23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIIin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct three questions to the Minister for Customs and Excise, ls it a fact that, because of the operations of the United Nations agency set up for the purpose of suppressing the drug traffic, the illegal importation into America and Europe of dangerous narcotic drugs from the East has been significantly decreased? Is it also a fact that, as a result, those concerned in this nefarious smuggling traffic have decided to turn their attention to Australia as a potential market, particularly for heroin? If so, has the Government undertaken, or has it in mind to undertake, a strengthening of our customs and other barriers against the importation of dangerous narcotics?
– I understand that the importation of narcotics to the United States of America and Europe has been reduced as a result of the work of customs and other officers in those areas. My department is in touch with corresponding departments in other countries. We are kept constantly advised of all the latest methods of detection and of means of trying to introduce dangerous drugs into various countries. We are aware that, as the markets of Europe and America are denied to people engaged in this trade, they may attempt to introduce narcotics into Australia. We are fully alive to that possibility. We are watching the position most carefully and we shall do everything possible to see that these people are not successful.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Treasurer some questions in relation to. the recent unexpected and sudden rise of the price of gold in London. Can the Minister inform the Senate of the factors responsible for the increased price? Does he consider that those factors will keep the price of gold at or about the present level? The Minister will be aware that there exists in Australia a gold producers’ association, which has the right to sell gold, in effect, at the best possible price. However, some bona fide gold producers are not members of that association and are therefore not qualified to get the benefits of the recent rather substantial price increase. If the increased price continues to operate, will the Government consider establishing a procedure whereby all gold producers can benefit from the increase?
– The honorable senator, enjoying, as he does, a long and close association with the gold industry, would be the first to acknowledge that he invites me to look into the crystal ball. He asks me to say what factors have contributed to the increased price of gold and whether they will continue to have an influence upon the market. First, one has to understand the factors. I must say at once that I know little, indeed nothing, beyond what has appeared in the newspapers. It may be helpful if I say to the honorable senator that it is not surprising that from time to time there should occur a sudden and possibly unpredictable increase in the price of gold. The price of gold, unlike the price of any other commodity that I know of, has not risen for very many years, and in the circumstances there is always what I may describe as a latent expectation which every now and again expresses itself.
I read in the newspapers that there has been something in the nature of a stepping up in the buying of gold by European countries. One cannot assess from the brief reports that are published in the press what the extent of that buying is, or what its effect may be; but it is true that there has been something of an upturn in European buying, influenced no doubt by the necessity for balancing trade accounts or other financial negotiations. I think I saw in one newspaper a report to the effect that the Swiss people, who are historic and traditional lenders, were buying gold - obviously, I should think, hedging against other forms of investment.
Quite recently, the Secretary of the United States Treasury said there would be no departure from the price that had been adopted for a number of years. One takes that as being a quite responsible statement from a very responsible officer of the United
States Government. But I suppose it is fair to say that one does not forget that within a couple of weeks there will be an election in the United States of America, and some people may be having a bit of a dip on the outcome.
These few factors that I have mentioned are those that come readily to mind; undoubtedly there are others. I mention those few now only to try to answer, though in a quite inadequate way, the honorable senator’s question. I shall refer his question to the Treasurer to see whether he can provide any further information.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade the following questions: - Is it a fact that between 1953 and 1959 the export trade of many countries expanded vigorously? Is it a fact that whilst Japan’s export trade increased in those years by 170 per cent., West Germany’s by 120 per cent, the United Kingdom’s by 30 per cent., and the world total by 36 per cent., Australia’s increase was only 1 per cent.? Is it a fact that the Federal Government, through Mr. McEwen, has called for an increase of exports during the next five years to the value of £250,000,000? If this can be done, will the Minister inform the Senate, succinctly and without circumlocution, what action is being taken to bring about the desired result?
– Senator Brown has asked a question in relation to export trade and has quoted certain statistics. I assume that those statistics relate to monetary values. I remind the honorable senator that Australia’s exports consist so largely of primary products in relation to which the world parity price varies that monetary values may not do justice to the trend of our export trade. I cannot recall the relevant figures, but I should think that in terms of the volume of wheat, wool, meat and minerals that have been exported, Australia’s trade would have expanded o a good deal during these years. The effect of the volume of exports upon the monetary value of the exports is a material consideration. The Government is making all endeavours to increase the volume of exports from Australia. Indeed, such an increase is almost essential if we are to continue our present rate of development. Senator Brown asks me to say what the Government is doing. It would take a secondreading speech to canvass all that the Government has done to assist primary producers, to encourage mineral development and to assist and encourage the export of manufactured goods.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. Has the Minister seen the favorable report of the Tasmanian Director of Mines, tabled in the Tasmanian House of Assembly last week, in relation to the Savage River iron ore deposits? Is the Minister in a position to say whether there is any possibility of those deposits being commercially exploited in the near future? If there is, will the Minister use his influence to try to bring about the exploitation of the deposits and to secure the interest of a company in this great latent wealth of Tasmania?
– I acknowledge that I saw the newspaper report and also that I know quite a lot about the iron ore deposit on the Savage River. Notwithstanding that, I am going to crave the indulgence of the honorable senator and ask him to put the question on notice. 1 think the subject is of such importance to Tasmanians thai, rather than give an answer in general terms, it would be advisable for me to get up-to-date and precise information on recent developments from my department. If the question is put on notice, I shall endeavour to have it answered as quickly as possible.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation: Is an officer of the Department of Civil Aviation observing and reporting on the development of the hovercraft in overseas countries, particularly the United Kingdom? If so, where is the officer based? Has the Minister received any reports about the best methods of employing hovercraft economically under Australian conditions, both within Australia and on services between the mainland of Australia and, say, Tasmania? Has the Minister yet had any comparison made of the cost of operation of hovercraft and the cost of operation of normal passenger-carrying aircraft or, for that matter, of railways, motor transport and shipping? Does the Minister know whether any research is being conducted into the principles of hovercraft flight in any Australian university or technical institute or by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization? How far has such research progressed?
– An officer of the Department of Civil Aviation is keeping in close touch with experimentation on hovercraft flight in England. That officer, who is based in London, is the civil aviation liaison officer of my department. He furnishes to the department, and to me, reports which always include that which is reportable in connexion with the experiments being carried out by the SaundersRoe organization in England. Senator Laught asked about the possibility of the economic employment of hovercraft. I am afraid that it is a little difficult to answer that particular part of the honorable senator’s question. At the moment the emphasis is on technical development rather than on economic flight, although I am well aware that prototypes are flying. However, the stage has not yet been reached at which an economic appraisement can be made of the merits of hovercraft in comparison with other forms of flight and, indeed, other forms of transport. I know of no research being carried out in Australia. All the research of which I am aware is being carried out in the United Kingdom by Saunders-Roe. The honorable senator may rest assured that the possibilities of this form of transport are not being overlooked by the technical experts of my department.
As I have indicated, it i3 far too early to appraise the economic worth of hovercraft, but we have not dismissed the possibility of using them, when fully developed, over water and also over vast tracts of our own country, such as the Northern Territory and similar reasonably flat terrains. Senator Laught has asked about the possibility of using this craft on the Bass Strait service. I venture the view that because of the sometimes turbulent waters of Bass Strait, in the initial stages flights to Tasmania may be rather much for hovercraft. A possibility nearer in point of time than 1 Bass Strait service suggests itself to me, ind that is a Sydney ferry service, or something of that nature.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. 1 preface it by saying that as many Victorian primary producers are experiencing a record season they are anxious to help farmers in drought stricken areas in Queensland and northern New South Wales. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether recent rains have broken the drought generally? If they have not, can he say whether baled hay from Victoria, made available at a cost of the outofpocket expenses only, can be transported economically to those farmers in urgent need of fodder in drought stricken areas?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is that during the last few days fair falls of rain have been recorded in south-eastern Queensland and have extended into the central highlands. In addition, good falls have been recorded in the Darling Downs and Maranoa regions. But follow-up rains will be needed in these areas. There has been no worthwhile relief of dry conditions in “le far western and northern areas of Queensland. In some areas in northern Mew South Wales there have been good falls of rain, but they have been mostly storm rains, not rains in the category of drought-breaking rains.
The honorable senator has asked about the transport of fodder from Victoria, supplied at the cost of out-of-pocket expenses. I understand that the Queensland Government is transporting fodder to drought stricken areas at one-half of the normal freight rates, and in New South Wales a concessional rate of one-half of the normal rate applies on fodder transported by rail into certain specified areas. The honorable senator will understand that freight rates are a matter for the State governments concerned alone. There is also provision in Victoria for a rebate of 20 per cent, of the freight rate on fodder going out of Victoria to drought stricken areas in New South Wales. So, if there are people who are prepared to help, that reduced freight rate is available to enable them to get fodder to drought stricken areas.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. I understand from a press report in the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ that in an endeavour to promote exports, the Japanese Government gives certain tax concessions to exporters. These concessions apparently are along the lines of tax rebates on that portion of income derived from exports. Can the Minister say whether the Government has considered granting similar tax concessions to Australian exporters, and if not, will it do so as a practical means of promoting our export industry?
– The question asked by the honorable senator raises so many policy aspects that I feel I should say it is not possible to reply to it without notice.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, by saying that some months ago, following recommendations from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, the Minister for Health proposed a supplementary pharmaceutical benefits scheme with additional pharmaceutical benefits. Subsequently, the Minister advised that the publication of the new list had been deferred and would become effective as from 1st November, 1960. I understand that the decision to defer publication until 1st November was taken to enable the Minister’s department to publicize a new booklet and explanatory sheet with notes for the medical profession, so that members of the profession would be in a position to operate the new list as from the commencing date. As I understand that at least some members of the medical profession have not yet received the new booklet and explanatory notes, is it still intended that the new list of free drugs will become operative from 1st November?
– Yes, 1st November is the date on which the additional pharmaceutical benefits will be made available. I understand that the lists and the explanatory notes have been posted to the medical profession and that if they are not yet in the hands of all members of the profession they will be by 1st November, which is the deadline for commencement of the new list.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise, who controls the importation of animals, literature and other things. Is it not a fact that owing to the high price of mink furs, action is being taken by American interests to establish a colony of minks in Japan so that it will be possible to produce the fashionable furs more cheaply? Is it possible for similar action to be taken in Australia, so that these popular furs might be more readily available, at cheaper prices, to the women of Australia, and at the same time, save us dollar expenditure?
– Under the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations, ferrets, stoats and weasels including minks are prohibited imports. We have made a number of mistakes in the past in allowing the importation of such animals as rabbits and of such birds ar. blackbirds, which have proved to be pests. I think that the prohibition on the importation of the animals I have mentioned should be upheld. If minks are to come to this country, I should far rather see them come as furs to be made into coats and so on, in which case the Department of Customs and Excise will see to it that the appropriate revenue is derived from them.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. I preface it by referring to the letter sent by the PostmasterGeneral some months ago to Australian television licensees informing them that he expected all stations to transmit programmes with at least 40 per cent. Australian content. In view of the fact that Australian broadcasting stations are now using a heavy preponderance of imported transcriptions, records, drama and music, to the exclusion of the local products, thus making it nearly impossible for Australian radio producers and artists te earn a living, will the Postmaster-General send a similar letter to broadcast licensees with a view to saving the local industry from extinction?
– I know that my colleague, the Postmaster-General, has done a great deal in connexion with this matter, I think with quite useful results. If I understood Senator Hannan’s question correctly, he suggested that the same sort of policy might be applied to radio as is applied to television. I can only say that I will convey the suggestion to Mr. Davidson.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Navy. About a month ago, I asked him whether he would explore the possibility of Royal Australian Navy personnel being attached as observers to United States Navy icebreakers that will be going to Antarctica this summer. I instanced that one such ice-breaker, along with a Royal Australian Navy ship, would be showing the flag at the opening of the magnificent new Portland harbour in Victoria. Has the Minister anything to report concerning the investigations he promised to make?
– The Americans have already offered to Australia one position for an observer on their operation Deep Freeze 61, and we in turn offered it to the Department of Civil Aviation, or Qantas Empire Airways Limited or any other civil aviation body interested in flying conditions in the Antarctic. Subsequently, another position as an observer was offered by the Americans to Australia, and that position was taken by an officer from the Royal Australian Air Force. In each case, reciprocal arrangements were made; Australian observers would go with the Americans to match the Americans who were going with us. At this stage, it is thought that the Americans are unlikely to offer another position to enable an observer of the Royal Australian Navy to go, but we propose to keep this idea in mind when considering subsequent invitations either for this year or following years.
– Will the Minister for National Development inform me whether he noticed a press report over the weekend to the effect that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is building two ships, each of 20,000 tons, at Whyalla? Will these ships be used to convey ore from Western Australia to Newcastle? In view of the large quantities of iron ore that exist in Western Australia, does the Minister know whether any move is being made to have a steel mill erected in that State?
– I saw the press report concerning the construction of two carriers, to which Senator Scott has referred. I assumed that they were being constructed for the Yampi Sound to Newcastle ore trade. I know that it is the desire of the Government of Western Australia to obtain a steel industry within that State, but I am not acquainted of any recent developments in that matter. I wish the Western Australian Government good luck in its endeavours.
– f ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade whether his attention has been directed to a newspaper report which alleges that the shortage of steel in Australia has been caused by the upward trend in exports. Can he say whether exports of steel are actually increasing and, if they are, will he take action to halt exports so that local needs may be adequately met?
– Senator Wade was good enough to inform me that he proposed to ask this question, and I have obtained the following information from the Minister for Trade: - Exports have not increased at the expense of the home market. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited withdrew about September last from attractive markets for its own products in order to make more steel mill products available to local users. Australian steel sheet producers are importing very large tonnages of semi-finished steel for processing and supply to local users and to overseas areas, where good markets have been developed in recent years. Any existing shortages on the local market are the result of a continuing high level of home demand and are not due to exports.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether he has noticed in to-day’s press an article referring to the equipping of merchant vessels with Polaris missiles. If so, has he any idea of the cost of so equipping merchant vessels? Does he believe that in the future it may be possible to equip Australian merchant vessels with this missile?
– I did notice in to-day’s press the item referred to by the honorable senator. I have no idea what it would cost to fit a Polaris missile to an Australian merchant ship. Unless and until Australia becomes an atomic power there would be no point in fitting such a missile to a merchant ship.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. Will the Minister inform the Senate on what basis space will be allocated to the various States in the trade vessel to be sent overseas from Australia shortly? Will consideration be given to opening the ship to inspection by the general public at the various ports of call en route to the East?
– I am sorry but 1 cannot say how space will be allocated in this ship. I can remember something of the arrangements made in connexion with the last trade vessel despatched from Australia. I saw the ship myself. As I recall the arrangements, contributions towards the cost of the ship were sought and those who participated were asked to contribute an amount which had regard to the amount of space that they occupied on the vessel. I am quite certain that this ship will be open to inspection at the various ports at which it calls en route. I feel sure that inspections will be encouraged not only to show prospective buyers what Australia has for sale but also to encourage exhibits from other Australian exporters.
I ask the honorable senator to put the first part of his question on the notice-paper because the answer to it will be of interest generally.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that a bus service has been inaugurated between Sydney and Mascot airport and that the adult fare for the journey has been fixed at 1 s. 9d? If so, and in view of the record profit made by various airline companies last year, does not the Minister consider that the present fare of 5s. charged to air passengers for transport between Mascot airport and Sydney airline offices is excessive? In view of the fact that Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A. have modified certain austerity measures adopted more than a year ago - meals have been improved and bags provided for air sickness have been restored to their previous size - can the Minister indicate whether airline bus fares will be reduced?
– I have seen newspaper reports that a bus service, operated by the public transport authority in Sydney, has been commenced between Circular Quay, Sydney, and Mascot airport. I point out to the honorable senator that a service of that nature is hardly comparable with a service running from point to point for the specific purpose of carrying one class of passenger and not having the right to pick up or set down en route. I have noticed the difference in fares between the two kinds of service. I hardly think that the profit made by Trans-Australia Airlines last year is a factor which the commissioners would be prepared to take into consideration. However, 1 assure the honorable senator that all questions of cost and revenue are under continuous review. I have no doubt that if the commissioners think that there is a case for a variation of the bus fare, they will make such a variation.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. He will be aware that during the last few years many fishing vessels have been fitted with echo-sounding machines. I have made inquires and I understand that although the paper used in these machines is not made in Australia, a heavy duty is charged on paper imported for the purpose. Will the Minister discuss with the Tariff Board the possibility of either removing or reducing the duty now charged?
– The duty on imported articles is a matter for the Department of Trade. It is the policy of every government to refer such matters to the Tariff Board, which advises the Government, and finally the Parliament itself fixes the duty that is charged. In this instance, if the industry, or the importers, feel that there is a case for a reduction of duty, they should place the matter before the Minister for Trade, and seek a hearing by the Tariff Board. That is the proper procedure to follow.
– Has the Minister for National Development read in the publication “ Japan Reports “, dated 25th September, 1 960, an article which states that the Japanese Atomic Industrial Forum predicts that within ten years it will be able to generate electricity more cheaply with atomic energy than with coal or oil? Is it thought that that will be possible in Australia also within ten years?
– I have not read the report to which Senator Marriott refers, but I have no doubt that it follows the tenor of other reports on the same subject which I have read. The relationship between atomic power and other types of power, such as thermal or water power, varies from country to country. Much depends upon the relative cheapness of what I might call conventional power. While I was in Great Britain recently, the British Atomic Energy Commission tabled in the British Parliament a paper expressing the view that in Great Britain the cost of atomic power would be equivalent to that of thermal power in ten years. The commission reaffirmed the programme whereunder - I am speaking from memory now - about 15 per cent. of British electricity generating capacity will be based on atomic power within the next five years.. If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that Japan was in a position comparable with that of Great Britain. The development of cheap water power in Japan cannot go much further, and Japanese coal resources that can be worked economically are not great. I personally think that Japan will be one of the big users of atomic power. The demand for atomic power will come more quickly in Japan than in other countries. I put the east coast of Australia at the other end of the scale. We have on the east coast of Australia such large deposits of coal that can be won cheaply that the period before atomic power comes into its own in this area will be longer. This does not apply to other parts of Australia. There is no golden rule. Atomic power will not be used unless it is cheaper than other power, and in each country circumstances vary.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table of the Senate reports of the Tariff Board on the following items: -
Cathode ray tubes and parts thereof.
Clocks and watches and movements therefor.
Electrical testing and measuring instruments.
I also table Tariff Board reports on the following items: -
Cutlery, not completely manufactured.
Internal combustion engines and parts therefor.
Metal working milling machines.
These three items do not call for any legislative action. The board’s findings, in these instances, have been adopted by the Government.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purposes of this bill are -
Honorable senators will know that a strong case has been made out for exemption of motor vehicles for use by certain classes of disabled persons who are unable to use public transport and who, of necessity, use a motor vehicle for the purpose of travelling to and from gainful employment. Useful occupation is of the greatest importance in the rehabilitation of these people, resulting in most cases in a considerable improvement in morale and health. It is proposed to assist these persons by allowing exemption from sales tax of motor vehicles for use by them in journeying to and from gainful employment. The exemption will apply where a person has lost the use of one or both legs to such an extent that the Director-General of Social Services, or an officer appointed by him for that purpose, certifies that he is permanently unable to use public transport.
The dairying industry will be assisted by a new exemption of tanks for bulk milk tankers which are used in that industry in picking up bulk milk from farms. The use of such equipment is a recent development in the industry, leading to increased efficiency but necessitating heavy expenditure on new equipment. Bulk milk tanks now under notice virtually take the place of milk cans which have been exempt from sales tax for many years, lt has, therefore, been decided that this new development towards efficiency should be assisted by extending sales tax exemption to the tanks. The proposed exemption will not apply to vehicles as such, but only to the insulated tanks and associated fittings which are built into vehicles for this purpose.
Exemption is being provided for in respect of the importation and sale in Australia of goods which are the produce of Christmas Island, being goods of a kind which are exempt from sales tax if produced in Australia. This places the produce of Christmas Island, a territory of the Commonwealth, on the same footing as the produce of New Zealand, Fiji, Papua, New Guinea and Cocos (Keeling) Islands, for which exemption has previously been authorized. The goods involved are, in the main, phosphate material.
The silver-plating industry has been passing through an extremely difficult period. In an effort to assist this industry, the tax on silver-plated ware is being reduced from 25 per cent, to 124 per cent. In order to avoid a consequential competitive anomaly, a similar reduction is being made in respect of pewter and cut-glass ware, as those goods are sold in competition with silver-plated ware.
A review has been made of the charges payable in respect of wireless valves. Previously, wireless valves of Australian production were subject to an excise duty of 2s. 9d. each. Because of this levy, there was no sales tax on such valves. Furthermore, whilst wireless receiving sets were subject to tax at a rate of 25 per cent., there was a sales tax exemption of so much of the sale value of those sets as represented the value of valves incorporated therein. Thus, although there was no double impost, the levy has been separately collected in respect of the different components of wireless receiving sets. The bill has the effect of merging these levies. The excise duty on these valves is being abolished and a sales tax of 25 per cent, is being imposed thereon, that being the rate already applicable to wireless receiving sets.
In the result, the full sale value of a wireless receiving set, without any exclusion of the value of valves, will now be subject to tax at the rate of 25 per cent. Some of the valves affected by these amendments are large expensive valves of a kind used only in transmission, as distinct from receiving. These valves are being excluded from the 25 per cent, rate, and will bear tax at the general rate of 124 per cent., which applies to transmission equipment generally. The customs duty on imported valves has included a component equal to the excise duty payable on similar valves of Australian production. It is proposed to abolish that component also, and these imported valves will also be subject to sales tax in the same manner as valves made in Australia. It has been borne in mind that sales tax will become payable on certain valves, or upon the value of valves incorporated <>in wireless sets, after *he commencement of these amendments, even though those valves will have previously been subject to excise duty, or to the excise duty component of customs duty. Provision is made in the bill for a rebate in these cases to the extent of such payments of duty.
Electric shavers are being placed in the same sales tax category as safety razors and safety razor blades by increasing the rate of tax from 124 per cent, to 25 per cent. This action is being taken so as to remove a competitive disadvantage which has been the subject of complaint by manufacturers and importers of safety razors and blades.
Details of the goods affected by the amendments, including certain explanatory notes, are being made available to honorable senators in a statement which is being circulated. The amendments are effective from 17th August, 1960. Because of the general economic position as outlined in the Treasurer’s Budget speech, the Government has not found it possible, at this juncture, to allow any wide range of sales tax relief. There have been numerous requests for new exemptions or for reduction of the rates of tax, but it has been found necessary to defer most of these matters for later consideration.
I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Flaherty) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 20th October (vide page 1235).
Department of Shipping and Transport.
Proposed Vote, £1,306,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Shipping and Transport.
Proposed Vote, £3,841,000.
Construction of Jetty for Handling Explosives.
Proposed Vote, £520,000.
Proposed Vote, £4,594,000.
Ordered to be considered together.
– I take advantage of this opportunity to make some observations on the fourth annual report of the Australian National Line. My first comment is related to the policy of the Government, which is preventing the line from entering into competition with the private shipping lines. The Government seems to have adopted a new definition for competition. The report of the Australian National Line is rather illuminating. It shows that the Government’s policy of not permitting the line to book its own cargoes, is costing the line a sum of £272,000 annually. Admittedly that is a small sum, but a matter of principle is involved. The line cannot conduct its own stevedoring operations, under the terms of the Australian coastal shipping agreement. The fact that the line is not conducting its own stevedoring operations is costing it £2,020,000 a year. I understand that stevedoring operations are a very lucrative part of shipping business.
The rate of profit of the National Line, before tax is taken out, is 9 per cent. The line has sold five of its old “ River “ class ships, and has commissioned two very efficient vessels. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), who was formerly Minister for Shipping and Transport, is to be congratulated upon the construction of the “ Princess of Tasmania “. Even after eleven years of office the Government occasionally strikes a right note. It does not do so very often, but when it does I am ready to admit the fact. The report of the National Line further reveals that the amount of cargo carried in 1959-60 was virtually the same as that carried in 1958-59. This is a business that is vital to the economy of the nation. In 1958-59 the Australian National Line carried 4,983,000 tons of cargo, and in 1959-60, 4,980,000 tons. The report shows that practically the whole of the trade of the Australian National Line has to do with transporting iron ore, coal and other products for Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. I read on Saturday that B.H.P. had launched a 19,000-ton vessel, which no doubt will be in operation within the next five or six months. I understand also that the company is constructing two bulk carriers of 16,400 tons. At present, virtually the whole of the cargo carried by the Australian National Line is being carried for B.H.P. What will be the position when the ships I have just mentioned are in operation? Like any other industrial organization, B.H.P. exists only to earn profits for its shareholders. I have no quarrel with that, as long as those profits are kept within reasonable bounds. However, there is no philanthropy in industry, and I can visualize the time when cargoes of the kind now being carried by the Australian National Line will not be available to the line, because B.H.P. will be using its own ships. lt is true that no significant change has occurred as far as the revenue of the line is concerned. In 1958-59 the revenue was £13,650,000 and in 1959-60 it was £13,610,000. I am delighted to see that some of. my Country Party friends are in the chamber, because if anything should concern members of the Country Party, it is shipping freights. Primary products comprise the major part of Australia’s exports, and members of the Country Party know, perhaps better than I know, the huge amount that is p’ai’d by primary producers in freights for carrying their produce overseas. I would have thought that we would have heard members of the Country Party in full flight on this subject. 1 hope that they will take part in this debate.
The report discloses that only seven overseas voyages were made by ships of the Australian National Line. The relevant section of the report states -
World freight and charter markets have shown little improvement. Nevertheless, during the year seven overseas voyages were undertaken, one with sleepers to India, three cargoes of pig iron for Japan, and three voyages with bulk materials from New Caledonia to Australia.
Then follow some very nice words. I have read them in a number of reports and 1 have wondered what they actually meant. They are -
The position is being constantly watched and every possibility of securing overseas business is explored.
In view of the low prices being paid for some of our products, particularly wool, we should endeavour to break some of the chains that have bound us since Lord Inchcape bought the Commonwealth line some years ago and forget to pay for it. He is one of the lucky people who can get away with something without paying for it. I suppose lords can get away with anything. If a private citizen tried to avoid meeting his obligations, I can imagine the Minister for Shipping and Transport saying to him, “ You owe the Commonwealth so much, what about it?”. However, Lord Inchcape seemingly was able to get away without paying. I could use a race-course expression, but it might not be altogether parliamentary. However if I were in Victoria at present it would be a term I could use. May I say, with great respect, Lord Inchcape welshed?
I believe that we should do everything possible to ensure that our produce is carried in our own ships, because of the benefit that would accrue to our primary producers, particularly the wool-growers, whose plight we discussed with much interest a few weeks ago. I believe we could help our primary producers if we had our own vessels, because each year we spend £100,000,000 on overseas shipping freights. I should like to see more than the seven voyages overseas that are disclosed in the report. The report states further -
No specific direction was given by the Minister under Section 17 of the Act during the year.
Section 17 is a very long section and I shall only read the relevant portions. It provides -
Where, in the opinion of the Minister, a shipping service is necessary to meet the requirements or a particular area and it is desirable in the public interest that a shipping service should be provided for that area, the Minister may direct the Board to establish, maintain and operate, or to continue to maintain and operate a shipping service for the purpose of meeting those requirements.
To be quite candid, I do not know whether our ships have the refrigeration machinery necessary to enable them to carry meat and butter, but they could carry coal, wool and wheat. In order to help the struggling farmers about whom we hear so much at times - especially when they want something for nothing - we should do something in this direction.
.- I take advantage of this opportunity to speak about the shipping service to Tasmania because that State is entirely dependent upon its shipping service. May I say in reply to Senator Kennelly’s concluding remarks that I do not think the Australian farmers have ever received something for nothing. They have had to work pretty hard for all they have received. I believe that the Tasmanian shipping service has been better over the past twelve months, or perhaps two years, than ever before in the history of the State. I think there is a shipping committee which aims at coordinating the operations of the various companies that trade with Tasmania. Although there has been a good deal of argument about that system, there appears to me to be a very strong argument for having a committee regulating shipping between Tasmania and the mainland.
In the report of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission there are items which must give cause for apprehension to any one who represents Tasmania and knows that the economy of State is entirely dependent upon shipping services. In speaking about the decline in its profits, the commission says that obviously it cannot continue indefinitely to absorb cost increases without an upward adjustment in freight rates, if the modest profit earned in the year covered by the report is to be maintained. If that statement foreshadows an increase in freights, such an increase would be most serious for the economy of Tasmania which, as I say, is entirely dependent upon shipping services to and from the mainland.
– I would say that does foreshadow an increase.
– It looks as though it does. If it does, it is something to be very much regretted.
I would take the figures on the previous page of the report as a fairly reasonable gauge. The report sets out the profit earning capacity of the commission. It instances the decline that has taken place since the year ended 30th lune, 1958, when the profit earning capacity was 11 per cent. Since that time it has decreased to 9 per cent. But the commission does not take into consideration the fact that in the year ended 30th June, 1959, the profit earning capacity was down as low as 8.6 per cent. In accounting for the better year ended 30th June, 1960, the commission claims that the improvement was due very largely to a better state of affairs on the waterfront in that there were not as many stoppages. However, I noticed that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority said that in the year ended 30th June, 1960, industrial stoppages on the Australian waterfront caused double the loss of man-hours that they caused in the year ended 30th June, 1959. It seems to me that those two statements conflict.
Cost of living figures that were published last week showed that Tasmania recorded a greater increase than four of the five other States. If, in addition to that, Tasmania is to be subjected to an increase in shipping freights - being a State that is entirely dependent upon its shipping services - that increase will have a very serious effect on its economy. I noticed that in the figures of products cited by Senator Kennelly nearly everything is listed, except the humble potato. I think about £2,000,000 worth of potatoes has been exported from Tasmania over a period. Ore, coal and coke, steel and all our other products are included, but the potato industry, which means so much to most parts of Tasmania, is not even mentioned in that list. The Tasmanian Brownell potato is regarded as being the best in Australia - in fact, some people say it is the best in the world - and it has contributed more than any other primary product to the development of Tasmania. I believe that the decline in that industry, which has taken place over the past few years, should not be taken sitting down; a concerted effort should be made to arrest the decline.
Without doubt, one of the factors which has caused the decline has been the irregularity of shipping services. It is as impossible to separate shipping from potato marketing as it is to separate a man from breathing. The marketing of Tasmanian potatoes almost entirely upon the regularity of shipping services. I am well aware of the very great difficulties involved. Not the least of them is that a slump in price or a wet week results in potatoes not being available at Tasmanian ports. In addition, there are waterfront troubles and everything else that brings about irregularity, with consequent loss to the industry. It is perfectly obvious that in order to maintain a supply of any product to a market deliveries must be regular. The people who are accustomed to buying that product will look elsewhere if it is not available at given times. While there are other factors which have caused the decline to which I have referred, not the least of them has been the irregularity in shipping services between Tasmanian and mainland ports.
This subject has been broached with Senator Paltridge, when he was Minister for Shipping and Transport, and Mr. Opperman, in an attempt to overcome the difficulties. Having regard to the fact that the island of Tasmania does not share in Commonwealth expenditure to anything like the extent to which other States of the Commonwealth do, I think that even if the maintenance of regular shipping services for the potato industry resulted in a loss, the loss would be more than offset by the very great advantage which would be conferred on a section of primary producers at a time when it is so necessary to do everything possible to encourage primary production in Australia.
– But Tasmania gets a Commonwealth grant.
– For freight on potatoes?
– No - a grant for general purposes.
– The State government receives a grant for general purposes, but I am speaking of the potato industry. If that industry continues to decline, affecting as it does the economy of Tasmania, the grant will have to be very much bigger.
– We do not get a grant to help with the increase of freights.
– No, there is no subsidy so far as freight is concerned.
I urge the Government to have another look at this important aspect of the economy of Tasmania. I said at the outset that the position had improved over the last year or so.. I sincerely hope that greater regularity in shipping services can be provided,, even if it means that the financial position of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission is depreciated to some extent. 1 think that the cost would be money well spent from the point of view of the economy of Tasmania. A further increase of freights would be just about the final blow for the Tasmanian potato industry. I hope that what is apparently foreshadowed in the commission’s report will not eventuate and chat not only the potato industry but all other Tasmanian industries will not be made to suffer an additional handicap because of their isolation from the mainland. °
– When we examine the Appropriation Bill, this document of confusion before us at the present time, we notice that the proposed appropriation for the Department of Shipping and Transport is set out at page 66 as £1,306,000. That sum is broken up as follows: - Administrative, £154,000; Marine Branch, £1,096,000; and Ship Construction, £16,000. One might say, on looking at the sum proposed to be voted, that this is a comparatively small and unimportant department. If we examine the summary of expenditure on page 66, we see that salaries and payments in the nature of salary will account for £907,000, and general expenses for £399,000.
If we examined only this document of confusion and saw the details given on page 66, we might say that this is a department that is scarcely worth bothering about. But lo and behold! When we turn to page 102. we find in Division No. 640 proposed votes for the Department of Shipping and Transport amounting to £3,841,000. I mention these matters, Mr. Chairman, because they provide concrete evidence that this document of confusion requires amendment. We should have the Estimates placed before us in a way which will enable us to understand them more readily. I do not propose to deal with the matters referred to in Divisions Nos. 361, 362 and 363. 1 propose to deal with the matters referred to in Division No. 640, under the heading “ Miscellaneous Services “.
You will notice in that division, Mr. Chairman, that the first item relates to free or concessional railway fares and freights, the proposed vote for which is £3,000. I have been in the Senate for a few years, but I do not know why this sum is voted or how it is spent. It may be that when a train is travelling over the Nullarbor Plain and members of the train crew see a few hoboes walking beside the line, they give them a free ride to Kalgoorlie or to a town on this side of the Nullarbor Plain. I do not know anything about the matter, but I am sure that honorable senators would like to read in “ Hansard “ to-morrow details of how the £3,000 is proposed to be spent.
The second item in Division No. 640 is “ Shipping service to Papua and New Guinea - Subsidy, £100,000”. It appears that this amount is paid out annually by way of subsidy.
– To whom is it paid?
– I do not know. I take it that it is paid to the Administration of Papua and New Guinea. On the other hand, it may be paid to the private shipping companies which transport goods from Australia to that Territory I should like an explanation of why a shipping company should be paid a subsidy to transport goods either from Australia to New Gunea or from New Guinea to Australia, seeing that the vote for the administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is so high. 1 think that this a matter that should come under the jurisdiction of the Territory Administration and that it is one for its decision. If the subsidy is paid for the purpose of reducing, for the benefit of the people of the Territory, the cost of foodstuffs transported from Australia to New Guinea, it may have some merit. I recall that not very long ago I made an appeal to the Minister in charge of this vote for a subsidy on air freights between Cairns and Thursday Island, because of the high rates charged for the transportation by air of fresh foodstuffs such as meat. The carriage of fresh meat ordered from Cairns butchers by Thursday Island residents attracted freight at ls. 3d. per lb., which made the cost of the meat almost prohibitive. It was explained to me that the price need not be paid. I accepted the decision of the Minister. He is running the department, and I accepted his decision without demur. But when I look at the Appropriation Bill and see that a subsidy amounting to £100,000 is to be paid in respect of a shipping service to Papua and New Guinea, naturally I wonder why the subsidy is being paid.
I notice that Senator Lillico, who spoke a few moments ago, has left the chamber. I wanted to invite his attention to Division No. 640, under the heading “ Miscellaneous Services “, about which I am speaking, because amongst the items there is one, “ Tasmanian shipping service - Subsidy “. Last year, £48,902 was paid by way of subsidy, but no sum is provided this year. That may be due to the fact that there is a new ship running between Melbourne and Tasmania. Whatever the reason, the subsidy has been suspended and I do not propose to mention it further.
It is evident that this year more merchant ship construction is to be carried out in the Commonwealth than last year, because the subsidy to be provided this year is £3,000,000, as against £1,842,000 last year. I know the purpose of this subsidy for merchant ship construction and I also know how it is paid. If the Minister wishes, he might be good enough to tell me how the sum is to be allocated to the various ship-constructing companies in the Commonwealth this year. This is a subsidy
I support, because the ship-building industry is an important one to establish, from every aspect This is a subsidy that is well worth providing.
Another item in Division No. 640 relates to the promotion of road safety practices, for which it is proposed to vote £150,000 this year. Only recently, the Senate discussed the report furnished by a Senate select committee which investigated road safety matters throughout the Commonwealth. What did it actually do? The committee ascertained the practices that are followed in the six States in relation to traffic control - the matter of making conditions safe for those who have to use all manner of vehicles, and for pedestrians. The committee’s report explained what is being done throughout the Commonwealth to promote road safety, and it emphasized the dangers to human life that arise from traffic. The report mentioned how many deaths have been caused each year through traffic accidents and the total value of damage caused by motor cars striking other motor cars or trees and so forth. I think the value of this damage was assessed as £70,000,000.
Of course, traffic accidents are not peculiar to Australia; 1 think that every country has its share of traffic accidents. In New Zealand, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and indeed every country where motor vehicles are used on the roads to any extent, there are accidents, and the incidence of accidents varies very little as between various countries. This could be regarded as the traffic war. We talk about the cold war, pending war and strained relations but we are oblivious all the time of the number of deaths that occur annually as a result of the traffic war.
The Senate Select Committee on Road Safety has furnished an excellent report on its activities, lt has found that the Commonwealth’s power to take action to lessen road accidents is definitely limited. We know that the Commonwealth can make funds available to the States for various purposes and can also make money available to world organizations for prescribed purposes. I notice from the estimates before us that £150,000 is to be provided for the promotion of road safety practices
This item appears under Division No. 640 - Department of Shipping and Transport. Doubtless, the Commonwealth Government will control the expenditure of this money or at least it will have a major say as to the activities that are conducted with it. I cannot imagine that the Commonwealth Government would make this amount of money available to the States to allocate for particular purposes as they saw fit. I have some knowledge of the position in the various States in relation to traffic control, and I say that what the States are doing is every bit as good as what is envisaged by the committee’s report.
I come now to the matter of the standardization of railway gauges, which is an important problem to the Commonwealth. I refer to item 08 - “ Railway Standardization - Miscellaneous expenses, £15,000 “ under Division No. 640 - Department of Shipping and Transport. I know that in other sections of the Estimates and Budget Papers - not necessarily the Appropriation Bill before us - provision is made for rail standardization in Victoria and South Australia, and the commitments of the Government in regard to that particular class of work carried out in those States are pretty great. The provision in this instance of £15,000 is, in a manner of speaking, only peanuts. The Minister might be good enough to inform me why such a relatively small provision is being made in this matter, bearing in mind the amounts that have been paid to the South Australian Government for the purpose of railway standardization and that the cost of converting the line from Albury to Melbourne to standard gauge will be considerably greater than the amount here provided. Having placed those few matters on the Minister’s plate, I shall resume my seat.
– I want to refer to Item 05 - “ Promotion of road safety practices, £150,000” under Division No. 640- Department of Shipping and Transport. I think it should be put clearly in the record1 that there is at present on the notice-paper a motion that the Senate takes note of the report of the Select Committee on Road Safety, which encompasses amongst other things this very issue. I think it is fair to point out that recommendation number 2 contained in paragraph 194 of the committee’s report reads -
Greater financial assistance should be provided for the Australian Road Safety Council and its programmes by Commonwealth and State Governments and by the private sector of the economy.
The committee made it quite clear in the report that it regards an amount of £150,000 as an inadequate sum for the promotion of road safety.
If I may refer to another item in the Estimates, Mr. Chairman, for comparative purposes, I should like to say that I could not help noticing that under the proposed vote for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization provision is made for £356,000 for investigations into entomology which, according to my dictionary, relates to the study of bugs, and £162,000 for the study of wild life. Yet we propose to spend only £150,000 on the promotion of road safety practices, and the select committee reported that road accidents are responsible for’ damage in Australia to the value of £70,000,000 a year. Without laying it on too heavily, I say that there has been almost a hiatus between the Estimates and the select committee’s report. I hope that the Minister will consider, when Supplementary Estimates are being prepared, increasing the amount to be provided for the promotion of road safety practices to a reasonable sum, because if the select committee’s report means anything at all it means - and the committee expressed this with all the conviction that it could put into words - that the Commonwealth’s responsibility far exceeds the sum of £150,000. The committee recognized, in dealing with this matter, all the difficulties associated with a federal system and acknowledged that the responsibilities of the States in relation to this matter must not be overlooked.
The committee noted from a document published by the Department of Shipping and Transport that, as from 1st January next, it is proposed to alter the financial arrangements in this field between the Commonwealth and the States. Whereas previously £90,000 of the grant was given to the States and £60,000 remained with the Commonwealth, as from 1st January next £100,000 of the grant will be administered by the Commonwealth and £50,000 will be given to the States for the promotion of road safety practices.
Putting aside for the moment the merits of this issue, I submit that this alteration will impose some obvious obligations and disabilities on the States. If there is to be a new arrangement - whatever the form it may take - I believe that, having regard to the budgetary commitments of the road safety councils in the States based on previous grants, the new arrangement should operate from 1st July, not 1st January next. Quite clearly, under the previous arrangement New South Wales got £22,000 out of the £90,000 given to the States. As matters stand, as from 1st January next New South Wales will receive considerably less than that amount, which could cause the road safety organizations in that State a degree of embarrassment. In view of the fact that it is necessary for road safety councils to budget ahead, and also in view of the fact that the proposed arrangement will apply in the second six-month period of the current financial year, some embarrassment could be caused. I think that if there is to be a re-arrangement of the basis of the Commonwealth contribution to the State road safety councils it should be done from the beginning of the budgetary period so that the councils would have fair and proper warning of what their financial position is likely to be. 1 could be sufficiently innocent to ask whether the State road safety councils have agreed to this proposed new arrangement. Quite clearly this is a matter of some consequence to the State councils. In the past they have enjoyed a grant of £90,000 a year from the Commonwealth, but from 1st January next they will receive only £50,000 a year. Under the terms of the proposed new arrangement the grant to the State councils may be spent only on public education and the councils will be required to finance their own administrative operations.
– Is that under the new arrangement?
– Yes. Evidence given before the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety, which is freely available to all honorable senators, suggested that some State organizations did use portion of the Commonwealth grant on aspects of road safety that could reasonably have been financed from their own funds. Finance for road safety purposes is an important matter and I wonder whether it should be dealt with as arbitrarily as it is being dealt with under the new arrangement or whether it should be dealt with by negotiation with the States. I also wonder whether it would be better to make the grant available from 1st July in each financial year.
Above all else the select committee believed that the tripartite arrangement should be allowed to continue. The members of the committee are convinced that the problem of road safety must be tackled not only by the Commonwealth and the States but by outside interests as well. 1 have mixed feelings about the merits of the proposed new arrangement, which will reduce the grants to the State road safety councils and increase the amount to be expended by the Commonwealth. I will admit that the State governments will be forced to accept greater responsibilities in road safety. I hope that my doubts are misplaced because all of us want to see this problem of road safety tackled successfully. We know that to tackle it successfully will require the co-operation not only of the Commonwealth but also of the State governments and outside interests.
I felt compelled to make these observations in this debate even though, as I said at the outset, this subject of road safety is on the notice-paper in another form. You, Sir, could have been excused if you had told me that this debate was hardly the vehicle for dealing with this subject.
– I was very impressed by Senator Lillico’s remarks about freight rates and their application to Tasmania. The little strip of water that lies between Victoria and Tasmania is causing a lot of trouble in the marketing of Tasmanian products. I congratulate the Australian National Line on its efforts to improve the situation by means of the “ Princess of Tasmania “ and the “ Bass Trader “. The latter will be in service before very long. The Australian National Line is trying to find ways to keep freight rates within reasonable limits and to help Tasmania, because it realizes that Tasmania would be in a dangerous plight if it lost any of its industries.
I propose to make a suggestion to the Government which, if accepted, would considerably reduce freight rates, particularly in respect of goods shipped from Tasmania, lt is estimated that 45 per cent, of freight charges goes towards loading and unloading of ships. I suggest that a co-operative stevedoring association should be set up on the Australian waterfront. At present stevedoring is carried out by stevedoring companies. Those companies are supposed to be independent companies but in fact almost all of them are owned by shipping interests. Those companies produce a large portion of the income of the shipping interests. My party believes in profit sharing, and co-operative stevedoring associations would be excellent profit-sharing undertakings. The people who work on the waterfront should weld themselves into cooperative stevedoring ‘ associations. This would lead to cheaper stevedoring and would help to keep freights on an even keel. But more importantly, it would mean that time lost through foolish stoppages on the waterfront would be, reduced. This is a most important aspect. I go so far as to say that the influence of Healy and company on the waterfront would be lessened because the workers would be sharing in the profits of a co-operative undertaking. Stoppages on the waterfront would be reduced almost to nil. By that means alone freight rates could be cut because at present freight rates include a certain amount for anticipated stoppages. At present stoppages on the waterfront show no sign of decreasing in number and in the next twelve months or so the incidence of stoppages will increase considerably. The creation of a co-operative stevedoring association would help the freight position in Australia in three ways. First I believe that it would lead to cheaper freights. Secondly, it would lead to a reduction of the number of foolish stoppages on the waterfront and would get rid of the Communist influence in the waterfront unions’, which is even more important.
– Forklift trucks and pallets have been introduced on the wharfs but sti 11 freights have increased. What are you talking about?
– You would not understand what I am talking about. You are too stupid to do so. It is a pity that some body did not put a forklift truck under you. With a view to keeping freight rates, especially as they relate to Tasmania, at a reasonable level, I hope that the Minister will take some cognizance of what I have said about co-operative stevedoring instrumentalities.
– I am in a rather unusual position. For once, I find myself agreeing with Senator Kennelly, who a short while ago referred to the effect of shipping freights on primary producers. I could not agree with him more. Responsibility for high costs does not rest altogether upon the seamen and wharf labourers; a great part of it rests upon the shipping companies themselves. I am told by those persons who work ships that during the course of a voyage a master may have cause to log many of the crew, but upon arriving at the next port he is told by the shipping company’s representatives, to forget all about it, to wipe the loggings and get the ship out. Consequently, discipline goes by the board. Until these conditions are remedied, we shall always get quite a lot of disruption in our shipping services, which is something which should not occur. 1 come from New South Wales, which has a very bad record for the turn-round of ships. We are told that this is due to antiquated machinery, but I suspect that there is quite a lot in Senator Cole’s contention that the Communist influence has a very big bearing. I believe that to-day the wharf labourers give less value for money received than does any other section of the community. We know what happens when freights are increased. The shipping companies say, “ We have made losses. The turn-round is slow. We had this trouble and that trouble.” If they put their houses in order, on many occasions increases could not be justified. That is something which the shipping companies could well examine. I realize that this may be a little outside the scope of the proposed votes we are now discussing, but I thought that the matter was important enough for attention to be directed to it.
I refer to Division No. 640 - Department of Shipping and Transport, item 02, “ Shipping service to Papua and New Guinea - Subsidy, £100,000”. I am very pleased indeed to note that that subsidy is being continued. As honorable senators know, I have just returned from the Territory. I think it is most important that every encouragement that we can possibly give to it should be forthcoming. At a meeting of the Rabaul Chamber of Commerce, at which we were present at the week-end, one of the speakers was most resentful of remarks attributed to Mr. E. J. Ward, a member of another place, to the effect that the Commonwealth had handed vessels over to outside interests. We were assured in Rabaul that those vessels were sold to the highest tenderer. Once again, we see that a furphy has been spread which has not done our country any good. Nor has it done any good to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. We should be very concerned to see that no statement emanating from here has a detrimental effect upon the Territory. We must endeavour to promote a feeling of goodwill there and foster the general advancement of the Territory because the interests of Australia and of the Territory are identical in many respects.
– The range of subjects that we are discussing is very extensive. They include shipping, railways and roads. We may range all over Australia for items on which to ask questions. We have a chance to deal with purely local matters and to bring under the notice of the Minister concerned parochial disabilities. I shall do that shortly in relation to South Australia.
I listened very carefully to Senator Lillico, Senator Cole and Senator McKellar. Senator Lillico put up a case for assistance by the Commonwealth to the Tasmanian potatogrowers in relation to shipping services. That is an extraordinary position for him to take up, because only a week or two ago he slated us on this side for being socialists. It appears to me that in him we have a perfect private enterprise squealer. To-day he brought under notice the troubles of the potato-growers and he advocated some socialistic action. Senator Cole praised Senator Lillico. That was quite right, of course, because Senator Cole has repudiated everything about socialism in which he believed at one time. T can understand his standing behind Senator Lillico, but he had another solution. He suggested that we ought to have co-opera tive stevedoring. He could not get past the subject without mentioning the secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, Mr. Healy. Senator Cole is advocating a commune, yet he slates Mr. Healy.
Does Senator Cole want the potatogrowers to form a stevedoring organization, or does he want to retain private enterprise? It is one thing or the other. Private enterprise operates now. It robs the people, including apparently the potato-growers and other primary producers in Tasmania, because it charges them too much. Senator Cole says that a very high percentage of the cost of the carriage of goods by ship is attributable to stevedoring. Yet he stand’s up here and slates Labour, telling one of our fellows that he does not know what he is talking about. He slates the Communist Party, but he advocates a commune in a particular section of industry. That illustrates the inconsistency of the attitude adopted by these people.
– Profit sharing is one of the things we advocate.
– Listen friend, if you had a co-operative company and the potato growers were part and parcel of that concern, you either would have to run it on a private enterprise basis, selling their labour or their commodity, as the case may be, to the highest bidder or would need to have a commune so you could get the full result of their labour. I know that is what you want - the full result of their labour. But in order to get that you are advocating something in relation to which you are slating other people.
The Premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford, has said that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) is deliberately delaying the conversion of the railway line from Broken Hill to Port Pirie. He said he had supplied all the details that he thought were necessary, and that it was time the Commonwealth Government and the Minister woke up to the fact that this job should be done. Several times while 1 was disabled my colleagues asked questions about the matter. They were told that everything was all right, that as soon as South Australia gave the Government the requisite particulars the matter would be considered. I should like the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), to tell me what the position is and whether South Australia is at fault. No provision is made in the proposed appropriation for the conversion of this line. I note, however, that reference is made in the explanatory memorandum circulated by the Minister to the fact that provision has been made for a sum of £10,000 for investigational work. Apparently some negotiations have been conducted and some survey work has been done. But where that work has been done I do not know. Is it the intention of the Government to honour the agreement that was made with South Australia, in, I think, 1942 or 1944 or is the Government dillydallying and trying to keep the thing dangling on the end of a chain for the next 10, 15 or 20 years? I should like to know whether the delay is the result of some action by the Premier of South Australia or of some action by the Minister for Shipping and Transport.
I turn now to the conversion of the line from Marree to Alice Springs. The line to Alice Springs has been converted to a gauge of 4 feet Si inches as far as Marree, but no provision has been made for an extension of that gauge beyond Marree. I cannot find any provision for anything in the nature of an engineering investigation. I do not intend to go into the pros and cons of the matter at this stage, but T should like to know whether there has been any further agreement with South Australia which is precluding the conversion of the line between Marree and Alice Springs.
The only other matter to which I wish to refer, Mr. Temporary Chairman, is one that you dealt with before you occupied the chair. Provision has been made for an expenditure of £150,000 on road safety. Of that sum £100,000 is to be allocated to the Commonwealth and £50,000 to the States. I understand that the reason for that arrangement is that it was found that the money that had been advanced to the States in the past was absorbed in administrative expenses and very little was applied to education purposes. Unfortunately, that applies to a lot of funds that are made available to the States and various bodies in the form of subsidies and so forth. They are not used for the real purpose for which they were intended but are absorbed in administrative costs. I congratulate the
Government upon having taken this stand in an effort to ensure that the money that is allocated for road safety will be used to educate the public in road safety practices. I should like the Minister to tell me whether that is the total amount that will be made available this year for the purposes of road safety or whether it is contemplated that a greater amount will be made available during the year.
– Before we proceed any further, I point out to honorable senators that the list I have before me shows that Divisions Nos. 615 and 698 to 702 are now before the committee for consideration. I ask the Minister whether that is in accordance with his wishes.
– Without in any way wishing to limit the debate, it would seem to me to be much more realistic to consider the proposed votes for the Department of Shipping and Transport and Miscellaneous Services - Department of Shipping and Transport together, then to consider Division No. 615 - Construction of Jetty for Handling of Explosives, and finally to pass on to the proposed vote for Commonwealth Railways. In other words, it would meet my convenience and perhaps yours, Mr. Temporary Chairman, if we were to deal with the matter in that way.
– Will it be necessary for me to deal again with the matters I have raised?
– If the Minister would like us to follow that course, on behalf of the Opposition I shall readily agree to it.
Very well, the committee will follow the course suggested by the Minister.
.- The Australian Coastal Shipping Commission is in effect a shipowner; it runs the Australian National Line. I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether the master, the chief engineer or any permanent employee of the vessels operated by this line would be classed as a public servant. I really want to know whether a person who has retired from the Public Service of the Commonwealth and is receiving superannuation could be employed by the Australian National
Line or the commission without losing the benefits of the superannuation scheme.
.- Roads are of vital importance to the economy of this nation. Thirty-three per cent, of the cost of the goods we buy is attributable to transport charges, compared with 19 per cent, in the United States and 18 per cent, in the United Kingdom. These figures demonstrate clearly that roads play a tremendously1 important part in our national economy.
During the week-end 1 read a booklet published by the Australian Automobile Association which gave very valuable information about the mileage of roads in Australia. We have approximately 500,000 miles of roads. Of this huge mileage, 49 per cent, consists of what are termed cleared roads only, 18 per cent, consists of formed roads, 24 per cent, consists of paved roads and 9 per cent, consists of roads constructed of concrete or bitumen. In and around the principal cities of this nation there are 71,000 miles of roads, ot which 26,000 miles, or 36 per cent., are sealed. The rest are formed and some of them are gravelled.
When thinking of roads we have to think also of the number of motor vehicles that use those roads. The booklet discloses that there are about 2,500,000 registered motor vehicles in Australia at the present time, and research has disclosed that the number will increase by 6 per cent, each year. That, of course, will involve tremendous wear and tear on roads in’ the principal cities. In Victoria, there is one motor vehicle to every three and a half people in the population including men, women and children. The Commonwealth, irrespective of the government in office - it is my colleagues opposite who have the responsibility at present - must face up to this position. lt is no use saying that roads are a State responsibility.
I know that some time ago this Parliament passed a bill which provided for so many millions of pounds to be spent on the construction of roads in Australia, but when we analyse that scheme the Commonwealth is not providing very much of its own money. The legislation provided that the Commonwealth would supply an amount of £30,000,000 if the States con tributed on a £1 for £1 basis. The remainder of the money is provided from customs duty on petrol and excise duty on petrol. I admit that the revenue from customs duties on petrol is falling but the revenue from the excise duty on petrol has increased because of the construction of huge refineries such as that at Kwinana in Western Australia and the Shell and Vacuum refineries in Victoria, where crude oil is refined and converted into petrol.
We should be greatly concerned because transport costs accounted for 33 per cent, of the price of our goods - 12 per cent, to 14 per cent, more than is the case in the United States and 15 per cent, more than is the case in the United Kingdom. It may be argued that the United Kingdom has a much greater population and a much smaller area than Australia, but the same argument cannot apply to the United States. The population there is great but the area of the United States cannot be said to be small.
It has always been a puzzle to me that there are three road-constructing authorities in my own State of Victoria. We have the country roads boards, the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works and. of course, the local councils. These authorities cannot find the wherewithal to do the job that has to be done, particularly those responsible for roads in the metropolitan areas. It is virtually impossible for local government authorities to keep their roads up to the proper standard. Anybody can get up and speak about what is not being done, but I desire to make a practical suggestion. I cannot understand why the Commonwealth does not offer to take responsibility for the construction and maintenance of roads between the capital cities. I think that it will have to do so sooner or later. The Commonwealth spends a large amount of money on defence, about which we will have something to say later. I often wonder why some of the defence money is not spent on roads, particularly on the main arterial highways between the capital cities.
We must have good roads to-day because the bulk of our transport travels on roads, not on tracks. Railways are still used for the transport of wheat, coal and metals, but now even huge quantities of wool are being transported to the various selling centres by road. We are living in an age where the tendency is to transport goods from door to door. It is probable that the railways in the future will incorporate in their carrying business the transport of goods from the railhead to the various places to which the goods are consigned. We should be concerned at the high cost of transport in Australia to-day. Whether the Government likes it or not, I believe that sooner or later the Government will be forced to assist with road construction and maintenance much more than it has. 1 was very interested to notice that there is an appropriation of £190,000 for the maintenance of roads leading to and from Commonwealth properties. I may seem parochial, but I want to know what that means. Must the Commonwealth own the property? The Commonwealth almost owns some property in which I am interested, if we are to judge by the time it has been in that area. I admit that I am being parochial, but this matter is of interest to a number of people, particularly myself. Will not any of that £190,000 be spent on roads to and from barracks in a certain area in my own State?
– Albert Park.
– I do not mind if the honorable senator mentions its name, but I would not be as parochial as that, as the Minister well knows. The fact is that it seems to me, as I read that item - I have to take it as it is written - that the property must be owned by the Commonwealth. Commonwealth vehicles do much damage to the roads in the area in which I am a little interested. If the position is that the Commonwealth must own a building before money can be spent on a road leading to it, I admit that it will never own the buildings I have in mind. The sooner the Commonwealth gets out of the buildings the better, but it is occupying them at the moment.
I will get back on to a somewhat higher plane. I am vitally interested in roads. I suppose that as a citizen of Victoria I have the right to criticize how Victoria deals with this question; but to me, the fact that seven out of every ten cars that go into the city of Melbourne in peak hours carry only the driver in fantastic. As long as that position obtains, our roads will be cluttered up. That situation is an impediment to transport and therefore adds greatly to costs. I wish that wiser counsels would prevail. Instead of increasing rail and tram fares, the authorities should reduce them and increase parking fees in the city so that our roads would not be cluttered up as they are now. I am concerned about this matter. I believe that the Commonwealth must give greater assistance for road construction and maintenance, lt is just a matter of time. If roads are to continue to play the great part that they play in the economy of this nation, the Commonwealth cannot keep out of that field.
It is all very well to refer to what the Government has’ done in its latest legislation on this matter. A great increase in the number of motor vehicles in the next three to five years is predicted and whilst the Commonwealth aid roads grants look big, the Government has not done over much. The Government says that the States can spend £30,000,000 of Commonwealth money as long as they allocate £30,000,000 to match it. Where are the States to get the £30,000,000 unless the Commonwealth gives it to them? It is true that they receive money from motor registrations and driving fees, but those moneys have been appropriated. It is fantastic to think that under the Commonwealth-State financial sit-up to-day, the States can find the extra money.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I take this opportunity to reply to the points that have been raised so far. Initially, Senator Kennelly addressed himself to the operations of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. He referred to the fact that it had made a profit. I think he gained, as I do, some pleasure from that fact. I can well recall - I do not say this in any aggressive way - that one of the early worries of the Menzies Government was what to do with the shipping line which was losing large sums of money each year. We can look at the government-owned shipping line to-day with a degree of comfort and satisfaction and say with humility that at least it is conducted as a commercial enterprise, it is run on business lines, and it is showing a profit rather than running at a loss which has to be met by the vast body of Australian taxpayers.
Senator Kennelly spoke of stevedoring operations, which cost the commission about £2,000,000 a year. He raised the point whether it would be more profitable for the commission to embark upon its own stevedoring operations. I am sure that he will recall that when the Parliament passed the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act special provision was made that stevedoring and agency work would not be undertaken by the commission; but it was made possible for the commission to do that work where it was found1 to be impossible to get the work done efficiently by any one operating outside the commission. To date that arrangement has worked very well. Indeed, I put it to Senator Kennelly that looking at the matter as a whole it would only add considerably to the already large cost of the shipping industry if, in order to effect no saving, one merely duplicated offices of the Australian National Line, acquired properties and buildings for it and paid wages in every capital city and every port, when in fact that work could be done by an organization then in existence.
– You are not submit ting, Mr. Minister, that if the commission performed its own stevedoring, as James Patrick and Company does - you know, I have a little knowledge of this business because I worked in it at one time - it would not make any profit out of it, are you?
– Certainly not. I know full well that stevedoring companies frequently make profits even though their parent shipping companies do not make profits.
– That is true.
– I acknowledge that. However, I put it to the honorable senator that, with organizations which can do that work for a fee already in existence, embarking upon the large capital cost which would be necessary if the commission established its own stevedoring service might do nothing but load the shipping industry generally and the Australian National Line in particular. In this regard, let me remind the honorable senator that I was in agreement with the action taken by my Labour predecessors in this office, Senator Armstrong, who is unfortunately absent from the chamber at the moment, and the late Senator Ashley. When they ran the ships under the old Australian Shipping Board, they paid a service fee to the companies for this work, no doubt having reached the same conclusion that this Government reached as to the unnecessary and unjustified expense which would attach to the setting up of an organization of this kind when there was, I repeat, one already in existence.
– I take it that the economic argument that the Minister is adducing could be very easily established by comparative figures.
– I should think it could be, but I do not propose to follow that course at this time.
Senator Kennelly’s argument, although a related argument, is a different one altogether. He referred to the individual profitability of stevedoring companies. With a kindly twinkle in his eye, which 1 appreciated, he referred to the success of the “ Princess of Tasmania “ and said that once in a while we had to score a winning point. I think that if Senator O’Byrne were here he would agree with me that the winning points in relation to the employment of special type ships were not restricted to the “ Princess of Tasmania “, outstandingly successful as that vessel has been. It was this shipping line, under this Government, which built the first of the bulk cargo ships. It was this shipping line which established freight rates that compare very favorably, on a ton-mile haulage basis, with rates anywhere else in the world. If Senator O’Byrne were here, I think that as a Tasmanian he would be the first to say that this shipping line has built and provided for the Tasmanian trade the bulk wheat ships which have produced a phenomenal result by reducing, almost to an irreducible minimum, the waterside labour costs that go with the. bulk handling of wheat at ship sides.
– And with no reduction in the price of bread.
– The honorable senator is quite wrong. He ought to address himself to his State Premier. There was a reduction in the freight rate which operated from the time the. ships went into service. I suggest that he tackle his Premier, not me.
– I say there was no reduction in the price of bread.
– Then that was very poor administration by the Labour Government in Tasmania. The honorable senator should address himself to that government.
Senator Kennelly expressed some concern because of the fact that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited was building bulk vessels. He said that that raised a doubt whether the commissioning of those vessels would have disadvantageous effects on the commission’s operations. I assure the honorable senator that the answer is that it will not. Ship construction of that type and, indeed, of any other type, is undertaken in Australia to-day only after the closest consultation between all the shipping operators concerned. They realize, whether it be. a government-owned line or a privately-owned line, that they can get into all the trouble in the world by placing too much tonnage on coastal services.
– Through you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, may I ask the Minister whether he means to say that although B.H.P. has just launched a bulk carrying ship, as the major part of our shipping is engaged in carrying B.H.P. iron and coal, the company will not carry some of its own iron and coal in its own bulk ship?
– It will indeed, but these ships are ordered against a projection of the increased tonnage which will be hauled over a period of years. For the sake of argument, the 19,000-tonner launched a few days ago, to come into commission some time next year, will go into the Cockatoo Island to Port Kembla trade if I remember correctly. There will be a place for her in that trade by the time she is in commission. The tonnage is increasing all the time and will continue to increase.
– Can I take it that the Minister’s remarks are tantamount to saying that the Australian National Line has a guarantee that what it is carrying to-day for B.H.P. it will continue to carry?
– It has the closest arrangement with B.H.P. regarding the carriage of cargoes to-day and the projected expansion of cargoes.
– Does the Government appear in those arrangements?
– No. They are conducted at a commercial level. I am sure the honorable senator will agree that that is the right level.
– That is a very loose way, I think.
– Not at all. It is a point which is well and truly in mind and always has been in mind in respect of the provision of additional tonnage on the coast. I put it to the honorable senator that no one in this business to-day, marginal as it is, is undertaking unnecessary risks.
As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) has said, it is wrong to insinuate that the Australian National Line does not do a great deal other than engage in the carriage of bulk cargoes. One always looks first at Tasmania, of course, because of the importance of shipping to that State. It is a fact that the National Line is engaged in the Tasmanian trade to a very great extent. That was borne out later in the debate by those honorable senators who addressed themselves to some of the problems involved in the uplift of cargoes, particularly potatoes, from the north-west coast of Tasmania. The line is also engaged, east-coast-wise, in providing services between Sydney, Brisbane, Queensland ports and Darwin. Of course, its ships also lift general cargo from Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide to ports on the west coast. So, it is correct to say that while the main lift of the line is bulk lift, its general operations are as diversified as those of any other shipping line on the Australian coast to-day.
– Will you permit me to ask the Minister the following question, Mr. Temporary Chairman: Does the Minister agree that of the 4,980,000 tons carried, 4,500,000 tons comprised ore, coal, coke and steel? I do not want to make another speech, but having regard to those figures taken from the report, is it not eye-wash to say that the line is not largely engaged in carrying cargoes of that kind?
– If the Deputy Leader pf the Opposition is going to make another speech, I take the opportunity to give him the relevant information now, so that he will be able to make an accurate speech. He should not assume that all the cargoes mentioned by him are B.H.P. cargoes.
– I did not say that. 1 said that they were ore, coal, coke and steel.
– But it was not all B.H.P. cargo. Now let me say what I want to say. The fact that all these bulk cargoes are lifted and that they represent the biggest lift undertaken by the Australian National Line, does not mean that they are all B.H.P. cargoes. My friends from Victoria - or most of them - will know that the Australian National Line is engaged in the important Sydney to Melbourne coke lift, for example, without which Victoria may have been in trouble in maintaining supplies of gas. I point out that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited almost always, rather than frequently, does carry coke at consignor’s cost. lt is not carried for the company at all. So I suggest it is wrong to assume - as might be inferred from Senator Kennelly’s remarks - that the Australian National Line is dependent upon the patronage of the company.
Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- The debate on the proposed vote for the Department of Shipping and Transport has revolved mainly around the activities of the Australian National Line. As Senator Kennelly has pointed out, the overwhelming bulk of the goods that were carried by the line during last year comprised coal, coke and steel. The figures I have worked out show that 89 per cent, of the local cargo carried was of that nature. I feel that a much wider field is available to the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. It should be able to extend its very efficient activities to the transport of general cargo. After all, freight rates throughout this country are extremely high, and they are rising. This was evident from the remarks that were made by Senator McKellar and Senator Kennelly about the incidence of freight in primary production costs.
During the year ended 30th June, 1960, eight of the older ships of the fleet of the Australian National Line were sold, and I understand that their disposal resulted in a capital gain to the commission of more than £40,000. It seems to me that the service rendered by ships of the Australian National Line on the Australian coast should be very carefully considered before any of the vessels is sold. I suppose that the cost of maintaining and running the ships is a very important factor, but regard must be had to the fact that the line itself is capable of earning a profit of over £1,000,000 a year and its activities result in substantial revenue to the Commonwealth in the form of company tax and other charges. Yet it provides facilities only in a limited field.
As I have pointed out, the private shipping companies do not want to transport fuel. After all, I suppose we could examine the returns of those companies, but they do not supply particulars of their activities as fully as the Australian National Line sets out in its report. It is evident that the private shipping companies exercise a choice in the matter of cargo they carry, and the cargoes that are difficult to handle are left to the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. Despite that, the commission’s results for the year have been quite good, and it has played a very important part in commerce by transporting commodities that the private shipping companies do not want to handle.
Senator McKellar has stated that the waterside workers do less work than other sections of the community. It is very easy, of course, for the honorable senator to attack a particular section of the community when it suits his purpose to do so. At other times, we hear that certain sections of the grazing industry have said that station hands are the worst in this respect, or that the railway workers are the worst. We have also heard it said that the seamen are the worst. I suppose that Senator McKellar would be really happy to get a few hundred thousand natives from New Guinea to work on grazing properties for 8s. 6d. a week. I have in mind what Senator Cole said about co-operatives.
I would like to see some of the results of automation on the waterfront reflected in reduced freights. Over the years, the bulk loading of sugar, as well as wheat and other grain has been introduced. The introduction of fork lifts has reduced physical labour, and palletization has been adopted. Much credit is due to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board for the re-organization it brought about in relation to the loading and unloading of ships. But despite all these improvements, freight charges continue to rise. Let me quote a few figures. The revenue of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission for the year ended 30th June, 1960, was £13,655,058, compared with £13,611,715 for the previous year. Let us look at a comparison of operating expenses. In the year ended 30th June, 1960, the amount expended on crew wages was £2,835,267, compared with £2,591,963 in the previous year. Amounts paid for stevedoring last year totalled £2.026,474, compared with £2,788,693 in the previous ye,ar. This would appear to indicate that more efficiency has been achieved by the stevedoring industry. Port charges have been reduced from £294,195 in the year ended 30th June, 1959, to £279,218 in the last financial year. On the other hand, the cost of providoring has increased. The cost of living is going up. We see all sorts of skullduggery going on to confuse the public, as Senator Cole always tries to do. There are now two cost of living indexes - the consumer price index and the C series index - and no one seems to know where he stands concerning the cost of food, or rent. The object to-day seems to be to confuse the people. You have mouthpieces and stooges who condemn different sections of the community. All over Australia there arc stooges who are trying to blame the honest working men in this country for the basic ills of the economy. I stand here to defend these people. I know the cause of our difficulties. It is the rapacity of the profit seeker.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 p.m. to S p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was referring to the factors that contribute to the high costs with which the Australian National Line and other shipping organizations are confronted. I had stated that one of the reasons for high costs in the shipping industry to-day was the rapacity of the profit seeker. I should like to enlarge on that statement a little. Freight rates and other costs are rising at a time when there has been a tremendous swing towards mechanization in all activi ties associated with transport by sea. It is interesting to note that in the last twelve months the efficiency with which cargo is handled has been greatly improved. In Melbourne alone the volume of cargo handled by the use of pallets, containers and pre-slinging reached such proportions that the authorities were able to reduce the number of men employed in the gangs used on the waterfront. We have heard comments during the course of this debate about waterside workers, but in Melbourne, although the number of men employed in the gangs has been reduced to less than fifteen, the total tonnage handled has increased. In Launceston gangs of sixteen men, using mechanical equipment, have been employed on the handling of general cargo. That has meant a saving of five men in each gang. In some lines the handling rate has shown an improvement. The use of pallets and mechanical equipment has enabled the number of men employed handling butter to be reduced from 22 to sixteen. At the same time the handling rate rose from an average of 10.8 tons to 17 tons and more. So the waterside worker cannot be blamed for the increase in costs on the waterfront and we must look elsewhere for the reason. If we look at the statement of profit and loss of the Australian National Line for the year ended 30th June, 1960, we find that there has been a reduction of almost £300,000 in operating expenses compared with the previous year. For instance, bunkering expenses amounted to £1,027,709 for the year ended 30th June, 1959, but that figure was reduced to £93 1 ,955 for the year ended 30th June, 1960. Earlier in my speech I referred to the cost of providoring, which rose from £292,548 for the year ended 30th June, 1959, to £322,596 for the year ended 30th June, 1960. In the same period the cost of ships’ stores rose, from £388,000 odd to £394,000 odd. The report of the Australian National Line shows that there has been a reduction in the amount of labour used on the wharfs and an increase in efficiency following the introduction of fork-lift trucks, pallets, bulk loading and other forms of mechanization. Yet there have been increases in costs that, if not the direct responsibility of the Government, have been caused by Government policy and the inflationary process that is going on in the country.
However, I wish to pay a tribute to the Australian National Line for the wonderful contribution it has made to the economy of Tasmania by the introduction of the “ Princess of Tasmania “. The “ Princess of Tasmania “ has enabled considerable reductions to be made in freight rates. She has brought maritime transport back into competition with air transport. She has provided a regular and reliable shipping service between Tasmania and the mainland. The figures relating to the first year’s operation of the “ Princess of Tasmania “ reflect the greatest credit on the Australian National Line. Tasmania looks forward keenly to the introduction of the “ Bass Trader” a specialist freighter which will deal direct with Launceston. Tasmania badly needs a similar service from Adelaide.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I address myself to Division No. 640 and in particular to the proposed appropriation of £3,000,000 as a subsidy for the construction of merchant shipping. 1 wish to congratulate the former Minister for Shipping and Transport, Senator Paltridge, and the Australian National Line for the very fine service that has been provided to Tasmania. The improvement in the service in recent years has been phenomenal. I congratulate also the present Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) who has continued the good work commenced by Senator Paltridge. Although the service to Tasmania has improved tremendously in recent years, it is capable of further improvement by greater co-operation between the waterside workers, the seamen and the shipping companies. We look forward to this improvement.
I disagree with Senator O’Byrne’s statement that most of the increase in freight charges is due to the avarice of the shipping companies. In my opinion one of the prime causes of rises in freight charges has been the conditions of employment that have been foisted on the public. In addition, time lost by strikes and the resultant dislocation of the industry have interfered tremendously with the smooth running of shipping to and from Tasmania. I think that most people will understand the difficulty of holding trade from the outposts of
Australia when any dislocation occurs. Naturally somebody is always waiting around the corner to take the trade when it is offering. If we can remedy that dislocation we will have surmounted one of the worst hurdles confronting the shipping industry in Tasmania.
The “ Princess of Tasmania “ has been a tremendous success not only because it has enabled fast loading and unloading but also because of the general efficiency of the service. Apart from one incident of a temporary nature, nothing has interfered with the service since its introduction. Generally speaking we have had particularly good service from the “ Princess of Tasmania “. I hope that the Commonwealth Government will put another ship of the same type on the run between Melbourne and Tasmania. I think that a ship perhaps 24 feet or 30 feet longer than the “ Princess of Tasmania “, with a little more room on board, would be ideal for the service across Hass Strait. Such a ship would be particularly satisfactory for negotiating The Rip, which is a very difficult section of water to navigate. A little increase in size would be of advantage. I hope that we have the benefit also of a direct service from Sydney to Hobart. The vessel used would have to be of at least 8,000 tons and more accommodation would be needed than is provided on “ Princess of Tasmania “. We may be asking for a little too much a* the moment, but shipping is the life-blood of Tasmania and we should ask for what we want.
The Minister has referred to the bulk wheat vessel. That has been of great advantage to Tasmania, not only because we can get sufficient supplies of wheat but also because we can buy better quality wheat than previously. Under the old arrangement we bought bagged wheat wherever it could be obtained. Buying in bulk, we get wheat of a more even quality which is better for bread-making. We are looking forward to the inauguration of the services to be provided by “ Bass Trader “, which should revolutionize our shipping arrangements even more than did “ Princess of Tasmania “. We expect “ Bass Trader “ to go into service early in the new year and we are hoping for great things from her.
I disagree with Senator Kennelly in regard to establishing an overseas shipping line.
Conditions operating in Australia would prevent a Commonwealth overseas line from paying. If Australian seamen’s conditions were applied, probably freight rates between here and the Old Country would be doubled. If we went to the other extreme and manned the vessels with European crews, probably there would be a revolution in Australian shipping. I cannot see that we have any prospect of establishing such a line. We would be better to concentrate upon obtaining the best terms possible from the overseas shipping lines at present operating, which v/ill take our goods. If we established our own line, we might not be so fortunate in that respect.
I support entirely the £3,000,000 subsidy paid for ship-building. I agree that the ships that have been built in Newcastle are equal to any that could be produced overseas. I see no reason for discontinuing the subsidy to Australian ship-building companies, which amounts to as much as one-third of their costs. I believe that these companies will go on to build even better and more suitable ships.
I agree with Senator McKellar’s contention that the watersiders could do a much better job than they are doing. I have every confidence in the rank and file. Nearly all of them are good, honest and reliable workmen. The other 10 per cent., and those in control of the union are to blame for most of the trouble. I believe that the communistic element is particularly active in the union and, in many instances, will not allow watersiders to do a fair day’s work. The turn-round rate for shipping could be increased by at least one-third. A gang of 13 men is quite sufficient for loading and unloading, according to my observations, but in some instances gangs have 19 men. The position could be improved and the unloading rate, particularly, could be raised by one-third or one-half. I have always believed that there was no reason in the world why watersiders could not be employed on the same basis as other men, for 40 hours a week. It would benefit the shipping companies to pay the men at least £20 a week, with overtime at the rate of time-and-a-half or double time, as the case may be. 1 do not see any reason why these men should not enjoy the same amenities and conditions as other workers. I do not think that in every instance the watersiders are to blame for troubles that occur. A little more co-operation by the shipping companies would result in an immeasurable improvement of the waterfront position. I look forward to the time when this cooperation is forthcoming and when watersiders are regularly paid a minimum of £20 a week. That is the amount being paid to men employed to service “ Princess of Tasmania “, and they are doing a magnificent job. Captain Williams has them on the spot and they are giving every satisfaction at both terminals. I hope to see the same conditions operating generally amongst watersiders.
– This is a refreshing change from what is usually said on that side.
– My opinion has never been different. I think that watersiders should be employed on a fixed wage, but the employers should have the right to hire and fire. If a man does not do his job, he should be liable to be sacked.
It was pleasing to read that the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission made a higher net profit last year. I agree with Senator O’Byrne’s statement that in the early stages the line had to take quite a lot of business that other shipping lines would not take. I think the Minister will agree that that was the position in regard to the shipment of Tasmanian timber. I do not know what the present position is, but in the early stages it rarely paid the Australian National Line to ship timber from Tasmania. As it was not a paying proposition, other shipping companies were not keen to handle this timber. It is good to know that our line made a profit of £1,314,000 after providing £962,918 for income tax, £1,341,000 for depreciation, and £560,000 for shipping surveys. Even though there was only a slight increase in overall revenue, from £13,600,000 to £13,655.000, the figures show that the Australian National Line is being run on a very efficient basis. I congratulate the line on the excellent results it obtained on the year’s operations and the services that it provided, particularly to Tasmania.
.- I should like the Minister to cease the generalities that he indulges in when answering questions. He led the Senate to believe that the Australian National Line did an immense amount of business other than with its bulk carriers. He implied that the bulk carriers had to bring gas coal to Victoria. The Minister should realize that the amount of black coal that is now used in Victoria for gas production is extremely small compared with what it was. Most of Victoria’s gas is manufactured from brown coal obtained in the Yallourn valley. Let us get down to the facts and figures disclosed in the report of the National Line. We note that the total tonnage carried in 1959-60 was approximately 4,900,000. Of that total, ore accounted for approximately 2,700,000 tons. I suggest that that ore was carried for Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. 1 have no quarrel about that, but I am a little concerned about the construction of bulk carriers for the future. 1 am wondering what will happen to the ships that are now operated by the National Line. The Minister says in a very nice but general way - he does not give one much meat - that things have been planned so that the National Line will still carry much the same quantity of cargo. If I were the manager of B.H.P. and I built a 16,000 ton vessel for the ore trade, I would take the most profitable part of that trade from theNational Line.
The report discloses that the National Line carried approximately 1,500,000 tons of coal and coke, and 267,000 tons of steel. The commodities that I have mentioned account for approximately 4,500,000 tons of the total of 4,900,000 tons. Let us see what else was carried by the National Line, as disclosed in its own report. It carried 71,000 tons of timber and cement, 68,000 tons of bulk metals, 51,000 tons of wheat, 19,000 tons of sugar and 5,000 tons of salt. Possibly the Minister is a better on-the-spot mathematician than I am. If he adds up those figures, he will note that the cargoes I have just mentioned account for a small proportion of the total tonnage carried. I have left out of consideration 50,000 tons of overseas cargo, lt may be very clever politically to speak in an airy manner about the future, but such statements do not fit in with the figures disclosed in the report of the National Line. I should say that if the line carried iron ore from South Australia to Newcastle, it would certainly carry coal from Newcastle back to South Australia. It would be very unprofitable to sail a vessel one way empty, and 1 do not think any one would allow that to happen. I repeat that the facts revealed in the report of the National Line do not support the Minister’s airy reply to i query.
I should like to get a definite answer on one or two other matters of interest. Who receives the subsidy for the shipping * service to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea? Does Burns Philp and Company Limited receive it?
– Will you tell us something about the jetty that is being built for handling explosives?
– Yes; but I suggest that we deal with that when we are considering the proposed vote for that project.
– We are getting somewhere. I am delighted with you. Let us go a little further. The Minister did not answer my query about the parochial matter of access roads to Commonwealth property. I ask him: Will you have a go at that, too, because I am interested in it in other spheres? I do not want to detain the committee any longer. I expect to get a fair bit of information from the Minister, and I will know a lot more when he has finished.
– 1 take advantage of this opportunity to bring myself up to date, particularly as apparently I have created the impression that I am not keen to answer some of the queries that have been raised. I assure the committee that I am keen. I return to that part of Senator Kennelly’s first speech in which he referred to overseas freights and the establishment of a Government-owned overseas line. I do not want to deal at any length with this subject, because I have delivered long speeches on it in the past and honorable senators themselves from time to time have devoted attention to the problem. I merely say again that, if one can persuade oneself that there are advantages to be derived from the Commonwealth Government’s owning a shipping line that can engage in overseas trade, one is merely deluding oneself if one says that cheaper freights or lower charges will follow. They will not and they cannot, for the simple reason that it costs more to build and to run a ship in Australia than it does overseas. The fact is that freight charges on that ship would be in advance of those on vessels built overseas and operated by overseas companies. 1 am well aware of the argument that proceeds from that point - that we can get freight costs down by paying a subsidy on the freights carried. In other words, we willingly accept a greater freight charge and, having mulct the Australian public by way of taxation to pay the subsidy, we fool ourselves into believing that freights are cheaper. It is not a matter of politics; it is a simple and inescapable matter of arithmetic, lt would cost more to put Australian-built ships into the overseas trade than it does to operate as we are now operating.
Senator Lillico spoke about the operation of vessels to the north-west coast of Tasmania and of the difficulties that are experienced by the potato trade from time to time. I am sure the honorable senator will agree that I am not unfamiliar with this difficulty. I do not think it can be said that the shippers have not tried very hard to meet the demands of the potato industry. That industry is affected by a number of variable factors including the weather, and consequent upon a variation of the weather there is a swift alteration of mainland prices. It is frequently the case that a cargo of potatoes leaves the northwest coast when the price is right in the Sydney market, but by the time the ship reaches Sydney the market has receded or even collapsed. I have said before - and I repeat it now, having great sympathy for the potato industry - that the shipping industry has an obligation to it. However, the potato industry has an obligation to itself. It should not, as it sometimes does, confuse the obligation that the shipping industry has with the obligation it has itself in. relation to the provision of marketing facilities which would help to overcome some of the difficulties which it experiences. I have no doubt that the shipping companies, with their knowledge of the difficulties of the potato industry, will continue to co-operate to the maximum degree. I cannot speak with finality in respect of most private companies, but I think that that would be their wish, and I know that it has been the desire of the Australian National Line as has been demonstrated from time to time.
I shall now reply to the queries raised by Senator Benn. He referred to Miscellaneous Services, division No. 640, item 01, and asked for an explanation of the £3,000 to be provided for free or concessional railway fares or freights. That item has been in the Estimates for many years. It has been the practice of the Railways Commissioner to give concessional fares lo certain classes of travellers, such as blind soldier pensioners and missionaries. Concessional freights are extended to goods carried on behalf of missions. The vote lias been fairly consistent over the years.
The next question had to do with the subsidy paid to the shipping service to Papua and New Guinea. This subsidy of £100,000 has been paid for a number of years.
– - To Burns Philp?
– Yes, it is paid to Burns Philp, the owners and operators of “Bulolo”, “Malekula” and “ Malaita “, three vessels engaged in this trade. The historical background of this subsidy is that it was paid to ensure the employment in this trade of ships carrying Australian crews. There was some clamour for cheap freights from New Guinea and Papua a number of years ago. It was decided by the government of that day - and the present arrangement will be in force until 1st January, 1963 - that a subsidy would be paid to provide for the employment in the New Guinea trade of ships carrying Australian crews, rather than of ships carrying foreign crews.
A question was asked about item 04 - the subsidy on merchant ship construction. I interpret the query as one asking for information about the yards that will benefit, rather than the builders. The yards that would benefit are three in number. The first is the Whyalla yard of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, where six vessels are being built at the present time. They are an Ampol tanker of 32,000 tons, two bulk ships for Bulk Ships Limited and three ore carriers. That yard will receive £1,988,000 this year by way of subsidy. The second yard is that of Evans
Deakin of Brisbane, which will receive an estimated subsidy of £555,000. Its programme includes the building of three vessels. The third yard is the New South Wales Government’s dockyard at Newcastle where three vessels are in the course of building. That yard will receive £459,000.
The proposed vote for road safety was referred to. I think it better that I deal with that later. Item 08, “ Railway Standardization - Miscellaneous expenses, £15,000”, was mentioned. The expenses under that heading are administrative expenses in connexion with research, plans, blueprints and the type of thing with which Senator 0’Flaherty would be more familiar than I am. The vote does not relate to the standardization project as such.
– There is no provision for carrying out the actual job?
– That provision is made in a capital vote. I will refer to that later.
As one would expect, Senator Anderson spoke about road safety. He asked about the new method of distribution of the road safety grant, under which the Commonwealth is to retain a greater amount than has been the case previously. I think that very largely he answered his own question. In approaching this problem, the Minister kept in mind what he regarded - I think rightly so - as one of the deficiencies of the road safety organizations within the States. Much of the grant, in some instances at least, has been spent on administration rather than on road safety practices themselves. In an endeavour to rectify that position, this new allocation has been planned. It is hoped that an improvement in the situation will be achieved.
I should point out that under the new arrangement money is made available to the States which can be used for road safety in any of its phases. It is felt that this may be helpful to the States. The extra money to be made available to the Commonwealth Government or to the central office will be spent on providing enlarged services for the various State bodies, not only by way of the payment of the salaries of their officers, but also by way of greater services in records, in typing, in personnel and in the production and distribution of pictures.
– Will the Minister comment on the proposition that the operation of the new arrangement as from 1st January may have some disadvantages?
– All I say is that I have regard to the fact that Senator Anderson and the committee have had an opportunity to look at the set-up quite recently. While not entering into any commitment at all, I will certainly direct the attention of the Minister to what Senator Anderson has said in connexion with that matter.
Senator Cole spoke about the desirability of establishing stevedoring co-operatives. I do not know of anything in Government policy as such which would hinder that development.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I rise to allow the Minister to complete his speech.
– I thank the honorable senator for his courtesy. If I can, I want to get my replies up to date.
I think the Port Phillip Stevedoring Company Limited is a stevedoring cooperative. It has operated for many years. It was founded immediately after the First World War as a returned soldiers’ cooperative. It has continued down through the years and is now conducted by the sons of the founders on a co-operative basis. The big consideration in establishing a new stevedoring business - whether it be a cooperative or any other sort - is to take into account the availability of work and the possibility of securing an amount of that work which would make the venture an economic proposition. If any body of people set out to establish a co-operative, that would be a development which would not be hindered by the Government.
Senator 0’Flaherty spoke about the standardization of railway gauges. He referred to the length of time which had elapsed in the discussions and negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and the South Australian Government. The Commonwealth Government has made its policy quite clear. It has said that as these proposals come forward they will be examined,. and where economic justification is submitted they will be sympathetically considered by the Government. I shall outline what has happened in respect of the South Australian proposal. Despite a late start, if I may so describe it with respect, within the last two or three years Sir Thomas Playford has become a supporter of rail standardization and now embraces it with all the enthusiasm of the convert. Now embracing it, he seeks immediate and urgent action.
– He wants to make up for lost time.
– Quite. A project of this magnitude is not undertaken without a most thorough examination. I am aware that certain aspects of this project require lengthy and detailed investigation. First, there are the problems of routes, lt is quite easy to say, “ The routes shall be the routes that exist “. In the past Sir Thomas Playford said that in respect of the line than ran north, and a royal commission found that a route other than the one favoured by Sir Thomas was the correct and most economic one. In this case, too, while it is easy to say that the best routes are the existing routes, it is not always easy to justify that statement as an economic proposition. Before embarking upon expenditure on this type of project, the Commonwealth wants to be sure that the routes selected are the best and most economic.
In addition to that aspect of the matter, there are all sorts of technical matters, such as curves, gradients and the like. Senator O’Flaherty’s knowledge of these matters would be far better than mine. They call for the most detailed examination by experts.
– I am not interested in that aspect; 1 am interested in the difference of opinion between the Commonwealth Government and the State Government.
– The difference of opinion, if it must be so described, is in the details that flow from the discussion of a vast project such as this. As I say, the discussions are continuing. Senator O’Flaherty also asked about the probability of an extension from Marree to Oodnadatta and beyond. It is not in my mind that there has been any discussion of an exten sion beyond Marree in the immediate future. The reason is simply that the economics of such an extension at this time are so patently poor that I think all who are interested in this matter agree that now is not the time to proceed with that piece of development.
asked me about the situation of employees of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission who at one time had been employees of the Commonwealth Government. I am told that masters and engineers of vessels are not public servants. If retired public servants are employed by the commission and were in receipt of superannuation benefit, their superannuation benefit would be affected by a variation which, I imagine, flows from the salaries they are receiving from the commission.
Senator O’Byrne spoke of the wharfside improvements which have been effected in recent years. I was pleased that he referred to those improvements. He pointed out the down-turn in costs which in some cases has been established despite the up-turn in wage costs and similar charges in recent years. It is true that great improvements have been made in the handling of such products as timber and steel. It is also true that much of the saving in time and money has been made possible by the fact that we now have an increasing number of special purpose ships.
Senator O’Byrne also referred to the rapacity of the profit seeker. Whatever relevance that reference may have had to anything else, I am sure the most cursory examination of ship owners’ accounts in the post-war years would convince him that whatever rapacity has been exercised by the ship owners has not resulted in the production of very attractive balance-sheets In an era when high dividends have been the order of the day, ship owners’ dividends have not been such as to attract what might be regarded as the new and more speculative investor. I was delighted to hear Senator O’Byrne pay tribute to the Australian National Line for effecting the vast and dramatic improvement which has occurred in Tasmanian shipping. He referred, with approval, to the reduction in freights. I regretted that Senator Poke was not present to hear Senator O’Byrne mention the regular and reliable shipping services that now exist between the mainland and Tasmania. He said that everything reflected the greatest credit on the Australian National Line. I, too, take the opportunity to extend to the Australian National Line my compliments for the work it has done.
Senator Kennelly inquired about expenditure in connexion with roads of access, the proposed vote for which is £190,000. The money is provided for use in connexion with roads of access to Commonwealth properties such as lighthouses, airports, defence establishments and the like. The amount that is paid to the State governments is worked out on the basis of the use that is made of the roads by Commonwealth vehicles. Roughly speaking, an access road to a defence establishment will attract greater financial support, because of the greater use made of it by Commonwealth vehicles, than will a road to a lighthouse which may be used by a service vehicle once or twice a week and for the rest of the time by private people, such as fishermen going to fish. The proposed vote this year compares with an expenditure last year of £179,407.
I know the very warm attachment which Senator Kennelly has for a particular project, to which no reference has been, made during the debate. At the moment, I can think of no way in which that project might attract a subsidy.
– They have defence there. They have the Air Force and the Navy. In fact, I do not know what they have not got there.
– I am willing to bet that the honorable senator will not let it miss out. As to the discussion on roads generally, this too is a subject which has been debated at length. The figures indicate that there is a quite dramatic increase in the total amount being made available to the States each year. A matter which recently gave me a feeling of satisfaction - and no doubt it gave the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) a similar feeling - was a comment by the chief of the Shell touring bureau, Mr. Murphy, who had recently completed a tour of Australia for his company.
– Was the name Anderson?
– No, Murphy. Mr. Anderson has retired. Mr. Murphy, after his recent tour of Australia, commented that he had never found the roads in better condition, which indicates that the vast expenditure of money that is taking place each year is having an effect that is noticed by those who are trained observers.
I noticed recently that Mr. Opperman had stated that expenditure by Commonwealth, State and municipal authorities over the next live years would total £720,000,000 including an additional £100,000,000 to be supplied through the Commonwealth and State Roads. Agreement. I suggest that money made available in those proportions must have a noticeable effect. I further suggest that the expenditure of such large sums is a strong indication that the Commonwealth has a real appreciation of the needs and is doing all it can to meet them.
– I thank the Minister very much for the comprehensive replies he has given. However, there are several questions concerning the Department of Shipping and Transport to which I would like answers. I refer first to Division No. 640, item 04 - “ Merchant ship construction - Subsidy, £3,000,000”. Does that sum include the subsidy payable in respect of the two ships, the construction of which was announced by the managing director of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Whyalla at the end of last week, or will the subsidy for those two ships be included in another year? Secondly, is any subsidy contemplated for the small ships that are being built at Port Adelaide? The Minister may know that a new industry was commenced at Port Adelaide three or four years ago, in the construction of small ships such as tugs and ships of slightly larger size. 1 believe that that industry is of very great importance to Australia. I have inspected the shipyards at Port Adelaide and found them in every way to be most commendable. The tugs that are built there are intended for use in Sydney and other parts of Australia.
If there is some factor which limits the payment of subsidy for the construction of ships such as that, would the Minister bgood enough to say what it is? In my opinion, the subsidy payments should be spread as far as possible amongst all businesslike shipyards in Australia.
– That would defeat the purpose of the subsidy.
– Why is that?
– Because you would be establishing a level of inefficiency.
– No. I said “all businesslike shipyards in Australia “. I did not refer to inefficient shipyards. In any case, there would not be many shipyards concerned.
I wish to refer, Mr. Chairman, to Division No, 640, item 07, which relates to the contribution to the maintenance of the Eyre and Barkly highways. I notice that £50,000 was appropriated for this purpose last year and only £18,071 was spent. Is that the reason why the appropriation this year is only £35,000? Can the Minister say how much of last year’s appropriation related to the Eyre highway and how much to the Barkly highway, and similarly, how much of the expenditure was devoted to each highway? Can he also explain why expenditure last year was so low, being only approximately a third of the appropriation. I should like to stress from my own knowledge the importance of speeding up expenditure, particularly on the Eyre Highway, because that highway serves - I say this as a representative of South Australia - a very important part of the far west of South Australia, where considerable development is going on and where the tourist trade by road is likely to extend. This is a matter of great importance to both Western Australia and South Australia. I should like to know whether a State government has been responsible for the nonexpenditure of the money that the Commonwealth has appropriated for this purpose and, if so, which government. If a State government has not been responsible in this regard, has a local government authority failed to expend the money that this Parliament appropriated?
I appreciate the remarks the Minister has made in relation to the standardization of railway gauges but again, Sir, I should like to know why only £11,000 of the amount of £15,100 that was appropriated for the most important research that must precede important standardization work which the Minister stated was contemplated with regard to the northern part of South Australia was expended. I would be grateful if the Minister would explain the reason for the short fall of expenditure in that connexion.
.- 1 listened with interest to the explanation that was given by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) for the alteration in the distribution of the amount made available for road safety practices. I shall repeat briefly what has been said. Whereas previously the State Road Safety Councils got £90,000 of the apropriation of £150,000 after 1st January, 1961, the amount given to the States then will be reduced by £40,000 - this is a very big reduction - while the amount retained by the central Commonwealth organization will be lifted from £60,000 to £100,000. I think that this could not have been done at a more embarrassing time. The Senate Select Committee on Road Safety inquired into all aspects of that subject and there was a majority opinion among the States, as well as a minority opinion, regarding our activities. The majority opinion among the States supported what we were doing.
– There was enthusiastic support.
– Yes, there was enthusiastic support for what the committee was doing. However, there was a minority opinion which regarded our activities with a suspicion that this was one more attempt to grab more power for the Commonwealth. Obviously, the decision on the proposed vote for this financial year would have been made before our report reached Parliament, but I do think there will be a very embarrassing viewpoint put forward by people who held suspicions regarding our activities that this is the opening gambit of an attempt to seize more power for the Commonwealth in relation to road safety.
– Is it not a fact that the States spent a disproportionate amount of the money given to them on administration?
– Evidence was given to the committee in one or two cases concerning the disproportionate amount that had been spent upon administration, but the States also pointed out that when one speaks of £150,000 being provided by the Commonwealth, he ought also to speak about the large sums of money that were spent by the States on road safety activities - for example, the salaries of police officials and other people, and money spent in improving dangerous sections of roads and things like that. Some very impressive evidence was given to the effect that the amount of money that was being spent by the States could not be measured just by saying, “ Apparently, this is a particular road safety activity and you cannot exactly pin the money down to that “. I myself think that the States were doing a great deal in regard to road safety which perhaps they were not publicly given credit for, and for that reason I feel that it is not only an embarrassing move, but a retrograde step when at this stage the Government decides, in effect, to fine them £40,000. Obviously, there is going to be trouble-
– That is an inappropriate expression.
– It may be inappropriate, but it is the expression they will use. The, Senate Select Committee on Road Safety brought in its report, and it was the hope of all people connected with road safety that there would be cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States to implement those sections of the report that they thought should be implemented. We did not expect that the States would approve of everything we said, nor did we expect that the Commonwealth would approve of everything we said; either could accept or reject our recommendations in the light of their knowledge.
I think it is unfortunate that right at the beginning of our campaign to get more, cooperation we say we are going to vary the amount of money made available to the States for roads by reducing that amount by £40,000 and increasing the Commonwealth’s share correspondingly. The reason which has been given is that the Commonwealth will expend its share of the money on public education, mass media and so on, but that explanation does not impress me. one iota. I have had some experience in organizing election campaigns, and I was not at all impressed by the advantages of organizing propaganda on a Commonwealthwide basis. I think that local people often know the particular kind of propaganda that will go over best locally. There might be road safety propaganda that could be put over in Tasmania that would not suit a State with a big industrial population like New South Wales or Victoria.
The committee received some impressive evidence from State Road Safety Councils that some of the propaganda that was being sent to them from the centralized or Commonwealth source was useless and that they never used it. Some of them said that they had big accumulations of paper posters and other things that they did not use because they were not suitable for local purposes. In my opinion, in a matter like road safety there is plenty of room for the use of local initiative and local knowledge. Therefore, I am a little disappointed that this decision has been made. As far as I can see, it is a unilateral decision. I do not think it is going to help the cause of co-operation in road safety between the States and the Commonwealth. It will even lend fuel to the people who suggest that the Commonwealth wants to grab more power. I do not think that it will make for good co-operation between the State and Commonwealth Road Safety Councils. I had hoped that a new era of increased collaboration was dawning. In view of the fact that the Senate Select Committee was inquiring into road safety, I would have hoped that any decision on the matter would be deferred until its report was received. Even at this late hour, in view of the fact that the arrangement to which I have referred is not to come into force until 1st January, 1961, I express the hope that its introduction will be deferred until there have been discussions with the State bodies concerned and they have been afforded an opportunity to express their opinion about it.
Finally, I wish to refer to the provision under the proposed new arrangement whereby the grants to the States may be spent only on public education and the States will be required to finance their own administration. It will be fairly difficult to define accurately what is public education. Let us be fair about requiring the States to carry their own administration expenses. In the eighteen months that the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety was meeting a good deal of publicity was focussed on road safety and a number of States passed legislation and made decisions that would involve them in a good deal of expense. My State of Victoria, for example, made certain decisions with regard to road safety that would involve it in increased expenditure. Not only has Victoria undertaken that increased expenditure but now it will also be required to carry its own administration expenses. I am sure that all of us here hope that the problem of road safety will be tackled in partnership by the Commonwealth and the States. The Government’s decision concerning grants to the States for road safety purposes will not lead to a happy partnership and I express the hope, even at this late stage, that the Government will defer this matter until it has been discussed with the State bodies that are interested.
.- I rise to speak only briefly in this debate. I refer to the final page of the very helpful notes supplied by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge). In particular I refer to the statement that tenders will be called for the construction of a sister ship to the “ Princess of Tasmania “. I do not want to decry the “ Princess of Tasmania “, which everyone knows has been a very great asset to Tasmania and the mainland States, but I interpret the Minister’s statement to mean that a ship similar in all practical respects to the “ Princess of Tasmania “ will be built for service between Sydney and Tasmanian ports. I beg the Minister to make sure that his colleague, Mr. Opperman, and the Australian Shipbuilding Board give very careful consideration to the design of the new vessel. I say without fear of contradiction that if the board had been asked at this stage to design a Bass Strait ferry it would have designed a vessel vastly different from the present “ Princess of Tasmania “. There would have been more lounge accommodation, which is essential on an overnight journey. There would not have been sleeperette chairs, which are of no real benefit to the travelling public and which are not popular with it.
I do not want to become involved in a political dog fight over the ports at which the new vessel will call, but it is obvious that it will call at Hobart and Bell Bay on its way from Sydney. From Sydney to Hobart is a much longer haul than from Melbourne to Devonport. Therefore, a bigger ship is required. Better accommodation is needed for the longer journey. A ship trading between Sydney and Tasmanian ports must have space for refrigerated cargo. Such a ship will carry fresh fruit and fish. I ask the Minister to ensure that his colleague and the Australian Shipbuilding Board give very careful consideration to the design of the new vessel. Do not make it a sister ship to the “ Princess of Tasmania “. Make it an improved “ Princess of Tasmania “.
– I wish to refer to Division No. 640, in particular the proposed appropriation for the promotion of road safety practices. I agree with what Senator McManus and Senator Anderson have said about the advisability of deferring the re-organization of the basis of the grants to the States for road safety purposes. I should like to ask the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), who is handling this aspect of the debate, a few questions concerning the effect of the new proposal on South Australia. At present, South Australia receives £11,250 for road safety purposes but under the new arrangement, which will commence on 1st January, 1961, South Australia will receive only £6,250 - a decrease of £5,000. Road safety is a vital matter. The report of the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety has shown how important this problem is in Australia to-day. Unless something is done rapidly the problem could become very serious. It could affect this country’s economy very seriously. We have been told that under the new arrangement the States will be required to meet all administration and capital costs associated with road safety. [ should like to ask the Minister what will happen to the present road safety councils in the various States. Will they be supplied with funds by the States or will they be forced to curtail their activities? If the various State organizations are to be forced out of the picture I should like the Minister to make more time available to them before bringing about the proposed re-organization, because the road safety organization in South Australia has a ten-year lease of the building which houses its officers. The organization has occupied that building for only two years and the lease has a further eight years to run.
– Is the building on land owned by the State?
– No, I believe it is private property. T understand that some legal action could be involved in this matter. I should like to know whether the recommendation of the Australian Road Safety Council was taken into consideration when the Government arrived at its decision in respect of this grant. A document that has been circulated to South Australian senators states -
This continual recitation of “ administration expenses “ and administrative items is an unrealistic approach to road safety requirements and is an attempt to create an impression that these items of administration are used for other than road safety.
The correct interpretation should be clearly understood viz: - it is impossible to implement a successful road safety programme without some form of administration and/or capital equipment. Nothwithstanding whatever construction may be placed on administration expenses it is emphatically stressed that whatever percentage is accounted for administration, these items are directly attributed to road safety.
The Senate Select Committee on Road Safety found during its hearings that South Australia had the lowest incidence of road accidents of any State in the Common.welath This is due to, amongst other things, the work of the South Australian branch of the Road Safety Council. 1 join with other honorable senators in asking that this matter be deferred until some further consideration is given to it.
– The Minister made some reference to the subject of co-operative stevedoring, which I had raised, and he gave as an example the Port Phillip Stevedoring Company Limited. I believe that the Minister has missed the point 1 was making when I suggested the use of stevedoring cooperatives. The Port Phillip Stevedoring Company is not a true co-operative such as I have in mind. It is just another stevedoring company that has been formed, and it works like any other stevedoring company.
– It is a co-operative.
– It is not a true cooperative such as I am talking about.
– It is a complete co-operative.
– The co-operatives of which I speak would consist of members who were working ships, and each of whom would have an equal share in the profits earned. These profits would go to the persons loading or unloading ships.
– That is what the Port Phillip company does.
– No, it does not. The men who are. loading or unloading the ships are the waterside workers themselves. The men who form the Port Phillip Stevedoring Company are like men who form butter factory co-operatives and have shares in the organization. In order to rid the waterfront of squabbles and stoppages, we need a stevedoring industry co-operative consisting of men who are now in the Waterside Workers Federation and who will be working for themselves in a profit-sharing co-operative. Then there will be an end of foolish stoppages, because these will destroy the incentive or bonus payments that the men get from the industry.
I should also like to bring forward another very pressing problem. We have been talking about efficiency on the waterfront. lt has been said that as a result of automation there should be a greater increase in the output of waterside workers, but we find that they go to a certain stage and no further. The equipment is not used to its fullest capacity. There is another point in relation to the age. of waterside workers. We have on the waterfront men over the age of 70, and some men of 80 years of age. They have to stay on the job because there are no retiring allowances. I believe that it is time retiring allowances were available to men at the age of 65 years.
– What other industry has a similar provision?
– I shall come to that. Some say that the men have not paid for the allowance and therefore they should nol get it. It has been calculated by industrial groups in the Waterside Workers Federation that the savings of the stevedoring industry in attendance money, sick leave, holiday pay and annual leave for men over the, age of 65 years would more than pay for retiring allowances for them at the rate of £3 10s. for single men and £7 for married men.
– You are really going beyond the item we. are dealing with.
– I do not think so. I am trying to save the Australian National Line a lot of money.
– I point out, if I may take a point of order, that I have tried to avoid any interruption in this debate because it necessarily ranges over a wide field; but the matters which the honorable senator is now discussing clearly do not fall within the administration of the Department of Shipping and Transport. He cannot expect an answer from me and I suggest that he would serve his own purpose better if he reserved his comments for the debate on the proposed vote for the Department of Labour and National Service.
– I concede that point to the Minister and I shall make my submissions at an appropriate time.
.- Earlier, when I was speaking about the Department of Shipping and Transport, I referred to Division No. 361 - Administrative, for which the proposed vote is £194,000. I appreciated then that that was the amount proposed to be appropriated for the general administrative work carried out by the department, that is, the work involved in its general activities. That would be the work of the administrative staff in keeping the activities of the department alive. But I also know that a portion of that sum would be spent in collecting the department’s revenue. So far, we have been dealing almost wholly with the expenditure of the department, but this is a department which has revenues. Because I am not fully enlightened as to how the department collects revenues, I ask the Minister a question in relation to it. I am encouraged to do so by the frank, forthright and courteous manner in which he has answered all questions here to-day.
I notice that the department has revenue totalling £2,644,000. This includes an amount of £575,000 in respect of lighthouses. As I stand here, I admit that I am wholly without knowledge of how the department gets revenue amounting to £575,000 from its lighthouses. T can imagine that it makes charges on shipping companies and probably upon some State authorities. Nevertheless, that is the amount set down as its revenue from lighthouses.
I note also that the revenue received from navigation charges amounted to £37,000. I do not know whether the department does any pilotage work in the rivers. I am sure the Minister will be able to enlighten me and my colleagues on this side of the chamber about that item. Last year the department received from the
Australian Coastal Shipping Commission the sum of £1,961,000 as a payment in the nature of a dividend. Perhaps the Minister will inform me whether that was a real dividend - whether an efficient bookkeeping system was in operation and that was the result of this year’s operations. 1 note that there was also an item of revenue headed “ Miscellaneous “ amounting to £71,000. If that heading covers too many items, the Minister may let the matter pass; but if only a few items are covered, perhaps he will be kind enough to provide us with a break-up of that sum.
– I hesitate to take up the time of the committee, but I should like to refer to the subject of road safety and touch upon the remarks of Senator Mc’Manus and others.
– Are you going to put a definite request before us?
– I do not know that I need to answer that question. I am addressing my remarks to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman. As I proceed Senator Wright will be enlightened about what I propose to say. I am in agreement with Senator McManus and Senator Drury when I say that I believe the Government has been a little premature in adopting the proposal that has been placed before us. Some time ago I addressed a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), who represents the Minister for Shipping and Transport, about the grant that was made available to the State road safety councils and the new formula that has been adopted. I felt that there was some justification for the complaint by the South Australian road safety council that the new system of allocating these funds would penalize the State authorities rather heavily and would have an adverse effect on the promotion of road safety. I received a fairly comprehensive reply from the Minister, and at the time I was reasonably satisfied with it. But, having heard the discussion that has taken place to-night, I believe there is a case to be answered by the Minister.
The implication behind the reorganization of the administration of these funds is that too great a sum was being used bv the State road safety councils for administrative purposes, and that the new formula was designed to provide for a more effective promotion of road safety. It was decided that the greater part of the sums available should be used by the Australian Road Safety Council. Formerly the State bodies handled the greater part of the work involved. You, Mr. Temporary Chairman, told us about the inconvenience that the State road safety councils may suffer because of the fact that it is proposed to bring the new formula into operation very soon. The budgets of the State bodies were formulated to cover a term of twelve months, but in the six months following the introduction of the new formula on 1st January next the State councils could be involved in some financial embarrassment.
When this matter was discussed by the State Transport Ministers, not one of them agreed to the new proposal. I believe that they all were unanimously opposed to the introduction of the new formula. That fact carries some weight with me.
– It was not unexpected.
– I do not know whether it was expected or unexpected. I am just saying that they did not agree to it. I am not altogether in favour of giving greater funds to the central authority at the expense of the State authorities. I believe such an arrangement is bad in principle and I doubt whether it will be effective in promoting road safety. Perhaps there could have been a tightening up under the old system of the conditions upon which the grant was made. I believe that, if a few strings had been attached to the availability of grants to the State bodies, there could have been a tightening up in relation to administrative expenses and that more money could have been devoted to the actual promotion of road safety. I am of the opinion that this matter should be examined again. 1 am not satisfied in my own mind that giving a greater sum to the central authority will make the promotion of road safety more effective. I should like the Minister to touch upon this subject and to give us a little more information about why the change was made. A memorandum outlining the reason for the change has been circulated to us, but I am still not quite satisfied that the new formula will have the desired effect. When all is said and done, the desired effect is not to prevent the State bodies from spending a little more on administration than they do on the actual promotion of road safety, but the promotion of road safety itself. I should be glad to have the Minister’s comments.
– It was very pleasing to me to hear Senator Cole’s remarks about co-operative stevedoring. I first got that idea 30 years ago, and I have spoken about it both before and since I was elected to Parliament. After I heard Senator Cole speak about this subject I went to my room and got a copy of a speech I delivered on 21st May, 1957. I thought it might be of interest to honorable senators if I were to quote from that speech. I said -
I refer to the r o-operative contracting system which operates in New Zealand. There is an organization known as the Waterfront Workers Industrial Association, which is run entirely by waterside workers. They elect their own secretary and president, just as is done by waterside workers in various Australian ports. In 1954-55 the association made a profit of £1,000,000. In other words, every waterside worker in New Zealand got a bonus of £182 at the end of the year in addition to his average pay of £18 10s. a week during the year.
There have been several rises in pay since then. I further said -
The way the system works is that a shipping company rings the office of the association saying, perhaps, “ ‘ Aorangi ‘ is coming in to-morrow. We want five gangs at 8 o’clock to work until 5 p.m.” The gangs are sent down, and” there is no trouble. They do the work and go home, and the actual transaction is between the shipping company and the association’s treasurer or executive. The system is working very well. In 1950-51, 8,000 men handled 8,000,000 tons of cargo. In 1954-55, 6,500 men, or 1,500 fewer, handled 10,250,000 tons of cargo, or 2,250,000 tons more. Yet those men were earning £1,100, £1,200, and as much as £1,500 a. year. Not only were they earning those incomes, but also they were happy and well satisfied, except, I suppose, for the odd one who had to moan about something.
In bringing this matter forward, and in supporting Senator Cole, I suggest we should try to persuade the waterside workers of this country at least to have a look at this system. I realize that Mr. Healy and a few other officials might frown on this sort of thing because it spells peace in an industry that has had a turbulent history. I bring the matter forward and publicize this scheme in support of Senator Cole.
.- I wish to mention three matters, but in the first place let me make a passing reference to what has been advocated by Senator Kendall and Senator Cole. I hope that their suggestion will be considered earnestly and substantially. I also hope that they will support me when I raise this matter during the debate on the estimates for the Department of Labour and National Service - an occasion when I think the matter should be considered.
One of the things that the Constitutional Review Committee recommended was that the Commonwealth should have complete power over navigation in intra-state as well as interstate spheres. I bring to the attention of the Minister quite forcibly, in the interests of safety, the need for a uniform system of survey of vessels. It is most important from the point of view of safety of navigation on the Australian coast that some of the systems prevailing in the States - I speak particularly of Tasmania - should be improved. In December, 1958, we had a coastal shipwreck that was reminiscent of happenings a century ago. It was due entirely, I believe, to the unseaworthy condition of the vessel, but the tragedy emphasized the unco-ordinated and unscientific approach of the Commonwealth authorities to the management of signals. A court of marine inquiry that inquired into the matter absolved .the appropriate Commonwealth department from responsibility but I regard that decision as being not in any way satisfactory or final.
I think that the Department of Shipping and Transport should concern itself with the evidence that was given in that case in order to determine whether there is a long overdue need for an improvement in regard to the recognition of and action on distress signals. The failure to have a uniform system of surveys has allowed weaknesses to creep into the State systems. These weaknesses permit the continuing use of vessels which would not pass a proper standard of survey. Local municipal harbour authorities, adhering to out-of-date requirements of sea-worthiness, are issuing certificates of sea-worthiness to vessels and thus allowing them to proceed to sea in an unsafe condition. I would have thought that the danger of this had been brought to light by the tragic loss of the “ Willwatch “ in December, 1958. The vessel had been discarded in 1951 as the result of a Commonwealth survey, but was resurrected and passed in a survey conducted by a municipal authority, after some construction and three or four major repair jobs had taken place. However, what was done to the vessel, I would think, still left it in a condition that was obviously unseaworthy.
I would feel it my duty to mention the need for a uniform survey system even if I had to rest my case upon that tragedy alone. However, anybody who has even a nodding acquaintance with vessels in the intra-state trade on the north-west coast of Tasmania - vessels that have been brought there to succeed the “ Willwatch “ - will know that the entrepreneurs are courting daily tragedy of a similar description. I think that all this emphasizes the importance of the recommendation of the Constitutional Review Committee that there should be a uniform survey system, under the Commonwealth department, so far as interstate and intra-state vessels are concerned.
The next matter with which I wish to deal is the proposed vote for the promotion of road safety practices. I have been interested to listen to observations from honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. I approach the proposal to reduce the amount available to the States with a good deal of encouragement, because I have long since felt that this vote has been used largely to pay the expenses of interstate conferences for which there is no real need. It would be much better for each State to use the vote to provide flying squads of motor police who could detect malefactors on the road and thus make a practical approach to the problem. When I was told that the Commonwealth was going to reduce the grants to the States for road safety because they were being used to defray excessive administrative expenses, or to pay for what we are euphemistically termed interstate conferences, I was pleased. Then I listened to Senator McManus, who said that the Commonwealth was going to take a larger portion of the vote and apply the money to what is euphemistically called educational processes in road safety. He referred to some of the advertising material that has been put out by the Road Safety Council. It is of such a nature that a school boy would be ashamed of it.
In view of the interest that has obviously been focused on this item, stemming from the report of the Committee on Road Safety that the Senate constituted, 1 urge that we give further consideration to this matter. I have just refreshed my memory by re-reading what the committee had to say on this subject of road safety. I can say that the members of the committee, as a result of the wealth of knowledge with which the evidence has endowed them, are not satisfied with the way in which this money is to be distributed. I myself am completely unsatisfied with the idea of permitting the States to use the same amount of money to cover administrative expenses. I am not enamoured of the idea of the Commonwealth mis-spending its share of the money on so-called advertising material. 1 speak quite strongly about the type of advertising material I have seen emanating from the Road Safety Council. I regard it as primitive and stupid material that would not appeal to an intelligent road user for one moment.
I feel, therefore, that the proper course is to request that the item be postponed for further consideration. The rest of the Items now before us could be proceeded with and this item could be postponed until after the Minister had had an opportunity to tell us in detail about the expenditure of which the Road Safety Council disapproves and the type of advertising in which the federal body intends to engage. We could then make a deliberative decision. It is useless to talk vaguely around the matter, without testing the feeling of the committee as to whether the item- is worthy of postponement or whether it should be passed in the mass of votes.
.- I refer to Division No. 640, item 05 - “ Promotion of road safety practices, £150,000 “. I would be very disappointed if the amount of money that is being allocated under this vote and the suggestion as to how it should be spent were the last words of the Government on this important matter. Other honorable senators who were members of the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety have presented their cases to this chamber and the report of that committee has been presented to the Senate. Evidently this matter was discussed prior to the presentation of the report or the debate which took place in this chamber. During the committee’s inquiry I noticed that there was a tendency on the part of some governments and organizations to attempt to anticipate the report that might be made by the committee. They had an opportunity to read in the metropolitan newspapers the evidence that was presented to the committee. It appeared to me that they were trying to get in ahead of the Senate Select Committee.
We know the attitude that was adopted in Victoria. The Victorian Government resented the committee’s going into that State and refused to make State officers available. Later it relented and we had an opportunity to hear evidence from most eminent men in that State. Honorable senators will have noticed the reaction of the Victorian Premier to the committee’s report. Evidently he had never read the report, yet he rushed into print and said that the Commonwealth was making another grab for power. Had he read the report, he would have seen that the committee proposed that there should be an agreement between the Commonwealth, the States and the general public. As all honorable senators are aware, we have suggested in our report that the Commonwealth should support financially the organization that would be set up. The amount that has been made available under this vote does not recognize the importance of road safety in the manner in which I think it should be recognized by the Commonwealth.
I agree with the remarks of Senator Wright about some of the propaganda on road safety in which the States and organizations have indulged. The new arrangement that will operate as from 1st January, 1961, really perpetuates the spending of money on a medium which I feel is not reaching the crux of the problem. It is not bringing about a reduction in road fatalities. We talk about spending money on press, radio and television publicity, but I wonder how many of the people who drive cars are interested in that publicity. They may hear an advertising flash over the radios in their cars, but they certainly will not have television sets in their vehicles.
Such a campaign is only dealing with the problem in a “superficial way. One will hear somebody appeal to road users to reduce accidents during a particular weekend, but that is not getting to the crux of the problem.
If the Commonwealth wants to take a lead in this important matter and if it wants to get the co-operation of the States and interest every one in the problem it has to set up the machinery. I hope that the Minister will say that this appropriation is not the sole effort of the Commonwealth Government in this most important matter. There is research to be carried out. New South Wales is doing some road research. That work has to be expanded, lt is useless to suggest that there is only one aspect of the problem. Some people get the idea in their minds that if we could close every hotel, or if every driver became a teetotaller, there would be no more road fatalities, and they plug that idea. We all know that the consumption of alcohol by drivers is not the sole cause of road fatalities; it is only one of the causes. Somebody has suggested that it is speed that kills. I think it was a police officer who suggested in the press yesterday that the slow driver is causing accidents. We have evidence that it is speed that kills. The propaganda that will be distributed by the various States and organizations who receive this money will be emphasizing that speed kills, but somebody else says that the slow driver causes accidents. There is so much of this conflicting and confusing propaganda that nobody seems to know what is the real cause.
– The only safe way is to stay at home!
– Possibly it is. I do not want fo discuss the whole of the report and the evidence the committee heard. I would be extremely disappointed if this appropriation was the last word of the Government. I do not know how the Minister feels about the suggestion that has been made by Senator Wright.
– I do not like it.
– Are there to be any further discussions between the principal parties in an endeavour to implement the committee’s report? Will you have conferences and get down to business on this important matter, or arc you just going 10 let it go as it has been going on for years? I hope that the Minister can allay my fear that this appropriation is the Government’s last word and that we will not get very much progress.
– I address myself first of all to the question of the road safety grant. In considering this matter I think it is necessary to remind ourselves of what has happened, particularly in recent times. Within the last few weeks, a report has been presented to the Senate. Honorable senators had an opportunity to discuss that report during, I think, the week before last.
– It is still on the business-paper.
– Yes, it is still on the business-paper, as Senator O’Flaherty reminds me. lt is obvious that a report of that nature will receive the detailed consideration, which it deserves, of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman). It is also obvious that it must be discussed by the State Transport Ministers with Mr. Opperman at the. next meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council which, if my memory is correct, will be held early next year.
Prior to the report being presented to the Senate, Mr. Opperman met the State Premiers and discussed with them at a conference, which was adjourned and continued on another occasion, the question of the redistribution of the vote. Mr. Opperman had said that an examination of the expenditures undertaken by the States had indicated that too great a proportion of the Commonwealth vote was, in his view, being devoted to administration. I suggest that an approach of that nature was nothing if not realistic. The purpose of these Commonwealth grants is to stimulate, not to take over, a State function. I think that Senator Hannaford spoke the truth when he said that in 1947 or 1948, or since then, action should have been taken to ensure that the State councils did not spend so much of their Commonwealth grant on administration.
Mr. Opperman put that point to the State Ministers. Senator Hannaford said that none of those Ministers agreed with
Mr. Opperman and that all, in fact, had positively opposed him. I interjected - I hope not rudely - to say that that was not unexpected. Indeed, it is the standard practice, of the States in matters of this kind to object to any reduction of the sums made available to them for any purposes at all. Equally, it is standard practice for them to object to limitations or restrictions being placed on the uses to which Commonwealth grants might be put.
– The Minister gives the impression that ministerial reactions are pro forma.
– I do not know whether ministerial reactions are pro forma, but I do know that the actions of State Ministers in matters such as this are automatic. Mr. Opperman put it to the Ministers that this was a realistic way of apportioning the vote. I do not sincerely think that the. majority of people in Australia would disagree with his general approach to it. Senator Anderson has put to me that in view of the fact that the State budgets had been prepared for some time prior to this decision, Mr. Opperman ought to look again, at least to see that the new distribution did not occur until some date later than 1st January. I have told Senator Anderson that I shall refer that request to the Minister.
The other aspect of the matter which has excited comment is that expenditure by the Commonwealth entity in this Commonwealth and State set-up is not effective expenditure, and that much of the publicity given to the matter is ineffective and, indeed, puerile, as it was described in one instance. I take the view that in the presentation of a case there will always be a conflict of views. I am not prepared to say that everything that the Australian Road Safety Council has done in the past has been completely effective, or that it has been the best that could have been done. Far from it. I go further than that and say that I would actively encourage the Senate to adopt the role of strict critic of the work of this section of the Department of Shipping and Transport. But I suggest most sincerely that at this time, when the whole matter is necessarily in a state of flux an-1 is being actively considered, we would serve no good purpose in taking action either to defer consideration of the vote or to reduce it. Rather, let it be considered. Let it receive the mature consideration of the Minister and of the State Ministers, culminating in the next meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council.
The matters mentioned to-night - the activity of the central administration, tha administrative votes of the States, and inmost important matter for consideration- - the report of the Senate committee - all can be considered together and a decision made. I put in the strongest terms to the Senate that no good will come of deferring consideration of the vote or of doing anything else in connexion with it. I suggest that it should be agreed to. I shall undertake to bring to the notice of the Minister the remarks that have been made here and, further, to tell him of the interest which has quickened so much as a result of the report of the Senate committee. 1 shall impress on him the need to give the report his full consideration as soon as possible.
May I come back now, Sir, to the matters about which Senator Laught inquired. The honorable senator asked whether the subsidy payments for shipbuilding applied to the vessels recently launched at the Whyalla yard. The system which applies in the payment of subsidies is that payments are made progressively. Some amount of subsidy would have been paid in respect of those ships throughout the year which has ended. I inform the honorable senator that the small ships being built at Port Adelaide do not attract the subsidy. The payment of the subsidy applies only to ships of more than 500 tons. Ships of less than 500 tons are protected b” duty. My recollection is that the rate of duty is high - I think, Ali per cent. The yards at Port Adelaide which, as Senator Laught has said, are building a very fine type of tug with a new kind of hull, are protected by way of duty. I might add that the ships being constructed there are regarded as most effective.
– Does that apply to small ships constructed at Newcastle?
– Yes, the 500- tonners are protected by duty. Senator Marriott spoke of the projected new vessel for the Tasmanian trade. I think that what he said was right. We can learn very considerably from our experience with the “ Princess of Tasmania “. Certainly there are improvements which, in the light of our experience with that vessel, we can incorporate in any similar vessel that we bring into commission, and I have no doubt that the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission will have that matter well in mind.
– Has any decision been made about the destination of the new vessel?
– I do not think that specific ports have been mentioned. A reference was made to the vessel plying between Sydney and Tasmanian ports.
– There has been some confusion because the first announcement referred to southern ports in Tasmania. Is it contemplated that the vessel will go to the southern ports?
– I am not sure My understanding is that the new vessel will ply between Sydney and Tasmanian ports. I do not know whether a decision has been made on the specific question asked. Mr. Opperman, in an answer that he recently supplied to a question asked on this subject, referred to the need to negotiate with the various port authorities for the establishment of suitable facilities at ports that the vessel might use.
– The only reason why [ asked the question was that I thought this would have a considerable bearing on the type of vessel to be provided.
– Indeed it will, and I think there is a good deal of what might be described .as homework to be done before a decision is reached. I like the way that Senator Marriott asserted that he does not want to become involved in any dispute about the ports which may be serviced. I have some memory of that, and I sympathize with him. T have no votes at stake in Tasmania, but I would not like to be in that particular scuffle again.
asked a number of questions concerning the revenue of the department. As he pointed out, the biggest item of revenue was the dividend from the Australian Coastal- Shipping Commission of £1,900,000. That amount represents payments which were made in respect of the 1958-59 dividend and the 1959-60 dividend, the payment of the dividend for the earlier year having been deferred to enable the commission to meet commitments for ships that were under construction before the close of the former year.
The collections in respect of lighthouses are made from the owners of ships that use the facilities of the respective lighthouses. The collections are made every three months from the various owners. The total amount collected last year was £540,000. Navigation charges generally consist of fees paid for surveys of ships, examinations for certificates of competency for various grades of officers and men, &c. The proposed miscellaneous vote includes amounts which are coming forward as instalments and interest in respect of earlier sales of ships by the Australian Shipbuilding Board.
– They are not paid up yet?
– No, as a matter of fact most of them were sold on longterm arrangements. I think that four were sold. Three of them went to the Western Australian State Shipping Service and the fourth, the small vessel Nyora “, went to John Burke Limited which operates a service under subsidy in Queensland waters. 1 think the one remaining point is in relation to Senator Wright’s comments on the need for uniform survey procedure. I well remember the tragedy of the “ Willwatch “ and I well remember the inquiry. I regret that Senator Wright finds himself unable to accept with complete satisfaction the finding of the Marine Court of Inquiry in respect of signal procedures that have been adopted by the navigation section of the Marine Branch. It will be recalled that the board of inquiry completely absolved the department and did in fact speak in quite complimentary terms of the officer who was in charge of that operation. I should like to say that the navigational procedures are under continuing review and that any weakness revealed is immediately rectified. I can assure the honorable senator that if any weaknesses were revealed at or since that time the Department of Shipping and Transport has remedied them.
– Can the Minister give the committee any specific instance?
– No, I can only say that when there were suggestions both before and during the inquiry that there might have been some deficiencies in the procedures, the procedures were thoroughly overhauled in the light of criticism that had been offered. As no deficiency was found to exist, the matter was dismissed. However, I repeat that a continuing review is undertaken in connexion with this matter.
It may be of interest to honorable senators if I inform them that within the department a committee is considering - without having been requested to do so by the States - the need for and the action which will be necessary to institute throughout the Australian States a uniform survey procedure. Putting aside for one minute the rather larger question of the adoption of the Constitutional Review Committee’s report either in whole or in part. I point out to the honorable senator that to get the results that he, very understandably, wants it is necessary in fact to have a unified control. If the States were prepared to adopt our standards, possibly with some improvement and modification, and thus bring into existence a uniform code for surveys, the position would be met without the adoption of the recommendation contained in the Constitutional Review Committee’s report.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I rise merely to give the Minister an opportunity to complete his remarks in his own time.
– I thank the honorable senator. I shall not take more than a minute to complete what I was saying. I was merely pointing out that the desired result would be achieved by that means without adopting the recommendation of the Constitutional Review Committee, however desirable it might be in this particular case.
– We could have that adopted afterwards.
– Well, that is a question to be decided at some future time. I think, Sir, I have spoken to most of the points that were raised during the debate.
.- To a certain extent I am satisfied with the replies given by Senator Paltridge in relation to this important matter of promotion of road safety practices. However, in view of the fact that a specific instruction has been given that the grant must be spent on public education by means of radio, newspaper and television advertising, will the Minister say what investigations were conducted by the Department of Shipping and Transport into the likely effect of such advertising on the problem of road safety? Did the department make any inquiry at all? I am not completely happy with the way accident statistics are presented. One hears an announcement made that a certain number of people were killed during the week-end. We know that more than 2,000 people are killed on the roads each year. If I had my way the newspapers on New Year’s Day would carry headlines proclaiming that 2,000 people had been killed in road accidents during the past year. Perhaps then the people would sit up and take a little notice. Announcements of daily or weekly accident casualties have little effect on the public. Statistics show that most accidents occur in country areas. What opportunities do country people have of seeing television, which is the most expensive advertising medium that we have? How much time will be allotted on television to advertising for road safety purposes? Road safety propaganda must go out into the country areas. At present the Government is confining its activities in this connexion to road safety propaganda. Most of the money provided for the promotion of road safety practices is being found by the Commonwealth. The underwriters are not playing their part, yet they stand to benefit if the toll of the road is reduced. The Government has specified that this grant must be spent in a certain way. It has made no provision for research or for the construction of safe roads, which is all-important. I regret that the Government has seen fit to go on in the same old way, waiting for the Australian Transport Advisory Council to meet.
Proposed votes - Department of Shipping and Transport, £1,306,000; Miscellaneous Services - Department of Shipping and Transport, £3,841,000 - agreed to.
– The committee will now proceed to discuss the proposed vote for Division No. 615 - Construction of a Jetty for Handling of Explosives - £520,000.
– I should like the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) to give me some information in reply to the questions [ asked earlier in relation to this matter. Where is the jetty being constructed?
– The jetty is being constructed at Point Wilson, on Corio Bay, near the Geelong area.
.- I do not know whether I rise to speak to the proposed vote or to take a point of order. 1 am seriously concerned at the propriety of including this project in a bill which should cover only ordinary annual revenue expenditure. As we know, we in this Senate insist on a marked distinction between capital expenditure and revenue expenditure. Over the former we have a power of amendment but in respect of revenue expenditure we have power only to make requests for amendment. If we are forced to make our will felt with regard to one item in the Appropriation Bill, it involves the entire bill. When I see in this bill a specific item covering the construction of a jetty for handling of explosives I am compelled to ask the. Minister to explain why that item is included in the bill. It does not seem to me to be an item involving an appropriation of revenue for the ordinary annual services of the Government but rather an item involving capital expenditure.
– I should explain that the money for this expenditure comes not from the vote for the Department of Shipping and Transport but from the defence vote, which is appropriated annually. Expenditure on this project has been continuing for the past two or three years, the amount required for each year being appropriated from the defence vote.
– Why is it included under this department?
– Because this department is responsible for the construction of the jetty.
– Will the Minister explain how the outstanding portion of the total estimated cost of this jetty of £1,600,000 is to be expended? Up to the present £867,020 has been expended and we are now making provision for further expenditure. I should like to know whether this is a project that should have been referred to the Public Works Committee. At one time the defence services were able to classify certain of their works as purely defence projects but this jetty obviously is a nonclassifield project. The amount of approximately £800,000 remains to be spent on the project. I would like to know why this work is not made the subject of a report to the Parliament, which is entitled to know how such a large sum of money is being spent.
, - This work was commenced some years ago before the amending Public Works Committee Act came into force. It was regarded as defence work and, coming under that general category, it was not referred to the Public Works Committee. The work was commenced in 1956-57.
Proposed vote agreed to.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon.
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (The Chairman having reported accordingly)
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 October 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1960/19601025_senate_23_s18/>.