23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– T direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Will the Minister confer with the Treasurer for the purpose of getting one of his senior officers to accompany an officer of the Department of Labour and National Service on a visit to Queensland cities and towns where many hundreds of persons have been unemployed for many weeks and are unlikely to be employed for several months? Will the Minister request the two officers to report on the advisability of commencing relief works in Queensland now in order to improve the financial position of the unemployed before the Christmas period?
– I will bring the statement of the honorable senator to the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service whose duty it is to inform all those requiring employment where employment is to be found and under what conditions it can be obtained.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport seen a press report of a £456,000,000 roads and bridges plan for New South Wales over a period of ten years proposed by the New South Wales Minister for Local Government and Highways? Does the Minister agree that a very big factor in the appalling toll of the road is faulty and inadequate roadways, bridges and level crossings, together with a lack of uniformity throughout the Commonwealth of road signs, street lighting, &c? If the Minister agrees with this contention, will the Government endeavour to convene a conference of representatives of the Commonwealth and all States with a view to setting up a national body of Commonwealth and State representatives to draw up as soon as possible a national roads and bridges plan and, in agreement with the States, having this body vested with authority over those matters on a national basis?
– Yes, I have seen the statement. I recognize the plan so described as similar to a plan which has been put up before and which on the previous occasion also emanated from New South Wales. It is very similar in concept and in principle to a plan which was once dignified by the title of the Renshaw plan. Its purpose is to build a series of roads labelled “ National Roads “, the idea being that the national concept should attract Commonwealth support in addition to the support which is currently extended under the main roads legislation. I have also seen that part of the statement which refers to the effect of bad roads on the accident rate. My only comment, which I am sure will be confirmed by those members of the Senate who recently served on the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety, is that the number of accidents caused by bad roads in Australia is quite small. Ninety per cent, of accidents are caused by persons. If my memory serves me correctly - I shall stand correction if it does not - just under four per cent, of all the accidents that occur are caused toy bad road conditions and factors of that kind.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport let me know the amount of money appropriated last financial year for expenditure on the Eyre highway which runs between the western area of South Australia and Western Australia? Was the full quota spent? If not, why was it not spent? Will the Minister invite the attention of his colleague to the importance of- maintaining this highway in a high state of efficiency and of ensuring that all moneys appropriated by the Parliament for that purpose during this financial year will be duly spent?
– The amount appropriated for the Eyre highway last year was £25,000, which was to be distributed equally between the Government of Western Australia and the Government of South Australia. Expenditure in 1959-60 totalled £17,135, South Australia having spent £13,250 and Western Australia having claimed, as a reimbursement, the amount of £3,885. Western Australia failed to claim in sufficient time to be reimbursed for work done in 1959-60. Thus, a carry-over of some £8,000 resulted. Discussions are proceeding with the Treasury at the moment, I understand, to see whether the amount that was unclaimed last year can in fact be paid, although, of course, the financial year has ended and the books have been closed. The Minister for Works in Western Australia has told me that expenditure by his State on this road far exceeded the grant and that the money spent was unclaimed because of some failure, which I did not quite understand, to submit the claim on the Commonwealth before 30th June last.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate able to say whether the two Sabre fighters which are alleged to have flown dangerously close to the jet aircraft that was bringing Her Majesty the Queen home from Denmark, have been identified? Has the Minister any information concerning the incident? Will steps be taken to make plain to the persons and governments concerned that this kind of dangerous play must be discontinued, whether it is due to unwarranted military precautions or just the jeu d’esprit of young aviators?
– I can say no more than that I have heard of the reports to which Senator McCallum refers. I am not aware that the Government has any information on the matter. I should think that the British authorities would undoubtedly take such action as they consider appropriate in the circumstances.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation.
In view of the fact that several aerodromes in Australia are being used jointly by the Royal Australian Air Force and the Department of Civil Aviation, will the Minister have another look at the air service from Newcastle to Sydney, because that service is constantly booked out, it runs at a very unsatisfactory time and, being the only service from Newcastle to Sydney, it does not provide an adequate service to the people of Newcastle?
– I recognize that Senator Arnold has shown a continuing interest in this question of the air service between Sydney and Newcastle. It is quite right, as he states, that the nature and extent of the service are limited by the fact that the aerodrome which serves Newcastle is that at Williamtown and the use of that aerodrome bv the Department of Civil Aviation is subject to the permission of the Royal Australian Air Force. From time to time, at the bidding of Senator Arnold and others, I have had a look at the possibility of effecting improvements. I will do so again. I will see whether the present circumstances permit of any improvement.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry been directed to a statement published in the “ Land “ newspaper on 20th October, 1960, attributed to Mr. Warren McDonald, Chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, when addressing the Cereal Chemistry Group’s annual meeting at Leura in New South Wales? The statement is as follows: -
The Commonwealth subsidized the wheat industry by about £7,000,000 in 1959-60 after the resources of the Wheat Stabilization Fund had been exhausted. rs it not a fact that that statement is in correct?
– I have noticed the article referred to. The facts are that £4,497,000 of growers’ money still remains in the Wheat Industry Stabilization Fund. Since 1948 no public money - only wheatgrowers’ money - has been used from that fund and there is still £4,497,000 left in it. If Mr. McDonald made the statement attributed to hint, he made an incorrect statement.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, by saying that in reply to a question asked on 6th September last about civil defence in Australia, the Minister for the Interior told me that State Ministers had - . . indicated their willingness to co-operate with the Commonwealth in an expanded civil defence programme. They indicated how far they were prepared to meet the cost of their particular State programmes and the necessary financial assistance to be made available by the
Commonwealth for the programmes examined, lt was agreed that the States’ views would be considered by the Commonwealth.
The Minister also stated, “ The Commonwealth Government has not yet reached a decision on the States’ submissions “. 1 now ask the Minister whether the Commonwealth has yet reached its decision, and whether that decision has been communicated to the States.
– I have had an opportunity to discuss this matter with the Minister for the Interior. He has informed me that although the submissions from the States have been under consideration by the Cabinet for some time, it has not yet reached a decision on the matter. He also said that there are quite a number of matters to be dealt with in detail, and until those details are fully considered and a decision is made he would not bc able to give a decision to the States. He said that he hoped that a decision would be made in the near future.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services aware, that in New Zealand each pensioner in receipt of social service payments is to receive an extra payment by way of a bonus for Christmas? In view of the increased and still rising cost of living in Australia, as shown by recent Arbitration Court declarations on the basic wage, will the Minister for Social Services consider making a similar payment to Australian pensioners?
– I noticed a report in the press to the effect that, at Christmas time, a bonus will be paid to pensioners in New Zealand. The honorable senator desires to know whether such a bonus will be paid here. Whether that will be done is a matter of Government policy. I point out that since this Government has been in power social services have been increased very considerably. I shall bring the matter before the Minister concerned. As the honorable senator will appreciate, I cannot make a decision one way or the other.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for National
Development, arises from a rather interest, ing statement, reported in to-day’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “ and attributed to Sir Ernest Fisk, who is described as a business consultant and a pioneer in the fields of radio and television. He is reported to have predicted, when addressing the Sydney Rotary Club, that in the not too distant future Australia will possess a great system of canals, running in all directions, and that the salt water in the canals will be converted to fresh water for the purposes of irrigation on a very large scale. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether he has seen this statement? If he has seen it, would he care to comment on the practicability of the remarkable scheme envisaged by Sir Ernest Fisk?
– One must always regard with respect the opinions expressed by Sir Ernest Fisk. I did not see the newspaper report, but it has been mentioned to me on several occasions to-day. This scheme certainly opens up an extensive vista. There are two elements in the scheme. Apparently Sir Ernest Fisk envisages salt water flowing inland from the sea coast, and its subsequent conversion to fresh water. Great engineering problems would be involved in the construction of the canals. A great deal of work is going on and a lot of research is being done in relation to the conversion of salt water to fresh water, but I think it is only fair to say that there, is no immediate prospect of salt water being converted to fresh water in quantities sufficiently large for irrigation purposes at a cost which would be an economic cost as far as the farmers are concerned.
Supply of Steel
asked the Minister for Works, upon notice -
Minister for Works has supplied the following answers: -
Awards for Bravery
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answer: - 1, 2 and 3. The services rendered by members of the Army during the Derwent River floods are known. Recognition of these services is receiving consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
In view of a statement by a leading Adelaide children’s specialist that the number of children being admitted to hospitals in Australia suffering from burns is increasing and that many of such cases could be prevented, will the Minister consider directing manufacturers to label all children’s garments as inflammable or not inflammable as the cf.se may be?
– The Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply: -
The Government is in full accord with the suggestion that all practicable steps be taken to prevent accidents from burning. However, the suggestion of the honorable senator could only be adopted if requisite legislation was introduced by the State Governments.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister fo Health has now furnished the following reply: -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What steps have been taken to provide telephonic communications for the people of the north-west of Western Australia and, in particular, those living in the small townships of Fitzroy Crossing and Hall’s Creek in the Kimberleys?
– I have received the following reply: -
In October, 1959, telephone subscribers at Derby and Broome were given access to the general network by means of a radio-telephone system between Perth and Derby.
The Perth-Mullewa-Meekatharra open-wire trunk line route is being extended to Port Hedland where it will link up with an existing trunk line to Roebourne. This project is well advanced and will be completed during 1960. Subscribers at Marble Bar have already been provided with access to the Australian telephone network.
It is proposed to link Wyndham, Kununurra, Fitzroy Crossing and Hall’s Creek with the network by providing radio-telephone systems between each of these centres and Derby. Similarly, subscribers at Onslow and Wittenoom will be given access by means of radio-telephone systems to Port Hedland. These systems will be installed as soon as the necessary resources can be made available.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
Minister for Territories has furnished the following answers: -
– On 27th September, Senator Marriott asked the following question: -
In view of the cessation of national service training and the increased need for recruits for the Citizen Military Forces, and because the youth of Australia would provide the most suitable recruits, will the Minister consider setting up a corps of regimental cadets, thereby allowing school cadets to continue their military training until they become eligible by age to enlist in the C.M.F.?
The Minister for the Army has provided the following answer: -
Regimental cadets existed within the structure of the Army from 1929 until 1939. They were reintroduced in 1949. Enlistments were suspended in 1953, and by 1957 all who were serving had either been enlisted into the C.M.F. or discharged. Re-introduction was considered in 1957. The comprehensive examination of the matter made at that date revealed that regimental cadets imposed administrative and other problems out of all proportion to the benefits achieved by the Army from their existence. Furthermore, regular Army staffs with C.M.F. units which would be responsible for the supervision and control of regimental cadets could not be increased. They were already fully committed, and would be overloaded by the tasks imposed by the re-introduction of regimental cadets. Notwithstanding the cessation of national service training, the factors examined and decisions reached in 1957 are, in the main, still applicable to-day, except for one very important change - the age for enlistment into the C.M.F. has, since 1958, been seventeen years. This reduction in enlistment age results in the majority of school cadets being eligible to join the C.M.F. immediately they leave their school cadet unit.
– On 18th October. Senator Benn asked a question concerning an alleged deterioration in the general efficiency of Trans-Australia Airlines. As promised I referred this matter to T.A.A. for its comments and I can now give Senator Benn some additional information.
It is true that certain delays have occurred on recent schedules, but this is by no means confined to T.A.A. The modern aircraft is a highly complex unit and despite the most stringent maintenance control delays in schedule are always possible, in order to ensure the safety of a flight. T.A.A.’s policy is and always has been: Schedules are important; safety is most important. lt must be understood that delay which stems from the operation of one aircraft may have far-reaching effects at other ports, not only from the inability of that aircraft to maintain the rest of its schedules for the day, but also in the dislocation of connecting flights and the consequent effect on passengers on all the flights concerned. Modern aircraft are costly and it is not possible, except at unjustifiable capital outlay, for any operator to maintain standby aircraft which can at short notice replace delayed nights.
As is usual with an aircraft during its induction period, the Electra has experienced delays but these are now on a downward trend. When an Electra flight is delayed to the extent that another aircraft has to bc substituted, there is a chain reaction which affects many other flights, including those operated by other aircraft types.
The Electra can make eight 500-mile flights per day and, therefore, one minor mechanical delay on the first flight can cause cumulative delays on seven later flights and affect the movement of passengers on connecting flights by other types of aircraft. Unless such factors as these are recognized, the incidence of mechanical fault will be grossly distorted.
Year by year, T.A.A.’s reputation in all fields of operation grows stronger and it has now reached the point where it is frequently consulted by overseas airlines for advice on how to improve services and maintenance techniques. T.A.A.’s engineering division has never permitted any deterioration in its services, and never will. Its reputation for mechanical regularity is very high on world standards.
Throughout Australia T.A.A. employs 1,545 men on maintenance and overhaul and last year’s cost in this section was £3,460,000, indicating that no expense is being spared to ensure the highest stan dards. The workshops meet the rigid requirements of the Department of Civil Aviation and, indeed, go far beyond them.
T.A.A. is constantly perfecting its methods and is now implementing the finding of four senior personnel who from late in 1959 spent five months overseas studying organization and techniques of airline workshops in Europe and the United States.
May I add that the Australian National Airlines Commission continues to enjoy the confidence of the Government. May 1 also add that the Government is completely satisfied with the management and the operation of this most efficient airline.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Commonwealth Grants Commission Act - Commonwealth Giants Commission - Twentyseventh report (1960).
The recommendations contained in the report will be adopted by the Government and the enabling legislation will be introduced shortly.
Consideration resumed from 20th October (vide page 1207). on motion by Senator Buttfield - .
That consideration be given to the report on the next day of sitting.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Buttfield) agreed to -
That the report be adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 25th October (vide page 1280).
Proposed Vote, £4,594,000.
.- 1 wish to make a brief reference to the section entitled “ Seat of Government Railway “ at page 36 of the notes that have been supplied to honorable senators. The section reads -
This railway, a little under five miles in length, was taken over by the Commonwealth Railways Commission, on 1st July, 1928.
The line is maintained and staffed by the Commonwealth Railways Commission but trains running on it are owned and staffed by New South Wales Railways. The running of State rolling stock over the railway is subject to an agreement between the respective Commissioners. 1 think it should be pointed out that passengers who desire to travel to Canberra from Melbourne at the present time leave the train at Goulburn on three of the six days on which the train runs, and then join a small branch-line train which conveys them to Canberra. Naturally at times tourists from overseas - as well as Australians - use that train. They travel in the express train as far as Goulburn and then catch this branch-line train from Goulburn to Canberra. Any overseas tourist who sees that branch-line train which runs to the capital must wonder whether he is in Australia or whether he is in the most poverty-stricken, hill-billy State of Central America. 1 doubt if there is in operation in the whole of Australia a carriage which is as ancient, unpainted, decrepit, draught-ridden and dirty as that which conveys people from Goulburn to Canberra. Its condition must be seen to be believed. I think that the Victorian Railway commissioners are seriously at fault in not warning tourists of what confronts them between Goulburn and Canberra when they get out of the express train from Melbourne. Whoever says that the commissioners were responsible for the agreement on this railway must be regarded as having done the commissioners an injury because I am positive that the commissioners have never seen the particular carriage to which I have referred. If they had, I have no doubt that they would have, taken steps to repudiate it.
I suggest therefore that somebody take a photograph of the carriage and show it to the commissioners, or possibly better still I suggest that the commissioners ‘be asked to take a ride in it and that they then be asked whether they think it is worthy of the transport system to the Australian capital. I leave the matter at that except to say that I hope for the sake of Australia’s reputation overseas that a carriage will be put on that train which will be worthy of a train running to the national capital.
Senator VINCENT (Western Australia) [3.431. - T rise to mention briefly a matter to which I referred some time ago. I have not yet received a reply from the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman). 1 refer to the difficulty that intending passengers experience in endeavouring to obtain berths from Perth to the eastern States. I mentioned at the time that the authority in charge of the booking office is the Western Australian Railways, which, to suit its convenience, closes the booking office from midday Saturday till 6 p.m. on Sunday. The east-west express leaves Perth at 7 o’clock on Sunday evening. Any one who is suddenly required to travel from Perth to the eastern States during the week-end does not know whether he or she can obtain a berth until 6 o’clock on Sunday evening. The intending passenger has to go to the booking office. Presumably he must pack his bag before he goes in and if no berth is available he then has to return home.
If we are to encourage rail traffic the Western Australian Government Railways should either provide a better service or should give the responsibility of issuing tickets to somebody who will carry out the job. It is astonishing that one has to wait until an hour before the train leaves on Sunday evening before he knows whether he can obtain a berth or not. Of course at this time of the yean - from now and throughout the Christmas period’ - it is most difficult to get a berth. The trains are becoming crowded as is the custom. At Christmas time the trains are so crowded that it is impossible to get a berth except by booking up to six weeks in advance. Similar congestion, of course, is to be found everywhere at that time of the year, and it does not appear that the Commonwealth Railways authorities can alleviate it. I again bring this matter to the Minister’s attention in the pious hope that he will consider it and let me know what is the real situation.
.- I wish to refer to the proposed votes for the Commonwealth Railways, of a total amount of £4,594,000. I note that in the schedule of salaries and allowances, provision is made for the appropriation of £2,400,359 in respect of 2,249 operative and maintenance employees. I refer to this matter, Mr. Chairman, because of statements made in the interim report of the operations of the Commonwealth Railways for the year 1959-60, which has been presented to the
Senate. I wish to compliment the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner on the very straightforward statement that he has made regarding the difficulties experienced in staffing the trans-continental railway in all its phases. He has directed attention to the shortage of man-power in the various branches under his control. 1 was astounded to note that the proposed appropriation which we are asked to approve, when dissected, shows that the minimum adult wage paid throughout the year to employees of the Commonwealth Railways was £13 8s. a week. The commissioner has stated that marginal increases of pay were granted to members of the staff in a similar manner to that applicable to employees of other railways and services. He has also stated that in his way and works branch, shortage of labour, particularly of track maintenance gangs, still exists and is seriously hampering operations. He points out that the number of men engaged in the track maintenance force during the year was 1,178 and that 1,304 left the service during the year, so that there was a total net loss of 126 men from the gangs which were already below strength at the beginning of the year.
The commissioner states that in the thirteen years from 1946 to 1959, 10,999 employees were engaged and 10,834 left the service, so that the total turn-over of track staff in that period was about 21,000 employees. He refers to the difficulties encountered in recruiting tradesmen, particularly plumbers. A very interesting statement is made in the report regarding the difficulty experienced in recruiting staff. There is also a straightforward statement about the Australian Capital Territory railway. The commissioner states -
As has obtained for many years, difficulty was experienced in recruiting and holding suitable staff for the Australian Capital Territory Railway, which has to compete for man-power with Contractors who offer higher wages and almost unlimited overtime.
I compliment the commissioner for telling us why staff cannot be obtained to operate that railway. His statement is in marked contrast to the excuse being offered by railway authorities in other parts of the Commonwealth, particularly in my own State of Victoria. This commissioner is truthful. He has not mentioned anything about Communist-controlled unions, nor has he said that he cannot recruit staff because of the attitude of the unions. He says straight out that, for the reason he stated, he is not able to recruit sufficient staff.
I am sure the Victorian people who have been without trains for the last 30 or more week-ends, would appreciate it very much if the Minister for Transport and the railway commissioners in that State were to tell them the truth about the difficulties in the way of staff recruitment. A lot of nonsense has been spoken about the position in Victoria, in as much as it is suggested that the unions have deliberately withheld labour that is needed for the provision of an adequate railway service. As a matter of fact, every railwayman in Victoria is working full-time and overtime. They work 96 hours a fortnight. You cannot attract staff, Mr. Chairman, for a seven day a week occupation, with broken shifts, overtime and so on, on the salaries that are being offered. I suggest that if we are to solve this problem of shortage of staff throughout the Commonwealth, something more is necessary than to offer the meagre wage of £13 8s. a week that I have mentioned. Something more is necessary in Victoria, New South Wales and wherever there is a shortage of staff, in order to induce young people and others to undertake employment in railway services.
It is remarkable how railway work has declined in popularity. The railway services offer concessional fares to employees, superannuation, paid holidays, half-fare vouchers and other lures of that kind. Yet, they are not able to attract a sufficient number of employees because, as I have said, of the shift work that must be done, of the Saturday and Sunday work, and other conditions of employment in railway services. When I was associated with the Victorian railways there was a waiting list of persons seeking employment with the railways. Railway work was looked upon as ideal for the young fellow. It offered security until he reached the end of his working career. But that is a thing of the past. I think there is a duty on railway managements, whether in the Commonwealth or the Stale sphere, to make employment conditions sufficiently attractive to induce people to seek employment with them. If railway services have to be carried on by a relatively few people who are obliged to work unduly long hours, in my opinion and, I think, in the opinion of most reasonable people, that is not conducive to the proper functioning of those services. As I have said, I compliment the commissioner on his truthful statement. He is not trying to hoodwink the Parliament. Nor is he trying to hoodwink the. people of Australia who are dependent upon this railway service. He has told them the truth - the Commonwealth railways cannot attract men because of the conditions of employment. He does not talk about Communistcontrolled unions and all that sort of hooey that we, are getting in Victoria. There is nobody rushing in to obtain the vacant jobs. As I have said, all the employees are working full time and anybody who likes to go along can get employment. The unions are not preventing any one from seeking employment. But we get that sort of statement dished up to us daily by the people who control the Victorian Railways as the reason why those railways are not running to their full capacity. I compliment the Acting Commonwealth Railways Commissioner for being honest and telling us the reason why he cannot get staff.
– I will reply first to what Senator Sheehan has said. I point out that the Commonwealth Railways suffers specific and peculiar disadvantages in the engagement and employment of labour. The greatest length of its railways runs through isolated, sparsely populated parts of the Commonwealth. In these days of buoyant employment and economic conditions it is very difficult to attract people into those areas. Senator Sheehan referred to the very large labour turn-over which has occurred. That is true, and it has occurred for the reasons I have stated. The commissioner has had to rely to a large extent on migrant labour, and once migrants become, acclimatized to Australia they feel a need to see more of Australia than they are able to see at the isolated stations along the Trans-Australian line and the Central Australia line.
– That does not apply in Canberra.
– That does not happen in Canberra. I will come to that. The number of employees in Canberra is very small. The only employees here are the men who are engaged at the Canberra railway station.
– There are not many there now.
– The number does not amount to more than a few and does not affect the total picture to any extent. Senator Sheehan referred to the basic wage now being £13 8s. and said that that was not a wage which would prove to be attractive in many instances. I emphasize that that is the basic wage and, as in all forms of employment, to that wage is added a margin which in many cases covered by railway unions is considerable. Other allowances also are paid such as remote area allowances, which raise that basic wage well above the £13 8s. to which the report refers.
Senator McManus spoke in critical terms of the length of line - under 5 miles - which runs from Queanbeyan to the Canberra station. There are particular difficulties in the operation of that line. ‘The service is not conducted by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, but by the New South Wales Railways, which runs its own rolling-stock over that line and services the trains with its own staff, lt is not a profitable line. It does not carry many passengers. Although it would be unfortunate if even one tourist got a poor impression of its operation, I think that Senator McManus will be the first to admit that not too many tourists come to Canberra by train these days. There may be one or two who come that way.
– The carriages frighten them away.
– I do not really think that tourists would come by train. The airlines have provided the type of passenger service to the capital city which without doubt is the one which is preferred. I also point out that this railway service has run at a consistent loss over the years. Year by year the commissioner has commented on the loss.
– What is the order of it?
– The loss was £15,900 last year, and I can recall that it was as high as £20,000. In one year within the last four or five years I think it was £22,000. All those factors make it a railway which is difficult to operate and does not provide a great deal of incentive. It suffers from intense competition from road transport in respect of the carriage of freight. However, I was disturbed to hear that the carriages were in a dirty condition. It is some time since I travelled on this section of the line, but I did not find the train dirty at any time. I will certainly direct the attention of the Acting Commissioner to that particular criticism. I know that one thing he would not stand would be that type of maintenance.
– The New South Wales Railways run the service from Albury.
– Yes, it is run by mc New South Wales Railways, but it is still the responsibility of the Acting Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and I will direct his attention to the matter.
– Is the line worth maintaining?
– As a commercial proposition, obviously it is not worth maintaining.
– It is worth maintaining for the carriage of freight, is it not?
– NO, it does not pay at all. It suffers too much from intense competition. From time to time consideration has been given to the closure of the line, but it has always been felt - I think the Senate Committee on the development of Canberra expressed this view - that the stature of the national capital required that it should be served by a railway. There has always been the prospect - not yet fulfilled - that increasing freights might make it a rather more attractive proposition.
Senator Vincent spoke about the railway station in Perth. When he raised the matter by way of a question some time ago, I told him that I would refer the matter to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. That has been done. The Minister, in turn, has been in touch with the Western Australian Railways, but I understand as yet he has not received a reply from Western Australia. I assure the honorable senator that the matter will not be lost sight of. The Acting Commonwealth Railways Commissioner is putting a centralized booking section into operalion at Port Augusta. That will be a great advantage to the Trans-Australian Railway, but it will not overcome the particular difficulty to which Senator Vincent referred, which arises because the office is closed from mid-day on Saturday to 6 p.m. on Sunday. That matter will be followed up.
Sir, I am amazed that the comments made on the Commonwealth Railways this year - I presume there are no further comments to come - contained no element of compliment. In the past, someone thought it proper to draw attention to the fact that our big passenger railway - the TransAustralian line - can take its place beside any railway in the world. I cannot allow this occasion to pass without reminding honorable senators of that. When I was overseas a couple of years ago, pressed for time though I was, I took the opportunity to travel in some of the famous named trains in order to make a comparison. I had the pleasure of travelling in the “ President “ from New York to Washington. I travelled on the London, Midland and Scottish line to Derby, and I also travelled on the famous Continental “ Blue Train “. It was my belief that, although each of those trains was a good train, we had not a great deal to learn. I do not say that smugly or complacently. Our own trans-continental train, with its airconditioning and hot and cold showers and with the really good meals that the staff manage to serve compares favorably with any train in the world. For my part, I would not like the proposed votes to be agreed to without having made those few complimentary remarks and extending my congratulations to the Commissioner and his staff.
– I do not want to detain the committee for very long, but I should like to refer to the making of bookings on Sundays for the trans-continental train in cases of emergency. I should like to tell the Minister that on several occasions I have been approached by people who, for reasons of serious illness or family bereavement, wanted immediate transport to the east. At any hour on a Sunday I have been able to secure accommodation for them on that night’s train by ringing the Perth central office. There was always an officer there who went to the trouble of getting in touch with the appropriate people in order to make a booking. Those officers have gone to a great deal of trouble indeed to arrange bookings and to inform me and the people concerned. I have always found that, when there is a real emergency, facilities are available to enable bookings to be made. I have found that the officers I have mentioned have always been willing and anxious to help in an emergency. 1 have been travelling over the transcontinental line for many years. I have always been amazed by the fortitude of the women who live along that line, and by the very fine way in which they keep their houses. 1 have travelled on the “ Tea and Sugar “ train, which is an experience that not many honorable senators have had. The late Senator McLeay, when Minister for Shipping and Transport, promised that he would make the trip with me, but unfortunately that did not come to pass. Since that time, the old “ Tea and Sugar “ train has been considerably improved. Travelling on this supply train over the transcontinental line, I have got off at the various sidings and visited the women folk in their isolated homes. Their nearest neighbour may be 50 or 60 miles or even further away. One is impressed with the fact that the women folk out there are very house-proud. They keep their homes very well. A previous Minister for the Interior, the late Senator Collings, who administered the Commonwealth Railways at that time, will always be remembered for the new types of homes he had erected in those remote and very hot areas. They were provided with verandahs, fly-wire screens and so on - things which to-day we regard as quite ordinary but which it was quite an achievement to provide during the war years. The women folk out there keep their homes perhaps neater and cleaner than do women in the cities, who have more distractions.
They are anxious to give their children a decent education. This is one of the big problems that confront people living along the trans-continental line. The lack of educational facilities may be one of the reasons why the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner has difficulty in getting appointees to positions out there to stay for very long. The problem arises, not when the children are going to primary schools, but when they reach secondary school age. They have to go away from their homes to attend school in Kalgoorlie or in the capital cities of South Australia and Western Australia.
This brings about a break in the home link, and there is nothing on the trans-continental line to make people form an attachment for a railway cottage. It is not as though they were station owners and had a stake in the country. So the communities along the line are really transient communities.
One finds in each community, no matter how small it may be, a very fine spirit of public service. During the war years, the Red Cross Society had one of its most active branches at Cook. From the railway, you can see only about half a dozen cottages, yet hundreds of pounds were raised by that small community for the Red Cross. As you go from one siding to the other, you find that the people of each community have an interest in common and that they make the best of their lives. I pay a tribute to the women folk who work out there from year’s end to year’s end without any break whatsoever, and do it quite cheerfully. They tell me they can save a bit. They do not have in those places the attractions that are found in the cities and they cannot go shopping. They have to depend on the “Tea and Sugar “ train to bring their supplies every week. Even their clothes have to be bought from the mail order firms, and that is always very satisfactory.
An infant welfare travelling clinic has been provided. That is a big step forward. The women are grateful to the Western Australian Government for creating the service and to the Commonwealth authorities for providing the facilities. I believe that travelling dentists also make periodic visits to the isolated communities along the transcontinental line. Although it is difficult to find people who are willing to work there, if honorable senators were to visit people along the line they would find that there are no happier small communities in Australia. 1 would also like to say how much we owe to the new Australians who went out there to work, in areas which are much different from those to which they were accustomed in their own countries. It was very difficult for them at times. Perhaps men of six different nationalities were working under a foreman who spoke no language other than Australian, but they learnt our language very quickly. They were able to work together and keep the line going through the difficult post-war years. I pay a tribute to them. I do not blame them for wanting to see wider horizons in Australia. The fact that they kept the wheels turning there during the difficult post-war years entitles them to praise for a job well done.
– I desire to associate myself with the remarks made by the Minister in relation to the Trans-Australia Railway. I agree entirely with his opinion that it is second to none in the world.
Sir, I would like to offer my congratulations to the Government on the selection of Mr. K. A. Smith as the acting commissioner. I had occasion to observe the work of this gentleman when he was chief of the engineering section in Port Augusta. He is well acquainted with conditions in the north, as he lived in Port Augusta for a number of years. He has done magnificent work on the engineering side in the way of laying tracks. He is now showing his skill in the matter of attracting business. I think the way in which he has developed the idea of a “ Wildflower “ special series of trains to Western Australia during recent months, and the promise he has made to introduce tourist fares on the Central Australian section, so that tourists will be able te take their cars at reduced rates into the Centre next autumn and winter, are worthy of commendation. I believe that the transcontinental and Central Australian sections of the Commonwealth Railways face a prosperous future. I feel sure that the imaginative policy pursued by Mr. Smith and his officers will pay great dividends.
I should like Mr. Smith to pay some attention to the Canberra section of the Commonwealth Railways, and to state whether, in his opinion, il should be discontinued. Certain sections of the Commonwealth Railways in South Australia have already been closed and for a short time there was some heart-burning. The section of line between Port Augusta and Quorn has been virtually closed. A small section of the line between Hawker and Quorn is still in service. The statement that traditionally a capital city should have a railway service must be looked at from ;> business point of view. As Senator
McManus pointed out this afternoon, it hardly adds to the prestige of this capital city of Canberra to have a railway carriage entering the capital in the condition described by the honorable senator. I hope that serious attention will be paid to the three or four miles of railway in the Australian Capital Territory which costs s’ich a large amount of money to maintain. 1 should like the Minister for Shipping and Transport to inquire whether sufficient freight is being attracted to the East-West Railway from Government sources. Over the years, the commissioner has reported that compared with what is available, very little freight is carried between Pimba - the station for Woomera - and the south. In other words, the Department of Supply, the Department of Works, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Defence, the Department of the Army and other Government departments elect to send most of their heavy freight by motor transport. All the canteen freight consigned to Woomera is handled by motor transport. I believe that the commissioner and the heads of departments concerned with the enormous expenditure involved at Woomera and Maralinga should confer with a view to consigning as much freight as possible on the East-West Railway. This matter has been referred to adversely in reports of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. I do not see any reference to this matter in the latest report, but I direct the attention of honorable senators to page 9 of the report where the acting commissioner states -
Generally speaking, “ local “ freight traffic on the Trans-Australian Railway is small. In the main, it consists of supplies for pastoral properties, and similar goods to the areas contiguous to the railway. The outwards traffic consists principally of livestock, wool, firewood in small tonnages, salt and lime.
Freight carried to the Woomera Rocket Range was heavier than in the previous year. This traffic fluctuates according to the degree of building activity in the area.
It is obvious that where such a large amount of money is being spent and where so many service personnel, scientists and others live with their wives and families, a considerable amount of local freight should be available. I suggest that the Minister confer with the acting commissioner on this matter. 1 wish to ask the Minister a question relating to extensions of the line from Port Augusta to Whyalla. I should like to know whether any discussions have taken place between the South Australian Government and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited on extending the line a further 40 or 50 miles. I remind the Minister that about £50,000,000 will be spent at Whyalla in the next five or six years on the construction of a steel plant and extensions to the present iron plant. Additional housing and other amenities will be required at Whyalla. I think that the Government should indicate whether it intends to extend the Commonwealth Railways into Whyalla, which should be a payable proposition.
To sum up, I say that the Government should have another look at the unprofitable line between Queanbeyan and Canberra. It should consider the extension of the line from Port Augusta to Whyalla and possibly beyond to the iron ore deposits in the Middleback Range. Planning for that extension should be commenced now. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is already planning for an extension of its activities at Whyalla. The South Australian Government is planning an extension of the water supply and of housing services. In my opinion, the extension of the railway line should precede those other works. I should like the Government to consider my remarks in the light of the great future that lies ahead of that part of South Australia about which I have been speaking.
– 1 would like the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) to think carefully before adopting Senator Laught’s suggestion that the rail link between Canberra and the rest of Australia should be discontinued. I agree with everything that Senator Paltridge said about the comfort and quality of the carriages and engines used on the Commonwealth Railways. They are excellent, but generally speaking I think that railways in Australia lag behind those in Great Britain and on the Continent in the quality of their tracks. As honorable senators know, we in Australia had to build many miles of railway line as cheaply as we could. We adopted the American pattern of laying sleepers and attaching rails to them by means of a big bolt. Our tracks are not as good as those in use in Great Britain and on the Continent. It is about six or seven years since I was in Great Britain, and I am afraid that the comfort and cleanliness of British trains have deteriorated since nationalization. The British trains do not seem to be as good as they were when I was in England during the First World War. However, the tracks are still very good. You can get into a sleeping berth at London and awaken next morning at Aberdeen and be almost unaware that you have been in a train. The same thing applies to the railways in France. I have travelled from Marseilles to Calais, from Marseilles to Paris and on a number of short journeys and I would say that our railways in this country are not as good as the railways in France. That applies particularly to tracks. I timed some of the distances on a number of short journeys, and I should say that on the lines from Fontainebleau to Paris and from Paris to Rouen trains travel at between 70 and 80 miles per hour the whole time. One hardly knows one is moving. That is not true of our trains. The main trouble about the journey between Canberra and Sydney is that it is a little too long and the train rocks. If the time taken were an hour less and the journey were smoother, I would take the train in preference to the aeroplane. I always travel by train between Sydney and Newcastle because it is certainly preferable to air or road travel, road travel being very dangerous.
– You travel by train and relax?
– You can relax between Sydney and Newcastle, and on a number of other short journeys. I agree with Senator Laught’s suggestion that many of the branch lines should be closed down and that we should rely instead upon coach transport. The main lines can pay, but I believe the secret is to have good transport. Of course, we will have to improve the tracks bit by bit. I suppose there are railway experts present in the chamber and that they know the difference between the various methods of laying rails. I am only a amateur, but I know that rails can be held in position with a bolt or by a chair or some of the other modern devices that are used to screw them down. I believe that the secret of the future development of passenger services is to concentrate on the lines that will pay and to provide very well laid tracks so that passengers do not experience the discomfort that is at present experienced between, say, Canberraand Sydney.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation tell me where the responsibility lies for deciding to add more carriages to a train or to run extra trains between Perth and Adelaide? The only complaints that I have heard about the otherwise excellent service that is provided is that it is difficult to get bookings on this line. On the 20th of this month 1 was approached by a person who wanted a booking as late as 28th, 29th or 30th November, or 1st December, but who could not get one on any of those days. Surely when it is known five weeks ahead that a train is booked out some one must face up to the responsibility of deciding whether extra carriages should be put on or whether an extra train should be run. I should like to know who ultimately makes that decision.
– Senator Laught will have noted in the report of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner a comment to the effect that in 1959-60 Woomera traffic was somewhat heavier than it had been in the past. I am told that the difference of opinion between the commissioner and the Department of Supply still exists but that to some degree it has been resolved in favour of the commissioner.
– The state of the road between Port Augusta and Woomera would have some bearing on it. It is rather rough.
– I understand that it gets rough at some seasons of the year. I have travelled over it when it has been in quite good condition. The class of haulage that is undertaken is closely watched by the commissioner. There is this to be said for the Department of Supply: A good deal of the freight that goes to Woomera must be carried in special road vehicles, because it consists of technical equipment. It presents a special transport problem at Woomera.
– I believe canteen supplies go up by motor transport.
– At one time they did. Indeed, I was told when I looked into this matter as the then Minister for Shipping and Transport that it was carried in specially refrigerated vehicles. Apparently the commissioner is making some progress in the matter of this difference of opinion.
Senator Laught also asked, about the Port Augusta-Whyalla railway and whether there were any plans for standardization of the gauge or change of ownership. I speak from memory when I say that about two or three years ago a statement was made by Sir Thomas Playford to the effect that development at Whyalla would make it preferable for the gauge to be standardized, and I think he implied that the line might be taken over by the Commonwealth Railways. I do not agree with the honorable senator’s early prognostication that the line will be payable. I do not agree with him on the score that at the time it was put forward Sir Thomas Playford’s proposal, if it may be so described, was regarded as being rather premature. As I have indicated, I do not accept the suggestion that the line might become payable in the immediate future. I should say that if it were to be a profitable line, that being rare in State railway systems, Sir Thomas would prefer to retain it as part of the South Australian system.
– Did he not make an alternative proposal with regard to the Port Augusta-Port Pirie section?
– You could not work it as part of the State system because the Commonwealth operates the section from Port Pirie to Port Augusta.
– The State could take that section of the line; that would not be unusual. 1 was astonished to hear Senator McCallum speak about the condition of railway tracks. T had not suspected that he was interested in that aspect of rail travel. The history of the laying of the Commonwealth’s railway lines, especially the trans-continental line, is quite interesting. Originally much of the trans-continental line was laid without ballast. But it can be said that, although it is not yet adequately ballasted, much progress in that direction has been made. The diesel locomotives used on that line can hit 70 miles per hour; their general running is-at about 61 or 62 miles pei hour. To indicate that the condition of the track can be regarded as being satisfactory, I point out that freight trains travel at an average speed of 41 miles pei hour, which I understand is a world record. It will be seen that over the years considerable progress has been made.
Senator Branson referred to the difficulties that are experienced in booking passages between Perth and Adelaide, lt is hoped, indeed it is anticipated, that the centralized booking system to which ] referred earlier will remove a good deal of the inconvenience that is now experienced by travellers. The final responsibility for the frequency of services rests with the commissioner, but he is inhibited by the fact that at each end of his system he has to tie in with State railway systems. I understand that sometimes that factor imposes some limitations.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Air.
Proposed Vote, £63,278,000.
– I have one or two questions to ask the Minister in connexion with the Department of Air. About a fortnight ago, I inquired about the purchase of a fighter aircraft to take the place of the Sabre jet. I notice that in the Estimates an amount of £9,878,000 is provided under Division No. 542 - Aircraft and Associated Initial Equipment - Purchase and Manufacture. Has the Government made up its mind finally to purchase a replacement fighter aircraft? If so, has it decided upon the F104 Starfighter or the French Mirage? I point out that this amount of nearly £10,000,000 is to be provided from revenue, not from loans.
The other issue that I raised in the question to which I have referred concerned the building in Australia of the replacement aircraft decided upon. Of course, the Sabre of to-day is not, by a long shot, the Sabre of ten years ago. It is built just outside Melbourne by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Proprietary Limited, the managing director of which is WingCommander Sir Lawrence Wackett. He told me that there was no reason why the corporation should not build any of the jet aircraft necessary for the Royal Australian Air Force. It might be necessary, of course, to get permission from the original manufacturers, but he did not think that there would be any trouble in connexion with that. He pointed out the wonderful advances the Sabre had made over the years, to the stage where it is now equal to any fighter in the air. That may be only his opinion, but quite recently I noticed some comments about a Russian aircraft that is said to be much better than those of other countries and is built on exactly the same lines as the Sabre. If that is so, 1 should like the Minister to tell me why the Government is discarding the Sabre, when it is such a magnificent fighter, and substituting some other aircraft that is not built in Australia. Whereas the Sabre used to be armed with a .303 rifle or something of that kind, to-day it is armed with a weapon that can fire shells. The weapon can be trained accurately on an opponent, whether he is above, alongside or below the aircraft. That is the information that has been given to me.
I should like the Minister to say why the Government is discarding an aircraft that is built in Australia and replacing it by aircraft built somewhere else, and whether this amount of nearly £10,000,000 is to be used for the purpose. The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation also built the Canberra bomber. This aircraft is still in use in other parts of the world and we have some of them. If they are not actually in service, they are kept in trim so that they can be used at any time. I should like to know whether some other bomber is to be substituted for the Canberra, which was built in Australia. Perhaps the Minister will give me that information.
.- I should like the Minister to justify and explain a few matters relating to what I consider to be evidence of failure to account for stores and other items. They are referred to in the Auditor-General’s report. But I put at the forefront of my remarks a matter to which I made recent and not so recent reference, namely, the accountability of this Service for losses of stores, equipment and moneys. I directed attention recently to paragraph 117 of the Auditor-General’s report for the year 1957-58, which is headed, “Losses or deficiencies of public moneys or property “. Reference is made to the fact that this matter has an audit history extending back to 1942. The Auditor-General complains of a continuing unsatisfactory state of affairs and mentions that discussions over several years between the Service departments and the Treasury have had the object of promulgating a standard form of regulation. That having been promulgated in an arbitrary form, all three Services subsequently withdrew it. The AuditorGeneral states - 1-ifteen years have elapsed since the inadequacies of statutory provisions for recoveries of losses or deficiencies of public moneys or property occasioned by the neglect or misconduct of Service personnel were first reported upon by the Auditor-General of the day. The position has been reached that all regulations providing for recoveries by administrative processes have been repealed.
Unprovokingly, 1 wish to remind the Minister that I have had on the notice-paper for two or three weeks a question in relation to the amount of money involved in these matters. I hope that the Minister can give the Senate some information about that and an assurance that if the vote for this department is approved the department will have its house thoroughly in order before this Parliament rises.
Another matter to which I wish to refer quite briefly was discussed in the Senate within the last few weeks, when irregularities were pointed out in regulations of this department and the other two Service departments providing authority to pay Service personnel. An attempt was made by regulation to supply that authority retrospectively, but the Senate disallowed the regulation. I should welcome an announcement of the consideration that has been given to that position and as to the way in which it is to be remedied.
There are three other matters to which I wish to call attention in relation to the Department of Air. They are mentioned in paragraph 126 of the Auditor-General’s Report for 1959-60. Will the Minister explain what has been done by the department since this report was published to comply with the Auditor-General’s request?
With regard to stores and store accounting the Auditor-General says that a departmental working party was set up in 1958 to inquire into store accounting. I pause there to- note with appreciation the phrase “ working party “ which I see now proliferating throughout Government pamphlets. I think it is a stirring phrase. This party is investigating store accounting in this department. It began its work in 1958 and it is about to compile a report. In due course, if we are here in a decade’s time, we will have the report that the stores have been written off. Then there is this interesting paragraph -
Stockholdings at Royal Australian Air Force depots and units were further reviewed during the year and obsolete and surplus items exceeding £14,500,000 in value were declared for disposal.
The report goes on to state that since the 1955-56 report, stores, including obsolete aircraft and associated spares, to an approximate value of £51,000,000, have been declared for disposal. Then there is reference to the fact that in some cases annual stocktakings have not been carried out, although the necessity for an assets register was mentioned by the Auditor-General as long ago as 1958.
The next matter which I ask the Minister to consider was first brought up in the Auditor-General’s report in 1956. It has to do with the replacement of crockery and glassware at Royal Australian Air Force messes. Reports have consistently pointed out breaches of Regulation 522 as to the recovery of losses. The amount outstanding at 30th June, 1960, was £63,793. It seems to me, Mr. Chairman, that this Parliament should require that comments made by the AuditorGeneral should receive greater attention and be the subject of more corrective action than is indicated by the references I have made.
.- I desire to speak on the proposed vote for the Department of Air and to refer to the replacement of the Avon Sabre jet fighter with some other standard fighter, particularly in view of the annual replies we were given that something was going to be done. Tn 1954, six years ago, the Government made a decision and announced that it planned to replace the Avon Sabre jet. In 1956, a further announcement was made that the replacement would be the
Lockheed FI 04 Starfighter. Most people at the time were of the opinion that that aircraft would strengthen the defences of this country. From a defence point of view, although the bomber is the long-range weapon of defence, this country, being an island continent, needs a highly efficient fighter force to combat a possible invasion by air. In 1957, a new defence programme was announced which included a replacement aircraft that would at least have the performance of the FI 04 Starfighter. However, a few months later the Government decided to abandon the idea of equipping the Air Force with the F104 Starfighter, and later in 1957 announced that it had decided to build fighter aircraft in Australia. That was very welcome news indeed in view of the position of the Australian aircraft industry at that time.
Since then we have had numerous announcements about what is to be done. Missions have gone overseas and have sent back reports that advances have been made in modern jet fighters; but unfortunately the technical officers of the Air Force, after returning to Australia have found that their reports have fallen on barren ground, and nothing has been done about them. The proposed votes we are discussing provide for keeping the basic personnel of the Air Force together and training them to a certain standard. Generally speaking it can be said that the standard of the Air Force is being maintained in accordance with the high traditions of the past, but the morale of the Air Force will not be maintained if the policy of the Government is one of continual vacillation.
We know that the Sabre jet is capable of carrying out the limited work that the Air Force is expected to do, perhaps in Malaya. The Sabre jet is also very good for putting on a display at a pageant or some other function, but from the point of view of modern defence it is completely out of date. The Government has an obligation to take the people of Australia into its confidence and tell them what it intends to do about re-equipping the Air Force. This should be done not only in the interests of those in the Service itself, but also in the interests of the defence of Australia. It would inspire confidence if the Government were to tell the people of Australia that it is supplying the Air Force with the most modern type of fighters. I appreciate the difficulty that faces the Government in making a decision, because year after year aircraft standards are being raised, speeds are being increased and manoeuvrability improved. Those factors make it very difficult to decide which aircraft will best suit the present needs and, I suppose we must say, the future needs.
The cost of the modern fighter aircraft exceeds £500,000. We need at least 150 such aircraft if we are to have a worthwhile defence force. Our present air strength is, I believe, approximately 450 aircraft, including bombers, fighters, reconnaissance and transport aircraft. To provide an effective striking force, we should aim at a minimum of four or five bomber squadrons. For an island continent of the size of Australia, we should have at least ten fighter squadrons. We also need reconnaissance squadrons for patrol work which is particularly important in connexion with submarine activities. Nowadays, submarines are propelled by atomic power and are able to stay under the water for periods which previously would have been considered impossible. In addition, submarines are now capable of delivering guided missiles. These are some of the problems that face the defence authorities, particularly the Air Force.
We have been informed that the French Mirage IIIC is possibly the best type of fighter aircraft that is available to-day for our purposes. The Lockheed company in the United States of America has produced the F104G, which is a fighter with a very high performance. Some time ago, quite a lot of publicity was given to the Northrop FI 56, which had been developed to a standard that would suit the requirements of die Royal Australian Air Force, and to the possibility of its manufacture in this country. I think the Government should realize, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that at the moment it has time on its side. While people are talking in the United Nations and agreeing to disagree, there is sufficient time for us to establish an aircraft industry that is capable of building sufficient aircraft of the standard required for our defence needs. We propose to spend up to £500,000,000 for the purpose of replacing our present air squadrons with aircraft that could quite well be outmoded in five years.
The Government should consider the advisability of having available technicians and other people with technical know-how who could construct aircraft in Australia. Surely arrangements could be made with either the United Kingdom Government, or the United States Government, or for that matter, with the French Government, to enable, us to manufacture in this country prototypes of such aircraft as the Mirage, Northrop and F104G.
In the event of hostilities breaking out again, we in this country would be isolated as we were in the last war. As every one knows, the fact that we were able to establish an aircraft industry contributed greatly to the strength of our defences at that time. If we have to waste this money - and I feel sure that that will be the eventual outcome - in re-equipping our Air Force with the most modern aircraft we can obtain at the moment, we must bear in mind that those aircraft will be outmoded in a very short period of time. Since it appears that we are more or less duty bound to replace the aircraft that at present comprise our air squadrons, I suggest that the Government should decide that now is the time to re-establish our aircraft industry and to make arrangements for the manufacture of suitable aircraft with which to re-equip both our fighter and our bomber squadrons.
– Does not the honorable senator think that we are reaching the stage when we shall not need aeroplanes of any kind that are flown by men?
– I should say that we are getting very close to that stage. The Sabre jet aircraft is equipped with the Sidewinder missile that is capable of overtaking or intercepting aircraft travelling at speeds that are much greater than the speeds of aircraft the purchase of which is being considered. The time is fast approaching when guided missiles will take the place of manned aircraft, but that time has not yet arrived. We are in a twilight period between the change-over from orthodox aircraft to the era of the guided missile. There is no certainty that we shall ever be able to rely entirely on guided missiles.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Senator O’Flaherty referred to the proposed provision of £9,878,000, under Division No. 542, for the purchase and manufacture of aircraft. I inform him that provision is made under this division for the purchase of aircraft for the R.A.A.F. from Australian or overseas manufacturers or suppliers. Provision is also made for the purchase of initial requirements of ancillary aircraft equipment. The modification of aircraft and of other airborne equipment is also provided for under this division. The following factors have been taken into account in arriving at the estimates: - Completion of the projects for 21 Avon Sabre fighters and 68 Vampire trainers and winding-up costs on other local projects; the fourth year payment on the purchase of twelve Hercules transport aircraft; second year payment on the purchase of twelve Neptune P2V7 maritime reconnaissance aircraft; a down payment on the purchase of eight helicopters; completion of payment for the Neptune P2V5 jet pod modification carried out last financial year; and past trends of expenditure in relation to modifications outstanding from previous years and estimated expenditure on new authorizations to be placed in 1960-61.
Senator O’Flaherty and Senator O’Byrne inquired about the Government’s plan for the acquisition of new fighter aircraft. They pointed out that there had been a delay of some duration in making a decision, and asked the reason. I discussed this matter with my colleague, the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne), who pointed out to mc the particular difficulties in which the Air Force had found itself in acquiring aircraft for its purposes. He said that in 1957 the Air Force had given consideration to the selection of a particular type of aircraft but that no decision was made at that time. Later in the year, because of technical developments which were then occurring, it was decided to postpone the selection until those technical and operational developments took a firmer line and the Air Force was better placed to adjudge what its requirements were and how they could be met by the available types of aircraft. The Minister has said that the wisdom of the decision to defer selection has since become quite apparent. Had the tentative plans of 1957 been proceeded with, we would have been committed for years ahead to a day superiority fighter, admittedly of very high performance, but without any all-weather capabilities and with a most limited capacity for army support.
– That is what Sir Philip McBride said when he came back to Australia after his mission.
– That was in 1957. That is the time to which I am referring. I am referring to the original version of the Lockheed F104, popularly known as the Starfighter. As Senator O’Flaherty remarks, and 1 am sure he is right, that was the decision announced by Sir Philip McBride, and those were the reasons for that decision.
The Minister for Air has told me that in the intervening three years the Air Force has been watching very closely the technical developments that have been occurring. Honorable senators will be aware that a mission headed by Air Marshal Scherger, which was recently overseas, has returned to Australia within recent weeks and has discussed with the Air Board the type of aircraft now available.
– Do you think it will be as long before the decision is made as the inquiries have taken up to date?
– I was about to say that a decision on the acquisition of the aircraft will be made in the very near future.
– Be careful now. You said “ in the very near future “. I never like to see a friend of mine put his foot in it. Do not say “ in the very near future “; say “ at some time “.
– What is the urgency about it?
– The urgency ls one of re-equipment. The Air Force must be re-equipped. At the same time, in the re-equipment regard must be had for the fact that we must take advantage of all the technical and operational advantages of the available aircraft. For my part, without any technical knowledge at all, I say that if a purchase in 1957 would have given the aircraft then purchased an effective operational life of three years, on that basis alone the decision to defer acquisition until the technical developments took a firmer line, which is now the case, was a wise decision. Senator O’Flaherty also asked about the possibility of the aircraft being manufactured in Australia. In 1957, the Government said that a decision on that matter could not be made until it was known what type of aircraft was to be used in the re-equipment. That matter, together with the other matter of the type of aircraft, will receive the consideration of the Government quite soon.
Senator Wright referred to the regulations that have given so much trouble, and asked what has been done. I have received two quite lengthy reports from the Minister for Air, and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley). I should like to read to honorable senators those parts of the reports which have direct relevance to Senator Wright’s query. The report from Mr. Osborne refers to the actions of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee in 1956 and the withdrawal of Air Force Regulation 515. It reads -
Except in relation to a limited class of cases as affecting airmen, the R.A.A.F. is as effectively covered in this matter of administrative deductions as it would have been under the repealed A.F.R. 515. Section 137 of the Air Force Act enables deductions to be made from the pay of an officer of the sum required to make good any loss, damage or destruction of public or service property which, after due investigation, appears to the Air Board to have been occasioned by any wrongful act or negligence on the part of the officer. Similarly, deductions may be made from the pay due to an airman, but only if the airman is charged with an offence and the deduction is made by a summary award or sentence by court martial. There is a further regulation which enables the Air Board or a commanding officer to authorize the forfeiture of not exceeding fourteen days’ pay and allowances of a member in respect of any damage to, deficiency in, or loss of any article of equipment or kit loaned to the member or entrusted to his care in connexion with his duties. This department has also agreed to a Treasury suggestion that a solicitor’s letter procedure be used in those cases where it is not possible to effect recovery of amounts which it is considered personnel should be required to pay to the Commonwealth by reason of their having involved the Commonwealth in loss or damage of Commonwealth property. This solicitor’s letter procedure is akin to the usual demand made on a person by another’s solicitor for the recovery of damages or monies due.
The report further states -
The Auditor-General has adequate authority, under section 42 of the Audit Act, to surcharge “the accounting officer or other person concerned “ with all sums wilfully or negligently omitted to be collected or not duly accounted for. any deficiency or loss of public monies, the value of stores deficient, lost or required to be replaced or the expenditure for the repair of stores or other property of, or under the control of the Commonwealth and any expenditure not duly authorized, vouched or certified.
This was in the nature of a preliminary statement, which Mr. Osborne was good enough to send to me. I have since received a note which I believe comes from the Department of Defence. It states -
Service Regulations (Naval Financial Regulation 143a, Australian Military Regulation 294a and Air Force Regulation 515) were repealed in 1956 following a report by the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances which commented adversely on Air Force Regulation 515 and stated, inter alia, that the Regulation involved substantial alterations of the law appropriate only to enactment if at all by Parliament.
Following the repeal of these Regulations consideration was given to the question of the introduction of legislation on this matter. As a comprehensive review of all Commonwealth defence legislation was being made including the introduction of new Services disciplinary codes, it was decided that separate special legislation to provide for recoveries from servicemen for loss or damage due to negligence or misconduct should not be introduced in advance of completion of the review. Important questions of principle to which the Senate Committee on Regulations and Ordinances had drawn attention in its report are involved in legislation of this kind, and the whole matter required the close examination against the background of the proposed new Services disciplinary codes and other related provisions of the new Bills. Considerable progress has been made in the new defence legislation but they will not be completed for some time yet.
The decision taken was influenced by the fact that without any amending defence legislation, the following statutory provisions are available to safeguard the Commonwealth’s interests: -
Section 58 of the Defence Act 1903-1956. the application of which was noted by the Senate Committee on Ordinances and Regulations in its Tenth Report, provides that: - “ The commanding officer of every corps, ship’s company or air-force unit or station shall be responsible for the safe keeping and good order of all articles, the property of the Commonwealth, supplied to his corps, ship’s company or air-force unit or station, and the value of any of those articles may, if lost or damaged while in possession of the corps, ship’s company or airforce unit or station otherwise than through fair wear and tear or unavoidable accident, be recovered by the commanding officer by action in any Federal or State Court of competent jurisdiction from the officer or man by whom the loss or damage was occasioned.”
Section 42 of the Audit Act 1901-1955 which authorises the Auditor-General to surcharge Commonwealth employees including members of the Services in respect of deficiencies or losses of public moneys and deficiencies losses or damage of Commonwealth property.
These remedies are, of course, additional to those available under the existing Services disciplinary codes.
It will be seen that work on the preparation of the amending legislation is proceeding.
Senator Wright referred to three items to which the Auditor-General had addressed himself. The first concerned stores and stores accounting. He asked what progress had been made in this matter.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- I rise only to enable the Minister to continue the explanation, if no other honorable senator wishes to intervene.
. -I thank the honorable senator very much. I am told that a comprehensive report has been completed by the working party to which the honorable senator referred and that it is at present with the Air Board for consideration. With regard to the stock worth about £14,500,000 that is held at depots, I am informed that this is all obsolete war-time equipment. It includes such items as Meteor and Vampire aircraft, with spare parts. Boards of survey are continually going through it, and the usual procedures are being followed as to the declaration concerning surplus stock. The Department of Supply is quitting the material as fast as it is able to do so.
With regard to losses and breakages in messes,I am informed that this matter is still being considered in the departments with a view to arriving at a satisfactory procedure to cope with a difficult problem. Usually, airmen’s messes have no funds, and recovery must be made by a levy imposed on all members of a mess. It is hoped to bring the matter to finality in the near future. Each of the Service departments is involved and each has its own methods and conditions for the conduct of officers’ and men’s messes. I am told further that it is anticipated that this matter will be cleared up before the Auditor-General furnishes his next report.
With regard to Senator Wright’s query concerning the disallowance of Air Force regulations - presumably the recent disallowance - he will, I hope, be pleased to know that the matter is now under the active consideration of the Government.
– 1 refer to Division No. 536 - Equipment and Stores. The following explanatory statement is made: -
Moneys received from the sale of unused equipment and stores which are to be replaced. . . may be credited to the items to which they relate.
I should like the Minister to give me some further information on this matter - if not now, at a later stage - in view of the following comment in paragraph 126 of the Auditor-General’s report -
Since the question of excess stockholdings was first mentioned in my 1955-56 Report, stores, including obsolete aircraft and associated spares, outmoded equipment, &c, to an approximate value of £51,000,000 have been declared for disposal.
I realize that nowhere near that amount of money would be obtained from disposals. That was the book value, I take it. Does the Minister know how much money has been recovered by the sale of the equipment that was declared to be surplus?
.- I rise to make an observation with regard to the discharge by Air Force messes of liability for debts due by them on account of the replacement of crockery and glassware. If honorable senators will take the trouble to read the Auditor-General’s report for the year ended 30th June, 1957, they will see that he thought that this matter was worthy of consideration. I think that the parliamentary processes of this country will be weakened to a great degree if any substantial section of the Parliament shows such a disregard for the Auditor-General’s report as to indicate that we expect irresponsibility and looseness to be condoned by him. The Auditor-General pointed out in that report that in 1953 the Air Board decided that the regulation should be enforced which requires accountability each year in respect of losses or breakages in excess of 15 per cent, of the total value of the items initially issued. Although instructions to this effect were issued, messes generally have not borne their share of the cost of replacements. What a state ot affairs we are getting into if the AuditorGeneral can report on these matters year after year and Ministers do not see fit to pay some attention to his remarks! Due respect should be paid to the AuditorGeneral’s report, and within a month of an adverse comment having been made the department concerned should take steps to rectify the situation. If the position is to be altered by law let the Minister submit a regulation cancelling the present regulation relating to accountability and giving carte blanche to the members of these messes. I have been a member of a mess, and it is quite obvious-
– This does not relate only to crockery.
– Of course not. It relates to hams, turkeys and other perquisites. When the Auditor-General brings a matter such as this to our attention I will not remain silent in this Parliament and allow things of this nature to be condoned. I am not satisfied that this matter is to be dealt with in the near future. Since 1956, the Auditor-General has pointed to the slipshod manner in which this matter has been handled. As soon as the AuditorGeneral reports adversely about a department the Minister concerned should take steps to put the matter right within three months at least. I make those remarks with some spirit in view of interjections that were made during the debate. Those interjections did not accord with my sense of responsibility and the views that I hold of the way this Senate should act towards service personnel who are held accountable for stores.
I am obliged to the Minister in charge of these estimates, Senator Paltridge, for his obvious sympathy with the concern that some of us feel about the continual relaxing of regulations and the continual noncompliance with them. I refer now to the regulations that require service personnel to be accountable for stores and moneys lost through fraud or negligence. Are we to understand that the view is now held that the regulations that were promulgated and withdrawn in 1956, following criticism by the Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee, were unnecessary? Are we to believe that the Minister does not agree with the Auditor-General’s view that those regulations were necessary, and that continued delay in re-issuing them is an omission that deserves criticism? If not, why is it that a regulation denning a just and proper basis of accountability is not promulgated before this Parliament rises? I can understand that the Government may want to integrate such a regulation with the disciplinary system that will be expressed in the new regulations, but where, the issue involved is accountability for leakages of public stores and money by fraud or negligence, delay of one month is inexcusable because it conveys the impression to all persons concerned that those matters are of no importance. That is an injustice to the individual because loose systems of accounting are an invitation to fraud. The culprit who finds himself in the dock often can blame the loose and weak system under which he works for having placed him there. If he bad been working under a water-tight system the act of fraud or negligence might never have been committed. The public also have rights, and these great departments have a responsibility to protect the public. We in this Parliament finally say whether the departments have discharged their responsibility. The Auditor-General had said from 1942 to 1956 that a regulation to cover this matter was required. A regulation was produced in an arbitrary form and, following criticism from the Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee, all three service departments withdrew the regulation. Is it satisfactory to say that, in due course, interwoven with the whole structure of defence legislation, and in particular a new disciplinary system, a regulation to deal with this matter will be introduced? I think that is an injustice to the individual who has to work under the system. The department concerned owes it to the public to produce a regulation before this Parliament resumes on 8th November next. That is what I expect from the Minister.
The Minister referred to solicitor-letter procedure. I cannot conceive how the Public Service comes up with such nomenclature. If that means that the department can recover from a person by civil process, well and good, but let the Minister tell us how many recoveries have been made by civil process for leakages of stores and money on this account in each of the last three years. Then let him say what proportion of the total losses those recoveries represent, so that honorable senators may be aware of the degree to which the department has failed to protect the public stores entrusted to it.
.- I wish to refer to the activities of the airfield construction squadrons. Over the years, the squadrons have done valuable work at Townsville and Butterworth. At present, the aerodrome at Darwin is nearing completion. In his report the AuditorGeneral directed attention to the original estimated cost of the Darwin aerodrome. That aerodrome was expected to be completed by December, 1957, at a cost of £3,412,000. In his report the AuditorGeneral has stated that materials were estimated to cost £1,370,000; hard standings, £280,000; and maintenance of the squadron, £1,762,000. Up to the end of June of this year materials and hard standings had cost £1,511,368, and pay and allowances and other expenditure associated with the maintenance of the squadron are not separately recorded. I am sure that all honorable senators, particularly members of the Public Works Committee, would be interested to have some figures showing a comparison between the original estimated cost of the aerodrome at Darwin and the cost to date of materials and hard standings, because I understand that the aerodrome is very near to completion.
Paragraph 128 of the Auditor-General’s report reads, in part -
In view of the delay in completion the Department was asked to review the cost of maintenance of the squadron in relation to the approved allocation. The outcome of action taken in this regard has not yet been advised to my office.
I believe that the Auditor-General has rendered a very good service in directing attention to this matter. I have no doubt that the Royal Australian Air Force Airfield Construction Squadron can perform work of a standard equal to that of any other contractor in the field of aerodrome construction. The opportunity to do this work in peace time gives the squadron experience which will enable it to keep a nucleus of personnel at a high level of efficiency in readiness for any emergency. I should be pleased if the Minister could inform me of the cost of maintenance of the squadron and the overall cost of the Darwin project, and furnish me with a comparison between what it has cost so far and the original estimate in 1955, which was £3,412,000.
– In reply to the last matter raised by Senator O’Byrne, I am advised that the work of the Airfield Construction Squadron is being costed over the whole project. By Government direction, during the course of construction of the Darwin airfield the squadron was employed on other projects. That delayed the completion of the Darwin project. The matter is in hand and the actual cost will soon be published. If necessary, a submission on the matter will be made to Cabinet.
asked a question about Division No. 536, in particular moneys received from sales on recoveries. I am advised that recoveries relate only to sales of clothing to personnel and sales of material to contractors for making up into Air Force equipment. I have no information available about the item of £51,000,000, but I shall obtain it and send it to the honorable senator.
I listened with great interest to what Seantor Wright had to say. I ask the committee to consider what has occurred in relation to this matter in recent times. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee submitted a report, which was fully debated by honorable senators.
Seantor Wright. - I am sorry if you think I was referring to that. I was not.
– I know that. In relation to one aspect of the deficiency-
– There was no deficiency of public moneys. It was only a matter of legal authority for the payment.
– That is right. I am addressing myself to the matter of administration. It was alleged that the administration was deficient in that the regulations were outstanding for a number of years.
– I want the Minister to be quite clear about the fact that it was with great pleasure that I accepted his statement that the matter was under active consideration.
– Very well. 1 just want to address myself to that matter, because I think we should look at these matters not in isolation but as having a nexus the one with the other in the broad field of administration and criticism of administration. I have indicated what is happening in regard to the first matter I referred to and the action that is being taken in respect of matters raised by Senator Wright to-day. The honorable senator expressed concern about the fact that the action taken may not be taken quickly enough to satisfy him and possibly other members of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. I suggest that, in view of everything that has happened in regard to this matter, Senator Wright’s remarks to-day will not go unheeded. He will be the first to appreciate that I am not in a position to give him the specific assurance that he sought - that all the affairs of this department will be correct and in apple pie order by the time the Parliament rises at the end of this session. But I do assure him that all the matters to which he has directed attention will be attended to with the utmost despatch - with a minimum of delay.
– I rise only to add one observation. There seems to be implicit in the statement which came from the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) a reference to the power of the Auditor-General to surcharge the officers concerned. I detect in that an attempt by the official who wrote the statement to shuttle responsibility between the AuditorGeneral and the Department of Air. I do not wish any one to go away from this chamber under any misunderstanding. The time has arrived in relation to such matters when, unless the position, on the certificate of the Auditor-General, is clear, next year, the proposed vote for next year should be rejected.
The Auditor-General has referred to the fact that the liability of the Air Force messes, amounting to £63,793, has been outstanding since 1956. That situation will not be corrected by a process of surcharging. Unless remedial action is taken at once, that loss will continue to accumulate. I rise simply to suggest that I sense in the reference to the Auditor-General’s power to surcharge a bit of tit for tat on the part of the Department of Air. Whom is the responsible official criticizing when he suggests that the Auditor-General, under his power to surcharge, could establish the liability? If the answer from the department has come in that spirit, I do not regard it as being an adequate or worthy one.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed Vote, £12,907,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department: of the Treasury.
Proposed Vote, £586,500.
Refunds of Revenue.
Proposed Vote, £26,000,000.
Advance to the Treasurer.
Proposed Vote, £16,000,000.
Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve.
Proposed Vote, £125,743,000.
Ordered to be considered together.
– I want to make absolutely sure, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that one may range over all five of the proposed votes now before us.
– You may.
– ] refer to Division No. 655 - Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 p.m. to 8 p.m.
– I was dealing with Division No. 655 - Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, for which the proposed vote is £125,743,000. I want to relate that to the proposed vote of £12,907,000 for the Department of the Treasury. The amount of £125,743,000 is, apparently, surplus revenue. I find that some years ago the Government had some surplus money which it did not want to pay to the States, so it created a reserve fund. The Government built up this reserve fund until, at 30th June, 1960, there was £208,229,296 in it. Some of it is in inscribed stock and Commonwealth treasury-bills. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) told us in his report that the Govern ment had invested the money and was getting 1 per cent, interest on it. So the Government is getting 1 per cent, for money that it collected in taxation over and above the amount required, and it is paying itself 1 per cent, on money borrowed from itself.
That is not the worst feature of it. Last year £50,000,000 was paid into the fund and, I think, £79,000,000 was paid out. As I said, there was a surplus of over £208,000,000 in the fund at 30th June. Now it is proposed that we add another £125,000,000 to that £208,000,000, which means that there will be an investment reserve of over £333,000,000, or about onethird of £1,000,000,000. That money in the reserve is money of which the taxpayers of this country have been robbed in the form of excessive taxation from year to year, and instead of paying it to the States the Government has put it into a reserve.
Nobody seems to know just what the reserve is for. Perhaps the Minister will tell us why the Government created the reserve and what it is going to do with the money. Is the Government to go on building up the reserve until it has a balance sufficient to pay off the national debt? The Government could pay off a fair amount of that debt now, perhaps onesixth or one-eighth, with the money that it has. We have been twitted time and again by honorable members opposite on our socialistic proposals. When we have suggested increased pensions and child endowment, we have been asked where the money would be obtained. Using the surplus of £125,000,000 which it is proposed to pay into the investment reserve, the Government could double the hospital benefits being paid now. To do that, it would not need to collect another penny-piece by way of taxation. In addition, it could pay almost £1 a week extra to invalid and age pensioners. It could double the £10,862,000 that was paid last year in medical benefits, and it could double pharmaceutical benefits. They are in fact being reduced this year, because the people have to pay for prescriptions. The Government could double the amount of £18,644,000 provided in pharmaceutical benefits for the general public, and it would still have left enough to double the £7,000,000 provided for pharmaceutical benefits for invalid and age pensioners.
After increasing all these payments, the Government would still have some money over. There is no basis for the suggestion that has been made from time to time that we cannot find money for increased social services, because the money is there and the Government could utilize it all. Let nobody rise, again in this chamber and say that we cannot finance increased social service benefits. All that we would have to do would be to utilize this surplus. Let us not forget that it is not the only surplus the Government has.
The. Treasurer’s statement shows the amount that the Government receives in revenue from income taxation, from both individuals and companies. If the balance in the investment reserve, after the addition of the £125,000,000 to which I have referred, were to be utilized for this year, the Government could reduce the income tax paid by individuals and companies by at least one-half and no disruption of any kind would be caused.
– How many times would you be using the same money?
– I did not quite catch what the honorable senator said, but, whatever he said, it would not cause me to alter the statement that I have just made. After reducing the income tax imposed on companies and individuals by one-half, the Government would still have £100,000,000 to play with. It could double the child endowment of 10s. paid for second and subsequent children. According to the Treasurer’s figures, that would cost £30,000,000. In addition to the increase in pensions granted this year the Government could grant a further increase of at least 15s. a week. That would cost £30,000,000 and the Government would still have £30,000,000 left to play with. That could be done if the Government were prepared to utilize the surplus that it has stored away plus the £125,000,000 that it proposes to store away on this occasion.
Pay-roll tax amounted to £55,250,000 last year. The £125,000,000 about which I am speaking could be used to abolish pay-roll tax entirely. If the Government were to reduce sales tax to a flat rate of 8i per cent., that would cost £65,000,000. The Government would still have a surplus of £25,000,000, taking into consideration only the amount it is putting into reserve this year alone.
If the Government does not wish to reduce sales tax it could abolish pay-roll tax altogether, wipe out estate duty, which amounts to £14,000,000, and gift duty which amounts to £2,000,000. That would account for only £71,000,000 and the Government would still have sufficient to double child endowment. That could be done out of the £125,000,000 that the Government intends to put into this fund this year. Do not let anybody ever tell me that the things we socialists advocate cannot be financed from the current revenues of this country. The present Government is wasting money, putting it into this reserve fund and charging the States interest on money that they borrow. It could save all that money and lessen the burden of the taxpayers of Australia. Will the Minister tell me exactly what that £125,000,000 is to be used for this year?
– I rise to address a few queries to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) on the Commonwealth Development Bank. After listening to Senator O’Flaherty, however, I wonder whether we need such a bank at all. He appears to be a better exponent of social credit than Major Douglas ever was. I should like to know the number of loans that have been made to primary producers, and also the number of primary producers who have taken advantage of the Development Bank. I should also like to know the rate of interest that has been charged on the loans that have been granted.
In a statement issued last December the Treasurer mentioned some very stringent conditions that had to be fulfilled before a loan could be obtained from the Development Bank. The conditions were nearly as stringent as those imposed by an ordinary trading bank. He said that the bank would provide the finance for the establishment and development of industrial undertakings, particularly small undertakings, in cases where it considers the provision of finance is desirable and the finance would not otherwise be available on reasonable and suitable terms and conditions. He continued -
A primary factor in the consideration of proposals will be the prospects of the borrower’s operations being successful.
One cannot complain about the bank laying down some conditions. It would not be reasonable to expect the Development Bank to advance money under conditions under which it would have little chance of getting back the money it loaned. The Treasurer further said -
Interest on loans will be influenced by such aspects as the degree of essentiality-
That is a perfectly reasonable condition - of the project and the risk factors associated with the transaction.
I would think that the Development Bank should be prepared to grant loans in cases where a trading bank would consider the risk to be too great. In cases where the risk factor is greater I take it that the interest rate would be greater. The Treasurer went on to say -
Initially the maximum rate for new business will be 6 per cent.
I do hope that that 6 per cent, maximum will not, as it so often does, become the minimum. I understand that the interest rate on bank overdrafts is only 6 per cent., and it may be even less than. that. It is not more than 6 per cent.
I understood that the Development Bank was instituted to grant loans with which the trading banks would not have anything to do, and that it would help in the development of primary and secondary industries in this country. If a maximum rate of 6 per cent, is to be laid down, it seems to me that that will in some measure defeat the purpose of the bank. 1 call to mind an occasion some years ago in the Parliament of Tasmania - I do not know whether the conditions still obtain - when many hundreds of thousands of pounds were allocated by the State Government at the rate, I think, of 1 per cent. That money was made available to provide tourist accommodation and to assist in the setting up of new industries. That cheap money at an interest rate of about 1 per cent, was taken advantage of by a large number of people and the amount of money involved was several hundred thousand pounds, which is a good deal for a little State like Tasmania. If we could make money available, not as cheaply as that, but at a rate considerably less than 6 per cent, to develop in the main the primary producing potential of Australia, it would certainly be of great advantage to Australia at the present time when our aim is to increase our export potential.
I should like to refer to a statement by an economist published in this morning’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “. I am well aware that economists, like legal men, often disagree with one another. In speaking about the capital inflow into Australia this economist said -
Eventually overseas capital (with its fruits) must be paid back through the channels of trade, if the matter is regarded from the national standpoint.
He went on to say that because of this capital inflow we must of necessity increase our exports. That statement may be correct or it may be incorrect. It may be that another economist would disagree entirely with that contention. If it is true, most of the capital inflow into this country has been devoted to secondary industries. Unfortunately, those industries are not in a position to add materially to Australia’s export trade.
– But they do.
– I have always had the impression that primary products accounted for more than 80 per cent, of our exports, and that the secondary industries, for some reason or other, were not pulling their weight in that respect. However, Mr. Chairman, in view of all the factors I have mentioned, surely it is reasonable to suggest that the Development Bank would fulfil the purpose for which it was designed if it made money available for necessary developmental work undertaken in both primary and secondary industries.
I am aware that the Treasurer has referred to the intention to advance loans of up to £25,000 to assist secondary industries. If it is possible to make similar advances to primary producers who are unable to obtain financial accommodation in other directions, with a view to assisting the development of the latent potential of primary industry in this country, I think that that should certainly be done, particularly at this time when it is so necessary to increase the volume of our exports. T think, too, that such loans should be made at rates of interest that are as low as possible. I should be glad to know the rate of interest that the Development Bank is charging, the number of loans to primary producers that have been negotiated, and whether the maximum rate of 6 per cent, has, in fact, also become the minimum rate.
– I direct my remarks to the general administration of the Treasury, under the divisions referred to at page 26 of the bill, and to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve which is referred to at page 105, that matter having been the subject of some comment by my colleague, Senator O’Flaherty. I remind the committee that during the debate on the motion that the Estimates and Budget papers be printed, I addressed myself to questions that affected the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. I directed particular attention to the colossal failure of the loan market in Australia, and argued that that failure was the key point in the Budget. I also directed attention to the fact that no attempt had been made in the Budget to bridge the enormous gap in our loan market that recurs year after year. 1 pointed out that I doubted whether the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) had even recognized the importance of the problem, because it was certain that he had not given any attention to the matter in the preparation of the Budget papers.
In my opinion, this matter is the most important aspect of the Budget. Senator O’Flaherty has referred to an item of expenditure, shown in the accounts for this year, namely, an amount of approximately £126,000,000 that is to be transferred to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Trust Account. But there is another item, of equal significance and of even greater amount. That is the sum taken out of the taxation collections of this year, out of the revenues, for the construction of public works by the Commonwealth. The two items run together. They are in juxtaposition in the statements submitted with the Treasurer’s speech. At page 13 of the annexures to that speech, it will be seen that £139,900,000 has been provided by the Commonwealth this year for capital works and services, and that £125,700,000 has been transferred to Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, a total of more than £265,000,000. Those are all capital items, as I shall show presently in relation to the £126.000.000 that is going over to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve.
There are numerous other items with a capital content in the expenditures from revenue. For instance, there is the whole of the defence expenditure, less £1 1,000,000, to be financed from the loan fund. There are also very big items of capital expenditure that one can add to the capital items in the account, such as the amounts paid to the States for capital expenditure on mental institutions and to reimburse the States for their capital expenditure on buildings for the treatment of tuberculosis. So that, when I put the capital content of the Budget for this year at £265,000,000, I am ignoring very substantial amounts. I suppose that a strict scrutiny of the figures would show that the total was about £300,000,000 for the year, taking all factors into account.
Senator O’Flaherty referred to the purpose of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Trust Account. The Treasurer, at page 29 of the annexures to his Budget speech, indicated that the amount was to be used to meet commitments in respect of the State works and housing programmes, war service land settlement and other requirements outside the Consolidated Revenue Fund. One can be sure that the Treasurer gave the minimum of information in the course of that statement. From other sources one learns that the loan programme, or the loan market, this year will fail, for the purposes of State works, to the tune of £80,000,000. So that, of the £126,000,000 that will go over to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, £80,000,000 will be required to make up the gap between the estimated yield from the loan market- £1 50,000,000 - and the amount approved for the States and required by them - £230,000,000. There is a gap of £80,000,000, for which the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve will be called upon.
The second factor to which I want to refer is the failure of funds in the hands of the National Debt Sinking Fund commissioners to meet the amount expected to be necessary for redemptions this year. It is expected that the amount that will be needed to redeem loans falling due is £80,000.000. According to the Treasurer, the National Debt Sinking Fund commissioners will have only about £54,000,000 to meet that liability. The Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Trust Account will be called upon for £27,500,000 to make up the deficiency. The two amounts that I have mentioned - the £80,000,000 and the £27,500,000 - will thus account for £107,500,000 of the £126,000,000. Of the balance of £18,500,000, £15,000,000 represents the surplus for which the Treasurer has budgeted this year and which he claims will be applied to the redemption ot treasury-bills.
There we have three items of capital expenditure: Expenditure to help State works programmes, £80,000,000; the redemption of loans, £27,500,000; and the redemption of treasury-bills, presumably with the balance, to the tune of £18,500,000. The point that I make is that nothing could show more clearly the total and serious collapse of the loan market in this country than to find that, for those purposes, there is a gap this year of £265,000,000 at least.
– Does the honorable senator support the claim of Senator O’Flaherty that this fund could finance social services, such as child endowment, and so on?
– The honorable senator addressed that question to the proper quarter earlier to-night. T invite him to persevere. I should hate to anticipate the answer that I know the Minister is yearning to make. I cannot anticipate his answer and I am content to rely upon my own argument on this matter. This loan market failure is apparent not only in this year; it has continued in every year of the eleven years for which this Government has been in office. In all, it amounts to at least £2,000,000,000- £1,360,000,000 for Commonwealth capital works and more than £600,000,000 for State works - over those eleven years. We have the iniquitious position that when those revenues which are taken from the taxpayers are made available to the States, the States are compelled to pay interest on them at the rate of 4i per cent., or whatever it is.
– They would have to pay interest on loan money.
– If there were loan money, yes; but I am pointing out to the committee that this money is not loan money, it is money that has been taken from the people each year in compulsory taxation. I cannot imagine anything mon unfair to the taxpayers in those years, as well as to the States. The effect on the finances of the States is collossal and disastrous. Their annual interest bill has increased by £72,000,000 a year while this Government has been in office. Approximately £30,000,000 of the interest payable each year to the National Debt Sinking Fund represents interest on money the Federal Government has collected by taxation and lent to the States. 1 repeat that that is completely unfair.
When I spoke in August last I asked the Minister a number of questions. I asked him what steps the Government was talcing to rectify this serious gap in the Australian loan market. Last year I was challenged to make some suggestions as to what should be done. That is more than twelve months ago. I made two suggestions at that time and I repeated them in August this year. I invited the Minister, in particular, to say whether the Treasurer recognized the problem, and if he did, to say what he proposed to do and whether he had any comment to make upon the suggestions I had made the year before, which T then repeated. I confess my disappointment. I received no answer last year and as the Minister did not deign to reply to the debate in the course of which I made my recent suggestions, I am still without an answer on these matters which I suggest are of grave financial import.
Not very long ago the Minister questioned some comment I made about the performances of the Labour Government in the filling of loans and the Minister indicated that he would welcome a comparison being made at some time of the performance of his Government and that of the Labour government. I invite the Minister to initiate the debate and to support his proposition. I invite him not to talk merely about the quantum of the amounts that were raised by the respective governments. I want him to mention the gaps. For his benefit, I will throw in the difference in money values in comparing the gaps in the loan market under the Labour government and the colossal gaps in the loan market that have developed under his Government.
I am prepared to concede that during the war years very little capital work was done. Capital works in this country were of insignificant size. All the money that was raised during the war was used for the war. There was not a lot of expenditure on capital works in the immediate post-war years. The expenditures in the last five years of the Labour Government were: 1945-46, £6,000,000; 1946-47, £15,700,000; 1947-48, £23,800,000; 1948-49, £34,600,000; and 1949-50, £64,500,000. The Labour Government was in office for only half of that last year. I recognize that the figures have grown enormously since then. I would be very interested to hear the Minister - if not during this debate, then at some other time - make the comparison that he indicated he would be pleased to make between the performances of his Government and those of the Labour Government in regard to gaps in the loan market.
I am prepared to say affirmatively that if he goes back over the record of the Labour Government for the whole eight or nine years for which it was in office, he will find that the gaps in the loan market did not amount to one-half of the gap his Government has in this year of grace alone.
– You will not mind my referring to the different circumstances, will you?
– There are different circumstances. I would not mind the Minister referring to anything. I know that he is perfectly free to do so without my consent, and he does not need it. I will give the Minister a perfectly open go on this matter. I would like him to answer the questions I asked in August and those I asked a year ago, and to give some indication of his Government’s view of the criticism that was levelled against it only last August.
– I desire to direct the attention of the committee to Miscellaneous Services, Division No. 629, item 06 - Taxes and fines- - Remission under special circumstances. This year £257,400 is being appropriated for this item. Last year £251,222 was appropriated and £230,871 was spent. In other words, about £250,000 in taxes and fines are expected to be remitted under special circumstances. I would like to know from the Minister: What taxes and fines is it contemplated will be remitted? What is the method of determining this rather important question of remission? Who determines the remission? And is the determination made pursuant to any statute or regulation?
Under the same division, I direct the attention of the Minister to Item 12 - “Decimal currency committee - expenses, £1,050 “. Last year £18,000 was appropriated and £16,059 was spent. This year a mere £1,050 is being appropriated. I presume that that item refers to the committee which has just completed magnificent work in the interests of this nation. Nearly two months ago it was my privilege to be present at a luncheon at which the report of the committee was presented. I would like to know from the Minister when it is expected that the Government will complete its consideration of the report of the committee. In passing, I point out to the Government that the Australian people expect that the Government will consider this report with all convenient speed because the report clearly sets out that if the Government intends to introduce decimal currency into Australia, the sooner it expresses that intention the lower will be the ultimate cost to the nation. It is estimated that the capital cost involved in the changeover will be between £30,000,000 and £40,000,000.
– The business interests are entitled to know.
– That is so. As my friend Senator Wright has mentioned, business interests are entitled to know the Government’s decision. This country is developing at a very fast pace. Obviously, if there is a long delay in the consideration of this matter by the Government, the cost of the changeover will be greater. From the consideration I have given to the matter and from representations that have been made to me from all sections of the community in South Australia, I can assure the Minister that by and large the community desires the change. That is the opinion I have formed. But obviously the decision is one for the Government, and I would welcome an early decision.
I wish to refer, finally, to item 13, “ Commonwealth Committee on Taxation - Expenses, £5,500 “. I would like to pay a tribute to the work that has already been done by the committee, which is chaired by Sir George Ligertwood of South Australia. I think that the committee has shown commendable expedition in dealing with its work. I understand that it has already visited five or six of the States of the Commonwealth. It has received written submissions, it has then taken evidence and has had discussions with those who furnished the submissions.
I look forward to the first report of this committee which, I hope, will be submitted during the course of this financial year. It should be remembered that it is more than twenty years since any review of the taxation laws on this scale has been made. When you consider the amount of work that has been done for the expenditure of £3,500 last year and £5,500 this year, you realize the devotion of this committee to the work entrusted to it.
– I think it is agreed that the Department of the Treasury is the major department of the Public Service. It is responsible for preparing the document which is now before us for consideration, which, as you are well aware, Mr. Chairman, is an appropriation bill. You have only to look at the title on the front cover to appreciate that fact, but when you examine the inner pages you find that they contain the Estimates for the current year. I recall that in August of this year many papers were placed before us for consideration. They included the Budget speech delivered by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), tables relating to finance and many statements containing valuable information of great importance, not only to the Parliament, but also to the members of the community.
Another document that was placed before us for consideration at that time was one entitled “ Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure “. That document differs from the one that is now before us. If an honorable senator wants to ascertain what revenue a department receives, he finds that he is unable to do so by examining the Appropriation Bill. To ascertain the revenue of the various departments, he must refer to the Treasurer’s statement, which is perhaps the most important of the documents that are placed before us. Then, to cap it all, we have a statement relating to national income and expenditure. They are all interesting, and I wish we had enough time to examine them in detail, and then study punctiliously the Appropriation Bill that is before us, which contains so many pages of particulars, and then deliberate upon the whole subject. What the consideration of the Appropriation Bill appears to do is to afford us an opportunity to ventilate grievances and to bring to the notice of the Treasurer matters that have arisen during the year. I am speaking in this way, Mr. Chairman, because I am becoming tired of examining each year an appropriation bill in this form. It does not give us the information that we should have. It does not give us, as it were, a running line of information.
I have examined the Estimates which have been prepared1 by other countries recently and I have wondered why each year we are saddled with this form of Estimates. I commend to the committee the Estimates prepared by the Canadian Government and also those prepared by the New Zealand Government. They set out clearly the information which members of Parliament should have. But the document before us is a document of confusion. Even the Ministers need to have expert advisers present in the chamber to tell them what we are talking about. Of course, one could say humorously that they should have expert advisers constantly in attendance, but I know that, having regard to the very many complex questions that are asked during the discussion and in view of the twists and turns in the flow of finance, it is impossible for a Minister - even a Minister whose departmental estimates are before us - to give us, unassisted, reliable information.
One of the responsibilities of the Department of the Treasury is to deal with the raising of revenue. It is quite possible, as I said a while ago, to turn to a document, apart from the bill before us, and find out what the Department of the Treasury collects in revenue and what are the sources from which those collections come. I am not going to take up your time, Mr. Chairman, by telling you in detail what is collected by way of taxation and customs duties. The Minister for Customs and
Excise (Senator Henty), who is not here to-night, is one of the principal members of the Ministry. Customs duty collections amount to £84,000,000 a year, whilst a further £252,000,000 is collected in excise duty. These figures indicate, of course, that Australians are fond of drinking beer, wines and spirits and are fond of smoking tobacco. On beer alone, the revenue from the excise amounts to £109,000,000 a year, which is not a small amount of money by any means. The amount of duty collected on spirits is £8,000,000 a year; on tobacco, £14,000,000; on cigars and cigarettes, £61,000,000; and on petrol, £49,000,000. I am not going through all the details, Mr. Chairman, as I do not want to bore you, but I remind the committee that the revenue from the sales tax is £164,000,000 a year, the revenue from the income tax on individuals is £442,000,000 and the revenue from company tax is £229,000,000 a year. So the figures run on. The Treasury is responsible for the collection of all this revenue.
It has a duty also to prepare as punctiliously as it can the details for inclusion in the Appropriation Bill which is introduced into the Parliament. When we think of the business ramifications of the Commonwealth to-day, we understand what is involved in that task. We know that government officials are stationed throughout the world. Officers of the Department of External Affairs are stationed in many foreign countries, whilst there are at least 35 overseas agencies of the Department of Trade. Estimates of the expenditure of every government agency, whether overseas or domiciled in Australia, have to be prepared. That is a big task. As I have said, this is the responsibility of the Department of the Treasury, and I believe it carries out the task in a very efficient manner.
We, as members of the Parliament, have a responsibility to examine these Estimates as carefully as possible because, when all is said and done, we are the representatives of the people who pay the taxes. If the Government is careless with its expenditure and does not watch its finances it may have to increase taxes, but if the various government departments can effect savings - and it is possible for them to do so in some instances - the Government may be able to reduce taxes in some way. How often do we in this place pass Appropria tion Bills? I point out to honorable senators that section 83 of the Constitution states -
No money shall be drawn from the Treasury of the Commonwealth except under appropriation made by law.
The Treasury holds the funds and it will not release £1 unless an Appropriation Bill is passed giving it authority to release funds. We are dealing with a bill for that very purpose at the present time, but I do not think that any honorable senator is fully aware that we will pass a bill authorizing the Treasury to release a sum in excess of £400,000,000. What will happen if that money is spent before the end of the financial year? These sums are appropriated theoretically for a period of twelve months, but what will happen if some of them are exhausted before June of next year? There is a way out. Early next year we shall be dealing with what are known as Additional Estimates. As the year progresses certain unforeseen exigencies arise, and they must be met. In his speech on the Budget Senator Wright pointed out that we may pass the Appropriation Bill providing money for the Commonwealth to finance its undertakings but, lo and behold, certain tribunals in the land may increase Commonwealth expenditure without any reference to the Parliament. Everybody knows what I am referring to. All honorable senators know that certain things can happen while we are sitting here dealing with this bill. To meet those exigencies provision has been made deliberately for Additional Estimates to be passed next year. That is one way of dealing with our financial obligations as a parliament. Honorable senators will recall that not many years ago a fair amount of discussion centred on the Trust Fund. A full investigation was made into the Trust Fund, and it was discovered that no grounds existed for suspicion about its operation. The fund is still in existence. I think it has a credit of about £900,000,000. There are no less than 130 accounts in the fund. I think we make an appropriation in this bill for the Trust Fund.
The matters I have referred to are matters of which all honorable senators should be aware. We must seek a form of estimates different from those that we have before us now. We must have something to enlighten us, not confuse us. I know how some honorable senators become confused when dealing with these Estimates, and one can understand their confusion because the department with which we are dealing now is referred to in more than one place in the bill. Towards the end of May we grant Supply and an Advance to the Treasurer, which allows the Treasury to have funds in order to provide necessary services. The Audit Act is the principal act so far as the Treasury is concerned, lt provides for the collection and payment of public moneys, the auditing of public accounts and the protection and recovery of public property. The act provides for an appropriation for the Trust Fund.
At present Queensland is experiencing a prolonged drought, and funds are required to assist the farmers and graziers in this difficult time. Perhaps a special grant will be made by the Commonwealth for this purpose, and once again the Estimates with which we are dealing will be disturbed.
I look forward to the time when we shall have before us a document which can be readily understood by all honorable senators. At present, I venture to say that not one honorable senator understands the document with which we are now dealing.
– I am prompted to enter into this debate by the remarks passed by Senator O’Flaherty and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). Reference was made to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, and Senator McKenna fell back on the argument that he has used consistently over a fairly long period of time. It seems to me that Senator McKenna wants to have two bob each way, if I may use that term, in respect of loans to the States. He said, for instance, that the Commonwealth lends to the States, causing the States to build up an interest commitment which becomes formidable and very serious. If we accept Senator McKenna’s views, that interest commitment becomes threatening to the States. As far as I can see, the only complaint of the States is that they cannot borrow as much as they desire to borrow. Since I have been in politics, the States have attempted, at every meeting of the Australian Loan Council, to obtain authority to borrow even more money, but the council, in its wisdom, has placed a limit on the amounts that may be borrowed. Senator McKenna said that the States were building up an interest commitment that had become a burden to them. He made no reference to the implications of inflation. In almost the same breath he said that the Commonwealth should be borrowing money for its works programme. He suggested that the money we need for capital works should be obtained from loan funds and not from revenue. Even though the honorable senator does not say so, inherent in that argument is the fact that if you finance such works with borrowed money you must pay interest on that money. If we did as the honorable senator envisages, we would have to obtain all the money we need from the private sector of the economy and would have to pay interest on it. And if wc obtain it from the private sector, obviously the States would have to pay interest on it. So the one argument balances out the other.
The fact of the matter is that the Commonwealth, by its action in providing money for the States from revenue, is following an anti-inflationary course and is helping to maintain the stability of the economy. Senator McKenna must make up his mind. Does he want the money Jo be borrowed from the private sector of the economy or does he wan’, the Commonwealth to provide the money to the States from revenue? It is an historical fact that the States have never been able to get for their capital works programmes the quantum of borrowed money that they want.
– And on which they are prepared to pay interest.
– Yes. The only grievance they have is that they cannot get enough. In the one speech, extending over not more than a quarter of an hour, the Leader of the Opposition argued that the money should be made available from loan funds and also complained about the Commonwealth providing the money and charging interest on it. What does he want? It is not clear at this moment where the Opposition stands on this matter.
– I listened closely to what Senator Anderson had to say. He is quite right when he says that the States cannot get enough money to carry out their loan programmes, that they want more money, and that they are prepared to pay interest on it. lm the same way, members of the general public have not sufficient money in their pockets to purchase the goods they require and they are forced into the hands of the finance companies. The States require the money and they can get it only from the Commonwealth. But they have to pay interest on that money, which is raised by the Commonwealth at no cost to itself.
Like Senator Benn, 1 am somewhat confused when 1 look at the Appropriation Bill. I am interested particularly in the amount that is paid in respect of Commonwealth employees’ compensation. I want to know where it comes from. 1 know that the payment of compensation is administered by the Secretary to the Treasury. But no information can be got in reply to questions asked in this chamber and in another place about the administration of the section which handles this matter for the Commonwealth. Some time ago 1 asked a question about the payment of hospital and medical expenses under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. Until last year the amount that was allowed for medical and hospital expenses was £200. In 1959, the sum allowed was raised to £350. Tt is further provided that the Secretary to the Treasury may pay out a greater sum in an appropriate case. But I can see no proposed appropriation in the bill to enable the Secretary to the Treasury to pay out any other amount. When I inquired about the position over the past five years I was told that no records are kept. At the same time I was told that claims within reason are met. So we have a situation in which the Secretary to the Treasury is authorized by statute to make payments over and above the fixed amount, but no records of those payments are kept. What sort of department is it that is prepared to pay money for medical and hospital expenses but does not keep records of those payments?
In another place, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) asked a number of questions about Commonwealth employees’ compensation. These were his questions -
This was the amazing answer that was given by the Acting Prime Minister and Acting Treasurer -
I regret that there is no statistical record maintained of claims that are outstanding in the sense of not having been finally determined, nor is there such a record of the number of claims which have been finalized..
Replying specifically to the first question asked by the honorable member for Swan, the Acting Prime Minister said -
During a review in December, 1958, it was established that on the average approximately 700 files were forwarded for attention each month. At 30th June, 1959, there were 825 files awaiting attention.
In spite of a huge amount of money being involved, no statistical records are kept.
I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether a report of the administration of Commonwealth employees’ compensation by the Secretary to the Treasury can be given to honorable senators. Can the Minister indicate the amount that is paid each year in respect of compensation claims? Can he tell us the amount that is paid for medical and hospital expenses in respect of claims within the statutory limit, and the amount that is paid out in respect of claims over and above £350?
.- We have been listening to a debate that has not been lacking in diversity of interest. I wish to refer to one or two matters that have been discussed. I refer first to the matter that was raised by Senator Lillico. Honorable senators would be most obliged to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) if he were able to offer some clarification of what is supposed to be the function of the Commonwealth Development Bank. I have read the report of the bank. I note with some degree of satisfaction that loans arc running at the rate of approx.mately £12,000,000 a year. I note, too, that the loans that have been made to rural industry have b.een spread over various sections pf our rural economy. I note also that rural loans exceed industrial loans by a considerable amount. The point that Senator Lillico makes is, I believe, most important. J am at .a loss to understand why the rate of interest on loans by this developmental bank is fixed at 6 per cent. 1 should have thought that if this bank were to be suitable for the requirements of developing Australian industry, two features would be essential, namely, long-term loans and low-interest loans. I am not satisfied that the bank is making long-term loans. I do not recall any reference in its report to that aspect. In reply to questions I asked some two months ago, no information on that score was given. A rate of interest of 6 per cent, is, I believe, unreasonably high for this bank because, as Senator Lillico said, most of the trading banks, insofar as they have money to lend, are willing to lend on overdraft to secondary and primary industry at rates not more unfavorable than 6 per cent.
The second matter to which 1 want to refer is the most important subject of public finance. We had a farrago of nonsense from Senator O’Flaherty on how he would abuse whatever reserve is represented by the Loan Consolidation and investment Reserve. Knowing that whatever he said would go over the air to whoever may be listening throughout the Commonwealth, he put forward the most ridiculous ideas on how that money could be used to sustain socialist programmes of lavish expenditure, which would, of course, become bankrupt within six months, having regard to the other commitments of this reserve.
– The point was that he wanted to use the same amount fourteen times.
– I thoroughly agree. Then Senator McKenna referred to this matter, not for the first time. He said that the reserve demonstrated how woefully short of public finance requirements the loan market of Australia has been proved to be. Unfortunately, that statement is true, and it is an indictment of Government policy that should not be simply ridiculed; it should be faced. Since the inauguration of the Loan Council in 1928 State capital works are, from the point of view of constitutional authority, dependent upon loan programmes. The States, having been robbed in 1942 of their right to independent revenues, believe that it is better to live as dependent units of the federation than to take back those rights and responsibilities, and we find that there is no disposition in this place to surrender any part of those rights. Out of the confused and irresponsible system that is so generated, comes this enormity whereby the loan requirements of this country are insufficient for State programmes, and the States are starved of revenue moneys. But if we continue this confused system of Commonwealth and State finance, on both capital and revenue accounts, it is of no use to bewail the fact that people will not entrust enough money by way of voluntary loan at 4 or 5 per cent, to the Commonwealth Government. It is necessary to look for a solution.
Then 1 turn to Senator Anderson, my Liberal colleague from New South Wales. We have the spectacle of Senator McKenna by implication, avoiding the idea that one finances capital works out of taxation revenue. So do I; I would avoid it like the plague. It is a purely socialistic idea. But in the years that have gone by, it has commended itself to my Liberal colleague from New South Wales. I am putting these matters forward, because from the most thoughtful and responsible Minister in charge of these votes we shall, 1 hope, have a statement that will be worthy of some consideration. Having mentioned Senator Anderson’s allegiance to the idea that capital works, both State and Federal, should be provided out of revenue, I bring before the Senate the idea that Professor Sir Douglas Copland published as late as last week, but not for the first time. He wants to introduce a system whereby, instead of straight-out confiscatory taxation, compulsory loans are raised, for which the investor receives a bond. That is an idea that I hope somebody here will fertilize. I have been trying to get it considered in a responsible way, not for the same purpose as Sir Douglas Copland, that is, an increase in taxation, but to re-organize the exorbitant demands that are made by current budgets upon the earnings of the people, so that their earnings will be confiscated to a lesser extent.
Insofar as the Government has to compel payment from individual taxpayers for capital works they should be given a bond in return as part of their private asset, upon which they can build an independence against an evergrowing, socially authoritarian Government. I mention this matter with all due deference, because Sir Douglas
Copland does point out that in the last seven years expenditure on public works has been of the order of £3,322,000,000, and he says that in the next seven years it will be £5,000,000,000. He says that since 1953, although expenditure on public works has been £3,322,000,000, only £596,000,000 has been added to the public indebtedness of the country. Then he goes on with a challenging statement that amazes me. He says, “ This is management in the highest sense “. I see Senator Shane Paltridge nodding his head with something like the emphatic approval that comes from a considered judgment. He agrees with that point of view.
– Only with that particular point.
– I was wondering whether I had opened his eyes to the idea that we should have bonds instead of confiscatory taxation for capital works. It is quite obvious that the £125,000,000 that is being appropriated to Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve is, as Senator McKenna said, already committed, in respect of £40,000,000 for the expected short-fall of the loan market merely for State requirements, and in respect of £55,000,000 for redemption of our own loans.
The idea that that is unnecessary or illconceived should be rejected. We must remember that the amount of £125,000,000 is for capital purposes, and that in addition we are appropriating £143,000,000 this year for Commonwealth capital works. As Senator McKenna said, appropriations for capital works in the last ten years, in figures that are round and ready enough to commend themselves, aggregate £1,300,000,000 and about £700,000,000 has been underwritten in supplementary grants for State loans, so an amount of £2,000,000,000 has been taken from the people by revenue taxation and used for public capital expenditure. I am expected to listen in silence to one of my colleagues who says that that is anti-inflationary. There are some people in this country who, given sufficient opportunity, are determined to live by their independent efforts. So long as they have to sustain that unjustifiable increase to the extent to which it is required to finance capital works, they will see to it that the price of their goods and services charged to the general public are sufficient to cover their costs and their taxation imposts and to provide them with the wherewithal to live. When the Government unnecessarily increases taxation it increases the costs with which this country is hagridden. That factor which contributes to the inflationary problem is not being managed and controlled, and it is also the reason for the short fall of the loan market to which Senator McKenna referred, but for which he did not suggest a solution.
I hope that before we are many months older or wiser the Commonwealth Government will take time to consider its policy of financing State and Commonwealth capital works out of revenue. Despite the omniscience of the central government, I think it might be possible to adopt the. idea advocated by Sir Douglas Copland and impose, not confiscatory taxation, but compulsory loans in exchange for bonds as a means of dampening down the taxation that is imposed each year in order to finance capital works out of revenue.
.- If the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) is not prepared to take notice of Senator McKenna and other members of the Opposition, I hope he will take notice of his own colleague, Senator Wright, who seems to have a proper grip of the subject, regardless of what Senator Anderson had to say. Senator Anderson tried to misrepresent the whole position, but I think it has been put into proper perspective by Senator Wright. However, Senator Wright forgot to tell the Senate that the loan money supplied to the Stales by the Commonwealth Government is provided by the people in the States in the form of taxation. That money is loaned by the Commonwealth to the States; and the citizens of the States have to pay interest on money that they have already subscribed by way of taxation. If that is not the thimble and pea trick I have yet to see it.
Reference has been made to the mendicant States that come before the Commonwealth Grants Commission each year. I have often heard it said that the bulk of the money that is given to the mendicant States is subscribed by the two major States of Victoria and New South Wales. However, if we. take into consideration the money that the people of the smaller
States pay by way of taxation which goes into Consolidated Revenue and is spent on capital works for the benefit of Australia generally, but particularly for New South Wales and Victoria, we find that the people of the mendicant States are merely getting back money that they themselves provide. In other words, the Commonwealth Grants Commission is reaching the position where it merely says to the mendicant States, “ We will give you some of the money that you have already provided to finance public works in the major States “. Here again we have the thimble and pea trick. In order to finance the bulk of its public works this Government imposes double taxation on the States. It charges the States interest on the money it loans to them out of Consolidated Revenue. Such a financial policy is brutal, to put it in the mildest way. The States are being crushed under the burden.
I shall now deal with the subject on which I rose primarily to speak. It is another matter in which I think inflation is playing a major part. I refer to administrative expenditure in the Department of the Treasury, for which item an increased appropriation is being sought. I can understand that because of the inflationary policy of the Government under which salaries and wages are continually chasing prices, there must be some increase in this vote. However, I do not think that the whole of the increase is attributable to the inflationary trend. I notice that the proposed vote for the Taxation Branch is £9,746,000. That is an increase of a little more than £200,000 on last year’s appropriation. I do not think I would be wrong in assuming that that increase will be used to cover additional staff expenses brought about as a result of the inflationary policy of the Government. Passing to the Bureau of Census and Statistics we find that the increase in the appropriation is just under £200,000. The appropriation last year was £1,880,000 and the proposed vote this year is £2,023,700. In this case, however, the staff is only one-quarter the size of that engaged in the Taxation Branch.
The whole of that extra appropriation cannot be due to the inflationary trend. There must be a considerable expenditure on salaries over and above the amount expended last year. I should like to know whether there has been a huge increase in the staff of the Bureau of Census and Statistics. How is this increase in the proposed vote to be spent? It may be spent wisely, but there is a grave doubt whether that will be so. When I turn to the schedule I find that the appropriation for wages and salaries is £153,000 more this year. The bulk of that relates to supervisors, research officers, assistant editors, compilers, clerks, librarians and illustrators. It seems that there is going to be a considerable increase in that staff. About a fortnight ago I asked the Minister a question on this matter.
– Did you get an answer?
– Not yet. I hoped to get it to-day. The Bureau of Census and Statistics puts out a questionnaire every three months which is similar to an income tax form. A large staff must be required to handle the hundreds of thousands of statistical returns that are received every three months. The estimates made by the Bureau of Census and Statistics may be accurate, but if the brochure I have mentioned can be taken as a guide they will be far from accurate.
I recently asked the Minister whether the cost of the additional stocktakings required of business people would be deductible for income tax purposes. The Minister asked me to wait until he had obtained an answer to a previous question I had asked - whether the stocktakings were compulsory or not. He has now told me that it is compulsory for business people to complete the forms, and he has also told me of the penalties for failing to do so. lt seems to me that many business people would be very much in pocket if, instead of taking stock, they simply paid the fines for not doing so, although I suppose that after a certain number of fines had been imposed, on a rising scale, it would be cheaper to take stock.
It is obvious that this procedure will necessitate an increase of stiff. but will the procedure necessarily make the statistics more accurate? If business organizations arc required to make an estimate instead of conducting an accurate stocktaking, is it likely that the estimates will be accurate? My theory is that business people will make an estimate instead of taking stock and that, accordingly, the statistics compiled by the Bureau of Census and Statistics will be very much astray. I suggest that other ways and means could be used to obtain the information that is required, without bothering individual business people every three months. The Government knows the kind of goods that are being manufactured in this country. That information can be obtained quite readily. It also knows the types of goods that are being imported and those that are being exported. Surely the necessary figures could be compiled accurately from that information, instead of worrying small business men. It seems to me that the more the Government annoys these people, the more inaccurate the returns will be.
We find that the statistics being collected in this way are those upon which the C series index is based. As honorable senators know, it is in accordance with that index that the basic wage rises or falls. The Minister says, “ Nonsense “.
– I did not say that.
– I apologize. I thought I heard him say, “ Nonsense “. I sincerely hope that it can be proved that the procedure is nonsensical, because I should like to see the C series index based on more accurate and more definite figures, if the statistics of the Bureau of Census and Statistics are compiled in this manner. If they are not, what is the necessity for the returns that business people are required to make? As Senator Wright has said in relation to financial policy, if the Government cared to give this matter a little thought I am sure that it would agree that a considerable amount of money - probably £1,000,000 at least- could be saved and that a more accurate census of production figures, and of imports, exports, and the movement of stock in business houses, could be obtained than by using the present methods.
– T enter the debate again to reply very briefly to Senator Anderson. I can agree with only one statement that the honorable senator made, and that was when he said that he was not clear about what I meant. I agree with (hat proposition, and suggest that his state of mind is due to his own fault and not to mine, I made it perfectly clear that I considered that the system whereby the Go vernment collects money by taxation, uses it on its own capital works and, when it supports the works programmes of the States, lends that money to the States at interest, is grossly unfair both to the taxpayers and to the States. Taking the position of the States first, it means that money that has cost the Commonwealth nothing to raise is being passed on to the States with an interest charge. It means that the States have to raise that amount - of the order of £30,000,000 a year, as I have indicated - from their own taxpayers by increased charges, thus adding to inflationary tendencies in the community. Insofar as the States cannot raise the amounts that are needed to meet those charges, they must come to the Commonwealth for increased grants.
What does the Commonwealth do? It goes back to the same taxpayers to raise more money in order to enable the States to pay interest on the money already raised from the taxpayers by taxation.
– That is the point - the identity of the taxpayers.
– They are the same taxpayers. Therefore, I say that on that basis this practice is completely unfair to the States. A matter that Senator Anderson has not understood at all is the impact on the individual. Senator Wright made some reference to this aspect. The point is that the taxpayer of to-day is paying £140,000,000 for Commonwealth capital works alone that will endure, in many cases, for centuries. He is bearing the whole burden; but if the loan market had not collapsed under this Government, and if the money could be raised on the local loan market, all that the taxpayer in this year would pay would be 10s. in respect of each £100 of the £140,000,000, plus the interest. That would mean an enormous reduction of the burden of taxation on the taxpayers in any one year, and Senator O’Flaherty’s hopes could then be realized. Taxation could be reduced.
If £265,000,000 were raised on the local loan market and1 that amount were required this year, what would be the position of the Government? It could use the money to reduce taxation, to allow people to accumulate savings, to increase social service benefits, or to develop the country.
– That would put an additional £265,000,000 into the hands of the public. If that would not be inflationary, I do not know what would be.
– The honorable senator has altogether overlooked how completely unfair is the Government’s present course in relation to the individual taxpayer year by year. The position has become worse with the passage of time. As I have demonstrated, during the last eleven years some £2,000,000,000 raised by taxation from the people has gone into capital works, Commonwealth and State. The taxpayers concerned have borne the burdens of war, some of them of two wars. This certainly is a colossal problem. I have said again and again in this chamber that it is the key to the restoration of financial stability in this country. Suggestions have been made - one by Senator Wright and two by me - but as yet I have not heard an answer to any of them. Like Senator Wright, I will be most interested to hear the Minister address himself to this problem.
While I am on my feet, I want to refer to one other matter. I consider it most improper that in the accounts presented annually in this Parliament revenue items and capital items are included in the one statement. In my view that is almost dishonest. In my view it is done for no other purpose than to conceal the colossal failure of the loan market. In any system of accounting that I have ever encountered, and I have had considerable experience in this respect, capital items and revenue items are not mixed up.
– Have you ever had a look at the 1948 accounts?
– I have. I know exactly what was done at that time. The figures then were insignificant and not of the order of the present figures. That was a period of war and post-war reconstruction. I say to the Minister what he said to me a little while ago - one has to take into account all the circumstances. Whether or not it was done in a small way by ja Labour government, I repeat that it is completely improper. At least Mr. Chifley, in all his Budgets, showed what the gap was. He indicated the gap year by year. He quoted it in his figures. But unless one makes a very close analysis of this
Budget and has some training and experience in accounting, one cannot find what are capital items and what are revenue items.
Only last August I quoted the Taxpayers Association’s reference to this year’s Budget. In the document it published, it said this about the Budget figures we are now considering -
These figures are the end result of an amazing conglomeration of revenue and capital items and of cash and credit entries that would horrify the auditor of a public company.
– Was that statement made by the Taxpayers Association?
– Yes. They are the people who thoroughly understand proper accounting principles. I think that a government, more than any other body or person, should be scrupulous in the accounting methods it selects. I have previously developed the theme that the ordinary annual expenditure of the Commonwealth should be shown in one account and the capital expenditure in another, but I have never received an answer to that suggestion either. If the Government had to fall back on revenue to make up a deficiency in the capital account, the taxpayers and electors of Australia would know exactly what the gap was and what was going on. They certainly need to be skilled accounting investigators to find that out to-day.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, there is an old military maxim that one knows where the barrage is going to land but it is the enfilading fire that one cannot pick. Nothing that came from the Opposition side surprised me. The debate was opened by Senator O’Flaherty with a reference to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Account, which has also been referred to by Senator Wright. For that reason, I want to say more about it. I point out that the Loan Consolidation and Investment Account is merely a channel through which funds are diverted to the support of State works programmes, naked and unblushing, with no attempt to conceal, no attempt to hide and no attempt to divert attention from that procedure. That has been the stated practice of this Government for many years. Despite what the Leader of the
Opposition (Senator McKenna) has referred to as the failure of the local loan market, to which I will refer in a minute, I simply ask the committee to consider at this stage what would have been the result had the Commonwealth Government not followed the practice which it has followed in order to support the State works programmes.
– Has anybody suggested that money should not be made available to the States?
– It has never been suggested.
– It has not been suggested, and I am not suggesting it now.
– -You are implying it.
– I am not implying it. If I am conceded the courtesy which I displayed towards those who spoke before me, I will develop this argument and, I trust, make an interesting contribution to this debate. I want to refer to the Loan Consolidated and Investment Reserve which was not specifically referred to to-night, but was referred to by Senator McKenna when he spoke on the motion for the printing of the Estimates and Budget Papers earlier in the year. He is right when he says that I did not reply to that debate. At least I paid him the courtesy of telling him why I did not reply and saying that I had taken notes of his speech and that on a suitable occasion I would reply. I hope that I will not bore honorable senators to-night by replying at length.
On that occasion Senator McKenna said that the Loan Consolidation and Investment Account had a credit balance of £208,000,000, all of which is in readily realizable Commonwealth securities, except for £21,000,000 which is invested in treasury-bills. That leaves an available balance of about £180,000,000. When Senator McKenna spoke in the Budget debate, he seemed to suggest that the Government should throw that £180,000,000 worth of bonds on the market. At this stage I ask: What would have been the effect on the local loan market if the Government had adopted that course?
In addition to being used to support State loan funds, the account is used for switching which frequently results in the replacement of short-term bonds by longterm bonds - a completely valid and, indeed, judicious use of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Account. Let us acknowledge that in the course of that switching operation it frequently happens that State borrowings are taken up and Commonwealth borrowings retire. In the overall effect of Commonwealth finance - let me emphasize that Commonwealth finance is supported by the same group of taxpayers as is State finance - that is also good business.
I want to refer to the loan market and the loan operations which were carried out by the Labour Government of which the Leader of the Opposition was a senior member. He continually points with pride to the fact that the Labour Government could always fill its loans. Dear me! Why should it not have done so? The Labour Government clamped controls on every possible form of investment, leaving open for investment only its own loans, and forced money into those loans. To-night, ten or eleven years afterwards, Senator McKenna says, “We did that, but you cannot fill your loans “. Why cannot we fill our loans? We cannot fill them because this Government has adopted a policy of carrying out public works on a scale undreamed of in the days of the Labour Government and simultaneously permitting and encouraging the private sector of the economy to advance to the maximum possible extent.
When Senator McKenna - and, for that matter, my colleague, Senator Wright - refer to what has happened to the loan market in Australia, I ask them both, as a matter of complete fairness, to refer to the history of any other country at a comparable stage of its development and to ask themselves whether that country supplied all its capital requirements. The answer is “ No “, because no economy expanding at the rate at which our economy is expanding can generate within itself sufficient savings to support an expansion in the private sector - all the things which we have seen for ten years - and simultaneously an expansion in the public sector such as we have never seen before. The money has got to come from borrowings. It has got to come from outside borrowings. That is the point. You cannot generate within the economy itself sufficient money to support all your activities. I have some notes here as to the relative loan raisings of two Governments. I need only say that, figuratively speaking, our period laughs at the period when the Labour Government was in office. Put beside that what we have done in respect of private expansion and you will see the full story.
Now, Sir, again we go back to this question of charging interest on loans to the States. It is a ear-tickling proposition to stand up and say, “ What you are doing is wicked; you are raising money from the people, interest free, expending some of it yourself and giving some to the States and charging them interest on it. That is a pretty wicked thing to do “. I do not want to deal with this in detail to-night. I want to put this question to Senator McKenna and, possibly, to Senator Wright. What is the alternative? They complain that the Australian taxpayer is being mulct. Should we take money from him by way of taxation and give the money to the States, interest free, for expenditure? If you are having a go at the taxpayer, as you must in these conditions, is it not fair that the taxpayer who provides the money should have the benefit of some interest on it, if only to lighten the tax burden next year?
– Who would pay the interest?
– We are talking about the one man. We tax the one man this year to provide money for works, and we say to the user of those works, the man who benefits from those works, “You shall pay interest on that money to the man who provided it “. But Senator McKenna says, “ Oh, no, you should not do that, you should tax him and you should give the money away as a free grant to the States “. If we did that, next year there would be nothing to offset the amount we wanted for our other public works.
– Therefore, all the money that is got in revenue ought to be taxed, according to you.
– I am putting a proposition.
– And I am asking you a question.
– You are asking me questions all the time. I seem to spend half my life answering them. I am putting a proposition to you to-night, which you can think about, if you will.
I was particularly interested in what Senator Wright had to say about the proposal which we have heard from him before, in connexion with the issue of interest-bearing bonds. I do not think it is a particularly new idea. I have heard of it before, and I think most honorable senators have heard of it. On the last occasion that Senator Wright spoke of this matter, he quoted with approval Professor A. C. Pigou. I was a little surprised by the quotation he made; he used only a brief one. Although my reading on this subject is completely inadequate, I was so interested that I went away, got the volume and read the entire chapter that was written by Professor Pigou on public finance. It seems to me that the important part of his submission on this matter was not in fact referred to by Senator Wright when he made his last submission. After discussing the circumstances in which it was justifiable to raise money for public spending by loan on the one hand, and by taxation on the other hand, Professor Pigou went on to say this -
It is sometimes thought that whether and how far an enterprise or enterprises ought to be financed out of loans depends on whether and how far future generations will benefit from it. This conception rests on the idea that the cost of anything paid for out of loans falls on future generations while costs met out of taxes are borne by the present generation. Though 25 years ago this idea could claim some respectable support, it is now everywhere acknowledged to be fallacious.
I think that is true. I think that what Pigou is saying now is that all that is represented either by taxation or the raising of loans is a transference of spending power from one section of the economy to the other section of the economy. When Senator Wright quotes Professor Copland - with the same amount of approval, I gather - I merely say this, and I say it with great respect-
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I rise to give the Minister an opportunity of replying to the questions that have been asked.
– I have read Professor Copland’s writings. I think I have read everything that he has written in the last fifteen years. With no degree of disrespect to him, I think that one can only form the opinion that Professor Copland belongs to the school that believes in expansion at such a rate that it becomes a case of “ devil take the hindmost “. He is entitled to hold that view. All I say is that I do not agree with him. In the statement appearing in this morning’s “ Daily Telegraph “ Professor Copland simply repeats what he has said on a number of occasions. He speaks with warm approval of the Government’s action in taxing for developmental work. Senator Wright quoted Professor Copland’s expression, which is a striking one. Professor Copland referred to taxing for public works as management in the highest sense. He said also that when you tax you must in addition raise money by loan - you must raise what is, in effect, a forced loan and pay interest. T might go some of the way with Professor Copland, but I cannot go to the point of advocating forced loans or anything resembling forced loans. That is getting very close to the policy that was rejected by this Government in 1949.
– You increased taxes. That is worse.
– The honorable senator is entitled to his view, and who am I to contest it? I merely want to put this position to honorable senators in respect of the loan market and what has Been described as the failure of the local loan market. Over the last decade we have seen in this country expansion in every walk of life, requiring the investment of vast sums of capital. The Government has raised capital by taxation. It has raised capital in ways and to an extent hitherto regarded as unorthodox, but the Government was justified by the fact that the peculiar circumstances of the time made its action necessary. How could we have had the vast expansion in the private sector, which we sought and encouraged, unless there was simultaneously an equal or compensating expenditure in the public sector for the provision of all those public works that are so necessary?
– Are you implying that that view has been contested?
– I am simply submitting an argument at the moment. The Government’s actions have been justified by the legitimacy of the demand. By encouraging investment in the private sector we have been able to obtain vast expansion. How has this expansion worked out? How has it been judged by independent onlookers? That, I suggest, is the real test as to whether this Government’s policies have been right or wrong. If they had been wrong or faulty, those people to whom we were looking for investment would not have been attracted. But we all know that they were attracted to this country, not because the Government pursued policies that were faulty, but because it pursued policies that were correct, and were regarded as correct in the independent countries of the world.
Of what, in fact, is the failure of thi local loan market symptomatic? Just this, that this country, by the efforts of its people, has advanced so fast that it has failed to generate within itself sufficient savings to maintain the expansion of the economy at the rate which has been generated. That being the case, it has gone elsewhere for support - successfully. I submit that it is completely fallacious to say that we have failed in the loan market. We have not failed. If there has been a short-fall at any time in the local market because money has been required for private purposes - money which a Socialist government would have appropriated to its own use - we have acknowledged that, and have raised the money overseas. The same policy could be adopted by a Socialist government, but it is a policy that is opposed when adopted by a Liberal government.
I do not think I want to say anything further about the loan market or the Government’s financial policy generally. I suggest that he is a pretty courageous man who, in the light of what has been achieved in this country in the last decade, will stand here or elsewhere and say that the policy that this Government has pursued has been wrong. Let me make the position clear. There may have been one or two occasions when, as to detail, the Government misjudged the situation, but broadly speaking the wisdom of the policy that it has pursued is reflected in the remarkable expansion that has taken place in Australia in every walk of life, and in the remarkable confidence which the markets of the world have reposed and continue to repose, in Australia.
– I have listened1 with interest to the political speech delivered by the Minister in charge of this section of the debate, Senator Paltridge. Let us look at the position. The Minister said that the loan market-
Order! The honorable senator should confine his remarks to the estimates now before the committee.
– The Minister raised this argument and I should like to answer him.
Order! I must ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the estimates with which we are now dealing.
– Are we not discussing the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve?
Order! Five items are being discussed.
– I submit that I should be allowed to discuss the same topics as were discussed by the Minister. If he was in order, I submit with the greatest respect that I would be in order in replying to his arguments.
Order! The honorable senator will be in order if he keeps within the bounds of the estimates under discussion.
– Sir, 1 have great respect for you, but I trust that each and every honorable senator, irrespective of where he sits, will be given equal opportunity when discussing the matter that is before the committee, and I propose to attempt to keep within the bounds of the estimates under discussion.
The Minister said that the local loan market had failed. But facts have been presented to us on more than one occasion to support the claim that this Government’s loan raising programme has been a huge success. Let us take the case of a person who invested, say, £1,000 in the loan that is due for payment in 1965. If he were to sell his bonds to-day, he would get only £92 for each of them. That person, who invested his money in about 1947 or 1948, knows that even if he were to get back the full amount of £1,000 its purchasing power would be no more than one-third of what it was when the money was invested.
Senator Paltridge may wonder why our loans cannot be filled. How can the Government compete with firms that are advertising in the press every day and which are offering 8 per cent., 10 per cent, and even more on funds that are invested? When we ask the Government to assume control over interest other than bank interest, it does not want to do so. The Government, in order to finance undertakings that cannot be financed from loan funds, raises money by way of taxation. In times such as these, I am not averse to a certain proportion of our public works being financed from revenue. But the fact is that an abnormal proportion is financed from taxation collections. If I remember correctly, last year approximately £140,000,000 raised in that way was invested in the Commonwealth works programme.
The States have to pay interest on revenue funds that are made available to them. I have always believed that the fairest way would be for the interest burden to be shared by the Commonwealth and the States. I do not see why the Commonwealth should place the interest burden on the States and not carry any such burden itself. The interest on the funds that are made available to the States for the provision of water, power, sewerage, roads and so forth, is passed on to the people who enjoy the advantage of those services. It is all very well for the Government to direct attention to the vast expansion that is taking place, to say that no other Government could have achieved it, and to say that Labour would not borrow overseas. Tt is true that we would not borrow overseas, except in extentuating circumstances. When Labour was in office, the people of this country lent the money that was needed for various undertakings. A lot of that money was borrowed at the rate of 3£ per cent.
– They were war-time loans.
– And post-war loans. The 1946 loan was raised at 3i per .cent. One wonders why some steps are not taken by the Government to curb the rates of interest that are paid on loans raised in the private sector of the economy.
Such borrowers really pay no more than 4 per cent, or 5 per cent., because they enjoy a reduction of taxation. In the final analysis, they are paying no more for their money than is the ordinary borrower who pays bank interest. Of course, we all know the astronomical rate of interest that is paid by people who purchase goods on hire-purchase.
The Commonwealth should treat the States fairly. If I remember correctly, about £40,000,000 of the Commonwealth’s annual taxation collections is made available to the States for public works. If the Government wants a certain interest return, why does it not spread the burden over the whole amount that is collected? How can the Government expect people to invest in loans on which interest at the rate of 5+ per cent, is paid when almost daily those people are offered up to 10 per cent, and sometimes 12 per cent, by private borrowers? Only when the Government has the courage to say that it will control not only bank interest rates but all interest rates will we have the satisfaction of seeing more money flow into the public sector of the economy. There is no doubt that investment in the public sector is lagging to a far greater degree than the Minister implies. There is tremendous expansion in the big cities of this country. But an impossible burden is being placed on young people who have the courage to try to get a home of their own, because not sufficient money is available in the public sector to provide them with the ordinary amenities of life to which they are entitled. The facts are against the suggestion that loan raisings in recent times have been successful. I ask the Minister whether the last loan was filled.
– It was oversubscribed.
– It was not.
– Of course it was.
– Take the loans raised over the last year.
– The Minister said “ Yes “. but the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) says otherwise. I cannot see that loan rasings have been the success that the Minister claims, in view of the present level of taxation for the raising of revenue out of which public works are financed. How can the Government expect a person who wants to help the nation and who has money, however little, to invest that money in loans, when people who invested just after the war are losing one-third of the value of the capital they subscribed? One of the Minister’s colleagues in another place, prior to his appointment as a judge, made a very interesting speech on this aspect. He contrasted the position of a person who invested a certain amount of money in real estate in 1946 with that of a person who invested an equal amount in Commonwealth loans.
– It is one of the saddest things that one can contemplate.
– It is one of the saddest things that any person can read about. I commend that gentleman for his interesting speech; it was extremely illuminating to me. One cannot claim that loan raisings have been a success, when money is obtained at an interest rate of 3i per cent., and the investor is returned only about two-thirds of what he invested.
Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I feel bound to refer to a few statements that have fallen from the Minister. He said that the Government had raised capital by taxation. He eschewed the idea of raising capital by forced loans. I cannot rise to the heights of the sense of virtue that that statement obviously gave the Minister. It would be much more satisfactory to know that if £100 is forced from me I am entitled to require repayment of it than to know it has been confiscated by taxation without any hope of recovery. In my pursuing search for enlightenment, I shall be glad to be informed in more detail of those economies which, in comparable stages of development, have wilted for want of capital moneys such as we have found by revenue.
– They have not wilted.
– No. I should like to be informed of the comparisons that were made for the purpose of justifying this policy. I should like the Minister to bear with the reflective observation that the capital that has flowed into this country may be fugitive from racial, socialist and savage taxation policies that have driven it to a country with better opportunity for development. I suggest that that is a factor that has influenced the inflow of capital.
Finally, I want to refute the implication that fell from the rather dramatic citation that the Minister made from the book of Professor Pigou, Professor of Political Economy in the University of Cambridge. The Minister implied that in my quotation from that book, in the debate on the Budget Papers on 1st September last, I obscured the reference that the Minister cited. After some criticism of his ministerial colleague who, with something like equal disdain, had rejected the idea of bonds in exchange for moneys exacted for capital expenditure as being unworthy of contemplation by those who really understood finance, I cited Professor Pigou, as I do not rely in these matters very often on my uninstructed judgment. Having cited the passage wherein the Professor said that loans should be the source of finance for productive capital works, I instanced the Snowy Mountains undertaking, the hydro-electric schemes of Tasmania, and the railway from Albury to Melbourne. After citing a further passage, T went on to say -
If Senator Henty thinks about the matter to which I have referred, he will find confirmation for the statement that he made last night, which in isolation raises no controversy, that there is not much substance in the theory that one generation is paying for another.
That was putting precisely the substance of the passage that the Minister cited to-night, to which, he implied, I omitted to refer.
– Having regard to the contribution already made by Senator Kennelly, I can be very brief. The Minister asked himself certain rhetorical questions: Of what is the failure of the loan market symtomatic? Why can we not fill our loans? He provided his own answers by saying that there had been in this country a quite unprecedented development and that it was impossible for us to generate sufficient money to support our own development. I say to the Minister that the true reasons for the failure of the loan market were those given by Senator Kennelly. Senator Kennelly mentioned first of all the enormous inflation that this Government has allowed to generate and has not yet really succeeded in halting. Secondly, he referred to the fluctuation in interest rates which severely depreciated the capital value of the early war loans; and thirdly, he mentioned the fact that the Government has allowed the control of credit apart from bank credit to get completely out of its control. That is a matter to which the Constitutional Review Committee directed attention, but it has fallen into the category of forgotten things as faT as the Government is concerned. So much for the public sector.
I turn to the private sector. My answer to the Minister about the money found there is that again we see the effects of inflation. We have referred in this chamber again and again in recent years, when considering the Statistician’s figures, to the fact that the development has been increasingly built up out of the reserves in this country. Those reserves have been accumulated by companies which have abandoned the ordinary normal methods of raising capital and which by charging unduly high prices to the people have built up enormous reserves out of which they are financing the greater proportion of their capital development at the present time. Again, inflation is one of the factors that has made available to the private sector the funds necessary to finance its own development.
It is an extraordinary thing when one looks at the balance of £208,000,000 in the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Fund as at 30th June last, to realize that the Commonwealth Government appears in two capacities. It is both the lender and the borrower of the money. It owns the bonds and it issues them to itself as lender.
– And charges itself 1 per cent, interest.
– No, not in that case. Only £21,000,000 is invested in treasury-bills at 1 per cent. The rest is invested at rates that vary from 4 per cent, up to 5 per cent. They are readily realizable securities in terms of anybody’s language. I am not suggesting that they could be used to flood the market, but of course, the Reserve Bank can come to the rescue of the Government when it needs finance for a purpose. If the Government needed money urgently the Reserve Bank of Australia could relieve it of the bonds it holds in that fund from time to time. That is one of the. purposes for which the Reserve Bank of Australia was particularly established.
The Minister said that the raising of money by taxation for capital works was regarded as good management. So it is for those who raise the money. It is money that is raised very easily, but it imposes a heavy burden on individuals. That is the point that I stress. Taxpayers who are nearing the end of their term on this earth are compelled to pay for capital works year after year, instead of merely paying only a small moiety. It is no use the Minister saying that the overall effect is the same whether capital works are paid for in that way or in any other way. You have to consider the effect on individual human beings, and it is at that point, I submit that the policy of the Government is completely unfair.
The Government relies upon overseas capital very heavily for the development of the private sector as well. Very little of the moneys borrowed overseas goes to the States. I know that ultimately the money will get into the Loan Consolidation and Investment Fund after being paid to the Commonwealth Bank and converted into Australian currency. The Government uses this money to finance public capital works. I wish now to deal with the private inflow of capital which is running at the order of something approaching £200,000,000 per annum. This is one factor that prevents Australia from going bankrupt at the moment as far as its overseas balances are concerned, but I point out to the Minister that it is a most unpredictable and unstable amount the source of which may dry up at any time. It is not a flow upon which this country can depend from year to year and it is unwise for any government to place too much reliance upon its continuance. I point out that that constant inflow of borrowings and of capital into this country, whilst it may have short-term advantages in the matter of quick development, has long-term disadvantages from the point of view of repayment either of capital, dividends or of interest. This is not a simple matter and it is not something to be embraced readily and eagerly.
In the public sector so far as the Commonwealth is concerned there has been no spectacular development. The Government has built post offices and aerodromes. Aerodromes are not revenue producing, and nobody knows that better than the Minister. The cost of maintaining aerodromes is much greater than the revenue that they earn.
– What about the development in coal and oil?
– I would say that we have not had very much development in oil. We have had a good deal of activity.
– What about £120,000,000 for a refinery?
– The honorable senator is referring to the refining of oil?
– That, of course, is not a development by the public sector. I have passed from the private sector to the public sector. When the honorable senator referred to oil I had in mind the search for oil which is one of the most vital things in this country. I consider that the capital contribution to the search for oil by this Government is completely insignificant and not worth while. I have expressed that view-point again and again. A sum of 8s. out of £121 per head of population is being spent by this Government upon the search for oil. I have claimed all along that this Government, in a matter as vital as that, should be leading and not trailing behind unco-ordinated private activity. I would say that the development in the public sector is most disappointing in this country; and there probably has been some over-development in the private sector. If the policy of this Government is allowed to continue, we will build up vast difficulties for ourselves in the future.
Proposed votes agreed to.
– Mr. Chairman-
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - The honorable senator is too late; the votes have been agreed to.
– I was on my feet.
– Order! You are too late.
– I was on my feet.
– Order! The honorable senator was not on his feet when the votes were agreed to.
– I was on my feet, and this is not the first time that you have done this, Mr. Chairman. It is the third time you have done, it.
– Order! The honorable senator will resume his seat.
– I will resume my seat, but I still say that this is the third time you have done this.
– Order! I watched to see if anybody rose, and as nobody rose I declared the votes agreed to.
Proposed votes - War and Repatriation Services - Miscellaneous - Department of the Treasury, £92,500; War and Repatriation Services - Recoverable Expenditure, £133,000- agreed to.
Department of Customs and Excise.
Proposed Vote, £4,934,000.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of Customs and Excise.
Proposed Vote, £40,700.
Ordered to be considered together.
– Mr. Chairman, is it all right for me to discuss these proposed votes?
– It is all right as long as the honorable senator is on his feet before I declare the votes agreed to. I will not debar anybody from speaking as long as he is on his feet in time.
– I am glad that the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) is coming into the chamber. I am sure he did not think the gun would work as fast as it did, but it is most efficient. I have spoken in this chamber on more than one occasion about the customs clearance procedure. In view of world practice, I think that people arriving by air in Australia should be cleared by customs at the first port of call. I suppose that the Minister is hard put to it to get customs officers to go to the north of Australia, just as Ministers in charge of other departments have a little difficulty in getting officers to come to Canberra from Melbourne. I have no doubt that some officers would use considerable ingenuity to prevent a transfer to Darwin. Nevertheless, I ask why we cannot have customs officers there, so that people arriving by aircraft could be cleared by the customs authorities.
I know that recently the Minister stated that those who wanted to be cleared at Darwin could be cleared. I point out that only last week I was speaking to a person who had returned from overseas via the northern port of this country, and he told me that he had had to wait until he reached Sydney to be cleared by customs. I suggest that there is plenty of time for clearances to be made at Darwin. I am not worried about what it would cost to have the work done there. A man is worthy of his hire at any time. I believe that the greatest bar to improvement of the present procedure is the hostility to change of individual officers. If the Minister is not prepared to order officers to go to the north, I hope that at some future date somebody else, even from his own side of the Parliament, will do so, in order to bring the nation up to date so far as customs clearances are concerned1. The present procedure makes Australia look stupid in the eyes of the world, and 1 do not like that.
I have been making a few discreet inquiries here and there about this matter. As honorable senators opposite may be aware, we have a few friends in the various departments. I have mentioned the matter to one or two of my friends and they have thrown up their hands in horror. I ask the Minister to do as I have suggested because I think it is the best thing to do. The adoption of my suggestion would show that we can administer the nation as other nations are administered. The person whose destination is Sydney no doubt will have friends to meet him on arrival there, and he will want to get away from the customs shed - I say “ shed “ because I do not think it is much better than that - as quickly as he can. At the first port of call in Australia, there is time to waste. I marvel that some people apparently have so much influence that they can prevent the introduction of a system that obtains in every other country so far as I know. I may say that I suffered because of the present system some years ago. I had to wait for six or seven hours at Darwin, with the result that I failed to connect with an aircraft in Sydney. The system to-day is no better than it was then.
– I wish to reply briefly to the point made by Senator Kennelly. The first port of call for aircraft from New Zealand is Melbourne, and for those on the Pacific services, first ports of call are Sydney and Brisbane. Some aircraft also arrive at Fremantle. The only ports at which there is no customs clearance are Fremantle and Darwin.
– There are some clearances at Fremantle.
– In some cases passengers are cleared there, but not if they are travelling straight through to the eastern Slates, the reason being that in order to clear passengers it is necessary to unload all the baggage from the aircraft. The time schedule of the airlines provides for a stopover of 45 minutes at Darwin. The departmental officers say that they cannot unload an aircraft, make a customs examination of the baggage and reload the aircraft within the time available. The airlines are against the procedure that the honorable senator has suggested.
I wish to disabuse Senator Kennelly’s mind entirely of the idea that the present system has been continued because members of the staff of the Department of Customs and Excise do not want to go to Darwin. That factor has never entered my consideration of the matter at any time. I am of the opinion that the present system is more economical and better than the one suggested. It fits in with the schedules of the airlines. Consequently, I am as firmly convinced that the system is the right one to adopt as Senator Kennelly apparently is convinced that it is the wrong one. My department is convinced that it is the right one, and so too are the airlines. Therefore, I do not feel inclined to alter the present procedure at this time. I assure the honorable senator that if there is any change in the position I shall be prepared to have another look at the matter. But while the airline schedules provide for a 45-minute stay at Darwin, we cannot unload the baggage from an aircraft, make a customs check and reload it in that time.
– Is the Minister satisfied that every aircraft that lands at the northern port stays there for only 45 minutes?
– Aircraft may stay there for longer than 45 minutes on some occasions. There could be very good reasons for them to stay longer, but the schedules provide for a stay of 45 minutes. Surely the honorable senator is not asking me to provide staff there to clear passengers on aircraft that may stay for longer than 45 minutes once a week or once a fortnight.
– Does the schedule of every aircraft that lands at Darwin from overseas countries provide for a stay of only 45 minutes? Of course it does not. I will produce the figures.
– Aircraft on the main airlines are scheduled to stay for 45 minutes.
– Rubbish! The officers do not want to go up there.
– That is the honorable senator’s opinion. It is not mine. The airline schedules provide for a stay of 45 minutes.
– For every plane?
– Not for every plane. It may be a little longer for some. By force of circumstances, it may be longer. 1 allocate staff in accordance with what the majority of the airlines want. It is far better and more economical to carry out the customs clearance in Sydney where the majority of air passengers enter Australia.
– At 8 o’clock on Sunday night about 50 passengers arrived in Sydney on a D.C.6B, and I think the whole customs clearance was completed in about 20 minutes. I think we went through in about four lines. Quite a bit of the delay was caused by people having difficulty in opening their cases because of bad locks and what have you. I was impressed with the efficiency and speed of the customs officials on that occasion. I think that the Minister is to be commended on the efficiency that was shown by his officers. Early in the piece, while still on the plane we were handed forms to bs filled in. Consequently, when the plane landed those forms had been filled in and were ready to be produced to the customs officials. That is the only personal experience 1 have had and if that experience is typical of the general customs clearance in Sydney, the department is doing a very good job indeed.
– I wish to raise a matter which perhaps does not come under any particular item; it covers a very wide field. I think this is my opportunty to conclude once and for all something that happened a little while ago and which made me very unhappy and completely dissatisfied. I refer to the manner in which the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) answered certain questions that I had on the notice-paper. The questions were very simple ones dealing with the administration of his department. Apparently the Minister had the answers in his possession for the best part of three or four weeks, but did not reveal them until the debate on the matter was taking place. He then told me that the reason why he had not answered my questions in the normal way was that the Department of Customs and Excise was very efficient and did not believe in taking two bites at one cherry. The Minister did not answer my questions in the normal way and so give me the opportunity of using in the debate any information contained in the answers. Instead of doing that he said that the department did not take two bites at one- cherry and denied me the answers to these questions until the debate was actually taking place. He read out the answers to my questions during the debate.
To my mind, that was completely unfair, absolutely discourteous, and a complete departure from the procedure that is normally adopted in these matters. It was. completely wrong. The next day I was asked whether the question should be taken off the notice-paper and 1 replied, “ Of course not. I have not received an official answer to the questions.” I still have not received an official answer. All I have heard is what the Minister said during the debate. T said that I would allow the questions to remain on the notice-paper until the Minister answered them in the normal way.
I do not think this should have happened; and I sincerely trust that it will not happen again. No matter how one looks at this matter the procedure adopted was completely wrong. As it happened, in the answers, there was a little information that I could have used in the debate, but there was not very much. However, that has nothing at all to do with the point. The fact is that the Minister had the answers to the questions in his possession for three or four weeks and did not forward them on to the senator who asked the questions. I rose to protest against the Minister’s attitude in this matter.
– I am interested to see that the appropriation for salaries and wages for the Department of Customs and Excise is £3,736,000. In this department, as in every other, it seems that one employee in twelve is a temporary or casual employee because the appropriation for temporary and casual employees is £303,600. I admit that there may be some employees who should be classed as temporary or casual employees, but there seems to me to be an abnormal number of such employees in this department. I would like to know exactly what they do and how many of them are in the clerical division. Judging from the amounts appropriated for temporary and casual employees in other departments, there seems to be a much larger percentage of employees in this department than in some of the other departments.
– I would like the Minister to clear up the salaries position. The Australian Customs Representative in the London office will receive £2,366 this year, which is a rise of approximately £300. The salary of the Australian Customs Representative in the New York office, which possibly is not as important an office as the London office, is £2,222. Just briefly, I compare the salaries of our trade commissioners stationed abroad, which we discussed the other day. The trade commissioner in Pakistan receives a salary of £2,980 and the trade commissioner in the Philippines receives a salary of £3,500. Without going through them all, it is clear that there is a difference between the salaries paid to Australian Customs Representatives stationed abroad and our trade commissioners stationed abroad. The top customs position in London is a very senior position and any man in that position whom I have met has always been very competent. I know that there must be other considerations, but to my mind sending a man abroad on that salary is not consistent with the importance of the job he has to perform. For instance, the Australian Customs Representative in the London office has two investigation officers under him. The representative in the New York office has one investigation officer under him, whose salary is £1,925, almost as much as the representative’s salary.
I ask the Minister whether he will have a look at the remuneration paid to our overseas customs officers. There are only three ports involved - London, New York and Tokyo. The Australian customs representative in the Tokyo office receives a higher salary than the representatives in London and New York. His local allowance is approximately the same, but he has no investigation officers under him. It seems to me to be a little anomalous that the representative in Tokyo should receive more than the representatives in New York and London. I am not saying that the man in Tokyo receives too high a salary. I am simply making the point that the representative in London is not paid a high enough salary for the service he gives to the Commonwealth, particularly in comparison with the salaries received by overseas representatives of the Department of Trade, the Department of Immigration and the Department of External Affairs. I say that without knowing what salaries officers of the Department of External Affairs receive when they are abroad. I ask the Minister whether he has had a look at the remuneration of the customs officers in London, New York and Tokyo, and if he has, whether there is a case for an increase in the salaries of those officers.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Chairman 6e now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (The Chairman having reported accordingly)
Aborigines: Poisoned Water Supplies - Calls from the Chair in Committee.
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.
– Mr. President, I rise to direct the attention of the Senate and of the people of Australia to an advertisement that appeared in the “ Northern Times “, a newspaper that is published at Carnarvon in Western Australia, in its issue of 6th October. It reads as follows: -
Notice of Water Poisoning.
During the months of October and November a water poisoning campaign against the euro will be conducted on a large scale by the Marble Bar District Committee of the Pastoralists’ and Graziers’ Association on the following stations: Coongan, Eginbah, Limestone, Muccan, Nimingarra, Warralong and Yarn.
The public is warned that tanks and troughs will contain arsenic on the above properties. Exact details may be furnished by station managers on application.
On the same day, an article was published in the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ headed as follows: -
W.A. aborigines “ face death from poison “.
Mr. President, this is a pretty serious matter, particularly as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has just returned from the United Nations where, in view of what was stirred up, the relations between the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations are not as good as formerly. The Prime Minister was put on the defensive in respect of the handling and treatment of natives in New Guinea. Now we are faced with the situation that an advertisement has been inserted in a newspaper which states that arsenic will be placed in tanks and troughs on certain pastoral properties in Western Australia. Many of the natives who live in the area concerned1 are illiterate - they cannot read - so that they will not know, despite the fact that notices are posted, that the water has been poisoned. Many of the natives come to the watering places at night time, and even if they could read they would not be able to see the notices.
There is another disturbing feature of the matter. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has proved that the poisoning of water can have devastating effects upon the kangaroo population. As a result of the poisoning of the water, the natural food of the natives in this area will te destroyed. The season has been good this year, and there are quite a number of kangaroos in the area. The natural food of the natives having been destroyed, they will be forced into the hands of the pastoralists. They will have to work for what the pastoralists choose to give them. It is true to say that the pastoralists are looking for cheap labour. They want as much cheap labour as they can get. If the natives do not accept work from the squatters, they will be forced into the towns, where they will come under undesirable influences. As you know, Sir, there are certain people who always want to prey on the natives and so they give them liquor, which the natives cannot stand too well.
If the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), who is at the table, rises to reply to what I am saying, I do not want to be fobbed off with the answer that this is a matter for the State Government. This is a national matter, because it concerns citizens of Australia. Even if the Government does not consider that the aborigines should have the same right as white people, they are still citizens; they are human beings living in Australia. A deliberate attempt is being made to endanger their lives, and no action is being taken by the Western Australian Government to prevent the poisoning of water in the tanks and troughs in the area concerned. The hungry graziers are doing this, not only to get rid of the kangaroos on their property, but also to force the blacks into their hands.
Any one who knows this area will be aware that there is a large native cooperative enterprise there. I think that some senators from Western Australia would know that it was started originally by Don McLeod. He organized the natives, who have progressed to the stage at which they can look after themselves. They have their own co-operative organization and are selfsupporting. They prospect and get minerals which they sell. However, the proceeds from these sales are insufficient to provide them with a really good standard of Jiving and they seek their natural food, the kangaroos that are running on the plains. As a result of this poisoning campaign, that natural food will be denied to them. 1 hope that the Minister will be able to prevail on the Prime Minister to see that action is taken to prevent the further poisoning of water in the tanks and troughs, in order to prevent the destruction of the native food of the aborigines.
.- 1 rise to protest against the manner in which honorable senators are treated when considering major problems of national importance in this Parliament. I do not think any matter that comes before this Parliament is more important than the consideration of a budget involving over £1,000,000,000. Honorable senators endeavour in all sincerity to obtain information relating to the proposed votes for the various departments when the Estimates are under consideration. I believe it is the duty of the Government to supply to them all available information. I believe that the responsible Ministers are quite prepared to furnish information in response to questions that aire raised during the debate, provided they have an opportunity to do so.
To-night, in committee, a certain situation arose. This is the fourth occasion on which such a situation affecting myself has arisen. I do not know whether the location of the chair had anything to do with it or not. It appears that the occupant of the chair, unfortunately, is not always able to see honorable senators rise. This evening, when both the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) and I were on our feet seeking the call, the Chairman apparently did not see either of us. Therefore the debate was chopped off by the question being put. Consequently, honorable senators were not able to obtain all the information that they sought. There is no other way that they can get it unless they are prepared to raise the matter on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate.
I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not think that what I have described is the fault of any Minister. If the Chairman of Committees is unable, from the chair he occupies, to see honorable senators rise, 1 think that either you, Mr. President, or some other responsible person should investigate the position and take such action as will ensure that honorable senators will have an opportunity to obtain information that they desire and to which they are justly entitled.
– I refute strongly Senator Aylett’s allegations of the way honorable senators have been treated. Whenever I have been in the chair 1 have endeavoured to give every honorable senator a fair run. I have laid down more than once that it is not my duty as Chairman of Committees to wait for honorable senators to collect their thoughts while sitting in their seats. I have made it my special aim to be fair at all times, and on the occasion referred to by Senator Aylett I state positively that he was not on his feet when I put the question. I can produce proof to back my statement that Senator Aylett was not on his feet when I put the question. He rose after I put the question.
– Referring to the matter raised by Senator Aylett, I want to make one brief comment, because in a way I was implicated in the incident. Being in charge of the matter then before the committee I wanted to speak before the question was put. However, I was momentarily engaged in conversation with one of my advisers and I must admit that I rose too late to claim that the Chairman should have called me. As I rose I saw Senator Aylett rise. I would have deferred to him, but these matters take place in a nash and I must say that if Senator Aylett and I rose together, as I am sure we did, I have no complaint that the Chairman did not call me. In all fairness I must admit that I was slow in rising for the reason I have stated. I think a majority of honorable senators will agree with me that in the discharge of his duties as Chairman of Committees in this Senate Senator Reid enjoys a reputation of complete fairness and courtesy.
Senator Cant made a plea that nobody should attempt to pass the buck to the Western Australian Government in respect of the matter that he raised. I certainly do not propose to pass the buck, and I shall be pleased to refer this matter to the Minister concerned. At the same time I point out that on the face of the advertisement to which the honorable senator referred it would appear that this is a matter in which the Commonwealth has no jurisdiction at all. The advertisement was inserted in the “ Northern Times “ over the signature of J. D. Hardie, honorary secretary of the Marble Bar District Committee of the Pastoralists and Graziers Association. The control of vermin and water storages is something in which the Commonwealth Government is not even remotely interested. Those are State matters, and without wishing to pass the buck at all I say that while this matter is of public importance and for that reason will be investigated, there is no responsibility on the Commonwealth Government or any of its Ministers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 October 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1960/19601026_senate_23_s18/>.