24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMulIin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation received a letter from the Australian Federation of Air Pilots, referring to the report of the court of inquiry into the Viscount crash? Does the letter display some disagreement with some parts of the Minister’s statement to the Senate last week? Will the Minister comment to the Senate on the relevant sections of the letter, so as to enable the Senate to be aware of his attitude towards this expert and experienced opinion?
– I received only this morning the letter referred to by the honorable senator. As a matter of fact, it came in during the morning; I have not yet had time to do more than briefly read it. I say at once that the letter is apparently at points in conflict with advice tendered by the Australian Federation of Air Pilots some few days prior to the writing of this particular letter. Equally, I say, at some other points I see little difference between what the air pilots contend and what is in my statement of last week. I realize that the matter of this latest letter written by the federation will be regarded with some interest, especially as we are to discuss the motion for the printing of the report of the court of inquiry this week, and I had in mind that when the motion was under discussion I should produce to the Senate not only this letter but also the other views which were made available to me by the federation.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that the level of imports for the month of August was higher than it had been for the preceding fifteen months? Is it expected that this trend will continue? If so, what action is contemplated by the Government to avoid a repetition of he balance-of-payments problem which led to the credit squeeze of November, 1960?
– I noticed that imports were higher for August than they had been for previous months. I do not know whether they were higher in August than they had been for fifteen months. My recollection of the facts is that in each of the past three months imports have been higher than was expected. I can only give to Senator Wedgwood the general reply that it is a matter that the Treasurer and the Government will continually watch. I do not want to suggest from that reply that any action is in contemplation. There must be rises or falls in imports from month to month. It is not sufficient to look at just one month’s figures. One has to look more deeply into the circumstances and more closely at the expectations for succeeding months. It is a matter of great importance that is always being watched.
– I ask the
Minister for Health whether he was correctly reported in the “ Age “ of Monday, 1st October, at page 17, as stating that the coloured races are determined to dominate the world. Upon what does the Minister base this belief? Is this the opinion of the Government? Whether or not it is the opinion of the Government, does the Minister regard his remark as a useful contribution to the maintenance of friendly relations between Australia and Asian countries?
– I am happy to have the opportunity to inform the Senate on the points raised by Senator Hendrickson, for the very good reason that, whilst I was reported in the press at some length, not one note was taken of my speech and somebody obviously was trusting to memory. What I did say was that the coloured races of the world were seeking a place in the sun. I think no one could take exception to that. It is the right and privilege of those races to try to lift their standards of living, and that was the point [ made.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister noted press reports of the concern expressed by the chairman of the Australian Dairy Produce Board and by the chairman of the Upper Hunter District Council of the Primary Producers Union about the rise in margarine production in New South Wales? Whatever may be the merits or demerits of the limitation of margarine production, is it not a fact that quotas were allocated to each State, by agreement, by the Australian Agricultural Council and that any production over a quota is a breach of that agreement? In view of the necessity to find other markets for Australian dairy produce because of the limitation of exports to the British market, does not the action of margarine manufacturers in New South Wales constitute a serious threat to the dairying industry? Will the Minister see that the position is discussed at the next meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council?
– I know that the dairy industry is concerned at reports that certain companies in New South Wales have been exceeding their margarine production quotas. My understanding of the position is that the Australian Agricultural Council, at its meeting in July last, recommended that all States should take uniform action to ensure that the quota system was enforced. The Agricultural Council conceded that perhaps some State legislation would need to be strengthened to make that possible. Subsequently, the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture was reported to have said that he had Cabinet approval for the drafting of legislation to make the enforcement of quotas possible in New South Wales. He was further reported to have said that when his Cabinet gave approval to his legislation, it would be presented to the State Parliament for ratification. I think it can be conceded that all States are making a worthwhile effort to gain uniformity in meeting this problem and strictly policing the quotas, as requested by the Agricultural Council.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Will the Minister inform the Senate of the progress, if any, that has been made in the conferences that have been held between Commonwealth and State authorities over the past two years with the object of achieving uniformity in dealing with such matters as restrictive trade practices? I have asked questions on this subject previously and have always been told that progress was being made. I want an assurance from the Minister that something definite has been done or can be expected in the near future. I am prompted to ask this question to-day by what might be regarded as a small matter which was brought to my notice only yesterday. It is indicative of what is going on throughout the community. It concerns a small place of business-
– Order! The honorable senator is now giving information.
– I have to do so, Mr. President, to make the question intelligible to the Minister. I know that it is very difficult to do that.
– Order! The honorable senator has asked his question and should not proceed to give information.
– In this case, the person concerned stocks two or three different brands of bread. She has been told by one producer of bread that unless she can increase her sales of his brand, she will have to pay the retail price for the bread she gets from him. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether any progress has been made in these matters or whether we can expect any to be made in the near future?
– Since the first announcement was made, as an endeavour to do something to control restrictive trade practices, quite a number of conferences have taken place between the AttorneyGeneral and State Ministers concerned with this matter. The possible introduction of legislation must depend upon negotiations with the various State Ministers. Clearly, the outcome of those negotiations is not a matter for the commonwealth alone to decide.
– The consideration has been going on for a couple of years.
– Of course it has been going on, and I have mentioned the progress that has been made. Discussions between the Commonwealth AttorneyGeneral and the relevant Ministers of the various State governments have been taking place and are continuing.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that the Government has under consideration the holding of an inquiry into the national economy? If so, what plans for the inquiry are under consideration? Does the Government propose to make an early announcement in this respect?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is, “ Yes “. Beyond saying that, I am sure that any announcement that is to be made is a matter for the Prime Minister.
– Because I think that the question I am about to ask concerns more than one department I address it to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Minister noted a statement in yesterday’s press by the director of the Pakistan Standards Institution, Dr. N. R. Chowdhury, who is attending a Commonwealth standards conference in Sydney? Dr. Chowdhury is reported to have said that if Britain joined the European Common Market it could not avoid using the metric system in currency, weights and measures, and that trade reasons inevitably would force the Commonwealth countries, including Australia, to do likewise. Has the Government given any thought to this matter and, if so, what preparations are in hand to cover such an eventuality?
– The question of the adoption of decimal currency has been under consideration by the Government. The Treasurer has made statements on the matter from time to time. I should not care to recapitulate those statements, and I therefore ask the honorable senator to place his question on the notice-paper.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware that although the employment situation in Australia generally is improving, consider able unemployment exists among technicians, actors, actresses and other workers in the film and television programme industry? Also, is he aware that, in addition to unemployment, there is considerable underemployment, so that people are not fully or gainfully employed? Will the Government take urgent action to provide wellmerited assistance to those engaged in this important industry?
– The Government is taking a lively interest in this matter. Some little time ago it authorized the PostmasterGeneral to appoint a departmental committee to inquire into all the aspects of television programmes and allied interests. The report of the committee has not yet been received by the Postmaster-General, but I am confident that when it is available it will contain a good deal of information that will be of great assistance to the Government in furthering the interests of the television industry and television programmes in particular.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether it is a fact that Mr. Warren McDonald, the former chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, in a report to the Minister, asked that additional powers, apart from intra-state powers, be granted to Trans-Australia Airlines to enable it to perform functions in addition to those envisaged when its original charter was laid down. Did the Government refuse to grant the extensions of power requested? Has the court now ruled that some types of charter work recently carried out by T.A.A. are outside its constitutional power? Has the Government refused to grant additional powers to T.A.A. to enable it to rectify this situation? If so, why does the Government refuse to grant to T.A.A. the power necessary to enable it to perform the’ same airline functions that are performed by Ansett-A.N.A.?
– It is true that some years ago the then chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission asked the Government to consider extending Trans-Australia Airlines’ powers to enable it to operate beyond its then existing authorization. Briefly, T.A.A.’s then existing authorization and its present authorization provide that the Government airline may conduct a passenger transport service and services ancillary thereto interstate and within Queensland and Tasmania. The Government at that stage declined to grant further powers to the Australian National Airlines Commission. The Government declined to grant those additional powers having particular regard to the fact that within each State there was sufficient operating capacity to cater for existing traffic. I think the honorable senator’s question probably arises from the fact that late last year a Sydney helicopter operator - Helicopter Utilities Proprietary Limited - took action in court against T.A.A., alleging that T.A.A. was proposing to operate helicopters outside its charter. The court ruled that T.A.A. was in fact operating outside its charter with its helicopters. As a result of the court’s decision the Government reviewed the functions and powers of T.A.A. only quite recently. After that further survey the Government decided not to extend T.A.A.’s charter for the obvious reason that there is presently in Australia private enterprise willing and able adequately to provide the services that T.A.A. sought to provide. As to that part of the question relating to charters, there has been no variation in T.A.A.’s function because the Government airline has never been able to operate intra-state charters except in Queensland and Tasmania. Its powers in relation to charter operations have not been altered.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. Is it a fact that Army authorities in Western Australia are considering releasing to the Government of Western Australia a large area of land at present known as the Avon valley military training ground? Also, is it a fact that the Army is considering taking over an area of country in the Julimar State forest as a training ground? Is the Minister aware that the Julimar forest is highly valuable agricultural land? Is he aware that for many years the local shire council has been requesting the State Government to release that land for agricultural purposes? I fully appreciate the importance of military requirements, but will the Minister ask his colleague to halt proposals to establish a military training centre in this area until all other areas have been fully investigated and found unsuitable?
– I am not conversant with the area mentioned by the honorable senator. I have seen some correspondence on this matter and I understand that the! Western Australian Government has set up an inter-departmental committee to consider this proposal. I understand also that eventually a standard gauge railway will run through the Avon valley and make this area unsuitable for the Army. I believe that the State Government has suggested to the Army that the Julimar forest area might be suitable for its purposes. I am well aware that this forest area is regarded as being a potentially rich agricultural area and that the local council objects to the Army going into it. If the honorable senator will put the last part of his question on the notice-paper, I shall ask the Minister for the Army to consider the point that he has raised.
– Has the Minister for Health seen a report that the withdrawal of the Dutch from West New Guinea has caused a breakdown of medical services in that area? If this is so, does it give credence to a recent statement by the Queensland Director of Public Health that Australia could be in danger of severe small-pox infection? Could the Minister give the Senate some information on this matter?
– The subject-matter of the question asked by Senator Ormonde comes under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Territories. I shall confer with him on the points that have been raised and let Senator Ormonde have our collective views on this very important matter.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that the Director of the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories recently, after returning from a world tour, stressed the serious rise in the level of noise in the world, and that he referred particularly to the high level of noise at airports and its likely serious effect on health? Will the Minister state whether the Department of Civil Aviation is studying this question with a view to lessening the level of noise at airports, to help both those residing near airports and those using aircraft as a means of travel?
– I do not think I have seen a report of that statement by the Director of the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories, but I can say at once that I would be most interested to look at what he has said about aircraft noise, because this is a problem with which the department seeks to keep very much in touch. It is realized within the department that, as far as is possible, airlines must be good neighbours with the community, and a continual effort is being made to achieve that desirable result.
A number of things occur to me in relation to action taken in this respect. For example, restrictions have been imposed on certain aircraft to ensure a faster rate of climb, so that people on the ground will be bothered by the noise for as short a period as possible. In Australia we use the preferred runway system, under which, as far as it is operationally possible, aircraft take off and land over areas in which the population density is lightest. The honorable senator will be aware that when the new Adelaide airport was built, special consideration was given to this problem and a buffer area was provided. It was as large as the department was able to provide by the acquisition of available land. The Perth airport, for example, which is the most recently completed one, has a buffer area as big as any in the world. The provision of the seaward runway at the Sydney airport will also have the effect of lessening the noise nuisance at that airport. I hope that the matters I have mentioned will induce the honorable senator to conclude that we are watching this problem as closely as possible.
– Has the
Minister for Civil Aviation received recently a complaint from the Rockdale Municipal Council in Sydney that aircraft operated by the Alitalia airline have been engaging in low-flying practices over certain southern suburbs of Sydney? If such a complaint has been received by the Minister, will he have the position investigated as a matter of urgency? If the practice is found to have existed or still to be in existence, will he take all necessary steps to stop such a practice?
– I understand that quite recently a communication of the nature mentioned by the honorable senator has come to my office from the Rockdale Municipal Council. I cannot remember the airline against which the complaint was made, if in fact a particular airline was mentioned. The matter is currently being investigated by the Department of Civil Aviation.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer take up with his colleague the great injustice suffered by country people when a person has to accompany a sick member of the family to the city for either specialist or hospital treatment which is not available in their own country area? Will the Minister ask the Treasurer to allow as taxation deductions all expenses - such as fares, accommodation and postage and telephone charges - incurred in such cases, such deductions to be subect to the usual safeguards and to be certified by the doctors concerned and supported by official receipts?
– As the honorable senator implied, the expenses to which he referred are not allowable deductions at present. This proposal has been considered from time to time and has been rejected. It involves a matter of policy. I shall refer the question to the Treasurer.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service taken note of the news published over the week-end that the Communistcontrolled Seamen’s Union of Australia is endeavouring to enlist the aid of its colleagues overseas in order to impose a black ban not only on the ship “ P. J. Adams “, which belongs to Ampol Petroleum Limited, but also on all of that company’s trading activities? When is this ship scheduled to go into service? Can the Minister give the Senate any information on the atttitude of the Australian Council of Trade Unions to this activity of the Seamen’s Union?
– I am not competent at this stage to give an indication of the attitude of the Australian Council of Trade Unions on this matter. I should like the question to be put on the notice-paper so that that part of it may be answered by my colleague. I think it is generally known, Mr. President, that this vessel, which was built for Ampol Petroleum Limited in South Australia, was constructed in Australia for patriotic reasons although it cost the company more to build the ship in Australia than it would have cost to have it built abroad. If what the honorable senator says about the attitude of the Seamen’s Union is true, it seems to me to be a very poor return for the action of the Ampol company in providing employment for shipbuilding workers in Australia when it could just as easily have had this ship constructed abroad.
– The question which I addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate arises out of an article appearing in yesterday’s “ Courier-Mail “ under the caption, “ Seato Link disgraces us among Asians “. In that report, Mr. Bruce MacFarlane, a Queensland University lecturer in economic development - I take it he is a responsible person - is alleged to have stated -
As a member of Seato Australia is helping prop-up odious feudal regimes in Asia, such as in Thailand.
Aid that has been poured into these countries went into the pockets of the top 100 people and the rest of the population got nothing.
I ask the Minister whether he would care to comment on that matter either now, or later, after further investigation has been made.
– I did not see the newspaper report. I do not know the university professor to whom Senator Brown refers, but I would like completely to dissociate myself and the Government from the sentiment that the professor is reported to have expressed. If I understood the honorable senator correctly, he said that this professor says that our link with Seato disgraces us. That is a completely irresponsible statement.
– The question which I address to the Minister for Health is prompted by a question asked earlier by Senator Ormonde, and, by way of preface, I should like to say that while I was on” a recent tour of the northern, eastern and southern highlands districts, and also the Sepik district, of New Guinea, every native I contacted was, I believe, in the process of being vaccinated against smallpox. In view of the widespread campaign being conducted by the Department of Territories, I ask the Minister whether he considers that vaccination is an adequate protection against small-pox.
– My advisers state without qualification that vaccination is a protection against small-pox. To support that contention, I should like to inform the Senate that the Department of Health has adequate stocks of vaccine available at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories for that purpose. Indeed, the Government of Queensland is also taking a very lively interest in this problem and is encouraging as many of its citizens as possible to be vaccinated and to become immunized. The response to that appeal is most encouraging. In general terms, the answer to the honorable senator’s question is, “ Yes “.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. On 29th August of this year, the President informed the Senate that a remonstrance had been received from the President of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory setting out certain grievances of that council. He also informed us that the document had been laid on the table of the Library for the perusal of honorable senators. I have perused the document which contains very grave complaints of denial of political rights and maladministration of the Northern Territory. So far, nothing has been done either to refute the charges or to redress the grievances. Does the Government believe that the people of the Northern Territory are entitled to have their remonstrance heard and their complaints investigated? If so, what does the Government propose to do about this remonstrance other than leave it on the table of the Library?
– As I understand the position, a remonstrance is a document that is not suitable for use in parliamentary proceedings. After consideration of the contents of this remonstrance, it was thought that the most that could be done was to make the document public by placing it on the table of the Library. I suppose that all governments are under criticism from various quarters. Those persons who have signed this remonstrance have expressed their dissatisfaction. There is probably a very much greater number of people in the Northern Territory who do not subscribe to this criticism of the Government. 1 put it to Senator Murphy that if he believes that the case in the remonstrance is justified, the appropriate course for him to adopt is to take the matter upon the floor of the Senate.
– I asked for it to be investigated. What is the Government going to do about it?
– It is not a question of investigation. The Government has an administration which is conducting the affairs of the Northern Territory. The vote for the Northern Territory, and all matters that go with it, are under the scrutiny of the Parliament. All proceedings in the Northern Territory are subject to parliamentary comment and criticism. If the honorable senator feels deeply upon these matters, there are plenty of appropriate procedures of the Senate which will enable him to advance his views at whatever length he feels inclined, and will give the Minister concerned an appropriate opportunity then to put the answer to the criticisms.
– I direct to the Minister for Health two questions which are complementary to each other. First, in view of the apparent lack of technical resources within the purview of the Department of Health to prevent the entry of possibly dangerous drugs into Australia, will the Minister indicate to the Senate the means by which it is hoped that such drugs may be prevented from entering the. coun try? Secondly, arising out of that matter, will the Minister say whether he has considered the need for the setting up in Australia of a food and drugs administration on the same basis as those which exist in the United States of America, the Federation of West Germany, and Canada, and whether there are any means by which the sale of dangerous drugs manufactured in Australia may be prevented?
– These questions are under active consideration in my department at the present time. It is true that we have great technical difficulties to overcome in this matter, but I can assure the honorable senator that the points that he raised are being considered at present, and we are hopeful that ere long we shall be able to make a public announcement on our activities.
I refer the Senate to a statement made quite recently on a similar problem concerning the toxic content of drugs. We have set up an organization which, I believe, will be of great value to the medical profession and to hospital treatment generally, to compile a register setting out the properties and poisonous effects of all drugs that are on the market. That is an indication of the progress that is being made dealing with this very interesting public problem.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral to an article that appeared in the Adelaide “Advertiser” of Friday, 5th October, headed “ Delay in S.A. Country T.V.” and reading -
The Spencer Gulf North area is not likely to have a local commercial television service for several years.
In view of the fact that the people residing in the Spencer Gulf North area are not likely to have a local commercial television service for several years, will the Minister give the establishment of a national television service in this area a top priority so that the residents of the area will have television in a reasonable period?
– The Government has plans to take national television to all of those areas for which it has called applications for commercial television licences. It is also true that priorities are set down for the extension of the television programme of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I suppose it could be argued that the point raised by Senator Drury in support of the suggestion that the Spencer Gulf North area should get a priority could well be raised in respect of many other parts of Australia. Quite often, Western Australian senators and South Australian senators have raised similar points.
I have said on previous occasions that the Government is determined to maintain the high quality of its installations. I believe it is true to say that that policy gets the support of most of the people in the areas concerned. They are prepared, I believe, to wait a reasonable time, provided they are to get the best television service available. I shall bring the point raised by the honorable senator to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral, who is much more adequately equipped than I am to answer it, and I shall let the honorable senator have the Minister’s views on the matter.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing Che Minister for Territories. I should like, if I may, to preface it by saying that a United Nations commission under the chairmanship of Sir Hugh Foot visited the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and issued a report. Having regard to the nature of the report and its possible implications, is it intended that the report will be tabled here so that the forms of the Senate may be availed of to enable a debate to take place upon the subject?
– I shall seek an opportunity to discuss this matter with my colleague, the Minister for Territories, because I am not fully aware of the procedure to be followed. I know, for example, that the report of Sir Hugh Foot either has been discussed, or will be discussed at the United Nations or, at least, will be presented at the United Nations. I shall have to ask my colleague whether that must take chronological precedence over the presentation of the report in this chamber. I shall do so as quickly as possible and let the honorable senator know the result.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been directed to a statement by Dr. C. O. F. Rieger, chairman of the board of management of the Adelaide Children’s Hospital, that hospital benefits had failed to keep pace with the cost of beds? Dr. Rieger was reported in the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ as saying that in 1948 the benefit of 6s. was one-third of the daily bed cost, but that the benefit of 20s. to-day represents only one-seventh of the daily bed cost. The doctor went on to say that he hoped that representations now being made to the Commonwealth Government would help to bring this benefit into line with present costs. I ask the Minister whether a report will be given to the Senate on the Government’s attitude to the representations made by Dr. Rieger.
– I am not quite clear in my mind what Senator Bishop is seeking. I take it that he is asking whether the Senate will be informed of the result of our deliberations with the State Ministers for Health. Of course, the answer is, “ Yes “. With reference to the matters raised by Dr. Rieger, I should like to point out to the honorable senator that the Commonwealth Government has never accepted responsibility for hospital costs as such. It has no jurisdiction over State hospital management and it does not seek that jurisdiction. Its policy has always been to assist, in particular, those in need to meet their hospital costs. I can assure the honorable senator that these matters will be kept well in mind when I meet the State Ministers on 22nd October.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to an article published in the “ Medical Journal of Australia” of 5th October in which Dr. Paul Ross and Dr. A. D. McCutchen, both of Melbourne, pointed out the dangers of taking the drug phenacetin, and stated that the consumption of this drug in Australia had more than doubled in the past six years? Will the Minister consider enforcing the recommendations of the two doctors - first, that a ban be placed upon advertisements for preparations containing phenacetin, and secondly, that compounds containing phenacetin should be sold only by chemists and only on doctors’ prescriptions?
– I can assure the honorable senator that the consumption of phenacetin dropped dramatically in the past two or three months. I can assure him also that the Commonwealth Government has no power to impose any bans on the advertising or distribution of any drugs. All that the Commonwealth Government can do, through the National Health and Medical Research Council, is to give support to an educational policy designed to warn people of the benefits or ills arising from the use of particular drugs. 1 think it is true to say that in every case where ill-effects followed the taking of phenacetin or any other drug, that was due mainly to excessive consumption of the drug. I repeat what I have said before and will continue to repeat: When in doubt, a patient should always take the advice of his or her doctor.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to the annual report of the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, and to Sir Richard Kirby’s statement appearing therein that this is the sixth annual report in which he has directed attention to the poor accommodation provided for the commission in Sydney? Does the Government accept the situation to be as Sir Richard has stated it? If so, what action, if any, is the Government taking or does the Government propose to take, to provide suitable and adequate accommodation for the commission in Sydney?
– As it happens, I shall be tabling the report of the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the Senate later. The future allocation of money and the purposes to which that money will be allocated are matters of policy and are not appropriate subjects for questions in this chamber.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has an organization called Coal Mines Insurance, a government institution, recently announced a rebate of something like £700,000 to the coal-owners of New South Wales, arising from the stability of the funds provided for miners’ insurance? Does not the Minister believe that this money could have been more advantageously invested in improving safety in the mines, since deaths still occur and accidents still happen in Australian coalmines?
– Surely it would be wrong to load coal-mining costs with insurance premiums at rates higher than were justified. If the premiums charged prove to be greater than is necessary, it seems to me to be logical and equitable to make a rebate of a part of the premiums, as was done on this occasion to the extent of £700,000. I do not see how the honorable senator can relate safety in the mines to these insurance premiums. Safety in the mines is not related to the quantum of insurance premiums. You could have a small mine employing very few people and paying a very small insurance premium. It would hardly be equitable to spend money that had been collected for insurance premiums on that small mine. Safety in the mines is controlled by one body of legislation, under which the owners and employees have their responsibilities, and insurance is covered by different legislation.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The following table gives the reply to questions 1 to 4: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: - 1 and 2. The advertisement mentioned had not previously come to my notice.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table of the Senate reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Conveyor and transmission belts and belting. Copper and brass in sheets or strips. Furnishing fabrics.
Textiles of man-made fibres and interim report under the general textile reference on textiles of man-made fibres.
Woollen piece goods and interim report under the general textile reference onwoollen piece goods.
– For the information or honorable senators, I lay on the table the texts of the following treaties: -
Covention on the privileges and immunities of the Specialized Agencies, approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 21st November, 1947.
Customs Convention concerning facilities for the importation of goods for display or use at exhibitions, fairs, meetings or similar events, signed at Brussels, 8th June, 1961.
Amendment to Article VI.A.3 of the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency adopted by the General Conference of the Agency, 4th October, 1961.
Notes exchanged on 14thNovember, 1961, between Australia and the United Kingdom constituting an agreement concerning Customs arrangements for civil aircraft making non-scheduled flights into the United Kingdom and Australia respectively.
Agreement between Australia and the Federal Republic of Germany concerning the Exchange of Postal Parcels, signed at Bonn, 19th March, 1962.
Convention for the establishment of a European Organization for the development and construction of Space Vehicle Launchers, together with the Financial Protocol annexed to the Convention and the Protocol concerning certain responsibilities in connexion with the Initial Programme, signed at London, 29th March, 1962.
Notes exchanged on 29th and 31st March, 1962, between the Australian and the Netherlands Governments, constituting an agreement to extend for another six months the 1956 Assisted Migration Agreement between the two Governments.
Assisted Passage Agreement between the Australian and the United Kingdom Governments, signed 28th May, 1962.
Instrument for the Amendment of the Constitution of the International Labour Organization adopted by the General Conference of the Organization, 22nd June, 1962.
Notes exchanged on 7th August, 1962, between the Australian and Japanese Governments, constituting an agreement relating to co-operation in the civil uses of atomic energy.
Social Security Agreement between the Australian and United Kingdom Governments, signed at Canberra, 16th August, 1962.
Notes exchanged on 6th September, 1962, between the Australian and Indonesian Governments, constituting an agreement to extend for another year the 1959 Trade Agreement between the two Governments.
Senator WADE (Victoria - Minister for
Health). - I lay on the table of the Senate the following paper: -
Commonwealth Electoral Act - Reports, with Maps, by the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing into electoral divisions the’ Slates of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.
For the information of honorable senators, I have arranged with the President that maps showing the redistribution be displayed in the Government and Opposition party rooms.
Senator WADE (Victoria - Minister for
Health).- by leave- On 30th April, 1959, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) made a statement in the House outlining the Government’s policy with respect to the extension of television services to country and provincial areas of the Commonwealth. In that statement he indicated that, as a first stage, national and commercial stations would be established in thirteen country areas and that the remaining provincial and rural areas would be given consideration when that stage was well under way. Commercial stations have now commenced operations in eleven of the thirteen areas and considerable progress has been made with the establishment of national stations in those areas.
Subsequently, on 18th October, 1961, in conformity with his undertaking, he announced that national stations would be established in an additional twenty country areas and that applications would be invited for the grant of a licence for a commercial television station in each of these areas. These areas were -
Southern Agricultural Area (KatanningAlbany).
Central Agricultural Area (NorthamYork).
Accordingly, applications for the licences for the commercial stations in these areas were invited on 30th November, 1961. In the cases of the Upper Namoi, South Western Slopes and Eastern Riverina, Grafton-Kempsey, Upper Murray, Wide Bay and Spencer Gulf North areas, applications were required to be lodged by 4th May, 1962, and those in respect of the remaining areas by 27th July, 1962. These dates were arranged so as to give all intending applicants for licences plenty of time to prepare their applications and, in particular, to give those in the areas of smaller population the longest possible time to investigate the issues which were likely to arise in those areas.
Ten applications were received in respect of the six areas to which I have specifically referred, while 28 applications were received in respect of twelve of the remaining areas. No applications were received for licences in the Southern Agricultural and the Central Agricultural areas of Western Australia. All of these applications were referred to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, pursuant to the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1960, for public inquiry and report to the PostmasterGeneral. Because of its commitments in respect of other inquiries relating to capital cities, the board has been able to deal only with the applications for the first six areas and has submitted to the PostmasterGeneral its report and recommendations which I now lay on the table of the Senate.
Following consideration of the board’s report, the Government has authorized the Postmaster-General to grant a licence for a commercial television station to each of the following companies in the five areas indicated: -
South-western Slopes and Eastern Riverina Area - Riverina Television Limited.
The constitution of these companies is set . out in the board’s report. In the sixth area - Spencer Gulf North - the only applicant was not prepared to proceed with the application on the ground that it would, at this stage, be uneconomic to do so. He stated, however, that he wished to have the opportunity of re-applying in 1965. Consequently, the Postmaster-General is not in a position, at present, to grant a licence for a commercial station in this area but he proposes to keep the matter under review with the object of re-inviting applications as soon as circumstances indicate that such a course is warranted.
The licences will not be granted until the Postmaster-General is satisfied as to the directors and shareholdings of the respective companies and as to their compliance with the provisions of the act. He will also require that an assurance be given that no exclusive arrangement will be entered into with any metropolitan station for the provision of programmes or the sale of station time or advertising. This conforms with the conditions prescribed in respect of other country stations which have been licensed. Each company, to which a licence is to be granted, will be required to offer at least 50 per cent of its shares to the general public residing in the area to be served by the station, although it appears from the board’s report that each of the proposed licensees has already expressed this intention.
I should point out that the board, in its report, recommended some modifications to the proposed shareholding in Riverina Television Limited. No conflict with the provision of the act was, however, involved in the proposals of that company and the Government did not, therefore, adopt the board’s recommendation.
As was done in the case of other areas, the Postmaster-General proposes to make it clear to the companies concerned that the fact that a licence for only one commercial station in each area is being granted now is not to be taken that further licences will not be granted in the future, should circumstances justify such a course. The Postmaster-General is not in a position, at present, to say when the board will be able to deal with the applications which have been received in respect of the remaining areas to which I have referred. He can only assure the Senate that no avoidable delays will occur.
As stated earlier, a national station is to be established in each of the twenty country areas which I have mentioned. These include, of course, the Spencer Gulf North area in South Australia and the Southern Agricultural and the Central Agricultural areas of Western Australia. The erection of the national stations will proceed as quickly as possible.
I lay on the table the following paper: -
Australian Broadcasting Control Board - Report and Recommendations to the Postmaster-General on Applications for Commercial Television Licences in Upper Namoi, South-western Slopes and Eastern Riverina, Grafton-Kempsey, Upper Murray, Wide Bay and Spencer Gulf North areas. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Cole be granted leave of absence for two months on account of absence overseas.
– I move -
That the Senate will resolve itself forthwith into a Committee of the Whole for the purpose of considering the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1963, and tha Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1963, with the exception of Estimates of Special Appropriations and of Expenditure from Loan Fund.
With the Senate’s permission I propose to speak briefly to the motion. Honorable senators will remember that the procedure now contemplated was adopted last year with, I think, some success. The Government desires to adopt the same procedure this year. I propose to explain the procedure for the benefit of those honorable senators who were not here last year. The procedure is in truth an extension of the Senate practice of having a Budget debate each year on the motion for the printing of the Budget papers. Prior to last year our procedure was to debate the motion for the printing of the Budget papers and then to defer dealing with the Estimates until such time as the appropriation bills had been passed through the House of Representatives and sent to the Senate. Usually there was a delay of three or four weeks between the conclusion of the Budget debate in the Senate and the commencement of the Estimates debate. Having got through those three or four weeks with very little business before us, we then received the two appropriation bills from the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives, having dealt with the appropriation bills, proceeded to deal with the whole gamut of legislation that was awaiting its consideration. Invariably towards the end of the Budget sittings the Senate had before it the Estimates and a spate of bills which it was very difficult properly to deal with in the closing weeks of the sittings.
Last year we evolved a new procedure, which is an extension of the Budget debate. We take the Estimates and deal with them in somewhat leisurely fashion. We formally pass a resolution on each item that we take note of the amount involved. We debate the Estimates in anticipation of the actual legislation coming to us.
The adoption of this new procedure does not involve a derogation of legislative procedures. When the two appropriation bills come to the Senate they will be dealt with in the ordinary way, as they were last year.
We will have first reading, second reading, committee and third reading stages. But when the actual legislation comes before the Senate we will not need to devote a great deal of time to it because that will have been done in anticipation of the legislation coming forward. If any honorable senator wishes to move a request for an amendment in respect of any item in the Estimates, he may indicate his intention to do so during the preliminary debate and formally submit his motion when the legislation comes before us.
I think the new procedure met with approval last year. The Government hopes that the Opposition will agree to the procedure being repeated this year. We hope also that it will be as successful this year as it was last year.
– I am sure that Senator Spooner’s memory is failing if he expects the Opposition to support his proposal. He will recall that at about this time last year a motion in similar terms to the present motion was for the first time introduced into the Senate. The Opposition opposed that motion. We took three separate points of order. One was directed to the fact that the proposed procedure was a breach of Standing Order No. 416, which requires that no honorable senator shall allude to a debate then current in the House of Representatives or to any measure impending therein. Our argument was related in particular to those latter words. We objected also to the procedure as being in conflict with the Constitution. Our third point of order was directed to the fact that in our view the procedure was an offence against at least the spirit of the Constitution.
The three points of order were decided against the Opposition. We moved dissent and the Senate passed judgment on the points of order, holding that they were not upheld. We were bound in the Senate by the decision of the Senate. At this stage we are still bound. Our views have not changed but we recognize the decisions of the Senate. We also face the fact that we do not at present control the numbers necessary to secure sr reversal of the decisions made by the Senate last year.
So, our views have not altered, but on behalf of the Opposition I content myself at this stage with formally recording our opposition to the procedure now in course of being perpetuated.
We have another reason for not pressing the matter at this stage. I understand that under the new Standing Orders to be operative in the House of Representatives next year the procedure now followed in that chamber with regard to the Appropriation Bill and matters incidental to it will be abolished and that the House of Representatives will proceed directly to the consideration of an appropriation bill. I shall be very interested next year, with that new procedure operative elsewhere, to hear how the argument can be resisted that in addressing ourselves to the Estimates we shall not be dealing with a measure currently impending in another place.
– It may occur to somebody to amend the Standing Orders in both places so as to make them accord with common sense.
– It is possible to amend the Standing Orders of the Senate, but whether the procedure that the honorable senator has in mind would be in conformity with common sense is a matter that we will debate when the issue arises.
– I hope that I will be permitted to take part in the debate.
– We will leave that issue until we have to meet it. I indicate to the Senate on this occasion that we will not be bound by the proposition that if we wish to move requests for amendments to the amounts provided, we must give notice during the discussion of the Estimates. We will consider ourselves completely free, whether we give notice in the course of this debate or not, to make whatever requests for amendments we wish to make and, if the spirit so moves us and the gag does not obtrude, to debate those requests for amendments as fully as we may wish to debate them. I point out to the Government that in the time between debating the Estimates and having before us the Appropriation Bill the situation in many respects may change. I indicate that we reserve every right to debate the Appropriation Bill as fully as though we had not participated in the debate now about to begin.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, unless otherwise ordered, the departmental estimates be considered in the order shown on the document that has been circulated to honorable senators.
The document reads as follows: -
Department of the Navy, £48,890,000.
Payments to or for the States, £400,000.
Economic assistance to support defence programme, Seato member countries, £1,000,000.
Department of the Treasury, £66,442,000.
Department of the Treasury, £91,000.
Department of the Interior, £6,742,000.
War and Repatriation Services - Miscellaneous -Department of the Interior, £339,000.
Construction of jetty for handling of explosives, £37,000.
War and Repatriation Services - Establishment of ex-servicemen in agricultural occupations, £1,600,000.
Post discharge re-settlement training, £1,000.
Technical training, £110,000.
Recruiting campaign, £504,000.
Department of the Army, £67,299,000.
Prime Minister’s Department, £2,229,000
Department of External Affairs, £357,000
Department of the Treasury, £2,235,000.
Attorney-General’s Department, £175,000
Department of the Interior, £2,289,000.
Department of Works, £1,235,000
Repatriation Department, £502,000
Department of Trade, £86,000
Department of Primary Industry, £8,000
Department of Social Services, £117,000
Department of Shipping and Transport, £6,857,000
Department of Territories, £17,000
Department of Immigration, £451,000
Department of Labour and National Service, £97,000
Commonwealth Railways, £2,300,000
Postmaster-General’s Department, £62,643,000
Overseas Telecommunications Commission, £3,500,000
Broadcasting and Television Services, £4,175,000
Northern Territory, £7,452,000
Australian Capital Territory, £16,236,000
Papua and New Guinea, £405,000
Cocos (Keeling) Islands, £5,000
It is proposed that we shall take the divisions line by line, and that during the course of this week we shall address ourselves to the task of dealing with the Estimates up to the item appearing on page 112 - “ War and Repatriation Services - Reconstruction and Rehabilitation - University Training, £16,000”. The Government’s view is that that would be a reasonable week’s work. By coincidence, the end of the section suggested for consideration during the second week is again on page 112 of the Estimates - “ War and Repatriation Services - Establishment of Ex-servicemen in Agricultural Occupations, £1,600,000”. The Government thinks that that should be the second week’s work and that the remainder of the Estimates should be considered during the third week. That allocation has been made after giving consideration to the time taken by the committee in past years, and the Government considers that it is a fair allocation.
– If that is the intention, the Minister will need to revise the terms of his motion. The terms of the motion are that the items be considered in the order shown on the paper circulated to honorable senators. In those circumstances, we would be dealing with the appropriations for capital works and services quite separately.
– The order indicated on the paper that has been circulated is correct. After considering the ordinary items relating to the Department of National Development, the committee would then deal with the proposed vote for capital works and services related to that department. The last group of capital works and services that is shown has, for some reason, always been dealt with separately and shown in a separate compartment. I suggest that we keep to the order shown on the paper that has been circulated, at least for the first two or three days. We might consider Senator McKenna’s view subsequently.
– I was not putting forward a view in relation to this matter; I was merely asking for information. I notice that in the list of departments suggested for consideration during the first week the Minister has included an item for capital works and services underneath each department. I take it that his idea is that when the committee is dealing with portfolios held by Senate Ministers it will dispose of all the matters connected with each department at the one time. The remainder of the items dealing with capital works and services are shown separately. I merely wish it to be made clear whether the procedure applicable to portfolios held by Senate Ministers is to be applied throughout the consideration of the Estimates. On my present understanding of what the Minister has said, that procedure is not to be applied. That suits me, so long as the position is clear and the procedure can be revised after the first few days, as the Minister has suggested.
Question resolved, in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That, in relation to each Division in the Estimates, the Chairman of Committees shall put the question - That the committee takes note of the proposed expenditure.
– I cannot quite follow that motion. I- rise only to make sure that we shall not confine our consideration of each vote to the debate that will take place under this procedure.
– In relation to each division in the Estimates or part of a division, the Chairman of Committees will put the question contained in the motion I have just moved. It will be merely an indication of the termination of the discussion of that subject.
– It is purely a procedural matter?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Department of National Development
Proposed expenditure, £11,607,000.
– In submitting the Estimates for the consideration of the committee, I should like to say that honorable senators have before them details of the proposed expenditure for this financial year. I ask honorable senators to give close consideration to the amounts of the various items and to consider whether the amounts shown are sufficient or not sufficient, in comparison with expenditure in the past year or years. If we follow the procedure we followed last year, I believe we will give thorough consideration to the items that are before us. Honorable senators will realize that these proposals involve the expenditure of a large amount of money and that it is their duty to concentrate their minds on the various items.
I suggest, therefore, that the committee might well consider, as it did last year, whether the proposed votes are sufficient or not sufficient and, when considered necessary, express views as to the better working of the departments from the Commonwealth’s point of view.
– I am obliged to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, for what you have said. I agree with your proposition that if we do as we did last year, our consideration of the Estimates will be quite satisfactory. However, I would not agree - nobody on the Opposition side would think of agreeing - to the proposition that we confine our consideration to indicating whether the proposed votes are sufficient or not sufficient. This is the one opportunity in the year for the Opposition to review the policies being pursued by the Government. Under the item “ Administration “ that appears in the estimates for each department, honorable senators can discuss all matters affecting that department. The Parliament is called upon to provide moneys for the administrative staff to carry out the policies of the Government. It is completely competent, in the view that the Opposition takes - in fact, the Opposition has always acted upon this view - to review the policies of the Government under the appropriations foi the administrative services of the separate departments. Although something along these lines was said last year by the chairman, the debate ranged over the area that I have now indicated. I hope it is not in your mind, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to make any variation of the practice that has obtained up to date.
Order! In reply to Senator McKenna, I say to the committee that I believe the debate last year was much more effective than previous debates because it was more contained. The purpose of the statement that I made was to contain this year’s debate within reasonable limits of time in order to give every honorable senator an opportunity to bring forward and discuss items in the Estimates, the consideration of which is of paramount importance.
.- But for your reply, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I would not have risen to make these comments. I respect what you have said but I also conceive it to be the duty of the committee to use its judgment in deciding how its proceedings shall develop. One item may be dealt with on the basis of quantum; another item may be discussed from the stand-point of frustration of old policy, and debate on yet another item may be on the basis that an entirely new policy is needed. In that way the committee will give the Government an indication of what it expects to be done before expenditure is sanctioned next year. I deem it advisable to say no more at this stage. I hope that the debate itself will be an indication of the attention and emphasis that the committee wishes to give to the Estimates.
What Senator Wright has said comes within the scope of what I have in mind.
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland) [4.27]. - I refer to Division No. 411, sub-division 2, item 05 - Documentary films - production costs. Last year £5,000 was appropriated under this item. This year £20,000 is being appropriated. I should like to know whether production costs are greater this year or whether the extra £15,000 is to be spent on the making of a greater number of documentary films.
I also refer to Division No. 412, subdivision 2, item 08 - Aerial survey and photography. Last year £109,000 was appropriated under this item, but this year only £93,000 is being appropriated. Is less aerial survey and photography work being undertaken this year than was undertaken last year?
.- The total vote for the Department of National Development this year is £11,607,000. In 1958-59, £3,637,179 was found to be sufficient for this department. Am I to deduce, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the increased amount required this year is due to an extension of oil search activities in Australia this year? The matter to which I wish to refer now concerns every Australian. I refer to the flowing gold of the Moonie oil-field. As you know perhaps better than I do, Mr. Temporary Chairman, oil was discovered on that field some time ago. The discoverers of the oil have made several attempts to ascertain the breadth and depth of the field and the probable quantity of oil that the field will supply annually. The eighth bore has been sunk and an opinion has been formed.
When oil was first discovered there, the value of the 5s. shares in the Australian Oil and Gas Corporation Limited increased to approximately £6 each. Subsequently the company made an issue of shares. I have noticed that in spite of the announcements about the width, depth and probable potential of the field, the value of the shares has decreased. I think the value of the shares fell by 3s. 6d. on the Sydney Stock Exchange yesterday. So, it appears to the typical Australian citizen that a big oilfield has been discovered at Moonie, but the value of shares in the company is decreasing.
The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has the knowledge of the whole potential of the Moonie oil-field at his fingertips. He knows whether it is a commercial oil-field. He knows how much oil can be produced in 1963 or 1964 and reticulated by way of a pipeline to Brisbane to be refined there or elsewhere in Australia. He also knows the advantages that will accrue to the Australian economy from that. I have heard him tell us that if oil were discovered in sufficient quantities to supply all our oil needs the value to the Commonwealth would be in the neighbourhood of £170,000,000 a year. That, of course, is the value of the oil imported into Australia at present.
I expect that crude oil will be flowing to Brisbane about the end of 1963. Of course, I am going only on information that I have picked up from the press. The Minister has reliable information. I am raising this matter for a special reason. Many citizens esk me: “ What is the oil position in Australia now? What is the oil position at Moonie? “ I reply: “ I do not want to ask the Minister a question about that because I have noticed that an officer of the company concerned with the Moonie field has been making information available to the public and the Minister would not make available information that would contradict that information. Sooner or later the Minister will be able to make a statement “. The Australian people are waiting for the Minister to make a statement on this very important matter.
I recall that when the Minister sat down after introducing the legislation providing for subsidies for oil search activities in the Commonwealth he appeared to be saying a little prayer to himself in the hope that oil would be discovered. Of course, we join with him in earnestly hoping that some day Australia will discover sufficient oil to meet all of its requirements. That will be a great day for this country. I hope it comes in the near future. Then, no matter what happens in regard to the European Common Market, we will not need to import a pint of oil.
I do not intend to quibble about the increase in the proposed vote for the department this year compared with last year. The value of the oil is in itself adequate answer to any query along those lines. As chief administrator of the department, the Minister might tell me that I am straying a little on the wrong road, that the department must face up to its obligations in other directions. I know that the discovery of oil is not the only iron the department has in the fire at the present time, but it is a very important iron, nevertheless, and perhaps the Minister will consider the remarks I have made worthy of a reply. I should like to know from him the extent of the activities, this year as compared with last year, of other companies which are receiving subsidies for oildrilling work. Perhaps the Minister will feel disposed to tell me what are the monthly, half-yearly or annual liabilities of his department for subsidies to the boring activities of those organizations. A new subsidy rate is now operating. When he replies the Minister might be kind enough to tell me if the new rate of subsidy has had any effect upon the work of these companies.
No doubt you have noticed, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that one of the divisions of the Department of National Development is the Division of National Mapping. I understand that the activities of this division are associated with the discovery of minerals in certain fields. I understand also that intensive work is being carried out by the officers of this division, that they have a burdensome task, and that their duties cannot be effectively discharged simply by their commencing work at 9 in the morning and finishing at 6 minutes past 5 in the afternoon. Their task involves working at hours greatly different from those. I notice that the Minister has found it necessary to increase slightly the staff of the division. I take it that has been found necessary because of an increase in the work being done by this division. I am pleased about that. I should like to know whether mining and other companies or persons in Australia have recourse to the services of the Division of National Mapping and, if they do, whether a charge is made for the service and what revenue is derived from that source.
The Bureau of Mineral Resources also comes under the administration of the Minister for National Development. Here again provision is made for a slight increase in staff. We are now living in a machine age and’ accordingly it is essential that we locate all the minerals and metals that exist in the country. If we are to progress, there must be a constant search for more minerals and more metals, and for this purpose increased staff is necessary. Recently, 1 was staggered when I was told that in the Gladstone area in Queensland there exists more than 1,000,000,000 tons of coal. It is hard to imagine a quantity of that dimension. I have not the slightest doubt that the discovery of this coal was made with the co-operation of the Queensland Department of Mines. I suggest that the Minister might give us an outline of the co-operation that is being received by his department from the various State departments of mines in locating our national resources because, as I have pointed out, the discovery of minerals is of tremendous importance at this stage of our progress. We all know that the discovery of uranium was a godsend to Australia at an earlier period. At that time uranium was in great demand for use in the new atomic devices, but now its importance is fading in comparison with that of many other metals. We have a vast field to explore and it is pleasing to note the work that is being well done. As a member of the Australian Labour Party I believe that the Government should have its own boring equipment, and that it should utilize the brains of the clever men, not only those in the Bureau of Mineral Resources but also those in all sections of the Department of National Development, in operating that equipment. If these officers are of the opinion that oil may be discovered in any particular part of Australia, or if they believe that a bore should be sunk in a particular area to see what is down underneath, the Government should say to them, “There is your boring equipment; take it, engage the necessary staff, and find out what is down below “.
There is no need to remind the Senate that the great Mount Isa deposits were discovered not by mining experts but by a fossicker. In fact, if we study the history of all the great mining fields of the Commonwealth we will find that they were discovered by a lonely fossicker, a man who was looked upon as a crank, who went out searching for mineral wealth. Although the matters I have mentioned may be only of minor importance, perhaps the Minister will feel disposed to give me some information about them later.
– I should like to direct the Minister’s attention to a matter that he knows I have had in mind for a long time now. The Minister has under his administration the Joint Coal Board and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, and he has also a great interest in other electricity undertakings. He is concerned, too, with fuel oil problems connected with the development of power and energy. I know it is foolish to say that Australia is not progressing, but sometimes one wonders where the progress that is taking place will lead us. The Snowy Mountains project was developed for the purposes of overcoming a shortage of electric power and of conserving water. I often wonder whether this Government still looks upon that project in the same light as it did at the outset, especially when we realize that whereas to-day we have a surplus of power and energy, in the days when the undertaking was embarked upon there was a shortage* of both. The Minister also has under his administration the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, and, as Minister in charge of national development, he has an interest in every source of energy and power in Australia. But it is only an interest. I do not think he has at his call any organization which can inform him on the overall situation with respect to power and energy. Senator Benn mentioned the large deposits of coal at Gladstone. Honorable senators might be interested to know that, although we were already overproducing coal, the Government saw fit to subsidize a foreign company to mine the coal in the Gladstone area. I have no objection to the use of foreign capital to develop our resources, but the situation does become humorous when the Government subsidizes a foreign company to compete with Australian producers of power. I want to be constructive in dealing with this matter.
– How is it subsidized?
– I understand that the company is unable to produce the coal unless it receives some financial help by way of subsidy from the Government and that it receives such help. I know that the Minister has told me before this in the Senate that Gladstone coal is being produced for sale overseas, and I do not dispute the advantages he suggests are to be gained from the venture, but I point out that, under the act passed by the Queensland Parliament last week, this company can produce coal for local consumption in certain circumstances, and that is not so good. I do not mention these things in a destructively critical way; I merely point out that we do not appear to know where we are going in relation to this whole question of power and energy. The Minister should give serious consideration to the setting up of just one more board - a fuel and power board. In order to support my suggestion I quote the opinion expressed by a coal-owner and one of the leading authorities on coal in Australia, Sir Edward Warren.
The appointment of another board would be of great value. It would have an overall interest in the development and extension of electricity undertakings in every State, and in the operations of gas companies. What would happen to-morrow, for example, if we struck natural gas in Australia? I venture to say that any government would be in a panic about what to do, because natural gas could be piped interstate and could destroy half of our power industry. I want the Minister to discuss this matter in this chamber, because I think it is very important.
I agree with Sir Edward Warren that it is absolutely essential to know where we are going in relation to these matters. It may be necessary, as a matter of fact, to say “ steady “ in relation to the Snowy Mountains scheme. It may be necessary to find ways and means of inter-relating electricity supply systems between the States. It seems farcical that the New South Wales Government should extend its electricity supply system right up to the border of New South Wales and that people on the other side of the border should be without electric light.
An overseeing board such as I have described would be able to organize matters of that sort. I do not say that it should have power to run these other fuel organizations, but we have no authority in the country to provide this sort of supervision. America and, I understand, the United Kingdom and most European countries, have an authority. The Minister will remember, as I think he will have had something to do with it, that next week or the week after in Melbourne there will be a big power conference to deal with the very things about which I am talking. Scientists and other authorities from all over the world will meet in Melbourne, and I understand this Government will be represented. They will deal with the problem of world power and energy, having in mind all the things that are likely to occur. There may be a bigger discovery of oil than the one at Moonie. I do not know how big the Moonie discovery is, but in any event it will have an embarrassing effect upon the power industries if something is not done to measure where we are going and to look at the position generally.
Such an authority as I have suggested is necessary to ensure that Australia’s various energy resources are fully known in respect of quantity, quality and location of reserves. Even coal resources are not known yet. We do not know what coal we have and we do not know whether we are using the cheapest form of powerproducing fuels. Such an investigation was not made by the coal-owners and, of course, the Joint Coal Board has not had time to get on with the job. An overriding authority could deal with such problems. It could also put its mind to ensuring that sufficient research was done in Australia to supplement overseas work, so that the best use could be made of Australia’s energy resources and so that decisions could be based on uptotheminute technical advice in all relevant fields. That is not possible to-day, because all of the existing authorities are separate entities. For example, there is no point at which the Snowy Mountains Authority can discuss with the Joint Coal Board whether or not it should direct more current into the interconnected system. So far as I know, there is no point at which that matter can be discussed even with the electricity commissions. There is no group of people with authority with whom the matter can be discussed.
Such a committee as I have suggested could draw up and keep under review a set of forecasts of energy trends in Australia, publishing these forecasts with appropriate comment each year. That would be a most important work. It could also draw up and keep under review a set of general policies to form a frame of reference against which specific plans could be viewed. Such points of policy might include development of Australian resources, and the minimizing of the price of electricity for large electrical loads. To-day there is no authoritative body giving any thought to these things. The New South Wales Government is establishing electricity units close to mine-fields, but it is doing this by itself. It has no direct connexion with this Government or with the Minister When we pick up the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ we see that something has happened, but there is no really conscious direction of effort in relation to power and energy in Australia.
The high capital cost of power is another question that must be looked at. At some time or other we must deal with the problem arising under the Constitution as between one State authority and another. When we established the Joint Coal Board, we required supplementary legislation to enable that authority to operate successfully. Although the board was originally intended to cover all States, it did not get that power. Western Australia was to join, but did not. I think the same applies to Tasmania. I understand that these States had their legislation ready. Everybody thought that the action ought to be taken, but nobody did anything about it.
I am especially interested in the question of the Snowy Mountains Authority, and I should like the Minister to say how far the scheme is to be developed. What portion of the total energy field will it finally take over? If it provides the cheapest power, that will be the power which most people will seek. I do not mind that. 1 do not express any opposition to it, but having in mind our interstate difficulties, the development of atomic energy, and particularly the discovery of oil in Australia, we must examine the overall position of power and energy. I leave the matter at that. I know that the Minister will make some comment on the ideas that I have formulated.
– I wish to raise a matter that received some publicity and aroused great interest during the election campaign, as it was incorporated in the policy of the Government parties prior to the campaign. I refer to the establishment of a water resources council. I understand that in July of this year Commonwealth and State Ministers met in Canberra under the chairmanship of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to discuss the proposal set out in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies).
– Surface and underground water?
– Yes, all water resources. I am informed that the State Ministers were unanimous in their view that everything possible should be done to provide a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s water resources and that three questions were posed for the consideration of an authority that might be established. The first concerned the limitation of water in areas where development might be expected. I understand it was agreed that as lack of water resources was liable to limit economic development, consideration should be given to the areas in which those limitations were likely to be most serious in the near future.
The second question posed referred to the areas in respect of which information was available. I understand that the third question related to the steps that should be taken to initiate a programme of water resources measurement. I understand also that all concerned agreed unanimously that a council of Ministers should be set up, supported by a standing committee of officers representative of water resources interests. The subject is very wide, and these organizations would provide the administrative machinery through which the broad objectives could be realized.
I should like the Minister to inform us whether the council has been set up formally, and whether a standing committee of officers has also been set up. I should like to know also who are likely to be invited to sit on the standing committee of officers and where they will come from. I should be grateful to learn from the Minister how far the committee has gone with its work, if those formalities have been concluded, because I believe we are on the verge of something of profound importance to every State and to the development of Australia.
– I wish to refer to Division No. 411. - Administrative, and to the item “ Documentary Films - Production costs, £20,000 “. I notice that the appropriation last year was £5,000 and expenditure was £4,056, yet it is proposed to appropriate this year £20,000. I should like the Minister to explain the proposed substantial increase in expenditure, since it was impossible to spend the appropriation in the last financial year. I should also like to know what type of documentary films will be made and where they will be distributed. I take it that these documentary films are made for use in Australia and overseas to advertise Australia and its products. In view of possible developments flowing from the activities of the European Common Market, it may be that this proposed increase in expenditure is associated with trade promotion. I am interested in this matter because the documentary film is a medium of publicity that should be used more widely.
I direct attention now to Division No. 412. - Division of National Mapping, and to the item “ Hire of aircraft for aerial surveys, £29,000 “. The appropriation last year was £20,000 and actual expenditure was £16,823. I should like to know from whom the aircraft are hired. It appears that the Department of National Development requires aircraft for its work because most mapping done to-day is aerial mapping. Would it not be more economic to purchase aircraft for this type of work rather than to hire them? I should like some explanation of this proposed expenditure.
I direct attention now to Division No. 413 - Bureau of Mineral Resources. Under the heading “ Other services “ there is an item “Search for oil - subsidy, £5,000,000 “. The appropriation last year was £2,700,000 and actual expenditure was £2,542,949. I know that the Government has set itself out to give more assistance to the search for oil in Australia. There has been some criticism of the Government’s policy in reducing the rate of subsidy from 50 per cent, to 30 per cent. This question may work itself out; but £5,000,000 is not the total expenditure that the Government proposes by way of assistance in the search for oil. Under the heading “Administrative Expenses” in Division No. 413, there is an item “ Operations, £1,129,700 “. The explanation at the foot of the page states that this item includes £709,500 for oil search surveys. So more than £700,000 is to be spent by the Commonwealth Government in that way in the search for oil, and I have no doubt that quite a lot of the work done by the Division of National Mapping would also be related to the search for oil.
We have something in the nature of a commercial field at Moonie. It has not yet been declared to be a commercial field, and I think it would be unwise to declare it a commercial field because I understand that the basin is estimated to hold between 80,000,000 and 100,000,000 barrels of oil. That is not a great deal and it would not last for long if a refinery were established to treat the oil from that field. Nevertheless, profits will, I expect, flow from the oil that is obtained there. In two years £8,000,000 or more will have been spent by the Government in the search for oil. This is public money, yet nothing will be1 returned to the people from this oil-field except an improvement in the balance of payments. This is money which the Australian people are contributing. If a person invests money in an oil search company he wants to see the prospect of making a profit from his shareholding. Public money is being invested in the search for oil, but when the profits start to flow no profits will go to the people of Australia.
The extent of our expenditure on the search for oil should be rauch more closely looked at. I am of the opinion that we are spending insufficient money on the search. We should be spending very much more because the discovery of oil in commercial quantities would be of great benefit to Australia. I think that is the basis of the critcism of the amount of the subsidy that has been made by the Opposition and many business people in Australia. We are not intensifying the search by reducing the amount of subsidy that is made in respect of a particular hole. We should be doing much more.
I wish to touch on a subject referred to by Senator Ormonde, although there may be no item in the Estimates which relates to it. Honorable senators will remember the interesting discourse given by Senator Ormonde on the subject of energy and power. Before I deal with the matter, I remind the committee that some little time ago there was talk of the Commonwealth Government joining hands with the various State governments for the purpose of making surveys of the potential water resources of Australia. In fact, the matter was referred to in the Governor’s Speech on the opening of the Parliament in Western Australia recently. In the proposed votes for the Department of National Development I can see no appropriation in connexion with this matter. 1 hope the Minister will explain whether the Government intends to proceed with it this year or next year.
I am not sure that I agree with the statement of Senator Ormonde that we have more power in Australia to-day than we can use. We may have more power potential but not more power. I direct attention to observations that were made recently by an engineer in Western Australia concerning the potentialities for power in the tides in the north-western part of the State.It is estimated that the production of power from the Snowy Mountains scheme will be in the region of 600 megawatt units. The engineer to whom I have referred has looked at only one possible site for a project, and that is at Secure Bay, about 70 miles north of Derby. He has estimated that with the harnessing of the tides there, 2,000 megawatts of power could be produced. He also has estimated that the amount of power that could be produced by the tides on the north west coast runs to 300,000 megawatts. It is estimated that power could be produced at Secure Bay and used in Brisbane at the cost of.1d. per unit. If that estimate is correct, I do not know that power could be produced more cheaply anywhere else in the world.
– What cost did you say?
– I said.1 of a penny.
– In Brisbane?
– In Brisbane or Perth. The estimated cost of the project at Secure Bay is £200,000,000, or less than half the cost of the Snowy Mountains scheme. If the Minister is inclined to consider the proposition put to him by Senator Ormonde and is prepared to examine the power resources of Australia, the project that I have mentioned might well be considered by any commission that was appointed to survey power potential.
I refer now to Division No. 413. - Bureau of Mineral Resources - Other Services - item 03 “ Australian Mineral Development Laboratories - Contribution, £13,400”. I notice that the appropriation last year was £38,900 and expenditure £38,880. When the Minister is replying, I should like him to say why the appropriation this year is only about one-third of the appropriation and the expenditure last year.
– I shall deal as best I can with the inquiries that have been made so far. Senator Sir Walter Cooper asked why the appropriation for the making of documentary films had increased from £5,000 last year to £20,000 this year. The matter was mentioned subsequently by Senator Cant, and I think it was referred to by another honorable senator as well. The Department of National Development produces short films from time to time. We produced one this year on the search for oil. Honorable senators may remember that it was shown in the Senate party room one night as a part of the regular weekly film showings. That film attracted so much attention, both within Australia and overseas, that I came to the conclusion that it was desirable to increase activities in this direction.
In order to advertise Australian industries, in Australia and outside it, such as on migrant ships coming to this country, it was decided that this year, instead of there being only one film, there should be three or four films showing the activities of the department. The films are comparatively inexpensive to make. The list I have here shows that films that are contemplated will deal with such matters as the work of the War Service Homes Division, the River Murray Commission, underground water resources, the coal-mining industry, exploration for minerals, and copper production. Those are matters of national interest, and it is thought that films which deal with them will have a wider audience than that within Australia. This is a useful, though comparatively inexpensive, contribution which the department can make.
Senator Sir Walter Cooper, Senator Cant and another honorable senator inquired about aerial surveys. Practical experience has shown that it is more economical to charter an aircraft than to own and operate your own aircraft, because machines are required in different parts of Australia, in varying conditions, at different times of the year. For instance, in New Guinea, because of the local weather conditions, there are only a few months of the year in which survey work can be done. Although we have in the department our own machine for aerial surveys proper, it is considered better to hire aircraft for aerial photography and also to do a fair proportion of the aerial surveys. It is a matter of economics and of getting the best results.
Senator Benn and Senator Cant referred to oil search and particularly to the Moonie oilfield. It must be remembered that, so far as Moonie is concerned, exploration work is still continuing. The drilling of holes is a part of the geological process of delineating the size of the field. In respect of the No. 8 hole, for instance, the core showed that the same geological conditions existed in the hole as were found to exist in the hole that was previously drilled. That being the case there was no point in testing the flow of oil. The geological tests were sufficient to convince the oil companies of the existence of oil and they were then satisfied to move on to the next area. ^
For many years I have refrained from being involved in a discussion regarding the value of oil shares. That is a matter for the shares market. On the general subject of the search for oil, honorable senators may be interested to know that in the last five years the following amounts have been expended on oil search in Australia: -
Honorable senators will see that the amount spent on oil search has increased substantially in recent years. I cross swords with Senator Cant and remind him that Government assistance is not limited to the search for oil. The Bureau of Mineral Resources does basic work in connexion with a number of other minerals. It also does work for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, primary industry and secondary industry. This is part of the governmental programme to encourage private investment in directions in which the Government wants to see it encouraged. Perhaps no more important direction exists than the search for oil in Australia. It is too easy to take an over-optimistic view about the discovery of oil in this country. I am firmly of opinion that oil exists in our sedimentary basins but I do not think we evaluate sufficiently the difficulties involved in the task of locating those deposits. It is a great satisfaction to see the extent to which private investment is amplifying what the Government is doing in the search for oil. We expect that during the course of this year approximately 80 holes will be drilled in the search for oil. That number may not seem large in view of the size of Australia but I remind honorable senators that three or four years ago only about 25 holes were being drilled each year. To-day we are drilling more than twice as many holes as were being drilled only a few years ago. I think momentum is gathering and that soon an even greater number of holes will be drilled each year as a result of the policy adopted by this Government.
I refrain from discussing in detail Senator Ormonde’s suggestion that the Commonwealth should set up a body to deal with all aspects of power and energy. A couple of things that he said were not on target. He said that the Snowy Mountains scheme was developed in order to produce power. The greatest asset of the Snowy Mountains scheme is not power but water for irrigation purposes in country areas. A good deal of liaison already exists between officials of the various electricity commissions. Those officials carry great responsibilities because power is a field in which a great amount of government expenditure is incurred. The demand for power is increasing by approximately 9 per cent, per annum in Australia. There is certainly no surplus of power and energy in Australia to-day. On the contrary, the electricity commissions are constantly endeavouring to produce additional generating capacity to meet additional demands.
Senator Vincent and another honorable senator referred to the water resources council. The Commonwealth and the States held a very interesting and satisfactory conference on this matter. I have not before attended a conference of Ministers at which there was such unanimity. We sat around the table with a programme before us. We agreed, subject to the consent of our respective governments and with the assistance of our advisory officers, that a water resources council should be established. We agreed that the first task confronting the council, before it dealt with the matters referred to by Senator Vincent, was to set down in an orderly fashion what was known about Australia’s water resources. There are great gaps in our knowledge of the water that we have in this country - in our knowledge of the flow of water, of the effects of seepage in certain areas and of the effects of evaporation. Everybody agreed that the first thing to do was to collate the facts as we knew them concerning our water resources in the respective river basins. Having done that the next step was to decide on a programme to obtain adequate knowledge of our water resources. That knowledge should not be the knowledge that you or I may be able to use but knowledge that would be of value to the engineer who, in the fullness of time, is called upon to use water resources in an irrigation or conservation scheme.
– Did the council also deal with subterranean water?
– Yes. There was already in existence an underground water resources organization which the Commonwealth had established, in co-operation with the States, twelve months or two years earlier. There was also a water resources council which met from time to time but which was not operating in a dynamic fashion. It was decided to merge all those organizations into one organization. That organization would be divided into subdivisions, one dealing with artesian water, another dealing with problems relating to evaporation or seepage and others dealing with other problems. Some of those problems are already receiving attention. The first objective is to have before us detailed knowledge of our water resources. Our second objective is to discover how to bring that knowledge to a level proper or adequate in the future. The information I have indicates that it is a fairly big task to take the measurements and obtain that knowledge.
I refrain from commenting on Senator Cant’s description of the possibilities of the use of tidal power in the north-west. I have read with a good deal of interest the suggestion that power from that source could be delivered in Brisbane at a cost of Id. per unit, but I should like to see the audit certificate on that before I accepted it.
Senator Cant, or some one else, raised the question of a revised vote for the Australian Mineral Development Laboratories. This is a very interesting development. I do not know whether honorable senators remember that the South Australian Government established these laboratories some few years ago, primarily with the intention of carrying out surveys of uranium ores. As uranium activity has declined, the purpose of the laboratories has changed, and the South Australian Government has made the existing buildings and plant available for research work on minerals. The mining companies have formed a company which gives work to the laboratories, and the Commonwealth diverts work to them.
The arrangement was that the Commonwealth would guarantee an amount towards the working expenses of the laboratories or, alternatively, would send research work to the laboratories. The arrangement is proving very successful. A large volume of research work is being carried out by the laboratories on behalf of mining companies. A board of directors has been established comprised of members of mining companies and government officials. There are no other laboratories of this kind in Australia. The volume of work submitted by the companies and government departments is such that the laboratories are able to cover their expenses to an increasing degree, with the result that the Government’s supplementation of their revenue has fallen.
Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I refer to the proposed vote of £28,000 for gas turbine research which appears on page 90 of the Estimates. An amount of £7,000 is recoverable from the Joint Coal Board. Are the experiments coming to an end or being reduced in scope? Is the Minister in a position to tell us how successful these experiments have been? The Cessnock area is very interested in this matter. The Minister may not have the information at his fingertips, but I should like him to give some thought to this matter. 1 am interested also in the proposed World Power Conference. I understand that this item comes under administration generally, and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has explained that we can take note of matters such as that. Will the Government be represented at this world conference other than by the departmental officers who may attend? It might be a good investment for the Government to be represented, as we would learn what was being said about the necessity for a general review of the power question.
The other matter I wish to mention relates to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I have visited the laboratories of this worth-while institution on many occasions, and I compliment the Government on the work that is being done.
– What item does this come under?
– This comes under administration. Can the Minister tell us what happens when the organization succeeds in developing a process?
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization does not come under the section of the Estimates now being discussed.
– I am sorry. Perhaps this is relevant also to the estimates for the Joint Coal Board. I am wondering what happens when the C.S.I. R.O. develops a labour-saving device or some other means whereby an industry can increase its profits by cutting down its costs. Is there any way in which the industry makes some payment to the Government, or the organization, for the advantage it has gained - quite apart from the national advantage? For example, a process was developed for taking the wrinkles out of wool. Did the woollen garment manufacturers pay anything to the Government for the advantage they obtained as a result of that discovery?
– I refer to Division No. 411, Other Services, item 02, “ Kimberley Research Station and Ord River gauging - Contribution to cost, £46,000 “. If that amount represents only a contribution to the cost, will the Minister tell me what proportion it is of the total cost?
.- The World Power Conference will be one of the most important industrial and technical gatherings to be held in Australia. About 700 or 800 top-ranking technical people from all parts of the world are coming to the conference, which will commence the week after next in Melbourne and will last for about ten days. It will be opened by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on Friday week, I think. A number of officers from my department will attend. Two officers will be reporting on the various sessions. Dr. Raggatt and Professor Baxter will be there. It will be one of the most interesting and educational technical conferences we have had in Australia for many a long day.
Consider what has been happening in the atomic energy field in recent months. The actual testing of the reactors now in commercial operation in the United Kingdom has shown that power has been produced at a cost 20 per cent, lower than that given in estimates that were accepted only a few months ago. Dr. Ecklund, the technical director of the International Atomic Energy Agency - that is the international body in Vienna - has made a forecast that a half of the electrical generating plant that will be installed throughout the world in 1980 and subsequently will be nuclear-powered plant. I have no doubt that the director-general is as fallible as the rest of us are, but this is an interesting situation. Only a few years ago everybody was very optimistic about the future of atomic energy. Then there was a period of disappointment when results were not proving as satisfactory as had been expected. The rate of construction of atomic power stations was slowed down and the United Kingdom lengthened its programme.
Now another phase is coming in which the results are proving 20 per cent, better than the estimates upon which assumptions were made. Here we have a statement - whether it is right or wrong, everybody must give consideration to it - that by 1980, as generating capacity is increased, half of it will use nuclear power. The importance of that statement is illustrated by the next statement that throughout the world energy consumption has doubled since the outbreak of World War II. and is expected to quadruple over the next 40 years.
Coming back to a lower and more mundane level and referring to the point raised by Senator Ormonde, I mention that this series of experiments in the use of coalburning gas turbines has been continuing for a considerable period of years. In Melbourne the experiments were carried out, first of all, as a defence project under the Department of Supply. The Department of Defence did not rate them highly enough for defence purposes, but the coalmining industry naturally was interested in them. At one stage the industry was sufficiently interested to provide donations for capital equipment for the experiments. That equipment was bought, to some extent, with money that came from industry interested in the result of the experiments. They are now conducted by scientific officers of the Department of Supply with funds provided by the Department of National Development. According to my recollection, the Joint Coal Board is providing 25 per cent, of those funds. Many scientific experiments, just as success appears likely, run into further problems. The last information I had on this matter was that difficulties were being experienced. The scientists were running into a rust problem in the operation of the turbine. The consensus of the professional advice that we have is that it is well worth while to continue with this work.
– I wish to refer very briefly to Division No. 411, sub-division 3, item 01 - “Australian Council of Co-operative Building and Housing Societies - Grant - £1,500 “. This year’s appropriation is the same as the amount last year. There is a growing need for an increase in this provision. As we all know, the present position is that under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement about 30 per cent, of the money that is paid to the States for housing is used for home ownership purposes and is channelled through the cooperative building society movement. The education of the Australian community in relation to that movement is a continuing process. Both from the ordinary person’s point of view and from the administrator’s point of view, this is a continuing process.
Great changes are taking place in thinking about co-operative building societies and home ownership. For instance, the relationship between terminating building societies and permanent building societies and the growing tendency to develop the permanent societies, which is apparent in the United Kingdom, are matters in which Australians generally and the administrators of the movement should be vitally interested. The Australian movement needs to accept some leadership in this field. Demands are being made on the movement. At present the president and secretary of the movement in Australia are attending a very important conference in the United States of America. This conference will help to crystallize their thinking. When they return they will have to get their message across to everybody in the movement in Australia. I believe that the progression from the terminating society to the permanent society is very important. These matters are vital to our housing development, particularly from the financial angle.
During my tour to the United Kingdom last year in connexion with the InterParliamentary Union, I spent quite a time in talking to many people in the building society movement about the enormous amount of money that is available for home ownership through the permanent building societies. We in Australia are missing the bus, to some extent, in this respect. We have a lot to learn. The message has to be conveyed through the societies in Australia. They have a very real job to do. I think the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) is very conscious of that.
In my view the Government should consider this appropriation at a suitable time, having regard to its relationship to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and the money that the Commonwealth provides through the terminating and permanent co-operative building societies. At a suitable time this appropriation should be increased in order to help the movement through this period of extension in thinking about co-operative housing societies.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I was pleased to hear the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) say a while ago that the purpose of the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme is two-fold - first the production of electric power, and secondly the conservation of water for irrigation purposes. I am aware that electric power has been produced under the scheme for quite a while and it has been used. However, 1 am not aware of any irrigation work that has been carried out as a result of the scheme.
This is a matter in which I am interested because I come from a State that periodically suffers droughts and loses many of its cattle. Queensland has approximately 7,000,000 head of cattle. Droughts seriously deplete the herds, especially if they last for a year or two, or even for three years. Irrigation for the purpose of producing fodder is important from a national standpoint. When we are considering the economics of irrigation proposals, it may be said that the water that would be available would be so far removed from Queensland that to transport fodder from where it was produced to where it was consumed would not be an economic proposition because the freight would be too expensive. That is plain nonsense. That is clear, Mr. Temporary Chairman, when we consider the matter from every aspect, especially the loss of breeding herds during periods of drought. I am sure that if there were several thousands of acres along the Murray River or anywhere else in New South Wales or Victoria which could produce fodder fairly cheaply, there would be a ready market for that fodder in parts of Queensland.
For a number of years the policy in connexion with drought-stricken areas in Queensland was to allow the stock to die. The attitude adopted was that it was not worth while incurring the expense of feeding the stock and it was better to let them die and to re-stock after the drought. That policy is out of date now. Road and other transport facilities are available, so it is now economically sound to take steps to save the stock.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting, I was talking about the irrigation potential of the waters flowing from the Snowy Mountains project and was about to mention that about two months ago there was a discussion between the Commonwealth and the States on the subject of ascertaining the water resources of the Commonwealth on a national basis. The Prime Minister suggested at that time that the State Ministers responsible for lands and irrigation should set themselves up as a national council to deal with this matter and that there be appointed a standing committee consisting of State officers. One would imagine that those officers would be the commissioners of irrigation or the engineers in charge of the various State irrigation projects. I have no doubt whatever that the Commonwealth would be represented on such a body in view of the fact that the Prime Minister made the suggestion in the first instance. At the moment I can visualize the Minister for National Development being chairman of all its meetings and conferences, and it is only fitting that he should be having regard to the importance of the conservation and availability of water for irrigation purposes throughout the Commonwealth. If he were chairman of such a body, the Minister for National Development would then have the multiple role of seeking to solve the problems associated with bringing metals and minerals to the surface, of encouraging people to drill for oil in the various parts of the Commonwealth where oil is likely to be found and of exercising control over investigations into the water potential of the Commonwealth. That would be an ideal set-up for any department associated with the national development of Australia. Perhaps the Minister will inform me of any developments that have occurred since the discussion to which I have referred took place about two months ago. I feel sure that all the States would support the suggestion put forward by the Prime Minister. As a matter of fact, they have had an initial meeting on the subject, and surely something has developed since then.
I refer now to item 03 of sub-division 3 of Division No. 413, which relates to the contribution to the Australian Mineral Development Laboratories. The amount contributed last year was £38,880. I should like to know how the Australian Mineral Development Laboratories are constituted. Does the membership of the laboratories consist of companies interested in mining operations?
– I explained all that before the suspension of the sitting.
– I was not listening, but do not go over it again because I can read the Minister’s explanation in “ Hansard “. Evidently another honorable senator raised the same question.
– That is so.
– When we study the figures contained in Division No. 413 relating to the Bureau of Mineral Resources, we note that the amount to be appropriated this year for salaries and payments in the nature of salary is £814,000. Underneath the total of that amount we find the entry “Less amount recoverable from Australian Atomic Energy Commission, £25,000”, which reduces the amount to be provided for salaries to £789,000. Whether that is a sound method of budgeting, I am not prepared to say, but I do not approve of it. If this £25,000 is to be recovered from the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, it should be shown somewhere else in this document as a revenue item. How is the amount recovered? Is a charge made upon the Australian Atomic Energy Commission for some service rendered by the Bureau of Mineral Resources? If it is, then it should be shown as revenue and not as a reduction of the amount which it is proposed to spend on salaries and payments in the nature of salary. The method which the Government has chosen to adopt is to show £814,000 as the total proposed expenditure for this item and then to deduct from that total an amount which it is proposed to charge another body altogether. That method is repeated in sub-division 2. - Administrative Expenses - where, after showing a total of £1,308,400 for several items, we find the entry -
Amount recoverable from Australian Atomic Energy Commission.
Amount provided under Division No. 754.
Division No. 754 appears a long way further on in the document, and there we find-
– Order! The honorable senator may make only passing reference to another division.
– The point I am raising is that when I turn to Division No. 754, I find no information in it to help me. The only information provided by Division No. 754 is that £50,000 is to be provided for a special mineral survey. When we add to that the £25,000 to be recovered from the Australian Atomic Energy Commission we have a total of £75,000 which is deducted from the £1,308,400, and the balance is the actual amount which it is proposed to spend on the various services covered by “ Administrative Expenses “. I know that the Minister will have an explanation for this kind of budgeting and I hope that he will make a statement on it.
We all know that the method of financing the Snowy Mountains project has been changed in recent years. I think it was changed within the last two years. But for quite a long while, the project was financed from Consolidated Revenue and an interest charge was made upon the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority for the advances made, which ran into millions upon millions of pounds. The practice adopted by the Government was that, as the money was made available from Consolidated Revenue, the ordinary principles of commercial accountancy must be applied; in other words, interest must be charged on the money advanced, and this interest must be included as part of the authority’s costs, to be recovered from the consumers in the charges made for the supply of electricity. That is all very sound but, apart from any information which may have appeared in the annual report of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority -
Order! I must ask the honorable senator to link up his remarks with the division under discussion. I think the honorable senator is getting a little ahead of himself. 1 r!o not think the Snowy Mountains scheme is included in this division.
– I am referring to Division No. 413, subdivision 2, Administrative Expenses, and in doing so cannot ignore the work done by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. I am linking it up in that way. Of course, the Minister has to look after the spondulicks of his department. If it is his wish, we can deal with the Snowy Mountains scheme separately. He might tell me what revenues are being received at the present time from the project.
– That is covered more appropriately in the next line.
– Very well. I shall leave it till we discuss that. It is being financed in a different way from that which was used previously.
– I address my remarks to Division No. 418 - Australian Atomic Energy Commission, and I desire to refer to the ninth annual report of the commission. I am very pleased to see that it is proposed to increase the vote by nearly £500,000. That increase is, perhaps, not enough; I should have liked to see the vote increased by a greater amount, but I realize that we can only spend money in accordance with what we have. The commission is doing a very fine job in one of the most important fields in which we can engage to-day. I refer to its report at pages 20 and 21.
I wish to speak particularly of Mary Kathleen, where some £13,000,000 is invested and, more importantly, some 1,200 people are concerned. This is a project in northern Queensland which is doing the sort of thing that this Government has been trying to do, that is, developing the north. The report shows that the contract of Mary Kathleen Uranium Limited will be completed by 1964, with still some 7,600 short tons of uranium oxide bearing ore left in the ground. This may be a policy matter and perhaps the Minister may not wish to answer my question. I should like to know whether the Government has given consideration to providing, until such time as an alternative mineral to keep the plant working can be found, for the stockpiling of a twelve months’ reserve of uranium, perhaps at a lower figure. This would enable the plant to keep operating until copper is found, because I believe that the plant used is easily converted for the treatment of copper. I believe that the company is engaged in a limited way in a diamond-drilling project. Has the Government given thought to assisting it financially, on the basis that no subsidy will be paid if copper is found but that assistance will be given if there is, in effect, a dry hole? I was in the area recently and I was distressed at the prospect of such a beautiful little town becoming, at the end of 1964, a ghost town, like so many of those that we see in the gold-fields of my own State, Western Australia.
I should now like to refer to page 64 of the report with reference to nuclear power stations in the United Kingdom. The report reads -
The 1961-62 estimates provide for £78,325,000 for the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority.
Our appropriation of £3,000,000, of course, does not compare very well with that amount.
This is a slight reduction in expenditure over the previous year and is accounted for by reduction in capital works. . . .
The report goes on to refer to the Central Electricity Generating Board and the South of Scotland Electricity Board. It states -
These two authorities are building eight large nuclear stations having a combined capacity in excess of 3,500 MW and costing over £500 million. All of these stations are scheduled to be in operation by 1967 and more are planned.
I am wondering whether the Federal Government is considering the possibility of establishing a nuclear power station in South Australia, with its quite heavy industry and its dwindling resources of brown coal.
At page 72 under the heading “ Australia “ the report states -
There seems to be little doubt that nuclear power will become quite competitive in some areas from about 1970 onwards.
That obviously refers to areas that are removed from a convenient source of adequate supply of coal. It continues -
Although electricity generation is not in general a Commonwealth responsibility, integration of power stations for fuel supply, chemical processing, and refabrication of the valuable fuel materials, together with disposal of the radioactive wastes, must be considered on as wide a basis as possible. Moreover, the Commonwealth must be concerned in the use of nuclear fuels since they are of military value.
Thus in maintaining a staff capable of evaluating nuclear power, its possibilities and prospects, the Commission must take into account the proper co-ordination of a national nuclear programme.
Will the Minister tell me whether thought is being given to this matter? I think of South Australia, and I believe there are smaller, packet power stations that could be used at places in my own State, such as Geraldton, to which it would be quite expensive to pipe electricity from the south a distance of 320 miles. I should like to hear the Minister’s opinion.
.- I refer to Division No. 412 - Division of National Mapping, item 07, Survey and mapping work carried out by States; item 08, Aerial survey and photography; and item 09, Contract mapping. It seems to me to be rather complicated to have that activity divided into three different groups. I should like the Minister to tell me what surveying and mapping work is carried out by the States on behalf of the Commonwealth and what is meant by contract mapping. When we look at
Division No. 413 we see that an amount of £50,000 for special mineral survey, provided under Division No. 754, apparently was never appropriated and is shown as a subtraction from the proposed vote for the Bureau of Mineral Resources. I should like the Minister to make some explanation of that.
I refer now to Division No. 411, subdivision 3, item 02, which relates to a contribution to the cost of the Kimberley Research Station and Ord River gauging. The Kimberley Research Station is more or less a guide to what will happen in the development of the Ord scheme. Seeing that the gauging of the Ord River has been going on since 1952 and must come to an end at some time, I should like to know how the proposed appropriation is broken up, what amount is to be expended in gauging the Ord River and what amount is to be expended in connexion with the research station. I should like to know whether any of the amounts to be devoted to the research station is in relation to officers who are working on the pilot farms, because the research station is of rather secondary interest at the present time. The main work of research on the Ord River is developing away from the research station on the farm projects. Can the Minister say whether any of this money is to be devoted for that purpose, or is all of it to be spent in connexion with the research station itself? Having received that information, we may then be able to have a better look at the matter. The cost of developing a farm in this difficult area is said to be rather high, and I am wondering whether any of this money for research will be used to assist in reducing costs so as to get farms into production. I should be interested to have some information on this matter from the Minister.
– I direct the attention of the Minister to Division No. 411, Other Services, item 03, “ River Murray Commission - Contribution towards expenses, £2,500”. I should like to know from the Minister what are’ the latest developments in the negotiations with the River Murray Commission concerning water for South Australia. The position in that State is becoming acute as this year only 13.8 inches of rain have fallen so far in the Adelaide metropolitan area, compared with the normal average of 18 inches. About the same quantity of rain fell in a similar period last year, which was one of the driest on record. Pumping from the river Murray has already commenced although normally it should not begin until the new year. This is usually the wettest part of the year in South Australia from late winter through to the early spring. The position is becoming very acute and the question of adequate storage of water for South Australia is being raised again. 1 understand that the Minister, as chairman of the River Murray Commission, could very well report to this committee on three aspects of the matter, and I should be obliged to him if he would do so. First, 1 should like him to inform us of the progress of the conferences between the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales on the Chowilla dam. It is hoped that this dam will be established upstream from Renmark. I should like to know what stage the negotiations have reached, what is the proposed basis of contribution by the Commonwealth and the States, and on what basis the States will share any water that is impounded by the dam. At one stage, the Minister mentioned that negotiations were proceeding with the New South Wales Government in connexion with the Menindee Lakes scheme as a temporary measure for water storage in South Australia. Have these negotiations progressed to a stage where the Minister can inform this committee of the position?
About a year ago, the Minister was good enough to show his interest in a scheme to make holes alongside the river Murray by nuclear explosions and so provide for the underground storage of water, where evaporation would be extremely limited. I believe that at that time a gentleman from the United States of America was in Australia to promote the idea. The Minister showed becoming caution, but he said that his officers would study the project. I believe that the Secretary of the Department of National Development was most enthusiastic about it, and I read a report of his statements to a scientific gathering in Adelaide on this proposal. I should be obliged if the Minister would inform me Whether his officers have made experiments or observations on this idea to make vast holes alongside the river by means of powerful explosions.
I emphasize again the importance to South Australia of the waters of the river Murray. All the available storages have been created in the Adelaide hills. The population of South Australia could reach 1,000,000 within the next month or two, and it has doubled in the past 25 years. By and large, South Australia is a very dry State, and with the great expansion of industry at Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Whyalla and with the need to pump water as far as Woomera this is a very important matter in South Australia. Great expansion is contemplated at Woomera and I am sure the Minister appreciates the importance of having a regular flow of piped water from the river Murray. I am sure he will realize also the importance of creating large storages for water within South Australia. All observations point to a site near Renmark, known as Chowilla, as the ideal position for a dam, and I should welcome some information on this matter from the Minister.
– I shall reply first to the questions that were asked by Senator Benn. Where the services of the Bureau of Mineral Resources are utilized for some governmental activity outside the activities of the bureau proper, the amount of money involved is carried on the vote of the department concerned. The two deductions from the Bureau of Mineral Resources for the Atomic Energy Commission are both related to the search for uranium in the Northern Territory. The uranium activities at Rum Jungle, as well as associated matters, come within the sphere of the Atomic -Energy Commission. An amount of £50,000 is being spent by the Bureau of Mineral Resources on the search for uranium and, in accordance with accounting procedures, the cost is deducted from the bureau’s vote and charged to the Atomic Energy Commission.
Senator Branson referred to Mary Kathleen. We are trying to keep in touch with activities there and are trying to help the company concerned. The company which is operating at Mary Kathleen has had a very profitable career but its contract is now nearing its end, as is the case of other contracts for the supply of uranium in Australia. The question now is: What will happen to the plant if the contract expires?
– And to the people.
– Yes, it is a question of what will happen to the plant and the people associated with it. We have ploughed back the profits made at Rum Jungle and are using those profits to stockpile uranium in the hope that the uranium market will recover.
It was thought that there would not be a world demand for uranium until about 1970, but it was then thought that by 1970 uranium might be in short supply. These are matters of estimation and of judging the future possibilities. I should not like to pledge my reputation on the accuracy of the estimates, but it is of some interest to find that those who are qualified to express views are now speaking in terms of the demand for uranium reviving, perhaps in 1968, or a couple of years earlier than the date that was previously contemplated. I think we shall hear a good deal of this matter at the world-power conference, because experts in all the categories of energy will be discussing and relating their problems. Thermal power, water power and atomic power people will be present, and it will be a very interesting forum indeed.
We have done what we can. We made a survey to determine whether it would be possible to utilize the Mary Kathleen settlement for some form of governmental activity. We thought that it might even be possible for some Commonwealth Government activity to be conducted at Mary Kathleen, but that has not proved to be practicable. I think that the company is making representations to the State Government in Queensland, to see whether Queensland can evolve some use for it. At the present time, I believe, the matter turns very largely on whether the company can locate a copper deposit in the area. It has already spent a substantial amount of money in exploration directed to that end. I do not think that I can say more than that.
There is a very big problem associated with the integration of atomic power stations in Australia and the proper use of fuel. The Australian Atomic Energy Commission has expressed the view that atomic power will be competitive in certain parts of Australia by 1970. If that is a correct view, a good deal of serious thought will need to be given to the matter in 1964, 1965 and 1966, because it will take four or five years to build an atomic power station. We have always to remember and keep firmly in our minds, however, that atomic power will rise or fall and will come into use or not entirely on its economic value. The supply of energy at the best possible price is of vital consequence to all Australian manufacturing and other activities.
– Not forgetting its defence value.
– We in Australia are not the holders of any atomic weapons. We have no atomic power for defence purposes. The Atomic Energy Commission is concerned only with the civil or peaceful uses pf atomic energy, and that is the only basis on which we can approach the matter.
There are two fundamental factors in this question. First, the generation of power is a matter for the State governments, not for the Commonwealth Government, and secondly, the question is not a theoretical one because the production of power is a fiercely competitive matter. If one State is more efficient than another in the generation of electric power, it has a substantial advantage over the other State. I should imagine that State governments would guard jealously their electricity authorities. It has been interesting to see the integration of power supplies by New South Wales and Victoria as a result of the Snowy Mountains scheme.
asked some questions about mapping. I have had a very hospitable note from one of ‘ my officers saying that he would be delighted to take Senator Cant around the exhibits at present on display in King’s Hall and to show him in detail the various types of maps and the uses to which they are put. The mapping is not done entirely for mineral exploration purposes. It has a variety of purposes. For instance, the Commonwealth Scientific and
Industrial Research Organization uses it for its land surveys and the States use it for a great many purposes.
– I wanted some information on mapping carried out by the States for the Commonwealth, and also on contract mapping.
– Yes, but it is such a vast work that I shall not have time to cover it in detail. However, I have here a document which sets out the extent of the mapping that has been done in Australia, and the figures may give the honorable senator an idea of the work that has been done. So far as geological work is concerned, only about 29 per cent, of Australia has been mapped to the reconnaissance stage. Of this, 17 per cent, has been mapped on the scale of one inch to four miles. Twelve per cent, has been done by the Bureau of Mineral Resources and 5 per cent, by State authorities. So far as aero-magnetic mapping is concerned, about 14 per cent, of Australia has been done, while 13 per cent, has been covered by gravity mapping.
We have an arrangement with the States. In order to farm out the work and cover as much of Australia as possible. We arrange with the States that they will do the work and we will subsidize the cost, or pay the full amount of the cost. We have the same arrangement with the Department of the Army. The Army does certain work in this connexion. We have a similar arrangement with the Department of the Navy in regard to hydrographic mapping. All this work is co-ordinated by the National Mapping Council, which consists of officers of my department and of other Commonwealth departments. Once a year those officers sit down, in consultation with officers from the States, and map out the year’s programme in the various categories.
Senator Laught referred to the river Murray. I commence my remarks with a complete acknowledgment of the importance of water to South Australia and of the need to do what we can to provide additional supplies. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has personally intervened in this matter. When the proposed Chowilla water storage scheme came to me as president of the River Murray Commission, the Prime Minister came into the matter, took it to Cabinet and had the Commonwealth policy clearly defined. Without any preliminary discussions at all, the Commonwealth announced that, although it had no legal obligation to do so, it would find 25 per cent, of the cost of this work so long as it was done as a River Murray Commission work and was acceptable to the other States. The conference that was held was very successful. The whole history of water has been one of negotiation and argument about riparian rights. The States acknowledged that the scheme was a good one. There was little argument. Victoria and New South Wales readily conceded to South Australia a better position than it now has. South Australia now has an equal share of the water during periods of restrictions. New South Wales stated that it could not provide the finance needed and suggested as an alternative that water from the Menindee Lakes might be used for three, four or five years and thus defer commencement of the Chowilla scheme. At the end of that period New South Wales hoped to be able to find its share of the capital cost involved. There was no great enthusiasm for the New South Wales suggestion. Victoria, South Australia and the Commonwealth wanted to proceed with the Chowilla scheme as quickly as was practical but regard had to be given to the wishes of New South Wales. New South Wales is a signatory to the River Murray Waters Agreement and the matter was referred to the River Murray Commission. As matters now stand, the commission has made a preliminary report. That report, which has not yet been made public, sets out the pros and cons of the use of the waters of the Menindee Lakes and seeks further information from New South Wales. I would like to convene a further meeting of the River Murray Commission in an effort to reach finality with regard to the Chowilla scheme as soon as possible. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) would attend such a meeting.
With regard to nuclear explosions known as Operation Plowshare, a fair amount of work in this regard has been done in the United States of America. Officers of my department and other Commonwealth departments have been in close contact with the work that is being done in this connexion. It must be remembered that experimental work on Operation Plowshare obviously may be carried out only in isolated and sparsely populated areas. In other words, this work is still in the experimental stage. I would not compare that work with the work being done on the River Murray - at least for the time being. More work of a practical nature must be done under Operation Plowshare and such practical experiments cannot be done except in very isolated areas. We are in touch with developments and we are watching them. We have not yet decided the extent to which we will associate ourselves with this development.
– I direct the committee’s attention to Division No. 411 - Other Services - item 02, “ Kimberley Research Station and Ord River gauging - Contribution to cost, £46,000 “. 1 would like the Minister to tell me how much of that amount is for the Kimberley Research Station and how much is for gauging of the Ord River. I seek this information because gauging of the Ord River has been proceeding since 1952 and it would appear that research into farming has become more important than the research station.
– I dispute Senator Cant’s last observation. One should be careful before decrying the continued importance of the Kimberley Research Station. After all, a great deal of the work of the Ord River scheme itself is founded on research that was originally carried out at the Kimberley Research Station. A good deal of work still is being referred to the research station, which is running in conjunction with the Ord River scheme. Total expenditure on the research station and on Ord River gauging is estimated to be £92,000, of which the Commonwealth is contributing £46,000. Some of the heads of expenditure are -
Other amounts are provided for offices, quarters and so on. I do not think the break-up is of very great interest.
– What gauging is being done?
– Almost all of the funds are expended on research station work. Once a gauging station has been constructed on a stream it does not cost very much to change the automatic recorder chart once a month. Very long records are required before one can get to know a river as large and as variable as the Ord. A period of record of 50 years would not be too long.
I am told that very little new gauging work is going on. The gauging work that is going on is the continued obtaining of the records of the gauges that are already in position in the river. In other words, the instruments to obtain the records are placed in the river and readings must be continuously taken. That is the main gauging work proceeding at present.
– In discussing the estimates for the Department of National Development I do not wish to criticize what has been done in the spheres in which the department has interested itself, but I do wish to discuss the paucity of the work that has been done by the department and the manner in which national development has been approached.
Will the honorable senator relate his remarks to one of the divisions under the Department of National Development?
– Yes. Dealing first with the paucity of work done by the department, I refer to the estimated expenditure by the department of £11,607,000 in the current year. In my opinion that figure is a gross under-estimation. If national development is to be approached on a proper basis, very much more than £1 1,607,000 should be spent by this department. When one realizes that of this total amount £5,000,000 represents the Commonwealth’s subsidy for the search for oil, it is apparent that only about £6,600,000 will be spent on national development. It is true that certain amounts of expenditure on national development appear under other sections of the Estimates, such as under
Capital Works. It is true also that elsewhere in these Estimates under other departments amounts appear which might be described as relevant to national development. This highlights the fact that the department itself is not dealing with national development in the way that it should deal with the matter. The department is dealing only with certain limited aspects of national development. The proposed expenditure for this department is ridiculously low, having in mind a budget of the magnitude of this Government’s Budget and the needs of national development in this country. This small amount only is being spent. When one looks at some of the items, one sees the way in which the department is regarded. It is not considered to be - as in my opinion it should be considered - one of the major departments. For instance, the secretary of the department, as appears in the schedule - this is relevant to Division No. 411, Administration - is paid only £5,900 a year, whereas the secretaries of what are regarded, apparently, as the major departments are paid greater amounts. In my opinion, that is wrong.
This department should be regarded as one of the most important departments, and national development ought to be considered as one of the greatest of the tasks facing this country. Apparently it is not so considered. Under Division No. 411, Administration, only certain aspects of national development are dealt with. It is significant that a short while ago one honorable senator was called to order for dealing with the War Service Homes Division, which is the next item on the list. It appears, according to a document issued by the department, that the provision of war service homes comes under the heading of national development. There may be some good reason for this, but I should like to hear what it is. It does seem, on the face of it, that the connexion that the War Service Homes Division has with national development is no closer than the connexion that many other activities in the community have with national development. It seems a tenuous connexion, but there may be a closer connexion than there appears to me to be. It does seem incongruous that the War Service Homes Division should be dealt with under the heading of the Department of National Development.
As I have said, the present approach to national development is that of dealing with a relatively few aspects of the problem. We have the Bureau of Mineral Resources, the Division of Fuel and the Division of National Mapping. .These activities are, no doubt, being quite well attended to, and I do not criticize what is being done, but there is a whole host of other matters which should be included if national development is to be dealt with on a national scale. National development ought to be approached in a planned, co-ordinated and integrated way. Instead, the department is operating, no doubt quite properly, in a few limited spheres, and it has no national plan. Looking at the “ Summary of Activities, 1961 “, issued by the department, there appears to be no hint of any co-ordination of the plans of the States with those of the Commonwealth - no hint of any overall national plan. I do not say that there is not some co-ordination - there obviously is - but there is no co-ordinated national development plan.
If national development is to be dealt with properly, there ought to be such a plan. Then you would not have an honorable senator saying, for instance, “ Such and such an activity is something that ought to be carried out in South Australia “. Each of us no doubt does his best to bring forward the various things that he thinks might advance national development in some particular sphere, but that is no way to approach this matter. It is obvious that all these things must be considered together, and that a national plan for the development of this nation over a period of years must be evolved.
– What a lot of nonsense! Why do you not learn what is happening?
– I am putting forward, Mr. Temporary Chairman, something that has been advanced by persons who have considered this subject, and who are better acquainted with it than I am. The movement not only in this country, but all over the world, is toward this way of thinking, lt is the obvious and elementary way in which to develop a great nation such as ours. At present things are going on from year to year, no doubt with some thought being given to the future, but there is no integrated and co-ordinated plan. lt is my view that the activities of this department ought to be greatly expanded. Much more money should be spent on national development, and it ought to be spent in a different way. The activities which have been conducted already should be pursued, but other activites relevant to national development ought to be conducted in co-ordination with those activities. The work ought to be done, not in a limited way, as is the case at present, but on a much greater scale. I put to the committee, therefore, that there has been a gross underestimation in this field of the amount of money required and of the necessities of national development.
– I do not think that it is right, or desirable to enter into a debate now about the necessity for a national co-ordinated plan of national development. That is a subject which should, perhaps, occupy the Senate exclusively on some future occasion.
– It must be linked now with some item in the Estimates.
– I am replying very briefly to Senator Murphy. I hope he does not believe that the responsibility for the development of the Commonwealth of Australia falls only on Senator Spooner’s department. Nothing is further from the truth. To blame the Department of National Development for what is lacking in the development of this country is not fair. The department does not accept the responsibility for the development of the Commonwealth. A great deal of the development of this nation is going on outside this department.
Order! The honorable senator must not pursue that line any further. He must link his remarks to the Estimates, as other honorable senators have done.
– I bow to the wishes of the Chair, but perhaps the previous speaker should have been given the same advice.
– 1 direct your attention, Senator Vincent, to the fact that the previous speaker referred his remarks to the expenditure of the sum of £11,600,000.
– I do not think we should develop that argument to-night. I think we should stick to the Estimates. I shall refer now to Division No. 413, dealing with the Bureau of Mineral Resources, with particular reference to the subsidy paid for oil exploration. It is very heartening to see that the Government has doubled the total subsidy in the current year. Last year the taxpayers contributed about £2,500,000 for oil search subsidies. I note that this year the Government has increased the total subsidy to £5,000,000. 1 would appreciate a few comments by the Minister for National Development on that increase. For example, I should like him to tell the committee whether the areas of the Commonwealth and its Territories in respect of which the increased subsidies will be paid have yet been determined, and what is the nature and scope of the enlarged amount of subsidy. As the total subsidy is estimated to be £5,000,000, I assume - I may be wrong - that the Minister has some idea of where the increased subsidy will go.
I turn now to another matter that is relevant to this item, namely, permits for the export of iron ore. I would appreciate some comments from the Minister on the following matters. Of course, I agree with the policy of curtailing such permits if our reserves of iron ore are not deemed adequate. I understand that the present policy of restricted export permits can be viewed from three stand-points. First, certain iron ore deposits are exclusively reserved, so no permits can be given for the export of ore from them. Secondly, when a permit is given the general principle is that it is for the export of not more than one-half of the known deposits, provided always that the tonnage exported does not exceed 1,000,000 tons per annum. Thirdly, small iron ore deposits are excluded from that proviso.
I believe I am right in saying that that policy was promulgated by the Government on the basis of our then known iron ore reserves at a time when the proven iron ore reserves of Australia were at a certain level. I suggest to the Minister that the proven iron ore reserves are at a very much higher level now than at the time when the present arrangement was made. 1 invite the Minister, either now or at a subsequent time, to give the committee an analysis of the proven iron ore reserves of the nation at the time when this beneficial arrangement was made and also at the present time. In addition, the Minister might tell us what Australia’s future requirements will be. That is very relevant to any consideration of exports of iron ore. 1 suggest that it is possible - I emphasize the word “ possible “ - that there are certain weaknesses in the present tonnage limitation. At present, it might be all right to plan for the export of 500,000 tons or 1,000,000 tons a year - the maximum that is allowed - from a given ore deposit; but that tonnage might not be economic if exported from that same deposit in five or ten years’ time. In the mining industry nobody can predict what costs of production will be and, of course, tonnages are related to costs of production. Although, in two or three years’ time, it might be quite economic and profitable for a mining company to export at the rate of 1,000,000 tons per annum, we must remember that the company has planned accordingly and in ten years’ time it might be difficult to maintain production at that level and still make a profit. It might have been beneficial if the company had been given to understand that its export tonnage could be increased to very much more than 1,000,000 tons per annum.
This tonnage restriction is probably desirable in certain respects, but it could lead to problems in regard to costs of production and profitability, particularly when a company tries to sell the ore to people who are very sensitive to competitors in the same field. I should like the Minister to tell the committee why the policy is linked to annual tonnage because I can see that in certain circumstances the position could be difficult in view of increased costs of production. I suggest that the same result can be achieved by linking the policy not to annual tonnages but to a total tonnage so that the mining operator can mine and export as much as possible, having regard to the economics of the situation, as quickly as possible.
The Minister might also address his mind to another aspect of this question. I understand that the policy is that only one-half of a deposit should be exported. Can the Minister assure me that in those circumstances his advisers will be satisfied that the remaining half of the deposit can be exploited locally in due course and economically? In other words, can the Minister assure us that by exporting half a deposit the other half will not be rendered economically valueless? Of course, I assume that these considerations are deep within the knowledge of the Minister and that he can give the committee the information and assurance for which I have asked.
– I refer to Division No. 413, subdivision 2, item 14 - “Amount provided under Division No. 754, £50,000”. Division No. 754 relates to a special mineral survey in the Northern Territory. In asking what this special survey of the Northern Territory covers, I link my remarks with those of Senator Murphy who complained of the inadequacy of the vote for the highly important work of national development in a progressive country such as Australia. If we are to bring about new development in Australia then surely mineral research should be among the first in the list of priorities. Fifty thousand pounds for some survey seems to me to be an insignificant contribution by this Government towards the development of the mineral resources of such a scattered area as the Northern Territory where there is vast scope for exploration of those resources. At the moment, I do not know what the proposed survey covers, but if it relates to only one particular project in the Northern Territory I believe that much more should be spent on a survey of the mineral resources of that Territory if we are to have truly wide development there. It is to be noted that under Division No. 412 provision is made for the expenditure of greater sums than this on such projects as survey and mapping works carried out by the States, and on aerial survey and photography. I suggest that these works should be followed up by heavier expenditure on mineral exploration. The insignificance of the amount of £50,000 can be appreciated when one compares that figure with the £5,000,000 to be spent on subsidizing the search for oil in Australia. It is to be noted, too, that in Division No. 413 provision is made under sub-division 2 for the expenditure of £40,000 on publications. I presume those publications would be concerned mainly with telling us what we should do, yet, when it comes to one of the essential works to be done, a survey of our mineral resources, we find the expenditure limited to a mere £50,000. I repeat that I link my remarks with those of Senator Murphy who complained of the inadequacy of provision being made for the Department of National Development. If we are to develop Australia, then it is not in the interests of national development that expenditure on a mineral survey should be limited to £50,000.
– 1 refer to Division No. 413, sub-division 2, item 06, relating to operations. The appropriation for this item for the year 1961-62 was £909,000. The amount proposed for 1962-63 is £1,129,700. I direct the attention of the Senate to the explanatory note (a) appearing at the bottom of page 91 of the Estimates, which relates to this item and in which reference is made to the estimated cost of uranium search as £46,200. I take it that this is an indication that the search for uranium will be continued throughout Australia.
A few moments ago, the Minister stated in answer to Senator Branson that he hoped that by 1970 there would be a greater demand for uranium ore and that the profits from Rum Jungle had been channelled back to permit stock-piling of uranium ore against the time when this expected increased demand occurred. No doubt honorable senators are aware that operations have ceased at Radium Hill in South Australia through lack of ore contracts. If Rum Jungle should also close down I should like to know from the Minister whether the Government considers that it would be profitable to re-open the Radium Hill works and to re-open Rum Jungle for the supply of this urgently needed commodity should the expected increased demand take place by 1970 or sooner.
– I am always eager to oblige the Senate, but I feel that we have spent so much time on this vote that it is probable that we will not be able to keep to the schedule that we have set for this week. I hope that after I have made this reply we shall be able to move on to the next vote.
I come now to the points that have been raised. With very great restraint, I refrain from entering into an argument with Senator Murphy and content myself with saying that it is not easy to get a compact picture of national development throughout Australia. Keen as I am on my own department, I think the principal factor to remember is that it is always very much better to have specialists in particular spheres of activity working alongside the administration in that sphere. For instance, the Department of Primary Industry has working alongside it the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. In my opinion much as I would like to see my own department strengthened, I think that that developmental activity should continue in the way in which it is functioning. In matters connected with secondary industries and in other directions it is advantageous that the department should be used as a coordinating factor as well as undertake the specific activities attached to it.
In reply to Senator Vincent I point out that I dealt with the oil position before the suspension of the sitting and I do not propose to retrace that ground now although Senator Vincent seems to be confused at the moment. But I should like to reply to his remarks in connexion with iron ore. The iron ore position is a very interesting one. Each report that I see indicates that the new deposits discovered at Pilbara are of much greater size than was estimated in the previous report. Indeed, the latest reports indicate that it is one of the world’s major iron ore deposits.
– Where did you say it is located?
– In the Pilbara district in Western Australia. The survey is still in its early stages and the full extent of the deposit has not yet been established. Development is still in the early stages so far as marketing and the use of the ore are concerned. So far there have been no actual sales of shipments overseas. I am in close touch with the Western Australian Government on this matter and we are watching the position very closely. Honorable senators will find that we shall do what is appropriate at the appropriate time.
– Is it high-grade ore?
– Some of it has been proven to be of higher grade than was thought originally. Two things are happening - the size and extent of the deposit are being shown to be greater as further reports become available and the proportion of high-grade ore seems to be increasing. A substantial proportion of the ore is high grade.
Senator Murphy raised the question of mining programmes in the Northern Territory. The presentation of these matters is one of the disadvantages of governmental accounting. The item has really no relation to the total mining activity, either private or departmental, in the Northern Territory. The department budgets for and carries out an extensive programme in the Northern Territory. Superimposed upon the normal programme was a special programme to cost £150,000. That was for special work on the phosphate rock that was mentioned, a special series of geophysical surveys in certain areas, and a special diamond drilling programme in the Tennant Creek area and other areas. That was a special programme for which the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) got the approval of Cabinet, over and above the normal appropriation. It is to cost £150,000, of which £50,000 will be spent this year. Further amounts will be spent in subsequent years. The position is a bit confusing, unless one has track of it, because of the way in which it is presented in the Budget Papers.
I cannot answer Senator Drury’s question about the future of the uranium market. In respect of Rum Jungle we are ploughing back profits. We are making other financial arrangements which will enable Rum Jungle to continue for a period of, I think, four years. We hope that by that time the demand for uranium will pick up and that we shall be able to sell it. We do not contemplate closing down Rum Jungle. It would be bad if it were closed, because in that climate and atmosphere plant deteriorates. It is not the sort of plant that can be readily used for other purposes, although we are continuing to search for copper deposits in the hope, as with Mary Kathleen, of finding an alternative use. I do not think this is applicable to Radium Hill, which is in a different area and the ore from which is not as rich as the ore from Rum Jungle. Rum Jungle, like Mary Kathleen, produces a concentrate that will, we believe, be competitive on world markets when the demand revives.
– I refer to Divisions No. 411, 412 and 413, and in particular to the salaries being paid to temporary and casual employees and their relationship to salaries to permanent employees. It seems to me that the ratio of temporary and casual employees to permanent employees is much too high, and that some explanation of the position should be given by the Minister. As Senator Murphy suggested, in these departments there should be a higher percentage of permanent officers to temporary officers related to a high degree of planning. Possibly the high percentage of temporary and casual employees is due to lack of planning. At any rate, some consideration should be given to making these people permanent.
Under Division No. 411, ordinary salaries and allowances for 1962-63 are expected to amount to £177,000, while those of temporary and casual employees are expected to amount to £56,500. The expenditure last year on these two items was £170,143 and £58,905 respectively. Under Division No. 412 - Division of National Mapping, the ratio of temporary and casual employees to permanent employees is extremely high. Ordinary salaries and allowances for 1962-63 are expected to amount to £114,000, while those of temporary and casual employees are expected to amount to £135,000. In 1961-62 the expenditure on these items was £90,487 and £121,815 respectively. The same sort of progress or lack of progress is evident from Division No. 413 - Bureau of Mineral Resources.
I should like to know from the Minister what is being done to place temporary and casual employees in permanent positions. It may be argued, of course, in accordance with the usual departmental procedure, that gradings, classifications and examinations stand in the way of such a development, or it may be a question of the stability of the programme. I should think that in any circumstances the sort of situation revealed by these figures is not good. If there is, as there should be in this department, a continuing development, there should be some provision made for increasing the number of permanent officers. If the question is merely one of some sort of departmental classification or examination to convert a long-term temporary status into permanent status the necessary action should be taken.
I have always been opposed to having temporary staff in government departments. Some people have been employed in a temporary capacity for fifteen or twenty years, and that is quite wrong. I should like the Minister to have a look at the question. If my submission cannot be answered off the cuff, the position should certainly be examined with a view to giving this very high percentage of temporary employees some bigger stake in the working of the department. If the answer is that we do not know what is to happen in relation to development, that will be proof of the existence of the serious position put by Senator Murphy. I hope that that is not so, and I shall be very interested to hear what Senator Spooner has to say on this subject.
.- I refer to Division No. 411. - Administrative, sub-division 1, item 01, “ Salaries and allowances as per Schedule, page 215, £177,000 “. That deals only with salaries of officers who are permanently employed. When one has a question relating to some of the chores of administrative officers, necessarily he must refer to some act or some action of the department. I imagine that one of the chores of the administrative officers of the department is to see that the provisions of the housing agreement between the Commonwealth and State governments are observed. It is the objective to see that it is observed by all the States and by the Commonwealth as well. I recollect quite clearly that in 1960-61 an amount of £350,000 was paid by the Commonwealth Government to the Queensland Housing Commission in respect of losses it had incurred through tenants being unemployed for long periods. I wonder now what amount was paid last year for tenants who were unfortunately unemployed and could not meet their rent.
Order! With great respect, I point out, Senator Benn, that you are a long way from the matters under discussion. Surely there is another place in the Estimates where you could deal with this matter more appropriately. We are dealing with administration and salaries but you have been asking questions about housing policy.
– I was seeking information about the amount involved in meeting such losses last year.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Department of National Development - Capital Works and Services
Proposed expenditure, £47,230,000.
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland) [9.32]. - I wish to refer to Division No. 931, item 01, “Bureau of Mineral Resources - Plant and equipment, £213,000 “. The expenditure last year was £99,056 from an appropriation of £120,000. I should like to know what plant and equipment is to be bought from this proposed vote of £213,000. I also direct attention to Division No. 936. Under this heading there is a proposed appropriation of £783,000 for expenditure under the Atomic Energy Act. The appropriation last year was £1,096,000 and expenditure was £969,275. I should like to know the reason for the reduced appropriation of £783,000.
I also seek some information on the provision for expenditure under the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act under Division No. 935. This year, the appropriation is £11,050,000 but I understand that that amount is to be provided from revenue. The footnote shows that there is to be additional expenditure of £13,100,000 from Loan Fund. Will the Minister for National Development inform the committee how much has been spent to date on the Snowy Mountains scheme and what amount has been spent from Loan Fund? Is this the first time an appropriation for the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority has been drawn from Loan Fund and not from revenue?
– I wish to obtain some information on Division No. 931, item 01, “Bureau of Mineral Resources - Plant and Equipment, £213,000”. The appropriation in 1961-62 was £120,000 and expenditure totalled £99,056. The proposed appropriation of £213,000 this year is more than double the amount spent last year. The proposed appropriation this year is in respect of plant and equipment and I should like the Minister for National Development to explain the reason for the large increase in the appropriation. I should like to know why the Bureau of Mineral Resources requires the additional money. I am not actually complaining about the appropriation, but apparently the bureau had about £21,000 to spare last year and yet this year the proposed appropriation is double the expenditure of last year.
I wish to refer now to Division No. 934 under which £35,000,000 is to be provided for expenditure under the War Service Homes Act. This item reminds me of some of the criticisms that were directed at legislation earlier this year when the amount of loan to enable an ex-serviceman to purchase a home was increased from £2,750 to £3,500. The report of the War Service Homes Division reflects the criticism that was made of that legislation in that fewer homes were constructed last year because the maximum amount available for individual loans was increased while the total appropriation remained static.
When the maximum amount of loan was raised by £750, there was a rush on the War Service Homes Division for additional loans. It appears that when the maximum loan was £2,750, the applicants tried to keep loans under second mortgage at high interest rates as low as possible. To do this they went without some conveniences in the home. When the amount of loan available was increased, many of them applied for an additional loan so that they could instal those conveniences, I refer particularly to garages and car ports.
Is it the policy of the Department of National Development to continue to refuse granting these additional loans for the construction of garages or car ports for homes which previously were not provided with them because the owner wanted to keep second mortgage loans as low as possible? I have had complaints from electors in Western Australia who were refused addi tional loans which they intended to use for the construction of such amenities. They were greatly inconvenienced by the rejection of their applications.
I appreciate that if a large part of the total vote of £35,000,000 is to be spent on additions to existing accommodation, many more applicants will be unable to get a home under this scheme unless the Government is prepared to increase the total appropriation. Nevertheless these applicants for additional loans are entitled to some consideration. The report of the War Service Homes Division states that the extra loan money is to be made available only for additions such as extra accommodation or for the connexion of a property to a sewerage scheme or some form of septic tank system to cope with household waste. The division also states that it is not the policy of the department to grant additional loans in respect of other construction. However, it is known that until 3 1 st August of this year additional loan money was granted for other purposes. It seems somewhat unfair to those whose applications were not dealt with until after 31st August. I should like the Minister to have a look at the matter, particularly in view of the fact that the additional accommodation that was provided from the appropriation last year was not much more than £1,000,000. It seems that, in order to meet the convenience of those people and give them the advantage of the interest rate at which war service homes advances are available, it might be proper to increase the grant above £3,500 and to leave the advance of £3,500 for the construction of new homes. The question also arises whether the Government will be prepared to make available the maximum loan of £3,500 to applicants whose plans include provision for a garage or car-port.
Another matter that has been brought to my notice is that on several occasions when applications have been made for the maximum advance of £3,500 for the purpose of erecting homes under the War Service Homes Act, the value of the land has been deducted from the loans that have been granted. By that, I mean that if the cost of the house is £3,000 and the value of the land £400, and if application is made for a loan of £3,400, the loan granted is only £3,000, to cover the cost of construction of the building and not the cost of the land. It is necessary, of course, for an ex-serviceman to obtain land before he can construct a war service home. This matter has caused considerable inconvenience to a number of persons.
. - I wish to address the committee on the subject of war service homes. I regret that there has not been an opportunity for a constructive debate in the Senate on the subject of home-building and home-ownership in Australia, but we have to-night an opportunity to speak of the provision of homes for those who are eligible for advances under the War Service Homes Act. This Government increased not only the amount available for war service homes to £30,000,000 a year but also the amount to £35,000,000. The object was to make homes more easily available for ex-service men and women and the widows of ex-servicemen.
In recent months the Government, because it saw the necessity to do so, increased the maximum advance from £2,750 to £3,500. That action gave a lot of satisfaction to persons seeking homes under the provisions of the War Service Homes Act. When we read the report of the Director of War Service Homes we find that last year 17,000 applications were made for advances, or an increase of approximately 1,000 on the previous year. Sixteen thousand ex-service men and women and widows of ex-servicemen applied for the increase of £750 in the loan. The Government’s action in increasing the maximum advance showed that it was prepared to do something more to assist eligible persons to obtain homes.
The responsible Minister, happily, is a member of this House. He has been Acting Prime Minister, and I congratulate him on that score. There are two reasons why the Government should grant money to provide war service homes. The Government is, in effect, saying to those who enlist, go to war and come back, and to the widows of those who die, “The Government will help you to obtain a home “. So, we had the loan of £2,750, and now we have the loan of £3,500. It cannot be denied that the granting of £35,000,000 a year of Commonwealth money for war service homes is a very valuable injection into the economy of Australia. Before a contract can be signed for the construction of a home, action must begin in the forest. The trees are cut down, the logs go to the mill, the mill begins to work, and the home eventually is built. Refrigerators, stoves, baths, sinks and all the other things that are necessary in a home have to be provided. So, the whole of our economy receives a helpful injection once the Government or private enterprise provides money for the construction of a new home.
In speaking of war service homes, I remind you, Sir, that the previous Labour Government, which was in office until 1949, had a completely different attitude. It said that it did not want to have a nation of little capitalists. It did not want to have home-owners; it wanted to have people tied to paying rent.
– Cannot you remember 9th December last?
– You did not want to have little capitalists. You did not understand, with your socialistic outlook, that you were not really being socialistic, but were merely kow-towing and crawling to the monopolistic capitalists whom we in the Liberal Party despise.
– Tell us about putting value back in the £1.
– You know what I mean. There are young couples in Canberra to-day paying £11 a week for a twobedroom home. There are young couples in Canberra and other cities of the Commonwealth paying £5 a week for a single room. About a fortnight ago I was happy and proud, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to take action to obtain some relief for a young couple who were paying £10 a week for a single room in Hobart. Because of these things I believe that the Commonwealth Government - I have to confine myself to war service homes - should accept its great responsibility. It has done an amazingly good job in providing more money for war service homes, but it should make the conditions for granting the loans easier. They should not be tied up with red tape as is the case at the moment.
– You did not need to say all the other things in order to get to that point.
– I will please myself what I say. The Government has granted an additional £750 loan for war service homes. It has done so to assist the building industry and other phases of the Australian economy. That is something to the credit of the Government. It has exhibited an enlightened outlook by saying, in effect: “ We will increase the amount from £2,750 to £3,500”. It is at this point that I want the Government and the Minister to consider the present situation. I think we should be frank and admit that this extra £750 was granted for two reasons. One was to redeem the promises made by this Government to ex-service men and women, and the other that the Government felt the resultant stimulus to the building industry could help the economy of this country. I notice Senator Turnbull grinning.
– I was not even grinning. You flatter yourself.
– 1 think the Government ought to have another look at this matter. A person applying for this extra £750 is asked whether he is adding a room or otherwise increasing the size of his house. If he is not, the application is refused. Secondly, even if he wishes to provide additional space, he is told that he must have a 10 per cent, equity in this additional £750. I ask: Why promise a man £750, and then tell him he cannot have it unless he has a 10 per cent, equity in the £750? Why not grant him £690?
My experience, as a result of my representations to the division, is that a man can get only £750 less 10 per cent. He is also told that if he has a second mortgage on the property he has to wipe that out first. We have the position of an ex-serviceman with a growing family wanting a larger home and the Government very creditably promising an increase in the amount of the loan. However, to obtain his home originally he had, no doubt, to obtain an additional loan. He had to go to a bank, private enterprise or an insurance company to obtain this extra money, and to my own certain knowledge many ex-servicemen obtained the extra money at 10 per cent, or 12 per cent, interest. I have heard by way of questions in the Senate that in Victoria exservicemen have had to pay as much as 20 per cent, interest. It may be true. I do not doubt it but I hate to think that it is true. Now the Government says in effect: “ We want to help the building industry and we want to help ex-service men and women get homes. Here is another £750 for each of them “. The Government does not want to make them little capitalists, but it wants to help them get homes. However, if an ex-serviceman wishes to build a new room onto his home because of an expected addition to the family, or because of shortage of finance earlier in his life, the War Service Homes Division tells him that he must wipe his second mortgage off first, lt is impossible for him to do so. Then the division tells him that it will give him the £750 less 10 per cent. I cannot understand how any government can say to people for whom it is providing loans for homes, “ We will give you so much, but you must have a 10 per cent, equity in the second loan “. I can understand the necessity to have an equity in the first loan, but not in the second loan.
I hope that the Senate, within a week or two, will discuss the subject of national housing. I am using the debate on the estimates for the War Service Homes Division, Division No. 934, in order to highlight my views on this subject. I repeat that this Government has done an amazing job.
– You are having two bob each way.
– At least I am honest and factual. I do not mind praising the Government of which I am a supporter, and I do not mind criticizing it, but I would not be like you - a laughing clown who does not have an opinion one way or the other.
Order! The honorable senator must not refer to another honorable senator as a laughing clown.
– Well, he is not. The Commonwealth of Australia over the years has provided-
Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Under the same heading, Mr.
Temporary Chairman, I should like to make a small plea to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) on behalf of a returned soldier who wants a war service home but who has not sufficient money to buy his land and whose building company is prepared to assist him by supplying part of the purchase price of the land. In the present circumstances that man has no chance of obtaining a loan. I have handled such cases in New South Wales. The ex-serviceman has had a small loan from his building company - in Parramatta, in this case. On the other hand there is the case of a returned soldier who can obtain support from a bank and wishes to approach the War Service Homes Division. He is able to get a loan because the banks give priority to the division’s mortgages.
I know that some building societies are fly-by-night organizations and that the Government has to be careful. But would it not be possible, in cases in which reputable building societies agreed to give first priority to mortgages held by the War Services Homes Division, for loans to go through in the same way as when a bank provides a part of the purchase money for the land and then gives the division mortgage priority? The man to whom I referred was quite honest. He could have gone to the bank and entered into a mortgage without saying anything to the War Service Homes Division about it. He could have got the £2,000 and said that he could buy the land. However, he did the right thing and mentioned the bank with which he was doing business. Could not the Government’s clemency be extended to exservicemen with lesser amounts of money who have to deal through building societies?
.- 1 refer to the War Service Homes Division, under Division No. 934. I wish to put to the Minister an aspect of the war service homes scheme that reacts adversely against quite a number of applicants. In the last year a number of people who have been encouraged to apply for loans because of the greater availability of funds, permitting of loans up to £3,500, have met a brick wall in the waiting period for finance for existing homes. Quite a number of people who are eligible for war service loans have opportunities to buy homes. A relative might be selling a home or a suitable place might crop up in an auction sale, but it is practically impossible for an applicant exserviceman to get any action when such an opportunity occurs.
He might want to buy a home valued at about £4,000. That is the average price that people have to pay these days for a two-bedroom house with the ordinary living amenities. In order to buy that house the man has to move quickly. People do not want to wait for twenty months while he gets the necessary money; nor do they want to wait for even three months while he does a tour around the various building societies and banks and is knocked back and eventually goes to usurers who charge interest at a flat rate of 11 or 12 per cent. The waiting time prevents him from making a deal with people who are selling alreadyerected houses. If an agent advertises a house for sale, he wants to settle the sale with his client. He is willing to make arrangements with his client over a period of a month or so, but an applicant has no chance of getting any action from the division in those circumstances.
Many good homes became available during the credit squeeze at considerably reduced prices, compared with previous prices. However, an applicant exserviceman is completely excluded from participating in an auction sale and trying to buy a house at its proper value. In the first place, when the auction sale comes up he is not certain that he can obtain the house at the auction. If he is fortunate enough to make the bid that is accepted, he has to commence his negotiations at that point. He cannot get any guarantee from any one before the price is known. If he buys a house at auction there is no certainty at all that he can finance it because the division has a twenty months’ waiting time after all the processing has been done. This means that a big proportion of exservicemen are being excluded from the opportunity to use their ability and acumen to buy reasonably priced houses and obtain the benefit of war service homes loans.
Another cause of difficulty is that the man who borrows money to buy a house from an agent or at auction and raises the money by way of a mortgage excludes himself altogether from a war service homes loan. The policy of the State directors - in pursuance of government policy, I am certain - is that it is of no use to apply to the Minister for permission to discharge existing mortgages. Evidently, it is the personal prerogative of the Minister to give such permission, which would be a great advantage to many genuine applicants. I appreciate that this procedure has been exploited in the past by people who have entered into a mortgage and then have obtained a war service homes loan to discharge the mortgage and get money to invest in something else. We always find the person who will cruel the pitch for his fellow men.
I believe that there is a field in which the Minister might use his discretion, namely, in the cases of genuine people who can find money at reasonable rates of interest and reasonably quickly. The person who lends money to them needs some collateral security. He will lend the money because he knows the borrower is an ex-serviceman and undoubtedly will be eligible for a war service homes loan eventually. By committing himself to the purchase of a house and obtaining a mortgage quickly in order to clinch a deal, an ex-serviceman practically automatically excludes himself from a war service homes loan.
In view of the fact that the number of applicants is decreasing, the Government should take a more generous view, on the recommendation of a State director, when it is advised that an ex-serviceman who would be eligible for a loan is negotiating quickly to purchase a house which may be a bargain or very suitable for his needs and has to get money quickly by mortgaging the house. The Minister should allow a mortgage contracted under those conditions to be discharged by the War Service Homes Division. I feel that it would be of great help in that it would give people opportunities to take advantage of these loans. It would also avoid much of the criticism and frustration that does occur in cases such as those I have mentioned. As I see the position the War Service Homes Division is collecting £21,000,000 a year by way of interest and repayments of principal while the amount provided for expenditure under the War Service Homes Act totals only £35,000,000, which means that the Commonwealth’s actual commit ment is only about £14,000,000. Further, the return from repayments of principal and from interest is growing each year. I believe that the discretionary powers of the Minister and of the Directors of War Service Homes in the various States should be extended yearly to enable them to help the great number of people - I do not think their number is known even to the division - who, in good faith, have become involved in mortgage transactions only to find themselves virtually up against a blank wall when they have applied to the War Service Homes Division for assistance.
, - I desire to refer to Division No. 680, War Service Homes Division, and I invite the attention of the Minister to the following statement which appears on page 7 of the annual report of the Director of War Service Homes -
Following the enactment of the New South Wales Conveyancing (Strata Titles) Act 1961 assistance was made available for the purchase of individual home units registered under that Act subject to the usual conditions on which War Service Home3 loans are available and to some special conditions arising out of the particular requirements of the War Service Homes Act and the New South Wales (Strata Titles) Act.
I think that is quite an important development. We all appreciate that those who are entitled to war service homes are becoming older each year, that many of them now have not the same need for an individual home that they might have had ten, fifteen or twenty years ago, and the home unit is the ideal accommodation for them. I was very sorry to read this passage in the director’s report -
New South Wales is the only State at present to have introduced legislation creating a separate home unit title which meets the requirements of the War Service Homes Act.
In New South Wales 17 applicants were assisted to purchase home units to 30th June 1962.
I ask the Minister whether there is some way by which the principle of making war service home loans available for the purchase of home units could be introduced in other States. I realize, of course, that the registration of titles is a function of the State concerned; but has the Minister seen to it that it is possible in Canberra, which is under Commonwealth jurisdiction, for loans to be made available for the purchase of home units? I commend to him the suggestion that at least he should make a start in Canberra, where I understand loans are not granted for this purpose, because I believe that occupancy of a home unit is the modern way of life for people who are getting on in years. I should like the Minister and his staff to investigate the possibility of extending to other States the principle of making money available through the War Service Homes Division for the purchase of home units. To do this might mean holding conferences with the registrars of titles in the various States, but I commend the suggestion to the Minister for I feel it is of great importance to the older people.
I also refer the Senate to the table contained on page 9 of the director’s report and headed “ Existing Properties Financed “. The statistics published there disclose that in 1960-61, 10,216 properties were financed and that by 1961-62 the figure had dropped to 9,845. They also disclose that in 1960-6.1, old homes financed where mortgages had been discharged numbered 57 and that by 1961-62 the number had increased to 61. This financing of the purchase of old homes represents a new departure, as is evidenced by the following footnote on page 9 of the report: -
These represent cases in which an exception to the Government’s policy not to discharge an existing mortgage unless entered into with the prior approval of the Division, has been approved because of the existence of special circumstances. 1 should like the Minister to detail to the Senate the special circumstances referred to in the report under which the officers of the division were permitted to grant loans for the purchase of 61 homes in 1961-62. As no doubt other honorable senators have pointed out, these special circumstances are very important indeed and I feel that the division’s policy and the special circumstances involved in those 61 cases should be made public. It is obvious that there would not be 61 different sets of circumstances and no doubt the Minister could give a broad outline of the headings under which the circumstances referred to in the annual report of the Director of War Service Homes were considered to be special.
– I rise first to make one or two observations on the remarks made by Senator Marriott and, secondly, to make one or two observations of a constructive nature dealing with war service homes which I believe might be of assistance to applicants for loans from the division.
Senator Marriott seemed to indicate in his remarks that the Government increased the maximum advance for a war service home from the previous £2,750 to £3,500 for two reasons - first in order to honour an undertaking given to ex-servicemen and, secondly, to give a stimulus to the economy. But if wc peruse Table “ O “ appearing on page 26 of the annual report of the Director of War Service Homes we find that the Government found it necessary to uplift the maximum advance in order to prevent the scheme from collapsing. Table “ O “ gives a comparison of the average costs of dwelling house and land each year since 1st July, 1955, and discloses that in the six years since that date the average cost of a dwelling house and land in the Australian Capital Territory has risen from £4,225 to £7,528, an increase of some £3,300. We also learn from this table that in the same period the average cost of a dwelling house and land in South Australia increased from £3,448 to £4,998, an increase of some £1,500. Taking the States seriatim, we find that in round figures the increase in New South Wales over the same period was £800, in Victoria £1,100 and in Western Australia and Tasmania from £800 to £850. So I say the increase was a matter of necessity. Because of the inflationary spiral that had developed under the policies pursued by this Government it had to legislate to increase the maximum advance from £2,750 to £3,500. Indeed, one realizes as a matter of economics that the higher the original loan the greater is the amount of repayment and in the long run the greater is the return to the Government by way of interest payments. Having answered Senator Marriott’s comments, I say that the fact is that some seventeen years after the war, as we find if we look at page 9 of the annual report of the Director of War Service Homes, there were some 13,678 applications still unfilled, and the division had on hand 6,385 applications which were subject to a waiting period, involving a delay of some twenty months.
As from 17th March of this year, the permissible maximum loan was increased from £2,750 to £3,500, but the trouble appears to me to be that no extra money has been made available to the War Service Homes Division for this purpose. This means that those who have received a loan find it hard to have provision made for them to construct garages, to which Senator Cant referred, to construct third bedrooms, where there is a mixed small family, or, indeed, to construct sunrooms as additions to the home. I understand that the Government has narrowed down these reasons to make this money go further. I believe that more provision should be made to meet the needs of those who offered their blood and gave their services to this country at a time when it was most in need of them.
The Minister might also give consideration to the problem of second loans to people who are transferred in the course of their employment. I refer particularly to public servants who might be transferred from one State to another. I refer also to people who might have to leave the districts in which they chose first to live, for some reason connected with the health of the husband, the spouse or members of the family, and to people in private employment who, because of the present employment situation, as a matter of necessity, through sheer economics, have to be transferred. I hope that the Minister will give some consideration to these matters and try to remedy the anomalies that obviously exist in the administration of this division.
I wish to make some further remarks at a later stage on the administration of the division-. I have made these observations, first, for the purpose of answering Senator Marriott and, secondly, in the hope that the second part of my remarks, being made constructively, will be of assistance to those persons who have made application for loans for war service homes.
– T should like to say a few words regarding this matter. I was surprised to hear Senator Marriott put up such a wondercase for ex-servicemen and against the Government in stating that there are people in Tasmania who pay £10 a week rent for two rooms and £5 a week for one room. Probably they are ex-servicemen, although I would not know. This is a great indictment of the Government.
– That private people charge rents? Can you blame the Commonwealth Government? The States do not have rent control. Do not bc a hypocrite.
– If honorable senators opposite had had sufficient fore sight, they would have seen that this position would arise and that the problem would have to be solved some day. The existence of this state of affairs is a grave indictment of the Government. I applaud Senator Marriott for bringing the matter before the chamber and I hope that he voices the same opinion on future occasions.
In relation to the administration of the War Service Homes Division, I have dealt with many cases in Victoria and I have nothing but great praise for the officers, who do everything possible to look at the side of the ex-servicemen, but I am not so well pleased with the responsible Minister or with the Government. When the Government boasts that it has increased the maximum loan from £2,750 to £3,500, it must realize - if it does not, the exservicemen do - that £3,500 to-day has no greater value than £2,500 had four or five years ago before the advent of the Petrov government on the other side of the chamber.
– The Petrov government. But for Petrov, it would not bc there.
– You have never got over the shock, have you?
– That is true. The Minister uses any means at his disposal. If the Government is sincere and wants to do something for the relief of those exservicemen who are waiting for homes-
– You are as much help to us as Petrov was.
– I hope that I am never put in the same class as the Petrovs, whom this Government used to enable it to continue in office.
– Petrov would agree with you.
– I should say he would. The Government is still keeping him in clover on the Gold Coast of Queensland.
– Do not talk about the Gold Coast!
– Order! The committee will come to order.
– When the Minister interjects, I try to answer him.
I am led to believe that it is a fact that this Government is still keeping Mr. and Mrs. Petrov in splendour on the Gold Coast of Queensland.
– Not in Aylett’s flat.
– Has he a war service home?
Order! Both sides having dealt with the Petrov matter, I now ask the committee to come back to the Estimates.
– If the Government sincerely wished to do something for ex-servicemen it would acknowledge the rise in. costs over the past five or ten years and increase the vote for the provision of homes for ex-servicemen. I was laughed at during the last sessional period of this Parliament when I suggested that the Commonwealth Bank be used to finance the Snowy Mountains project. I now suggest that if the Government were sincere it would use the Commonwealth Bank to finance the purchase of homes by exservicemen who are waiting for homes. When all is said and done, we must remember that if it had not been for these exservicemen who are awaiting homes, possibly we would not be sitting in this Parliament to-day. Surely we should expedite the provision of roofs over their heads. The Government could, through the Commonwealth Bank, finance the building of homes for them. It would not be giving something away. This is an investment, a good business deal. Instead of allowing the usurers to rob ex-servicemen awaiting homes, the Government could use the Commonwealth Bank to finance the provision of homes at a reasonable rate of interest. Senator O’Byrne mentioned the last recession. We have had many recessions under this Government.
Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the
Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Temporary Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– Senator O’Byrne has reminded me that in 1960 when there was a financial recession in Australia, homes could be bought a little more cheaply. Persons were forced to sell their homes because of unemployment brought about by this Government. Exservicemen who were waiting to buy homes were prepared to buy them, but they could not do so because real estate agents were not prepared to wait eighteen to twenty months for a loan to be made available by the War Service Homes Division. If the Government is sincere - and I do not believe it is - it would make money available through the Commonwealth Bank at reasonable rates of interest to ex-servicemen whose applications had been approved.
The interest rates that ex-servicemen are forced to pay on second mortgage are absolutely disgraceful. There are exservicemen in Victoria - and I could bring evidence to prove this if honorable senators do not believe me - who are paying 20 per cent, on second mortgage loans while waiting eighteen months for money from the War Service Homes Division. The State Housing Commission in Victoria, which can obtain funds only through this Government, has 18,000 persons waiting for homes’. Included among them are many thousands of ex-servicemen who are entitled to homes through the War Service Homes Division but are forced to apply to the State Housing Commission because they cannot get approval for loans from the division.
We ask the Government to give some consideration to increasing the vote for war service homes so as to overcome the backlog. If that could be done to cover homes that have been approved, the present annual vote of £35,000,000 would meet the situation as time goes on. We will never catch up unless some extra money is made available. The vote of £35,000,000 is not worth as much as it was when it was first allocated for war service homes. If we are sincere in our desire to provide a home for the men who donned uniform and fought to save Australia, the Government should try to find some money to overcome the backlog and then provide £35,000,000 each year for future applicants.
– Would I be in order in referring at this stage to the War Service Homes Insurance Trust Account?
– I propose to conclude the debate on war service homes generally to-night, but we will discuss the War Service Homes Insurance Trust Account to-morrow under the heading “ Administration “.
– May we discuss the War Service Homes Trust Account tomorrow?
– I cannot comment on the programme for tomorrow. To-night we are dealing with all matters relating to Capital Works and Services under the Department of National Development.
– Before we conclude the discussion on war service homes generally, I wish to contribute to the debate. Most of what I wanted to say has already been said, but I add my support to the comment of honorable senators on the inadequacy of the total vote of £35,000,000 for the War Service Homes Division. Now that the maximum loan has been increased to £3,500 from £2,750, the total vote is not sufficient to meet the needs of all those who are seeking loans. It is obvious that since the maximum loan has been increased, the War Service Homes Division can cater only for fewer applicants.
I wish to direct attention to the grave injustices and the hardships that are being imposed on ex-servicemen because war service homes loans are no longer available for road-making. Many ex-servicemen obtained loans under this scheme before roads were constructed where they built their homes. Thousands of these men entered into commitments in the ful: understanding and belief - in many cases it was virtually a promise - that ultimately war service homes loans would be available for road-making. Now, after a few years, they have to meet those commitments but the money is not available to them for that purpose. I should like the Minister for National Development to examine this matter because thousands of ex-servicemen are suffering very grave hardships and injustice, and we are entitled to some explanation.
– I refer to the proposed appropriation of £11,050,000 for expenditure under the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act. I should like to have some information from the Minister for National Development about the continuity of work on this scheme during the past year and for future years. I understand that in previous years, for a variety of reasons, operations on some sections of the Snowy
Mountains scheme were completed before the scheduled date provided in the contracts and the work had come to a stop temporarily. The results were serious when teams of construction workers who had been gathered together were dispersed. Sometimes they could not be brought together again.
The scheme is operating with a great deal of migrant labour and one of the problems is to get teams of workers who can work together. There are people of different nationalities, often speaking different languages, and all kinds of problems are involved in getting together teams which can work effectively. It is a disastrous thing to have such teams dispersed. When there is discontinuity of work, the members of a team go far and wide throughout Australia and almost certainly will not come together again. So, there are all the problems involved in getting a new team together. Skilled workers are lost. Because there is no prospect of work for months on end, they take up some other activity altogether. That is the kind of thing which is happening. The skilled workers of various kinds who are able to do this work go into other occupations and are therefore lost to the scheme. Surely it would be a sensible thing to endeavour to provide continuity of work. Such continuity has been missing and has been adversely commented upon by a number of people connected with the Snowy Mountains Authority.
The other matter which I want to raise, Mr. Chairman, concerns the Blowering dam, which is referred to in the interim report of the activities of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority during the year ended 30th June, 1962. The importance of the completion of that dam is referred to at page 25 of the report. It appears that it is the obligation of the State of New South Wales, under the terms of the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States concerned, to arrange for the construction of the storage works at Blowering, or such other site on the Tumut River as may be determined. As I understand it, the State of New South Wales is desirous of building the Blowering dam and has requested the Commonwealth to advance it the money to enable it to do so, on the basis that the money advanced will be repaid over a long term. Can the Minister inform the Senate of the attitude of the Commonwealth to this proposal? The construction of the dam is so important and the finances of the State are so constricted that this part of the scheme should not be held up for want of some such agreement between the Commonwealth and the State; the rest of the work and the efficacy of the Snowy Mountains scheme might be destroyed. Will the Minister inform me whether the Commonwealth is prepared to accede to the request that has been made by New South Wales in this regard?
.- I refer to Division No. 936, which relates to expenditure under the Atomic Energy Act. I notice that the amount appropriated last year was £1,096,000, and that £969,275 was spent. The appropriation this year is £783,000. It seems to me that this is not a field in which there should be reduction of the appropriation from Consolidated Revenue, but one in which more research should be going on. We should be more active in regard to this development. I should like the Minister to explain why approximately £200,000 less is to be spent this year than last year. I also refer to Division No. 939, item 02, expenditure under the River Murray Waters Act. Last year, the appropriation was £108,000 and expenditure was £80,000. This year the appropriation is .£60,000. I should like the Minister to explain the reason for the reduction in the appropriation. Why was expenditure last year £28,000 less than the appropriation? Is that amount to be expended this year, along with the £60,000 that is shown as the appropriation, or has it gone back into Consolidated Revenue?
The appropriation in respect of the Snowy Mountains scheme is £11,050,000, plus the expenditure of loan money amounting to £13,100,000. It seems to be rather a mixed policy to pay for part of the work from Consolidated Revenue and part from loan money. In the words of the Minister himself, this is a scheme that will pay for itself in a very short period by the power that it produces. The power, after all, is a byproduct of the scheme and not the major product, which is the provision of water for irrigation purposes. As the Minister has said that the scheme will pay for itself in a few years’ time, it seems to me that it would be better to pay for the work from loan money and to let posterity pay for it as posterity uses it, rather than to pay for it from revenue.
Will the Minister state whether the £13,100,000 of loan money is to be raised in Australia or overseas? Is Australia to be mortgaged to the overseas money barons, or will the money be raised here, so that the interest will be paid in this country? If the loans are raised overseas the effect will be to reduce our overseas balances. More production will be required and also increased exports to balance our overseas accounts.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Resolution of the Council of the City of Newport.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIIin). - Mr. Speaker and I have received from the Council of the City of Newport in the United States of America a resolution signed by the Mayor relating to the part played by the yacht “ Gretel “ in the recent series of races for the America’s Cup. We appreciate both the spirit of the resolution and the terms in which it is expressed. I have arranged for it to be laid on the table of the Library for inspection by members of the Parliament and others who may be interested.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I do not want to keep the Senate for very long, but I do want to protest about what has gone on here to-night. Since shortly after 8 o’clock the committee of the Senate has been dealing with an appropriation of £47,230,000 for the Department of National Development. Most of the arguments have been advanced and queries raised in respect of anomalies in the War Service Homes Division, the appropriation for which is £35,000,000. Most of the queries raised by honorable senators, who come into this Parliament to represent the people, have not been answered by the Minister.
This is the time when the most important business of this Parliament is being conducted. The appropriation of moneys that the Government will spend during the next financial year is being discussed. Honorable senators take part in the debate wjth the intention of questioning whether the Government is spending the money wisely or not, and whether it could be spent to better advantage in different directions. Honorable senators are carrying out their duty to their constituents who send them here. I cannot appreciate the Minister’s statement that he did not think we would finish the programme of business he had in mind. If he does not reply to queries he will find that honorable senators will not rise to ask questions just for the sake of airing their views.
Many of the matters that have been raised come to the notice of honorable senators by way of correspondence from persons who cannot always reach us by other means. Those persons expect replies to their inquiries and submissions. They seek information about what the Government is doing, and they look to honorable senators to supply it. I know that many honorable senators refrain from asking questions at question-time but adopt the practice, when the Estimates are under consideration, of raising their queries then. If the Minister does not reply, how are honorable senators to satisfy the inquiries of their constituents?
From my place in this chamber I protest strongly about the refusal of the Minister to answer queries that have been raised by honorable senators with respect to exservicemen and their conditions and the provision of homes for them. I also protest strongly because the Government professes to increase the amount of the loan for war service homes from £2,750 to £3,500 but refuses to make the whole of the additional £750 available. In effect, it offers the extra money with one hand and takes part of it back with the other. Honorable senators, when they protest against this practice, are unable to obtain a reply from the Minister. I strongly protest against this situation.
.- in reply- I feel that I should reply to the speech of Senator Cant. I admit that I do not feel very happy about to-night’s proceedings. In allotting time for consideration of the Estimates the Government has the choice of a number of courses. I have long held the view that the best and fairest way is to use the guillotine, setting a time for the consideration of the estimates for each department. The Minister who is in charge of the estimates of a department then knows that within a certain time the debate will finish, and he replies to queries in the light of that knowledge.’ Many honorable senators do not like the guillotine or the gag, but I must say that if we are to finish in three days the section of the Estimates we have allotted for this week and the whole debate on the Estimates within three weeks, we must proceed according to some programme.
The Government expected that progress would have been greater to-night. I gave a warning when I said that I hoped the consideration of a certain proposed vote would have been completed because I could see that the position to which Senator Cant referred was arising. I regret as much as the honorable senator does that I was not able to answer all the questions put to me. I would have liked to say quite a lot in reply to the criticism that Senator Cant made. There is a very good answer to the criticism of the War Service Homes Division and other matters.
– Why did you not give it?
– Because if we continue this debate we will not have time to deal with other departments. I sat back without replying so that we could get as far as we could with the debate to-night. I do not feel very happy about it.
– Mr. President, I rise to order. I refer to Standing Order No. 413 which reads as follows: -
No Senator shall allude to any Debate of the same Session upon a Question or Bill not being then under discussion, nor to any speech made in Committee, except by the indulgence of the Senate for personal explanations.
I submit that the honorable senator who raised this matter has referred to something that happened in committee and that he was entirely out of order in doing so.
– I take a different point of order. Did not Senator Spooner’s speech close the debate?
– That is so. With regard to the point of order raised by Senator Henty, I should say that, in my opinion Senator Cant was airing a grievance. I was concerned at various stages of his speech about whether he was going too far. I think that on the average he was acting within his rights.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 October 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1962/19621009_senate_24_s22/>.