24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Having regard to the applications which, it is said, are to be made by the Australian National Airlines Commission and Ansett Transport Industries Limited after 18th November next to acquire turbo-jet aircraft for their Australian services, will the Minister, before issuing a certificate under section 13 (c) of the Airlines Equipment Act 1958, consider the advantage, in the interests of competition, of allowing to each applicant freedom of choice of the type of aircraft, regardless of whether the types chosen are identical so long as they are reasonably comparable? Have there been any discussions between the Minister or his department on the one hand, and either of the two airline operators on the other hand, about the type or types of turbo-jet aircraft which might be acquired? If so, to what effect, or with what result and in relation to what type or types of aircraft? What inquiries overseas or from overseas aircraft manufacturers have been made by the Minister or his department as to the types of turbo-jet aircraft available or likely to be available? What are the results of any such inquiries?
– There has been, and there is again this morning, considerable press speculation as to what the airline operators are doing about the selection of types of aircraft for replacements, which may be applied for after 18th November. There is a rather dramatic statement in one of the morning newspapers that a conference is to be held to-day in Melbourne between representatives of the Department of Civil Aviation and the airlines concerned. That is not correct. For some time, the airlines have been assessing the possibilities of various types of aircraft. In the course of that assessment, each airline necessarily has had discussions with the Department of Civil Aviation on technical and operational matters. These include airports and their availability and suitability for various types of aircraft and similar matters.
Senator O’Byrne has raised a very important point about the freedom of choice that each airline will have. I can best answer the question by referring the honorable senator to the Civil Aviation Agreement of last year. That agreement contains the very words that the honorable senator used - comparable rather than identical aircraft. The provision is that the aircraft purchased by each airline shall be comparable. That does not mean that they shall be identical. Of the aircraft that have been looked at by the operators, there are three long-range heavy types. They are the De Havilland Trident, the Caravelle Mark III. and the Boeing. A smaller English jet aircraft, the B.A.C. III., also has been assessed. As 1 understand it, discussions are continuing between the airlines and the various manufacturers. There undoubtedly will be further discussions between the airlines and my department on the technical aspects before 1 8th November.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Owing to the world tensions which have been caused by a build-up of Communist arms in Cuba, is the Minister satisfied that the Government could rely on the Waterside Workers Federation in the event of Australia being involved in hostilities?
– Be your age!
– Order! (Opposition senators interjecting) -
– 1 say to honorable senators opposite that my question concerns the defeat of an. Australian Labour Party man by a Communist. I ask the question because of the disturbing announcement that the Communist, Roach, had defeated the secretary, Mr. Fitzgibbon, for the position of delegate to an Asian, conference. Is it a fact that at yesterday’s federal council meeting the Communists further dominated the council by carrying a resolution which strongly attacked the United States of America? Was this resolution the complete opposite of a motion proposed by Mr. Fitzgibbon?
– I should not like what I have to say by way of reply to be thought, to apply to all the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. It certainly does not apply to the majority of them. But since I have been asked this question, I must say that I do believe that Communists in Australia, whether they are leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation - and many of the leaders of the federation are Communists - or whether they are not, could not be relied upon to act in any other way than to further the interests of Russian communism and to do what they were asked to do by the government of Russia. Indeed, Mr. President, I think that anybody who looks back to the war against fascism will remember that that war in its initial stages came about as the result of an agreement between Russian communism and Hitlerian nazism and fascism. During that period of the war and before the Fascists turned on the Communists and attacked them, the Australian Communists did all they could to impede Australia’s war effort against fascism. It was only later, after communism had been attacked, that they came in to help the Australian war effort. I believe that they would now, as always, act as lackeys of the Russian government.
Senator BROWN__ To get away from communism and the waterside workers, I shall ask my friend the Minister for Health five questions about cancer. Is it not a fact that from time to time charlatans have made false claims concerning cures for cancer? Should such false claims prevent the Cancer Research Council and other medical bodies from investigating claims to cure or alleviate cancer? Is the Minister aware that in last Sunday’s issue of the Brisbane “Truth” newspaper, an article appeared, under the caption, “Cancer Cure Claimed - Secret Potion from Leaves “, in which it was stated that a 65-year-old farmer, Richard John Williams, who lives near Coffs Harbour, had successfully treated cancerous cattle and also had1 had much success in treating humans? Is the Minister also aware that representations have been made to several main medical institutions but without success? Will he cause Williams’s claims to be thoroughly investigated? I shall hand to him the page from “Truth” dealing with the matter.
– It is a well-known fact that many false claims of cures for cancer have been made from time to time. I have not seen the report referred to by the honorable senator. Therefore, I have not had the opportunity to ask my departmental officers to examine it and1 to let me have their views on it. I cannot add to that except to say in reply to the last question asked by Senator Brown, about whether we will have these claims examined, that I will have the report brought to the notice of my departmental officers. I give him the assurance that all of such claims are examined and, contrary to what is perhaps generally thought, more than just a cursory examination is made of them, because cancer is such a dread disease. Obviously there will be a break-through some time, and I believe that we have a responsibility to examine all claims that may have at least some semblance of merit.
– In directing a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, I remind him that a week ago in this chamber I made a request, which was most unfairly and mendaciously criticized by certain members of the Opposition, that he should get the Australian Government to take action at the United Nations to place on the agenda of that body the question of the barbarous persecution of Russian Jews by the Soviet Government. I ask him now whether he has been able to confer with his colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, and whether he has been able to take any action to assist these unfortunate people.
– As a result of this matter being raised in both Houses, I have been able to speak to the Minister for External Affairs about it. There is a matter coming up in the Third Committee of the United Nations dealing, amongst other things, with racial intolerance and the suppression of freedom of worship. I understand that this matter of the persecution of Jews inside Russia is to be raised during discussion of that item in the United Nations. In fact, the Minister for External Affairs has given instructions to the department that this matter is to be raised and that the Australian delegation is to seek to have passed a resolution expressing opposition to this sort of religious persecution in the hope that the resolution will be translated into legislation by all the countries concerned. If that should prove impossible, and if any country should feel that it could not stop religious persecution inside its borders, than the Australian delegation is to press that those who are persecuted should at least be allowed to emigrate from that country.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the fact that the international situation has so rapidly deteriorated compared to that of 1951, would the Government be prepared to withdraw the proposed defence plan submitted to Parliament yesterday and immediately re-submit one more in keeping with the seriousness of the present world situation?
– I can assure Senator Turnbull that there is no possibility of that request being met. The present situation is that the defence plan that was announced in the Parliament and is now before it for consideration just has not been prepared in any amateur fashion; it has been adopted by the Government after full consideration of the technical advice of the Government’s professional advisers. I assure Senator Turnbull, and any other critic of the Government, that the plan is much stronger and will be much more effective than the critics of the Government may think.
– 1 ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade whether it is a fact that 380 Australian books from twenty Australian publishing houses, which were originally displayed at the Frankfurt International Book Fair, are now to go on public exhibition in West Berlin. In view of the interest aroused, particularly i:n children’s books and in natural history, technical, scientific and medical text-books, will the Department of Trade co-operate with the Australian Book Publishers Association to extend the display to other countries of Europe and Asia?
– I do not pretend to be up to date or fully conversant with this matter. I am aware that this exhibition of books has created quite a degree of interest overseas. The exhibition has been successful. Indeed, it has been more successful than its originators ever thought it would be. I have heard that proposals are under consideration to extend the exhibition to countries other than those originally contemplated. However, as I cannot speak with authority on that aspect I shall seek Mr. McEwen’s reactions to the honorable senator’s proposal.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the great difference between charges for most commodities to country people and to city dwellers, will the Government, in conjunction with the States, institute an independent and thorough inquiry with a view to having a uniform price charged for like commodities in both country and city? We proudly boast that we are one people, having one form of taxation and one basic wage in each State, the latter based, I might say, on the lower city prices. Will the Minister agree that uniform prices in both country and city would do much to reduce the high cost of living in the country and thus help to populate country areas?
– The course that Senator Fitzgerald advocates may well be very desirable but it seems to me to be a quite impractical one. Although country residents, being far from metropolitan areas, suffer great disadvantages in respect of the cost of some goods. On the other hand, being closer to the sources of supply, they are quite frequently able to buy their requirements of foodstuffs in particular at prices lower than are charged in the metropolitan areas. Country people do not incur the heavy travelling expenses that confront most people living in suburban districts of metropolitan areas. I do not think that an inquiry of the kind suggested by the honorable senator would have much chance of yielding any practical result.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether it is a fact that statements have been made in the Senate and elsewhere alleging that comparatively large numbers of British migrants are returning to England because of the housing situation in Australia. Has the Minister any information about the number of British migrants who have returned to the United Kingdom? How many of these have since come back to Australia?
– An article dealing with this matter, written by Mr. Appleyard, who is on the staff of the Australian National University, appeared in the September, 1962, issue of the “ Economic Record “. That article expressed certain findings or opinions. The article was based on interviews with 81 migrants who had returned from Australia to England in 1959. Those migrants were asked why they returned to the United Kingdom. Only five of the 81 gave as the reason for their return their dissatisfaction with housing in Australia. If the result of that sampling is indicative of the general position the stories that we hear of migrants returning because of lack of housing in Australia are obviously grossly exaggerated. Some other interesting findings were made as the result of the survey. Most migrants, it was found, earned more in Australia than they earned in the United Kingdom and most of them took more money back to the United Kingdom than they brought with them to Australia. Of the total number who were interviewed and who had returned to the United Kingdom, 71 per cent, planned to re-migrate to Australia or had already done so. Many of the people who did not plan to return were no-hopers who had lived throughout their stay in Australia in hostels and had decided to return to the United Kingdom almost immediately after their arrival here. Disappointment with conditions was not an important reason for return. Many migrants were disillusioned by conditions in the United Kingdom after their return. I commend the article to honorable senators. It was written by a professional man who will have to stand up to the criticism that is made. It is his article and not the article of the Government or any one else. It is an interesting article.
– It may not be right.
– The article contains the writer’s findings based on a sample that he took.
– Is the Minister for Health able to give me an answer to a question that I asked him about two weeks ago on the danger to Australia of an infiltration of small-pox from New Guinea? My question was -
Has the Minister for Health seen a report that the withdrawal of the Dutch from West New Guinea has caused a breakdown of medical services in that area? If this is so, does it give credence to a recent statement by the Queensland Director of Public Health that Australia could be in danger of severe small-pox infection? Could the Minister give the Senate some information on this matter?
– Subsequent to the asking of the question without notice by Senator Ormonde on 9th October, I conferred with my colleague, the Minister for Territories. The following information has since been obtained from the Administrator of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea -
Travellers through Hollandia report that a high proportion of Dutch medical staff are still serving with United Nations Temporary Executive Authority. Locally we are unaware of any developments or any indication of a breakdown in medical services other than those related to cholera in the Agats area. If cholera is limited and controlled, as reported, to one area, this indicates a reasonable standard of emergency services. I consider action re small-pox and cholera in the Territory such that the danger to Australia from these infections has not increased by Dutch withdrawal.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Having regard to the general dissatisfaction expressed by people in Tasmania because the special grant for unemployment relief was not expended in such a manner as to create the maximum amount of employment, will the Government, if grants be allocated for this purpose in the future, give consideration to requiring the State governments to produce a plan of work that will provide substantial employment and confer very definite benefits on the States concerned?
– The normal method of making money available to the States for their purposes is, as the honorable senator knows, for the money from taxation collections to be allocated amongst the various States on an agreed basis. The States receive a lump sum of money. When they have received that lump sum, it is entirely the responsibility of the State governments to allocate the money for health, education, roads, water supply and matters of that kind which are within the province of the States. It is entirely the responsibility of the State governments to do that in respect of the normal and large amounts of money that they receive each year.
Senator Lillico has asked, me about special grants in addition to those lump sums. 1 think this is strictly a matter not so much for the Minister for Labour and National Service as for the Commonwealth Government. Some grants for special purposes are made under section 96, I think it is, of the Constitution. The grants to which the honorable senator referred were made for a special purpose - they were made to take up the slack in employment - but they were made without strings so that the States could use them in whichever way they liked. I am sorry to hear that the Tasmanian Government used its grant, I gather, in an inefficient and perhaps political way. Whether anything can be done about that is a matter for the Commonwealth Government. I will bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Labour and National Service and he will pass it on.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise concerning the importation of citrus juices. Growers and canners in South Australia have complained1 about the competition from imported juices and have expressed the view that there is an anomaly in that, while Australian growers are trying to export fruit, fruit juices are being imported. On 26th September, 1962. the Minister released a press statement to the effect that the Special Advisory Authority, Sir Frank Meere, C.B.E., had conducted an inquiry into an application for urgent temporary protection against imported fruit juices. The application by citrus growers was prompted by, amongst other things, their fears about importations and the largescale advertising in Australia by one of the principal United States processors of citrus juices. The Minister stated that he had accepted the findings of the Special Advisory Authority, and that the question of a reasonable return to growers was one that was more appropriate for consideration in accordance with normal tariff procedures. He said also that if the industry wished to avail itself of these procedures it would no doubt advise the Government to this effect. As the importation of citrus juices is of great concern to growers in South Australia and elsewhere in Australia, will the Minister advise whether renewed representations have been made by the industry and whether the Government proposes any action at this stage?
– This matter was referred to the Special Advisory Authority of the Tariff Board. It was noted that imports had considerably diminished in the months just prior to the authority’s inquiry. After examining the whole position and hearing evidence, the authority saw no cause at this juncture for the imposition of emergency duties, but recommended that a close check be kept upon imports. He stated also that if the industry noted any subsequent increase in imports it could revive the question with the Department of Trade. I do not know whether the industry has yet taken any further steps.
– -Is the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs able to make any statement to the Senate on tension on the island of Timor, which is very close to the north-west of Australia, between the Portuguese and the Indonesians? Has Australia a representative on Timor? If so, to what section of Timor is he accredited?
– The honorable senator asked me a question along these lines yesterday. At that stage I personally had not had any information as to alleged incidents in Timor. I can now state that that is the official position. The Department of External Affairs has no official information of any kind as to alleged incidents in Timor. We do have a consul at Dili, in Portuguese Timor; he has been there for many years now.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is it a fact that within the next few months a variety of toys that are manufactured in cheap labour countries will be available for sale to the Australian public in connexion with the Christmas trade? What action, if any, can and will the Minister take to ensure that such articles, before entering Australia, are branded in such a manner as to enable prospective purchasers easily to discern the country of origin of the articles?
– This matter does raise some difficulty. The honorable senator was good enough to speak to me about it a few weeks ago; it is an important subject and it was exercising his mind. I have not yet obtained from the department all of the information that I should like, and I propose to write to the honorable senator later. The difficulty we do encounter is that although some articles are clearly marked with the country of origin when they pass through the Department of Customs and Excise, and become available for purchase, after having entered the country they pass from the control of the department in this respect. If any alteration is made, or if the mark of the country of origin is eliminated, it then becomes a matter for the State authorities. I am aware that the position is not very satisfactory, but at present the authority of the Department of Customs and Excise is limited to the time when the article enters the country. We have strict regulations dealing with the way these articles should be marked. I propose to write to the honorable senator and tell him about these regulations, but I have described to him the position at the moment.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. I point out that in Sydney the national television station, Channel 2-ABN, appears to have a different starting and concluding time from the commercial stations, Channel 9 and Channel 7. I understand that in the aggregate the viewing time of the national station is less than that of the commercial stations. I ask the Minister whether this is so and whether there is some rational explanation for it.
– It is true that the commercial television stations transmit for longer periods than the national station, but I remind the honorable senator that the Australian Broadcasting Commission provides a service amounting to 56 hours weekly. 1 emphasize that it is not the function of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to compete with commercial stations in respect of the time of transmission. The commission’s greatest concern is to improve the standard of its programmes generally and to use an everincreasing amount of Australian talent. I can only repeat what I said previously, namely, that I believe that this policy is in the best interests of the Australian viewing public, rather than an extension of the hours to compete with commercial stations.
– I should like to preface a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation by quoting from a statement he made during a recent debate, when he outlined the frustrating role that the Premier of South Australia had played in past negotiations with the Commonwealth on the standardization of rail gauges in South Australia.
– Order! Senator Ridley, I ask you to be careful not to give too much information. You must confine yourself to asking a question.
– I wish merely to quote a passage from a statement by the Minister.
– Please do not go into too much detail.
– The Minister said - the Commonwealth, acting on its cwn initiative, undertook more works in connection with its own railway in South Australia. The Commonwealth extended its line, first, to Leigh Creek in the north. That work made better, more efficient and remarkably cheap coal haulage available in South Australia. Even that work, which was of great benefit to South Australia, came under criticism and was challenged by the Premier. He wanted the line northward taken east of the Flinders Range rather than west of that range, as planned. To resolve the difficulty-
– Order! The honorable senator is not asking a question, he is giving information. Will you please ask your question?
– I ask the Minister whether he recollects making that statement in which he went on to say that the screwball idea of the Premier of South Australia was thrown out by the royal ° commission, and that subsequently it became notorious that the Premier was playing party politics for the benefit of the people of Quorn. If the Minister remembers making that statement I shall frame my question around it. My question is: Was the opinion that, in suggesting the alternative route, the Premier of South Australia was putting forward a screwball idea and playing party politics, the personal opinion of the Minister only, or was it the opinion of the Cabinet of the time? Was this opinion formed before the decision was made to set up the royal commission? Was the cost to the Australian public £25,000, as suggested by Senator Hannaford?
– I do not want to canvass my own private statement although I am tempted to do so in order to reply to the honorable senator. The important part of the answer I have to give him in reply to his long question is that the route suggested by the Premier of South Australia was not, in the opinion of the royal commission set up to examine the question, the test route and the royal commission subsequently recommended against it. This was not my opinion or the opinion of this Government; it was the opinion of the royal commission set up specifically to inquire into the matter. As to the cost of the royal commission, my memory is not sufficiently sharp to recall whether it was precisely £25,000. but it was certainly in the vicinity of £25,000.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation concerning international tourism in Australia. Is the Minister aware that at a recent conference of the Australian National Travel Association, an American tourist specialist said it would be difficult to attract more Americans to Australia because hotels in our capital cities are not of international standard? Is the Minister aware that the American specialist listed a few of the petty but nevertheless, in the aggregate, very irritating deficiencies in these hotels, such as the electrical fittings, quality of service, types of furniture and so on? Will the Minister assure the Senate that before the construction of the Qantas hotel is begun, international experts will be consulted to advise not only on the building but also on the servicing, equipping and fitting out of such an hotel?
– I can give quite a categorical assurance to Senator. Buttfield that the hotel which will be constructed for Qantas in Sydney will be up to world standards, judged on any basis at all. The Qantas organization is keenly aware of the requirements of an international hotel. It has conducted an hotel, admittedly not of world standard from the point of view of construction, for a number of years. Qantas makes a point of keeping itself informed on what the travelling public requires in an hotel. This has become increasingly necessary as, with the passage of years, tours have been sold by airline operators as a package deal, covering not only conveyance of passengers but also provision of accommodation at all points along the air routes. Therefore, Qantas is well informed on these matters; but to make doubly sure that this hotel will reach the standards such as those suggested by the honorable senator, New York architectural consultants are engaged in conjunction with Australian architects to ensure that the latest developments in hotels will be incorporated in the Sydney structure.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government concerning war service land settlement. With the indulgence of the Senate, I preface my question by saying that about twelve months ago I directed a question on this matter to the Minister, and he replied in general terms that those who participated in the scheme were most fortunate. I agreed then and still agree with the Minister’s statement. I ask the Minister: Has the Government taken any cognizance of the diminishing net returns to farmers, including soldier settlers, from dairy products and other primary produce? I remind the Minister that the 1954 leasing agreement which reviewed the issue of leases for war service land settlement did not allow a settler any appeal against the agreement until he defaulted in his payments. The settler then had the right to appear before a board consisting of a magistrate, a representative of the Minister in charge of war service land settlement and a representative of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s League of Australia. If the settler was held to be guilty of default, his property could be confiscated. In view of those provisions, has the Government made a survey to ascertain whether any real hardship is being suffered by war service land settlers? I refer particularly to settlers engaged in the dairy industry and operating on low profit margins, and those who are working properties on which the capitalization is too heavy for the income they derive from diminishing returns on their products. Will the Government consider some form of interim relief for such cases? Will the Government also consider providing that before a settler falls into default because of his reduced income from dairy production, he may appeal for interim assistance? In cases where State governments are administering the war service land settlement scheme, will the Commonwealth Government discuss with the States the provision of interim relief in cases of hardship? Has the Australian Legion of Ex-servicemen and Women sent to the Commonwealth Government from its 1962 federal conference an expression of concern about this problem? Has the Minister received from the R.S.L. conference held in Western Australia in June of this year, a similar expression of concern?
– As I understand Senator Cooke’s questions, he proposes a complete re-organization of the whole administration of war service land settlement. He asked seven or eight quite separate and distinct questions which no Minister could reasonably be expected to answer offhand. I suppose that in any great war service land settlement scheme, there are rises and falls in the fortunes of those who participate. When prices improve, as happened with wool prices recently, the position of the soldier settlers is much better than it is when prices fall.
The Government is quite conscious of the situation and of the diminishing returns to primary producers. Indeed, the Government’s realization of the situation is evident in the economic policy that it has applied. That policy has been severely criticized by those who sit on the Opposition side with
Senator Cooke, but in fact it has stabilized costs and prices in the Australian community over the past eighteen months. No section of the Australian community has benefited more from that stabilization of costs than have the primary producers. I can do no more than say to Senator Cooke that I will see that the Minister in charge of the war service land settlement scheme is acquainted with the views that the honorable senator has expressed.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been directed to a newspaper report from Boston, in the United States of America, that the German measles virus, rubella, has been discovered? As rubella is a menace to unborn babies, causing blindness, deafness and heart disease, will the Minister examine the authenticity of this report so that the Commonwealth Department of Health may intensify its efforts to isolate the virus and provide a vaccine to control it?
– I recollect discussing this matter with the Director-General of Health, but I must confess that my memory does not serve me well enough to convey to the Senate his thinking on the matter. It is a subject of great importance and I shall ask the Director-General to let me have his views on it. I shall then pass them on to the honorable senator.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply has furnished the following answer: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The Minister tor Trade has informed me as follows: - 1 and 2. Our trade, commissioner office in the “Philippines did inform us that the Philippines Government had taken measures to decrease the prices of essential imported foodstuffs affected by devaluation of the peso. These include the reduction of the tariff on liquid and powdered milk and the selling of imported condensed milk by the National Marketing Corporation (Namarco) at landed cost. Namarco invites quotes periodically for the supply of these products and orders are made on the basis of the tenders submitted. Invitations by Namarco for quotes are immediately relayed by the Trade Commissioner, Manila, to the Department of Trade and advised to manufacturers who have the capacity to supply. Some manufacturers are informed independently by their local agents. Australian firms made offers in response to the most recent Namarco invitations for quotes and one was successful in obtaining orders for condensed milk, but an Australian offer for the supply of evaporated milk was not successful.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The following answer is now supplied- -
– I lay on the table of the Senate a report by a special advisory authority on the following subject: -
Vinyl acetate monomer.
I also lay on the table of the Senate a report by the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Axle systems (other than steering or driving axles) and associated equipment.
It does not call for any legislative action.
– For the information of honorable senators, I lay on the table of the Senate the following paper: -
Post Office - Financial Report, for year 1961-62.
I point out to honorable senators that it has not been possible to prepare the annual report for presentation to the Parliament prior to the consideration of the estimates for the Postal Department. However, in order that honorable senators may have information about the operations of the department during the debate, the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) has had this interim report prepared. It must be understood that these accounts are currently under audit by the Auditor-General, whose report will be tabled when the annual report is presented to the Parliament.
– by leave - Honorable senators will be aware that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) is to lead the Australian delegation to the eighth conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to be held in Lagos, Nigeria. Mr. Hasluck will leave Australia on 31st October, and during his absence the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) will act as Minister for Territories.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 6th November, at 3.30 p.m.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be granted to Senate Aylett on account of ill health.
Debate resumed from 16th October (vide page 838), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The bill before the Senate proposes to amend the Customs Tariff 1933-62: Eighteen schedules are incorporated in the bill, each with a different date of commencement. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) has pointed out that recommendations by the Tariff Board and reports by the Special Advisory Authority form the basis for the proposals. Except for some drafting and administrative changes which do not affect rates of duty payable, the bill has as its background reports that have been made by the Tariff Board. Before I discuss the details of the particular schedules, I inform the Senate that it is my intention at the committee stage to make requests relating to the items concerning monofil, gramophone parts and miscellaneous textiles. The requests that I intend to make will be circulated to honorable senators.
A matter of such importance to the economy of the country should be reviewed in the light of recent Australian tariff policy. It is very interesting to read the Tariff Board’s report for 1961-62, in which an indication is given of the number of references the board has dealt with. In the last year, there were 61 normal references and 25 references, under section 17a, to the Special Advisory Authority, Sir Frank Meere. There were six interim reports under general textile reference. In all, there were 92 references to the Tariff Board last year, and each one of them affected a particular sector of the Australian economy. It is quite natural for the Tariff Board and the whole concept of tariffs to come under criticism because of the impact tariffs must make on an individual or particular industry whose present trading arrangements, whose past results and whose future are under review. In view of the scope of the Tariff Board’s influence, and in view of its importance, if I may use that word, in the economy to-day, it appears that the board will have to make a more methodical approach in respect of the co-ordination of its policies and other factors in our economy. Opinion is considerably divided about the purpose of the Tariff Board and tariffs generally. It is held by some people that the Tariff Board is a price fixer and, at times, its recommendations do have the effect of fixing prices.
Tariffs and protection have been a basic plank of the platform of the Australian Labour Party ever since the great battles that raged around free trade and protection, and it is on that basis that I should like to expound a few views relating to the main objectives of a tariff policy and how the objectives that should be set in such a policy should be achieved by the Tariff Board. At the present time, there is no defined instruction to the board on how its activities could or should fit into the general pattern of our economy. The board examines submissions from all sections of the manufacturing community together with various reasons for making them. The conscientious people who comprise the Tariff Board then diligently apply themselves to a consideration of the cases presented to them and the conclusions they arrive at after considering the evidence available to them produce recommendations such as those which we have before us for consideration in the Senate to-day.
I should like to stress a very important point to which I believe we, as a Parliament and as a people, should give very close consideration. I refer to the dramatic change in the economy of Australia brought about by the impact of our immigration policy. Not only has the higher Australian birthrate resulted in a progressive increase in our work force, but also the success of our immigration policy has drawn into productive employment many more people, and they are making wider demands for consumer goods. Many of the goods that they consume are manufactured in Australia, to the benefit of Australian industry and the Australian work force.
This increased work force also leads to a greater demand for certain imports which are parts - sometimes very important parts - of our consumer goods. Irrespective of whether the commodity contains any imported item, the fact is that it must be transported from place to place. Petrol is used in its transport and petrol is an import. That, too, must be considered when looking at the overall picture. As the consumer demand of the increased work force rises, our problem of how we are to pay for the imports is accentuated. In past years, this nation has experienced difficulties in striking a balance in its trade with other countries, that is, between our imports and exports. Although our main exports - wool, meat and wheat - are increasing in volume, the prices we receive for them have not increased to the same extent as the prices for the commodities we import have increased. Therefore, as a nation, we are faced with a very important decision. What level of imports can we allow in relation to our export earnings?
By other countries, Australia has traditionally been classified as a primary producing nation, and we take great pride in the quality and quantity of our primary products. We now have new problems to face with the prospect of one of our traditional customers, the United Kingdom, entering the European Economic Community. Although that is a different question, it is related to the point I am putting with regard to our internal tariff policy. With the very limited increase in the build up of overseas credit as a result of generally stable prices for the wool, meat and wheat that we export, we have to finance what could be almost called a chronic trade deficit with other countries. For instance, we have to meet such charges as interest, freight and various hidden costs which are high and are mounting higher. As a result of the development of many of our industries, capital investment in this country by overseas organizations causes us to provide for higher interest payments and capital recoupments. These charges have to be met. It appears that in the long term, one way in which we can face this problem is to find alternatives to our traditional export commodities - the primary products to which I have referred - by developing as far as we possibly can our secondary industries which can help to increase our export balances in the future. There is quite a good deal of controversy as to whether we can produce commodities of the type that will find a ready market overseas. But if we look at the automobile industry, we find that we have been able to produce a car in Australia with amazingly small initial overseas financial investment - although I shall have something to say later about the dividends that have been taken out of this country from the profits of that enterprise. Using a very high content of Australian materials, we have produced in Australia a car that has become popular on our domestic market and which could, if we were able to overcome many trade problems, such as limited franchise and freight difficulties, earn substantial income overseas for Australia. I have taken an ideal example, but there are many of our secondary industries that could also become earners of export income.
Before an industry can contemplate entering overseas markets it must find a steady local demand for its products. It must have support from the Government. By developing and consolidating Australian industries we may hope that they in turn in the future will contribute substantially to our balance of payments. In recent years exports of minerals and ores have increased. It may reasonably be expected that substantial overseas earnings will accrue to Australia as a result of the discovery of the rich bauxite deposits in Queensland and the expansion of the aluminium industry in Tasmania. As other mineral deposits are discovered the Government should encourage their development in order that they may in turn earn overseas income for Australia and contribute towards our overseas balances.
At all times we must bear in mind that Australia has to import a great many commodities that are not available in this country. During the war years the Government had to impose quantitative import restrictions not only to keep our balance of payments at a proper level but also to prosecute the important jobs of winning the war and of rehabilitating ex-servicemen after the war. When import restrictions were lifted we saw what can happen when the floodgates are opened - when imports from other highly competitive countries, many of which do not enjoy living conditions or labour conditions of a standard enjoyed in Australia, enter this country in unrestricted volume. Although the Government claims that it is opposed to restrictions of any kind, the situation created by the abandonment of import controls forced the Government to set up the Special Advisory Authority. That action indicates that the Government concedes that having lifted import controls, another method of control was necessary and that, to some extent, quick remedial action was needed in cases where industries were threatened by imports from overseas.
In an expanding country such as Australia the emphasis should be on a policy of full employment. Despite apologies that are made from time to time by the Government - despite its protestations of the difficulties with which it is faced - we can never hold up our heads as a democratic nation while a big proportion of our work force is unemployed. It is immoral for Australia to advertise overseas for men and women to come here unless we can promise them continuity of employment and a future level of security for themselves and their children that is worthy of this country. Instead of the Tariff Board being a price-fixing instrumentality, it should operate to assist in every way possible the maintenance of a high and rising level of employment. In particular it should be designed to act speedily whenever there is an increase in unemployment.
The dramatic impact of immigration has led to the importation of a considerable amount of heavy machinery for manufacturing industries. The Tariff Board should operate to ensure that our overseas credits are spent on the importation of heavy machinery rather than on the importation of commodities that can and should be produced in Australia. If that were done, employment opportunities for Australians, whether born overseas or in Australia, would be increased. In addition such a course of action would trigger off an expansion of our secondary industries, which have such a big part to play in the future development of this country.
The Tariff Board has the duty of deciding which industries should receive tariff protection and the extent of that protection. The industries that apply to the Tariff Board for protection are in various categories. Some of them make applications because they are finding it- difficult to compete with imports. On investigation, they are found to be inefficient because of a lack of technical know-how, out-of-date and obsolescent equipment or poor business organization. Instead of those industries having the option of closing down or receiving high tariff protection, the Tariff Board as an instrument of national policy should be able to give advice and encouragement to them. It should be able to tell them how they fit into the pattern of the Australian economy and also make available to them from the known sources the methods by which they can improve their techniques and their methods of distribution and, if possible, reduce their costs.
In other industries the factors that encouraged them to commence production alter. Let me quote an example. A Tasmanian industry manufacturing fertilizers as a by-product has a very good arrangement with the Tasmanian Hydro-electric Commission for the supply of electricity. That is an important factor and an incentive to that industry. That industry is part of the pattern of decentralization. Tasmania is able to attract substantial industries that provide employment for its workers. However, there comes a time when production increases and the local Tasmanian market is unable to absorb the industry’s output. The industry has to decide whether to expand on to the mainland market. Then a new factor - the cost of freight - comes in. The industry has to decide whether it should continue to expand and employ more Tasmanian workers or should hold the line at the Tasmanian demand. This factor can be applied not only to an expansion from the Tasmanian market to the mainland market but also to an expansion from the Australian market to overseas markets.
The immediate inclination might be to say that the industry should hold the line at a certain level. These decisions that have to be made are great decisions of national importance. Perhaps the Tariff Board is not armed with authority to make such decisions. I hope that a complete review of the tariff system will be made at the same time as the proposed economic inquiry is made and that the Tariff Board will take its proper place in the overall picture in directing and helping the pattern of the Australian economy. I believe that the board should give very close consideration to alterations of circumstances.
Another very important factor is the development of Australia outside the urban areas. This represents a great challenge to us because of the tendency for people coming to Australia from overseas to go to our main cities. Canberra is expanding from a population of 30,000 or 40,000 a few years ago to an expected population of 100,000 in 1969. Sydney has a population of 2,000,000 or more. Melbourne is catching up with Sydney. All our capital cities are expanding. But the increase in the population of the areas outside the main cities is not sufficient for the practical and organized development of this nation. Consideration should be given to the siting of new industries and the extension of established industries. I believe that the Tariff Board should consider that factor in deciding to what extent and for what period of time industries that are prepared to carry out a policy of decentralization can be given encouragement and the incentive to carry out that policy.
Of course, these factors have arisen rapidly. I come back to the dramatic change that has taken place in Australia recently. In many fields - such as foreign affairs, international trade, finance and economics - the policies that held good in the past have to be reviewed in order to prevent the position drifting on until a crisis arises. In making these observations I do not want to appear to be exaggerating the importance of the Tariff Board. But it could become the pendulum that could swing one way or the other to help Australia to overcome the great difficulties that we have to face. I do not absolve the Government from the blame for causing many of those difficulties.
It is a great tragedy that we missed one of the greatest opportunites that a nation ever had when we failed to hold our price structure after the Second World War. In this country we had great men who saw the vision splendid; but unfortunately the Government that took office in 1949 allowed its laisser-faire philosophy to influence Australia. The laisser-faire system is disorganized and has no respect for the future. The annual report is the be-all and end-all. If there is a good year everything in the garden is lovely; if there is a bad year people look for some one to blame. It is often said that many people want to socialize their losses and individualize their gains. The government is good when people are doing well, but the government comes under fire when things are going wrong. Although the laisser-faire system might have worked in the old days when things moved slowly and the need for planning and organization was not as great as it is to-day, that system will not work in to-day’s tempo and will not meet to-day’s needs.
The Government has unleashed the private enterprise businessman. I do not mean the small man who can become successful; he is becoming almost extinct. The opportunities for the small men who are still in business are decreasing because of the influence of buying rings and take-over practices and the strong trend towards monopolies. The old yardstick, that an individual was able to make good if he was made good, of if he had the ability, intellect and capacity to do things for himself, does not apply. A man who has not access to large amounts of capital or the investment potential that is required if he is to go into competitive industry, falls by the wayside. This is the day of combination of capital, resources and know-how. This philosophy of business is characterized by a ruthlessness, in which the personal factor is forgotten. Big business is re-introducing into human affairs many of the jungle laws. The principles are: Kill or be killed, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I do not know whether the ordinary liberals - spelt with a small “ 1 “ - condone that under the guise of giving freedom of choice to the individual.
– Insufficient supervision of the tariff could encourage that development.
– It is a debatable point. We must closely consider whether we are encouraging monopolies to exploit price agreements, buying rings and monopolized fields of trade, and whether, if competitors were allowed, industries would go out of existence and commodities would not be produced in Australia, with a consequential lessening of demand for Australian workers. We must decide on a policy. The Tariff Board is not armed with authority to decide that policy. It must decide every
– Some of the members may then go fishing instead of playing tennis.
– That is so. I do not know whether similar gut is used in fishing lines.
– They could play in wet weather.
– Or they could play indoor tennis. Many industries are complementary to One another. A review should be made of all the repercussions from a Tariff Board decision. Senator Wright referred to the effect of monopoly practices in keeping prices high. Certain facts must be admitted. Australian costs are relatively high. We must face the fact that the Government allowed prices to rise. Government supporters have made a practice of criticizing trade unions, wages boards, and often courts, in relation to the fixing of a reasonable living wage. It is very significant that wages are never increased until other circumstances in the economy justify such a course. During the period when quarterly adjustments to the basic wage were made, the wage was never increased unless the cost-of-living index figure was higher than the figure for the previous quarter.
– How could the Government have prevented costs rising?
– By price control. In 1948, when the referendum was held, the Government parties campaigned against price control. If the Government had had power to control prices, that power could have been used in anticipation of the economic conditions that exist to-day. The
Other factors cause price rises. In some industries the cost of raw materials is a very significant factor. They may be difficult to procure, or the country that has a monopoly of them may fix a high price for them. The cost of specially skilled labour in some industries is very high. Reference has been made recently to sliding scale tariffs. This is a very important instrument in the hands of the Tariff Board. As expansion of markets permits better costing and reduced overhead expenses, a periodical review, and an alteration if necessary, should be made. That elasticity and flexibility must be available to the Tariff Board. A choice must be made as to which industries should be stimulated. My firm view is that we must encourage any industry that reduces the drain on our overseas balances. Inevitably, a heavy and increasing demand will be made on those balances, because of our need for heavy machinery and equipment, and replacements to keep our economy expanding. This is necessary in view of the threat to our traditional primary produce markets that will inevitably come from the reorientation of our markets as a consequence of the Common Market.
The Tariff Board report mentions restrictive trade practices. I should like to make a few comments on this matter. At page 10, paragraph 58, of the annual report of the Tariff Board for 1961-62, the following appears -
Evidence received during the year indicated that producers in some industries had continued to engage in practices directed towards the restriction of competition. In some cases it was claimed that manufacturers were requiring merchants to discontinue the handling of imported goods. There was also evidence of the existence of uniform price lists, compiled under agreement between certain groups of manufacturers, under which Australian and imported goods were retailed at the same price irrespective of into store cost. Under some of these arrangements distributors, wholesalers and retailers operated fixed discount margins bearing little relationship to the cost of distribution and selling. Practices of this nature, which tend to inflate retail prices, reduce incentive for efficiency and deny consumers the opportunity of purchasing goods at competitive prices.
I believe that that is a most important observation.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable senator is discussing the Tariff Board report which is listed on the notice-paper of the Senate as a separate item for debate. The honorable senator will have ample opportunity to discuss that matter at a later stage.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson). - I suggest to Senator O’Byrne that he has the obligation to connect his remarks to the bill under discussion.
– I submit that the point of order is not well taken. The bill before us is a massive document containing eighteen schedules and covering practically the whole field of the Australian manufactures.
– The annual report of the Tariff Board is on the notice-paper as a separate item for discussion.
– I do not desire to deal with the annual report, but I should like to deal with the massive document - the bill - that has been placed before the Senate. However, I wish to deal with the tariff system in a general way before I particularize on individual subjects. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) should welcome a debate on a customs and excise bill.
– I do.
Senator O’BYRNE__ As a rule tariff items come into the Senate and are agreed to very rapidly. There has been a growing custom to pay too little regard to these important matters that affect our economy. The Minister should be much more considerate to honorable senators because some of these tariffs came into effect months and months ago - some as long ago as last May. The Minister has paid very scant respect to the Parliament in allowing such an inordinate period to elapse before giving the Parliament an opportunity to discuss these matters. His objection to any one elaborating a little on a tariff matter demonstrates the deep rut into which he has got. He should allow these matters to be thoroughly aired in the Parliament. It is bad enough for us to find that some of these items have been in operation for six or seven months without the public knowing anything about them, but to have this large document suddenly thrust upon us, is even worse.
I wonder how many honorable senators have had time to peruse this document. How many have had the chance to peruse item 319(d)? When one honorable senator applies his mind to this matter the Minister says that he is not entitled to do so.
– That is not right. I welcome discussion of relevant matters. I only said that you should deal with the bill and not talk about the annual report.
– I was not dealing with the Tariff Board report. I was merely quoting a section of the report relating to one of the matters that I raised in my survey of this bill.
– A very welcome survey, I assure you.
– In granting protection to Australian industries we are, as it were, creating hot-house plants. Any honorable senator who has spent much time in gardening knows that you can get an early start with your season’s planting if you have a hot-house and raise the seedlings in it. Then if your tomatoes are gradually exposed to the elements, they become used to the variations in climate and you obtain excellent fruit. I believe that Australia is now at the stage where we are, as it were, gradually taking some of our industries out of the hot-house. The Tariff Board in its wisdom has recommended protection throughout the years and many of our industries have had the opportunity to put down their roots and to thrive. They have now reached the stage where they have the know-how, and Australian technicians and artisans who are able to produce products which can compete with those of other countries. Having reached that stage we have to look a little further ahead and determine which of these industries we shall continue to protect so that they can become still more important national assets, and which are able to stand on their own feet and compete in the export trade.
The Opposition proposes to support most of these items, but as I have indicated there are three particular items on which we propose to offer some comment and we shall vote against the reduction of the tariff. In particular we shall oppose the lack of support for the textile industry. Difficult financial and economic times lie ahead of our secondary industries. We have to do more for these industries than merely provide protection. We must build up our education system and our research organizations, with the ultimate objective of creating amongst Australians a secondary industry complex which will enable us to compete in the markets of the world. As I mentioned previously, the Australian motor industry is capable of competing outside Australia. During the next ten or twenty years we should encourage industries that will not only bring prosperity to the Australian people, but also reflect credit on our workmanship and standards of production.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the sitting was suspended, we listened to a thoughtful speech by Senator O’Byrne. I do not propose to attempt to emulate him in covering the wide range of aspects of this subject that the honorable senator discussed, but I would say that it is a good thing that on this occasion we can examine our accepted policies in the light of many years of experience in the application and effects of the tariffs on the Australian economy. I welcome, as Senator O’Byrne did, the decision of the Government to appoint an economic review committee which will examine critically all aspects of the Australian economy. This, of course, will necessitate a critical examination of our accepted policies in relation to tariffs.
In discussing the bill before the Senate, I shall confine my remarks to the method by which it is sought, through the bill, to protect Australian industries. In general, the method is to raise the level of the protective barrier so that the industry concerned can sell its products in competition with imported products. The alternative method is to restrict the entry of certain products that are competitive with Australian industries. A document that is of interest to the Senate and is having wide circulation throughout Australia at present reveals several aspects of the matter. For example, it is shown that manufacturers believe that to accord protective duties will increase their production costs and jeopardize their competitive position. I think that is highly significant. It is a statement that has been exercising the minds of people throughout Australia who have critically examined the matters we are discussing now.
– What is the authority?
– It is an authority in which the Minister for Customs and Excise will be interested. The document was produced for the instruction of the Australian people in the matter that is now before the Senate. I refer to the report of the Australian Tariff Board. Surely it applies to the matter we are discussing. This statement of the relevant effect on industry of certain protective devices relates to a development of which we are becoming increasingly aware with the rising level of protection. We are getting a deeper appreciation of the effect on secondary industries in Australia and on the general cost structure of the economy. We are also becoming aware of the relationship between industries. This aspect of our protection policy - the effect on other industries - has been the subject of research and debate for many years. It has been exercising the minds of those who seek to represent particularly the major primary industries which have perforce to carry the main burden of the effects on our price levels of our accepted policies.
This is more than ever important when we are faced with a progressive worsening of our terms of trade for our export products. In 1953, our terms of trade could be stated as 100. In 1962 our terms of trade had deteriorated to the relative level of 66. The worsening of our terms of trade and the possible stress on our economy resulting from our trade prospects because of the unpredictable effect of Great Britain’s entry into the European Common Market all highlight the necessity for a critical examination of the methods by which we give protection to our industries.
I believe then that the time has come when the Government should examine more carefully an alternative method of protecting desirable Australian industries - that is, by a greater use of subsidies to cover the gap between the price of exports and the selling cost of Australian products. We have had recent as well as long-standing arrangements of this sort and their advantages are many. First, they cushion the direct effect on other Australian industries. We have had, for example, the recent application of a subsidy to the manufacture of sulphate of ammonia in Australia. I use that merely by way of illlustration of the fact that, after a critical examination of this particular industry, we have decided that it is in the interests of the economy that the effects of that particular measure of protection should not fall directly on the industry using the product. If we accept the proposition that the general interests of the Australian economy require us to provide employment for the people and generally to diversify our manufacturing resources, surely this is a national aim. The cost of doing this should be borne by the whole economic structure of the country rather than by one section which happens to use a particular product. When the industry that is called upon to bear the cost of some item of production is itself open to the competition of the wide world which has the advantage of getting this item at cheaper cost, then the matter becomes serious indeed.
There is another major advantage in the subsidy method as compared with the tariff method. That is that the cost of the subsidy to the Australian people can be accurately assessed at any moment. We know what we are paying for protection. By the other method, it is virtually impossible to assess the overall effect upon the economy and the harmful effect on other industries. Therefore, I urge the Government in the light of the experience we have gained over the years in applying our accepted policies on protection to give more urgent consideration to the use of subsidies rather than tariffs with all their harmful side effects on other industries. To a great extent these are self-defeating measures, and the time has come when we need to examine more critically the use of our methods of protection.
– in reply - I welcome the debate on the Tariff Bill. I think I can say without fear of contradiction that it is some time since we have had a tariff debate as wide as this one. I congratulate Senator O’Byrne on the study he made of the matter in a very short time. I know that he did not have a great deal of notice and that it was not originally intended that he should take charge of the bill for the Opposition. Because of his unawareness of certain procedures, he made the comment that I was disregarding honorable senators by bringing in a great deal of material, throwing it on the table and not giving any one an opportunity to consider it. For the information of Senator O’Byrne and other honorable senators, let me state briefly the procedure that is adopted in dealing with tariff proposals. After a report of the Tariff Board has been accepted by the Government it is laid on the table of the House of Representatives and also on the table of the Senate. In the House of Representatives, the House resolves itself into the Committee of Ways and Means and considers the proposals. A resolution is passed by the committee and a tariff bill is founded on that resolution. The bill comes to the Senate and is then considered by this chamber.
I suggest to honorable senators that if they wish to make themselves au fait with tariff matters, in which a quickening interest is being displayed, they should obtain copies of Tariff Board reports that are laid on the table and study them. I am sure that if Senator O’Byrne had been aware of the procedure he would not have charged me with irresponsible conduct in bringing a great mass of documents into the Senate and not giving honorable senators a proper opportunity to consider them.
– Would you mind explaining how the proposals become effective the moment they are tabled, and the way in which a tariff bill operates, to complete the story?
– Yes. The proposals become effective immediately they are laid on the table of the House. Provision is made for that in the legislation. If the proposals are not debated by the Parliament within six months, they expire and have to be renewed. The officers of the Department of Customs and Excise are protected by the act when they collect new rates before the Parliament passes the necessary legislation. Now that Senator O’Byrne is aware of these procedures, I am sure he would be the first to rise in his place, though I am not asking him to do so, and withdraw the comment that we are stacking up legislation and not giving honorable senators an opportunity to discuss it. 1 listened to Senator O’Byrne’s remarks with interest. I do not intend to take up a great deal of the time of the Senate in discussing this matter, but the real crux of it is a difference of ideology between the two sides of the House. On this side of the chamber, we believe that an industry should not be protected unless its economics and efficiency have first been critically examined by the independent and impartial Tariff Board. Senator O’Byrne rather leaned towards the view that import restrictions should be used as a means of protection. The Government has declared itself against that policy. It has stated that only in order to protect our overseas balances was it prepared to use import restrictions, unless the Tariff Board recommended otherwise. We rely on the advice of the board. The charter of the board is to consider whether an industry is economic and efficient before it recommends the scale of tariff which should apply to protect it. So, it is not altogether correct to say that the board has not a charter. The Tariff Board takes evidence in public, from importers, exporters, manufacturers, members of the public and primary producers. The people of Australia are protected because that evidence is given under oath, and is contested, in public, before the board arrives at its decision. We are not bound to accept the findings of the board. It makes recommendations to the Government which, by and large, are founded on good reasons.
I find it difficult to follow the logic in Senator O’Byrne’s proposed amendment that item 465 be withdrawn and redrafted to provide a greater measure of tariff pro.etction. Who is to arrive at the right measure of protection? Is Parliament to do it? Are we to make the measure of protection for an Australian industry a political football? Honorable senators opposite may say that the matter could be referred back to the Tariff Board, but I suggest that if the board has considered a case on the evidence available to it and has made a certain decision, surely it will make the same decision again. It must be borne in mind that we have a British Trade Agreement.
– We have a Japanese Trade Agreement, too, and you made it.
– And you people on that side of the House opposed it right and left, although it is one of the best things that ever happened to this country! We have a British Trade Agreement which provides that we may not increase duties without first receiving a recommendation from the Tariff Board. That fact must be remembered when we are considering the proposal of the Opposition.
I think it is an excellent idea to have a fact-finding committee to inquire into tariff questions and to put the facts before the country. A great many theories may be dispelled when we ascertain the facts regarding the actual effect of the tariff on costs. There is a great deal of loose talk in this connexion, without any factual information to back it up. When we receive the report of the committee, certain theories may go overboard. We may find that our tariff is not nearly so high and is not having the effect that some people think it is. I have my own ideas on this subject, but let us have the facts before we voice our opinions.
– Do not put Kelly on the investigation committee. He would have us back on the end of a pick.
– Whatever opinions the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) may hold, I point out that he has spent a great deal of time studying these matters. He did not go into the House of Representatives and say to the Minister, “ You have no right to bring all these things in together like this “, and then display his complete ignorance of the procedure. He has been in the Parliament for only a short time, and you have been here for twelve years or so. Whether we agree with his opinions or not is another matter, but I would say to Senator Prowse, who advocates subsidies in place of tariffs, that he has raised a very debatable question. Subsidies lead to marginal and economic abuses in industry. The examination of prices following tariff increases indicates that tariff increases have not always led to an advance in prices by the industry which receives the extra protection. I have made a study of this aspect and I have in my possession particulars of a number of examples where, because of the increased turnover through increased protection, an Australian factory has been able to reduce its costs and sell cheaper. As I say, increased protection has not always led to increased costs.
I finish as I started by saying that 1 welcome this renewed interest in tariffs generally and I am sure all those who are interested in this aspect of government also welcome it. I consider it can be of great value not only to the Government and the Opposition but also to the Tariff Board itself for I think that in the past the Tariff Board has had every right to say, “ No one in the Parliament has raised his voice against us recently, so we must be right in our findings “. Some of the criticism that has been offered and some of the points of view submitted by members of this House and those in another place could be of great value indeed to the Tariff Board itself.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time. ! In committee:
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
.- I move -
That the remaining clauses be postponed until after consideration of the Schedules.
That is to say, you cannot adopt your conclusions until you have discussed the schedules.
– There are three clauses which the Opposition wishes to postpone. Doubtless Senator Wright has a copy of the amendments which have been circulated on behalf of the Opposition. It will be noted that there are motions to postpone clauses 4, 5 and 15 because the Opposition has particular matters in the relevant schedules to discuss.
– If all the intervening clauses are postponed we can proceed to deal with the schedules. The Opposition will come to the result it seeks and I will come to the result I seek.
– No doubt that can be done. I have no objection to adopting that course.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- - I wish to refer to the first item in the First Schedule. That relates to a proposal to alter the import duty applying to vinyl chloride polymers. I trust that this is the item in Tariff Proposals (No. 21) in the House of Representatives. As I understand it, this is a proposal to increase the duty by 4±d. per lb. I think there is great cause for satisfaction if one looks at the contributions made on this subject in the House of Representatives by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly). I pay unstinted tribute to the robustness of his criticism and the obvious completeness of the examination that he has made of this proposal, although on the information I have, I do not entirely agree with all the conclusions he has put forward. We are indebted to him not only for the speeches to which I have referred, but also for giving to us the experience which his interest has promoted, no doubt due to the fact that his father was a distinguished member of the Tariff Board in his day.
The honorable member has shown to us as members of the Parliament that if you collate your information you are able to take an intelligent interest in these proposals. I admit freely that the problem of assembling information in the past and of bringing the relevant factors together has been a matter of great difficulty.
In considering this proposal, do not let us target the important principle that has been referred to from time to time to-day - the principle that the Tariff Board must be maintained in a position of complete independence. Although it is an advisory body, we must not allow supplementary procedures to erode its independence. I agree with the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) that if a critical approach is brought to these proposals in this chamber it will create an additional spirit of independence; but there is a danger of undermining the independence of the board if there is an unjustified acceptance of reports emanating from the Special Advisory Authority. Nobody detracts in the slightest degree from the experience and integrity of the Special Advisory Authority, Sir Frank Meere, but the vigilance of this Parliament is required to examine his proposals critically. lt must be remembered always that he is a single person and power in the hands of one person can always be misplaced. In such circumstances mistakes can be made. In the very nature of things he does not have the opportunity to examine completely an industry and information that becomes available before his recommendation r aches this chamber could completely justify an alteration of that recommendation. We are indebted to the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) for bringing these matters to our attention.
Look at the item under consideration. The report on this item states that there are two major producers of vinyl chloride polymers. One is Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited, the magnitude of whose operations should excite vigilance on the part of anybody who allows increased protection or who votes increased subsidy. I do not say that is a reason why the company should not get justice, but the magnitude of 4. operations should enable it to sustain the troughs of the economy as well as take advantage of the high peaks of the economy. According to the report, one or two people made representations to the Special Advisory Authority opposing this increase of duty. The application for protection in this industry was first for quantitative restrictions, although the applicants indicated that in certain events they would have no objection to a duty proposal. The representatives of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia made their view known to the Special Advisory Authority. Their general attitude was one of very weak opposition to an increase of duty in respect of this product. We are told that the demand in Australia for this product is 15,000 tons a year. We are told that the two producers manufacture the required quantity and that the quality of their product is acceptable to the Australian market.
I want to go on record as being highly critical of the reports received from the Special Advisory Authority in that they contain insufficient background information in terms intelligible to the recipients - that is, mere members of Parliament. Frequently a recommendation is made that there should be an increase of so much in the duty imposed on a product; but no background information is given as to the way in which the article is produced in Australia, or in relation to recent experiences with imports, so one is unable to judge the probable effects on the cost structure within the industry. However, as a result of my request to the Minister, the officers of the Department of Customs and Excise were good enough to place at my disposal such information as they possessed. I acknowledge gratefully the assistance to understanding that I received from this quarter.
I have already said that Australian demand for the product under consideration is 15,000 tons a year. I am informed that imports of this product in recent years have been as follows: -
Let us not forget that we are dealing with an industry that was reviewed by the Tariff Board in 1961 following an acute difference of opinion among members of the board, two of whom took the view that duty on the imported product should be increased to 7W. per lb. and another two of whom took the view that it should be increased to 6id. per lb. The duty finally imposed by the Government was 64d. per lb. We are now dealing with a recommendation by the Special Advisory Authority which follows the determination by the Tariff Board by a matter of six months or nine months. The authority advises that a temporary additional duty of 4id. per lb. should be imposed, bringing the total effective duty to lid. per lb., and that thereafter the duty should be increased by a further Id. per lb. for every Id. by which the f.o.b. price is less than 14id. Australian currency. Let me direct the attention of honorable senators first to the additional duty of Id. per lb. Regarding the quantity of the product imported in 1960-61, namely 6,849 tons, as approximately 7,000 tons, and the total duty of lid. as ls., duty collections on imports of this product would amount to about £750,000. If honorable senators read the Special Advisory Authority’s report they will see that the industry is being protected for the benefit of more than 200 persons. If we assume for the purpose of this exercise that 200 persons are employed in the industry it will be seen that we are providing protection to the extent of about £3,750 a year for each person engaged in it. Let it not be thought that I am looking at this matter only from the point of view of the per capita cost. I recognize that this industry is established with capital that is permanently invested. The initial protection is of great value not merely to the present employable personnel but also to the persons potentially to be employed in the future. But this is a factor that is good to reflect upon when considering whether the rate of 6id. recommended by the Tariff Board was sufficient or whether the emergency duty is justified. If we look at this matter in another way, that £750,000 represents about £50 a ton. In other words, 40 per cent, to 50 per cent, of the price that will be charged to the Australian consumer is recouped to the I.C.I, organization in the form of duty.
I am particularly grateful for the leadership of the honorable member for Wakefield in inducing us to examine these matters article by article as a segment of industry because I have never felt capable of integrating them into the industrial outlook of the whole industry. If you examine them article by article in this and other industries for which we create protection, the degree to which these protective duties may increase the cost structure in Australia can be gradually assessed.
I wish now to direct the attention of honorable senators to a factor that the honorable member for Wakefield put before the House of Representatives unavailingly. That was with regard to the additional protection that is recommended under this proposal - not merely the lid. per lb. to which I have referred. Insofar as the f.o.b. price of imports goes down Id., the duty on remaining imports, the value of which accrues to the locally produced goods, goes up. I would be very concerned if the position remained as stated by the honorable member for Wakefield in his speech in the House of Representatives, but, as I assess the position, that statement is not quite adequate because in recent months, before applying for this emergency protection, the producers reduced their price in Australia from 27d. to 26d. per lb. That was done in an endeavour to meet the declining prices of expanding markets. The reduction was insufficient and the over-supply of the market because of imports was not offset by the reduction in price. When the honorable member for Wakefield directs my attention to the fact that, compared with a price of 26d. per lb. in Australia, the United Kingdom price is 16.3d., the United States price is 17. Id. and the Japanese price is 14. 6d., I have legitimate reason to be concerned. Again I am indebted to the officers of the Department of Customs and Excise. They supplied information that was not sufficient before my consultation with them. For instance, is it generally known that over the last two years this industry has been over-supplying the world’s markets and that over-capacity in the United States of America, Japan and the United Kingdom already is affecting industries in those countries?
– Distribution, not production.
– I will be interested to receive any information on that point. The position is that in those countries oversupply already has caused danger to their industries which, according to my information, has caused those countries to impose anti-dumping duties against uneconomic imports, or at least has caused their imposition to be considered.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I rise only to give Senator Wright an opportunity to continue.
.- 1 am very grateful to the Minister. I shall not take very much longer. In those industrial countries there has been a violent vacillation of prices and production has been expanded to the degree referred to by
Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited in its representations for increased duties. It said that world production rose from 100,000 tons in 1946 to more than 1,000,000 tons in 1960. Those countries have ‘- imposing or considering the imposition of anti-dumping duties to protect their industries.
– They have imposed anti-dumping duties, have they?
– Yes. That seems to me to supply the background information in which we find justification for Sir Frank Meere’s recommendation. Not one of us would want to see an industry in which large amounts of capital had been invested and people had committed their life’s work dealt a body blow by emergency world conditions such as I have mentioned. We would not like to see an industry that had been built up over a period of fifteen yean destroyed in two years when, if maintained in a period of emergency by a slight increase of the tariff, it could increase its production and possibly reduce net unit retail prices instead of increasing them.
I have hurried in trying to express my conclusions on these matters. I am grateful to the committee for listening. I am not satisfied unless there is basic material to answer criticism so formidable and informed as that of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly). I have full regard to the argument put forward by Senator Prowse, of which I am a jealous advocate - namely that a proper distribution of costs and prices has to be made between primary and secondary industries in the overall result - but we should never, for the want of imposing an emergency duty, allow an important secondary industry, that has a prospect of economic production without wasting capital and impoverishing employees, wither and go to the wall.
Therefore, I feel that this duty, as an emergency or temporary duty, may be justified. In fact, I have no material on which I would feel justified in voting against it. But it is justified only because of world emergency conditions of over- supply. I believe that that position has to be watched vigilantly so that we will restore the duty, within a short period of time, to the level that was prescribed by the full Tariff Board.
– I should like to comment on the very interesting speech made by Senator Wright. He put his finger on some of the problems which modern industry faces in Australia to-day because of the huge production of plants in other countries. He rightly said that the production of this commodity rose from 100,000 tons in 1946 to 1,000,000 tons in 1960. In addition, new capacity to produce a further 500,000 tons is coming into production in other parts of the world. When this commodity was being imported in 1957-58 and 1958-59 there was only one company engaged in this industry in Australia. In about 1959-60 a second company, the Goodrich company, came into the industry. In spite of the addition of that second factory, in 1959-60 imports rose and continued at about the increased level in 1960-61.
The effect of over-production on price is one facet of industry. When an industry reaches its capacity and installs additional plant which causes a sudden increase in production, that leads to world overproduction. That over-production means not only a reduction in prices throughout the world but also the introduction of secret rebates and other similar things that are very difficult to trace in the invoices.
The committee should always remember one other factor. An Australian industry has a secondary purpose. If we did not have operating in Australia an industry that can supply our manufacturers with raw materials, and if we had to depend for our supplies on overseas sources alone, goodness knows what prices might be charged. So Australian industries play a very important part in the scheme of our economy from that aspect alone.
Schedule agreed to.
.- I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the Schedule by leaving out Item 390.
The proposal before the committee in respect of this item is that the British preferential tariff be reduced by 20 per cent, and that the most-favoured-nation tariff be reduced by 37i per cent. I do not want to elaborate on the principle to which I referred in my speech during the secondreading debate, beyond saying that this is an industry which is at present developing its technique. It is admitted that some of its products are not up to overseas standards. Perhaps a very keen fisherman prefers a German fishing line, because of its better shape or better extrusion. Nevertheless, if we submit the industry to the keenness of competition from overseas goods, it could languish and even go out of existence. I hope that the Minister will see fit to continue the protection of this section of the man-made fibre industry. The deletion of item 390 would afford the industry a period of grace and there would be an opportunity later for the Tariff Boards if necessary, to have another look at the matter.
– The Government is not prepared to accept the amendment. The duties, which were 27 iper c-nt. and 52± per cent., have on the recommendation of the Tariff Board been reduced to 7i per cent, and 15 per cent, respectively. There was an inquiry on monofils, which is straight catgut. During the course of that inquiry, no evidence was submitted as to twist catgut, which is used for tennis racquets, string bags, and other items like that. The Tariff Board decided that as there was no evidence to the contrary it should recommend that this commodity carry the same rate of duty as straight monofil. If any industry considers that the reductions are inimical to its interests, and it has sufficient evidence, it has the right to approach the Tariff Board and seek redress through the board. I do not think it is right for the Parliament to decide that it has better information on this matter than has the Tariff Board.
Question put. The committee divided (The Temporary Chairman - Senator K. M. Anderson.)
Ayes . . . . . . 22
Noes . . .. . . 28
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Schedule agreed to.
Motion (by Senator O’Byrne) proposed -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the Schedule by leaving out Item 319.
– The Government is not prepared to accept this amendment.
.- I believe that the adoption by the Government of this recommendation of the Tariff Board is a step in the right direction. I have a particular interest in it, as I brought the matter before the Parliament two years ago. Senator O’Byrne knows from his own experience as an air pilot during the war how complex the manufacture of certain electronic equipment can be. The Tariff Board has made an entirely reasonable assessment of the economic practicability of Australian manufacturers entering the fields covered by this schedule. I might say, in passing, that to describe gramophone parts and equipment, including pickup heads, tone arms, turntable mechanisms and the like as “ jewellery and fancy equipment “ rather revolts my sense of the appropriate. I trust that in the fullness of time the Government, whilst applying these amended rates of duty, will get around to applying a more accurate and respectful title to this important equipment. I believe that the market in Australia for the type of equipment covered in this division is wholly inadequate to support the huge cost involved in tooling up. The market for genuine high fidelity products in Australia is not very large, although it is important because without it there is no prospect of reproducing good quality music in the home, a hall or anywhere else.
If we believe that architecture and music are important as well as plumbing and engineering, then the Government is right in adopting this recommendation to make the substantial adjustments in duty. I notice that the Tariff Board says in its report that the only firm which was applying for protection in regard to high quality pick-up heads was planning to produce a new type of stereophonic impedance pick-up head. In other words there was no production of this type of equipment in Australia. To maintain a high duty of 60 per cent, on this type of equipment would be manifestly absurd.
The report goes on to indicate, again in regard to pick-up heads, that it would be grossly uneconomic for any Australian manufacturer to attempt to compete with overseas production. Some little time ago I personally visited an agent of certain equipment covered by this reference. Although the agent had half a dozen examples of the product on his shelves, not one of them was in working order. I do not propose to mention the product as I do not wish to embarrass any particular manufacturer. I refer to the incident simply to indicate some of the new fields of electronic reproduction equipment into which we have not yet been able to make research although overseas factories have been able to do so. I do not believe that there is any single item in this reference which could not be made in Australia, but it could not be made here at a price which is economically competitive with a reasonable price for the imported article.
I should mention perhaps one minor difficulty in the manufacture of pick-up heads. The wire used in a high quality pick-up is one-eighth the diameter of a human hair and it requires highly specialized technique in winding, handling, varnishing, soldering and the like. It is regrettable that in Australia we have not yet been able to tool up for this particular work. I believe that the Government’s decision is a wise one as it affects the community as a whole. It is not unfair to our own manufacturers and it protects our local consumers.
I did notice that one of the witnesses before the inquiry - I think it was Audio Engineers Proprietary Limited - suggested that crystal or ceramic pick-up heads and magnetic pick-up heads be classified separately from the high quality magnetic type. That is a suggestion that the Government might consider because there is a vast disparity in the price structure of four or five to one. The matter should be examined. There might be a case for distinguishing between the different classes of turn-tables as was suggested ‘ by another witness - Orpheus Sound Reproduction - which manufactures a high quality turntable This company suggested that the distinction could best be made along the lines of the standards which are at present accepted in Australia by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and by the British Standards Association.
I strongly support the Government’s decision to accept the board’s recommendation in this matter. It is, in the final analysis, a matter of appreciation of art and culture, and as Shakespeare put it once -
The man that hath no music in himself
Isfit for treasons, stratagems and spoils.
Let no such man be trusted.
I know that Senator O’Byrne did not have that in the back of his mind when he moved this request, but I think it relevant to bring it to the notice of this chamber. I strongly support the proposed reduction accepted by the Government.
.- When I introduced the motion to leave out item 319, I felt I had no need to canvass the principle behind the motion. I should like to point out, however, that the local manufacturers feel that they are already hard pressed by overseas competition in the manufacture of these gramophone parts, and that a reduction of the present duties would only worsen the position of the local industries. The goods under reference have been dutiable at the present rates only since September, 1960. This is not long enough to test the adequacy of the duty. Local manufacturers have more than the capacity to meet all Australian requirements of the goods under reference. Labour and material costs are higher in Australia than in those countries from which competition is experienced and therefore manufacturers think that the duty should continue at the present rate.
In the case of pick-up arms and pick-up heads, the frequent changes in tooling and production techniques required to keep in step with overseas developments are not possible without a reasonable level of protection. Finally, without adequate protection in the domestic market, the local industry will not be able to compete in markets overseas. The Opposition feels that for those reasons a longer period of time should be given to the industry. It should be allowed to reach the stage where it can build up so as to compete on overseas markets.
.- I merely wish to direct the attention of the committee to the fact that the matters put forward by Senator O’Byrne were the five arguments listed by the local proponents who wished the existing duties to continue. All those arguments were considered by the Tariff Board, and except in the case of limited acceptance in regard to gramophone heads and turn-tables, they were all rejected by the board.
Question put -
That the request for amendment (Senator O’Byrne’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator K. M. Anderson.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative-
Schedule agreed to.
.- I direct attention to the item in Division IX., Fourth Schedule - phthalic anhydride. I am told that this is an ingredient used in the plastics industry and in paint. The British preferential duty is to be increased from 2id. to 6d. per lb. The Parliament is indebted to the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) for an exposition of this matter. His speech in the House of Representatives included a statement that the only producer of this commodity in Australia is the Newcastle Chemical Company Proprietary Limited which is jointly owned by Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. However, I understand that, as stated in the report of the Special Advisory Authority, another producer in the industry is Reichhold Chemicals Incorporated (Australia) Proprietary Limited. This company has an establishment in Sydney which I believe came into operation at full capacity in the past couple of years.
Sir Frank Meere has stated that the local demand for the industry is 8,000 tons and, writing in May, he stated that in the following month the combined capacity of the local manufacturers would be more than adequate to meet this estimated demand. As the Special Advisory Authority, he assured us that the quality of the product was acceptable.
I want to put it clearly on the record that the Special Advisory Authority, when reporting on these products, might very well give us not only local production but also the” experience with imports over the past three or five years. The Department of Customs and Excise has supplied me with the following figures relating to imports of this product over recent years. The imports were -
In order to have an intelligent appreciation of these figures, one should know the factors which influenced the decline and upsurge in the imports. I learn from the speech of the honorable member for Wakefield that the Newcastle Chemical Company Proprietary Limited employs only seventeen men. I hope the Minister will be able to bring that figure into proper adjustment with the industry and tell us how many men are employed by the Reichhold organization sp that we can allow our minds to consider how much protection is being given for each man employed in the industry. If we are told that seventeen men are employed, the appropriate figure calculated at 6d. per lb. on 1,102 tons - the lowest imports which were recorded last year - the duty would be about £61,000 and this would work out at more than £3,000 for each man employed. If we included the Reichhold Company’s employment capacity - a figure unknown to me - obviously the relevant amount is greatly reduced.
The other point for consideration is that we are told that the American price for this product is 16d. per lb. as against a price in Australia of 20d. and a Japanese price of 12d. On the face of it, that is the basis for the argument that was submitted in the House of Representatives that we are protecting our industries to a very great degree if we bolster an industry which is already selling to the Australian market at 20d. per lb. when the material can be imported much more cheaply. However, of course, if that is only an emergency situation, it should not be permitted to undermine our Australian industries if they have a prospect of being continued economically.
I find that the world supply situation in relation to phthalic anhydride has moved from a shortage to an over-supply in the past two years. The product from the United States of America is understood to be available in France at 8.33 cents per lb. against the United States domestic price of 13.22 cents. In the United Kingdom, this product is being sold at 12d. per lb., but the imported product is on offer in Australia after payment of duty at the rate of 33$ per cent, at approximately lOd. per lb. Therefore, in relation to the temporary world shortage in I960, we have a situation where the prices of exports from other countries and imports to this country seem to be unreal and not properly and economically related to the cost of production and home market prices. In addition, I am told that in the temporary shortage of 1960, the world price rose to about 20d. or 22d. per lb. In view of the upsurge in the supply, the United Kingdom Board of Trade is considering imposing dumping duties for the protection of the English industry. I mention these factors because they are necessary to convince my mind that there is justification for increasing the duty from 2id. and 3id. per lb. When we appreciate that the increase adds to the cost ingredient, I think we must supervise these matters more vigilantly in the future. As an emergency protection, I do not oppose it, but it will give me stronger ground for contending that a corresponding benefit should go to the other ultimate consuming industries, so that the farmers in fringe areas of production may maintain an economic existence.
I note that there is not merely a basic duty but a sliding scale whereby the duty increases by one half -penny for every Id. by which the f.o.b. import price is reduced below 12.5d. Australian per lb. It is obvious that that is a mechanical adjustment of a protective nature which will deny to the Australian consumer the advantage of reduced marketing costs. This is a situation which cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely. I ask the Minister specifically whether he will be good enough to say that the operation of the proposal will be of a temporary nature, and to inform me of the period of its operation as prescribed by a report of the full Tariff Board or in the legislation which was passed by the Parliament last year.
– I cannot state the number of employees of the Reichhold company. I have not that information with me, but I shall endeavour to obtain it for the honorable senator. The position is that this is a temporary report. It is now before the full Tariff Board, which is inquiring into this commodity. The temporary duty will disappear three months after the board’s report is handed to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen).
Schedule agreed to.
Fifth to Twelfth Schedules - by leave - taken together.
.- I wish to refer to item 326 (a) in the Sixth Schedule and to discuss the report on belting. I shall be very brief but I do not wish to neglect the opportunity to refer to the matter. I want to bring before the notice of the Senate the very thoughtful observations that were made on this subject by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) in the House of Representatives on 10th October, and which appear in “Hansard” at page 1353. This is a commodity which is of great importance not merely to the coal industry but also to the transport industry, because belting is used in transport conveyors and in other ways. As I understand the matter, we are increasing the duty by 5s. per square foot. That represents a great degree of protection per person employed in the industry.
I believe there is justification for complaint regarding the cost of the proposed increase of duty. I have not been able to ascertain whether the emergency circumstances, to which I referred in my two previous speeches, warrant the increase, but it is obvious that Mr. Kelly has made a good point in relating the cost of the increase to belting that is used in wheat silos. He has stated that at Wallaroo there is a silo in which 23,056 square feet of rubber belting is used. The increase of duty of 5s. a square foot would increase the cost of equipping a similar silo by £5,764. That example indicates how artificial costs can be injected into industry by the increase of duty. I leave the matter there. I place reliance for the time being on the judgment of Sir Frank Meere, but again, the other considerations to which I have referred must be taken into account when we come to consider protection of the primary industries and the limitation of the period for which the increased duty is to operate.
– The import position which Sir Frank Meere investigated this year disclosed that in 1959- 60, under import licensing, imports were valued at £30,900. In 1960-61, after import licensing had been removed, they were valued at £287,500, and in the nine months of 1961-62 they had reached £305,900. Since this emergency report which we are now discussing was made, the matter has been referred to the Tariff Board, and the report of the board was tabled earlier this week. The board has recommended that the permanent duty should be at the rate of between 2s. and 2s. 6d.
Schedules agreed to.
.- I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the Schedule by withdrawing Item 465 and redrafting it to provide a greater measure of tariff protection for Australian manufactured textile goods.
The motion has embedded in it the seeds of its justification and is self-explanatory.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator K. M. Anderson.)
Majority.. . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Schedule agreed to.
Remainder of bill, including the postponed clauses - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 16th October (vide page 839), on motion by Senator Henry-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Consideration resumed from 16th October (vide page 839), on motion by Senator Henty-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Long Service Leave Ordinance 1962, together with statement of reasons for withholding of assent.
Copies of those reasons will be circulated to honorable senators.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - I lay on the table the following paper: -
Audit Act - Finance - Supplementary Report of the Auditor-General upon other accounts, for year 1961-62.
– I present the third report of the printing committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 24th October (vide page 1131).
Proposed expenditure, £11,792,000.
– I thank the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) for the information that he has supplied in answer to the queries that I have already raised regarding the Department of Immigration.
I have claimed that unemployment seems to affect people of particular nationalities but the Minister has advised me that separate figures showing unemployment among immigrants of various nationalities are not kept. This is perhaps unfortunate and I suggest that it may be a good idea to keep such statistics so that we may ascertain which migrants are failing to fit into the Australian way of life. It may be that a certain departmental officer engaged in recruiting migrants is not obtaining persons of the type that we want - migrants who will fit into the pattern of employment of this country. It is unfortunate that we do not have figures to show whether unemployment is experienced by one particular kind of migrant more than another. It is imperative that we bring to this country migrants who can fit into the Australian way of life. We should hesitate to bring migrants out here if we do not have jobs for them.
– Last night Senator Tangney raised a matter relating to the proposed expenditure under Division No. 383 of £678,000 on migrant reception, training and accommodation centres. She also referred to the proposed expenditure of £1,502,000 as a contribution towards the maintenance of migrant families. The sum of £678,000 is for reception and accommodation centres operated by the Department of Immigration for the initial reception of assisted migrants and the accommodation of migrant d endants until they can join the heads of their families in private accommodation or hostels. No charge is made for accommodation for the first week after arrival if the migrant is not earning an income during this period. After the first week following arrival social service special benefit is payable and deductions are made from this payment towards the cost of accommodation and meals. This arrangement continues until breadwinners are placed in employment, when normal accommodation charges are raised.
The sum of £1,502,000 proposed for expenditure on contribution to the maintenance of migrant families is the estimated cost to the Commonwealth arising from the operation of migrant hostels by Commonwealth Hostels Limited. These hostels are provided close to large centres of employment for the accommodation of workers and their dependants until such time as they can obtain private accommodation. Accommodation for dependants residing in these hostels is provided at subsidized rates so that families will have a reasonable amount left out of a breadwinner’s earnings after paying the hostel tariff.
– I thank the Minister for Customs and Excise for the information that he has provided. I would like to know whether the money received from migrants as payment during the time that they receive social service special benefit is credited to the hostels or whether this sum of about £1,500,000 is the net amount after partial expenses have been recouped from migrants. I raise this subject so that I may speak on a matter about which I have a great deal of interest.
I live in a suburb in which there is a migrant hostel. A path has been worn from the hostel to my front door by migrants who have come to me for help in obtaining accommodation and jobs. I know of many British migrants, particularly those with families, who have difficulty obtaining a house. I have been told by migrants - I do not know whether this information s correct - that once they leave the hostels and obtain a job and a house, if the job cuts out and they are forced to vacate the house they are thrown on their own resources just as any other citizen would be.
I know of one case of a family of six which had to vacate the house that it was occupying because a timber mill closed down. The house went with the job. Imagine trying to rent a house for a family of six! It is almost impossible. Before I was able to obtain any kind of accommodation for that family I had drowned two of the children - on paper of course. The housing authority in Western Australia is still dealing with 1960 applicants for rental homes. Migrants have told me that they can buy a home for a deposit of £100 and an expenditure of £30 on incidentals, such as transfer fees. That does not sound like a great deal of money but it represents a great deal to families that are being charged extortionate rents. I eventually found accommodation for the family to which I have referred but I have been ashamed ever since. I obtained the accommodation through an agent, but unfortunately I did not first examine the house. I was told originally that the number of the house in the street was 26. I found that I could not open the door of No. 26 with the key that I had been given. Eventually I discovered that the number of the house that I wanted was 16. When I finally got to the place I found that it was filthy and dilapidated. I tried to clean it up but I did not make much headway. I went back to the agent and told him what I thought of the place. He told me that there was another house available in Eaton Street. I went there and it was I who was eaten. A big dog took to me and bit me on the ankle, which was bad for three weeks. I told the neighbours what I thought of the dog. They told me that the house in question was infested with vermin and that the last occupants stayed only a few days. The rent of the place was £5 15s. a week.
Many migrants are being exploited by unscrupulous landlords. These migrants are desperate because they must provide shelter for their families. I have been in touch with the housing authority whose officers have told me that they are still working on lists compiled two years ago. They wanted to know where the migrant to whom I have referred earlier was working so that they could give him a house in the locality in which he was employed. I learned that he did not have a job at the time. It transpired that he had no means whatever and I had to provide the money to put him into the house.
A principle is involved in these matters. I think that a fund should be established, either by the Australian authorities or the British authorities, under which the sum of £130 could be guaranteed before these people leave England. They could then go into a very nice brick home as soon as they arrived in Australia. The £130 could be repaid by the migrant when he obtained work. Such a scheme would reduce the demand for accommodation in hostels. After all, hostel life is demoralizing. Consider the case of a large family residing in a hostel and in receipt of social service special benefits. That family has an income almost equal to the basic wage but it is able to save something because everything is found for it in the hostel, whereas the person on the basic wage must pay rent and buy the necessaries of life. Some people are loath to take a job and leave a hostel unless there is some permanency about the job. They are not prepared to give up the substance for the shadow. For some of them it would be a risky undertaking.
A practice has been growing which 1 deplore. A couple of hire-purchase firms seem to be able to get into migrant hostels and sell the migrants all kinds of goods without deposits. The salesmen tell the migrants all kinds of stories about what good bargains the goods are. Some of these migrants have bought television sets that will not be of any use to them if they go into country areas. They are being charged exorbitant interest at flat rates. I am not talking through my hat on this matter. I have seen people who are in distress because they have lost television sets, furniture and everything else by not being able to keep up the payments.
It seems to me that one or two firms are being unscrupulous. 1 should like to see action taken by way of regulation to control these unscrupulous salesmen. I do not know whether or not anything can be done about them. I do not see why they should be given an open sesame to migrant hostels and to people who have come here in the full flush of enthusiasm. The people think that they are getting the world, but they find that they have committed themselves to paying more than. they can afford to pay. That causes a great deal of hardship for them.
I should like to see the actual housing position in Australia publicized thoroughly in England and the other countries from which migrants come. My main contact in respect of housing problems has been with English migrants. Dutch nationals have a fund on which they can draw, and I do not think it should be beyond the limits of the British and Australian authorities to co-operate and establish a similar fund. They would not be putting out money for nothing. The money would be repaid within a couple of years.
Another point to which I wish to refer is the difficulty experienced by naturalized Australians in getting back to Australia’ from England. This problem has arisen in a case with which I am dealing at present. It concerns a Dutchman who came to Australia but not as an assisted migrant. Because he was tired of waiting to be selected to come to Australia he paid his own fare. He had been here during the Second World War and wanted to come back. So he paid his own fare and came here in 1951. He married a young widow with two sons. They are happy and they now have a child of their own. A couple of years ago he received a cable telling him that his father was dying. He could not go back to Holland to see his father, who later died. Last October he received a cable telling him that his mother was dying of an incurable disease. He and his wife decided that they would sell up all their goods and chattels and go to Holland to see his mother. They got to Holland in time to see her, thank goodness.
However, the Australian wife found that the schooling of the children would be interrupted even in England. One of the boys was sitting for the Leaving Certificate examination this year. He would have to wait another year in England before reaching the required standard for entry to a university. So, rather than interrupt his schooling, they scraped up every penny they could and the wife and three children came back to Australia. The husband stayed on in England. He got a job there and started to save up his return fare. However, he did not reckon on the cost of living in England and sending money to Australia for his wife and family to live on. Instead of being able to save his return fare, he got further and further behind. He went to Australia House to see whether the people there could help him to get his return fare. They said to him, “ What a pity it is that you have been naturalized “. I am sure that that reason could have been better expressed, but I can understand it quite well. Had this man not become a naturalized Australian in 1955 he could have received an assisted passage; but as a naturalized Australian no funds are available to help him although he is prepared to sign a contract to repay the cost of the return fare as soon as he is back in the employment that is waiting for him here in Australia. - ,
These are human problems. They are in the minority and therefore I do not think a very large amount of money would be required to help such people who are stranded overseas. These people did not leave Australia with the intention of staying overseas indefinitely or not coming back. They are not disgruntled migrants who have returned to their native countries. This man returned for compassionate reasons and his wife and children came back to Australia almost immediately. I believe that an airline company will advance £400 to people, but they must come to Australia by air. The company charges a flat rate of 10 per cent, interest until the whole debt is liquidated. That is a heavy burden for people to undertake. The fare by sea is about £150. People can repay that amount within two years, but they cannot afford to take on a debt of £400 plus interest when they have to repay it within two years. These people are honest and they want to be able to honour their commitments.
I should like to know whether there is any way in which prospective migrants can be told the actual housing position in Australia. I believe that the South Australian Housing Trust has a very good proposition for the purchase of homes. I should also like to know whether any funds can be made available so that people in the circumstances I have mentioned can obtain loans in order to return to Australia after they have returned to their native countries not because they are disgruntled but for compassionate and family reasons.
– Before coming to the main question I want to raise I will refer to what I said previously. I appreciate the Minister’s concern about the threats and his invitation to submit evidence of them as it comes to hand. I assure him that I shall adopt that suggestion. The Minister said that our technical advisers overseas accept the standards of skill laid down by the trade committees in Australia and that the technical advisers are appointed in consultation with the Australian Council of Trade Unions. As a result of my experience of the lack of skill of one tradesman who came under my notice, I would say that our union has never been consulted either by the trade committee or the A.C.T.U. That may be the fault of our union rather than of the A.C.T.U. in not pointing out to people who are not skilled in our trade the peculiarities of our trade. A man who follows our trade in Europe might not be able to comply with the requirements of the trade in Australia. We will take that matter up with the A.C.T.U. and ask it to pass on to the appropriate committee the requirements of our trade.
Whilst I agree with the Minister that the applications of 25,883 English people to migrate to Australia are heartening, they will be beneficial to Australia and to the migrants themselves only if we can house them and employ them when they arrive in this country. It is essential that our housing and employment programmes should go ahead and that we should attract migrants to meet the requirements of Australian industry. We should not bring unskilled migrants to Australia unless we have a big developmental programme in which they will be able to find employment and unless accommodation for them can be found readily outside the overcrowded cities.
Another matter that I want to bring to the notice of the Minister was mentioned by Senator McClelland last night. That is the question of naturalization. When we assist migrants to come to Australia but will not accept them as full citizens, some inquiry should be made into the reason. Earlier in this sessional period I asked the Minister to tell me the number of migrants who were refused naturalization on account of their trade union or political activities. The Minister advised me that no one was refused naturalization if his trade union activities were bona fide and if it was considered that he would make a suitable Australian citizen.
Then, as Senator McClelland stated, on 3rd October I put another question on the notice-paper, but no reply has been received to date. So we do not know the standard adopted by the Government to decide whether an applicant’s trade union activities are bona fide or such as to make him unfit for Australian citizenship, to use the phrase that appears in the Minister’s answer. In some instances that have come to our knowledge, the activities of migrants in the trade union movement appear to be the only reason for their non-acceptance for naturalization. A new Australian who is a member of the Communist Party in Australia might well be, in the Minister’s opinion, not suitable for Australian citizenship, but I point out that by a decision of the Australian people the Communist Party is a legal organization in Australia. I do not think it is for any Minister to say that some one who decides to join a political party which the people accepted as a legal organization, and which remains a legal organization, is unsuitable for Australian citizenship.
While I could, perhaps, appreciate some concern over those who may be members of the Communist Party, between members of the Communist Party and those who may be termed militant members of the Labour Party is some line of demarcation that we cannot define. We know that many members are denied naturalization because of various activities. In one case the activity objected to was the distribution, in the referendum campaign, of “ How-to-vote “ cards which were contrary to the wishes of the Government at the time.
Especially at the present stage of international crisis, we should not offend, because of their political associations, those who come to Australia and seek naturalization. They have freedom to make a choice when they so desire. We do not help to ease the present fears and uncertainties about the international situation by branding as unsuitable for Australian citizenship those persons who, perhaps through inability to get employment as a result of government policy, revolt against the system of society and join an organization which they believe is the opponent of that system of society under which they are suffering.
I ask the Minister to give early consideration to the question that I asked and to put to the Government the proposal that in deciding whether a man will be a suitable citizen there should be no discrimination because of any political, religious or trade union activities which are quite legal within the forms and organizations of the country. In all sincerity, I raise that point with the Minister. It seems a serious waste of money to bring out here migrants who, we afterwards decide, are not suitable for Australian citizenship, although they have done nothing other than join an organization which is not acceptable to the present
Government, but which the people, by referendum, decided was acceptable. There should not be discrimination against people whose activities within the trade union movement do not meet with the approval of particular migration officers. I ask the Minister to give consideration to the adoption of a more liberal attitude towards the naturalization of those persons whose only crime is their political or industrial activities.
– Senator Tangney inquired about an amount of £1,502,000, being a contribution to maintenance of migrant families. This is the net cost of hostel operations to the department, after deducting receipts from ordinary accommodation charges and social service deductions. With reference to the family that was without a roof over its head: the department advises that a family may be readmitted to a centre or hostel if no other accommodation is available.
– That is different from the information I have.
– I am just stating the advice that 1 have been given. Hirepurchase salesmen are not allowed in migrant centres. I shall bring to the notice of Commonwealth Hostels Limited the statement that these salesmen are entering hostels and making misrepresentations.
I shall bring Senator Cavanagh’s comments to the notice of the Minister for Immigration. I can assure him that no migrant will be banned for bona fide trade union activities.
– Despite the lateness of the hour, I feel impelled to enter the debate for a few moments because of some remarks that Senator Cavanagh has just made. I certainly hope that no migrant who is a confessed Communist, or who is proved to be a Communist, would be accepted as an Australian citizen. The fact that, as he says, the Communist Party is a legal party here is quite irrelevant to the subject. If Australians ever choose to become Communists, we cannot help that. They are disloyal citizens of this country, but we cannot deprive them of Australian citizenship. But I see no reason why we should grant citizenship to some one who professes loyalty to another country. It would be completely disgraceful if we gave citizenship to anybody who was a confessed Communist or a proved Communist.
– When I was speaking on this matter last night, unfortunately the time allotted to me expired. Towards the conclusion of my remarks, I was adverting to Division No. 383, subdivision 1, item 15, which relates to reception, training and accommodation centres for migrants. I was directing the committee’s attention to remarks that were made on 26th June, 1962, by the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner), in another place. At about that time the Government had announced that it intended to build a £1,000,000 permanent hostel for migrants at Bradfield Park in Sydney, for the purpose of housing newlywon migrants. Unfortunately, not only for this Parliament but also for Australia generally, the honorable member for Bradfield went on record as saying that the Government could be sure that if it forced a hostel on the area the migrants going there would meet not only indifference but also cold hostility from local residents. Fortunately, leading north shore citizens in Sydney objected to the statements made by the honorable member for Bradfield. The president of the West Lindfield and West Killara progress associations-
– I raise a point of order. There was a proposal for the erection of a hostel on the area to which the honorable senator refers. That has been dropped. There is now to be built on this area a Commonwealth standards laboratory. The matter therefore comes under the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I do not think that point you are raising now comes under this department.
– That is only a point of view. It is not a point of order.
– If the point of view is upheld it is a point of order, because we are talking about another department.
– I am quoting a report that appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 27th June which stated that the Federal Government planned to build a £1,000,000 permanent migrant hostel at Bradfield Park.
– The project has been dropped.
– I am directing the attention of the committee to certain remarks which were made, as a result of the report, by the honorable member for Bradfield in another place. Those remarks could have an effect on prospective migrants, and I believe that the remarks I intend to make on this subject are pertinent to the estimates for the Department of Immigration.
– The Minister has said that the project has been dropped so I ask you, Senator McClelland, to confine your remarks to the estimates for the Department of Immigration.
– I will respect your ruling on this matter, Madam, and will deal with the subject under the general heading of Administration.
– I am sorry, but this project is not in the estimates. It is not under the heading of administration or anything else. It has been dropped.
– I will try another division - Division No. 383, Immigration Services. I refer to assisted migration generally. I wish to bring to the notice of the committee the remarks of the honorable member for Bradfield because I feel they may well have a deleterious effect on Australia’s immigration programme. I respect the Minister’s assurance that this project has now been dropped and has given way to a project on behalf of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, but, as I said, at the time the Government announced that it proposed to build a £1,000,000 permanent hostel at Bradfield Park, the honorable member for Bradfield said that the Government could be assured that if it forced a hostel on to that area, migrants coming there would meet with not only indifference but also with cold hostility from the local residents.
I believe that that statement made by the honorable member for Bradfield was not in keeping with the view of the majority of the people he represents in this Parliament, nor of the majority of the people of Australia. We, as Australians, should welcome, and we do in fact welcome with open arms, all prospective migrants, and it is our duty, wherever the Government chooses to establish hostels for the purpose of accommodating migrants, to see that those migrants are received by every Australian, not with indifference or cold hostility. I know that certain people living on the north shore of Sydney dissociate themselves from the remarks of the honorable member for Bradfield, and, indeed, the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) went on record as saying that if the Government did not proceed with the construction of this establishment at Bradfield, the construction of a hostel within his electorate would be welcomed, and that migrants would be received with open arms by the Sutherland Shire Council. I hope that all honorable senators will re-echo those true Australian sentiments that have been uttered by the honorable member for Hughes, who, I believe sincerely, is one of the finest Australians I have ever met.
I do not know whether the remarks of the honorable member for Bradfield have been published abroad. In the interests of this country I sincerely hope that they have not. I should like to know from the Minister whether, in the event of those remarks having been published abroad, or in the event of those remarks being published abroad at some future time, he will issue instructions on behalf of the Government to our officers throughout the world to dissociate the Government from the remarks. In any event, I believe that the position should be made clear to all recently arrived citizens in this country that the Government and every Australian welcomes them as settlers in Australia.
Having said that I wish to direct my attention to Division No. 392, which deals with the immigration office in Scandinavia. In these estimates I notice that an amount of £76,800 has been set aside by the Government for expenditure on this office. However, under Division 383, which deals with assisted migrants, I notice that no amount has been set aside for assisting migrants from Scandinavian countries. I was wondering whether the Minister can explain why no provision has been made for assisting migrants from Scandinavian countries.
I raised another matter last night to which the Minister has not yet replied.
On pages 212 and 213 of the Estimates there are set out the various staffing arrangements of the migration offices in different countries. It appears from a cursory perusal that no provision has been made for secretarial assistance - typists and clerical workers. I am wondering what arrangements are made by the Government to provide this assistance.
I wish to refer also to another matter that I raised last night. In a footnote to the Budget Papers presented by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) reference was made to a decrease in expenditure of £83,000 for non-recurring shipping charges. Last night the Minister told me that the item related to ship damages claimed last year and that it was hoped that the item would not recur. However, I believe that an expenditure of £83,000 requires more amplification than has been given by the Minister up to date. This Parliament is charged with the responsibility of scrutinizing the Estimates and we should be given some explanation for this charge of £83,000 which occurred last financial year but is not included in this year’s Estimates.
– I should like to reply briefly to Senator McClelland. We have an office at Stockholm and we do give assistance to Scandinavian migrants. This comes under Division No. 383, subdivision 1, item 04, general assisted passage scheme, non-British. Secretarial staff are engaged on the spot and there is no separate item in the Estimates for that.
– They are not Australian girls?
– No, they are local girls. In regard to shipping damage, I shall give the honorable senator a written reply. I have no other explanation to give him at the moment.
Proposed expenditure noted.
Proposed expenditure - Department of Immigration, Capital Works and Services, £451,000- noted.
Senate adjourned at 4.36 p.m. till Tuesday, 6th November, at 3.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 October 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1962/19621025_senate_24_s22/>.