23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs a question which relates to a decision of the United States Supreme Court declaring valid the action of the United States Government in forcing Communist parties in America to register as arms of the Soviet Union. Can the Minister inform the Senate of the nature of that registration and of any other relevant factors associated with this procedure? Can he say whether such action would be available to the Australian Government in like circumstances?
– For some time, I think, there has been in operation in the United States of America legislation which requires persons who are working as lobbyists in Congress or in the country generally, in the interests of a foreign country or, indeed, of a particular industry, to register themselves as working in the interests of either a foreign country or a particular industry. I believe, though I am not sure, that the case referred to by the honorable senator arose out of this legislation. It was believed that members of the Communist Party ipso facto worked in the interests of the Soviet Union and therefore should be made to register, in effect, as lobbyists for the Soviet Union. The United States Supreme Court agreed with the proposition that members of the Communist Party did in fact work in the interests of the Soviet Union. I do not know the state of the law in Australia well enough to say whether such a proposition would be tenable in Australia, but I shall look into the matter and let the honorable senator know what I am able to learn about it.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry been directed to newspaper reports in New South Wales, I think on Monday of this week, to the effect that there has been a sharp decline in beef prices, possibly as a result of heavy yardings? Has the decline been associated in any way with the falling-off in beef exports?
– I understand that greatly increased numbers of cattle are being offered for slaughter in New South Wales, due mainly to seasonal conditions. During the last two years, marginal seasonal conditions have resulted in many cattle being held in store. Generally, New South Wales has enjoyed a good season this year, and that, of course, has resulted in many more cattle being fattened and offered for slaughter. The United Kingdom meat market has been depressed in recent months, but the situation is improving, and upward trends are now apparent. Of course, the American market is our best market today. That market is steady. All in all I believe, it provides the industry with some ground for optimism.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry: What stage has been reached in the examination of the very serious plight of the tobacco-growing industry? Has the Government anything in mind or in view which promises improvement of the conditions of the industry?
– Only to-day I inquired of my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr. Adermann, about the progress that had been made by the growers committee which is considering the conditions of the industry, and I have been informed by him that it is expected that the committee will conclude its hearings this week. It hopes to present its report to the governments concerned, both Commonwealth and State, with the least possible delay. It is the hope of the Commonwealth Government that from the report will come recommendations from the growers, and that the Government will be able to offer them some measure of assistance in overcoming their difficulties.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade noted statements made by the members of a Japanese trade delegation now visiting Australia to the effect that Japan is interested in buying, particularly from Tasmania, all classes of dairy products, including butter and cheese, and also mutton? In view of the urgent need to increase Australia’s export trade, and to find alternative markets for our dairy products, having regard to the threat that the European Common Market arrangements at their worst may present to Australia, can anything be done on the Commonwealth Government level to develop the Japanese market? Will the Government seriously consider ways and means by which that market can be developed?
– I had some notice of this question, and have received the following answer from my colleague, the Minister for Trade: -
The Australian Government is well aware of the potential market in Japan for Australian dairy products. This matter was discussed with the Japanese in Tokyo about a year ago and, as a result, an Australian delegation visited Japan and had discussions with the Japanese authorities responsible for the dairy industry. The outcome of these discussions was that the Japanese system of calling tenders for butter contracts was adjusted. The Japanese Government’s practice is to authorize importers to call tenders for butter when the demand exceeds local butter production.
At the present time there is a group of Japanese businessmen visiting Australia at the invitation of the Australian Dairy Produce Board to investigate cheese manufacture. In addition to the general assistance being offered to the visitors by the board, the group is being received by the Government and all possible assistance is being rendered to it. The chief interest of the visitors is Australian cheddar cheese for processing, which is currently being exported to Japan at the rate of approximately 40 tons per month. It is the expectation of the board, which regulates these exports, that they will increase substantially in the near future.
Concerning the desire of the honorable senator to further the interests of Tasmania in this field, I suggest that he arrange for the various commercial interests in his State to make their approach regarding participation in this trade to the Australian Dairy Produce Board.
– I address the following questions to the Minister for Civil Aviation: Is he aware that individual taxi-cab drivers who for some time have been allocated a parking area close to the luggage disposal area at Llanherne aerodrome in Hobart have been forced to give up their parking area in favour of the Avis rent-a-car organization and other hire-and-drive operators? Why is this discrimination being practised against taxi-cab drivers, who are now forced to carry luggage and escort, passengers to an unsheltered area some distance from the luggage disposal area? Will the Minister look, into this matter and have the original parking area restored to the taxi-cab drivers?
– I am not aware of conditions at the Llanherne airport in respect of the provision of parking space for various types of vehicles. All I can tell the honorable senator is that I shall examine the matter and see what the position is.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service: Is it not a fact that when the Government introduced legislation to grant long-service leave to waterside workers the Australian Labour Party bitterly opposed it and said it would cause increased stoppages and strife on the waterfront? Also, is it not a fact that the time lost on the waterfront in Australia during September of this year was the lowest since records were commenced in 1949? Does not this indicate that the legislation is proving to be valuable to the waterside workers as well as to importers and exporters?
– When one casts one’s mind back one recalls that when in May last the Government introduced a bill that instituted long-service leave for waterside workers and provided that waterside workers could become either temporary or permanent employees upon the division of rosters, and that penalties for taking part in unauthorized stoppages would fall on the. individual instead of on union funds, the legislation was opposed by the Opposition. The argument advanced against the bill was that it would lead to greater disruption on the waterfront. That has been proved to be quite untrue. The honorable senator is quite right in saying that in September last the number of hours lost through stoppages on the waterfront was lower than for any other September on record. In fact, the number of hours lost in September last was of the order of 2,500, as against an average loss of 65,000 hours for previous Septembers. Those figures illustrate the advantage that has flowed to this section of the Australian transport industry as a result of the passing of the legislation in question.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether it is a fact that coal exports from Australia have almost doubled this year when compared with those for last year. Can he give the Senate any idea of the actual value of coal we can expect to be exported from Australia when the development of Australian ports is completed?
– Senator Scott is quite correct when he says there has been what might fairly be described as a dramatic increase in the volume of coal being exported from New South Wales. My recollection is that during the last three months of this year our exports of coal are likely to be about 900,000 tons. Undoubtedly a very big market for our coal exists in Japan. In order to carry out their plans for expanding their steel industry the Japanese will need to import 20,000,000 or 25,000,000 tons of coking coal in the next five or six years. Australia has the coal available for export, and it could be exported without detrimentally affecting our steel industry. The New South Wales Government has embarked on a plan to modernize the coal export ports. The Commonwealth is assisting in that programme. I am very optimistic that we shall win an increasing share of the Japanese market, and that we shall do a very substantial trade with Japan, thereby substantially increasing employment opportunities in the coal industry.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is it a fact that, owing to the unstable policies of the Government, between 100,000 and 160,000 workers in Australia have been put out of employment? If so, can the Leader of the Government give figures showing the number of man-hours lost as a result of that unemployment, and the cost to the persons concerned and to the country?
– The number of persons registered for employment has been quoted quite frequently in the Senate. My recollection is that the present number stands at 112,000. I am unable to give the honorable senator any information about the number of man-hours lost as a result of persons becoming unemployed. I have not made any computation along those lines. Senator Brown spoke in terms of the loss to the country, but we must look also at the other side of the ledger, and see what gains have accrued to the country as a result of the Government’s policies. We must bear in mind that the Government’s policies have made Australia internationally solvent, although there was a time when there were grave possibilities that we would become internationally insolvent. If we bear in mind that the price level has steadied and that inflationary trends have been halted, those advantages far exceed any disadvantages that may have flowed from the Government’s policies. I have said previously that one must be careful when dealing with this subject. To the persons affected by unemployment the problem is a personal one. According to my calculations the number of persons registered for employment to-day is about 50,000 greater than the number normally registered for employment. The effect of the unemployment situation and its extent can be grossly exaggerated.
– Yesterday, I asked the Minister for National Development a question about the Chowilla storage, but part of the question he overlooked answering. I now ask the Minister when the conference of the parties concerned in this venture is likely to be convened?
– I am sorry if I overlooked answering part of the honorable senator’s question yesterday. I do not think it is possible to say now when the conference of interested parties in this matter will be held. The venture is a very big one. The storage contemplated is very big. I should think that the Premiers of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia will need to confer closely with their technical advisers on the variations that may occur in using storage in various ways. The Premiers will have to be informed on that matter before they meet in conference to discuss the alternatives described in the report of the River Murray Commission. I do not know how long that process will take. The Commonwealth has said: “ Here is the report. That sets out the basis upon which we will be willing to provide the money. When you are ready to do so, come and talk to us about it. We will be willing to convene a conference at which the Prime Minister will attend for at least a part of the time.” The Commonwealth has cleared the decks so that the project can go ahead in accordance with a timetable, and on conditions agreed upon by the three State governments concerned.
– Is the Minister for National Development aware that the uranium mine at Radium Hill in the northeast of South Australia, operated by the South Australian Government, is likely to be closed in consequence of a report presented by a committee which considered the project, and, with it, the modern uranium treatment plant at Port Pirie? Will the Minister consider the possibility of officers of his department having talks with the South Australian authorities to see whether some use can be made of the mine equipment and buildings, as well as the treatment plant, so that the waste and distress that would arise from the closure of the venture could be minimized?
– Senator Laught has asked a question which is rather difficult to answer. I believe it is well known in mining circles that the ore available at Radium Hill is so much below standard that, when existing contracts expire, it will be difficult to sell the products of the mine in the present competitive market for uranium. I think the committee appointed by the South Australian Government has confirmed that view. As matters now stand uranium is in over-supply and it is apparent that in future uranium will be available at prices much lower than those obtainable now or those that were obtainable previously. There are in Australia mines that will be able to produce uranium at prices which will be quite competitive in the new era. I refer, for instance, to the mines at Rum Jungle and Mary Kathleen and on the Alligator River. They will be able to produce at competitive prices all the uranium oxide that we require. As I understand the position, the mine at Radium Hill will not be able to do that. Therefore, I do not think that I can offer much consolation to Senator Laught. The circumstances of this mine are well-known to my department and to the mining industry generally, and it will not be easy to find a solution to the problem. Another use might be found for the treatment plant, but that use would have to be associated with a mining concern rather than with a government department.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the Senate of the number of man-hours that were lost on the waterfront during September as a result of shortage of work on the waterfront?
– The answer is, “No”. I cannot dissect from the total number of man-hours lost on the waterfront the number of hours, if any, that were lost as a result of lack of work on the waterfront. Possibly Senator Poke did not understand me, or I did not make myself clear, when I spoke previously. When I referred to 2,500 hours having been lost on the waterfront last September, compared with the average loss of 65,000 hours for previous Septembers, I was referring to hours lost as a result of stoppages or industrial disputes.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs has reference to the news of gigantic troop movements in East Germany. Can the Minister tell us with some precision the location of these movements and what significance is attached to them by the Government, if any, in relation to the Berlin crisis? Am I correct also in reminding myself that there were reported manoeuvres in West Germany last week? What was the nature of them?
– I do not know that I can add very much to what has appeared in public print on this matter. Manoeuvres are taking place in East Germany of troops of the Warsaw Pact countries. These manoeuvres have resulted in considerable troop movement from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and other Warsaw Pact countries into East Germany. At the same time the Russian strength in East Germany - constantly present as a garrison to hold down the East German population - which previously had been some 20 per cent, under strength, has been brought up to full strength. A considerable area of
East Germany has been declared a military zone and has been closed to normal traffic. I think that the conclusions to be drawn from this unusual display of military strength are a matter for judgment rather than something about which a definite statement can be made here. The other manoeuvres in West Germany, to which the honorable senator refers, were manoeuvres of troops stationed in West Germany, and did not involve the importation into that country of new or large numbers of troops, as did the manoeuvres taking place in East Germany.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister in Charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Has he read a newspaper report to-day that a disease is threatening the very existence of the valuable oyster industry in New South Wales? Has the C.S.I.R.O. been asked to attempt to find means of ridding the oyster beds of the disease? If not, would the resources of the organization be made available, if requested?
– I have not seen the newspaper report. If a disease is threatening the very valuable oyster industry in Australia I am sure that the C.S.I.R.O. would be on to it in the early stages. If the honorable senator will put his question on the notice-paper I shall obtain the facts for him from the Minister.
asked the Minister rep resenting the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: - 1 and 2. On 24th October, 1952, an agreement was concluded between the Commonwealth and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited relating to the operation of air services within Australia. This agreement was subsequently approved by Parliament by Act No. 100 of 1952, and continues in force for fifteen years from its commencing date.
Clause 6 of this agreement reads as follows: -
The Commonwealth agrees to take all steps necessary to ensure that during the continuance of this agreement business transacted on Commonwealth Government warrant in respect of the carriage whether of passengers or of freight is freely available to both the Commission and the Company and the holder of a Government warrant has a free option as to the service he will use.
In this clause, of course, “ Commission “ refers to the Australian National Airlines Commission, known as T.A.A., and “ Company “ refers to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
On 17th February, 1953, Treasury Circular No. Al/1953 was issued to all departments setting out the arrangements to be made for giving effect to clause 6 of the agreement. These arrangements were subsequently incorporated in Treasury Instructions issued under the Audit Act and are as follows: -
Approval of a requisition for travel by air, including the time of travel, shall at all times be subject to the following overriding considerations: -
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
Has the Minister any information regarding the iron ore deposits in the Penguin municipality on thenorth-west coast of Tasmania, particularly as regards their potentiality fordevelopment?
– I have obtained the following information: -
In the Penguin municipality on the north-west coast of Tasmania, there are several known small iron ore deposits. The largest of these deposits is the low-grade deposit at Blythe River which forms part of the ‘boundary between the Penguin and Burnie municipalities. The deposit is near a bitumen road and is 7 miles from the port of Burnie.
At present the iron ore deposits of Tasmania are reserved from occupation under the Mining Act for the purposes of investigations being undertaken by the State Department of Mines. The State Government hopes that it will succeed in proving the existence of a deposit of sufficient volume and grade for the establishment of a local steel industry. The small deposits in the Penguin municipality may prove to be of sufficient size to be useful supplementary sources of ore for such an industry, which would have as its principal source of ore the large Savage River deposit near the west coast
I am informed that a sample of ore from Savage River was recently sent to the United States for a smelting test which will be carried out within the next fortnight. This test and the investigations of Tasmanian iron ore deposits which are now proceeding will provide basic information as to the prospects of developing Tasmania’s iron ore deposits for the purpose of setting up an iron and steel industry in that State. In the meantime the State Government is not issuing leases that permit the export of iron ore.
– Recently, Senator
Wright raised the question of introducing a subsidy on superphosphate. Having conferred with the Treasurer about this matter, I am now able to say that one of the many proposals which came up for discussion when the 1961-62 Budget was being framed was the introduction of a subsidy on superphosphate. After careful consideration of all aspects of the proposal it was, however, decided to take no action in the matter. As the current usage of superphosphate in Australia is approximately 2,000,000 tons per annum, the annual cost of a subsidy would be £2,000,000 for every £1 per ton of subsidy.
– I lay on the table of the Senate the following papers: -
United States Declaration on Disarmament: A Programme for General and Complete Disarmament in a Peaceful World; Joint Statement of Agreed Principles for Disarmament Negotiations by the Governments of the United States of America and the Soviet Union.
I ask. for leave to make a statement on the documents. (Leave granted.)
– The new United. States Declaration was presented, as honorable senators will be aware, by President. Kennedy to the United Nations General Assembly on 25 th September. The declaration is one which accords with the most recent Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Communique on Disarmament and has the support of the Australian Government. The Soviet delegate at the United Nations has attacked the United States’ plan and in doing so has. again cast doubts on the sincerity of the Soviet claim that they genuinely seek disarmament.
The principles for disarmament set out in the United States Declaration must, I believe, be supported by all those who seek disarmament which is both controlled and verified. These two qualifications are essential to any disarmament plan. The Western powers cannot risk uncontrolled and unverified disarmament when the good faith of the chief country with which they negotiate is open to doubt.
The United States Declaration has as its object the disbanding of national forces, the elimination of armaments and the establishment of an international disarmament organization to ensure disarmament is in fact carried out. It envisages at the same time the establishment of a United Nations peace force to prevent international conflicts. To achieve these ends, it sets out certain principles. These principles which the United States proposes to guide disarmament are - and they are quite brief -
These are principles which I commend to the Senate and ones which I believe would provide a sound basis for the immediate re-opening of disarmament negotiations.
The principles contained in the Joint Statement of Agreed Principles for Disarmament Negotiations prepared by the governments of the United States and the Soviet Union are also welcome to the Government, not least because they are the first positive result of the bilateral discussions which have been taking place since 19th June. The statement, like the declaration, lays stress on the need to implement disarmament in stages; on the need to have balanced disarmament; and on the necessity to combine measures of control and verification with the process of disarmament. But the Soviet Union insisted during negotiations that it could not accept the inclusion of a sentence in the statement which called for verification, after disarmament, of forces and armaments to ensure these did. not rise above the prescribed levels. In agreeing to delete this sentence before the statement was publicized, the United States made it quite clear that it in no way abandoned its belief in the necessity for such a provision. It is the inclusion of this provision in the United States Declaration which has brought protests from Mr. Gromyko. 1 need say no more regarding the necessity for control and verification during and after disarmament. What I do wish to suggest to the Senate is that the publication of agreed principles does not mean that the Soviet Union is necessarily ready to negotiate an effective disarmament agreement. In the Joint Statement of Agreed Principles the Russians appear to subscribe to the need for control of disarmament. But what does the Soviet Union mean by control? Mr. Gromyko said on 24th September that the Soviet Union proposed that control should be implemented through an international disarmament organization based on the “ troika “ system. This proposal, with each of the three delegates able to exercise a veto, would make any control system completely ineffective.
The United States, in the declaration outlined by President Kennedy, has challenged the Soviet to go beyond agreement in principle to reach agreement on actual plans for disarmament. It is now for the Soviet Union to show it means business.
Copies of the documents I have just tabled will be placed in the Library for the information of honorable senators.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 10th October (vide page 1002).
Proposed expenditure, £5,037,000.
.- At page 17 of the 1959-60 report of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner the following statement appears: -
As there is still a number of employees requiring housing accommodation at Port Augusta, the construction of eight brick residences was begun. These houses are being built under contract and will all be completed during the current financial year.
In the 1960-61 interim report, at page 32, under the heading “ Housing for Employees”, we see the following statement: -
Five new brick residences were completed at Port Augusta during the year, and two timber residences were provided at Alice Springs, Oodnadatta and Marree.
I take it that sums of money were appropriated for the construction of eight brick houses at Port Augusta. In view of the fact that only five of the eight houses have been completed, and that no explanation is given of the failure to construct the other three, I should like the Minister to explain the position.
The 1959-60 report also states -
Tenders were called, after the close of the year, for the erection of four additional houses for railway staff at Oodnadatta, to be completed during the current year.
As I have pointed out, the 1960-61 interim report states that only two residences were completed at Oodnadatta. I take it that an amount was appropriated last year for the construction of four houses. I therefore ask the Minister whether he would also be good enough to explain why only two houses were erected at that place.
– Eight houses were in fact planned for construction at Port Augusta and, as the honorable senator has said, five were completed during the year. The other three were not completed, but they are under construction. It was proposed that four houses should be erected at Oodnadatta, but due to changes in the time-tables it subsequently became obvious that only two houses would be needed, and those two houses were completed.
– I wish to refer to two matters related to the Commonwealth Railways, but before I do so I remind the Minister that last evening I asked him a question regarding some work being done in Japan for the Railways. He may remember that I asked whether that work could not have been done at the Port Augusta railway workshops. At page 23 of the latest report of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner there is a reference to salvage, and the following statement is made: -
Disposal of obsolete locomotives and rollingstock continued and towards the end of the year tenders were invited for the purchase of considerable tonnages of reclaimed second-hand 50 lb. rails from the Central Australia Railway. Salvage of materials received full attention, and a special area with security fences has now been set aside to facilitate these operations.
I think that is a step in the right direction. At this time when we are putting forth our probing questions it is perhaps fitting for us to remember that the Commonwealth Railways made a handsome profit last year. We should commend those associated with the railway operations. Can the Minister inform me of the ramifications of the salvage work being conducted by the railway authorities and the extent to which, if any, they salvage obsolete stock? Can he also say how the salvaged material is disposed of, and whether the salvage operations should be extended as a means of bringing about further economies?
The next matter I propose to raise comes within the scope of the section headed “ Employee Welfare “ at page 24 of the report. I am reminded that some time ago I was approached by certain people regarding the immunization of employees against influenza. I understand that in about March of 1960 notices appeared in the Commonwealth railway workshops and at railway centres in the north of South Australia suggesting that employees should avail themselves of the opportunity to be immunized against influenza. I was informed on that occasion that the cost of the immunization was 15s. for a doctor’s visit, 7s. 6d. to cover the cost of the serum and 12s. 6d. for the services of the sister in attendance when the injections were given. I must confess that when the matter was first brought to my notice I overlooked seeking information at question-time. I was just reminded of it as I read the section relating to employees’ welfare. Although it is a step in the right direction for the Commonwealth Railways to make its employees aware of the need for immunization, it seems that the cost is rather high.
I make no definite statement on this point and I may be wrong when I say that I understand that in some Commonwealth departments employees may avail themselves of immunization facilities at no cost to themselves. If that is so, it seems to me to be rather discriminatory that employees of Commonwealth railway workshops should have to pay the fees that were mentioned to me some time ago by one of the persons interested. Can the Minister inform me whether my statement in relation to costs is correct and, if it is, whether there is any way in which those costs can be reduced or eliminated altogether?
– As Senator Toohey has referred to the sale of obsolete stock, I want to bring up again the matter to which I referred last night. I remind the Minister that I directed attention to the following passage in the AuditorGeneral’s report -
The book value of obsolete stock, £1,084,567, including stock sold £900,848, still appears in the Railways accounts at cost.
When I sought information from the Minister, he replied by saying that the matter was being considered by the Department of the Treasury and the Commonwealth Railways. When dealing with the estimates for another department within a few minutes, I shall be referring to other matters that have been continuously under consideration since as far back as 1956.
I say quite categorically that I do not think the Minister’s statement is worthy of the committee. We are entitled to know why the accounts of the Commonwealth Railways still include at cost the value of obsolete stock amounting to £1,084,567, especially when £900,848 worth of that stock has been sold. That is a startling proposition - so startling that I speak tersely when indicating my dissatisfaction with the reply I received last night.
– Last night Senator Toohey referred to work on the Japanese rolling-stock and asked why the work referred to in the report could not be done in the workshops of the Commonwealth Railways. With respect, I think he has misread the report. The report states -
In the car shop section the major works undertaken were: - Preparation for service of new rolling-stock manufactured under contract in Japan.
That passage makes it quite clear that the work of preparation was in fact done in the workshops of the Commonwealth Railways.
– I was concerned about the original work.
– Do you mean the construction of the rolling-stock?
– That goes back over a period of about two and a half years. Tenders were called for this stock and a number of tenders was received. The cheapest and best tender by far was received from a Japanese construction firm. It got the business. I believe the order was placed early in 1958.
The honorable senator expressed some interest also in the salvaging operations. I am informed that salvaging is carried out to the maximum extent. The fencing which is referred to in the report and which no doubt is known to Senator Toohey is indicative of the progress that has been made in salvage operations in recent years. Indeed, the salvage yard at Port Augusta has grown quite a bit over the last few years. The salvage is sold from time to time by tender.
I am not able to tell the honorable senator whether he is right in his statement about the scale of costs for immunization. I am told that the welfare carriage is made available for this work, but I repeat that I am unable to say anything about the scale of costs. I am told that it is doubted whether immunization is made available free of cost in any other Commonwealth instrumentality and that it does not follow that discrimination is practised against employees of the Commonwealth Railways. However, I shall institute further inquiries to ascertain the actual costs involved and, if possible, obtain a comparison with the cost of comparable services in other Commonwealth instrumentalities.
Senator Wright has referred again to the Auditor-General’s comment on obsolete locomotives and rolling-stock and has asked why no real progress has been made in the book treatment of the sum involved. I am informed that in the main the disposal of salvaged stock occurred within a compressed period immediately after the acquisition and commissioning of the diesel locomotives. The sum of £900,848 was accounted for, in the main, by the sale of locomotives as scrap. The problem arose as to how to apportion that recovery against the Commonwealth accounts over a period of years. I said last night that it would be unrealistic to treat that as a recovery attributable to any one year and that discussions were proceeding between the Department of the Treasury and the Commonwealth Railways with a view to establishing how this amount could be treated, not in one year but over a period. I regret that I am unable at this moment to tell the honorable senator anything more.
– Will the Minister state in what years these sales amounting to £900,848 were made? How long ago were the moneys received?
– The recoveries have been effected over a period of several years. Incidentally, I am told that this is a problem which is experienced not only by the Commonwealth Railways but also by most State, railway systems.
– I wish to refer to the TransAustralian Railway and to the Central Australia Railway. I wish to compliment the Commissioner for Railways, Mr. K. A. Smith, on completing his first year of office. I have read with interest the report on the Commonwealth Railways. That report contains some most encouraging data. My first observation is in relation to freight facts. It will be seen that in 1959-60 revenue from freight amounted to about £4,000,000. In the last year revenue from this source amounted to about £4,500,000. As Mr. Smith reports, freight traffic rather than the carriage of passengers is the lifeblood of the Commonwealth Railways system.
I think it is wise to pause for a moment to examine this matter of freight, and to ask ourselves whether sufficient freight is being carried by the Commonwealth Railways. In particular, we should see whether Commonwealth departments should be urged to use the Commonwealth Railways more than they are doing at present. As a South Australian I am aware that a tremendous amount of freight is carried by road from Adelaide, in particular to Woomera. That traffic causes a good deal of congestion in some of the smaller country villages and towns in South Australia. Correspondents from Port Augusta have from time to time written to Adelaide newspapers quoting the number of vehicles passing across the Port Augusta bridge heading for Woomera. Obviously, Port Augusta, which is the headquarters of the Commonwealth Railways, is very interested in the amount of freight carried by road to Woomera, which is a Commonwealth settlement.
Dealing with local goods traffic on the Trans-Australian line the Commissioner for Commonwealth Railways in his latest report states -
The overall revenue from local goods traffic consigned to the Woomera Rocket Range and the Maralinga Proving Ground increased when compared with the previous year whilst salt traffic from Winninowie was slightly less.
I am pleased to note that increase, but this Government should do ‘everything to ensure that the maximum amount of freight destined for Woomera is carried by the Commonwealth Railways. A tremendous amount of freight goes to Woomera because Woomera produces nothing in the way of foodstuffs. Everything used in Woomera must be freighted there to support a fairly large and vigorous population. I think that a determined effort on the part of the Government could increase the amount of freight handled by the Commonwealth Railways. Port Augusta largely depends for its existence on the Commonwealth Railways, and is vitally interested in their development.
I commend the Commissioner for Railways and the Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr. Opperman, on the drive that is being made to increase passenger traffic on the railways. I was privileged to travel for at least SO miles on the inaugural run in August last year of the Wildflower train. The Commonwealth Railways instituted that service to attract people who were interested in freighting their cars as far as Kalgoorlie and then proceeding the rest of the way to Perth by car through country that is normally arid, but which is very beautiful at that time of the year. The fare charged is attractive, and I believe that the service proved so successful that it was repeated this year.
Dealing with goods traffic the commissioner states -
Special attention was again given to the problems of conveyance of perishable traffic for Northern Territory destinations.
An innovation was the introduction of what is considered to be the longest milk run in the world. Frozen milk in cartons is brought from Clare in South Australia by road to Port Pirie Junction, where it is loaded into this department’s ice-cooled containers for conveyance to Alice Springs. In this manner, fresh milk is available to Alice Springs’ residents as a regular measure for the first time.
Clare is a most delightful part of South Australia, and is a most productive area.
By dealing with perishables in this way a good deal of assistance will be given to the agricultural, viticultural and fruit-growing areas of South Australia. The service will enable the people of the north regularly to enjoy fresh food.
It must be remembered that the services supplied by the Commonwealth Railways are increasing all the time. I hope that soon a daily service will be operating on the transcontinental line. I hope also that a much speedier service will be operated to Alice Springs.
I compliment the Minister on his running, of the Commonwealth Railways, but I would like an assurance that everything is being done by way of negotiations with the Department of Works and the Department of Supply to ensure that the maximum amount of freight is carried by the railways.
– I am not surprised that Senator Laught has. referred again to the carriage of freight to Woomera. For the last few years he has shown a continuing interest in this aspect of railway operations. He will have noticed the improvement in this regard as recorded by the Commissioner for Railways in hismost recent report. That improvement ispartly the result of better liaison between the Commonwealth Railways, the Department of Supply, the Department of Works, and the service departments. In the early stages of Woomera it was sometimes difficult to consign goods by train because much of the equipment was scientific equipment and was packed into special containers, placed on trucks either at the point of manufacturein Australia or on arrival in Australia, and taken direct to Woomera on those trucksso that it would not be disturbed. As thingshave settled down there has been the improvement that has been noticed by theCommissioner for Railways.
I am sure that the commissioner and the Minister for Shipping and Transport will be as pleased as I am at the compliment paid by Senator Laught to the people concerned’ with the conduct of the Commonwealth Railways. It is only fair to say that the Commonwealth Railways provide a servicefor communities that are difficult to service because of their isolation. The railways have been responsible for innovations not only in respect of the carriage of goods, particularly perishables, to isolated places, but also in respect of more technical matters, particularly in relation to rail laying and the like, in which the Commonwealth Railways lead the field. That is something that is worthy of note, and I express my pleasure that Senator Laught has spoken as he has.
.- Dealing with the sale of obsolete stock, in respect of which £900,000 was received, I should like the Minister to tell me to what accounts the moneys received were credited as they came in year by year. It is obvious that they must have been credited to some Commonwealth Railways accounts. That being so, it is, I suggest, a false entry to keep the original asset at cost in the books. It seems to me that this is a matter that cannot be passed over without a specific explanation, and I suggest that such an explanation is due to the committee.
. - The proceeds of the disposals were credited directly to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, not to a railways account, in compliance with a practice which has prevailed for many years. Senator Wright takes the view that that is not a satisfactory accounting practice, and I am quite sure that many people take a similar view. This is one of the accounting difficulties with which I had to deal when I was the Minister for Shipping and Transport. It may be that an overhaul of many aspects of the accounting system used by the Commonwealth Railways is overdue. I should not argue against that proposition. However, the fact is that the practice which has been followed since the inception of the Commonwealth Railways, however unsatisfactory it may be, was followed at this point of time. The Department of the Treasury and the Commonwealth Railways are now considering this aspect of railway accounts, which has been underlined by the disposals that ‘have been made since the introduction of diesel-electric locomotives. All that I can say at present is that the problem is there, that it is acknowledged as being there, and that work is being done with a view to introducing a better accounting practice in order to dispose of the problem.
– I wish to refer again to the disposals question. I assure the Minister that I do not intend to make any criticisms, but merely to seek information so that I shall be able to understand the position. The Minister has already given me some information in reply to a question that I asked of him in relation to this matter, but possibly I did not make quite clear what I wanted him to tell me. First of all, I want to know the types of obsolete stock that are being disposed of. The Minister said that tenders were called for the purchase of such stock. I should like to know whether the calling of tenders is the only procedure adopted, or whether there is any selling direct to individuals. I should like to know, further, whether the purchasers of the obsolete stock are Australian firms or whether, in the main, they are overseas firms. I think that those are fair questions and have a bearing on the protection of materials which may be of some use to Australia.
.- I am indebted to the Minister for what he has said about the continuing difficulty of accounting for sales of obsolete stock, but the fact that he has revealed that this difficulty existed when he was the Minister for Shipping and Transport two years ago, or perhaps a little longer, indicates that the accounts in this field are not receiving the care and attention that they require. Recently the Government overhauled the accounts of the Post Office and put them on a commercial basis. I would have thought that the Commonwealth Railways would have been one of the first government instrumentalities to have its accounts put on a commercial basis. In my view, the delay that has occurred in this matter reflects no credit on the Auditor-General, the Department of the Treasury or the Commonwealth Railways. I shall be watching to see whether this item occurs in the accounts next year. If it does occur, that will be a matter which, I should think, this committee would not be inclined to permit to go on for one month longer.
– Perhaps I may reply to Senator Wright first. It is true that in this matter of accounts the Government made a start with the Post Office. I have been told that discussions are now taking place with the Commonwealth Railways with a view to the introduction of a system of commercial accounts, as was done, in the case of the Post Office. Therefore, I think it is fair to say that progress is being made.
I turn now to Senator Toohey’s questions. The salvage equipment comprises locomotives, rails, obsolete and damaged equipment, building materials and the like. Apart from very small quantities, all of the equipment is sold by tender. I have been told that a Japanese purchaser secured some of the locomotives that were disposed of a year or two ago. The Commonwealth Railways will accept offers for small quantities of material which they are having difficulty in selling by way of tender, but the bulk of the material is disposed of by tender. Private offers are accepted only for material which cannot be disposed of in that manner.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Commonwealth Railways - Capital Works and Services
Proposed expenditure, £1,470,000.
– At page 29 of the notes that were circulated the following statement appears: -
Provision is made under this Division for expenditure on capital equipment necessary in connexion with the operation of the Commonwealth Railways. Of the £1,470,000 to be appropriated for 1961-62, £814,000 is to be expended on new rolling-stock, including five new diesel-electric locomotives.
The Minister stated yesterday, in reply to Senator Cant, I think, that tenders were to be called for some new coaches. Is the money sought to be appropriated this year intended to be. used to pay for those new coaches, or is the intention to use the money to pay for coaches which will be delivered this year, not those in respect of which tenders have been called this year?
– I think I said yesterday in reply to a question that this programme of reequipment is a continuing programme. Therefore, an appropriation is made each year. In each year, the money appropriated is allocated for payments for rolling stock still under construction and for the making of progress payments and the like in respect of rolling stock for which contracts have been let, although probably the contracts had not been let when the estimates were being prepared. It is a continuing programme. I have no break-up as to what amount of the appropriation this year is attributable to tenders which are let, and probably completed, and what amount is attributable to forward tenders which probably are not yet let, or not completely let. Senator Branson expressed some interest not only in the rolling stock but also in the locomotive situation. Provision is being made this year for the acquisition of five electric locomotives for the standard-gauge line.
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland) [4.26]. - I should like some information about the north Australia railway. The expenditure last year was £44,639 and the appropriation this year is only £13,000. I should like to know why such a small amount is to be appropriated this year.
– The actual work in implementing this plan was largely completed last year. The £13,000 represents the amount required to complete the programme of this section of the railway.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed expenditure, £98,685,000.
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland) [4.28]. - I should like some information about taxation boards of review. Could the Minister inform me how many boards are in existence and what procedure they adopt. Do they visit only capital cities, or do they visit country centres as well? Can the Minister give me any idea of how many cases were reviewed during 1960-61 and how many of the claims made were successful?
– I should like some information about the expenses of the decimal currency committee, which comes under Division, No. 191. The expenditure last year was £3,098. Is the Minister in a position to tell the Senate when the Government will be making some move to consider the committee’s findings, and when we can expect decimal currency to be introduced?
– I shall reply first to the question asked by Senator Sir Walter Cooper about taxation boards of review. One board is based in Sydney, the second in Melbourne and the third in Brisbane. The boards travel within their own areas of administration. Senator Sir Walter Cooper asked about the number of cases submitted to each of the boards, and the number of applications which have been accepted. I am sorry that I am unable to provide that information during this debate. I suggest to the honorable senator that if he asks his question at -question time, that may be a better way of obtaining the information.
Senator Branson inquired when decimal currency might be introduced. I think the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), in recent times, has made a number of statements about this matter, and has indicated that while no definite date can be given at this stage, decimal currency will not be introduced before 30th June, 1965.
– I should like some information about salaries and payments in the nature of salary in respect of taxation boards of review. What does the amount of £10,700 involve? I know it does not involve the salaries of members of the boards. Last year the expenditure was £12,837. Where are the salaries of members of the boards provided for in the Estimates?
– Salaries and allowances for the taxation boards of review show a. decrease this year of some £2,164. The 1960-61 expenditure included payment of salary in lieu of furlough on retirement to the secretary of Taxation Board of Review No. 1. It was not necessary to make that provision this year. There is a small increase to cover the wages of a part-time employee of one of the boards. The payment of salaries of members of the boards is a Special Appropriation, details of which are to be found on page XX. of the Estimates.
– I note that the appropriation for the Bureau of Census and Statistics last year was £2,193,410, but that this year the appropriation is £3,403,000. Is there a simple answer for the increase?
– The simple answer is that a census was conducted last year, and, of course, that is not a recurrent annual expenditure.
– Can the Minister inform me whether the Bureau of Census and Statistics is continuing its survey of the work task force. The bureau was conducting that survey in’ Brisbane but not making the results available to the public. Can the Minister tell me whether the bureau is still doing that?
– Yes, and the work is to be extended this year.
– Will the information be made available? This investigation has been going on since last October.
– It will be made available, subject to check. I think the honorable senator addressed a similar question to me recently as representative of the Treasurer. The position is as I outlined in that answer. The figures are subject to a check.
– Will the figures be made available before or after the general election?
– It is hardly realistic to expect - election or no election - that this information will be ready within eight weeks.
– I wish to refer to Division No. 193 - Taxation Branch. My purpose is not to discuss any particular taxation laws but to refer to the work being done by the committee headed by Sir George Ligertwood, which formulated the report of the Commonwealth Committee of Taxation, dated June, 1961, which, of course, was prepared during the financial year under review. I do not intend to say a word about any of the technical detail in the report. It runs to nearly 200 pages and shows great scholarship and great ability.
I believe that it is one of the most momentous documents that have been presented to this Parliament during my tenure of office in the Senate.
I will content myself with referring to chapter 24, and to some general remarks about the simplification of the taxation legislation. In paragraph 80S the learned committee said -
Some of the Sections-
That is, of the income tax legislation - . . are quite unintelligible to the ordinary reader and can be understood only by skilled tax practitioners who are familiar with the historical and technical background of a particular provision. Section 26aa (3) which relates to the taxation of annuities is an example.
I submit that the Government should be ashamed of having laws that can be so reported upon. Accordingly, I urge the Minister to convey to his colleague my thought that without delay the attention of the Government and the Parliamentary Draftsman should be invited to chapter 24 of the committee’s report.
I refer now to paragraph 807 which reads -
An outstanding reform which calls for action is the renumbering of the Sections of the Assessment Act. The 1936 Act contained 266 Sections and occupied 82 pages of the official reprint. It has been amended in most of the subsequent years and sometimes more than once in a year. The latest issued Consolidation of the Act contains 432 Sections covering 292 pages of the official reprint. The amending Sections have been interleaved, so to speak, in order to keep them in their appropriate place in the scheme of the Act and liberal use has been made of the alphabet as well as of numerals to designate the new Sections.
I submit that the act which has been so reported upon by this learned committee - the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act - is possibly the most important Commonwealth act.
I impress upon the Government the necessity of having the income tax legislation redrafted at the earliest possible moment in order to make it legislation which the ordinary citizen can understand, and in order that the charge that it is “ quite unintelligible to the ordinary reader and can be understood only by skilled tax practitioners “ will no longer be valid. However, I believe that the Government is making a very serious effort to follow some of the recommendations of the committee. I hope that the Government will set its mind to work on a re-organization of the whole of the legislation.
– I wish to refer to some matters in connexion with the Taxation Branch. First, I refer to the taxation zone allowances. In order to obtain the advantage of these allowances a person must spend at least six months of the year in the zoned area earning his salary. That makes the position very difficult for school-teachers who have to accept transfers to outer areas of the various States. The academic year commences in February and ends in December and the transfers are generally for a period of two years. Under this system of administration a school-teacher can claim the allowance for only one year, despite the fact that he has been in the zoned area for a working period of two years.
In the first year of his transfer period, the academic year starts in February and the financial year ends on 30th June; so he is unable to claim the zone allowance for that financial year. In the next financial year be receives the allowance because he is in the zoned area from 1st July to 30th June, with the exception of the holiday periods. At the end of the second year of his transfer period, the financial year commences on 1st July and the academic year ends before 31st December; so, whilst the school-teacher is in the zoned area on transfer for a period of two years he is entitled to the zone allowance for only one year. I believe that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) should consider whether something can be done about that matter.
I refer now to superannuation benefits. A worker is taxed on only 5 per cent, of a lump sum payment in lieu of accrued leave or superannuation benefit that he receives on retiring from his employment. If the worker, on the termination of his service, elects to receive weekly payments in lieu of accrued long-service leave or other accrued leave, that amount is treated as wages and is fully taxable. If a worker wants to receive weekly superannuation payments to supplement his social service benefits, he has to pay tax on the superannuation payments, although if he elects to receive a lump sum payment only 5 per cent, of the amount is taxable. This is an administrative matter under the control of the Taxation Branch. I wonder whether the Minister can explain to the committee why the practices to which I have referred are allowed to continue
– I refer to Division No. 197 - Bureau of Census and Statistics, subdivision 2 - Administrative Expenses, item 06 - “ Wool statistical service - Contribution, £13,500”. I would be indebted to the Minister if he would explain to me where that money goes and how it is used. It is stated to be a contribution which, to my mind, means that it is not the total amount that is spent on the wool statistical service, but only a government contribution. The wool industry is one of our basic primary industries. If it has a statistical service, why is it that I have not been able to find any other primary industry that has the same type of service?
– I shall refer simultaneously to the comments made by Senator Cant and Senator Laught. Without attempting in any way to brush aside what has been said, I suggest that it is pretty difficult for a Minister representing a Minister in another place, in a debate of this nature, to discuss questions which in fact involve matters of policy. As much as I am able to do is to say to Senator Laught and Senator Cant that what they have said will be brought to the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). I am aware that both matters raised by Senator Cant, in respect of zone allowances and taxation of superannuation payments, have been represented to the Treasurer during the last year. Let me confess at once that if I had a more acute memory of another Minister’s department, I would probably venture to comment, but I should prefer to see the correspondence again before I embarked on any discussion of those two matters. Nonetheless, I shall bring them to the notice of the Treasurer, as I shall the comments made by Senator Laught.
Senator Branson inquired about the Commonwealth contribution to the wool statistical service. This item covers payments to the Australian Wool Realization Committee towards the expenses of the continued operation of the wool statistical service which has been provided for some time by the committee for supplying detailed statistics in regard to the wool clip and wool prices. These statistics are in addition to those normally supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician. Before 1939, reliable statistical information on the Australian wool clip was very limited. Wartime requirements and the subsequent operation of the Joint Organization called for the collection of detailed statistics based on physical appraisement of almost every lot of wool offered for sale. The statistics, which covered detailed price and market information, were the most comprehensive ever available on wool. With the winding up of the Joint Organization’s activities, the statistics became unnecessary for that purpose. It was decided, however, to continue the production of them in the interests of both wool-growers and the Commonwealth Government. The machines and staff are under the direction of the Commonwealth Statistician, in conjunction with the Australian Wool Bureau. The amount of this contribution represents approximately the cost of statistical machines and the salaries of the operating staff.
– Division No. 191 includes an appropriation for the expenses of the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation. I think that the committee’s report is very good, but the Minister will be aware that on previous occasions in this chamber I have raised the question of anomalies in respect of zones. In my speech on the Budget I raised them in respect of the town of Geraldton. The terms of reference of the committee did not include inquiry into zone allowances. Very many anomalies exist in relation to these allowances, and I was wondering whether the Minister could give some indication as to why zone allowances were not included in the committee’s terms of reference.
– I invite the Minister’s attention to a matter that has been reported on by the AuditorGeneral in respect of each of the years 1959-60 and 1960-61. It relates to the Commonwealth Stores Supply and Tender Board. The Auditor-General’s report for the year ended 30th June, 1960, stated that the board had been constituted by local boards and, as I understand it, operated in most States through the boards of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department It carries on the function of procuring stores and arranging contracts. If the Minister will look at paragraph 48 of the AuditorGeneral’s report for the year ended 30th June, 1961, he will see that there has been no further development regarding the contemplated review of the board’s constitution and functions. It appears that that review was undertaken as long ago as 1956.
I should like an explanation of just how this board is operating in the various States. I rather think that it is left to its own sporadic devices and that nobody is taking a co-ordinated view of it and bringing it into a constitution consistent with modern methods. I doubt whether there is a single officer in the Commonwealth who has final control of it and therefore exclusive responsibility. May we have some information as to the organization of the board and the officer who has the top responsibility in regard to it? He is Obviously a functionary of the utmost importance, both for the integrity and the economy of servicing Commonwealth departments.
.- I wish to refer briefly to the taxation deductions which are allowed for education expenses. I have frequently heard it said that these deductions are intended to assist parents who, for conscientious reasons, are forced to send their children to schools other than those conducted by the State. I make the point that the deductions, in effect, benefit largely parents with good or very good incomes. The man on the lower scale of income, who has a family, does not pay a great deal in taxation in any case. Therefore, be gets little or nothing out of the taxation deduction and he is compelled to make a substantial sacrifice for a conscientious reason to send his child to a non-governmental school. The poorer man gets little or nothing out of these deductions, which are supposed to assist him. I have no doubt that the deductions are very valuable to those who are reasonably well off or comparatively well off, but there is a feeling that they do not assist the poorer man, and I should like to see something done on his behalf.
Senator ORMONDE (New South Wales) tell us anything about the position of the credit unions mentioned in the taxation report. They are purchasing clubs, run by unions and other organizations, which have asked for certain exemption from taxation.
– I direct attention to Division No. 207 - Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. The appropriation last year was £165,743,000, and the expenditure £142,560,802. The proposed appropriation for this year is £83,279,000, or approximately half of last year’s appropriation. In checking to see whether I could solve what appeared to be a mystery, I examined the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure for the last two years, to find that this item was not listed under the Department of the Treasury in those documents. I should like the Minister to explain the difference between the expenditure last year and the proposed appropriation this year.
– Senator Cant asked why the subject of zone allowances was not included in the terms of reference of the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation. The answer is that when the matters to be included in the terms of reference were being considered, since it obviously was impossible to refer a large number of taxation matters to the committee, a selection necessarily had to be made of those which should receive priority. The subject of zone allowances was not considered to be sufficiently important or appropriate for particular reference. I point out that it took the committee more than two years to take evidence and present its recommendations to the Parliament. That is understandable, and I do not speak in a critical way at all. I mention the matter merely to indicate the time that necessarily was occupied in an inquiry of the kind undertaken by the committee, and to explain why it was not possible to refer to it an unlimited number of subjects for consideration.
Senator Ormonde inquired about the submissions made to the committee by or on behalf of credit unions. The submission in this respect is no doubt recorded in the minutes of the committee. The recommendations of the committee have not yet received the ‘final consideration of the Government, nor have firm decisions been made on what should have been done about them. For that reason I am not in a position to give the honorable senator the information he seeks.
Senator Wright inquired about the Commonwealth Stores Supply and Tender Board. The chairman of the board is the First Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. The board was established to control the purchase and supply of stores for Commonwealth departments. The work is done by officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department, which is reimbursed the cost of the salaries of the officers so employed, and it is also paid a commission on total sales. The commission on sales is recovered from the client departments as an on-cost on issues. The salaries of officers employed on the work of the board, and miscellaneous expenditure such as that on advertising and the testing of samples, are the only charges against this vote.
Reference was made to the fact that the Attorney-General had stated that no further developments had occurred in the review of the board’s constitution and functions. Senator Wright was good enough to say some days ago that he was interested in this matter, and I have had an opportunity to make inquiries at the Treasury. I am informed that in 1956 the board decided to review the situation and, as a preliminary, to examine the extent to which departments were making use of the facilities provided by it. Unfortunately, difficulties in obtaining staff have created problems in connexion with the work of the board, and it has even proved impracticable to complete contracts for supplies before the expiration of existing contracts. In these circumstances, other work has been put aside in order to give priority to the issuing of tenders and the making of contracts for obtaining supplies for the Commonwealth. Until the arrears of work have been overtaken, and the placing of contracts is up to date, it is not possible to give to the various matters related to a review of the constitution the concentrated attention that is necessary.
asked about the appropriation under the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. He may remember that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) re ferred to this appropriation in his Budget speech and stated -
As a -matter of procedure, it will be necessary to seek an appropriation of £83,279,000 .from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. This is because, on our present estimates, the amount of the Loan Council borrowing programme which, subject to review later in the year, we have undertaken to support, together with some minor items chargeable to Loan Fund, are likely to exceed borrowings, lt will also be necessary to seek loan authority for ‘the raising of treasury-bills to finance the cash deficit.
I point out that the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve was established by act of the Parliament in 1955. Money standing to the credit of the reserve may be applied in re-purchasing or redeeming securities which represent portion of the public debt of the Commonwealth. Securities so repurchased or redeemed shall be cancelled, and the amount of the public debt of the Commonwealth reduced accordingly. Until moneys standing to the credit of the reserve are applied to the re-purchase or redemption of securities, they may be invested in accordance with section 62b of the Audit Act, but only in securities issued or guaranteed by the Commonwealth Government.
– I refer to Division No. 197 - Bureau of Census and Statistics - Administrative Expenses. Item 05 relates to the hire, service and maintenance of machines for the tabulation of statistics. The proposed appropriation this year is £206,000. Last year, the amount expended was £148,914. Will the Minister state the reason for the large increase? Would it not be more economical over a period of years to purchase the machines that are needed, rather than to continue to pay out such large sums each year for the hire of machines? I also direct attention to item 07, which refers to reimbursement of government departments, and payments to agents for statistical services. Last year, the appropriation was £63,500 and expenditure £65,171. This year, the proposed appropriation is £732,500. Again, I ask the reason -for the huge increase in the appropriation.
– I refer to Division No. 208 - Refunds of Revenue. Last year the expenditure was £28,080,267. This year we are asked to appropriate £30,800,000. Notation (jb), which appears at the- bottom of page 35, reads -
To be- applied by the Treasurer in making refunds of -Revenue such as - Value of postage stamps repurchased by- the Postmaster-General’s Department;, unexpired portion of telephone fees and’ fees for private boxes and bags;, moneys paid to Revenue m error; proportion of radio and cable traffic -receipts due to- Overseas Telecommunications. Commission; refunds of tax under various taxation Acts; refunds and drawbacks under the Customs Act and the Excise Act..
I refer specifically to the refunds of tax under various taxation acts and ask whether the proposed refund will be paid to taxpayers generally throughout the Commonwealth, being provisional tax overpaid or amounts, overpaid under our payasyouearn system. I should like to know also the amount of income tax that was refunded to taxpayers in 1959-60 or 1960-61, or if possible in both those years.
I have good reason for asking for that information. I note that refunds to taxpayers throughout the Commonwealth each year amount to much more than £80,000,000. I could understand the Taxation Branch having to refund approximately £10,000,000 or £20,000,000 to payers of income tax, but when a total of £90,000,000 or even £100,000,000 has to be refunded consistently each year I suggest that the Taxation Branch may be encouraged to devise a system under which such large refunds will not be necessary.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Cml Aviation to what I regard as being rather serious anomalies in the administration of our taxation laws. I refer, first,, to allowable deductions for school fees. This is really an extension of the matter raised by Senator McManus. The legislation provides that a person may claim a concessional deduction of £100 for school fees, books and uniforms. There has been no change in the amount since 1956. In that year the allowance was increased from £75 to £100. As an example of the degree to which costs have risen, I point out that since 1956 the term fees charged by a well-known girl’s’ college in South Australia have risen from £25 to £36. I believe a very sound case can be advanced for a revision of the allowance and for the allowable deduction to be increased from £100 to £150. This matter is exercising the minds of quite a number of people in’ South Australia and I have no doubt throughout the entire country.
I refer now to the position of a widower who has to employ a housekeeper. Honorable senators know that under the existing law a person may employ a daughterhousekeeper or’ some other family relative and claim the prescribed deduction. But a widower who employs a housekeeper and has to pay wages cannot claim’ the same deduction as can a person who employs a daughter-housekeeper. This anomaly probably does not affect a great number of people, but in my opinion those in this position are affected very adversely. I hope some attention will be given to this matter.
; - I address my remarks to the proposed expenditure of the Taxation Branch. I compliment the Commissioner for Taxation upon having been able to keep collections of taxes well in hand. Some years ago there was a tendency for outstanding taxes: - especially income tax - to amount to a considerable sum-. In some years the outstanding amount was much more than £100i000,000, and even close to £200,000,000. Despite the fact that the last collection year was a rather difficult one for the Commissioner of Taxation,, it is interesting to note that the total amount of outstanding tax was down to approximately £78,000,000.
The branch does the Government a service in ensuring that taxes are paid; otherwise the Government’s Budget would go astray to a considerable degree. I believe the real reason behind the success achieved by the branch is that it acts fairly and, in the main, it is precise. I repeat that, considering the difficult nature of the financial year which has just passed, the action of the branch in keeping outstandings down to as low as £78,000,000 is commendable. To reduce that amount still further no doubt would cause considerable hardship in some quarters.
I have referred before to the other matter to which I invite attention. In making the submission again this year I derive some encouragement from the fact that the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation also has paid some attention to it. I refer to the fact that some taxpayers are relieved of the obligation to furnish income tax returns. It is well known that every person having an income of £104 or more is obliged to furnish a return. It is interesting to note in the statistics published by the Commissioner of Taxation in his thirtyninth report that during the assessment year 1958-59, which is the latest complete year for which such statistics are available, mere were 3,921,000 payers of income tax in Australia. Persons with taxable incomes between £105 and £199 number 158,000. From those 158,000 persons only £203,000 was collected by the Commonwealth. I imagine that it costs at least £1 to process a taxpayer’s return. I do not think the cost of processing a return would be less than £1 when one takes into account the time of officers, the time of typists, materials used, and the time occupied in filing. It is clear, I submit, that the Commonwealth receives 26s. or 27s. from each of those 158,000 taxpayers, but the cost to the Commonwealth of processing each of those returns is 20s. The figure of £104 was fixed many years ago when money had a different value from what it has to-day. I submit that a fair minimum figure to-day would be £208. If that figure were adopted the Government would be saved the trouble of sending out 158,000 assessments and would lose, according to my statistics, only £203,000. The Committee on Taxation, after a thorough investigation into this matter, reported in paragraph 458 -
The Committee recommends that the minimum taxable income should be increased from £105 to £209 per annum. It further recommends that a “ shading in “ method be provided so that the income tax payable on a taxable income between £209 and £213 (inclusive) would not exceed onehalf of the excess of the taxable income over £208.
The shading-in method is a well-known taxation procedure adopted to ensure that those persons whose incomes are just a shade over the limit are treated fairly. I urge the Minister to adopt the practice recommended by the committee. My reasons are, first, that it is uneconomical to tax people whose incomes range between £105 and £208, and, secondly, that the Committee on Taxation has reported favorably on this matter. Thirdly, to accept the committee’s recommendation would be to give a measure of natural justice to a number of people with small incomes. In its report the committee desig nates what we generally term smaller people as junior employees, part-time workers, seasonal workers, trainees, apprentices, superannuitants, persons with small incomes from property, and many others. If the Government adopted the committee’s recommendations it would render a measure of justice to those people to whom I have referred. After all, if they were exempt from the payment of income tax they would still pay considerable amounts in taxes of other kinds, such as sales tax and excise duty.
– I refer again to Division No. 207 - Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. I do not think that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) answered the second part of the question that I directed to him earlier. Under this heading the appropriation for 1960-61 was £165,743,000. Last year’s Estimates show, however, that the amount to be appropriated under this heading for the same year was £125,743,000 - a difference of exactly £40,000,000. To take the matter further, the figure of £57,000,000 that appeared in last year’s document is shown as £37,000,000 in the preceding year’s document - a difference of exactly £20,000,000. I appreciate that there may be a simple explanation of this matter, but I should like the Minister to give it to me.
– In reply to Senator Ridley, the £40,000,000 is accounted for by an additional appropriation that was made late in the year.
Senator Cant referred to Division No. 197, item 05. - Hire, service and maintenance of machines. The honorable senator asked whether it would be a better proposition for the Commonwealth to purchase these machines rather than to hire them. The increase in the appropriation sought for this purpose this year is accounted for by the fact that increasing use is being made of machinery of this type. The question of whether it would be better to purchase these machines leads to a number of considerations. In this particular field quite a remarkable number of technological advances is being made from month to month. In these changing circumstances it is not considered wise to buy equipment now, particularly as the cost of such equipment runs into millions of pounds. In the circumstances, it is considered a much better deal to hire the equipment.
– Which departments use this equipment?
– lt is used by the Commonwealth Statistician. The other matter referred to was item 07. - reimbursement to Government departments and payments to agents for statistical services. There we see a very striking increase from an appropriation last year of £63,500 to an appropriation of £732,500 this year. The major portion of that increase - approximately £661,000 - is required to cover payments to agents and field staff engaged in the collection of information required for the 1961 population census.
– Would they be advertising agents?
– No, they are agents engaged in the collection of the material used. A further £14,500 is required to meet additional payments to agents on the work force survey, additional metropolitan surveys and new surveys in urban areas. It will be remembered that this matter was referred to earlier this afternoon.
Senator Toohey and Senator McManus referred to deductions of education expenses for income tax purposes. The Government is not unmindful of this matter. It was this Government that introduced this type of tax deduction. The matter will be kept under review and when possible further consideration will be given to varying the allowable deductions.
I have noted Senator Laught’s comments on the recommendations of the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation. He will appreciate that I am unable to say anything about this matter until the Government has dealt with the committee’s report.
Senator Scott referred to refunds of revenue. I understand that refunds of instalments deducted under the payasyouearn system run to approximately £80,000,000 a year. The scale of the instalment deductions is designed to ensure that wage and salary earners will not normally be required to make further payments at the end of a financial year. Because of this fact, and also because it is not possible precisely to forecast the various concessional deductions that will be claimed by each taxpayer, refunds have risen to the magnitude mentioned - that is, £80,000,000. I make the comment that I believe it is the experience of most employers that many employees treat the pay-as-you-earn system as a form of compulsory saving and that they do not claim at the beginning of each year the deductions in respect of dependants that they are entitled to claim. The employees prefer to establish a credit with the Taxation Branch. That is an experience fairly generally shared by big employers.
– Generally shared by an apprehensive community.
– I do not think that is so. I believe that people see in this system a means of saving painlessly and that they use it for that purpose.
– I direct the attention of the Minister to Division No. 193 - Other Services, item 01, Taxes and fines - Remission under special circumstances. The proposed appropriation for this year is £328,000 and the expenditure last year was £332,000. Can the Minister give the committee any information about the special circumstances under which the taxes and fines are remitted?
I invite the attention of the Minister also to Division No. 195 - Valuation Boards. In that division the only item relating to salaries and payments in the nature of salaries is an item of £1,300 in respect of temporary and casual employees. It is known that the Taxation Branch has a number of valuers and it is known also that many other Government departments, particularly the Department of Social Services, use the services of those valuers for various purposes. If this item does not cover those people - and obviously it does not - will the Minister say in what section of the Taxation Branch the valuers are employed? The Valuation Boards must employ a number of valuers and administrative officers.
– Senator Cant has referred to Division No. 193 - Other Services, item 01, Taxes and fines - Remission under special circumstances. The Secretary of the Department of the Treasury is empowered to remit taxes and fines which are legally payable but of which, for reasons of equity or policy, it is considered undesirable to require payment. It has been estimated that the expenditure under this item in 1961-62 will be slightly less than the expenditure last year.
.- I refer the Minister to Division No. 209 - Advance to the Treasurer - for which £16,000,000 is sought this year. It is explained that the purpose of the advance is to enable the Treasurer to make advances which will be recovered within the financial year - that is a vague and indefinite statement - and to make moneys available to meet expenditure, the particulars of which will afterwards be submitted to the Parliament, or pending the issue of a warrant of the Governor-General specifically applicable to the expenditure. I ask the Minister to tell the committee whether this is a new item. I do not recall having heard such an item discussed previously in a debate on the Estimates. It seems to me to foreshadow the beginning of the practice of giving the Treasurer petty cash. In this instance we can open our eyes quite widely, because £16,000,000 is the sum that the Treasurer is to be given for general purposes, without a specific appropriation. The old-fashioned community in which I live regards it as a matter of alarm that the State Treasurer is given an advance which, I think, will be £10,000 this year. It may be that the Treasurer in. Hobart is more disposed to spend money in a way that would excite suspicion than is the Treasurer in Canberra, but I think that we should consider this matter from the viewpoint of principle.
I want to know whether this item or a similar item has been commented upon at any time by the Public Accounts Committee and, if that is so, whether the Minister will refer us to the .statements that were made. Even taking into account the size of the present Budget, £16,000,000 is a relatively large sum. Unless the Treasurer and his officers are bound by law to apply all of this money to specific purposes approved by the Parliament, I see a danger to the principle of parliamentary control of expen diture. It cannot be denied that if, say, £500,000 was spent for a particular purpose six months ago, the Parliament, it it disapproved of that expenditure, could only sigh. In my view, the only way in which the Parliament can keep control of the public purse is to have before it for approval the purposes for which appropriations are sought. 1 ask the Minister whether he will give us some information about the origin of this item and its justification.
While I am on my feet, I refer him also to paragraph 39 of the latest report of the Auditor-General In that paragraph the Auditor-General goes through a process which seems to me to be quite superfluous, in that he gives, in effect, a reprint of departmental accounts. If the report contained statements by the Auditor-General of the economies exercised in departments, it would fulfil a more useful purpose. In the recital of the departmental accounts in paragraph 39, there is a reference to “Pensions of officers, £3,240,642”. That follows a reference to a sum of £9,800,000 in respect of salaries for the Taxation Branch. It seems to me that the pensions referred to there cannot be only the pensions of officers of the Taxation Branch. I ask the Minister to tell me what officers’ pensions are covered by that strikingly large sum of £3,240,642.
– I overlooked a question asked by Senator Cant as to salaries and payments in the nature of salaries for temporary and casual employees employed by the Valuation Board. The expenditure of £1,300 is the normal estimate to cover the salary and allowance of the one temporary employee of the board. The payment of allowances during 1960-61 was less than in a normal year due to the absence of the chairman overseas for a considerable time. The expenditure is expected to return to the normal level in 1961-62.
I am unable to answer Senator Wright’s query about the pensions of officers. I shall obtain the information for him and let him have it as soon as possible. The item - Advance to the Treasurer - is not a new item. It has been included in the Estimates for as many years as I have been here, and I do not know for how long before that. The item is included to meet the type of unexpected expenditure to which the honorable senator referred. Senator Wright may have overlooked the fact that this item does come under pretty close scrutiny. Senator Wedgwood could probably give the honorable senator some detailed information, but the procedure for the parliamentary examination of this expenditure is that the statement is tabled in the House of Representatives and referred for consideration of the committee of the whole House. The Joint Committee on. Public Accounts then examines the expenditure and issues a report which is tabled when the debate on the statement is resumed. The statement for 1960-61 was tabled in the House of Representatives on 16th August. After the statement had been agreed to by the House of Representatives it was submitted for the approval of the Senate.
– How long has that been the procedure?
– I am informed that the procedure was introduced four years ago.
– Can you tell the Senate whether the statement received any specific scrutiny before that?
– No, only by way of examination at the time the Estimates were being considered. If my recollection is correct, I think this procedure was introduced as a result of a recommendation by the Public Accounts Committee.
.- I now wish to raise a matter of a general nature relating to the Treasury. In doing so 1 refer to the very helpful document that, for the first time, has accompanied the Treasury Papers. It is a white paper on Commonwealth payments to or for the States. I think the Parliament should acknowledge the production of this document. First of all it is a specific contribution by the Treasury on the history of this important subject - the financial relationship between the States and the Commonwealth. The Treasury has done the Parliament a real service in preparing this record. In the second place, we ought to devote a little attention to the document because I believe it sounds the deathknell to those who espouse the now expired hope,
I would think, of making the States financially responsible for their own revenues. I regret very much that Senator McKenna, who has always taken a close interest in this matter, is not in the chamber on this occasion.
On the second last page of the document is a summary of Commonwealth payments to or for the States, and of assistance to Australian Loan Council borrowing programmes from 1958 to 1961.. The total general revenue grants received by the States from the Commonwealth have increased during the ten years from £130,000,000 to £302,000,000; The size of those figures is sufficient to show, I submit, the increasing dependence of the States upon Commonwealth revenues for their essential functions. Then there are grants that have been made by the: Commonwealth for various specific purposes. Included in those grants are moneys made available for roads. Those grants have increased over the ten years from £30,600,000 to £92,400,000. The total contribution made by the Commonwealth to State revenues for all purposes, general and specific, has risen since 1951 from £165,100,000 to £394,700,000. If one were to look at the public accounts of the various States I feel sure that they would show a correspondingly increasing dependence on Commonwealth moneys. It would be quite futile to lament this matter, but I think it is possible to reflect a little upon it, and to see whether or not we are of the view that we have now reached a definite stage in this important issue of Commonwealth-State finances, where a system has been evolved of Commonwealth dominance and State dependence. Realizing that finance provides the sinews of government, and is the key of government, I think we ought to have some regard to the possible effects of future payments, both legislative and administrative, between the Commonwealth and the States.
The system of uniform taxation which originated during the war as a revenue system was applicable only for the period of war, but it will be remembered that by a deliberate decision in 1946 uniform taxation was continued for a period, then expressed to be a period of five years, subject to a certain formula. It was proved during the decade of the fifties that that formula was quite insufficient for State requirements. We found that supplementary grants were necessary year by year. As I said on a previous occasion, those supplementary grants were provided by this Government in a generous attempt to underwrite and supplement the State finances in order to guarantee the continued solvency of the States with their expanding needs throughout that decade. Nevertheless, those grants were made solely on the decision of the Commonwealth Government. When the central Government decides of its own volition that a substantial amount of money shall be given to the States, a great inroad is made into the principle of the responsibility of the State governments.
Honorable senators will remember that one State felt that its capacity to rely upon revenue raised by itself was such that it should seek again to be self-reliant in its own finances. That State was Victoria. It actually litigated the matter before the High Court of Australia. It claimed that the Commonwealth did not have priority in the field of income tax. However, for ‘ all practical purposes, that appeal to the court was ineffectual.
After certain discussions about whether or not the States could ever be induced to resume their responsibility in this matter, the Commonwealth came forward with a new proposal in 1960, 1 think it was. When re-imbursements and supplementary grants were running at the rate of about £220,000,000 a year, the Commonwealth negotiated with the States for the purpose of meeting the threat which, had then developed to the whole system of special grants per medium of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. It will be recalled that, in that year, not only were South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania claimants before the commission, but that Queensland actually put in its claim and Victoria threatened to put in a claim. Obviously, a problem of very great proportions was threatening the Commonwealth.
Proposals were put forward that the amount given to the States should be enlarged. In other words, the States were given the gold treatment, and offered an advance on present accruals of about £20,000,000 to £25,000,000. After a little hedging, the amount that was provided was £242,500,000. That amount was to be distributed amongst the States on a basis of which population was the main index; but the basis also included two other factors which, I believe, are very significant from the stand-point of the Australian economy.
One factor in the arrangement by which that sum was agreed upon by the Commonwealth and the States was that the States would continue to meet ‘the Commonwealth pay-roll tax on the various State instrumentalities, such as railways, transport commissions and hydro-electric commissions. The other point was that there should be an increment in the formula, dependent upon the average wage being paid throughout the Commonwealth. As I understand the position, it was not the basic wage, but the average wage actually being paid.
It seems to me that those two factors hinge the continuing financial assistance to the States by way of tax reimbursements, to which the Commonwealth has committed itself over the period of this agreement, to the rising cost of wages in the economy.
– The period of the agreement is five, years, is it?
– I think it is five years, but I am subject to correction on that. The importance that I see in the agreement is that it makes all public finance dependent upon the wage level to a degree. That gives added importance to the wage level as a component of the Australian economy. This problem, which has been so potent in the Australian cost structure over the last decade, now has its significance in particular relation to the competitive markets in which we sell our exports.
I do not want to develop that theme, except to ask the committee to give some consideration and, I hope, some discussion to it at a later stage. I rose to say that in my view the agreement sounded the deathknell of any claim by the States to a recovery of their independent responsibilities, certainly in respect of income tax, and in my view in respect of the whole field of public finance. May I be permitted to add that for six or seven years I had been convinced that the income tax field was indivisible, and that because of its complex nature - involving as it does matters of policy - it was not capable of being divided between the central government and the State governments, particularly in the opinion of the individual taxpayer, who looked askance at the prospect of receiving-
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I rise merely to enable Senator Wright to continue his speech.
– I am obliged to the Minister and the committee. The division of income tax would have been unacceptable to the individual taxpayer who may have been made the victim of two contrary policies - one expressed from Canberra and the other from the State capital. It always seemed to me that other fields of public finance - perhaps without amendment of the Constitution, but certainly with amendment of the Constitution - could have been divided between Canberra and the State capitals, because they were fields in which the States could exercise their financial responsibilities. Various suggestions in relation to divisions have been made from time to time. The Constitutional Review Committee, which was representative of this Parliament and reported some two years ago, gave very extended consideration to this subject, and found it insoluble. Nevertheless, up to that stage, the problem was thought to be a practical one. In my view, if the agreement to which I have referred operates for some five years, it will mean that the re-division of fields of public finance will no longer be a matter of practical politics.
I mention that in the hope that members of this committee will let us know what their thinking is upon this important matter. It is important, as I see it, in two respects, first, from the point of view of public finance, which is the means whereby economy is preserved in public development; and secondly, from the point of view of constitutional, responsible government, because elected, democratic government, either State or Federal, cannot exist by simply expending money to curry favour with voters while giving to other govern ments the responsibility for raising the money. The two functions are inseparable from the point of view of properly constituted, democratic and responsible government. I say with great regret that I believe that the States, by subscribing to this agreement, have renounced that responsibility and, correspondingly, that right. I cannot foresee the effect of that in ten, fifteen or 25 years’ time, but the possibility of its withering the whole status of the States and their financial responsibility is plain. If that develops, it will have important repercussions upon this Commonwealth.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Department of the Treasury - Capital Works and Services.
Proposed expenditure, £1,770,000.
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland) [8.0]. - I refer to Division No. 850, item 01, Buildings, works, fittings and furniture, £1,620,000”. I take it that the item refers to the Government Printing Office. Last year, the amount appropriated was £500,000 and £402,566 was spent. I should like to know the total cost of the new Government Printing Office building to date, the expected final cost and when the building is to be completed.
.- 1 also had proposed to ask about that item. Was the project submitted to the Public Works Committee and recommended by it? In that connexion, I bring to the attention of the Minister the continued financing of such public works from current revenue votes, a matter that I ‘ think is of great importance. In an answer given by the Minister this afternoon I understood him to say that during the last ten years no less than £1,300,000,000 had been spent from ordinary revenue from year to year on Commonwealth capital works. I think I can rely on my memory to say that an additional £700,000,000 or £800,000,000 has been expended from Commonwealth revenue to supplement housing schemes and public works in the States, so that a total of about £2,000,000,000 has been drawn from revenue and used for public capital works.
I do not intend to ask the Minister to engage in a full-dress debate of this subject to-might, because no doubt he will remind me at once that we had a full discussion on it about .eighteen months ago. That discussion, however, was inconclusive. 1 am -sorry to say that I have since found from inquiries made at the Treasury that during the last ten or twelve years the Treasury ‘has not produced a White Paper, or made any contribution to the parliamentary papers, on the issues involved in this subject. It seems to me that when we are going through a period of high inflation, Mr. Chairman, we ought to settle our ideas as to whether it is demand inflation or cost inflation. If it is cost inflation we ought to conclude that taxation for this purpose aggravates the situation. There is also the political point of view. If the earnings of the people are to be taken by taxation and put into public ownership to the tune of £2,000,000,000 in a decade, that makes a substantial contribution to public ownership at the expense of private property. If the process, is continued indefinitely it will have an avalanche effect on our community..
Recently, I mentioned the subsidiary question of how these matters are to be reconciled. We must ask ourselves how we can reconcile with the system of taxation that we are administering the practice of taking current revenue for an. incOme-producing asset, such as the Snowy Mountains scheme, and charging the sinking fund with capital and interest charges. I do not propose to engage in’ any lengthy debate of the matter. I merely ask, Mr. Chairman, whether the Minister will promise to do what, he can to have produced by the Treasury a White Paper on this subject, before we debate the Estimates next year, so that members of the Parliament may consider and discuss this most important issue in public finance.
– I cannot undertake to do more than refer Senator Wright’s request to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt): I shall be pleased to do that, but I cannot promise anything, since I merely represent the Treasurer. Senator Sir Walter Cooper asked about the Government Printing Office. The contract for the construction of a new Government
Printing ‘Office building was let in ‘October, I960, lt is expected that the building will be completed in a total period of twoandahalf years. The amount authorized to be expended was £3,250,099. Expenditure to 30th lune last was £356,000 It is expected that expenditure this year will be £1,583,000, leaving a balance to be spent of approximately £1,308,000. I inform Senator Wright that the project was referred to the Public Works Committee.
– I refer to the system of financing capital works from revenue, which Senator Wright has mentioned. Loan moneys allocated to the States also are underwritten from Consolidated Revenue. The last figures which I saw indicated that Tasmania spent twice as much per head of population on the development of electrical undertakings as did the State having the next highest expenditure. It has been a matter of some grievance in Tasmania that recently there has been an increase in hydro-electricity charges and that the interest on the money which is lent to the State from Consolidated Revenue is assessed on the long-term bond rate. When the rate of interest which is paid to the Commonwealth is increased the liability of the Tasmanian HydroElectric Commission is increased.
I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that money lent by the Commonwealth to the State attracts a rate of interest which is fixed in accordance with the long-term bond rate,, that that rate has to be adjusted, and that recently it was responsible for the Hydro-Electric Commission becoming liable for the payment of several hundred thousand pounds extra in interest. If that is, so, could not the money so loaned be made available over the whole term, which I understand is fifty years, at a stable rate of interest? Obviously no instrumentality would know just where it stood if the interest varied in accordance with the long-term bond rate.
– I refer to Division No. 846, in particular the item “ Working Advance (for payment to the credit of the Commonwealth Stores Suspense Trust Account)”. No appropriation for this year is shown in the Estimates, but for last year an appropriation and an expenditure of £120,000 are’ shown. I note that last year’s
Estimates showed no appropriation for 1960-61, but that there was an appropriation of £30,000 for the previous year. It is obvious that the sum of £120,000 which was expended in 1960-6 1 must have been appropriated after the Estimates were before honorable senators. I ask the Minister whether, if such sums are likely to be required1 during the year, they cannot be appropriated when the Budget proposals are being considered.
– An attempt is always made to do precisely what the honorable senator has suggested. Sometimes there is an unexpected movement in prices. Sometimes the need for certain supplies arises unexpectedly. But, as I have indicated, in general an effort is made to show in the Budget papers figures which will be appropriate to the anticipated expenditure for the year. In reply to Senator Lillico, all I can say is that I shall ask the Treasurer whether the circumstances are as he has stated. With respect, the question that was addressed to me has little to do with the Estimates. I have no information on the matter.
Proposed expenditure noted.
War and Repatriation Services - Miscellaneous - Department of the Treasury.
Proposed expenditure, £141,200.
.- I refer to item 03- “Waiver of Costs of post-war repatriation of Chinese Nationals from Rabaul, £65,100”. I ask the Minister to explain that item.
– Certain charges were incurred by the Commonwealth on the maintenance and repatriation to China of Chinese servicemen and civilians released from Japanese custody upon the recapture of Rabaul, in 1945. It is clear, after protracted negotiations, that it would be futile to pursue the recovery of that expenditure. The purpose of this new item is to provide for the waiver of those costs.
– To whom was it debited? For whom was it incurred?
– It was incurred upon the repatriation to China of Chinese servicemen and civilians who were released from Japanese custody upon the recapture of Rabaul, in 1945.
– Why is it called a waiver of costs? It would be just war expenditure. Did we debit it to anybody?
– It was debited to recoverable expenditure. As it is now impossible to recover the amount, it is credited to recoverable expenditure in order to wipe out the item.
– I refer to the provision for war inventions awards.. I note that last year there was an appropriation of £1,250 but only £360. was expended. This year there is to be no appropriation. The fact that an amount of only £360 was awarded for war inventions in the last financial year does not seem to say much for the ingenuity of Australians. The idea seems to be that this year nobody will display any fertility of mind in this direction. Possibly there is a good explanation for the absence of any provision this year. I am curious, and I am wondering whether the Minister can give us any information on the matter.
.- I do not think the absence of any provision indicates a lack of inventiveness or ingenuity on the part of Australians. This expenditure was incurred as the result of the activities of a committee which was set up. to consider claims made by inventors of war appliances and to make recommendations to the Treasurer from time to time. I understand that this item was applicable particularly to the period of thelast war and to the immediate post-war years. Several small awards were made during the last financial year. Further specific awards are not envisaged this year.
– I direct attention to item 01 - Loan management expenses - for which we are asked to appropriate £75,200 this year. Last year £90,000’ was appropriated and more than £100,000 was expended. I should like to know why a considerable drop is anticipated for this financial year.
– What loans are they?
– I imagine they would be Commonwealth loans.
– The note that I have is that Commonwealth government inscribed stock registries are conducted in Australia and London by the Reserve Bank. The actual cost of conducting the registries is recouped to the Reserve Bank. Some expenditure in respect of the operation of the registries is also brought to account under Division No. 191. The variation from one year to another will be in proportion to the total debt as it is divided between the States and the Commonwealth.
– Would you explain why this item should appear under the heading “ War and Repatriation Services “ ?
– This particular amount is attributable to war and repatriation debt.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Proposed expenditure - War and Repatriation Services - Miscellaneous other Administrations - Recoverable Expenditure, £117,000- noted.
Department of Territories
Proposed expenditure, £467,000.
– I should like to make some inquiries about the citizenship rights of people in the Territories. At present, people of coloured stock or mixed blood born in Papua as Papuans are Australians. Likewise, people born on Cocos Island are Australians. But natives and half-castes born in the Trust Territory of New Guinea are known as protected persons. Under the Nationality and Citizenship Act they are entitled to apply for Australian citizenship, but when they do they are told that it is not government policy to grant them citizenship or to permit them to come to Australia. I should like to know how the Government is able to circumvent the act in this way. I ask the Minister to explain why the Government acts as it does towards coloured people born in the Territories.
.- Division No. 375 deals with the Department of Territories. I think that under this division we are premature in raising matters that concern the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, the Northern Territory and Cocos Island. I am not taking a point of order, but am merely indicating that the proposed vote under this division relates only to the operations of the department in Canberra.
– I refer to Division No. 375, subdivision 2, item 04 - Special purpose visits to Australian Territories. The amount sought to be appropriated for this purpose this year is £10,000, compared with an expenditure last year of £1,211. In relation to item 05 - Publicity - we see that proposed expenditure this year is £77,000 compared with an expenditure last year of £30,703. I should like the Minister to explain why those two amounts have been so substantially increased.
– An increased amount of more than £8,700 has been set aside for special purpose visits to Australian Territories. This amount provides for organized visits to the Territories by members of Parliament and others. The scope of those visits has been widened to help promote a better understanding of the problems of the Territories. It is envisaged that there will be additional tours this year, and that is the reason for the increase.
The information that I have regarding publicity is comprehensive, and indicates the nature of the expenditure to be provided under this vote. The first item relates to film programmes, including a film entitled “ People of the Territory “ - a film on Papua and New Guinea - a film on the phosphate islands - Nauru and Christmas Island - and a film on Norfolk Island. This year, £20,000 is to be expended under that heading. Other expenditure on publicity is proposed as follows: -
Miscellaneous and contingent expenditures amount to £5,500, making a total estimated expenditure on publicity of £77,000.
The main purposes of this publicity are to inform people in Australia and overseas of the work of the Australian Government in the Territories, to provide a balance to adverse publicity, to recruit staff to the department, to encourage investment in the Territories and to answer a large number of inquiries of various kinds that are received about the Territories. I am told that the film, “People of the Territory”, was a particularly good film. I have seen a good deal of the publicity that is issued concerning the Territories, and I regard it as being particularly effective. Too frequently the Australian Administration comes in for criticism, generally quite unjustified, and much of this literature will, I think, act as a very effective antidote to that criticism.
Recently I had an opportunity to see the exhibit which was displayed by the Department of Territories at the Perth show. It was an exhibit which covered the Northern Territory and Papua and New Guinea. 1 was told by show officials that the exhibit had drawn greater crowds than any other exhibit which was displayed. As I have said, I saw it myself and I can assure honorable senators that it was a particularly worth-while exhibit.
.- I was interested in what the Minister had to say about the item in respect of publicity, but while he was detailing the very interesting publications issued by the Department of Territories I wondered why that work had not been carried out by the Department of Information. I assume that we shall deal with the Department of Information later, but the Minister may be able to inform me now why this work of preparing pamphlets and other documents was not done by that Department.
– The Department of Information was disestablished ten years ago.
– I assume that Senator Benn was referring to the News and Information Bureau. That is, in many respects, a specialized technical agency which deals with the production of much of this type of information. I think it is clear that the material that goes into these publications issued by the Department of Territories can best be provided by officers of the department, but probably in some instances the presentation of the material can best be looked after by the News and Information Bureau. The Department of Civil Aviation, for instance, produces technical publications from time to time. The technical officers of the department supply the information, but they get advice from, and frequently the actual publications are produced by, officers of the News and Information Bureau. I believe that much the same sort of thing might take place between the Department of Territories and the bureau.
– The Minister has satisfied me up to a point.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - If the honorable senator intends to refer to the News and Information Bureau, I point out that that will be dealt with in considering the estimates for the Department of the Interior.
– I am quite clear about the News and Information Bureau. Speaking from memory, it produces films and engages in public advertising. I do not intend to make comparisons now, but I think honorable senators will find that the expenditure on publicity by the bureau is as great as the expenditure on publicity by the Department of Territories. There is duplication, and I do not think that duplication is justified.
– How wide is the distribution of this printed publicity material produced by the Department of Territories? I have had many requests from schools for material of this kind and I have been told that it is not available to them. I am referring in particular to pamphlets on New Guinea.
– The material has a very good circulation among schools. I know that it goes to most of the private schools and to the Government schools in Western Australia, and I assume the same applies in other States.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Proposed expenditure - Department of Territories - Capital Works and Services, £6,000- noted.
– Mr. Chairman, I do not mind your hurrying through these items -
– Order! I am giving everybody time to rise. If nobody rises, I must go on.
– You have hardly given us an opportunity to turn the pages over. Your copy of the document is marked, but it was almost impossible for us to turn from page 79 to page 242 before you announced that the proposed expenditure had been noted.
Proposed expenditure, £7,939,400.
– I refer to Division No. 751 - Northern Territory Administration, item 01 - Salaries and allowances as per Schedule, page 229. Apparently the policy is that officers of the Northern Territory Administration shall serve in the Territory for a minimum of two years. I am one of those who believe that it might be better, in the interests of the Territory and of the efficiency of the Administration, to increase the minimum period of service to three years. We know that some people who go to the Northern Territory find that they like the place and want to stay there for longer than two years, but there are others who go there and then decide that they want to leave as quickly as they can. The greater part of the first twelve months of service by such people is taken up with settling in, and the greater part of the second twelve months of service is taken up with thinking about leaving. I do not think that that tends to make people give of their best. For those reasons, I think it would be better if the minimum period of service were extended to three years.
In Division No. 751, I refer also to General Services, item 07, “Transport of stud stock to the Northern Territory - Subsidy “. The appropriation sought this year is £15,000. The appropriation last year was £20,000, almost all of which was spent. I think it is a pity that a reduction has been made this year, because this subsidy is one of the incentives that is given to people who are running stock in the Northern Territory. It is a very valuable incentive. Will the Minister tell me why there has been a reduction of £5,000 this year? It may be on account of the drought; I do not know. I will be interested to hear his explanation.
I should like also to refer to the item relating to operational expenses for the Water Resources Branch. It is pleasing to see that this year the proposed vote for that purpose is £187,000. Last year £140,000 was voted, of which over £123,000 was spent. Apparently the financial arrangements for the sinking of bores in the Territory have been liberalized considerably. I understand that unless a bore produces water, the cost of the boring operation is not charged to the owner of the property concerned. That means that what are known as dud bores are not charged for. This must be a great help indeed, and I am very glad to see the increase.
I turn now to the item dealing with technical stores. Last year there was an appropriation of £159,000 and the amount expended was only £12,757. This year £46,700 is to be appropriated. The Minister may be able to enlighten me on this item, but I understand that the reason for the very large under-expenditure last year was that orders placed were not supplied during the financial year. This appears to be one of the great drawbacks to the development of the Territory - the time lag between ordering materials and getting those materials into the area where they are required. I appeal to people living in the capital cities to see if they can expedite the delivery of these orders. I suppose, after all, that people on the spot get greater preference, but that is entirely wrong. The people in the Territory are dependent on these things to a greater degree, possibly, than people in the south. It will mean much to the development of the north if we can get these stores and materials up there in something like reasonable time. That is not being done at present because of a variety of circumstances. I hope that the Minister will take note of what I am saying and that we will see an improvement in the delivery of technical stores.
– T should like to ask the Minister two questions. The first concerns community activities. I see that last year £20,000 was appropriated and £19,988 expended. This year only £10,000 is to be appropriated. Probably there is a very good reason for the decrease.
My second question relates to stores and material, particularly petrol, oil and other lubricants in respect of which £102,000 was appropriated last year but apparently only £19,000 was spent. This year it appears that 26,400 will be sufficient to meet the need. That is a tremendous drop from last year’s appropriation, but again no doubt there is some reasonable explanation.
– Senator McKellar referred to appointments to the Public Service. I think he was referring particularly to Papua and New Guinea.
– No, to the Northern Territory.
– Public servants in the Northern Territory are Commonwealth public servants appointed under the Public Service Act. I understand that the tour of duty is not always for a fixed term. Frequently it extends beyond the period of two years. The period of two years does apply, I believe, to a limited number of rather specialist postings, but the period is by no means fixed.
Senator McKellar inquired also about the subsidy for the transport of stud stock to the Northern Territory. The reason for the estimated decrease in the value of claims to be received is that both the Alice Springs and Katherine sales were cancelled last year, and as a larger percentage of subsidy claims is received well after the event, it is expected that there will be a reduction in expenditure in the coming year.
In reply to the query about the Water Resources Branch, the main reasons for the increase of £63,000 over last year’s expenditure are, first, that adequate and exhaustive ground water investigations are essential if the greater number of bores to be drilled in 1961-62 are not to contain an unacceptably high proportion of unsuccessful bores. The estimate is based on the number of boring rigs on hand, plus the rigs on order. Secondly, the hydrographic section will in 1961-62 have a greater number of installations to maintain resulting from this year’s new constructions, and in addition further new stations will need to be built. Thirdly, the greater holding of plant in 1961-62, which will be operating to a maximum capacity, will demand greater expenditure of repairs and maintenance than was the case last year. There is an increase in the provision for unsuccessful boring. Under that item the appropriation is £46,700. There is an increase in the provision for payment of wages under all categories, particularly in respect to the manner of drilling rigs where the increased expenditure will be £11,000. Those figures appear to tell the story of increased activity in that field.
The third query was in relation to technical stores. The increase over the expenditure for 1960-61 is to increase stock holdings of commonly used items. Owing to the long supply line and the seasonal demand for stores, added to the fact that several welfare settlements cannot be reached by surface transport at times in the wet season, there is the necessity for large ordering of stores prior to and immediately after the wet. It is essential that stock holdings be maintained at a level where all demands can be satisfied within a reasonable period. I shall reply to Senator Toohey’s queries later.
– I refer to educational services and scholarships in sub-division 4 of Division No. 751. I should like to know exactly what is comprised under each of those items.
.- I refer to Division No. 751, subdivision 4, item 26 - Commonwealth Hostels Limited - Tariff Concessions. The amount to be appropriated this year is £ 1 8,000. It appears to me to be fantastic that we should be paying concessions to Commonwealth Hostels Limited for hostels that are run by the head office here in Canberra. This is one of the things that the people who live in the Northern Territory are complaining about all the time. The Government transfers the control of something to people in Canberra who do not know the first thing about the Territory. Commonwealth Hostels Limited is a company that has been set up by this Government to run certain hostels. We do not know who is in the company because we do not receive a report from it. Apparently, a subsidy of £18,000 is made for tariff concessions. I ask the Minister what hostels are carried on by Commonwealth Hostels Limited in the Northern Territory. Would it not be possible for the Northern Territory Administration to operate such hostels instead of the control being transferred to people in Canberra?
– I refer to Division No. 756, item 05 - “ Stuart and Barkly Highways - Repairs and maintenance, £500,000”. I also refer to an item which is under the control of the Department of Works; namely, Division No. 975, item 03 - Construction of other roads, stock routes and water supplies. Last year, the appropriation for repairs and maintenance of the Stuart and Barkly Highways was £516,000 and the expenditure was £515,892. This year, the appropriation has been reduced to £500,000. The appropriation last year for the construction of other roads, stock routes and water supplies was £493,000, and this year it is £418,000.
If there is one way in which money can be spent profitably in the Northern Territory, I believe it is on the construction and maintenance of roads. When one takes into consideration the length of those highways and the amount of traffic that passes over them, it is incomprehensible to me that instead of increasing these appropriations the Government is reducing them. Although Division No. 975 contains a new item - namely, construction of roads for transport of beef cattle - this year the appropriation for the construction of other roads, stock routes and water supplies is £75,000 less than last year’s appropriation. I should like to know why the expenditure on roads in the Northern Territory is being decreased instead of being increased.
– I ask the Minister for an explanation of the proposed expenditure under Division No. 751, subdivision 4, item 09 - “ Mines Branch - Operational expenses, £51,000 “. What mining activities are being undertaken?
– I refer to Division No. 751, sub-division 3 - Welfare of Wards - item 03 - Assistance to missions. I should like the Minister to tell me what type of assistance is given to the missions in the Northern Territory. Is it only financial assistance? If it is not, what other kind of assistance is given? I should like to know the number of missions that receive assistance from the Government, and whether any set formula is used for the allocation of this assistance to the various missions in the Northern Territory.
– Senator Toohey asked a question about the decrease in the estimated expenditure on community activities. Funds are provided under this item for the encouragement of cultural activities in the Northern Territory and for the development of facilities and the conduct of activities for community welfare. In the main centres of the Northern Territory, repertory, music and art societies have been formed, and assistance is given by way of annual grants to these societies. Applications are investigated by regional branch committees, and grants are made on the recommendation of a Central Grants Committee Advisory Council and with the approval of the Administrator. Assistance to the various youth and community societies, the police and citizens youth organization and similar bodies catering for the welfare of the community in general, is by way of a £1 for £1 subsidy. Requests for assistance in 1961-62 are still being considered by the regional grants committees, and the recommendations have yet to be made to the central committee for consideration of the disbursement of the £10,000 available in 1961-62. The total of requests being considered exceeds the available funds. The honorable senator also asked a question in relation to Division No. 751, sub-division 5, item 05. - Petrol, oil and other lubricants. I shall have to obtain a full explanation of that item for him.
asked a question about Commonwealth Hostels Limited. As from 28th January, 1959, responsibility for the operation of hostels in Darwin and Alice Springs passed from the Northern Territory Administration to Commonwealth Hostels Limited. Small hostels at which full board and lodging is not provided are still being maintained by the Administration at Katherine and Tennant Creek. The matter of the subsidy to be paid in 1961- 62 is still under discussion with the company, and at this stage it is not possible to make more than a tentative estimate when providing for a subsidy of £18,000, which is the amount that was paid in 1960-61. The Administration has to meet the net loss on operations; that is, the difference between the tariff income and the cost of operation.
Senator Ormonde inquired about the appropriation for mining activities. The functions of the Mines Branch are the administration and development of mining, the giving of technical advice to mineowners and the operation of batteries. No provision has been made for the operation of the Maranboy battery, as there has been a decline in activities on that field. Provision is made for the operation of the battery now under construction at Mount Wells. The major part of the increase in provision, as compared with expenditure in 1960-61, is due to the expected opening of the new Mount Wells battery which, it is thought, will commence operating in the third quarter of this year. Also, the diamond drilling programme will be increased by the addition of a third drill in the latter half of the year. Outstanding commitments for drilling equipment carried forward from 1960-61 total £6,600, mainly in respect of diamond bits. Portion of the operational cost of the mines branches is recoverable from the mining industry and is recouped to Consolidated Revenue.
Senator Sandford inquired about payments to missions for aboriginal welfare, to be increased this year by £99,000. The provision is for the purpose of making of grants to missions to enable them to carry out their work in the Northern Territory in relation to the care, welfare, education and advancement of the aborigines and coloured children. The responsibility for this work rests with the Commonwealth Government, but it has been found both convenient and economic to utilize the services of the missions for this work. There are six denominational authorities conducting fourteen aboriginal mission stations and four part-coloured children’s hostels. The provision of financial assistance to missions occurs under several heads of costs. These are -
The estimate provides for subsidy payments to specialist staff on aboriginal missions at approved subsidy rates. There has been an increase from £925 to £950 per annum in the subsidy paid to staff members. The subsidy for wards remains at £156. Numbers to be subsidized compare as follows: -
An increase of £21,000 has been sought for capital assistance, as against expenditure in 1960-61. Proposed grants this year are -
Expenditure under the item provides for the maintenance of some 325 coloured children in four hostels, as follows: -
The following provision is made: -
The Wards Employment Ordinance and Regulations, with the higher ration scale, are now in force, and the ramifications are expected to extend to the level of maintenance of government-maintained aborigines in missions. The estimate is based on the increased rate being paid for about two months in 1961-62. It is anticipated that there will be a decrease in the numbers to be maintained during 1961-62, particularly in the number of hospitalized cases. However, this is to some extent offset by increases in cost of commodities, necessitating an increase in the annual maintenance rate.
asked a question about education services. The increased amount to be provided this year is £16,541. The Northern Territory Administration is fully responsible for the education of aboriginal children and also for the post-school vocational training of aborigines. The estimate in this sub-item provides for -
Expenditure in 1960-61 and provision for 1961-62 are as follows: -
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland) [9.9], - I should like some information, concerning the proposed appropriation for destruction of dingoes under Division No. 751. Last year, expenditure amounted to £9,287, and the proposed expenditure for this year is £11,000.. Can the Minister say whether payment is made on the basis of so much per scalp? If that is the method of payment it will be possible to see from the amount expended whether the authorities are really getting, to grips with the dingo pest. I point out that in Queensland, not only are dingoes caught in traps and shot, but they are also poisoned by baits dropped from aircraft. It may be that the amount to be provided is to be expended on the destruction of dingoes by the latter method. Will the Minister state what dingo eradication methods are used in the Northern Territory?
– I am informed that baits are not usedin the Northern Territory. Two doggers are employed by the Administration’. The sum of £1 is. paid for each dingo scalp’.. Pastoralists are: rated on the basis of. 6d. per square- mile of holding, and the. amount collected from them is paid into Consolidated- Revenue to off-set the cost of. dingo destruction.
; - I wish to refer to the education programme, in the Northern Territory, for which I- think the Government ought, to be complimented. Did I understand the Minister to say that religious schools in the Territory were subsidized or assisted by the Commonwealth? Do white children in the Territory attend mission schools? If so, does that mean- that the schools are receiving; Commonwealth aid?
– I wish to refer to several matters concerning the Northern Territory that are mentioned in the Auditor-General’s report. It seems to me that they call for answers. At page 60,. the report states -
In previous Reports mention-, has been made of the need, for revision of current Northern Territory legislation in respect of fees, charges and penalties. Little progress was noted during- 1960-61. The Public Service Board is considering a- departmental recommendation that a Legislation Section be created to deal with this matter.
It appears that previous reports of the Auditor-General have mentioned this disability and the. need for a revision of current Northern. Territory legislation.. I suggest that the. use of the words, “ previous reports “ indicates that references to the matter were made on at. least, two earlier occasions. I ask the Minister whether the Public Service Board is still considering, the establishment of a legislation section, or whether it has made a decision in the matter. What is the current position?
On page 61, under the heading “Stocktaking “, the Auditor-General refers to a question which also calls for an answer. The report states -
No improvement in the. stocktaking position was evident during, 1960r61. Approximately one hundred stocktakes, some of which were performed as long ago as 15th April, 19S8, are awaiting conclusion. A stocktake of the Central Store was performed in June, 1960: The Administration is awaiting; Treasury; approval to use the figures disclosed at this stocktake as the basis of new stock ledger records. The programme of regular stocktaking is seriously’ in arrear and. prompt remedial action. is necessary.
Has the Treasury approved of the use of the figures referred- to by the Auditor-General,, andi as a consequence, has the general position improved? At. page. 63, the report states -
The Report for. 1959-60: referred to the lag in. the- execution, of repairs^ and maintenance to dwellings. At 30th June, 1961,. the amount required to effect major repairs and maintenance recommended by- the Department of Works as a result of their inspections was estimated to be in excess of £500,000;.
Those three matters may be connected in some way, Mr: Temporary Chairman.
I turn- back to page 60 of the report. There, under the heading, “ Internal Audit “, the following statement appears -
Previous Reports have mentioned the lack of an. effective internal audit section. The staffing position deteriorated even further during the year, causing concern that adequate internal audits were not operating in the. Administration.
What. I want to know, particularly in regardto the three matters I have mentioned, is whether the staffing, position is causing difficulties. If it is, does not the Government think that it is false economy not to have adequate staff? The fact that buildings are deteriorating and that there is a tremendous lag in the doing of work, a lag to which the Auditor-General has referred in his comments on repairs and maintenance, leads one to think that staff shortages could be responsible. I need not remind honorable senators of the fact that the longer that maintenance of buildings is left unattendedto, the more money must be spent eventually. The report of the Auditor-General in relation to the matters I have mentioned should be considered seriously by the committee. My only regret is’ that, even in the AuditorGeneral’s report, not sufficient information is given for honorable senators to see a clear picture and acquire a proper understanding of these very important matters.
– I express, my indebtedness to Senator Toohey for raising the matters to which he. has: referred’. I have been waiting for an opportunity to db so myself. I simply want to add a reference, to the. Auditor-General’s comments on sundry debtors, at page 60 of the report. He states that the amount of debts; outstanding and due to- the Administration is £173,413. His comments obviously indicate, dissatisfaction with the. position. I wish to underline, what Sena.tor Toohey said about the barrenness, of the. references by the Auditor-General. I will not say that there is a studied effort to give the barest references, but the committee would appreciate from this officer a much more detailed statement of these irregularities. In view of the fact that the AuditorGeneral’s report is dated 18th August, I ask the Minister specifically whether he has obtained a written report from the head of the department on each of the matters criticized in the report. If he has not, I regard such failure as being a dereliction of duty. I ask for the information that the head of the department has given in justification of the matters that have been adversely commented upon.
.- I have some knowledge of the matters referred to. In the course of a few days, or perhaps a week, a full report will be furnished to the Parliament on all the matters raised by Senator Toohey.
– In reply to Senator Ormonde, I point out that no white children are educated or are in any way connected with the missions but that the Administration does provide hostels at key centres where white children are housed for schooling purposes.
I am informed that progress has been made in the examination of legislation relating to fees. Policy decisions have been made in relation to at least half the fees, and the legislation is in the course of preparation. The Public Service Board has given approval for the establishment of a legislation section. The sums provided for housing maintenance were as determined by the Government in the light of overall priorities. There is some lag in carrying out maintenance. There has been a lag in stocktaking, but the position now is somewhat improved. There has recently been an improvement in the staffing. A specific report has been made to the Minister upon the Auditor-General’s comments. In regard to the internal audit, certain positions have been created recently. That will give some relief.
.- I rise to refer only to the matter of stocktaking. I say quite coldly that I regard the Minister’s statement as being not nearly sufficient. When the Auditor-General says that approximately one hundred stocktakes, some of which were performed as long ago as 15 th April, 1958, are awaiting conclusion, the least we are entitled to is a specific statement about how many of those stocktakes have been concluded and whether or not they have shown deficiencies. The Auditor-General’s final statement on this matter reads -
The programme of regular stocktaking is seriously in arrear and prompt remedial action is necessary.
I hope this committee will not let those who are responsible for justifying these matters to the Parliament think that we are satisfied by a mild, luke-warm statement that the position is improving. This has been going on for a number of years. The time has come when such a statement in the Auditor-General’s report should be the subject of definite comment to the effect that the Minister is satisfied that regular, satisfactory stocktaking is now in progress, not merely that there is some improvement consistent with the following luke-warm statement which appears in an earlier paragraph: -
The Public Service Board is considering a departmental recommendation that a Legislation Section be created to deal with this matter.
Officialdom endeavours to shuffle off the responsibility. Stocktaking is either satisfactory or unsatisfactory. If stocktaking is not done promptly, it is of no use doing it at all. I ask: How many of the 100 stocktakes have been completed? What deficiencies did they show? Is the stocktaking programme now being carried out promptly and regularly to the Minister’s satisfaction?
Senator ORMONDE (New South Wales; [9.26]. - I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation: What were the circumstances surrounding the appointment of Mr. Roger Nott as Administrator of the Northern Territory? Did he apply following the calling of applications or was a special approach made by the Government to Mr. Nott, who was a Minister in the Labour Government of New South Wales, to take this position?
– Mr. Nott was appointed by the Government, as is always the case with such appointments, on the recommendation of the responsible Minister. Mr. Nott had had experience as an agriculturist and, I believe, had been the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales for a number of years. His record of administration and of practical knowledge had come to the notice of the Minister for Territories as a result of Mr. Nott’s association with him at meetings of the Australian Agricultural Council over a number of years. He was regarded as having qualifications which would fit him for this responsible position.
– He was a Labour Minister in New South Wales.
– This was a case in which politics were not considered. I regret that I am not able to tell Senator Wright specifically how many of the stocktakes outstanding since 1958 have now been completed and how many of those completed have disclosed deficiencies. Within the next few days 1 shall try to obtain this information for the honorable senator.
– I wish to refer very briefly to the replies that were given by the Minister to the three questions I asked following my perusal of the Auditor-General’s report. I acknowledge that the Minister gave as good an explanation as he could of the three matters to which I referred; but I feel that he was hampered, just as I am, by the lack of information which is a feature of the Auditor-General’s report. 1 hope that the impression left in the Minister’s mind regarding the matters raised by Senator Wright and me will impel him to see that some action is taken in the future to ensure that a document as valuable as the Auditor-General’s report contains sufficient information to enable honorable senators on both sides of the chamber to understand at a glance the things that are affecting administration in various ways.
– I refer to the provision of £36,000 for operational expenditure on the Animal Industry Branch under item 04, sub-division 4 of Division No. 751. I also refer to item 11, which deals with agricultural research and development, and for which the sum of £95,000 is to be appropriated. I should like the Minister to tell me what progress is being made in developing the buffalo-meat industry in the Northern Territory. A few years ago, we were exporting 80,000 to 100,000 buffalo hides a year to India for manufacture into belts. That avenue of export is now closed, but since then a market for buffalo meat has developed in Australia, and in countries close to Australia. We talk about the expenditure of £25,000,000 on roads to assist the beef industry, but it will take years to build those roads. Here we have at least 100,000 buffaloes a year available for slaughter for their meat. This industry would not be a doubtful proposition. Buffaloes, killed under proper veterinary inspection, are a valuable source of meat. The meat could be shipped abroad, although our near neighbours are not anxious to introduce pleuro-pneumonia into their countries. I would like to know what has been done to export buffalo meat. I know that buffaloes are killed by tranquilizers and that they are cut up on a plastic sheet spread on the ground. I know that the meat is taken to Darwin and exported from there. Much of the meat comes to Adelaide and finds its way into smallgoods. A valuable market for our buffalo meat exists in Hong Kong and elsewhere. We must ensure that the meat is subject to proper veterinary inspection. I believe that the export of buffalo meat could bring a good deal of revenue into the Northern Territory. I wonder whether the Minister has any information on this matter.
.- The possibility of establishing an export market for buffalo meat is being investigated. Hong Kong and the Philippines offer profitable outlets. Trial shipments have been made, and the Administration has provided holding as well as loading facilities at Darwin. Broadly speaking, I think it can be said that the possibility of developing this industry is not being overlooked, and that all possible outlets are being explored.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Northern Territory - Capital Works and Services
Proposed expenditure, £6,473,000.
– I should like the Minister to tell me into which category the plant and equipment referred to in Division 971, item 01, falls. Perhaps the Minister could provide similar information in relation to Division No. 977, item 02 - Plant and equipment. Proposed expenditure on this latter item this year is £560,000 higher than was expenditure last year. Will the Minister say what types of plant and equipment are involved? I do not want precise details.
– In respect of Division No. 971, item 01, the expenditure will toe in the main for transport, water resources, agriculture, animal husbandry, harbours and marine and land survey. Those appear to be the biggest items involved. The proposed expenditure under Division No. 977, item 02, provides for the purchase of plant for use on projects constructed by the department in the Northern Territory for which a hiring charge is levied against the project. As in the case of another division, because replacement items are charged to plant, there is an increase in the 1961-62 appropriation compared with last year’s expenditure.
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland) [9.36]; - I wish to refer to the Northern Territory Housing Commission under Division No. 971, item 10. The amount sought to be appropriated is £455,000. I should like to know the average amount lent by the commission and the number of houses built from this advance in 1960-61.
– The commission does not lend money. The sum mentioned under this division is to provide for the construction of homes for renting. The commission does not build for sale.
– The advance referred to is an advance to the commission?
– Presumably. Last year, 74 homes were completed. I do not have the figures of the total number of homes built in the Territory by the commission for renting. I will obtain that information for the honorable senator.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Proposed expenditure, £52,000.
– Although the sum proposed to be expended under Division No. 781 is small, I wish to make some comments about Norfolk Island. The Government proposes to appropriate this year only £52,000 under this division, but I feel that if Norfolk Island is worth keeping it is worth developing. The Administration is. to be congratulated on being able to carry on with a grant as small as £32,000. There is not a great deal of potential on the island for the development of primary or secondary industries, apart from the whaling commission and the growing of a little bean seed, but there does appear to be an opportunity for the development of the tourist industry. I should like to know what revenue accrues to the island from the tourist industry. I understand that New Zealanders visit the island more than Australians do. Norfolk Island is ideal for the development of a tourist industry. It is difficult as yet for private enterprise to do much about developing the tourist industry on the island. The first need is to build roads. That work may have to be done out of the grant to the Administration. I wonder whether the Government is prepared to approach the Australian National Travel Association and ask it to set up a small branch on the island in order to encourage tourists from Australia and abroad. It is an ideal place for tourists. The weather is good throughout the year and it is a beautiful spot. If one of the airlines could be persuaded to provide a regular weekly service to the island, instead of the present fortnightly service, that would help a good deal.
I notice that an appropriation of £20,000 is sought for the restoration and maintenance of historical structures. It seems that this is the first time that money has been sought for that purpose, and I should like to know whether I am correct in saying that. I should also like to be told what structures are to be restored and maintained.
– I agree completely with Senator Buttfield when she refers to the charm of this Pacific island and when she says that it is an ideal place for a restful holiday, but it presents some pretty acute problems. The island has not many basic export products. Through the years its export trade has depended upon a variety of things which have in turn found and lost popularity. I remember that in the 1920’s, when Australian bananas were suffering from some form of blight, a very useful market for Norfolk Island bananas was developed in Australia, but when the Australian banana industry was rehabilitated that market was lost. For a while there was an effort to encourage the export of Norfolk Island pines, but I understand that the people of the island were averse to that trade being developed to a degree that would tend to denude the island of pines. The main export of the island at the moment is bean seed. Oddly enough, the islanders have to import foodstuffs which one would expect to be produced on the island. Eggs, for instance, are imported. It is true to say that a good deal of the island’s export trade - probably the larger part of it from time to time - is with New Zealand.
Senator Buttfield referred to the possibility of developing the tourist trade and asked whether it would be possible for a weekly rather than a fortnightly air service to be provided. Until a few years ago Qantas Empire Airways Limited was paid a subsidy to provide a fortnightly service to the island.. The subsidy required was fairly substantial, although the figures escape me at the moment. I was looking at a document recently relating to the operation of this service, and I saw that it involved a. substantial loss. I know that the Norfolk Island Administration is keen to develop tourist traffic, to the island,, having regard to the fact that, the economy of the island, is not very soundly based. The Administration is currently exploring the possibility of developing that tourist traffic and has not. overlooked the assistance that would be. given in that, regard by more regular air services. An increase of the frequency of the air services would, however, involve a larger subsidy, and no decision has. yet been made in that matter.
Senator Buttfield referred also to the item relating to> the restoration and maintenance of historical structures. She: is well aware, of course, of the old buildings’ there. In recent years, they have: fallen into an even greater state of disrepair. The Minister and the Administration are very keen that those historical buildings shall be preserved in the state in which they now are, and £20,000 is sought for that purpose. This will not be the first, occasion on which money has been spent on restoring the historical buildings on Norfolk Island. I remember that about ten years ago the Minister sent an architect to the island to examine the condition of the buildings that remained, and subsequent to his visit a substantial amount was spent on restoration work. Nothing has been spent since then. This will be a reactivation of the programme.
– If, as a tourist intending to visit Norfolk Island, I did not want to fly, how would I get there?
– You would go to Fiji and pick up a small’ trading vessel there.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Papua and New Guinea.
Proposed expenditure, £17,463,400.
Senator MATTNER (South Australia) [9.48J. - The appropriation sought this year in respect of Papua and New Guinea is £17,465,400;. The expenditure last year was £15,094,400, and in 1959-60 it was £13,549,681. Each year there has been an increase of about £2,000,000. Has the Minister any information about how the additional money provided is being used? Is extra money being allocated to the educational services in Papua and New Guinea? I know that there has been a drive to persuade Australian teachers to go there, and I know that the mission schools are making every effort possible to lift the educational standards of the indigenous people. In view of the fact that the objective is that self-government for the Territory shall be achieved as quickly as possible, it would be helpful if the Minister gave us some idea whether increased amounts are being allocated for the purposes of education.
As an Australian interested in the welfare of Papua and New Guinea, I want the world to know what an extremely good job Australia is doing there in the interests of the indigenous people. It is very necessary that people outside Australia should know exactly what the Australian people are doing in this Territory and that the world should know that we are being true to the trust that has been reposed in us. I believe that the wonderful work that Australian educational officers and other officers are doing in this Territory should be known far and wide, because what we have done and what we are doing will stand up to any investigation that might be made by any outside body.
– It is pertinent to refer to education as one facet of the very rapid expansion occurring in New Guinea which requires, as the honorable senator has said, increasing expenditure each year. I think the honorable senator has done well to point to this aspect of the development of the Territory, because, as he says, what we are doing in regard to education in New Guinea is frequently not understood overseas. The expansion of education is reflected in an increase of the operational expenditure from £2,040,285 in 1960-61 to a proposed expenditure of £2,432,000 this year. In addition, provision has been made under capital works expenditure for £954,700 to be spent on school buildings and school residences during the year.
Education services are provided for Europeans, Asians, mixed-blood people and native people. Education for the native people is, however, the major commitment. Schooling is basic to the social, economic and political advancement of these people. It presents special problems not only because of the difficult geography of the country and the backward nature of its people, which limits the contribution they can make in providing teachers, buildings and money, but also because the Territory has at least 600 different languages. English is important, not only as a means to provide the people with a common means of communication but also as a tool for further training. It has to be taught as a foreign language, and this occupies much time during the years of primary schooling.
There are approximately 540,000 children of school age and less than half of that number are at school. Of these, about 29,000 attend Administration schools and 170,000 attend mission schools. Of those in mission schools only about 82,000 are at present receiving tuition at a standard which meets Administration requirements. In particular the missions provide for most of the elementary village education, but at the end of the last financial year there were 21 post-primary and secondary schools be ing conducted by the missions catering for 851 pupils. Further assistance will be provided to the missions for the establishment and operation of teacher-training institutions and associated schools through the extension of the loans scheme which previously applied for the establishment of hostels. I think those facts will indicate to the honorable senator not only the work that is being done but also the importance which the Administration attaches to schooling. It will indicate that active measures are being taken by the Administration to fulfil the need.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Proposed expenditure - Papua and New Guinea - Capital Works and Services, £531,000; Cocos (Keeling) Islands, £43,500; Cocos (Keeling) Islands - Capital Works and Services, £8,000; Christmas Island, £100- noted.
Proposed expenditure, £98,751,000.
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland) [9.55]. - I should like to say a few words on the proposed expenditure of this department. I base my remarks on the item dealing with salaries and allowances in Division No. 671. I should like to sound a note of warning about the difficulty of obtaining staff, particularly specialized staff, in the Repatriation Department. The staff required is chiefly in the medical section and is associated with types of work such as pathology, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and social work. I have visited the various States and have discussed staffing matters. I have found that the States offer far greater remuneration to specialists of the type I have mentioned than does the Commonwealth Public Service Board. During my period as Minister, I know that the department lost very valuable medical men, and others of the type I have mentioned, because it was not paying salaries as high as those offered to such personnel by the various States.
In the case of social workers, the Repatriation Department is paying a maximum salary of £1,500 a year, whereas the States offer £300 a year more than that. You cannot expect people to remain in the department just for the sheer love of the work when they are being offered higher salaries to transfer to the States. There is no doubt that some of the best types of employees in the Repatriation Department have found their way to the States, and I do not think they can be blamed. At one time the position was reversed. Commonwealth departments paid higher remunerations than were paid by the States, but at present the States are offering a higher remuneration ‘than that offered by Commonwealth departments. I think that the Public Service Board should do something about this problem before it is too late. People of the type I have mentioned cannot be trained in a year or so. The work they are doing is most important and requires years of training. This is especially so in the case of physiotherapists, occupational therapists and social workers. The skill of these people is important for the welfare of the patients.
I repeat my hope that the Commonwealth Public Service Board will look into the matter and do something to ensure that the Repatriation Department does not lose the cream of those engaged in the classes of work I have mentioned. It is some years before they become efficient, and not everybody can do this type of work. This work is most important to the patients, who are the responsibility of the Repatriation Department. I hope that the Public Service Board will investigate this matter and ensure at least that the present staff are retained.
– I feel rather privileged to be able to follow Senator Sir Walter Cooper in the debate on these Estimates. We all know that he had a record term of office as Minister for Repatriation until he resigned. My complaint is that this year there seems to be a lack of action by the department in making known to ex-servicemen the amendments to the act and regulations. I believe Senator Sir Walter Cooper will agree that, during his period of office, soon after the amending bill became law advertisements setting out the amendments were published in the newspapers. That is very important to people in country towns throughout Australia. We know that in the capital cities there are officers of the Repatriation Department to whom exservicemen can apply; but our experience in Tasmania is that in towns other than the capital city an inquiring ex-serviceman goes to the local sub-branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia to obtain information. At this stage I cannot obtain a copy of the recent amendments to the act and regulations in order to let R.S.L. subbranches in Tasmania know what they are. I believe that the department should follow its previous policy. If my memory serves me rightly, the department published in the press what the amendments were and how they affected ex-servicemen.
We in this Parliament and the Government must realize that at the present time there appears to be a boycott of the National Parliament by the main metropolitan newspapers in Australia. Very little information has gone out to the Australian people through the metropolitan press during this session of the Parliament. In the previous session information on happenings in and decisions by this Parliament were published, but it is not being published now. I believe that the Government has to wake up to that fact and take action to tell the people what it has decided to do for the taxpayers, including ex-servicemen. I hope that the department will take note of my request that it make available through the press details of the amendments to the Repatriation Act and the regulations under that act.
The other matter on which I wish to speak is the limb factories conducted by the Repatriation Department. Those factories lead Australia in the provision of artificial limbs. I believe that they are doing an amazing work, not only for ex-servicemen, but also for other people who come within the regulations and are able to obtain artificial limbs through the Repatriation Department. When a government department is the leader in such a field, and is really working outside its own sphere, I believe it should recoup some of its expenses. I should like the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne) and the department to investigate the charges made to people, other than ex-service men and women, who are privileged to go to limb factories run by the department for the provision, maintenance and repair of artificial limbs. From my experience, I believe that the charges are too ‘high -and that the department may be making a profit which it should not be making from this activity. The work is of the highest standard.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [10.6]. - I refer to Division No. 671, sub-division 2, item 06 - Payment for services of Registrars, Police and officers of Postmaster-General’s Department. Last year, the appropriation was £196,500 and the expenditure was £196,336. This year, the appropriation is reduced considerably to £91,000. I should be interested to receive some information on that matter.
.- I refer to Division No. 671, sub-division .1, item 02 - Temporary and casual employees. The estimate for -this year is £759,000. Last year, the appropriation was £797*600 and the expenditure was £785,632. That means that /this year’s appropriation is quite a few thousand pounds less than last year’s expenditure. I can only assume that there has been a reduction in the number of temporary and casual employees. I should like an explanation of that item from the Minister. Haying regard to the need for streamlining many of the activities of the Repatriation Department, one would imagine that there would be an increase rather than a reduction in the number of employees.
I also refer to Division No. 673, item 01 - Small business loans. This year, the estimate is £5,000. Last year, the appropriation was £15,000, of which only £6,724 was expended. If the Minister is able to give an explanation of the reduction from last year’s appropriation and expenditure to this year’s appropriation, T should like to hear it. It appears to me that unfortunately this reduction is part of a pattern that we are witnessing throughout Australia at the present time. I refer to the take-overs which are forcing small business people out of business. One is tempted to imagine that this is par,t of that unfortunate plan that is developing .throughout Australia. I suppose it may be said that with the passing of years the number of applications for small business loans is not as great as it was; but I do not think that would account for the large reduction in the appropriation for this item. I should like to get from the Minister an explanation of that reduction.
– I refer 4o Division No. (671, and particularly %o the proposed appropriation ;for postage, telegrams and (telephone .services which is increased toy £82,000. Perhaps that increase is ‘related to the -reduced appropriation in respect of .payment for services of registrars, police and officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department. I should like ‘to make some observations in regard ‘to senior administrators of .the Repatriation Department, .particularly in . my own ‘State. Mr. Hurman, and his assistant, Mr. Robson, are completely dedicated ito the department and its work. This attitude permeates the whole of the staff in the State. As Senator Sir Walter Cooper would ‘know, from the end ‘of World War 51. until about two years ago the staff worked under the -most distressing circumstances in a frightfully old building near .the waterfront. Now that the officers , have moved into a much better building, .they are .reaping some reward for the services they ,gave in shocking circumstances for very many years.
– I express my pleasure at the fact that Senator Sir Walter Cooper, when addressing the Senate, gave us the benefit of his years of experience as Minister for Repatriation and addressed ‘himself with very great attachment to that aspect of the department with which he was always most closely associated and in respect of which he was so well and affectionately regarded by the returned servicemen of this country. He does well to point to the difficulties that the department experiences in respect of recruitment of medical officers.
There are shortages in the medical technologist group, despite widespread advertising and considerable discussions and action jointly with the Public Service Board. Causes are general shortages in the community and certain disparities between Commonwealth salary rates and the rates in some States. Vacancies for pathological technicians and social workers are general, and other categories such as pharmacists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and dietitians, are more acutely short in some States. Action taken by the department includes systematic comparison with rates approved by State authorities and other hospitals. The following action has been approved by the Public Service Board. In respect of pharmacists in Victoria, a special allowance of £220 per annum is made, following comparable State rises, to bring Commonwealth remuneration into line. A similar approach has been made for Western Australia. In respect of other categories in that State, where shortages are very acute, special allowances, or the provision of higher tentative classifications, have been approved. These have been partially successful. In regard to pathological technicians, more technicianintraining positions have been provided, and a review of the grading structure has been made with a view to improving it. The disturbing number of vacancies for social workers has been discussed with the Public Service Board. Currently, a review oi State rates is in hand, which is aimed at remedying disparities, and a submission will shortly be made to the board. The department has joined the Department of Social Services in a social worker cadet scheme.
A cadetship scheme for pharmacists has been approved and arrangements are being examined, whereby students of the Victorian College of Pharmacy could do part of their training at the Repatriation General Hospital, Heidelberg. Generally, as part of its industrial programme, the department is reviewing the structure of all the medical technological groups, and will continue to take up with the Public Service Board areas where disparities are occurring. This will indicate to the committee that the department is actively pursuing the matter of these discrepancies, in an endeavour to rectify the position.
Senator Marriott said that information in connexion with recent increases in repatriation pensions was not widely known. Indeed, he implied that sections of the community, to wit, some branches of the Returned Servicemen’s League, were having difficulty in getting the information. I regret this most sincerely. I understand that advertising has taken place and that through public advertisements variations in rates have been notified. The date on which new rates will apply has also been notified. However, I am sure that my colleague, Mr. Osborne, will be as concerned as I am if the position is that these matters have not been brought to the notice of the public by sufficiently intensive public relations. I shall certainly refer to him the comments made by the honorable senator.
Senator Marriott also referred to limb’ factories and to the excellent craftsmanship which was very evident. I agree with him. The limb factories of the department, which were established and developed under Senator Sir Walter Cooper, have earned for themselves a very high reputation. It is truethat their products are sought by all people who have need of these appliances. It has not been brought to my notice that the charges, made to people who are not beneficiaries under the Repatriation Act are excessive. I always understood that the charges were quite realistic, but in view of what has been said I shall see that this matter, too, is brought to the notice of my colleague.
Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin referred; to payments for the services of registrars, police and officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and asked for explanations of the reduction of about £105,000 in the appropriation. The explanation lies in the fact that extension of the system of payment of pensions by cheque to all States except Tasmania this year is estimated to result in a saving of expenditure on commission payable to the PostmasterGeneral to the amount of £105,336.
Senator Sandford referred to temporary and casual employees. The replacements of” temporary officers by permanent officers and the abolition of some positions account for the difference. Predominantly, this has been, brought about by a transfer to the permanent staff of men previously in temporary employment. I am sure that Senator Sandford will agree that this is a move in the right direction. He also sought information., on the decrease in the provision for small business loans. I am sure that he had a bit of fun with the committee by suggesting certain reasons for this decrease; and finally,, of course, he came out with the logical explanation that as the years go by claimsare fewer.
– I did not give the explanation. I expected that you would.
– That is right. You expected correctly, even though you: did not speak correctly. If the honorablesenator refuses to take the credit for- explaining the position, I shall do so myself. The explanation is that as the years go by there are fewer and fewer claims for assistance of this kind.
– I should like information from the Minister concerning Division No. 671, sub-division 2, item 05 - Medical examinations - the proposed expenditure on which is £56,000. Last year the appropriation was £61,000. I also refer to item 07, “ Fares and expenses of war pensioners under review, £50,000 “. Is it possible for assistance to be given, from either of those proposed votes, to ex-servicemen who are seeking to obtain pensions and to comply with the onusofproof provisions of the Repatriation Act? No doubt other honorable senators know, as I do, of the stereotyped answer that is often given to ex-servicemen in such cases. They are told that until fresh evidence is presented their claims for repatriation pensions cannot be reconsidered.
I join very happily in commending Mr. Hurman, Mr. Robson and the other members of the Repatriation Commission on their most sympathetic and helpful attitude to applicants for benefits and to those who represent them. Nevertheless, I think it is time that we provided assistance for exservicemen to discharge the onus of proof. As we know, some ex-servicemen ultimately are successful in doing so and are granted pensions, but others cannot afford to obtain the best medical advice, although considerable doubt may exist as to whether their disabilities were war caused. I know of a man who had three medical opinions which indicated that the cause of his disability was not known. He could not prove that the disability was war caused, although there was nothing in his civil life that could have contributed to it. The unfortunate individual gradually became poorer and poorer. He was receiving a pension in respect of certain disabilities which had been accepted as war caused, but the pension was not sufficient to maintain him. He was obliged to give up work entirely. He had had an operation on his head for the removal of a suspected tumour, which was not found to exist. Although he could not prove that the disability was war caused he could not prove that it had been caused in any other way, although the only occas- sion when he had suffered illness was when he was serving in the forces. His condition progressively deteriorated until he reached the stage where, as a comparatively young man of less than 60 years of age, he was obliged to relinquish work altogether.
Where an ex-serviceman’s case has been rejected by a repatriation tribunal, is it possible for assistance to be given to him to enable an examination by an independent specialist to be made? I point out that in Division No. 677 - Miscellaneous - item 06 relates to assistance under special circumstances to ex-service personnel or their dependants. The proposed vote is a very small one. This year, the amount is £300. Last year the appropriation was £200 and expenditure £177. I take it that it covers ex gratia payments. I suggest that an ex-serviceman who is in indigent circumstances and is trying to prove that his disability was war caused should be entitled to assistance from the Repatriation Department in obtaining the best possible medical opinion, whether on the recommendation of the Returned Soldiers League or of responsible persons who have examined his case. I know that the doctors have done quite a good job in this field. Many specialists take such cases for compassionate reasons and go to a lot of trouble to try to establish an ex-serviceman’s eligibility for pension benefits. In many instances, they do so for nothing. Can the Minister say whether, under any of the proposed votes that we are discussing, assistance of the kind I have mentioned can be provided?
– Senator Sandford has referred to the allocation of £15,000 last year for the small loans section and expenditure of only £6,724. I do not want to mis-state the Minister’s reply, but I understood him to say that the need for such loans had disappeared over the years.
– As the number of claims decreased.
– That is right. Nevertheless, I wonder whether the Minister can reconcile that statement with the comment of the Auditor-General at page 86 of his report. Under the heading “ Repatriation Department “, it is stated that in 1959-60 £23,366 was expended in this category.
– That was two years ago.
– Yes, but in those two years there has been a reduction in expenditure of about £17,000. I want to know why there has been such a sudden drop. Does it mean that there has been less demand for small business loans, or that the Government is becoming more selective in its approach to applications for loans? Some explanation of the matter should be given.
– Applications had to be made within a certain period, and in many cases that period has expired.
– If that is so, I should like to know why it is estimated that £5,000 will be spent in this field this year.
– Exservicemen are entitled to such loans for so many years after their discharge from the services, and in many cases that period has passed.
– I am not impressed with that answer. It does not cover the point I have mentioned. I want to know why there has been a sudden drop of about £17,000 in expenditure. In my opinion, the lapse of time discharge does not enter into the matter at all.
– Oh yes, it does.
– I direct attention now to Division No. 673 - Repatriation Benefits - item 03, Maintenance of departmental institutions. My next point has to do with the Daws-road repatriation hospital at Springbank, in South Australia. I ask whether there have been any major additions or alterations at that hospital in the last twelve months. If so, have any sun rooms been erected for the benefit of patients who are not confined to their beds but are able to move around the hospital?
– I refer to the same item. I do not interpret this item as having any relation to the matter raised by Senator Toohey, although I believe that he made a valid reference to the extension of facilities at institutions like the Springbank repatriation hospital. The proposed appropriation for this item is £7,804,000. Notation (a) reads -
Includes salaries and payments in the nature of salary as follows:- 1961-62, £5,458,000; 1960-1, Expenditure, £5,241,945.
That leads me to believe that the term “ Maintenance of departmental institutions “ need not necessarily refer to buildings. I should like the Minister to furnish, if possible, a split-up of the sum of £7,804,000.
I was interested to hear Senator Marriott refer to the limb factories that are operating throughout the Commonwealth. We all know that Senator Sir Walter Cooper had a lot to do with the work of these factories when he was the Minister for Repatriation. I have had the pleasure of accompanying Senator Sir Walter Cooper to the limb factory in Adelaide, and I know of the very splendid work which is being done in fitting limbs to soldiers who were unfortunate enough to lose limbs during the First World War and the Second World War.
Although it is not directly associated with the limb factory, an enormous amount of work is being done in the manufacture of boots and shoes for persons who have foot injuries. Not many people realize the vast amount of work that is done by the Repatriation Department in this direction. Many thousands of ex-servicemen have had reason to bless the department for its assistance in providing them with suitable footwear. We should give due credit to all those who are associated with the limb factory in the manufacture of footwear, because their efforts have considerably alleviated the distress of ex-servicemen. Senator Sir Walter Cooper did remarkable work in this sphere. I do not know whether he has presented to the Government a report on his recent trip abroad. We were particularly interested when we learned that he was to travel abroad and that his main reason for doing so was to investigate the latest methods of manufacturing and fitting artificial limbs. I am eager to know whether he has presented a report and, if so, what action the Government has taken to implement some of his recommendations. I should like to know whether a split-up of the proposed expenditure on items 02 and 03 of Division No. 673 is available.
– I refer to the proposed appropriation for medical examinations in Division No. 671 - Administrative. I have been informed by medical men that many cases presented to the various tribunals fail because they are inexpertly prepared and stated. If that is so, are any avenues available to ex-servicemen to get assistance in the preparation of their cases?
– My queries relate to Division No. 671 - Administrative. I refer to items 02, 03 and 04 under the heading “ Administrative Expenses “. I note that although in no instance was last year’s appropriation expended, this year the Parliament is asked to appropriate a much larger sum for each of these three items. In fact, I have checked on the expenditure for the last two years and found that in neither year was the appropriation expended. I should like the Minister to explain why this year’s appropriation is so much greater than last year’s.
– Senator Cooke addressed his remarks to the onus of proof. I suppose that, wherever there is an onus of proof, in some cases there will be disputation. I want to go on record as saying that it has been my experience that the Repatriation Department has invariably approached these difficult cases with the greatest sympathy and understanding. Like every other honorable senator, 1 have had cases like those to which Senator Cooke has referred. But I have never found anything in the treatment meted out by officers of the department-
– I did not suggest that.
– I did not interrupt you; please let me develop my thought. I have never found the officers of the department to be other than completely understanding and helpful. When a case fails because the onus of proof has not ;been discharged, it cannot be said that it has failed because of a lack of understanding or sympathy at any level within the department or on the part of the tribunal concerned. I know the type of case to which the honorable senator refers - a man going at long last to an appeal tribunal, having his appeal rejected, still not being well, still doubtful and wanting to get back before an appeal board. What happens? Everything revolves around the provision of new evidence. It has been my experience that in these most difficult cases, which are by that time minutely known to the officers of the department, where an applicant comes along and says he believes that new evidence can be presented, at all levels of the department the greatest assistance is extended to him to see that the new evidence is made available to the tribunal. Where the tribunal agrees that new evidence may exist, the payment is met by the Repatriation Department. As Senator Cooke was speaking, I took the opportunity of conferring with Senator Sir Walter Cooper. Nobody would know better than he whether the national executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia had made representations about the onus-of-proof clause. Senator Sir Walter Cooper told me that at the national executive level no representations have been made on this point. The national executive expresses general satisfaction in this matter while acknowledging, as anybody must, that there are a few cases that will always remain problem cases and against which, in the last analysis, there must be a question mark.
asked, whether applicants were aware of the avenues available to them to have their cases properly presented to a tribunal. I am sure that every ex-serviceman in this place is well aware of the fact that in each State the R.S.L. has on its staff men who are trained to present cases to the various tribunals. Those men spend much of their time doing just that. In addition, the officers of the Repatriation Department frequently are the best advocates that any applicant could have.. They are most helpful to anybody who wants assistance in this regard.
– In presenting medical history also?
– Yes. Those officers will go to no end of trouble for applicants. They are prepared to spend hours going through files and obtaining information that may be of assistance to applicants.
Senator Toohey referred to small loans. I have conferred with the departmental officers. The fall in this expenditure arises from the fact that as the years roll on there are fewer and fewer applicants for assistance of this kind. That is reasonable enough. It is only to be expected. It is true that in 1959-60 the sum of £23,366 was spent on this item and that in the following year the expenditure dropped sharply to £6,724.
– What was the estimate in that year?
– The sum of £15,000 was provided and only £6,724 was spent. That makes it quite clear that no restriction was placed on the granting of loans but that the full appropriation was not spent simply because there were not sufficient applicants.
– Were many applications rejected?
– I am unaware of the number of rejections, but I am sure that any valid and eligible application would have been met.
With regard to the Repatriation Department establishment at Daws-road, Springbank, there have been no extensions or renovations in the last few years, but this year provision is made for the building of a psychiatric ward. That is the biggest single item in the department’s vote and accounts for £195,000..
– That comes under capital works, does it not?
– Yes. Senator Ridley referred to sub-division 2, Division No. 671. In regard to item 02, it is anticipated that payment of pensions by punchcard cheques will be operative in all States during the year. It is estimated that the purchase and hire of machines and the purchase of stationery will result in an increased expenditure of about £39,000. In regard to item 03, postage on punch-card cheques will amount to £85,000 and increased telephone charges will amount to a mere £1,750. In relation to item 04, it is estimated that expenditure will increase by about £12,000. Charges for the cleaning of central office and branch offices in Victoria and South Australia, which is now performed by private contractors, will account for an increase of £13,400, from which must be deducted the sum of £1,200 representing savings on cleaning materials. That leaves a net increase of some £12,200.
– I am afraid the Minister has not touched on the matters that I raised. I was curious to know whether the activities to which I referred came under item 02 or item 03 of Division No. 673.
– I think the honorable senator’s query concerned the expenditure of £7,804,000. The word “ maintenance “ is used in the sense of operating expenses. Limb factories and all other institutions are included in the vote. A split-up of the expenditure is -
Proposed expenditure noted.
Repatriation Department - Capital Works and Services.
Proposed expenditure, £512,000.
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland) [10.50]. - I refer to Division No. 890, item 01, “ Buildings, works, fittings and furniture, £492,000”. Is that the proposed appropriation for the psychiatric ward for the Daws-road repatriation hospital in South Australia?
– That item is under the control of the Department of Works.
– At any rate, I am very pleased that the Minister has told us that work on that ward will, begin and that an appropriation for it has been sought. I am sure that our old friend’, ex-Senator Jack Critchley, would be a very happy man if he knew of that. I hope that he will be told of what is intended. If anybody was keen on having this job done, it was Jack Critchley.
I should like to know whether the work on the repatriation hospital at Hobart has been finished yet.
– I assume that the proposed appropriation of £492,000 to which Senator Sir Walter Cooper has referred relates to the work which, I understand, is to be done this year at the Springbank repatriation hospital in South Australia. I think the Minister told us a few minutes ago of the amount that has been allocated in this financial year for work on the psychiatric ward in that hospital. As Senator Sir Walter Cooper said, ex-Senator Critchley, in season and out of season, urged that that work be proceeded with. I am very glad to know that at last an item has been included in the
Estimates and that a start will be made on the job of replacing the present outmoded facilities for the treatment of psychiatric cases at the Springbank hospital with a modern psychiatric ward.
I believe that the most difficult cases to treat in repatriation hospitals are psychiatric cases. We must give credit to the members of the staff of the Springbank hospital for the splendid work they have done in helping to treat these difficult cases. I am sure that that applies to the staffs of all repatriation hospitals throughout Australia. The staff at the Springbank hospital has been labouring under difficulties for a number of years, and during Senator Sir Walter Cooper’s term as Minister for Repatriation requests were made by honorable senators on both sides, particularly Senator Critchley and Senator Mattner, for a new psychiatric ward to be provided. I am glad that at last the Government has seen fit to make provision for work on that ward to be started. Some of the present hospital buildings are many years old. When you are dealing with psychiatric cases, you are dealing with some of the most difficult cases, and up-to-date facilities for treatment are needed. The provision of this psychiatric ward at the Springbank hospital is long overdue. I do not wish to ask any questions of the Minister. I rose mainly to endorse the remarks of Senator Sir Walter Cooper and to express my pleasure at the information that work on this ward will proceed, so that before very many years have passed there will be an up-to-date psychiatric ward at Springbank.
– As has been anticipated by Senator Sir Walter Cooper, Senator Hannaford and others, and as I think I said earlier, provision is being made this year for the appropriation of £195,000 for the building of a psychiatric ward at the Springbank hospital. In addition, a further £30,000 will be provided for furniture and fittings.
Senator Sir Walter Cooper inquired also about the repatriation hospital at Hobart. There were initial site difficulties in relation to the new ward and the out-patients clinic. The total programme will cost £266,000. At present, 48 per cent, of the project has been completed and it is expected that the whole project, including a new administrative building for the hospital, and a kitchen, will be finished in August, 1962. About £100,000 will be spent this year. The first phase - ‘the new ward and the out-patients clinic - is programmed to be finished by about the end of this year.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Senate adjourned at 10.59 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 October 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1961/19611011_senate_23_s20/>.