23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Does the Australian National Line enlist cadets for training as deck and engineer officers in its ships? If not, will the Minister consider fitting out as an officer training ship a vessel similar to vessels used ‘by other large shipping lines, thus enabling the Australian National Line to train its own officers?
– My understanding of cadet training for seamanship in all its branches is that it is given during operations on the actual vessels of the fleet. I have no knowledge that there exist in Australia ships specially fitted out for the training of cadets for subsequent service in vessels of a particular line. I will refer the question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, who may be. able to provide for Senator Poke more detailed information about the training of cadets for service in the Australian National Line.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. From time to time during the last twelve or eighteen months reference has been made to the necessity to improve ports in New South Wales in order to expand the export of coal. Will the Minister inform the Senate what particular ports have been referred to and the specific nature of the proposals that have been made? What stage has been reached in discussions between the New South Wales Government and the Commonwealth?
– The ports concerned are Newcastle, Port Kembla and Sydney. Existing facilities at each of those three ports are inadequate to cater for the present volume of exports and domestic trade. The proposals in relation to Newcastle are very comprehensive. They involve deepening the bar entrance, deepen ing the channel and improving loading facilities. The proposals in relation to Port Kembla involve the provision of wharf and loading facilities. In respect of Sydney, proposals involve deepening the channel and providing loading facilities. This matter was referred to last night by the Treasurer during his Budget Speech. The present position is that the Prime Minister has written to the Premier of New South Wales, conveying the Commonwealth’s proposal in reply to the request made by the New South Wales Government. I think the letter would be just about in the hands of the Premier now, and in accordance with protocol in these matters I do not think I should mention it in detail until he has had a chance to consider it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Navy. In order to allay the concern in the minds of employees in naval dockyards as to their future, will the Minister comment on employment trends in naval dockyards over the past twelve months; expected employment trends in naval dockyards over the next twelve months; the reasons for the Government’s decision to purchase destroyers abroad rather than construct them in Australian dockyards; and the possibility of using Australian naval dockyards for the construction of merchant shipping?
– I will answer first that part of the honorable senator’s question in which he inquired regarding employment trends in naval dockyards over the last twelve months. By “ naval dockyards “ I mean Garden Island and Williamstown which are the two naval dockyards in Australia. The first point I make is that nobody has been dismissed from either of those naval dockyards over the last twelve months, in spite of attempts to persuade members of the public that people have been dismissed.
As regards the future of the yards in the next twelve months, our intention is to ask the Parliament to approve in the Estimates that are to come before the Parliament an increase of 162 in the number of men employed at the Garden Island dockyard and a decrease of eighteen in the number employed at the Williamstown dockyard. That would make & net increase of 144 in the number of men employed in naval dockyards and would not involve any dismissals because the ordinary wastage would take care of the eighteen fewer men required at Williamstown. Those are the expected trends for the coming year, provided the Parliament approves the Estimates which will be placed before it.
The reasons for purchasing guided weapons destroyers abroad are quite detailed. Broadly, the reasons are as follows: An immense increase in the annual naval vote would have been required if these vessels were to be built in Australia and delivered at a time comparable with that at which they can be delivered from abroad. They will be joining the fleet in a little more than three years. I point out to the honorable senator that it has taken us up to nine years to build Daring class destroyers and up to seven years to build type 12 frigates, which are half the size and a quarter, or less, as complex as the vessels we are buying.
In respect of the fourth part of the question, the vigilance committee of the Garden Island dockyard, which is not a construction dockyard, has suggested that naval shipbuilding should be abandoned and a merchant shipping line should be built instead. In answer to that suggestion, I point out that that has nothing to do with Australia’s defence and would not help Australia’s defence.
Any merchant ships that might be built and added to the Australian fleet would not be able to sail the seas in time of war unless they had naval protection, and if naval construction and naval defence are to be abandoned, naval protection would not be provided for them. To the best of my knowledge, the civilian shipbuilding yards in Australia are reasonably well occupied at the present time. I believe that the Whyalla shipyard is working at full steam. I understand that the Newcastle State Dockyard - which, incidentally, has received a contract for a naval ship, which will add to employment in that dockyard - has orders for some considerable time ahead. I believe that Evans Deakin Limited has received an order for a new merchant ship. Consequently, it appears to me that those commercial yards, at any rate, are fully occupied.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. The demand for bookings on “ Princess of Tasmania “ is considered in some quarters to warrant the construction of a sister ship to that vessel. Will the Government consider such a proposal, in addition to the provision of the ship of a similar type which is to operate between Sydney and Hobart?
– I have no doubt that the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission keeps constantly under review the requirements of the mainland-Tasmania run. I remind the honorable senator that late last year the Australian National Line decided to build a second ferry-type vessel for use on the run from Sydney to Tasmanian ports. I have in mind that it was envisaged that that vessel might be used to supplement the service now provided by “ Princess of Tasmania “. I cannot give the honorable senator any more information than that, but I shall refer his question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport to see whether there is anything more specific that can be said in the matter.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Can he say whether the Minister for Labour and National Service has been advised that the export beef slaughtering season in Queensland will be very short this year? Has the Minister been informed that one slaughtering works in central Queensland has already commenced to dismiss some of its hands and that other works at Rockhampton and Townsville will commence to do likewise within a few weeks? Is it possible for the Minister to arrange for special financial assistance to be given to the local authorities in those areas so that gainful employment may be given to the meatworkers when they become unemployed? Has he also been informed that one-fifth of the unemployed persons in the Commonwealth reside in Queensland?
– I do not know whether the Minister for Labour and National Service has or has not been informed of the likely duration of the meat slaughtering season in Queensland, but I shall make inquiries of him and let the honorable senator know the result. Dealing with the other part of the question, I point out that an additional £5,000,000 is to be made available for local government throughout Australia, as the Treasurer stated in his Budget Speech last night. That will give local government authorities an opportunity, provided that the various State governments agree and join in with them, to make available the employment to which the honorable senator has referred. Indeed, I believe it was with the idea of enabling more employment to be provided that the Government decided to make the additional finance available to local government authorities.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. By way of preface, I point out that last night the Minister, in his Budget Speech, stated that 650,000 was to be granted to the Queensland Government for the construction of a road from Normanton to Julia Creek - in other words, for the construction of a specific road. I am delighted that this money is to be made available for that important work. The Minister also stated that £350,000 would be provided for roads to assist the cattle industry in the Northern Territory, but he did not specify the roads on which the money was to be spent. Can the Minister say whether this money is to be spent on a specific road, or on roads generally in the Northern Territory?
– The money that is to be provided for the Northern Territory will be spent on roads to facilitate the movement of cattle. I do not know which roads will be affected, but I shall obtain that information and let the honorable senator have it.
– Does the
Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral know that the Postal Department has been supplied with a quantity of faulty ferrule telephone joints which are causing intermittent connexions and that a major proportion of such faulty ferrules has been used in the extension of the Elsa system in the area embracing Reynella, Morphea Vale, Noarlunga, Port Noarlunga and McLaren Vale in South Australia? Can he say whether anything has been done to rectify the faulty joints?
– I was not aware of the allegation made by the honorable senator that faulty ferrule telephone joints had been placed on telephones directly connected to the Elsa automatic exchanges. I will ask my colleague, the Postmaster-General, to let me have all the information that he has on this matter, and I will supply it to the honorable senator without delay.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and it arisesfrom queries that have been put to me from time to time regarding the question of returning taxing powers to the States. I ask the Minister: Is it within the power of the Commonwealth to return taxing powers to the States even without the consent of any or all of the States?
– What Senator McKellar has asked me is, in truth, a question on constitutional law. I do not pretend to have the necessary knowledge to be able to answer it offhand. As I understand the position, however, it is still competent for the States legally to levy income tax, but State taxation ranks after Commonwealth assessments. I have noticed that in the Budget Papers - I have not yet had an opportunity to read them fully - the Treasurer has dealt with the whole history of the negotiations between the Commonwealth and the States on the question of thereturn of taxing powers to the States, and uniform taxation. I suggest that Senator McKellar might have a look at that summary in the Budget Papers.
– Having regard to the answer that was given by the Minister for National Development to the question asked by Senator Wright regarding the development of the port of Newcastle, will the Minister inform me whether it is his intention and that of his department to take the advice solely of the State of New South Wales or whether he and his department are prepared to consider plans other than those developed already? As you, yourself, know, Mr. President, in recent months the Hunter Foundation has submitted a plan to open another channel This plan may be a better one than the one the State Government has already developed and put into operation. If the Minister and his department are prepared to look at other plans, I should like to know so that representations may be made to them.
– The Commonwealth, assuming that the New South Wales Government accepts the proposals - and 1 am very optimistic it will do so - will do no more than make a financial contribution. I cannot imagine that the Commonwealth would undertake construction work in a big port such the port of Newcastle. That is the New South Wales Government’s responsibility; it is that Government’s domain. That Government will have to live with what is done for a long while to come. For my own part, I would be very hesitant indeed even to ask my officers to advise the New South Wales Government. It is that Government’s tea party and its responsibility. I do not think that the Premier of New South Wales would object if I said that, included in the proposals that have gone forward, is a suggestion that the two governments might let the Joint Coal Board keep in close touch with the work as it develops because the board is responsible for furthering the export trade in coal, and it is very desirable that it should be in close touch with what is being done and the rate of progress.
– I preface a question to the Minister for National Development by referring to the difficult position that is developing in South Australia again this year in regard to water. The metropolitan reservoirs, with a capacity of 14,000,000,000 gallons of water are now holding only about 5,000,000,000 gallons. Will the Minister please state what progress has been made since the autumn sittings of the Senate in the investigation of the question of a River Murray dam on the site proposed by Sir Thomas Playford above Renmark in South Australia? Has any report on the proposed dam yet been prepared? If so, is it available for perusal by honorable senators, particularly those of us from South Australia?
– I try to keep in as close touch as possible with this very important matter. The proposal has been remitted, as Senator Laught knows, to the River Murray Commission, which is inquiring into the practicability of the proposal, its cost, and the best way to implement it. In accordance with the usual procedures of the River Murray Commission, almost all of the basic work is being carried out by the South Australian water conservation authorities. The latest information I have is that the investigational work, although not yet completed, is very close to completion, and there is a hope, rather than an expectation, that sufficient information will be available for the River Murray Commission to consider the matter further at its next meeting, which will be held, I think, about the middle of September. This is a big undertaking, both as an engineering project and as a water conservation scheme. Many complex issues are involved. I think that the River Murray Commission is dealing with the matter as quickly as it can safely do so.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service a question which I preface by reading a telegram that I have received from the borough of Daylesford. It is as follows: -
Officially advised today Daylesford branch Centenary Woollen Worsteds Mills ceasing operations here. Transferring Melbourne. Buildings offered for sale. Urgently request Government give consideration obtaining alternative industry for displaced workers. We will do everything we can to assist. Company has offered employment in Melbourne meaning transfer of 40 families.
Will the Minister ask the department to investigate the displacement problems of the persons affected, and will he use his best endeavours, in conjunction with the Victorian Government, to establish a new industry at Daylesford?
– It would appear that the difficulties encountered by the industry at Daylesford are due to decentralization problems in Victoria rather than to any other particular cause, because the telegram states that employment of the same number of persons is offered in a different location. As Senator Hendrickson and I both know well, the problem of establishing industries in the country has proved very difficult for successive Victorian governments of various political colours to overcome.
– These people have been offered employment in Melbourne, but there is no accommodation there for them.
– They have been offered employment; therefore this is not so much an employment problem as a decentralization problem. That is the point, which the honorable senator has underlined for me. He has asked whether the Minister for Labour and National Service will take any action available to him in this respect. I shall bring the question to the notice of the Minister.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development in relation to the announcement in the Budget Speech last night of the provision of Commonwealth money for roads in northern Australia. By way of preface, I mention that the speech referred to money being made available specifically for roads in Queensland and, as outlined by Senator Paltridge to-day, generally for Northern Territory roads for the purposes of the beef industry. As there are scarcely any allweather roads in the north of Australia, and in view of the vast potential for mineral developments in that area, will the Government ensure that the money that is to be made available for roads in the north will be used not only to assist the development of the beef industry, but also to assist the mining industry?
– The purpose of the Commonwealth in assisting the States to develop roads in the north is to promote export activities. The principal export industry there is the beef industry. The plans for these roads are being very carefully considered by Commonwealth and State officers and the possibility of assisting the mining industry has not been overlooked. The programme was conceived to assist the beef industry rather than the mining industry, but where a road would open up mining areas, that fact will be taken into account.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the
Minister for Social Services. In view ot the hardship being experienced by pensioners’ wives, who, although in their late fifties, do not themselves qualify for age pensions, will the Minister consider granting pensions to such wives who are over 50 years of age, in the same way as pensions are granted to the wives of invalid pensioners? It is practically impossible for these women to get employment and they cannot survive for long on a portion of their husbands’ age pensions.
– I can say only thai the result of the consideration of the various social service proposals is contained in the Budget which was presented last night.
– I have read a report that a new type of great coat is being issued to the Air Force, and the insinuation is that it is an inferior type. Will the Minister for Air inform the Senate whether any change has been made in the type of coat issued? If there has been a change, what is the quality of the new coat?
– It is the intention of the Royal Australian Air Force to issue a new type of top coat for use in tropical areas. In the past the coat has been made of plastic and heavy cotton, and it is proposed to replace it with a nylon coat. The reference to inferior quality no doubt arises from the publicity that has been given to the department’s intention to issue a gaberdine coat in place of an all-wool coat. The gaberdine coat referred to is made of material which has been on issue for the last twenty years and meets the requirements laid down by the Department of Defence. There is no suggestion that we should move away from wool. On the contrary, we realize the great value of wool as a material and the great importance of the wool industry to Australia. At the present time we are asking the Australian Wool Bureau to undertake investigations to see whether a light-weight woollen material could be made available which would suit our needs in the tropics.
– My question without notice is addressed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. I refer him to the recent press statement by the Postmaster-General relative to the current erection of a massive television and telephone relay tower in Canterbury-road and Harding-street, Surrey Hills, Melbourne, and also to published objections by local residents, their protest committee and the Australian Landscaping Society to both the siting and the appearance of the proposed tower. Whilst I concede the necessity for some such structure, I ask the Minister whether it would be possible to site the tower in an alternative position where it would be less conspicuous, preferably not in a residential area. What inquiries and investigations have been made in relation to alternative sites? In particular, has the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works water tower site, in Elgarroad, Surrey Hills, been considered and discussed with that authority?
– I have read of the objections that have been raised to the selection of the site in Harding-street, Surrey Hills, for the erection of this television tower. I assure the honorable senator that a most extensive survey of the whole of the metropolitan area was made before that site was selected. It is not generally known, Sir, that such a tower must be so sited that the radio paths will be kept free of interruptions from high buildings. I repeat that after the most extensive survey this site was the only one that was found to meet adequately the requirements of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works has been most co-operative and has given this site its blessing. In view of that fact, I should say that the water tower site to which the honorable senator has referred would naturally have come under consideration before the decision was made.
– I ask the
Minister for Civil Aviation how the unemployment figures are arrived at. I point out that yesterday the Leader of the Government in the Senate said that the level of unemployment was 2.7 per cent., based on a work force of, I think, 4.200,000, whereas last night the Minister for Civil Aviation said that the Australian work force was 3,020,000. If the second figure is correct the army of unemployed would represent 4.6 per cent, of the work force. Will the Minister tell me how the two sets of figures can be reconciled?
– I suggest that the honorable senator may be somewhat confused. The size of the Australian work force is, I think, approximately 2,250,000. I did not state last night that there were 20,000 persons unemployed.
– The honorable senator referred to a statement to the effect that the work force totalled 3,020,000.
– The Minister represents the Treasurer in this chamber.
– I do not know what the Treasurer said last night. The honorable senator has referred to what I said last night. I assure him that the figures released by the Department of Labour and National Service are accurate and can be relied upon. I do not catch the significance of the honorable senator’s reference to anything I said last night with respect to unemployment. I think he is confused about what I actually did say.
– I may foe.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, concerns the answer that he gave to an earlier question of mine to-day wherein he stated that the proposal that I put forward could not be entertained at this stage because the Budget session was upon us. Will the Minister say what is the appropriate time for constructive proposals to be received from this side of the chamber by Ministers? When we submit proposals in the early part of the year we are told that they will be discussed during the Budget session. After the Budget has been presented we are told that it is too late to receive suggestions in relation to it. Will the Minister state what is the appropriate time for the receipt of constructive proposals? Is it now or never?
– I do not think that Senator Tangney states the position quite fairly. What I intended to convey in my earlier reply was that all the various proposals have been considered by the Government, and those which the Government has found it possible to accept are included in the Budget arrangements. The Budget contains .the Government’s decisions as to what it should do. If I am to give a specific answer to Senator Tangney it is that the way is always open for the Opposition to make representations at any time during the year, hut of course the appropriate time is during the couple of months prior to the presentation of the Budget, when Budget proposals are being framed. I imagine that the proposal referred to by Senator Tangney was one, amongst others, that was submitted by the Minister for Social Services. The Government decided to do other things that it regarded as having higher priority than the proposal referred to by Senator Tangney.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. I understand that the Budget provides for the granting of financial assistance to New South Wales in particular for the development of port facilities in order to increase the export of coal. As iron ore has a far greater export income earning capacity than coal, has the Government considered making money available for the development of port facilities in connexion with the export of iron ore?
– It is believed, with a good deal of confidence I think, that the people who secure the rights to develop the iron are deposits will provide the transport facilities necessary to carry on their operations. Senator Scott will be aware that that is the situation that has developed at Tallering Peak. The Western Mining Corporation was the successful tenderer in respect of that iron ore deposit, and its agreement with the Government of Western Australia provides for the building of a railway from the deposit to the port in question. The agreement provides also for the improvement of existing port facilities at Geraldton, and for the provision of storage space adjoining the port. The circumstances surrounding the export of coal on the one hand and iron ore on the other are very different. Generally speaking, iron ore is mined in outlying areas, whereas big industries have been established close to the coalfields. Coal is exported from areas that have become highly industrialized. The ports from which coal is exported are big general ports, and are not used exclusively for exporting coal.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Customs and Excise. Now that attention is being focused on the imminence of the United Kingdom entering the European Economic Community there appears to be great interest in the rates of tariff charged by the United Kingdom and Australia against some of each other’s exports. Is it possible for the Minister to have prepared and circulated a short memorandum showing tariff rates and exemptions on, say, the ten principal exports passing each way between Australia and the United Kingdom? Such a memorandum would be of very great interest to the public.
– Senator Laught raises a very interesting question. I will have a look at his proposal. The circumstances under which tariffs apply are so varied that it may not be easy to prepare a short memorandum. I concede that if the memorandum is to be read by the public, the shorter it is the better. At the present time the United Kingdom-Australia Trade Agreement gives Ti per cent, preference to certain United Kingdom exports to Australia. Australia receives comparable treatment whereby some of our goods enter Great Britain under preference. A list of the ten principal export items passing each way between England and Australia .would include primary products. I will inquire into this matter to see whether a short memorandum can be prepared showing the rates of tariff applicable to the items in question.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, deals with a matter that is of considerable interest to many people in Western Australia, namely, the destruction of native flora in Western Australia by officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department when carrying out their public duties. I have been told, and have personally observed, that officers of the department, when carrying out their duties, have been guilty of destroying more than was necessary of the very valuable native flora in the bush of Western Australia. I have also been advised that various bodies concerned with the protection of our flora, such as the Tree Society of Western Australia and the Wild Flower Society of Western Australia, have invited the department to co-operate, but their efforts have been of no avail. Will the Minister ensure that proper instructions are given to officers of the department in order to prevent this unnecessary destruction of flora that is unique in the world, and which is highly valued by the citizens of Western Australia?
– I readily concede that Western Australians are justifiably proud of their native flora. I am prepared to concede also that in days gone by departments by and large may not have realized the real worth of this national asset. I think it is fair to say that in recent years, thanks in some measure to the influence of public opinion, a new approach has been made to the valuable assets that we have, and which we have for so long taken for granted. It is also fair to say that because of that new approach departments have been much more careful to protect these assets. I will bring Senator Vincent’s request to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral. I am sure that it will have his support and the support of his department. I would go so far as to say that it will have the support of all persons who are engaged in the work to which Senator Vincent referred.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport say whether the standardization of the railway between Albury and Melbourne is proceeding according to schedule? When is the line expected to be open for passenger traffic?
– I understand that the work is right up to schedule. The i late for the actual commencement of operations on the line which I had quoted to me most recently was January, 1962. It is proposed to run goods trains over the line for a month or a few weeks after it has been put into commission for the purpose of settling down and solidifying the track.
Passenger traffic will probably commence in about March, or possibly a little earlier than that.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Will he table in the Senate for the information of honorable senators the report of the board of inquiry under the Public Service Act in relation to the former director of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, presided over by Mr. Justice Eggleston?
– I do not know whether the Minister for Health proposes to table the report. I will convey this request to the Minister and will pass on to Senator Wright the Minister’s answer.
Has the world’s most modern oyster freezing plant recently been opened at Hiroshima, with packing facilities which enable it to export both frozen and canned oysters?
Are the oysters at this plant grown in Hiroshima Bay by what is known as the raft culture method, whereby the oysters are grown on wires suspended from bamboo rafts and thus never touch the sea bottom?
Is it a fact that this method not only keeps tha oysters free from mud and drills but, by keeping them in a continuously moving current of water, promotes rapid growth?
Is any research work being undertaken to improve oyster cultivation in Australia which is already producing oysters of high quality?
If so, has the raft culture method been tried? If not, will the Minister have some investigation made into that method to see whether it could be adapted with benefits to Australian oyster farmers?
– The Minister has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following answers: - 1 Appropriations for my department in the past six years were- 1959-60, £84,658,851; 1958- 59, £77,621,831; 1957-58, £74,744,975; 1956-57, £67,376,800; 1955-56, £63,570,808; 1954-55, £60,111,951.
In other words, of the 328 medical officers employed by my department 162 or approximately half are ex-servicemen.
In addition to the above amount of superannuation paid, two medical officers, one in New South Wales and one in Western Australia, received lump sum provident fund payments on their retirement.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The Minister for Social Services has supplied the following information: -
The answer to this question is contained in the answer which I gave to Senator Tangney yesterday.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Audit Act- Finance- Treasurer’s statement of receipts and expenditure for year 1960-61, accompanied by the report of the Auditor- General.
– I lay on the table of the Senate the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Refined petroleum products.
I also lay on the table of the Senate reports by Deputy Chairmen of the Tariff Board on the question of whether temporary duties should be imposed on imports of pile floor coverings, man-made fibre piece goods and cutlery.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the War Service Homes Act 1918- 1956.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The amendments to the War Service Homes Act contained in this bill deal with two separate and distinct aspects of the administration of the war service homes scheme. The first of these two matters concerns the principle that an exserviceman who makes payments to the War Service Homes Division in excess of his instalment during the term of his loan, may withdraw these excess amounts to meet the cost of outgoings on his property and to carry out repairs or make additions or alterations to his home.
Section 29 of the act contains provisions relating to the payment of purchase money or repayment of advances by purchasers or borrowers. Section 29 (2) of the act provides, that in addition to making any payments in accordance with his contract of sale or mortgage, a purchaser or borrower may deposit with the director any sum not less than £1 and such sums are credited with interest at the same rate as is charged on the purchase money or advance.
It has been the practice of the War Service Homes Division since 1933 to permit pur chasers or borrowers to use the amounts accumulated to their credit for the payment of items of expenditure directly related to their property. Under this practice, the owners of war service homes have been allowed to draw on their excess deposits to meet rates and taxes; to install water, electric light, gas services and sewerage; to make alterations and additions to their properties and to carry out repairs. Advice has now been received from the AttorneyGeneral’s Department that while section 29 of the act remains in its present form, deposits by purchasers or borrowers may not be used for any other purpose than the payment of instalments or arrears of instalments.
For many years ex-servicemen acquiring war service homes have been encouraged to make excess payments and it has been the custom to advise them that they may withdraw amounts from their accumulated credits to meet costs and charges directly related to the property. Each year approximately 4,000 persons draw on their accumulated credits for the payment of rates and 500 or more use their credits to make additions and extensions to their homes. At 30th June, 1961, more than 70,000 purchasers and borrowers had established credit balances amounting in the aggregate to £4,127,326.
The Government feels that it would be a bad thing if this practice were to be discontinued. It encourages ex-servicemen to make provision to meet future outgoings and expenses on their homes and provides a convenient means for this to be done. The interests of both ex-servicemen and the Commonwealth are better served when proper provision is made for the maintenance and improvement of war service homes. Moreover, for many years owners of war service homes have been encouraged to establish credits in their accounts to use for the purposes I have mentioned and the Government feels that it is under a moral obligation to take those steps which are necessary to ensure that ex-servicemen may continue to draw on their accumulated deposits for the purposes outlined. Accordingly, it was thought desirable that the act should be amended to put it beyond doubt that purchasers and borrowers may draw on their accumulated credits for the purposes set out in the bill.
The second matter concerns the principle embodied in the act which is intended to prevent the transfer of a war service home while the property is still subject to a security under the act, except with the consent of the director. The War Service Homes Act has contained provisions to this effect ever since the legislation which originated the scheme was introduced in 1918. However, as I shall shortly explain, practices have developed which to a certain extent circumvent the provisions of the act. These practices enable ineligible persons to acquire a war service home on the beneficial terms intended only to be enjoyed by eligible ex-servicemen and their dependants. The relevant provisions regulating transfers of properties subject to the act are found in section 35. Section 35 provides that a transfer of a war service home or of an estate or interest in it shall not have any force or effect unless it -
Although section 35 does not require the consent of the director where the transfer is made by a person acting in the capacity of executor or administrator of the purchaser or borrower, the section empowers the director to call up the loan where the transferee is an ineligible person.
Where the transfer is one requiring the written consent of the director, that is to say, the transfer is made by some one other than a person acting in the capacity of an executor or administrator of the purchaser or borrower, the section prescribes various conditions to which the director must have regard in giving or withholding his consent. Briefly, where the proposed transferee is an eligible person approved by the director, the transfer may be approved on such conditions as the director determines. Where the proposed transferee is not an eligible person approved by the director the director must be satisfied that the transfer is in the interests of the transferor and that the director is not aware of any other eligible person approved by him who is willing to become the transferee, and such other conditions as the director determines.
The section does not absolutely prohibit the transfer to an ineligible person, but nevertheless it makes it quite clear that transfers to such persons shall not be approved except under the special circumstances set out in the section. This is in conformity with the purpose of the act which is to provide homes on concessional terms only for certain classes of persons as defined in the act. In accordance with these provisions, the general practice since the inception of the scheme has been to refuse consent to the transfer of a war service home where the proposed transferee is not an eligible person unless the purchaser or borrower first discharges his outstanding liability.
As I have already indicated, in recent years it has been found that by the use of certain conveyancing devices arrangements have been made which have the effect of defeating the policy that only eligible persons should derive benefits under the scheme, and also of circumventing the restrictions contained in section 35 of the act. In substance, these arrangements provide for the payment by an ineligible purchaser of an amount of cash to the eligible purchaser or borrower for his equity in the home. This payment is made under an agreement which allows the ineligible purchaser to take occupation of the home and to pay off the balance of the loan to the division over the remainder of the term. Various kinds of arrangements have come to notice, some of which constitute a sale on terms of the interest of the purchaseror borrower. Others, in substance, amount to an agreement to let the home, coupled with an option to purchase.
Under these various arrangements, what in effect is happening is that ineligible persons are being substituted for the ex-serviceman purchaser or borrower, in that the ineligible person pays the instalments from his own resources and enjoys the benefits of the act, including the concessional interest rate, although on the face of it the eligible purchaser or borrower legally remains the contractual party with the director. These transactions have been examined by the Attorney-General’s Department, which advised that they are caught by the provisions of section 35 and do not have any force or effect unless they were made with the written consent of the Director of the
War Service Homes Division. However, the fact that legally any such transfers have no force or effect has not prevented purchasers and borrowers from disposing of their homes in this way. This is due, in the main, to the fact that no effective remedies are provided at present in the act to prevent unauthorized dealings with respect to war service homes. There is no power under the act, as it stands at present, to call up the loan in these circumstances or to permit any action being taken in respect of the property constituting the security under the contract of sale or mortgage.
Undoubtedly this practice is growing and, indeed, in one State, agents are now openly advertising for war service homes with existing loans.
– Which State is that?
– Western Australia. To prevent dealings with respect to war service homes in contravention of the provisions of section 35 it is necessary for the director to have the same powers as he has where a purchaser or borrower is in default. The amendments to section 35, section 36 and section 30a of the act contained in the bill will grant these powers. In effect, where a transfer is made which, by virtue of sub-section (1) of section 35, is of no force or effect, the director will ‘be empowered to take possession of the property and to exercise his powers under section 36 to cancel the contract of sale in the case of a purchaser or, in the case of a borrower, to call up the loan and sell the property. At the same time the opportunity has been taken to make it clear that a transfer for the purposes of section 35 includes all dealings whatsoever - other than leases or mortgages - with respect to a home which is still subject to a contract of sale, mortgage or other security under the act. I point out that the amendments in the bill will not prevent a purchaser or borrower from sub-letting his home, nor do the amendments apply to mortgages. The conditions under which a borrower may mortgage his home are already contained in the act, and nothing has been done to alter the present position in this regard.
In conclusion, I want again to outline, in general terms, the objects of the bill and the methods employed to achieve those objects. In particular, I make it clear that these amendments do not, in effect, make any substantial changes to the general scheme for providing war service homes. On the one hand, the bill preserves and continues a practice that ex-servicemen owners of war service homes have long enjoyed, that is, the right to draw on their accumulated deposits for purposes directly concerned with their homes. On the other hand, action is being taken by this legislation to ensure that only eligible exservicemen and their dependants shall receive and enjoy war service homes benefits in accordance with the purposes and intention of the act, which are to provide homes on concessional terms only for certain classes of persons as defined in the act. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion ‘by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 4.9 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - I propose to repeat a statement concerning Australia and the European Common Market which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is at the present time making in another place. The statement will be in the exact language of the Prime Minister’s statement, and there will be no attempt to put it into the third person. It is as follows: -
The decision of the Government of Great Britain to negotiate for admission to the European Economic Community is one of enormous political, economic and historic importance for Great Britain herself, for Europe, for the Commonwealth in general and Australia in particular, and for the world. It is therefore essential that, at this first opportunity after the visit of the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, Mr. Duncan Sandys, and after Mr. Macmillan’s announcement in the House of Commons, I should, on behalf of the Australian Government, set out in this Parliament the nature of the action proposed or taken, and of the issues involved. But before I do that, there are some matters of history to be recorded.
Not long after the Second World War, movements began for strengthening Western Europe, economically and politically, against new threats to freedom and progress. These took a particular practical form when, in 1950, the European Coal and Steel Community was promoted by M. Schumann of France. This was a marked success, and paved the way for the later development of the Common Market.
In 1957 the Atomic Energy Community, known as Euratom, was set up. Concurrently, on 25th March’, 1957, the Treaty of Rome was signed, establishing the European Economic Community, sometimes known as the Common Market or The Six. The parties to the treaty were France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. While this treaty was being negotiated, Great Britain made her first decision, which was not to participate. At that time, she felt that, although she approved of the idea of European unity, she could not go in as a party because of her Commonwealth commitments, her own system of protecting British agriculture and, as I have always supposed, because she did not choose to accept any abatement of her own sovereignty.
But she still took active steps. Her second decision was to propose an industrial free trade area for the whole of Western Europe, including The Six. This proposal would have met the agricultural and, for the greater part, the Commonwealth considerations which had previously deterred her. But The Six did not favour the proposals, and they failed.
A third decision was then taken. Great Britain formed the European Free Trade Association with Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Austria, Portugal and Switzerland. This group became known, and I shall refer to it, as The Seven. Subsequently, attempts were made to bring about an association between The Seven and The Six but without success.
I mention these matters of history because they will remind us that the decision now taken is the fourth, and that as it involves detailed negotiations with The Six on items some of which concern Australia very greatly, we have now reached a period in which we must all clarify our attitudes on identifiable matters of great practical moment.
It is now necessary to turn to the Treaty of Rome itself, to discover the broad structure and mutual obligations of the economic community which Great Britain will now negotiate to enter. The preamble to the treaty stated that the signatories were “ determined to establish the foundations of an ever-closer union among European peoples “. Under the treaty, the Common Market will be progressively established during a transitional period of somewhere between ten and fifteen years.
This involves the progressive elimination of customs duties and quantitative restrictions on trade between member States, and the establishment of a common external tariff. There is to be a common agricultural policy, providing for such matters as increased production and organized marketing. Subject to the negotiations, which will be put in hand, probably by about October, 1961, The Six were due to meet before the end of this year to work out the agricultural policy. This is clearly one reason for the decision by Great Britain at this time. She will, having regard to the Commonwealth position, need to negotiate on agricultural matters before the final policy of The Six has been settled.
There is to be free movement of workers between the member States. Nationals may freely, whether individuals or companies, establish them selves in the territory of another member State. There are to be set up common provisions for conditions of trade within the Common Market, co-ordination of economic policies, and the harmonization of social policies. One of the express purposes of article 118 is to promote close collaboration between member States in the social field, particularly in employment, labour legislation and working conditions, training, and social security.
The treaty further provides for the establishment of a European Investment Bank. Institutions are provided for: an assembly of 142, a council of six, an executive commission of nine, and a Court of Justice to deal with the interpretation and enforcement of the treaty.
Under article 237, any European nation may apply for full membership in which case the agreement must be made by the unanimous act of the existing members - at present The SiX. Under article 238 a nation may become an associate member, as Greece recently has; but it is understood that such a course is not favoured in the case of a substantially developed manufacturing nation.
The treaty is, by article 240, concluded “ for an unlimited period”. There is no provision for withdrawal, at the option of the member concerned. It would, therefore, appear that a member can withdraw only with the consent of all the others the decision being in effect an amendment to the treaty.
Any amendments to the treaty will require ratification by all member States. Clearly, this is a formidable and far-reaching organism, of profound economic significance, and with political objectives to which I shall refer later. I will first endeavour, with as much brevity as possible, to explain the nature of the economic interests involved in a negotiation by Great Britain for membership.
Great Britain herself has, of course, enormous interests at stake. Her decision to negotiate could not have been easy, and we may be sure that it has been arrived at in the light of her immense experience and ripe judgment. It would not be for us to substitute some opinion of our own, even if we had formed one. For we are in no position to assess the elements in the British economy, or the economic arguments this way and that concerning the effect upon her of an achieved membership. We have, of course, a lively interest in the accuracy of her final decision, for we want to see a powerful and prosperous Great Britain, for the good of Australia in all aspects of our national and international life and for the good of the whole free world.
She herself, as Mr. Sandys was careful to explain to us in the course of our frank and helpful exchanges, is impressed by the competitive advantages for her own exports and necessary trade balances which she believes would derive from free access to a home market of over 250,000,000 people. This is a larger population than that of the United States of America, whose own large internal free trade home market with free access to enormous supplies of power and materials, has given her great strength in the markets of the world.
On the other hand, of course, Great Britain’s entry into a European free trade area will mean that her own industries will meet the full blast of European competition, including that from countries like Germany which has a longer working week, a less extensive system of social services, and a high proportion of modern plant erected since the war-time destruction. It is said that such competition will lead to greater efficiency, and no doubt, given sufficient time, it will. In any case this aspect of the matter has beyond question been fully weighed and considered.
We ourselves see great scope for an increase, by increased efficiency, in the Commonwealth Market. Commonwealth countries to-day take 42 per cent, of British exports, while The Six take 14.S per cent. - one-third of the percentage. While Great Britain clearly hopes that, as a member of the Common Market, she will increase her exports to Europe - which would be a great thing for her economy - we simply direct attention to the undoubted fact that her Commonwealth market must continue and grow if her overall strength is to increase. But the Commonwealth market cannot grow if any conditions of European membership inflict material damage upon the export earnings of Commonwealth countries. That, of course, is the great matter to which we will direct a close and studied attention before and during the negotiations, until the final decision is taken.
There is another aspect of this great matter. We have throughout felt that the Common Market, as it now stands, whatever effect it might have on any individual country - I have been talking about Great Britain - would tend to increase the total prosperity and purchasing power of The Six, and that Australia, among others, might hope to find a growing market in Europe. As I will show later, we have for some time been actively seeking to develop that market. Undoubtedly, the European Economic Community has been succeeding. The economic recovery of France in recent years has contributed to this. Trade exchanges between them have increased 50 per cent, since the Treaty of Rome. They have accumulated massive international reserves.
Yet the prospect of Australian benefit from this improvement will depend very importantly upon the internal policies adopted by the Common market countries in relation to their own agriculture. If, and there have been suggestions of it, agricultural protectionism prevails, the entry of foodstuffs, from for example Australia, will become more difficult. The pricing policy adopted by the E.E.C. for its agricultural products will largely determine the size of the European market for imported agricultural products and the extent to which surpluses in given European countries can be exported. Price stabilization at the high levels now current in some member States will tend to increase production in the community area. Under the encouragement of high domestic prices, France is already developing an export surplus in wheat. These matters will be dealt with by my colleague, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). It is sufficient for me to say that the advantages or disadvantages to Australia, economically speaking, from the success of the Common Market will be largely determined by policies worked out in Europe.
It is difficult to assess the prospects. For example, wool is to enjoy free entry under the common external tariff. But it does not automatically follow that European economic growth will correspondingly increase the demand for wool. We hope that it will, but the fact is that although industrial production in The Six has been rising rapidly since 1957, there has so far been no increase in the volume of our exports of wool to these countries.
Our most definable interest arises in relation to our exports to Great Britain. I mention some - wheat, meat, dairy products, base metals, sugar, dried fruits, fresh fruit and processed fruits. These constitute the great bulk of our current exports to Great Britain of £198,000,000 sterling. They enjoy a preferred entry into the British market, while meat and sugar are the subjects of special long-term agreements. In exchange for these preferences, Great Britain enjoys preferential rates in our customs tariff and currently exports goods to the value of £259,000,000 sterling to Australia.
Clearly, this mutual preferential structure comes into the arena of Great Britain’s negotiations with The Six. Should the other members of the European Free Trade Association - The Seven - decide also to apply for membership of the Common Market, which seems probable, there will be further important problems to be decided. If, to take a good example, Denmark acceded, and Great Britain acceded without securing a special position for Australian dairy products, the preference now enjoyed by Australia in Great Britain would be reversed into a preferential, because duty free, entry for the Danish products.
I will not, in this general survey, go into the details of our exports which are involved. But I think it most desirable that I should point out to all the negotiators that if they want, as I am sure they do, a strong and growing Australia, they must recognize the peculiar Australian significance of the relevant industries.
Let me give an example to show what 1 mean. The development and populating of the north of Australia, from the Kimberleys in Western Australia through the Northern Territory to North Queensland, depends primarily on beef cattle, minerals and sugar. The British market has been of commanding importance in all three. Wheat stands next to wool as our export staple; the welfare of at least two States is bound up in its success. The intensive settlement in the irrigated areas of the Murray and Murrumbidgee regions has been built up on dried vine fruits, processed fruits, and the production of fat lambs. Not one of these industries could exist on its present scale without large exports. In the case of dried fruits and fat lambs, the British market is vital; for processed fruit perhaps it would be extravagant to say that it was vital in the literary sense, but it is certainly vastly important.
Our great mineral resources, in relation to which great expansion is in sight, tend to be found in areas remote from the industrial cities and the agricultural areas. They come, when developed, to sustain large communities whose very existence depends upon a growing export for the products of the mines, refineries and smelters. rt follows from all this, and I take leave to emphasize this point, that severe blows to our export primary industries would fall with particular severity upon particular areas, industries, and people. The impact would not be more or less evenly distributed over the whole nation, but would be concentrated and therefore more damaging.
We cannot as yet anticipate the result of the negotiations. We can, I think, reasonably assume that Great Britain will not accede to the Treaty of Rome unconditionally. Such an accession would bring to an end the Commonwealth preferential system which has endured for many years. It would be highly damaging to Australia, and could be disastrous to our neighbour and friend, New Zealand. As the preferential system operates both ways, it could mean the end of British Preferential Tariff rates in our tariff schedules.
On the other hand, it may be too much to hope at this stage that Great Britain will be allowed, by the necessary unanimous agreement of The Six, to maintain the Commonwealth preferential system completely unimpaired. Some compromise will no doubt be sought We shall, of course, battle for the best possible arrangements for the protection of our traditional and legitimate interests. We cannot doubt that Great Britain will be on our side in that battle. We also have good friends in Europe, and can be assured of their understanding. I have already said something about some of the exports which are our special concern and need not repeat it But we are not unaware of the suggestions, already being made in some quarters, that the emergence in practical form of the Common Market issue has suddenly made the Australian Government aware of the need to develop new and diversified markets.
The suggestions are quite unfounded, as I shall quite easily show. The matter has not arisen with the suddenness which recent publicity may suggest. We have for some time known that attempts would be made to bring The Seven and The Six together. I myself had some purely general talk about this with both Chancellor Adenauer and President de Gaulle in 1959. But no detailed proposals were ever put to or considered by us because first, it was the specified object of Great Britain to keep agriculture out of any negotiations, thus preserving our own and British interests, and secondly, it was made clear that before any negotiations were decided upon, we would be effectively consulted.
In London, immediately after the last Prime Ministers’ Conference I proposed, and the proposal was accepted, that our officials should go into preliminary conference in London, so that, getting down to brass tacks, we could identify the points of difficulty and try to find common methods of approach.
This conference preceded the visit of Mr. Sandys; a visit which produced, for the first time on the political level, a specific exchange of views. Meanwhile much official study has been made in the relevant departments.
The matter has, therefore, not come suddenly out of a blue sky. From Australia’s point of view, neither time nor ground has been lost. Indeed, we have been active for years in strengthening and diversifying our exports to whatever markets we could find.
When, in January, 1956, I announced the creation of the Department of Trade, I pointed out that it would direct its major attention to the stimulation of trade. It has, with the backing of the Cabinet, acted vigorously in this field. It has continued to intensify the trade drive through the efficient and widely appreciated Trade Commissioner Service. In 1949 there were seventeen posts in twelve countries. In 1961-62 there wil be 37 posts in 28 countries. Since 1949 we have opened posts in Karachi, Rome, Trinidad, Bonn, Montreal, Salisbury, Auckland, Manila, Christchurch, New Delhi, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Stockholm, Chicago, Ottawa, Nairobi, Accra and Beirut, with plans already announced for opening in Lima, Caracas and Teheran. The trade publicity vote has increased from £16,000 in 1949 to £1,000,000.
In July, 1956, we established the Export Payments Insurance Corporation. On 30th June, 1961, current policies were valued at £26,000,000 the export transactions covered being spread over 120 countries, mainly in Asia and the Middle East.
Since 1954 we have organized thirteen major trade or survey missions, and have co-operated with industry associations in the organization and despatch of two trade ships. Another trade ship is planned for the Persian Gulf in the new year and trade missions to the Middle East, Pacific Islands, and South America will be organized during 1961-62.
There were three passages in the communique issued at the end of our talks with Mr. Sandys which deserve special mention. The first showed that the Australian government took a view of the impact of Great Britain’s membership of the Common Market upon Commonwealth Relations different from that of Great Britain. The second showed that we refrained from giving approval to the opening of negotiations. The third made it clear that we wished to take an active part in the negotiations affecting our special interests.
These statements have been interpreted by some as indicating a spirit of hostility in our discussions, or at least a lack of a co-operative Commonwealth approach. I want to make it clear that our discussions were conducted on a proper Commonwealth level; our common interests never forgotten, but our particular interests zealously expounded and upheld.
I should perhaps repeat our general attitude, for the benefit of the people of Great Britain as well as our own. We want whatever decisions are finally taken to bring added strength to Great Britain, for her own sake, for our sake, and for the sake of the world. For we are both British and Commonwealth. But our first duty is to protect what we believe to be the proper interests of Australia, whose future development will be a considerable factor in Commonwealth strength, and will in particular produce economic advantages for Great Britain herself. We do not doubt that this is understood and accepted by Great Britain. There is therefore much common ground upon which to stand. But the problems will not be solved by saying that we have common objectives. The real issues will be those of method. Some long-accepted ideas may need to be modified; there will be conflicts of opinion; the advocacy of lawful interests may produce high and intense argument. But such matters are in the British tradition. We need not fear them, nor pretend that they do not exist.
The decision that will ultimately be taken by Great Britain, to enter on the negotiated terms or to stay out, will be the most momentous peacetime decision in living memory. Upon its wisdom and success probably the future of the free world and most certainly the future of our own family of nations will turn. It follows that Australia will bring to her own negotiations with Great Britain and, as we venture to hope, with The Six, not only the most powerfully presented exposition and defence of her own interests, for her own future in our special care and responsibility, but also a strong and wide sense of common responsibility. It will have been observed that Great Britain has put The Six on notice of these complexities. She has informed them that Great Britain must take account of the special Commonwealth relationship as well as the essential interests of British agriculture and of the other members of the European Free Trade Association.
I now turn to the broad political issues. We believe that the entry of Great Britain into the European Economic Community would have farreaching political implications. As we see it at present, we believe that it would mean a substantial departure from, or even an abandonment of, the traditional British policy of the balance of power, a policy which basically represented a form of isolationism, of freedom from what I may call standing or permanent obligations. True, as Mr. Macmillan pointed out in the House of Commons on 2nd August, “in every period whenthe world has been in danger of tyrants or aggression, Britain has abandoned isolationism “. Nevertheless, I pointed out that a decision to enter the European Economic Community expressed to be a permanent body, and with political overtones of the clearest kind, would represent the abandonment of the old position and the acceptance of permanent European involvements. I thought that Mr. Macmillan accepted this when he said, in the same speech, that while European federation should be rejected, a confederation of European nations was an acceptable concept with which Great Britain could associate willingly and wholeheartedly.
The distinction between the organic distribution of sovereignty which exists in a federation and the looser association of a Confederation is one which I was personally at pains to make in our discussions with Mr. Sandys. But even a confederation involves mutual political obligations of a continuing kind. A few days after we had been pointing this out in the Canberra talks, the heads of state of The Six issued a communiqué, dated 18th July, which gave special point to the argument. The communique’ stated that the heads of state and governments were convinced that only a united Europe is in a position, allied with the United States and other free peoples, to meet the common dangers of the free world; that they were determined to develop their political cooperation with the aim of European unification; and that for this purpose they proposed to have regular meetings in order to bring their policy into line and reach agreed views.
Of course, we need not suppose that European unification is just round the corner. National histories and prides and characteristics are not so easily set aside. But it does seem clear that, as the Rome Treaty’s economic provisions become effective, there must be a closer co-ordination, if not actual integration, of political policies. For where there is a common economic system established and made enforceable by law, the journey to confederation or even federation is half accomplished. Common domestic policies will cry aloud for common external policies to protect them.
If Great Britain joins, and other Western European nations with her, and Europe becomes, step by step, a great power, or a cohesive agglomeration of power Great Britain will become, we would hope and expect, a most important integer in that power. But she will, ex hypothesi, cease to be completely independent in relation to European affairs. This is why the decision which she must make after the proposed negotiations is so politically momentous.
We do not doubt the strength of the broad political considerations which lie behindthe decision to negotiate. Some of them clearly are - and I state them succinctly -
I have stated these matters so that it may not be said that we have failed to see the arguments on the great issues, and have adopted a small and unimaginative view.
We understand, and we freely acknowledge, that if true European unity can, in spite of the history of the past hundred years, be brought about, the prospects of world peace will grow brighter. But, as a senior Commonwealth country, we have felt bound to say that we do not think that the Commonwealth as a political organism would be strengthened. Great Britain, as the centre of the Commonwealth, has in the past spoken for herself at Commonwealth Conferences. After entering the new Europe, with its common policies and. institutions and rules, she could no longer speak with detachment. The Treaty of Rome cannot be approbated and reprobated at the same time. Nor could a growing interest, and, more than interest, involvement in Europe, be calculated to leave completely untouched the present British position in and around Asia and Africa.
It is for these reasons that we have publicly expressed our grave doubts of the continuance unimpaired of the Commonwealth to which we are deeply attached, with which we have stood in peace and war, and the existence of which still means much to civilisation. We may be wrong on this matter. We sincerely hope that events may prove us wrong. But, as much is being said about the impact of any accession to the Treaty of Rome on the Commonwealth in its present form, we think it proper to express our own view. In the long run, of course, the stern facts of contemporary history may require some abatement of the special Commonwealth relation in favour of a powerful European unity: we do not as yet know. But it would be a mistake to pretend that there was no change when in fact there had been a great one.
We have not based our opinion upon any narrow ground of the importance of absolute sovereignty. All international pacts, from the United Nations to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the South East Asia Treaty Organization involve the exercise of sovereignty to limit, by free choice, liberty of individual action. But neither the United Nations nor Nato nor Seato is a super-state. Parties to the agreement may leave as they think fit in the exercise of the very sovereignty by which they joined. The Treaty of Rome, as I have pointed out, is different. There must be unanimous agreement for the joining and the leaving. Complete independence of action no longer exists.
We pronounce no dogma. We do not seek to turn back the great tides of international affairs. We do not say that the British view of the effect upon the Commonwealth of a decision by Great Britain to go into Europe is demonstrably wrong. In the present state of the world, with bullying and bluster our daily diet, it may be that the Commonwealth must once more change for the common good. Our belief is that a change is in fact involved. That being so, we feel bound to state our belief with firmness but with goodwill.
Even a cursory examination of the Treaty of Rome and its proposals will indicate, as I have briefly indicated before, the immense variety and complexity of the matters to be negotiated. The decision as to whether we should participate directly in those negotiations which affect our special interests does not depend on Great Britain, but on the willingness of The Six to permit it. We are, however, confident that Great Britain will do her best to bring it about. So far as we can judge at present, the actual negotiations, once begun in, say, October, will last for at least six months. They will need to be preceded by close exchanges between Great Britain and the other Commonwealth countries, some time next month. If these preliminary talks are to prove valuable in a fairly short time, our representatives will need the best possible briefing from this end. For this purpose, we have established a special committee of Cabinet, to sit frequently and to be available at short notice, working in conjunction with senior officials and expert advisers. Important decisions will need to be made at this end, not only before but during the course of the negotiations themselves. For the problems confronting our export industries are so great that every last detailed care must be taken to solve them in a way which protects, and indeed enlarges, our national, developmental, and trading future.
I lay on the table the following paper: -
Australia and the Common Market - Statement by the Prime Minister dated 16th August, 1961 - and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wade) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr. President, this is the first of three complementary bills. I shall make a second-reading speech following the presentation of the third measure.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from, the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wade) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Wade) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from, the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wade) read’ a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
These three bills are complementary, and the purpose of their introduction is to amend the existing wool tax legislation so as to provide for an increase in the levy paid by wool-growers to finance wool promotion activities. This action has been requested by the industry itself, following an agreement reached on the matter by the Australian Wool Bureau and the two federal organizations of wool-growers represented on the bureau, namely, the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation. The Government is therefore acting with the full concurrence of the producers affected by the bills.
It may facilitate consideration of the bills if I review briefly the history of the wool promotion levy since its inauguration. In 1935, the Australian Woolgrowers Council asked the Commonwealth Government to implement by legislation a plan under which wool-growers were to pay a tax on all wool marketed. The proceeds of the tax were to be applied to promoting the use of wool as well as to research into sheep diseases and means of attaining greater efficiency. The necessary legislation was passed in 1936. A tax of 6d. per bale was imposed on all shorn wool produced in Australia and the Australian Wool Board was established to administer the proceeds of the tax.
Similar grower-financed schemes were inaugurated in New Zealand and South Africa, and, in 1937, the wool promotion bodies of the three countries joined in forming the International Wool Secretariat with head-quarters in London. The secretariat was entrusted with the task of promoting the use of wool throughout the world by publicity activities and other means. In the years that followed, the Australian Wool Board established a promotion organization in Australia and financed a variety of research projects for the benefit of the wool industry. However, mindful of the fact that the great bulk of Australian wool is consumed overseas, the board devoted much of its resources to wool promotion in other countries through the International Wool . Secretariat.
The year 1945 saw a major revision of the original scheme in the light of the need to employ to the full all available means of assisting the disposal of the huge wartime carry-over of wool stocks as well as the new clips coming forward. With the concurrence of wool-growers, the Government of the day increased the wool tax to 2s. per bale to allow of an expansion in wool promotion activities. Furthermore, the Government assumed the responsibility for wool research and provision was made for such research to be financed by a government grant then equivalent to the proceeds of the wool tax. As a result of the increased wool tax collections in Australia, and also of increased contributions by New Zealand and South Africa, the International Wool Secretariat was enabled to expand its activities - notably in the United States of America, where co-operation with American wool-growers was initiated.
In the early ‘fifties, the wool industry began really to feel the impact of some new synthetic fibres which even then showed signs of becoming formidable competitors of wool. Faced with this development and with the growing inadequacy of funds available for wool promotion, the Australian wool-growers asked the Government to increase the promotion levy to 4s. per bale. This increase was effected in 1952, and thereafter the promotion levy remained unaltered until 1960.
The period to which I have just referred also brought some major scientific research successes of great importance to the wool industry - for example, the introduction of myxomatosis - but the problem of inadequate finance also arose in the research field. In order to ensure the continuance and expansion of research work for the benefit of their industry, wool-growers agreed in 1957 to contribute 2s. a bale for this purpose, while the Government increased its own contribution to wool research by a like amount. At the same time, wool-growers were given a major voice in the administration of all wool research funds.
In the measures passed by Parliament in 1957 to implement this arrangement, the structure of the legislation covering woolresearch and promotion was changed in a number of respects, giving that legislation substantially its present form. Thus we now have five acts inter-related to varying degrees, and in considering the present bills it is important to have an appreciation of the focal relationship of these acts. To begin with, the legislative framework for wool promotional arrangements is provided by the Wool Use Promotion Act 1953-1960. This act, which succeeds previous legislation on the subject, re-constituted the Australian Wool Board under the name of the
Australian Wool Bureau. The wool research arrangements are governed by the Wool Research Act 1957-1960.
There are two Wool Tax Acts, of which the Wool Tax Act (No. 1) 1957-1960 covers wool received and handled by wool brokers or dealers, while the Wool Tax Act (No. 2) 1957-1960, relates to wool exported without its having passed through the hands of a broker or dealer. Apart from this difference, both acts are identical and the need for two separate acts is solely due to constitutional requirements. Under the Wool Tax Acts, provision is made for the growers’ financial contributions to wool research to be collected, together with the wool promotion levy, as a single tax. However, the acts specify separate procedures for the determination of the two levies making up the wool tax. In the case of the levy for wool promotion, the operative rates are prescribed by regulation after recommendation to the Minister by the Australian Wool Bureau. Such recommendations are formulated in consultations between members of the bureau and the woolgrower organizations they represent. The acts themselves stipulate that the rates of wool promotion levy are to be fixed within the minimum of 2s. a bale and the maximum of 5s. a bale, with proportionate rates for smaller quantities of wool.
The minimum-maximum rates provision was designed to provide some flexibility in determining the operative rate of levy from time to time, without the necessity for amending legislation on each occasion on which that rate is altered. For instance, last year, at ‘the request of the industry the promotion levy was raised by regulation to 5s. a bale, which is the maximum rate provided for in the Wool Tax Acts.
Complementary to the Wool Tax Acts is the Wool Tax Assessment Act, 1936-1957, which sets out the administrative machinery for the collection of wool tax.
Having touched on the main features of the wool tax legislation and its history, I now turn to the events of the last twelve months, which have led to the introduction of the bills presently before the Senate. Following a world-wide survey in 1960 of the wool situation, the Australian Wool Bureau presented to its partners in the International Wool Secretariat a suggested plan to expand wool promotional activities throughout the world. This plan was conceived as a determined new effort to meet, with greatly increased financial, scientific and publicity resources, the growing competition from synthetic fibres. In November, 1960, the plan was adopted by the three constituent bodies of the International Wool Secretariat, that is, the Australian Wool Bureau and the Wool Boards of South Africa and New Zealand.
As a first step towards putting the plan into operation the International Wool Secretariat was re-constituted. While previously each of the three constituent countries had an equal say in the affairs of this body, the control of the secretariat is now vested in a board consisting of seven members nominated by Australia, three by New Zealand and three by South Africa. The new constitution thus recognizes the major contribution of the Australian woolgrowing industry to the cost of maintaining the secretariat. Actually Australia pays 62 per cent, of the combined contributions of the three partners. Sir William Gunn, chairman of the Australian Wool Bureau, was elected chairman of the new board of the International Wool Secretariat, and the board met in Australia for the first time in May this year.
These facts illustrate the determination with which the Australian Wool Bureau is pursuing its objectives. With regard to the financial implications of this increased drive to promote wool, the plan envisages an increase in expenditure by the International Wool Secretariat from £Stg.2,600,000 in 1961 to £Stg.5,600,000 in 1966-67. In order to implement a scheme of these dimensions, increased contributions will necessarily be required from all partners of the secretariat. The promotion programme envisaged in the plan calls for an immediate increase in expenditure, and with this in mind, the Australian Wool Bureau recommended to the main wool-grower organizations of this country that the present promotion levy of 5s. a bale be progressively increased over the next six years to 18s. a bale in 1966-67.
In May last, the Australian Wool Bureau conferred on the matter with the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation and the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council, the two federal organizations of wool-growers represented on the bureau. At that conference a proposal was developed which called for an increase in the levy from 5s. a bale to 10s. a bale for one year only. The proposal was then submitted to the State constituent bodies of the two wool-grower organizations for consideration.
On 5th July last, the Wool Bureau, the Wool and Meat Producers Federation and the Woolgrowers and Graziers Council met again, and on this occasion agreement was reached. While the Woolgrowers and Graziers Council adopted the proposal unanimously, the federation was somewhat divided in its ranks, and its ultimate acceptance of the increase was qualified by a number of reservations.
However, the recommendation that was conveyed to me by the Australian Wool Bureau and supported in writing by each of the federal wool-grower organizations concerned, calls for an increase in the levy for wool promotion from its current rate of 5s. a bale to 10s. a bale - the increased levy to apply to wool sold and exported for sale between 28th August, 1961, and 30th June, 1962, both dates inclusive. It further stipulates that the rate of the levy is to be reviewed by the two wool-grower organizations and the Wool Bureau not later than March, 1962, by which time the parties hope to have before them the report of the Wool Marketing Committee of Enquiry, whose terms of reference include the investigation of wool promotion activities.
In order to implement the recommendation of the industry for an increased wool promotion levy it will be necessary to amend Wool Tax Acts (Nos. 1 and 2), since the maximum promotion levy permissible under those acts is now 5s. a bale. Having regard to the interim nature of the increase, the amending clauses have been drafted in such a way as to enable the acts to revert to the current rates of levy at the end of June, 1962, without the necessity for further legislation to achieve this effect if growers should decide against a continuation of the higher rate of levy. The amendments to the Wool Tax Acts treat wool brokers and dealers separately. The differentiation is necessary because of the varying methods of trading used by dealers and the impracticability of specifying the date of sale with respect to dealers.
In addition, consequential amendments are necessary to the Wool Tax Assessment Act. These provide for a special return from wool brokers of all wool held in store and unsold on 28th August, 1961, which was received prior to 1st July, 1961, and for modifications to the normal quarterly returns submitted by brokers for the quarters ending 30th September, 1961, and 30th June, 1962. The special return and the modifications to the normal quarterly returns are designed to ensure that tax is collected on all wool taxable at the higher levy rate and that no wool is taxed more than once.
I believe that the bills are as closely in accord with the wishes of wool-growers as it has been possible to arrange. In view of the importance of giving practical support to the efforts of the Australian Wool Bureau to maintain and expand the world markets for our most important product, I commend the bills to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- On this early adjournment I take the opportunity to refer to a matter which you, Mr. President, put in train a little over a year ago. As a result of some discussions, you were good enough to authorize the conducting of experiments aimed at replacing the then hideous but efficient microphones with more modern equipment. At first the Post Office engineers, together with their sound technicians, were dubious about whether that could be done; but spurred on by your enthusiasm for the restoration of the pristine beauty of this chamber they experimented for a period of fourteen months in all in order to produce the effect which we now have. We now have neat and unobtrusive fittings which, I think all honorable senators will agree, have greatly improved the appearance of this chamber. One has only to go into the gallery in another place to realize how much ugliness we are now missing. I do not say that with any reference to honorable members. As you well know, Mr. President, distinguished visitors have expressed the opinion that with five different sets of obtrusive microphones this chamber looked like a second-hand radio dealer’s junk yard.
In my opinion honorable senators are in your debt for the steps you have taken. In particular, I believe that we are beholden to the patience and untiring efforts of the engineers and sound technicians of the Postmaster-General’s Department who have carried out the job. I know of my own knowledge that they spent countless hours testing different types of microphones, different types of wire configurations and all the other mysteries in which sound engineers love to dabble. I have listened to Senate programme matter broadcast with the new microphones. I believe that, in addition to the improved appearance which the chamber has, our programme material is now cleaner and better, at least in the technical sense. In conclusion, may I express my personal satisfaction that you have seen fit to have this work done. I congratulate you, Mr. President, upon the achievement of both aesthetic gratification and technical efficiency.
– I should like to support Senator Hannan in much of what he has said.
– Not all?
– No. I listened to him with a great deal of interest, particularly when he referred to the mysteries of this new set-up. Whilst a great deal of technical improvement has been achieved, when answering questions to-day there seemed to be a certain bird-like tone wafting through the Senate which accompanied me with a tune not unlike that of my pet budgerigar at times. If that could be cured, then I think we could all join Senator Hannan in congratulating you, Mr. President, on the excellence of the new system. At the moment, that is the one flaw which still remains a mystery to me.
– I cannot let this occasion pass without a comment. I, too, appreciate the improved appearance of the Senate following the installation of the new microphones. My first comment to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) when I came into the chamber and saw the devastation worked upon the centre table was, “ Who cleared the decks for action? Does it mean that this is election year after all? “ I record one note of regret, Mr. President. When Government senators were interjecting during my speeches I found the presence of a microphone exactly in the middle of the table of very great use because I could lean forward and drown them all out when I thought the occasion called for that. Now I shall have to rely upon my own resources of speech and tongue in order to prevail over all the interjections that may come my way. I am not asking to be relieved of them; I am just facing up to the fact that I might have to work a little bit harder than I have had to up to now.
.- I support some of the statements that have been made, but I still cannot understand why we on the back row of benches do not have a set of microphones. I do not think I use them very often; but if they are necessary on each of the other rows of benches, why are they not necessary on the back row? Some consideration should be given to that aspect.
– I thank Senator Hannan for his kind reference to me, but he is being a little too kind about this matter of sound reinforcement in the Senate. When it was raised I asked him to take a special interest in it. He has done that very willingly and has gone to a lot of trouble. Although he has passed the credit for it on to me, he pioneered all this work and he has taken an active interest in it. He has the special knowledge of these matters that has made it possible for us to have this excellent set-up
In regard to Senator Wood’s statement, I do not know that it is necessary to have microphones on the back benches because the sound can be picked up by the forward microphones. I should think that is the position. Knowing that interjections are very much out of order, last night I was very pleased to hear a re-broadcast of the proceedings of the Senate and find that interjections do not play an important part in the transmission. So I merely say to enthusiastic interjectors that their efforts are wasted so far as the listening public are concerned, although their interjections may be heard by people in the chamber.
I will go into the matter with Senator Hannan, who is my adviser on this subject, in order to find out just what is necessary. In view of what I heard last night, I have no doubt at all that we have made a very considerable step forward. I shall be very glad, if ever the opportunity presents itself, to tell that very distinguished person, to whom Senator Hannan referred, that we have removed from our Senate chamber the forest on which he used to comment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 9.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 August 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1961/19610816_senate_23_s20/>.