24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– On 3rd October, I asked the Senate for leave to present a petition from ex-service men and women and their dependants in the Oak Park district of Victoria relating to contracts with the War Service Homes Division to purchase homes and seeking the provision of war service finance for road construction. This petition is not in conformity with the Standing Orders in that it is not correctly addressed and does not contain a prayer at the end thereof. On that occasion, leave was refused, Senator Cormack being the only dissentient. I now move -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the presentation of that petition.
– I second the motion.
– There being present an absolute majority of the whole number of senators, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
– I present a petition from 133 ex-service men and women and their dependants in the Oak Park district of Victoria. The petition relates to contracts entered into with the War Service Homes Division to purchase homes and seeks the provision of war service finance for road construction.
Petition received and read.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, by saying that for the past couple of months I have been seeking information about President Kennedy’s Independence Day oration and asking whether his proposals would have good or bad effects so far as
Australia is concerned. The answers given indicated that the Minister did not know anything about that matter, but that was in keeping with the attitude he has adopted to my questions about the European Common Market, which I commenced tq ask in this chamber five years ago. I now ask: Did the Minister read President Kennedy’s subsequent statements in which he declared that his new trade bill would enable goods from the United States of America to move successfully in the growing European Market, which would mean a great deal to the prosperity of the United States? I ask further whether the Minister read the alarming statements made by the United States UnderSecretary of State, Mr. George Ball, in which he made the forecast that Europe would produce more grains and other temperate zone products with fewer farmers and that the United States would make a titanic drive to maintain its position as the principal supplier of agricultural products to the crucial markets of Western Europe. As the Americans have acted consistently against Australian interests since the issue of British entry to the Common Market was raised-
– Have they?
– The Minister for Customs and Excise is interjecting. I wish he would listen and learn. My question continues: As the Americans have acted consistently against Australian interests since the issue of British entry to the Common Market was raised, would it be possible for a statement to be issued to the Senate and the nation showing clearly the problems that will confront Australia in the next decade, particularly in the light of the remarkable statements which have emanated from the United States of America and which I have mentioned in this question?
– I must start my reply by suggesting to Senator Hendrickson that instead of reading questions in the Senate he would be better advised to read the Prime Minister’s statement on this issue.
– You tell us what is in it now.
– The Prime Minister’s statement on this issue refers, in explicit terms, to his discussions with President Kennedy on this matter.
– What can you read into it?
– I suggest that it would be much better for you to read it.
– I have read it.
– If you cannot understand it, you should get some assistance; you should get some one to help you to understand it.
– I am asking for your assistance, but you cannot give any.
– I am always willing to try to assist, but it is always a bit of a disappointment when one feels that it is love’s labour lost and that there is no possibility of explaining a difficult matter to a questioner.
– That is not very statesmanlike.
– Give me an answer to the question.
– I will give you an answer to the question, prefaced by the suggestion that you should get some one to explain these questions to you before you ask them. That -would be a help to us all.
– I am asking for information.
– Mr. President, 1 find that there is no point in answering Senator Hendrickson’s question. He is not making any attempt to listen to my answer. He is interjecting all the time while I am answering. I do not think he understands when I explain the matter. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will ask another Opposition senator to ask the question, I will do my best to answer it.
– Has the Minister for Customs and Excise noted the steep rise in imports in the months of August and September? Has any analysis been made by his department of the type of goods that comprise that increase in imports? Has his department made an appreciation of the trend of imports in the months ahead? Will the increase continue at its present pace? If it does, what effect will that have on our overseas funds?
– We have noted the increase of about £8,200,000 in imports in the month of August. Naturally, we have made an analysis of that increase. Speaking from memory, I believe that about £3,000, 000 of it represents new machinery for factories and that another £2,000,000 represents raw materials for factories. The increased imports of both those items show that factories are gearing up for the increased business which obviously they see ahead of them in the very near future. In addition, over £2,000,000 of the increase is attributable to imports of component parts for motor cars. This aspect very often escapes the notice of the general public and honorable senators. There is still a very large importation of component parts for motor cars. A great many people seem to believe that the cars are made entirely in Australia. Component parts imported increased in value by over £2,000,000 in August. About one-eighth of the increase in imports, approximately £1,000,000, is attributable to consumer goods. We could not analyse these entirely, but a quick look discloses that retailers are apparently preparing for a very good Christmas trade. A great deal of this increase is attributable to goods for the coming Christmas trade.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the statement made last year by the Australian Industries Development Association that a thorough investigation had shown that in the year 1957-58 - four years ago - goods to the value of £272,000,000, which had been imported, could have been satisfactorily produced locally, giving employment to 100,000 people, and in view of Australia’s adverse trade balances over recent months, will the Minister ask the appropriate government departments to ascertain what goods are being imported that could satisfactorily be produced here, their value, and, if possible, the number of people who could be gainfully employed in producing such goods, thereby building up Australian industries and averting further unemployment in our midst?
– The course that the honorable senator advocates is one of the functions of the Department of Trade, which makes surveys of manufacturing industry and, at regular intervals, issues reports showing the level of activity in particular industries and opportunities for the development of additional industries. So the point that is made is well covered by existing government activities and also by the Government’s policy of protection and encouragement of Australian industry by tariff measures, which are taken only after independent inquiry by the Tariff Board, supplemented by the special advisory authorities to whom special references are made when an industry is being threatened, embarrassed or affected by excessive imports.
– 1 should like to preface a question, which 1 direct to the Minister for National Development, by saying that during the Estimates debate, the Minister said, in reply to Senator Murphy, that the New South Wales Government should have been able to provide funds for the Blowering dam. I noticed in this morning’s “ Daily Telegraph “ a statement that Mr. Enticknap, the New South Wales Minister, had repeated that New South Wales was unable to provide the funds. Will the Minister state the responsibilities of the New South Wales Government on this issue, under the terms of the Commonwealth and State agreement on the Snowy Mountains project? Finally, will the Minister tell the Senate why New South Wales should, contrary to the statement by Mr. Enticknap, be able to provide the funds?
– The responsibilities of the New South Wales Government are set out in the Snowy Mountains agreement, to which the governments concerned are parties. The responsibility accepted by the New South Wales Government, as its contribution to the Snowy Mountains scheme, was to build the Blowering dam. I forget the exact words of the agreement, but there is no fixed period of time within which New South Wales is compelled or obliged to discharge that obligation. The New South Wales Government says that it has not the funds for the purpose. I stated, in my reply to Senator Murphy, that it should have the funds to construct the dam because of the tremendous capital savings of which New South Wales has had the benefit as a result of the power that is provided for that State.
The fact is that New South Wales is now receiving its share of the power from the TI, T2 and Guthega power stations, which have a total generating capacity of 660,000 kilowatts. My officers have estimated that if New South Wales had to provide the same amount of power from thermal power stations it would have to make a capital investment of some £24,000,000. The Murray 1 power station will come into operation in 1966 and the Murray 2 station shortly after 1966. It would cost New South Wales no less than £70,000,000 to construct power houses to provide the volume of power that those two power stations will make available.
My view is that the Snowy Mountains scheme has a dual purpose. One purpose is to provide great quantities of power and the other to provide great quantities of water. We can obtain power from sources other than from the Snowy Mountains scheme, but our water resources are so limited that, in my view, the national benefits which come from the Snowy Mountains scheme through the provision of water are even more important than are the national benefits which come from the provision of power. The New South Wales Government accepted the obligation to construct the Blowering dam, with the water benefits that would flow from it. I therefore make the criticism or the comment that New South Wales is really not supporting the Snowy Mountains scheme in the way that it was envisaged it would support the scheme at the time it was inaugurated. The New South Wales Government should, at the least, provide in a responsible way for its obligation to build the Blowering dam, in view of the very great savings it is making as a result of the power being provided for it.
The present position is that the volume of water from the Snowy Mountains scheme going to the Mumimbidgee area is as great as the volume of water at present being used in the Murrumbidgee irrigation area in New South Wales, which supports a population of some 30,000 people. The availability of water from the Snowy Mountains scheme, if the Blowering dam were in operation, would provide one of the best opportunities in Australia for decentralization. The construction of the dam and the availability of the water would enable additional settlements to be established in the
Murrumbidgee irrigation area which could support a population of some 25,000 people, in addition to the 30,000 people who are there at present. I think one is entitled to criticize the New South Wales Government. It has had the benefit of a saving of £24,000,000 in power house construction. Surely a provident government with a sense of responsibility would have earmarked portion of those capital savings to build the Blowering dam and so utilize water for the national benefit.
– I preface a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate by saying that times have changed and that the Senate has now become a party House. Originally, the idea was that it should represent the States, but there is no shadow of doubt that it is merely a party House now.
– Order! The honorable senator is not asking a question.
– Usually, Mr. President, you graciously permit honorable senators to preface their questions with some remarks. I notice that, when I preface my question, I am pulled up. However, that is by the way. I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: (1) Is it a fact that, owing to a system of proportional representation in the Senate, the election of a senator in place of one who is deceased has created a situation that was not contemplated by those who drew up the Constitution? (2) Is it a fact that a grave injustice was done recently in Queensland to the logical successor to the late Senator Max Poulter, Mr. Arnell, by the State Government and that all manner of evil things, politically, were said- against Mr. Arnell in order to bring about his defeat? (3) Is it a fact that Mr. Arnell was not brought to the Bar of the House and given a chance to defend himself? (4) Should not the law be altered so that the candidate next in party line to the successful candidate should automatically become a senator following the death or retirement of a senator? (5) Will the Minister bring this matter before Cabinet or his party for consideration?
– What Senator Brown has asked me to do actually is to discuss an incident in the Queensland
Parliament, and I do not find it easy to do so. If the honorable senator will pardon me, I will merely express some general views. I hold the view very firmly that when there is a casual vacancy in the Senate, by tradition and usage it should be filled by the appointment of a person holding the same political views as were held by the senator whose place is being filled. I take a great deal of comfort from the fact that, since the commencement of proportional representation in 1949, every casual vacancy has been filled by the State Parliament concerned by the selection of a member of the same political party as the previous holder of the seat. I cannot resist a little thrust at Senator Brown who has said that the Senate has become a party House. My comment is that that position is due so much to the Australian Labour Party not giving its members any latitude at all.
– How much latitude have your fellows got?
– Let us pass on to a less provocative part of the answer. I refrain from commenting on the incident that happened in the Queensland Parliament. That is not my concern. But I am pleased to note that, in the final analysis, it was a member of Australian Labour Party who was selected to come into the Senate.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he has noticed a statement by Mr. Holyoake, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, published in the press of last week, to the effect that arrangements would be made for the safeguarding of New Zealand’s export trade by the body controlling the members of the European Economic Community. Can the Minister explain this preferential treatment and why one member of the Commonwealth should be singled out for special treatment?
– Yes, I have seen the statements that have been made by Mr. Holyoake, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, and also those made by Mr. Marshall, the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand. I suppose that, in common with all Australians, we wish New Zealand well in these negotiations. I know how much the New Zealand economy is dependent upon its trade with the United Kingdom, but, whilst wishing New Zealand well, I find it difficult to see how it can be treated in isolation. It is difficult to see how, in these European Common Market negotiations, New Zealand can be treated in a different manner from other dominions. For my part, I find it hard to envisage that trade outlets can be provided for New Zealand in connexion with, for instance, dairy products and lamb, upon which New Zealand’s trade is so dependent, and at the same time be denied to Australia for those very same products.
– I address a question to the Minister for National Development. In view of the national need for the construction of the Blowering dam, and in view also of the obvious financial difficulties confronting the New South Wales Government which are delaying the construction of this dam, does the Minister not think it is reasonable that prompt action should be taken to make available to the New South Wales Government, in the form of a special loan from Commonwealth loan funds, sufficient to enable the New South Wales Government to proceed with this work and so bring to Australia all the benefits outlined by the Minister in his reply to a previous question?
– That question runs along lines which are familiar in connexion with the questions from the opposite side of the chamber. That is to say, it proceeds upon the assumption that there is just no limit to Australia’s financial resources. Unfortunately, that is not the position.
– That applies to New South Wales.
– It does not apply to New South Wales. My criticism in this matter is that New South Wales has been quite improvident, that it has had this opportunity to put aside money from the savings that it has made in power-house construction. It should have looked ahead and, from the £24,000,000 it has saved, it should now be in a position to discharge its obligations in connexion with Blowering dam.
What Senator O’Byrne is saying in effect is that, because one government has been improvident, we should penalize other governments in the Commonwealth, that we should stop work on the Chowilla dam.
– That is exactly what would occur.
– I am certain there would be a response from our South Australian senators if it were suggested we stop the Chowilla dam project for the purpose of supporting New South Wales. As a New South Wales senator I say there are few things that I should like to see more than the completion of the Blowering dam, but I believe that there has to be an equitable approach to these matters. If a government is not prudent, and does not stand up to its obligations, it is not fairthat governments in other States should suffer the penalty.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Is he in a position to say whether the report in to-day’s Melbourne “ Age “ headed “ Chiang Urges Attack on Mainland “ is correct? This report, which emanates from London, and has yesterday’s date, 10th October, states that President Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek said in a statement to the nation that the time was ripe for attack, and that he personally would lead his armed forces. Would the Minister obtain a copy of this statement and inform the Senate of its contents? If this statement is true, does not the Minister agree with me that the Australian Wheat Board should review its policy of credit sales of wheat to red China? I ask this question in the light of the announcement yesterday that a further sale of 25,000,000 bushels of wheat valued at £18,000,000 had been concluded with red China, again on credit.
– I do not know whether the newspaper report of the statement made by President Chiang Kai-shek is accurate or not. He has made similar statements, over a number of years, but has not said that the time is exactly ripe for him to act, if indeed he did say that on this occasion.
– If the time was ripe I think he would go right in without saying it.
– I am merely saying that, if this is a correct report of the speech, it is a report of the kind of speech that President Chiang Kai-shek has made over a number of years, except for the particular addition. I shall see whether it is possible to obtain a copy of the statement, or alleged statement, for which the honorable senator has asked. 1 myself do not see the immediate relationship between the sale of wheat to red China and this statement.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Some responsible authorities have directed attention recently to the necessity to protect policy-holders in the event of default by insurance companies. I have personal knowledge of cases of such default, which could mean ruin for widows, injured persons, employees or employers. The responsibility for protecting policy-holders has been assumed by this Parliament, through the Insurance Act. Will the Minister discuss with the Treasurer the desirability of prescribing higher deposits by insurance companies under that act or of taking other steps to protect policy-holders?
– I am not aware that any defaults by insurance companies that have occurred can be traced to deficiencies of the Commonwealth act or to the administration of that act. I believe that in the few cases that have come to light the default has arisen from other causes. However, as the honorable senator has asked me specifically to direct the attention of the Treasurer to this matter, I shall do so. I shall ask him whether there is any comment that he would care to make on it.
– Does the Minister for Health believe that special quarantine problems could well develop from the new land boundary that Australia will share with Indonesia in New Guinea, which is situated just to the north of Darwin. Has he geared his department to be on the look-out for the introduction of foot and mouth disease to Australia? This disease is present in Java, an island of Indonesia, and, if not arrested, could well spread from Indonesia to the Indonesian part of New Guinea, and from there to Australian New Guinea and possibly to the Australian mainland, with disastrous results. Would it be possible, through United Nations agencies, to arrange for Australian quarantine officers to study the problem in Indonesia together with the appropriate Indonesian officials?
– I can assure the honorable senator that the Australian Government is very much alive to the problem that could well arise in this field as a result of the transfer of the control of West New Guinea to the United Nations and then to Indonesia. Although I am not in a position now to give the honorable senator details of the action that the Australian Government is taking, I can give him an assurance that the Government is taking the matter up on a high level. The Department of Health is preparing to make any arrangements that may be necessary to deal with the new situation.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Has not the New South Wales Government, as a sovereign government, the right to determine an order of priority for its public works? Is it not possible that the New South Wales Government considers the electrification of its northern railways to be of more immediate importance than the completion of the Blowering dam?
– The honorable senator has stated the position accurately. The New South Wales Government is a sovereign government. It decides the order of priority for its public works and the way in which it will spend its loan moneys. I believe that, in deciding an order of priorities, the New South Wales Government should have regard to the obligations it has assumed, with other governments, under the Snowy Mountains agreement. Senator Ormonde apparently believes that the electrification of the northern railways of New South Wales ranks higher than the completion .of the Blowering dam. That is his view. I agree that the New South Wales Government has the final say in matters of this kind, but I point out that New South Wales is gaining great benefits from the Snowy Mountains scheme. For example, the New South Wales Government has been saved a capita] investment of £24,000,000 in power-houses. In those circumstances, I believe it is reasonable to say that New South Wales should have earmarked some of the money it has saved in that way to enable it to meet its obligations under the Snowy Mountains agreement. It is not right to take all the benefits flowing from that scheme and to evade liabilities and responsibilities.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior read the press reports which reveal that at the end of September 4,149 applicants for Government’ homes in Canberra were awaiting the allotment of homes? Is it a fact that many of the applicants are living in garages, flats, hostels or sub-standard homes and are paying exorbitant rents or board and lodging charges? At the auction sale of building blocks held yesterday, did the Government receive an average price of £588? Does this represent an average increase of over £300? Does the increase indicate that rents, prices of homes and accommodation charges in Canberra are so high that they are causing grave economic worry to many young married people? Is this, unfortunately, true of many other cities throughout Australia? What is the attitude of the Government to a national bousing policy?
– I have read the press statements to which Senator Marriott has referred, relating to the waiting list for houses in Canberra. I am not prepared to go along with him when he says that many people in this city are living in garages or other sub-standard dwellings. On the contrary, I am of the opinion that the standard of housing in Canberra is one of the best in. Australia. It could well be that some people are faced with difficulties in this regard, but those difficulties are a product of the tremendous growth of this city. The housing requirements of the people of Canberra are making enormous demands on the resources of the Government. However, the Government is aware of the position that exists and has done whatever it could to encourage private organizations with responsibility in this field to make a contribution to the relief of the housing shortage.
Senator Marriott suggested that £588 was an extortionate charge for a building block. If that was not the word he used, that was the inference to be drawn from his remarks.
There has been an increase in the price of building blocks, but I do not think it is true to say that the present price is beyond the reach of most young married people. On a comparison with prices elsewhere, the price is certainly not exorbitant. I agree that building blocks in this city are made available on leasehold terms, not freehold terms, but the leases are such that an occupier has a substantial equity in the property. I believe it would be true to say that young couples in other parts of Australia would welcome an opportunity to buy for £588 building blocks in residential areas comparable to the residential areas of Canberra. Let me say finally that I am not so well informed on this matter as is the Minister for the Interior and that I will discuss the matter with him. If he wishes to add anything to what I have said, I will inform Senator Marriott accordingly.
– I wish to ask the Minister for National Development a question that arises from the interesting series of questions that was asked about the Blowering dam. My question arises particularly from that just asked by Senator Ormonde. Do I understand that a term of the Snowy Mountains agreement is that the New South Wales Government shall construct the Blowering dam? Am I right in saying that the Australian Loan Council, in deciding the loan programme for a year, works on the assumption that the Commonwealth Government will underwrite that programme and, if necessary, will appropriate a part of its revenues to support it? If the development of the Mumimbidgee section of the Snowy Mountains scheme, as outlined by the Leader of the Government this morning, means so much in the national interest, have we not reached the stage where it should be made a condition of the loan allocation to New South Wales that part of the allocation be devoted to the performance of that State’s obligation under the Snowy Mountains agreement to build the Blowering dam?
– The answer to the first question is that the New South Wales Government has a direct contractual obligation to build the Blowering dam. The time at which it is to be built is not set out in the agreement, but there is a general provision that the dam is to be built within a reasonable time, or words to that effect. The answer to the second question is that for years now, in order to maintain Australian development, the Commonwealth has adopted the unpopular course of supporting State loan programmes from moneys that it has raised by taxation. The answer to the third question is that the honorable senator’s proposal would be in direct opposition to the policy that this Government has adopted since it has been in office.
– I asked whether we have not now reached the stage where it should be considered.
– I would want a lot of notice of that question. As a government, we have said that there are two tiers of government in Australia - the State governments and the Commonwealth Government. The State governments accept responsibility for works and activities within their borders. Strongly as I feel about the Blowering dam, I would think hard before I said to any State government, “ You must do this “ or “ You must do that “.
– My question, which is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, is consequent upon the question asked by Senator Wright. Has the Commonwealth Government a contractual agreement with the State of South Australia in respect of rail standardization? Was the decision in the recent court case to the effect that the part of the agreement that was in doubt was that part which related to the time when the contract had to be put into effect.
– The answer to the question is, “ Yes “. As I understand the two matters, the circumstances are somewhat similar. The Commonwealth has agreed to assist in this rail standardization work, but it has no obligation as to time. The Commonwealth, in the Prime Minister’s recent letter to the South Australian Premier, said that its attitude was not a rejection of the proposal, but a deferment of it. I believe the circumstances are similar to those relating to another project which we have discussed extensively this morning.
– Similar in reverse?
– Yes. Do not forget, of course, that I at least was very firmly of the opinion that I was doing what the South Australian Premier and his government desired, namely, giving priority to the Chowilla dam and other works in South Australia.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of his explanation that the delay in the construction of a jet airport at Tullamarine - a project that has been advocated strongly by Victorian senators and members of the House of Representatives - is due to the inability of the Commonwealth Government to give the project high priority on its works programme, will the Minister examine the proposal put forward by a number of leading businessmen in Melbourne and supported by many Victorians that additional loan funds should be made available to Victoria to enable progress to be made on the project, which Victorians believe is vital to the future development of their State?
– Last night I said that finance was a big factor in determining what priority the Tullamarine airport was to have. I regret that at this point of time I cannot add anything to what I have said previously about the airport. I believe that I have said enough, both in answer to questions and in speaking on the estimates of the Department of Civil Aviation, to indicate to the honorable senator and the public generally that the Tullamarine airport is under pretty active consideration.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for National Development, arises from his reply to Senator Ridley. In endeavouring to carry out the wishes of the South Australian Government, how much has the Commonwealth Government voted for the construetion of the Chowilla dam in South Australia?
– No sum of money has yet been voted for this purpose, but the Commonwealth Government has told the Premiers that, although it has no legal obligation to do so, it is willing to find 25 per cent, of the cost of the Chowilla dam as a grant. That offer remains.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. It relates to the transfer of the administration of the former Dutch territory of West New Guinea to the United Nations authorities, which is now taking place. I refer to a number of press statements to the effect that the United Nations authorities are experiencing serious difficulty in effecting the transfer for various reasons, but principally because of a lack of skilled administrative and technical people to replace the Dutch staffs. Can the Minister tell the Senate to what extent the United Nations authorities are experiencing difficulties in making a reasonably effective transfer of administration from the Dutch authorities to its own authorities? If those difficulties are serious, and if this Government considers them to be serious, has it offered to assist the United Nations authorities by lending experienced personnel to the organization in order to achieve a harmonious transfer of administration?
– It is clear that the United Nations administration and the United Nations Organization itself have to bear the full responsibility for achieving a proper transfer of administration form the Dutch officials to the United Nations authorities. I have noticed the press reports to which the honorable senator referred. I have not seen any official confirmation of them. Even if those reports turned out to be true, the position still would be that the United Nations administrators on the spot would have the responsibility of approaching the acting Secretary-General, U Thant, or the United Nations, setting out their difficulties and asking the organization to supply administrators, if greater numbers were required, in the fields in which they were required. The United Nations would decide from which countries those administrators would be taken by the organization and sent to West New Guinea.
– I ask the Minister for National Development: Is it not true that the construction of the Blowering dam is really a national work rather than a State work? For example, will not a considerable part of the benefit of the construction flow to the State of South Australia, because of the part that the dam will play in the great Snowy Mountains scheme? Is it not a fact also that the State of New South Wales has requested the Commonwealth Government to construct this dam and indicated that the State of New South Wales is prepared to pay for the construction upon the basis of starting immediately to pay towards a sinking fund and the interest on moneys expended on the dam? Is it true that the Commonwealth Government will give no assistance at all to the State of New South Wales in this regard?
– In general terms, the answer to all the questions is, “ Yes “. What the honorable senator says is correct, but he does not go on to say that the Snowy Mountains scheme is the greatest single undertaking to which the Australian people have set their hands, and that they have done this upon the faith of arrangements between governments - that New South Wales and Victoria would take the electricity that was produced; that the Commonwealth would provide the finance for certain parts of it; that New South Wales would build the Blowering dam; and that Victoria would do works lower down, along the Murray. That is the whole foundation of the scheme. It is not right for New South Wales or Senator Murphy at this stage to say that the Commonwealth should come in and undertake the responsibility of New South Wales. This work has been going on for a long while. I have always made my position clear. I think that we have done well as a government to provide the tremendous sums of money that we have found for the Snowy Mountains scheme. I think that they total £196,000,000 over the past fourteen years. I have always said that our policy must be to push on with the Snowy Mountains scheme itself as quickly as we can, because the longer work of this magnitude is delayed the greater is its cost. The great difficulty is to provide its benefits on the best possible basis. We have reached a stage at which we have given New South Wales its water and its power. We now have very many millions of pounds invested in the preparatory part of the work that will give Victoria its water, and most obviously the correct business and equitable approach is to push on with the Murray part of the scheme so that it will be completed as quickly and as efficiently as was the Tumut end of it. It is not right for Senator Murphy to claim that the Commonwealth is in any way in default or in any way subject to criticism for not assisting New South Wales, because New South Wales had every opportunity to make provision for its responsibilities in this regard. Above all, every one of us wants to see the Snowy Mountains scheme completed efficiently and quickly. We do not want to halt it and use money to do something that New South Wales itself should have done.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it not a fact that this Parliament, at a cost of about £6,000, within the last two years re-floored King’s Hall with beautiful jarrah timber? Is it not a fact that that floor has now been damaged and disfigured out of recognition, and has lost most of its beauty, due to the wanton vandalism of visitors with steel stiletto heels? Would it not be regarded as a supreme example of destructive juvenile delinquency if a boy came in with a hammer and a steel stiletto and caused similar damage? Would a countryman in hobnail boots be allowed to cause such disfigurement? Will the Ministry, sharing its responsibility with the President and the Speaker, take immediate action to protect public property from the vandalism of this crazy and eccentric fashion?
– I have noted Senator Wright’s policy speech on this matter.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for Trade know that losses arising from shoplifting in Australian retail stores have reached a record figure of £15,000,000 a year? The Minister for Customs and Excise, being a retailer, might have a view on this matter. Does the Minister think that modern methods of displaying merchandise in retail stores has the effect of increasing shoplifting? Can anything be done to discuss with the retail traders of Australia methods of eliminating this obvious temptation to those persons who are inclined to engage in shoplifting?
– 1 am sorry to say that this is a matter not for the Commonwealth Government but for the State governments concerned.
– As a change of tonic waters may do some good, I direct this question to the Minister for National Development. In view of the fact that a number of years ago an inspection was made by the then Minister for National Development, now Lord Casey, of the Burdekin River, with a view to the possible building of a dam, and also in view of the fact that the Australian Labour Party in its election campaign, if I remember rightly, promised to build this dam if it were elected to office, has the Government given any consideration to building a dam on the Burdekin to enable further development of the area? As the attraction of more people to the north is a matter of very great urgency and a vital factor in the development of this country, would not such a dam, from a national point of view, take precedence in the Government’s mind, as it must have taken precedence in the Labour Party’s mind, over the building of the Blowering dam? Has the Government given any consideration to building the Burdekin dam, as a national project?
– I am certain that Senator Wood would not expect me to be so irresponsible as to support the proposals that the Labour Party might make in the policy speeches of its leaders. This is a matter of priorities. We are having discussions with the Queensland Government about developmental works. We would, I think, be largely guided by the Queensland Government as to priorities for these works.
– I preface a question, which I direct to the Minister for the Navy, by pointing out that the Commonwealth has some financial interest in the Newcastle floating dock, which is now fairly ancient. Have proper surveys of the dock been carried out? If not, will the Minister ensure that they are carried out? Has the Navy any plans for the replacement of the dock, which must, before long, go out of operation?
– As far as I know, the Navy has no connexion at all with any floating dock in Newcastle. If there is any Commonwealth Government connexion with it, this must be through some other department.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers: -
It is known that the nationality laws of some foreign countries do not provide for the automatic loss of nationality by its nationals upon their renouncing allegiance or acquiring another nationality.
Under our own law, an Australian citizen who, whilst outside Australia, by some voluntary and formal act, other than marriage, acquires the nationality or citizenship of another country, thereupon ceases to be an Australian citizen.
– I present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work: -
Modernization and expansion of the Darwin Hospital, Northern Territory.
The committee has recommended the erection of a new ward block, a new nurses home, alterations and additions to the building containing the casualty, outpatients and administration departments and work to increase the capacity of the boiler house, kitchen and electrical installations. Upon completion of the work proposed, the hospital will be equipped to provide the 348 beds needed by 1965 and to permit a nursing staff of 188 to be engaged.
The attention of honorable senators is directed to paragraphs 85 to 97 of the report where the committee has expressed its views about the need for air-conditioning in the trying Darwin climate, a topic on which we have laid stress in reporting on earlier proposals in Darwin. We believe the trends towards more extensive use of air-conditioning in Darwin should be recognized and we have recommended that the whole, rather than only part, of the new nurses home be air-conditioned. This would add approximately £95,000 to the estimated cost of £1,537,800 for the work as referred to the committee.
The committee has made some suggestions about the area of the hospital grounds and has noted the continued absence of an adopted town plan for the whole of Darwin. We believe this absence adds to the problem of developing hospital requirements in relation to the city. To meet the expected population of Darwin by 1970, another ward block and additions to the nurses home will be needed to increase the capacity of the hospital beds. This second stage was not included in the reference to the committee and no plans have been developed for it.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Air Navigation (Charges) Act 1952-1960.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill for an act to amend the Air Navigation (Charges) Act 1952-1960 for the purpose of securing an increase in the revenue derived from the various operators who make use of the facilities for air navigation provided, maintained and operated by the Commonwealth. It will be recalled that in the Treasurer’s Budget speech in 1960 the Government announced a policy of moving progressively towards full recovery of that portion of the cost of providing facilities which is properly attributable to civil aviation. We recognize that facilities for civil aviation are necessary for national development, and, of course, have defence value; but we must recognize also that the civil users of facilities are not yet contributing appropriately to the very large costs that are involved.
Last year we took the view that the airline industry was affected, both domestically and internationally, by a regression in traffic growth, and, therefore, we made no increase in air navigation charges. We did recognize that operators other than airline operators were still making only token payments, but decided that to increase these payments alone was hardly warranted. This year, however, it has been established that all operators are capable of absorbing an increase in charges.
It will also be recalled that last year Parliament approved an airlines agreement which had been executed by the Australian National Airlines Commission, Ansett Transport Industries Limited and the Commonwealth. This agreement was concluded so as to consolidate further the two-airline policy, and it recognized that for a twoairline system to progress and develop on a planned basis, it was necessary to establish a maximum rate of annual increase in air navigation charges. This rate of increase was limited to a maximum of 10 per cent, in any one year, and applies, of course, to Trans-Australia Airlines and to the Ansett Transport Industries airline subsidiaries. It does not limit the increase that may be required in the case of other operators, but obviously it does set a pattern in respect of the other domestic airlines.
The total commercial cost of providing air navigation facilities in 1961-62 exceeded £15,000,000. A proportion of the £15,000,000 in cost is certainly attributable to requirements of national development. but even if account is taken of receipts of £1,500,000 in aviation fuel tax, which, of course is paid only by .domestic operators, a recovery of £1,380,000 in air navigation charges in 1961-62 shows there is still a significant gap between costs and user payments. The amount of £1,380,000 in 1961-62 was made up of £758,000 from domestic airlines, £606,000 from international operators and £17,000 from the operators of light aircraft in the private, aerial work and charter categories. The greater part of the contribution from domestic airlines naturally came from T.A.A. and Ansett-A.N.A., while in the international field Qantas Empire Airways Limited paid approximately half of the sum of £606,000 paid by international operators. The contribution of £17,000 from the private, aerial work and charter operators represented payments in respect of more than 1,400 aircraft and demonstrates that these operators have been enjoying extremely low charges.
It will be observed that the bill continues the existing method of charging. Under the present system, the airlines pay a charge for each flight representing the product of the route rating and the aircraft unit charge. The scale of aircraft unit charges applying since the last review in 1960 is set out in the schedules to the Air Navigation (Charges) Act 1952-1960 and, broadly speaking, the scale varies in accordance with the all-up weight of the aircraft but increases more than proportionately with the weight. The route ratings are based on the nature of the facilities provided on the routes and are likewise prescribed in the schedule to the act.
The owners of private aircraft pay twice the unit charge for the aircraft in respect of each week or part of a week comprised in the period of registration of the aircraft. Owners of aerial work aircraft pay four times that charge, and owners of charter aircraft six times that charge.
The bill increases the charges payable by the holders of airline licences, including international airline licences, by 10 per cent, and this result is achieved by increasing the unit charge by 10 per cent, and leaving the route ratings unchanged. It should also be noted that it is proposed to add ten new flights to the table of flights, with appropriate factors, these being “ flights “ which were not previously covered in the table.
Registrations of light aircraft in Australia have been increasing at a remarkable rate over the past few years, and this is a most gratifying demonstration of the growing popularity of this type of equipment. Business houses are employing executive transport aircraft, charter operations have grown considerably, and there has been a remarkable growth in aerial work, particularly in aerial agriculture. Purely private flying has increased, and naturally flying training activity has grown in sympathy with all of this development. This has resulted, therefore, in a far greater demand for the use of air navigation facilities.
I might mention, in particular, that in 1961-62 the expenditure on search and rescue operations alone totalled £60,000 and that most of this was incurred in searches for light aircraft. Even if we ignored the cost of operating airports - and at most of the major cities one airport is provided virtually for the exclusive use of light aircraft - radio aids and meteorological services, the cost of search and rescue activities has been three times as much as the total payments in air navigation charges by private, aerial work and charter operators.
As an example of the small charges hitherto required of these operators, I might refer to a popular, light, singleengined aircraft, of an all-up weight of 2,000 lb., which sells at £8,000/ A private operator has paid for such an aircraft an annual air navigation charge of £5 17s.; in the aerial work category the charge has been £11 14s., and for charter operations, £17 lis. In price, this aircraft costs more than very expensive imported motor cars, but the air navigation charge payable by the owner has been considerably less than the usual motor registration fee payable by an owner of the most inexpensive motor vehicle. These very low charges are quite out of phase with the charges applying to airline aircraft, and more especially they bear little relationship to the use which is now being made of facilities.
In the case of private, aerial work and charter aircraft registered in Australia, it is clear that a 10 per cent, increase would not establish a proper relativity with airline payments, nor a proper base from which progressively to move towards full recovery of attributable costs. The charges specified in the Second Schedule, referring to these categories of aircraft, are, therefore, increased from twice, four times and six times the unit charge for private, aerial work and charter aircraft respectively, to six times, twelve times and eighteen times the unit charge for the respective categories. To exemplify the result of this, the new charges for the light, single-engined aircraft of an all-up weight of 2,000 lb., which I mentioned earlier, will be £19 6s. Id. for private operators, £38 12s. 2d. for aerial work operators and £57 18s. 3d. for charter operators. These are annual charges, and represent a more appropriate charge for the facilities which the operators use. The effect on a charter operator, who pays the highest rate, will be to increase his operating costs by no more than ls. per flying hour - in the circumstances, a not unreasonable increase, and certainly one that can be readily absorbed.
The Second Schedule of the act, which relates to the charges payable in respect of private, aerial work and charter aircraft, has been recast to take into account a recently adopted practice of my department of registering aircraft for periods in excess of one year. The amendments made to the Second Schedule, apart from the provisions increasing the amount of the charges payable, are drafting changes made for that reason.
It is proposed that the same scale of increase will apply to international operations into Australia by private, aerial work and charter aircraft registered in a foreign country. It will be appreciated that foreign aircraft, which are not airline aircraft, enter Australia in the great majority of cases in the course of charter flights. Such aircraft, in the main,, are large aircraft of the type employed in airline operations, and make a significant demand on facilities. The charges hitherto applying to these operations have been quite inappropriate, and the proposed amendment of the charges specified in the Third Schedule is, therefore, fully justified.
With these revised charges, I estimate that revenue will increase by £89,000 in 1962-63, and in a full year by £177,000. Total revenue, therefore, in 1962-63 should be £1,470,000, and £1,560,000 in a full year. The increased recovery is not great in itself, but it clearly should be gained. The industry as a whole is capable of absorbing the charges. I commend the bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That Government business take precedence of general business after 8 p.m. this sitting.
Debate resumed from 3rd October (vide page 649), on the following paper presented by Senator Paltridge -
Report of Chairman of Board of Accident Inquiry on accident which occurred on 30th November, 1961, near Sydney, New South Wales, to Viscount VH-TVC, operated by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
And on the motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin -
That the paper be printed.
– Despite some criticisms which I shall make later, I agree in the main with the approach of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) to this report. While there are facets of the report which can be read as critical of certain aspects of the Minister’s administration of the Department of Civil Aviation, it can be said that at least he has faced up to the position so far as this report is concerned. In the case of the major recommendation which he did not accept, he has given reasons which lay the matter open for reasonable debate.
I will disagree with the Minister’s decision, as I shall explain later. To get some information about various aspects of the crash and the report, I sought help from the Minister’s department and from people both inside and outside the industry. In fact, I spent two hours with the Director of Civil Aviation, and I understand my secretary spent an equivalent amount of time with the Director of Airways Operations in order that we might get the background information necessary for a proper picture. In addition, I spent a considerable time with other interested parties, and I should like to thank all those concerned for the assistance which they so readily gave.
Dealing with the crash and the report, the Opposition wants to take a constructive approach. Air safety transcends any partisan differences, and I should say that at least on this matter the Government and the Opposition should be working towards’ the same goal - that of safety. Now let us have a look at the circumstances of the crash. Let me recall the unhappy circumstances of VH-TVC’s last flight when it was under charter, as we all know, to Ansett- A.N.A. At 7.16 p.m. on 30th November last, the plane took off from Mascot en route to Canberra. After take-off, it circled and flew back over the drome. Five minutes after take-off it was at a height of 6,000 feet over the drome. Three minutes later, it failed to respond to a message from the tower. In the early morning of the next day, portion of the wreckage was found in Botany Bay. After the main wreckage had been recovered, a board of inquiry was set up, as required under the air navigationregulations, presided over by Mr. Justice Spicer, assisted by Captain C. A. Howard, a nominee of the Federation of Airline Pilots, Mr. D. B. Hudson, engineering manager of Qantas Empire Airways Limited, and Mr. H. A. Wills, of the Department of Supply. After hearing all the available evidence, Mr. Justice Spicer concluded -
Dealing with the causes of the upset leading to loss of control, His Honour said -
While in the absence of evidence, happenings within the aircraft itself remain possibilities, they are extremely unlikely explanations.
The examination of wreckage shows no features which would even arouse suspicion of malfunction of the aircraft or its instruments or its system. The most that can be said is that they remain in the realm of possibilities.
Continuing, His Honour said -
Upon the whole of the evidence I am of the opinion that weather conditions with turbulence and the possibility of vivid lightning interfering with vision constitute the most likely explanation of the initial departure of the aircraft from the flight path it was following a minute or two before the accident.
This was the same conclusion as that reached by the Department of Civil Aviation’s accident investigation panel. Having found that the probable cause of loss of control was extreme turbulence, His Honour then considered whether, in view of the weather conditions on that night, VH-TVC should have been given a clearance to take off at all, or along the path it did. I think it would be fair to summarize His Honour’s finding as being that air traffic controllers were concerned principally with aircraft separation and were not required to have regard to weather conditions.
When referring to the departure of VH-TVC, His Honour said-
It is quite clear that the route 244 was chosen for TVC without regard by him to weather conditions.
– Who is “him”?
– His Honour was referring to the air traffic controller. Expressing concern that weather conditions did not receive greater attention, His Honour said -
TVC was given quite precise instructions as to the course it was to take. In such a set of circumstances it seems to me of the utmost importance that aircraft should not be required to follow a precise path which may, when it is in relatively low altitudes, lead it into conditions in which extreme turbulence may be encountered. If it is impossible to say with reasonable certainty that such conditions will not be encountreed along that path, it seems to me that a clearance for that path is one which should not be given.
To remedy this situation, His Honour made the following four recommendations -
In the course of his speech, the Minister announced that he is implementing the recommendations relating to weather information, ground radar and the extension of these facilities to other airports.
In addition he is implementing the first part of the first recommendation requiring more precise definition of the duties of the approach controller. The recommendation he does not propose to implement is that requiring the approach controller, when thunderstorm activity is present, to designate a path which will not lead an aircraft into regions where severe turbulence may be encountered.
The Minister gave two reasons for his decision. The first was that there are no ground radar systems which would enable an air traffic controller to define with precision all the areas in which severe turbulence would be encountered, or the degree of turbulence in these areas. Secondly, the Minister said that it would shift the responsibility of a particular flight from the pilot in command to a ground-based controller. I shall deal with this second proposal first. The general practice and area of responsibility between the aircraft captain, or pilot, and ground controllers at the present time, as I understand it, are as follows: - If the responsible Department of Civil Aviation official is satisfied that conditions are such as to make flights hazardous, he has authority to forbid flights, close aerodromes, or close certain routes and runways. Generally, he uses this power only when measurable conditions exist, creating hazards such as limited visibility, low-cloud ceiling, &c. Some of us have had the experience of aerodromes being closed. Sometimes when coming into this city we have been required to stay up in the air until the fog has lifted. 1 am advised that there are occasions when aerodromes, and even whole routes, have been closed because of factors such as severe icing and boisterous conditions. This has been done on the basis of reports from other pilots.
So we see at the first glance that the departmental official does have power to prohibit flights. If he does not do so and gives a clearance, then it is still competent for the captain or pilot of the aircraft to refuse to make a flight if he considers conditions unsafe, or to request an alternative clearance. Therefore, in essence, the final responsibility for taking off, if a clearance is given, rests with the pilot himself. Will the difference in this respect be so different if His Honour’s suggestion is adopted? That is the only point of difference between the Opposition and the Minister on this report. If His Honour’s suggestion is adopted, the Air Traffic Controller will then prohibit a flight if he cannot designate an area free from turbulence. Should a clearance be given it will still remain with the pilot to accept that clearance, request an alternative one, or refuse to fly.
The Minister put forward one other argument in support of this particular aspect. He said -
All the representatives of the airlines considered that the adoption of this recommendation would result in the shifting of the- responsibility for a particular flight path from the pilot in command to the ground-based controller.
How absurd in this statement alongside the air pilot’s declaration that they favour the proposition! I heard what the Minister said in reply to a question asked by Senator Willesee in regard to a statement that was sent to a number of honorable senators - possibly all of them - from the Federation of Air Pilots. The federation said definitely that it wanted His Honour’s recommendation carried out in full. I admit that the Minister said that he had some evidence that satisfied him that he had all the people interested in the industry in favour of what the Government proposed to do. The letter to which I refer was sent, and received press publicity, after the Minister’s statement. I received a copy from the Federation of Air Pilots. I know also that a copy was sent to a certain newspaper but it did not see the light of day in that newspaper. If it had the federation would have contradicted it.
The fact is that at the moment the air pilots want His Honour’s recommendations agreed to in toto. When all is said and done, it is their necks as much as the passengers’ necks that are involved. This is purely a matter of safety and I hope that the Minister, in view of his latest statement, will re-consider the whole position. I repeat that this is not a case of Opposition versus Government at all. It is a matter of safety and concerns not only pilots in charge of aircraft. This country has been most fortunate for many years. Honorable senators who use aircraft so frequently get in and out of them without fear or trepidation because they are perfectly satisfied that everything is being done that can be done. However, we say that where an unfortunate happening has occurred and an inquiry has taken place, if the pilots - who are the key people in the industry - want something done that will not interfere with the industry in any way, their view should be accepted.
It is true, as the Minister will say later, that you cannot determine the precise place of turbulence. Surely it is a matter of common sense that we should interpret the words of His Honour, Mr. Justice Spicer, in the ordinary way. I think that they can be taken to mean, “ as far as is humanly possible”. I am just as entitled to put that interpretation of His Honour’s words as the Minister is entitled to his interpretation of them. If that interpretation is put on them, if a flight is held up for an hour, as happens now, because of poor visibility or low cloud, what does it matter if one crash is averted and lives are saved thereby.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting, I was dealing with the statement by the Minister that all those interested in this industry had agreed with his proposition. I directed attention to the fact that the air pilots had said that they favoured the recommendations of His Honour being adopted in toto. How can Trans-Australia Airlines say that would involve a fundamental shift in responsibility when the pilots demand that the shift be made? How can Ansett-A.N.A. say that when its pilots demand, a change? I should like to know whom these operators are speaking for. They cannot be speaking for the pilots, so they must be speaking either for themselves or - I say this with some respect - for the Government in this matter. What has happened seems to me to indicate that the Government has established such a degree of domination of the future well-being of these operators that it can rely on them to play the part it wants them to play at any time. In this matter, when making up my mind on the relative merits of the arguments, I prefer to trust the judgment of the pilots rather than to rely on the advice of supplicant airlines.
May I say something finally about the responsibility of aircraft pilots? What would be the position of pilots who, exercising their judgment, refused to fly because they considered the conditions to be hazardous? The likelihood is that only one in about twenty pilots would do that. I think it is fair to say that a pilot who exercised his judgment in this way on a number of occasions would be marked down by the organization that he flew for. It could say that he was too timid or that he was getting old. As His Honour said in the report, there comes a time when there is a need to protect a pilot from himself. I hope that the Minister will reconsider his decision on this matter. I think he should do so in view of the opinions expressed by people who have as much to lose as have passengers if anything happens to an aircraft.
Let me deal now with the most important reasons that the Minister gave for not accepting the board’s recommendations. Those reasons are, first, that no equipment is available which will define precisely areas of turbulence, and secondly, that no equipment is available which will reveal the precise degree of turbulence within such areas. Two separate considerations are involved. If areas and degrees of turbulence cannot be detected with 100 per cent, accuracy, does this mean that air traffic controllers cannot say with a great degree of certainty that a certain designated group will be free from turbulence? If they can, should air traffic controllers be responsible for choosing routes free from areas where, on the evidence available, there is likely to be severe turbulence? Let us deal with the first consideration. The Minister said -
There is no radar or other system presently available or in prospect which will detect all turbulence. Moreover, there is no equipment in existence which will measure exactly the degree of turbulence likely to be encountered in any thunderstorm area showing on a radar screen.
To insist on 100 per cent, certainty is, to my mind, a quibble. Safety is too important a matter to quibble over. We do not want to know precise areas of turbulence or precise degrees of turbulence. What we want to know are the areas where there is likely to be dangerous turbulence.
– Who are “ we “?
– I am leading the debate for the Opposition. This is something that members of the Opposition and, I believe, the people as a whole want to know.
– Could you remind me of the terms of the recommendation that has been rejected by the Government?
– They are as follows: -
The functions of the Approach Controller in relation to hazardous conditions likely to be encountered by an aircraft in the vicinity of the Sydney airport require, I think, more precise definition. In particular, when thunderstorm activity is present at or in the vicinity of the airport he should be responsible for determining whether a departure path designated for an aircraft is not such as to lead the aircraft into regions where severe turbulence may be encountered.
The question we must ask ourselves is: Can radar show dangerous turbulence? I again thank the Department of Civil Aviation for allowing me to scrutinize the book, “ The Thunderstorm “, produced by the United States Department of Commerce. In that book there are reported the results of an investigation into the phenomena of thunderstorms. Specially equipped aircraft flew into thunderstorms to find out what they would encounter and at the same time ground radar took readings of the storms. After all information was collated, the following conclusions were drawn: -
The greatest turbulence in the thunderstorm is found to be associated with the greatest water concentrations. Radar is without doubt one of the best instrument aids to flying. It was found that most of the turbulence in the storms was delineated by the radar echo presented on the scope of the control radar on the ground.
These conclusions were supported by the evidence given by expert witnesses before the board of inquiry. Mr. J. N. McCrae, in answer to questions, indicated that weather radar, taken in conjunction with observations and other information which could be made available, could indicate areas where there was likely to be severe turbulence. This information is supported by a book entitled “ Radar Meteorology “, written by Louis J. Battan and published by the University of Chicago Press in 1959. On page 96 of the book the author points out that precipitation echoes from strong convective clouds usually are easily distinguished from other echoes and, in general, it is usually safe to assume that an echo whose top has grown rapidly to over 25,000 or 30,000 feet is or will shortly become a thunderstorm. As a final authoritative opinion, I quote the following statement by Mr. David Atlas, a world authority on the use of radar in weather studies, from the “Journal of Meteorology”, volume 16, of February, 1959:-
Long wave radars may now make it feasible to observe bases and tops of many clouds whose particle reflectivities are not sufficient to be detected by the most sensitive 1-cm. wave-length system.
It is quite clear that His Honour, when he made his recommendation about air traffic controllers designating freedom from turbulence, had in mind the phrase “ so far as can reasonably be determined “. In my opinion the Minister must not be deterred from implementing the spirit of the recommendation because he disagrees with His Honour over the meaning of a phrase. With great respect I say that is out of keeping with his approach to this report.
The question is: Should air traffic controllers be given the responsibility of determining flights free from dangerous turbulence? In arguing against making air traffic controllers responsible for that, the Minister said -
It is the unanimous opinion of the industry that such a responsibility could not reasonably be placed on air traffic control staff, or alternatively on the airline operators or the pilots.
Who would have the most to lose? This is what the pilots say -
The federation has consistently indicated that the recommendation could be met in a practical way by the approach controller, using all available information, exercising authority in and being responsible for closing departure tracks on radar evidence or reports of severe turbulence and leaving open for traffic those on which no evidence or reports of severe turbulence existed.
I believe that that is reasonable approach to the problem. Air traffic controllers have available to them certain services that are not available to pilots. They are in the best position to assess safe take-off paths. At present they can tell pilots within a 30-mile radius of an aerodrome to follow a designated path.
Air traffic controllers have access to uptodate normal weather information. If I remember correctly, the Minister said that he intended to improve the information that is available. That puts air traffic controllers in a better position than they were in before. Secondly, when thunderstorms or adverse weather conditions are present they have special meteorological watches. Thirdly, they have a meteorological officer present in the tower plotting the path of a storm. Fourthly, they have access to all reports from pilots in the vicinity. Pilots who are taking off have not the time to take detailed notice of weather reports from other pilots. Fifthly, if the apparatus is supplied as I believe it should be supplied, the air traffic controller in the tower has a total radar picture of the area.
In those circumstances I do not see how it is possible to say that the pilot can be better informed than the air traffic controller is. From what I have been told I gather that air traffic controllers already take the weather into account, although Mr. Justice Spicer said that in connexion with this unfortunate accident the controllers did not give sufficient importance to it. I do not say for a moment that those are his exact words, but that is a fair interpretation of what he said. If air traffic controllers take the weather into account at present, why should they not accept the responsibility for doing what they already do?
The main difference between the viewpoints of the Minister and the Opposition is this: The Opposition takes the view that if, on the basis of radar and other observation reports, it can be said with reasonable certainty that a particular area is likely to be an area of severe turbulence, it should be the responsibility of the air traffic controller to divert aircraft around that area and along routes where there is no evidence that severe turbulence exists. The Minister, argues that, because it is not possible to give a 100 per cent, guarantee that turbulence will not be found along a designated path, the air traffic controller should not have any such responsibility. Quite candidly, I believe that that is a remarkable attitude. I would have thought that the Minister would have preferred to take every possible precaution to guarantee safety and would not have hesitated to ask his officers to shoulder such responsibilities merely because 100 per cent, safety could not be guaranteed.
I hope that the Minister will accept the criticisms that 1 have made as being designed solely to improve air safety. I urge the Minister very sincerely to give a second thought to this matter. I believe that he is just as anxious about air safety as I am or any other person inside or outside this chamber is. The air traffic controllers now have this power. I want them to exercise it. I do not want the Minister to place the responsibility on the pilot because he is liable to be hamstrung by his employers. As we all know, only the fittest and best airline operators survive. Even if the air traffic controller says to a pilot, “ You can go “, he still has the right to say, “ No, it is a bit too rough outside “. I assume that the Minister has read the report as closely as I have. I have spent a lot of time on it. He will have seen in the report that certain pilots said that at the relevant time the weather was pretty rough. One pilot is alleged to have said, “ You can say that again “.
As I said at the outset, this is not a party political matter. All of us fly, and because this is a wonderful country for flying we have had very few accidents. We hope that we do not have any more, but I suppose that that is hoping for too much. The department has taken great care to ensure that all aircraft are as they ought to be. 1 give the Director-General of Civil Aviation and the department all the praise that the Minister would give them. They have done a good job, but why should we not give this proposal a trial? Why place the responsibility on the pilot? If I were conducting an airline, I would want the pilots to fly. They are game and daring men.
The department proposes to spend £400,000 upon additional safety measures. What does it matter if the cost is greater, as long as it results in the saving of the lives of air crews and passengers? I hope that the Minister will give the matter a second thought, irrespective of what may have been said by the pilots. When all is said and done, they are in the box seat. I do not wish to detract from them at all and I do not want the Minister to do so. I do not want to place any extra burden on air traffic controllers, but I ask that they should exercise the power that they already have, and that the Minister should help them to do so by supplying all the aids that science can provide.
I hope that the Minister will take what I say now in the spirit in which it is said. Some time ago we had a very big debate on another important matter concerning this department. Senators on both sides spoke, and then the Minister rose and moved the gag. I acknowledge that he has the right to speak last, but every effort should be made in this instance to give an opportunity of speaking to every one who wants to state a case. I say finally that I have tried - I hope successfully - to keep partisan considerations out of this discussion. I think that the subject is above that. The Minister did that quite successfully in his statement. I hope that he will give a second thought to the proposal that I have put. I do not think that to adopt it would adversely affect him or the departmental officers who advise him, and I believe that it would be in the best interests of civil aviation in this country.
.- Like, I suppose, all honorable senators and most people outside the Parliament, I have a great deal of interest in the events that led to the wrecking of the Viscount aircraft which we are now considering. Before I embark upon an examination of the events described in the statement of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), I should like to express my personal sympathy for the relatives of the crew and passengers of the aircraft involved in the disaster.
When the Parliament passed the Air Navigation Act and the various amendments to that act, it took particular care to insert in the legislation provisions whereby accidents relating to air traffic would be subject to the scrutiny of a board. In this instance, the Minister appointed a board, which has now made a report. It is interesting to those honorable senators who have read the report to notice that the chairman of the board was a distinguished ex-senator, who sat in this chamber for a great many years, who was a distinguished Queen’s Counsel, and is now an eminent judge. The pattern of his intrusions into debates in the Senate showed that he was a man who was trained in the assessment of evidence, and whose mind was naturally inclined towards a precise and most stringent scrutiny of matters that came before him, either in his administration or in the practice of the law. Certainly an examination of the report which is available to us indicates the dispassionate care in the sifting of evidence that one would expect from this eminent judge Mr. Justice Spicer.
Before I go on to make some particular observations, I should like, if I may, to direct attention to two remarks that have been made in the Senate in the past 48 hours, one by the Minister himself and one by Senator O’Byrne, in relation to the claim that we have probably the best accident record of all countries in which there is a fairly high density of civil air traffic. We all ought to be grateful to acknowledge that that claim is correct. But the accident we are now considering indicates, it seems to me, that we must have regard to whether this record is due to the excellent conditions that are available for flying or whether in reality the system of control exercised over civil aviation here is as good as it might be. My own opinion at the present moment is, and some of the statements in the report lead me to believe, that our high safety record is due in great degree to the good conditions under which flying is conducted.
I was interested not only in the report, but also in the ministerial statement. The
Department of Civil Aviation is extraordinarily lucky, and Australians generally are lucky, that the department has a strong and able Minister to administer it, particularly in relation to policies for the conduct of civil airlines. I want to make this point: A pretty strong and able Minister is required to control a department such as the Department of Civil Aviation. He faces problems such as those in which the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) may find himself involved. This is because there are many experts down below. I do not think that anything displeases members of the medical profession more than to have a lay Minister telling them what to do. That is equally true of airmen. I have had a great deal of experience of them. They resent the intrusion of a person who might be described as a layman. These professional people surround the administration of their field of activity - in this instance the flying of aircraft - with a great deal of what, during the war, we used to call black magic, and they tend to resist the intrusion of lay minds, and certainly of Ministers. They tend to resent the intrusion, of Parliament into matters such as the technical control of flying.
– They do not like the chair-borne division.
– That is right. As the honorable and gallant senator, who flew for many years during the war in very adverse conditions, expresses the position so succinctly, they tend to dislike the intrusion of the chair-borne division. I suppose that, at the present moment, I am in that category. From an examination of the report of the chairman of the board, I am left with the impression that he deliberately set about stripping away all sorts of extraneous matters in his determination to arrive at a judgment as to how and why this aircraft was wrecked and these lives were lost. I feel it is my duty to discuss, in as brief and undramatic a way as possible, what the chairman of the board really said in the report that he presented to the Minister. First, I was grateful to discover that he had given absolution to the pilot. In my experience in these matters, in relation to either aircraft accidents or shipping disasters, it is always the captain or the pilot in command who ends up as the person to be blamed. I am deliberately introducing that aspect at this stage because I propose to deal with it in a few moments. That is the fundamental philosophy in relation to the command structure of an aircraft, which the Minister mentioned in his statement. I might add, not in any cynical way, that very often the captain of a ship is dead when the marine court of inquiry gets round to dealing with the incident in which his ship was involved, and in some cases commanders of aircraft are in the same position.
If honorable senators have read the report they will realize that it begins with a factual account of the procedure to be followed by a pilot who is preparing to take an aircraft into the air. He goes along and is briefed as to the weather en route. All kinds of calculations are made as to whether the aircraft is properly loaded with fuel, whether it has been checked, and so on. The evidence given during the inquiry indicates that those calculations were made somewhere between 6 o’clock and 6.30, when Captain Lindsay went to the appropriate area at Kingsford-Smith airport and obtained the briefing that would enable him to take the aircraft on its designated flight to Canberra. He was also given a description of the weather. A new weather pattern seemed to commence somewhere about 3 o’clock. He was brought right up to date on the weather between 6 o’clock and 6.30. He obviously noted the weather. The briefing officer said, in relation to the weather, “You had better check the weather before you take off “. I assume that the captain of the aircraft made a note, either in his mind or in his notebook, that he would ask for further weather information at that time.
At 7.16 p.m., as Senator Kennelly mentioned, the pilot was about to take off. While he was sitting in the aircraft at the end of the airstrip he was given a deviation from the flight track or flight path, or whatever the technical expression is, on which he had previously been briefed. It was assumed by the distinguished chairman of the board that the pilot may have heard reports from incoming airmen during the period between half-past six and 7.16 which indicated a great deterioration of the weather in the Sydney area, including the airport area. In fact, if honorable senators read the report they will see that one of the incoming pilots had described the weather as the worst he had ever experienced as a captain or co-pilot of an airliner. That, of course, is borne out by other evidence from untrained observers which indicated that there was indeed very heavy turbulence in the vicinity of the Sydney airport. When Captain Lindsay was sitting in the aircraft at the end of the airstrip and about to take off, he was given a deviation route in order to make room for, I think, two other aircraft which were coming in. With that, I have no argument whatsoever.
I hope I shall be able to demonstrate that this concept which the Minister has described as the fundamental philosophy of the pilot or commander in charge of an aircraft is perfectly valid, because it is based on human experience in other transport media. For example, we all know perfectly well that amongst the people of our race who have been seamen for centuries there has grown up a great volume of admiralty law, which has been evolved by decisions of the courts over literally hundreds of years, regarding the responsibilities of a commander. The situation of the pilot of the aircraft, who momentarily was seated in the aircraft at the end of the air strip, is analogous, I think, to the situation in which the captain of a ship finds himself in Sydney Harbour. He receives authority from the harbourmaster to proceed to sea. Under the rules which govern shipping on Sydney Harbour, a pilot is compulsory. The ship takes a pilot on board and proceeds down the harbour. While that pilot, so called, is on the ship, he does not in any way usurp the authority of the commander of the ship. He is there only as an adviser. Even if the pilot puts the ship on the Sow and Pigs at the entrance to Sydney Harbour, the fact that the ship goes on the reef is not the fault of the pilot but the responsibility of the captain, because the captain cannot be discharged from his responsibility as commander of the ship.
It is also true - and this is an interesting relationship which I shall try to make clear to the Senate in a moment - that, although the ship was going down the harbour with a pilot on board, the captain would take every possible precaution to see that his own mind was clearly informed on happenings while the ship was proceeding down the harbour. There would be a second officer and a third officer in either wing of the bridge watching the bearings. There would be a radar operator using the radar scanner. There would be another officer or petty officer watching the depth indicator. As the ship slowly proceeded down the harbour at 4 or 5 or 10 knots, or whatever is the designated speed for a vessel proceeding down Sydney Harbour-
– It is 6 knots.
– As the ship proceeded at 6 knots, all that information would be filtering through the mind of the captain or commander of the ship. He would therefore be in a position at any moment to form a judgment of happenings that were likely to occur and to anticipate them. He would not in any way shift responsibility on to any one else’s shoulders, even if the inclination to do so existed. The responsibility is fixed on the master of the ship, and he takes all the measures by which he may retain that responsibility without having it affected.
When the ship approached the entrance to the harbour a fog might roll in. The Maritime Services Board might order the ship not to proceed to sea. It might close the harbour for various reasons. The captain of the ship would perhaps take it to the Quarantine Station anchorage. If the harbour is closed, no option is left to the commander but to take the ship to the designated anchorage. However, let us presume that the harbour is not closed and that the captain takes his ship through the Heads at the entrance to Sydney Harbour, drops the pilot and proceeds to sea. Let us also assume that bad weather, which has not been forecast, comes up. Again, the responsibility of the commander of the ship is not affected. When he gets to sea he has all kinds of methods of assessing the problem. Of course, the ship will be travelling slowly. Its speed will be nothing like that of an aircraft.
The captain has ample time to make up his mind. He has been trained in the ageold lore of the sea. In addition, he has the advantage of great technical resources, some of which are supplied by the nation and some by international agreement. Radar is one of those resources, although I think that most seamen would regard it only as an aid to navigation and not as a means of navigation. The situation of the unfortunate Captain Lindsay, or of any other airline pilot in circumstances such as those which existed in Sydney on the night in question, or which may exist again, as Senator Kennelly has pointed out, was not quite analogous to the situation of the ship’s captain to which I have referred. Yet the custom and the philosophy of command are based on the kind of situation that I have described, in relation to a ship proceeding down Sydney Harbour.
Let us return to the situation in which the pilot of the aircraft was sitting in the aircraft at the end of the airstrip. There was thunder, lightning and rain. We have all been through this experience at some time or other as passengers on aircraft. Perhaps the aircraft was shaking in the gusts of wind and spray was flying from the propellor tips. In such circumstances, people wonder what it will be like when the aircraft gets into the air. If they are like me, they will be biting their thumbnails or, perhaps, as I am reminded, feeling butterflies in the stomach. There is almost a majestic or terrifying finality about this report. In my mind, there is a great drama in it. It is something that the people of old would have understood because they believed in fate. Here, we have a situation in which the captain and co-pilot, the other members of the crew and the passengers were seated in the aircraft waiting to meet a destiny from which there was at that moment no escape. They faced annihilation.
The report makes it quite clear that the pilot, shall we say, lost control although that is canvassed for the moment. I was sorry to see the Minister’s statement con.jecturally that this might have occurred. There was some opinion that the pilot had lost control. The real fact, as indicated by the chairmain’s report, was that the pilot had control wrested completely out of his hands by this fantastic combination of turbulence.
The question is: Can turbulence as described in the report be ascertained? Senator Kennelly said - and I agree with him according to the information given to me - that radar at that time was capable of picking up thunderstorm turbulence provided it was in association with a good deal of water. I have a feeling that perhaps the Department of Civil Aviation was waiting for some version of radar which might be able to handle the situation much more efficiently than the radar existing at that time, in view of the fact that the airlines operating on Australian domestic routes would be involved in power jet flying.
With power jet flying the problems associated with the wreckage of this Viscount in Botany Bay will be increased tenfold. For example, if you are driving a car along a road at 30 miles an hour and hit an invert filled with water, the car will merely give a roll, but if you are doing 70 miles an hour and hit an invert full of water you are lucky to escape with your life. In relation to aircraft coming in to land or taking off, this problem of turbulence will produce effects of enormous concern to the Department of Civil Aviation, to the Ministry and perhaps to me as an ordinary passenger because in such circumstances an aircraft hits this turbulence at far greater speed than the speed of the Viscount when it hit the turbulence in the vicinity of Botany Bay.
I agree with the statement of the Department of Civil Aviation and the Minister in relation to radar, because wet turbulence such as brought this aircraft to disaster near Sydney may be discernible on the radar, but dry air turbulence, I understand, cannot possibly be detected on any sort of radar whether installed in the nose of the aircraft or on the ground. It may be that in four years’ time we will be trying to find a meteorological solution of this problem and the Department of Civil Aviation will be involved in this. That is why I disagree with Senator Kennelly. This problem of air transport is not static. You cannot draw a line at one stage and say a solution has been reached in the management of air transport. This is a problem which is constantly changing because the dynamics of the industry are constantly changing with the fast expansion of techniques in air transport.
I understand - and the Minister may correct me if I am wrong - that a great and powerful jet stream runs from Perth to eastern Australia at a height of 30,000 feet. New types of aircraft to be introduced will travel at 400 to 500 knots and may fly at 30,000 feet. Therefore, we will have a situation where these high speed aircraft, travelling much faster than the Viscount, will hit dry air turbulence with results that cannot be foreseen.
That leads me to another matter which concerns me, and that is the division of responsibility between the Department of Civil Aviation and the Department of the Interior in relation to the provision of weather information. The provision of this weather information is related directly to the unfortunate Captain Lindsay sitting at the end of the runway at Sydney airport at 7.16 p.m. Is is obvious - and I think the Senate will agree with me - that the justification of the philosophy of the pilot or the captain in command can be sustained only on the basis that the fullest information is available to him right to the moment that the aircraft takes off, and when he can make an assessed decision whether it is safe to take off or not.
The facts are that the pilot was not in a position to make a firm decision in relation to this fundamental philosophy that the captain in command is finally answerable for his actions, because I believe the information was not in his hands at takeoff. That is clear and conclusive from the chairman’s report. This is the point at issue which exists between Senator Kennelly, myself and the Minister, and certainly between the Minister and the Australian Federation of Air Pilots. I remind the Senate that the chairman stated in his recommendations at page 51 of the report -
The functions of the Approach Controller in relation to hazardous conditions likely to be encountered by an aircraft in the vicinity of Sydney airport-
And Senator Kennelly quoted these words - require, I think, more precise definition. In particular when thunderstorm activity is present at or in the vicinity of the airport he should be responsible for determining whether a departure path designated for an aircraft is not such as to lead the aircraft into regions where severe turbulence may be encountered.
This is a matter which has a fundamental philosophy. This applies to the captain of a ship who has taken his ship through the Sydney Heads and gone to sea. At present it has been assumed, and is provided by regulation of the Department of Civil Aviation, that the ground controller only has rights in relation to closing the airport and not in relation to matters that exist in the aircraft and whether it is capable of landing or taking off. Once the aircraft is in the air, the ground controller has no control over the pilot except perhaps to divert him for the needs of traffic, but not in relation to weather. Therefore, the Minister has stated on the. advice of his officers that this fundamental responsibility of the commander of the aircraft should not be vitiated in any way whatever. With that I agree, provided, as 1 mentioned, the man is capable of assessing the situation on the information he has obtained right up to the moment of take-off.
There is a disagreement which Senator Kennelly stated, between the Australian Federation of Air Pilots, the Minister and the airline operators. I believe this applies also to the air traffic control officers association, which feels that its members should not be saddled with this responsibility. The opinion of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots in relation to the recommendation I have just cited is expressed in this way -
The Federation believes the true meaning of the recommendation is not that placed upon it by the Air Traffic Control Officers’ Association and other sections of the industry, but it believes the word “ determine “, contained in the recommendation, means “ assess having regard to all available information “. This meaning has been confirmed by legal advice obtained by the Federation.
The federation supports in full this understanding of that recommendation. I do not wish to say any more, but will conclude by suggesting most humbly to the Minister that from my reading of the comments of the chairman, there seems to be a lack of formalism in the rules relating to communication over the air between the air traffic control officers. My experience in war - and 1 am sure it has been the experience of everybody else who served - has been that unless there is a formal system by which communication is maintained between persons concerned in relation to danger, and unless there is a formal mode of expression in which information is relayed, there tends to be lack of discipline, and that from this lack of discipline disaster inevitably ensues. It seems to me that there is enough evidence in the report of the distinguished chairman to indicate that there is a substantial lack of formalism in ground-to-air communications which I think can lead to misunderstandings of one form or another and which eventually, with the increased speed of aircraft can lead to disaster. After all, we have a formal method of communication between ourselves in this Parliament, and I think it will be agreed that if we did not have our Standing Orders, which represent our formal method: of communication between ourselves, the Parliament would tend to become even more chaotic than it does from time to time.
I thank honorable senators for the attention they have given to what I have had to say, and I hope that what has been said by me and Senator Kennelly, and what will be said by others will be borne in mind by the department as an indication that Parliament takes a keen interest in administrative events which occur in departments whose power has been conferred by statute.
.- I should like to congratulate Senator Kennelly and Senator Cormack upon the knowledgable, dispassionate and constructive contributions they have made to this most important debate. The subject we are debating following the presentation by the Minister of the findings of the board of inquiry under the chairmanship of His Honour Mr. Justice Spicer stirred within us all a feeling of great sadness at the loss of the crew and passengers of the aircraft in question. I am sure that every one throughout Australia feels that the people who were lost in that tragic crash which led to an inquiry were instrumental in making a great contribution which will constitute a milestone in the attainment of the highest possible limits that humans can reach in ensuring the safety of air travel.
It has been said that the only way to eliminate aircraft accidents completely is for the aircraft to remain on the ground. When we look at some features of the report we cannot help but feel that they must give the officers of the Department of Civil Aviation reason for a deep sense of satisfaction at the thought that those who were chosen as members of the board of inquiry were able to find, after meticulous examination of available evidence, that the standard of administration of the regulations controlling this flight was of the highest order and that every required precaution was taken against the conditions existing at the airport at the time.
The board of inquiry found that the aircraft was operating under a current certificate of airworthiness and registration and was loaded within permissible limits. Certainly those are basic requirements, but it is of extreme importance that the regulations governing those matters be observed, and the board of inquiry found that they were observed meticulously on this occasion. The board also found that the pilot and first officer were properly licensed, trained and competent officers. That is a wonderful tribute to the men themselves and to the levels and standards that have been achieved by the men who fly our aircraft. The board found that the evidence indicated that both these officers were in good health and that when the flight commenced they were fully capable of performing their functions, thereby indicating that that air safety requirement - the health of those who fly our aircraft shall be good - was observed and that the health of the crew was of the highest standard at the time of this tragic accident. The board also found that all airways and airport facilities pertinent to the flight were functioning correctly. 1 feel that this finding will prove of great value in that, following upon the report under discussion, there will be a tightening up and a new approach to this aspect of air flight. The board also found that the aircraft was properly serviced and maintained and in a fit and proper condition for the flight, and that all the evidence indicated that the aircraft followed the flight path designated for it. Here again, I shall have some comment to make later. The board found that there was no evidence of any material, structural or systems defects having existed in .the aircraft or its engines prior to the accident, and that any damage or abnormalities in evidence during the examination of the wreckage could be attributed either to inflight break-up or impact with the ground or water. It also found that there was no evidence of fire, explosion or lightning strike which impaired the structural integrity or the safe operation of the aircraft.
There is a whole list of findings by this board, all indicating that the standards of safety and precautionary regulations governing flying in Australia are as high as any in the world. Indeed, I go so far as to say that our standards could even be higher than those of other parts of the world because the extra services given throughout our Department of Civil Aviation and our aerodromes cannot be equalled by any other airports in the world.
After the positive findings by the board that in every aspect examined by it the correct action was taken, let us examine the chain of circumstances existing at the time of the accident. We must admit that it was a very rough night. We must also admit that every one of us who has travelled by aircraft has flown through turbulent weather, and I thought that for the purpose of the record I might relate an experience described very carefully by Captain McDonell of a flight made by him from Sydney to Adelaide in January, 1960. I do this because I had a similar experience in turbulence in England in 1941 and it has been most interesting to me to find for the first time since then another opinion of what can happen in conditions of severe turbulence. Captain McDonell said -
I was involved in an unusual meteorological condition on a flight in a Vickers Viscount from Adelaide to Sydney on the afternoon of 3 January 1960.
On the morning flight from Sydney to Adelaide the conditions were broken cumulus base about 12,000 feet, with slight turbulence below the cloud on descent into Adelaide and smooth conditions above the cloud. From Hay to Adelaide surface temperatures were very high. Some large cumulus was observed in the distance south of the track.
For the return flight with an all-up weight of 59,000 lb. and ISA plus 15° C we planned to reach a cruising height of 19,000 feet about 150 miles out of Adelaide where the forecast indicated Cu and Cb which could be dodged at 19,000 to 20,000 feet.
We departed Adelaide at 6.30 p.m. local time and 90 miles out were climbing at 16,500 feet through broken Cu base 15,000 feet when seat bells were fastened as isolated heavy Cu were observed ahead. No turbulence had been experienced above 5,000 feet prior to this.
Without warning and clear of cloud we struck severe turbulence which took us up an estimated 2,000 feet with an increase in air speed from 1S5 to 185 knots. During this ascent we passed into Cu cloud when we were subjected to a downdraft of extreme violence causing loss of control.
The minutes which followed were incredible. The aircraft tumbled nose down into an outside loop of considerable violence. Considerable negative “g” resulted- “ g “ is the gravitational pull. Captain McDonell continued - as might be expected in the circumstances. The interior fittings of the aircraft, galley appointments, &c, were smashed to pieces and, for some eight seconds, I observed an oxygen bottle from under my seat floating in front of my eyes.
During this dive we were in and out of cloud and the air speed remained at 200 knots while thousands of feet were lost. The aircraft would not respond to maximum travel of the control column in any direction and I opened the power to maximum without any change of response. We eventually got the aircraft under control about 8,000 feet, after being subjected to this incredible battering for about four minutes.
We continued on to Sydney at 7,000 feet with a reduced air speed encountering some thunderstorms after passing Mildura. These were like mill ponds compared with what we had been through.
– From what are you reading?
– I am reading from the evidence submitted to the board by Captain McDonell. It indicates the nature of turbulence in one particular instance on a particular flight. We must differentiate between turbulence in clear weather, turbulence inside cumulo-nimbus cloud with high moisture content, a similar cloud with medium moisture content, an up-draught, a down-draught, vortexes which occur in the centre of clouds, and all the other factors which happen in each individual cloud in a different way. There is no general pattern, although experience would show that updraught, down-draught, cloud formation, moisture content and heights of the clouds, as well as other factors, can follow a pattern. You can never define turbulence as being the same in any two clouds. Each cloud has its own individual formation. Therefore you cannot have a measuring method whereby you can say that one cloud will give turbulence of the nature that an aircraft is not designed to bear, that the turbulence in another cloud will be safe and that in another there will be extreme turbulence experienced and unpleasant flying conditions. In my view it is beyond the present capacity of the human or mechanical element to define such turbulence.
– In other words, you cannot measure turbulence?
– You cannot measure turbulence.
– Why cannot you add two judgments as an aid to one another?
– I will deal with that later. I am trying to indicate that the factors that are predictable in flying are covered by the various air navigation regulations. In the field of turbulence the variety is such that we can only surmise the degree of turbulence which exists in each cloud formation.
I have developed this argument because the board in its findings said -
The functions of the Approach Controller in relation to hazardous conditions likely to be encountered by an aircraft in the vicinity of the Sydney airport require, I think, more precise definition.
I think that is quite reasonable. The functions of this officer do require more precise definition. The board continued -
In particular when thunderstorm activity is present at or in the vicinity of the airport he should be responsible for determining a departure path designated for an aircraft is not such as to lead the aircraft into regions where severe turbulence may be encountered. “ Determining “ is the operational word. He may have to give an opinion. He may have to decide that an aircraft should not take off. All the time other factors have to be given consideration. I believe that the final prerogative of making the decision should remain with the captain of the aircraft as it does with the captain of a ship at sea. Men who go to the sea in ships have experienced hazards over the years. They have developed methods of combating hazards. The same applies to the men who go into the air in aircraft. To take away the final prerogative of the pilot would be to take away that elasticity of decision that is absolutely essential. The pilot must make decisions on the spot and under the circumstances that exist at the moment.
Any one of us could be driving along the road in a motor-car with the sun shining brightly. A man may be travelling at 45 miles an hour and come to a bend in the road. On the shady side of a hill on which the sun is not shining there may be ice on the road. The car leaves the road. Later on people may be asked why the car was found down in the gully. They would say that it was a sunny day and that the road was in good order. By the time the car was found the sun had melted the ice on the road. Only the driver of that car would know the circumstances of the road at the time. Only he could make a decision. If the man on the ground is to accept the responsibility for closing an air route he would always act with a margin of safety.
I come now to another important point. I think it has to be considered as a result of the board’s report, as it does affect the future policy of the Department of Civil Aviation. The influence that commercial airlines exercise to-day is very powerful. They have schedules to fulfil. The habits of the public are altering to a large extent. If we miss an aircraft we may be three weeks walking to where we want to go. Our daily plans are such that we make arrangements to-day which we would not have dreamt making 25 years ago. If an aircraft is late in taking off or if a flight is cancelled, we wonder what the airline is doing and we ask why it cannot operate its services more efficiently. The endeavour of every airline is to operate its aircraft in accordance with schedules prepared months previously for the convenience of passengers.
If it were left to the pilots to decide whether they should fly in turbulence of varing degrees, many difficulties would arise. Perhaps one pilot would say, “I know that the weather is rough and that this is a bad night, but I will take off because I want to make this flight as scheduled “. He would decide that the weather conditions warranted a cancellation of his flight but would in fact make the flight because he thought that a competitor would make a similar flight. If one pilot decided, despite turbulent conditions, to make a scheduled flight and eventually landed safely, and another pilot, scheduled to make a similar flight, decided, in his wisdom, not to fly, that second pilot would be put into a difficult position. The managing director of his company would say, “ Our competitor flew in accordance with his schedule, but my man cancelled his flight and caused great inconvenience to passengers in other centres. The cancellation of one flight may have repercussions in many other places. Big money is involved in working to schedule in this field, and that is an important factor.
– Are you implying that Trans-Australia Airlines would tell one of its pilots that he had to take off?
– I am not suggesting that.
– You are making an implication against both airlines.
– I am trying to be constructive in this matter. I am being as objective and I am speaking as generally as I can. I believe that the Department of Civil Aviation will have to adopt a policy under which air traffic controllers will say, “ We have assessed the weather conditions as being border-line conditions; the turbulence is on the borderline of severe and moderate. The weather has passed the point at which the passengers could be comfortable, but it is not dangerous. We recommend that the aerodrome be closed “. In doing that, the department would be helping, not so much the pilots, but the airlines. If a flight were cancelled under those conditions, airline officials could not say to the pilot concerned, “You should have gone through because the other fellow went through “. Under the procedure that I have suggested, the department would make up the minds of the people concerned.
– lt would make a preliminary decision.
– That is the point. The air traffic controller would make a preliminary decision and would make a recommendation accordingly, but a pilot could still go on if he wanted to do so.
– Oh, no, he could not.
– If the aerodrome were closed, a pilot could not take off, but I am suggesting that a recommendation be made to him in his briefing.
– He could then make up his mind whether to go on or not.
– That is the very thing you have been arguing against.
– I have not been arguing against that. 1 say that the department must step in and help to overcome the difficulties caused by the economic factor to which I have been referring. In other ways, everything possible is being done. Nose radar is installed in aircraft and radar equipment on the ground is used to obtain information about turbulence in the vicinity of airports. Extra equipment worth £400,000 is used to lift safety levels a little higher. However, my point is that the economic factor that I have referred to must, and does, have some influence in this matter. In addition to the economic factor, some pilots may say: “ I shall be a bit of a chicken if I do not take off. After all, I have been through worse than this before “. Some pilots, actuated by the spirit of adventure and the courage for which they are noted, are likely, for the good of their companies economically, to take off in bad weather conditions. Therefore, I believe that a firm recommendation by an air traffic controller prior to take-off time would be of great assistance.
The report presented by the board of inquiry is, I believe, a good one. My view is that the recommendations of the board will be put into operation, despite the fact that the Minister has said that they are idealistic. In the past, the Department of Civil Aviation has set its sights pretty high and has been somewhat idealistic. However, it has gone ahead through being idealistic. I believe that if the departmental officials could persuade Sir Roland Wilson to pay the bill, they would be searching the world for better and better equipment for assessing weather conditions, because the detection of turbulence appears to be the only field of aviation in which anything is now left to chance.
I do not think there is any great conflict between what the board has said in its report and what the Minister has said. Both the board and the Minister have at heart the interests of safety in airline operations. As a result of the tragedy that we are now discussing, a new approach to this matter is being made. The department has acted with commendable speed and has said that nose radar must be installed in aircraft by, at the latest, June of next year. This is expensive equipment, but it will be of tremendous assistance to aircraft pilots in exercising their discretion. Nose radar will enable a pilot flying at night to know what is ahead of him, just as a bat flying at night knows what is ahead of it. The pilot will not have to depend on his vision, and flying will be made a little safer. In that way, the inquiry held by the board will have resulted in a valuable contribution to safe flying.
I do not think that the departmnet has anything to be ashamed of. On the contrary, it can be proud that it has emerged with credit from such a searching inquiry, during which checks were made at random, as it were, one flight on one night in one area being chosen. I believe that eventually the department will, as far as is humanly possible, give effect to all of the recommendations made by the board of inquiry.
– I am delighted to see the sincere and honest interest in this debate on the statement made by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge). I believe that the Senate is the correct forum in which a statement such as this, which is of great importance to the people of Australia, should be debated. The Senate as a whole and the people of Australia should be proud of the Minister’s reaction to the report of the board of inquiry. I believe that the Senate can rest peacefully in the knowledge that not only the Minister and the Department of Civil Aviation but also the airlines, their crews and their administrators will adopt all the remedial measures that have been suggested in the report. There are other factors in regard to civil aviation in Australia that will be the responsibility of the department. I refer to keeping in store or installing at airports the most up-to-date equipment to improve air safety. I also refer to ensuring, where possible, that airports used for civil aviation have alternate runways.
I do not want to get into an argument with my Tasmanian colleague, Senator O’Byrne. By way of interjection earlier I intimated that I disagreed with him when he said that an airline pilot would be persuaded, by the profit motive of his airline, to take off when another aircraft had taken off. I give that statement the lie. I do not believe that that would happen anywhere in Australia. Then I come into complete agreement with Senator O’Byrne when he said that there are no party politics in this matter. He also said that Sir Roland Wilson - we have heard his name mentioned in this chamber before to-day - should release the purse-strings so that the Department of Civil Aviation could buy equipment. I believe that this is the factual situation: If radar or other safety equipment is available to improve air safety in Australia, this Government and the department will purchase that equipment. If we have not got equipment that the board of inquiry suggests is required, I believe that that is because it is not available. This Government cannot be accused of reducing expenditure on equipment to ensure safe flying in Australia.
I come now to the reason for his debate. This Viscount aircraft VH-TVC crashed on 30th November. A full inquiry was held both by the department and the airline concerned, and then a judicial board of inquiry was appointed. We all should be pleased with the way all the experts and people who could give information cooperated. As a result of that cooperation, the board’s report was presented and the Minister’s statement that we are now debating was made.
I speak as a layman. It appears from the facts that this aircraft took off from Sydney airport and got into an area of extreme turbulence. I do not believe that the pilots, the airline, the staff, the Department of Civil Aviation, or the very great friends of the air-travelling public, the staff of the Bureau of Meteorology, can be blamed in any way at all. The Sydney airport is a busy one. The facts reveal that this aircraft arrived at Sydney airport ex Canberra at 5.48 p.m. After that time there were fifteen aircraft movements in and out of Sydney airport before the Viscount VH-TVC took off. There were four aircraft movements at the airport within fourteen minutes before the Viscount took off. There were also a number of aircraft movements immediately after it took off and up until 11.29 p.m.
When one reads the evidence one finds that there were three types of take-off or approach. During the relevant period, according to the report, some aircraft were stacked over Padstow, a number of aircraft came in on visual approaches, and almost the same number of aircraft were diverted temporarily. So, it is obvious to the layman that there was no real reason for any one to think that there was a particular area within the range of Sydney airport that would have extreme turbulence likely to cause a fatality. Unfortunately, this aircraft took off into an area in which the severity of the turbulence was unknown.
This accident and the attitudes of the department, the airlines, the scientists and the experts to it bring us to the knowledge that we learn each time something like this happens. The people of Australia and civil aviation throughout the world will benefit from the findings of this board of inquiry. In my flying since the report was published and the Minister’s statement was made, I have noticed some reactions. An aircraft was grounded before leaving Launceston for Hobart. In the press the next day it was announced that the reason for the aircraft being grounded was that the route from Launceston to Hobart had been closed because of turbulence.
When leaving Melbourne in a Viscount last Thursday afternoon, I noticed that instead of taking off from the Essendon airport and flying towards the coast on the way to Launceston, we flew north. The aircraft flew into cloud, did a lot of banking and was buffeted. I asked the air hostess whether the pilot had become absentminded and had decided to go back to Canberra or Sydney. She spoke to the pilot and came back and said that owing to extreme turbulence over the Victorian coast the pilot had to climb to 19,000 feet before embarking on the flight across the strait There are, to my way of thinking, two clear indications that out of the fatality the people of Australia will benefit, because of the action taken by the Department and the airlines. That is a wonderful illustration of the sincerity of the people concerned. Because of that sincerity, the expert advice, and the sensible approach to these matters, the people will benefit. I congratulate the Minister on the attitude that he and his department have taken.
– Before addressing myself to the report of the board of inquiry and to the statement of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) upon that report, I desire to associate myself with the expressions by honorable senators who preceded me of very deep regret at the tragic circumstances of this aircraft accident. The tragedy was brought home to me very vividly by the loss of an old and valued personal friend who was a passenger on the aircraft. There is an awful, dramatic finality about aircraft accidents which seems to dwarf accidents on land or sea.
I should like also to associate myself with the expressions of due credit to the Minister and his conscientious officers, both for the excellent record of air safety in this country, with a strong hand being played by the department, and for their conscientious attention to what might be called the post mortem of this accident, to the detail of investigation, and to the consideration of the report which was made by His Honour Mr. Justice Spicer, who sat as chairman of the board of inquiry. I certainly associate myself with the view that this matter is to be debated not in a partisan spirit, but with a full sense of responsibility, knowing that we are dealing with the consequences of something that nobody foresaw.
Having said that, I think it is fair to say that the Minister should not have rejected, even after proper consideration, the report of the board of inquiry. I have searched the pages of that report and I have searched the Minister’s statement, and I cannot find any consideration which has been present to the minds of the Minister and his advisers and which was not brought to the attention of Mr. Justice Spicer and the other members of the hoard. On the contrary, it seems to me that the report indicates that full attention has been given to the various factors that guided the Minister in coming to the conclusion that he reached, namely, that the second part of the first recommendation of the board should not be accepted by the department.
It is obvious, from a consideration of the report, that Mr. Justice Spicer was perfectly well aware of the argument that it was not prudent to take ultimate operational responsibility away from the pilot. He was fully seised of the argument that ultimately these decisions of choice rested with the pilot. He was fully seised as appears very plainly from a perusal of the report, of the need to view this whole problem in proper perspective. Nobody can suggest, I think, that the board of inquiry ran off the rails, that it came to some exaggerated conclusion that was not justified by the material before it. Indeed, His Honour states in the report that few accidents in the history of civil aviation can be attributed to extreme turbulence. He states that, as a matter of caution, it is necessary to look closely at this problem of the hazard of thunderstorms, and to go on to consider the material and evidence before the board with that qualification firmly in mind.
So I suggest to the Minister that there is nothing that appears in his statement that had not already been brought to the notice of the board of inquiry. It may be said that the board was not asked to look at the comparable position in other airway systems in other countries. I have not had an opportunity to ascertain whether such evidence or argument was adduced before the board of inquiry. In view of that qualification, perhaps it is not proper to be too positive. This is a matter of departmental policy, and the Minister no doubt had to examine it in the light of many considerations, including the practice in other countries.
– The Minister says, “ No “. I do not know with what part of what I am saying he is disagreeing.
– The practice in other countries is regarded as quite irrelevant. What we have to do is to get the right practice in Australia.
– I thought the Minister said that while he would not shrink from implementing a decision that was really demanded by Australian conditions, nevertheless, if he did implement it, it would be putting into the Australian system something which did not exist in any comparable system.
– With respect, 1 think that you misunderstood what I said.
– You are talking at cross-purposes.
– That may be so. 1 accept that position. I do not think there is any difficulty about it, in relation to what I am saying. The Minister stated -
It is the unanimous opinion of the industry that such a responsibility could not reasonably be placed on air traffic control staff or alternatively on the airline operators or the pilots.
As I understood the Minister, he stated that the airline operators went further and said that it would not improve the position to implement this particular recommendation in Mr. Justice Spicer’s report and that it would be a retrograde step, because it came into conflict with this operational philosophy that has been referred to by Senator Cormack and others in relation to the responsibility of the pilot of the aircraft. It is not really stated, and the Minister does not explain, why this would be a retrograde step, and why it would make matters worse. Indeed, it is not even clear from the terms of his statement whether he accepts the proposition of the airline operators that it would be a retrograde step. I feel that he does not accept that proposition because he went on to say at a later stage that the board had recommended an ideal system. The Minister cannot have it both ways. I do not see how he can approve of the attitude of the airline operators and their philosophy and still regard this as an ideal towards which we must strive. As I understand it, in the end he comes down on the side of the view that it would be very nice if we could do it, but that it is a counsel of perfection, that it is stating an ideal; that things being as they are and systems being as they are, although the department is moving gradually towards the adoption of the methods recommended by the board of inquiry, it cannot go the whole way.
One could commend the Minister and the department for having taken the matter as far as that and for saying, “These are practical steps that have been taken to achieve the objects set out in the report”. One would not want to take away from the Minister and his department credit for saying that, but that is a very different thing from suggesting that the adoption of the recommendation would be a retrograde step. In fact, it would be exactly the opposite. I suggest to the Minister that if he sees fit to re-consider this matter, as has been urged by Senator Kennelly, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, he will see the essential contradiction between his own approach and that of the airline operators. The reality of the matter is that the closer we move to the recommendations of the board of inquiry the closer we move to air safety in this country.
The crux of the problem is: Whose responsibility was it on the night of 30th November to determine effectively the weather conditions, so that an ultimate decision could be made about the path that this ill-fated aircraft was to take?
– You imply by that, do you not, that there should be one single decision? Is not the position that the controller has a preliminary right to prohibit and that the pilot has the ultimate responsibility, if he is given authority to go?
– It may be that the pilot could have the ultimate responsibility but responsibility should be placed on the controller and not on the pilot to determine the state of the weather, so far as that can be predicted.
– I interject only to clear up this point, because I fear there is some confusion on it. If the controller says, “There shall be no flying”, that is the end of it.
– I do not suppose anybody would want to quarrel with that proposition, and I certainly would not, but let us take the next step. Leaving aside conditions in which absolute prohibition applies, whose responsibility is it to say, “There probably will be conditions of extreme turbulence if you take that route. I recommend another route. I put you on to another route”. In respect of the alternative route there has to be a determination, the forming, of an opinion on proper grounds, on a proper basis and on proper material, regarding the degree of turbulence, if any, ; that is likely to be experienced. That is the vice which Mr. Justice Spicer found to exist in respect of the particular occasion we are discussing. He said he was left with an uneasy feeling that nobody had been responsible for turning his mind to this very problem which was the crux of the matter. That is the basis of his recommendation.
In order not to misinterpret the recommendation, and because I think that something turns on the wording of it, I point out that the second part of the first recommendation is as follows: -
In particular when thunderstorm activity is present at or in the vicinity of the airport he should be responsible for determining whether a departure path designated for an aircraft is not such as to lead the aircraft into regions where severe turbulence may be encountered.
That is the recommendation, and I say that it should be accepted.
– Is that, or is it not, a part of his responsibility now?
– It is within his purview to determine it, but as I understand the matter, he is not obliged to make the decision.
– He has not absolute discretion
– And the Australian Federation of Air Pilots says he should not have it.
– If I may so with respect to the Minister, I thought his statement did not disclose as fully as it might the actual attitude of the Federation of Air Pilots to the recommendations in the report. I certainly did not appreciate that the air pilots were not urging implementation of the recommendation. It appears from the public statement made by the president, or the proper officer of the federation, that it has told the Minister by letter in no uncertain terms that in its opinion the proposals in the report aTe perfectly practicable. Let me refer to the only information that is available to me on this point, which comes from what I believe to be an accurate extract from the letter. Tt is as follows: -
The Federation has consistently indicated that the recommendations could be met in a practical way by the approach controller using all available information, exercising authority in and being responsible for closing departure tracks on radar evidence or reports of severe turbulence and leaving open for traffic those on which no evidence or reports of severe turbulence existed.
To my mind, that plainly indicates that the air pilots are saying, “ We want this recommendation implemented, and we think it could be implemented in a practical way “.
During the discussion a straw man has been put up in the form of guarantees. That may be seen from the Minister’s statement and from some of the comments that have been made about it. Nobody over the age of 21 years, or even over the age of twelve years, could possibly expect any officer, whether he were a pilot, an air controller or any other responsible person engaged in air operations, to give a guarantee about anything in regard to those operations. There must always be a small element of uncertainty in the prediction of weather conditions. It would be absurd to think that a guarantee was necessary from the air controller before there could be a clearance for an aircraft to fly along a given path. Nobody is really suggesting that that should be so, and it certainly is not suggested in the report of the board of inquiry. What is suggested is that somebody should be responsible to take the ultimate decision and to turn his attention to the problem of the weather.
There is no need to exaggerate this matter or to try to make any partisan point out of it. If we turn te Hie import, we see that at page 42, Mr. Justice Spicer states -
I am left with an uneasy feeling that in the conditions which prevailed it was not the clear responsibility of any officer to deliberate on the question whether turbulence which might be encountered immediately after take-off by VH-TVC called for a different flight path or for some delay in the departure of that aircraft.
He goes on to say, fairly enough -
It is not possible to say that the consideration of that question would in fact have led to alteration or delay, but I would feel easier in my mind if it had been expressly faced and answered.
At page 40, he refers to Mr. Charters, the senior approach controller, and states that his conception of his duties on the relevant evening, as disclosed by the evidence, was proper and consistent with the information available to him. He was primarily concerned with landing and take off. Any concern he may have had with hazards which the aircraft might encounter when it was airborne was necessarily limited by the information he possessed. He had the forecast for the Sydney airport covering his period of duty, and also relied on his own observation of weather conditions. He had acted as Radar Controller for three hours prior to 1800 hours and was acquainted with such weather conditions as the radar disclosed during that period. He also had such information as came to him from aircraft approaching and leaving the airport. He had no information of conditions immediately above the airport at 5,000 feet and it does not appear that he ever directed his mind deliberately to the question of what conditions might be encountered on the immediate flight path allotted to VH-TVC. In his view the weather conditions were not such as to call for any such consideration.
In other words, because the aerodrome was not closed to aircraft taking off, this further question did not arise. That is the very crux of the report made by Mr. Justice Spicer. I join with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in urging the Minister to have another look at this question. I ask him not to close his mind finally against adopting the recommendation because I am sure he would agree that the closest consideration needs to be given to it. Indeed, I .think that has been done, but it cannot be a final consideration. Ultimately we reach the stage where we say that we have to get closer to that ideal if we can.
I want to make this final observation: It seems to me that the path to implementing the whole of the recommendation is being made easier by the measures that the Minister has already put in train or is introducing, because we will get a system in Sydney and Brisbane under which a great deal more information will be available. There will be a forecasting officer and a meteorological observer, and with the assistance of radar which will cost money but which is important, there will be much more relevant information on which the controller can make an intelligent assessment.
– What about the pilot making an intelligent assessment?
– Why put all the responsibility on the pilot? The pilot will be the one who will actually decide whether he will leave the ground or not. That is a relevant part of his captaincy of the aircraft. We all agree that safety is the prime consideration which ultimately must prevail over all other considerations, but surely it is not too much to expect that there will be a person to decide these matters. Why should responsibility for making these decisions be left to the pilot? The pilot may be over-cautious, knowing that it is his responsibility to decide whether to take off or not. If he gets a reputation for being over-cautious, he might feel that it is to his detriment. I suppose that is something pilots would not want to have on their record. They might have worked for many years for an airline company and they might not like to be looked upon as men who were not game to take up an aircraft. They are responsible men.
It should not be left to the pilot to make a decision as to the predictable state of the weather. After all, the forecasts we have of weather conditions are still based on an imperfect system. I do not always get the correct information about the weather from the Melbourne newspapers. We cannot blame a meteorologist if occasionally things do not turn out as expected. Every honorable senator knows that that happens. It is not a question of guarantee but of what is predictable. I conclude by commending to honorable senators what has been said by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, not in a partisan spirit, but in an attempt to improve on the commendable steps that have been taken by the Minister and the Department of Civil Aviation to remedy something that was found to be defective. Turbulence was the probable if not certain cause of the accident. These are matters that should have been taken into consideration by the people on the spot prior to the aircraft taking off.
– I express my appreciation to all those who have taken part in this debate for the completely objective way in which they have approached this most important subject. We all have an interest in air safety. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) has well said that this is a subject which transcends any party or political view. The debate has shown that every honorable senator who has taken part holds that view strongly.
I want to refer briefly to an observation by Senator Cohen before I get down to the substance of what I have to say. This observation was directed to a portion of my statement in which I referred to what had been said by the various participants in the industry. First, may I speak of what the pilots had said at that point of time. I think Senator Cohen said that my statement did not reveal completely what was the view of the pilots. In point of fact, their expression of view was a three paragraph statement, two paragraphs of which were quoted verbatim in my report. I shall read now what the pilots stated at that point of time -
The Australian Federation of Air Pilots does not believe that a strict legal interpretation of the second sentence of Recommendation No. 1 (namely, that an approach controller would be responsible for guaranteeing, without qualification, that an aircraft will not encounter turbulence on a designated flight path in the vicinity of an airport) is the true meaning and intention of the recommendation as such an unqualified guarantee could not be given.
I acknowledge that the pilots have been consistent throughout on this point. I seek no argument whatever with the pilots on this matter. As a matter of fact, I hope to show that I am very close to the pilots in suggesting a solution of this problem. But the pilots have taken this recommendation and given to it an interpretation on which they have settled, and they say, “If you accept this interpretation, you can then do this”. My point of issue with the pilots - if I have a point of issue - is a point of interpretation. I will come back to that a little later.
Now I want to refer to a remark made by Senator Cohen as to what I said the operators had stated. I reported to the Senate what the various views of the parties were because I thought - and I am sure I was right - that the Senate would be interested in what they said. I did not then attribute to them, nor do I now attempt to ascribe to them any responsibility for anything I do or anything the Government does. That is normally our responsibility.
But I did think it would be of interest to the Senate to know what their thinking was.
It might be of interest if I mention at this point some of the men who represented the operators at these conferences because there have been one or two suggestions that the representatives at those conferences weremen who were more concerned with the commercial activities of airlines rather than the operations of airlines. As a matter of fact, it was the operational managers, not the commercial managers who stated what the approach of the airlines to this matter was. Included among them were such well known names - I am sure at least Senator O’Byrne will recognize some of them - as Captain Howson of Qantas Empire Airways Limited, Captain Peter Gibbes and Captain Roy Seeley of Ansett- A.N.A., Captain John Chapman and Captain Frank Ball of Trans-Australia Airlines, Captain Ken Cohen of McRobertsonMiller Airlines Limited and Captain Wood of East-West Airlines Limited. I do not mention those names to create any conflict between any two parties in connexion with this matter; I mention them merely to demonstrate to the Senate that the opinions expressed were those of men with vast experience in aircraft operations.
I think I should start my comments by inviting the attention of the Senate to what is the situation now with respect to air traffic control. My consideration begins at Regulation 94 which details the functions of Air Traffic Control. It reads -
The functions of Air Traffic Control shall be-
the prevention of collisions between aircraft, and, on the manoeuvring area, between aircraft and obstructions;
expediting and maintaining an orderly flow of air traffic;
the provision of such advice and information as may be useful for the safe and efficient conduct of flights;
the control of the initiation, continuation, diversion or termination of flight in order to ensure the safety of aircraft operations; and
notifying appropriate organizations regarding aircraft known to be or believed to be in need of search and rescue aid and assisting those organizations as required.
If one traces the regulations through to see the administrative change, one looks to the airways operations instructions. In the inflight operational control section, one comes to the paragraph relating to weather developments, which says this; -
From the time a flight plan is submitted, until the aircraft has landed, the Senior Operations Officer shall maintain a close surveillance over all meteorological information relevant to the flight. This includes aerodrome periodic and special weather reports, TAFORs and amendments thereto, amendments to route forecasts, SIGMET reports and in-flight reports from pilots. Study of this information shall be supplemented as frequently as is desirable by discussion with meteorological officers.
I now skip to the third section of the instruction, which reads -
If weather developments are such as to require any change in the previously submitted flight plan, the Senior Operations Officer shall advise the pilot of the new operational requirements. These may require that the pilot:
Proceed to a planned alternate aerodrome; or
Proceed to an aerodrome not previously planned as a destination or alternate (to terminate the flight, or to refuel); or
Vary the route; or
Vary the operating level–
This is important - (due to icing, turbulence, adverse winds, or reduced barometric pressure raising the lowest safe altitude); or
I quote those orders to establish the point that the responsibilities currently discharged by Air Traffic Control cover all those precise operational requirements. It is interesting to note with respect to the ill-fated aircraft TVC that during the debate one speaker attempted to compare the position of a sea pilot leaving port with that of an air pilot leaving an aerodrome and, if I understood him correctly, he indicated that while the sea pilot going up the harbour to the open sea had with him all his technical advisers and the assistance of whatever meteorological or other information could be made available, the air pilot was not in that position. What I have read from the regulations and orders will, I am sure, indicate to honorable senators that Air Traffic Control has a responsibility over - and exercises it - the in-flight conduct of aerial movement.
This was the actual experience of the ill-fated TVC which we are discussing today: Some minutes after the aircraft left the field, the last message transmitted to it, and presumably received by it, was transmitted at 1922.05, and was -
Tango Victor Charlie, now if you haven’t passed over the field you can proceed via the 217 from Padstow.
It will be recalled that he had been forced out on to the 222. The message continued -
The 222 is available but I suggest the 217 due to the storm to the south of the field. Report setting course from Padstow 217.
The last message that came back from Tango Victor Charlie was -
Tango Victor Charlie, thank you the 217.
He had taken the 217. That indicates that Air Traffic Control was watching the progress of this- ill-fated flight and, as far as was possible for it to do so, was indicating in flight, as a result of the last minute information it had, what was the best operational plan for Tango Victor Charlie to follow.
– The message was, in effect, “ You may take “.
– Yes, “ You may take “.
– Not, “You shall take “.
– No. The message was, “ You may take the 217 “. There was the pilot’s prerogative again. Why was he told that? The reason was, “ This will avoid the storm to the south of the field “. I think we have all had experience of the work of Air Traffic Control. As Senator Kennelly indicated during the debate, Air Traffic Control has wide powers. It can close an airport or runway, it can close part of an airport, it can close air space and it can close part of air space. Each of us has from time to time experienced the delay which follows an airport being closed by air traffic control. Probably not many of us have realized it at the time, but there must have been plenty of occasions in the travelling life of a member of Parliament when unknown to him the aircraft in which he has been travelling has been diverted around a cloud formation by air traffic control. This system, these regulations and orders indicate quite clearly the responsibility of air traffic controllers.
I come now to the actual recommendation which is at the heart of this debate. I have indicated the duties of an air traffic controller. The recommendation is that -
In particular when thunderstorm activity is present at or in the vicinity of the airport he should be responsible for determining whether a departure path designated for an aircraft is not such as to lead the aircraft into regions where severe turbulence may be encountered.
There are two passages there to which I direct the attention of the Senate. They are the “ determining “ for which the officer is responsible and the phrase “ severe turbulence may be encountered “. The air traffic controller already has the responsibility that 1 have read out and the recommendation proposes that a further particular responsibility in respect of turbulence shall now be accepted by the air traffic controller.
What is turbulence? What are the characteristics of turbulence? How is it predicted? I was particularly impressed by the practical approach indicated by Senator O’Byrne - a pilot - when he addressed himself to this aspect.
– It is the key to it.
– It is the key to it. I repeat: What is turbulence? How is it detected? A radar screen will show certain things. It will show solids, aircraft in flight, ships at sea, and land masses. I think we have all had the opportunity from time to time of viewing a radar screen showing these things. It will show some clouds but not all clouds. It will show ice, hail and rain, but it will not show turbulence as such. It will give an indication that turbulence may be in the area, but it cannot show an area in which there is turbulence if there is no cloud present, or, as frequently happens, even in conditions of thunderstorm.
– Nor can it show how much turbulence there is.
– Neither can it show the degree of turbulence, and more importantly, it cannot show the direction in which the turbulence is moving or the rate at which it is moving.
In addition to the responsibility already laid on an air traffic controller, which he has accepted for years, it is now proposed that he should predict what is virtually unpredictable. An air traffic controller sitting in the tower cannot know that turbulence is present, to what extent it is present or in what direction it is moving.
He cannot be told this by a meteorological man or a forecaster because it is completely unknown and unpredictable, even with the type of radar which is recommended in the report. Another deficiency in radar up to date is that it lacks the ability - and I use jargon of the business - to eat through certain cloud. I am informed that this depends upon the wave length of the radar. It lacks the ability to penetrate the clouds. The possibility is that even if you have a radar which can indicate cloud formation on a screen it certainly will not be able to indicate the further cloud formation just beyond the cloud formation which is indicated on the screen.
In these circumstances I suggest, as 1 have said in my statement, that this is one of the things for which you cannot expect any one to take the responsibility. 1 imagine it is just like an earth tremor. I am not well versed in these things, but no one knows that an earth tremor or earthquake is going to occur; it just suddenly occurs. The same applies to tidal movements. These things, I suppose, can best be described as acts of God. They are unpredictable. You cannot ask any one to accept this responsibility.
As the Senate will well understand, in recent weeks I have been reading, as has Senator Kennelly, quite a lot about this matter of turbulence. I was very impressed when Senator O’Byrne repeated here the experience of Captain McDonell. In recent times we have had the experience in an area, not greatly distant from Canberra, of an aircraft flying under cloud formation in clear air for as long as an hour - because according to the prediction of those concerned that was the best place for it - being severely buffetted by turbulence. I have had the experience of flying in an aircraft a little distance behind another aircraft. The aircraft in front was reporting turbulence. Less than a minute afterwards the second aircraft in which I was travelling went through the same area and encountered no turbulence at all. I repeat that turbulence is unpredictable and that we cannot reasonably expect that the responsibility for predicting it should be cast onto either the pilots or ground control.
I have referred to the actual recommendation and have given reasons why I believe that, in its present form, it could not and should not be put into effect. May I refer again to what I said in my statement last week? If ever there were an occasion when a really sincere attempt was made to give expression to the objective of a recommendation, it is this occasion. I have stated precisely what the department is prepared to do to meet what the board has said should be done. As I understand what has been said in this debate and as I understand the comments that have been made outside, what we propose to do is accepted with commendation. Although, in fairness to the air traffic controllers, we cannot accept the recommendation, we can do, and we are doing, everything humanly and technically possible to give effect to what the board wants. I offer no criticism of the board. Indeed, I accept its report as a most helpful document, which will make a valuable contribution to air safety in Australia.
I say further that, as technological progress is made, so will we alter our techniques and our procedures to conform with that progress. I notice that a suggestion was made by the pilots - it was made in perfectly good faith, because they are interested in safety - that the radar equipment present and projected, to use their phrase, is sufficient to satisfy the recommendation. That assumes, of course, that we accept the rather liberal interpretation which the pilots put on the recommendation. With great respect to the pilots’ view, 1 want to assure the Senate that, in relation to radar equipment, we have not stopped at taking the advice of our own technical experts in the field We have gone much further than that. The scientists of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization who look after what may be called cloud physiotherapy are, I think, acknowledged as world leaders in that field. They support to the hilt what the departmental men have said about the capabilities of radar. The meteorological men also agree with our assessment of the capacity of this equipment. Since the report of the board was published, we have made inquiries in this field overseas. I mention those facts because I want the Senate to know that we are not stopping anywhere. The search for air safety is unending. We have acted in this way in the past with, I think, good results, and we wm continue to act in this way. If we have not accepted and implemented, word for word, the board’s recommendation, that is because it would be quite impossible to do so, but I. think that even the board would agree that the practical steps we have taken will get to the very point to which the board itself wants to get.
– I have listened with great interest to all those who have spoken in this debate. I join with those who have expressed deep regret for the accident that is considered in the report now before us. I agree with those who believe that the few moments of stark terror through which the passengers of this aircraft passed before their sudden deaths will not have been useless if they point the way to safety under similar conditions in the future.
I compliment the board of inquiry upon its calm, judicial and objective approach to the problems before it. Those are elements that one would expect in a report drafted and prepared by Mr. Justice Spicer. In the report, he did not address himself to the task of pinning culpable negligence upon any one. All the way through, he put his finger on defects and on witnesses - I shall not traverse them now - and in the end made certain recommendations. Reading those recommendations, one sees the defects that they are intended to cure.
Mr. Justice Spicer drew attention, for instance, to the lack of precision in defining the duties of air traffic control officers. As the Minister acknowledges, that fault has been admitted and cured. That is one good result of the board’s inquiry. Mr. Justice Spicer pointed out that the radar equipment operative at the Sydney airport was not effective over the airport, so that turbulence over a wide area above the airport could not have been seen by the people in the control tower or by their radar equipment. It was in that very area that the turbulence was encountered that led to the destruction of this Viscount aircraft. Following the accident, radar for aircraft themselves has been made compulsory. According to the report, the department had been considering making that a requirement prior to the accident, but it was the accident itself that caused action to be taken immediately to make radar instrumentation compulsory for aircraft.
The board found that full use was not being made of the meteorological services available in Australia, and that fault has been rectified. In future when there are conditions of turbulence due to thunderstorm activity two officers from the meteorological service will be present in the control tower of the airport to give expert advice, not only on the basis of the radar information before them, but also on the basis of information received from a radio station to be erected away from the airport, which will give details of turbulence in and about the vicinity of the airport.
The board made very important recommendations in connexion with steps that we now, with hindsight, can say should have been taken all the time. We come to the conclusion, unfortunately, that had these safeguards been in operation on the night of 30th November this unfortunate accident, with the loss of the aircraft and valuable lives, may not have occurred. That is a factor to which we must have regard.
His Honour found that on the night in question there was concentration primarily on traffic separation conditions, merely to be sure that aircraft at and about the airport did not collide. He directed attention again and again to the fact that the responsible people in the control tower did not address their minds adequately to determining the weather conditions in the path of the aircraft taking off. On page 47 of the report His Honour refers to the fact that the path was not chosen with sufficient caution. That idea is repeated throughout the report. That is a criticism directed at a situation in which an unfortunate accident like this had never occurred before. I repeat that it is easy to have hindsight in these matters. He is pointing to the elements that caused or helped to cause the trouble. He indicates that his recommendations ought to be applied to other airports.
All the recommendations of the board, with the exception of portion of the first one, have been implemented. The Minister, in his speech a minute or two ago, said that he had no criticism whatever of the board. I think he overlooked the speech that he made in this place on 3rd October last. I thought much of that speech was highly critical of the first paragraph of the board’s recommendations. I should like to remind the Senate of what the Minister said. Speaking about this first recommendation, he said -
In making this recommendation, it seems that the board believed that ground radar systems would enable an air traffic controller to define with precision all the areas in which severe turbulence would be encountered within the vicinity of the airport.
He stated, in effect, that the board was under a misconception in that it thought that ground radar systems could operate with complete precision to define areas of severe turbulence.
– Would you call that being “ highly critical “ ?
– I will drop the word “ highly “ and say “ critical “. That is an amendment that I can readily accept. I refer the Senate to page 33 of His Honour’s report, where he made it quite clear that it is not easy to determine conditions and degrees of turbulence with precision. These are the very words he used at the beginning of the second paragraph on that page -
It is not easy to determine degrees of turbulence with precision.
That does not seem to justify the Minister’s comments. I also refer to page 34 of the report, where His Honour dealt at considerable length with the events of that night. He said -
It seems to me, however, that the problem presented by the presence of thunderstorms in the Sydney area on the night of 30th November, 1961, is of a special character. When an aircraft is at cruising altitude the pilot has much more room for manoeuvre than when flying in restricted air space allotted to him at an airport for take-off or landing. As far as VH-TVC was concerned it was given quite precise instructions as to the course it was to take on its departure from the airport. In such a set of circumstances it seems to me of the utmost importance that an aircraft should not be required to follow a precise path which may, when it is in relatively low altitudes, lead it into conditions in which extreme turbulence may be encountered.
Then he said - I emphasize this sentence -
If it is impossible to say with reasonable certainty that such conditions will not be encountered along that path it seems to me that a clearance for that path is one which should not be given.
There is the clearest acknowledgment that it may not be possible to determine with certainty whether or not turbulence will be encountered. That is the second reason why I say that the criticism - mild or otherwise - by the Minister of the chairman of the board was not justified. 1 refer now to page 35 of the report, where the boards deals at some length with the book “ The Thunderstorm “, to which the Minister referred. It is the outstanding book on thunderstorms. It was promoted by the American armed forces flying into thunderstorms to determine what happens. At the top of page 35, the following extract from the book is quoted: -
Analysis of Project data–
That is, by the people who prepared the book “The Thunderstorm” - -indicated that the maximum turbulence and drafts are coincidental in space with regions of high water content, and consequently are within the -area delineated by the radar echo. It was found that most of the turbulence in the storms flown was confined to the area delineated by the radar echo presented on the “ scope of the control radar on the ground “.
I direct the attention of the Senate to the words “ most of the turbulence “. In quoting that extract with approval, His Honour is saying quite clearly that all turbulence cannot be picked up. So I think the Minister is quite wrong when he suggests error or misconception by the board in, as he says, claiming that turbulence can be determined with precision.
– How do you relate that to the sentence that you read? It says, “ If it is impossible to say with reasonable certainty that such conditions will not be encountered along that path it seems to me that a clearance for that path is one which should not be given “. There would be many cases in which it is impossible to say that with reasonable certainty, would there not?
– I could not answer that question. I imagine that there would be occasions when it would be impossible to determine that with certainty. His Honour’s view is that in such cases the flight path should not be allowed to be used.
– That happens to be the responsibility of the air traffic controllers at the moment.
– There are difficulties about that. It has been seen already that their duties are not defined with precision. One element of that deficiency has been cured. I refer now to the words of the only part of the recommendations on which we can take issue - the second portion of the first recommendation. I am not concerned at all with the first part of it. I think it is the Government that has completely misconstrued His Honour’s recommendations. He said -
In particular, when thunderstorm activity is present–
He is not talking about dry air turbulence, or any other activity or conditions. He is pinpointing the particular kind of circumstances that were operative when this aircraft crashed - when thunderstorm activity is present at or in the vicinity of the airport he–
That is, the approach controller - should be responsible for determining whether a departure path designated for an aircraft is not such as to lead the aircraft into regions where severe turbulence may be encountered.
The Civil Air Operations Officers Association and the Minister construe that recommendation as reading -
The chairman says “ may be encountered “, not “ will be encountered “. I agree that, as some speakers on the Opposition side have already said, when you determine something you decide it.
– With precision.
– The Minister adds, “ with precision “.
– One does not determine things with precision. One may have before him two very bad choices, two difficult positions. He determines between them and he is uncertain as to both. The expression “ determining whether a departure path might encounter turbulence” shows that there is an element of doubt. He has to determine whether the aircraft might find turbulence, not to guarantee absolutely that it will find none. That is the interpretation that the Minister has taken to his heart, and I say that it is a completely fantastic interpretation of what the board has stated and recommended.
– Do you say that the board meant that in the circumstances set out in the recommendation the chain of command or control of the aircraft should pass from the pilot to ground control?
– No, I do not. That is another error on the part of the Minister. He said -
It is the unanimous opinion of the industry that such a responsibility could not reasonably be placed on air traffic control staff or alternatively on the airline operators or the pilots.
– Having regard to the people mentioned after that passage, is the meaning that it includes the pilots, too?
– I should have thought so. That is a separate point to which I want to come. I want to go on with the point I raised a minute ago. The Minister continued -
Indeed the representatives of the airlines-
And he named them - raised a further fundamental objection to this particular part of the board’s recommendation.
If that is not criticism, it is objection, which the Minister deplores. He continued -
They considered that its adoption would result “in the shifting of the responsibility for a particular flight path from the pilot-in-command to a ground-based controller “.
I disagree entirely with that. Surely the position is this: If the air traffic controller is required to determine whether a flight path may encounter turbulence due to thunderstorms, and he says that that one is not available, that ends the matter. It relieves the pilot from the dilemma of having to make a decision himself. It relieves him in two ways, if there is any doubt in his mind at all. It relieves him from possible pressure from airline officials upon him to go. They cannot pressurize him. It has been indicated to the Minister, in the statement that has been submitted, that whilst pilots are never pressurized by the Department of Civil Aviation, they are pressurized from time to time by airline officials to go when they do not want to go. They have made that completely plain in the statement to the Minister.
So, in a situation such as that which we are talking about, if air traffic control says, “You cannot use that flight path”, pilots are absolved from all pressures and they are protected from what could become a habit. One gets very familiar with danger and a pilot might easily say, “ There is some doubt about it, but I have seen this sort of situation through “. The decision is made for him. On the board’s recommendation, if the air traffic controller approves a particular flight plan the pilot, nevertheless, is completely free to exercise his own mind and say: “ I am not prepared to take that course. I want an alternative.” He can demand it. He cannot be compelled to go. That is the exact position, as I understand it.
– That does not shift responsibility from him.
– Of course, it does not. I am coming to that very point. To say that that amounts to a shifting of responsibility for a particular flight path from the pilot-in-command to a groundbased controller is completely inaccurate and utter nonsense.
– That is too strong.
– It may be too strong.
– It is a difference of interpretation only.
– I put it to the Minister that when he said a moment ago that he had no criticism of the board, he was overlooking the two points I have just traversed, and I think that he was quite wrong in the criticisms he made of the board in both matters. I understand that the view of the Civil Air Operations Officers Association, to which the Minister referred, to the effect that it would be impracticable for an approach controller to guarantee absolutely that a particular flight path would not lead an aircraft into areas of extreme turbulence, is the view of the officers of the Department of Civil Aviation. There have been, many conferences, and I am told that that is the view of the department.
I have said enough already to indicate that I reject that interpretation entirely. I do not think that it is justified on any consideration of the terms of the chairman’s report. One could traverse very many aspects of this unfortunate accident, without profit, I suggest, at this stage, and I reduce my comments merely to the ones I have been putting. The board asks that there be a requirement that, in cases of thunderstorm activity in the vicinity of an airport, the air traffic controller determine whether any flight plan is reasonably safe. He is asked to do no more than that. Having regard to the unfortunate accident, when there was no proper advertence by air traffic control to the turbulence that might be encountered, surely it is a reasonable and first requirement that for the future the controller determine whether turbulence is likely to be encountered.
His Honour’s report dealt at length with the book, “ The Thunderstorm “ and conditions of turbulence. It is made quite plain, and I think it is quite incontrovertible, that turbulence arises where there is the heaviest water concentration. That has been proved throughout the whole of the studies and experience in relation to thunderstorm turbulence.
The next point is that as long as it can be picked up on the screen, water concentration will show. It may not be possible to determine the degree of turbulence that is involved, but at least radar will show that there is thunderstorm activity, or that there is a cloud with a high water concentration. Turbulence goes with that, although there may be a doubt about the degree of turbulence. In those circumstances, caution and good sense would prompt the avoidance of that cloud.
Obviously, the turbulence always is associated with water content, and when you find water content you declare that turbulence exists.
– That is not always so.
– I am speaking of thunderstorm conditions. I realize that turbulence may be experienced in dry air conditions. The board, in making its recommendation, was not addressing itself to that question at all. It particularly confined its recommendation to conditions when thunderstorm activity was present in the vicinity of the airport. In those conditions, the board recommended that the approach controller should be responsible for determining whether a departure path designated for an aircraft was not such as to lead it into regions where severe turbulence might be encountered. I do not want anybody to argue about dry air turbulence and other forms of turbulence. In this connexion, we are speaking of thunderstorm activity and of clouds with moisture content which can be picked up on the radar screen. I do not see any practical difficulty in implementing the board’s recommendation, or in replacing imprecision with precision and direction regarding the duty to determine whether turbulence may or may not be encountered after take-off by a particular aircraft.
I suggest that the two great danger points in air operations are on take-off and landing. If an aircraft is equipped with radar, clouds and turbulence may, for the most part, be avoided. The air pilots - the men most concerned - are pressing very hard in support of the reform recommended by the board. I am surprised that the Minister and his officers have even the slightest hesitation in adopting the board’s recommendation. By way of amendment to the motion that the paper be printed, I move -
That the following words be added to the motion: - “ and the Senate calls upon the Government to give effect to all of the recommendations contained in the Report of the Chairman of the Board of Accident Inquiry, the Honorable Mr. Justice Spicer “.
– It is with some diffidence that I rise at this late stage of the debate which has been quite objective. I congratulate and pay my respects to the speakers who have preceded me. The discussion has been on a high level and has been most informative. So far as possible, I shall endeavour to keep it as objective as it has been so far.
I wish to say something about only two aspects of the matter that is before the Senate. I propose to speak, first, about the recommendation that is in issue and the meaning of it, and secondly, to say something about the measures that are being taken and those that have been advocated by various interested parties, including honorable senators who have spoken. 1 wish to occupy the time of the Senate in discussing briefly the meaning of the recommendation that has been made by Mr. Justice Spicer.
Although the debate has been quite objective and stimulating, I think there is a little sophistry about this matter. If all the four or five different parties which are concerned in this argument disagreed one with the other about the meaning of Mr. Justice Spicer’s recommendation, but all agreed on what should be done, there would not be much of an issue to argue about. There is a good deal of dissention about what Mr. Justice Spicer meant, but I put it to the Senate, and to the Opposition in particular, that the Senate is substantially unanimous about what should be done in pursuance of the recommendation.
Let me refer to the all-important second sentence of the recommendation and to the word “ determine “. The learned judge stated -
In particular when thunderstorm activity is present at or in the vicinity of the airport he-
That is, the approach controller - should be responsible for determining whether a departure path designated for an aircraft is not such as to lead the aircraft into regions where severe turbulence may be encountered.
That is the sentence which is occupying the attention of the Senate this afternoon and which is causing a certain amount of disagreement. It also has caused disagreement amongst many other people in this country. My point is that a variety of interpretations may be given to Mr. Justice Spicer’s sentence. I think the whole point of this discussion is to decide what should be done in pursuance of the recommendation, and not to decide what it means. If we argue about what it means, I suggest that is pure sophistry. The real issue is: What is to be done in pursuance of the recommendation?
I shall give my interpretation of the meaning of the sentence later, but at the moment I wish to refer to the departmental interpretation. The Minister has given the considered views of his officers, men of experience, to indicate the department’s interpretation of Mr. Justice Spicer’s recommendation. Senator McKenna has referred to the departmental view as being critical, or highly critical, as the case may be. I do not think it is either, but much depends on the way in which the recommendation is interpreted. The department, through the Minister, has stated -
In making this recommendation, it seems that the board believed that ground radar systems would enable an air traffic controller to define with precision-
The operative word in the sentence is “ precision “ - all the areas-
I emphasize the word “ all “ - in which severe turbulence would be encountered within the vicinity of the airport. Unfortunately there is no radar or other system presently available or in prospect which will detect all turbulence. Moreover there is no equipment in existence which will measure exactly the degree of turbulence likely to be encountered in any thunderstorm area showing on a radar screen.
If the learned judge’s meaning was that inall circumstances absolute responsibility - in other words, absolute control of the aircraft - should be taken from the pilot and placed with a ground officer, then we do not agree with that recommendation. The industry, through the airline companies, virtually says the same thing. The persons who were consulted by the Minister and the spokesmen for Qantas, T.A.A., Ansett-A.N.A. and the other airline operators, all gave as their considered view what they thought Mr. Justice Spicer meant. They gave their opinion through senior pilots with vast experience of flying and they said, as quoted in the Minister’s statement -
They considered that its adoption would result “in the shifting of the responsibility for a particular flight path from the pilot-in-command to a ground based controller “. They considered this “ contrary to the operational philosophy under which air transport throughout the world has operated since its inception”.
That is the interpretation that the operating concerns put on Mr. Justice Spicer’s words. In that context, they cannot see their way clear to comply with the recommendation. Then we come to the Australian Federation of Air Pilots which puts a different interpretation on Mr. Justice Spicer’s remarks. I shall repeat the essential part of its opinions of what Mr. Justice Spicer said. One can appreciate the air pilots saying something like this about Mr. Justice Spicer’s words because they are highly legalistic in form. They stated -
If, and we repeat if, this meaning is correct-
Meaning the passing of control or command from the pilot to the ground operator - the Federation agrees that such an interpretation is not possible of practical application because such absolute and unqualified responsibility could not be imposed on any individual. In this we are in agreement with the rest of the industry.
This is all within the context of what Mr. Justice Spicer meant. We have the Department of Civil Aviation saying one thing and the airline operators saying another. Now we have the air pilots saying that if it means the transfer of command from the pilot to an officer on the ground in certain circumstances, that is wrong and they do not want it. Then, of course, we have had to-day some most interesting observations by men experienced in these matters such as Senator O’Byrne. He made it quite clear that in no circumstances would he accept the proposition that command of an aircraft should be taken from the pilot and transferred to a man on the ground.
– There is already provision for it to be done if he wants to do it. He can keep the aircraft on the ground.
– No, the final decision, except in certain specified circumstances, is with the pilot, as it always has been. I pray God that it always will be. By way of interjection, I asked the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) if in the circumstances he would argue that the controls should be passed from the pilot to a ground officer and he said, “ No “. So even he has a different interpretation of what the learned judge meant.
AH these differing interpretations of what the learned judge meant are purely incidental to this debate. Here we have a serious aircraft accident in which human lives were lost. We have certain recommendations on what should be done. Nobody yet has come along in the investigation or inside or outside this Senate and has argued or even suggested that Mr. Justice Spicer meant that control should be taken from the pilot. No one has argued that at all.
I pass to the second phase of the discussion by referring to other measures that are to be taken. I suggest that everybody, including honorable senators in opposition, have agreed in substance with the measures that have been taken. The department, the industry and the air pilots are all unanimous as to what action should be taken. I suggest that in substance there is no difference of opinion of any kind on the action that should be taken. Let rae quote from the air pilots’ letter to the Minister dated 10th October. This is what the air pilots have to say on the action to be taken and not on the meaning of an expression which I suggest is quite irrelevant -
It is not logical, in the opinion of the Federation, to say there is a rejection of the recommendation because in practice there may be occasions upon which a radar system may not detect an area of turbulence, and no absolute responsibility could therefore be accepted by the department’s officers.
– The honorable senator is reading from a document which the air pilots have repudiated. They say so in the letter.
– They also state -
The Australian Federation of Air Pilots wishes to make it clear that it does not believe that, in fact, there has been a rejection of the main recommendation of the Viscount Board of Inquiry as could be inferred from some press reports of Senator Paltridge’s statement.
Again I suggest that when you turn to what the air pilots require and line up the suggestions with what the Department of Civil Aviation wants and, in actual fact, what the board of inquiry recommends, you find no substantial difference, because if you turn to the recommendations of Mr. Justice Spicer, it is found that he states in relation to the air traffic controller - . . when thunderstorm activity is present, at or in the vicinity of the airport, he should be responsible for determining whether a departure path designated for an aircraft is not such as to lead the aircraft into regions where severe turbulence may be encountered.
I think the learned judge means that there should be a responsibility upon the ground staff to determine a departure path but not to take over the control of the aircraft to make it fly that path. There is a difference between the determination of a path and recommending it to the pilot - which in effect is already good law - and taking over control. The determination of the path happens now by the application of ground control. I think it is quite proper to read into this recommendation nothing more than an obligation to determine which is the best path and still to preserve to the pilot command of the aircraft in the circumstances where it now applies. That, with all respect, is my interpretation. It is certainly also Senator O’Byrne’s interpretation of the recommendation. If I understood his remarks correctly, I think it is also Senator McKenna’s interpretation. Therefore, we must get back to the real issue in the debate which is not what we think the learned judge meant.
The department holds the view that the learned judge meant that in these circumstances the command is to be taken from the pilot of the aircraft. If that is correct, then, with great respect, I do not accept the recommendation either. Certainly the Federation of Air Pilots does not accept it, nor does anybody else, because I think that recommendation would be impracticable in these circumstances. It would be a dreadful suggestion to make, and I do not think we can accept it. But when it comes to deciding what should be done about this, I think that in substance everybody is more or less lined up with the department and with the Federation of Air Pilots. I have heard nothing to-day in the Senate that disagrees with what the Minister says in substance is already being done. I point out that these opinions have had the approval of the operating companies, of the air pilots federation and of anybody else who is really concerned with air safety.
The Minister has stated that a special meteorological watch will be established by the Bureau of Meteorology at Sydney airport during periods of expected development and actual occurrence of severe and extreme turbulence. He has indicated that this Watch will cover an area of 30 miles around the Sydney airport. These are things which are approved by all concerned.
He says that the watch will be provided by two specialist officers of the Bureau of Meteorology, that the first of these will be a forecasting officer who will, on the basis of his professional analysis of all available meteorological data, including that from the weather radar when established on the Commonwealth Offices in Sydney, give “ detailed advice “ - I suggest those are the operative words - on the location, intensity and development of likely areas of severe and extreme turbulence in the Sydney approach control area. The Minister goes on to say that this machinery will be implemented in other areas of Australia, too. That is really what the Federation of Air Pilots is wanting and what the operating companies are wanting. With all respect, I think it is also what His Honour Mr. Justice Spicer suggests should be done.
– Why does the Minister say he rejects that recommendation if you say he accepts it?
– Because I submit he is giving to Mr. Justice Spicer’s recommendation a meaning which Senator O’Byrne accepts, which the air pilots federation accepts and which I suggest could quite well be accepted by anybody else.
My point is that the relevant issue is not the interpretation the Minister or anybody else places on Mr. Justice Spicer’s recommendation but what action should be taken by the department in pursuance of Mr. Justice Spicer’s recommendation. No one in the Opposition, including Senator Kennelly, has advocated the taking away of the command of an aircraft in terms of the meaning that could be given to Mr. Justice Spicer’s recommendation and in terms of the interpretation placed upon it by the department. Indeed Senator O’Byrne spoke rather strongly against that, and Senator McKenna has committed himself by saying in answer to an interjection that he would not agree to it, either. So I suggest that the proposal put forward by the Opposition to-day has really little meaning in it at all because we have got to get back to what is being done, and everybody is doing what the air pilots federation and what the air companies themselves want.
– The Minister says he is not.
– With great respect, the Minister says he is. I think the Minister’s words were that his views, the views of the department and those of the air pilots federation were very close together. If those were not his exact words, they are in effect what he said. When it comes to the recommendation, I invite Senator McKenna or anybody else on the opposite side of the Senate to point to anywhere in the documents that have been tabled or that are before the Senate where it is indicated that the department is doing something that is contrary to what the airline pilots federation or the operators wish, i submit that the real issue before us is what has to be done in pursuance of the recommendations. If the air pilots are happy, if the operating companies are happy and if those members pf the Opposition who have already spoken express themselves as being happy, I really cannot see what all this fuss is about.
I conclude with the remark that there has been a great deal of sophistry this afternoon, despite the objectivity of this debate. I am rather sorry that the amendment has been put forward because it has not got very much meaning.
.- I am not sure that I understand fully my learned colleague’s references to sophistry or the subject-matter of the debate. I have listened with close attention to the whole of the debate, and I consider that it has been ably directed to the purpose to which Senator Kennelly directed our attention at the outset - that of discussing this matter free from partisanship and party politics and directing the debate unyieldingly to the object of improving safety.
I think that at this stage in the debate we should all remind ourselves that everybody concedes that the Department of Civil Aviation has an unexcelled record in respect of safety. This is not a case in which we are dealing with serious defects. We have an honest difference of interpretation with respect to the means whereby yet another safeguard may be added. We should also remind ourselves that this is an occasion on which a report that has been sent to a responsible Minister has been implemented most promptly and effectively. It is most satisfactory, in our system of parliamentary government, to note, that the Minister has responded in that way.
But in this debate, quite properly and most interestingly, various speakers have concentrated attention upon one matter about which there is a difference of opinion. We are indebted to Senator Cormack in this, his resurgence in the Senate, in a speech which I thought was most stimulating, for bringing our attention to the statements of the officers of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots which says -
The Australian Federation of Air Pilots believes the true meaning of the recommendation is not that placed upon it by the A.T.C. Officers’ Association and other sections of the industry, but believes the word “ determine “, contained in the recommendation, means “ assess having regard to all available information “.
If those honorable senators who have the report of His Honour Mr. Justice Spicer read the disputed part of the recommendation, they will see that Mr. Justice Spicer has said -
In particular, when thunderstorm activity is present at or in the vicinity of the airport he-
That is, the approach controller - should be responsible for determining whether a departure path designated for an aircraft is not such as to lead the aircraft into regions where severe turbulence may be encountered.
The Federation of Air Pilots says that that should be understood to mean that the approach controller shall have a duty to assess, having regard to all the circumstances, whether or not this path is one which may lead the aircraft to encounter severe turbulence. If I understand the position correctly the approach controller already has that responsibility as part of his decision to authorize the flight. In that sense, therefore, nobody denies that he has a duty to go thus far in assessing the degree of turbulence the flight is likely to experience.
The only point at issue is a very real difference of interpretation. I rather regret that Senator McKenna in his contribution, said that the opposite interpretation to his was absurd. One interpretation of this recommendation of His Honour gives a finality, both affirmative and negative, to the approach controller’s determination of the turbulence-free path. There are others in the department, and other sections of the industry to which the Minister referred in his speech last week, who say that that would have the effect of transferring the responsibility from the pilot to the ground officer. I do not interpret it in that way, but 1 can see the case for that interpretation.
If it is the considered view of the department that those words are open to that misconstruction all I say is that it is a pity. It is a matter for regret that an objective, purposeful debate, such as we have had in the Senate this afternoon, should produce an amendment which asks us thereby to adopt an expression of His Honour that is so open to doubt and misinterpretation. It is for these reasons that I think we should reject, only after consideration, that portion of the recommendation in a report that has been framed by one so careful and so learned as His Honour Mr. Justice Spicer. I can see the point of view of those who favour the other interpretation, but as the debate for the most part has been objective, I feel that the Senate should not now adopt this amendment.
Mr. President, as I understand the position, we are not disagreeing upon an important principle. If this amendment is pushed to a division I think it will be a division based simply upon the interpretation of two lines of language. I do not think we should have a division on the literal interpretation of language as it will undermine the purposeful debate we have had this afternoon. We should leave the matter as it stands, but if on the next occasion this matter comes up for review, and we find that the department is not making it part of the duty of an approach controller to assess the turbulence or otherwise of the path of a flight, we should have something to say. That responsibility, as I understand the position, is not disclaimed by the department now. Therefore, I urge Opposition senators to allow the debate to conclude on that better basis. But if there is to be a division I will not be a party to putting into the record a passage which has proved to be so open to doubt and interpretation. I feel that the amendment should be rejected.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator McKenna’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– I lay on the table of the Senate a report by a special advisory authority on the following subject: -
Sitting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 10th October (vide page 754).
Department of the Navy.
Proposed expenditure, £48,890,000.
– This debate gives us an opportunity to scrutinize the departmental estimates that are put before the Parliament and to criticize them or commend them, as the case may be. I should like to commend the Department of the Navy for the presentation of its estimates. I believe that the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) and his department are to be warmly congratulated on the figures they have put before the Parliament. When economies have been made, the money saved has been transferred for use in building of ships and for other very worthwhile projects.
I shall run through the main heads of expenditure because I think the Department of the Navy could well be regarded as haying set an example to other departments. The total expenditure for the year will be £48,890,000, as against an expenditure of £47,744,388 last year. The proposed increase in expenditure in the year under review is about £1,146,000. That is a very small increase in a total expenditure of £48,890,000.
There will be a slight increase of expenditure under Division No. 471, but this increase is due to the fact that there has been an increase in personnel. I think that that, too, is worthy of commendation. The strength, of the Navy on 1st July, 1961, was 10,722. By 30th June, 1962, the number had risen to 11,103, and the estimated minimum at 30th June, 1963, is 11,518. I have taken those figures from the explanatory notes that were provided by the department. If I may digress for a moment, let me say that these explanatory notes are characteristic of the Navy. They have not involved the expenditure of much money, but they contain a great deal of information which is set out very clearly and very explicitly. I think that the notes are very helpful.
There is a slight increase in the estimate under Division No. 474, which relates to civil personnel, but under Division No. 475, Administrative Expenses and General Services, there is a decrease of £123,387. When we add to that a decrease of £2,300,000 for equipment and stores and a decrease of £413,000 under Division No. 480, we see that the Navy has made considerable savings. Then we come to the really important part of the exercise. Under Division No. 481, Naval Construction, the Navy proposes to spend an additional £901,653, an additional £2,400,000 on the purchase of aircraft and an additional £552,000 on research and development.
I do not intend to delay the committee by going through the other details that are given in the explanatory notes. I warmly congratulate the Minister and his department for having made savings where they have found it possible to do so and for having arranged to spend the money so saved on naval construction, on the purchase of aircraft and on research and development. I say again that this is a fine piece of estimating.
.- I agree with Senator Wedgwood, my colleague from Victoria, that the explanatory notes make a very handy document. An aspect of the operations of many departments that causes me some concern is the huge amounts paid out for rent. I know that in another sphere I receive some of that money, but the amount, comparatively speaking, is infinitesimal. I should like to be given, when the Minister and his staff have time to collect the information, details of the payments in respect of rent. I think it is wrong in principle for nations or persons to pay rent unless they are compelled to do so. In the case of the normal person, paying rent is like throwing money down a drain. There is nothing to show for it after a lifetime of payments. I note that it is estimated that £260,000 will be paid by this department in rents in 1962-63. That is an increase of about £36,000, compared with last year. Under Division No. 490, Acquisitions of Sites and Buildings, £40,484 was expended in 1961-62, but the estimate for this year is shown as only £2,000.
There is a huge area of land in Melbourne that is waiting to have a Commonwealth building erected on it. I hope that when the building is erected the responsible authorities will have shown some sense and will have made provision for a parking area underneath. I thought it was stupid when a huge office block was built previously but no provision was made in it for parking. It would be more costly for the Commonwealth to provide its own buildings, but that would be better in the long run. It would save money for the nation and would be more in keeping with modern ideas. If the amounts that the Department of the Navy and other departments paid in rent were added up, the total would be a colossal sum. I do not know whether all these payments are in respect of office accommodation, but some of them must be. As I have said, I think it would be better for the Commonwealth to provide its own office accommodation. I have two reasons for saying that. First, I am against paying rent at any time if I can avoid doing so. Secondly, I believe that the building of another big block of the Commonwealth Centre, of which we all must be proud, would help industry in Victoria. The centre will be an extremely good one. I thank the Minister for the Navy for producing the explanatory notes which have given us a better idea of the estimates of his department than we had before we received the document.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I should like to reply to the remarks of Senator Kennelly while they are fresh in all our minds. About £240,000 of the sum allocated for rent is in respect of homes in which naval personnel live. That rent is paid by the Department of the Interior to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. It is collected by the Department of the Navy from the pay of the servicemen. We collect 15 per cent, of a serviceman’s wages, or an economic rent, whichever is the lesser amount. For book-keeping purposes, all of the appropriation, except £20,000 at the outside, is for rent on homes for naval personnel. The appropriation has increased because the number of naval personnel has increased.
– Senator Wedgwood has said what we all want to say about the very nice way in which the explanatory notes on the estimates of this department have been presented this year. I should like the Minister to explain one matter in which I am interested. I am curious to know what the Navy intends to do about what is called, in England, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. It is a fleet of about 60 or 70 ships - oil tankers, ocean-going tugs and various other types of vessels. It is run as an entirely separate branch of the Royal Navy. It is not part of the Navy, and it is not part of the merchant service. In Australia, we have only one vessel that comes under this heading. That is the “ Supply “, which originally was the “ Austral “. Does the Navy intend to regard such ships as merchant ships, as a branch of the fleet reserve, or will they remain as part of the Navy? Is the “ Supply “ to be manned by naval ratings and naval officers or by the merchant marine? That is one matter in which I am interested.
My main reason for rising is to complain bitterly about the amount of money that is being spent at present not only on the Navy but on defence in general. We are still spending the same old amount of £200,000,000 a year that we were spending when the Budget was about £1,000,000,000. Now the Budget is about £1,600,000,000.
It is clear that the defence vote, as a percentage of the total Budget, is dropping every year. It is no wonder that our friends, the Americans, get a bit sore at times when they see the Australian defence effort. There is no doubt that they do get sore about it. We see references to it in many places. I bring to the notice of the Minister the fact that this percentage cannot continue to drop indefinitely. I refer particularly to the expenditure on the Navy and the Air Force.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I refer to the general administration of the Department of the Navy. My information may be somewhat indefinite, but I am led to believe that the Commonwealth Government intends to dispose of Garden Island in Western Australia. I hope the Minister will tell me if this matter does not come under his department. The point about which I am concerned is that over the years there has been continual pressure from Western Australia for the establishment of a naval dockyard in the Garden Island area. The Commonwealth Government bought it from the State Government some years ago. I understand that it has now been offered back to the State Government. That Government has stated that if it purchases the area it will be turned into a’ tourist resort. That seems to me to rule out, for the foreseeable future, any prospect of a dockyard being constructed in that area. If the Commonwealth Government intends to sell Garden Island, it should retain sufficient land for the purposes of a dockyard until we see how things work out and whether, within the foreseeable future, there may be an opportunity to construct a dockyard in that area. The Western Australian people will be very disappointed if the Government disposes of the facilities for constructing a dockyard there at some future time.
The Minister has been good enough to circulate a document that explains most of the estimates for the Department of the Navy. These explanatory notes are very helpful to honorable senators in discussing the Estimates. In the break-up of the expenditure under Division No. 493, the proposed total expenditure for 1962-63 under the heading “ Miscellaneous “ is £430,698. The appropriation for 1962-63 under Division No. 475, item 13 - Incidental and other expenditure - is £245,000. The appropriation under Division No. 476, item 06 - Miscellaneous stores expenditure - is £10,000. The total appropriation under those headings is £685,698. The committee is told nothing about that rather large amount. I do not suppose that it means very much in a departmental vote of £48,890,000. But the representatives of the people have not been informed how this large appropriation of money will be spent. I should like the Minister to give us some information on that matter.
Under Division No. 475, item 07, the appropriation for 1961-62 was £67,000 and the expenditure was £69,999. The appropriation for this year is £67,000. The appropriation is for payments to the Repatriation Department and others for medical and dental services. Under Division No. 476, item 04 - Medical and dental stores - the appropriation for 1961- 62 was £44,000. The expenditure of £59,956 exceeded that appropriation by about £16,000. The appropriation for this year is £34,000. These are not very large amounts for stores, and there should be some explanation of the lower appropriation proposed this year, especially when there is to be a greater intake into the naval services. An amount of £67,000 in payment to the Repatriation Department and others for medical and dental services seems to be rather high. In any event, the proposed appropriation is not as much as was the expenditure last year. Can the Minister give me some information on this matter?
.- Taking first the matter referred to last by Senator Cant, the reason for the alteration in Division No. 476, item 04, which relates to medical and dental stores, is that during the course of last year, because of a number of circumstances, including the fact, for example, that the minesweepers we were buying from the United Kingdom were to cost £400,000 less than the amount we were quoted, it became apparent that we had money that we could spend in directions other than those for which it was originally appropriated. It was decided to lay in a greater quantity of medical and dental stores than was required for last year, and to have these ready in store. We were able to lay in a large enough quantity to permit us to cut this year’s expenditure on that item, while still keeping to the average annual expenditure throughout the threeyear period. That is the reason for the alteration.
There are dozens of different kinds of expenditure, none of a major kind, involved in the miscellaneous expenditure under the building vote, Division No. 493. These include the installation of sprinklers in factories or buildings that the Navy owns, in order to make them fireproof, and the provision of, perhaps, better fire-fighting equipment in ammunition stores that the Navy may have at Byford or at various other places. Perhaps a small amount may be attributable to extension of servicing capacity for aircraft, so that they may pull in at additional points to take on fuel. There are dozens of different items which add up to the sum shown in that division.
The honorable senator referred also to Division No. 475, item 07 - Payments to Repatriation Department and others for Medical and Dental Services. It is the experience of the Navy that these payments run out at an average of £67,000. One cannot tell a year ahead whether the expenditure will be £69,000 or £65,000, but that is the average and that is the amount that we have included in the Estimates as a result of experience over the years. Last year the expenditure was about £70,000. This year it may possibly be £65,000, but the average has been taken.
The honorable senator referred to Division No. 475, item 13 - Incidental and other expenditure. In this instance, also, literally scores of different matters come under the item. The officer with me has written out a few of them. They include putting on naval displays, for which we are constantly being asked, at various country centres which are conducting functions. We set up displays showing the sort of equipment used in the Navy, having somebody there to show how it works and perhaps to recruit personnel. We have to transport these displays and put them in place. The item also includes recruiting expenses, but not the expenses of advertising, which is covered elsewhere in the Estimates. We have to run the offices to which the recruits come and through which they are processed. The item includes also expenses on account of naval publicity and general publicity, and entertainment expenses incurred in relation to officers who come from various other countries to take part in exercises and whom we look after. The expenses of the sea cadets and sea scouts come under this division. We supply them with instructors and with whalers and look after them. The item also covers the provision of films for educational, training and publicity purposes. I could go on. There are literally scores of matters which I am sure the honorable senator would not expect me to enumerate more fully.
I think that the other point he made was in relation to the disposal of Garden Island. That has been offered to the Western Australian Government. I, he and - as I know from experience - Senator Tangney would like to see a naval base in Western Australia, because it would be of great advantage to our defences, provided that it did not take the place of things which were perhaps of even greater advantage. But I am not prepared to say at this stage at what part of Western Australia a naval base should be built, if it is ever built. It could well be at Albany; it could be further north. I would not enter into that particular fight. I leave that as an internecine fight between Western Australians.
asked about the manning of H.M.A.S. “Supply” which has been commissioned. She is now part of the Navy. She is now and will be manned by naval officers, as would be the sea-going tug we now have in reserve.
– I should like, first, to congratulate the Minister on the way in which the estimates for his department have been presented. On the other hand, I regret very much that there is not more in the estimates to show how the Navy in Western Australia, for instance, is to be developed during the next twelve months. In that State, we are very worried about general defence problems. Quite recently, there was an article in the “ West Australian “ which gave a complete coverage of present naval defences. This is a summary of the article: The only Royal Australian Navy ship based at Fremantle is the River class frigate “ Diamantina “. According to the Navy, this ship is used exclusively by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization for oceanographic survey work. Also according to the Navy, the vessel has one 4-in. gun, a displacement of 1,420 tons, a top speed of 19 knots, and a complement of 140 men. It is one of two Navy ships engaged in survey work in Australia. This is the only naval ship we have on the western coast, which is one-third of the total coastline of the Commonwealth. The area of the State, also, is one-third of the total area of the continent.
Naval personnel in Western Australia consist of 26 officers and 430 ratings, mostly at “ Leeuwin “. Of these ratings, 125 are adults, and 305 are recruits in training. At this juncture, I should like to congratulate the Navy on the success of its scheme for young recruits, and also to congratulate particularly the authorities at “ Leeuwin “ upon the discipline of these young cadets, the progress that has been made by them, and the way in which they have fitted so well into the Western Australian community. We are very proud of the work that is done at “ Leeuwin “ in that regard, and of the young men who have come forward to make the Navy their career.
The ammunition depot at Byford employs only 35 Navy men. There is an ammunition supply depot at Woodman Point, and another at. Fremantle, which also has oil storage facilities. Until the event mentioned by Senator Cant comes to pass, the Navy is administering Garden Island. There were two 9-inch guns there during the war; these have since been scrapped.
This is the full extent of naval defences in Western Australia. We are told that all the defence forces are mobile and that we can depend upon quick passage of the various forces from the eastern States to the west. We all know that that is not true of the Navy. It is true of the Air Force and perhaps also of the Army, but so far as the Navy is concerned, it is not possible to get ships round to the west coast much more quickly these days than it was in the days before the breaking of the sound barrier.
We. find that the Navy has the lowest expenditure of all the armed forces. The proposed expenditure for the Navy this year is £48,890,000, for the Army it is £67,299,000, and for the Air Force, £66,368,000. After all, Australia is an island continent and the task of keeping free and open the seas around us is one of the main duties of the Australian Government and the Australian people. Most of the expenditure in the estimates for the Department of the Navy is in respect of salaries, wages and the cost of ship construction, which is very large. I regret that, during the last few months, it has been found necessary to dispose of a couple of the River class ships, one of which I had the honour to launch. I refer to “ Shoalhaven “. I was very sad when I read in the newspapers, and saw on television, that the ship had been sold to Japan for scrap iron. It was built at Walker’s dockyard, in Queensland, and in the immediate post-war years it did good work. It won the Duke of Gloucester’s cup for efficiency in 1948. I regret that its days as a valuable adjunct of the Australian Navy are finished. I congratulate all the men who served in it during the years of its life as a unit of the Australian Navy.
Meagre and all as are the naval defences in the west, we must think of the west as Australians and not merely as Western Australians. Western Australia is an integral part of the Australian continent. Because of its geographical situation, it has a very important part to play in our defences. That is why recent events in South-East Asia have made a great impact on the western part of this continent, from the point of view of defence. In August, “ Ark Royal “, a unit of the British Navy, came to Western Australia, along with other units of the Navy, and exercises were conducted in conjunction with the Australian Navy. They were a great success. We were very pleased to welcome “Ark Royal” and the other British warships to our shores, and the success of the manoeuvres was most gratifying, but the visit of the warships was significant in another respect. In that connexion, I wish to read from a leading article in the “ West Australian “ newspaper of 21st August, a newspaper which cannot be accused of being a Labour supporter. It is a daily morning newspaper and has a very good Western Australian outlook, particularly in regard to defence. The leading article stated -
There is thus a link between the visit of the Ark Royal and the unsolved problems in SouthEast Asia which endanger our security. As the first steps are being taken towards increasing stability with the Malaysian Federation we find ourselves for the first time with the prospect of looking across a land frontier at an Asian country - at Indonesia’s rising and unpredictable power. With Russia and New Zealand we have an important strategic defence compact in the Malayan zone and, with the United States … we have an even more advanced air guard in Thailand.
In a changing situation we look ahead to establishing the most harmonious relations possible with Indonesia. The United States inspired and welcomed the West New Guinea settlement and Britain concurred with it. But it would be unrealistic to ignore the potentiality of trouble or to forget that Australia’s strategic system depends on our two great friends and allies.
I come now to a part of the editorial to which I should like the Minister to listen carefully. It is as follows: -
With Singapore’s defences politically and militarily vulnerable the exercises of the British ships off our coast re-emphasize the lack of a West Australian naval base and dock for supply and. re-fitting in the Indian Ocean. Australian defence needs rethinking on these lines and also on the re-equipment of the air force for long-range strategic duty from home bases. We will have to spend more money on defence.
As the Minister has said, I have not let up on this subject for some years, nor do I intend to do so until something is done about it.
Within about a week of the last occasion on which I mentioned the need for a naval base in Western Australia and of the Minister replying to the effect that there was no need for one or no possibility of establishing one, the Melbourne “ Herald “ contained an interesting report. I think it was on either 26th or 27th August and was as follows: -
The United States is expected to build a modern naval port and air station on the north-west coast of Western Australia. They will be used to service the high-powered radio station the U.S. Navy plans to install at Exmouth Gulf.
Both the port and the air station will probably be adaptable for operation use in an emergency.
In the very dark days of the war with Japan we had to depend on the United States of
America. We hope to retain the friendship and continued co-operation of that country, but I do not think we should depend entirely
I on it for the building of a naval base on our western coast. There has been no statement in this House, or in the other place, so far as I know, of the Government’s intentions and those of the United States Government in connexion with the building of this naval base. If the Americans think that it is important for them to build a naval base on our western coast, of course we will be glad to have the use of it, but I am equally certain that whether the Americans think it is important or not, we in Australia should see the necessity for a naval dockyard or naval base on our western coast.
It is all very well to speak about the defence establishments on the eastern coast, but I do not think that many people in Australia fully appreciate the great distance between the east and the west coasts. Only a few weeks ago the King of Thailand told us that his country was as close to Perth as we in Perth are to Canberra, or perhaps a little closer by air. That statement should give us cause to think. We should bear in mind that parts of our Western Australian coast are only an hour or so by air from some of the trouble spots of South-East Asia. Once again, I put to the Minister most respectfully the view that it is vital to construct a naval base on the west coast. It is of no use to say that such a base would cost millions of pounds. We are spending £200,000,000 every year on defence. In the last thirteen Budgets we have made provision for £2,600,000,000 for defence purposes. Of course, we are lucky that we have the security of Australia, which we all enjoy, for that expenditure, but I am certain that, of that huge total, a very small fraction expended on the construction of a naval base on the western coast would more than pay dividends. 1 again ask the Minister to give the matter earnest consideration.
I am no expert in these matters, nor do I claim to be one. However, the Premier of Western Australia, other members of his government and ex-servicemen’s organizations all have joined in this request for better naval defence in Western Australia, particularly by the provision of a naval base. The naval reserve in the west is frustrated because of the lack of a vessel on which these volunteers who willingly give up their spare time may do their training. I therefore ask the Minister, to consider this matter as a part of the overall defence pattern of Australia.
Senator Sir WALTER COOPER (Queensland) [8.40]. - I thank the Minister for the Navy for the explanatory notes that he has supplied to honorable senators. For the first time I have realized the strength of the Royal Australian Navy. I hope that by the next Budget session we will see a string of helicopters attached to H.M.A.S. “ Melbourne “. I refer to Division No. 482 - Aircraft and associated initial equipment - purchase and manufacture, £4,652,000. The appropriation last year was £2,260,000 and expenditure was £2,167,563. I take it that this vote covers the cost of a certain number of helicopters to be obtained over the coming year. There is no reference to helicopters in the Estimates, but I note that this provision is for the Air Arm of the Navy.
Division No. 475 covers administrative expenses and general services, and I direct attention to the item “ Naval aviation and other personnel - Special training fees, £270,000 “. This is less than the appropriation last year which totalled £310,000. Actual expenditure was £307,864. I should like to know whether this is for training personnel outside Australia or whether it is to provide for some special type of training in Australia.
I refer now to Division No. 476 - Equipment and stores - H.M.A. ships, Fleet Auxiliaries and naval establishments. The proposed vote for naval and air stores is £3,056,000, compared with actual expenditure last year of £4,573,562. I do not know whether quantities of stores were bought last year and are still available. Would the Minister explain the reason for the reduced vote?
.- First, I should like to thank Senator Tangney for her plug for more money for the Navy. I think I can say without bias that we get good value for the money we spend and I am glad that Senator Tangney would like to see more provided. I am sorry to say that ships of the River class including the “ Shoalhaven “ are going out of service. They have reached the end of their lives and are no longer fighting ships. To go to war in them would be a refined kind of suicide and we must get rid of them. H.M.A.S. “ Diamantina “, which is based on Western Australia, is used for oceanographic purposes by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and we get training value out of taking the scientists to sea. It is not a fighting ship and is not regarded as such.
asked me about proposals for the coming year to build up naval strength in Western Australia. I am afraid that I can only tell her that contracts have been let for buildings at “ Leeuwin “ and we will be increasing the personnel there. We hope that by 1963, excluding instructors, there will be 455 junior recruits there.
Reservists who were dispersed because the vessel on which they previously were trained has been allocated to “ Leeuwin “ for the training of the sea cadets are shortly to receive a general purpose vessel much bigger than the vessel they had before. It is being prepared for them. I do not know whether it has already left to go to . Western Australia, but if it has not done so it is on the point of leaving and will soon be made available for them. That is all the comfort I can give the honorable senator regarding the build-up of the Navy in Western Australia.
I have seen the reports to which the honorable senator referred about the Americans building a naval port to service a naval wireless station should they build it in the north of Western Australia, but I point out that there is a world of difference between a naval port for servicing and a naval base. A base must be able to undertake the refit of warships. It must have a dock similar to the Captain Cook dock, though perhaps not as large, and an air-conditioned workshop for the storing and fitting of electronic equipment and the weapons the ship carries. It must have great industrial equipment to be able to take the machinery out of a ship, repair it and put it back. All that a naval port involves is fuelling and dock facilities and some small quantity of stores. There is a great difference, and so far as I know there is no intention to build a naval base, either by the Americans, the British or anybody else. I mean it when I say that I would like to see a base in Western Australia.
– I would be happier if we had it.
– I am not sure that the honorable senator would be happy if we had a naval base there but did not haveships to be used from that base or the base on the east coast. It is a question of choosing one or the other. I come down on the side of putting the money into fighting equipment although I do not say and never have said that it would not be useful to have a base in Western Australia.
Senator Sir Walter Cooper mentioned helicopters. I do not know that we will see in the next Estimates provision for a string of helicopters, but by the time the next Estimates are presented we will have a full complement of anti-submarine helicopters, the first four of which have been delivered and are being flown in the United Kingdom by our pilots. The decrease in the cost of training fees to which the honorable senator referred is due to a reduced number of helicopter conversion courses. We have sent a large number of pilots away in anticipation of these helicopters being delivered as they are now being delivered. We will not require to continue to send pilots abroad because we will be training replacements here.
The honorable senator referred to Division No. 482 and asked why we were spending something like £2,500,000 more this year than last year on helicopters. This vote will pay not only for the antisubmarine helicopters, but also will partly pay for training helicopters that we will have at Nowra, where we will be training our own replacement pilots and observers for helicopters. These men will man the helicopters in the front line.
The decrease in the provision for naval and air stores under Division No. 476 is explained in the explanatory notes that I have distributed. It became clear last year that we could buy stores in advance quickly. We found that if we bought them last year, we would have them ready this year and possibly would have to spend less on stores this year. This would give us more for ship instruction and aircraft purchases. That is what we have been able to do.
– I refer to Division No. 475, item 09, which relates to compensation payable for damage to property and personal injury. I do not want to be critical of the Minister in connexion with the matter about which 1 propose to speak, but he will remember that I discussed with him the case of a young man who had better remain unnamed for family reasons. This young man had joined the Navy, and, after a skin-diving exercise one Saturday afternoon, he got an attack of the bends and died. Irrespective of the technicalities involved, the fact is that he died in service to his country. Because of certain technicalities, his parents were not paid the full amount of benefit that an ordinary reservist might be entitled to receive. I have no expert knowledge of the technicalities, but the payment made to his parents was the princely sum of £400. That does not seem to me to be a generous amount to pay as compensation for the death of the boy.
– Were they dependent upon him?
– No, and I think that is probably one of the reasons why only £400 was paid. All I ask is that the Minister see what action can be taken to make more generous settlements when such accidents occur.
– Only for dependency.
– Perhaps my knowledge of the technicalities is not what it should be, but this was a very sad case. The parents were very disappointed, not over the £400 but over other things that were involved. My main protest is that £400 was a very low amount of compensation to pay. Any ordinary worker would have got over £1,000.
– Not if there were no dependants.
– Any worker in industry would get a good deal more than that.
– Not if he left no dependants.
– I have seen bigger awards than that irrespective of whether there were any dependants. We are now living in times when people are receiving some huge compensation awards. Indeed, some of the awards are so high as to give rise to complaint, and in the circumstances of the case to which I refer I feel that something more than £400 could have been awarded. I ask the Minister to see what he can do to influence his department to be a little more generous in cases such as this. As a matter of fact, action such as this is not a very good inducement to boys to join the reserves.
– How old was he?
– He was either 21 or 27. 1 come now to another point, but I do not know whether I am in order in mentioning it. I should like your help, Madame Temporary Chairman. I wish to ask a question about the Antarctic and I relate it to these estimates because the Navy does send ships to Antarctica.
– No, we do not send ships there.
– You would have to do so in an emergency.
– We might be asked to in an emergency, but we have no responsibility to do so.
– I should like to make brief reference to Division No. 481, Division No. 482 and Division No. 484, which cover three different aspects of the Department of the Navy and on which there are a few points I should like clarified. First, let me say that my interest in the Navy was increased considerably by the opportunity I enjoyed with some other members of the Federal Parliament of having a day at sea with the Navy some years ago. The first occasion was when Mr., now Sir Josiah, Francis was Minister for the Navy. The next occasion was once since the present Minister (Senator Gorton) took office. I can assure those honorable senators who are laughing, and who obviously have not been at sea, that it was a very interesting experience indeed. I hope that the Minister will be able to see his way clear to give those who are laughing an opportunity of going to sea themselves, and, if they go, I hope they get a good rough day. I repeat I should like: to express my appreciation of that opportunity of seeing the Navy , in action. Those of us who went .to sea had a most interesting clay. Not only was the weather kind, but we saw the Navy in operation just as it would be if engaged in battle. I think that is something which could be repeated with great benefit to honorable senators.
I come now to Division No. 481 - Naval Construction, and wish to make some reference to the vessels mentioned on page 4 of the explanatory pamphlet issued by the Minister. First, I should like to know which are the latest destroyers. If 1 remember correctly, I think “ Anzac “ and “ Vendetta “ are the latest, but I should like confirmation of that. I should like to know, too, what are their tonnages and fire power. I know that many of the vessels mentioned are becoming somewhat aged. I can recognize some of them. As far as I can remember “ Quiberon “, “ Quickmatch “ and “ Queenborough “ were converted Q class destroyers that we used during the Second World War, and probably most of their useful life has passed.
Speaking of naval construction, I am sure we are all interested to see the work being undertaken in connexion with the new type vessels with which we hope to equip ourselves shortly. I refer to the two Charles F. Adams class destroyers, to be fitted with sea-to-air guided missiles which are being constructed in America. I have seen reports of much argument about whether these vessels should have been built in Australia or whether they can be more economically built overseas. I honestly believe in my own heart that, with our limited knowledge of guided missiles, the construction of these vessels would be beyond the capabilities of Australian shipyards. In any case, I am confident that they will be a very real acquisition to our Navy. 1 think another point in connexion with these vessels may be discussed under Division No. 484, which relates to Defence Research and Development. At Woomera in South Australia, we have a testing ground for the Weapons Research Organization and I should like to ask the Minister whether the Navy is represented at any testing there of the missiles which will form part of the armament of the new Charles F. Adams class destroyers that we shall be receiving from America in due course. If I remember correctly there was a naval establishment at Woomera and I expect that the Minister will confirm that that is so, although Woomera is a long way from the sea. The Navy will, in the future, be equipped mainly with guided missiles and it would be to its advantage, as well as to that of the other services, to have an establishment at Woomera.
I refer now to Division No. 482 which deals with aircraft. Senator Sir Walter Cooper asked about helicopters. I understand that “ Melbourne “ is to be equipped with helicopters and that these will displace the rather ancient Sea Venoms and Gannets with which this vessel is equipped at the present time. These aircraft, if not obsolete, would be certainly obsolescent.
Is it proposed to equip “ Melbourne “ entirely with helicopters or is it proposed to maintain on this aircraft carrier, as we know it, types of aircraft such as Sea Venoms and Gannets? I believe that it would be a mistake to displace that type of aircraft entirely. I do not think that helicopters will serve the purpose that is expected of them. We still require an offensive weapon such as the Sea Venom or Gannet type aircraft for anti-submarine work. It is for that reason that I ask the Minister whether it is intended to replace that type of aircraft entirely by helicopters or whether it is the intention of the Navy to re-equip the aircraft carrier with some modern, efficient fighters and anti-submarine aircraft.
I should like to join with other speakers in paying a tribute to the Minister for the Navy for bringing out the little booklet which has furnished honorable senators with a fund of information. We feel that the Navy is in good hands with Senator Gorton as Minister in charge. I have mentioned a few things that are exercising my mind in regard to the Navy. These thoughts have arisen as a result of my visit overseas when I was able to see what is being done in other countries. I was particularly impressed in the United States of America by the coastguard service. I realize that in Australia we have what is called a naval reserve which could be used in times of emergency, but while in America I did notice the excellent training opportunity that the coastguard service was affording. I know that there are many small-type vessels operating in the Australian Navy, but I do not think they are given any particular name. I would be interested to know whether the formation of any auxiliary group such as the American coastguard service is contemplated. Such a group could be used to train naval personnel and could carry out very valuable work on our coast in a time of emergency.
Those are the questions I wish to ask the Minister for the Navy. I think we are going through a period when the Navy is changing its form to a great extent. Before long we will have a much more efficient Navy which, in an emergency, could be put to very effective use. I pay a tribute to the Government for the way it is making our naval services as efficient as possible. We realize that with the advance of air power the Navy does not play the same part as it did some years ago, but it is a defence arm that we can ill afford to see deteriorate.
– I rise to discuss the estimates for the Department of the Navy, and in particular Divisions No. 471 and Division No. 480. Before doing so might I say that in contra-distinction to the rather derogatory remarks I had to make last night about the failure of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) to table the annual report of his department before the estimates for that department were discussed in this chamber, I join with my colleagues on this side of the chamber, and those who have spoken on behalf of the Government, in thanking the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) for enlightening the Senate by producing a document containing explanatory notes for the Department of the Navy. The document has been of invaluable assistance, not only to me, but also, I am sure, to my colleagues. It has explained certain matters that I personally had intended to raise in this debate. I am sure it will assist the Minister to expedite the passage of the estimates for his department through this chamber.
As I said, I rose to speak on Divisions No. 471 and No. 480. I refer first to item 01 of Division No. 471 which has reference to the permanent naval forces as per schedule on page 219. The appropriation for this item this year is £12,980,000. When we turn to page 219 we find that the third last item reads, “ Less amount estimated to remain unexpended “, which is shown as £1,722,000. No doubt the Minister has a valid reason for including this amount in the estimates that have been presented to the Senate, but I, and I am sure my new colleagues also, would like some explanation to be given to us for our edification. Perhaps this amount is budgeted for in case of an emergency in the event of hostilities breaking out. Perhaps it is budgeted for to inflate the estimates for this department, but for my own edification I should like to have the item explained by the Minister.
As I said earlier I wish also to refer to Division No. 480. In doing so, I refer the Minister to the answer he gave on 28th March of this year to a question asked on notice in another place. The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Hayden) asked the Minister to give certain details about the disposal of H.M.A.S. “Hobart”, and the Minister gave factual answers. He said, first-
An amount of £1,434,000 was expended on H.M.A.S. “ Hobart “ for various works, including minimum essential maintenance, from the date the vessel was placed in reserve in September, 1947, until the date of sale.
The Minister went on to say that H.M.A.S. “ Hobart “ was disposed of through the Department of Supply to Mitsui (Australia) Proprietary Limited for a total of £186,886, made up of £170,876 for the ship and £16,010 for spares.
I should like the Minister to tell me, if he can, how many ships are still in what has been described as the mothball fleet, and also the amount that is required to keep such ships in reserve. I should like him to tell me, in addition, whether it is intended in the present financial year to dispose of any of the ships that may still be in the reserve. If that is the intention, I ask the Minister to use whatever influence he may have with the Department of Supply to try to get for the scrap ships, if I may use that term, better prices than that obtained for H.M.A.S. “Hobart”. The sale price of that ship was about 10 per cent, of the cost of maintenance since the ship went into reserve in 1947. If other ships in the mothball fleet are to be sold during this financial year, I believe that the Department of the Navy should take up with the Department of Supply, which obviously is the department responsible for disposal, the question of getting higher prices for them.
I refer the Minister again to the answer he gave in another place. Having said that the sale price was £186,000 he went on to say -
No use was made of H.M.A.S. “Hobart” whilst in reserve but she constituted a valuable defence asset if a limited war of significant magnitude had developed.
Because that is so, and because of the great amount of metal that is in these ships, Australia, this Parliament and the department’ administered by the Minister should expect much higher prices than that mentioned by the Minister in the answer to which I have referred.
.- Senator Ormonde asked me about compensation. All that I can say in answer to the honorable senator is that the Department of the Navy, in common with all other Commonwealth departments, does not determine what compensation shall be payable to an employee who is injured in its service. That determination is made by the Commissioner for Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation, a Treasury official. He applies the statutory rules, and he applies them in such a way that there is uniform compensation under uniform conditions in all departments of the Commonwealth Government.
The actual determination of the amounts of money to be paid in compensation cases does not come within my administrative responsibility.
asked me to tell him what were the latest destroyers in the fleet.
They are the three Daring class destroyers, “ Vampire “, “ Vendetta “ and “ Voyager “.
I think the oldest of them is about four years old. The two latest ships to join the fleet are the frigates “Yarra” and “ Parramatta “. They have been in commission for a year or eighteen months. “ Anzac “ is approximately ten years old, and we have in reserve a sister ship, “ Tobruk “. The three “ Q “ class frigates to which the honorable senator referred are last-war ships, but they were completely rebuilt and converted in 1953. However, they are the oldest ships that we have in service of the destroyer-frigate type. We expect two more frigates of the type of “Yarra” and “Parramatta” to join the fleet very shortly. They will be “ Derwent “ and “Stuart”. After that, we will have to wait until we get the “ Charles F. Adams “ class destroyers.
The Department of the Navy does not have an establishment at Woomera but it has some officers based there. In conjunction with the Department of Supply, a good deal of navy work is done at Woomera, but there is no naval establishment there. We do not test at Woomera missiles of the type which will be on the “Charles F. Adams “ class destroyers, but, through the research and development branch, we are testing other types of navy missiles there.
The helicopters that will join “ Melbourne “ will not, of course, do the same sort of work as was done by the fighters or the anti-submarine aircraft that the ship carried. They are not designed to do that. They are designed solely to detect submerged submarines, to attack them and to keep them under water. The Sea Venom aircraft are designed to drive off intruders. They are fighters. They are designed to do a job which cannot be done by landbased aircraft. Land-based aircraft cannot give protection to sea-borne forces.
– Does the Air Force agree with that?
– I do not think that even the most bigoted Air Force man would deny that land-based aircraft cannot do that, but I may be wrong there.
Senator McClelland gave the factual story of “ Hobart “. She was being brought forward during the course of the Korean War in case she was needed. However, the war finished and the expenditure on the ship stopped. We did not, in fact, need her, but had we needed her she would have been a very good ship indeed to have brought into commission.
asked me also whether any more ships from the mothball fleet are expected to be sold. I take just a little exception to that question, because we have hardly any of the mothball fleet left. I have managed to dispose of nearly all of it. We have, as I have said, the.
Battle class destroyers “Tobruk”, and “ Anzac “ in reserve, but, apart from a sea-going tug, there is, I think, only one ship- possibly there are two - a River class frigate, left in what used, to be the mothball fleet. Those ships will be disposed of as soon as possible. The Q class ship, “ Quadrant “, which has been in reserve for some time, is to be disposed of also. I think that will be the first ship to be disposed of.
All that the Department of Supply can do in the matter of disposal is to put the ships up for auction. Australian firms bid for these ships, and so do overseas firms. I do not see what we could do to persuade the owners of those firms to bid more than they think the ships will bring them as scrap metal after the expense of breaking them up. If the honorable senator has a concrete suggestion to make in that regard, I shall be very glad to have it, because I am always eager to get a bit of money.
– What about the cost of conversion of the frigates that may be disposed of?
– I do not think that is a practical question. I do not think those ships could possibly be converted to fighting ships of the kind that we need to-day. I will not attempt to give an idea of what it would cost to put into those ships new electronic equipment, anti-submarine weapons and new guns. There just would not be room in the ships for those things. The ships are just not convertible in the way suggested.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) has been congratulated on the presentation of the explanatory notes on the estimates of his department. He has done a fine job. I hope that that is reflected in the efficiency of the Navy. I do not want to see a paper admiral or a paper Minister. Unfortunately, the Minister is not receiving sufficient money to make the Navy as efficient as it should be. No doubt it is efficient, but it is not big enough or strong enough to play its part in this disturbed world of to-day. No doubt the Navy could do with many more millions of pounds.
In the early part of this year I asked the Minister how the Australian Navy compared with the Indonesian Navy. He rose in his place and refused to answer my question. He said to me, “ You had better see me in my office “. I suppose the reason for that was that we should not compare the Australian Navy with the Indonesian Navy. We on this side of the chamber are at a loss, as I suppose all members of the Parliament are, because we do not know the defence commitments of the Government. If we knew them, we might be able to criticize properly and fairly.
If Australia has understandings with the United States of America, that very powerful nation, about any future imbroglio or war, that it will come to our assistance as Great Britain did in the past, perhaps our Navy is at its proper strength. But if we have to depend upon ourselves alone, I am afraid - I think the Minister will agree with me - that our Navy is very weak indeed. Perhaps we should not discuss Indonesia. However, I have read in the press lately that that country has twenty submarines of a certain W class, whatever that means. I suppose nearly all of them have come from Russia. Indonesia is being assisted in the development of its navy to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds. In Australia we do not spend too much money on the Navy. The summary of the draft estimates of expenditure shows that the total expenditure under the direct control of the Navy is £46,323,000. I notice that an amount of £7,371,000 is included in the draft estimates for naval construction.
I should like to hear the Minister speak about the future expenditure on the two Charles F. Adams class destroyers which will be fitted with sea-to-air guided missiles and will be delivered in 1965. How do those two vessels compare with a modern submarine? Would it be more reasonable and more sensible, in view of the situation in which we find ourselves, for us to spend public money on buying a modern submarine rather than these destroyers? I should like the Minister to answer those questions.
I do not know whether I am in order in speaking about Indonesia, Mr. Temporary Chairman..
-(Senator Drake-Brockman). - The honorable senator will be in order if his remarks are relevant to a division of the estimates under consideration.
– I will relate my remarks to the construction of naval vessels and naval power. In order to get a true picture of Australia’s military and naval power we should compare them with those of our nearest neighbour. 1 am doing this to show the committee that the general public of Australia - I suppose the Government represents the general public - are rather loath to spend money on the defence of this country. Of course, they will spend plenty of money on one-armed bandits or on the development of totalisator betting and other gambling devices. They will get excited about those things, but when we speak to them about the need for defence we get a rather cold reception.
I am sure that the Minister agrees with me when I say that more money should be spent on the Navy than is being spent today. Australians are very worried about what is happening in respect of our nearest neighbour. A colossal development of power is occurring to the north of our country. According to press statements - my knowledge does not go beyond them - in this year’s budget in Indonesia the defence allocation has been increased from 30 to 60 per cent, of all government expenditure. The Indonesians are also proposing plans for compulsory military training. They have an army of 300,000 regular soldiers. We are informed that they have a strategic air force equipped with Russian TU16 bombers that have a 4,000- miles range.
When you know those things and also that Indonesia has twenty submarines, that its navy shortly will include two modern cruisers of 19,200 tons each, eight destroyers, six frigates and about 30 motor torpedo boats, that the departmental chief of the Indonesian naval staff talks of establishing a guided missile flotilla, that Indonesia has established a very strong fleet air arm, has built the biggest air base in South-East Asia and has a marine corps numbering 10,000, then you approach these estimates in a different perspective. It is nice to congratulate the Minister. I do so.
I believe that he is a most efficient Minister. He tries to answer questions properly, except when he gets on to some of his pet anti-Communist ideas. Then we find that he is a fellow traveller of the Nazi-ites
A statement was made in my hearing in this Parliament - I give it for what it is worth - that not very long ago a speaker on the Indonesian government radio station spoke of that country taking over West Irian. He said that that would be accomplished shortly. It has now been accomplished, except that for a few months the United Nations will administer the territory. The speaker said that after West Irian would come the rest of New Guinea, and after taking over New Guinea the Indonesians would turn their attention to Australia. I do not think for one moment that the Indonesian people are warlike. I do not think that they want to join with their naval and military chiefs in an expedition to take over the rest of New Guinea. But we know that in this world there are forces so powerful and so anti-democratic that they are prepared to spend their money on bolstering up countries like Indonesia, as they are bolstering up Cuba.
We have to think very deeply on these matters. This nation has to come to a conclusion on whether or not it will increase its military power in the near future. We on this side are peace-loving people; we believe in peace, but not at any price. We have to ask ourselves whether this Government is spending, or whether the people are permitting the Government to spend, an amount that is appropriate for the defence of Australia, in view of what is happening, very close to our borders and of the fact that to-day we are now bordered by an Asian people.
I wish to mention another matter. I have raised it before and the Minister has answered me, but many moons have waxed and waned since then, and much water has gone under the bridge. Has the Minister any further information concerning the development of the Polaris weapon in the hands of Russia? I picked up to-day an old cutting, the date of which I do not know. It reported a warning by Lord Carrington, First Lord of the Admiralty in the United Kingdom, to the British Parliament that more than 500
Russian submarines constituted a vital danger to the United Kingdom’s supply lines. He said he was surprised that so little outcry was being made against the development of Soviet imperialism and of its bases overseas. He also stated that the United Kingdom could not meet the Russian threat single-handed. According to him, nine Russian submarines were working with the United Arab Republic and the number of underwater craft based on Albania had been increased. Some time ago the “Daily Mail” stated that Russian submarines were shadowing every major exercise carried out by the Royal Navy, the United States Navy, and warships of members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. I suppose the same thing is happening to-day, only much more efficiently.
I do not wish to continue. I do not intend to make a second-reading speech. I am satisfied that the Minister is doing his best. He has shown intense energy and ability, but I am sure that he would like to see more money voted for his department so that it could be made more effective for the fight that is possibly in front of us. Will he answer my questions in relation to submarines and, as Minister for the Navy, would he like to see this country in possession of several modern submarines?
– I notice that the proposed appropriations under Divisions Nos. 480 and 483 are lower than the amounts expended in 1962. For Division No. 480 - Ships, aircraft and aero engines, repair and other charges, an appropriation of £2,497,000 is sought, whereas the expenditure last year was nearly £3,000,000. For Division No. 483- Machinery and plant for naval dockyards and establishment, an appropriation of £400,000 is sought, as compared with an appropriation of £552,000 and an expenditure of £423,126 last year. I am interested to know whether these reductions indicate any trend in the Government’s thinking in relation to the use of equipment and the ability of the Navy to manufacture and repair its equipment. I would have been more pleased if the figures showed a trend towards increased expenditure, particularly as the two Charles F. Adams class destroyers are being built in the United
States and 27 helicopters are being manufactured in the United Kingdom for the Navy. When those projects were commissioned, was consideration given to the manufacture in Australia of some of the parts and equipment for them? We recognize the importance of having not only establishments that are able to manufacture and repair such important defence equipment but also sufficient skilled workers being trained and maintained, in order to be able to do the job in the case of emergency. I should like the Minister to say whether the reductions are indicative of a trend in the Government’s thinking. I trust that this is not so.
I should like to refer also to Division No. 475, item 06 - Naval aviation and other personnel - Special training fees. Is there any significance in the fact that the appropriation proposed, £270,000, is lower than the expenditure of £307,864 in 1961-62?
I should like to raise again the question of the ratio of temporary and casual employees to permanent employees, which I raised in relation to the Department of Civil Aviation last night. Even allowing for what other departments may state as to the proportion of temporary workers to permanent workers, the proportion shown in Division No. 474, Department of the Navy, does not make sense to me. Item 01 shows that ordinary salaries and allowances are expected to total £3,251,000, whereas payments to temporary and casual employees are expected to be just short of £4,000,000. I should hope that the Navy would be conscious of the need to establish, as far as possible,’ the greatest degree of permanence amongst its staff, for the sake of Australia’s future. I should like the Minister to intimate whether these figures indicate any trend in the magnitude of the work of the department.
– I should like to answer first the last series of questions asked by Senator Bishop. Division No. 474, item 02, relates to temporary and casual employees. At first glance, it appears that there is a high proportion of temporary employees to permanent employees, but I direct the honorable senator’s attention to page 8 of the explanatory notes that I circulated. He will see that there is a large wages staff. He will see the numbers as at 1st July, 1961, and 30th June, 1962, and the position as we expect it to be on 30th June, 1963. There are particulars of the salaried staff. Those are civilian employees in the department. There will be approximately 2,300 permanent and 1,895 temporary civilians. Added to those temporary civilians are over 4,000 people working in the dockyards at Garden Island and Williamstown who, of course, are not permanent employees. That is the answer to that query. 1 have already answered a question in relation to Division No. 475, item 06, Naval aviation and other personnel - Special training fees. There is no significance in the proposed reduction in appropriation, other than that last year we sent quite a number of pilots and observers to be trained on the Wessex aircraft that are now being delivered to us in. England. Those personnel will come back and we shall in future be training replacement pilots and observers at Nowra, in training helicopters which we ourselves shall be operating. Consequently, we shall not be paying special fees. The proposed appropriation for Division No. 483 does not indicate that we shall be reducing our procurements of machinery and plant. We expect to expend £400,000 during the financial year. That does not mean that only £400,000 worth of machinery and plant will be ordered. It is expenditure against orders. In point of fact - in some respects I regret to say - we shall be carrying forward until 1963-64 about £500,000 worth of orders. To put the matter in its proper perspective, let me say that we had orders for machinery which was worth £515,000. We shall be paying £400,000 this year and shall be carrying forward to next year about £534,000. The matter depends on delivery dates.
The reason for the reduction of expenditure under Division No. 480 this year is not at all that there will be a reduction in ship repair. Indeed, there will be rather more expenditure on ship repair this year than there was last year, but there will be a reduction on aero engine repair because of the run-down of the fixed-wing aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm. Senator McClelland asked me to explain the item “Less - Amount estimated to remain unexpended, £1,722,000 “, which appears on page 219 of the Estimates. He is not here now, but he may, perhaps, read in “ Hansard “ that the explanation is that we have an authorized ceiling of 12,800 personnel in the Navy. We have to make provision to pay that number of people, but because we know that we shall not have that number of people, we have to make allowance for the amount that will be unexpended. It is purely a book-keeping gimmick which is imposed upon the department.
asked me a number of questions which I find it very difficult indeed to answer. I do not know how to compare a modern submarine with a modern destroyer. They have different functions, and one is designed to destroy the other. I can only say that the destroyers to which he referred would, I hope, destroy a modern submarine, but when forces are joined in battle nobody can tell beforehand who is going to win. However, they have the speed and the capacity to deal with a modern submarine. Of course, when battle is joined the god of battles takes over, and who knows what the outcome will be? Nevertheless, these ships will have everything that it is possible at this moment to have for attacking the most modern types of submarine.
I have no late information on the development of a Polaris-type weapon by the Russian Navy, but I have no doubt whatever that the Russians must be making advances in providing this kind of weapon for some of their submarines. This, of course, is a different type of weapon altogether from the weapons we are concerned with to-night. It is essentially an atomic deterrent weapon, and, at the moment, we are not making provision for weapons of that kind. I remember that, on a previous occasion, Senator Brown asked me in this place to try to make a comparison between the Royal Australian Navy and the Indonesian Navy. I did not want to do so at the time because I did not want to be quoted, at a time of possible tension, as having got up and contrasted the weapons we had with the weapons that Indonesia had. I asked Senator Brown to come to my office, where I would show him “Jane’s Fighting Ships”, in which were set out the ships that we had and those that Indonesia had, and he could judge for himself. I should say, in answer to his queries on this occasion, that, as far as frigates and destroyers go, the ships we have in that category are considerably better than the ships to which they would be opposed, but the intrusion of 6-in. gun cruisers into the area, of course, makes an immense difference. I do not think I can say much more than that.
– I address myself to Division No. 481, which refers to naval construction. I remind the Minister that about two years ago, at his invitation, I attended, along with many other people, the launching of a ship at Cockatoo Island Dock. Mrs. Gorton launched the ship and made a wonderful speech. I thought that she put the Minister to shame. I do not know whether he has lived it down. The Minister may recall that Captain Hutcheson also made a very fine speech, particularly in reference to the future of Cockatoo Island Dock. He said that, at that stage, the future did not look very hopeful. Apart from being interested in defence, I am also interested in the livelihood of about 2,000 workers who are engaged in shipbuilding at the dock. I ask the Minister whether he is in a position to tell honorable senators and the dock workers at Cockatoo Island what he has in mind for the dock for the next five years or so. Has the Government a programme extending over that period or beyond it?
My second question relates to Garden Island, where there is a great shortage of apprentices. I suggest to the Minister that if he wants to improve the apprenticeship position at Garden Island - I do not propose to go into details as to why boys do not become apprentices to-day - he should remember that, generally speaking, an apprentice does not receive as much money as a boy who works in industry and is not an apprentice. I thought that the Government might initiate a scheme whereby it could assist apprentices, by subsidy perhaps, and make their wages a little better than they are at present. If the wages of apprentices were made more attractive the government could in that way guarantee a continued flow of apprentices and future engineers for our own naval industries. I ask the Minister to give me an answer to the two questions I have raised.
– Having only just come into the chamber, I hope that the questions I am about to ask the Minister have not previously been asked. If they have been, I ask him to accept my apologies and to refer me to “ Hansard “. First, I refer to Division No. 499, which relates to advances to States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I note from the document which has been circulated to honorable senators that it is proposed to increase the number of personnel in the permanent naval forces from 10,722 at 1st July, 1961, to 11,103 at 30th June, 1962, and to a minimum of 11,518 by 30th June, 1963. Although there are to be more people in the Navy, there are to be smaller advances to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Is it correct to assume that the Department of the Navy does not intend to provide as many homes for its personnel as it did previously?
The other point to which I direct the attention of the Minister concerns the overall expenditure on the Navy. I raise the matter to seek information and not to be critical. The vote for the Navy this year is more than £1,000,000 greater than it was last year. We find that the biggest increase is for the purchase of new ships and aircraft, which will mean enlargement of the Navy. What is the reason for this trend? Is it intended to modernize the Navy or to replace units that are outmoded? Is the increased expenditure on machinery, ships and aircraft planned for the purpose of enlarging the Navy? If that is so, does the Minister believe that the increase is necessary because of any belief on the part of the Government that there is any greater threat to the defence of Australia?
Will the Minister also inform me what dockyards are available around the Australian coast where naval ships can be repaired? Last December I was at Port Lincoln in South Australia. The town was facing acute unemployment at the time with no prospects of alleviation. A committee was formed to consider what could be done to attract industries to Port Lincoln to provide employment. There were plenty of housing accommodation and labour available, but the prospects were that the number of unemployed would grow in the near future. The committee pointed out that Port Lincoln had one of the best deep-sea ports in Australia which was sheltered and had enough depth to take any naval vessel. The committee recommended that an endeavour be made to have a small naval repair dock established at Port Lincoln to act as a repair depot in time of war. It was pointed out that there was no such depot along the whole south coast of Australia.
Port Lincoln is situated about half-way across the continent and, with the increase in naval strength, it might be useful to have repair facilities there so that it would not be necessary to take disabled vessels to Sydney. Will the Minister inform me what dockyards are available around the Australian coast for repairs? Will the Minister consider these representations on behalf of Port Lincoln for the establishment of repair dockyards there?
.- I join with my colleagues in complimenting the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) on the distribution to honorable senators of explanatory notes on the estimates for the Department of the Navy. This concise explanation of departmental plans and expenditure is of great value when we are considering the vote for such an important section of Australia’s defence forces which is so vital to our national safety. This debate has reflected credit on the Royal Australian Navy because there has been very little criticism of the Department of the Navy. We think of the Navy as the silent service with its great traditions and its air of rum, mouth organs and the lash, and we accept the fact that the Navy will do its job efficiently. We have read about the men of the Navy manning the pumps in times of danger but the matter I wish to refer to the Minister relates more to the parish pump. I refer to Navy public relations, particularly as they concern Tasmania.
I have noticed in the explanatory notes, references to expenditure on many things from pay to stores and equipment, but I cannot see any specific reference to public relations. Over the years, the Navy has attracted to its ranks men and women of very high calibre. In recent years, recruiting for the Navy has been very subtle and the senior service has attracted men of high quality. Tasmania is an island State and we recall that in Great Britain which is similarly surrounded by the sea, the effective techniques and tactics of the Royal Navy have been developed over the centuries. The men of England drew their inspiration from the fact that they were sea-girt. We in Tasmania also are girt by the sea, and we like to see ships of the Navy call on us. Ships of the fleet are sent regularly to the beautiful harbour in the Derwent River for the Hobart Regatta, but I live in the north of Tasmania which has a great naval tradition. I believe that the public relations of the Navy should be extended to those parts of Australia where the Navy can recruit personnel of the right quality. The north of Tasmania gave Admiral Sir John Collins to the Navy as well as Commander Croft, who was also a very distinguished naval man. Probably many more future administrative and executive officers will be recruited to the Navy from northern Tasmania.
We are continually asking the Navy to send some ships of the fleet to the Tamar Regatta at Launceston where people interested in the sea, sailing and aquatic activities gather every year. The Minister has been quite gracious and generous in the past, but the best that he has been able to send us has been a water lighter. We are hoping that we can improve on that, and I have resorted to working the parish pump with a view to inducing the Minister to see whether arrangements can be made to send a substantial unit of his service to Launceston to be present at our annual regatta next January. That regatta has been an annual event for over 100 years and has a great following of people keenly interested in aquatic activities. In view of the fact that his department has been able to present such a favorable record of the year’s activities, and in view of the fact also that he has not many worries or problems, I appeal to the Minister’s generosity and request that he send a substantial unit of the Navy to the Launceston regatta and that he be present himself to add to the prestige of this very important aquatic event by performing the official opening ceremony.
– Senator Ormonde asked what we have in mind for Cockatoo dock in connexion with naval construction, There is no firm programme of building for Cockatoo dock. At the moment, the Sydney-Tasmania ship is being built there. The Cockatoo dock had the opportunity to submit a bid for the Australian Navy survey ship which is being built at Newcastle State dockyards, and if and when it is decided that further naval construction shall take place, Cockatoo dock will have an opportunity to submit a tender in competition with other dockyards.
I do not think it would be possible for us to increase the wages of apprentices in the Navy, because they are set by the various wages boards and commissioners. We could not break the normal practice applying to industry as a result of industrial decisions.
I inform Senator Cavanagh that there is a reduction in the number of houses being purchased. This year, the number is reduced to 100. These houses are allotted to us by the Department of National Development, under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Last year, the number was higher than 100. But this reduction does not indicate that we do not propose to continue to provide housing for the officers and ratings in the Navy in the same way as we have done in the past. In fact, I think it is true to say that in all States except New South Wales we are able to supply all the housing required by officers and ratings. In New South Wales, the position is different.
I think what is in the honorable senator’s mind can best be answered by the statement that, although during the course of the year we shall be increasing the number of ratings in the Navy - I hope quite considerably - a very large proportion of that increase will be junior recruits and apprentices who will not be at the stage at which they are likely to be married for some little time. But it is our policy to provide housing for ratings as in the past.
The increase in the vote for naval construction is brought about by the purchase of new ships for the Navy - two Charles F. Adams class destroyers, the survey ship not quite completed and two frigates which are on the stocks. I can only say that I hope that the result of this will be an enlarged Navy, although that depends on the personnel build-up. If the personnel build-up goes in the way in which I hope it will, the new ships which we are buying will enlarge the Navy instead of replacing ships which are already in’ commission. My reason for saying that I hope that will happen is that I believe the Navy should be bigger in order to be able to take care of all the responsibilities which would be its lot in the event of war.
As to dockyards round the Australian coast where vessels can be repaired, I remind the committee that there is what is virtually a naval base at Williamstown in Victoria. It is more than a repair base. It is really a naval base, although it is not of the size of the base at Garden Island, Sydney. Repair work can be carried out at Newcastle also. There is quite a large dock at Brisbane which can take very large ships coming up the Brisbane River. Offhand, I cannot think of any others.
– There is none round the west coast.
– I know of no docking facilities around the west coast which can take care of a ship of any size. There are slipways, but I know of nothing that can take care of a ship of any size. Of course, one other condition which applies to what I say to the honorable senator is that it depends on the size of the ship. There are plenty of places where ships can be repaired, but I think there are only two or three places where ships of the size of an aircraft carrier and larger can go into a large dock.
To Senator O’Byrne I can say only that his honeyed Irish tone may attract the visit of a vessel to Launceston - certainly he put me in the right frame of mind to send one there - and also to Burnie, because the last thing that I would wish to do would be to leave the northern part of Tasmania- not properly visited by vessels of the Royal Australian Navy.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Proposed expenditure, £9,382,000.
– The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is one of the most efficient organizations conducted by the Commonwealth Government, and one is always pleased to read its reports and support the votes for it. It is not an instrumentality that generally comes in for criticism, but I do wish to refer to the following statement on page 23 of its annual report -
The organization is, however, still faced with the situation that half of its divisions and sections are housed in wholly inadequate and unsuitable quarters, but under the present Budget there can be little improvement.
The amount budgeted for this year is approximately £750,000 greater than the amount spent last year. The expenditure last year was £8,582,436 compared with an appropriation of £9,382,000 for this year. When one peruses the list of invesigations being undertaken by the organization, one appreciates that its scientists are doing a magnificent job in a highly efficient manner, but I am wondering just how much longer they can do this type of work in substandard conditions. In the Estimates there is further provision for this organization under the heading, “ Capital Works and Services “, but the amount is only small. It is approximately £1,000,000, and will not do much to relieve the present pressure on the sub-standard accommodation available. In the statements appended to the Budget speech the following item appears which gives the same idea of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization -
It is estimated that expenditure by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization will increase by £800,000 in 1962-63. Running costs are estimated to increase by £730,000 while £70,000 relates to other services. The increase in running costs provides for the additional activity associated with new projects (the Townsville Pasture Research Laboratory and a Computer Laboratory) and for some expansion in other fields of the C.S.I.R.O. research programme. «
That gives a clear indication that the fact that the appropriation exceeded expenditure last year will do nothing to alleviate the conditions referred to in the report.
The C.S.I.R.O. makes a major contribution to investigations into manufacturing industries. Approximately half of its research programme is connected with manufacturing industries. This is important, as it is to the manufacturing industries that Australia looks to increase its exports. The Government has gone some way by grant ing taxation reimbursements to assist the export drive, but it uses the organization to perform research work to assist manufacturers. That makes this organization very important to the general economy of the country.
This organization has proved its worth in the community over a period of time and should warrant a larger appropriation. At any rate a larger sum should be spent on capital works and services in order to improve the conditions under which scientists and technologists are working and carrying out their research programmes. I was wondering whether the Minister can give the committee some information on this matter, particularly about what is intended to improve the standard of accommodation in the organization.
.- I refer to Division No. 421 which includes the Townsville Pasture Research Laboratory. Not a great deal of information about this laboratory is available. I have been interested in it for several years. I have already congratulated the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (Senator Gorton) for the part he played in having the money made available for this laboratory. I think that it will undertake a completely new work. I have been able to get my information only by talking to officers employed by the C.S.I.R.O. in Queensland; so I hope that the Minister will correct me if anything that I say is wrong.
I understand that the laboratory will undertake tropical pasture research in the legume field. This is tremendously important because we have to find new plants in Queensland. I hope that the laboratory will concentrate far more on research and perhaps link up with the sugar cane laboratory in Brisbane. 1 understand, too, that it will carry out research in the brigalow areas of Queensland, the spear grass belt and the tropical wet coast in the north of the State.
While I am on my feet I should like to make reference to some plants that have been tried out in the sub-tropical area of Queensland, particularly at the Beerwah experimental station 70 miles north of Brisbane. I think it is safe to say tha) this is the only place in the world where beef cattle have been fattened on tropical legumes. The experiment has been most successful. A gain of 300 lb. per annum has been achieved in the wallum country which, prior to the intervention of the C.S.I.R.O., was regarded as quite worthless country. Fertilizer correctives have been applied to this area and wonderful achievements have resulted. There are about 2,000,000 acres of this country in Queensland and the indications are that it will be commercially developed in the near future.
Perhaps the Minister will comment on another matter which stems from a perusal of C.S.I.R.O. reports over the last ten years. I refer to the period from 1950 to 1960 during which the appropriation for the organization has risen from £2,900,000 to over £9,000,000. During that time the scientific staff has increased by only 130 - from 750 to 880. When one considers the scope of the research carried out by the organization one wonders how it has been able to achieve the results that have been achieved with the amount of money allocated to it.
I am very pleased about the establishment of the Townsville Pasture Research Laboratory, and I hope that the Minister will indicate to me whether I am right or wrong in suggesting to the committee the wide range of research that this laboratory is about to undertake.
– I think that the proposed expenditure on the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is the wisest and most economical expenditure for which provision is made in the whole of the Estimates. I wonder how in the world the C.S.I.R.O. can do all the work it has done on such a limited budget. When I consider the salaries paid to scientists working on the various projects which so closely affect the life of this country, and its trade and prosperity generally, I think we are getting the services of these men at bargain rates. Many of them if they were in private industry, would be receiving twice the salary that they receive in this organization. I think it is due to their sense of dedication to dic cause of science and research that th-:y perform this work in the manner in which they do.
I should like to pay a tribute at this stage to all members of the organization for their self-sacrifice. I think they must have before them at all times the great example of a former director of the organization, Sir Ian Clunies-Ross in whose memory there is to be erected a scientific institute to which people all over Australia are being invited to contribute. I hope that men in the business world, farmers and others in the community will be conscious of the debt they owe to the C.S.I.R.O., and that they will show their appreciation by making contributions to the memory of this great man.
Coming to the details of expenditure, I turn to item 07 in sub-division 4. The contribution proposed for the National Institute of Oceanography this year is about one-half of the contribution that was made last year. I assume that the reason for that is that a good deal of the work has already been completed. Incidentally, I direct the attention of honorable senators to the display in King’s Hall, which gives us an idea of the extent of the work that is done by this organization.
I note that it is proposed to make a contribution of £9,800 to what are described as various minor international associations, but that the grant proposed for the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science is only £1,000 - the same as last year. I should like to see a bigger grant made to that association, because it does such valuable work. I should be glad if the Minister would name some of the minor international associations to which £9,800 is to be contributed.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [10.22]. - I notice that the appropriation proposed for building research this year is considerably larger than the appropriation that was made last year. I would be interested to know something about the work that is being done in this field. Is special attention being given to the designing of houses suitable for the very hot northern areas of Australia?
I join with my colleague, Senator Sherrington, in saying that the new pasture research laboratory at Townsville will be of great value to Queensland. We looked forward for a long time to the establishment of this laboratory, and I think it will do a great deal for the people of Queensland, I “pay my tribute to the Government for its work in making this laboratory a reality.
Turning to item 02 in sub-division 4, 1 notice that the expenditure on research studentships last year was about £96,000 -and that the appropriation was £112,200.
The appropriation proposed for this year is considerably larger - £132,000. Does this mean that a greater number of studentships will be available or that the amount of money to be spent on each student is to be increased? What is being done in this field of research?
– Perhaps it would be appropriate now to raise a matter that I tried to raise previously. I was told that 1 was not in order then. I visited many of the establishments of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and I know the great benefits they have brought to industry generally. Does industry, because of the benefits it receives, make any contribution to this organization? I know that many national economic benefits arise from the work of the organization, but there must be many people in Australia who are becoming rich from the results of that work. There is an experimental station at Ryde which does work in relation to woollen fabrics and other fabrics, and I know that the work of that section of the organization has brought a great deal of profit to many people in the textile industry. I am interested to know whether they have responded by making donations to the organization and so reducing the cost to the Government.
.- I shall deal with the questions at random, not strictly in the order in which they were asked. Senator Tangney inquired why there had been a drop in the contribution to the National Institute of Oceanography. We used to make a substantial grant to the Institute of Oceanography in Great Britain and did very little of this work ourselves. Now, as the honorable senator knows, we are doing a great deal of work with the ships “ Diamantina “ and “ Gascoyne “ and in laboratories in this country and the money is being expended in Australia rather than in the form of grants to an overseas institution.
The honorable senator asked also for information about the minor international associations to which we propose to make contributions. The proposed appropriation includes provision for contributions of £8,000 to the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, £884 to the International Institute of Refrigeration, £94 to the International Seed Testing Association, and £423 to the International Organization of Legal Metrology.
asked me about the research studentships referred to item 02 of sub-division 4. We propose to send students of different subjects abroad to carry out work at recognized centres of research. In this way they will obtain training in scientific methods and techniques not at present used in Australia and will be in a position to bring back to Australia much information on the progress of work overseas. I am not quite sure that that explains to Senator Rankin’s satisfaction, or to mine, why the appropriation has been increased this year. I am told now that it has been increased because we propose to send more people overseas.
asked whether industry contributes to the cost of the work that is being done by the C.S.I.R.O. The answer is that various sections of industry do contribute. The cement people contribute, and so do the ceramics, textiles and wool people. I think each honorable senator should exercise his own judgment on whether sections of industry and industry as a whole contribute as much as they might contribute, having regard to the value they get from the work of the organization.
asked me about the work that is being done in what the C.S.I.R.O. claims in its report to be sub-standard conditions. Personally, I believe that, to some extent at any rate, the conditions are substandard. I have seen some of them.
– Are you referring to the conditions in which the staff is working?
– That is right. Over the years the grant made for research has increase.d and the organization has entered more and more fields of research. However, except in fairly recent cases such as the laboratory at Townsville and the computer, the organization did not secure more building funds to ensure that the building programme kept pace with the research programme. I do not propose to answer any questions which may verge on policy questions, but if the situation is as I have described it, one of two courses could be taken. The building vote for the C.S.I.R.O. could be increased to enable the building programme to catch up, or, from the total amount of money that is made available, more could be directed to buildings and less to research. What should be done is a matter of policy that I do not propose to touch on now.
I was glad to hear that Senator Sherrington is pleased with the Townsville laboratory. He said that the staff of C.S.I.R.O. had not increased to a great extent. I think the increase has been ISO during the last ten years. I am now talking about scientific staff only. An increase of about £800,000 in the organization’s vote this year should lead to another 20 scientists being employed. Referring to the previous question, I say that in my view, unless and until the working conditions are brought up to a higher standard, the staff position will stay as’ it is.
– 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.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I, along with other people, appreciate the work that is being done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. The work is done by a great body of efficient and dedicated scientists. I should like some enlightenment on one item in the Estimates. I refer to Division No. 421, sub-division 1, item 01 - Salaries and allowances as per Schedule, page 216. On that page,, under the heading “ Investigations “ we find that in 1961-62 there were 29 chiefs of divisions and that this year there will be 32. Yet the increase in the appropriation is from £148,107 to £162,815. In 1961-62 there were 1,537 research officers, experimental officers and draughtsmen and this year there are to be 1,645 Yet the increase in the appropriation is from £3,673,423 to £3,940,762. There is to be an increase in the number of assistants, technical officers and people in various other classifications from 2,479 to 2,701. Yet the appropriation is to be increased only from £2,533,531 to £2,800,103.
In the last year there has been a dramatic increase in the salaries of engineers. The first professional engineers’ case brought about such an increase. The more recent case has brought increases to other grades of engineers not covered by the first case. It seems to me that the effect of those increased salaries will be that the scientists employed by the organization will receive similar increases in their salaries. These Estimates may have been prepared before the results of the second engineers’ case came to hand. If the Estimates were prepared after that case, it seems to me that there has been a very serious under-estimation. Senator Cohen reminds me that the judgment in the second case was given in June of this year. I suggest for consideration by the Minister that a lot of expectation would be destroyed if these Estimates were correct. They provide for an increase in the number of scientists; yet there seems to be no provision for what I would expect to be a very considerable increase in the salaries of the individual officers. The Minister might give some consideration to that matter.
I am also, reminded that, as .was expected, one of the results of the judgments to which I have referred was that the salaries of legal officers were increased substantially only last week. So, there might be some revision of the salaries of the scientists. The Minister might enlighten me on another matter in connexion with administration. A number of officers and the head office of the organization are in Melbourne. Is there any intention to move any of those officers to Canberra in the course of the next year?
– The answer to the second question asked by the honorable senator is that there is no intention to move the head office of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to Canberra in the course of the next year. My reply to the other point that the honorable senator made is that in the course of time there may be a need to revise these estimates. That will depend upon the judgment of the Public Service Arbitrator. At present the question whether the salaries of the people to whom the honorable senator has referred should or should not be raised is before the arbitrator. Until his judgment on that question is given, the salaries will stay as they are at present. The normal authorized departmental practice is not to make estimates on possible future awards of arbitrators or arbitration courts.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Proposed expenditure - Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization - Capital Works and Services, £1,011,000- noted.
Proposed expenditure, £4,593,000.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman-
– Give us a fair go. We are not going to start on the Estimates of the Department of Health now, are we?
– I want to subdue the sirex wasps. I do not want to hear them buzzing in this chamber. I refer to Division No. 291, sub-division 3, item 05 - Sirex wasp control and eradication (for payment to the credit of the National Sirex Fund Trust Account). The appropriation sought under this item is £50,000, the same as last year’s appropriation. Will the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) inform me whether I am correct in thinking that last year’s appropriation was the first appropriation under this heading? Will he give me some indication of the nature of the work on which the £50,000 was expended last year? I am interested to know whether the Commonwealth Government is the only body that contributes money to the National Sirex Fund Trust Account.
I was obliged to the Minister for the courtesy and trouble that obviously his officers went to recently in order to advise me fully - much more fully than I had been advised on any previous occasion - of the activities that were being engaged in and the programme of work that was planned for the control of this pest. The Minister should know that I hold the view that the attention that has been given to this problem over the last twelve months indicates a degree of neglect by State instrumentalities of this wasp problem. It has turned out to be much more extensive in Victoria than was first hinted by the Victorian forestry officials. I should like to know whether the Minister entertains any real confidence that the procedures being employed at present are arresting the expansion of the effect of this pest.
The other matter to which I wish to refer is an unnumbered item, following item 05, to which I have referred. It reads “ Commonwealth Serum Laboratories - Research “. Last year it absorbed a vote of £40,000. This year nothing is to be appropriated. I have no doubt that the alteration is explained by the reconstruction of the laboratories, but I should be pleased to know from where finance equivalent to that amount of £40,000 is being provided, and to have an assurance that money for that kind of research is not being diminished.
– Under Standing Order No. 279, 1 move -
That the Temporary Chairman do report progress and ask leave to sit again.
I do so, because-
– Order! The honorable senator may not debate the motion.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator I. A. C. Wood.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I wish to make a brief reply to the question asked by Senator “Wright concerning the sirex wasp. He asked whether the proposed provision of ?50,000 was in fulfilment of an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States whereby an amount of ?200,000 would be provided to eradicate, if possible, the sirex wasp on the mainland, devoting some portion to research. He also asked what was the nature of the expenditure. It was divided into two categories. A committee was set up under the chairmanship of the chairman of the Forests Commission of Victoria, to pursue a very vigorous campaign of eradication in Victoria and to ascertain to what extent the pest had spread in that State. That policy has been pursued, and I shall inform the honorable senator in a very few moments of the actual progress made.
The other fork of the attack on the wasp was research. In general terms, it was agreed that Tasmania would be the State in which these activities would be concentrated, because the sirex wasp had been firmly established there, I understand, for some time, and this condition lent itself to research. The infested areas in Victoria have been mapped out and many infested trees have been destroyed. The work of eradicating all sirex-infested trees in Victoria will be actively pursued. Surveys in all other mainland States have revealed no other sirex-infested areas. Infested areas in Tasmania have been clearly defined. Research work is already well under way and all resources in this field available to the Commonwealth and State Governments are being mobilized. Already, some parasites have been introduced in this field by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
Senator Wright also asked, for information concerning the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. He referred to research. As he suggested, the fact that no provision is made for research in this year’s Estimates is the result of the setting up of the commission. The organization is now operating under its own charter. I have here a very interesting, short paragraph on the way in which the research is financed, and the honorable senator may like to hear it. If the overall financial result of the activities of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, including the cost of research, discloses a profit, no payment is made to the commission. In other words, the research is financed from the commission’s ordinary trading activities.
Senate adjourned at 10.53 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 October 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1962/19621011_senate_24_s22/>.