsor the actual running or the results of racing in the eastern States. Ever since the A.B.C. decided to broadcast only local races and to restrict its coverage of races in the eastern States I have received letters from men working in the outback, particularly those who are in communication only with Radio Australia, complaining that the result has been a curtailment of their only form of recreation. The A.B.C. in addition to broadcasting the results of racing events, covers other sports such as football, including Australian Rules which is the chief form of football played in Western Australia, cricket, tennis and swimming. Senator Vincent would be the very first person to object if -next Saturday the A.B.C. did not give a full coverage of the inter-school sports. The commission gives a full coverage of that event, which is of great importance to people throughout the State. However, I do not think that event has quite the same following as “have the horse races. I cannot understand the attitude of Senator Vincent, as one who comes from the goldfields area, in criticizing the A.B.C. for its sports coverage on Saturdays. It provides a well-balanced programme, with an alternative programme on the second national station.
I had a hurried look at last Saturday’s programme for station 6WF. If there is not enough culture in it for Senator Vincent, I do not know how much he wants. That programme included the following items: 9 a.m., Celebrity Artists; 11 a.m., 34th Symphony (Mozart); 11.30 a.m., the B.B.C. item “My Word”; 2.15 p.m., For the Music Lover; 3.15 p.m., Around the Bandstand; 3.45 p.m., Light music; 5.15 p.m., Music of Faure; 5.50 p.m., B.B.C. Calling Australia; 6 p.m., Opera by Purcell; Music by Britten; 7 p.m., the Sicilian Players; and 8 p.m., Pastoral Symphony. Surely there is enough high-class fare in that programme to suit even Senator Vincent. If the honorable senator had to digest all that culture in one day, I do not know what would happen to him. On the alternative programme which gives the sports coverage, musical items are broadcast in between the sporting details.
The A.B.C. is rendering a wonderful service to not only the people of Australia but also people outside Australia. Some people say that the commission’s television programmes are not as attractive as those of the commercial stations. Certainly they are not so frequently interrupted by advertisements, some of which are of a doubtful kind. I should say that we in Western Australia are very well served not only by the national broadcasting and television stations but also by the commercial stations. When I come to Canberra I am appalled at the standard of broadcasts here compared with those we are used to in Western Australia. Quite a number of stations in Western Australia not only broadcast good programmes but are also in the forefront of charitable appeals. Last week in Western Australia we celebrated the first anniversary of the introduction of television to that State. An excellent programme was presented. Those who criticize the service that is rendered by the various stations would not be so loud in their criticism if they could see what has been achieved in Western Australia, which is so distant from the east where it is possible to pick up in one State programmes that are broadcast in another. Television stations in Western Australia have had to rely largely on local cameramen in the presentation of their news services, and those men have done a creditable job. I pay a tribute to the commercial television people in that State, and also to the national television station which has not been in operation so long but which is doing a very fine job. Although I, too, am not happy about the Australian content of radio and television programmes, I believe that within the last twelve months the live content in our programmes, particularly in Western Australia, has increased. We are able to view as a regular feature numerous live shows in which young actors and actresses are given a chance to display their talents. Australian producers and authors are being given the right to have their works reproduced. I have already paid a tribute to the play producers of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. We in Western Australia have some- of the finest talent in Australia, and we are lucky to be able to keep it there. The work they have done is reproduced in the other States. That is as it should be, because we are all Australians.
I decry any attempt that is made to belittle the service that is given by the national and commercial stations, particularly to outback districts. Not enough is done for those areas. Any one who says that the people in the outback, particularly those on the gold-fields and the coalfields are not interested in racing is quite divorced from the reality of the situation.
– I rise to make a strong plea to the Postmaster-General and the Australian Broadcasting Commission in regard to the extension of television to country areas in South Australia. Some people live in places far removed from large centres of population and they lack many of the amenities that are enjoyed by the people living in those centres. I have in mind the people in the Ceduna area, on the Eyre Peninsula, and the people in the areas extending as far west as the Western Australian border. They have poor radio reception and certainly no television services. They look forward, of course, to enjoying television, but as yet there is no prospect of their getting it. I ask that these people be given special consideration by the Australian Broadcasting Commission when the commission makes its recommendations on the extension of television in South Australia.
I wrote to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) on this subject some time ago and he replied to the effect that he had forwarded my letter to the Australian Broadcasting Commission for its consideration. I appreciate his action. In that letter, I endeavoured to outline plans for the extension of television to the whole of the country areas of South Australia, including the far western section, and I make a plea now for the people in those districts, trusting that it will receive the consideration it warrants. I made a complete survey, so far as I was able to do so, of the whole of the South Australian country areas, and I made recommendations to the Minister.
They were purely my own recommendations. I had no authority to make them.
I divided the State into four main areas - the south-east portion, the far north portion, the river Murray area and the far western area, which includes the Eyre Peninsula. I think that South Australia virtually resolves itself into those four main country areas. I made recommendations in accordance with my survey. I hope that those recommendations will assist the commission in formulating the plans which it will have to make in the near future. I suggest that the people living in country areas, especially those in the far western portion of the State, deserve special consideration because they miss so much that is available to other people. Because of their isolation, they have no opportunity to join in the fun and games that most people enjoy. I make this plea on their behalf and I trust that it will receive consideration.
– I wish to make a few remarks about the Post Office, television and radio broadcasting. It is pleasing to look at the last report of the Postmaster-General and see that, with regard to the number of telephones for each 100 people, this country is in fifth place. It ranks after only the United States, Canada, Sweden and Switzerland, and is higher in the list than Great Britain. It is satisfactory to note that whereas in 1946 there were 52,000 new telephone services installed, in 1958 there were no fewer than 148,000. The degree to which the number of trunk line channels has/been increased is shown by a graph that is set out on page 25 of the report.
Anybody who has to make use of the telephone and mail services frequently must be highly gratified that the efficiency of the Postmaster-General’s Department has reached such a high level. But there are some features which are disturbing. We have in the Postmaster-General’s Department a gigantic undertaking and I wish to direct the attention of the committee to the comments of the Auditor-General about the accounting system of this great undertaking. While we listen to this consistent and discordant song about music for the people through the medium of radio, we should remember that our job is to be the guardians of the finances of the people who provide the money. The Auditor-General, in his report, said -
It has been mentioned in previous Reports, that several matters of principle and policy had to be determined before the financial statement relating to the commercial accounts of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department could be certified by me.
During the year a Committee of inquiry was appointed by the Government to examine these and other matters relating to the commercial accounts. At the time of preparation of this Report, the Committee’s report was being considered by the Postmaster-General. [ ask the Minister to give the committee as much information as possible about that matter, lt is highly unsatisfactory that year after year matters such as that should remain unresolved and, so far as the Parliament is concerned, receive no consideration.
The next matter to which I direct the Minister’s attention arises from paragraph 144 of the Auditor-General’s Report, in which he states, referring to the Post Offices Stores and Services Trust Fund that as long ago as the 34th report of the Joint Committe of Public Accounts, it was suggested that a committee representative of the Treasury, the Audit Office and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department should be established to examine the necessity for the continued operation of that account. At the time that the Auditor-General made his report, the position had remained unchanged.
The next matter to which I wish to refer is the method of financing capital works. In the case of the Post Office, we have a business undertaking capable of finding the money necessary to service its capital works, yet we find that £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 of its capital comes from taxation revenue. I think early consideration should be given to the question whether this country intends to continue with the present method of financing capital works.
The next matter to which I wish to refer was mentioned incidentally by Senator Kennelly during the debate yesterday. He referred to concessions given to newspaper undertakings by the department. I should like the Minister to give the committee as much information as is possible about this matter. I should like to have the position fully explained.
– What matter is that?
– The rates at which teleprinter services are supplied to news papers. Senator Vincent made a thoughtful reference to the way in which radio channels throughout Australia are flooded on Saturday afternoons with racing news. I welcome the expression of a view on that matter. I should like to be in the position that I could relish the racing news. I should love to have enough money to bet on my fancy. I do not wish to be in any way censorious of other people’s pleasures. I do not want to put myself into that position, but I do say that, in the national interest, we ought to have regard to the degree to which a national medium of mass communication is being used to facilitate and extend betting, which, it cannot be gainsaid, is a pastime which may be of disadvantage to a man without a surplus of means. In relation to that, I wish to ask the Minister to tell us whether consideration has ever been given to whether the bookmaking and racing fraternity, who make huge untaxed profits out of this business, pay for these services in accordance with the extent to which they use them. Are the services available to bookmakers on a concessional basis? Are the teleprinter services available to them free of charge? I gain the impression that the radio service is a gratuitous exchange of information which is used by the bookmaking fraternity. It may be merely coincidental, but on a basis of business organization I think that service should attract some payment.
I now refer to Division No. 733, item 03 - “ Subsidy to commercial stations for landline services for news relays, £55,000 “. I would like full information about the basis of that item, whether the subsidy is available to all commercial stations, and what is the reason behind that policy. I would have thought that commercial radio stations should pay their way on the same basis as an individual pays his way for telephonic communications.
– On this occasion I will do what I have done previously. To the best of my ability, I will answer the direct inquiries in relation to the Estimates and will not take part in a discussion of what I might call policy matters and the exchange of views about programmes. I will reply to Senator
Wright first because my notes are readily available. I am told that the committee referred to in paragraph 143 of the report of the Auditor-General has now completed its work and has delivered its report to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) within the last few weeks; anyway, so recently that the Postmaster-General has not yet considered it and it has not yet been before the Government. The committee has presented its report and I shall be fascinated to see the result of its investigation because it covers a very wide field.
In regard to paragraph 144 of the Auditor-General’s report, the PostmasterGeneral deferred taking any action until he received that committee’s report and until decisions were made on the report, because one decision is consequent upon the other. 1 am interested to learn that the use of teleprinters by the press is on the same terms and conditions as their use by any one else. The newspapers which lease teleprinter machines pay the same rates for the use of the machines and the service as anybody else who leases a teleprinter machine. There are still special rates for press telegrams; but under present conditions the use of them has been materially reduced because of the use of teleprinters and now their use is largely restricted to country newspapers.
Senator Kennelly and other honorable senators referred to the lag in the installation of telephones. I commence my reply on this matter by saying that this is an argument which the Postmaster-General can never win because there are so many complications. It is interesting to see how the number of connexions made each year has increased. In 1945 there were 50,000; in 1946, 62,000; in 1949, 65,000; in 1952, 94,000; in 1956, 125,000; and in 1959, 140,000. There has been a tremendous increase in the number of telephones installed. The department has a priority system. Priority is given, first, to doctors, hospitals, the police, ambulance services and other essential community services including gas and sewerage services; and secondly, to general managers of businesses, members of the armed forces, people who have disabilities or are suffering from severe illnesses, and applicants who have been waiting for five years. That does not complete the list.
I think it was Senator Kennelly who asked for particulars of the number of deferred applications. As I understand the position, there is a constant flow of applications which are received and dealt with, and then there is a bank of applications which are deferred because of difficulty in making the connexions. At the end of August last these deferred applications numbered 49,304 throughout the whole of the Commonwealth. About eight or nine years ago the total was about 100,000. So a good deal of progress has been made in picking up those arrears. The distribution of the number of deferred applications at the end of August is as follows: - 19,972 in Victoria, 17,340 in New South Wales, 2,498 in Queensland, 7,105 in South Australia, 1,525 in Western Australia, and 864 in Tasmania. I am sorry that I cannot explain the variations between the States.
One point to be remembered is that only the difficult cases come under notice. For every complaint received there is a great number of applications attended to by the department with satisfaction to all concerned. These applications are somewhat like the papers that come before Ministers. The department deals with the easy ones and the difficult ones come to the Minister for attention because they are difficult. The problem is that it is all very well to have an order of priorities, but the order of priorities is disturbed not only as a result of general conditions but also as a result of particular circumstances in particular areas. A shortage of some type of equipment may have a retarding influence generally, but in a particular area the exchange equipment may not be large enough or there may be difficulty in laying cables. So, in particular areas, because of particular difficulties, it is impracticable to maintain the order of priorities.
I tilt a lance on behalf of the PostmasterGeneral. Having regard to the tremendous number of applications and, as Senator Kennelly mentioned, the greatly increased use of telephones and the large increase in the population, I think more regard should be paid to the fact that he has been able to reduce the number of problem cases by half, and at the same time cater for the greatly increased demand, than to the number of complaints that are received.
Senator Cant referred to the northwest of Western Australia. He has referred previously, during the Budget debate, to some of the matters that he raised on this occasion. As a result of what he said then, the department is reviewing the situation, particularly at Derby, Broome and other centres. The circumstances are being examined and information is being obtained, but a decision has not yet been reached.
I do not propose to answer the question asked by Senator Pearson because it also involves policy issues. For the same reason, I do not intend to answer Senator McManus’s remarks about the allocation of broadcasting time. That is a policy matter for the commission to decide. That is also the position in regard to Senator Hannan’s questions, although the honorable senator may be interested to note, on the suggestion ‘that more commercial radio licences should be issued, that when the Australian Broadcasting Control Board held an inquiry into frequency modulation broadcasting a couple of years ago, very little interest was shown. I do not propose to reply to Senator Vincent’s comments for the reason I have just mentioned.
– Do bookmakers pay anything for the services they get?
– They pay no more than the ordinary telephone charges. I seem to remember that the honorable senator put the subtle point that bookmakers received first-class service from the commission because of the radio announcements. That is as it may be. I do not know how it would be possible to collect revenue because of that happy state of affairs.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Department of Civil Aviation.
Proposed Vote, ?12,401,000.
.- 1 am interested in the administrative aspect of the proposed vote for the Department of Civil Aviation, because it. gives me an opportunity to speak about the last annual report of the Australian National Airlines Commission. To be frank, I do not know whether the report even pleases the Minister. However, I am interested in the figures that it contains. I am pleased to see that the paying passenger load factor has been reduced from 69.7 per cent, to 65 per cent. I understand that the goal is to reduce the factor to about 60 per cent., or somewhere near the overseas percentage. I think that that was stated in a previous report.
It worries me to note that the revenue load factor was 65.1 per cent, in 1958-59 and 63.9 per cent, in 1959-60. The report shows that revenue return per ton mile dropped from 55.9d. to 55. Id. The Minister was pleased to announce recently that the profit made by Trans-Australia Airlines had increased from approximately ?253,000 to ?352,000, or by about ?99,000, but when one considers that during the year the number of passenger miles flown increased by more than 100,000,000 and that there was a great increase in the number of passengers and weight of cargo carried, one cannot really be delighted with the profit. It does not seem to be nearly as great as it should be, considering the increase in total revenue and the other factors I have just mentioned. The report shows that T.A.A. is holding its own, compared with the position last year, but I do not think we can be over-pleased with the profit that has been made, particularly in view of the fact that the airline carried 24 per cent, more passengers than it earned the year before and that during the year there were two increases of air fares.
I am shocked to find that there is no mention in the report of the disadvantage that T.A.A. suffers in respect of intrastate air traffic. When one looks at that aspect one sees that its competitor carried 350,000 more passengers than did T.A.A., even allowing for its monopoly on the New Guinea and Northern Territory routes. I am amazed that the report does not say anything about the fact that T.A.A. ‘s competitor, .through its subsidiary airlines in New South Wales and South Australia, has access to the number of passengers to which I have referred. T.A.A.’s competitor has access to intra-state routes in New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia. The access in Victoria does not matter very much, because it is only to the Hamilton run.
I do not want to be hard on the Minister, but I must say that the report seems to be dictated by the present policy. The Minister will not get anything for T.A.A. unless he is prepared to stand up for that organization. Although the report of the commission contains a lot of information, I do not think it will have the effect of increasing T.A.A.’s business, which is the purpose of its participation in the civil aviation industry.
I ask the Minister how Mr. K. H. Vial came to be promoted to vice-chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission over other more senior officers. It would be very interesting to know that. I noticed a very pleasant statement in the report, and I am sure it gave the Minister great pleasure to read -
In February last an aircraft Cross-Charter Agreement was negotiated between the two major operators.
To whoever wrote that, I say “ Never write a report along those lines that I have anything to do with, because I would not be gentle in returning it to you “. But leaving my opinions to one side, I say to the Government, “ We expect you to have a bit of courage and to fight for your own industry “. This report has been printed very nicely on excellent paper. It contains a lot of figures and makes most interesting reading. But in my opinion the report reveals that the Government lacks courage in relation to its own industry. I say this with some feeling, and I am pleased that other honorable senators apart from the Minister - for whom I have the highest respect, although we differ occasionally - are listening to my remarks.
I thank the committee for affording me an opportunity to say something about this matter. If I had not been able to express my views to-day, another opportunity for me to do so might not readily have become available. Possibly at some future date I will say a lot more about this subject.
– I should like to comment briefly on what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) has said concerning both the form and the comments of the report of the Australian National Airlines Commission, which operates Trans-Australia Airlines. I regret that he does not find in it the type of reading that he so obviously enjoys. This report, which was submitted by the commission to me as the responsible Minister, does not claim to be anything other than it should be, that is, a factual report of the year’s operations. If it does not suit the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I regret it.
– Without unduly interrupting the Minister, could I ask him why T.A.A., in its report for 1958-59, made a feature of intra-state business but has not mentioned the matter in this report? Is this due to a change of chairman?
– I do not think so. I am prepared to discuss that very important point. As I have said, the report is a purely factual document. It does not seek to hide anything, to disguise anything, or to do other than present a review of the commission’s operations for the year and its accounts.
I think that Senator Kennelly’s remarks in relation to the figures concerning T.A.A.’s operations call for a reply. He refers particularly to the reduction in the passenger load factor which has occurred this year, and to other aspects of the operations which would appear to indicate at first glance that something of a reverse or a decline was suffered by T.A.A. during the year. I point out to Senator Kennelly that, in studying these figures, he must have regard to the fact that virtually an equipment revolution has taken place not only in T.A.A. but in Ansett-A.N.A., its chief competitor, during the past year. Two classes of aircraft have been replaced by aircraft having a greater number of passenger seats. There would have to be an increased demand in one year to return the same load factor per aircraft - if we were to achieve parity by bigger aircraft having more seats with smaller aircraft having fewer seats.
If the honorable senator will have regard to another vitally important happening during the year he will see that there was a valid reason for the downturn of these capacity figures. During the year, by government decision and with the warm approval of the Australian National Airlines Commission, T.A.A. took over the Qantas service to New Guinea. In taking over that service, the airline well knew that it would be subject to a downturn in capacity compared with the other mainland traffic routes. The airline accepted that routing - indeed, sought it - -because U realized that that should properly be one of its long-term objectives. The organization held the view that the route to New
Guinea was part and parcel of the Australian traffic route system. So the two reasons for the temporary reduction this year in the load factors carried were, first, the very great re-equipment programme and secondly, the introduction of the New Guinea route.
Sir, it is true as has been said that in earlier reports the commission has seen fit to comment on the intra-state position; it is equally true that that has not been done in this report. There is a reason for that, I think. I have not asked the commission why it did not comment on this matter this year, but I believe that I know how it would consider the question. It is one thing, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to get up and advocate that T.A.A. should operate intra-state. That is pretty high sounding stuff. But a well based, sound and thinking commission - one that knows the airline business - says, “ What happens beyond that point? For sure, there will be an advantage in picking up on carriage, but we have to put against that advantage the definite disadvantage that we will suffer by moving into a trade - assuming it was possible to do so - which now economically supports only one operator “.
The whole of the recent history of airline operation in this country has shown - I isolate the question completely from any party political considerations - that an airline, if it is to be successful can no more carry on an uneconomic operation, no matter what the motivating force may be, than any other business can. It may well be that in the course of a long time the party to which Senator Kennelly belongs will again form the Government and for political reasons it may instruct T.A.A. to operate intra-state in opposition to East-West Airlines Limited in New South Wales, to MacRobertson-Miller Airlines Limited in Western Australia and to South Australian Airlines Limited. The net result would be to produce an uneconomic situation for the two airlines concerned in the intra-state operations. I imagine that in preparing this report the commission had regard to that factor. But I say with complete candour to my friend the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that if the commission has not referred to this matter in its report it has done so of its own volition. Just as age has brought wisdom to the honorable senator and to me, so, too, age may have brought wisdom to some members of the commission who formerly subscribed year by year in the commission’s reports to the principle of Trans-Australia Airlines competing on an intra-state basis.
I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition probably was confused when he referred to the appointment of Mr. Vial as vicechairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission in preference to other members of the commission who were senior to him. Mr. Vial and Mr. Blackburn were appointed at the same time, I understand, some years ago. I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will appreciate that Mr. Vial is a much younger man than is Mr. Blackburn. The honorable senator will recall that Mr. Blackburn distinguished himself during the Second World War.
– And also during the First World War.
– Yes. Subsequently he became a conciliation commissioner and upon his resignation from that position he was appointed to the Australian National Airlines Commission. Having regard to the fact that there was an age differential of some degree, I think it was no more than reasonable, all other things being equal, for the younger man to be appointed. If, however, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, is thinking, as well he may be, of Mr. Gerald Packer, the position is that some years ago Mr. Packer, who was then deputy chairman of the commission, resigned from the commission and was not a member for a number of years. Indeed, I re-appointed Mr. Packer only a couple of years ago. So in point of continuous service Mr. Packer certainly is not senior to Mr. Vial, Mr. Blackburn or even Mr. Murdoch, who was appointed three years ago.
Another matter that has been raised in the debate is the cross-charter negotiation of last February. I repeat what I said in February last and what I have continued to say ever since. The reference in the report sets out the situation clearly. The negotiation was a commercial one undertaken because it gave mutual advantage to both operators. If I may exercise a little hindsight on this occasion, I say now that TransAustralia Airlines is doubly glad that the cross-charter arrangement was negotiated because without it T.A.A. would not have had really suitable equipment with which to to undertake the New Guinea trunk-line service.
.- I do not wish to prolong the debate but I was surprised to hear Senator Paltridge say that if the Opposition ever became the government it would do this and that. I assure the honorable senator that in the near future the Labour Party will again govern Australia. The Government should refrain from making appointments to government bodies purely for political purposes. lt should do so solely with an eye to the welfare of the nation. However, I have no desire to enter into a debate on this subject at this stage, because better opportunities will arise in the future. I content myself by saying that I like to see people display a little courage. I leave it at that.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Senate adjourned at 4.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 October 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1960/19601020_senate_23_s18/>.