24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Leader of the Government: Is it a fact that France has now developed as a nuclear power? Is it a fact that the United States of America denied to France the know-how concerning the development of nuclear power for military and other purposes? Was not this know-how made available to the United Kingdom? Is it a fact that France has successfully exploded a number of atomic bombs?
– Although I feel capable of answering the questions, I think that it would be more seemly, in view of their importance, to ask that they be put on the notice-paper.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that the National Health and Medical Research Council recommended that Sabin oral vaccine be imported as soon as possible in order that it be available for use in possible emergencies and in pilot studies which may be called for? Has the Government made any decision on that recommendation and has it been implemented? What are the Government’s intentions in relation to the matter?
– The National Health and Medical Research Council at its last meeting discussed at very great length the proposal in relation to Sabin vaccine. It passed two resolutions, both of which are relevant to the question asked by Senator Anderson. The first resolution was -
That the National Health and Medical Research Council advise that Commonwealth and State immunization authorities be authorized to encourage and administer a fourth dose of Salk type poliomyelitis vaccine after a third dose had been administered.
I mention that for this reason: There has been some evidence that three doses of vaccine have not been as efficacious as they have been in some other areas. I want to emphasize again in this chamber that
Salk vaccine has been so successful in this country that it will be, I believe, the main source of protection against poliomyelitis for some time to come. It is true, as Senator Anderson said, that the National Health and Medical Research Council did recommend to the Government that a supply of Sabin oral vaccine be made available to the people in the event of an emergency. That recommendation is currently being studied by the Government and I am hopeful of being able in the near future to announce the Government’s decision on this very important matter.
– My question is directed partly to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and partly to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Because of the distressing and disturbing Chinese refugee problem in Hong Kong, will the Government make available to these unfortunate people aid similar to that granted under the Colombo Plan in other parts of Asia? Is the Government aware of the many offers to adopt these victims, spontaneously and voluntarily made by Australian organizations and families and individuals? If so, what is the Government’s attitude to these requests? In response to the great and growing concern of Australians for these refugees, driven by hunger from Communist China, could the Government make more widely known the reasons why offers to adopt, the children have not been accepted? 1 should like to say that I have made inquiries and found that statements that have been published in the Hong Kong newspapers could well be repeated here for the information of the public.
– 1 shall endeavour to answer the External Affairs content of the question. The problem of the refugees who, over the years, have flooded into HongKong is much too large to be met by any scheme of the kind suggested by Senator Cole, which must necessarily be a limited one. I am sure the Senate will remember that not long ago there was a suddenly accelerated influx of refugees over the Hong Kong border, and at that time this question came before the public. However, though Formosa claimed that it was prepared to take quite a large number of refugees from Hong Kong, very few of them have gone to Formosa.
The problem of trying to cope with hundreds of thousands of refugees flowing over the border all the time clearly cannot be solved by any country taking small numbers of immigrants from Hong Kong. I understand that the Minister for External Affairs has the question of aid to Hong Kong under consideration though, again, it is not easy, either for the Hong Kong authorities or for the people wishing to assist them, to decide the exact form of aid required. I think that is all I have to say on the matter.
– As to that part of the honorable senator’s question which comes within the administration of the Minister for Immigration, I would ask him to put the matter of adoption of children on the notice-paper if he wishes to receive further information on it. I shall then get the required information from the Minister for Immigration.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to an article in this month’s “ Medical Journal “ under the heading, “ Cost of Drugs “, which cites figures showing a comparison of the costs of four diuretic drugs to the Commonwealth Government and to hospitals? With the concurrence of honorable senators, 1 shall cite the four sets of figures. Four products are listed. The normal cost of the first product to the Commonwealth Government is £22 7s. 6d. per 500 tablets, the normal cost to hospitals is £8 16s., and the present cost to a large teaching hospital is £8 16s. In the past twelve months £3,344 worth of this product has been used. The normal cost of the second product to the Commonwealth Government is £23 lis. 8d. per 500, the normal cost to hospitals is £12 17s., the present cost to the teaching hospital is £2 18s., and £34 worth of that drug has been used. The cost of the third product to the Commonwealth Government is £20 3s. 4d., the normal cost to hospitals is £8 16s., the present cost to the teaching hospital is £7 7s. 6d., and £58 worth of that drug has been used. The normal cost of the fourth product to the Commonwealth Government is £16 13s. 4d. per 500, the normal cost to hospitals is £8 16s., the cost to the teaching hospital is £7 7s. 6d., and £574 worth of that drug has been used. I ask the Minister whether it is reasonable for the Commonwealth Government, in other words the taxpayer, to be asked to pay £23 lis. 8d. per 500 for a drug that is supplied to a hospital for as little as £2 18s. Does he consider that this discloses that suppliers are trying to familiarize the medical profession with little known drugs in what may be regarded as a dishonest manner?
– With no reference to the word “ dishonesty “ I say emphatically that it is not right - assuming the report is correct - that the Commonwealth should be asked to pay those amounts. I have not seen the report, but I am particularly interested in it. If Senator Buttfield will put the question on notice I shall be very happy to make a thorough investigation of the allegation in the journal.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer a question without notice. I understand that a taxation concession of £200 is allowed to people working above the 26th parallel of Latitude. This covers the north of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and northern Queensland. The concession applies also to anybody engaged above that parallel for a period of six months during the year. If my information is correct, will the Minister make representations to the Treasurer to see whether it is possible to have that concession granted to crew members working on Western Australian State Shipping Service ships plying between Fremantle and Darwin whose duties keep them above the 26th parallel for many months of the year?
– The area referred to does fall into the particular zone which attracts a taxation concession, or zone allowance, as it is called. This allowance has been frequently referred to by my Western Australian friend, Senator Cooke, in respect of a number of occupations. I do not know what the situation is in respect of seamen or maritime workers employed by the Western Australian State Shipping Service. I will have a look at the matter. My immediate thought is, however, that the place of residence would be taken into account when assessment is made. It occurs to me that many seamen engaged in the service of the Western Australian State Shipping Service have their places of residence in areas of Western Australia outside the zone referred to by the honorable senator. I will look at the question to see whether I can give him any information.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral to a report published in yesterday’s “ West Australian “, and ask him whether he noticed the reference to an offer by the people at Newdegate to save the Postal Department the considerable cost of bulldozing, by allowing a telephone line to be built on private cleared land. Will he make representations to the department concerned urging it to accept the offer and thus preserve the trees so urgently needed in the wheat belt of Western Australia?
– I commend the people concerned for their offer to provide cleared land for telephone installations and also for their desire to preserve their tree-lined roads. As a people, we have been far too prone through the years to denude our countryside of trees. Generally speaking, the department is anxious to co-operate when proposals such as this are made, but it is not always possible to do so. I will direct the Postmaster-General’s attention to the point the honorable senator has made, and ask him to follow it up.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for Trade know that many Sydney television traders advertise their desire to purchase second-hand television sets? Does he know that these traders admit in the advertisements that the sets are to be reconditioned and sold to television-hungry people in the country? Can the Government give any protection to the public against this unfair type of trading?
– I must have misunderstood Senator Ormonde’s question, or his views must differ a great deal from mine. As I understood the question, Senator Ormonde says that people are buying second-hand sets, reconditioning them and selling them in the country.
– As first-class sets.
– That might well be a desirable practice.
– Senator Ormonde said, “As first-class sets”.
– I am sorry; I missed that point. I do not know what action the Government could take. What the honorable senator is saying, as I understand him, is that the people concerned are misrepresenting the sets. I can say no more than that, if that is happening, I think their sins will find them out and they will suffer the reactions that will result from that misrepresentation.
– My question, which I address to the Minister for the Navy, also refers to the Army and the Air Force, fs he aware that there is no service mess for the hundreds of serving officers of the three services in Canberra? Does he not agree that it is very desirable that service pen.sonnel should have a proper mess as an essential element of service life? Can he explain why no service mess has been provided in Canberra? Will he consult his colleagues, the Minister for the Army and the Minister for Air, with a view to the provision of a proper mess for serving officers in Canberra?
– I do not think it is entirely true to say that there is no mess in Canberra for serving officers of the three services. For instance, Duntroon has its own mess for serving officers there, the Naval wireless station at Harman has one and the Air Force station at Fairbairn has one.
– They are not the officers about whom I was talking.
– I thought the honorable senator referred to Canberra generally. It is true that there is no mess for serving officers at the Russell Hill buildings where the head-quarters of the three services are located. I am aware of that and I believe there should be a mess for those officers. I do not know that any purpose would be served by my consulting the Minister for the Army and the Minister for Air, because the provision of a mess in the head-quarters buildings comes under the control of the Department of Defence. I can only express the hope that a mess will be provided shortly after that department moves to the Russell Hill offices.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade been directed to the suggestion made by Sir Douglas Copland in his Shann Memorial Lecture at the University of Western Australia in June last that the Government should appoint a committee to review tariff administration? Bearing in mind the contribution that such a review could make to vigorous economic development in Australia, will the Government consider establishing a committee along the lines outlined by Sir Douglas in his lecture?
– I can only reply to Senator McClelland that this matter has been under consideration by the Government since long before Sir Douglas Copland raised it.
– Can the Minister for Shipping and Transport tell me whether marked economies in working have resulted from the opening of the standard gauge railway line between Albury and Melbourne? The freight section was opened at the beginning of 1962 and the passenger section was opened just before Easter 1962. If economies have resulted, to what extent and in what classifications of the operations of this railway have those economies been achieved?
– I will refer the question to my colleague, Mr. Opperman, for a detailed answer. I suggest that the honorable senator put the question on the notice-paper. By way of an interim answer, however, I can tell Senator Laught that the overall commercial result of the operation of the standard gauge line between Albury and Melbourne has been very satisfactory indeed, to say the least. Revenue has cer tainly increased, but 1 am unable to comment in any detail on the economies that may have been effected as a result of this new operation. As that is the central and most interesting point of the honorable senator’s question, I suggest that I should get a more detailed answer.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs whether the Government intends to do anything other than merely protest to Indonesia against their defiant aggression in West New Guinea, right at the critical moment of what would otherwise be peaceful negotiations taking place in Washington. Does the Government consider that this blatant breach of Indonesia’s often repeated assurances that force would not be used augurs ill for Australia in the future? What assurances have we that Indonesia, having gained Dutch New Guinea, will not in a typically Communist thump-the-table manner want next to liberate our Territories? Can there be any hope of ever trusting Indonesia’s leaders if it seems likely that we shall be forced in the near future to face them across an ill-defined and completely indefensible border?
– I am not sure what the honorable senator has in mind as to what the Government can do other than protest as a government, and in the United Nations organization, against the use of force in the West New Guinea situation. If the honorable senator is to be taken as asking whether this Government proposes to take military action against Indonesia unilaterally, I would say the answer is, “ No “.
In reply to the second and third parts of the question, I would say that I do not believe that any government could give guarantees as to what any other government in any part of the world will do in the future. Of course, it could not. But I would point out to the honorable senator that, so far, the Government of Indonesia has controlled a large number of islands and various territories at least two of which have what have been called undefined borders with parts of territories controlled by other countries. For instance, in Borneo there is the border between Sarawak, North Borneo and Indonesian Borneo, and in Timor there is the border between Portuguese Timor and Indonesian Timor. So far, there have been no problems of the kind envisaged by the honorable senator in those countries.
So far, the arguments put forward by the Indonesian Government - and I say this without for one moment expressing agreement or disagreement with them - have been confined to saying: “ We, the Indonesian people, believe we are entitled to take over the territories previously ruled by the Dutch. We believe that an agreement was made by the Dutch to hand over those territories. We have not got this particular territory, and our claim is based solely on that premise.” If that is adhered to - and no one can say whether it will be or will not be - I would not envisage the dangers envisaged by the honorable senator. But nobody can say what is going to happen in tcn, twenty or 30 years’ time in this developing world. As to whether it is possible to place any faith in the leaders of Indonesia, I can only say that, according to individual judgment, it is possible to place faith in the leaders of some countries and to be doubtful about those of others.
– I address a further question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. I think that the Minister indicated, in his previous answer to me, that the protest of the Australian Government had gone to the United Nations. I now ask him specifically whether it is a fact that we have protested to the United Nations and whether any indication has been given that that body will take steps to stop aggressive action.
– I am not able to say, although perhaps I should be, whether the Australian Government has protested to the United Nations within the last few days, but it has certainly, through both the Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs, expressed its abhorrence of the use of force in this situation. As the honorable senator will recall, there have been in the past discussions in the United Nations on this matter and appeals by the Dutch to the United Nations concerning it. The United Nations did not at that stage give any indication that it was prepared to intervene at all in the situation, and I doubt whether it has changed that attitude.
– Can the Minister representing the Treasurer inform the Senate why educational expenses of a university undergraduate under the age of 21 years are an allowable tax deduction, while those of an undergraduate over the age of 21 years are not?
– The request that the taxation concession in respect of education expenses be extended to university students who are over the age of 21 years has been submitted to the Government from time to time. The matter must, of course, be considered in relation to all the other requests covering the whole field of taxation allowances which the Government is called upon to consider. In that broad context, the Government has not considered it necessary, nor has it felt disposed, to give this particular request priority above other matters which have similar, and probably greater, claims for consideration. The age limit of 21 years was fixed some years ago in response to a recommendation made by the first committee on taxation appointed by this Government, and it is pertinent to note that the last committee on taxation did not recommend extension of this concession.
– Is the Minister for Health aware of the hardship suffered by many country people who are obliged to pay a mileage charge in addition to the ordinary medical fees when they need the services of a doctor living in the nearest town, which may be some miles away? As there is no medical benefit at present to cover such a charge, will the Minister have the matter investigated with a view to devising some way of assisting people who are faced with this problem, which can become a most serious one for families in which there are young children?
– The honorable senator is seeking to introduce an entirely new principle into our national health scheme. As I said only yesterday, the whole basis of our scheme is to provide a part of the hospital and medical costs of the indigent in particular, and of the public generally. I want the honorable senator to be very clear in her mind that I am well aware of the disabilities suffered by country people, but I think that if we were to depart from the basic principle of the national health scheme and to subsidize travelling expenses incurred by people who live in country areas, we would open the field so wide that there would not be in this country a sufficient number of taxpayers to provide the necessary funds to meet all the costs. I must be quite specific and say to the honorable senator that I would not feel justified even in giving her encouragement to think that the matter she has mentioned will be investigated.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that the Communist-controlled Waterside Workers Federation is still maintaining its ban on the loading of Austraiian wool for export from Sydney and Melbourne? Is it a fact that up to a week ago at least nine ships had sailed from Sydney without their wool cargoes? At a time when Australia desperately needs to keep faith with its customers, is not this action likely to have serious repercussions? If, following on the abortive stoppage over barbed wire for South Viet Nam, the waterside workers continue to eschew conciliation machinery, will the Government consider action on the lines taken by the late Mr. Chifley at the time of the great coal strike in 1949?
– I understand that the Waterside Workers Federation is still pursuing what seems to me to be an artificially manufactured dispute over woolloading, and is interfering with the loading and export of wool from this country. Although the federal secretary of this organization is not a Communist, having been elected to the position against Communist opposition with the assistance not of the Australian Labour Party but of a group of people in the Waterside Workers Federation, including members of the A.L.P., nevertheless, he is still the prisoner of Communist elements in the federal council of the federation; and, therefore, it is not surprising to find those elements attacking one of the main export earners of Australia because it is one of the functions and desires of the Communist Party to damage the Australian economy, and to cause losses to the Australian workers in the hope of making them discontented. What action will be taken if this should continue is a matter of policy, and I shall refer that part of the question to the Minister.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. During this month a great event, the Fourth Asian Games, is to take place in Indonesia. Is it correct that Australia will not be a participant? Will the Minister assure the Senate that Australia will send good wishes for the success of the games and request that Australia be invited to participate in future Asian games?
– Tt is a fact that the Asian Games will be held in Indonesia. There is no question but that the Australian Ambassador will convey the good wishes of Australia. Indeed, in order to make the Asian Games a success the Australian Government has already supplied some assistance in the organization of the games and, to the best of my knowledge, Australians will participate in them.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs relates to an announcement by his colleague that he lodged a protest with the Ambassador of Indonesia in relation to further landings of troops in West New Guinea. Will the Minister state whether a reply has been received by the Australian Government from the Ambassador of the Indonesian Government? If such has not been received, will the Minister indicate to the Senate the nature of it when it is received?
– Clearly, in the matter of a communication between the Minister for External Affairs and the ambassador of a foreign country, I could not give an undertaking that the Minister would make public what might well not be public exchanges. All I can say is that I shall bring the honorable senator’s request to the attention of the Minister for External Affairs.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service a question which arises as a result of a question asked by Senator Hannan. Is it possible that the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service may be directed to the fact that in the port of Odessa, on the Black Sea, in the socialist fatherland of Russia, women stevedores are unloading Australian wool at the rate of nine bales to a sling?
– I think it would be possible to bring that fact to the notice of the Minister. Indeed, one might add to its efficacy if it were brought to the attention of some of the burly watersiders who do not like work.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. Are any regulations in force in Canberra to compel vendors of milk to stamp their products with the date of bottling or packaging, as such a measure would safeguard the health of the community? If there are no such regulations, will the Minister take action to ensure that Canberra has the same safeguards as exist in the more enlightened States?
– The Department of Health is responsible for supervising the production, treatment and distribution of milk in Canberra and for ensuring that standard public health practices are followed. Officers of the department regularly inspect dairies, factories, milk-selling shops and vehicles used for distribution. They also test for purity samples of milk and cream. All milk is required to be pasteurized, and bottles are required to be stamped accordingly, except upon permission under the written authority of the DirectorGeneral of Health. This permission is most unlikely to be given lightly and, in fact, is rarely given. There is a specific requirement that milk be pasteurized and delivered in stamped bottles. As far as I know, the regulations are being policed with the same degree of efficiency as prevails in other enlightened communities.
– I ask the
Minister for Health: Will the agreement between the Commonwealth and States in relation to tuberculosis expire this year? If so, what progress has been made in negotiation of a new agreement? Will a new agreement require ratification by the Parliament? In any new agreement will more emphasis be given to requirements in the States in relation to compulsory X-rays, to ensure that effective screening is carried out?
– No move has been made yet to renew the agreement, and I must confess that I am not aware of when the present agreement will expire. Having said that, I want to refer to one matter raised by Senator Anderson, namely, compulsory mass X-rays. It is true that my own State, Victoria, is the only State that does not have compulsory mass X-rays, but it is also true that some other States do not pursue the taking of compulsory mass X- rays with the enthusiasm required for the eradication of this disease, which to-day is controllable. It should be the responsibility of State governments and individuals to do all that they can do to eliminate the disease from -Australia. Recently we had a mass X-ray survey in Canberra, at which 92 per cent, of the people presented themselves. That is good, but not good enough. We shall set a lead in this matter. We are examining the reasons offered by persons in Canberra for not presenting themselves. If these are genuine and sound, we shall accept them. Those persons who have neglected or deliberately ignored the compulsory requirement will be asked to explain. I should like to see that policy pursued throughout the length and breadth of the land. We might then get really on top of this controllable disease.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers: -
– I have received letters from Senators Buttfield and Mattner requesting their discharge from further attendance on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
Debate resumed from 9th August (vide page 117), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of the bill is to give to the States grants of £12,500,000 additional to those provided under the States Grants Acts. Refreshingly, this amount will be provided interest-free. I want to direct the Senate’s attention to the following passage from the second-reading speech of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge): -
I may mention that some State Premiers indicated at the conference that their budgetary problems were likely to be more difficult in 1962-63 than they were last year. As a result, the Commonwealth, while emphasizing that the overall purpose of the grants was to stimulate employment, made it clear that in pursuing that general objective the States were at the same time free to utilize any part of the grants which they saw lit to assist their budgets in the present year.
I make that point early in the debate because the situation in South Australia is nothing short of critical. Reports of the deliberations of the South Australian Parliament show that a record sum of £40,000,000 has been earmarked for works in the coming financial year. Many of the projects are very important indeed for the State. They include the re-building of the Royal Adelaide Hospital, new police headquarters, the Torrens Island power station, a re-building programme for mental hospitals, and essential works in the field’s of education, housing, roads, bridges, and water and sewerage reticulation. Last but not least is a work which is causing grave concern - the standardization of that section of the railway between Port Pirie and Broken Hill. In the past seven days we have seen events that could be termed nothing short of dramatic, not in the sense that the case being presented for South Australia is one that stretches the imagination, but because the people of the State in general and the South Australian Government in particular are gravely concerned that South Australia, the first State in the Commonwealth to sign the rail standardization agreement, will now obviously be the last State to enjoy the benefits that will flow from it.
Because of the importance of this matter to South Australia I must devote most of the time at my disposal in this debate, not to making fantastic claims on behalf of South Australia, but to emphasizing its legitimate claims for the standardization of the Port Pirie-Broken Hill line, and the impact that this work, when completed, will have on the future of South Australia. There is no need for me to emphasize the importance of rail standardization in any State. Honorable senators are aware of its impact on industry, trade and commerce, and on other matters vitally concerned with the progress, and indeed, the life of a State.
I am not quarrelling with the amounts allocated to the other States from this special grant of £12,500,000. It is not for mc to say that Queensland’s allocation is even adequate, let alone too much. It is not within my province to argue that Western Australia’s grant will properly meet its requirements, or that it is excessive. The point I wish to make, and which I cannot emphasize too strongly, is that the grant of £1,300,000 to South Australia is, in the light of present circumstances, miserable in the extreme. I regret having to use such strong words, but nothing short of strong words would suffice to put before this Senate the case for people who have at heart the interests and welfare of South Australia. It would appear that so far as the Federal Government is concerned, the cause is already lost.
I regret that I shall have to quote rather extensively from reports that have been published in South Australia within the past seven or eight days, but I believe that I could not convey the true picture of this highly important matter without doing so. I refer now to a statement which was given possibly bigger headlines than any other event in South Australia in the past year or so. In that statement, which appeared in the Adelaide “Advertiser”, Sir Thomas Playford said that he intended to proceed with at least some work on the standardization of the Broken Hill-Port Pirie railway. The article reads -
The Premier (Sir Thomas Playford) will recommend to Cabinet that the State Government itself should proceed with the work of unifying the Port Pirie-Broken Hill narrow gauge line.
The Premier, making this announcement in his weekly talk on ADS7 and SAD, said he regarded the Prime Minister’s latest letter on the subject as a “ definite rejection “ of the standardization proposal.
Cabinet is expected to accept a recommendation by the Premier to undertake the £12m. project by squeezing sections of the work into the loan programme each year.
I want to underline that point for honorable senators and let me remind them what it means. It means that some essential services under the headings I mentioned at the beginning of my speech will have to be delayed. The standardization of this line is considered so essential, important and critical as to warrant the delay of important programmes such as water reticulation, the building of hospitals and mental hospitals, education, and a host of other essential requirements that are urgently needed in South Australia, as they are in all the States of the Commonwealth. The South Australian Government has already made it plain that the amount received from the Federal Government by way of tax reimbursement is not sufficient to meet its ordinary needs. We must agree, at least from the South Australian viewpoint, that standardization of this line is essential. Any delay of the work will inevitably retard the proper development of the State and will be detrimental to its welfare. That is the situation in which the Commonwealth Government has placed South Australia. The State would not have been put in this position had the Government honoured its obligations. I shall now continue with the newspaper report -
In his talk, the Premier warned that the State’s valuable ore traffic was being diverted to NSW because of the lack of a uniform gauge to Port Pirie.
I shall return to that point later -
SA industry needed more efficient rail communication with the eastern States, he said.
If pressure on State funds became too great, the Government might be able to devise some way to extract relief from the Commonwealth.
The Premier said he had received a letter from Mr. Menzies saying that the Commonwealth did not propose to make money available for the standardisation of the Port Pirie - Broken Hill railway in the immediate future. “ The letter made it quite clear it was not a definite rejection of the SA request but that it was a very long deferrment of the proposal, “ the Premier said. “Frankly, I believe it is a definite rejection. The SA Government had asked for only £800,000 for the work this year and to say this could not be provided from a Budget expenditure of £2,09 lm, seems absurd. “
This is one of the occasions when I agree with the Premier of South Australia.
The Commonwealth refusal brought SA to the position of having grave problems to deal with, he said.
– You have always charged Mr. Playford in the past with grandstanding.
– On occasions I have charged him with that. On the question of grandstanding, I might have some remarks to make before I conclude my speech, especially about grandstanding by South Australian senators about rail standardization. For example, I might ask Senator Laught, who is a member of the Government Members Rail Standardization Committee, why he finds it necessary so frequently to ask questions of the Minister for Shipping and Transport about the impact of rail standardization in South Australia. As a member of the rail standardization committee he ought to know the answers, so he is either grandstanding or not paying attention to the deliberations of the committee of which he is a member. Let us have no talk about grandstanding. For my part, if I believe that the actions of the Premier of South Australia are worthy of criticism I shall not be backward in criticizing him. If I find myself in agreement with his actions I am prepared to admit that he is right - and he is right on this particular point. On occasions I have accused the Premier of South Australia of failing adequately to reflect the views of the people of the State of South Australia, but I am confident on this occasion that neither Senator Hannaford nor Senator Laught, nor indeed any senator on the Government side who comes from South Australia, can claim that Sir Thomas Playford does not express the views of a vast majority of people in South Australia when he says that it is urgent and vital that the standardization work on the Port Pirie to Broken Hill line should proceed.
– Keep him in power and you will be right.
– Let us not go into a debate about whether the Premier of South Australia is in power. That is a highly technical point.
– You do not like the fact that he has equal numbers with the Labour Party.
– After certain moves had been made - that is true.
– He must have learned a bit about safety in numbers from this chamber.
– That is quite possible. I do not want to be diverted from my speech. I think I have answered the interjections fairly enough and I come back to the point that I am making. There is no levity about this matter. We may have our jokes about other matters, but this is no joke to the people of South Australia. The article continues -
There had been a serious diversion of concentrates from Broken Hill to NSW and the State Government had been warned that unless more effective rail communication could be provided with cheaper freights then this diversion could be expected to increase.
It was becoming vital to the SA economy that the standardisation work should proceed.
The Federal Budget also made no suggestion of any help for the proposed Chowilla dam on the River Murray above Renmark. “It appears that the projects vital to SA are at a low ebb indeed,” the Premier said.
NSW had received £46m., Victoria £55ni., Queensland £16m. and WA about £12m. “ These figures show that SA is being very sadly neglected,” the Premier said. “ By its own efforts SA has probably made more real attempts to develop its resources than any other State.
– Do you agree with that last statement?
– I agree with the importance of any project in South Australia. The point I make at this stage is that the “ Advertiser “ referred to a letter from Mr. Menzies to Mr. Playford dealing with this subject. I do not intend to read the letter; I do not want to spend any more time on this matter than I have to, and I do not want to quote any more than necessary. The letter supports entirely the assertion that so far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned the work on the Port Pirie to Broken Hill line is something for the sweet bye and bye. Though the letter does not say this in such blunt terms, any one who reads it must come to no other conclusion but that the Commonwealth Government will offer no immediate help, and that no immediate help is contemplated in any way. I have the letter here if any honorable senator would like it to be read.
One of the most significant statements in respect of this matter appeared in an editorial in the “ Advertiser” of 10th August. Again, I have been somewhat critical of the press but on this occasion I must agree with every word contained in the editorial. I do not intend to quote all of it - only about the last half. I think it is something that must go into “ Hansard “ as reflecting the views of responsible elements in South Australia. It is headed, “Bold Move on Broken Hill Railway “. It reads -
SA manufacturers say that the standard gauge is essential to the development of markets both in Broken Hill and on the eastern sea-board. It is recognised, too, that the efficient and economical transport of ore from Broken Hill to the Port Pirie smelters depends on the provison of better railway facilities. lt is particularly disturbing to learn from the Premier that the carriage of ore eastwards through NSW has recently increased. In the past year or two, the NSW Railways have tried hard to boost traffic with the State’s outlying parts, including Broken Hill, though the latter is nearer Adelaide than Sydney. These efforts will doubtless continue. NSW interests are thus unlikely to favour Federal initiative in improving SA rail links to the north-east. That situation calls for vigilance and possibly resolute action by SA members of the Federal Parliament.
Before I proceed with the quotation my colleagues and I will want to know from South Australian Liberal senators and those on the Government side whether they are willing to assist any resolute action that may be taken. The editorial continues - lt certainly appears that South Australia is being poorly treated in the allocation of developmental aid to the Stales. Since this State ceased being a special claimant a few years ago, its finances have been managed with care, even austerity. The reward for this has been almost total exclusion from special Federal grants,-
– That is not true.
– You had better tell the “ Advertiser “. I have said earlier that I have not been satisfied1 with the grants made from time to time by the Commonwealth to South Australia. To continue - - though other States are benefiting from the spending of large sums. That equals the injustice of being the first State to sign a rail standardisation agreement but one of the last to share the plan’s benefits. lt is worth remembering now that when the agreement was formulated South Australia was the only State that took immediate steps to become a signatory to and undertake the terms of the agreement. Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland rejected the original agreement outright. I think Tasmania accepted it in part. Now we are confronted with the ironical fact that South Australia although as the “ Advertiser “ rightly said the first signatory to the agree ment, will be the last State to receive any lasting benefit from its implementation. That is one of the cynical facts of history that we in South Australia have every right to resent bitterly.
Another quotation that I must make in my contribution to this debate is a statement by the managing director of Broken Hill Associated Smelters Proprietary Limited. It fits into the pattern of events which indicate quite clearly the damage that will be done to South Australia’s economy because of the failure of this Government to do a job it ought to do. It has no excuse for not doing that job. The following statement appeared in the press under the date line “ Melbourne, 9th August “:-
The Broken Hill Associated Smellers was keenly disappointed that no reference was made in the Federal Budget to the provision of money for the standardisation of the rail link between Broken Hill and Port Pirie, the company’s managing director (Mr. J. B. Shackell) said to-day. “The whole of the Broken Hill production of lead and zinc ore, with the exception of a relatively small proportion which is railed for treatment in New South Wales, is carried over this narrow gauge line at a cost extremely high in relation to the cost of comparable services in other parts of Australia or elsewhere in the world “, Mr. Shackell said. “ World lead and zinc prices are at present at a post-war low, and competition in the industry is intense. “The cost of transport both within Australia and overseas to the market constitutes a substantial element of the total cost of production. “A standard gauge line with modern rolling stock would enable a dramatic reduction to be made in transportation costs, and it was hoped that in this way the Federal Government would have recognized the importance of the Broken Hill industry’s past contribution to the development of Australia and its present importance as one of the major earners of foreign exchange.”
That establishes further a point which cannot be ignored by this Government and which must be flogged by South Australian members of the Parliament from now until justice is given to our State by this Government.
I come now to the last but not the least important quotation. This statement was made by the Premier of South Australia in the House of Assembly on Tuesday of this week in reply to a question asked by Mr. Riches, one of the northern members of the South Australian Parliament. It is highly significant in the general pattern of the points the Senate should consider in regard to this matter. The Premier said -
I shall deal with the remarks of Mr. Riches on rail standardisation because this is a matter of great importance to the policy and future of the State. It is of utmost importance to industries associated with Port Pirie, and I believe a clear statement will help and certainly not binder it.
It is true, as the honorable member said, that the South Australian Government accepted the Commonwealth Government’s proposals for rail standardisation. As a matter of interest, South Australia was the only State to accept them outright, although there was provisional acceptance by New South Wales which was, never confirmed and there was absolute rejection by Western Australia, Queensland and Victoria. South Australia accepted the proposals which were ratified by the State Government and Parliament and also by the Commonwealth Parliament.
It is of interest to recall that the vote in the Commonwealth Parliament was unanimous in both Houses and therefore we had every right to assume that the proposals would go forward. Indeed, for some time work did go forward without hitch and much was done in the south-east where the whole railway system was modernised.
Now we are enjoying the benefits of that modernization. The Premier continued -
Problems only arose when the work in the south-east was near completion. I then wrote to the Commonwealth Government and asked it to make available the necessary moneys to start the survey of the Peterborough Division which had been mapped out as being the next most useful work to be undertaken. That request involved only £50,000- [ want the Senate to mark this - - but was rejected at the time. Later, just before an election, the £50,000 was made available for the State to make the survey work, and the survey commenced. But from that time onwards there was Commonwealth resistance to the South Australian Government’s proposals for work on the Peterborough Division to commence.
Mr. Riches wants to know whether the Commonwealth Government has ever agreed to undertake the standardisation of the Port Pirie-Broken Hill line as a single project, and I should like to answer categorically. It never did that, but it went so far as to say on one occasion that it would consider this line only in isolation, which, of course, was a complete repudiation of the agreement. The State Government felt and still feels that it had no authority to cancel the rest of the agreement.
The Premier’s statement concludes with these words -
The actual additional amount wanted this year was only £800,000. Anyone who looks at the Commonwealth Budget of £2,091,000,000 knows quite well that if there was any desire to commence this work the provision of £800,000 was not and would not have been an embarrassment in any way.
It seems to the people of South Australia that it is absolutely ridiculous that this Commonwealth Government is so niggardly and so lacking in consideration for the future of South Australia that it is not prepared to give just £800,000 to enable the initial work on this project to commence.
Many other important statements have been made on this matter. Mr. Frank Walsh, the leader of the Australian Labour Party in the South Australian Parliament, made a statement on it. Time will not permit me to deal with all of the statements. I believe that I have put before the Senate this morning sufficient material to establish that South Australia is being sold down the drain by this Government on this very important project at its most critical hour. I want the Senate fo note those words. I admit that they are strong, but I believe that they are called for.
I come back to the matter with which I had dealt briefly when Senator Hannaford interjected about grandstanding or seeking political advantage. One thing that has puzzled me in the last twelve months or so has been the attitude of Senator Laught in this chamber. I make no apology foi bringing this matter out into the open. For some considerable time Senator Laught and Senator Hannaford have been members of the Government Members Rail Standardization Committee. We could reasonably expect that both those gentlemen would be completely informed, not just partly informed, on the Government’s intentions and proposals on rail standardization. As far back as my experience of parliamentary procedure goes, a member of one of these committees, the function of which is to advise the Government and to go from State to State to study the requirements-
– At our own expense; do not forget that.
– I think it is commendable that you do such work at your own expense; but that is not the point 1 am making.
– How can we be completely informed of what the Government proposes to do? We are not the Government itself.
– Are you telling me that, as a member of the Government Members Rail Standardization Committee, you have no liaison with the Government, that you have no contact with the Government, that you have no idea of what the Government proposes to do in connexion with the important matter of rail standardization? I thought that was your job.
– Of course it is. We acknowledge that.
– If that is so, then 1 am fully justified in asking Senator Laught the question I am about to put. 1 do not ask it of Senator Hannaford because he does not make a practice of rising in the Senate and asking the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport questions about rail standardization, the answers to which he ought to know himself. I am not foolish enough to think that Senator Hannaford does not understand all the ramifications of rail standardization in Australia generally, and in South Australia in particular. I think, too, that Senator Laught has a full understanding of the work of the committee with which he is associated; but I cannot understand why he finds it necessary on so many occasions at question-time in this chamber to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport what is happening about rail standardization here or there, but in particular, in South Australia.
– Three times last week.
– That is so. I think I can reasonably say that Senator Laught is a man of some understanding; but he is trying to have the best of all worlds. On the one hand he wants to have the glory of being looked upon as a person who is fighting a case for South Australia, and on the other hand he is a member of a government which is denying to South Australia justice in connexion with rail standardization. I challenge any honorable senator on the Government side to say that I am unfair in suggesting that Senator Laught wants the best of all worlds. I suggest to Senator Laught that if he wants to serve South Australia’s cause he will not do it by asking inane questions about matters on which he should be well enough informed already. He would best serve the interests of South Australia if he launched a full-blooded attack on the Government which, as I have said, has treated South Australia very badly in connexion with this matter. I regret that I have to use such strong language, but I feel very strongly about it; and I do believe that the observations I have made are valid. I trust I have made my point clear to the honorable senator.
I conclude by saying that even at this late stage I hope that the work that I have mentioned as being essential to the progress and development of South Australia will not be prejudiced by the decision of the South Australian Government to proceed with work on the Broken Hill to Port Pirie line. I recognize the great importance of that work, just as I believe every South Australian senator does. But I also believe that none of us would want to see the education system of South Australia, which is already strained badly, further damaged by the diversion of money from education to this rail standardization project. Nor would we want to see our sewerage work prejudiced. Already people are being prevented from occupying urgently needed homes because of the lack of sewerage facilities, and it seems likely that homes which have already been completed will remain unoccupied for many months because such facilities cannot be extended to them. I would not like to see work on one of our most necessary projects, the Adelaide hospital, affected in any way by the diversion of money to the standardization of the line from Broken Hill to Port Pirie. However, I believe that all who know South Australia and who have studied its needs will agree that if work on the Broken Hill to Port Pirie line is left in its present state while rail standardization in other States is either completed or brought almost to completion, the future of South Australia will be very black indeed.
– You are exaggerating the position.
– I am not exaggerating in any way at all. Everybody knows the tremendous volume of goods that has been transported between New South Wales and Victoria since the opening of the standard gauge line between Sydney and Melbourne. Everybody also knows - particularly senators from South Australia - just how essential it is that the line between Broken Hill and Port Pirie be completed and just what an impact its completion would have on the economic future of South Australia. Let Senator Vincent or any other honorable senator on the Government side who comes from South Australia show where I am exaggerating. Let them accuse me of exaggerating, and we shall see what support they will get for their suggestions.
– I am suggesting that you are exaggerating the position of your State.
– Do Senators Laught, Hannaford, Mattner or Buttfield agree with you? I do not think they do. I am not exaggerating the position. In accusing me of exaggeration, Senator Vincent is saying, in effect, that the Premier of South Australia is irresponsible, and that the “Advertiser”, a leading newspaper in South Australia, is irresponsible. The honorable senator cannot have it both ways. Do not let us entertain a wrong impression in this matter. I am prepared to contest any assertion by any supporter of the Government that I am exaggerating the position with relation to rail standardization in South Australia. I know my colleagues on this side agree with me that if this work is not commenced within two or three years, or if the Commonwealth Government does not relent in the very near future, South Australia will be in a very sorry plight indeed. Do not make any mistake about that. I make no apologies whatever for making that statement. I have sought to bring to the attention of the Senate the situation existing in South Australia at the present time, and I trust that before this debate is concluded sufficient material will be placed before the Senate to induce the Government to give that State a proper measure of justice in the troublous times through which it is going.
– I rise to support the bill and to invite the attention of the Senate to its purpose, which is to make non-repayable interest-free grants to the various States of the Commonwealth. I understand from the schedule that South Australia is to receive £1,312,000. Senator Toohey spoke for 25 minutes or half an hour and during that time made only a fleeting reference to the bill. He said that the South Aus tralian grant was miserable in the extreme. In light of the circumstances in which the grants are being made, I do not think that South Australia’s share is a miserable one. It was recognized that unemployment, particularly in Queensland, was high. Consequently, the grant to Queensland was loaded considerably. Employment figures recently released by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) show that at 27th July last the number of unemployed in South Australia represented 1.7 per cent, of the work force, or the lowest percentage of any State. In Queensland, it was 2.4 per cent., and in Tasmania, 2.8 per cent. In the special circumstances in which these grants were being made, it was logical and reasonable for the loading to be in favour of Queensland and Tasmania.
The South Australian grant, in the hands of such a competent Premier as Sir Thomas Playford, will be made to work well in the interests of the employment situation in that State. Far from the grant being a miserable one, I believe that in all the circumstances it has been accurately worked out. I believe, too, that it will be properly applied by Sir Thomas Playford and his Cabinet. Senator Toohey launched a personal attack on me and alleged that I had been grandstanding. I deny that charge. All the questions that I ask in connexion with South Australian affairs are asked in a bona fide way for the purpose of seeking information and focusing attention on matters which affect South Australia particularly. I sometimes wonder at the silence of South Australian senators opposite. It appears to me that it is mainly honorable senators on this side of the chamber who ask questions about South Australian affairs. It is quite a considerable time since South Australian senators opposite displayed an interest at question time in matters affecting their State.
Senator Toohey did not quote from the letter sent by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to Sir Thomas Playford. Admittedly, he gave a reason for not doing so. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), who is at the table, was good enough to supply me with a copy of the letter, and I propose to read the third paragraph of it.
– Why not read all of it?
– I shall read the third paragraph, which to my way of thinking is the relevant portion. It is as follows: -
My Cabinet colleagues and I have considered closely, in the light of these circumstances, your request that the Commonwealth should provide the finance to carry out the conversion to standard gauge of the permanent way in the Peterborough Division. But we do not see our way to commit funds at present for this project. We are faced with a very large deficit in the current year, and must take account of this and of other inescapable demands on our taxation and other revenue in this and the coming two or three years. But you will of course appreciate that our present decision does not imply any definitive rejection of the Port Pirie-Broken Hill conversion work. We do intend to look again at your present proposal as and when work on other railway projects to which we arc financially committed is further advanced. 1 understand that in a couple of years’ time the work on the Mount Isa railway will be virtually completed, and I predict that within a couple of years there will be a movement of Commonwealth equipment, funds and interest to the Port Pirie-Broken Hill line. As the Prime Minister’s letter has stated, there has not been a definite rejection or an indefinite postponement of the work.
– I would like to know what else it is.
– It is very much the opposite.
– I agree with Senator Vincent that the matter is very much before the present Administration of the Commonwealth. 1 remind the Senate, in view of Senator Toohey’s criticism, that South Australia has received advantages from rail standardization. The honorable senator mentioned the great benefit which the south-eastern portion of South Australia has received from the broadening of the gauge, certainly not to 4 feet Si inches but to 5 feet 3 inches, as an intermediate stage. That has resulted in tremendous benefit so far as the transport of timber, superphosphate and passengers is concerned.
– The work was done under the agreement, too.
– Yes. I also remind the Senate that two stages of rail standardization in the northern part of the State have already been completed, with great benefit to the economics of rail handling. The standardization of the section between Leigh Creek and Port Augusta, which was the first to be completed, has entirely revolutionized the generation of electricity in South Australia. The line has made generation possible at an economic rate. Then there was the extension to Maree, which is of great importance to the movement of stock from central Australia.
Reference is made in the Budget to the dieselization of the railway line to Marree, which should make for even greater economies in working, having regard to the difficulties of operating a narrow-gauge railway by means of steam traction instead of diesel traction. All of that work represents progress, though to many people in Australia not sufficient progress. Nevertheless we accept the sincere statement of the Prime Minister in his letter to Sir Thomas Playford concerning the current large commitments of the Commonwealth Government. Having discussed this matter with various Ministers, I think that the Government’s decision was the right one. I am encouraged to think that when other rail projects have been completed, attention will be given to the standardization of the Port PirieBroken Hill line, which should play a vital part in South Australia’s economy.
I propose to continue to ask questions on this matter, regardless of the cheap jibe that I have been grandstanding. I am sure that my colleagues, Senators Hannaford, Mattner and Buttfield, also will continue to show their interest in the matter, both in this place and in South Australia. The Minister for Civil Aviation has a practical knowledge of the importance of rail standardization, and I am sure that he, too, as a senator, will continue to press for the early completion of the work.
I thoroughly support the bill for these grants from the Commonwealth. In the light of the creditable unemployment position in South Australia, I believe that my own State is to receive a fair proportion of the money. Only the other day General Motors-Holden’s Proprietary Limited and Chrysler Australia Limited announced that employment in the motor industry has increased and is now in a better position than it was at the top of the boom in 1960. That clearly shows that South Australia, with its excellent government and the proper climate for development that exists under the Playford Government has by its own ability and with the additional assistance provided by this type of legislation overcome the unemployment position and at the present time South Australia has the best record of any State in the Commonwealth.
– As a South Australian senator I wish to take part in this debate. As has been mentioned, the purpose of the bill is to authorize, during the present financial year, special grants to the States totalling ?12,500,000. The Opposition is not opposing the bill, but honorable senators on this side are emphasizing that the grant being made available to South Australia should be used for purposes other than those set out in the bill. We feel too that the money allocated to South Australia is insufficient. The Minister, in his secondreading speech, said -
I may mention that some State Premiers indicated at the conference that their budgetary problems were likely to be more difficult in 1962- 63 than they were last year. As a result, the Commonwealth, while emphasizing that the overall purpose of the grant was to stimulate employment, made it clear that in pursuing that general objective the States were at the same time free to utilize any part of the grants which they saw fit to assist their Budget in the present year.
We have no quarrel with that. We feel that some of the money that has been allotted for the purposes set out in the bill will have to be spent on the standardization of the railway between Port Pirie and Broken Hill. This is a project that honorable senators from South Australia on both sides of the chamber have been interested in for a long time. Interjections have been flung across the chamber suggesting that some grandstanding has taken place. I desire to take the minds of honorable senators back to the time of the by-election in the Frome district in South Australia which was brought about unfortunately by the death of Mr. Michael O’Halloran. The Premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford, made a statement at Peterborough that work on the standardization of the Port Pirie to Broken Hill railway line would be commenced within a few months. That statement was made just a week prior to the by-election in the Frome district.
– It was November, 1960.
– That is so. We know what took place following that statement. Sir Thomas Playford came to Canberra. I mentioned this in a previous speech that I made in this chamber. To our knowledge, judging by press reports, he was not treated in the way he should have been treated. He was left waiting around Canberra until the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) thought fit to see him. On his return to South Australia, Sir Thomas reported that he had had no success in Canberra in obtaining the money required for this project. We all know that subsequently a writ was issued by the South Australian Government against the Commonwealth Government in an attempt to force the Commonwealth Government to carry out the terms of the agreement dealing with rail standardization in South Australia that was signed in 1949.
The Premier of South Australia was very critical of this Government. He was also critical of Senator Paltridge, and, as we know, Senator Paltridge was likewise critical of Sir Thomas Playford. The following statement appeared in the “ Advertiser “ of Saturday, 18th March, under the heading “ Reply to South Australia By Senator “ -
The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) said yesterday he was more than surprised that he, of all people, should be regarded as unfriendly in any way to the general concept of rail standardisation or to the South Australian proposals in particular.
I believe that Senator Paltridge was genuine in saying that he was not unfriendly towards the claim of South Australia. The newspaper report continued -
Senator Paltridge, who was speaking by telephone from Perth, said the text of the telecast on ADS7 by the Premier (Sir Thomas Playford) on the previous night had been read to him as it appeared in “The Advertiser”.
Sir Thomas Playford said in his telecast that he bitterly resented an imputation by Senator Paltridge that the South Australian Government objected to the West Australian proposal for standardization of the railway from Kalgoorlie to Kwinana.
In the Senate this week, Senator Paltridge, replying on behalf of the Minister for Transport, made a statement to the effect that the South Australian Government had issued a writ against the Commonwealth . . .
Senator Paltridge was also reported as saying ;
May I remind Sir Thomas Playford that during the early part of my tenure of that Ministry, he did not support the standardisation of the Broken Hill-Port Pirie link.
He will recall, no doubt, the opening of the standard gauge line to Marree in 1956 when, at a dinner to mark the occasion, I advocated the Broken Hill line standardisation, which was not at the time a new proposal.
Sir Thomas Playford did not speak in support of the proposal, to the obvious disappointment and annoyance of many South Australians.
If any charge of grandstanding can be made in this matter, either the Federal Government or Sir Thomas Playford is grandstanding on it.
As has been pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition in the South Australian House of Assembly, and by Senator Toohey in this chamber, such projects as sewerage, hospitals and water reticulation will suffer because some of this money will have to be spent in commencing work on the standardization of the railway line between Port Pirie and Broken Hill. As Senator Toohey pointed out, South Australia requires only £800,000 for this work. That is a small amount compared with the thousands of millions we speak about in this Parliament. Concern is felt about this matter by members of the South Australian Parliament and by members on this side of the Senate who represent the State of South Australia.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension I said that either the Federal Government or Sir Thomas Playford was grandstanding. South Australians are not quarrelling with the amounts being allotted to other States. We think that they are entitled to those amounts. In any event, they will be hard put to extend the amounts allotted to cover all the work required. However, we do quarrel with the inadequacy of the amount allotted to South Australia. Senator Toohey quoted from an editorial that appeared in the “ Advertiser “ last Friday. An editorial in last Thursday’s edition of the same newspaper dealt with an application for membership of the Liberal Party by a certain man in South Australia and stated that it would be of some benefit to the South Australian Cabinet. The editorial continued -
It is open to serious question . . whether South Australia has been given due consideration in the provision made in the latest Federal Budget for special aid to the States. By comparison with the sums allotted for works in other areas, the provision of £1,300,000 for diesel locomotives and new waggons for the Port Pirie-Broken Hill line represents a very modest share in the developmental plans marked for federal aid.
Some initial provision for the standardisation of the line to Broken Hill seemed reasonable. But according to the Premier’s announcement in the Assembly yesterday, the standardization project in SA has now been postponed indefinitely. That is disappointing, especially in view of the hope expressed by the chairman of the Standardisation Committee (Mr. Wentworth, M.H.R.) in June that the Fremantle-Kalgoorlie and Port Pirie-Broken Hill projects would be completed together. In the Budget, over £4,000,000 is allotted for the WA work.
We must consider another aspect of this matter, namely the position of Port Pirie itself. As you, Mr. Deputy President, and other honorable senators know, Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has its smelters at Port Pirie, and these are the main source of employment for residents of that town.
– Broken Hill Associated Smelters Proprietary Limited.
– I stand corrected by Senator Hannaford. If concentrates that come to Port Pirie for treatment were diverted to another State, Port Pirie could become virtually a ghost town, as Senators Buttfield, Hannaford and Laught would agree. We are concerned not only about the standardization of the line but also about the fact that unless this work is done quickly Port Pirie will be seriously affected. In a newspaper article, the assistant manager of Broken Hill Associated Smelters Proprietary Limited, Mr. Funnell, stated that the cost of bringing concentrates from Broken Hill to Port Pirie was 3.9d. a ton mile, which could be drastically reduced if the railway standardization were completed. He stated also that for the past twelve months a subsidiary of the Consolidated Zinc Corporation and Rio Tinto Proprietary Limited had been operating smelting works at Cockle Creek, near Newcastle, New South Wales, to which a small portion of concentrates was diverted from Adelaide. Mr. Funnell added that the industry was greatly concerned with getting cheaper freight rates between Broken Hill and Port Pirie. He said that he was quite satisfied that a heavier track, allowing much heavier trains and faster transport, would greatly reduce the present freight rate of 3.9d. a ton mile to Port Pirie.
This matter has been a bone of contention for some time. In a speech that I made in the Senate on 21st March, 1961, which is reported in “ Hansard “ at page 277, I quoted from a report that appeared at about that time in the Adelaide daily press. The report was headed “ S.A.’s Claim in Railway Writ Statement” and read -
South Australia had broadened the South-Eastern gauge, for which the Commonwealth reimbursed the State £5m., and on which work South Australia either spent or incurred a liability of about £1.2m., of which amount £lm. was still owing to the Commonwealth. . . .
South Australia has repeatedly made oral and written representations and requests to the Commonwealth that it should carry out its obligations, and that in particular the necessary steps should be taken to enable South Australia to begin work necessary for the conversion of the Port Pirie-Broken Hill line. But the Commonwealth has always refused to take, or has persistently refrained from taking, any steps to enable further work to be done by South Australia or by the Commonwealth. The statement says that both orally and in correspondence, the Commonwealth has adopted the attitude that it is under no legal contractual or other enforceable obligation, and that it can at will postpone indefinitely or refuse to do any of the works and that it may take into account circumstances extraneous to the agreements in deciding if and when it will take steps to carry out its part of the agreements.
The statement recalls that the Commonwealth and South Australia entered into the 1949 agreement.
We believe that the amount to be allotted to South Australia is not sufficient to cover all the works for which, according to the Minister, the grant is intended. If this money is used for the standardization of the line from Port Pirie to Broken Hill, some other essential works will have to be curtailed. This will have serious effects and will make it difficult to reduce the unemployment which persists to-day and should be reduced as quickly as possible. That is the argument that honorable senators from this side of the chamber put before the Minister.
Sir Thomas Playford said in his statement on ADS Channel 7 that in the past South Australia always had been obliged to accept lower social service standards and that the people of the State had been content to forgo improved social services in favour of expanding the State’s economy and fostering employment in the field of essential development. It seems a pity that South Australia should have to suffer such defects in its social services. We know that hospitals in South Australia are not free and that pensioners pay 10s. a day if they contribute to a mutual hospital benefit scheme. The benefits received are accepted as full pay ment. It will be seen that many problems confront the State of South Australia. Though some of them may be small, they affect many parts of the State.
Sir Thomas Playford said on ADS Channel 7 that he believed it would be a waste of time to take up rail standardization again with the Prime Minister. He said he believed that political pressure would do no good, and that the Senate had long ceased to fulfil its original role as a States House, but had become a party House. Some honorable senators opposite disagreed with this. They asserted that the function of the Senate was to represent the States, and that it was discharging this function at all times.
Mr. President, I have stated the case for South Australia as well as I possibly can. We in South Australia are of the opinion that this grant is inadequate and, though we do not oppose the bill and do not quarrel about the allocations to the other States, we consider that South Australia’s grant could have been larger. Sir Thomas Playford has pointed out that although in the past few years about £131,000,000 has been allotted to the States for special works, of this amount only a little over 1 per cent, has gone to South Australia. As Senator Toohey said this morning, it seems that in the eyes of the Federal Government South Australia is the forgotten State. I believe that until this position is rectified and South Australia receives a fair share of the allocations to the States, South Australia, instead of progressing as it should, will retrogress and the people will lose confidence in it. For those reasons, I believe the Government should give sympathetic consideration to the arguments adduced on behalf of South Australia, and I hope that in the near future it will ameliorate the situation by allocating to South Australia the amount of money she needs, desires and deserves.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [2.29].- The bill now before the House is a very important piece of legislation which will authorize payment to the States of grants totalling £12,500,000 in this financial year. That is a lot of money and is to be used by the States for their own benefit in providing employment. It is one more part of the great pattern of development of this Australia of ours.
I think, Sir, that in a debate of this sort all honorable senators should, whilst having an appreciation of State financial problems, remember that the States, including the one they represent, are part of the Commonwealth. It is of paramount importance that the good of the Commonwealth as a whole be considered. The very word Commonwealth, meaning, as it does, a composition of States, suggests a union for the common weal, and I believe that we as Australians should approach this piece of legislation in that spirit. This grant is a special non-repayable, interest-free, grant to the States and is to be spent on employmentgiving activities. The amounts allocated to the States are - and I quote from the Minister’s second-reading speech - . . additional to the financial assistance grants paid to the States under the States Grants Acts 1959 and 1962. It will be recalled that the Commonwealth paid to the States in 1961-62 a non-repayable grant of £10,000,000 which was intended to provide finance for employmentgiving activities, mainly in the works field. In making the present offer of further assistance in 1962-63, the Commonwealth wished to assist the States to continue these activities in this financial year. We expect this grant to have a beneficial impact on employment.
So, Mr. President, this is indeed a continuing programme by this Government for the relief of unemployment. It must be considered along with all the other things done by the Government in recent months to stimulate the economy of Australia.
The bill provides for payment of a special grant of £12,500,000, which is a great deal of money. Looking at how this sum is divided, we find that New South Wales gets £3,044,000, Victoria £2,442,000, Queensland £3,640,000, South Australia £1,312,000, Western Australia £894,000 and Tasmania £1,168,000. I am sure every Queenslander will appreciate the substantial allocation to Queensland.
This bill shows that this Government has a very real appreciation of the problems of the States, particularly the employment situation in my own State of Queensland, and, as the Minister has said, the special needs of Tasmania. Queensland and Tasmania are receiving larger amounts than they would have received had the total grant been distributed among the States in the same proportion as works and housing allocations. Some criticism has been made of the lack of conditions laid down for expenditure of this grant. I would remind the Senate that the grant was made in this form at the request of the Premiers and Treasurers themselves. I think it is proper to make the grant in this way: its purpose is to afford employmentgiving opportunities.
We have all been grieved and gravely disturbed by the problem of unemployment, which is especially serious in Queensland. Unemployment is a very human problem, lt is a terrible thing for people to be unemployed. It is dreadful for a family breadwinner to come home without his pay envelope. It is a serious thing indeed for young people on leaving school to find no employment opportunities. We have seen these problems in Queensland, but this Commonwealth Government, appreciating the needs of both the State of Queensland and the Commonwealth for development and growth, and aware of the human problem of providing employment, has brought in this legislation which I believe can be of tremendous benefit. From time to time we hear, if I may so, Sir, some very depressing debates about development and growth in this country. The Opposition always tells a sad story, but the story of Australia under this Government is not a depressing story but rather one of adventure, achievement, growth and development of which we in this chamber and every Australian can be proud. Now the Government has brought down this legislation and will continue its policy of adventurous growth and development of the nation.
These things are important; let us not forget them. We should pay no attention to this depressing dirge that we hear so often but instead consider what has really happened in Australia. Again the Government has extended assistance. I want to make one point very strongly. I believe this is a great piece of legislation in the pattern of State and Commonwealth governments working together. We would all be happy about that. I am pleased to be able to quote from a newspaper report of a speech made by Mr. Nicklin, Premier of Queensland. It reads -
The Commonwealth was adopting a national outlook on Australian development. The attitude of the Federal Government at the last Loan Council meeting suggested that North Queensland could expect greater financial assistance in the future. Australia and Queensland, in particular, Would benefit greatly from development of the north.
Mr. Nicklin also thanked the Federal Government for special financial assistance to Queensland to help overcome seasonal unemployment. The whole of North and North-west Queensland was on the move, he added. Railway and road construction west from Townsville were daily reminders of progress.
Mr. Nicklin said that the Main Roads Department was planning an accelerated programme of road works between Townsville and Mr Isa.
All this is part of the story of the Commonwealth’s appreciation of the problems of the State and an example of the cooperation existing between the State and the Commonwealth governments. Other important assistance has been given. It is important, I believe, that I should at this point refer to some of these things. As honorable senators know, Queensland is a vast State. It is a State with a magnificent future, a great potential and a variety of production. It is a fast growing State with a variety of climates and I believe that it will always play a tremendous part in the story of the Commonwealth of Australia. In beef production Queensland plays an important role in the markets of the world. Queensland beef goes to the United Kingdom under the fifteen-year meat agreement and also to markets in the United States of America. The story of wool is well known. Nearly £60,000,000 worth of wool is exported annually from Queensland. These two industries supply about half the total exports from Queensland and are of tremendous importance to the State. The future development of these industries, and particularly the cattle industry, is naturally linked with improved land and transportation. It is pleasing indeed to record that another special grant is being made for the clearing and developing of the brigalow areas. With that grant of £1,750,000 work can be commenced to clear and prepare those millions of acres which can be used for fattening cattle. It is good to be reminded too of what the Commonwealth Government does. Let us also remember that the Commonwealth Government has agreed to provide Queensland with £5,000,000 for road construction to facilitate the transporting of cattle from breeding areas to fattening districts and then to market. This is tremendously important in my State of Queensland.
Work has already begun on the NormantonJulia Creek and Quilpie-Windorah roads. The plan is to provide all weather roads, with gravel surfaces where required, to facilitate the transportation of stock. Also, an amount of £250,000 is being provided under this programme for the sealing of roads. This is of worthwhile assistance to a State. This help must mean greater employment opportunities. As well as these great cattle roads the Mount Isa road construction plan will aid beef production in Queensland.
The expansion of industrial development in Queensland with the help of the present Commonwealth Government is an exciting story. This, too, should be recorded. Under previous State Governments the people of Queensland have felt that development was sadly lacking, but it is pleasing to recall that in recent years factory development has been increasing. Last year the number of registered factories operating in Queensland increased by 128 and the gross value of output from these factories was more than £474,000,000. This is a record of development and opportunity. It has also proved that in Queensland primary and secondary industries remain closer than in any other State. To-day in Brisbane you could visit our Royal Exhibition and see there the show window of the whole State of Queensland. Honorable senators would see what can be done in both primary and secondary industries, and would see a State playing its part in the development of Australia - a State from which much more will be heard and in which much more will be done.
The Commonwealth Government realizes the tremendous importance of this State and has determined that more should be done towards developing its coal areas. The Government has already assisted tremendously in this direction. It has helped to improve the coal-handling facilities at Gladstone so that this port can play an important part in the export story of Queensland. We have contracts for the sale of 3,000,000 tons of coal to Japan over the next seven years. This must mean a great deal to Queensland. It is all part of the story of assistance to the States by the Commonwealth. In the development of the Kianga-Moura coal-field the Commonwealth Government has agreed to provide £200,000 of an estimated £400,000 required to improve the coal-handling installations at the port of Gladstone. Of this contribution - part grant and part loan - £145,000 will be provided in this current year. The coal, whose sale must mean so much to the State, will be shipped from the port of Gladstone. So the story of development and growth of Queensland goes on.
I would like also to tell the Senate what has been done in Queensland as the result of the Commonwealth grant of £10,000,000 earlier this year. The Government, knowing the problems of unemployment and the difficulties facing Queensland, provided this money. Much has been done to provide employment over a wide variety of fields of endeavour. The Premier announced on Sth March of this year the proposed allocations of this money. The Forestry Department will receive £190,000 for reafforestation work. What a tremendous help that will be! The Irrigation and Water Supply Commission will receive £300,000 for irrigation works. We know the importance and value of irrigation work in the development of Queensland. The Department of Public Works will receive £850,000. That will provide a great deal of employment. The Department of Health and Home Affairs will receive £100,000 for hospital buildings. This is tremendously important not only from the point of view of creating employment but also to people who need hospital care.
The Queensland Housing Commission will receive £540,000 to build workers’ dwellings. That, too, will provide work in the building industry as well as for people who supply the articles that are needed in the building and equipping of homes. The Department of Public Lands will receive £50,000 for reclamation works. The Railways Department will receive £350,000 for track re-laying and other works. The Department of Main Roads will receive £100,000. Subsidies amounting to £860,000 will be given to local government bodies. The total amount is £3,340,000. I am very pleased to see that subsidies are being paid to local government bodies. Often pockets of unemployment in local government areas can be relieved very rapidly by the granting of subsidies. Surely all this shows that Queensland’s share of the grant is being used to the very best advantage of the State and particularly of the people who need work. Clearly, Queensland will be able to play a more important part in the development of the Commonwealth after this money has been used.
I do not wish to delay the passage of this bill, Mr. Acting’. Deputy President. I have been pleased to associate myself with it and to remind honorable senators of what has been done by the Government in giving grants to the States so that they can carry on the work of development and provide greater employment opportunities. I believe history recounts that when Queensland became a State it had 7id. in the Treasury and that, unfortunately, that was stolen almost immediately. That is a long way from the huge sum of money we are discussing to-day.
This grant is part of the great story of the development and growth of Australia. It would be a tragedy if anybody in this chamber refused to play his part in, or attempted to delay, the provision of assistance to the States and so caused development to be retarded. We want the people of Australia to have continuing employment in the kind of work they want to do. We also want to see opportunities for young people in the occupations and careers that they wish to take up. This Government is very appreciative of those things and therefore has made this money available. I am certain that all the States will ensure, as Queensland has, that the money is spent to the very best advantage in order to overcome unemployment and promote development. I am pleased to support this bill which I believe represents one more step along the very adventurous path of Australia’s development. In my own way I say, “Advance Australia to a future unlimited “.
– Mr. Acting Deputy President, I have listened with great interest to the speeches on this bill. Senators from South Australia spoke with great force about rail standardization. Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin spoke about the Brisbane Exhibition. Of course, I do not want to leave my State out, but I thought I might be asked to speak about the Kings Bridge. So, I became a bit nervous and decided that I had better talk about something else. This bill gives an additional £12,500,000 to the States. The grants bear no interest »nd the States do not have to repay them. They will play some part - a small part, unfortunately - in providing work for the people who are without it to-day.
I am wondering whether the Commonwealth will ask the States what they did with the money when it has been spent and how many men were actually employed. I do not think the Commonwealth should hand out money unless it satisfies itself that the maximum benefit is derived from it. I know what has happened in Victoria. Every school yard that looked as if it needed some maintenance received it. But the Minister for Works let the work out on contract, and I understand that more than 500 men who were day-labour employees of the department are no longer employed by the department. If these grants have been given to the States primarily to relieve unemployment, I should like to know exactly how many men have been employed. Taking into account the wage structure in Australia and the materials and machinery that are used, even this amount of money will not provide work for many men for very long.
The Commonwealth is entitled to ask the States how the money was spent. The Commonwealth has not put any tags on it; but when it has been spent the States should tell the Commonwealth how it was spent. No employee receives much less than £20 a week to-day. When the cost of the machines and materials used is added to the labour cost, this money will not provide work for many men. I am not saying that in any kicking fashion; but I believe the Commonwealth is entitled to know how many men the States have been able to take off the unemployment benefit as a result of receiving this money. The States should tell the Commonwealth what work has been done.
I agree with Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin that if grants are given in the future the Government should ask the States, particularly Victoria, to consider the local government bodies. Melbourne has developed very rapidly and the cost of land for home-building is excessive. This Government has to bear some responsibility for that. It wanted the pegs removed, consequently, land prices have risen rapidly. A young couple who cannot be helped materially by their parents and who want to buy land, have to go a long way from the city. I am speaking about Melbourne, which I know well. Unfortunately, after buying the land they have to wait for years for streets, sewerage and gas to be supplied. Usually electricity and water is supplied. The position is different in many other cities. That is most distressing, and I hope that when the Government is handing out money in future, as I believe it will have to do, these matters will be kept in mind. It will be remembered that in March the Government handed out £10,000,000 to be spent before the end of June. Under this measure, a further £12,500,000 is to be provided, and if the Government proposes to allot money in the same proportion as it did for the March period of 1961-62, another £25,000,000 will have to be found before the end of the year.
This grant is obviously being made in an effort to cope with the unemployment problem that was created by the economic policies adopted by the Government back in 1960. Certainly it will lead to replacing a few people in employment. But how many will be re-engaged, and for how long will they remain in such employment? In the aggregate, not so many will benefit. What concerns me is the manner in which the money is being made available. No planning whatever has been done. The Government’s actions now remind me of what happened in the depression days of the 1930’s when money was spent merely to enable Australian workers to buy enough food to keep body and soul together. I suggest that even at this late hour the Government should try to formulate some plan so that development might proceed as it ought to do as a result of the expenditure of this money. Not so many years ago, when planning for the big Snowy Mountains project was nearing completion I made a suggestion to the Senate. I asked, “Why should the nation lose the benefit of the services of these planners of vast experience? Why do we not employ them to plan a programme of development for this nation? “ I admit that this would take time, but I wonder what permanent benefit the Government will derive from expenditure of these grants in the way in which they are being spent. It is obvious that some immediate benefit will accrue because some one must benefit from an expenditure of £12,500,000; but I question whether we will derive any permanent benefit if we carry on without any organization or planning, as we have been doing to date.
The interests of not only the unemployed but also the nation as a whole would be better served if an attempt were made to plan for the carrying out of work that would add to the productivity of the nation and help in the winning of overseas markets for that increased productivity. The Government will never learn, and 1 am amazed that it persists in its stop-go policy. In 1957-58, it made grants of £5,000,000 available. In 1961-62, the Government made available £10,000,000 to be spent in four months. This year, £12,500,000 is made available. After all, when we calculate the cost of putting a man back to work, using machinery and materials, the amount made available will not lead to the employment of such a great number for any length of time. The Government might argue that its sole purpose in providing this money at the moment is to help the unemployed until the Government’s present policies have cured our economic ills. That argument is without substance because, in its own White Paper which was issued with the Budget, the Government admits that last year £282,000,000 less was spent by the community than in the previous year. It must be remembered, too, that this £282,000,000 drop in expenditure occurred despite the fact that our population increased by 200,000 during that period. It is interesting to note, too, from the White Paper, that expenditure by private enterprise, for which this Government is the standard-bearer, on fixed capital equipment dropped by £117,000,000 during the year whilst Government expenditure increased by £112,000,000 to a total of £1,446,000,000. It would seem that, despite its pretentions to being a privateenterprise government, this Government is compelled to adopt the policy of the Opposition and spend more money to restore the economic position of this country to where it should be.
I admit that the Government is helping certain industries, but, being of a critical mind, I scrutinize closely just what industries have been helped; and I often wonder what influence they have on the Liberal Party’s policies. I could be wrong in adopting that attitude, but I think 1 am right. Because I am critical, I look at the stagnation as illustrated by the decline in national expenditure over recent years. For instance, the expenditure of £5,047,000,000 in 1958-59 represented an increase of £340,000,000 over that for the year 1957-58 and the expenditure in 1959-60 - the boom year - represented an increase of £545,000,000 over that of the previous year. But then the decline set in. The expenditure in the year 1960-61 represented an increase of £272,000,000 over that of the previous year, and in 1961-62 it represented an increase of only £68,000,000 over that of the previous year.
– In what items?
– In national spending as a whole. If the honorable senator is interested in the matter, and no doubt he is, I suggest that he read the White Paper. Perhaps he has already done so. The White Paper shows that all of us, irrespective of our political beliefs, must take stock of the position.
– That is why I was trying to give your speech some meaning. I hope you do not resent it.
– I do not resent anything that the honorable senator does. He gives it and he takes it. As he knows, I do not mind that, either.
Nobody has said whether this sum of £12,500,000 is intended to cover a full year or only a portion of a year. Is the Government waiting to see whether more money is needed? Looking at the picture squarely, I think it must be said that we should plan for the year ahead and see to it that the States on the one hand and the nation on the other receive something worth while from the money that is spent.
The amount for which this bill provides is small in relation to the overall payments to the States. In 1960-61, the States received £363,000,000, or an increase of £33,000,000 on the previous year. In 1961-62, they received £410,000,000, an increase of £37,000,000, and in 1962-63 it is proposed that they should receive £442,000,000, or an increase of £32,000,000. I take it that the Government wishes the money to be spent as quickly as possible. If one had the time, it would be interesting to see just how many men could be employed by the money that is being provided for the States, on the basis of 40 per cent, or 50 per cent, being spent on wages and the rest on materials and whatever machines are necessary. It would be interesting to know how many men in each State it would employ, and for how long. It certainly will not fill the gap between the position that exists in Victoria to-day and the hopeful expectation of the Government.
The peak unemployment figure was approximately 130,000. It is now down to about 90,000. I think everyone is pleased by the downward trend. However, in a few months’ time there will be a great body of young people leaving our schools and looking for jobs. I believe that every person in this chamber wants to see everybody working and living a useful life. It would be silly to want anything else. Nevertheless, the Government must accept a fair amount of responsibility for the fact that the policies it has adopted over the years have brought about the present economic position. Why do we not call on the best brains in the country to evolve a plan? We now have about 90,000 unemployed. That number may diminish but, on the other hand, we must be realistic and say that it may rise a little by the end of the year because of the number of children leaving school and seeking jobs. The Government says that the immigration target for this year is still 125,000. Of course, the Government knows better than I do that that target will not be reached and that we shall be fortunate if we get half that number of migrants. It would be realistic to suppose that twothirds of them will have to earn a living, so that perhaps an additional 44,000 people will come on to the labour market.
The Government had to provide additional finance for the States in March and again in June. Perhaps it will have to do so in December as well. Why does the Government not try to devise a plan, in co-operation with the States, so that when we overcome the position in which we find ourselves to-day - and all of us, irrespective of party politics, hope that we shall be able to do so - there will be something left for the future. I know what happened in Victoria in the early ‘thirties. I think that, in all, £13,000,000 was spent on unemploy ment relief in Victoria at that time. Yet, if we look to-day for things that were provided with that money we can find only a boulevard through a large reserve and three or four miles of concrete centreway in a couple of roads at Albert Park. I cannot see anything else of lasting advantage which that money provided in Melbourne. I hope there will be more to show for the money that the Government is handing to the States under this bill.
– It is to be hoped they do not spend it on bridges.
– The Victorian Government has been a little unlucky in that respect. Some people will have to answer for the trouble with the King’s Bridge. I am delighted to see that the Government of Victoria is instituting an inquiry. Of course, I am quite used to inquiries. Although the Melbourne “ Herald “ persuaded the Government to undertake the inquiry, the newspaper got no change out of it. The King’s Bridge problem is an unfortunate one which must have an effect on the State.
I know that the Government does not like to plan. I cannot understand it. We have to plan our homes and plan our lives. Why not plan the nation’s life? A great number of people are more or less waiting to see what the Government will do to improve the economy. Many people are in need of jobs. They will receive a little benefit from the money that is being provided under this bill, but it will not be much. Do not let us delude ourselves. The figures that I have given from the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure show conclusively that we will be very lucky if we can fill the gap as quickly as the Government hopes. The members of the Government are the most stubborn men I have ever known. They will not change their ways. They have pursued a policy of stop and go for three or four years. Will they never learn? We heard a great deal in this chamber last night about what the Government had done. I merely say, in reply, that the people outside the Parliament do not want this Government. It came very close to defeat at the last general election. If the people were given the opportunity now, there would be a change of Government.
Last year the Government provided an additional £10,000,000 by way of grants to the States, and in June this year another £12,500,000. Perhaps in three or four months’ time it will be necessary to make further grants. The money could at least have been made available on a scale to enable the nation really to get something out of it. I suppose the few who will benefit from this legislation will be grateful, but I do not think this is the way to govern a nation. It does not provide for the future. To me it is like tipping money into a pool; it will help extremely few people. In the space of a few months the Government will be in the same position as it finds itself to-day.
– I rise to support this bill. First, I should like to comment on some remarks that have been made by other honorable senators, particularly Senator Kennelly who has just resumed his seat. I’ was interested to hear the case put for Queensland and South Australia by honorable senators from those States, but I am afraid that I cannot agree with the case put forward for Victoria. Senator Kennelly asked the question: To how many men will the grants to be made available to the States under this bill give employment? He wanted to know what has been done already. Then he went on to say that in his own State young people who build homes do not have the necessary services connected to those homes. I point out to the honorable senator that that is the fault of his own State. Victoria is the only State in the Commonwealth that does not by legislation require the provision of the facilities, about which he was talking, before a subdivision is made. The same policy has been followed by successive Victorian State Governments - Liberal or Labour. I remind the honorable senator that it was the present Government of Victoria which was responsible for introducing legislation to require the provision of the facilities that he says now exist.
Senator Kennelly also got on to an old theme that he has pursued on many occasions in this chamber. He asked what plans this Government has for the development of Australia. It is very easy for the honorable senator to ask that question
P.6362/62.- 5- fi!.] without suggesting anything constructive that the Government should do. I point out that this Government has plans and has had them during the whole of the period it ‘has occupied the treasury bench.
– It has implemented a lot of them, too.
– That is so. Most of the development plans of the Government at the present time cover many years ahead. As a result of my own experience as a member of the Public Works Committee, I know of some of the great public works that are going on in this country. Some of them are planned for as far ahead as 1970. Works are coming up all the time to be put into operation in the years that lie ahead.
We should come back to earth. This bill deals with the basis for making available to the States a special non-repayable, interest-free grant of £12,500,000. The money is made available for expenditure on employment-giving activities, mainly through works. I know that after the meeting in Canberra at which this grant was agreed upon the Premier of Western Australia, on his return to his State, asked the Public Works Department to review its programme with a view to putting into immediate operation works of an employmentgiving nature. This grant is in addition to the borrowing programme for State works and housing, which this year totals £250,000,000. It is also additional to tax reimbursements and other moneys paid to the States under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement. This is not the first time that the Government has made available to the States a grant of this nature. For the financial year 1957-58, the Government made £5,000,000 available to the States to overcome special economic circumstances that had arisen at that time. Queensland and New South Wales received the greater proportions of that grant. A second grant was made available last February. That grant, which was also nonrepayable and interest-free, amounted to £10,000,000. Now we have this grant of £12,500,000 which is made for a similar purpose.
Why is this grant being made? The answer is to be found in the second-reading speech of the Minister in which he pointed out that at the last Australian Loan Council meeting the State Premiers indicated that their budgetary problems were likely to be more difficult in the year ahead. I remind the Senate that at Loan Council meetings payments are made to the States under a formula that has been devised and accepted by the States over the years. The formula does not provide for the situation which arose this year and which arose also in 1957 and 1958. The Government can make money available to the States under the provisions of section 96 of the Constitution, but such money is made available for specific purposes. The purposes for which the money is made available under this bill are too numerous to mention, and they differ in respect of each State. That is because the Government is providing this grant under this special legislation.
I think it is agreed by all that each State should have the right to say how it will expend this money and to determine the purposes for which it is most needed. To grant to the States this special allocation for works which they think will take up the slack in employment is the right way of doing the job. I am very pleased to note that Western Australia is to receive £894,000. One’s immediate impression is that, in comparison with the grants being made to the other States, this amount is not very high. However, upon realizing the conditions under which the grant is made, every reasonable Western Australian will say, “ Fair enough “. This does nor mean that we in Western Australia have not any problems or do not want any further finance from the Commonwealth Government. We have many very big problems and we want all the aid that we can get from the Commonwealth. The magnificent job that the present coalition government of Western Australia is doing is well-known in this chamber. It will be recalled that four years ago, after being in the doldrums for a period, Western Australia elected a new government, which has put new life into the outlook of the people.
– A brand-new one, was it not?
– Yes, brand-new. It has sought private capital and new industries from overseas, and it has come to the Commonwealth Government with plans for development over many years to come. This has given a great incentive to the people of Western Australia to get on and do a job. Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin told us that Queensland is a large State, and she mentioned the kind of development that is to be undertaken there in the years to come. Western Australia is an even greater State.
– But it is like Siberia.
– That may be your opinion. It is a State that has great possibilities, and as soon as we get some of our developmental projects in hand we shall add greatly to the income of this country. We on this side are very grateful for the aid given by this Government to Western Australia. We only hope that it will continue in the same way in the years to come. The new broad-gauge railway is to cost £41,000,000. The Commonwealth will, in the first instance, make available all of this money. At a later stage the Western Australian Government will pay back 30 per cent, of it over a period. This project is tied to a steelworks project. Together, these undertakings will contribute greatly to the economy of the State and also to employment. We have large iron ore deposits. The Government is being criticized for not getting on with the job of selling iron ore overseas. I do not think that at this stage the quantity of iron ore in Western Australia can be estimated. The Government is doing the right thing in proceeding carefully and having a thorough look at the position. In iron ore we have a very great asset and we do not want to give it away just to get a quick return.
I now turn to the northern part of the State. In this chamber and in another place, members of the Opposition accuse the Government continually of not paying attention to the northern part of the Commonwealth. However, when we consider together Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, we find that the money that has been spent in the north not only by the Commonwealth, but also by the States, is a pretty sizeable sum, which refutes all arguments put forward by theOpposition. In Western Australia, an. amount of £5,000,000 has been made available by this Government for the Ord River scheme, which is under way and will eventually water about 200,000 acres of the Ord valley. This year the scheme will enable the allocation of land to five farmers to grow cotton, safflower and other crops suitable to a tropical area. Closely allied with this project we have the Fitzroy River scheme, by which the Western Australian Government is trying to promote closer settlement. A barrage is to be built across the Fitzroy River to enable the irrigation of a considerable area of country. The provision of irrigation works, access roads and housing will eventually cost about £1,000,000.
The Commonwealth Government has made available to Western Australia finance for beef cattle roads. I have calculated that these will cost eventually about £8, 1 10,000. There is provision for 376 miles of road from Derby to Wyndham through cattle country which at present has no road whatsoever. This one road alone will cost £1,800,000. Another road between Broome and Wyndham, via Hall’s Creek, will cost £3,000,000. The up-grading of the road from Nicholson Station to Wyndham will cost £2,000,000. Bridges are to be built across the Ord and Dunham rivers at a cost of £500,000.
– Is that in addition to the cost of the roads?
– The cost of the roads includes the cost of the bridges. A high-level bridge and approaches over the Fitzroy river will cost another £500,000. The linking of the Great Northern Highway, the Nicholson road, and the new road from Derby to Wyndham will cost £310,000. Experts believe that when all these roads are completed the cattle turn-off in the west Wyndham area will be doubled. In addition, there will be an improvement in the quality of cattle going to the meatworks along the coast, because they will not have to be driven along the existing tracks for perhaps three weeks or a month on end.
– What is the value of the annual turn-off now?
– 1 have not that figure available. All of these works will be of great value not only to the northern part of the State but also to Western Australia generally. They will give new heart to the people who live in the north. However, it is of no use for the Commonwealth and the States to spend all of this money if a third party is not brought to the party. I refer to the financial institutions, and particularly to the Commonwealth Development Bank. The mere fact that new cattle roads are built does not mean that cattle breeders will immediately send in twice the number of cattle from their stations. They must first plan for the development of the stations. Before the hopes of the two government can bd realized, the breeders will need to install new watering points and improve their herds. This will take time and, above all, money. I should like to see provision made for this development over the years. The Development Bank should be given enough money to help cattle breeders to play their part in this most important work. I appreciate that the Government has kept a watchful eye on the Development Bank and also has given it ample finance over the years. About this time last year an additional £5,000,000 was made available to the bank, and six months later another £5,000,000 was provided. This was well worth while. 1 hope the Government will watch the situation closely and be ready to meet the circumstances I have outlined.
The money made available under the bill will do much to relieve the situation in Western Australia. As I said, I should like a bigger grant for Western Australia, but I realize the circumstances in which the grant has been made, and I think perhaps we have received our share. I concede that with the finance available to it, the State Government is pushed to the limit in assisting development works in Western Australia, a State with a large area and a small population. However, I hope the Government will be ready to answer the call when Western Australia seeks further help. I have very much pleasure in supporting the bill.
– The Opposition will not oppose the bill, but we shall be critical of it because the grant is inadequate for the purpose for which, it is intended. Senator DrakeBrockman is to be congratulated for putting before the Senate the large number of works required in Western Australia. I think I am interpreting his remarks correctly in saying that he agreed that the grant was inadequate for Western Australia. Surely the allocation of £894,000 out of a total grant of £12,500,000 is entirely inadequate to meet the vast expenditure required for all the important works so urgently needed in Western Australia. It seems to me that the Government has belatedly determined to assist Western Australia in its standard-gauge railway project, and that we shall continue to hear about this indefinitely. It is time that the cost of this project to the public of Western Australia was brought out. into the open. The whole project will cost £41,000,000, provided the Commonwealth Government is able to contain inflation during the period of construction. It has not been able to contain inflation during its term of office. Western Australia’s direct contribution to the project is to be £26,000,000, plus interest on the amount lent by the Commonwealth Government, which on the present long-term bond rate will amount to approximately £11,000,000. So, this £41.000,000 project will cost the Western Australian community £37,000,000. lt will be seen from this that the Commonwealth’s contribution towards the standardgauge railway is a minor one.
Senator Drake-Brockman criticized the Opposition for saying this Government had no plans. We repeat that it has no plans. ^Honorable members will see from a perusal of the White Paper on the Austraiian economy, presented by the Treasurer a few months ago, that there is complete opposition to any planned economy in Australia. Despite this, Senator Drake-Brockman said that the Commonwealth Government was fulfilling its plans. The Australian people know of some of the plans that have been fulfilled by this Government. One of them was the credit squeeze of 1960.
In February, 1960, the Government announced a five-point plan, and in August, .1960, the Budget contained a three-point plan. Further plans were announced in November, 1960. This Government is still trying to rectify a position that it deliberately brought about by these plans.
After November, 1960, we heard of no further financial plans until February, 1962, when the Government hastily tried to repair the damage to the Australian economy for which it had been censured by the Australian electorate. We said at the time that the amount being infused into the economy was not sufficient for the purpose. Once again we have been proved right. The amount has proved indefinite; to-day we are stuck with 97,000 unemployed. The Government cannot absolve itself of responsibility by saying that the high incidence of unemployment is caused by seasonal conditions. If this proposition is accepted, it must be accepted also that increased employment in Queensland is seasonal, and that as the months go by there will be a gradual worsening of the situation.
The £12,500,000 grant proposed by this bill is a non-repayable grant, though I was a little worried when Senator Rankin, before correcting herself, said that it was a repayable grant. I thought that perhaps the States were being taken for another ride. However, we can accept the fact that the grant is non-repayable. This grant brings into relief the formula of reimbursement to the States, in particular to the two claimant States. It is obvious that the method of reimbursing the States and making grants to them for the continuance of their administrative work is at fault, because the Government has to supplement these allocations by way of special grants under section 96 of the Constitution. Though it is true that the proposed grant is first to be directed to the stimulation of employmentgiving industries, that is not the full story. The Minister in his second-reading speech added a rider to that statement. He said the States were absolutely free to use any part of the grants, should they see fit, to assist their budgets for the present year. That again highlights the inadequacy of the formula for reimbursements to the States. A grant is made to stimulate employment but is not necessarily to be used for that purpose. Though in February an instruction was given to the States that the grant then made was to bt used only to stimulate employment, on this occasion the Government, realizing that the amounts granted to the States were inadequate for their budgets, has now said, “We will give you £12,500,000 to be used to stimulate employment but if you get into trouble with your budget you may use it for budget purposes “.
As we on this side of the chamber see it, the Government is applying first-aid to the Australian economy. We believe that the economy requires not first-aid but a major operation. Conditions throughout Australia make that evident. The operation is necessary because the States must be able to carry on their normal functions of government and provide for as much development work as is possible. When we look at the matters requiring attention throughout Australia it is somewhat alarming to see the position in various States in respect of hospitals, schools and water supplies.
I emphasize that the population of any country is determined by the amount of available water supplies. The Western Australian Government has on several occasions made application, both orally and by written submissions, for assistance in what is known as the second stage of the comprehensive water scheme. It will bc remembered that when the first stage of the comprehensive water scheme was commenced it was financed on a £1 for £1 basis by the Commonwealth and State governments. The Commonwealth Government at the time was the Chifley Government. When the scheme came to the second stage the conservative government in Canberra did not see fit to renew the £1 for £1 subsidy. As a result the State Government has to attempt to carry out this work with allocations from its normal annual revenue. Large areas of Western Australia require sewerage and drainage works. Less than half of the metropolitan area of Perth is sewered - although I notice that the Premier, speaking at Bunbury, where an important by-election is to be held on 1st September, has promised to sewer the town of Bunbury. Incidentally, he has promised to build a £1,000,000 hospital in that area. Again, his promises may be only election promises.
I recall that when the McLarty-Watts Government was in office in Western Australia in 1950 it promised to build a £750,000 regional hospital in Geraldton. All that has happened is that the block has been cleared. That is twelve years ago, but of course an election was imminent in 1950. These are some of the things that a government is required to provide. A State government must attend to roadworks, and these in Western Australia are very big projects - apart from the beef roads mentioned by Senator DrakeBrockman. Because Perth is now growing into a modern city, after having been held back over the years by eastern State influences, it is attempting to overcome some of the difficulties in the handling of traffic which became apparent in the eastern States. Perth is beginning to grow up. To avoid the traffic difficulties and congestion to be found in Sydney and Melbourne all sorts of highways and access roads will have to be built in the City of Perth. Some of that work has to be done by the State Government and some by local authorities, but because of the financial position of local authorities the State Government will have to provide finance for the greater part of this work.
It is true that under the Commonwealth and State housing agreement initiated by the Chifley Government shortly after the war, the various States received assistance in their housing programmes. Though the housing problem in Western Australia is not as serious as that in some of the eastern States it is gradually deteriorating. The demand for houses in Western Australia is not as heavy as it is in the eastern States, and this flows from the efforts of a Labour Party Minister for Housing who held the portfolio from 1953 to 1959. Nevertheless, with a growing population - and it is growing fairly quickly - Western Australia has a housing problem that is tending to become more acute. The State Government must do what it can to provide money in addition to the funds provided by the Commonwealth Government. The money provided by the Commonweath Government for housing assists in building homes for the people but all the services that must go with the houses are the responsibility of the State Government. Also, accommodation must be provided for aged people. This is done under a scheme under which the Commonwealth Government contributes on a £2 for £1 basis, but again the scheme causes a drain on the State’s finances.
The State Government must provide improved transport facilities, in particular, railways. Though there is and has been an improvement in the finances of the Western Australian railways since dieselization, the repercussions of dieselization on the coal industry have been severe. The number of employees at the Collie coal-field has been considerably reduced. Because of the railway’s policy of using oil-fired locomotives the coal is no longer required. Nevertheless, despite the improvement in their financial position the railways are still a fairly heavy drain on the finances of the State. In addition to all these things the State Government must - out of its own revenue - provide for various development works and must do so rather quickly. Things cannot be left to go on over the years. The improvement of port facilities makes a heavy drain upon the revenue available to the State Government. Although the Budget provides £300,000 for a new jetty at the port of Derby, the Premier of Western Australia has stated that the rebuilding or re-conditioning of the jetty at Bunbury will cost £800,000. That extra £500,000 will have to be provided from the finances of the State.
I noticed a report in the Western Australian press a few days ago to the effect that the Western Australian Government has reserved land for the building of a second university That is urgently required and we will have to push ahead with it in the very near future. It is estimated that the resumption of land alone will cost the State Government £8,000,000. That will be before it even starts to build the university. That money must also come from the finances of the State.
Two or three years ago the Western Australian Government purchased the old Hale school with the object of building public offices on the site. Now the Government is not able to proceed with the original plans for those offices. The original plans included air-conditioning, but the Government has stated that the building will have to be built without airconditioning because it would be too expensive.
The provision of power supplies in the south-western agricultural areas must be attended to at all times. The Government proposes to build a power station at Muja at a cost of £10,000,000. The Commonwealth Government will not make a grant for that. The cost of that station will have to come out of State revenues. When we consider these projects, we come to the conclusion that this grant which, in round figures, represents £1 per head of population, is not very big. Western Australia has a population of about 750,000 and will receive £864,000, so the grant is a little, but not very much, better than £1 per head.
The Government must have been very alarmed by the position revealed by the general elections. In February this year it announced that it would make a nonrepayable grant of £10,000,000 to the States to cover the balance of the financial year. The fall in unemployment at that stage was caused mainly by children going back to school when they could not find jobs. The overall result has not been a very great fall in the number of unemployed in Western Australia. If £10,000,000 over a period of four or five months was inadequate for the purpose for which it was granted, it is obvious that £12,500,000 will not be adequate for a whole year. In a little while the Government will realize that its policies are acting too slowly and further money will be infused into the Australian economy.
The Budget presented to the Parliament on 7th August, provides for a deficit of £118,000,000. That, plus a deficit for 1961-62 of £10,500,000 greater than was budgeted for, gives a total deficit of £128,500,000. Even that amount is insufficient to provide for the needs of the community at this stage.
According to the figures released by the Commonwealth Statistician, the hire purchase debt is rising. That means that the people have insufficient money and they have to trade on credit. The overdraft debt is also rising. That also means that the people are operating on credit. This deficit of £128,500,000 was not expected less than twelve months ago when the Australian Labour Party said that it would budget for a deficit of £100,000,000, if necessary.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson). - Order! This is not the Budget debate, senator. We are debating a bill authorizing the payment of special grants to the States. The Chair has been very lenient, but the debate must be limited to the subject of the bill. ,
– I hope to be able to’ link my remarks with the inadequacy of these grants. All this credit is going into the community, but a sizeable number of unemployed people is still with us and large quantities of industrial machinery are not producing any goods. That shows that, in spite of these non-repayable grants that the Government is putting into the economy and the taxation concessions that it has granted, the commercial sector of the economy still lacks confidence in the plans of the Government.
We on this side of the chamber believe that the Government, by these grants and the statutory payments that are made to the States, is endeavouring to maintain business activity as it is now. The Government is not attempting to expand the economy, but is satisfied to have stability although it means a measure of unemployment. Instead of giving the economy a major operation and making sure that it has sufficient liquidity to provide full employment, which is no longer a by-word of the Government, it has adopted a piecemeal approach and shown a lack of basic planning for a speedy economic recovery.
– What do you consider is a condition of full employment?
– I believe that we have full employment only when every person in Australia who is able and willing to work is able to get a job. Nothing else will satisfy the Labour Party.
– What is over-full employment?
– I do not know that there is such a thing as over-full employment.
– There is. It happens where there are more jobs than workers; and that has happened before in our history.
– If ever in this country every person who was willing and able to work was able to secure a job and there were still vacancies for which applicants were being sought by the Commonwealth employment offices, migrants could be attracted from other countries in which there was unemployment. This country badly needs more population, and this would be an attractive country to migrants if we were able to guarantee them jobs when they came here. But for two years now we have been inviting people to come to Australia and we have not been able to provide them with either employment or homes for their families. I do not believe that we have ever had a condition of overfull employment in Australia.
This Government does not believe in planning. It believes in private enterprise, but, unfortunately, private enterprise does not believe in the Government at the moment. That is why the economy is. recovering so slowly. Nor do I believe that the Premier of Western Australia is satisfied with that State’s share of this grant of £12,500,000.
– He agreed to it.
– That is a very loose way of putting the position.
– No, it is not. There was mutual agreement by all the Premiers to the distribution.
– I have been at some executive meetings at which decisions have been unanimous, and so have you. I think you know from your experience in Cabinet just what goes on.
– Any Premier who disagreed was at liberty to come back and say so, and the Premier of Western Australia did not say that he was dissatisfied.
– When we consider that the Premiers asked the Commonwealth for £15,000,000 and this Government agreed to make a grant of £12,500,000, it must be obvious that there was some dissatisfaction. Of this grant of £12,500,000, New South Wales is to receive approximately 24 per cent., Victoria 194 per cent., Queensland 29 per cent., South Australia 1H per cent., Western Australia 7 per cent, and Tasmania 10 per cent. I remind the Senate that this grant is supposed to be for the provision of employment-giving opportunities; but although according to statistics unemployment is less acute in South Australia than it is in Western Australia, South Australia is to receive 4i per cent, more than is to go to Western Australia. I should be surprised if the Premier of Western Australia expressed satisfaction with a position such as that.
– He is getting £7,000,000 in other grants.
– I would have to examine that. But what do the other States get?
– You are making a comparison with South Australia; and I think that State got £1,000,000.
– The honorable senator cannot just cite figures to suit his argument. Let me say something about unemployment now, bearing in mind the percentages of this grant to be allocated to other States compared with the proportion of the grant allocated to Western Australia. Whilst it is true that the position is not good in either Queensland or Tasmania, it is also true that it is improving in those States whereas it is deteriorating in Western Australia. In June of this year, the number registered for employment in Western Australia increased by 310. In July, the increase was 262. Here it is interesting to examine a statement by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) as to where unemployment is increasing. It is increasing in the cement products, textiles and timber industries. I point out that two of those industries are associated with the building industry, which means, therefore, that there has been a falling-off of activity in the building industry.
In June, there was an increase in Western Australia of 184 in the number of recipients of Commonwealth unemployment benefit, and in July a further increase of 122. Yet some honorable senators from Western Australia are pleased to say that the position is good in that State. I do not argue that, statistically, the unemployment position in Western Australia is worse than that of other States - with the exception of South Australia, it is better - but it is deteriorating from month to month. I point out also that in Western Australia there are 5,582 registered unemployed and only 1,004 vacancies. In other words, there are approximately five persons unemployed in that State for each vacancy offering. Of the 1,004 vacancies, 722 are available only to skilled workers, so that the great bulk of the unemployed is unable to compete for 722 of the jobs available. Again, there are 2,928 skilled workers seeking employment but only 722 jobs available for them. There are 282 vacancies for unskilled workers but 2,654 unskilled workers are seeking employment. So, it will be readily seen that the employment position in Western Australia is not good. Although there is a large surplus of skilled workers in relation to the number of vacancies, the State government has sent a mission overseas to recruit skilled migrant labour and is even prepared to pay air fares to bring such migrants from the United Kingdom.
It is interesting to consider the reasons why it is necessary to seek skilled workers overseas. Again, we can lay the blame for this position at the door of the conservative government in Western Australia, because on taking office in 1959 it set itself out to destroy the only system in the State that was capable of training apprentices. I refer to the day labour system that had been established by the previous Labour Government. The majority of apprentices in the building industry were being trained by the day labour force, but because of the stop- and-go policies of this Government, with sums of money being dribbled into the economy as required, and no definite plan, private contractors were unable to take on apprentices. They could not guarantee that they would have contracts which would continue for five years. As a result, the number of apprentices being trained in Western Australia has been gradually falling off. That is why it is now necessary to seek skilled labour overseas. While that policy continues it will be necessary to obtain skilled labour, either from other countries or from the eastern States of the Commonwealth, as we require it.
The Government of Western Australia realizes the fallacy of this policy and, as conservative governments do, it is trying to patch things up. It has stated that perhaps it will be able to guarantee that contractors will have four years within which to train apprentices. It wants to reduce the apprenticeship training period from five years to four years. The immediate result of such a reduction, of course, would be that inadequately trained workers would come on to the skilled labour market. Consultations on the matter have been held with the unions, but they have refused to agree to a reduction of the training period. The skilled unions are controlled, for the most part, by skilled workers who know the value of the five-year training period. They appreciate that if apprentices are trained during a shorter period they will turn out sub-standard work. However, sub-standard prices will not be charged for the substandard work, because of the inflation that this Government has nurtured. Compared with the so-called Chifley flimsies, our money to-day is sub-standard, because it is worth only about half as much.
As honorable senators know, the Commonwealth Games will be held in Perth later this year. Approximately £3,000,000 has been expended on preparations for the games. That expenditure has provided quite a lot of work, but no provision has yet been made by the State government for employment to be found for the vast army of workers which will come from the games projects within the next couple of months. So, it is easy to see that, with the termination of the works associated with the games, there will be a very large supplement to our list of unemployed. If the Government of Western Australia, within the next few months,. is able to induce migrant tradesmen to come to the State, those tradesmen immediately will compete with the workers being released from construction projects for the games. I do not know the terms on which the Government of Western Australia is trying to induce migrants to come to the State, nor do I know whether it is guaranteeing them employment. It certainly cannot guarantee that homes will be provided for them. I shall have something to say about homes when the housing legislation comes before the Senate. At this stage, the State government seems to want to create competition amongst skilled workers for the few jobs that are available.
The number of unemployed on unemployment benefits in Western Australia is gradually increasing. In June this year there was an increase of 184, and in July, an increase of 122. It is notable that the bulk of the increase was in the Bunbury area. The payment of unemployment benefit during the last twelve months cost the Commonwealth Government more than the amount that is being provided under the bill now before the Senate. The estimated amount which the Government will pay out during the ensuing year on account of unemployment benefit also is greater than the amount of assistance being provided under the bill. If the Government were to adopt a policy of full employment and could avoid the necessity to pay out such a large amount for unemployment benefit, or the dole, which is what it amounts to, the States would be able to have twice the amount of money that is being provided under this bill.
We must look at the position that is being created from the point of view of those who are on unemployment benefit, because for the past two years there has not been the quick change in the employment position that occurred in earlier years. People are remaining on unemployment benefit for longer periods. They have had to realize on the assets they had acquired over a number of years, in order to supplement the amount paid to them by the Commonwealth. If they are fortunate enough to ‘have money in the bank, they must draw on .that to help them to carry on. In many instances, people are being forced to surrender articles bought on hire purchase, and when they do so, of course, they lose the amounts already paid on the articles. It is tragic that people should be obliged to draw on their savings. Generally speaking, savings are intended to provide for times when people are not able to work through sickness or some other cause. When such times come along, the Commonwealth Government will again ‘have to meet the cost because the people concerned will have to call on social service benefits. Given the opportunity they might be able to look after themselves. Whilst the Labour Party welcomes the grant provided under this bill, it says that the amount is inadequate for the purposes for which it is designed. The grant could easily be used to balance the Budgets of the States instead of for the purpose of providing the additional volume of employment that Australia’s economy requires before we have an influx of school-leavers into the work force.
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland) [4.26]. - First, I should like to reply to the accusation of the Opposition that the Menzies Government has pursued a stop-and-go policy. Honorable senators opposite tried to make the point that the Government had no well-planned projects in hand. One or two planned projects come immediately to my mind. The first of them is the Snowy Mountains scheme.
– A Labour government started that.
– You just ploughed a few sods at Adaminaby, and that was all you did. The actual site of the dam is about a mile and a half from that point.
– You boycotted the opening ceremony.
– I was there.
– In what other way could the project have been started other than by ploughing?
– To do that is not to start a project. That just indicated where the dam was to be; but as it turned out the dam is not on the site originally planned. The whole of the Snowy Mountains scheme has been implemented by this Government in co-operation with three States. It is a magnificent job and ranks among the great engineering projects of the world.
Another sample of planning that comes to my mind is the grant of £10,000,000 spread over ten years for mental hospitals. The States know what they can do during that period and can plan accordingly. The homes for the aged scheme is something of the same kind. The plan goes on, and the recipients of the subsidy know what they can do. The same observation applies to hospitals for tuberculosis sufferers. The Commonwealth pays for the hospitals and the States provide the staff. The universities know what finance is coming to them over a period of years. Another illustration, which I very nearly forgot, is the subsidy provided for oil search. This Government has planned ahead over the years, working in co-operation with the oil companies. The Commonwealth not only provides a certain amount of finance but also gives the companies the benefit of the assistance of the Bureau of Mineral Resources. The success achieved in Queensland has resulted from information and finance supplied by this Government. In Queensland alone, £4,250,000 was spent on the search for oil during 1960-61.
I now come to the bill itself. This is the States Grants (Additional Assistance) Bill. I ask honorable senators to note the term “ additional “. The purpose of the bill is to make available a non-repayable, interest-free sum of £12,500,000. This amount is additional to the grant that was made available in February of this year when £10,000,000 was granted to the States to alleviate unemployment throughout Australia. It is true, as Senator DrakeBrockman said, that this grant is in addition also to the £250,000,000 for the works programme to which the various States agreed early this year; and it is in addition also to tax reimbursements and moneys granted to the States under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement.
I have stated that the bill provides for a grant of £12,500,000. It is interesting to note the break-up of that amount. My own State of Queensland is to receive the largest amount- £3,640,000. New South Wales comes next with £3,044,000, followed by Victoria with £2,442,000, Tasmania £1,168,000, South Australia £1,312,000, and Western Australia £894,000. The States can spend this money in whatever manner they determine. On first thoughts some honorable senators might think that the purposes for which this money may be spent should be limited, but it is obvious that the States know best how and where the money should be expended. The Commonwealth has requested that the money be spent on activities which will generate more employment. The policy of the Government is to employ the whole of the work force as quickly as possible.
It is pleasing to note that unemployment in Queensland is decreasing. In January, there were 30,426 unemployed in that State, but by 27th July the number had fallen to 14,195. Queensland’s unemployment was the worst in Australia. Now it is in secondlast position with 2.4 per cent, of unemployment, but coming closer to the other States. South Australia has the least unemployment, 1.7 per cent. Queensland is still to quite a large extent a primary producing State. This has contributed towards unemployment in the State. We all know that the work force in primary industry is very small, whereas the work force in secondary industry is very large. The ideal situation is to have a balance between the two types of industry, with primary industry having a fair amount of labour and big manufacturing industries absorbing the bulk of the workers. I think that most honorable senators realize that the primary industries are the most important industries for Australia. They not only provide the cash for imports of raw materials, machinery and plant for secondary industries, but also they build up our overseas balances.
Over the past few years the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has been able to establish far more markets for secondary industries than we ever had previously. He has been able to show Australian manufacturers that in many instances their goods can compete in other countries. This does not mean that we shall be a’ble to do without our primary industries. They will have to carry on in vast areas of Australia, much of which is still virtually untouched. They are gradually increasing their carrying capacity of sheep and cattle and increasing their output, lt is necessary that they continue in this way and that they be looked after as well as possible.
The past three years were very bad for Queensland. In some important areas severe drought conditions prevailed, and this contributed to unemployment. Men were not wanted, as there was nothing for them to do. Vast areas were so badly affected that there was no stock at all on them. This was the position in the Channel country, but this area has now received some rain and prospects appear better. Queensland has extensive seasonal employment in such big industries as the sugar industry and the wool industry and in meatworks. For only three, six or nine months of the year these industries maintain full employment. The meatworks shut down when there are no more cattle or sheep to slaughter and the men are thrown out of work. Because of drought conditions in the past three years the meatworks have not been able to operate for as long as they do in normal periods. The sugar industry was similarly affected. These conditions cannot be overcome immediately. Many seasonal workers have homes in the south. They come to Queensland from year to year only for the season. It is necessary to establish secondary industries in Queensland, and especially in north Queensland, in order to provide employment which will absorb seasonal workers in their off period. This would enable them to live in Queensland for the whole of the year.
Further evidence of this Government’s interest in Queensland is the grant of £1,750,000 to open up what we know as the brigalow country, extending from the Fitzroy River basin, in the Capricornia electorate of central Queensland, in a wide strip which crosses the border near Goondiwindi into New South Wales, lt is wonderful land with a mass of brigalow scrub. To bring it to production is a major project which will cost a lot of money, but the area will be worth a great deal when it is finally cleared. Efforts were made earlier to clear this scrub, but they were unsuccessful. If the land is left untended for twelve months after clearing suckers appear and the scrub becomes worse than it was before it was cleared by chopping down or bulldozing. However, if the land-holder sticks to it, keeping the land ploughed and worked, he gets rid of the brigalow suckers and the land is available for farming.
This land, when cleared, is very good farming land. It has been suggested that the work should b3 financed by the Commonwealth Government and the State Government, and done piece by piece. Three thousand acres have already been cleared at the beginning of the Fitzroy Basin in central Queensland. The entire Fitzroy Basin comprises about 4,000,000 acres. The work could be started in the area I have mentioned. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics has made a favorable report on this land which, when cleared, could be extremely valuable as a means of providing holdings for many hundreds of farmers. The project, which will cost a lot of money, could well be financed by the Development Bank. I must sound this note of warning: It is futile to start clearing this type of land and then, when the money has run out, to leave the site and return a year later. By that time the land will again be overgrown with brigalow, and a fresh start will have to be made. If brigalow is cleared continually for the first few years, no more trouble is experienced. This project, as I have said, could well be taken up by the Development Bank.
It has been found by experiment that the best types of grass for fodder in this area are buffel and green panic, and they are being grown there now. This is first-class grazing country and the cattle on it are doing wonderfully well. There is no doubt that brigalow clearance is a desirable project for Queensland. I do not expect all the work to be done at once. If it is done piece by piece over the years, the land will become a valuable asset to the beef cattle industry. The area under discussion is quite near the meat-works at Rockhampton, and other meat-works farther down the coast.
The Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government have co-operated in planning the development of beef roads over a five-year period. There are to be six such roads. One, the road from Normanton to Julia Creek, was started last year with an estimated expenditure of ?650,000. The remaining five roads are from Georgetown to Mount Surprise and the Hann Highway; from Mount Isa to Dajarra; from Dajarra to Boulia; from Winton to Boulia; and from Quilpie to Windorah. The roads, when completed, will lead to a rail head in every part of Queensland. The Mount Isa-Dajarra road will be used to take cattle to the far north rail head. The road from Georgetown will lead to the northern railway - the new railway. The Dajarra-Boulia road and the Winton-Boulia road will come into the central part at Winton, and the Quilpie-Windorah road will lead to the southern line at Charleville. Those roads have already been catered for, ?5,000,000 having been granted for their construction. This work will proceed to completion.
The other important project in the north of Queensland is the Mount IsaTownsvilleCollinsville railway, which has been mentioned in this chamber before. Honorable senators will recall that the Commonwealth Government raised a loan of ?20,000,000, and the State Government ?10,000,000, for this work. The rehabilitation of this railway is one of the major projects in Queensland. I was in that district in the early part of the year and I found that the work was proceeding smoothly. It is expected to be completed by 1964, but it may well be finished some months earlier. This railway, which will stimulate industry, will be a great asset; it will be invaluable to Queensland, and especially to Townsville. It is expected that the Mount Isa company will extend its copper refinery, which will provide much more employment in Townsville itself.
I have emphasized the co-operation that has existed between the Commonwealth and Queensland, and other States as well. I am glad that the bill has been introduced, and I support it.
– I ask leave to make a personal explanation.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Does the honorable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In the course of a personal explanation in the House of Representatives earlier to-day the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) made a reference to an Australian Broadcasting Commission’s report of my speech last evening on the motion “That the Budget Papers be printed “. The Senate will remember that last night I said -
Last year in the Budget speech the Treasurer confirmed the Government’s devotion to the policy of full employment. Down the years he and his fellow Ministers have constantly had the words “ full employment “ on their lips. I invite anybody on the Government side to find the words “ full employment “ in this Budget speech. They have dropped out of the vocabulary of the Government and the Treasurer - as well they might, having regard to the results that had been achieved by the Government.
Mr. Holt in his personal explanation said that at page 15 of “Hansard” of 7th August reporting his Budget speech, the following passage appeared: -
There is still too little recognition of the link between export income and our objective of full employment. Without an adequate export income, we cannot have “created for us the job opportunities which a growing work force will need.
Mr. Holt further said ;
I conclude merely by saying that the words speak for themselves. It is quite clear that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate had no justification for making this quite erroneous statement. I hope that he will take suitable action to ensure that the matter is corrected in the Senate.
I take the opportunity to confirm and repeat every word that I uttered last evening. The two sentences appearing in “Hansard” do not appear in the speech made by Senator Paltridge, the Minister representing the Treasurer, when he simultaneously delivered this speech by the Treasurer in introducing the motion that the Budget Papers be printed. Nor does that passage appear in the printed version of. the Budget speech which the Treasurer himself circulated to all members of the Parliament. It is clear that that passage was inserted as an afterthought by the Treasurer on his- feet.
My remarks were directed to the official documents tabled on behalf of the Treasurer in this place. I challenge any Government member in the Senate to find the passage Mr. Holt now quotes in either the speech made by Senator Paltridge, the official copy of the Budget speech or the “ Hansard “ report of the Budget speech in the Senate.
The Treasurer’s personal explanation lacked frankness in not disclosing that the speech and papers tabled on his behalf in the Senate did not contain the sentences to which he now directs attention.
I made no erroneous statement. I add to what I have already said this further statement: The very last thing the Treasurer thought of was full employment “.
– by leave- This matter arises as a result of a speech delivered in this Chamber last night by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) in which he said that in the Budget speech there was no reference to full employment. He then proceeded to attempt to develop the argument that what he assumed to be the absence of the words “ full employment “ meant that the Government was no longer pursuing a policy of full employment. I leave that aspect of the matter there without arguing it further, because there will be ample opportunity to do so. What the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate actually said was that in this Budget Speech there is no use of the words “ full employment “. Then to-day he says that my own speech delivered in this Senate, on behalf of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), did not contain the words. That I readily acknowledge. The speech made by me in this chamber is not, and has not been for some years, a precise replica of the speech delivered in the House of Representatives. In some respects it is an abridgment of that speech. I say at once that the passage now in question was not spoken by me in this chamber. The point at issue is whether it was spoken by the Treasurer when he gave his speech in his own House.
The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate says that it was not in that speech. It was in the speech, and it was in the official record. The words were spoken during the speech and appeared next morning in the “ Hansard “ report of the speech. Those words have always been in the speech. True enough, the passage did not appear in the distributed copy specially prepared for circulation by the Treasurer. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate knows full well from his own experience that not infrequently Ministers, when presenting statements to Parliament, or delivering second-reading speeches in support of bills, make alterations as they finally revise their speeches before they are delivered. Mr. Holt was careful indeed to see that his speech was amended to strike precisely the tone and the note that he wanted to strike. I regret that this misunderstanding has arisen. Let me say at once that it is unfortunate that the speech presented in the circulated copy was not in the precise form in which it was delivered and in the precise way in which it appeared in “ Hansard “. However, that does not alter the fact that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate was in error when he made the charge last night that the words “ full employment “ did not appear in the Budget speech.
.- The Senate was discussing a very simple bill, but I wondered if it were the Budget itself. Some honorable senators went almost as far as the moon to find something to talk about. They were surveying the heavens above, the Milky Way, to see whether there was something there that they could bring down here to discuss for their own entertainment. This is a simple bill, and we have no need to go over the loan works carried out by State governments and by the Commonwealth Government. It is not known what class of work will be financed by the money provided under the bill. How is the money provided? That is a simple question and is easily answered. The
Government is merely going to its Consolidated Revenue Fund - which is created by the people paying direct and indirect taxes and other charges - taking out £12,500,000 and allocating it to the States,
How is it proposed to allocate the sums to the States? Is it according to the level of prosperity or the level of poverty in the States? The Government has decided to allocate these sums according to the level of poverty reigning in the States. I am not proud - as some Queenslanders in this chamber are proud - to learn that the State of Queensland requires £3,600,000 for relief works to carry it on between now and June of next year. That is all the bill means - nothing else. Nothing can be gained by introducing extraneous subjects into this debate. Talking about the development of the brigalow country in Queensland for the purpose of expanding the beef industry is all very well in its place and at the proper time, but it does not come into this bill.
Let us look at the situation in another way. Does the position in Queensland at present warrant that State’s being granted the major sum to be allocated from the £12,500,000? From my knowledge of the State, and personal knowledge of the level of unemployment, I would say Queensland fully deserves the lion’s share of this £12,500,000. So that honorable senators will clearly understand what I am saying, I point out that this money is a dole to the States to enable hem to begin some form of relief work.
In 1957-58 the Commonwealth made a grant of £5,000,000 to the States. There was nothing magnanimous about that grant. In February this year the Government made £10,000,000 available to the States because the aftermath of the credit squeeze made that grant essential if the industries which had reached stagnation were to be revived and given a little momentum. I saw what kind of relief that grant of £10,000,000 achieved. I do not want to disparage the efforts of the Commonwealth Government to make a re-adjustment of economic conditions in Queensland and in the other States at that time, before that time or at the present time. Following that grant being made available, married men with families, who had been unemployed for two years, gained employment on labouring work at rates of pay no higher than the basic wage. I saw that happen, so I know that these grants do some good.
What does this grant mean? The word “ grant “ is used in the bill and we have been speaking about it this afternoon. This money does not come from the Loan Fund; it comes from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. It is a grant which does not have to be repaid, lt is a gift to the States. If it does nothing else, it emblazons across the sky the unsatisfactory financial relationship between the Commonwealth and the States. Australia has seven governments. One government can go to its funds, take out £12,500,000 and disburse it amongst the other six governments. How much longer will we stand for this cobwebcovered financial relationship? The time has arrived when the relationship should be recast so that the States will have their sovereign powers and be able to hold their heads up, instead of coming to the Commonwealth Government with cupped hands, like beggars, as they do every year when the Australian Loan Council meets and at other times, and asking for money.
Even this grant misses its objective, lt is badly aimed. The local authorities are among the most important bodies operating in the Commonwealth to-day. What is their position? If we want to relieve unemployment, we should allocate at least some of the money to the local authorities throughout the Commonwealth. They will use it to build roads and do other worthwhile work. No one- in this Senate can point to one project on which this money will be spent. The Government has safeguarded its own interests. This grant is a gift, but the States are not allowed to use the money as they wish. It is given with an instruction to carry out some form of relief work.
The Government will make this money available in instalments when it thinks fit. If, after examining the work that is being carried out, the Government does not approve of it, the Government is not bound to pay the money. My interpretation of this bill is that the States, first of all, have to spend some of their own funds on a project and then the Commonwealth will make an examination of it. Of course, the Government has access to the Treasury files all the time and knows what work is being carried out. The States have to use the money in a special way. Then if the Commonwealth approves of the work, the States receive their instalments. I will put it another way in case anybody doubts my proposition: What would happen if one of the States spent a large portion of its allocation on plant? I am sure that the Commonwealth Government would not pay that State any instalments. The work that is carried out has to relieve unemployment.
I come from a State in which unemployment is greater at certain times of the year than it is at others. The present time is the golden period of the year in Queensland because all our seasonal rural industries are operating at their zenith. The people who gain their livelihood from those industries are fully employed now and will be fully employed for another two or three months. The meat industry is operating at full strength and the sugar industry is in the process of harvesting. My friend, Senator Sherrington, who is a cane-grower, knows all about the sugar industry. Harvesting will continue until probably late in November. If Senator Sherrington wished to do so, he could tell the Senate that the harvest used to extend into the new year. With the introduction of mechanical harvesters and bulk loading, the sugar season has been shortened. The workers who have followed that industry for years now have employment for a shorter period.
If I had anything to do with the allocation of this grant, I am sure that I could allocate it very reasonably and sensibly. Only about one-third of the City of Brisbane, which is in a sub-tropical area, is sewered. Honorable senators will know what night carts are. One can go to Brisbane and see them buzzing about in the middle of the day in the summer time or in any other part of the year. If the Government wants to give some relief through the agency of creative and remunerative employment it should consider sewerage. This work returns the money that is spent by the constructing authority. If the Government wishes to do the greatest amount of good by allocating money to improve the prosperity of Brisbane and other areas in Australia, first it should make a small grant of £2,000,000 direct to the Brisbane City Council for sewerage. That would provide employment at least until December, 1963.
The grant made by the Commonwealth in February of this year has had a good effect. The Government should not feel proud of that, because it has been forced to make these grants to the States. It could have complacently put its fingers under the lapels of its coat and said, “ We will not give any grant “; but it would have got it in the neck - to use an expression of the street - at the next elections. The Government had to make this grant of £12,500,000. Loan money creates employment while it is being spent, but it does not always leave conditions that will enable more people to be employed in the district in which it has been spent. What we want in Queensland is a greater volume of secondary industries on which we can rely to employ the children who are leaving school. I do not want to harp on unemployment because in my opinion it is too serious a subject to be used for all purposes.
Thousands of Queensland children who left school last year are still unemployed. Within another few months, there will be another wave of school-leavers joining them and this £3,600,000 will not provide any relief for them. We are glad to know it is to be spent because while it is being spent it will provide employment of a kind and, in that way, it will do some good.
– I support the bill which seeks to make available to the States an additional £12,500,000. As the bill sets out, of this £12,500,000, New South Wales is to receive £3,044,000, Victoria £2,442,000, Queensland £3,640,000, South Australia £1,312,000, Western Australia £894,000 and Tasmania £1,168,000. In my view, these amounts represent actual gifts to the States; and the bill provides that they are to be paid out of Consolidated Revenue by instalments.
The purpose of the bill is to create confidence in and stimulate our national economy. I am sure it will create further confidence in our economy; and it must reduce our unemployment figure. I remind the Senate that at the rate of £800 a year for one person, this £12,500,000 will provide work for at least 15,000 men for the year. The Opposition has asked how many workers this grant will take off the list of unemployed. If they are employed usefully at £800 a year, at least 15,000 people will be removed from the ranks of the unemployed. Mr. Whitlam, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in another place, can tell honorable senators opposite how much the placing of these additional 15,000 people in employment will step up our production.
I am surprised that the Labour Party does not appreciate the halting of inflation. That party has always argued, both inside and outside the Parliament, that inflation is one of our worst enemies; yet, immediately we make an attempt to halt inflation, the Labour Party criticizes us. In effect, its members say to the world, “ If we were returned to office we would have raging inflation “. Raging inflation. It is our greatest enemy, yet members of the Labour Party want to live with it and nurse it to their bosoms. Australia is also experiencing a good measure of price stability at the moment. The Labour Party has always argued that we should have price stability but, immediately we attempt to achieve it, we are castigated. We have held our overseas trade balances in a favorable position. Surely the Opposition appreciates that fact. But, more important, we are beginning to see a revival of production in those areas where there had been some decline. I cite the motor industry as an example.
Indeed, there has been a steady improvement in our employment position right throughout the country. We on this side of the Senate never want to see any one out of work, and we have done more to provide real work in the community than any other government has done. I remind the Senate, too, that only a few months ago when members of the Labour Party were wooing the people they said, “ If we are returned to power it will take at least from twelve to eighteen months to put all the unemployed into useful employment “. Now, just over seven months later, we are seeing a great revival in our employment position. The private sector of the community is employing more workers, and that is where we want to see more employees engaged. The Australian Labour Party has not the slightest idea of what it would do if ever it attained office. I wonder what its policy would be if it were the Government? I think its first plank would be raging inflation, and we on this side wish to protect the people of Australia from that. I was surprised at the criticism which was levelled by the Opposition this afternoon in respect of the constitutional right of the States to expend this money as they think fit. I was surprised, also, to hear Senator Benn contradict himself. First, he sought to stress the fact that the States have a sovereign right to spend their revenue as they think fit, but, if I understood him correctly, he immediately proceeded to say how he thought this money should be spent and to outline the conditions which he thought should govern the expenditure.
Opposition senators from South Australia have used this bill as a stalking horse for the standardization of the railway line between Port Pirie and Broken Hill. Senator Toohey prejudiced his case to-day by making an unwarranted attack on Senators Buttfield, Hannaford and Laught, all of whom are members of the Government Members Rail Standardization Committee. I assure the Senate that ever since the section of railway between Bordertown and Mount Gambier was converted from the old 3ft. 6in. gauge to the 5ft. 3in. gauge under the old standardization agreement every Liberal-Country League senator and every member of the House of Representatives from South Australia has consistently advocated that we immediately begin the standardization of the line between Port Pirie and Broken Hill. They have been and still are persisting in their endeavours to persuade the Government to proceed with that work. It has been my privilege to attend meetings of the Government Members Rail Standardization Committee for some time, and I assure Senator Toohey and the Senate that there never has been, there is not now and there never will be any of the grandstanding to which Senator Toohey has referred. On the contrary, we are on the outer mound, as it were; we are not in the grandstand by any means. But we will persist in our efforts to put South Australia in the box seat so far as the Port Pirie to Broken Hill line is concerned.
It is pleasing to know that at long last the Labour senators from South Australia are supporting our constant advocacy of this rail standardization project. It is well-known that the iron ore deposits and the proposed steel works in Western Australia have led to the granting of priority in rail standardization to Western Australia over South Australia. Since that decision was taken by the Government, new situations have arisen in South Australia which must surely convince the Government that it is necessary to have another look at the Port Pirie-Broken Hill rail standardization project. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his recent speech on the European Common Market, clearly set out the facts concerning Great Britain’s projected entry into the European Economic Community and the effect that that might have on the Port Pirie-Broken Hill rail standardization work. He emphasized the question of costs.
A reduction of haulage costs would help our lead concentrates industry. We know that the advent of diesel engines, with suitable trucks, and the modification of the gradient on certain portions of the line between Port Pirie and Broken Hill, would greatly assist in reducing transport costs. It is pleasing to me to know that, in anticipation of. future standardization, Sir Thomas Playford is going ahead with work to overcome some of the gradient difficulties on the railway line. The work that Sir Thomas Playford proposes to do should help Peterborough business people. When dieselization occurs, Peterborough will feel the effects of the diminution in the work force required to operate diesel engines instead of steam engines. I agree that the smelting works at Port Pirie must be maintained.
There is one aspect of this matter that I wish to stress. Port Pirie produces great quantities of sulphuric acid, which is of importance in the manufacture of superphosphate in South Australia. Instead of switching over to brimstone for the production of sulphuric acid, my State followed the advice given by the Commonwealth Government some years ago and established pyrites works, and so on. As a result, it has been penalized for its loyalty, so to speak. It is only because we can obtain relatively cheap sulphuric acid from the company at Port Pirie that our production costs for superphosphate are comparable with those of States in which brimstone is used as the basis for production. That is one of the reasons why I think the
Commonwealth Government should have another look at the proposal to standardize the railway line between Port Pirie and Broken Hill. In my opinion, the standardization work should be pushed ahead with vigour and continuity, according to a plan. Honorable senators will have an opportunity, when we are debating the Budget papers, to discuss this matter. I have no desire to cloud the discussion of the bill before the Senate by further reference to the need to convert the Port PirieBroken Hill line to standard gauge. In my opinion, the bill provides for grants which will stimulate the economy and reduce unemployment. I support it.
– I support the argument presented by Senator Toohey and Senator Drury because it undoubtedly represents public opinion in South Australia at the moment. The people of that State consider that, because of the failure of the Commonwealth Government to accede to the request of the Premier of South Australia for the provision of money to standardize the railway line between Port Pirie and Peterborough, the amount allocated under the bill now before the Senate is completely inadequate. I suggest to the Liberal senators opposite that if they disagree with that view, and if they think that the people of South Australia are wrong in this connexion, they should take up the argument with the leaders of their party in South Australia, particularly Sir Thomas Playford. During the last week, Sir Thomas Playford has been at great pains, through the medium of the press, the radio, television and the State Parliament, to tell the people of South Australia what he thinks about this matter. He has said that South Australia’s interests have been sadly neglected by the Commonwealth Government. There is little doubt that the comments of Senator Toohey and Senator Drury represent the majority view of South Australians, and most certainly the view of those who take an interest in this matter.
Senator Laught chided Senator Toohey for not confining his remarks to the subject covered by the bill. Having listened to honorable senators opposite who have spoken during this debate, I think it can be said that Senator Toohey confined his remarks to the bill much more than they did. It would be illogical and unreal to argue that the amount provided under the bill was adequate without taking into consideration the sums of money made available to the States by the Commonwealth Government by means of grants or other methods. It is true, as the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) stated in his secondreading speech, that the various State Premiers have accepted the amounts provided for by the bill. It is also true, as Sir Thomas Playford has stated, that at the time he accepted the amount as equitable for South Australia for the purpose for which it is intended, he was in negotiation with the Commonwealth Government to secure money with which to make a start on the standardization of the Port Pirie-Broken Hill railway line. The failure of the Commonwealth Government to meet that request highlights the inadequacy . of the amount allocated to South Australia under this bill.
The Premier of South Australia has made it clear that moneys which he would have used for other purposes, including the money that he will obtain under this bill, will now be spent by him in commencing the rail standardization programme. So, I say that Senator Laught, in chiding Senator Toohey, was being completely unrealistic. In fact, he was as unrealistic as the Premiers would have been had they not taken into consideration the amounts made available to them by other means. How else could they decide whether the allocation under this bill was equitable or not?
While Senator Gorton was temporarily in charge of the bill earlier to-day during the absence of the Minister, he interjected when Senator Cant was speaking about Western Australia’s allocation. Senator Gorton said, “ Well, the Western Australian Premier should be satisfied because he is getting £7,000,000 under the Budget proposals.” So, Senator Gorton accepts the inescapable fact that the amount to be provided under this bill cannot be considered in isolation. Senator Laught, in the brief contribution that he made to the debate, stated that Senator Toohey had misinterpreted the letter sent by the Prime Minister (Mr Menzies) to the Premier of South Australia. He read a portion of the letter to show that it did not mean the end of the road so far as rail standardization in South Australia is concerned. I suggest to Senator Laught that he take up that argument with Sir Thomas Playford, because the words used by that gentleman were much stronger than those used by either Senator Toohey or Senator Drury. I have here a report published in the “Advertiser” of Friday, 10th August, which reads as follows: -
The Premier said he had received a letter from Mr. Menzies saying that the Commonwealth did not propose to make money available for the standardization of the Port Pirie-Broken Hill railway in the immediate future. “ The letter made it quite clear it was not a definite rejection of the S.A. request but that it was a very long deferment of the proposal “, the Premier said.
Then in black letters appeared the following words - “ Frankly I believe it is a definite rejection “.
If honorable senators opposite wish to enter into argument with Senator Toohey because of his interpretation of the letter, I suggest that they also enter into argument with Sir Thomas Playford, because in unmistakable terms he said that he believed the letter to be a definite rejection. Sir Thomas Playford also made a similar statement in the South Australian Parliament on the previous day. The “ Advertiser “ reported -
Rail standardization in S.A. had been postponed indefinitely, the Premier (Sir Thomas Playford) told the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hutchens) in the Assembly yesterday.
Unless Sir Thomas Playford has been grandstanding and leading the public of South Australia up the garden path, we must conclude that it was his belief that the letter from the Prime Minister was a rejection for an indefinite period of the proposal by South Australia.
There is only one other point made by Senator Laught to which I wish to reply. He referred to criticism of him by Senator Toohey on questions that he asked. Senator Laught said that he had noted that Liberal senators were much more to the point in asking questions that affected South Australia than were senators on this side of the chamber. All I can say to Senator Laught is that when he asks propaganda questions, it is to be expected that he will get the type of answer he seeks. That cannot be said in respect of replies to questions that are asked by honorable senators on this side of the chamber. We have no illusions about the sort of answer we will get
I believe that the only good purpose that this debate can serve is that we might be able to ascertain whether the interests of South Australia have been discriminated against compared with those of other States, as was alleged by the Premier of South Australia. That allegation was supported by the “Advertiser”, which is a supporter of both the Playford Government and this Government. Both the Premier of South Australia and the leader writer of the “ Advertiser “ stated that South Australia’s interests were being discriminated against as far as rail standardization was concerned, and both implied that it was because of pressure brought to bear on this Government by interests in other States. I shall quote first the statement of the Premier of South Australia as reported in the “Advertiser” of Friday, 10th August. Sir Thomas Playford said -
I believe it would be a waste of time for me to take up this matter again with the Prime Minister.
I do not believe any political pressure is likely to do any good.
The Senate has long since ceased to be a State House - it has become a party House.
– Who said that?
- Sir Thomas Playford. He continued -
In the circumstances I propose to recommend to Cabinet that we do as much of the standardization work as we can finance ourselves.
On the question of whether this is a party House or a States House it would be interesting to know Sir Thomas Playford’s view as to the particular moment in history the change came about. The other point is the inference that he cannot rely upon the representations of members of his own party or of the Labour Party to bring pressure to bear upon this Government.
A leading article in the “ Advertiser “ stated -
These efforts will doubtless continue. N.S.W. interests are thus unlikely to favour Federal initiative in improving S.A. rail links to the northeast. That situation calls for vigilance and possibly resolute action by S.A. members of the Federal Parliament.
That article on the one hand calls upon federal members representing South Australia for resolute action, whilst on the other hand the Premier of South Australia says that he cannot rely on them. It may be true that the Senate is no longer a States
House and that it operates on party lines. That has not always been so, because I can recall instances when honorable senators, regardless of party, have voted against the Government on proposals which they considered to be inimical to the interests of their State or those of the Commonwealth as a whole. In addition, it would have been possible for honorable senators opposite to have used their influence inside the party room. With the present state of the parties, in both this chamber and in another place, I suggest honorable senators opposite could have used their influence to good purpose if they were as concerned about rail standardization as Senator Mattner suggested he was. The plain fact is that the majority of the people of South Australia at the last federal election voted in favour of Labour Party candidates for both the Senate and the House of Representatives. There is no doubt whatever that they voted for the policy of the Austraiian Labour Party in respect of rail standardization. Without equivocation Labour stated that if returned to office it would implement the 1949 rail standardization agreement.
– Do you think that South Australia has an overriding right in relation to any other State?
– I think that it has equal rights with those of any other State.
In his contribution to this debate Senator Mattner mentioned that the Prime Minister, when discussing the European Common Market, said he was concerned about the position of the lead industry at Port Pirie. Senator Mattner stressed that it would be necessary to provide the cheapest means of transport if Australia’s lead was to compete on the markets of the world. The provision of such transport is in the interests of Australia as a whole and not those of South Australia only. Everybody in South Australia realizes that fact. I ask for leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) - by leave - agreed to -
That Government business take precedence ot general business after 8 p.m. this sitting.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– When the debate was interrupted I was saying that aid by the Commonwealth Government to South Australia was particularly under the notice of the South Australian people because Sir Thomas Playford had, for over a week, been criticizing this Government, going so far as to claim that the interests of South Australia were being sabotaged by pressure brought to bear on the Government by more influential representation from other States. The Premier was supported in that contention by the Adelaide “ Advertiser “. The point I was trying to make was that either the Premier was wrong in making those allegations and was grandstanding - a term brought into the debate earlier in the day - or this Government was guilty as charged. Either the Premier is right in his contention that South Australia is being bypassed and this Government is not giving it a just share of the amount being provided to the States, or he is doing a bit of political grandstanding, in which case it is up to Government senators to show just that. So far during this debate, no South Australian supporter of the Government has been prepared to disagree with the statements of the Premier. However, honorable senators opposite seek to be apologists for the attitude adopted by the Government. If this debate is to serve any purpose that position should be clarified.
The Australian Labour Party is at one with Sir Thomas Playford on this matter at this time. I hasten to add that this is not because of the issue being raised now by the Premier. In point of fact, Labour support for the standardization of the rail link between Port Pirie and Broken Hill has a long history. It has entered my mind that a possible explanation of the Government’s shabby treatment of South Australia’s representations is that it has become a bit fed up with Sir Thomas Playford. Whatever he may be doing on this occasion, there is no doubt that he has done some grandstanding in the past. Also, I have no doubt that he has been an embarrassment to various Ministers of this Government. For all that, I do not think there is any excuse for making the people of South Australia - or, indeed, of Australia as a whole - pay the piper because of any pique a Minister may feel towards the Premier.
I should like to cover briefly the history of the argument that has developed between the Premier and this Government in respect of standardization of the rail link between Port Pirie and Broken Hill. It goes back to a by-election in South Australia towards the end of 1960. Sir Thomas Playford, in supporting the Liberal candidate, on the Thursday or Friday night prior to the Saturday on which the election was held stated that an amount of £18,000,000-1 think that was the figurewould be spent on the standardization. He gave the number of employees who would be employed in the various towns along the route, which were in the electorate concerned, and to cover himself he added, at the tail end of his speech, that in the event of the Commonwealth’s not agreeing to his demands for standardization of the railway he could, according to advice that he had received, force the Commonwealth to implement the existing agreement in respect of that line. Mr. Arthur Calwell, who took part in the by-election campaign, was faced next day with headlines in the Adelaide afternoon paper, the “ News “, and a report stating the amount of money that was to be expended and the number of employees who were to be employed in the various centres along the line. He replied that the Premier had no right to make that statement, which had not this Government’s approval, but he added that in the event of Labour’s coming to power it would implement the 1949 agreement.
That agreement is still in existence. The people who voted for the Labour Party in South Australia at the last federal election voted on an unequivocal undertaking that if Labour were elected it would, at the first opportunity, start work on standardization of that line. So I do not want to be misunderstood when I say that this time we agree with the argument that Sir Thomas Playford is putting forward. That is not on any short-term basis. It is only because in this day and age Sir Thomas Playford has come round to expressing a view already held in the ranks of the Australian Labour Party - and I am not speaking only for the South Australian branch of the party. On that score, the issue is quite clear. The people of South Australia have been told by Sir Thomas Playford that they have had a raw deal from this Government and that he proposes that they go it alone. If they go it alone it can only be at the expense of some other works in South Australia, as stated by Senator Toohey and Senator Drury. The money to be provided under the bill can be spent by the States in any manner desired.
The Premier of South Australia was negotiating with this Government, and I believe that he honestly thought that he would obtain the amount of £800,000 that he sought to make a commencement on the standardization. As stated in the leading article I cited earlier, in a budget providing for a deficit of over £100,000,000, £800,000 is an infinitesimal amount, and the people of South Australia believe that the Government could have provided it without any embarrassment whatever.
I ask any following speakers on the Government side to answer these questions: Do they believe that Sir Thomas Playford is entitled to make the charges that he is making against the Government? Is the standardization of that section of line as urgent as Sir Thomas Playford and the Labour Party claim it to be? Did the Government not accede to South Australia’s request because it was piqued at the Premier for some past misdeeds?
– I enter this debate for one reason only, that is, that Senator Toohey challenged South Australian Liberal senators to say whether or not they believe in rail standardization. I have accepted that challenge because I am quite prepared to say where I stand, but I think the majority of the arguments that have been put forward by the Labour Party in this debate are not relevant to this legislation. They are more in keeping with the Budget debate. It was in that debate that I intended to say most of what I believe about the South Australian railway situation and I shall say it again in that debate. I say to Senator Toohey that there is more than one way to be resolute. One can be resolute and effective, and one can be resolute and ineffective. I believe that action counts more than words. I for one, with the rest of the Liberal senators, am taking action. We do not continually stand up and grandstand about what we are doing. When Senator Toohey accused Senator Laught of grandstanding, I said there was more than one way of killing a cat. The best way of getting something done is not always to stand up in this chamber and to make accusations. It is very easy to stand up and make a noise; but that is not the way to get things done in politics. That is why I propose to make some remarks on this bill. People who take the trouble to read the report of this debate should understand that one does not always get what one wants by standing up in this chamber and demanding it. Recently in the field of international events there have been some examples of people thumping the table and demanding what they want. This sort of thing may achieve something occasionally, but there is always to-morrow, and in this matter I am one of those who think of to-morrow.
– Is the honorable senator referring to Labour senators or to Sir Thomas Playford?
– In this instance I am referring to you. You are standing up and demanding things, and I do not think that that is the way to get what we want. In political affairs it is often possible to get more by working behind the scenes than by speaking publicly. In the human institutions, whether in politics or in business, human personalities enter the picture and often there is a conflict of personalities, and in this case there is a clash of personalities. I believe that the best contribution we, as back benchers, can make is to try to even out the problems involved. If we can do this we will come to a better understanding and have a better atmosphere for negotiation. I have always tried to do this.
There may have been faults on both sides, but who am I to judge? I do not know who is at fault. I do not know whether action should or should not have been taken in the High Court in relation to rail standardization. I am not the one to judge that action. However, I think it was unfortunate, because it had the effect of depriving South Australia of its share of the cake that was being cut up at that time.
We do not resent the fact that the other States got their share, but I repeat that it was unfortunate that we were not there to get our portion.
I believe that this Government has been very generous in its allocation to the States by way of special grants such as those provided for in this bill. The intention of the measure is to make financial provision for employment-giving activities. The questions are: Where is employment urgently needed, and what are the activities that will provide the most employment? The South Australian Government has done magnificent work in maintaining a high rate of employment in that State and is thoroughly deserving of commendation. The fact that unemployment in South Australia has not reached so high a level as in some other States is perhaps one of the reasons why that State will not receive as much of this grant as it would like. [ hasten to say that we in South Australia normally expect to get about 10 per cent, share of any disbursement that is to be shared between the States since our population is about 10 per cent of the whole. Under this bill, the sum of £12,500,000 is being divided between the States, and South Australia is to receive more than £1,250,000, which is 10 per cent, of the total.
I accept the Minister’s statement that the State Premiers agreed to this allocation. If so, who am I to disagree? If our Premier has agreed that the allocation is reasonable, that is good enough for me. The grant of a little more than £1,250,000 will be put to good use in work such as the dieselization of the South Australian railways, which is being discussed, and the provision of new ore wagons. This is a good thing. The South Australian railway system is at present uneconomic and the conversion, when completed, will result in a saving of £300,000 annually in operating costs.
I know that the Premier and the Prime Minister discussed this matter; I happened to have arranged the meeting. Perhaps the supporters of the Labour Party might note that instead of standing up and screaming in this chamber. Why do they not arrange these things if they think we are doing nothing? The Prime Minister and the Premier had a talk and came to an amicable arrangement. Their talk went beyond railway standardization; it involved other matters of vital importance to South Australia. One of these matters was water conservation, which is as important as rail standardization. We know that an agreement on water conservation is in the course of negotiation, and to substantiate this, I shall read an answer that was given by Senator Spooner in this chamber last week in respect of the Chowilla Dam. He said -
Since the Parliament last mct there has been a conference about the Chowilla Dam. At that conference all the States concerned agreed on the desirability of proceeding wilh the construction of the Chowilla Dam, and the Commonwealth Government indicated its willingness to provide 25 per cent, of the required money. The New South Wales Government said that although it agreed upon the need for the Chowilla Dam it would like, for financial reasons, to consider deferring construction of the dam for some period of time, [i put forward the proposal that in the interim period South Australia and the areas served by the river Murray generally could have the use of the waters in the Menindee Lakes storage, which at present is a New South Wales storage only. The New South Wales Government proposed that the use of the Menindee waters should be made the subject of an investigation by the River Murray Commission.
That is very satisfactory. Certainly the Government has not revoked this agreement between the Premier of South Australia and the Prime Minister. Progress is being made and I believe that before long South Australia will see the dam under construction. We would be fools to rush in where angels fear to tread at this stage. All the preparations are in train and we do not want to spoil something that is already under way. We must find out the facts, check them, gather opinions from qualified people, and arrange interviews. I know that this is being done by members on our side of the Senate.
I shall give an example of one set of facts that needed examination. The newspaper article that has been so readily quoted in this debate says that although in the past four years the Commonwealth has provided £131,000,000 for various works in the States, South Australia has received only £1,300,000, or 1 per cent, of the total. I have gone to a good deal of trouble to find out whether that report was accurate; I do not always believe everything I read in the newspapers. I fail to understand where the figures quoted in the newspaper were gleaned. I shall present a different set of figures which are impressive and favorable to South Australia on the basis of that State receiving a 10 per cent, share of the revenue being carved up. I have found that in the past four years the Commonwealth has made available a total of £262,000,000 by way of special capital grants, of which South Australia’s share has been about £25,000,000. I shall give the detailed figures: In the year 1959-60 South Australia received £5,400,000 out of a total Commonwealth payment of £53,400,000, which represents 10.1 per cent, of the total allocation. In 1960-61 South Australia received £5,500,000 of a total of £58,100,000, which represents 9.5 per cent.; and in 1961-62 South Australia received £6,200,000 out of a total of £68,200,000, which represents 9.1 per cent. This year, rather than the £1,300,000 which has been cited as the only share that South Australia is getting, we are to get £8,100,000 out of the £83,000,000 which the Commonwealth is giving, which is 9.7 per cent. Examining the items on which this £8,100,000 is to be spent, we find that £6,200,000 is a special allocation for roads. Some is allocated for universities, some for this rail project, some for mental institutions and some for tuberculosis hospitals. I regret that we are not in the allocation for cattle roads. I shall have more to say about that directly. We have to remember that the bill provides for an allocation of £12,500,000 for employmentgiving activities.
Factors have recently become evident in South Australia which justify the Premier’s taking the stand that he is now taking in trying to have more attention focussed on this railway standardization project. 1 shall say more about that in my speech on the Budget. I think that rail standardization is a long-term project and in this bill we are looking at short-term projects to generate employment. In considering long-term projects one should consider the difficulties that will face General MotorsHolden’s Proprietary Limited. This firm could be adversely affected unless the standard gauge line is brought to Adelaide so that the company can send its cars interstate. The company is gravely anxious about this aspect which certainly needs to be looked at. The manufacturers of other articles must also be considered. They are trying to compete on an interstate basis and need the cheapest freights possible so that they can get their goods to main markets in other States at competitive prices. Broken Hill Associated Smelters Proprietary Limited is in a difficult position, as its general manager said last week. The company is particularly anxious about the Common Market, which will allow dutyfree entry of concentrates but not of lead. When it is realized that Broken Hill Associated Smelters Proprietary Limited is about the second-largest exporting industry in Australia, exporting lead to the value of £20,000,000 a year, it is obvious that South Australia would be anxious about the freight costs of this industry. South Australia needs to press hard for urgent consideration of railway standardization.
As I said before, I believe that dieselization and new rolling-stock will help Broken Hill Associated Smelters Proprietary Limited - but not sufficiently. The company is now paying 4d. a ton mile to get its product to Adelaide. This is a high rate, especially when we realize that the Commonwealth Government subsidizes the coal-fields at Leigh Creek so that the cost of carrying coal is only Id. a ton mile. I hope that the Government, when it realizes the difficulties facing Broken Hill Associated Smelters Proprietary Limited, will do something similar to retain this industry for Australia and South Australia.
– Does the Government or the railways subsidize the transport of Leigh Creek coal?
– I believe that the Commonwealth Government makes some arrangement, but I would not like to commit myself definitely on that. Senator Ridley drew attention to the long article in the “ Advertiser “ about politicians being vigilant and resolute. Certainly we are being vigilant and resolute. As I said, we have to look at the short-term position which is dealt with by the bill. There are hardships - but I do not think there are very many hardships in South Australia.
I should like to take the opportunity to answer Senator Benn’s remarks. He said that some thousands of young schoolleavers were unemployed in Queensland.
I took the trouble to find out what the position was, and I quote now from an answer given by the responsible Minister in another place. Fewer than 2,300 young men who left school are now registered for employment with the Department of Labour and National Service, although between the end of November and June something like 62,000 school-leavers registered for employment. I think that Senator Benn was crying wolf. The extent of unemployment is not as great as he would like us to believe.
I want to find out what the situation is in Peterborough. I know that the town relies for its employment on the steam workshops of the railways. If dieselization takes place it will affect employment in the town. These are facts that need to be checked, and we are certainly taking action in that direction.
As I mentioned earlier, if we are to be fair on the allocation of these moneys we must look at the beef roads allocation in South Australia. We have heard about beef roads in Queensland and how effective they are. I know they are effective there and in the Northern Territory and in Western Australia. I do not begrudge those places those roads, but I think we must look at the broad picture. The people in the north of South Australia will suffer if the cattle from their north are taken in another direction, away from South Australian markets. I hope to say more about this in the Budget debate, but I wanted to mention it briefly now.
I want to make some reference to the statement of Senator Drury to the effect that the Premier of South Australia had gone back from Canberra saying that he had been unsuccessful in obtaining more money for rail standardization. I do not think that statement is quite correct. I think other arrangements have been foreshadowed, and it is not always possible to disclose political discussions. I think it most unfortunate that the Prime Minister’s letter to Sir Thomas Playford was published in the newspapers. I do not know whether the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) gave his permission for that, but I do not think this is the best way to get things done, nor does it help us senators to negotiate successfully. Publishing letters between Ministers,, especially between the Prime Minister and a Premier, is at best an unusual proceeding.
I meet Senator Toohey’s challenge. I repeat, we are being resolute and are doing all we can in our own way. I stress that I am doing it in my own way; it may not be the way that Senator Toohey would choose, but we are all entitled to act in the way in which we think best or most effective. I resent a statement in the press that the Senate is no longer a States House. We have proved over and over again that our interest in our own State has been paramount. We have proved it to-day and on previous occasions. I repeat that I resent that statement. I shall continue to do all that I can for people who need help when they need and deserve it. South Australia does need help, and so do other States, and I try to keep my thinking on a national basis and say where the allocations should be spent and at what time. Others have had a fair deal; now I think it is South Australia’s turn.
– 1 know that another important motion will be before the House soon, but honorable senators would be disappointed if I did not enter this debate and have a few words to say. I do not really know what inspired us, the senators from South Australia, to enter the debate, but I suspect it was the speech made by Senator Toohey. He is the nigger in the woodpile. This is an important bill and honorable senators on both sides of the chamber recognize that fact. The measure involves a lot of money and, we believe, will be of great benefit to the economy of Australia, and particularly to those unfortunate people who happen to be unemployed in certain parts of the Commonwealth. Fortunately, South Australia is not one of those States that suffer to a great degree in this respect, but we have our quota - a small quota - and are hopeful that the amount allocated to South Australia will ensure that some of the unemployed will be absorbed by industry. This is the second bill of this type to be introduced in the last six months. This grant is being allocated along somewhat similar lines to the allocation of the grant of £10,000,000 that was before this chamber only comparatively recently. I have no complaint at all about the allocation. At the meeting of the Australian Loan Council the Premiers had the opportunity to discuss this question fully. 1 believe the allocation is satisfactory and will prove of great benefit to the States.
The question of rail standardization, which Senator Toohey raised and made the central theme of his speech, boiled up in South Australia recently as a result of certain press reports of statements allegedly made by the Premier in answer to questions asked in the South Australian Parliament. The argument is based on dissatisfaction expressed by the South Australian Premier because no mention of rail standardization was made in the Budget. I agree with Senator Buttfield that this matter could better be discussed in the Budget debate rather than in the debate on this measure. Admittedly dieselization was mentioned in the Budget speech, but the assistance to South Australia does not assume the proportions that the Premier believes it should. He is perfectly entitled to his point of view. In some respects I am a little disappointed that more money was not allocated to South Australia for rail standardization. I have been very interested in this matter for very many years. I am an original member of the Government Members Rail Standardization Committee headed by Mr. Wentworth. In season and out of season we have tried to interest the Commonwealth Government in allocating funds to implement the rail standardization agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australia.
The States will determine how the money that is made available under this bill will be spent. Part of South Australia’s allocation may be spent on going it alone, as Sir Thomas Playford has suggested, and doing some work on the Broken Hill to Port Pirie line. There has been no statement to the effect that this grant must be used for a particular purpose. The State governments are left to decide how the money will be used. I agree with Senator Toohey that the spending of a great deal of money on the Broken Hill to Port Pirie line would impose a strain on South Australia’s finances, particularly the loan resources that the State Government has at its disposal. Other sections of the South Australian community will not view the allocation of money for work on this line with a great deal of satisfaction. Be that as it may, this grant will augment the money that is available to South Australia from both loan and revenue resources. I noticed in the newspapers recently that the State Government has provided this year for a record loan works programme of £40,000,000.
I want to deal with the South Australian Premier’s reference to the Senate as a party House. I have never propounded any view other than that it is a party House. It has been a party House for very many years. I am not sure that the view of some people that the Senate should be a States House and nothing else is correct. The Senate is necessarily a party House. The South Australian Premier’s suggestion that it is a party House conveyed to me the impression that in his view very little can be expected of Government senators from South Australia because the Senate is a party House. I refute that suggestion very vigorously. I believe that we have a duty to the Commonwealth Government. We are here in the upper House as government supporters and our first responsibility is to the government that we support.
– And you will sacrifice your State?
– I will not sacrifice any State. We should work to the advantage of the Commonwealth and the States. Because we do not fall into line with the South Australian Premier, it should not necessarily be assumed that we are against the State. We are members of the National Parliament and we legislate along national lines. This is a party House and we support the government that we have been elected to support. I have no hesitation in saying that while I am in this Parliament I will support the Government to the utmost of my ability if I believe that it is doing the right thing by the Commonwealth of Australia. What good purpose would be served by jacking up on the Government?
A leading article in the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ suggested that resolute action by senators on the Government side is necessary in order to achieve something in regard to rail standardization. What is the implication in that? I do not know whether that newspaper expects us to jack up on the
Government and vote against it. I assure the “ Advertiser “, the Premier of South Australia, and everybody else that if the leading article means that I will not be a party to it. I support the Government because 1 believe it is the right type of government and brings down the right type of legislation. Consequently, it will receive my full support, whether this is a party House or any other form of House.
I believe in negotiation. I always have believed in it. In this connexion, I honestly believe that that is the way the Government Members Rail Standardization Committee has worked. We have undoubtedly put pressure on the Government. The members of the committee are very much enamoured of rail standardization. We know that it is vital for the Commonwealth. To us it is unthinkable that the Broken Hill to Port Pirie section of line should be left on the 3 ft. 6 in. gauge. Almost certainly that line will be standardized eventually. But we do not intend to embarrass the government that we support by adopting the “ resolute action “ mentioned in the “ Advertiser “, thereby bringing about the downfall of the Government. That is really what the suggestion in the leading article amounts to.
– Then we would never get the line standardized.
– Certainly not. I agree with Senator Vincent. Such action would not achieve anything. It is interesting to recall Sir Thomas Play ford’s views on the earlier recommendations of the Wentworth committee. His main reason for opposing the recommendations was that in his view they supported the work being carried out in isolation of the 1949 agreement. That is a rather specious argument. The plan that he is now advocating would be carried out just as much in isolation of the 1949 agreement as the plan in the original recommendations of the Wentworth committee. I know from my experience that, when we had the opportunity to interview the South Australian Railways Commissioner and other people interested in South Australian railway affairs, in those circles there was resentment against the Wentworth committee. Let me remind the Opposition that there was also a Labour Party committee which dealt with rail standardization and brought down recom mendations similar to those submitted by the Wentworth committee. But I can recall attending meetings at which there was general resentment against the recommendations of the Wentworth committee ostensibly because they were isolated from the 1949 agreement. I am very pleased that South Australia and the Commonwealth have entered into this agreement because I believe that ultimately it will lead to the completion of much of the standardization that is envisaged.
Certain works have been carried out under the 1949 agreement. The section to Mr Gambier has been mentioned to-day. I think that the Commonwealth Government was very generous in that instance because, after ali, that was not actually a standardization project; it was the widening of the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge to the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge with a view to standardizing it later when the main lines running through to Melbourne were standardized. Another project carried out under the 1949 agreement was the standardization of the line from Port Augusta to Marree. So it can be said that something has been achieved in South Australia in the standardization of railway gauges.
I have no wish to criticize the Premier of South Australia any further. I think he now realizes that the standardization of the line from Broken Hill through Port Pirie to Adelaide is essential to the welfare of that State. He has now come round to the belief that standardization is desirable, and I believe he is now in complete agreement with the Wentworth committee’s recommendations which were made in the early days of this Government’s regime. I think the suggestion that Sir Thomas Playford put to the Prime Minister was very reasonable and, frankly, I am disappointed that the Government has not seen its way clear at least to allocate some funds to the scheme which was outlined by him. I do not think it was an extravagant scheme, and I repeat that I am disappointed that nothing was done. But, as I stated earlier, something is being done to assist traffic on the line to Broken Hill in that £1,325,000 be allocated this year for the purchase of diesel locomotives and ore trucks; and this new rolling-stock should greatly reduce freight costs on that line. Let me remind the Senate that this is the best paying railway line in South Australia. If, as Senator
Buttfield said a minute ago, the freight charge is 4d. per ton mile now, it may be possible to reduce that rate when the diesel locomotives are in use. I think that will be possible. If this line is highly profitable now when the rate is 4d. per ton mile, the Government should make some effort to assist those interests such as Broken Hill Associated Smelters Proprietary Limited, who are experiencing difficulty at the moment in connexion with the conveyance and export of their lead and zinc products, by reducing freight rates. Therefore, I believe that although we have not gone as far as we would have liked, we are doing something towards reducing the cost of transport on that line.
Unfortunately, Senator Toohey made great play on the term “ grandstanding “ I am honest enough to admit that I introduced the term “ grandstanding “ by way of interjection. Certainly, Senator Toohey expanded on it. That term has been bandied round this chamber on quite a few occasions. I recall that when a controversy raged in this chamber when senators from South Australia were debating the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, Senator Toohey charged the South Australian Premier with grandstanding, implying, of course, that the latter was not genuine, or dinkum, in the arguments he put. Now, Senator Toohey finds it convenient to charge not the Premier of South Australia but Senator Laught with grandstanding. Senator Toohey finds it extremely convenient now to come in right behind Sir Thomas Playford. I emphasize that I am not criticizing Sir Thomas, because he is entitled to say what he likes. If he honestly believes that he is not getting enough money from the Commonwealth he is perfectly justified in saying so, and I do not criticize him for doing that; but it suits Senator Toohey and some of his friends now to apply the term “ grandstanding “ not to Sir Thomas Playford but to my good friend, Senator Laught. It is unfair that he should apply it to Senator Laught.
I rather envy Senator Laught who, with his fertile brain, is at least able to frame questions to various Ministers with great dexterity. I am often stumped when trying to frame questions but not for the reason which Senator Toohey attributed to me. He says that I already know the answers, but that is not so. The fact is that Senator Laught, who has a more fertile brain than I have, is able to frame questions which are in the public interest, and he is perfectly entitled to put such questions to appropriate Ministers. I congratulate Senator Laught on some of the highly intelligent questions he has put, especially those relating to rail standardization, which is a matter of great public moment. We all know that the public listens avidly to the broadcast of question time in the Senate, and I think we are indebted to Senator Laught for asking questions relating to this subject which is so much to the fore in South Australia. I think that the term “grandstanding” could be more aptly applied to members of the Opposition.
I think that Senator Toohey engaged in grandstanding in this debate. Even Senator Ridley, also, in his own quiet way, did a bit of grandstanding. Those honorable senators know very well that they will thus get a little publicity in the South Australia press, that is if the press are not awake to the real situation. The charge that Senator Toohey levelled first against Sir Thomas Playford in connexion with the legislation relating to the Snowy Mountains scheme, and secondly against Senator Laught in connexion with this legislation can be more appropriately made against Senator Toohey and his friends. I do not think that it is to the discredit of Senator Laught to adopt such an attitude.
I agree with Senator Toohey that he and his colleagues from South Australia are just as keen as I am to get the best deal that it is possible to get for our State. Rail standardization is something that we on this side favour heartily, but we do not intend to do things that will embarrass our own Government. After all, we have to look at the Government’s position in the matter. It is providing this year a great deal of money for the dieselization of the railway line. We hope that, with a little encouragement, more money will be forthcoming for other needs. Perhaps there will be a little more money for the beef roads to which Senator Buttfield referred.
– What would be the good of beef roads in South Australia?
– I know that Senator Kendall is not in favour of beef roads for South Australia. He should hear the arguments advanced by the president of the stock-owners’ association of South Australia, and he should appreciate South Australia’s need for beef supplies. The cattle which come down from the Birdsville track are essential to South Australia. Unless we have something in the way of beef roads, which can also serve to increase exports of beef, we may not be assured of supplies of beef. When there is a shortage of beef, the price goes up, with a consequential increase in the cost of living. Wage earners feel the impact of a higher price for beef. So, I suggest that it is important that my colleagues and I should press for the establishment of beef roads, because that is a matter that is worthy of support.
I do not agree that the letter from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to Sir Thomas Playford represents a definite rejection of the standardization of the Port Pirie-Broken Hill railway. The terms of the letter do not suggest that. Let me read the relevant sentence to the Senate. It is as follows: -
We are faced with a very large deficit in the current year, and must take account of this and other inescapable demands on our taxation and other revenue in this and the coming two or three years.
Sir Thomas Playford has interpreted that passage as a definite rejection. I agree that it is a deferment.
– A deferment for an indefinite time.
– The honorable senator is trying to put words into my mouth. I say that it is a deferment but not a definite rejection. The Government is alive to the necessity to standardize this railway line. In fact, the Prime Minister said as much in his letter when he stated that it was desirable that we should have a standard gauge line from Port Pirie to Broken Hill and on to Adelaide. The need for that is recognized by the Government. I am sure that, when work on the Kwinana and Mount Isa projects has proceeded to a degree, more attention will be focussed on the line from Broken Hill to Port Pirie and on to Adelaide.
The bill before the Senate is a good one. The grant to South Australia for which it provides will augment the loan funds and other revenue available to the State with which to carry out its capital works such as water reticulation and so on. Although the grant is not of great magnitude it will nevertheless be of assistance. We should be grateful to the Commonwealth Government for making this money available for the benefit of the various States, in addition to the tax reimbursements grants and other financial assistance that is provided. I am sure that the effect of the provision of this money will be seen very soon in an improved employment situation.
– It has been very interesting to hear the speeches of Government senators from South Australia during the discussion of this bill. The Opposition has stung honorable senators opposite into action. Though they have said that we should not speak too much about these matters, I think they have been busy placing splints behind each other’s knees to make sure that support is forthcoming for the Government and Sir Thomas Playford, despite the fact that the publicly-expressed opinions on this matter have varied considerably.
It is proposed to allocate in the following proportions the sum for which the bill provides:- New South Wales, £3,044,000; Victoria, £2,442,000; Queensland, £3,640,000; and South Australia, £1,312,000. It is disappointing, from my point of view, to note that Western Australia is to receive only £894,000. Tasmania will receive £1,168,000. Western Australia’s share is a clear indication that though the Liberal Government of that State may play kiss in the ring with the Commonwealth Liberal-Country Party Government, it has not achieved very much. Western Australia has been poorly treated in the allocation of these additional funds, due entirely, I think, to the fact that there have not been sufficient direct and straightout representations from the State Government for a proper share of this free loan for the relief of unemployment and for developmental work.
– It is not a free loan. It is a gift.
– The honorable senator should not deceive himself that the Commonwealth makes gifts to the States. By agreement, the Commonwealth Government collects most of the revenue in this country. If the money collected were passed on to the States as it should be, with full recognition of the responsibilities of the States, finance would be made available on a more generous scale. There would be no question of magnanimity about it. Whatever the Commonwealth Government spends, the money comes from the Australian taxpayers. They are not given back more money than they are entitled to receive, On this occasion, Western Australia is receiving less than she should receive of this so-called gift money. I do not regard the States as mendicants.
– Do you know the basis upon which the money has been allocated?
– Yes. Senator Paltridge stated, on at least three occasions in his short second-reading speech, that the Government had at last realized that the unemployment situation in Australia was more than challenging. I may say that that realization did not come to the Government of its own accord. The Government was made to appreciate the position because the electors of Australia made it abundantly clear that they would not stand for it for very much longer. That is why these socalled gifts are being handed out. The Government has at last appreciated the challenging nature of the employment situation, having denied during the previous three years that such a situation existed. It had got out of touch with public opinion. Now, it is necessary for it to respond in some manner to the need for action, and this bill is one of the responses. However, as I have said, the money that is being provided has not been properly allocated.
There is still a large degree of unemployment in Australia. The number of unemployed at present is approximately 90,500. The latest figures issued by the Department of Labour and National Service show that there has been a fall of 2,089 in the number registered for employment, but in fact, the official figures do not reflect the real unemployment situation. The figures show the number of people registered for employment. There are many more unemployed than that. In Western Australia, unemployment is increasing. In Bunbury, people are actually going on the dole, unemployment relief, or whatever we care to call it. There has been an increase in unemployment at Esperance and Albany. In fact, Western Australia generally is not holding its own as far as employment is concerned. I was disappointed to hear Senator Buttfield skim so lightly over the problem of children leaving school and not being able to obtain employment. She made much of the fact that the latest report of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) shows that there are not as many school-leavers on the books of the department as there were on the occasion of the last report. There should not be any. A large number of these children had to go back to school.
– That is good for them.
– It may be good for them; but we must look at this matter from the point of view of the family man on low income who is cheated of endowment in respect of his eldest child. From his point of view the child is unable to contribute to the family income and has to be maintained at school merely because the labour market will not absorb him. It may be good for the child, but we must put ourselves in the position of the parents. On the other hand many young people who have left school cannot get a job in keeping with the standard of education they have received.
The Western Australian Government is at present recruiting tradesmen from overseas. There are a large number of unemployed but there are not many tradesmen among them. This shortage of tradesmen is a direct result of the credit squeeze and economic policy of this Government during the last three years. Many of our skilled tradesmen have left Western Australia to obtain employment in more favorable fields, and many tradesmen left their callings to take jobs in other avenues of employment that were more lucrative and which offered continuity. The Government has no reason to be proud of its record in employment and Western Australia has suffered as harshly as has any other State. The Government now puts forward this unimaginative solution to the problem. No doubt it is better than nothing, but this type of thing is becoming a habit with this Government. This magnanimous Government is merely giving back to the people money that it has taken from them. It is not a good financial practice. During a previous debate we were told of the challenge to Australia if Great Britain joins the European Common Market, lt was said that Australia would have to be revamped to meet that situation. The gift the Government is making under this bill is intended merely to maintain the status quo, to stop the employment position from worsening. At present over 90,000 people are registered as unemployed. The Government thinks it should be complimented for making this gift, but in reality this bill is an example of poor administration.
Not one substantial development scheme has been started in Australia by this Government or any other Liberal government. The comprehensive water scheme in Western Australia was started by Labour. It has been proceeded with laboriously by antiLabour governments and accelerated by Labour governments. People living in the area are asking what is going to be done. The Government may be able to give that information. I should like to have an assurance from the Minister that the Government is prepared to encourage the State Government to press on with the scheme as it was envisaged when Labour first undertook it. The Budget debate will give me an opportunity to refer to education, the shortage of schoolrooms, overcrowded classes and that type of thing. It will be a bad thing if we have to wait for the Commonwealth Government to make gifts of this nature to provide employment for those who are out of work. But my main objection to this bill is that Western Australia is to receive the smallest allocation. Of course it may be argued that the private enterprise government of Western Australia is not anxious to take this money and commence public works. That might be the reasoning of the Western Australian Government, but nevertheless I think that Western Australia’s allocation should have been much greater. It should have received its share of the cake when it was being carved up, if I may use the language of Senator Buttfield.
Western Australia has been poorly treated in this matter. Tasmania is to receive nearly £300,000 and South Australia £400,000 more than Western Australia. It might be said that Sir Thomas Playford squeals too much, but apparently he squeals effectively. What has been said by honorable senators on this side of the chamber about South Australia applies equally to Western Australia.
– Western Australia would have indigestion if it got more of the cake.
– Western Australia can digest as much as it is given. The Government seems to think that because our State has been starved its stomach has shrunk and if it were given too much it would suffer indigestion. Western Australia may be a victim of malnutrition because of the attitude of the Government towards it; but our State has the potential and capacity to develop. It is crying out for development and should receive a greater allocation from this grant.
The Government should be concerned that unemployment is raising its head at Bunbury at the present time. Bunbury is not a very large town, having only a few thousand voters, but 283 residents in the area are receiving sustenance, and the latest departmental figures show that the number of persons receiving unemployment benefits increased by 57. However, the main point I make is that Western Australia is to receive £300,000 less than the smallest claimant State of the Commonwealth and nearly half a million less than South Australia will receive. Unemployment has become so serious that the Government has had to do something about it, and it has decided to make this gift to the States. We are told to beware of the Greeks bearing gifts. I am not satisfied with the distribution that is being made. The Government ought to adopt a more vigorous attitude towards Australia’s economic affairs and the development of industries. Be that as it may-
– You are going to take the money after all?
– The only trouble is that it is not sufficient; the distribution is not fair. Senator Vincent, like other honorable senators opposite, will support the Government, right or wrong, but the public forms its own ideas. At the last general election the public showed pretty clearly what it thought. The Government has not made a reasonable impression on unemployment, which is still challenging, even according to the Minister’s figures. The biggest improvement has been in Queensland, which provided nearly 3,000 of the 4,000 jobs recently filled, but this was facilitated by seasonal conditions in that State.
– in reply - I have the strongest suspicion that the speech just delivered by Senator Cooke, though spoken in Canberra, was directed at the people of Bunbury. I can assure him that if perchance it sees the light of day in that municipality it will be as ineffective there as it has been here. The people of Western Australia well remember the fate they suffered during six years of Labour government, and they very much appreciate the advancement that the State has shown since the Brand coalition government has been in office. If my friend, Senator Cooke, reposes in hope that his speech may have assisted the Labour case in Bunbury, his belief is most ill-founded.
The bill we are discussing is not opposed by the Australian Labour Party, although the debate has ranged over an extremely wide field. I am sure that any one casually coming into the chamber at some stages of the debate would have formed the impression that this was a most hotly contested measure. We should therefore remind ourselves of what the bill is about, and what we are voting for. We are voting to approve the payment of a non-interest bearing, non-repayable grant of £12,500,000 to the States, to be distributed on a basis agreed to unanimouly by the Premiers of the States. May I emphasize that? It was agreed to unanimously by the Premiers of the Stales. Yet many senators have risen in their places to criticize particular allocations to their own States. Why is the distribution made in this way? It is made for the purpose of giving employment opportunities in those parts of the Commonwealth which most require that type of stimulus. It has nothing, to do, for example, with the loan allocation of £250,000,000 underwritten by the Commonwealth. It is in addition to that and in addition to the amounts provided for special projects, about a few of which we have heard so much during this debate. ..
It is pertinent to remind ourselves at this stage of the diversity of those special projects supported by the Commonwealth and of their location, because when we look at the programme of special developmental projects and relate it to the normal works going on throughout the Commonwealth, and further relate it to the geographical industrial potential of Australia, it forms a pattern of development in the true sense. Those projects include coal-loading facilities, both in New South Wales and in Queensland, the Mount Isa railway project in Queensland, and cattle roads of great importance to our export prospects, in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. We have taken the first step in the grand design for development of the brigalow country in Queensland. Does Senator Cooke claim credit for the Labour Party for instituting that development? We have supported a railway project of great importance in South Australia. Suggestions have been made to-night that South Australia would be greatly assisted, or many of its industries would be greatly assisted, by a reduction in rail freights. What is the purpose of dieselization? For what is that grant made, if not to reduce rail freights and assist, particularly, those export industries which now stand under some challenge? In Western Australia, we instituted the rail standardization project from Kalgoorlie to the coast. I wonder whether Senator Cooke claims that as a Labour Party project.
– It was dealt with in the Clapp report to the Labour Government.
– Was it started by the Labour Government? I happen to know something about this, because for some years I was Minister for Shipping and Transport. Let me tell Senator Cooke that the Labour Government had the Clapp report for years and did nothing about it. No government in Australia did anything about rail standardization in Western Australia until the Menzies Government commenced this project. I have a particular recollection in this respect because I happened to be the proud Minister who implemented the project. Who commenced the development of north-western Australia with the opening up of the Ord country? All of these things fit into a pattern of development. I know that there are many Victorians who look at this developmental programme and say, “ Where do we come in? “ There are one or two undertakings of a developmental nature which have benefitted Victoria. What must be remembered about the Victorian set-up in this connexion is that wherever in Australia a developmental project is set in train industrialized Victoria must benefit. Something that is happening in the Northern Territory or in Tasmania is being provided very largely by the industrial complex which now exists in Victoria. I mention this because the debate has taken a turn that might suggest that our assistance in this developmental project will not be far-reaching. I think of other things. I think of the magnificent oil subsidization programme administered by my leader, Senator Spooner, and of its splendid results for Western Australia. I think, too, of the decision taken to help the mineral output of this country by way of income tax concessions and the like in respect of lead, tin, and zinc mining. Then there is the special assistance that is given to the gold-mining industry. Honorable senators should bear in mind also the works programme totalling £250,000,000 and the additional £12,500,000 now being granted for the purpose of providing employment where a stimulus is most needed.
I want to speak of the South Australian railway standardization project, if only for the reason that some honorable senators have made passing reference to it. It has been said - oddly enough, with indignation by Labour senators who presumably support Sir Thomas Playford on this occasion - that Sir Thomas had expected a payment of £800,000 for this project. They have said also that he was in negotiation. I want to put on record the fact that for a long period this project was entirely removed from the area of negotiation because Sir Thomas Playford had instituted litigation against the Commonwealth. So it cannot be said that as a result of negotiations that were taking place he could have had any real expectation of receiving this year a payment of £800,000 in connexion with this project. It has been said that South Australia has received a raw deal, and that the letter written by the Prime Minister to Sir Thomas Playford was a flat rejection of the proposal. I am grateful to my colleague, Senator Hannaford, for putting the matter in its correct perspective, because that is precisely what the letter is not. It begins by stating that the Commonwealth Government accepted the desirability of a standard gauge line from Port Pirie to Broken Hill. In those circumstances, it is reasonable to suggest that we as a Government proceeded to the point of rejecting it as a practical proposal? Certainly not. In cold terms, another part of the letter states -
You will, of course, appreciate that our present decision does not imply any definitive rejection of the Port Pirie-Broken Hill conversion work.
Negotiations in connexion with the South Australian railway project, as I said, have been going on for a long time. It is frequently forgotten that work has been undertaken under that agreement by negotiation with the South Australian Government. I think Senator Toohey acknowledged that work in the south-east had been undertaken by the Commonwealth Government under the agreement. It is unfortunate indeed that that work was not a standardization measure at all. I think the term then applied to it was “ interim standardization “. But standardization work has been undertaken in South Australia. This Government took the line to Marree a few years ago. We have done standardization work as required when resources were available, and we have allotted it proper priority.
– I thought the southeast line was done under the agreement?
– It was. I said it was done under the agreement. That is all I want to say on the measure. I express on behalf of the Government gratification that the bill has not been opposed by the Opposition.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Neither in his opening address nor in his closing remarks did the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) give honorable senators any enlargement of his statement at the beginning of his secondreading speech that no objection would be made if the States used some of this money for budgetary purposes, and I am wondering whether he can now give some enlightenment on this point. It would seem, though not necessarily, that such a course of action could have an effect contradictory to the intention of this bill, for if the States experience budgetary difficulties they could use this money on projects, or in some way that would not necessarily relieve unemployment. The bill was unopposed in this chamber because of its worthwhile intention to provide finance for the relief of unemployment. Can the Minister enlarge on this aspect in any way?
– I can say something on this aspect which may be helpful. During the Premiers’ Conference and the Loan Council meeting at which this matter was decided loan allocations and taxation reimbursements were determined. In that context it was natural that the allocations to the States should assume the form of a package deal from the viewpoint of each State. Whether or not that is a desirable development is certainly open to debate. I think the honorable senator will agree that in recent years an increasing tendency has arisen for both taxation reimbursements and loan allocations to be regarded as one when the States representatives, having had their initial discussions with the Commonwealth, retire to their own quarters to decide financial allocations under the various heads for the ensuing year. On this occasion, a third factor was added to the taxation reimbursement and the works allocation. Some of the Premiers returned to the conference - I do not feel at liberty to disclose which ones - and said, “ This is all right, but we might have some particular budgetary problem which could well be solved by the transfer, if necessary, of some small proportion of this allocation “. The Commonwealth discussed that aspect in detail with the States concerned and having regard to the situation exposed by that discussion it was agreed that in the circumstances this elasticity should be introduced into the agreement.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
– I move -
That the bill be recommitted to enable consideration of the adequacy of the grant to South
Australia to permit that State to proceed with the standardization of the Broken Hill-Port Pirie railway line.
I move the amendment because we on this side of the chamber believe that this matter is vital for South Australia. We believe that proper consideration has not been given to that in this chamber, although the bill has been the subject of some debate. We are of opinion that if the matter is left for any great length of time South Australia could suffer severely.
– The Government does not accept the proposal that the bill be recommitted to enable consideration of a particular project in one particular State. As I explained in my second-reading speech and the speech with which I closed the second-reading debate, this is a measure for the specific purpose of making money available to the States to institute immediately, or within the year, employment-giving projects. The allocation of the funds referred to in the bill has been agreed to unanimously by all the Premiers. This House, which is asked merely to approve a payment to the States on a basis already approved by them, is now asked, by this amendment, to tell the Premiers - and the Premier of South Australia especially - that they do not know their business. The amendment is not accepted.
Question put -
That the motion (Senator Toohey’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority … . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Appointment of Select Committee
Debate resumed from 9th August (vide page 93), on motion by Senator Kennelly -
– Mr. President, the business now before the Senate is the motion moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) on 9th August for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into and report upon the method at present in use of electing senators and the question whether any changes and, if so, what changes, in the method are desirable. I propose to address myself to Senator Kennelly’s remarks in support of that motion. In doing so, I doubt whether I shall show the vim that has been shown by our South Australian colleagues earlier to-day. This subject requires more staid treatment.
Senator Kennelly did not question or oppose the present system of proportional representation. He gave a good deal of information designed to establish that informal voting for the election of senators was high. He proceeded to discuss two alterations to the method of electing senators. His first proposal was to reduce the number of senators for whom the electors are required to vote. He also raised the question whether the deposit required of people who nominate for Senate election should be increased. Senator Kennelly carefully said that he was not proposing any remedy, but was bringing those matters before the Senate as illustrations of what might be done.
The facts that Senator Kennelly brought before the Senate are well known. 1 hope that in what I say I shall establish that the remedies that he canvassed are also well known. The idea of reducing the number of senators for whom the electors are required to vote in order to reduce the informal vote has been tried already in Senate elections. The points that have emerged were debated in both Houses of the Parliament about fifteen months ago.
After consideration of Senator Kennelly’s motion, the Government has decided that it is not prepared to support the appointment of a select committee of the Senate, as suggested by Senator Kennelly. Such a wealth of information on this topic is available already that the Government does not think it is likely that the work of a select committee would yield any additional information. Consequently, the Government does not believe that the appointment of a select committee is justified.
However, the matter is of more than passing interest to the Senate. I propose to make some comments on some of the things that Senator Kennelly said and also to range a little wider and talk about some other aspects of this question. First, in order to get the facts before the Senate, I will correct - not in a critical way but in a rather interesting way - an inaccuracy in what Senator Kennelly said about proportional representation. Senator Kennelly said -
No one can gainsay that the system has brought to this House a fair representation of the political thought of the people of this nation. However, I believe it has also led to the casting of a tremendously high percentage of informal votes at elections for senators.
I agree with the first part of that statement by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. However, it is interesting for us, as senators, to realize that there was a high percentage of informal votes in Senate elections long before proportional representation was introduced. I have had the benefit of assistance in collecting some figures to establish that point. 1 have the figures of informal voting for the Senate, election by election, since 1928. I have a great list of figures. I propose to cite some of them to illustrate the points I want to make, but I believe it would be belter for honorable senators to read the figures in “ Hansard “ than to try to follow them as 1 read them.
– Will you give us some of the percentages?
– That is what 1 intend to do. With the concurrence of honorable senators I incorporate the following table in “ Hansard “: -
Proportional representation commenced in 1949. The average informal vote for the seven elections from 1929 to 1946 was 9.85 per cent.
– There was preferential voting then.
– I do not commit myself on that. In the six Senate elections since the introduction of proportional representation the average informal vote was 8.82 per cent. So, the percentage of informal votes in Senate elections was higher before the introduction of proportional representation than after it. That is not really material to this point, but I think it is interesting. In the research work that was done to help me with this speech that point was thrown up and I thought it was worth mentioning. So, we are mistaken if we think that the high informal vote results from proportional representation. It existed before proportional representation was introduced.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition put forward suggestions to reduce the informal vote, which he said should be examined. He suggested that the informal votes might be reduced if electors were not required to put a number in every square on the Senate ballot-paper. I thought it would be interesting to remind honorable senators of the history of that proposal. Prior to 1934, it was not necessary to number every square; the elector was required normally to number only seven squares - that is twice the number of senators required to be elected plus one. In 1934, the government of the day, being concerned at the high number of informal votes, decided to make it necessary to number every square because it thought that by so doing the informal vote would be reduced. So the wheel has turned a full circle. In 1934, the government of the day said, “ Let us cause the electors to number every square so that the informal vote will be reduced “. To-day we are in reverse gear, thinking that we might reduce the informal vote if we refrain from asking the electors to number every square.
So, the system was changed in 1934, and from that time onwards the electors have been required to number every square. The first election after the change was held in 1934, and at that election was recorder! the highest number of informal votes ever recorded for the Senate. At the first election after the system was changed to reduce the informal voting, the informal vote was the highest ever recorded. I think that was due mainly to lack of understanding of the new system. I believe that when honorable senators examine the figures they will agree that the only fair conclusion one can come to is that there appears to be no difference in the informal vote whether every square or only a limited number of squares is required to be marked.
The next point raised was that there is considerable support for reducing the number of candidates for whom it should be necessary to vote. There is, of course, one serious defect if electors are not called upon to vote for all candidates in that the elector’s vote becomes exhausted when he votes for the required number of candidates and his preferences are not carried forward. In those circumstances, the vote does not give an accurate reflection of the intention of the elector. It is interesting to note that when the Labour Government decided to introduce proportional representation it looked at this question and decided to leave intact in the act the requirement to number every square. Here I think it opportune to quote the following statement by Dr. Evatt in the course of his secondreading speech as reported in “ Hansard “ of 16th April, 1948:- lt is not proposed to alter the existing style of the Senate ballot-paper or the provision that candidates may be grouped thereon with their names in such order within the group as they desire. Nor is it intended to vary the requirement that voters must indicate their order of preference for all the candidates.
Whilst this latter requirement might have the effect of continuing to produce a fairly high informal vote, it definitely precludes the possible greater evil of exhausted votes - that is votes which become exhausted in the process of transfer. If a voter were to indicate his preference for only three of say seven candidates, his vote would be effective up to the number of preferences shown on his ballot-paper and after that it would be effective no longer.
At that stage, the vote would be said to be exhausted. In Tasmania, the elector need not vote for all candidates and therefore on occasions a fairly high percentage of votes becomes exhausted in the process of transferring the votes of a lower candidate or the surplus of a higher candidate to the next candidate in order of preference.
A Mr. Thompson interjected -
And the last candidate elected frequently does not get a quota.
Dr. Evatt replied ;
That is so. One result of a system which does not require the electors to vote for all candidates whose names appear on the ballot paper is that a candidate may be declared elected, although the total number of votes credited to him falls short of the required quota. At the parliamentary elections in New South Wales in 1922 and 1925, the exhausted votes, which far outnumbered the informal votes, were the cause of much dissatisfaction and disputation.
What was said by Dr. Evatt and others is, in truth, proved in practice by some instances which I think will interest the Senate. For example, at the 1922 Senate elections for the State of Victoria, Charles
Let me give another illustration closer to home. In the 1958 election for the Advisory Council in the Australian Capital Territory, 276 votes were lost by exhaustion whilst the eighth candidate was elected by a majority of only nine votes. Those illustrations establish the deficiency, inefficiency, or iniquity - whatever the correct word may be - of not extending the preferences and of exhausting votes. On the other hand, in practice, it would seem that reducing the number of candidates to be voted for does not have the effect of reducing the informal vote. During the Senate elections between 1919 and 1931, when voting was preferential and electors were required to indicate their preferences for twice the number of senators to be elected, plus one, the aggregate informal vote was 8.91 per cent. That is, over that period of about twelve years, when it was necessary to vote for twice the number of candidates to be elected, plus one, or for a restricted number df candidates, the idea being to reduce the informal vote, the informal vote was 8.91 per cent.
Let us consider the period, from 1934 to 1961, when voting was preferential and electors were required to indicate their preferences for all candidates. The aggregate informal vote over that period was 9.2 per cent. So, on the facts, there appears to be no evidence that a reduction of the number of candidates for whom votes have to be cast will result in a reduction of the informal vote. It is certain that reducing the number of candidates will fail to give an accurate vote, for the reason that the votes are exhausted.
Another point to be considered is that, in another place, Mr. Whitlam, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, stated that Australian Labour Party policy was to restrict voting to the number of candidates to be elected. That statement was repeated in the Senate by Senator Toohey and, I think, also by Senator Kennelly, though I am not sure of that.
– I doubt whether that is a fact at the present time.
– That is, according to my reading of “ Hansard “ of the time.
– I am not saying that what you have said is not correct. I am merely saying that I doubt whether that is Labour policy. I have not my book with me.
– This is not what lawyers would call evidence, but simply my note of what Senator Toohey said. It is as follows: -
The Labour Parly believes that the law should bc amended to require voters to vote only for the number of senators to be elected. Then, if five senators were to be elected for a certain State the electors in that State would be required only to mark the ballot-paper with figures from one to five in order to cast a formal vote.
That same statement was made by the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition in another place and stated by him to be the policy of the Labour Party.
– He may have said that, but I doubt whether it is so now.
– I am reading from my notes, which may not be completely accurate. My note of Mr. Whitlam’s statement is as follows: -
The method we shall propose is that a vote for the Senate shall be valid if preference is indicated for the number of candidates required to be elected. That is, if there are five vacancies in the Senate, one will cast a valid vote if he indicates a preference among five candidates.
I thought it was reasonable to assume that that was the approach of the Labour Party to the matter. It would be very difficult indeed for us to accept that system because, as I see it, it is a negation of proportional representation. It means that, because of the exhausted votes, you would not get a true indication of the views of the electors, and of course, it is greatly to the detriment of any minority party. If it is necessary only to vote for the number of vacancies to be filled, there is very little chance indeed of any minority party or independent being elected.
I turn to a couple of other aspects of the matter. There is a strong case for the view that there should not be a select committee of the Senate on this matter because it could be said that sitting senators would have a vested interest in continuing or evolving a system which assured their own return. Certainly, we could not accept the proposal that is before the Senate at the moment because it contains no provision for representation of minority parties. It would be inequitable for us to establish a committee to deal with a matter such as this, in which the interests of minorities are so vitally affected, without giving them representation on the committee.
– Could the Government not include them in its representation?
– The Opposition might include them in its representation; but that is a point of only academic interest, because the Government is not prepared to support the proposal to appoint a select committee.
A point that emerges from my examination of the results that are available is that when there is great interest in a Senate election the informal vote is a low one. That point emerges more than any other on analysis of the figures.
– That is, at a single election for the Senate?
– Yes, at a single election. The informal vote in 1953 was only 4.5 per cent.
– What about the election after the double dissolution?
– The informal vote at the election after the double dissolution was 7.1 per cent. In elections in which there is good Senate interest the informal vote is low. As I have said, it was 4.5 per cent, when we had a single Senate election and 7.1 per cent, at the election after the double dissolution. In 1953, for the single election, the degree of informality was 4.5 per cent; in 1955, it was 9.6 per cent.; and in 1958, 10.2 per cent. It seems that as you get away from the focal point of interest the informal vote increases.
Senator Kennelly made a few other points that were incidental to his main argument. One such point was a suggestion that there might be a higher deposit. There may be merit in that proposal. ,
– I did not suggest it. All I said was that that was a matter that could be considered.
– I accept that. There may be merit in the proposal, but it is not the kind of thing that a government likes to do, and it is certainly not a proposal that warrants the appointment of a select committee.
I conclude on the note that while we as a government, do not assert that the present system is perfect - far from it - we say that all the proposals that have been advanced and have come before the Government and the department over a period have not provided an attractive alternative. The Government considers that a select committee of the Senate would not be likely to produce material which is not already available to the Government. Therefore, the Government does not feel the need for the aid of a select committee’s consideration on the matter.
.- I believe that the proposition that has been put forward has quite a lot to commend it, but as a result of what I have heard and what I know I am rather suspicious of the mover’s motives. For example, when I look at the notice-paper and see other motions on it, it makes me even more suspicious of this move by Senator Kennelly.
– You should have faith by this time.
– Yes, but one also needs to keep his powder dry. The Labour Party has given much thought to finding ways and means to destroy the minority parties in this Parliament. I do not think that is a good idea. The Labour Party may think it is because it is the Australian Democratic Labour Party that keeps it out of office. If we profess to believe in democracy we should be willing to allow minorities to be represented.
Senator Kennelly put up a very good case based on informal voting. It went over very well indeed, but I am afraid that if a select committee were appointed it would want to deal with other matters besides informal votes. At least the Australian Democratic Labour Party knows something about informal votes.
– It would not be a new experience.
– You would not know whether you voted formally or informally. My party has just been involved in a court case in which informal votes played an important part. An honorable senator on my right interjects that we lost a lot of money. Perhaps the honorable senator who interjected was in charge of the case for the person involved in New South Wales. His expenses were very high; I think they amounted to £670. Perhaps the honorable senator should have stayed where he was instead of coming into the Senate. Since he has raised the matter let me say that he gave our unfortunate candidate seven days in which to pay costs, and threatened to put him through the bankruptcy court if he did «ot pay within that time. That is quite a natural thing for people of that kind to do, but it is not a very nice thing for a gentleman to do. We had until noon on Monday to pay, otherwise our candidate would have been put through the bankruptcy court.
– Did you rally your supporters to get the money?
– No, we paid it ourselves. If the honorable senator wants to know where his party gets its money I will tell him. I would not be guessing either.
Informal voting does not become a problem when a Senate election only is held. It has been found that when a Senate election is held apart from the House of Representatives election, 9.6 per cent, of the votes cast are informal. What more would we want? We will not get a better result than that no matter what system is followed. Dozens of people destroy their ballot-papers and others write foolish remarks on them. We have all been at the polling booths and seen that happen. In the case in which we were involved the votes were held to be informal because the elector placed the numbers 1, 2 and 3 on the ballot-paper for the House of Representatives and then went on to place the numbers 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 on the Senate ballot-paper. We contested the case on the ground that the elector in that way expressed his opinion; but we did not win the case. If it had not been for the informal votes we would have won the New South Wales seat, as honorable senators know. 1 repeat that I am a bit suspicious of the proposal for the appointment of a select committee for this purpose. The Government already knows all that is to be known about informal voting. It could get its officers to collect all the information that is available on the subject and place it before the Senate or the House of Representatives so that it- could be examined. That would be much more useful than appointing a select committee which might look at other matters.
– I wish to speak briefly on this motion for the setting up of a select committee.
– Without provocation, I hope.
– I think you must have read my thoughts. I agree with Senator Cole. I am surprised that such a motion as this, based on certain arguments in relation to informal voting, should be submitted by a party which believes in democracy. The system of proportional representation, without question, gives every section of the community the right to be represented in the Senate - the States House of the Commonwealth. No fairer system could be found. After all, when you look at the record of the last fifteen or sixteen years you find that 91 per cent, of the people of Australia know how to vote. About 4 per cent, would not vote formally in any circumstances.
– What grounds have you for saying that? I do not mind your making the statement, but I should like to know what grounds you have for making it.
– I will give you the grounds. In an election in which only the Senate is involved we still get 41 per cent, informal votes. I will reduce that figure to 4 per cent, for the sake of argument. We can account for 95 per cent, of the votes under the present system, and I think that the difficulty will be overcome only when the political parties in the Commonwealth set out to educate the other 5 per cent, of voters how to vote rather than bring in an altogether different system which would probably cause some of the 91 per cent, who vote formally now to vote informally. I repeat that 91 per cent, of voters know how to vote formally, and that at least 4 per cent, of voters would never vote formally under any system. Therefore it is the duty of all political parties to educate those who through lack of knowledge now vote informally. There is only one vote which is a fair vote for the minority parties in the Commonwealth, and that is a formal vote which numbers every candidate.
– But the act at present does not compel the numbering of every candidate.
– The last one may be left out. That is right.
– That is not what you said.
– If the honorable senator wants to argue the point, I shall argue it with him. He is now provoking me to say one or two things that I thought I should not say and in the circumstances I shall do so. I well remember when the system of preferential voting was changed in 1949. If the old system had remained in operation, the government that won the Lower House would have come into the Senate also with overwhelming numbers. A very strong Labour supporter, a very knowledgeable man in these matters, said to me in 1948, when I was an innocent young candidate, “ It does not matter what happens in the Lower House. We have a system whereby at the new election at least three Labour senators out of the seven required will be returned and we shall hold the Senate for twenty years. Irrespective of what you put up in the Lower House, you will get nothing through. We shall have the numbers in the Senate for twenty years.”
– I thought you said that he was knowledgeable.
– He was knowledgeable, but, like you, he did not anticipate the double dissolution. Your advisers, Dr. Evatt and Senator McKenna, said that we could not get one. That is where it broke down; the double dissolution put an end to that little scheme. The position is as plain as a pikestaff now. The Labour Party wants some system whereby it can eliminate the minority vote. If, by some mischance within the next twenty years, it gets a majority in the Lower House, it will be faced with the fact that we hold 30 of the Senate seats. It would not be game to go for a double dissolution because that would lead to the return of at least four of the minority parties which would then hold the balance of power in this chamber. That is the situation that the Labour Party wants to abolish.
It was a lovely little pill, so nicely presented, but after getting through the sugar coating, what the contents would do to minority parties in this place is just nobody’s business. At any rate, we shall not put it in the records of the Senate. It is quite clear, of course, that this is a political move, just as was the action taken in 1948. No matter what the people decided then in the election for the Lower House, the plan was that the Labour left-overs and the newcomers would ensure a majority for the Labour Party in the Senate. The system was hatched in mischief. This move is designed to get rid of the position wherein Labour faces 30 Liberal and Country Party senators. In the event of a double dissolution the worst of all worlds for the Opposition will eventuate. The minority that it seeks to eliminate will hold the balance of power in this chamber.
– We will get a unity ticket.
– This scheme was hatched in Victoria, where they know such a lot about unity tickets. That is quite right. I am glad that Senator Ormonde raised that matter. For the strongest of reasons, the Government should not accept this proposition. I can see the strongest of reasons why the minority party at present in the Senate should vote against it.
– I am sorry that the debate has ranged away from what I thought would be a contribution finally to electoral reform in Australia. Senator Henty would have done well to follow his leader, to whom the Senate is indebted for a very informative reply to Senator Kennelly. But Senator Henty spent a lot of time talking about minority parties. We should like to eliminate a couple of majority parties. The figures given by Senator Spooner have been very enlightening, but one matter has been completely overlooked in relation to informal votes. It is very difficult to get electoral reform, because the people who have to make the decision, the parliamentarians, are the very people who, as Senator Spooner pointed out in another context, are so vitally affected. I suppose that when we win under a certain system we think it is not a bad system, anyway. We departed from the system recently to make an amendment to allow aborigines, at long last, to vote.
Obviously, the question of avoiding informal voting is very complicated. As Senator Spooner pointed out, under the exhaustive system we get a very fair decision. One aspect has not been mentioned in relation to the right of the voter. He may come along and say, “ Out of all these people I want to vote for one man, whom I know and admire. I want to give him my No. 1 vote. I do not feel inclined to vote for the rest of the candidates, as I do not know enough about them.” I recall an election for the Senate in Western Australia, when the late Paddy Lynch was a candidate. One voter wrote alongside the name “ Lynch “, “ Why not all of them? “ That was what he thought of the candidates. Of course, that was before Senator Paltridge and I stood for election.
Preferential voting is scientifically sound, providing there is perfect knowledge on the part of the elector. In the party rooms we may vote for two or three people. We know their qualifications and experience. Therefore, we can say that A has qualifications a little better than those of B, and B has qualifications a little better than those of C. But at Senate elections, people in their thousands have to vote for as many as 27 or 28 candidates. Obviously, the scientific basis disappears, because voters have no knowledge of the candidates. I never feel happy when we reject the vote of a person who conscientiously indicates that he wishes to vote for one person in the Liberal Party, another in the Labour Party, and perhaps an independent candidate. He may be a very worthy type of voter who has studied the situation and does not believe that he should go further down the list to indicate the high numbers that we require. If we force him to do that, may we not be electing somebody who has no right to election? To give value to a vote, we force the voter to go right down the line.
This move by Senator Kennelly has been abortive, but I want to put on record my hope that in some way this has been a contribution to ultimate electoral reform and that the facts and figures which Senator Spooner put before us will be of great value in time to come. I sincerely hope that this debate is brought to the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth), who administers electoral matters. I hope that it will go on to what I am sure is a most voluminous file in the department and will ultimately contribute towards the making of a fair, intelligent appraisal of the votes cast for the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– in reply - It is not my intention to detain the Senate for long. I regret the Government’s decision in this matter. I think that everyone will recall that when I launched the motion I very carefully avoided putting any case. I thank the Leader of the Government for the case he put. At least he kept the debate on a plane that was worthy of the motion. I leave the other speakers to consider their own position. I regret only one passage in the speech of the Leader of the Government. He seemed to think that if the committee were appointed to do certain work - that is all that is sought - the result would be that a lot of votes would be lost, and therefore a true reflection of the people’s will would not be obtained. Surely he was anticipating the committee’s findings. With great respect, I do not think the Leader of the Government is in a position to assume what the findings of the committee would be. Honestly speaking, it is not my intention to take away anything from any person. It is true thatI do not want to compel everyone to vote from 1 to 29 if there were 29 candidates, but I do not want to take anything away. I say that quite candidly. I thought I would get the motion through, because I have recollections of what was said at the declaration of the poll. It is interesting to note that people say things at the declaration of the poll but forget all about them when they sit here.
I have before me a newspaper report of remarks made at the declaration of the poll in New South Wales by a defeated candidate. It states -
Mrs. M. E. Furley, a defeated Government candidate, said: Candidates who were elected should make their first task the reform of this ridiculous system which confuses voters, distresses candidates and causes extra work and headaches for electoral officials.
The remarks of Senator Fitzgerald, who won the first Labour vacancy in that State, and also of Mr. Kane, a defeated candidate, were also reported but the latter did not have anything to say on this subject. He did say, however, that he would make a challenge in the court, which he subsequently did, but the court did not uphold him. The report I have quoted was published in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 31st January, 1962, under the heading “Senate Voting Reform Urged by Candidates “.
Now I shall come to one of the senators who sits amongst us. The views of the senator from South Australia, Senator Buttfield, were reported in the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ as follows: -
Senator Buttfield (LCP) said she did not consider the Senate vote gave a true picture because many voters did not realise what they were doing.
It is high time a more reasonable and easier system was introduced.
The gem of them all came from my friend, Senator Vincent, in support of Senator Tangney. A report in the “ West Australian “ of 11th January, 1962, states -
Senator Tangney and Senator Vincent said that the system of voting was complex and led to a great number of informal votes. They said some simplified voting method should be used in the future.
The vote that will be taken in a few moments will show whether party discipline is strong enough to prevent Senator Vincent from acting in accordance with the view that he expressed on that occasion.
Though I have complimented the Minister upon his reply, and again do so, 1 think he has anticipated what the proposed committee would do. I think that the present system is wrong. On reflection I say that perhaps the opinion of Senator Toohey is not Labour policy. I have had time to think. A Labour policy is laid down for the House of Representatives, but no definite Labour policy, except the preferential system of voting, is laid down for the Senate.
I regret that the Leader of the Government does not see eye to eye with me. I do not think it is a good argument to say that there should not be an investigation merely because since the present system has been in operation informal votes have been 1 per cent, lower than they were in the earlier period he mentioned. The Minister must remember that he took into account that very good year when the Senate election was held separately. I know that our respective parties would not want that to be a regular practice.
– I do not think we want it ourselves.
– It might be a good thing at the present time, but of course as time goes on things may change. I do not want to discuss the contribution to the debate made by the Minister for Customs and Excise. I honestly believe it was not worthy of the occasion. One is sometimes amazed at the depths to which a person can sink.
In conclusion, I say quite candidly I believe that something ought to be done about voting at Senate elections. I regret that my move seems likely to fail on this occasion, but I hope that in the not far distant future some one will succeed.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 284) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the following resolution in connexion with the Foreign Affairs Committee: -
That Mr. Fairbairn be discharged from attendance on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and that his place be filled by Mr. Haworth.
That Mr. Bury be a member of the Committee in the place of Mr. Haworth.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table of the Senate reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Spring rollers for blinds.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- On 8th August I asked a question of the Minister who represents in this chamber the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). For the benefit of honorable senators I read the question -
I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services whether he is aware that some sixteen-year-old girls in Brisbane, who had been trained at private business colleges to type and operate ledger and adding machines, found it very difficult this year to obtain jobs in the classes of work for which they had been trained. Also, is the Minister aware that the business colleges where the girls were coached had a clientele that included businesses which obtained typists and clerks from them? Is the Minister aware that his department denied these girls, sixteen years of age and over, who were attending the training colleges, the right to receive unemployment benefit on the ground that they were attending the business college on a full-time basis? Having regard to the fact that the girls could not obtain jobs by their own efforts or through the Commonwealth employment offices, and wisely continued attending the business colleges which, by directly assisting to obtain jobs for their trained students, are in fact employment agencies, will the Minister have the question of paying unemployment benefit to the girls investigated?
I point out that the question contains a story and then asks a simple question. I asked for the matter to be investigated. To my great surprise the Minister gave me a reply which really put the question into a dead end. He destroyed the question, and there the matter has rested ever since. No further action has been taken about a matter which I consider of some importance. This is the Minister’s reply: -
I suggest that Senator Benn might assist these girls, if they need assistance, by himself making some inquiries at the office of the Department of Labour and National Service in Brisbane. I have no doubt that, even in the most prosperous times and in times of over-full employment, it can happen from time to time that girls who go through training colleges and business colleges are not able immediately to obtain positions. I do not know what the circumstances of this case are, nor do I know how many girls are involved, but I should think that the best way to lend them a helping hand, if it is a helping hand they need, would be for Senator Benn to make some representations to the officer concerned who, I have no doubt, will do the best he can to deal with the situation.
I point out one thing. The Minister referred to the Department of Labour and National Service in Brisbane, but I was dealing with a social service matter. The Minister in his reply suggested that I make “ some representations to the officer concerned “. Surely I have been here long enough for the Minister to be able to make a fairly accurate assessment of my character. Surely he would know that I would not ask a question such as this without going as far as I could in the matter with the authorities in Brisbane. I would not be wasting the time of the Senates - and my own time - unless it was a substantial question that I asked. I was dealing with the important matter of paying unemployment benefit to girls who are positively unemployed and who have attained their sixteenth birthday. I do not wish to see girls who could not obtain employment by following ordinary procedures exposing themselves unnecessarily to the gravest of all social dangers by themselves canvassing for work around hotels and other business places. I ask the Senate to bear in mind the simple question that I asked. The relevant part of the Social Services Act reads -
Subject to this Part, a person (not being a person in receipt of a pension or allowance under Part III. or IV. of this Act or a service pension under the Repatriation Act 1920-1954) who-
has attained the age of sixteen years, but, being a male, has not attained the age of sixty-five years or, being a female, has not attained the age of sixty years;
is residing in Australia on the date on which he lodges his claim for a benefit and -
has been continuously so resident for a period of not less than twelve months immediately preceding that date; or
satisfies the Director-General that he is likely to remain permanently in Australia; and
satisfies the Director-General that he -
is unemployed and that his unemployment is not due to his being a direct participant in a strike;
is capable of undertaking, and is willing to undertake, work which, in the opinion of the Director-General, is suitable to be undertaken by that person; and
has taken reasonable steps to obtain such work, shall be qualified to receive an unemployment benefit.
– The Director-General of what?
– The Director-General of Social Services. Although I know that the Senate can take judicial notice of any statute and it is unnecessary for me to quote from this act, I am doing so to make the position clear. The postponement or cancellation section reads as follows: -
The Director-General may postpone for such period as he thinks fit the date from which an unemployment benefit shall be payable to a person, or may cancel the payment of an unemployment benefit to a person, as the case requires -
if that person’s unemployment is due, either directly or indirectly, to his voluntary act which, in the opinion of the Director-General, was without good and sufficient reason;
if that person’s unemployment is due to his misconduct as a worker;
if that person has refused or failed, without good and sufficient reason, to accept an offer of employment which the Director-General considers to be suitable; or
if, in the opinion of the DirectorGeneral -
that person is a seasonal or inter mittent worker; and
the income of that person is sufficient for the maintenance of himself and the persons who are ordinarily maintained by him notwithstanding a period of temporary unemployment.
These girls to whom I have referred were registered for employment at the offices of the Department of Labour and National Service. They also made application for unemployment benefit at the office of the Department of Social Services, but their applications were rejected. I refer now to the ruling that was given to me by an officer of the Department of Social Services on 29th May this year. I will omit the name of the girl whom I mentioned in my correspondence. To enable the letter to be clearly understood, I will substitute the name “ Smith “ for her name. The letter that I received is dated 29th May, 1962, and reads -
I refer to your personal representations on behalf of Miss Smith, concerning unemployment benefit.
When Miss Smith lodged a claim for unemployment benefit on 9th March, 1962, she was attending full-time day classes at a business college.
Under the provisions of the Social Services Act a person who is attending a business college on a full-time basis cannot be regarded as unemployed and therefore does not qualify for unemployment benefit.
The decision to reject the claim lodged by Miss Smith is confirmed.
The letter then went on to say that the decision had been communicated to the federal member within whose constituency the girl resides.
– Is that letter from the Minister for Social Services or the department?
– From the department, not from the Minister. I repeat the simple question that I asked. Will the Minister have this matter investigated? It involves a social problem. These girls have been trained for business careers. They have undergone their training in business colleges which, at certain periods, have quite a number of employers with whom they can readily find employment for their pupils. These girls were in close touch with the Department of Labour and National Service and no employment was available for them. I took this matter up with some enthusiasm because I knew that the girls would be much better off attending business colleges where they would be under the control of the teachers and their parents would know where they were, instead of wandering around the streets of Brisbane by themselves in search of employment.
This matter should be investigated. We should not allow our social service system to remain static and rigid. Had this matter been investigated, the Government could have assisted these girls, at their tender age of sixteen years, until they found employment. The girl referred to in the letter that I quoted later got a job and is now in employment. She went to a primary school and then to a secondary school, and then concentrated on stenography and typing at a business college to fit her to walk into an office and get a position. After she had had that training, no work was available to her immediately or in the near future.
If a girl is a member of a family in which five or six other children are attending school, her being unable to find employment would cause a big drain on the resources of the typical Australian family. When a girl is seeking employment she requires the little financial assistance that would have been quite warranted in this case. I conclude my few remarks, Mr. President, by asking the Leader of the Government this question: Will he refer this matter to the Minister for Social Services for investigation?
– in reply - Mr. President, I will ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) to write to Senator Benn on this matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 August 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1962/19620816_senate_24_s22/>.